A time travel to Bakumatsu Japan…
Within seconds, Emmi began coughing. She flailed her arms and legs, swatting a blanket from her face.
Her brain took its own sweet time processing the Japanese words someone called out. “Calm down. You’re safe now. You’re safe.”
Coughing, she sat up and scrambled to her knees as much as the cumbersome layers of clothing and the blanket covering her would allow. She bent forward taking in large gasping breaths, hacking to expel the smoky air from her lungs.
“Daijoubu desu ka? Daijoubu desu ka, oni?”
Was she a demon? What the hell kind of question was that?
Still kneeling, Emmi straightened and swiped her tousled hair from her eyes. She then turned to look over her shoulder. Had her mother sent some distant relative to watch over her and taunt her with the demon epithet in her stead?
“Are you a demon?” the man kneeling before her asked again.
Emmi blinked and wiped her eyes; they still stung from the smoke. She glared at her supposed rescuer. “Yes, I’m alright and I’m not a demon, you idiot.”
She looked around. This did not look like the sound stage. Where was the storm? Why were there no firefighters or paramedics?
Where on Earth was she?
Emmi looked back at the confused man. He was around her age and seemed rather familiar somehow.
“What?” she asked in answer to the very same question from him.
“Nani? Nan desu ka, oni?” he repeated.
“Look, I know I should be grateful to you and all, but…”
She broke off as his look of bewilderment grew. She closed her eyes a moment. She hadn’t carried on any long conversations in Japanese since she’d last seen her grandparents at the funeral. In fact, that hadn’t been quite normal since a lot of the time they chose to use the old, classical Japanese……which was exactly what this guy was speaking.
She spoke to him slowly in Japanese, hoping he’d get it straight that she was not a demon and that she was indeed all right.
“What is i-di-ot?”
Emmi coughed and wondered if coughing more might distract him from wanting to know what idiot meant. However, when he repeated the question, she knew that wasn’t much of an option. She looked at him and translated ‘idiot’ as best she could.
She gave a start when the look of bewilderment, which she thought might be his natural expression, turned to one of fury.
When he jumped to his feet and grabbed the katana lying on the floor a few feet away, Emmi knew without a doubt that he was not holding any movie prop.
It didn’t look like any unsharpened practice or prop swords she’d ever seen, but it did look exactly like the antique sword her father had owned. She knew without a doubt that this katana was very much the same, very real and very deadly.
She looked around the room again. Why wasn’t she in the same room? Why wasn’t it a shambles? Where were the security people or the paramedics, the police, and the firefighters? Where the hell was she?
Before she could figure it out, the man ordered her to stand. She knew that to refuse would not be wise–even if he insisted on calling her a demon.
He pointed the katana at her. “Go back to where you came from, demon. Now!” he ordered in Japanese, pointing the blade to the mirror lying face down on the floor near a small lacquered cabinet.
Emmi ran forward, fell to her knees and picked it up, making sure it was unharmed.
It was her mirror, but it was different. It looked newer, shinier, and while it had a dent on the right side, the other nicks and dents were missing from the base. Where did the cloth tacked onto the back come from?
“Go back inside, demon! You will not have my soul! Not now or ever!”
“Wha–?” Emmi’s voice died the instant she turned. The man had the tip of his katana a fraction away from the base of her throat.
“Go back inside to where you came from.”
What was happening?
Was she dead and in some kind of hell for causing the accident that killed her father?
Was she unconscious and having some freakish dream?
“Go back now, demon!”
Shaking in fear, Emmi blinked back the tears that formed in her eyes and prayed she wasn’t screwing up any old Japanese pronunciations. The last thing she wanted was to say something wrong, something that would push this guy over the edge.
“I’m not a demon. I swear I’m not. I don’t know how I got here. I was caught in a storm at a place I was working. The wall fell on me. There was a fire. That’s all I remember. I’m not a demon. I swear I’m not. My name is Emiko. Maeda Emiko.”
“Maeda?” he asked.
“Yes. My family comes from Kanaz–the Kaga han,” she added.
His eyes narrowed suspiciously. “Then how did you come to be in the mirror? If you are human, and truly a Maeda, what did you do to disgrace yourself? Why would your family send you here to Shimabara to be a whore?”
He pointed the tip of the sword to her throat.
“Prove to me that you are human.”
Emmi licked her dry lips and tried not to flinch. “How do I prove I’m human? Maybe by dying if you stab me?”
“Perhaps,” he said flatly.