Toshi never expected the strange visitor who one evening stepped foot inside his master's shop - a samurai smelling of the sea, with water dripping on the ground, and algae strung from his armor. For the first time in his life, Toshi discovers that monsters do roam the earth. And this one has been specifically looking for him.
Dragged from his home and all he has ever known, Toshi has no choice but to help the creatures who've taken him. Yet at every turn there are problems. And there are some who seek to terminate his life, for they've no wish to see his new master succeed in his assigned task.
But when they do find it, Toshi discovers his master's enemies have prepared for their eventual arrival, leaving him the only one capable of recovering what has been lost. Can he do what even the undead cannot? Or will he fail and be forced to wander the world for eternity as one of them?
His prison's blank, glowing walls glared silently at him as he entered. Seasickness washed over him. A dead certainty came over him then, and although the unearthly cold of the ship mercilessly flowed into him, he didn't run for his blanket when he was released. Instead, he turned around to face the departing samurai.
"Asaka-sama, please. I beg you!" He sank to his knees, his hands palm-down against the floor and his eyes closed in supplication. "Release me. Take me home. I can be of no use to you. Please, I don't belong here!" His voice caught in his throat. "Please, Lord, I beg you!"
Toshi pressed his forehead against the floor's glowing planks, shooting cold stabbing it as was already happening with his knees and hands. He shut his eyes tighter with a prayer, his heart quickening as he heard the sound most dreaded by his people everywhere. His acrid breath hung still in his raw throat as the soft click of a katana being slightly drawn from its sheath reverberated in the silence. He waited for the end.
"I will ignore your statement this once. I expect it never to be repeated." Asaka’s voice was cold.
He heard the katana click back into place.
"The only release you will find if you do is from your flesh," the samurai told him. "I will have you, one way or another. If I must kill you and then trap your spirit from rising to its next plane, then so be it. It would mean nothing to me to have you join the ship's crew permanently and find myself one who has the courage to endure what you do not."
Asaka left, slamming the door behind him.
Horror and shame poured through Toshi, although he couldn't explain the reason for the latter. Tears ran freely from his closed eyes to fall on the glowing floor as his mind's eye cruelly provided him with a picture of himself as a fleshless, moving corpse.
Play with a puzzle of the cover at the In The Service of Samurai Puzzle Page
Art Based on the Book by Patricia McCracken1) Shakute Island
Fan T-shirts from Cafe Press!