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Two years after his passing, my husband’s grave still remained adorned with jewelry and flowers. Sasaki Tomonaga’s final resting place had become so decorated, one may believe him to be a noble instead of a lowly gokenin. He will always and forever be remembered for protecting our village from utter destruction.

Alas, the legacy of my husband is all that remains of him.

I laid the small meal I had cooked for him on his grave. I thought he may become hungry in the afterlife.

“Oh, Mego!” A male voice said behind me. I turned around to see Wakizaka Hikomoto, an old friend of our family.

“Wakizaka. It’s so nice to see you.” I walked up to him and gave him a hug.

“Having trouble today?”

I looked up at him. “I missed him today. I missed him a lot.”

“That’s natural. Sasaki-aniki was a hell of a friend. I can only imagine he was an even better husband.”

Wakizaka was right. There was no man like my husband. He was the only man in the entire village content with his status as a gokenin, even as people continued to rise above. Even Wakizaka-sama was now a goshi. But Sasaki never cared about all of that. He more just took care of whatever problems the police and higher ranking samurai were too scared to do: everything from bandit invasions to attacks from wild animals. He would do all of these things for money, but instead of using it for drinking and whores like most men, he used it to help us. He’s the reason I’m able to make food. He’s the reason Wakizaka became a goshi.

He’s why the village of Uroh still stands.

“Oh, Wakizaka, what do I do without him?”

He finally let go and looked at me. He was a head taller than me and had to lean down a tiny bit to talk. “I promised I’d protect you. Don’t worry.”

“What if she returns?”

Wakizaka no longer smiled. “Don’t say that. She will NOT return. Sasaki-aniki made sure of that.”

“...She’s why he’s no longer alive…”

“Mego, if she returns, I will stand against her. No matter what, whether by my blade or Sasaki’s, she will not survive my wrath.”

I smiled. “Thank you, Wakizaka.”

He laughed and wiped underneath his nose. “Now, why don’t we go home? It’s midday, and I must say, I’m quite hungry!”

I rolled my eyes and smiled. “You samurai and your bellies…”

We made our way back to Uroh and, eventually, my tiny home. Wakizaka took a seat at our table.

“I have some eel, is that okay?”

“Of course, Mego.”

I took eel from our holding rack and plunged a knife into the back of its spine. It began to convulse as blood gushed from its corpse.

“Dammit…” I pushed down harder. The knife severed the spine of the sea creature. It continued to slither. Wakizaka began to chuckle.

“Having trouble? Would my blade be better suited for this?”

“I’m fine. Just hold on.” I slid the blade back, splitting the eel in two. Frustratingly, its brief return to life endured on. I threw salt on the halves, doing nothing but flavoring the corpse. Wakizaka’s chuckle became a laugh.

“This is too funny.”

I looked at him, my face red from frustration and embarrassment. “Okay, you do it then!”

Wakizaka stood up and cracked his neck. His rugged hair fluffed around. He walked behind me and took the knife from my hands. For a brief moment, I was breathless. Can I be blamed? Wakizaka was a handsome man, and I am quite lonely. I watched as he removed the head of the eel halves, still almost embraced by his arms.

“You forgot to remove its head.”

“I-I’m sorry.”

“Maybe you should be the samurai and I be the househusband.”

I nervously laughed. “Ha! Y-You, my h-husband?!?”

I could almost hear him squint. “I didn’t necessarily mean your husband. Unless you’d like that. But I would never want to impede on Sasaki-aniki.”

I had begun to sweat. “I-I’m sure he wouldn’t mind.”

He had moved the blade away from the eel. It had remembered it wasn’t supposed to live and returned to its deceased state. He turned me around to look at him. His face had a rugged stubble. Oh, how I wanted to run my hand along it.

“Maybe when you’re ready. You still have so much hurt in your heart, and I’d hate to hurt you further.”

I said nothing. He really meant this.

“Now, Mego, enough of this for now. You may want to cook that eel before it comes back from the grave.”

I smiled and roasted the eel.

We sat and ate, talking about the weather and the state of Uroh. Eventually when he was done, he stood up and walked over to me.

“I must leave now, Mego. I’ll come back later to check on you.”

“Thank you, Wakizaka.”

He gave me a kiss on the forehead and walked to the doorway.

“Don’t forget what I said.”

He left. I sat in the home alone. I walked around and cleaned. I ran my hand along the dust covered shelves, left untouched by all but time. I entered my room, my mat on the ground. I had my clothing and possessions strewn about the floor. I sat on the ground after drawing the shutters and took ink and a pen and began to write.

November 3rd, 1654.

Another year has passed since I lost Sasaki to Kiyohime.

The memory of his body in my arms still remains in my mind. My clothes from that day still haven’t been washed. The smell of the kimono has gotten quite strong, but it’s what I have left of him.

I’m torn between two worlds, the one of the life I lived with Sasaki, and the one I could make with Wakizaka.

As much as I would give to be with Wakizaka, I just can’t get rid of Sasaki in my soul. I feel sick. Why must I be lost in the past so deeply? He will never return. Yet I can’t let him go.

Why must I do this to myself?

I set my pen down and cried into my hands. It’s hard, being torn like this. I just want my heart to be full again, whether it’s with Sasaki or Wakizaka.

I was given no time to fully think about my situation before a heavyset goshi entered my room. I screamed and backed away.

“PERVERT!” I screamed. I was fully clothed, but I didn’t know his intentions.

“Nonono! Mego-chan! Listen!”

I backed into a corner and took a dagger from within my kimono. “Stay back, invader!”

“Mego, she’s back! Kiyohime has returned!”

I dropped the dagger as my blood ran cold.

Kiyohime.

The beast who stole my husband.

“H-How?”

“She showed up at Sasaki’s grave! W-We don’t know anything else!”

“And you haven’t fought back?!?”

“We’re trying, but she’s just too strong!”

Oh, hell.

“What’s your name?”

“A-Amago.”

“Amago, please leave my quarters. Wait for me in the kitchen.”

“Y-Yes ma’am!”

As he left, I removed my robe. I pulled the comb from my hair, letting my hair drop down. I walked up to my robes from that night, all those years ago. I put them on, watching little flakes of blood drip off as I tightened it. I took the blade of my husband from behind it. Despite the disarray of my home, I kept his blade sharp enough to slice the wings off of a fly.

I waited for this day.

I strapped the sheath against my robe and made my way out.

“Amago!”

“Yes ma’am!”

“I will fight alongside you!”

“O-Okay!”

As I made my way out of my home, I was greeted with a sight most foul.

The streets of Uroh were littered with corpses. Gore coated the ground and the road was stained red with the blood of the innocent. I struggled to recognize any of the bodies, so mutilated were they. I was stricken with fear, realizing the true hell I was about to enter.

“How did you survive…”

Amago wiped sweat from his chubby head. “I ran. I hid in your kitchen. I’m surprised you didn’t hear any of this.”

“I was so in my own world I lost the world around me.”

Amago shook his head. “You were lucky. Most of the samurai have already fallen.”

I gasped. “What about Wakizaka?”

Amago looked confused. “What about him?”

“Is he alive?!?”

“Last I saw he was chasing down Kiyohime!”

I’m not losing him as well.

“Which way?”

“That way!” He pointed left.

We made our way past the blood-soaked village into the darkened forest, running as fast as we could. I was being cut to shreds by thorns and branches, yet my spirit never faltered. Eventually we arrived at a cave, darker than the night sky.

“It’s too dark!”

Thinking quickly, I pulled the belt off of my kimono, letting it hang like a robe. Amago covered his eyes as if he were a small child. I tied it around a branch and took Amago’s sword from his scabbard while his hands were busy.

“Hey!”

“As if I’ll let my blade be dull!”

I scraped a rock underneath the blade, sparking. It caused the branch to catch fire.

“We don’t have enough time, let’s go!” I yelled, tossing Amago back his blade.

We made our way into the cave, our fire the only defense against the all-powerful void. Our run had become a walk with purpose, as to not slip on any rocks. Eventually, we reached a large opening. Amago gasped.

“Oh my…”

There was no longer a need for the torch. The walls were illuminated by glistening crystals, untouched by man. There was a slope beneath us that we slid down. On the large floor of the glistening cove, I finally found Wakizaka. He sat behind a rock, clutching his blade.

No sign of Kiyohime.

“Wakizaka!” I whispered to him.

He looked shocked. “What are you doing here? Why is Amago with you?”

“He led me here to find you!”

Amago smiled.

Wakizaka pinched his nose. “You’ve doomed us all, Amago.”

Suddenly, a clicking sound was heard.

Kiyohime.

From the roof she descended, landing on the ground with a loud slam. She felt no pain, at least not showing it.

It was the first time I finally got the chance to see the beast who took everything from me.

She was a large serpent, several meters long with dark green scales. A large wound broke through her upper body, but she was overall unscathed. A mane of feathers seemed to separate her neck and head. Where a snake’s head should be, there was instead the face of a beautiful woman. Her hair was black as midnight and her eyes were a deep, dark blue. From a distance, one may assume she was a pretty lady, at least until she opens her mouth. A mess of razor sharp teeth filled her maw with a pitchfork tongue.

She was an abomination.

“...And so two more prey enter my trap.” Kiyohime spoke. Her voice was sultry, almost velvety. “I don’t remember the fat one, but I remember you, lady.”

I stepped back and began to grab the blade.

“And I remember that BLADE.” She ended her sentence with venom.

“You do, don’t you? The same one that caused that scar?”

She laughed. “The same one. But it seems the scar I left on you was far worse. Have you even changed clothes since that day?”

I grimaced.

Amago began to tiptoe out of there.

“I didn’t say YOU could leave!”

Kiyohime struck, slamming atop of Amago. He began to scream and squirm, but it wasn’t enough to let Kiyohime’s constricting grasp loosen. He began to squeal.

“SQUEAL, PIG!” Kiyohime stared into his eyes. His puffy face went from red to purple, as his life was squeezed away. I backed away into Wakizaka’s company. I was no stranger to the nightmare of death, but I’ve never seen a life taken in such an unforgiving manner.

“Wakizaka…”

He hid my face in his chest. I couldn’t bear to see him die.

I heard a sickening pop. Wakizaka let go.

When I looked back there was nothing left of him but blood and gore.

That’s when I snapped.

“KIYOHIMEEEEE!”

I leaped up and began to rush the beast. Wakizaka screamed my name, but it fell on deaf ears. I pivoted on my feet and unsheathed the sword. Kiyohime laughed and lunged at me. I sidestepped, narrowly avoiding the beast and driving my sword into her wound. She shrieked in pain. I took a stance and made eye contact with her.

“Is that all you can muster, woman?!?” She screamed.

“You won’t leave this cave alive!” I screamed in retort.

She lunged again, this time trying to bite me. I tried sidestepping again, but one of her fangs hooked my untied robe. I was slammed against the wall as the force of her lunge made me go flying. Pain shot through my body. Blood poured from my head. It was excruciating pain, the likes of which I had never felt. I could feel Kiyohime’s breath against my skin, knowing she was about to eat me.

“Pathetic.”

I braced for the imminent death, but it never came. I looked up and saw Wakizaka, with both his and Amago’s swords, stabbing the eyes of Kiyohime.

“You run your mouth far too much.”

He pulled his blades out and the serpent wailed. He helped me to my feet.

“I’LL KILL YOU! I’LL KILL YOU!!!!”

Kiyohime blindly lunged at us, completely missing and slamming her head into the wall.

“NOW!” Wakizaka yelled.

I took my blade at the same time he took his and we stabbed the neck of the beast. I stabbed the wound, while Wakizaka used the two swords to break Kiyohime’s rough hide and make an entry. Her body began to convulse and it began to be hard to stay stable, yet we managed to. It took every ounce of force to push the sword up, finally cutting through. We climbed atop the beast, eventually meeting our blades. I looked at him. He looked at me. We smiled.

With one last push, the head of Kiyohime had been separated from its body.

The body continued to convulse and spew blood everywhere, eventually stopping. I sat on the ground, exhausted. Wakizaka sat beside me.

“...You remembered to cut the head off.”

I looked at him. Despite the horrors of the night, the immense loss of life, and the fear of death never leaving, I never stopped thinking of saving Wakizaka.

I kissed his lips. The nightmare was finally over.



Written by SerenaWrites
Content is available under CC BY-SA

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