The Same Dream (Zuihitsu)

Written by Ely (Daiyu's player)

Do not falter.

Thunder echoed through the city, accompanied by sheets of pouring rain. Standing in front of her sensei’s darkened home, a sense of dread overwhelmed her.

You have been here before.

He had been missing a fortnight when a letter written in his hand had arrived, requesting Daiyu's presence at his home. She had been here many times before, to study, to train, or to simply have dinner with his family. He was a good man, and his disappearance had been of great concern and surprise to all who knew him.

The investigation to locate him had revealed no leads yet. His family had kept a lantern lit outside since his disappearance, in spite of the nightly summer storms.

But there was no lantern tonight, and the door was open.

There is no room for hesitation.

Nothing could have prepared for what she saw within. A flash of lightning illuminated the scene for only a moment, but it was branded into her memory: the sundered, mangled bodies of his servants and family, scattered across the hall like fallen branches after a storm. There, kneeling in the center of the carnage, her sensei sobbed.

“What has happened?”

The words left Daiyu’s mouth as if they were not her own. She was no longer one with herself; she was merely watching the events play out before her. His sobs ceased, and he rose to his feet unsteadily. Blood dripped from his hands. Thunder shook the house, and the lightning's flash glared off the tanto clutched in his fingers. It, too, was dark with blood.

He turned to face her, and even as her eyes began to adjust to the dark, she knew what she was wrong: his face was twisted, pocked, and scarred. Boils rose from open sores across his skin, and thick, inky liquid oozed from his mouth. His eyes settled on her own, but he did not speak. His mouth twisted into the sickening mockery of a smile, and he lunged at her.

You are Kuni.

It was over fast--too fast for her to process. Her wakizashi was drawn and ready. He--no, it--was wounded already, its body broken and spent from the slaughter. Subconsciously, Daiyu had some idea of what had transpired, and had been taught from an early age how it was to be dealt with.

She sidestepped its clumsy thrust and brought her sword down across the back of its neck. It crumpled to the floor with a choked gurgle, then stilled. Silence and distant rain. It was not a clean kill; the head did not quite come free. She wrenched her wakizashi free with shaking hands, her chest beginning to constrict with panic. Finally, she recognized the voice of her mother whispering in her ear:

Run.

She lurched out of sleep with her tanto drawn, startling away the bird at her window.

The same dream every night.