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With Fire and Blood

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When I think back, to the beginning. All I remember is the colour grey.

My father, after losing his precious wife, lost himself in a pit of despair. His wife, my mother, was taken by tuberculosis, like many others like her. Her body withered and withered until nothing was left. I remember, I was young. No more than four years of age, when she parted from this world.

The sound that escaped the man's lungs was sickening. I recall feeling ill from it. My father had stuck his blade into the sternum of the man's chest.

He wailed in agony. My skin crawled as my Father, The Shogun no Zetsubou, twisted the blade in his chest. The man attempted to pull it out. His hands bled as the blade cut into his palms.

He shouted, blood gurgling in the back of his throat, as his own mortality bled through the wounds of his abdomen.

"Someone, help me!"

I don't recall why, but I think that's the day. The colours left my world.

I trained, everyday, tirelessly. Alongside my brothers. My father, he had since lost his kind and gentle ways. When he would beat us down till his knuckles bled. I'd be too afraid of him, to even look him in his eyes. I wonder if they still had light reflecting in them. Like they did when i was younger.

My father's cruelty and malice, toned my body. I became strong, stronger than my brothers. Who had turned to stone and faded to ash with time. Only I was left, my father's only surviving apprentice.

My body, once a garden of red flowers, now steel.

All the will of a normal person had been stolen from me. All that was left was a soldier, a perfect creation of power and submission. I only followed my father's will.

I became his blade. He had me swear my eternal loyalty to him, that I would only exist to serve him. For as long as he lived.

"Come here, Musume." Her father's curled his fingers towards her. She was outside the shoji door, one knee bent on the ground, in respect and attendant to her father summoning her.

The wood felt dry, like it could splinter just from my touch.

With a gently stride she slid it open.

"Father, you have summoned me?" I had asked, my eyes looking down at the floor. It was dark, the moon had risen in a clear, cloudless night. Only the silver poured into the black room. Colours strobed and robbed of vibrance.

"Yes yes, come, enter." He ordered me, his voice had grown older, cracked with age. When he spoke, it was light and airy. Like small tiny holes had been pierced into his lungs.

I rose, my tabi socks slid on the wooden floors, sliding the door shut behind me I then strided across the floor. My feet making no sound.

I stood before my father. And bowed deeply.

"Rise your head." I straightened my back at his command. He was hard to see in the dark. His features cut out by the moonlight, also hidden from the deep contrast of blacks and greys.

He had grown older, his body seemed hidden in the obsidian of his black kimonos, the many layers cut in slits, deep embroiders of perfectly fashioned patterns. A brilliant display of his power.

The room, made of wooden planes. Aged and sad looking. I no longer remember what that room had been for. But now only to mats on the floor. The walls layered with mantled Katanas. Behind my father. A portrait. Too hard to make out in the dark.

"Please sit. There are many things I wish to discuss." His words slithered out from the back of his tongue.

I sat on the mat in front of him. About 5 feet or so between us.

"I read the report, you crushed the enemies army almost single handedly." He flattered me, a ting of pride in his tone. Not for me, it is not about what I did. It is about what he created. He created me the way I am. My accomplishments were his.

"Yes father." I breathed out, little emotion in my voice. I had taken a habit to speaking very little. And when I did it was always monotone and dry. I hated speaking, because I hated thinking.

My father said destroy the enemy. And that is all I was good at, all that mattered. I never thought about it, life meant nothing to me.

Nothing meant anything back then.

"You see I will be traveling soon. Far to the west." He began, my attention allerted at this. It is rare now days for my Father to leave far. If anythings he sends me, as his representative.

"Father." I spoke, light in slight shock, a rare emotion at the time.

"You will stay here. And guard my castle in my name." He finished. His hand raising to stroke his long straight mustache hairs. His hands, the skin looked so tight that his joints on each finger was balbus. His long jagged nails scraped a bit as he stroked.

"It will be done." I bowed while seated, my hands on the ground before him.

"I trust you will take good care of my palace. After all you are my greatest warrior."

He dismissed me after that. Slowly I returned to my room, The open path of the palace, like a wooden dock between each small wooden home. Regal with high arched roofs. During this time Japan was still rather young.

My father was made a Shogun during a great war, by the reigning emperor. He used his mystical dark powers to quickly control the countryside, betraying the emperor's trust and killing him. With him gone my father took hold, in a strangling grip, destroying anything that stood to oppose him.

As I walked on the old dried boards with gentle steps, I looked out over the rim of the railings. The once garden reminded me of a simpler time. Many years ago, when I would not have been older than four years of age. I used to play underneath the Sakura tree, with my brothers. But as the moon pulled free from the clouds, like a searchlight it glew. The once proud standing lush tree, in shining pinks. Now dead, grey and dry. Not a leaf as grown, let alone a cherry blossom bloom since my mothers death.

Less than a week, my Father had departed. He possessed many otherworldly powers, a stand at his uncompaired might in this world. His eyes would glow red, and skin would pull back till it tore. And a beast would pull through the shreds of the man, bursting out of his husk like a geyser. A dragon.

Long and scaley. Dark black scales across his long body. Sharp snap tiger jaws, with razor sharp fangs. Deep piercing eyes, that struck fear into the heart of anything that looked into them. Long red hooked horns protruded from its forehead.

Without wings He flew into the sky. He let out a bellowing roar, shaking the ground. It didn't take long till it was like a slithering snake far into the distance of the grey sky.

My father had left to meet with a witch. Wu-Ya, he told me its name was. He did not speak of his intentions, or why he had decided to leave. But I did not ask. I already had my orders.

Two days flew by. I had been mostly meditating. When the sounds of chanting caught my attention. Men seemed to have gathered. I could hear the sound of fire, it crackled and snapped in the distance.

The sounds of the men grew louder and louder, till it was outside the large castle gates. The words of my father, to take care of his palace echoed in my mind. Dead panned face I gathered myself and walked to the gate.

At least six hundred men had gathered outside of it. The sun had been setting behind them. All of them, poor men. Barely any armour. I didn't notice anyone who could be a samurai, or any sort of warrior. I searched my eyes and noticed no banners or flags. Just rundown looking men. Pitchforks and axes in hand. Some held torches and others just had their fists.

They were all yelling, I didn't really listen to what they could be saying, I didn't really care. The men undoubtedly angry, and hostile. One man had stepped forward. I wondered if he had been their leader, as the mob seemed to hush.

"Are you the Shogun?" He spat, his voice rattled with age and grit. He was older, late thirties, his black hair pulled into a messy ponytail.

I didn't know if I should answer him or not, so I pulled out my star from my pocket. A small golden, five pointed star, with a red stone in the center. And gave it a flip in the air with a click of my thumb.

Heads, I will answer his question. Tails I will kill him.

It shot high into the air with a simple flick of my thumb. Flipping multiple times, reflecting the setting sun off the gem in the center. The crowned was quiet as they watched it rise and fall. I caught it with ease and slapped it on the back of my hand.

The red stone faced me, so heads it was decided.

"I am not the Shogun." I said flatly, not even sure if he could hear me with my quiet tone. He seemed to shutter. His axe gripped tightly in his large worn fists.

He pointed at me, hand shaking like a leaf.

"Then who the fuck are you?" He roared at me. Some spit falling out of his gaping mouth.

I flipped the star again. He seemed to no longer care for my antics as he marched forward. His dirty bare feet booming almost as the mob began to stir with rage again. As he closed the gap between us I caught the star.

He pulled me by my robes collar towards him. I didn't pay any attention to him as I revealed the star.

No stone, so tails it was.

I didn't think as I looked into his eyes. They are bloodshot and raging, sweat poured down his forehead, his face prickle with beard stubble.

I place the star to his chest.

"Star, Hanabi." I spoke. The star lit up and crackled for a moment, the red jewel glowed as it grew warm.

He looked down as a piercing fire blast ripped clean through his chest. His robe burned in hot cinders as agony took him hold. He was still holding my robe. I could smell his flesh burn. The men behind him began to scramble in panic as they screamed.

I kept eye contact with him. He turned to me surprisingly. He was still alive?

He was crying, his face full of anger as his eyes, nose and mouth began to bleed.

He puked blood all over my chest as his eyes rolled back and he collapsed. I didn't say anything. Or think anything.

I just turned to the crowd.

"Star Hanabi."

Two months had passed since that day. My father had not returned. To pass the time I trained and read. I didn't think about my father's absence, I would not say I was glad he was gone. I did not know what being glad was back then. I just recognized he was not here. And I only had his last order, to protect the castle.

So I did.

Until one day. I heard a bird singing. My throat tighten at the sound of it. It was almost frightening. There has not been any living creature here since my mother was alive.

My mouth felt dry. My fingers tingled a bit. I shot up and rushed out the door. The air was dry and stale from the long 10 year summer my father had created.

I could hear it again, a fluttering tweet of a small bird. I swallowed roughly. I had to find it. The desire was so overwhelming it was primal.

I ran to the song. I didn't care if my force would frighten it away. I followed the sound till I reached the front gates of the palace.

I paused in front of it. The large white thick stone, before me. The singing bird surely behind it. My hands felt almost sweaty, I licked my lip as i brought my hand to it. When my senses snapped. I bounced back putting distance between me and the gate. My senses feeling alive for the first time in years.

Three large knocks boomed on the door. I did not move at first. Silent I tried to sense what could be behind it. Like a cat my skin prickled as stood on edge. I held my breath.

I didn't sense anyone? Impossible. Who ever is behind it is concealing their presence.

"Hello! Anybody home?" A voice called out, young with an almost humorous tone.

I exhaled. I didn't bring my blade with me. I grit my teeth down.

My father's orders echoed in my head, I will protect the castle.

I opened the gate, hesitantly with my guard high.

Before stood a tall man, his skin with a yellow undertone. He was wearing a monks robe, white and black, with a tied button up style oriental robe. His hands where behind his back, His face obscured by a bamboo hat.

"Why hello there, you must be the Shogun's daughter?" He chuckled a bit, his voice felt inviting. I swallowed, I took a stance, ready to kill this man.

"Easy!" he laughed his hands gesturing me to calm down, like he was pushing at the air between us.

I exhaled, smoke from the fire within me escaping my lips as I balanced the chi flow within my body.

I focused on every nerve of his body as he moved, removing his hat. He had a rather large roundish noes. His eyes calm and almost cheerful, he was bald, but it seemed he shaved his head, and it was not an affliction of sorts.

"Listen, I'm just here to talk to your father. My name is Dashi." he smiled.