The Eight-Sided Mirror, Part I



Scene Title The Eight-Sided Mirror, Part I
Synopsis Yata no Kagami (八咫鏡) is a sacred mirror that is part of the Imperial Regalia of Japan. In Shinto, the mirror was forged by the kami Ishikoridome to lure the sun goddess Amaterasu out of her cave.
Date May 8, 1670

Smoke rises up in a choking black column over the forested ridgeline.

Mournful sounds of the wounded fill the wood, joining with the chirp of the cicadas and distant call of birds. The thick forest is alive with sounds, most of which describe pain. A half dozen men lay strewn across the trail winding up through the forest ridge, dressed in blood-stained armor. The sound of a horse whinnying in the distance is accompanied by the clap of hooves on the soft earth and soon the sound of a rider and clattering armor joins the thundering hooves. From up over the ridge, from the direction the smoke rises from, a single rider in black armor charges ahead. The rider's face is covered by a mask of red-lacquered wood depicting the snarling, tusked face of an oni. Dark eyes are narrowed on the road ahead where a lone man in a tattered robe stained with blood stands in shafts of mid-day sunlight. He turns, looking at the approaching rider with wide eyes.

"I-ya!" The rider shouts, reaching behind themselves and unsheathing a long, straight-bladed sword. The lone man turns, looking down at his bloodstained hands, then reaches for the sword sheathed at his hip, a curved blade with a black twisted silk grip. He draws the sword out with one hand, then takes it in both and widens his stance. The rider bears down on the lone swordsman, one who wears no armor and carries only a single sword — a katana, a blade of the Yamato. The rider comes alongside the swordsman and their blades clash, but the rider's sword cuts up along the swordsman's neck. Blood sprays through the air and the rider keeps on passing by. The blonde swordsman drops to his knees, one hand on his throat, then falls forward onto his face. The rider turns, horse cantering, and then watches as he lays there on the ground.

Sucking in a sharp breath, the rider swiftly dismounts and begins approaching the downed swordsman. But as the rider approaches the swordsman rises up and swings his blade backwards in a wide arc. The katana clips the rider's mask, splitting it in half and sending the pieces to either side of their face, revealing—


"You're a— " But the Englishman only gets that far before she runs him through with her sword again. This time squarely through the chest hard enough to force him back down onto the ground. Yaeko looks down at the blonde man beneath her, one foot on his shoulder, and twists the blade as she pulls it out of his chest. Blood wells up, and the blonde man gurgles one last breath and then says nothing. Her attention turns to his sword, momentarily, then back.

"«A foreigner,»" Yaeko says bitterly, "«Matsume mercenary.»" She shakes her sword, slinging blood down onto the ground, then wipes it off on the the fabric at her forearm before sliding the sword back into the sheathe at her waist. Turning her back, Yaeko walks to her horse, only to find herself struck from behind by a swift-placed kick. She staggers forward, spins around with wide eyes and watches the man she just impaled standing behind her. He lunges forward with his sword and she leaps back to avoid the stroke, confusion evident in her expression.

"«Foreigner, yes.»" The blonde swordsman says. "«But I'm not a mercenary.»" He flourishes his sword at his side, taking it in a two-handed grip once more. "«I am Takezo Kensei. Perhaps you've heard of me?»" His mouth crooks up into a lopsided smile. Yaeko cautiously steps back, her right hand slowly moving to the hilt of her sheathed sword.

Yaeko is stunned, watching Kensei with wide eyes. "«How are you— »"

"«Alive?»" Kensei asks, slowly circling her, stepping over the bodies around them. "«That's a long story. One you won't live to hear. The Emperor has considerable gifts, rebel girl.»"

Rebel,»" Yaeko practically spits the word out. "«This is our home! You are an invader twice over and a demon!»" She swiftly unsheathes her sword again, lunging in at Kensei, their blades meeting between them. As the swords connect both Kensei and Yaeko spring back away from one-another, and Kensei shifts his grip and changes his stance.

Watching Yaeko, Kensei narrows his eyes. "«Your people butchered merchants. The Emperor has tasked me with bringing law and order to this island!»" He lashes out again, but Yaeko manages to parry the attack, but as their blades collide Kensei steps inside of her reach. She repays the movement with a slash of her sword across his arm, but he neither feels the pain of the injury nor recognizes it as a wound. Kensei smashes his forehead against hers, sending her crashing to the ground and dropping her sword.

"«You fight well, for a peasant.»" Kensei admits, raising his sword over his head, the sun at his back and his eyes focused on the young warrior.

I am no peasant!»" Yaeko shouts as she flips up to her feet and tackles Kensei onto his back. His sword flies out of his hand, spinning through the air and landing blade down in the earth. She winds up and strikes him in the jaw and his vision blooms with spots from the blow. They struggle, Kensei striking her once in the side and again in the chest, but he isn't armored and she is relentless. But for all the times she strikes Kensei with one of her gauntleted hands, his injuries refuse to stay. She stares down at him, bloodied and bruised but rapidly healing. The blood on her hands is thick, and Kensei chokes out a rueful laugh up at her.

"«I suppose you're not, but that doesn't mean much.»" Reaching down to his waist, Kensei pulls a knife out of a sheathe at his side and drives it into her abdomen. Yaeko howls with pain and rolls onto her side, off of Kensei. He crawls up to his knees, bloody knife in one hand. "«I'm sorry for whatever it is you're going through out here, but you'll never— »"

Something crashes in the distance, branches breaking. It sounded like a deer crashing through the forest, but too short-lived. In the moment that Kensei is distracted, Yaeko picks up her sword and swings it wildly in front of her, carving deep into Kensei's chest. His blood sprays across her face and he falls down onto his side against a tree. With a scream, one hand clutched at the stab wound she received, Yaeko plunges her sword into Kensei's chest and pins him to the tree with the blade. Her shoulders heave, jaw unsteadies, and a moment later she drops down to one knee, blood rapidly spreading around where she was stabbed.

There's more noises in the treeline, and Yaeko's vision blurs. She watches Kensei pawing at the sword embedded in his chest, but he cannot find purchase on it to remove it. Yaeko struggles to stay conscious, but she knows someone is out there. As her eyes unfocus, she can see someone making their way through the treeline. She can hear the crashing footfalls of boots on deadfall branches. Just before she slumps to her side and loses consciousness, she's certain she saw someone coming out of the woods.

Laying there on her side, Yaeko's eyes flutter shut.

But someone is there. Walking out of the treeline, eyes wide behind crooked glasses. His dark eyes flit around the scene of carnage and blood, only to find something even more horrifying laying on the ground. A sword… with a familiar symbol on its silk-wrapped grip.

"Nani?" He whispers, looking around.


"Oh no."

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