She gasped. She barely had a moment to suck in air before the ocean claimed her. She struggled, finding herself being dragged down by the capsizing of the ship. Debris sank all around her, just barely out of her reach. She felt something grab at her leg... a hand, large and rough... faces of the sailors flashed through her mind. She was sinking, sinking, so she kicked wildly at the arm until it released her. She twisted and writhed, fighting with all of her strength to swim upwards. Her chest felt tight.
Something large broke the surface of the water, charging down at her. It was the ship's mast! She tried to avoid it, but her movement underwater was sluggish. Part of the mast struck her square in the chest, pulling her down with it. Bubbles of precious air were pushed from her lungs by the force of the impact. Her chest was on fire. Her throat was beginning to tighten. Her vision blackened.
She wrenched herself free from the mast and pushed herself upward. Everything was getting darker and darker. The light above water became a dim pinpoint at the end of her vision. She reached out and grabbed something. It was wooden. As the air burst forth from her lungs, she could feel a splinter break off in her hand. For a moment, the stinging pain in her hand was the only thing she could experience. The taste of salt cascaded into her mouth. Everything was black.
Her mind was swimming. Vague recollections of floating in inky depths. Thirst. Her eyes and throat burned. There was a distant and familiar sound. She thought of shells. Something cold was licking at her feet and legs. Voices. She started to hear voices. They spoke in a bizarre and unfamiliar tongue. She thought that they were demons of the sea, come to swallow her soul and devour her body. Her mind screamed for her to move, but her limbs were heavy—it took all her strength to move inches.
She was lifted into the air, no doubt so the beasts could consume her from all directions. She forced her eyes open. The light was blinding. She could make out the vague shape of a human's head. The bastards didn't even have the courtesy to eat her in their true forms. Darkness consumed her once again.
She felt as if someone had taken her head and stirred up all of its contents. Opening her eyes, she discovered she was in a strange looking room, lying upon a soft mat. She sat up and looked around, the blanket falling from her body. A wet cloth dropped into her lap. She was suddenly aware of the feeling of moisture on her forehead. Did she have a fever? Where was she? The room she was in was of no make she recognized, filled with strange items of an unfamiliar design—the only familiar thing being a bucket of water at her side.
She sat up and drew herself from the covers. All of her clothes were gone, replaced by a half-open robe, her body exposed for her to see. Her chest and legs were completely covered in bandages, as well as a large portion of her right arm and hand. Her head was beginning to throb. She tried to figure out how she ended up in this room.
She remembered a boat. Where was it going? Why was she on it? Her head throbbed again. She remembered being thrown into the water by some huge force. And then something striking her very hard. What happened? Everything else was a blank. She reached deeper and deeper into her memory to only find emptiness and the pain of her aching head. Fear shook her heart. The room began to spin and the air became thick and stale. She rushed to her feet and clamored towards the door, but pinpricks covered her face and neck and the edges of her vision blurred white. She collapsed to the ground, knocking aside the bucket, splashing water upon her legs. The pain in her head and the coldness of the water absorbed all of her awareness.
She hardly noticed when the door to the room slid open, and a man and a woman rushed in. The turned her over and spoke in a langauge she had never heard before. The woman fixed her robe while the man asked her questions she couldn't understand over and over. She opened her mouth to speak, but her mouth felt as if it was filled with sand. Thirst suddenly assaulted her senses. She swallowed, and attempted to speak again.
The man's questioning stopped and he looked at the woman he entered the room with. The two exchanged bemused looks.
"Water, please..." She spoke again, her voice cracking. She pointed at the bucket.
A look of comprehension spread across the woman's face. She rushed out of the room and returned moments later with a crude wooden cup. Cool liquid poured down the girl's throat.
"Thank you." She whispered.
The man tapped her on the shoulder and she turned her head to face him. He pointed at his chin. "Yusuke."
He pointed at her. A name. What was her name? She wracked her mind, and a single word finally arose. She remembered. "Parsee."
Over the next few days, Yusuke began teaching Parsee his language. Through great strains, she learned that she was discovered on the beach among some wreckage. No one else was found. She decided to put her memory aside and focus on recovering and learning the language of her rescuers. Thankfully, Yusuke was a good teacher, and she a good learner. She could at least ask for food and water.
She learned that Yusuke was a carpenter, and that the woman he was with was his mother, Chiaki. They were of the family Mizuhashi. After Parsee regained some of her strength, Chiaki put her to work cleaning the house and learning how to cook.
"Fish." Chiaki said, slapping a large trout on the counter in front of them. "Knife." She held the kitchen tool up for Parsee to see. Parsee nodded and repeated the words, commiting them to memory. It was slow, first she would learn words. Then sentences. Then grammar. It was months before she could hold proper conversations with those around her. In that time, Chiaki taught her how to keep the house and cook their meals. People would visit and spend long amounts of time inspecting Parsee. At times, she felt like a slave and a caged animal, but Yusuke would always do something to make her feel better.
In the end, she was truly grateful that he saved her life.
One morning, as Parsee hung the wet laundry, she observed Yusuke doing his morning training. He would stand behind their house and practice sword swings for at least an hour every single day, without fail. It was always something that mystified Parsee for a reason that escaped her.
She threw a blanket over a wire and he sliced through the air. She froze up. An image flashed through her mind, but it faded before she could grasp it. Her eyes fixed upon his sword and she moved towards him, her hands shaking and her breath shallow.
"Are you alright?" He turned towards her with a worried expression, placing a hand gently on her shoulder.
"Your sword..." She searched for the words. "May I hold it?"
Yusuke seemed hesitant. "My sword? Why would you-"
"My memory." She spoke barely above a whisper.
Yusuke's eyes widened. It was the first time Parsee had mentioned her memory since she first started speaking. He looked around, almost as if he was looking to see if anyone was watching, and then he slowly held the sword out to Parsee.
She grabbed the hilt of the blade and pulled it from his grasp. The sword was heavy, yet somehow familiar. The sun reflected off of the metal and the glare struck her in the eyes. She was on the deck of a ship, a man was running towards her shouting in a language she did not recognize. In a snap of the wrist, he was dead. Red splashed over her face. Another man had just run through someone she recognized in front of her, and then advanced. She screamed in rage and cut him down. There was another, and another...
"Parsee!" Violent shaking turned her sight into mist. She blinked and the scenery changed... she was on land, near some laundry, with a foriegn man gripping her shoulders.
She blinked. "Yusuke..." She became aware of the blade in her hands. "I'm sorry. Here." She shoved the blade back into his hands and stumbled backwards, falling to the ground.
"What happened? You were screaming something." He sheathed the blade and concern clouded his normally cheery face.
"I..." Parsee searched for the right word. She wished dearly that she had learned more. "Remembered."
"What did you remember? You..." He paused, glancing at his sword. "You know how to use a blade. Why?"
Parsee remembered being assaulted on the ocean. She remembered who they were, but the word for them was not something she was taught. There was something else they were called... "Dogs of the sea." She spoke.
Yusuke tilted his head and cocked an eyebrow. Parsee stood and brushed the dirt from her rear. She explained that was the term they used for those who rob other ships.
"Ahhh." He nodded in understanding. "Pirates."
"Pirates." She replied. "Yes."
"Yusuke!" An unfamiliar voice rang out, coming from the side of the house. "Don't tell me you have another girl back-" A woman stepped out. The first word that came to Parsee's mind upon viewing her was "beauty". She was fair-skinned with flowing black hair, held back by a pin with a stunning flower arrangement. "Oh!" The girl's face lit up with surprise and delight. "Is this that girl you fishermen found?"
"Ah, Ayane." Yusuke nodded and turned to face the woman. "Yes. This is Parsee." He turned again towards Parsee. "This is Ayane. She's a childhood friend of mine-don't let her give you a hard time, alright?" He grinned and winked at her.
"Ha!" The girl pouted. "You should be more worried about him! The definition of womanizer!"
Parsee wondered what "womanizer" meant. She greatly looked forward to the day when she would never have to ponder the meaning of a word.
"But still..." Ayane moved forward and looked Parsee over. Parsee stiffened as the girl's face grew incredibly close and she could feel her eyes combing over Parsee's every detail. "She's real pretty. Exotic looking too. Her hair is so bright and her eyes..." Ayane locked eyes with Parsee. "I've never seen blue eyes before."
"Thank you?" Parsee's face flushed.
"She's blushing! Aren't you just the cutest!" Ayane giggled and hugged Parsee. "Have you been around town yet?"
"Um, no... I've just been helpi-"
"You've been here for how long and you haven't seen our town yet?" Ayane looked absolutely shocked. "Yusuke! What kind of man are you?"
"A busy one." Yusuke shrugged. "I offered to take her out before, but she wanted to learn our tongue first."
"Well!" Ayane smiled brightly and took Parsee's hands. "You can speak now right? So let's go!"
"But I have to-" Parsee vaguely gestured to the laundry when Yusuke began throwing the laundry over the wire.
"I'll take care of it. "He smiled. "You should look around."
"Uh... thanks." Parsee bowed. Ayane didn't waste another moment and pulled Parsee around the house and down the street. She energetically pointed out building after building, detailing it's purpose and who it was run by and who lived where. Parsee barely had time to process the information and ask when she didn't understand something.
By that evening, Parsee was exhausted. Today was the longest she'd been running around, and her poor fitting borrowed clothing was starting to wear on her. They stood in the village bazaar surrounded by voices and people-many of which were outright staring at Parsee.
"Your clothes don't fit too well, do they?" Ayane spoke, apparently reading Parsee's mind. Before Parsee could respond, Ayane continued, "Alright! Let's get some fabric and I'll make you something better!"
"Oh no, you don't have to..." Parsee waved her hands. "It's alright, really."
"It's not alright! I'll have you know that I'm a great seamstress!" Ayane pounded her chest. "I'll get it done in a jiffy. Consider it a gift."
Parsee sighed. "Alright. Thank you very much."
Ayane tugged Parsee over to the cloth vendor and asked Parsee what she wanted. Parsee pointed at a relatively cheap fabric, so Ayane bought the most expensive fabric of the same color. Ayane looked rather pleased with herself for a moment, before she looked at the orange sky above them. "Oh dear!" She gasped. "It's getting late. We better get home before the youkai come out."
"Youkai?" Parsee questioned.
"Ummm." Ayane put a finger to her chin as she thought of another word. "Monsters and such."
"I see..." Parsee murmured. Ayane rushed Parsee back to her house and said a quick goodbye before running off herself. Inside, Parsee could smell the aroma of grilled fish. She quickly realized how hungry she was, taking off her shoes and entering the kitchen. Yusuke and Chiaki were just sitting down with plates of food in front of them.
"Oh, welcome home." Chiaki smiled. "The food is on the counter. Help yourself."
"Thank you." Parsee gathered herself a plate and sat with them. They said a quick prayer and began eating.
"I hope Ayane didn't give you too much trouble." Yusuke began. "She might look like a woman, but she's still a kid at heart."
Chiaki laughed. "That Ayane! I've never seen so much energy in a person. She could beat out most of the men, I think!"
Parsee smiled. "It was no trouble at all. I had fun."
"I'm glad to hear that." Yusuke looked noticibly relieved.
The next months passed slowly and blissfully. Parsee spent her days with Ayane and Yusuke, becoming close friends with both. Her mastery over their language grew as well. She became quick at the house chores-though most of her cooking attempts ended with something burned-and spent a lot of her time out of the house. The issue of her memories became more and more distant. She would never be able to return to where she came from, nor would she want to if the opportunity arose. She stepped forward into a new chapter of her life.
One quiet morning, Parsee was walking through the bazaar with Ayane."Say, don't you think Yusuke is really handsome?" Ayane asked suddenly.
Parsee flushed red. "W-What?"
Ayane laughed. "You do, huh!"
"W-Well..." Parsee looked away. It was true that out of all the men she knew, Yusuke was definitely the most attractive of them.
"I see..." Ayane smiled and then her eyes widened suddenly. "Oh dear, I forgot I had some things to take care of at home. I'm sorry, I have to go!"
"It's fine!" Parsee yelled to a running Ayane. "See you tomorrow!" Parsee vaguely wondered what Ayane had to do. She didn't often forget to complete her jobs. Parsee busied about the village, finishing her errands and saying hello to those she knew. She smiled and looked towards the sky. She was finally settling into her life in this strange land... she didn't think she could be happier.
When she returned home, only Yusuke was home. "Where's Chiaki?" Parsee asked.
"Oh, um." Yusuke flushed. "She's doing some, uh... errands. In town."
"I was just doing errands for her..." Parsee tilted her head, holding up the basket full of goods.
"She forgot something." He added quickly. "A-Anyway, come sit here, please."
Parsee shrugged and complied, leaving the basket on the counter on the way.
"S-So I uh..." Yusuke flushed and looked away.
"Are you alright?" Parsee cocked an eyebrow.
"Let's get married." He said in one short breath.
Parsee flushed red and her mouth hung open. "C-Come again?"
He grabbed her hand and stared her in the eyes, his face a bright red. "Let's get married."
Parsee learned that her happiness had yet to truly reach it's boundaries. They planned for the ceremony to take place within the month. In the coming days, people stopped by to give their congradulations. A ceremonial gown was delivered. Chiaki was bustling about the house in excitement-the most energy Parsee had ever seen the woman display.
When the night came, the ceremony was over too quick for Parsee. When she arrived in this land, she hoped for the best. However, she did not consider that the best would be what she would recieve. Night fell and she entered her bedroom with her husband. That night, two became one.
The next morning, a gift arrived. Yusuke gave a sigh of relief and passed it on to Parsee. "I was hoping this would have been done yesterday, but... I had this made for you."
Parsee unraveled the gift. It was a new garb of clothing, but the style and feel of the cloth was outlandish compared to what she normally wore. It was a very ornate brown garb with several layers of clothing. The dress opened much wider than normal clothing, and had trailing red cloth hanging from the bottom. The whole outfit looked somehow familiar.
"I had the best tailor in the village make this from your old clothing." Yusuke explained. "They made it more... traditional, but I'm sure you see it still has a lot of its old flavor."
Parsee smiled brightly and hugged her husband. "It's wonderful."
Several weeks passed. Parsee bustled about in the village wearing her new favorite dress. She wondered what time her husband would be getting home... the word still tickled her and filled her with delight. "Husband". Shipwrecked in a strange land and she had such a wonderful end to her story. She could hardly believe it.
A bit of a bounce was added in her step. She had suddenly realized that her cycle was slightly late, and she began to wonder if she was with child as well. She smiled and giggled to herself. What a wonderful, storybook ending.
Thunder cracked above her. Dark clouds were moving in from the sea. She sighed, wanting to spend the day smiling about in the sunlight, but it seemed as though she would have to hurry and get her errands done. She rushed towards the bazaar to buy some cloth to make some repairs to their clothing at home, but by the time she arrived, the vendor had already packed up his supply.
"Sorry, miss." He rubbed the top of his bald head. "The rain ruins it. Come back tomorrow, and I'll be able to sell some to ya."
Parsee nodded and turned, sighing to herself. She was hoping to get those repairs done today... An idea struck her. Ayane often had extra cloth laying about her house. Parsee skipped off towards her friend's house.
When she arrived, she heard a strange noise... like gasping from the side of the house. She peered around the side and saw nothing, but she could clearly hear the sound. She walked down the edge of the house and peered in one of the windows.
Parsee dropped the basket. She backed away from the window slowly, step by step. Her husband wouldn't possibly betray her, would he? Something foul grew in her chest. He wouldn't possibly lay with her friend, would he? That couldn't possibly be him in that room, could it? A dark voice in her mind assured her that it was.
She turned and she ran. Thunder cracked above her and rain began to pour, soaking through her dress within moments. Why would he betray her? Was she not pretty enough for him? She should have known from the start that she would not have been good enough. Mud splashed on her legs and the hem of her dress.
The town vanished behind her. Was she not smart enough? Was she not energetic enough? Rain still assaulted her through the canopy of the trees. The brush lashed at her arms and legs. The wind howled in her ears.
She tripped and fell. She began rolling down a hill, her body bouncing roughly off of large rocks. The light began to fade. Why wasn't she good enough? Mud covered her from head to toe. Why wasn't she prettier? Mud splashed into her eyes and mouth. Why wasn't she a better person? Mud matted her hair to her face. Why was she so undesirable?
Parsee continued to roll, deeper into the depths of the earth. Oh, how she wished she could have Ayane's face! Her wonderful, long hair! Her deep brown eyes and her energetic personality! Parsee's head struck another rock, the sickening crack echoing into the distance. If only she could match her skill as a seamstress, as a cook!
Pain gnawled and twisted in Parsee's chest. As she roughly collided with the ground, she was oblivious to the pain her body was enduring. She rolled onto her knees and crawled forward, her face stained with tears. Why? She continued to ask herself, why? Why?
She crawled forward towards a pool of water. She peered into it, to spite the face she saw. In her rippling reflection, she saw a pair of glowing green eyes.