It was 1582, somewhere deep in the territory of Japan a young boy by the name of Suzu was given his first sword by his father Yasuke. The sword at first was heavy in his hands but Suzu’s father had sworn to him that one day the sword would feel as light as a feather, and that it did.
But little did Suzu’s father know that something about the sword he did not like. All that he felt from it was a deathly aura, a deathly intent. To kill or be killed by such. And because of this, Suzu had always known that his father would die someday. It was a known fact that most Samurais didn’t live past 5 years of battle. But still, Suzu did not expect his father to go as soon as he did, for his father was the best of them all. But only a year and a half in the service, they would be greeted by another Samurai baring bad news.
On an early Sunday morning, there would be a knock on the door. With his chocolate colored eyes, Suzu peeked around the corner of his room, and there standing at the doorway would be his mother and a tall man in Samurai gear. The Samurai’s gear was more unique than his father, unusual. It was solid black, with a large rose gold dragon traveling through out it, complimented by a few strands of red around their torso. It was quite odd for being samurai gear. In fact, it was completely out of the tradition, yet Suzu found it amusing in some ways. Samurai’s had only carried one sword, well… then again there was the Wakizashi, but no, this samurai appeared to have another, and it surely wasn’t a Wakizashi.
By the gold and jade engravings that coiled around its black scabbard, Suzu could already tell that it was his fathers. The Samurai with the rose gold dragon then left the sword with Suzu’s mother, bowed gracefully, and then walked off into the sun as if it were just another day in the neighborhood.
“Konotabiha Goshūshōsamadegozaimasu,” said the Samurai after he left, which meant- On this sad occasion we grieve with you.
It was so bright out, so beautiful. but when the door had closed everything about that astonishing light outside would be brought to a darkness. A darkness that Suzu had never seen before. A darkness different from the one he’d slept in at night.
Suzu’s mother, Chisato, then walked over to him with her feet trembling with every step, clinching onto her now dead husband’s sword, as if the sword was Yasuke himself.
Chisato had hesitated to give Suzu the sword because at the end, she’d only saw the same fate—death. Like Suzu had seen, Chisato had as well only seen a deathly aura that surrounded a Samurai’s swords. She’d seen the same from her father and mother. So, none of this was new to her, only familiar in ways she wished she could erase.
Like any mother or woman for that matter, after losing her husband, the last thing that Chisato wanted was to lose was her baby boy. Although, Samurai’s had a code. And even though Chisato knew that she was no longer the wife of a samurai, she still lived by and honored their code. Suzu had to be given the sword.
“Come here Suzu…” said Chisato, with a river full of tears.
Suzu walked up to his mother slowly. He was already aware of what she was about to tell him.
“Suzu… your father…” paused Chisato. “Your father won’t be coming home anymore…”
“But what about his sword…? He can’t protect himself without it,” said Suzu, innocently and confused, but he’d known good and plenty of what his mother meant. He just hoped that it was all a dream.
It was then Chisato dropped to her knees in a ball of tears. She’d hugged and held on as tightly as she could to Suzu. And Suzu would do the same, crying as hard as he could. It was the first time he’d ever seen his mother so broken inside. He could feel her whole body vibrate with fear and sadness as she held him.
His father was gone. Yasuke was really gone. And Suzu had known so from the time there was a knock on the door. But thankfully the years and the pain would go by fast.
It is now 1590. Suzu is a teenager on the verge of being a young adult, while his mother as much as she’d hated it whenever he mentioned it, was getting old. A senior, Suzu called her, and it alone would feel like like glass breaking to Chisato.
Chisato had raised Suzu as best she could for a single mother. She’d of course had the option to date or even marry other men that drooled over her aging beauty. But never could she ever forget about her Samurai in shining armor. Chisato missed Yasuke every day and Suzu would always be the reminder of it. He had the same smile as his father, same laugh, same eyes.
Suzu was everything a mother could dream of. He was smart, he was strong, he was funny, creative, determined. Although, she worried at times if she’d ever see grandchildren from him. Maybe she raised him to tough or maybe it was for the best, she presumed. But thanks to his grandpa Banzan who was surprisingly still alive at the age of 122, Suzu’s thoughts of children or even a wife would fade even more after he’d told him some surprising news.
“I know who did it,” said Grandpa Banzan.
“Father no,” said Chisato. “None of that matters now… Suzu is going away to be a doctor, and soon.”
“Ha! Doctor. What… so the boy can be in more debt? Don’t make me laugh,” chuckled Grandpa Banzan.
“Mom, what’s grandpa talking about? Know what?” asked Suzu, innocently like he was when he was a child.
No matter how tall Suzu got, Chisato still saw that little boy, and she’d promised herself to protect that little boy to the day she died. But like his father, Suzu did what burned in his heart. Nothing could stop him from obtaining the truth.
“Your father boy,” continued Grandpa Banzan. “I know who killed your father. They’re still here. In town, right now as we speak.”
“Who? How? W-why tell me now? Why didn’t you tell me before?” asked Suzu, confused.
“Father please!” shouted Chisato, with teary eyes.
“No! The boy is a not a boy anymore! He’s a goddamn man! Look at him! His heads just about touching the goddamn ceiling! Taller than his father that’s for sure! He’s not your little boy anymore Chisato. Every lioness must let her cub go eventually. So, let the boy go, let him be a king of his own jungle. And maybe, just maybe, he’ll come out of this strong enough to be able to take care of you when you can’t anymore,” lectured Grandpa Banzan.
“Oh, like how I took care of you?” said Chisato, sarcastically.
“Ha! I didn’t make it all the way to 122 without knowing how to take care of myself,” chortled Grandpa Banzan. “But that’s nice of you to think you helped.”
“But what good is any of this if all I end up doing is burying my own son before myself!” shouted Chisato, concerned.
“The boy won’t die,” interrupted Grandpa Banzan. “You don’t know but I’ve seen the way that boy wields Yasuke’s sword. It’s almost identical, like poetry in motion.”
“As light as a feather,” added Suzu.
“Yes, as light as a feather,” smiled Grandpa Banzan.
“So, is that true? Suzu, have you been practicing?” asked Chisato, disappointingly.
Suzu nodded shamefully. He and his mother had always had such a strong bond. They told each other everything. But it was difficult to say that that sword had a gravitating pull to it that no mother could bring. It was as if the sword was a part of him. Suzu had never said anything about it because honestly who would believe him, but on the nights when he slept, he could hear his father voice calling to him. And every time he’d followed his fathers voice, there in front of him would be the sword nestled on the floor before him.
“Pick it up son,” whispered his fathers voice.
Whenever Suzu wielded it, he could feel the sword guiding him, training him, preparing him for what was to come. But what was to come? He wondered, but if anyone knew about it, it would surely be Grandpa Banzan.
“Suzu… Why? I thought I told you that those days were over. There are no more samurai. The movement is dead,” said Suzu, uncertain.
“You’re wrong,” said Grandpa Banzan. “There is still one. And she has been building up not only her resume, but literally a new damn samurai movement. One that is nasty and more vicious than any. They call themselves, the Shadows.”
“It doesn’t matter! Why are we even discussing this! Do you seriously think Suzu can take on a group of trained Samurai! Look where that got his father!” shouted Chisato, with rage. “He was ambushed and then forced to turn to his own blade.”
“No… Not by himself but with that sword, yes,” said Grandpa Banzan, excitingly. “But either way we look at it, the Shadows will come looking for Suzu.”
Chisato then sunk down to the floor hopeless and scared, lying in a puddle of her own tears. What was mother to do? How could she stop it? Then again, she couldn’t stop Yasuke. So, the planning of interfering with what was Chisato felt pointless.
“Enough!” shouted Suzu, with fire in his eyes.
“Yes,” said Grandpa Banzan, calmly.
“What is her name? I want to know it,” said Suzu, clinching his fist.
Granpa Banzan smiled.
“Zankoku…” he said, with a groggy voice. “But some of us know her as Rukia. My daughter. Your mothers sister. Your Aunt.”
“No… They told me it was Aku Yami…” said Chisato, panicked.
“They lied,” said Grandpa Banzan. “No one wanted to say it was Rukia. I honestly can’t blame them. If any of them had said a word about her it would’ve cost them their heads. Shes… shes not the same you know…”
“How did you find out grandpa?” asked Suzu.
“Well… if I told you that then it would be my head,” Grandpa Banzan replied.
“Why didn’t you tell me!” shouted Chisato. “If I’d known it was her all of this time then I…”
Grandpa Banzan interrupted.
“You would have done nothing… Not to your sister of all people,” he said. “Like I said, she isn’t the same anymore.”
Suzu then walked to his room, with not a mention to what he was up to.
“Suzu stop! Where are you going?” shouted Chisato.
Suzu didn’t reply. In the background all that was heard was rumbling, and a few miscellaneous things falling on to the floor. A few seconds after Suzu would come out.
“Mom,” he said. “I’m going to go okay…”
“Go where…” Stuttered Chisato. “You’re coming back right.”
“Don’t know… but I love you okay. Take care of yourself,” said Suzu, walking away, lost.
Chisato then snatched the sword that Suzu had dug up from his closet.
“You’re not going anywhere! Not with that sword,” said Chisato
Grandpa Banzan’s eyes lit up like a Christmas tree. His eyes didn’t blink once. It appeared that Chisato had been keeping secrets as well.
“Chisato…” said Grandpa Banzan.
“Here,” she said. “Take your fathers. And take mine.”
Suzu had taken them both stunned by his mother’s sword that he’d never seen. Its scabbard was carved completely from Jade.
“This was your grandmother’s, that was handed down to me. But now, it is yours Suzu,” said Chisato.
Grandpa Banzan still gazed with amazement as what he saw was a moment of bliss he had not seen from the time him and his wife had said the words, I do. But before anything else would be said there would be a knock on the door.
“We’re too late,” said Grandpa Banzan, nervously.
The door then blew off the hinges as if a group of soldiers were barging in. Like years before. the day would be as bright as ever. But partially blocking the light would be Zonkoku. Nothing about Zonkoku’s gear spoke samurai. It was somewhat in the combination of a ninja uniform, which would be fitting for a leader of a group that called them the shadows.
“Finally, I found you,” said Zonkoku.
“Rukia…” said Grandpa Banzan.
“You shut your mouth old man! You will refer to me by Zonkoku,” said the leader of the shadows.
Suzu stood beside Chisato quietly.
“Ah… Well isn’t it Chisato, mothers favorite,” said Zonkoku.
“Rukia please… why are you doing this? This isn’t you?” she said. “Where have you been?”
Zonkoku then took off her mask and what would be revealed was a scar full of rage.
“I told you all to refer to me by Zonkoku…” she said. “Ugh, doesn’t matter now. You will all pay for what you did to me.”
Both Chisato and Grandpa Banzan stood by dumbfounded.
“You don’t remember do you,” said Zonkoku, disappointingly. “We were all slaves brought over here from Africa. Freed and liberated by the kind people of Japan but not all of us. You see, you forgot about me. Do you know what it feels like to not have food for months, to be imprisoned with men who took advantage of you every single night, only to leave you in the corner like trash. Of course, you didn’t. Too busy playing a wife and mother. And far as you go father, I’d hoped you’d died with mother, but it looks like I’ll have to do that myself.”
Chisato pushed Suzu back and took the jade sword she’d previously given him.
“Chisato stop!” shouted Grandpa Banzan. “Don’t be foolish. She’ll kill you!”
“Yes Chisato, I surely will,” said Zonkoku flickering her lips like a serpent.
Without a second more, both Chisato and Zonkoku would clash swords. It was the first time Suzu had ever seen his mother fight. It all made since now. All the cleaning, all the studies. It was all being applied right before his very eyes. It was in that moment both Suzu and Grandpa Banzan realized that Suzu never stopped living in the way of the samurai. It was that she just hoped that she’d never have to actually use it. And who would have thought that it been her sister she’d have to use it on.
Blood splattered on the floor like paint as Chisato took a knee. The fight was over. Only one more strike was needed to finish it.
“Any last words?” asked Zonkoku, with her eyes as gleamy as feline in the dark.
“We… we thought you were dead you know…” said Chisato coughing up blood. “We searched for years and could never find you. And although father and I had given up, mother never did. She thought about you all the way to the end, before she died. She loved you. We love you Rukia.”
Zonkoku’s sword had hovered above Chisato’s head. She was hesitant now. Not knowing what to think, what to do, or how to feel. But then she’d thought about those nights that she could never sleep. The nights that she’d been treated like nothing but an object.
“Lies!” she shouted, swinging the sword down.
But then something unexpectingly happened.
Between both Chisato and Zonkoku was Suzu. Although, he wasn’t Suzu anymore.
“Suzu…” whispered Chisato.
“How! Impossible! You’re just a kid,” said Zonkoku.
“No…” swallowed Grandpa Banzan. “That is Yasuke.”
Zonkoku then took two giant steps back.
“No… No, I killed you,” she said.
“Yes, but not my spirit,” said Suzu, with his father’s voice.
While Zonkoku stood back trying to comprehend what was happening, as fast as the wind Yasuke’s blade would impale her. Suzu leaned in and whispered to her.
“I know you hurt, and I know you’ve gone through things I myself could never live with. But… you cannot erase evil by becoming evil Rukia. The only way to erase evil is with love. And with this blade I give you my love. I love you; we all do. And so, now I set you free from the pain and all that you have ever had to go through. Sleep well, I’ll save you a spot in the heavens.”
Zonkoku eyes poured out with tears of pain. She sobbed all the way until her body faded. And just before it did, she had only said four words, I love you to.
Zonkoku lied on the floor cold but gratefully with a smile on her face. Suzu had came back to his senses seeing a dead body lying before him. He cried. Even though his father was in control for the most part, he’d still heard every word he said. So much pain, yet an infinite amount of love to take it all away. Grandpa Banzan, Chisato and Suzu both held onto each other as the light still beamed through door. They’d promised to never forget how far they had come, how much they had lost, yet how much strength and love they’d gain.
The moral to the story: Love no matter how hard life becomes, for not doing such only leads to more sadness, until one Is finally set free from death. Do you want to die happy now or do you want to be happy after death?
The choice is yours.
July 25th, 2020 by Patrik Starks