The current daimyo of the Saga Domain of Hizen Province, Mitsushige Nabeshima, walked through the corridors of Saga Castle with a purpose. He didn’t bother looking at the people who stepped out of the way and bowed to him as he passed. His gaze remained focused on his path. He made his way to the courtyard in front of the castle where several of his soldiers stood at attention. The courtyard was lit by torches that lined the grounds giving just enough lighting. Two of the soldiers restrained one of Mitsushige’s retainers, Matashichiro Ryuzoji down on his knees. They firmly held his arms and pressed hard against his shoulder joints.
Mitsushige stopped in front of his retainer but not too close to touch him. He stared at Matashichiro with clear disgust. Without breaking his gaze, he motioned with his head to his soldiers to lift the prisoner to his feet. Matashichiro didn’t bother resisting. Even if he broke free there was no place for him to go. Even if he escaped the castle grounds and went into hiding, he’d be found eventually. He’d be delaying the inevitable. He fought against his fear and tried to face his fate as honorably as he could. He had trouble looking his lord in the eye. The shadows dancing across his face gave Mitsushige a much more sinister and darker face.
“You didn’t think I would find out?” Mitsushige asked. “You have brought dishonor to the Ryuzoji name. You have tarnished my family name. The Nabeshima Clan helped the Ryuzoji Clan after we took over control of this area by keeping you around during our reign. However, you must realize that the Ryuzoji Clan will never return to power no matter what you do. What angers me most is that I trusted you enough to make you one of my retainers. I thought we were close. You were my best Go opponent.” Mitsushige slowly paced back and forth in front of him. Only Matashichiro’s eyes followed his lord as he walked. The soldiers’ eyes never swayed away from their target. The only noise came from Mitsushige’s movements and the snapping of the torches.
“Lord, if I may –.”
Mitsushige stopped and shot a venomous look at Matashichiro. “Silence! You have betrayed me. Your cowardly dishonorable acts toward my...” He closed his eyes and let out a huff. He stood there with his eyes closed for a few moments leaving Matashichiro wondering how things were going to play out. Mitsushige’s eyes shot open with such fierceness it startled everyone in front of him. In a swift motion, he drew his katana and shoved it through Matashichiro’s chest.
He knew it was coming but he was still surprised by it. His body weakened and he lost all ability to move. The rest of his life force was ripped from his body when Mitsushige pulled his sword from it. Matashichiro’s body hit the ground with a thud. The group of soldiers dissipated out of sight as Mitsushige sliced the air sending the blood flying from it. He took one last look at the body as he sheathed his katana before retreating inside Saga Castle.
Everything was silent and still. Blood poured from the body staining the dirt. A woman’s sorrow filled moan in the distance broke the silence. Once the moaning stopped, something began to rise from the pool of blood. It stood on all fours and looked around as the blood flowed down around them, never entering its eyes. It shook its body back and forth launching blood in every direction revealing its black fur. Once it was relatively clean, it sat back in an elegant posture, as cats do, not caring that it was sitting in blood. Light did not reflect off this creature like it did everything else. It looked like a black void with bright yellow eyes.
The cat licked itself for several moments before suddenly stopping. Its head shot in several directions as if it was trying to gauge where the danger was coming from. Its head stopped in one direction and then stood up.
The black cat crouched low and began to stalk whatever had its attention. Its steps were slow and careful, its head low as it approached. It stopped as if it was trying to determine its next course of action. It planted all of its paws on the ground and crouched lower. With all of its might and speed, it leapt at its target with its claws extended.
A woman screamed.
A woman screamed as shot up in bed. Her husband was ripped from his slumber and instantly awake and alert. He put his arm around his wife comforting her.
“What is it? Bad dream?” he asked.
She dropped her head and closed her eyes while she breathed heavily. She ultimately nodded after several seconds. “Yeah, I’m okay. Just a bad dream.”
“What was the dream about?”
“I don’t really remember now. Something about a castle and a cat.”
“Well, that’s pretty ambiguous. So what in the dream caused you to wake up screaming?”
“The cat jumped at me.”
Her husband visualized himself watching a cat through a camera and the cat jumping at the camera. He nodded after coming to the realization a jump scare like that would cause someone to cry out in surprise. He joined his wife on the side of the bed.
She could see his bright green eyes piercing the darkness. It was the first thing she noticed about him when they first met years ago. That was one thing she liked about westerners was their eyes. They came in a variety of colors in oppose to the Japanese eyes that usually only came in brown and black. She then looked at the unpacked boxes they were able to bring with them from Fukushima. They left many belongings behind in the evacuation and only packed what they needed in a hurry.
Her husband, Will, found a job teaching in Saga which is on the other end of the country. Chitose didn’t mind going far away from her home as she was a nurse and could get a job at any hospital in the country. Their children, twins Keisuke and Iroha, were starting their first year of high school. It was a new beginning for all of them.
“Well, we’re awake now,” she said.
“We can go out for a nightly stroll,” Will said. “I hear there’s a castle around here so we can go walk over there.”
“Want to take the kids?” she asked.
Will raised an eyebrow. “Are you joking? They enjoy sleeping and they’d murder us and dispose of our bodies if we woke them.”
Chitose laughed. “Yes, they would. We can go by ourselves and explore a little bit. The castle wouldn’t be open but we can go when they open.”
The two got dressed and started their small adventure around the area that was their new home. Chitose got a small sense of familiarity but she wasn’t sure why. She had never been to Saga and didn’t really learn about it in school. The only thing she could remember regarding the city was a stabbing that took place aboard a bus that left Saga. The city, if not the whole prefecture, did not receive much attention. In fact, most of Kyushu didn’t stand out. It’s most famous city was Nagasaki and that was only because of the atomic bombing. Kyushu did have its own famous things, they were overshadowed by the more famous areas such as Tokyo and Osaka.
As the couple left they were unaware they were being stalked by a black cat.