The Flames of Despair

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Action and Adventure  |  House: Booksie Classic
This is a short story based in Japan. A young ninja succeeds at evading pursuing samurai in the woods, but when she returns to her home village she finds something devastating...

Submitted: January 16, 2014

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Submitted: January 16, 2014

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Running. Running. Always running. I glance back. They are hot on my trail. Concentrating on Dragon Breathing, I lead my pursuers into the dense woods. I feel as if I am falling, but never hitting the ground. Running faster than I ever have before, my feet weightless, my legs slightly bent, I am matched in speed with the samurai. Soon I am forced to slow and weave through the trees.

The samurai are not phased by the natural barriers of the forest. With my right hand, I reach behind and pull out my katana. As I run, I slice down any branches low enough to reach, desperately hoping to slow the samurai down. I gain distance, but I know it won't be for long. Aware that I have no other choice, I slow to a halt. To my right, a large tree, many years old, invites me to safety. I resheath my katana and, pulling out my shuko, I jump onto the trunk and begin ascending.

As soon as I reach the lowest branch, about twenty feet off the ground, I can hear the samurai approaching, their loud, careless running scaring away any nearby animals. I relax, close my eyes, slow my breathing, and focus on gotonpo... I become one with the tree. The samurai halt. Silence. I sense their gaze flowing through the trees, nearer, nearer... it stops. I hear a strange noise... static. Wait, no... I open my eyes. My hands grasp the tree harder, as I realize I had almost let go while in my meditative state. I look down. The samurai had gone.

I grip the rough tree bark with my bare feet, pulling out the shuko. I push off, silently landing on the leafy ground. I must return before it's too late...

Running. Putting the shuko away, I begin running again, retracing my path back to the village. As I emerge from the woods, into the clearing just outside the village, I immediately notice a huge cloud of smoke rising from the center, into the vast sky. It can't be. I pick up my pace, now panicking. I enter the village, sprinting straight through, following the path to the storehouse.

But it's too late. When I reach the storehouse, it is completely covered in flames, roaring, daring anyone to come near... ready to mercilessly devour those who accept the challenge. I hastily approach the people gathered in front of it, like an audience, some weeping, some bent over their injured friends and family members, some staring to the sky in silence.

"Sumimasen," I apologize as I push through the barrier of people. There must be some way to save the storehouse! It contains everything we need for survival... food... water... weapons...

As soon as I reach the front of the grieving spectators, my arm is grabbed and I am pulled backwards. "No!" I yell in Japanese. "I MUST DO SOMETHING!" At that moment, a scream emits from inside the building. Faint, but recognizable. Without bothering to look at who grabbed me, I immediately wrench my arm away and, pulling my black mask over my face, run into the burning storehouse.

My eyes burst into tears, the smoke unbearable. I yell in pain, an echo returning my cry a moment later. Only it's not an echo. "Keep yelling!" I reply, barely a squeak, my voice uncontrollable. I try to maintain Dragon Breathing. But I can't. My lungs beg for air, taking in as much as possible. My breaths are getting shorter and shorter. Suddenly I see a gap in the seemingly endless flames. A dark figure, surrounded, hunched against the wall.

I jump straight into the flames, scorching my skin, and grab the limp body. Its face is lit up by the flames, and in the moment I glance at it, I recognize Kazuno, my best friend, her blackened face containing an expression of terror.

She was the first person I met when I was first stranded in Japan. Rather than dismissing me like everyone else because I was a poor foreigner, she took me to her home, the village. Surprisingly, though she was completely Japanese, she spoke English quite well. During the following months, she taught me Japanese, and later the Grandmaster allowed me to begin ninja training. I would not have survived one day in Japan without her. Now, almost two years later, her life is in my hands.

Using the remainder of my energy, I unstrap and drop my katana on the ground, and hoist Kazuno onto my back. But I can't walk anymore. The flames are growing around me, surrounding me like an army of savage samurai. I can't walk. Dropping to my knees, I stumble back. I lose all sense of direction. Hopefully I am heading toward the exit. But I can't go on anymore.

 


Open your eyes... open your eyes... wake up...

I can't breathe. Wait... my mouth instinctively opens, gasping in precious oxygen. Suddenly I experience intense pain, then whiteness. Did I just die and go to Heaven? But I'm still in pain. The white haze is slowly colorized, shapes appearing out of nowhere. The first thing I recognize is a pair of hands held over me, forming Sha, and I hear a Japanese chant being quietly muttered. My mind clears, focusing my vision.

Thoughts overcome me. I sit up, and pain shoots through my back. My eyes still feel as if they're in the center of the fire, burning to ash. I manage to lift my hand and feel my face. My skin feels raw and burned. My black shinobi shozoku is burnt everywhere, now mere rags. All of my weapons are missing; then I notice them beside me. Suddenly my heart quickens. Kazuno.

I see her body outstretched in front of me, lying motionless. Ignoring the ninja on my side, still performing the healing spell, I crawl over to her. She doesn't move. At all.

No...

I put my hand on her chest. No movement.

I was too late...

My eyes flood with water, but not from smoke.

Tears fall down my face, irritating the burns.

"I'm sorry..."


© Copyright 2020 EmTim TimEm. All rights reserved.

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