Ordinarily, in Creative Writing class, it takes me much time to put pen to paper and write something. So much time sometimes, that I leave with a blank sheet :(. This is a story I wrote at home for an assignment. The object was facial description. I thought up two different expressions and emotions on the same man's face, and then connected them with a story... The good thing is it took only an hour or so.
Asai Nagamasa cupped his plams and splashed his face with the cool water. His breathing was fast and he studied the image in the looking glass, taking in short gulps of air. His moist breath clouded the reflection which stared back at him, the water dripping off his high cheekbones and his moustache, which drooped low. The eyebrows were strained into thin lines, his forehead knotted like a tree’s roots. The front part of his head was shaved, a scar running a short length from left to right the only reminder of the hundred thousand battles he had fought during his life. He had undone his oiled topknot and his graying hair was spread unkemptly upon his long neck. His lips, pink and full, spread slightly apart and quivering, showed his tightly clenched teeth, coloured alternately black and blue, the mark of a master samurai in assault. Hot steam escaped his mouth every time he exhaled, depositing drops of moisture on his philtrum. Yet, the rest of features were overshadowed by his otherwise unremarkable narrow eyes. He opened them as wide as he could and looked at the mirror with fury and hatred, and they glared back at him. Fiery and reddened, they seemed to boil the water on his smooth skin and heat the air around him. His muscular chest rose and fell, stretching the fabric of his kaleidoscopic kimono, like the high tide on the Shirahama beach lashing and pounding the sand. For an instant, he remembered his dear wife Yuri and his unborn daughter, and his face twitched from the agony. It was only for a moment, and before his eyes could become moist, he filled himself again with rage and resolve, reminding himself of the great Matsuo Basho’s haiku:
All that remains
Of soldiers’ dreams
“Bushido. One must follow the way of life.” He called out aloud to himself. “Let not emotion weaken the temper, for a warrior’s greatest strength is not the weapon he holds in his hand, but the spirit in his mind.”
Asai Nagamasa washed himself with soap and ash, taking the usual time to complete the ritual. He lighted the incense sticks in front of the temple to his ancestors, put on his sandals and drank cold tea. Once again, the pangs of memory struck at him and once again he steeled himself. Trying to keep occupied, he read his favourite Kabuki script and made his bed. With a soft puff, he blew out the candle. He was soon fast asleep.
* * * * *
“Don’t go out today, please,” begged Yuri. Her oval face was the Sun glowing even in the dark morning, her eyes were little slits, her voice soft yet wispy. Her lower lip, red like a rose blossom, held pouted, she pleaded - “The dogs bark and the clouds are black, the omens foretell misery.”
Asai responded matter-of-factly - “This will be the last time. I have routed enough of Hojo Ujikuni forces, that today’s last blow will shatter him. I must leave, and leave I shall.”
“May you be safe. I’ll have warm sandals and hot tea waiting when you shall come back.” Yuri came up behind him and helped him adorn his kimono and chain mail. Her swollen belly brushed against his back, and his face lit up and he smiled - “What shall we call our daughter, Yuri-san?”
Yuri blushed - her cheeks turning beetroot, rivaling the blood red of her full lips. “If you win today, we will call her Shouri, Victory.”
Asai fetched his katana, the longsword and his wakizashi, the dagger and wore them. Humbly, he bowed before his ancestors’ place and planting a kiss on Yuri’s forehead, left for the road.
* * * * *
With a cold sweat, Asai woke up and sat on his bed. He took a towel and wiped his forehead. A tidal wave of emotion swept him over. His memories haunted him again. He had led his men to battle, and they had routed the last surviving enemy force. But, Hojo Ujikuni had escaped with a small band of whatever was left of his men. The coward! No one knew where. He left him for another day, and thought sweet thoughts. He would go back to Yuri and Shouri tonight. He would buy toys and sweets and decorate the room for his firstborn daughter.
Instead, he came home to despair and suffering. Yuri had been slayed by Hojo’s men. Shouri had been swallowed by the darkness of death before seeing even her first light.
“Avenge them. But forget not the Bushido. Go and calmly slay your enemy.” said a voice in his head.
* * * * *
Asai Nagamasa cupped his plams and splashed his face with the cool water. His breathing was controlled and relaxed. His beard was trimmed. His hair was oiled well and folded first front and then back and tied into a tight top-knot. The water drops danced on his face till they reached his elegant moustache, then dropped from the ends. His forehead was clean like a washed slate today, the eyebrows were steady. His tenacious expression still had a hue of pain, but he put on his eboshi, the ritual armored helmet, till only his fiery red eyes showed.
The warrior proferred the lighted incense sticks to his ancestors. He put on his kimono and his armor. In his belt, he fixed in a knife. In one hand, he grabbed the sharpest katana, in the other his dagger. As Asai Nagasama marched out of his house, the wind itself seemed to grow shriller and the Sun less bright in the face of this valiant warrior. Elsewhere, Hojo Ujikuni’s aides gaped dumbfounded, discussing about their escape plan from the region, when they saw dark raincloud beginning to form suddenly out of a perfectly clear sky.