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

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16. Valden Ironthorn

Tamashi looked around a large courtyard, it was a Japanese fort that looked like an Emperor or Daimyo’s. He found himself in the throne room and suddenly saw the Emperor appear in front of him. Tamashi’s eyes widened, the emperor pointed towards a familiar body. He came closer to the body and there he found Kenji in a pool of blood. He then felt a warm sticky substance on his hands, he looked at his hands and saw blood. He looked over to where his blade would've been in its sheathe, it was gone. He looked down by Kenji’s body and saw his blade covered in the crimson liquid. He then looked over to a mirror where he saw himself covered in Kenji’s blood, his blue eyes then turned to a demonic red. 
“You work for me now, my dear servant.” The emperor spoke in a menacing tone of voice. Tears began to stream down Tamashi’s cheeks, which then turned into blood, dripping to the already stained floor.
“Hey! Hey, kid! Wake up!” Kenji said, waving a hand in front of Tamashi’s face. “It’s almost noon kid. We need to get going.” He said.
Tamashi’s eyes snapped open, there were tear stains on his face that drenched his mask. “Wait what..?” Tamashi asked tiredly, rubbing his eyes. 
“You alright kid? Your eyes look awful. Did you sleep?” Kenji said, concerned.
“Yeah, I did sleep… Unfortunately.” Tamashi mumbled, remembering the horrid dream. 
Kenji raised an eyebrow, “Kid, what did you see?” He said, kneeling down to Tamashi’s level.
Tamashi looked down, tears swelling up in his eyes. His hands shook viciously. He couldn't take it anymore, rushing forwards and hugging Kenji, he began to sob. “I'm sorry! I'm so, so sorry!” Tamashi said in between sobs.
Kenji’s expression turned soft, “Must’ve been pretty bad huh?” He said, resting Tamashi’s head on his shoulder, “Don’t you worry kid, I ain’t going anywhere. Especially not without a bang.”
“I… I killed you… In my dream.. Then the emperor called me his servant…” Tamashi managed to choke out.
Kenji’s brow furrowed, he looked down for a moment, pondering.
“At your current state, I don’t think you’d be able to do it, I’m not saying you can’t, but you won’t be able to right now. So don’t worry, it’ll be fine.” Kenji said, hugging Tamashi, turning his head and muttering, “I hope…”
“My eyes turned red when I looked in a mirror.. I looked like a monster..” Tamashi managed to add.
“Kid, you’re a fluffy lightning pup as you are now, you’re no monster, you’re a heartfelt fighter, dedicated to the cause of truly just and righteous vengeance.” Kenji said, putting a hand to his heart, “And so am I.”
“Maybe you're right.. It was just a stupid dream.” Tamashi said, shaking his head. 
“Don’t let it bring you down now, y’hear?” Kenji said, looking into Tamashi’s eyes, then ruffling his blue hair.
“Come on you fuzzball.” He said.
“Alright.” Tamashi replied with a chuckle, wiping his tears away. 
Tamashi stood up, walking out of the muggy room and out of the INN. 
Kenji soon followed after him, the two of them strolling into the castle market, which was bustling as usual. The two of them browsed stalls, searching for needed supplies. Kenji peered over to a smithy’s shop, where two scarred men say, staring directly at him. Kenji peered at the sword belted to one of them, it was Bitāzu make.
“Hey, buddy. Mind explaining to me what you're doing here with a Bitāzu katana?” Kenji said, his eyes narrowing with sheer hatred.
The two spies’ eyes widened, both of them scrambling away, shoving citizens aside as they bolted for it. Suddenly, they were both jerked back and hurled into the floor.
“My, my, now aren't we cocky?” Kenji said, plunging a tanto into the floor next to the Bitāzu, the blade splitting the stone.
“I'd rather die a sober death than speak to the likes of you!” Shouted one of the spies.
“Don't worry, you won't, you'll be choking on your own blood soon enough. Now speak, rat.” Kenji snarled.
Tamashi watched intently, feeling an odd presence about him. Suddenly, a hand clasped around his mouth, rendering him unable to call out. He was dragged backwards, into an alleyway and through a yard. It was a third Bitāzu, who brandished a dagger, aiming for Tamashi’s eyes. Out of nowhere, a metal cane swatted the Bitāzu in the temple, causing him to immediately go unconscious. A finely dressed grey bearded man looked down at Tamashi, an expression of pity and concern on his face.
“Poor boy, you must be dreadfully frightened, come now, I will take you to sanctuary. It is safe there.” The man said, gently smiling.
“I don't really think that's necessary...I need to go back there sir, I have a friend who is over there.” Tamashi replied, thinking about Kenji.
“Oh, don't you worry my boy, we will provide you safekeeping while those scoundrels begin to lose interest in you, once they have done so, we will return you to your dear friend!” He said, chuckling heartily.
“Alright, fine.” Tamashi replied with a nod. 
The man smiled gently and began to guide Tamashi back towards a large house. It was bustling with guards going in, out, or merely patrolling the area. He opened the door and allowed Tamashi to step in, leading Tamashi up a flight of stairs and knocking on a large, wooden door. 
“You have a visitor, general.” The man spoke. 
“Come in.” A familiar voice spoke in a commanding tone. 
Tamashi took a deep breath, then entered the room feeling a bit nervous. He looked at the man sitting at a wide, oaken desk. It was Valden. 
“Tamashi! It's a surprise to see you!  Welcome.” Valden spoke with a smile.
“Thank you sir.” Tamashi replied with a nod. 
“Those soldiers must of scared a few years out of you, huh?” Valden spoke with a calming smile. 
“You knew about them?” Tamashi asked, a suspicious expression crossing his face. 
“Son, of course I know about it. That's precisely why I had Percival go out there and keep watch. Let alone I heard all that bloody rabble.” 
“Don't call me son..” Tamashi replied.
Valden shook his head, ignoring Tamashi’s comment. 
“Anyways son, I would very much like to draft you into our valiant military. But before I do, I need to train you to become a soldier.” Valden began. 
“I don't want to go to war sir, I have other duties I have to attend to-.”
“You Will go to war and you Will be trained as a soldier under my influence!” Valden yelled.
“Guards! Take him to one of the camps! He's going into indentured servitude before he is trained!” Valden ordered. 
Guards came in, grabbing Tamashi. They began to drag him away out of the room. 
“You can't do this!” Tamashi yelled, his voice soon fading out as he was dragged.
They began to load Tamashi up, along with other people. Some were kids like him, but there were mostly adults in the wagon. Everyone was tied up so they wouldn't be able to escape. Tamashi continued attempting to free himself from the tight rope, but it was no use. 
The men began getting ready to head towards the camp, making sure the horses were all in good condition before they set out. Then a small contingent checked the prisoners to make sure no ropes were loose or severed.
Once they made sure everything was all in place, a man got up in his seat and started to take them to the camp. 
Meanwhile, Kenji knocked on the door to Valden’s office. His hands clenched up into balls of fists.
“Come in.” Valden spoke. 
Kenji punched the door, causing it to split into two halves and jet by either side of Valden.
“Where is my boy?” He asked, fire gleaming in his eyes, “You better have a damn good reason why he is missing, y'hear!” Kenji added. 
“I do,” Valden spoke, standing up and looking out of his window. “I put your boy in servitude.” He added. 
“You what?! You son of a bitch I ought to tear your arms off! That boy isn't a slave dammit! He was a slave before to a scumbag king and I'm not going to let him go back to that hellish life!” Kenji bellowed, slamming a fist on Valden's desk, causing it to stab into the floor and get stuck.
“Calm down, your kid will be safe. Once he's done with servitude I'm going to train him to become a soldier. You see, we have a well… A special code of conduct currently, considering a lot of our men have been killed by Western enemies and we need more, many more. Once your boy here is trained, he is going to war.” Valden explained. “We've been doing this with a variety of children who don't have homes, but mostly adults.” He added.
“You're a sick bastard...Tamashi can't handle battle, especially not on the scale of thousands. He’ll die! The last of Kimohama will die!” Kenji yelled, his hands shaking from anger, flames beginning to cover his hands and forearms.
“But he’ll be dying for a good cause, by serving the kingdom of Zerif.” Valden replied calmly. “Now guards! Get him out of my sight!” Valden ordered. 
Guards began to come towards Kenji, one attempted to grab him and try to pull him back but Kenji elbowed him in the gut, kicking out his legs and hurling him into the other, sending them both through a wall at tremendous speed.
"I'm not done with you, dammit..." Kenji said, the fire in his eyes furiously dancing.
Kenji walked up and grabbed the desk, tearing it out of the floor and hurling it out of a wide, rectangular window, the glass shattering. His body burst into flames as he walked closer to Valden. 
"You will tell me where the boy is, or so help me, I will reduce you to the finest degree of ash." Kenji spoke viscously, filled with rage.
“Alright, alright! They're heading east towards a camp! Please don't kill me!” Valden spoke, shaking. 
“Very well, I'll spare you. You damned rat.” Kenji spoke, turning and leaving, the flames dissipating from his body.
Tamashi gave a sigh, they were finally at the camp. Soldiers walked up to the wagon and lead the prisoners into the camp, shoving some of them gruffly. A soldier shoved Tamashi, he tripped over himself and fell into the dirt. 
“Get up! Be a man, runt!” A soldier shouted.
Tamashi scrambled to his feet and quickly joined with the other prisoners. Once he got inside the camp the soldiers cut the ropes. 
“You! Go wash the dishes!” A soldier told Tamashi. 
“No, you don't control me. I'm not your slave!” Tamashi yelled. 
The soldier clenched his fists, punching Tamashi to the ground. Tamashi winced in pain, feeling a little bit stunned at the moment. The guard walked up to him. 
“Get up you runt!” The soldier spoke, kicking him in the gut a few times. Tamashi coughed, he managed get up and throw a punch at the soldier but he caught his hand. He ripped off his mask and kicked his face, Tamashi fell back on the ground his face bleeding and already beginning to bruise.
The soldier dropped his mask and then backed off, multiple people stopped working, shocked. 
“Get back to work! And let this be a warning to anyone who decides to step out of line!” The same soldier yelled at them. 
“And as for you, boy, you better get to work once you're done rolling around in your own filthy blood.” The soldier spoke, grabbing Tamashi by the collar of his shirt. He then let him go and kicked him in the gut one last time, before turning and leaving.
Tamashi forces himself up, struggling and flinching out of pain. He managed to get up, slowly walking off to wash the dishes. He looked at multiple people, now soon-to-be soldiers, as they remained busy, he looked over to the same soldier who beat him. He quickly went back to work, fearful. 
Later that night he began to settle down to rest. He laid down on his bed tiredly, closed his eyes and began to fall into a deep slumber. 
He woke up early in the morning, to the sound of pans banging in a loud ruckus. He heard some soldiers yell to get to work, he tried to scramble to his feet but stopped, feeling a lot of pain. His whole body ached as he slowly got up to go to his work station.
All day he had worked and worked, it was about dusk, and after dinner.  He was fetching to get some clean water to wash the dishes from the well. Stopping suddenly and seeing the same soldier at the well. 
“Well, if it isn't the runt. Come back to step out of line again?” The soldier asked with a smirk. 
“No sir, I'd rather not.” Tamashi replied, getting some water. He filled the large bucket up, going towards the soldier and throwing the water on him. He then kicked him, which didn't do much, then attempted to punch him again, the soldier catching the blow again. 
He grabbed his arm and kicked his face again, then slammed him onto the ground. 
“You little brat.. You always think you're so tough, you're nothing but a weakling.” The soldier spoke, placing a hand over his head harshly so Tamashi would stay down. 
Tamashi struggled, kicking at him again but it missed. The soldier chuckled, kicking his face again then slammed his foot into Tamashi’s stomach. Tamashi thought he heard a crack, his eyes widening as he coughed up blood. The soldier grabbed Tamashi by the collar, punching his face again, brutally repeating the process.
Kenji stomped towards the camp, prepared to face at least an entire regiment, then he stopped dead, watching what the soldier was doing to Tamashi.
"You there...may I ask you...what the hell you think you're doing?" Kenji said, the fire in his eyes glowing a deep crimson, malice burning within Kenji.
"I'm about to kick your ass, that's what I'm doing!" The soldier yelled.
Kenji appeared in front of the man in an instant, crimson fire engulfing his body as he ripped a Tanto from its sheathe and jammed it against the man's throat.
"Tendons sever quickly with my blades, don't worry, I sharpened them all night...Rat!" Kenji roared savagely.
"Go to hell!" The soldier said, horrified.
Kenji's palms ignited as he swung a backhand with the force of a haymaker, the soldier jetting off into the floor, skidding and piling up mounds of dirt.
"If you say one more damn word, I will gut your right here and now...You filthy goddamn rat..." Kenji slowly said, flipping his tanto.
The soldier fell silent, horrified. 
“Good, now I'll be taking my leave, with this boy.” Kenji spoke, sheathing the tanto and beginning to stalk off.
“Die you freak!" The soldier yelled, lunging at Kenji with his blade drawn.
Kenji turned, quickly side stepping and jamming the Tanto in his throat, hurling him into the ground and pushing it sideways severing half of the soldier's neck, causing blood to gush out.
“What did I say damnit....” Kenji growled, ripping his Tanto out of the soldier's throat and walking over to Tamashi.
Tamashi winced in pain, blood dripped on the ground. He looked over to Kenji, relieved to see him. 
“Thanks.” Tamashi choked out, spitting out some more blood. 
“Don't mention it.” Kenji replied tenderly, gently picking him up and carrying him out of the camp. 
Tamashi fell silent, listening to crickets slowly waking up to play their music. He looked over to Kenji, wiping away blood from his face before he spoke. 
“Y’know Kenji, although you were never my father. You're a great one.” Tamashi mumbled, coughing as he flinched in pain.
Kenji stopped, looking at the floor.
"Am I really...?" Kenji said, flashes of his past coming back to haunt him. The sound of his son screaming echoed in the back of his mind. Kenji noticed tears flowing down his face.
“You are Kenji.” Tamashi replied, wiping away Kenji’s tears. 
“Even if you don't think so, you still are.” Tamashi added.
"Tamashi...you do know what has happened in my past, yes?" Kenji said, turning to Tamashi, "My wife...slaughtered by soldiers while I can do nothing outside the borders...my son, taken from me by bandits aiming to kill me...I cannot be a good father, for I allowed my family to fall into peril." He said, slamming a hand into a nearby tree.
“I'm pathetic…” He whispered. 
"You're not pathetic, some situations are just...out of reach... Just like how I couldn't save my parents." Tamashi replied. "You're still a good father, just sometimes it's best to let things go. It's not your fault, you didn't know those horrible things were going to happen. It's like me, how I didn't know that Kimohama was going to be burned." Tamashi added with a sigh.
Kenji sat Tamashi down, staring at him for a moment, seeing the visage of his son within him. He immediately kneeled down, hugging Tamashi close.
"I will never let you suffer again..." Kenji said, tears streaming down his face as he held Tamashi tight.
Tamashi hugged him back, blood beginning to seep through his mouth once more. His body aching harshly. 
“I know you won't.” Tamashi replied, wiping his tears away again. 
"Here, drink this." Kenji said, pulling out a small stone ball with a cork, opening it and handing it to Tamashi.
"What's this?" Tamashi asked, coughing.
"Sarkonan fig juice mixed with Raggamire mead and various alchemical herbs. It'll help you regain your strength and heal your internal bleeding while you sleep." Kenji said, "I don't think we'll have time to find an INN, I'll set up camp."
"Alright." Tamashi replied, gulping down the mixture. He stood up, wincing in pain again. He began to walk himself towards a nearby tree, laying down under it and closing his eyes, listening to the sounds of Kenji setting up camp.
Tamashi soon fell into a deep slumber, relieved to be out of that wretched camp. 

 

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