L5R - The Great Dusk

The Chain of Dogs, Chapter Two, Part 1

“Wherever there is corruption, the Locust shall feast.” – Inago Daigo

“Ambition is only a virtue when it is tempered by success.” – Yoritomo


          Heichi Masu was running.
          Chest pounding and lungs burning, the Boar squinted from the sweat that was blurring his vision. He could hear the sound of his strained breathing, the tksh-tksh-tksh of his feet against the wet grass, and little else. The night was cold, the moon oppressive, but he was burning from the inside out, molten iron seeping into his veins from his heart.
          The bushi tripped suddenly and fell hard against the unforgiving earth. Propping himself up upon one of his arms, Masu spun around and found himself staring directly at a massive, black anvil. But where did it come from? The young man stood slowly, the pain down his right side diminishing rapidly now.
          So beautifully and perfectly dark was this obsidian thing that it appeared to ensnare all light that touched it – an anvil-shaped hole upon the horizon that a person could fall into, if not careful. It stood almost as tall as the Boar himself; Masu reached out his hand, preparing to touch this creation so powerful and ominous.
          “You!” shouted a familiar voice, betraying both anger and desperation. Turning around, entirely startled, this Chui of the Minor Clan Alliance found himself staring directly into the eyes of his father.
          “Why would you betray us so?” continued Shuzo, his voice cracking and his now-wild eyes filled with tears. It was starting to rain, and Masu could hear the sound of water sizzling and popping. He looked down, reflexively, at his right hand – where he was now holding a red-hot sword, shining golden even without any light for it to reflect, its hilt decorated with grotesque images of snakes devouring their prey.
          At once, Heichi Masu understood what was occurring.
          “I’m not him!” he revealed, looking up once more but seeing Heichi Nobunaga where his father once stood. There was no response, and for several long seconds the Champion of the Boar Clan only stared, his arms crossed, his face an image of abject disappointment and pity. The rain was beating down, now – curtains of grey blowing to and fro.
          “But you are so weak, Heichi Masu,” Nobunaga finally offered as retort. “Unable to protect your compatriots, your family, your Clan. You are a failure, and this is why you have taken up such a weapon.”
          Nobunaga continued, but his words were drowned by the white noise of the torrent falling upon them both, a storm increasing always in its intensity. Eventually, Heichi Masu lost sight of his Champion altogether, and the young bushi’s attempts to call out were muted by the water now invading his lungs and throat.
          Masu thrashed about, very suddenly submerged, knowing somehow that the entire world had sunk. In vain, he tried to scream out one last time, but there was no sound, and everything was perfectly dark.
          And then he woke up.
          Heichi Masu looked about, trying to get his bearings, and realized that both his skin and bed had been drenched in his sweat. His breathing laboured, Masu looked toward the walls; the bright orange light of dawn had snuck in, and was creeping along in jagged formations.
          Falling back upon his bed and closing his eyes, the Boar sighed and quietly asked to be released from these terrible and newfound nightmares.


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