Giri Part 20

The New Cycle

By Yong Sung Su




The brisk wind cut through the starless night as the moon illuminated against the darkness.  Her light challenging the shadows that tries to befoul the land.  It is a battle she is losing as the darkness encroaches even upon her radiant light.

A lone campfire whipped out against the wind in its eternal battle against the cold.  Oblivious to the battle the flames waged, the lone samurai sat.  With great care and ceremony he cleaned his blade.  Softly he whispered sutras to the blade as he wiped the blade clean.  His only thoughts were for the blade and the respect he held for it.

Amidst the darkness a willowy figure stalked the samurai.  Her kimono flowed with the wind as she took her steps… silent and sure.  As she approached the campsite she paused for a moment.  Suddenly she swung her naginata with deadly accuracy towards the unwary swordsman.  Its deadly blade stopped short of the killing blow just above his shoulder.

With a tilt of her shoulders, a skin of water slid down the post of her bladed staff.  As it reached the end, she flicked her wrist and it fell into his waiting hand.

“You are late Shimiko,” he spoke as he sheathed his blade.

“Your early,” she replied crisply.

He smiled then drank the water graciously.  His face contorted in surprise, “Aieee… the water is foul!”

“Be thankful…. That is the last of it. We would have made it to the village by now if you did not have to go through the Valley… alone.”

Closing his eyes he took a deep breath.  Taking in the moment of silence, she took a seat and began to warm her hands near the flames.

“Well are you going to tell me what was so important about the Valley?  Or am I to guess?”  Her eyes looked towards the moon in thought, “ I know!  It was filled with Geisha who tended towards your every comfort…. Or perhaps it was filled with young women who wish to ravish every young samurai who came upon them.”

“Or perhaps it was filled with silence and void of annoying Samurai-ko.”

Shimiko dropped her gaze from the heavens and faced him, “Then you would be sullen and bored.”

Seeing the young Phoenix smile filled him with warmth.  She had a way to make him feel better even in these dark times.

“For weeks I have been drawn there, Shimiko.  The Valley possessed an answer….  an answer to a riddle that plagued me for years.  Within the belly of the Valley awaited a Kensei, a true master of the blade,” he paused for but a moment and his voiced trailed off into the distance, “I tested my skill against his.  For once there was no ancestor guiding my hand or mystical tattoos flashing with power.  For the first time in my life I have truly felt alive.  For that I shall be eternally in his debt.”

“Is that where you got that new scar?” she pointed at the fresh cut on his face.

Rubbing the cut he grinned, “Another lesson learned…. Cranes have a knack of scarring my face.”

Shimiko felt relief at his words letting out a little chuckle as she lay down to sleep.  For too long he had been filled with despair.  His cherished Daimyo died during the Clan War to be replaced by the Obsidian Dragon Mistress.  Her mysterious ways led to the return of the dark monk, Kokujin.  Soon after the Goju arrived from the Shadows and the Ancient Spirit Mirumoto grew silent.

That is when Tenryuu was banished from the Clan.  She did not know the reasons and he remained silent.  It was at that time that his tattoos no longer flared with life… instead they remained barren as death. 

Recently many events had transpired.  Hitomi had ascended to the Heavens as the new moon. While Kokujin fled to the Shadowlands with his new ally the Shadows.  A chance of redemption Tenryuu was offered… the march to the city of Volturnum.  He refused and was called a coward.  He would not speak of it, but their words still pained him.

Her thoughts drifted to the mad prophet… his words still echoed in her ears.

If the Fallen Dragon joins the battle at the City of Shadow, he will earn great honor.  But temporary it shall be for he will fail in his ultimate duty and doom his Clan.


* * * * * * * *

Sleep came quickly to the young samurai-ko.  It was short but restful.  She slowly opened her eyes.  The moon still shone brightly, but the night sky grew cloudier by the moment.  Her eyes drifted towards Tenryuu.

His face held a slight grimace of pain as he grasped his right arm.  Sweat flowed from his brow running into his eyes.  His fist clenched as he took in deep steady breaths.

“What is it?” she whispered with concern.

“Kokujin’s poison is spreading,” he spoke between breathes. “Without the power of the tattoos it only grows stronger.”

She could not help but notice the slight tension as he spoke Kokujin’s name.  Was it fear?’ she wondered.

As the numbing cold pain subsided he relaxed.  “It is gone now…. But I fear I will not be able to wield a blade for a while.”

“There is no need for your blades here…. Besides I have my own and I will not let anyone hurt you,” she winked.

A small smile came to his lips as he wiped the sweat from his brow.

Laying back down, sleep once again came for the young samurai-ko.


* * * * * * *


Unable to sleep, Tenryuu sat in thought.  Ignoring the bite of the icy cold wind his mind drifted to those who left for Volturnum.  Will they succeed?  Or will they return as servants of the Shadowlands… or even worse, their name wiped from memory as they fade to the Shadows.  How he wished he could have fought by their side… guarding their flanks from the multitudes that opposed them.

Coward… the voiced echoed in his head.  The numbing feeling returned to his arm and he clenched his fist.  Coward… it came again.  Opening his hand blood flowed from the gouges his fingers made.

A flicker in the distance caught his attention.  They were figures running in his direction.  Two… no three men were running, their steps shaky and determined.  A glint of the moonlight revealed their heads shaven.  That and their simple robes hinted to the Brotherhood of Shinsei.  But what are they doing here?  And from whom do they flee?

Quickly the former Dragon was on his feet and running.  His steps held a natural grace as he traversed the rocky terrain gaining upon the monks.  As he got closer he noticed one had his arm wrapped protectively around a blanket bundled up to his chest. 

As he approached they collapsed in a heap.  Their pale faces were scarred with red streaks from the harsh wind.  Two were unmoving while the third had some semblance of life.  He protectively curled up in a ball around the blanket. 

His head tilted towards the approaching samurai.  His eyes were devoid of pupils, resembling the moon that was in the sky.  Almost as if he recognized Tenryuu his cracked lips opened, “You must protect the child… the Shadows come for him… not the Shadows that hope to steal our name… they… he serves… Ha… Hannnnn.” and with that the monk no longer drew breath.

Tenryuu whispered a quick prayer for the fallen as he wrestled the bundle from the monk.  As he unwrapped the blanket, the Mon of the Dragon was revealed.  Opening it further revealed the face of a young baby and Tenryuu fell back in astonishment.  Though he have never the seen the baby before he knew whom the child was…. the son of Hoshi… Grandson to their fallen Kami.

“Tenryuu…. What is going on?” a voice called from behind him.

Shimiko approached closer at his silence.  As she saw the monks a gasp escaped from her lips.

“These monks died carrying this baby here… Shadows…. Unlike the ones we know.”

“How were they able to tell you this…. I have seen many of the dead… these men have been dead for days.  Take a look for yourself.”

The former Dragon took a long hard look at the bodies.  He could not believe his eyes.  They had the appearance of men who have died long ago… and even the stench of death began to grow stronger.  Yet just a moment earlier he had seen them running this way 

Out of caution, Tenryuu pulled the sliver of jade from around his neck.  Slowly he placed it upon the face of the dead monks.  His hands moved with caution and his body tensed ready to move at the slightest hint of the taint.  The jade sliver pressed upon the cold lifeless skin…. Nothing.  There was no taint.  Tenryuu brows creased at the mystery.


* * * * * * * *

Tenryuu finally found sleep.  They had waited for signs of pursuers for several hours.  But their vigilance yielded nothing but silence.  Shimiko had insisted that he get some sleep while she took watch and cared for the young child.  At first he began to argue, but one look from Phoenix-ko’s face showed that she would be unwilling to relent.

He dreamt of fire and destruction.  Screams filled the air amongst the flaming village.  Villagers ran about in confusion running from the shadows that followed them.  Tenryuu gasped at the slaughter.  It wasn’t a battle. It was a massacre.

He recognized the area from his youth.  He visited it often enough and found it to be unsettling.  His auntie would often tell him bad spirits lived there.  But there was no village there… just an open field that held many markers for the dead.  Was this the past… or the Future?

Upon the hill from the village stood a strange figure.  His face held a familiarity to the sleeping samurai.  A face he recognized, but could not place.  He surveyed the carnage below. A small smile of satisfaction crept upon his dark features. 

As the figure raised his hands to the moon his kimono slipped down the breath of his arms revealing long dark serpentine tattoos.  They began to swirl as a mist of shadow began to form all around him.  When the dark one was completely engulfed in shadows he ran into the flaming village wielding twin shadowed blades.

As Tenryuu’s eyes ached at the helplessness he felt a small glint caught his eyes.  A transparent figure remained upon the hill.  His head was bowed in either shame or sorrow.  As he brushed back his kasa a face was revealed… a face he knew well.  It was the face of his Ancestor spirit.


* * * * * *


Tenryuu’s eyes opened and he knew something was wrong.  The numbness in his arm was replaced with searing pain.  The wind no longer blew, but the cold had a stronger hold on them.

He quickly rolled upon his feet and then he saw them.  Outside the range of the fire the swirling mass moved about.  Their red eyes blinking in the darkness, observing those within the light with amusement.

The fallen dragon looked over to Shimiko.  She held her naginata in the ready, but she stood frozen.  Her lips barely moved as the words formed in her mouth.  At first barely perceptible, but they slowly grew louder and louder. “Tenryuu… Tenryuu”

“I am here Shimiko… be strong little sister.”

Tenryuu began to draw his blade, as it cleared its sheath his hand spasmed in pain and his blade fell from his grip.  Out of reflex he caught his katana in his left hand.  A silent curse fell from his lips as he readied his blade against the multitudes that lay beyond.

The shadows parted to reveal a lone figure.  Among the darkness he held more form, yet power radiated from his every pore.  Slowly and without worry he approached them.

The young samurai-ko reached within her kimono and brandished thin crystal blades.  With deadly accuracy she hurled them at the apparent leader.  His hand caught the blades and a thin red smile appeared on his visage.

“Crystal doesn’t harm them….” Shimiko murmured in shock.

Ignoring the shocked expression on her face he continued his slow gait.  Tenryuu saw the object of its desire.  It was the baby.  Instinctively he scooped up the young child in with his pained arm.  Strangely touching the baby soothed the pain so it no longer spasmed at the slightest touch.

Seeing Tenryuu’s temporary vulnerability, Shimiko overcame her shock and swung her naginata at the dark one.  Twin blades of shadow flashed as he caught her weapon.  With her caught between his weapons he spun around, the back of his foot crashing into her shoulder.  As she fell to the ground he casually turned to finish her off.

Tenryuu charged in his blade moving with blinding speed.  The creature moved anticipating his attack.  Seeing Tenryuu momentarily off balance it came at him.  He recognized the maneuver.  It was an old Mirumoto Technique that once he saw the Mirumoto Swordmaster demonstrate.  Yet even he did not move with its grace.

He felt the shadow blades cut through his defense and felt his death was assured.  He tumbled to the ground and rolled trying to protect the child.  His limbs feeling weak he was amazed to see that there was no blood.  The creature had used the flat of his blades.  Was it toying with him?  Was humiliation his goal?

All I want is the child… give him to me,” it’s voice whispered.

“IIE!” Tenryuu turned reaching for his blade.

Letting out a sigh, the creature reached for the baby.  As its fingers touched the shroud a flash of light appeared and the creature’s voice echoed in agony.  The shadows melted from his face to reveal a face.  The face from his earlier nightmare.

The dark one fell back into the swirling mob.  Its voice filled with malice.  Kill them.”

Tenryuu was on his feet his resolve and blade ready.  Glancing to his right he saw Shimiko fighting back to her feet, her shoulders slightly drooping.  They met back to back.  Waiting as the Shadows closed in on them.


* * * * * * *


He took a step forward, his breaths growing heavy and forced.  Every slash of his blade, no matter how clean barely kept the shadows at bay.  They swirled about, their glowing red eyes taunting his ineffectiveness. 

The silence was eerie and foreboding.  Only the sound of his heartbeat and the forced breaths of Shimiko broke the monotony.  The numbness of his right arm grew more pronounced as his left grew weary and his blade grew heavier.

All this time the child remained calm, oblivious to the danger he was in.  Tenryuu only swore under his breath.  These creatures shall not claim the Dragon Clan’s future.  In defiance he raised his blade forward towards the shadows.

A soft touch brushed against his right arm and the numbness began to fade and a sense of power returned to the former Dragon.  His tattoos lit up with power, moving with life they almost forgot.  Stealing a glance at the child he grew amazed.  Yoshune’s eyes glowed with jade radiance and they beheld wisdom beyond the child’s fragile years.  His small fingers traced the outlines of the samurai’s tattoos.  Looking up the baby gave him hope he almost lost.

The Shadow grew weary at his renewed confidence.  As one came to close, his blade struck and a primal scream fell from its lips.  The shadow oozed a black ichor and fell to the ground.  Its form melted into the earth leaving a patch void of life.

“Remain close to me Shimiko… the battle yet can be won.”

Realizing they have waited to long toying with the samurai, the Shadows grew restless.  One of their own has died by the hands of a filthy mortal.  In response to their anger the wind grew stronger.  Like knives it thrashed about.  Scarlet red eyes brightened to match their need for vengeance.

They came in force clawing about savagely.  Blades flashed and they fell.  The samurai’s skill shone brightly in the circle of darkness, but there were too many.  As one fell, two would replace them.  Their numbers seemed endless.

Was it an hour they fought? Or was it many more?  Tenryuu was unsure.  He only knew that even with the power he possessed he soon would fall.  Shimiko leaned heavily behind him.  She had fought to exhaustion, her naginata dragging to the ground.  She barely had the strength to raise it when one got too close.

Tenryuu’s eyes began to close as he saw death began its final approach.  He swore he would take them with him to Jigoku.  But they did not come.  They began to fall back filled with uncertainty and anger.

NO!” they hissed.  Kokujin has fallen… they have failed.  The child was ours!  The bargain is unfulfilled!

As they faded into the darkness the lone shadow with the strangely familiar face remained, struggling against the light.  The darkness that wrapped about him melted completely revealing his glowing tattooed frame.  Enjoy your short victory… you and your false Emperor will soon fall under the true ruler of Rokugan,” he hissed as he blurred away into the disappearing shadows.

Shimiko beheld a weak smile.  “The Sun!  Tenryuu… the Sun!”

Fighting to keep his eyes open he look towards the Sun.  It’s light gleamed through the clouds.

“They have succeeded... we have won.”

With that he collapsed to the ground and darkness took him.



* * * * *



Tenryuu slowly arose from his slumber.  The baby still in his arms protected in the blanket.

Yoshune gazed up at the young samurai.  His eye’s no longer glowed with divine favor, yet their innocence held the former dragon within its power.

Breaking the solemn silence the baby’s gentle coo echoed with joy.  Tenryuu smiled and with a small bow whispered, “Hai, Togashi-sama.”

Shimiko approached Tenryuu; her heavy steps betrayed her fatigue.  She looked up at the newborn sun, its comforting rays highlighting her youth and beauty.  Soaking in the almost forgotten rays, she turned to face the samurai.

“Tenryuu…. Where does our path lead to now?”

Turning his head to face her, his eyes struggled against the inevitable tears.  His voice cracked with a hint of joy and relief, “It leads to the Mountains… I am going home.”