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1 The Letter... on Sun Jun 08, 2014 3:32 pm

Sousetsu Senju

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S-rank
"Hey! Wait up!" the young boy yelped as he gasped for air as he followed his peers. He stopped, continuing his pant he fell to his knees and began to sob. The tears trickled down his face and the air breezed by causing a slight chill in their stead. The boys peers turned their heads to watch their fellow leaf villager as he gave up his chase. Their laughs and giggles quickly changed to thoughts of concern and so they returned to him. Feeling bad for leaving the boy behind they comforted him as one of the other children lay their hand upon his shoulder while the other two gave words of encouragement. "Toshi-kun! You okay? We would never really leave you..." he assured him. Another breeze blew past them. The loose leaves that dangled onto their beloved tree detached and rode the wind along with an unexpected item.

A piece of paper landed not a metre away from the little girl that stood idly by. With a confused expression on her face followed by her curiosity she retrieved the parchment and began to look at its contents. One side contained a small sentence while the other was blank. At the bottom of the parchment it was signed by the author, 'Little Liar'. "What's that?" one of the boys asked with the same curiosity as the girl. "It's a letter..." the girl replied as she glanced over the almost blank pages once again. One of the boys then leaped at this opportunity and looked over her shoulder and edging her to give him the paper so that he could read it aloud for all to hear.

They four children became dazed by the sheet of paper as they all watched it in the young man's hands. He swallowed wholesomely after clearing his throat before he began to read the contents of the paper. "I am happy now." he spoke with a clear voice. The children looked at each other before wondering what it meant. Their confused faces were soon interrupted by the man whose letter this belonged too. He stood stoically with his katana dangling from his lower back. Bandages were wrapped around his wrists and he could be seen in a sleeveless black jumpsuit. The bandanna was the giveaway however as it was emblazoned with the Senju Clan symbol. He approached the young children who now stood in a slight fright and took the parchment with ease.

He looked down at the contents also and smiled slightly before looking back to the small crowd. "Would you like to hear this story?" Sousetsu asked the group with a slight monotonous tone. They replied with a simple synchronized nod before he smiled once more before kneeling before them. They sat in compliance.

"Everyone in the marketplace hated the little girl. Not yet ten years old, and far from having outgrown the sweet innocence of childhood, she earns only open contempt from the grownups who have shops in the market. The reason is simple. She lies about everything..."

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"Hey, mister, I just saw a burglar go into your house!"

"Look, lady, everything just fell off your shelves!"

"Hey, everybody, did you hear what the traveller said? Bandits are planning to attack this market!"

Even the most harmless white lies can be annoying if repeated often enough, and the shopkeepers have found themselves growing angry. "You better watch out for her, too,"  the lady greengrocer warns Sousetsu. "Nobody here falls for her lies anymore, so she's always on the lookout for newcomers or strangers. Somebody like you would be a perfect target for her." She could be right. Sousetsu was new to the town. He arrived a few days ago and has just started working in the marketplace today.

"What do her parents do?" Sousetsu asks while unloading a cartful of vegetables.

The woman frowns and shakes her head with a sigh. "She doesn't have any."

"They died?"

"The mother did, at least. Maybe four or five years ago. She was a healthy young woman who never so much as caught a cold in her life, then one day she collapsed, and that was it for her."

"How about the father?"

She sighs more deeply than before and says, "He left to find a job in the city." The parents used to operate a variety store in the market, though the mother almost single-handedly took care of the actual buying and selling of the many goods they carried. As soon as she died, the shop's fortunes took a plunge, until it was eventually taken over by someone else. The father went off to the distant capital city in search of a good paying job that would enable him to cover their debts. He promised to come back in six months, but he has been gone a whole year now. Letters used to arrive from him on occasion care of his friend the tailor, but those, too, gave out about six months ago.

"I guess you could say it's sad for such a little girl to be waiting around for her father to come home, but still..." The girl now sleeps in a corner of the communal storehouse run by the people of the marketplace. "We all used to talk about taking care of her-to be stand-in parents for her until her father comes back." This is no surprise to Sousetsu. He knows from his own experience that all the people who work in the marketplace-and not just this plump, kindly woman-are good hearted and generous despite their limited means. Otherwise, they never would have hired a stranger like himself.

"But long before that first six months went by, we were all heartily sick of her. She was a sweet, simple girl while her mother was alive, but this experience has left her kind of twisted. All her sweetness is gone. Of course we all feel sorry for her, and we take our turns feeding her and dressing her in hand-me-downs, but the way she keeps telling lies to all the grownups, nobody really cares about her anymore. Why can't she see that...?"

"She must be lonely, don't you think?"

With a pained smile, the woman shrugs and says, "That's enough gabbing for one day. Work, work!" and she goes back inside the shop. Sousetsu is sorting the vegetables he has unloaded in front of the shop when he hears a little voice behind him. "Hi, mister, you new here?" It's the girl.

"Uh-huh..."

"You're not from the town, are you?"

"No, I'm not..."

"Are you living upstairs while you work here?"

"For a while, at least. That's what I'm hoping to do."

"I'll tell you a secret, okay?"

It's starting already, "Okay," Sousetsu says without pausing in his work.

"There's a ghost in this marketplace. The people here don't tell anybody about it because it's bad for business, but it's really here. I see it all the time."

"Really?!" Sousetsu responds with a feigned surprise. He decides to play along with her rather than scold her for lying. In this long life of his, he has encountered any number of children who have lost their parents or been abandoned by them. The sadness and loneliness of children who have been cast into the wide world alone exactly what Sousetsu feels himself as he continues to wander throughout the world instead of residing within the Leaf village.

"What kind of ghost?"

"A woman. And I know who she is."

"It's the ghost of a mother who lost her child," she says. Her little girl-her only child-died in an epidemic. Overcome with grief, the mother chose to die, and now her ghost appears in the market every night, searching for her daughter. "The poor mother! She killed herself so she could be with her daughter, but she can't find her in the other world, either. So she keeps looking for her and calling out, Where are you? Hurry and come with Mommy to the other world." The girl tells her story with deadly seriousness. "Don't you think it's sad?" she asks Sousetsu. She actually has tears in her eyes-which is precisely why Sousetsu knows she is lying. Even if he had not been warned by the woman, he would know this was a lie based on what she told him about the girl's background.

Sousetsu carefully arranges bunches of well-ripened grapes in a display crate and asks the girl, "Why do you think the mother can't find her daughter?"

"What?" The girl asks him with a dazed stare.

"Well," he explains, "the girl is not in the other world, and she's not wandering around in this world, so where is she?" Sousetsu does not mean this to be a cross-examination. He simply feels that someone who lies out of sorrow can have a far easier time of it by recognizing the lie for what it is. The loneliness of a girl who has lost her mother and been abandoned by her father consists not in telling on little lie but in having to keep on lying.

"Hmm, now that you mention it, that's a good point," the girl says, smiling calmly. "Really, where did the girl go?"

Sousetsu momentarily considers pointing at the girl as if to say "Right here," but before he can do so, she continues:

"This is the first time anybody ever asked me that. You're kind of... Different. I wonder... No, you are. You're different," the girl insists. "I think we can be friends." Her smile deepens. Sousetsu smiles back at her, saying nothing. Just then, they hear the lady greengrocer coming from the back of the shop, and the girl dashes away. Just before she disappears around the corner into the alleyway, the girl gives Sousetsu a little wave as if to say "See you soon!" For the first time, the face of the girl with the all-too-grownup speaking style shows a hint of childishness befitting her years. The girl begins coming to see Sousetsu at the shop several times a day when the lady grocer is not around. She tells him one lie after another.

"I baked cookies with my mother last night. I wanted to give you some, but they were so good I ate them all."

"Bandits kidnapped me when I was a little baby, but my father came to save me and beat up all the bandits, so I didn't get killed."

"My house? It's a big, white one at the foot of the mountain. You're new here so you probably don't know it. It's the biggest house in town."

" Poor Sousetsu! I wish I could share some of my happiness with you!"

All her lies are borne of sorrow: sad, lonely lies she could never tell to marketplace people who know her background. At the end of every chat with Sousetsu, as she is leaving, the girl holds her finger to her lips and says, "This is just our little secret. Don't tell the lady grocer." Of course, Sousetsu says nothing to anyone. If he happens to find himself in a situation where the market people are speaking ill of the girl, he quietly slips away. Lies and disparagements are funny things. They don't take shape because someone tells them but rather because someone listens to and voices agreement with them. A truly isolated individual can never speak ill of anyone. The same can be said regarding lies. Because she has someone to tell her lies to, the girl need not fall into the abyss of true isolation. To protect her small, sad share of happiness, Sousetsu plays the role of her listener, raising no objections. One day when the girl comes to see Sousetsu, she takes special care not to be noticed by the lady grocer or by the owners of the neighbouring shops.

"Tell me, Mister, are you planning to stay here a long, long time?"

"No, I'm not," Sousetsu says, continuing to unload vegetables and fruit.

"You'll be leaving when you save up enough money?"

"Probably."

"But you don't have enough yet?"

"I'm getting there," he says, turning a strained smile on the girl. This is a white lie of his own. He already has enough money to support himself on the road. Nor has he taken his current live-in job because he needs money so badly. He is here because he has not found a destination he wants to travel to. A journey without a destination is an endless journey. Wise men say that you need dreams and goals in life. But dreams to accomplish and goals to realize shine as guideposts in life precisely because life is finite.  Sousetsu's is not a journey to be hurried. Nor is it one that can be hurried. Perhaps drifting day after day with no destination cannot even be called a journey. "If I were you," says the girl, "I would get out of this marketplace as soon as I had saved up enough for two or three days of travelling." Sousetsu responds to her with a silent, pained smile.

What would be the look on the girl's face if Sousetsu were to tell her, "I'm staying here for you"? I am finding the meaning of my life for now in providing you with a listener for your lies. The moment these words come to mind-words he can never actually speak to her-the girl looks around furtively and says in a near-whisper, "If you want to get out of here soon, I know a good way you can do it."

"A good way...?"

"Sneak into the tailor's and steal his money. There's a little pot in the cabinet at the back of the shop. It's full of money."

"Are you telling me to steal it?"

"Yes." She looks straight at Sousetsu without the slightest show of doubt in her eyes. In all seriousness, she goes on to explain, "That tailor deserves to have his place robbed." The money in the pot, she says, is tainted. "I know this girl, a good friend of mine," she says, "and it's so sad about her. Her mother died, and her father went off to work in the capital, and she's all alone. Her father was supposed to come and get her after six months, but she hasn't heard a thing from him." Yet another lie borne of sorrow. Sousetsu calmly asks, "Is there some connection between your friend and the tailor?"

"Of course," she says. "A close connection. What's really happening is the father was sending her money every month the way he was supposed to, to help make her life in the town a little easier. And he kept writing to her. He wanted to tell her he found a good job in the city and she should come to live with him right away. He's too busy to come for her, so she should come to him. And he sent her money for the trip. But none of the letters or the money ever reached the girl. And why do you think that is?" Before Sousetsu can answer, the girl says, "The mistake he made was to send the letters and money care of the tailor. He's been keeping all the money for himself." Sousetsu looks away from the girl. In order to prop up one sad lie, the girl has piled on a still sadder one-a lie that can hurt another person. This is the saddest thing of all.

"The lock on the tailor's back door would be really easy to break," the girl adds, and she gallops away without waiting for Sousetsu's reply. The girl comes running into the grocery store the next morning, shouting for the owner. She says directly to the woman, not to Sousetsu, "Burglars broke into the tailor's shop last night!" She says she saw a number of burglars sneaking in late at night after the marketplace emptied out.

"My oh my," says the woman with a forced smile, "that must have been just terrible." She is obviously not taking the girl seriously.

"But it's true, though! I really saw them!"

"Look, little girl, I've had just about all I can take from you. You're such a little liar, it scares me to death to think about you growing up to be a burglar or a con artist or something. I'm busy trying to open my shop now, do you mind? Try in on somebody else." She is hardly through speaking when someone outside shouts, "Help! Somebody come!" The tailor is standing in the street looking horrified and screaming at the top of his lungs.

"Bur-burglars! They took all my mo-mo-money!"

The little girl slips away as the tailor comes in. The marketplace is in an uproar. The girl was not lying: that much is certain. But, all too accustomed to her lies, people now suggest the possibility of another kid of lie. "Maybe she did it. What do you think?" And so it begins...

"I think you may be right."

"Talk about play-acting!"

"I wouldn't put it past her."

"Let's go find her. We'll make her tell—even if we have to get a little rough with her." No one objects to this suggestion. Some run off to the storehouse, and the others start searching the marketplace.

"Can't find her anywhere!"

"The storehouse is empty."

"She ran away with the money!"

As the searchers return with their reports and speculation, Sousetsu finally understands everything. After all her sad lies, the girl has left behind one final truth.

"She couldn't have gotten very far!"

"Yeah, we can still catch her!"

"The little thief! Wait till I get my hands on her!" The men rage, and the women fan the flames:

"Good! Give her what she deserves!"

"We were so nice to her, and now look how she treats us! We can't let her get away with it!" A dozen men start to run after her, but Sousetsu stands tall in the road, blocking their way.

"Hey, move it!"

The men are out for blood, but Sousetsu knows if he felt like it, he could knock them all down and they wouldn't be able to lay a finger on him. Instead, he relaxes his powerful stance and throws a leather coin pouch on the ground in front of the men. "The stolen money is in there," he says.

"What?"

"Sorry, I stole it."

A confused stir quickly turns into angry shouts. Sousetsu raises his hands to show he will not resist. "Do what you like with me, I'm ready." The lady grocer breaks through the wall of men, shouting at him, "How could you do this, Kaim?"

"I wanted the money, that's all."

"And you're not just saying this to protect the girl?" The woman's intuition is too sharp. Forcing a smile, Sousetsu turns to the tailor and says, "It was in the pot in the cabinet, right?" The man nods energetically. "It's true! He must have done it! I had the money in a pot! He's the thief!"

"The money wasn't the only thing in the pot, though, was it?"

"What are you saying?"

"You had some letters in there, too. Letters from the girl's father."

"That's a lie! Don't be crazy!"

"It's true, though."

"No, there couldn't have been any letters! I threw them all-" The tailor claps his hands over his mouth. But it is too late. The lady grocer glares at him. "What's this all about?" she demands.

"Uh... no... I mean..."

"You'd better tell us everything." The people's angry glances turn from Sousetsu to the tailor. Some days later, two letters arrive from the girl addressed to "The lady at the grocery store and the nice man upstairs." Sousetsu's letter says the girl managed to find her father in the capital. He has no way of knowing if this is true or not. It is hard to imagine a little girl finding her father in the big city so easily without knowing his address or workplace. Still, he decides to believe it when the girl's letter says, "I am happy now."

Human beings are the only animals that lie. Lies to deceive people, lies to benefit oneself, and lies to protect one's own heart from the threat of crushing loneliness and sorrow. If there were no lies in this world, much strife and misunderstanding would surely disappear. On the other hand, perhaps it is because this world is a mixture of truth and lies that people have learned how to "believe." When he is through reading his letter, Sousetsu turns to the woman. Concentrating on her own letter, she shyly raises her head when she senses Sousetsu looking at her.

"I give up!" she declares. "Listen to this: 'I am so grateful to you and the others in the marketplace for all you have done for me. I will never forget you as long as I live.' A liar to the bitter end, that girl,"

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"...she said, smiling through her tears." As Sousetsu finished his story from his past he looked at each child with a comforting and warm smile. The little girl began rubbing he eyes with her forearm while the boys looked in awe. It seemed they enjoyed listening to it just as much as he enjoyed telling it. They all smiled and bowed to thank the Senju for his time in telling them a story. One that he hoped that they would cherish and take as a life lesson. Lies were powerful. How they should be used was up to them but how they used them would define them until the end.

The boy who fell then decided to muster up courage and asked the Senju a question that was well expected. "Have you ever lied apart from in that story?" to which Sousetsu giggled with a grin. "I try to be an honest man but yes, I have lied. White lies are harmless to which everyone benefits from, like the one in the story. But don't go off telling lies like the little girl, you will lose trust with your peers and comrades alike. A ninja should be honest with one another from the same village." he exclaimed.

They children looked at each before smiling and giggling to themselves to which Sousetsu replied with his own giggle also. The breeze rolled in once again, causing his hair to flail along with the loose ends of his bandanna and collar of his black sleeveless jumpsuit. The tree leaves bristled off one another as the joyous laughs could be carried through the wind. The sun shone down on them causing another great memory to be held for their own keepsakes. The story the Senju told to the children and a life lesson for them taught by the Sannin of their village. A serene and tranquil setting with a beautiful day was always a time to be remembered. The letter within Sousetsu's grasp began to flail also as the breeze passed before he smiled down on the sheet of paper as a last remembrance for the time being before he folded it and placed it within the pouch along the side of his waist.

"Senju-San... Do you have any other stories?" the little girl asked innocently. With a smile in return the Senju replied. "Of course..."

Words: 3883

Strength: E > D 750/750
Endurance: E > C 2450/2450

750 + 2450 = 3200


____

:19

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Tales of Sousetsu Senju
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Ninjutsu: SS | Bukijutsu: SS | Senjutsu: S
Suiton: SS | Doton: SS | Mokuton: SS

2 Re: The Letter... on Sun Jun 08, 2014 10:23 pm

Sousetsu Senju

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S-rank
As the afternoon was coming to an end, greeting the evening with a sunset, Sousetsu and the children remained in their circle. Only this time they were accompanied by a small fire with wood gathered by the small crowd a short time after the initial story involving the letter that the young children stumbled upon. They smiled once more as they awaited the next story. They wished to know if the Senju had many other letters to which he replied that he had a small collection as keepsakes. One of the children asked a curious question  however, "Have you ever had to assassinate anyone?"

The mood went from a light one to a darker tone but Sousetsu was still willing to answer the boy's question. "Yes... As ninja a mission comes across such as assassination once in a while. However, your morals may question these missions." The Senju concluded as he introduced another tale of the Senju.

"The mother stands by the island pier, waiting for her son..."

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Her luggage is bigger than she is. Dressed in her finest travelling clothes, she seems hardly able to contain her excitement as she speaks to Sousetsu, who happens to be waiting for the same boat to arrive. "I got a letter from him," she says. Almost thirty years have passed since her only son left the island of his birth. There was no word from him in all that time until he recently wrote announcing his successes and his plan to bring her to mainland. "I've been alone ever since I lost my husband, so just to think I might be able to spend the rest of my life with my son, his wife and my grandchildren..." She sold the house she had always lived in and has been waiting for her son to come for her.

The letter arrived over a week ago. "I wonder why it's taking him so long. The seas are calm." Sousetsu arrived here on yesterday's ferry. "You mean he's late?" Sousetsu asks with some surprise. "Very," she replies, forcing a smile.

"I wonder what's wrong. Maybe he got busy all of a sudden and can't pull himself away from his work."

"He hasn't written again to explain?"

"He's never bothered with things like that, not since he was a child," she says, straining to smile again and glancing toward the horizon. No bigger than a dot at first, the boat is now big enough for a clear view of the mast in silhouette.

"Anyhow, I'm not worried. I know he'll be on this boat," she says, raising herself from the clock side crate on which she is sitting and waving a handkerchief toward the approaching vessel. Sousetsu also stares hard at the boat, which gives his eyes a stern expression.

"Young man?" At the sound of the mother's voice, Sousetsu hastens to soften his gaze before turning toward her.

"You are a traveller, aren't you?"

"That's right," he says.

"I saw you arrive on yesterday's ferry. Are you leaving so soon?" She is obviously curious about this stranger, but her face shows no wariness toward outsiders. Relieved to see this, Sousetsu replies, "I'm doing the same thing you are - waiting for someone to arrive."

"On this boat?"

"Yes, probably."

"You haven't been in touch with this person?"

"No, we haven't agreed on a time. I might be waiting for nothing, too."

"Oh, really?"

Sousetsu evades further questioning with a strained smile. This is not something he can discuss with just anyone. He is on a secret mission - one that must not fail. The woman still wears a look of puzzlement, but their conversation is swallowed up in the general hubbub on shore, accompanying the approach of the boat. At last the ferry arrives. One by one passengers alight after their half-day trip from the capital on mainland. Clutching the handkerchief to her breast, the mother scans each of them. There are peddlers who travel from island to island hawking their wares, and men who have come to do larger-scale trading; sunburned young men and women who arrive from the mainland in groups to work on the island's farms, and men coming home to the island after a season of labour on the mainland. None of the dozens of passengers, however, is the woman's son.

Once it has disgorged its island-bound passengers, the ferry takes on people crossing to the mainland. Greeters on the pier give way to well-wishers. The mother turns her back on the pier's hustle and bustle and plods her way toward the town. She hoists a heavy pack onto her back and lifts a large suitcase in each hand, but she has taken only a few steps when the pack begins to slide off. Sousetsu reaches out to keep it from falling. The woman turns with a look of surprise, and when she realizes that Sousetsu is alone, she asks, "So your person didn't come, either?"

"Looks that way."

With only one ferry a day from the mainland, all they can do is wait until tomorrow.

"Are you going to stay on the island until your friend comes?"

"I might have to..."

"You could run up quite a hotel bill that way."

"I'm all right. I'm used to camping out."

"Camping out?" she exclaims with a look of amazement. Then she smiles and says, "Oh, well, you're young, and in good condition. A few days sleeping outdoors shouldn't be too hard on you."

"What are you going to do, Ma'am? Go back home?"

"I wish I could. I sold my house last week. I was so sure my son would come and get me right away." A hint of discouragement clouds her face, but she quickly recovers her smile and continues, "The money I got for the house is a nice little bundle, so I've decided to spend freely for a change. See that large hotel over there? I'm staying in their biggest room and taking it easy all day and all night, too. I'm disappointed when he doesn't show up, of course, but I've worked my fingers to the bone all these years. It won't hurt me to indulge myself just this little bit."

Though delivered with a smile, her words touched Sousetsu deeply. In her case, "Worked my fingers to the bone" is not just a figure of speech, as evidenced by her suntanned face, which is so unsuited to the cosmetics she had applied to greet her son, and especially by her bony fingers, so ill-concealed by the cheap rings she is wearing. Hard she undoubtedly worked, life has granted her few rewards. There is nothing expensive about her luggage.

"I'm sure your son will be here tomorrow," Sousetsu says.

Her deeply wrinkled face breaks into a joyous smile. "Yes, of course, tomorrow for sure," she says with a deep nod. "I hope the person you are waiting for comes on tomorrow's boat, too."

"Thank you very much," he replies.

"I have an idea," she says. "You might get sick camping out. If you'd like, why not stay in my hotel? I'm sure we could arrange something for one extra person."

Sousetsu senses that she is not suggesting this out of mere politeness, which is precisely why he demurs with a smile and a nod.

"Thanks just the same," he says, "but don't worry about me. Just take the rest you deserve after all your long years of hard work."

"If you say so..." She seems somewhat disappointed but does not press him to accept. As he watches her trudge off toward her hotel alone, all but hidden from view by her huge bundles, Sousetsu wonders if, perhaps, she was hoping that his company might ease her concern that her son might not show up after all. Even so, he decides not to chase after her and retract his refusal. He is the wrong man to spend time with a mother whose only dream is to have a happy old age. Most likely, when tomorrow's boat arrives, she will finally be reunited with the son she has longed to see all these years. The person that Sousetsu is waiting for will also most certainly cross over to the island tomorrow.

The mother will undoubtedly shed great tears when her reunion takes place. Sousetsu, on the other hand, has a bloody job to perform when he encounters the man he's waiting for. Sousetsu has been hunting him. The man is a fugitive, and there is a reward on his head. He is known as the boss of an underworld gang in the capital, and he has committed crimes without number - robbery, fraud, extortion, assault, and even murder. To cap his life of crime, he double-crossed his own gang and ran off with a great deal of money. Word reached the gang only a few days ago that the man is headed for this island, the place of his birth, and they hired Sousetsu to take care of him. The fact that they hired Sosuetsu means they are ready to have him killed on sight.

Sousetsu and the mother meet at the dock again the next day at the same time. And again the next day, and the next,  and the day after that. The ones they are waiting for never come. A week goes by. The mother switches accommodations from her expensive hotel to a cheap inn frequented by travelling peddlers. "Actually, I'm more comfortable in a cheap place like this," she tells Sousetsu with a laugh, but more than likely her money would have run out in the first hotel. "Your person is very late, too," she observes.

"True..."

"Who is it?"

He sidesteps the issue with a strained smile. He cannot answer her question if he is going to carry out his duty. And besides, he feels a tiny premonition deep inside. The mother stops questioning him and says, "I hope your person comes soon."

Another three days go by. A messenger from the gang, disguised as a peddler, whispers to Sousetsu as he steps off the ferry, "We think he's still hiding in the capital. We're looking in every rat hole we can find, but there's no sign of him." Sousetsu nods silently and glances at the boat. Even after the last passenger alights, the mother stands on the pier, looking up at the boat's empty deck.

"Let me ask you, young man..." the mother says to Sousetsu three days later. "Does the place where you're camping out have a roof to keep the dew off?"

Sosuetsu has been sleeping in a dilapidated old house he found near the harbour.

"All I need is a place to sleep," she says. "Would you mind if I joined you there?"

"What's that?"

"The place I'm staying at now is not much better than a ruin. I'm sure I'd be fine wherever you're staying. Yes, I'm sure I'd be fine." She smiles like a child who has found a new source of mischief. Sousetsu does not refuse her. More precisely, he cannot refuse her. She has probably run out of money even to stay in her current flophouse. Sosuetsu has noticed her cheap rings gradually disappearing from her bony fingers.

As they pass the night in the abandoned building, the moon their only source of light, the mother, without prompting from Sousetsu, spills out her memories of her son. They are by no means pleasant memories. Known as a roughneck even from his earliest years, the boy was hated by all the neighbours and caused his parents a good deal of shame.

"He would steal our money, stay out all night partying, and before we knew it he was the number one thug on the island. He was always getting into fights and bothering girls. During the island's annual festival he would go wild and destroy property, so my husband and I would have to go around apologizing to everyone."

The father, a skilled stonemason, lost his job when the son stole valuables from the boss's house. The mother could hardly walk down the street without being subjected to the glares and finger-pointing of the neighbours. Things got especially bad after her son set fire to the island assembly hall just for fun. His parents raised him badly, the boy's misbehaviour is the parents' responsibility, the son has bas became such a thug because his mother spoiled him rotten, it's the parents' fault, the father's fault, the mother's fault, your fault. They had heard it all. "It was so hard for us on a little island like this! There was no place we could hide."

The boy was eighteen when he finally ran away from home - or rather, left the island when his parents all but disowned him. The other islanders rejoiced as if a plague had been lifted. One man went so far as to deliberately let the parents overhear him declaring, "I hope that bastard goes to the capital and dies in the gutter." The boy's father died five years ago. To the very end, he would not forgive his son, and in his final delirium, he was still apologizing to the islanders.

"But still, to a mother, any son is the baby she once carried. I never heard a word from him, but I went on praying that he would stay healthy in the capital, that he wouldn't catch whatever epidemic was going around, that he wouldn't get into fights. But that's just me, I guess." She gives Sousetsu a bitter smile. "Or maybe it's just me being a mother," she adds. "You have parents too, I suppose? Of course you do! Everyone has parents!

"True."

"Are your father and mother alive and well?"

Sousetsu bows his head in silence. Instead of giving his answer, he asks the woman, "What is the first thing you'll say when you finally get to meet your son?"

"Good question," says the mother. After thinking it over a few moments, she replies, "I won't actually say anything. I think I'll just hug him and say nothing at all. I'll hold him tight and let him know how glad I am he's alive and well."

"Just supposing though," Sousetsu presses her gently, "if you knew that he had lived a less than exemplary life in the capital, too, would you still give him a hug?"

Her response is instantaneous. "First I'd hug him, and then I'd give him a good talking to!" She smiles shyly at Sousetsu and adds, "That's what being a parent is all about."

The next morning she runs a high fever. She may have survived the dew, but a night in the dilapidated building has taken a toll on the old woman's health. Even so, when it is time for the ferry to arrive, she struggles to her feet and heads toward the pier with uncertain steps. Alarmed, Sousetsu holds her back. "You're in no shape to be going out," he says.  Despite his attempts to bring down her fever with cool spring water from the forest, it is as high as ever. Her laboured breathing has taken on a congested rumbling. "I have to go," she insists. "My son is coming for me. I'm going to see him..." She sweeps away Sosuetsu's restraining hand, but the effort causes her to lose her balance and sink to her knees.

"If he's on board, I'll bring him here," Sousetsu assures her. "Tell me how I can recognize him." Cradled in Sousetsu's arms, half-delirious with fever, the old woman mutters, "On his left cheek... before he left the island...he got in a fight...somebody cut him...he has a scar..." Sousetsu nods and lowers the old woman to a straw mat spread on the ground.

He fights back with a sigh and closes his eyes momentarily, then he stares hard through a small window at the ferry dock. His suspicions were right after all, though he was sure of it last night. Sousetsu was given a written description of the man when he took on the assignment from the gang. There could be no doubt: "Scar on left cheek."

The ferry is approaching the harbour. The pier is showing signs of activity. Sosuetsu starts for the door. Behind him, he hears the woman staying, "Please...don't kill him...don't kill my boy..." Sousetsu stops short, but instead of turning around, he bites his lip. "I don't know what he did...in the capital...but don't kill him... please..." So she knows, too. She knows everything.

"If you have to kill him...if you absolutely have to...please, before you do it...let me just..." Sousetsu leaves the run in silence. His steps are uncertain as he makes his way into the blinding glare of the afternoon sun. This time the man is there. Trying to lose himself among the travelling peddlers, the man with a price on his head and the scar on his left cheek steps down to the pier. He is far more emaciated than Sosuetsu's written description would have led him to believe. No doubt he is exhausted from his years as a fugitive. Still, he has fulfilled his promise to his mother by coming back to the island of his birth.

His eyes dart fearfully over the pier. His expression changes from that of a man searching for someone to the panicked look of a child who has become separated from his parent. Sousetsu slowly plants himself in front of him. The man knows nothing of Sousetsu's mission, of course, and has never met him before. But he has the instincts of an inhabitant of the back alleys. His face freezes, and he turns to flee. Sousetsu grabs him by the shoulder - but lightly, in a way that would make an onlooker think he was witnessing the joyful reunion of old friends. The man tries to shake off the hand, to no avail.

It would be easy enough for Sousetsu to kill him on the spot. His eyes show that he has no strength left to fight. Sousetsu has far more experience than the man does at surviving potentially fatal encounters. The man knows this.

"If you're going to kill me, get it over with," he snarls. "But if you've got a trace of kindness in you, you'll give me one last chance to do something good for my mother. It won't take long. Just let me see her. Once. Then you can do whatever you like with me."

Sousetsu lets his hand drop from the man's shoulder. He is not going to run away.

"So, I didn't make it after all..." he says with a forced smile. His face tells Sousetsu that he has probably resigned himself to this fate. It suggests, too, an air of relief at having finally brought his life as a fugitive to an end. "How many men have you killed?" he asks Sousetsu.

"I don't have to answer that."

"And I don't really want you to tell me. It's just that, well, looking at you, I'd say I'm older than you are, and there are some things a person comes to realize when he's lived a long time. Think about the guys you've killed. Every single one of them had parents. Killing a person means killing somebody's child. Right? When that finally dawned on me, I left the gang. Gangs don't pay retirement bonuses, so I sort of 'borrowed' a little money from them and thought I'd use it to...well, I've given my mother a hard time all these years..."

His voice grows thick and muffled. He shakes off the emotion and proclaims with a laugh, "Ah, what the hell! That's a lot of sentimental nonsense. I don't know how many guys I've killed over the years, so I figure I'm getting what I deserve. I can't hate you for what you're doing."

A shout comes from the ferry deck: "We will be departing shortly! All passengers bound for the capital should be boarding now!"

Sousetsu looks hard at the man and says, "Just tell me one thing." The man says nothing in reply, but Sousetsu continues, "What's the first thing you're going to do when you see your mother?"

"Huh? What are you talking about?"

"Never mind, just answer the question."

"I'll say, 'I'm back.' No, I won't say anything. I'll just take her in my arms. That's all."

"Give her a big hug?"

"Sure. That's what parents and children are all about."

Sousetsu relaxes the grim expression on his face and jerks his chin toward the forest beyond the pier. "There's an old, broken-down house in the woods. Your mother's waiting for you there. Go to her."

"What are you talking about?"

"Don't ever come back to the capital. And don't stay on this island. Take another ferry and go far away to some other island. With your mother."

The man looks stunned. "You...I mean..." His voice is trembling. Kaim says nothing more. He leaves the man behind and strides toward the boat before it can depart. Mission accomplished. Sousetsu does not care if, in return for this deed, he is labelled a traitor to be pursued by the gang. The image of his own parents praying for their son's welfare has long since faded from his memory.

"Pulling out! Please hurry!" comes the cries of the ferry's crew.

A big gong is ringing. Startled by the sounds reverberating between the vast stretch of ocean and open sky, brightly-coloured birds dart up from the forest. Large birds and small birds - parents and their young? The larger birds seem almost to be shielding the smaller ones beneath their slowly-beating, outstretched wings.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"I began that story set on a mission to assassinate a man but it ended with a life being spared. Was I in the wrong to do so?" Sousetsu exclaimed rhetorically. Morally, he felt it was the right thing to do. The children were left their mouths hanging open once more as they gazed in awe upon the storyteller. "Ninja see a mission before them and must fulfill its wishes. In this circumstance I witnessed a boy and his mother. After knowing the story of the mother and her troublesome son I could not dare myself to partake in the mission any longer." he let his head lower.

"You were not wrong to do so, Senju-san! You helped that poor woman! I would have wanted the same thing and I would be very grateful that you came along and made that happen!" her voice said proudly. A smile was now worn on all faces. "Thank you..." Sousetsu replied. His morals helped this woman find her son and fulfill their wishes. It was the right choice after all.


Words: 3795 + 683(previous post) = 4478

Reaction time: C-2 > B - 1400/1400
Strength: D > C-2 - 2875/2875
1400 + 2875 = 4275/4478


____

:19

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3 Re: The Letter... on Tue Jun 10, 2014 3:40 am

Sousetsu Senju

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S-rank
"Surely you must have been in many wars, Sousetsu-Sama!" one of boys asked enthusiastically. Of course, Sousetsu was no stranger to war. Being a ninja, he was often a key factor of retrieving intelligence or assassinations of high figures. He had been trained in every aspect and so battle came naturally. During his time away, he was a mercenary on countless occasions. He turned to the young boy and nodded with no real expression for his own enthusiasm. A simple yes.

"War is never a delight to be part of. It is a horrific and terrifying time in every soldiers eyes. he responded with a hint of regret and sadness. "Do you... umm... Would you..." the nervous boy wanted to ask if he would share and so Sousetsu obliged with another nod-cutting him off mid-sentence. He thought of a story that would show them the true fear that people endured during these hard times. And so his story began.

The ramparts will fall to the enemy. It is just a matter of time. They will mount their attack at dawn. The main body of the allied forces has already drawn far back from the front...

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Only the mercenaries are left behind the barricade. Their orders: defend it to the death. These men, who have gone from battlefield to battlefield, know exactly what that means.

"They've just left us here to die," chuckles the one called Toma in darkness too thick for a person to make out his own hand. "They want us to buy time so the main force can pull farther back. We're supposed to be their shields, performing our final service for our employers." His dry, papery laugh shakes the darkness. Sousetsu says nothing in reply. Other mercenaries must be gathered there around them in the blackness, but all keep their thoughts to themselves. Mercenaries have nothing to say to each other on the battlefield. They might be on opposite sides in the next battle. At a time like this especially, when they have to defend the barricade against the enemy's withering attack, they can't spare time even to look at each other's faces.

Sousetsu knows nothing about this fighter called Toma. His voice sounds young. He probably has very little experience as a mercenary. If a man grows talkative in the face of death, it means that, deep down somewhere, he has a weakness that prevents him from becoming a true soldier. A mercenary with even a hint of such weakness can never cheat death and live to see another day. It is the law of the battlefield, and a man like Toma will only learn that law in the moment before he loses his life.

"We're done for. We'll all be dead in the morning. We'll have that 'silent homecoming' they talk about. I can't stand it. I just can't stand it." In the darkness, no voices rise to second these sentiments. It's too late for talk like this. The day they chose the mercenary's path was when they should have resigned themselves to death. They will sell their lives for a little money. They prolong their lives, a day at a time, by taking the lives of one enemy after another. That's what a mercenary is: nothing more, nothing less. "Hey... can anybody hear me? How many of us are here? We're all going to die together. We'll just be a line of corpses in the morning. Don't shut up now. Answer me!"

No one says a thing. Instead of voices, the silent darkness begins to fill with a tangible sense of annoyance. Wordlessly to gather on the battlefield; wordlessly to fight the enemy; and just as wordlessly to die. That is the rule of the mercenary, the "aesthetic" of the mercenary, if such an expression may be permitted. But Toma has taken it upon himself to abandon that aesthetic.

"I knew it was hopeless from the start. Headquarters didn't know what they were doing. There was no way a strategy like that could work. You know what I'm talking about, don't you guys? We had to lose. It's a total mess. I wish to hell I had joined the other side. Then we could have gotten a mountain of cash for winning. We could have drunk ourselves blind. We could have had all the women we wanted. I could have gone either way on this one but I picked the wrong side to fight on..."

"Hey, you!" an older voice booms out of the darkness. An angry voice.

"Yeah, what?" answers Toma, his voice more vibrant now at having at last found someone willing to talk with him.

As if to crush his momentary enthusiasm, the other man goes on, "How about shutting up a while? If you really want to run off at the mouth that much, I can send you to the next world a step ahead of the rest of us."

"I-I'm sorry..."

Instantly dejected, Toma falls silent and the darkness grows still again. The stillness is charged, however, with a deep tension. Far deeper, even, than before Toma started talking. The veteran warriors know: watch out for a talkative man. Being talkative means trusting in words-trusting too much in words. Words are useless on the battlefield. You take up your weapon in silence, you fight in silence, you kill the enemy -or he kills you-in silence. All the mercenaries here have lived this way. All but the talkative one. A soldier who clings too desperately to words may cling just as desperately to something else--to the sweet trap of betrayal, for example, or the seduction of desertion under fire, or the lure of madness.

Sousetsu has often seen pitiful mercenaries who, unable to endure the terror of being surrounded by the enemy, go berserk and attack men from their own side. Will Toma prove to be another such case? The possibility is great, and no doubt the other men are thinking the same thing, too. In the stillness, they turn the same gazes toward Toma that they reserve for confrontations with the enemy, looking for any signs of change in his demeanour. The moment they perceive the slightest threat in him, a blade will soundlessly pierce the left side of his chest.

The silence continues. Not even the usual all-night cries of insects can be heard tonight as they were last night. Perhaps the insects knew enough to clear out in advance of the enemy's dawn attack. The thought reminds Sousetsu that he saw no birds in the area yesterday, either. Although animals came to snatch food when the men first built this fortification, there has been no sign of them for several days now. Animals have mysterious powers of foreknowledge that humans have lost. This becomes painfully obvious from any visit to a battlefield. There can be little doubt that the animals have turned their backs on this barricade.

Right about now, in some distant forest, a huge flock of black birds may be taking wing in search of human corpses to strip of their flesh: "It's feast time, boys!" They already know, somehow. Once the sun is fully up, the battle will be over. If they don't get here first, they'll lose some of their feast to a flock from another forest. Their black bodies hidden against the night sky, those birds now are probably flying for all they're worth.


A voice in the night. Toma's voice. Weeping. "Listen, you guys... I don't know how many of you are out there, but we're all going to die in the morning... or most of us. Maybe one or two will live to escape, no more. Think about it: those are lousy odds. You've all been through this before. You're veterans, war heroes, you're probably not scared. But even so... even if you're not scared, don't you think this is stupid? Huh? Tell me! You've been through a lot more battles than I have, so tell me... what the hell are we here for? We don't hate the enemy, we don't owe the leaders on our side anything, but we've got to kill the enemy and follow our leaders' orders... and we're still going to end up dead. Tell me you guys... don't you think it's pointless? Don't you think it's stupid?"

The only response to Toma is the impatient click of a tongue in the darkness followed by someone else's sigh of annoyance. "I can't take it any longer," says Toma. "I hate this..." And now he is sobbing.

"All I wanted was some money and maybe something better to eat and maybe nicer clothes. I would have been happy with that. What a mistake I made, taking work like this. I never should have done it..."

Sousetsu keeps all his senses open for movement in the night. Aside from himself and Toma, five other soldiers are crouching down in the darkness. Not bad: all are experienced warriors. They would not have been able to put up with Toma's whining otherwise. If they let themselves get angry and started shouting at him or grabbing him by the throat or whaling away at him, they would just end up consuming their strength and energy before their "work" started at dawn. If this is an assemblage of men who know how to keep their silence, the chances for "life" are that much greater, assuming, that is, that the talkative, weeping man does not become too great a burden for the rest of them. Still sobbing. Toma continues to curse his fate.

Suddenly, something is different: something stirs in the silence. This could be bad, Sousetsu thinks, sharpening his attentiveness still more. When dawn breaks, Toma will get in our way. Because of him, the possibility for "life" will wither. The mercenaries know that, and because they know it, they might do whatever it takes for them to secure for themselves even the slightest added chance to live.

"I don't want to die here. I tell you. Not now, not here, like a worthless dog. You guys feel the same way, don't you?"

Moonlight shines down from a rift in the clouds. For a split second, Toma's tear-stained face appears in the darkness. He is even younger than Sousetsu imagined from the sound of his voice. He is practically a boy. The clouds hide the moon again, and thick black darkness enfolds everything once more. A dull light stirs in the depth of the darkness. Without a word, Sousetsu darts, wind-like, toward it. He was able to gauge the distance between himself and Toma during the flash of moonlight. Sousetsu grabs Toma's arm. Something hard falls to the ground. The dull light flashes again, this time at their feet, and melts again into the darkness.

A knife. Driven by the fear of death. Toma was trying to slit his own throat. Toma twists away and tries to free his arm from Sousetsu's grasp, but Sousetsu chops him in the solar plexus. Without uttering a sound, Toma passes out. With Toma slung across his back, Sousetsu strides through the darkness. Eventually Toma wakes and thrashes his legs to get loose.

"Stop it! Let me go!"

Sousetsu lowers him to the ground. "Every once in awhile, the moon comes out. Check your direction when that happens. Go straight toward the setting moon," Sousetsu says gently.

"What the hell are you talking about?"

"It's the only way you can get out of here." Sousetsu has chosen the thinnest part of the enemy's encirclement. Of course, there is no guarantee that getting through here will save him. From now on, Toma will have to believe in his own luck and abilities.

"Are you coming back, too?" Toma asks.

"No, I'm going back. You escape alone."

"Why? You come, too. Let's both escape. Come with me!" Toma clings to Sousetsu's arm as he pleads with him, but Sousetsu gives him a hard slap on the cheek. The flesh of that cheek is too soft to belong to a veteran warrior. It is the flesh of a boy. A kid.

"You go alone."

"But why?"

"To live, that's why."

"What about you? You want to live, too, don't you? You should run away with me. You don't want to die, do you?"

"We live to fight. That's what mercenaries do."

"But..."

"Get the hell out of here. You're ruining it for the rest of us."

"You guys will never win this battle. So why not run away?"

"It's our job to fight." With that, Sousetsu turns on his heels and starts back the way they came.

Toma stands there, watching Sousetsu move away, and a moment later he himself darts into the western forest. To fight or to flee: Sousetsu cannot know which holds out the greater promise for life. He also believes it is better not to know. Except-

"I hope you make it, boy," he mutters, walking on. The eastern sky is beginning to brighten little by little. Soon the enemy's attack will begin. From the western forest, a few birds take to the air. Perhaps it means that a small-scale battle has started in the silence. Or that the poor young mercenary has been felled with his back to the enemy. Sousetsu does not look back or break his stride. He feels certain he has seen that talkative mercenary before. Before the war broke out, the boy was selling fruit in the market along the highway. He was a good boy, took good care of his mother, the women of the market were saying.

Live a long, full life, Sousetsu wishes for the boy as he himself walks on, glaring at the lightening eastern sky.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"What happened!?" the boy eagerly shouted for a reply. Sousetsu looked up at the evening sky and noted the stars that had came out from hiding. "I want to believe that he made it out. Settled into a small town and changing his lifestyle that suited him." he let out a small sigh in hopes that he was right before looking back at the children.

"You won though, right Sousetsu-Sama? You are still here after all." Sousetsu gave off a slight smile before it faded. "I don't know how many lost their lives. I presume all of them but I like to think that some escaped their grasps. I was captured however..." Sousetsu turned his head, almost ashamed. He proceeded to tell them that he was overwhelmed and so laid down his arms before them. A great fear that Sousetsu held was solitary confinement. The idea of being behind bars did not set well with the Senju.


----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

He knows that it is useless. But he can't suppress the impulse that wells up from within his own flesh. He needs to do it-to hurl his entire body against the bars. It does no good at all. His flesh simply bounces off the thick iron bars. "Number 8! What the hell are you doing?" The guard's angry shout echoes down the corridor. The prisoners are never called by name, only by the numbers on their cells. Sousetsu is Number 8.

Sousetsu says nothing. Instead, he slams his shoulder against the bars. The massive bars of iron never nudge. All they do is leave a dull, heavy ache inSousetsu's superbly conditioned muscles and bones. Now, instead of shouting again, the guard blows his whistle, and the other guard come running from their station.

"Number 8! What's it going to take to make you understand?"

"Do you want to be thrown into the punishment cell?"

"Don't look at me like that. Start resisting, and all it will get you is a longer time in here!"

Sitting on the floor of his cell, legs splayed out, Sousetsu ignores the guards' shouts. He has been to the punishment room any number of times. He knows he has been branded a "highly rebellious prisoner." But he can't help himself. Something is squirming deep down inside him. Some hot thing trapped inside there is seething and writhing.

"Some war hero you turned out to be!" says one guard.

"You can't do shit in here. What's the matter, soldier boy? Can't do anything without an enemy staring you in the face?" The guard next to him taunts Sousetsu with laughter.

"Too bad for you, buddy, no enemies in here? Nobody from your side, either. We've got you locked up all by yourself."

After the guards leave, Sousetsu curls up on the floor, hugging his knees, eyes clamped tight. The guard was right. He thought he was used to living alone, in battle, on the road. But the loneliness here in prison is deeper than any I've ever experienced before. And more frightening. Walls on three sides, and beyond the bars nothing but another wall enclosing the narrow corridor. This dungeon was built so as to prevent prisoners from seeing each other, or even to sense each others' presence.

The total lack of a change in the view paralyzes the sense of time as well. Sousetsu has no idea how many days have passed since he was thrown in here. Time flows on, that much is certain. But with nowhere to go, it simply stagnates inside him. The true torture that prison inflicts on a man is neither to rob him of his freedom nor to force him to experience loneliness. The real punishment is having to live where nothing ever moves in your field of view and time never flows. The water in a river will never putrefy, but lock it in a jar and that is exactly what it will eventually do. The same is true here.

Maybe parts of him deep down in his body and mind are already beginning to give off a rotten stench. Because he is aware of this, Sousetsu drags himself up from the floor again and slams himself into the bars over and over. There is not the remotest chance that doing so will break a bar. Nor does he think he can manage to escape this way. Still, he does it repeatedly. He can't help himself. He has to do it again and again. In the instant before his body smashes into that bars-for that split second-a puff of wind strikes his cheek. The unmoving air moves, if only for that brief interval. The touch of the air is the one thing that gives Sousetsu a fragmentary hint of the flow of time.

The guards comes running, face grim with anger. Now he can see human shapes where before there was only a wall. That alone is enough to lift his spirits. Don't these guards realize that?

"All right, Number 8, it's the punishment room for you! Let's see if three days in there will cool your head!"

Sousetsu's lips relax into a smile when he hears the order. Don't these guys get it? Now his scenery will change. Time will start flowing again. He was thankful for that. Sousetsu laughs aloud. The guards tie his hand behind him, put chains on his ankles, and start for the punishment room.

"What the hell are you laughing at, Number 8?"

"Yeah, stop it! We'll punish you even more!"

But Sousetsu just keeps on laughing; laughing at the top of his lungs. If he fill my lungs with all new air, will the stench disappear? Or have his body and mind rotted so much already that he can't get rid of the stench so easily? How long will they keep him locked up in here? When can he get out of here? Will it be too late by then? When everything has rotted away, will he become less a "him" than an "it," the way our troops count enemy corpses?

Sousetsu can hardly breathe. It is as if the air is being squeezed out of his chest and the excruciating pain of it is drawing him back from the world of dreams to reality. He half-wanders in the space between dream and reality. He has had this dream any number of times-this nightmare, it might even be called. After waking, he tried to recall it, but nothing stays in his memory. One thing is certain, however: the appearance of the jail and of the guards in the dream if always the same.

Once he is fully awake, those questions he asked between dream and reality are, themselves, erased from his memory. He springs up with a scream, his breath laboured, the back of his hand wiping the streams of sweat from his brow, and all that is left is the shuddering terror. It is always like this.

Now, too-

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"I finally broke free and escaped my own little hell. Prisons have an effect on the mind. Particularly to ones who fear them." he finished. The children were in shock. The great Sannin, Sousetsu Senju was also human now in their eyes. He had fears just the same as them. Nevertheless they still giggled. Pondering at the reasons behind this, Sousetsu's eyebrows lifted as he did not expect a response such as this. "But you are still strong in our eyes! You lived and escaped your own fears! If that's not strong then I don't know what is! the girl shouted with encouragement. Sousetsu simply smiled. He was still respected just the same. Some things never change it seems.

The Senju fed the fire another stick, heating the group of leaf villagers even further by delaying the fires fate. It seemed that Sousetsu could have related to this. Like the prison, he held his mind from completely falling apart by having himself moved to different environments. He needed to take in a new piece of scenery to keep his sense of time flowing and still maintained his rational thought of thinking of a way to do so. The small crowd all drew silent and gazed into the small open flame, thinking of the times and how they might change for better or for worse. Could they endure it just like the Senju had? Or would they fall? The more they watched-the more they realized that their own will of fire was still far from extinguished. They all had goals to achieve and would not fall to anything until they were fulfilled. Sousetsu smiled once again as he thought of another lesson to be taken in. He reminded himself that he still had much more to achieve before he could let fate take him.

Words: 3792 + 203(previous post) = 3995

Strength: C-2 > B - 1400/1400
Endurance: C > B - 2575/2575
1400 + 2575 = 3975/3995


____

:19

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