The river was more blood than it was water. An iron stench permeated the air, suffocating and closing in on Maki like some kind of blasted wisp. Where was that fragrance now? The cool, sweet scent of the rushing currents Kawamizu was so proud of?
That dark red liquid was once crystal clear, you know that? Beautiful, reflecting the blue sky like a perfect mirror. The same blue that the clan flag was dyed so proudly in.
Unrelenting, Red Desert winds were pounding and hacking at the cherry blossom trees, knocking out the pink flowers as if they were teeth, or eyeballs. Pink-red-white blanketed the rotting festering slabs of meat that lay strewn around the battlefield.
A browned petal crumpled on her head, and, quivering, she cast it to the river.
She waded through the bodies, counting each one. Three, four, ten, fifty-six: Haruka, Saki, Saito, the Lady’s new bodyguard whose name she knew not. Once upon a time, that might’ve been enough to send her sobbing to the ground. Not anymore. Not now.
Quietly, she kissed their broken bodies goodbye, and trudged on through their intestines; the flesh still crackled and smoked with purple lightning.
“Found what’cha wanted, kid?” those words were punctuated by a muffled squelch, as the gatekeeper’s crutch stumbled onto half a liver. Maki heard the shuffle of his leg, as he struggled to maneuver himself onto the unfamiliar device. She supposed crutches from the Western Continent were different: larger, with more ma-ho-ga-nee and less bamboo.
As the last body – the last one recognisable, anyways – turned over with a wet flop, she had her answer.