The samurai picked at the fire, making it grow and increase
the heat emanating from it. His uninterested look wandered off
into the skies above. "Guard duty
Bah! I am sitting
here, guarding what?! A trade route that hasn't been used for
years! Now where's the honor and glory in that, I ask?!
Where?!" The samurai stood and walked around, stretching his
tired muscles. "But samurai-sama, why are you not honored by
the opportunity to guard this road? It is clear you are on a road
that will lead to greatness!" The samurai spun, his hand
already resting upon his katana, but when he saw who spoke to him
he turned around again and let his weapon rest in its saya.
"Go away peasant, I am not in the mood for any of the
wisdoms you might have heard from some wandering monk."
"But samurai-sama, do my words not carry the truth?"
The samurai slightly tilted his head towards the heimin, so he
could see him in the corner of his eyes and said, "Your
words carry danger, man! I could take them as insults and kill
you." He saw the peasant's lips curl in a smile and form
words, "Oh but samurai-sama, you wouldn't kill one such as
I? Would you? Or do you perhaps think that you still need to test
your skills on a lowly, unarmed, untrained target?"
This made the samurai spin around, this time he drew his katana and slew the heimin with one stroke, across the chest. He flicked the blood of his sword with the shiburi technique, turned around again and picked at the fire.
"Now Maigo, that wasn't very nice of you to do!" The samurai, Maigo, stumbled onto his feet and slowly turned around and looked at the man he had just cut down. "Is this your claimed Lion honor? Cutting down peasants here and there! Hah! Insignificant worm!" Maigo's lips trembled until he could hold back no more. "Silence," he screamed, "I will kill you once and for all, whatever you might be!" This time he slashed at the man's throat, breast and waist, making deep cuts. Again the man fell to the ground, but Maigo needed to make sure he was truly dead. He kneeled beside the body and held his ear above the peasant's mouth, trying to detect breathing, he wished he could check the heartbeat, but etiquette prevented him from touching a possibly dead body. Just as he thought the man was dead and he wanted to rise again, the peasant's hand shot out and grabbed Maigo by his throat and lifted him into the air. "Akodo Maigo, honorable Lion, glorious warrior, killer of peasants! Impressive list, don't you agree?!" The peasant's eyes almost shot fire and glowed with a red light, his breath was hot, hot like a fire's heat. Maigo tried to say something, but the hand around his throat was clenched so tight that no breath could escape it. "Listen to me Maigo, and listen carefully. I am coming for you! For you AND the other of the blood! Though your powers might just be a spark now, that spark will become a flame, a flame turns into a fire and the fire ends in an inferno. But I will be the firestorm that burns you away before you reach your full potential! Remember this and live in fear!" As the peasant finished his threat he snapped Maigo's neck with just a twitch of his hand.
His eyes shot open, heart beating in his throat, adrenaline
rushing through his body and his skin covered in a thin layer of
cold sweat. Maigo was looking right into the fire he was sitting
at. *A dream,* he thought, *nothing but a dream
* * *
"A Dragon, Okugi? Are you sure about this?" The Emperor looked concerned and intrigued at the same time. Okugi was still catching his breath after his vision of the Dragon, but answered, "Yes, my Lord, I think it really was a Dragon." Empress Kaede turned her head towards Okugi curiously and said in a friendly tone, "When the Dragons care for your destiny it means your are special, either to them, or to the fate of the Empire." Okugi pondered on the words of wisdom for a moment and then replied, "Thank you, Kaede-sama, for these kind words. I shall heed them."
The feast ended after another hour and the people slowly streamed out of the feasting hall, while many went to their quarters Okugi went to the dojo where he had fought and won earlier this evening. Once there he took one of the practice katanas from the wall, though they were still for training only, they felt better in his hand than a bokken. He started moving in the set pattern of one of the kata he knew from bushi training, but soon the set pattern became looser until the movements flowed from one into the other, not in a set pattern, but in a natural flow. During his practice Okugi was able to shed all of the worries like a thundercloud drops rain, but suddenly he got a flash of insight. Before him he saw a man, dressed in red and black, surrounded by dozens of other samurai, the man was moving through this crowd so quick and so elegant it seemed as if he was performing a dance. But wherever he pivoted men fell and wherever he stood still for even the smallest amount of time, blood spilled, surely this man was one of the greatest swordsman in the Empire.
The Emperor and his wife were walking towards the dojo, having heard that Okugi had gone there after the feast. Both were intrigued by the visitation of the Dragon, both of them had experience with Dragons and their 'house calls'. They entered the dojo finding Okugi in the midst of a kata, they settled on the still present seats and watched. Okugi didn't notice the arrivals, even though the guards and regular servants were there too, he simply continued his movements. Toturi admired the swordsmanship Okugi displayed, but suddenly Okugi changed his movements, in a flash. He stopped the more regular movements and suddenly the kata turned into a dance, with deadly pirouettes and pivoting as gracious as a bird. As he watched Okugi perform this 'dance' a strange feeling grasped Toturi, he remembered this He remember a man fighting like this, he remembered the man who move like a black and red thunderstorm, he remembered But how could that be? That man had died by his sword long ago, yet here it was again, though Okugi was more like a rain cloud than a thunderstorm.
"Leave us!" Toturi's words made Okugi come to a halt in mid-strike. He stood perfectly still, his stance never wavering and looked around, seeing that the Emperor and Empress were sitting in the dojo, to his surprise the guards and servants were leaving the dojo. "My Lord," he asked, "is there something amiss?" Sensing her husbands distress Kaede added, "Yes, what is troubling you?" Toturi looked from his wife to the samurai standing before him, his normally confident eyes looked almost haunted "Those movements," Toturi started, "how can it be that you know them? The last time I saw a man move like that was years ago. That man was Bayushi Shoju and I saw it before I killed him Can you explain this?"
Slowly Okugi swallowed, had he really seen a piece of the past? Could it be that he had seen Bayushi Shoju, fighting during the Scorpion Coupe? "My Lord," Okugi stammered, "I cannot explain this. These movements just appeared to me in a flash, a vision of a man dressed in black black and red, dancing his dance a dance of death. It must have been Bayushi Shoju, for he wore the colors of the Scorpion Clan. But I swear I swear I did not know I I just emulated his movements. I do not recall having such flashes before " While Toturi remained silent, Kaede nodded and replied, "It seems you are truly gifted, to see both future and past in visions. This knowledge comes to you for a reason, Okugi Make sure you do not waste it " With that Kaede stood and took Toturi's hand, after he had raised himself they bowed slightly and left the dojo.
When Okugi looked up again from his deep bow he was alone again, the only person in to fill the room, but he felt that there was something new about, something he had not sensed before, something strange, yet familiar. He sheathed the practice weapon and left for his room. He found his servant, Mekura waiting for him, as soon as he entered she welcomed him, "Good night, master. How was the feasting?" She looked up as if she could see him, but Okugi knew she couldn't. His heart grew heavy, as he had to tell her he would be leaving soon. "Mekura," he said, "I will be leaving soon. I cannot take you with me, but I shall see to it that you get good care here. I do not know when I will leave, but please accept this as my gift." Solemnly he kneeled next to the girl and put his hands on the sides of her head, gently he placed his thumbs over her closed eyes and slowly bent forward, kissing her on the forehead and when he did suddenly a great sensation got hold of them both.
It felt like the river of emotions was flowing freely between them, at first is was a bit awkward for both of them, but Okugi directed the river with his will, sending not only emotions, but visions as well, he showed Mekura the monastery where he grew up, the great mountains of the Dragon Clan, the flowers she had loved because of their smell, how she looked now and how Okugi looked when he saw his reflection, masked and unmasked. Just as it had come, the sensation left when the kiss ended. Mekura sat on the ground, overcome by emotions and visions, she cried of joy and happiness, it had been years since she last saw anything and she was a child then. Through her cries she thanked Okugi with all her life, Okugi smiled at her, and in her soul she could feel the smile, warming her like nothing had before. "My gift to you, Mekura, for everything you have done for me, though it may seem little what you did, I assure, it was not. Now Rest Tomorrow we will have to prepare for my leave "
* * *
Maigo was on his way home, travelling on his horse, but even
though the weather was beautiful and the sun was shining
comfortably, he couldn't shake the sense of nearby danger. The
dream had shaken him emotionally and good too. He now realized it
was more than a dream, but couldn't fathom its meaning. 'Of the
'Powers'? 'Potential'? What had the man in the vision been talking about? What could be so special about him? He wasn't even a true Akodo! Found at the doorsteps of a minor daimyo's castle, he was quickly and eagerly adopted into the restored Akodo family when they noticed a daisho, wrapped in cloth, besides his little body, a sign he was a samurai. He had only known his Lion parents, only the Lion way and only the Lion lands, why would anyone want him dead? He couldn't think of anything but asking a Kitsu for help, maybe it had been an angry spirit? While Maigo was deeply in thought, he had lost track of his surroundings, until he suddenly heard a voice say, "Halt! You there! Samurai!" When Mogai looked up noticed that he had made a mistake, surrounding him were twenty some samurai, ronin, armed and ready to attack. "The choice is yours samurai, wealth or blood " Maigo sighed and replied, "Very well, my choice will be simple "
[To be continued]