Chapter 3:

A Weapon Made for Only You

The Hollow

Something cold touched Kiyashi on the face and she opened her eyes. And squinted as she felt a ringing in her head, a headache that floated around her forehead like a thundercloud, crackling and sparking. Bringing a hand to her forehead, she used the other to prop herself up. As she shifted her leg, there was a shower of something cold. Kiyashi looked down and saw that she had disturbed the dew on the leaves of a bunch of tall grass. It quivered like an afterthought, freed of the weight of the dew.Bookmark here

As her eyes drifted away from the bunch of grass that was growing nestled between some crumbling slabs of stone, Kiyashi noticed that she was wearing long brown-coloured trousers. They seemed slightly oversized, as they were held in place with a belt around her waist. The hem was somehow tailored to her length. This puzzled her, as she distinctly remembered wearing blue jeans when she… when she fell in.Bookmark here

Letting go of her forehead, as the ringing had eased to a dull throb, Kiyashi lifted her arms in front of her and spread her fingers out. She was now dressed in a dark forest green cotton top, the material thick and warm, blocking out the cold touch of the stone rubble she was leaning against. And on her hands were black cut off gloves. She’s been wearing a cat print grey t-shirt under a rain jacket before, and definitely no gloves. This wardrobe change baffled her. A shiver went down her spine.Bookmark here

How did this happen? And without her noticing? She felt naked, suddenly, and cold, even though her new clothes were warm enough.Bookmark here

As Kiyashi lowered her arms, she saw something shine in the gloom beside her, illuminated by a puddle of blue-grey light shining down from a hole in the ceiling above her head. Leaning forward, Kiyashi warily moved towards the shining object on her hands and knees.Bookmark here

It was a sheathed katana. Kiyashi could tell it was a katana right away, from its detailed tsuba (guard) and weaving of the tsuka (grip). She had seen one in a museum once, carefully nestled on a stand in a glass box. Not to touch but only to see. The one that was on the ground before her was exactly like that, except there was no glass box. The saya (scabbard) seemed to glow like it was done with a lacquered finish, like it was a fine platter instead of a component of a deadly weapon.Bookmark here

Without another thought, Kiyashi reached out and grasped the saya part of the katana and crawled back to her space against the wall. The weapon felt strangely familiar, like it belonged in her hands. Holding it up in both hands, Kiyashi gazed at it, in awe, at this deadly weapon that felt more warm than cold to her, in her hands. Her mind did not wonder why; it simply accepted and Kiyashi did not question it. She just knew: this katana was made for her and only her.Bookmark here

All of a sudden, there was a terrible clawing sound, followed by a putrid odor of something rotting. Kiyashi looked around for the source of the sound, and her eyes alighted on a door way that led out of the crumbling space she was in and into an equally gloomy looking inner courtyard.Bookmark here

The image of an inner courtyard popped into her head only because she could make out some pillars and browning vegetation clinging halfheartedly to them. And the ground seemed to dip down, like there were a few steps that led downwards. There seemed to be a sea of weeds instead of a nicely tended yard.Bookmark here

The clawing sound grew in volume and the scent as well, until its owner finally showed its face in the doorway. It was more of the entire body of the creature than just its face. It looked like a toad that had been taught to walk on two legs and then had been squashed down to make its center of gravity closer to the ground. It was a squat creature with short arms and legs.Bookmark here

Kiyashi froze as she made eye contact with the creature. The creature saw her and immediately turns towards her direction and leaped. Kiyashi didn’t expect it to leap with those stubby legs but leap it did. And with two bounds, it was already on top of her.Bookmark here

With a screech of something akin to delight, the toad creature jumped on top of Kiyashi. She lifted the still sheathed katana to block its possible attack. With a thud, they both fell to the ground. When Kiyashi opened her eyes after the impact, she was greeted by a mouthful of razor-sharp teeth, inches away from her face.Bookmark here

The sheathed katana was caught on either end of the creature’s mouth and prevented it from snapping shut. Along with the piercing screeches, the creature was emitting flying globs of saliva. Kiyashi felt a few drops fall on her pants and then, to her horror, saw it burn a hole in the cloth with a sizzle and a wisp of smoke.Bookmark here

Acid…?Bookmark here

Somehow the sheath was unharmed and still shone darkly with saliva dropping off of it.Bookmark here

As her mind began to race and panic, Kiyashi heard what sounded like a barrage of bootfalls and a voice shouted out. It pierced through her panic cleanly like a knife through butter.Bookmark here

“Draw your sword!”Bookmark here

Kiyashi gasped as if the voice had physically cut her and she gripped the sheathed katana as tightly as she could. And pulled at both ends with all her might.Bookmark here

Perhaps she had pulled with more strength than she realized or the katana had somehow exited the sheath as smoothly as silk, for when Kiyashi had drawn out the blade, it had flowed out of the sheath like water. And it had cleanly cut the toad creature’s head in half, leaving Kiyashi splashed with purple blood. It had all ended in a single moment.Bookmark here

Kiyashi laid on her back, the katana in her right hand and the saya in the other, breathing heavily as if she had just sprinted. She heard the body of the toad creature crumble with a squench and a crunch, falling away from her. The blood from the creature was both cold and warm on Kiyashi’s face.Bookmark here

“Nice work.”Bookmark here

The voice sounded again and this time, the owner showed their face, leaning into Kiyashi’s field of vision, along with a proffered hand to help Kiyashi to her feet. Letting the saya fall from her left hand, Kiyashi took the hand and stood up for the first time.Bookmark here

The owner of the voice was a young man, a good half foot taller than Kiyashi was. He was dressed in a similar outfit of a similar colour scheme. His hair was short and brown and his eye colour matched his hair colour almost exactly. Across his nose and cheeks, there was a smattering of freckles. And on his back, a set of bow and arrows.Bookmark here

“Thank- thank you.”Bookmark here

Kiyashi’s words caught and she stammered. Her voice sounded dry and cracked.Bookmark here

“You must be new here,” said the young man, after a quick glance at Kiyashi’s hands.Bookmark here

“Yes.”Bookmark here

Her response was met with a small smile, which seemed shadowed with some other emotion that Kiyashi could not read. Then the young man smiled wider and swung his arms wide like a flourish.Bookmark here

“Welcome to the Hollow."Bookmark here

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