It was obvious from her appearance
that she was not a native of Japan. She had skin as white as the purest
snow, glossy black hair, a starkly chiseled face, and her eyes were the
deep blue of the night sky.
As a young girl, she was shunned
by those around her--she was looked upon with disdain because of her appearance.
Having no family to turn to, and exposed to hateful words and violence,
she gradually closed her heart to those around her. Eventually, she ran
away from her home. Young and alone, she wandered
to a city where a man took her in. The man's kindness gradually opened
the girl's tightly-sealed heart. He named her Setsuka--Snow Flower.
Before she knew it, she had
come to smile at this beautiful name. Her caretaker worked in the region
as a bodyguard. He taught Setsuka the battou technique he used to protect
his patrons--the art of fighting from the draw. It became a way for her
to protect herself, but it was the joy she felt when he praised her that
made her to devote herself to her training. Eventually, Setsuka grew into
a woman of stunning beauty. Some still looked upon her with cold eyes,
but she learned to ignore them and let nothing trouble her. Modest as it
was, she managed to settle into a fulfilling life.
One day, the man entrusted
a letter to her. The letter's destination was far away, and it would take
her many months to travel there and back. Seeing her uneasy look, the
man smiled and reassured her, "There is nothing to fear. This place will
always be here for you. Go without worry..."
After a long journey, Setsuka
finally found the man to whom the letter was addressed. The old martial
artist ran a dojo in a small village. He asked Setsuka many times if she
would stay and train there, but she refused his invitation and journeyed
home. Upon her return, she was shocked
to find the man lying on the floor, grievously injured. Although he would
not reveal how he received his wounds, she was certain that he had lost
in a duel. His injuries would prevent him from wielding a sword ever again.
Nevertheless, the man tried
to behave as he always had, but Setsuka could not hide her sadness and
concern. His lessons, however, grew evermore strict and demanding. On the
other hand, he also showered her with overwhelming love, something she
had never experienced until then. Their modest lifestyle could not afford
luxuries, yet still he bought her an elegant, long-sleeved kimono. Wearing
such a beautiful dress for the first time, Setsuka blushed under the man's
approving smile. She found her feelings for him grow stronger than she
ever thought possible.
It was not fondness for him
as a father, nor was it reverence to him as her master of martial arts--it
would not be until many years later, after his death, that she would come
to recognize the delicate, tender feelings that had taken hold in her heart.
Visiting his grave, she recalled the words he had spoken to her on his
deathbed. "I did not teach you this art for the purpose of revenge...One
who lives by the sword harbors no regret."
His fateful fight had been
the most exciting moment of his life. He taught her the battou technique
only because he wanted her to carry on the art. He wanted her to live freely,
unbound by hate or fear. Before his death, he told her his opponent's name...
Mitsurugi. Strangely, she shed no tears
when her master died. Only later would she come to realize her feelings
and finally understand what it meant to fall in love. Her teacher had not
wished for her to live a life bound by the shackles of revenge, but she
could not be stopped. With undying love in her heart, she set out on a
journey of loneliness and sorrow. Now that she had lost the only bond she
had ever known, there was nothing in this world for her to fear...
Setsuka's target was a wandering
swordsman who challenged swordsmen throughout the land, searching for a
way to defeat the Tanegashima rifles. No one had seen him in Japan since
he had crossed the sea several years before in search of a powerful swordsman
by the name of Nightmare. She had few clues to go on, but she was sure
that if she tracked down Nightmare, she would eventually find Mitsurugi.
Armed with an oilpaper umbrella
containing a concealed blade and wearing the kimono that her teacher had
left to her, her appearance was that of a beautiful goddess of war dressed
in bewitching robes of mourning.