Episode 25–"Evanescent Encounter (part 2)/
The Circle of Transmutation (Part 2)"

[Important note: This is a complete summary of the episode containing major spoilers. Please be sure you want to know this info before you read; spoilers are not blocked or hidden in any way so this is your only warning. If you aren't 100% sure you want to know who lives, who dies, who gets hurt, who walks away and who's responsible, please pack your katana and walk right now. My feelings will not be hurt. Thank you.

Kariya draws; it's instantly plain that his moves are supernaturally fast. Interesting, grins Mugen, and he charges but can't even get close to Kariya who parries his every swing. Mugen goes in again, this time in Mugen-classic mode with a few flying cartwheels thrown in, but can't lay blade or foot on the guy--at one point K seems to pass his sword from one hand to the other without touching it. Mugen dives behind a pile of bushels of red beans waiting on the dock for shipment, uses them as projectiles and then as a screen for his next aerial attack, to no avail; Kariya simply dodges him and Mugen ends up sprawled on the planks in a spill of slippery beans. I see, says Kariya calmly, you have moves I didn't expect. But bujutsu ("the art of war" or "the warrior's art") is something that requires more intelligence; there's a limit to relying on just instinct and reflexes.

--Mugen gets to his feet; Jin has not moved an inch, studying their duel. Shut up with your bragging, snarls Mugen, furious at being taken so lightly, and throws himself at the assassin again; this time he seems to pass straight through the man as if Kariya were a ghost, not once but twice. Off balance from having met no resistance, he's easily caught from behind and shoved into the water, Kariya so disinterested in Mugen that he doesn't even bother to wound him. (I bet he'd be surprised to know which of these two actually killed Sara.)

--Dismissing Mugen from his attention, Kariya turns to Jin. Show me the Mujuushin Kenjutsu, he says; the skills that killed Mariya Enshirou. Jin stares at him indignant and coldly angry: Why do you know about that?--he demands. Kariya just smiles. Jin realizes the government has tracked them down: his voice is edged with pure hate: so you're kougi, he says.

Fuu runs through the himawari field with Umanosuke and his scythe in pursuit, trips and falls, runs on; the chain scythe flashes past her and takes out 30 feet of sunflowers. Fuu falls to her knees, looks up terrified and appealing. The one-eyed man walks up to her, settles beside her, handles her suggestively (the bastard!), and then knocks her out with a straight punch under the ribcage. Fuu crumples.

A quick glimpse of Denkibou, Umanosuke's ugliest cohort; then we see Mugen under the dock, making his way up out of the water, cussing. Kariya runs the length of the pier raising a wall of water just by holding his sword out over it; Jin dodges him, comes on again, Mugen joins them, Kariya raises the water again causing a wave that nearly sweeps Mugen off the pier. (We are talking serious paranormal/X-skills here; the guy makes Sara's bridge-cracking trick look like a mere wave of the hand.) Jin runs up the stone wall with Kariya, another volley, no more than clipping some straw from his hat; the assassin using enough invisible force to shake the stones of the wall and toss the guys aside like toys.

Mugen, getting to his feet, hears Denkibou's weird chuckle. What the hell are you? -- Mugen, says Denkibou, we have the girl. (Both M&J react to this.) Come to the church on the island. What?--Fuck, we're busy!--snaps Mugen. If you don't come in a hurry I don't know what will happen to her; you'd better go, before that girl is cut into pieces, says the blond gargoyle, and leaps away. Mugen cusses; Jin says "Go." --Huh?!-- I'll take care of this, says Jin, eyes fixed on Kariya. Mugen bristles, hating to leave the fight: you go, he growls. Jin's gaze is narrow and calm; flashback to his riverside conversation with Fuu; "take care of Fuu," he says. Mugen is completely taken aback. (You will recall that he was awake through that conversation.)

We draw back and look at them: Mugen standing with clenched fists, Jin poised on the wall aimed at Kariya, the assassin sitting in the road. What's happened, Kariya asks; which of you is to be my opponent? Mugen stares at Jin, torn; he grits out "Don't go dying on your own," and gallops down to the ferry landing. You still have to fight with me!--he yells back, and leaps onto the ferry as it pulls up, ordering the startled ferryman to get the boat moving pronto. Jin looks after him with a knowing and rueful little smile that speaks volumes. The ferry poles away, Jin watches it go, and then he's left with Kariya.

[What an enormous moment: it can hardly be described. Jin entrusting not only the outcome of their quest, but the one person most important to them both, to once-upon-a-time irresponsible and reckless Mugen; Mugen--so obstinately independent that we've seen him start brawls and risk lives rather than comply with the simplest order--obeying the only person he ever has obeyed, resolved to see this through or die where he stands; Jin facing his oldest, deadliest enemy alone...ohhh, man...]

In the burnt-out church on the island: Fuu is lying unconscious, Umanosuke sitting slumped beside her. (While we see no real evidence that anything bad has befallen Fuu, there's something about the scene that makes one think the worst.) In the background sits Toube the wheelchair guy, staring blankly as always.

Mugen on the ferry: staring grimly straight ahead, eyes dark, cloud shadows chasing over his face. A metal-claw hand reaches up out of the water and grips onto the boat…

Kariya rises to face Jin. We can finally fight properly, he says. How did you know I was of Mujuu, asks Jin. A twist of fate: if you hadn't killed Enshirou, the Mujuu would have been mine, says the assassin. Jin's stare is cold enough to crack glass: As I thought, he says. You’re Kariya Kagetoki.

Flashback: Enshirou and teenage Jin talking, Jin's voice full of anger. Turning Mujuushin Kenjutsu into a group of assassins? Are you telling us to walk the path of darkness?--he demands. It is the only path, says his sensei; to work for Kariya-dono is to work for the Shogunate. Sophistry, retorts Jin. That can no longer be called bujutsu. We're no longer in the age of wars, Enshirou says sadly; this age of peace no longer needs the art of the sword by which men kill each other. All schools are declining. (We see young Jin in a row of students, drilling a basic move; he stops, closing his eyes.) Please endure it, Jin, Enshirou asks.

--Back on the dock: Jin's eyes open wide with a sudden realization, he stares shocked at Kariya. Could it be--? Was it you? That's right, says he. Flashback: in the assassin's handsome garden: Enshirou standing behind him as he tends a pot of flowers. [Please note, he's wearing the same Takeda diamond mon on his kimono that Jin does; this is our first visible proof that the two are related. ]Are you telling me to kill my student?-- protests Enshirou. But I've already decided that he will succeed me. (--that is: Enshirou intended Jin to inherit the dojo.) That's-- Kariya silently and meaningfully snips off the blossom he's holding. Enshirou gasps, falls silent.

--As you've guessed, says Kariya to Jin, that was my doing. Flashback: We track into a dark room. Teenage Jin lies sleeping, swords by his bed. His eyes snap open; there's a furious exchange of sword swoops, a straight killing thrust. Jin steps back dripping blood and sees to his horror that the man he's fatally stabbed is Enshirou. The master somehow manages a smile: You've improved your skills, Jin, he says. Jin stares in utterly stunned shock, eyes agonized and wide. "Master--" he gasps. Enshirou himself completes the kill, pulling Jin's blade up and out of himself, and falls dead in a great spray of blood. The red pool spreads toward Jin's bed…

Either way, says Kariya, it's your fate to die at my hands. Fine, says Jin coldly: show me that Divine Hand of yours. Yes, I've been bored for a long time, smiles Kariya. They square off…

On the ferry. Denkibou reaches up and throws the ferryman overboard; Mugen turns and sees the grotesque creature crawling up onto the boat. His eyes widen: you're the one from earlier, he says. Impossible, I can't help it, whines Denkibou; I was told not to do anything until you reach the church, but here's a guy I so badly want to kill, right in front of me...he shakes, wraps arms around himself as if trying to be his own straitjacket, then crawls forward over the barrel-lids, weapon in hand. (The center of the boat is taken up with three large barrels, about half as high as Mugen.) Mugen draws his sword. To be patient now--it's just impossible, says the gargoyle. It hugs itself once more as if trying to hold back, can't do it, lunges at Mugen with a scream.

Jin and Kariya face each other. Jin's face is calm but his voice sharp and scornful. Why?--he asks. With such remarkable skills, why would you lower yourself to be the Shogun's dog? (--exactly that: "bakufu inu".) Do you think, in this age, replies Kariya, that we could survive using only sword skills? Do you have a master for whom you want to risk your life? --asks Jin. Nowadays they only desire to win fame for themselves. Many lords think only of their own safety. There's nothing worth throwing this life away.. (--a hard admission for such a committed child of bushido as Jin-san.) Exactly, says Kariya; I'm not being used by them; I may seem to be working for them, but they’re the ones being used. It may be that the age of the warrior samurai will end soon. They gaze steadily at each other. Born into the wrong age, says the assassin...I, and you as well.

Denkibou leaps at Mugen, who backflips and swings; the metal claws catch him with a bloody swipe across the right cheek. Denkibou cackles at him. What happened, it jeers, is the Ryuukyuu-trained sword style so worthless in close quarters? They clash again; Mugen lashes out and makes him eat geta, and he falls back onto the barrels, rocking the boat and causing it to capsize.

Jin rushes Kariya; another flurry of steel; they haven't nicked each other yet. The assassin's next swing is close enough to catch Jin's glasses and sweep them away into the sea, but doesn't cut Jin. They strike and slash blindingly fast. Jin is backed to the very end of the pier, his heel off the edge. Very skilled, says Kariya; it's awhile since I've had this much fun. This battle will be finished by a paper-thin margin...your loss, by a paper-thin margin. Jin glares.

Underwater: Mugen and Denkibou. Mugen treads water, gets his bearings, sees Denkibou swimming up at him blade-first. They swing at each other, blades clashing. Mugen grabs the claw hand, lets the metal talons sink into his palm, hauls Denkibou toward him and runs him straight through. Blood pours into the water as the horrid thing's eyes roll back in its head.

Kariya slides one foot forward. Jin is thinking: he's surprisingly fast, and I can't see even one opening. One move..it will be decided by just one move.... They rush each other; steel rings; they stand; blood drips onto the planks, then a red spray…

Mugen rises from the water, panting, and walks up onto the rocky beach of Ikitsuki Island.

Flashback: Fuu's father walking away through the sunflowers, same as in #13. She hears Umanosuke's voice taunting her: a samurai who smells like sunflowers? Sunflowers have no scent, so doesn't that mean that no such person can exist? It can't be, cries Fuu. We see small Fuu running; her father turns to look back at her, but now he has Kariya's face. Fuu's eyes snap open, dart from side to side. Only a little longer to wait, says Umanosuke, and then you can die easily. She realizes she's now standing, tied to the cross in the nave of the ruined church. Even if you guys do this it's useless, she says defiantly; Mugen won't care about any hostage, he'll just start fighting. (she's so sure of him…) Oh? So it doesn't matter if I kill the hostage? --grins the one-eyed man nastily, and begins beating her with the pole of his scythe; he jams it into her stomach, smacks her about the head, making her choke and cough blood.

Mugen looks up the rock path he must climb to reach her...

I can't kill you, but I can hurt you really badly, says Umanosuke; it's all right so long as you're still alive. She hangs her head; suddenly hears the familiar clip-clop of metal-clad geta on the rocks outside; her eyes open and she sees Mugen appear in the doorway. Mugen, she gasps, astonished. I'm taking her back, Mugen tells Umanosuke. At last we meet, I'm so glad, snickers the scytheman.

Mugen looks determined and beautiful, hair down, keen-eyed, claw slashes bleeding on his cheek. Who are you guys, he asks. Don't play dumb; retorts Umanosuke; even if you've forgotten, we three brothers will remember until we die. Flashback: they were all Satsuma-han, men with a chance to advance through the ranks, until Mugen with Mukuro's pirates raided their sugar ship. Mugen personally accounted for Toube's leg, Umanosuke's eye, and presumably Denkibou's hand (and sanity). They were held responsible and driven from the Satsuma-han, and their hopes of becoming officers vanished. Since then they've lived for nothing but Mugen's death.. Oh, that one brother of yours; I've already sent him to the bottom of the sea, says Mugen with a deadly smile.

You! --howls Umanosuke, and swings the scythe down behind Fuu's head. You understand--we care nothing about this girl's life. Wait, says Mugen, drawing his sword; I'll throw away this sword, just let her go. What?! He throws it; it flies spinning end-over-end and chops into the cross at Fuu's side, cutting her bonds, which fall to her feet. (Sugoi.=) Fuu steps clear, battered, stunned. No…she says. Just go, says Mugen, voice quiet, tired but unshakeable. You haven't seen the Sunflower Samurai yet, right? I can't go, she cries. Screw that, he says roughly, you know what we came all this way for. Just hurry up and go. Fuu's lip quivers: but, Mugen will… I won't die, he tells her, trust me. She moves forward, looks back, torn. Go, he says, and when she still hesitates, he yells at her: Run! Off she goes.

Umanosuke giggles; he's sounding more unhinged by the second. You make me cry, he says, throwing away your life for a girl. Mugen gazes at him in stony calm, looking almost like Jin. The chain scythe flies out and wraps around Mugen's arm, throwing him to the floor. Then, a slow death, as you wish, the one-eyed man says.

Fuu runs panting along the cliff path--

Umanosuke pulls the chain free, snaps it; the chain whiplashes and the blade slices into Mugen's side. Did I cut too deep? he cackles as Mugen struggles to pull the blade free; I want to have some more fun.

Fuu, nearly exhausted, stumbles along the path toward the point of the cape--

The ferry again makes its way toward Ikitsuki Island (must have more than one boat). On board is Kariya. Flashback: we see him whipping the blood off his blade and sheathing it, as behind him Jin falls off the pier and splashes into the water.

Fuu, sobbing and gasping for breath, runs the final yards toward the cabin on the point. It's small, one-room, weatherbeaten. There's a cut sunflower lying at the doorstep. Fuu comes to a halt, stares at the door, immobilized by the weight of her next move. We look at her bruised face, her huge, wide eyes....

to be continued...

Samurai Champloo characters, visuals and materials (c) 2004-5 manglobe.
Original story synopsis written and (c) 2005 by Paula O'Keefe.

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