CWWC | Challenge Six
August 24, 2017 (I waited until the last minute to write. Yikes. I finished the story at 11:34 PM — double yikes.)
In my defense, the story is 1.8k words. *raises palms innocently*
I am on Team Shire. I used all three prompts.
When it comes to ending lives, Hora Sakenomi knows no limits.
She has the dagger; she has the man. Iyano Haji is gasping beneath her grip as she holds him up against the wall, having utterly defeated him in the fight. She now aims to take his life.
“Hora, please,” I say, my voice quiet but pleading amidst Haji’s ragged breaths for air. We’ve both infiltrated his home for the bounty on his head, but killing him isn’t necessary. “He’s wanted alive, too.”
Hora ignores me, as usual. As soon as Haji slumps lifelessly to the floor of his own home, she turns and shakes the dagger to rid the excess scarlet. Her beautiful dark eyes captivate me in her gaze as we lock eye contact, but Hora’s thoughts are far from me.
Her eyes dance with the fleeting moment of happiness amidst her bitter mental torment — the kind of happiness she at most obtains from ending a life. But the moment she slips her dagger back into her weapon belt, the momentary joy is gone. She’ll only get it by slaying again.
I shuffle over to the Haji’s cold corpse and kneel beside him. “You shouldn’t have killed him, Hora.”
Hora kneels next to me and reaches for Haji’s dagger hilt. “We’ve been over this.”
She obtains the handle, but I grab her wrist before she can slip the dagger out of the sheath
Hora flashes her dark eyes up to mine in bitter anger and annoyance as if to say, Do you really want to duel this out? Because I will fight you, and kill you, too. “Itsu.”
I hold her gaze for as long as she’ll keep her eyes fixed on me. It’s not even hard to keep from blinking. Hora doesn’t meet eye contact with me like this very often — sure, when she does, she’s angry — but I love staring into her gorgeous gaze anyway.
I have to blink and remind myself what I’m going to say. She’s so beautiful it’s distracting. “You know you shouldn’t have.”
Hora pulls her wrist to see if I will let her go, but I don’t. Instead of punching me in the face for the hundredth time today, she plays it calm. “There wasn’t any reason for me to keep him alive.”
I know the real reason. She wanted to spill blood, to send another soul from its body. That’s how she deals with the pain of what her husband did.
I release my hold on her wrist, and Hora pulls the dagger from Haji’s weapon belt. She pulls herself up and groans, gritting her teeth at a pain in her leg from the fight. When she stands at full height, her ankle gives beneath her weight with a snap!
Hora curses as she stumbles, and I stand and reach out to help her. I know she hates my help and refuses to accept it — but I adore helping her.
I miss her arm, and Hora slumps against the wall with a moan of pain. “Ah –” she clenches her jaw and forces herself to stand, avoiding my eyes but giving me a silent feeling that keeps me from reaching to help her anymore.
Hora stumbles away from the wall and tightens her grip on the hilt of her dagger in pain, so much so that her knuckle is white. “What are you — waiting for?” She asks, trying to hide the gasp of agony that slices her sentence. “Get his body and let’s go.”
I kneel back down to my knees beside Haji and am about to pick him up when the front door to Haji’s house slams open.
Hora whirls to face the warriors that storm inside the room, and the blood drains from her face in panic. Haji’s army he sent to find and assassinate her just two weeks prior to this mission is here at last.
“Stall them,” Hora gasps, her voice more a plea than an order as she backs up and turns for the back door.
She flees out the house with the warriors striving for pursuit, and I try to stall those I can. But even after three of them lay unconscious on the ground, I know Hora is in for it by the number of warriors that have made it past me.
I turn for the back door, my heart thudding against my chest. Hora is injured. She can’t outrun them, and she alone is no match for the strength of ten warriors.
Does she know that?
My devotion to her drives me toward the door as I begin to sprint in the warriors’ direction. We’ve outsmarted Haji’s army once — we can do it again.
My heart sledgehammers against my insides as I flee across the grassy acres surrounding Haji’s hidden home. I cry out curses between ragged gasps of air as pain laces through my broken ankle, but I don’t dare stop and turn back to face my pursuers for anything.
Sweat pours down my face as I come to the edge of the woods that will lead to the Komitsudo forest — there I can hide in the midst of trees and caves. I’ll be safe. But my ankle gives out beneath my weight once more, and I let out a short scream as the ground comes flying toward my face.
I collide with packed dirt harder than I would like and groan when crimson liquid drops from my broken lip. My arms trembe as they push me upward — I have to keep running.
But then my eyes catch hold of a sign tacked to the tree I’ve fallen before, and I blink my eyes that flash black and white with pain to read the words etched in the wood.
DON’T GO IN THE WOODS.
I small smile plays with the corners of my bleeding lips. Is that a dare? Does this sign belong to Haji?
A cry from my pursuers behind signals they’ve spotted me, and I pull myself to my feet with another moan of pain. By gosh, I’m going to enter these woods. I don’t care what this sign means or what lies ahead — it can’t be as bad as what pursues me from behind.
I run through the woods as fast as my legs will carry me, branches scratching my face and tearing my skin till it bleeds. When I can no longer breathe and my muscles quiver from lack of oxygen, I stumble to the ground and pull myself behind a large tree trunk.
I don’t want them to find me. Not yet. I’m not ready for my life to end — I still have a small glimmer of hope that my husband will come back for me one day.
A dark laugh pierces through my thoughts, and I look up through my layers of black hair that fall forward onto my sweaty face. I fail to halt the gasp in my throat as the ten warriors in my pursuit surround me, and my fingers clutch the bark of the tree I’m leaning against as if it will protect my life.
“I’ve waited a long time for this moment, bounty hunter,” the commander of the army sneers as he steps forward from the rest. The blood drains from my face, but I force myself to glare at him as I pull myself to my feet to meet his gaze.
“So have I,” I return, fighting to keep the tremble of fear away from my voice.
The commander smiles a wicked smile. “Then why did you run?” Before I can answer, he draws his sword. “The hunter becomes the hunted now, doesn’t she?” He steps closer and holds the blade to my throat as the other warriors close the circle in. “And the serial killer becomes the killed.”
My heart catches in my throat as I watch the commander of the army hold the blade of his sword to Hora’s. She clenches her jaw and forces herself to glare pure death at his gaze until the moment she’ll lose her life, choosing to die with all the dignity she can.
Only she won’t be dying on my watch.
I pull the arrow from my back and slide it to the string of my bow, letting go with my finger and watching the arrow pierce the air — and the army commander’s arm. He gives a cry of pain as he glances down at the surprise tranquilizer, then slumps to the floor, unconscious.
The rest of the warriors turn their heads to me, closing the circle in on Hora so I can’t reach her. I run toward them anyway, loading my bow with another arrow and hardening my gaze.
Before they can draw their swords, I shoot one last arrow toward the warrior woman in my way. The moment she falls unconscious, I break through the circle and grab Hora’s arm, pulling her close to me as we break through the other side together.
Curses and shouts are hurled at us as we run through the woods, Hora’s desperate gasping accompanied by my raspy panting. The warriors don’t pursue — their leader is out, and they won’t continue.
A cry of pain reaches my ears from Hora as she stumbles in her run and collides to the ground. I halt my steps immediately and turn back, falling to my knees beside her fallen body.
I can barely get his name out between my ragged gasping, but I prop my weary body up with my elbow and force myself to speak. Itsu drops to his knees beside me, his concerned dark eyes searching mine in panic.
“Itsu–” I begin raspily, but I can’t finish my sentence for the tears glistening in Itsu’s eyes. He slips his arms under my body and picks me up in his strong arms, bringing me toward his chest and holding me close as he stands up.
With all the strength left in my body, my hands grasp Itsu’s shirt. “Itsu–” I can’t think straight. My heart continues to pound in my chest and ears, and Itsu holds me closer until I can feel his heartbeat, too.
I unclench my fists from his shirt and ball them, weakly wrapping my arms around Itsu and burying my face in his shoulder. I squeeze my eyes shut against falling tears, willing this famed murderer not to cry in her weakness — but when I open them again, they stream freely down my face.
“Itsu–” It comes out in a croaking whisper from my dry throat as Itsu carries me through the forest and back toward our employer. It’s too dangerous to go back for Haji’s body now. I close my eyes and let myself rest in Itsu’s strong arms, the rhythmic sway of his body walking calming the fire of anger that always burns so hot inside me.
My next words are but a trembling whisper in his ear. “Thank you.”
AWWW HITSU. 😄
11:50 PM — dude. I’d better hurry.