flash fiction by Jason Allard
* * *
I'm sure you would like to know why I chose you to act as my second. It
is the end of a play that has gone on for many, many years. My choice
can be summed up in a single word: revenge. However, to truly
understand it, you must start at the beginning. You may know some of
this tale, but not all.
Before you were born, there was a young samurai named Yagyu Goemon. He
was a most unusual young man. Only fifteen, yet with pure white hair.
He was almost a stranger at court, having been gone for almost a year,
and with no word of him for several months. He was thought dead by
almost all. Yet, he reappeared in the spring of 1105. He was alone,
bearing the news of his sensei's death at the hand of a fearsome ronin.
Hongo Yoshi had been a great warrior, and served with the Sora Clan
armies against our samurai many times. He had many enemies.
In spite of this, Goemon was welcomed back with open arms. In the
summer he was reunited with Sora Hiroe, whose sister, Tsune, your
mother, had just recently been married at the previous winter court. He
courted Hiroe all through the remainder of the summer and all through
the fall. He was not alone. Several other young samurai and their
families sought her hand. One of those was my brother, Kenro.
We all gathered at winter court that year for the announcement of
Hiroe's wedding, and which of the suitors her father, Sanuro, would
choose. He chose my brother. During court, I first met Goemon. In
spite of my honored ancestor, Hinote, telling me to hate him, I could
not. He was so very different from the young samurai I knew. I tried
to make him see that if he could not have Hiroe, that there were others
With the coming of spring and Sanuro's announcement, my brother's hatred
of the Yagyu family, and my own spite at being rejected time and again
by Goemon, led us to seek Goemon's downfall. It worked, but not as I
had imagined. I had wanted him to be so devastated by the loss of his
beloved Hiroe and the humiliation of my claims that he would be forced
to commit seppuku. Instead, he killed my brother and was made ronin for
it. However, his exile was conditional. Should he bring back Hongo
Yoshi's sword and the head of his killer, then he could return to the
Years later, he somehow managed to discover the killer's identity. I
won't hold you in suspense. Hongo Yoshi was killed by my eldest
brother, Zokushi, who had his own reasons for wanting the man dead.
Zokushi posed as a ronin in order to track the man down and kill him
without repercussions reaching the family.
Goemon, now called Okami, met with an Imperial Magistrate named Sora
Hiroyuki, and sent him with an eta to bring my brother's head back to
his daimyo. Instead of returning himself, with the recovered sword,
Okami swore to Hiroyuki to that he would return the weapon only after it
had killed the rest of the killer's family.
I am the last. I watched Okami kill two of my brothers and both of my
parents when he attacked our family stronghold. He dared to strike us
with only six others to aid him. I am proud to say that I killed one of
the four that did not escape. The other two that got away were the
giant Okuma and a bastard that helped them assault his own clan. I can
never forget Ashina Hiroji. I will haunt him until the end of his days.
I say I am the last, but there is another. My sister, Onishiko, was
expelled from the clan when she failed at her gempukku, then failed
again when she had the chance to redeem herself through seppuku. I
think it would seem fitting in his eyes to let my cowardly sister live.
But, now you see. When you cut my head from my shoulders, you will be
doing me double mercy. You will end my suffering and you will enact my
final revenge against this man. With my death on your hands, he has
failed. While he may be a ronin, he is still Yagyu Goemon, and still
accountable for his honor. Will he suffer his honor to return to the
Clan after I am dead? If so, then at least one person will know of the
stains on his soul. If Hiroyuki were still alive, then he too, would
know. But then, if Hiroyuki were still alive he would still be Hiroe's
husband. Would Goemon have any reason to return then?
Thank you, Suruga-chan,
flash fiction by Aaron Rosenberg gryphonrose
* * *
Long ago there lived a lovely maiden named Soyo. Graceful and carefree, she spent her days in dance and song, filling the world around her with laughter and energy. Many young men wooed her, but Soyo refused to be bound to a husband. “My life is my own,” she declared, “and I will not be fettered. Not by anyone.”
One day she awoke to a crisp autumn morn. The trees were golden, their leaves gleaming shades of auburn and russet, and the air was sharp but sweet. It was the perfect day to dance, and Soyo hastily donned her robes and pinned up her hair and took up her fan.
An old family friend saw her as she stepped out her door. “Soyo,” he called out, “where are you going today?”
“To dance, of course,” she replied with a friendly wave.
“But you mustn’t!” the family friend pleaded, wringing his hands. “Do you not know what today is?
Soyo shook her head.
“It is the Autumn Festival,” he warned. “Show respect, Soyo. Save your dance for another day.”
The Autumn Festival was a beloved time of Amateras, the sun. This day was sacred to her, and only her priestesses were allowed to dance and sing her praises from dawn to dusk. But Soyo was young and foolish, and hated to be told what to do.
“I will dance, nonetheless,” she told the family friend. “And if Amateras finds fault in that, then let her punish me as she sees fit.”
And so Soyo skipped away. She went beyond the village itself, deep into the forest. And there, in a small clearing, with the sun’s rays gliding through the leaves, she danced. The leaves rose about her, moving in time to her beat, and her fan stirred the air. Soyo closed her eyes, delighting in the motion and the silence and the peace of it all. She felt a sense of great freedom, as if she could leap from the earth and never touch down.
And then a curious thing happened. She began to feel strangely light, but at the same time oddly heavy. Her feet slowed and finally stilled, but somehow she was still in motion, moving higher and higher. She forced her eyes open again, only to see a strangely double image, that of the forest around her and of herself standing motionless upon the forest floor.
There was a burst of light, as if the sun had reached down to envelop her, and Soyo felt a brief tearing sensation. And then her soul was free, and soaring.
The villagers found her the next morning, frozen as still as if she had been carved of stone. They shook their heads and wept, knowing the sun had wrought her revenge for the maiden’s disrespect.
But Amateras is not a cruel goddess. She punished Soyo, but at the same time she freed the maiden as well. For now Soyo soars through the air, free and unfettered, gentle and playful, going wherever she wishes without restriction. And to this day the gentle zephyr, soyokaze, bears her name.
This one is actually a couple years old. I never did anything with it, so I figured it would make a good prompt. I'm sorry I missed yesterday... too much football and beer to get anything posted. :)
If you want to write something to go with this piece, drop me a line at aaronace [at] gmail [dot] com. If you like what you see, please leave a tip for your writers and artist. Enjoy!