Chaos in the Cherry Blossoms Part 8

Chapter 8: Honor Killed the Samurai

Sylvia sped off into the storm, dashing through lanes filled with cars. She barely kept sight of Nobiru as she weaved through traffic. He took a detour off the main highway. She knew exactly where he was taking her. She revved the bike again and gained speed, the street signs and buildings whirling by as wind whipped at her body.

Meanwhile, Katarina had made her way back to the room where Shinji was camped out. She made her presence known and he relaxed his grip on the watch.

“Where’s Sylvia?” He asked

“She went to hunt down Nobiru. We need to go though.” Katarina answered succinctly, grabbing the assault rifle away from him and handing him one of her side arms. The pair made their way to the bottom of the stairwell and out to the parking lot.

“We’re going to find her, right?” Shinji asked

“I’ve no idea where they went to, and on motorcycle, it’ll take them a quarter of the time to get there compared to us.” Katarina explained logically, stepping into her car.

Shinji got in the passenger’s side and strapped himself in.

“I think I know where they’re going. It’s just a hunch, but I can’t think of anywhere else they’d go.” He said confidently. “Take a right when you get out of the parking lot, I’ll show you the way.”

Katarina nodded and started up the vehicle, lurching forward.

Sylvia chased her prey through the city and towards the outskirts. As soon as she saw the pink of the cherry blossoms on the horizon, she knew where he was leading her. He took a sudden detour into the thicket of the woods where an old dirt trail was the only guiding line. She sped up again and hit the trail, sending dust flying into the damp afternoon air. She redlined the motorcycle, trying desperately to close the distance between the two, but her bike simply wasn’t fast enough to catch up. They entered a large clearing and abruptly, Nobiru slammed on his brakes and stopped the bike. Sylvia did the same, but she spun out. The vehicle slid out from underneath her and went flying into the trees. She fell to the ground hard. She wasn’t injured, but it took her a moment to catch her breath and regain her bearings. She flung her helmet off and saw that Nobiru was slowly approaching her.

She stood up, wiping locks of her jet-black hair, damp from the downpour, out of her eyes and tucking it behind her headband. Nobiru stopped about 5 yards away from her. The clearing was full of pampas grass and littered with the pink leaves from the cherry blossoms. Despite all of this, there was a solemn emptiness to the entire area. Sylvia finally broke the silence between the two.

“You really do have a flare for the dramatic, I’ll give you that.” She stated sarcastically, looking around her.

“Well, I couldn’t miss the chance to fight a legendary assassin like you in an… Unspectacular setting.” Nobiru smiled behind his golden mask. “I’m not one to believe in destiny or predetermined fate or anything like that, but I have to say, the fact our life paths intertwine this much is truly a work of more than just pure chance.” Nobiru continued staring Sylvia down from across the field.

“I’m not sure I get what you mean.” Sylvia replied, the tendrils of her headband dancing in the wind behind her.

“Don’t play dumb with me. My grandfather killed your mother and father, so you killed him and my father.” Nobiru answered, anger rising in his voice.

“And you killed Master Umata and nearly killed Shinji.” Sylvia replied. “I think we’re about even.”

The two were ever so slowly creeping towards each other. Nobiru reached up and pulled his bullet proof vest off himself and tossed it aside.

“Don’t pretend like you don’t know I was there that day. I saw it with my own youthful eyes. Hiding in the back of that café while you murdered my father in cold blood.” Nobiru said, again, the anger in his voice causing it to begin to waiver.

Sylvia removed her vest as well, throwing it to the ground. It would do nothing but inhibit her anyway, as it wasn’t designed to protect against slashing weapons.

“Nobiru, you have to understand, I had no idea that I was sent to kill your father. I got a contract, I carried out the hit. It… It was just a sick twist of fate that our paths crossed that day, it could have been any of the Sun Jin assassins, I was simply the one that got chosen.” Sylvia explained, but Nobiru wasn’t having any of it.

“I sat there and watched as you shot my father between the eyes. You smiled as the bullet entered his head!” he screamed.

“I smiled because I foolishly thought that I had finally found my purpose in existing. I know now that wasn’t true.”

Nobiru moved closer to her, hand on the hilt of his katana.

“It doesn’t have to end like this Nobiru. I learned my lesson that anger and revenge don’t get you anywhere. I’m willing to forgive and forget if you are. We can just go on living our lives. Let’s break the cycle, right now. You and me.” She countered, being shockingly honest both to herself and her enemy.

“I admire your willingness to change, but I don’t believe a damn word.” Nobiru seethed “All I see when I look across this field is a woman who is afraid. Afraid to give into the violent monster inside of her. Afraid to give in to her own desire for vengeance.” Nobiru pulled out his katana, holding it above his head in a classic swordsman’s stance.

“And yours has consumed you.” Sylvia replied in Japanese, using her thumb to push the scabbard up on her sword. She pulled the blade out of its sheath and held it across her face. The two circled each other as wind whipped the pampas grass into a frenzy. Water from the rain ran off of Nobiru’s golden blade as he launched the first attack. An over head strike that Sylvia parried easily. The two fell back and began circling each other again. Nobiru feinted one way and swung his sword the other, sending a huge burst of attacks Sylvia’s way. She parried them all and then their swords locked at the apex. The leaves were falling from the trees, surrounding them in pink and white. Sylvia’s mind was blank, her body reacting to the combat as if by muscle memory and instinct alone. There was nothing there but her, Nobiru, the clashing of swords and the sullen wind. It was both calming and reassuring to her that she was stuck in the moment. She could sense the anger and emotion in his blows, they were loose and not calculated.

The two raised their guard again, readying themselves for another assault. The pair were engaged in a subtle dance of wits for what seemed like an eternity. Finally, Sylvia went on the offensive and their blades locked above their heads once again. The swords slid down off each other and they clashed thusly by their side. Nobiru thrust his blade forward, Sylvia deflected it and then slashed across his chest, cutting it wide open. He fell to the ground, flinging his sword away from his hands as Sylvia ran hers against the crook of her elbow, blunt side down, wiping the blood from it. She shook the blade one last time and placed it back in its sheath. Nobiru laid on the ground, hand clutching his wound which was pouring blood. He looked up at Sylvia through his mask.

“My… My sword. It was… My father’s” he struggled to get the words out, the air being sucked from his lungs more so than him actually forming words. He was clearly weak and on death’s door. “Please I wish to have… It…In my hands as I pass on.”

Sylvia nodded and picked up his gold sword. She placed it on his chest and removed his mask. She could see the fear of death in his eyes. She cradled his head in her hands. He looked up at her and smiled

“It was… An honor to die… A warrior’s death at the hands of somebody… Like you.” He said, his voice feeble and the words barely being able to be heard above the lashing wind. Sylvia smiled back at him. In this moment she felt neither happiness nor relief that she was victorious. It was more a feeling of somber introspection and remorse; a feeling that things could have been different. She moved his arms across his chest and wrapped his hands comfortingly over the hilt of his katana, allowing him to clutch the sword close to himself even though his body no longer possessed the necessary strength. His eyes slowly flickered and then fell still. Sylvia closed his eyelids gently with her fingers and set him down softly. She stood up and began looking for fallen branches to cover his body with. Just as she had finished putting the last soft white branch over his lifeless form, a white sports car roared into the clearing.

Shinji jumped out as quickly as he could, leaving the car door open and ran to Sylvia. He caught her in a hug that almost knocked her off balance. He held her head close to his chest and caressed her soaking hair. The rain had just begun to halt.

“I was so worried about you.” He said in her ear.

“Really, have you seen me in a sword fight before?” Sylvia joked.

“Well, somebody has to be concerned for you, because I sure as hell know you aren’t going to be worried about yourself.” Shinji replied which led both of them to let out a string of giggles. The pair shared powerful kiss and then looked each other in the eyes.

“I love you, Sylvia.” Shinji stated

“I love you too Shinji.” She replied

Shinji was almost taken aback by her honesty. Not a trace of irony in her voice. She engaged him in another impassioned kiss and he almost didn’t react in time because he was thrown so off guard by her finally being the one to make the move. After a while, they disengaged from each other’s grasps and moved toward the car where Katarina was standing, leaning against the hood. She threw them a wry smirk and got back in the driver’s seat.

Epitaph

Sylvia looked over the massive piles of money that were displayed across the top of the table in Magic Man’s back room. Katarina was quietly standing in the corner. Magic Man finished counting up the money and placed a few more stacks into one pile.

“Alright, so that’s 1.1 million for me. 2 million for our Russian friend over there.”

“For the millionth time, I’m Ukrainian.” Katarina sighed

“Whatever, same difference. You come from a place where the architecture makes me fuckin’ depressed.”  Magic Man replied, quickly returning to counting.

“And here’s what’s left of your savings. 2.6 million.” He stated, pointing to a large pile of green American cash. Sylvia nodded, then took half of it and put it in a briefcase. She then slid the rest of it over to Magic Man.

“I want you to donate this to a charity. For children of abusive homes or something. I don’t know.”

“Really, you want me to donate 1.6 million dollars?” Magic man responded incredulously.

“Yeah, but don’t do it all at once you know. Be smart about it, maybe spread it around a bit and don’t use my name.” Sylvia answered.

“Again, what kind of amateur do you take me for?”

“Well, you can take a 100K of it for a… Let’s say, finder’s fee. But if you take any more…”

“I get it, you’re a highly trained assassin. You don’t got to tell me to take the money and run.” Magic Man said, interrupting Sylvia.

Sylvia grabbed her briefcase and closed the clasps on it. Katarina walked towards the table to start gathering her own share of the money. Sylvia stopped her.

“Well, I guess this is it.” Sylvia said with a muted tone of voice.

“It was nice working with you.” Katarina said coldly, once again extending her hand.

“Will you stop with the handshakes? Come here you Eastern European ice queen. Give me a real hug.” Sylvia countered, pulling her in for a strong hug. Katrina didn’t sigh or roll her eyes; she just accepted the affection and wrapped her arms around her friend in a genuine embrace.

“So, are we just going to ignore the fact she’s thinking about how nice Kat’s arms feel around her?” Angel said inside Sylvia’s head.

“Shut up Angel, stop ruining the moment.” Janice snapped back.

Two Weeks Later:

The beachside bar was warm and inviting. The warm Hawaiian breeze was a welcome change of pace from the stale evening air. Sylvia sat at a bank of pay phones, feeding coins into the slot. She waited for a bit while the phone rang before somebody picked up. She had a gloved hand wrapped around the base of the phone and held it a few inches away from her mouth and ear.

“Hello?” a familiar voice said from the other line, the phone distorting his voice slightly with a buzzing sound.

“Hey, so when are you going to finally come out here?” Sylvia asked

“Give me a few more weeks, I’ve got some business to wrap up here in Japan before I leave.” Shinji replied

“Sounds good.” Sylvia responded simply, her fingers tracing the metal wire of the phone cord.

“So…” Shinji started

“So what?”

“So, what’s next?”

“What do you mean?” Sylvia asked

“What’s next with your life?” Shinji answered

“I’m not sure honestly.” Sylvia stopped to mull the question. “I figure I’ll just hang out on the beach. Maybe you can start a small family practice, you know, the good life.”

“You aren’t going to go for the trilogy?”

“I’m afraid not. I think my story has been told, as enticing as the old, weary hero gets dragged back into a life they retired from seems.” Sylvia retorted

“Ha, I don’t really see you as the sedentary type Syl.” Shinji countered.

“Who knows, we’re basically starting a new life. By the way, my name is Evelynn, not Sylvia.”

“I’m literally never calling you that.” Shinji laughed.

“Well, you better, otherwise we’re gonna get found out and attacked by people or something. You know how it goes.” Sylvia sniggered along with him.

“I’ll see you in a few weeks… Evelynn. Until then, just try to relax. And drink a nice glass of whiskey for me.” Shinji stated.

“Will do. See you in a bit. Love you.”

“I love you too.” Shinji said, she could hear his smile through the phone.

Sylvia placed the telephone back on its receiver. She stood up and walked over to the bar’s jukebox and flipped through the pages of songs until she found the one she wanted. She inserted a few leftover coins and then proceeded to the bar. She ordered the most expensive scotch she could find from the menu. The bartender poured her a generous glass and set it on the cracked wooden bar top. She picked it up and took a deep sip as Midge Ure’s “Man Who Sold the World” started up over the bar’s speakers.