Sorrow’s Tear

Part III

The young samurai chamber was secluded and chilled.  It was relatively small and barren, save for the rolled up tatami mat and a simple shrine set upon a stone slab.  Centered in front of the shrine was a small urn filled with dirt from Iron Mountain.  Within, it housed numerous reeds of incense that permeated the room with the sweet scent of jasmine.  Candles flanked the urn as their light flickered about creating shadows that danced across the room.

Tenryuu knelt down in front of the urn as he whispered a prayer to the kami and his ancestors.  Two reeds of incense, blessed in the temples of shintao, were pulled from the folds of his hakama.  Carefully he lit them and positioned them in the urn.  His hands firmly placed upon the ground he bowed deep and unmoving.

Slowly he rose and turned to the side.  Reaching out he brought to him a bundle wrapped in silk.  With gentle reverence he placed it in front of him and began to open up the layers that bound it.

A roll of parchment wrapped in twine was the first thing freed of its silken prison.  Bowing low he placed the scrolls to his forehead and whispered, “Master, I thank you for your wisdom.”

As he placed the scroll upon the shrine, his attention shifted back to the bundle of silks.  He continued to free the silk and at last he paused as his gaze fell upon the blade within.

The tsuka was made of dark green jade carved into twin dragons intertwined in harmony.  Between their two jaws was a ring of white jade with a green tassel hanging freely. 

Slowly he pulled the blade from the dark lacquered saya.  It had a mirrored finish that reflected the candlelight eerily as if it was the moon.  Within its hamon was a tempering that resembled a smoky gray mist.  At times the young dragon swore that it twirled about as if in a storm.

A small creak from behind the young samurai interrupted his thoughts.  Quickly he resheathed the blade and closed the bundle up tight.

“Tenryuu, I hope I did not disturb you,” came the deep booming voice.

“No, Nyugo-san.  You are always welcome in my humble home,” Tenryuu smiled as he turned to face the larger man.

Nyugo place his hands to his chin stroking his dark beard, “Now if I only could get a woman to say such words I could die a happy man.”

“If you could get a woman to say such words, I would ask how many koku did it cost our lord!”

“A pretty beni I would say,” bellowed Nyugo as he approached the shrine.

Tenryuu rose up and straightened his clothing, “What brings you this late hour?”

Letting out a deep breath he paused, “I heard that you were leaving early in the morning and I wanted to make sure you did not leave without saying goodbye.”

“I am touched my friend,” his head tilted down in shame, “I have always found it difficult bidding farewell to those I care for.”

Nodding his head nervously he glanced about the room, “Why so early, the frost is still thick out there.  In a few more weeks the pass should clear up for an easier trip.”

“Hai, I would have liked to ease my journey… but I must make it to Nisawa pass by weeks end.”

Comprehension filled Nyugo’s eyes as he realized the significance of what the young dragon was saying, “Has it been that long?”

“It has been almost a year now since my master’s death.  I had hoped to bring some incense and dirt from his homeland to the place where he died.”

“You really cared for your master, eh?”

“For the short time I knew him, he was like a father to me… how ironic it was to find out that he was my father.”

* * * *

The trip to Nisawa pass was a relatively a simple one.  His early training among the Hoshi monks taught him to bear the harsh elements, and the frosty wind barely qualified as harsh.  Instead it gave him time to ponder the events of a year ago.

He and his master were traveling with a supply caravan that carried direly needed food for the Dragon Clan. They chose to take Nisawa Pass in order to save a week of travel and to avoid any hostile patrols.  The journey was arduous but relatively event free.

As they got closer to the pass things began to change.  It was late at night when they were ambushed by a pack of ruthless beasts.  Standing nearly twice as tall as any of the bushi that guarded the supplies, they struck quickly with the precision of a seasoned war band.

The skill and blood of the Mirumoto Bushi fought them back giving the caravan enough time to make the pass.  It was there that his master set a trap to hold off the beasts.

The pass looked different from a year ago.  The rocks have been cleared and most signs of any battle were swept away by the weather or covered in light frost.

Nostalgically he placed his hand upon the stone facing and rubbed against its blanket of ice.  Slowly it melted away to reveal dark charred stone, undiminished by the time.

 A grimace escaped his lips as the memory of fire and sound of thunder came back to him.  The Tamori family may have embraced the power of earth, but their skill in alchemy and fire did not dwindle, as the painful expression of the rock facing could attest.

Peering about he collected stones from wherever they could be found and began to build a shrine.

Kneeling down beside the shrine, he opened up his pack.

“Master, I apologize for not coming sooner.  The war has brought much hardship.  I have brought you a piece of your home to keep your spirit company.”

Slowly he poured the sand from the pouch upon the stone shrine, and then he placed within, three reeds of incense and lit them.

“May this light guide you to the heavens.”

Gingerly he pulled out a bowl of rice and leaves filled with spices from the Koryo village placing them upon the shrine.  Grabbing a vial of wine, he poured it around the stones outcropping.

“Food and drink for your travels.”

Bowing deeply he focused on the teachings of his master.  To open your mind and senses to the elements, to feel their touch upon one’s chi.  A small hope within that he could still sense his father at the place of his death.

A long time he remained bowed, his muscles began to ache and he could sense the descent of Lord Yakamo.  It was then a sense of uneasiness filled him.  Instincts overtook him as he rolled to the side grabbing for his blades.

Rolling to one knee he pulled Whispering Willow from its saya, its point facing where he once stood.  His other hand guarded over the handle of his wakizashi.

His eyes widened in surprise.  A large bestial creature stood wielding a blade the size of a man in its hands, its tip resting upon the ground where he once prayed.

A small sigh of relief crept upon his face as he realized the shrine was undisturbed.

The creature tilted its horned head towards him and snorted in disgust as it sniffed at the air.

“It has his scent, but is too young… too small,” it growled with a thick accent. 

Turning its body, the blade scraped across the ground causing sparks to flare about.

Tenryuu remained on a single knee with his blade out, making small adjustments to the creature’s movement.  His eyes were intent on the beast, as his left hand worked methodically wrapping the silk sash band of his saya upon his wakizashi’s tsuba and then his hand.

“If not him, then perhaps it is his pup,” its bestial voice continued as it crouched low facing the young dragon.

The beast is dangerous… do not underestimate its speed or skill,” Tenryuu thought as he observed its soft and supple movements.

A disturbing fanged smile appeared on its lips.  “Its death will do.”

Almost a blur the creature struck, its blade coming crashing down.  Cursing silently Tenryuu dived to the side, his blade striking at the creature’s unprotected leg.  Only to have the blade swing through empty air, as the creature was already gone.

Sensing the creature was descending upon him, he pushed awkwardly forward hitting the ground as the thunderous impact of the creature colliding against the earth..

Trying to control his panic, the samurai kept rolling forward ignoring the pain in his knee.  Thinking the creature was continuing its assault upon him, he swung his blade in a figure eight about him as he attempted to regain his stance.

It stood facing him, a dark bestial laugh escaped its lips.

“The pup has its father’s fire, but is inexperienced... I can taste its fear.”

Licking its lips, “I shall enjoy tasting your blood for the fire and pain your sire has caused my pack.”

The young samurai eyes creased in concentration.  “It is one of those creatures that attacked long ago.  It was too dark to recognize them, but it has to be.”

The creature slowly approached, its eyes filled with confidence.

“It seeks to revenge its brethren, but instead I will get vengeance for my master.”

Breathing in deeply, Tenryuu focused on the lessons taught him. 

“It attacks with the stability of earth and ferocity of fire… must adapt with the stance of air and water.”

His eyes followed the creatures every movement, every little bristle of its thick hide.

“There!” his thoughts screamed as the creatures shoulder dipped ever so slightly.

As the huge blade descended with the sound of impending doom, Tenryuu stood his ground, his body loose.  At the last moment, he twirled about pulling his wakizashi free from the sash, deflecting the bestial blade ever so slightly.  The metal saya sparked violently as a spasm of pain shot down his arm to his shoulder.

Seeing an opening he ignored the pain and swung Whispering Willow.  The blade tasted the creature’s foul blood, as it cut clean through and then again as he pulled the blade back the other direction.

Seeing the beast hunch over, he swung the blade straight down tearing into the creature’s shoulder.

Searing in pain, the creature turned its head towards him and released a piercing howl.

Tenryuu’s body spasmed in pain as an unseen force struck him, hurling him back.

Eyes blurred as he looked towards the beast, Whispering Willow still cut deep within the creature’s body.  As the wounded dragon attempted to get up, the ground crumbled from beneath him and the rush of the descent hit him.

There was impact… then darkness.

To be continued…