Author's Note: Yes, some of the dialogue was inspired by Nietzsche.
Her father, recently turned widower, was a hard-working scribe employed by one of the Bakufu's high-ranking officials. She hated the corrupt boss for commanding so much power over her family, but she also thanked him for giving them the means to survive.
That was why, when her father was invited to the Bakufu official's daughter's birthday dinner, she agreed to accompany him. She was of marriageable age and the best chance of supporting her father was by catching the attention of a wealthy official who would be at the party.
She did quite well, earning her father many compliments about his well-mannered daughter—until she ate too much sashimi and became sick. The family doctor was called. The official's daughter took pity on her and forced her to stay overnight in one of the guest rooms until she felt better. Her father promised to pick her up early in the morning.
Embarrassed, but feeling too sick to care, she drank the herbal medicine and fell asleep.
In the middle of the night, she suddenly woke and scrambled for the adjoining bathroom. After throwing up what seemed to be the entire dinner, she dragged herself back to the futon and vowed never to touch another sashimi again. But when she tried to lie down, her stomach protested, so instead she sat up with legs tucked under the blanket, leaning against the wall in exhaustion. The futon was parallel to the wall, pushed next to the bathroom. Faint moonlight streamed through the papered window beside her head, illuminating the expensive furniture and beautiful art on the walls. She felt so lonely in that moonlit room that she wanted to cry.
That was when she heard the noise that had woke her up. Running footsteps and urgent shouts came from a distant part of the estate. Were they still partying, she wondered listlessly, or had a thief broken into the house?
Soon the voices were outside her room. The doors slid open and two men wielding swords barged inside, glancing around warily. One immediately began to search the bathroom and closet while the other barked at her, "Has anybody suspicious come in here?"
Besides you two? she almost asked, conscious of her sleepwear. "No," she replied. "What happened?"
"Murder. The culprit's still running around."
He didn't say who was murdered. The other man returned from the bathroom and shook his head. As they turned to leave, he said over his shoulder, "You'd better go outside with the others. It's dangerous—"
He stopped as though he just realized something. The other man stopped as well.
She blinked when they collapsed soundlessly, their blades clattering on the floor. As she stared, dark red liquid spread from under them, forming small puddles. Blood.
A third man stood in the doorway, holding a katana. By the time her mind registered they were dead and she was next, he was already stepping over their bodies toward her.
Oddly enough, she felt calm. Vomiting earlier had sucked up all her energy, including the energy to summon fear. It wasn't at all how she imagined her death and she spared a pang of remorse for leaving her father all alone in the world.
He stopped at the edge of her futon. She gazed up. Standing directly in the window's path, the young man in purple kimono seemed almost ethereal. The image was not spoiled by the bandages covering one eye or the dripping katana in his hand. The coppery scent of blood reached her nose, making her stomach churn, and it was because of the nausea, not the sight of him lifting his blade, that her eyes closed.
She waited. A moment passed. Then another. When the blow did not come, she slowly opened her eyes and released her breath.
His blade was pushing open the window shutter, inches away from her ear. The naked moon light bathed everything in the room silver, even the blood puddles. A night breeze made her suddenly aware of her thin yukata and her loose, sweaty hair. The man gazed out the window, lowering the katana.
"Is this a dream?" she heard her voice ask from a distant land.
He didn't look at her as he answered.
"For you? Perhaps."
"I wonder if it was for those two as well." There was no reproach in her tone, only curiosity.
"Those two?" He paused. "Ah. Do you sympathize with the dead?"
The words flowed from her mouth like a river, unstoppable. "My father said that we might be living in a dream and only those who die attain true reality. Those two might be waking up from this dream right now."
"Do you wish to join them?"
"Are you going to kill me?"
He seemed to ignore her. She watched as he stepped lightly onto the futon, touching the window ledge with a hand. If she reached out even a little, her fingers would brush his leg. She could smell blood and herbal smoke from his kimono. It occurred to her belatedly what an odd conversation they were having. Shouts and footsteps echoed dimly in the estate, but within the moonlit room time stood still.
Then he spoke.
"I am going to destroy this world." He stated this as if it were a fact. A reality.
She thought of how bright the moon seemed, almost like its counterpart the sun. "Then someone is going to save it," she murmured, expecting his blade to slice through her neck.
"A hero." He sounded darkly amused. "In my world, the hero destroys all."
In your world.
"You're bleeding," she said. The once-pristine futon was stained with blood dripping from the thin cut on his wrist. Before she could do something crazy like give him a cloth to clean it with, he brought the wound to his mouth. She blinked.
At that moment, she truly understood this man was a murderer. It was the strangest thing. He gave her a piercing look and disappeared through the window like a fluttering butterfly, just as footsteps neared her room. Guards poured through the open door, only to discover two fresh corpses and a young woman. They cursed.
"He's gone! Surround the east wall and cut him off before he escapes!" Over the sounds of running and shouting, a woman's mournful wail steadily filled the night air. Death.
One of the men approached the young woman and asked if she was all right.
She said yes, and threw up. Again.
He killed her father's boss.
The hero's name was Takasugi Shinsuke.