He who lived by the sword, shall surely die by the sword.
A puff of white vapor escaped from the dark shadows. The candle waned and flickered battling now both the breath and the darkness. A single dim light amidst so much darkness. The door flung open.
"Sire, the men are prepared. They have found the exact location of that 'hidden army' and ready to strike. They would like to know whether you would like to kill them by surprise at night or meet on the battle field."
The question was replied with vapors. A pair of red eyes leaned forward from the darkness, deeply focused on the candle.
"Do you know what my name was, Bacchus?"
"No, before I was the dreaded Black Knight of the Massacre. Before I took on the name of Nightmare and before I began the quest for the sword. Before I came to look like this. I had blonde hair, blue eyes, my skin was rough from work and battle. Honest battle. One man versus another. I had a love. Katrina. I loved she and she loved me. We are still married I think. I have a son also. I do not know what she tells him of me. I do not even know what his hair color is, for he was bald as a baby. I wonder if she waits for me. If she waits for her Sigfried."
"I had a love too. Helen. Her hair was the color of a burning fire and her eyes a deep sea of blue. I would become lost in her eyes for hours at a time, only looking, swimming through the sea and towards the island of her soul. I think she was older than I. Or maybe I than her, I do not remember. I do not think it mattered. But, love does not buy food."
"Money does. Is that why you fight for me? For money, food, and...love?"
"I suppose it is."
"Have you not seen her for the time you've been with me?"
"Yes, nearly three years now."
"Many more for I. And for such dread a cause. For blood and lust of power I fight now. Long has it been since I've passed through a meadow for mere joy and not passage or chase. Long has it been since I've tasted fruit to taste and not to eat. Curse this quest. Curse it!"
"Then let us leave, sire! Let us be rid of this campaign! Let us return to our loves and return to life and joy! Let us taste, let us wander, let us love again!"
The vapor poured forth. Then suddenly, the vapor grew stronger, heavier. The vapor became accompanied by a heavy breathe. The candle died.
"No. It cannot be done. While my heart may yearn for home, my body longs for power. I curse this sword and I curse this quest, but it must be done. I cannot..."
The door shut.
Taki approached the campfire carrying the paper in her hand.
"So, did ya cut the intruders throat?" Talim inquired with unusual giddiness.
"No, he brought a message. It seems they know of our presence. They wish to settle this matter on the field of battle. Tomorrow. In the morning. The messenger said they suspect with their master and our army it should take till the sun sets to kill us, everyone."
"How could they have found us?" Xianghua sharpened her sword with meticulous care.
"They have spies. Not an uncommon practice." Sophitia, said, rubbing an old scar on her arm.
"I am going to retire. Our army is ready. They have been training for such an event as this. I am going to retire. Rest is a must." Taki turned her back to the fire and began walking into the darkness of the woods. Her senses grew alarmed. There was someone else there. Was the messenger not what he seemed, but an assassin? She would not put it past them. No, it was proud a step. Not the step of an assassin or ninja. If she could not tell from the walk, she could tell from the voice who it was.
"Taki, we part insulting each other, but as soon as you need assistance I am receiving a letter? A strange form of asking forgiveness you have."
"This is more important than assistance. I think you know that. That is why you came."
"Yes. And I have heard many tells of this Nightmare, the Black Knight of the Massacre. A sad tale."
"Yes, such evil acts. Those poor families."
"No, of Nightmare."
"Nightmare? How do you pity him?"
"He is a warrior as I am. We both quested for the same sword, never meeting, never speaking. The only thing that differed our paths is that he found it and I did not. We might have both been different had it been the other way. Now he fights only because it is all he can do. I pity him."
"Well I do not. He has killed too many and with no shame or remorse."
"That is what separates us. I am a samurai, a warrior, and you are a ninja, a spy and an assassin."
Taki walked off to sleep. Mitsurugi sat and went to sleep.
The battle lines were drawn. There was no need to barter for a surrender. Each knew what was at stake. The armies looked to be very similar, the only thing differing the soldiers from each was Nightmare's wore black. The other difference was their leaders. Nightmare's army was led by him and him alone. His voice commanded the hundreds before him. The other army was divided among the now six warriors. A shout came forth and another. Then the whole field shook with the battler cry. Nightmare's forces approached. The step was slowly but slowly gained pace. The six's army joined in the jog. Mitsurugi, Taki, Sophitia, Kilik, and Talim were up front.
The glinting of steel would have blinded any spectator. Then, the clash came. Bodies collided and swords fell into flesh. In a matter of seconds, pools of blood had begun to form under the trampling feet of the combatants.
Mitsurugi cut through the men as if they were statues of cream and through the women as if they were air. His sword moved swiftly, surely, and with all the experience a one man army could muster.
Nightmare's sword moved swiftly, if not a bit slower, as Mitsurugi's. A single blow killing two men and fatally injuring one man at a single time. A number of his own men fell into his blades wide grasp. From the sky, the two combatants looked as if they were reapers, sending souls to Lucifer themselves with many a number and cry. Slowly their paths began to meet.
"Mitsurugi! Wait! Not Nightmare, let us battle together!"
"No! This is destined!"
Their blades stopped moving. Their soldiers flowing around them as if their combined presences made a boulder of influence.
"So, this is the great Mitsurugi. The demon who sends souls to hell. The one man army in an army. Interesting."
"And this is the Black Knight of the Massacre whose soul is tormented by the evil sword."
"Let your blade speak for you for your words are ugly."
The two charged prepared for an epic fight. The fight that would determine the outcome of the battle, the swords, and the world. Such a battle with such fierce warriors and such stakes would take a great time to settle. It did not. Nightmare swung his gigantic from left to right ready to slice the samurai into two separate pieces. Mitsurugi had recognized the attack from the moment the battle cry was uttered. His feet left the ground raising his body above the sword and pulling his sword from scarab above his head, he sliced down into the black knights shoulder and down into the his chest. The knight dropped his weapon and staggered backwards. The black army stopped. The warriors took steps backwards. It seemed the battle was over as soon as Nightmare collapsed to the ground, his mouth moving but no words coming forth. His time for speaking was over.
Then, a single cry from across the field rang out. Then more. Then all the black army came to pounce on Mitsurugi. They were not about to allow their years of dedication end with a single blow. Mitsurugi battled with great fervor. The black sea rushing round him with blades breaking his armor, slicing his skin. There was no shame. Mitsurugi killed nearly a dozen men and counting when Bacchus came forth. His cry rose above the rest of his comrades and demanded attention not only from the black army but from Mitsurugi and his. The black sea opened up as he rushed through, Mitsurugi still battling. Then he turned too late to meet the blade with his. The sword drove itself into Mitsurugi's stomach, turned, and withdrew. Mitsurugi struggled for breath as he fell to his knees. It is a man's life passes before his eyes when he dies. Perhaps that was true for Mitsurugi also. A single red moved rushed through the black to Mitsurugi. She fell to her knees and looked at the wound. Mitsurugi looked upward.
"Please, I pray, Let this warrior...spend his life with love, God. And.....Taka."
Then his breathe ceased and his face met the ground.
The battle ended quickly there. The other four warriors rallied their army to smite all of the black army. They easily obtained sword and destroyed it sending it' ashes into the sea.
Taki believed the last word to be her own name, and thus spent the rest of her life searching out death. Battling many great demons and foes in any effort to let her life end as her lovers. She finally met her fate at the age of 56 when battling a great demon named Jubarki. Her disciple burned the body and scattered the ashes in the forest.
Bacchus escaped the massacre of the black army. After slaying Mitsurugi, he made retreat back to the castle and obtained the wealth he needed. He returned home and lived as a farmer with his wife and daughter.
Mitsurugi's soul is an uncertain thing, for living men are not to know the place of death and eternity. But his body was burned. His ashes and swords given to Master Shonto. The Master took the ashes and buried them in the forest among the rest of his family's graves. The sword Shishi-Oh he offered to the emperor as gift, which was readily accepted. Korefuji stayed in family line till the world wars when the Japanese sword were confiscated and melted.
Now, Mitsurugi's memory is only known in song and poem. Speaking of great battles and victories, never losses. How he finally met his fate battling an army single handed, striking many of them down.
But remember the warriors life. Remember loss, remember grief. Remember the blood. Remember the death. Remember the sword. Remember the warrior. Remember the samurai.