The Last Samurai: Souls and Memories

Memories can be forgotten, but the past is set in stone.

Tamashi Takahashi, a 12 year old boy robbed of his family and village by the tyrannical Emperor Kuno Satsugai, sets out to avenge his people. Along the way he is reunited with an old friend and warrior, Kenji Kotai.
Life is put on the line as they venture to-and-fro, meeting new friends and enemies along the way, and strive to bring justice upon the oppressors, and liberation to the oppressed


18. Demons

Tamashi plunged into the cold waters below with a splash, the force of the currents pulling him under. He struggled for air, wriggling to pull himself up but the currents were too strong, forcing him down. His body hit the end of a jagged stone, expelling oxygen from him.
"Kid!" Kenji yelled, knowing that he would drown, the thought of Tamashi dying so horribly filled Kenji's mind.
Kenji screamed in rage and sorrow, leaping far from the edge and grabbing the fallen rope of the bridge, furiously looking down into the rushing water. There was no sign of Tamashi.
Tamashi hit another rock, losing the last remaining air he had and knocking him unconscious, the currents pushing him downstream even further.
Darkness slowly fell around Tamashi's vision, he slowly opened his eyes to see he was back in Kimohama. He was on a bridge with his father staring down at a stream. 
"Y'know, Tamashi, there will come a time where I'm not around anymore." His father spoke. 
"What do you mean?" Tamashi asked, his eyes filled with curiosity.
"All living beings will eventually pass. I am among them. When the day comes for me to pass, do not mourn forever, rather, use it as an opportunity to strive further, now that your worries are gone." He said, looking down towards him, his square jaw curling into a warm smile.
"Just like how plants wilt?" Tamashi asked. "And what about the water?" Tamashi added.
"Plants are like us, they're born, they grow, and once they've reached their prime, they begin to slowly die." Leondan said, "Now, water is not alive. It does not grow, nor does it be born. It had been with us since the creation of this world, and nurtures life like a mother to a child. You see Tamashi, the water is our mother, and humanity is its child." He said, looking at the stream, watching pebbles playfully tumble by.
"But sometimes it can kill people. Why is that? If the water is our mother. Then why does it do that?" Tamashi asked with a tilt of his head.
"Perhaps it has grown sorrowful. Watching for eternity, it's children come and go, and chooses to take its anger out on the only thing it possibly can. Us." Leondan said, sighing.
"I see, it sounds awful. But it can be a peaceful thing." Tamashi replied, watching as a cherry blossom fell into the water, causing it to ripple.
"Tamashi! Leondan! It's almost lunch time!" Tamashi's mother called. 
"Coming!" Tamashi called back to her. 
He walked inside the house, looking at his mother. His father walked in and sat down. Suddenly, everything changed. He appeared back in front of his house in flames, he saw his mother dead and knew his father was trapped inside. Then the image of him falling into the rapids shot through his head. He saw himself in the water, this time it looked a lot more calm and Tamashi was slowly sinking further down into the bottom of the water. He then saw an aura that was in the shape of a woman figure. It flashed and his mother was now right by him before his very eyes. 
"Don't let the water destroy you, don't give up son. You'll be a brave young man someday." She spoke. 
Tamashi's eyes closed and everything went dark again. 
His eyes slowly opened, realizing he was in calmer water now. He weakly started to swim up for air, once he reached the surface he gasped for air then lost all of his strength and sunk back down into the water. He closed his eyes again, the flashbacks confused him greatly.
Tamashi choked, his eyes snapping open, his air once again fleeing from his lungs. He tried to swimming up, but his body felt weak. He kept struggling, seeing the light from the surface, panicking from lack of air. 
He reached his good arm up in an attempt to reach the surface, he felt a sharp pain, realizing he still had the arrow in his shoulder. The top part of the arrow was snapped, there were splintered pieces of wood from where it had been broken off from the merciless rapids. 
Thoughts went through his head like a raging storm, wondering if this was the end for him or not. Was he going to live? Was he going to die? He didn't know and it scared him to find out if he was going to die. 
He remembered Kenji and thought about how he would feel if he had found his body, drowned. He also realized he wouldn't be able to take his vengeance on the Emperor and Aarmux. 
He attempted on swimming up again, choking more, water filling his lungs, his whole body aching, not to mention the exhaustion he felt. He couldn't go on, he was powerless.
Tamashi gave one last look before closing his eyes. So this was what dying felt like... Unable to breathe, nor able to think or feel. He could slowly feel himself welcoming death with open arms.
Upon the surface of Tamashi's mind, he heard a voice like rolling thunder, deep and foreboding, inspiring fear to overtake him.
"Tremens factus mortalium." The voice said.
Suddenly, the water around Tamashi vanished, hot steam jetting into the air, crimson flames surrounding him, the spikes flattened from the force of an unknown shockwave. Tamashi turned, his eyes widening in horror as he saw a pitch-black figure, clad in jagged, spiked armor, the demon mask of a samurai eerily smiling upon its face.
"I am fire..." The figure said, the Bitāzu staring at the floor as beams of scarlet light glowed brightly out
"I am… Death." Satsujin said.
The hillside bearing the Bitāzu suddenly erupted into colossal pillars of ravenous fire, eviscerating the land and mowing trees flat and leafless.
Tamashi watched in horror, his savior more terrifying than the thought of death itself.
"W-who are you..." Tamashi said, coughing up water.
"I am Satsujin, the Crimson Dragon. I thank your compatriot for freeing me from his body for this short while, I must return to him, or my bonds will be broken." Satsujin said, sheathing Deception, the word "Fate" inscribed on the blade.
Red light glowed from the body of Satsujin, a pillar of crimson fire engulfing him, then dissipating, a huffing Kenji kneeling where he was.
He looked up, "Kid!" Kenji yelled, sprinting over to Tamashi.
"H-how..." Tamashi tried to say, losing consciousness.
"Kid! Kid wake up!" Kenji said, picking him up and forcing the water out of his lungs.
Tamashi didn't wake, he had already fallen fast asleep. Kenji listened to his heartbeat, exhaling with gratitude at his survival.
"I will explain everything when you are awake...Do not worry..." Kenji said, regret crossing his face as he carried Tamashi off, the ashes of thousands of Bitāzu lining the path ahead.
Tamashi woke up, watching as he neared the village, his head swimming. He exhaled with relief, happy to be alive. 
"W-Where am I? W-what happened?" Tamashi choked out, winded and still having some trouble breathing. He coughed, then winced a little, peering over to his struck shoulder.
"You fell into the rapids, I had to resort to my trump card to save you. It was a dire situation." Kenji said, staring at the floor grimly.
 Tamashi remembered, looking down at the ground. 
"I-I..... Saw mother..." He choked out grimly.
Kenji stared at him, sighing heavily.
"Those on the brink of death witness what they miss most." Kenji said, "Kid...You almost died."
His eyes widened, his face going pale. 
 "I what?" Tamashi said in disbelief, "Mother said something about not to let the water destroy me and to not give up.." He muttered to himself.
"It seems like something she would say..." Kenji said, pity welling up in him.
"I think I can walk.." Tamashi said, his body still aching from the strain of the rapids. He noticed a few cuts on his body from the rocks, causing him to sigh.
He wiped away some blood from his forehead, yawning sleepily.
"Alright, tread carefully kid." Kenji said cautiously, setting him down. 
"Y-Yeah." Tamashi replied as he stood, he instantly felt dizzy and stumbled, nearly falling to the ground.
"Kid!" Kenji said, catching him by the shoulders, "Don't rush it. Let yourself slowly reacquaint to standing. You've been through a lot..." He said, sighing.
"I-I'm fine..." Tamashi replied.
He tried taking a step and almost collapsed once more. His head swam, his vision going slightly darker and blurry.
"K-kid..." Kenji said, putting one arm on his chest and holding him up, "You said you were fine. You sure as hell aren't." He said, sitting Tamashi down and opening a poncho of water.
"Here, drink." Kenji said, handing Tamashi the poncho.
"I don't think I can handle anymore water.." Tamashi replied, handing him back the poncho. His hands shook, looking down. He coughed, gasping for air.
"Your airways are clogged, drink this to pull the excess out." Kenji said, pushing the poncho back, "I refuse to let you die on me." He said, his eyes glowing with resilience.
"F-Fine.." He choked out, drinking the water. He gave Kenji back the poncho.
"See? Ain't too bad." Kenji said, putting the poncho away and lying back on the grass, yawning.
"Something tells me we'll be seeing our good friend Aarmux soon enough, that bastard is resilient beyond measure." Kenji said, groaning.
"What do you mean?" He asked, laying down out of sheer exhaustion. He looked up at the sky, remembering when he had seen his mother. He lay on his side, away from Kenji, allowing a tear to escape his eye. He coughed again and looking into the vast forest.
"Normally, if you cut the arm from a man and leave him to bleed like a shot deer, he dies, but this man, he lived, either he is incredibly strong or-" Kenji cut off, a troubled expression crossing his face, "He's not human..."
Tamashi wiped away the tear, then looked over to him with widened eyes. 
"What? But, how?" He asked, sitting up.
"He could be a reanimated corpse, but his muscle tissue is too refined..." Kenji said, puzzling, "Or he could be like me." He said, turning to Tamashi.
"I haven't explained to you, have I?" He said, his brows furrowing with regret.
"No?" He asked puzzled. "What is it?"
"I am the vassal to the Crimson Dragon King, Satsujin." Kenji said, "He dwells within me as part of my soul. I can call upon him to take form as me any time I wish." He said, turning to the sun.
"But I normally don't use it...Because..." He said, looking down, "He is a remorseless killer, he would slaughter all in his wake with no regret, that includes you."
"I see..." Tamashi muttered, giving a nod. "So.. You mean Aarmux could be a demon?" He asked.
"Tamashi, I am no demon. I am merely a vassal to a soul. But it is possible that he is." Kenji said, frowning at Tamashi.
"I see.." He replied, coughing. He sat up, attempting to get up, his head swimming again. He fell back and coughed, flinching in pain, noticing the arrow lodged in his shoulder. "I forgot that was still there.." Tamashi muttered with a curse under his breath.
Kenji reached over, grabbing the arrow by its bottom and twisting it out of Tamashi's shoulder, inspecting the edges.
"This arrow wasn't Bitāzu make, these were the Emperor's men in disguise. They aren't to be trifled with." Kenji said, hurling the arrowhead far across the forest.
He turned, putting a hand on Tamashi's wounded shoulder, "This is going to hurt like hell." He said, his hand glowing red hot as he cauterized the wound.
Tamashi flinched, his vision going more blurry. "Ow, okay stop." Tamashi said, pushing his hand away.
"You get some rest, you've been through a lot." Kenji said, "If you don't I might have to knock you out." He said, grinning.
Tamashi sat up with a sigh. "I'd rather not sleep." He replied, looking as if he hadn't slept in days. He looked up at the now starry sky, listening to the crickets make their music.
Kenji had already fallen asleep, his left hand frozen in reach of his canteen.
"Hah-hah...Kanpai..." He said, laughing in his sleep.
Tamashi sighed. "Never mind.." He muttered, he stayed awake for the rest of the night.
Aarmux stood before the emperor once more, bowing before him.
"What is it?" The emperor spoke, leaning forwards. 
"The boy is dead, my spies have informed me. He had fallen into the rapids, no one would be able to survive them, they'd be torn apart. He is finally slain, your rule is assured." Aarmux spoke with a smirk. 
"Lovely, now leave my presence." The emperor said, giving a sickening chuckle of sadism. 
"As you wish.." Aarmux replied, bowing and leaving his throne room.


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