Canto 19: Growing Hope
"You can't sleep either, eh Hanzo?"
"Who's there? Wan-fu!? You shouldn't be up! Genjuro really hurt you. You need your rest, my friend."
"You know me better than that. So, what's on your mind? Still having trouble excepting Jubei's murder at the hands of that insane Ryuji? I'm not sure who is crazier, him or the bastard who attacked me?"
"That's something I'd rather not know. It was enough for the two to face off in the first round. To see such power, such rage, and such chaos. I fear that it is far from over. There is so much to think of, and so much more to endure. Juebi is like my brother; to lose him is nearly as bad as loosing Amakusa. That in itself is hard to understand, even for me."
"I'd almost think you were crazy, had I not seen it myself. (unless we're both crazy...I wonder what sort of twisted mind came up with THAT!) Somehow, he seems to split, a good and a bad half, sort of. Now he, er they, or whatever; want to be reunited. Just thinking about it makes my head rip. You?"
"My head, my heart, my soul? So long has it been...I wonder if I ever had them to exist. Pleasant thoughts."
"O-o-o-k! Maybe we should talk about something else."
However, silence was all that was heard. Some other sounds could be heard in the distance, but for Wan-fu and Hanzo, it was silence. Hanzo's mind was occupied with Amakusa. So many had he killed under the control of the demon, and all of the screams of freight and terror ripped through his core. Perhaps even more disturbing though was that his own son, his flesh and blood, was laughing, and was seemingly enjoying it. He hoped that it was mostly because of the demon's control. Finally, Hanzo spoke.
"I think there may be hope for him. I've felt his struggle from within. He wants to be free from his curse. Perhaps, in fate's own way, his joining up with Zankuro is his way of ending his misery."
"Maybe. Even so, be careful, Hanzo. I know he's your boy, but that demon ain't! I do think you are right, though. He does want to be free of his curse."
With all of the recent deaths, as well as predictions of a dark future, we all need any kind of hope that we can get...I know what I've found out isn't much, but I think it's a good start. I'm not sure if it's a desperate cling to dying hope, or if it is the spark of a fire to renew our will to win. Whichever it is, I'm sure that all of my friends will want to know about it. I simply have to tell them now. I know it is late, but it just can't wait until morning.
Where did Hisame go? It's far too late for him to be out and wondering about. Not that I have anything to be scared of. I mean he had been on his own for so long, he knows how to take care of himself. Rimururu! Who are you trying to kid, girl. You are scared to death. As Mai said to me, "...you have a crush on him!" or something like that. It's true that I really like him, and am sincerely concerned about him. What if Zankuro, Amakusa, or Mizuki do something...what if Genjuro does? Oh, Shizumaru!
In some ways, I'm glad you are kind of like Haohmaru. You have potential that could one day equal, and perhaps even surpass him. Unfortunately, you also have his restlessness. That has gotten him into trouble on several occasions. He has the experience to know how to handle most of the situations. You, Hisame, as of now...just be careful in whatever it is you are doing, ok?
"Hisame! Where in the world have you been? I've been worried out of my mind about you. I hope you didn't do anything foolish."
"What, Rimururu? What makes you think that I was doing anything? Is it wrong for me to take a walk late at night?"
"Well, for one thing, you have your weapons with you - and don't tell me something like `it is for protection.' You know I won't buy it, so don't even try it. There is no other reason for you to be out this late, unless you are looking for something, and that something is probably trouble."
"No, honestly, that's all it was, or at least that's how it started. No, wait! Let me finish. I was walking, my mind still whirling from what Zankuro had told me. I don't know what I was doing, or even thinking. All that I know is that I wanted some time to try and clear my head, and to maybe, I don't know, find something. With the deaths of so many of our friends, I guess I wanted to see if I could find something, anything, to try and give us some hope. I found it!"
"What did you find, Hisame?"
"Hold on. Let's find Haohmaru and Charlotte. This concerns them as much as us," and the two looked at each other, as if their souls were carrying on their own conversation, and went to find their friends.
"Ok, Kazuki, tell me what you found. If any of our clan is here, we'll have to kill them. If we don't, they'll surely find a way to let the clan know, and to kill us all. We'll have to move quickly. Hey! Kazuki! Are you listening to me, brother? Get you head out of the clouds and listen to me!"
"Easy, Sogetsu! I heard you. If you get any louder, they will hear us. As of right now, they probably know that you didn't do the job, or at least that you didn't complete the job. If they can, they'll make sure that either you, or I finish it. That's where we don't want to go. It's a good thing that I was able to find out where they are. I guess it's also good that they are all in the same area. It'll make our job `easier.' Well, let's get this over with. After you, Sogetsu?"
Both of the brothers are at the top elite of their clan. Very few can match their skills, raw power, and special talents. Before he left them, it was almost always Kazuki training with Sogetsu, for most of the other opponents would be defeated in a mere matter of minutes. While that in itself is impressive, their leader insisted that they needed to have a challenger who was their equal, to ensure that they wouldn't "grow sloppy and careless." That seemed lame to both of them. Orders are orders, and for a time, they followed them. Then, when Kazuki made the fateful choice, they knew that they had to bend the rules. It took a long time of scheming to finally pull off what they did. Deep down though, they were each afraid of what would happen if the truth would be learned. Now, they are in danger of that truth being learned. Even if they silence their stalkers, the leader will now have doubts about Sogetsu. Can he now return to them? If he does, it may prove near impossible to convince everyone now of his motivations. If he doesn't return, either they'll assume Amakusa or Zankuro killed him, or they'll realize that he to is a traitor. Actually, since it seems that we are now 100 years into the future, I guess it already happened. I think I'll leave that be.
"Hey, yo! Sogetsu! Are you ready? Come on! We've got work to do. Now, before things get any more chaotic. I guess that crazy Ryuji has been good for something. I've heard that he leveled several of our hosts' men, and I think a good hand full of them were of our clan. With that madness, they will all be jumpy...perfect!"
The thoughts as to whether this is right or wrong never enters their mind. If they are new members who are still green, or old vets are irrelevant. Any connections that they may have will now be cut. There is no guilt, remorse, or second thoughts. When it is stripped down to its finest points, this is strictly a matter of survival for them; they either kill, or are killed. There is no alternative. So is the law for the kind of life they lead, so must it be carried out without hesitation, for a second is all it takes for a point to find your heart, and enter. They received little opposition, for none of them were expecting the attack. In order to make sure that it was done fast, the brothers exploded with their best attacks, and halved the field.
In less than 10 minutes, it was all over. The field looked like a small war zone. Altogether, 17 bodies were laid to rest. Blood flowed like streams to form a raging river, looks of the realization of death was on each and every last face. The two were severely wounded, but would live. Sogetsu would continue with the tournament, while Kazuki would continue to try and learn what he could about what was really going on.
Later, the bodies would be found. Neither Amakusa nor Zankuro could offer an explanation. Since they bore an unfamiliar marking, meaning that they weren't his men, Amakusa told those that were his to clean up this waste. Each wondered what had happened, and who were these men that were now dead. Will they ever find out?
Charlotte swears to me that she saw Ukyo, his ghost, or something like it. That is the only reason that she says she spoke his name after her duel with Blood. I don't want to accuse her of anything, but I find that rather hard to believe. She then replied that I believe all this magic that Amakusa has had a part in. She then said, rather angrily, that I was jealous, despite the fact that he's now dead.
Yea, he was always more of a "lady's man." and he was well with Charlotte, but he has his own woman, so there's no concern of that. I do sound jealous, don't I? She did it to me again; she proved just how right she is - and how well she knows me. Next thing you know, she'll be wanting us to make like Sieger and that emperor's daughter and...ugh! The idea makes me sick. I may like her, ok, love her, but I won't get mar...I can't say it! I don't care what she says or how well she knows me, I am not going to be the M word, to her, or anyone! That's a big step, and requires a lot of responsibility. I have enough responsibility just having to be our little group's unofficial leader. There's NO CHANCE IN HELL FOR ME TO...! I still can't say it!
Let's be honest, it's a lot of hard work, and a lot of responsibility. It's nothing but compromises, one right after the other. We all know what a compromise is - both giving up something so that neither is happy. Then, there's the changing of my lifestyle. It can't just be what I want. I've a duty to be with her; it's a mater of honor. The same goes for her. Sometimes, she will have to miss something to get something I want. Just when we think it won't get worse, it does!
The so called "little bundles of joy." "Little bundles of bombs" are more like it. I won't go into all the other stuff, as I'm sure that'll be boring (at least it was when Charlotte told it to me).
However, you are now responsible for shaping the very life of that person. You have to explain right from wrong; only to change just about everything as time goes on. You want to give them the best, yet you know it's impossible. If you don't teach them the rules, they become chaotic and can come back to haunt you. If you are too strict, then they may grow up to resent you, or worse.
Right about there, Charlotte got up, and said, "I'm not even sure why I put up with that for that long! I'm not even sure why I bothered!" She then left. That was shortly after supper. I don't think she had ever been so pissed at me...except that time I was going after Amakusa, and then there was that time...huh?
"Hisame? Rimururu? It's rather late. What do you want?"
"It isn't much, but I found out something that may make a lot of us rest a bit easier. Uh, where's Charlotte? She'll want to hear this too."
"She's not here...um, why don't you tell me. Then, I'll tell her when I see her. Ok?"
"I'd really prefer to be able to tell you both at the same time, if I could."
Haohmaru saw the look in his eyes, and knew he was trapped. Slowly, he got up, and told them that he'd be back with Charlotte in a little bit, and to wait here for them. They agreed.
Blast! That's what I mean about kids. What a pain! Why do I get this kinda luck? "If I had a life, I'd probably hate it!"
"Mubling to yourself again, Haohmaru?" and before he could reply, a flash ripped just inches from his face, and the point of a blade whizzed by his face.
"Shit! Don't do that to me, Charlotte! I really hate it!"
"I know. That is why I did it. So, why are you out? I thought you would either be training, or sulking. You aren't one to take strolls in the evening."
"It's Hisame and Rimururu. Hisame says he found out something that could make our lives a little easier. He wanted to share it with us both. He insisted on it, so I had to go find you."
"You had to go and find me? You make it sound like some sort of punishment, Haohmaru. Is that how you feel about me? I'm nothing more than a thorn in you, eh?"
"No, no, no! That's not it. It's just that he does want us to be together and...I don't want us to be ticked at each other."
"Well! Do you think you can say it with any more feeling? You are showing all of the emotion of a stick right now! Sometimes you really need somebody to fire you up!"
"Oh, come on! Give me a break, will you? I'm not that bad. Besides...what are you, DAMN!" exclaimed Haohmaru as Charlotte took her blade out of the wall, and thrust it toward his throat.
She stopped just short of it grazing his skin. She then lightly rubbed the blade on his neck, before carefully pulling it back, and continued to look through him.
"What was that all about, woman? Are you crazy?"
"Perhaps. Maybe I'm trying to get you to wake up. You have responsibilities, Haohmaru. You may not like them, and while I said I would support you, whatever your choice, times are quickly changing. Several of our good friends are now dead, including Yagyu. Wan-fu was nearly killed at the hands of Genjuro, in his attempt to send you a message. You will be having a match against Terry Bogard, a man we know who could possibly be your equal. Afterwards, Genjuro vows to be waiting for you. I'm not sure who my next opponent will be, but I'm sure I won't be able to hold him off again. You will either have to take it now, or they will take you."
After an eternity passed, he softly whispered that she was right. He has responsibilities, and he needs to start acting accordingly. Charlotte said she was proud of him, and embraced him.
"Woooo! They're kissing!" sang Hisame and Rimururu.
"Hey, I thought I told you two to wait."
"What, and miss all that? No way!" called Rimururu.
"Who knows how long the two of you would have taken," added Hisame, "So here's what I found out. Despite his showing, Genjuro is still severely hurt from his war with Ryuji. While he may still claim that he wants to fight you after your match, he may not be in the shape to do so. If he is, he will still be weak and worn, as you'll probably be from your fight. That means that if he's going to go after you, you will still have a chance against him. I also found out that Ryuji's cut up pretty bad from his war with Genjuro. Add that to his match with Galford, and Terry won't have as much as a disadvantage as Ryuji would like him to believe. Like I said, it ain't much, but it is something. We'll leave you two now."
"How did you learn that?"
"Easy, Charlotte. I did like Haohmaru taught me: be patient, and pay attention to your surroundings. Good night!" and the two kids were off.
"So," Charlotte said after a few moments, "you still think you can't handle the responsibility? I think you've done a fine job with Hisame!" and Charlotte laughed as Haohmaru gagged.
I think this update wasn't as long as the last, so I hope you found this one good. :)
I just checked my li'l counter, and I'm nearly (at this writing) at 3000 hits! WOW! Not bad, and FFvSS hasn't even been out a year yet! Cool! Here's hoping for more good stuff from my "mind" for this fanfic, and maybe I'll get lucky and be able to get bgm for ALL the characters, and some other misc. If so, yea! If not, it's still doing well.
I also hope I don't suffer from long periods of writer's block, major computer problems, or that I forget my...darn! I forgot what I was saying! (=