Letter 7

(Clan Dragon)


My kinsman -

I will tell you what I remember.

I stand at the doorway of the great battle, and I see them fight - Toturi, the Crane, the others...valiantly stuggling again and again against an evil they cannot possibly understand. I look into the shadows across the room, and I see hooded eyes fixed on mine. Waiting to see if I will join the battle. I look in this eyes, and I realize. He knows. I turn my face to the battle again, my hands filled with blood, and I watch the Dark One fall beneath their blades. I witness the death of two Thunders as their blood spreads in an ocean of scarlet on the floor. And when the battle is done, I look on as the others free the Crab from his chains. I search his eyes as they help him stand, but in them I find nothing.

When they leave, I stay in the throne room. I look at the broken chains, the shattered throne. I stare into the eyes of each of the four dead men on the floor, and as I do, I reach down to the broken body of Togashi, and I take his swords from his side. I know them - the weight, the brightness of the steel. Memories of the day of their forging surface in my thoughts. Memories that are not mine. There is a soft noise in the shadows near me, but I do not look. I am drawn back in time, to the place where I sat, watching the crowning of the first Hantei. To the day when my brother, Satsu, died from the Crab's tetsubo. A movement, and I see the faces of men who died a thousand years ago. They change, and I see the face of the Crab. There are soft footsteps across the throne room, but I turn away. There is nothing left for me now.

Some time after, I walk into the brightness of the morning, out of the Palace. I leave with four swords at my side. No one else should bear them. No one else can carry their weight. I look down from the palace wall and see my brother, Daini, with his Naga. Let him stay with them. Perhaps their sleep will be kinder than my awakening. Toturi stands upon the wall, watching the last of the fighting below. I stand near him, placing my hand along the stone at my feet like a crouching spirit, and look down at my men. Dragon blood was spilled across those fields. Something stirs in me, and I wait for it to speak - but it is silent, and the swords rest uncertainly in my grasp.

But what I remember most occurred before the fight, before we entered the Palace. At the last moment before the others arrived, Togashi put his hand on my shoulder and his eyes met mine. That was when I looked beneath his steel mask for the first time. I could see his face - his thoughts. In his eyes was the image of his destruction. The face of death was my own.

His swords are heavy in my hands, my own daisho shifting at my side with each step I take. His voice - my voice - rings in my ears, and it's laughter is unfamiliar and strange. I close my eyes and his broken body flashes against the darkness. It was not until I saw the sun again that I realized my black hand still held his bleeding heart.

No one should have to carry four swords.