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


19. Strive

"A mountain?!" Tamashi yelped, stunned.
"Yes, a mountain." Kenji said, packing supplies.
"But...why?" Tamashi asked.
"I want to train you, that is all." Kenji said, sighing.
"But I didn't get any.... Forget it." Tamashi muttered with a yawn. "Are we going to do sword fighting as well?" He asked, feeling rather tired.
"Aye, we are, as well as physical training." Kenji said, grinning devilishly.
Tamashi sighed, nodding reluctantly.
"Alright." He muttered, packing up his own supplies.
Tamashi looked up from his things, looking over to Kenji. "Why train in the mountains anyways?" He asked.
"Odd as it is, those mountains have a strong connection to magic, which would make it easier to those within its aura to harness it." Kenji said, chuckling and scratching his head.
"I see.." Tamashi muttered with a nod.
Tamashi muttered a curse, sitting down and rethinking what had happened at the gorge. 
"I should've listened.." He sighed.
"Damn straight you should've." Kenji said, grinning and patting him on the head, showing no signs of anger.
"I'm such an idiot for not listening about running off, I was just so curious and I wanted to explore." Tamashi replied, looking at his belongs that weren't packed.
"And?" Kenji said, raising an eyebrow, "Hey, I'm an idiot too. I forgot to tie you up." He said, ruffling Tamashi's hair, laughing as he packed a few of Tamashi's things.
"I should've watched where I was going when I was heading back, I wouldn't have gotten caught in that trap if I had. I was just so eager to tell you about that fort." Tamashi replied, helping Kenji with the packing.
"I had a hunch they were operating in the area, several trees had arrow markings, I should've told you before I turned my back, sorry kid. It's my fault too." Kenji said, handing Tamashi his pack.
Tamashi took his pack. 
"I noticed that as well, when I got to the fort. It was odd, eerie almost.." He muttered.
"Eerie ain't good. If it feels wrong in your primal mind, don't trust it." Kenji said, picking a piece of wheat from a field as they left the INN, placing it between his lips.
"I know, I was just...curious." He said.
"Say, Kenji, did you ever find anything about what Aarmux was blabbering about? You know, that prophecy?" He asked, looking up at him, who seemingly towered over Tamashi.
Kenji removed the straw from his lips as they walked, "I ain't heard nothing about a prophecy, but I ain't letting them take you." He said, stretching and adjusting his pack.
"Yeah, I know you wouldn't let them take me, and I appreciate that." Tamashi replied, wondering about what Aarmux was talking about. 
"When I asked him about it he said it was nothing, but I could tell it was something, something that concerned him greatly." He added, yawning.
"That Aarmux is one mysterious bastard, I'll give him that." Kenji said, placing the straw back in his mouth.
"Yeah, but I'm curious as to why they're after me. I may be one of the last Kimohama, but I'm not that important." Tamashi replied, looking over to an array vast fields slaves were working in, many of which had Asian background.
The straw in Kenji's mouth slowly burned, he spat it out, angrily staring towards the owners' house.
"Bastards think they're the king of mortal man now, do they..." Kenji said, scoffing, turning from the house, and continuing to walk.
"Well, unfortunately the mainlands are like this. People are greedy and selfish, so they don't really care about the lives of others." Tamashi replied. 
He adjusted his pack and continued moving on without another look towards the slaves.
"When this is all over, I expect you to change that." Kenji said, grinning slightly.
"I doubt I would be able to do much. Honestly, I'm just a kid. I've only seen multiple battles, so I don't know much about saving peasants or slaves from forced labor." Tamashi sighed with a shrug.
"You're forgetting. You've experienced why they have, you've witnessed the cruelties firsthand. As I freed you, you too some day will free them. I'm sure of it." Kenji said, staring off into the now setting sun.
Silence soon fell upon the two, Tamashi gave another yawn, feeling exhaustion beginning to overtake him. 
"Kenji.. Can I tell you something?" He asked, looking back over to him, his red hair glowing in the faint sunlight.
Kenji looked down at Tamashi, nodding.
"What is it kid?" He asked. 
"Well, lately I haven't been able to get any sleep. I've also noticed every time I tried to sleep I kept having these awful memories of what happened back in Kimohama." Tamashi replied. He looked down, listening to the crickets playing their song of the night.
"Oh?" Kenji said, tilting his head.
"Yeah, I just can't manage to sleep. Even if I do I end up waking up shortly after, terrified." He replied to Kenji, looking over to the swaying trees out in the distance of a meadow.
"Y'know, I can't blame you. The mere sight of what happened there was...horrifying." Kenji said, his grip tightening as a flash of crimson shot through his eyes.
"I just wish I was strong enough back then so I could have fought off those soldiers and saved my parents and the village. But I was too weak, I couldn't do anything. Even when I tried to save my mother I just couldn't." Tamashi choked out, regretting what had happened back then.
"I'll make Aarmux pay for what he did to my parents.. Especially for the village, he'll pay for what he has done when he's soaked in a pool of his own blood.." Tamashi muttered, clenching his fists. His eyes flashing a demonic red out of sheer anger.
Kenji eyed him, raising an eyebrow for moment.
"Are you...No, never mind." Kenji said, turning away.
"Am I what?" Tamashi asked, tilting his head out of confusion.
"It's nothing." Kenji said, staring at the sky, the first few stars beginning to pop out. He looked back down, noticing they had already begun approaching the foot of the great mountain. It's peak lay shrouded in mist.
"We'd best get going, there's a path that winds up the mountain. " He said, "Come on, and whatever you do, don't move from my side."
"What will happen if I do?" Tamashi asked curiously, looking up towards the peak of the mountain in sheer awe.
"You'll either be potentially kidnapped by bandits and killed, or you will freeze to death." Kenji said grimly, "So don't you dare leave me, or I will blow up this mountain merely to look for you." He said.
"How would I freez- sweet divines it is quite chilly.." Tamashi muttered, looking around. 
"Why would bandits come here if it's so cold?" He asked.
"Because there are plenty of travelers willing to try their luck." Kenji said, "And if bandits show, I'll tear off their arms, how about that?" He said, grinning widely.
"Sounds good to me." Tamashi nodded. 
They started marching up the mountain, Tamashi made sure to stay close to Kenji. He felt the cold air, feeling a chill down his spine. He looked back and saw a dark figure, but said nothing. He continued on with Kenji, feeling the exhaustion overtake him more but he kept pushing his limits to stay close.
"How you holding up kid?" Kenji shouted over the icy wind, "We're almost at the top, magic energy causes the weather to behave oddly up there, so it should be warmer." He said.
Tamashi started to feel himself slow down. 
"Not well, I don't think." He shouted back, peering back over to where he saw the dark figure. He then noticed the mysterious figure had a strange object in its hand. It looked like an orb of some kind that was made solely of shadow. It threw the orb at the top of the mountain, a huge avalanche of rock and ice coming down. 
Tamashi's eyes widened, noticing it was heading towards both him and Kenji. 
"Kenji!" He yelled, quickly running out of the way towards nearby rocks and taking cover from the avalanche. 
The cold wind blew fiercely as he shivered, he looked up from the rocks and saw Kenji take cover on the other side.
The Avalanche soon passed fiercely, snow covering Tamashi completely. He broke free from the snow, sitting up as he shivered greatly. 
Tamashi looked up and saw the figure towering over him, the cloaked man grabbed him by the throat and raised him up.
"...No!" Tamashi choked out, placing both hands on the man's arm in attempt to make him let go. He then held a palm out towards his face, lightning striking at it. The man quickly moved away, the lightning shooting up into the sky. Tamashi choked, he placed his other hand back on the man's arm again and electrocuted it. He yelled out in pain and dropped Tamashi.
"Hello there rat..." Kenji said, grabbing a tanto and plunging it into the man's arm, hurling him into the wall and pinning him with the blade.
"Mind telling me what you think you're doing to my boy?" He said, his orange eyes glowing furiously.
The man choked out a chuckle. "So that's the prophecy, how interesting. No wonder why Aarmux wants him so bad." The man laughed in a deep tone. 
The man snapped his fingers and Tamashi felt a wire wrap around his throat and tighten. 
"Metal, quite useful and easy to bend." The man chuckled, making a signal as the wire tightened. 
"Think quickly now, either let me go or watch the boy die." He laughed.
Tamashi choked, gasping for air. He placed both hands on the wire and tugged at it, trying to get it to loosen, but it wouldn't budge.
"You bastard...fine, I'll let you go." He said, tearing the tanto out of the man's arm and running to Tamashi.
"See you later, you bloody imbeciles!" The man said, laughing as he began running back towards the path.
Out of the white frost came two blades, one striking the man in the abdomen, the other in the throat. Chains of ice suddenly appeared on the blades, pulling them out of him, a titanic gale-force blast launching the man off of the mountain and far into the depths. Kenji looked over, a tan man with spiky white hair and a headband emerging out of the snow, he had little armor.
"Eh, now where'd I throw him?" The man said, brushing snow off of his shoulders as he turned to Kenji.
"Oh, hello there sir." He said.
"Kaze...?" Kenji said, his eyes widening in surprise.
Kaze gasped, sheathing his twin tantos, "Kenji! Hello my old friend!" He said, embracing Kenji.
"I missed you! You airhead!" Kenji said, ruffling his hair.
"It is good to see you as well!" Kaze said, looking over to Tamashi.
"Oh! Is this your son Kenji?" Kaze said, looking over to him.
Kenji smacked him upside the head, shaking his own, "No you airhead, this is Tamashi, the last of Kimohama." He said.
"Tamashi, this is Kaze, he is second to me in the Vanguard and a dear friend of mine, say hello." Kenji said, laughing.
"How do you do young lad?" Kaze said, his silver eyes glinting in the faint sunlight, his hair the same color as the snow.
"Um, hi.." Tamashi choked out, rubbing his throat. 
He looked up at the two warriors. "So there are more survivors of Kimohama.." He muttered to himself.
"Me? Oh, no, no. I came from the mountain tribes. You see, they sent me because I was something called- Oh, what was it?" Kaze said, turning to Kenji.
"A loopy airhead?" Kenji said, laughing.
"Yes! I am a loopy airhead!" Kaze said confidently.
Kenji laughed hysterically, pounding on the frozen ground with his fist.
Tamashi sputtered a laugh, walking over to Kenji shivering. 
"That was a good one." He whispered to him, sputtering out another laugh.
He faced Kaze with a chuckle. "So you're from the tribe of loopy airheads?" He asked, laughing.
“Oh, no. I am the loopy airhead, they are not. They're missing out, I quite like being the one and only loopy airhead." Kaze said proudly, manipulating water into shapes in the air and freezing it.
"Kaze uses wind magic, his knives allow him to wield water and ice magic in tandem." Kenji said, "You'd think this guy would be my mortal enemy in a fight. Evidently not."
"Oh yes, last time we dueled I lost. Do you know how?" Kaze said, looking at Tamashi.
"No...?" Tamashi said confusedly.
"He vaporized all the ice and water I tried to use, and when I tried to use wind, his flames merely absorbed it." Kaze said, chuckling.
"It's cold as hell here. Let's get to the peak." Kenji said, sniffing.
"Ah yes!" Kaze said, leading them up the path.
He leaned over to Tamashi.
 "Hell isn't cold, right?" He asked.
"It isn't." Tamashi replied, sneezing. He shivered from the cold, looking up at the misty peak once more. 
"Hell is more of a really hot place, rather than cold."
"Oh? I should visit there sometime!" Kaze said, grinning.
Kenji stifled a snicker, pretending to cough.
They neared the peak, the ice-clad air around them beginning to mystically dissipate. Suddenly, light streamed through, the sight of trees and grass as far as the eye could see appeared before them, it was all suspended in the air, hidden by the clouds before. It was a floating utopia.
"Welcome to paradise!" Kaze said, spreading his arms.
Kenji looked around, streams snaking through the air, fish traveling through them in groups. He raised a eyebrow, continuing to walk.
"Welcome to mushroom land..." He muttered, chuckling quietly.
"Finally...." Tamashi spoke, falling onto the grass out of exhaustion. He watched the area around him in awe. "This is amazing..." Tamashi said, staring at the trees and habitats suspended by nothing more than magic energy.
"It truly is!" Kaze said, laughing.
"I want to retire here..." Kenji said, sitting on the grass by Tamashi.
He pulled out a canteen of sake, handing it to Kaze, "You still drink?" Kenji asked.
"Water? Of course." Kaze said, appalled.
"Alcohol you airhead." Kenji said, chuckling.
"Oh...yes." Kaze said, taking the canteen and drinking.
"Say, what ever happened with the other Vanguard?" Kenji asked, taking back the canteen and stowing it.
"Oh, lord. You should see Draksis, his eyebrows burn hotter than your fire!" Kaze said.
The two of them burst into laughter, collapsing onto the floor.
"Hey, at least he isn't Oslim! That man swept more floors with his nose hairs than a broom!" Kenji said.
They cackled, rolling on the floor, Kaze gasping for air, Kenji attempting to prop himself up on a tree.
"Ha-have you seen Yoshimura...?" Kaze said, regaining his breath.
"No, what about him?" Kenji asked.
"His beard has tripped me more times than my own feet!" Kaze choked out.
The two of them howled with laughter, their cacophony echoing through the vast landscape.
Tamashi watched them, slightly grinning. 
Kenji leaned over to him, "Psst, ask him if he's an idiot." He said, snickering.
"Um, are you an idiot Kaze sir?" Tamashi asked, puzzled.
"Me? Idiot? I thought I was Kaze...I could've sworn I was. No matter, if you believe so, I am this fabled idiot!" Kaze said, standing up.
 "You hear that world? I am idiot!" He bellowed, his wind magic amplifying the sound for miles.
Kenji was dying with laughter on the floor, choking for air, his sides aching. Tamashi laughed with him, giggling helplessly.
Tamashi finally caught his breath, his own laughter slowly dying down, he yawned, closing his eyes as Kenji and Kaze talked, feeling himself overtaken by sleep.
Tamashi opened his eyes, hearing the sound of fire crackling and the smell of smoke. He could feel the smoke filling his lungs as he started to cough and gasp for clean air. He looked up and saw his old house on fire. Feeling a presence behind him, he looked back and saw Aarmux. His eyes filled with fear as he turning to face him. 
"Well, hello there. Tamashi. 'O our most faithful prophet." Aarmux spoke, smirking and mockingly bowing. He walked over towards Tamashi, blade in hand.
"What are you talking about?!" Tamashi asked, feeling a few tears escape him, the feeling of witnessing the horrors of Kimohama again filling his mind.
"You should know what I mean, wouldn't you?" Aarmux spoke, nearing Tamashi. 
"I don't.." He muttered. 
Aarmux laughed, lunging at Tamashi, ready to slash him apart. 
Tamashi suddenly appeared in a darkened area, the shadows surrounding him. A golden light appeared in front of him.
"Tamashi." A resonant voice said, it was that of a lady's.
"W-who are you?" Tamashi said, bewildered.
"I am Meredith, spirit of the Utopian Mountain. How do you do?" She said, her body materializing out of golden light, her garments composed of starlight.
"I-I'm fine, just a bit confused. It's a pleasure to meet you." Tamashi replied, looking at Meredith.
"Your mind seems troubled." She said, floating around in the air, "What plagues your thoughts youngling?" She asked.
"M-my village was attacked four years ago. I can't sleep without that night replaying in my head, not to mention there's a general, Aarmux, who keeps speaking of this prophecy." Tamashi attempted explaining to her.
"I know all of this already. Tell me youngling, what is it that truly troubles you." She said, her shining eyes growing serious.
He thought for a moment, "I-I want to avenge my family, my village." Tamashi said, a fire in his eyes.
"I see..." She said, puzzling for a moment.
"This general you speak of, he speaks of a prophecy, I know of this, for as prophets are connected to magic, I myself am the very magic they seek. I will unravel to you the tale of your future." She said, silver mist surrounding her, the air growing relaxed, the tension flooding away.
"There are two known prophecies." She began.
 "The last Survivor of Kimohama will rise up, having unbelievable power. Thee shall slay the wicked of who hast destroyed thy village and bring peace and harmony. Or, the last known survivor of Kimohama will rise, then join forces with thy foes and shall bring hell upon thy world. Bringing chaos. You will either rise and save us all, or go against those you love and destroy everything in your path." She spoke, looking down at the boy.
"No.... So this means..." Tamashi said, his face going pale.
"Yes, it means you are the prophecy." She replied, gently sighing.
She placed her arms around his neck, embracing him as a mother would her child.
"Do not fear child. I'm sure you will take the right path. Now, awaken." She said, golden light filling the blank void they stood in.
Suddenly, Tamashi's eyes snapped open. Several bandits surrounded them, Kenji and Kaze bound by ropes, Tamashi's arms and legs bound by them as well.
"Let them go!" He yelled, struggling at the thick cords.
"Ah, shut up you little brat." One of the bandits said, pulling out a knife and throwing it at Tamashi's forearm, it sunk into his flesh, causing him to gasp in pain. Kenji bit through his cloth gag.
"Listen here you rat-assed weasel, I'm giving you until the count of three to unbind me, should you not, I will personally dismember you with a dagger. And you see this airhead next to me? He's a nut-job when he fights, so I recommend you don't screw with him either." Kenji roared at them, fire slowly beginning to rise around his body.
"You talk big for a little tied-up swine!" The bandit said, pulling the knife out of Tamashi's arm violently.
"Oh? Then you won't need a countdown..." Kenji said, his ropes incinerating.
He blasted forwards, his fist connected with the bandit's jaw, tearing it clean off and snapping his neck. Kaze sighed, slowly loosening his ropes with consecutive gusts. He walked over to Tamashi.
"Here you go Tom." He said, pulling off Tamashi's ropes.
"My name is Tamashi, and thank you." Tamashi said.
Kenji wheeled around as a bandit swung at him, grabbing the blade in his hand and crushing it. He grabbed a shard out of midair, jamming it into the bandit's arm and hurling him off of the ledge. Kaze stretched as the last four bandits began running off, he snapped, enormous blasts of wind instantly knocking them unconscious on the floor. He walked over to one of the bandits, retrieving his own tantos. One slowly got up, pulling out Deception.
"Hah! I've got your freakish friend's sword!" He laughed, "No man has bested me in sword comb-" He stopped.
Red light began resonating through his skin, causing it to crack. He screamed in pain as red fire exploded from his body, vaporizing him instantaneously.
"You're either a dumbass or simply can't read." Kenji said, walking over to the blade and lifting it. He pointed to multiple calligraphic symbols on the handle.
"Only thy vassal shall wield the power of this forbidden blade." Kenji said.
"Are you talking to me?" Kaze said, scratching his head.
"No, I'm talking to that prick who's now ash." Kenji said, sighing and wiping blood off of his armor.
"Oh, alright then. Hello prick who is now ash! How is your day?" Kaze said, grinning.
"You airhead." Kenji said, chuckling.
He walked over to Tamashi, who was now sitting on the ground.
"Kaze, do your thing." He said, pointing to Tamashi's wound.
Slowly, water began engulfing Tamashi's arm, the wound slowly healing before his very eyes.
"Woah..." Tamashi said, flexing his hand, a flash of pins and needles overtaking it.
"Ah, crap. Should've said that first." Kenji said, gritting his teeth in pity.
Tamashi stood up with a sigh, looking around, still slightly confused and dazed. He walked off wanting to be alone for a moment to gather his thoughts and to breathe. He came across a great tree that was by a pond. Fish came out of the water in large bubbles, the fish floating around before the bubble popped when the fish wanted to enter back in its home, sending the fish down into the floating stream.
Tamashi sat down under the large tree, watching in amazement. He went back to his thoughts about what Meredith had said about him being the prophecy. 
"It can't be... I'm nobody special..." He murmured to himself, looking up to see some golden butterflies fly across the pond, leaving a golden dust that fell into the pond and made it sparkle.
"Is that really so?" The voice of Meredith sounded around Tamashi. "The two men out there believe that you are a wonderful person." She said, the words gently resonating within Tamashi's mind.
"I just don't think I'm ready to be this...Prophecy. I'm just a boy, just a survivor. Nothing else." Tamashi spoke, his head aching. "Why would I be the prophecy? It sounds crazy." He added.
"Because you are destined for greatness. Whatever you've been through, whatever you've witnessed, you've always pulled through, and never given up." Meredith said, the butterflies dancing in patterns on the water.
"I've nearly died so many times, I've given up whenever I was near death." Tamashi spoke, feeling as if his head was going to explode from the mere concept of the prophecy.
"Your friends have been by your side. Especially that red-and-black haired fellow. They will not let you give up. They want you to strive forwards. You merely need to believe you are capable of winning, be it with the help of your friends, or without. They believe in you, Tamashi. Strive forwards." Meredith gently said, her voice fading away.
Tamashi sighed, looking down at the ground, feeling water droplets fall upon him. He looked up to see the sky now cloudy, as well as it raining. He listened to the thunder, standing up and walking towards the pond. He saw a flash, a tremendous amount of energy flowing through him. Lightning had struck him, he started to absorb the energy, electricity running to his palms. He pointed a finger upwards, lightning shooting out into the sky with a huge flash, thunder rumbling once more.
"You've got the hang of casting, it would seem." Kenji said, appearing out of the shadows under the tree.
"Kaze is busy chatting with a parrot. What's up kid?" He said.
Tamashi looked over to Kenji, electricity still zapping at his fists. 
"Just thinking." Tamashi replied, rubbing the back of his neck. He held a hand out, looking at his palm, a ball of electricity forming on it and floating.
"See? It isn't that hard once you've got the hang of it. All you needed was a spark. From now on I'll make sure to strap you to a metal rod." Kenji said, "I'm kidding." He laughed.
Tamashi gave a half hearted chuckle, the prophecy still running through his mind. The rain beginning to soak his hair and clothing. 
"Did you speak with the mountain spirit?" He asked.
"Aye, I did. Meredith, was it?" Kenji asked, "I've been chatting with her since we entered this enchanted area." He said.
"I started to talk to her when I was asleep." He replied, walking over to him.
"Oh, what did she speak of?" Kenji asked, sitting down on the grass then leaping up because of the chilly water.
Tamashi bit his lip, adjusting his mask. He looked away, feeling as if the weight of the world sat on his shoulders and he was about to crumble to the ground. 
"The.... Prophecy." Tamashi replied with a sigh.
"That crap Aarmux was spouting?" Kenji asked, raising his left eyebrow.
"Yes, and everything makes sense now.." Tamashi murmured to himself, looking up at the rainy sky.
"As long as you do what you think is right kid..." Kenji paused, looking up as well, "I'll follow you to the very end."
"I'm a danger to everyone, including my friends Kenji. I'm the prophecy!" He said, looking back to Kenji. His face growing pale once more.
Kenji slowly walked up to him, smacking him heavily on the back.
"Get a grip. As long as I'm with you, and you've still got a brain, you're not hurting anybody needlessly." He said, smiling warmly.
Tamashi flinched a little, looking back up at him. "But Aarmux... The Bitāzu.. The emperor! They'll be hunting me nonstop." He replied. He sat down on the cold, wet grass. 
"I'm just so confused.." He muttered.
Kenji put a hand on Tamashi's head, turning him to face himself.
"If they come, we go through them. There ain't anything more than that. We need to strive forwards to victory." Kenji said.
Kenji's words overlapped with Meredith's in Tamashi's mind.
 "Strive forwards." He thought.
Tamashi sighed, nodding. "You're right, strive forwards." He replied.
"That's the spirit." Kenji said, grinning.
"Now, let's go see if Kaze has finished his argument with that parrot. Shall we?" Kenji said, chuckling.
"Yeah." Tamashi replied, standing up.
They began walking off, away from the glowing pond, Meredith waving at them from the great tree.
"Strive." She said, smiling.

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