Husk

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Two Samurai find each other face to face on a barren land. Which one will come out on top, and why must they fight each other?

The roaring beat of the thunderstorm was the only thing adding colour to the plain, pallid battlefield, plastered with blood and death. Only two Samurai remained, facing one another. One, a wandering spirit clad in a grey kimono. His long, tied black hair slithered down his back, bearing his fang; a tachi, drawn from the dull green sheathe at his left hip. Scars and blood stains ravaged his face. The other, younger man had a lighter, pure white kimono, almost bright like the sun, and a katana that remained sheathed on his right hip wearing a calmer, gentler look on his face. 

Bare feet sloshed in the foul mud of a graveyard for many, the two men began slowly circling each other, trying to pinpoint the intent of their opponent for a few moments. Once he was satisfied, the grey Samurai bared his weapon in front of his face, preparing to sink his teeth into the other Samurai in front of him. A smile of exhilaration hid behind the sword that almost acted like a barrier between the two men.

“There is no need to continue,” the white samurai shouted, looking around at the excessive carnage planted on the battlefield. “Can you not see that this war ended long ago?”

His grey adversary did not listen. Or perhaps it would be better to say that he did not want to listen. After being cast out onto the front lines, exiled from his home, all he saw was the eternal battle in front of him. He did not care about the seemingly countless people he had carelessly slaughtered to cling on to his life, but rather that his efforts would bear fruit in the history books; that his life would have meaning. If he stopped now, he may as well dig his own grave.

“Draw your blade”, said Grey in an apathetic, monotonous tone as he circled White, steel blade concealing his expression. The sound of the thunder almost drowned out his voice. 

What felt like less than a moment later, the grey Samurai had closed the gap between the two men, in an attempt to slash at his adversary’s exposed neck. Barely able to draw his blade to block, the inexperienced Samurai in white grimaced, a single bead of sweat dripped briskly from his forehead, down his cheek, and splashed on the ground, matching the seemingly never-ending downpour. White, extending his arm, repelled Grey’s sword, leaving him open for a fatal strike, as if gifting his exposure to his opponent. Thrusting at Grey’s unprotected heart, he aimed to swiftly cease the pointless battle set in front of him, but White’s blade was met with empty air, as Grey, keeping his same composure, used the momentum from his repelled blade to evade with a spin, this time slashing at White’s unprotected torso. White, realizing the danger once again in front of him, panickingly pulled his katana back just enough to parry the incoming attack with the hilt, uncomfortably contorting his body to face his opponent.

“Please”, plead the White Samurai, holding the two blades in place, succumbing to the chalkboard-like screeching of the blades with a wince. “We need to stop this! Can you not see this is enough?” Thunder boomed once again, drowning out White’s voice as Grey simply ignored his calls for a peaceful resolution. 

With an audible shout, Grey used his insane, savage strength, ruining his foe’s balance and pushing him back in the process. Grey did not hesitate, as he lunged at the opportunity he gave himself, thrusting his sword at White’s heart as if roles had, once again, been reversed.

Almost as if by choice, White surrendered to his loss of balance and fell to the ground on his back, tucking his chin. His kimono stained but his life remained. 

White grit his teeth in desperation, sincerely searching for something to stop their skirmish. “Do you not have a family to return to?” White shouted desperately. “What would they think of all the needless bloodshed?”

Grey stood still, holding his sharp blade, dripping with the venom of his killing intent, in a ready stance. “I am but a husk; known neither by death nor life; friends or family. Rather, I simply stand in between.”

Grey angrily charged at White once more, throwing away any semblance of a form and poured out slash upon slash toward his head. Like the environment around them, sparks rained down from the excessive collision of steel; however the fire within Grey refused to let up. Any time White contemplated stepping back to create distance, the opening would be cut off by another swing of Grey’s relentless flurry. 

As countless bullets of slashes rained down to meet White’s blade, the alarm bells in his head only grew louder. The difference in experience and desire to fight were all too clear, leaving little options.

“You must be an honourable warrior, sir”, White vocalized with multiple grunts of pain as he endured the blows from his foe’s flow of furious strikes. “I’m sure you can understand the importance of honouring one’s life.”

Grey simply glared back at him full of scorn. “You and I possess two opposing perceptions of honour”, he replied. “For it is in death, after answering your challenger’s will to fight, that a warrior is truly honoured”. 

 Tiresome, excruciating pain crawled through White’s muscles and, after an unending amount of powerful strikes, his prized katana slipped through his fingers as it plummeted sombrely to the disgustingly devilish earth.

Seeing his inevitable victory at hand, Grey abruptly halted his assault; holding his deadly blade upon his head, right hand above the left. He kicked White backward, breath as steady as the moment the fight began.

Breathing raggedly and arms tiredly hanging at his knelt side, White looked up fearfully into his grey opponent’s eyes. 

Lightning cracked, lighting up the dark sky, revealing the dead, bloodshot eyes of the man White was facing. Grey’s eyes were those of a man who had not slept for days on end. Tears of pity welled up in White’s own eyes, unknowing to him, as he stared sombrely into those of the man in front of him. What reflected back was a world of hate, destruction, and endless fury. Seeing this, White began to understand the honour Grey had spoken of.

“Remain still”, Grey commanded in a monotonous tone, void of the anger he had felt earlier. “I wish to end your life painlessly. You have fought valiantly, and are deserving of the highest honour a warrior can receive.” Hearing the sound of defeat in his opponent’s delivery, White steeled his resolve as he struggled to retrieve the blade he placed his lineage’s pride in. His arms lifeless and flaccid, White put his entire being into attempting one final clash with Grey, one that would honour both men’s efforts. As he wobbled back to his feet, White lowered his stance, sheathing his katana at his hip. White glared at Grey, signifying he was ready to resume. A sense of annoyance briefly flashed over Grey’s face, as he charged at his dishonourable white opponent, sword over his head.

“I thank you”, White said calmly, closing his eyes for a moment, “for showing me your true self in these final moments. May you receive the honour you so desperately longed for.” With the sound of thunder booming from up above, blood began spilling onto the ground, staining everything it touched a brilliant red. A body plummeted to the cold, wet ground not a moment after, along with the fang the man held.

As he bled out, Grey contemplated the life he had lived, the battles he had fought, and the honour for himself he had long forgotten. A euphoric smile slowly stretched upon his face for the first time in a long while, having finally shed his skin of the constant repetition of war. A soft whisper left Grey’s lips, one left unheard by any present, but full of gratitude all the same.

Bathed in the bright red blood of his now-deceased opponent, White sheathed his blade once more, and silently prayed for his rival’s safe journey into the afterlife. As he turned to leave, a loud thunderous thump echoed in the void sky of White’s chest, violently pumping blood to the epicentre of his brain. The smiling faces of his wife and daughter waiting for him at home flashed in his mind, and vomit erupted in White’s mouth. Swallowing the hollowing guilt, his breathing became ragged. Having experienced a new kind of despair, White began to understand the cruel fate that lay at the end of the warrior’s path. He was then reminded of the line he heard Grey harshly utter during their brawl, “I am but a husk; known neither by death nor life; friends or family. Rather, I stand in between.”

With the pain of pointless murder on his conscience, White thought about his family, about facing them again after committing the acts he had previously frowned upon, and about the line he had heard on the battlefield. A sad chuckle escaped his nostrils.

“A husk, huh.”

 


Submitted: July 07, 2021

© Copyright 2021 J.Isaac. All rights reserved.

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