Episode 26–"Evanescent Encounter (part 3)/
The Wheel of Transmutation (part 3)"

[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.

--are you sure you want to read this now? This is the last episode. The end of the story. You're really, x-your-heart certain?....

Yoroshii: be brave then...

A swing of the scythe sends Mugen flying. He gets up, runs to the cross and tries to pull his sword free, but another swipe catches him and he lands with a crash. I'll tell you how we've felt while living with shame, says Umanosuke, stamping on his head to pin him down, and he grinds the butt-end of the scythe down into Mugen's already-wounded left hand, crushing it into the floor. Mugen howls in pain. I'll make your life a waste, says Patch, just like ours.

Fuu stands, clenches her fists, can't move. A tiny old man comes around from the rear of the cabin: who's there, he asks. Fuu asks if he's Seizou-san. He says no, and tells her this is no place for a young girl. Fuu lowers her head wearily. I came here looking for someone, she says; from far away I came to see that person. The elder looks at her closely: Could it be that you're…? --he asks her to wait.

Umanosuke has Mugen caught by the chain wrapped around his left arm and is spinning him around and around the room; stops him with a sharp yank, breaks the arm; Mugen screams, stumbles to a halt. Umanosuke catches him with the pole of the scythe, pins him against a beam, telling him it's no good if he dies that easily. I'll teach you something right now, he says: the feelings of a man who has to go on living in shame. Battered and bleeding Mugen summons up his strength. Stop talking nonsense, he says, I've lived with every possible kind of disgrace. He grins fiercely into the man's face: there's nothing you can teach me, not one bit. (Umanosuke glares with pure hate.) Experience the same feelings? Don't be such a pussy. You point a blade at someone, you either kill or die, and that's all there is to it. Someone who doesn't have the guts to do that, snarls Mugen, better not bitch!

Umanosuke shoves him back so hard the beam breaks; Mugen reaches behind his back, draws the tanto from the butt of his scabbard and comes up slashing, but a swing of the scythe knocks it out of his hand and away. Again he runs for the cross and reaches his sword, struggles to pull it free, gets it and turns to face Umanosuke. How unfair, hiding a blade there, snickers the scytheman. I've already used my trump card, says Mugen…

Inside the cabin: the old servant stands by the bedside of a handsome, dark-haired man we've seen before (right: ep. 19). A young girl who has traveled from far away wishes to meet with Seizou-san, he says: what do you want to do? I could ask her to come back another time. No, it's all right, says Seizou-san, send her in. The old one nods to Fuu, who squares her shoulders and walks through the door. The bedridden man shakes with a hard racking cough and apologizes for not rising to greet her, asks who she is; I'm nearly blind, he says. Fuu looks down at him. She tells him the story we know so well by now: how her father went away when she was young, how she and her mother lived alone, how she believed him dead until, on her deathbed, her mother told her the truth. Her quiet voice trembles with anger. Even now if I'm asked about my father, she says, I'll answer that he doesn't exist. I'm no longer his daughter. I don't want to hear excuses even if I see him; I can't forgive that person. He has no idea how much trouble we had, he probably doesn't even know that my mother fell ill and died. That's why I wanted to see him, to make him understand that. When I see him I will definitely punch him--that's what I thought, but…her shoulders shake. It's not fair, she says. I can't do anything because you're so frail... She turns and walks toward the door. Fuu, says Seizou-san, too low for her to hear; he strains to see her, a grey blur in the doorway. I don't think we will ever see each other again, she says evenly and finally. Sayonara. And she closes the door.

Outside; she slumps exhausted against the door. --A memory comes to her: small Fuu and her mother praying at a shrine; though it's a Buddhist temple with its bright plaques and prayer flags, her prayer is addressed to Kami-sama ("Lord God"), the Christian God. One day, prays chibi-Fuu, even if it's only once, let me meet my father. --She leans there desolate; a tear runs down her face; there's silence.

Umanosuke and Mugen continue their ferocious bloody game of cat and mouse. Umanosuke swings the chain scythe in great slicing circles, cutting beams, walls, anything, while Mugen --his left arm hanging useless--is running, diving under the arc, ducking and somersaulting, anything to get inside the thing's deadly range. One sweep comes so close it peels the metal plate off the sole of his geta.

The old man stands beside Fuu. As I thought, you're his daughter, he says, smiling. I've heard a lot about you. Seizou-san said that you-- he stops in surprise. Fuu looks up and sees Kariya Kagetoki walking up the path toward them; just as he said, he's let Fuu lead him to her father. She looks puzzled, presumably remembers meeting him on the dock but has no idea why he's here now. He advances straight to the door, glances at Fuu, rests a hand on his sword; Fuu tries to stop him but the elder pulls her back, and he enters.

More cat and mouse (or is that "cat and also cat"?) in the ruined church: Umanosuke is steadily cutting the building to pieces. Mugen finally gets close enough to get in a few sword strikes, dives away again. A scythe swing cuts the cord of his Ryukyu sword belt off his shoulder, it falls away unnoticed, sliced cleanly in half.

Kariya stands at the bedside. You are Kasumi Seizou, correct? I am Guard Commander Kariya Kagetoki; as per my orders I will take your life. Kill me, acquiesces Seizou-san, I might as well be dead already. Fuu and the elder look on horrified from the doorway; Kariya asks if he has any last words. Fuu, says Seizou-san, and Fuu's eyes go wide. I have no right to seek forgiveness, says her father; but I never once forgot about you two. I'm very sorry. Fuu looks on the verge of tears. Kariya draws his sword and brings it down with a great slash of blood.

Back in the church: Umanosuke now sounds totally insane, cackling crazily as he swings the chain scythe; he finally cuts the last beam that was holding up the roof and the place crashes down around their ears.

The killer called Divine Hand calmly wipes the blood off his katana, turns and says that he has orders to kill Seizou-san's entire family and followers once he's is dead. Fuu recoils in terror and bolts down the path. Kariya follows, dropping the elder with a single blow when he tries to block the way.

Mugen and Umanosuke rise out of the rubble, Mugen's red jacket gone. That really hurt, cackles Umanosuke, and his eyepatch falls off to reveal his blind, fixed lidless left eye. You're too damn persistent, growls Mugen, and he runs off down the beach with Umanosuke in pursuit. The scythe suspends all disbelief now, raising huge sheets of water as it slashes over the sea, slicing boulders as if they were butter. Mugen runs, ducks, dives clear, thinking hard and fast--

Fuu runs down the path, the implacable assassin walking steadily after--

Mugen charges Umanosuke and throws his sword; it sails fast past him and lands standing in the sand. Huh? --taunts Umanosuke. Mugen rushes at him, yelling that he'll finish this; he throws himself at the man and flips, kicking the scythe blade free. It flies away, landing past Mugen's sword. Umanosuke draws his sword as Mugen lies at his feet, but Mugen slides around under and behind him, throws his legs up around the guy's waist and heels hooked over his shoulders to pull him down and over backwards (only Mugen…). He rides the momentum of the movement to come up on his feet with Umanosuke trapped upside down, his shoulders in the sand and his legs pinned in Mugen's grip. Mugen gets a hand free and draws Umanosuke's wakizashi, they struggle, Mugen bites him in the crotch (yes, really), the man manages to throw him over and seizes the sword, Mugen grabs the pole of the scythe--and the chain retracts--and the blade comes flying and takes off Umanosuke's head.

Fuu comes to the edge of the cliff. Far below she makes out the white shape of Mugen, lying in the tangle of his death-struggle with Umanosuke. Mugen, she worries, then turns as Kariya comes up to her. Thank you for leading me here, he says. If you're the daughter of a samurai, face your death bravely.

Mugen staggers to his feet. Behind him, Toube--who rolled out here totally unnoticed--grins; the arm of his chair has opened to reveal a gun muzzle, and he puts a bullet through Mugen's right side. Mugen stumbles with the impact, looks down to see the bloodstain spreading on his white shirt, turns to face him. You---

Fuu, facing Kariya, suddenly stares wide-eyed: Jin! And oh my goddess, there he is, walking slowly and steadily up the path behind the assassin. (I will not even try to express in words the fierce and resolute beauty of this avenging vision; that's what the pictures are for.) Kariya turns; his face shows no surprise. I will praise you, he says, somehow you managed to avoid being fatally struck and saved your own life. But in that condition you can't defeat me; why did you even come? You came all this way to throw away the life you saved? Didn't you say there was no lord you'd risk your life for?

Yes, says Jin. I've been fighting for myself all along, my sword was for me alone. However…

A flashback: teenage Jin and Mariya Enshirou. This is my final teaching, says the sensei: a way to defeat an opponent you can't win against any other way. You won't win but you should be able to force a simultaneous strike. Create a small opportunity by letting him strike you, then strike the moment the opponent drops his guard. The chance of your survival is very small, Enshirou warns his pupil, so if possible, never use it.
--really, such an unpleasant duty, says Jin calmly and thoughtfully...

Mugen moves step by step toward the wheelchair, barely able to stay on his feet, his vision blurring. (Cripes, he's only had three knock-down brawls in a single day, one of them the fight of his life; it's a bloody miracle he can even move.) You psycho, he growls, and then realizes Toube is lighting the fuse of a stick of dynamite in the other arm of the chair---

Jin, his face distant, gaze elsewhere (Mariya-sama would be so proud.), begins his draw, as does Kariya--

Mugen sees the lit dynamite, snaps back in alarm, lurches forward and kicks open the bottom panel of the chair. Dozens of dynamite sticks tumble out around his feet (and thus, thank all gods, away from that lit fuse) --he reels back--

Kariya and Jin trade a lightning flurry of slashes--near too fast to see and way too gorgeous for words-- spinning around each other; Kariya lunges and drives his blade through Jin from behind. Jin's face clenches in pain; Kariya smiles, and then his own face tightens. Counting on Kariya's watching only his sword hand, Jin drew his wakizashi lefthanded and stabbed the Hand of God clean through. For you to do that on purpose...rasps Kariya; Jin grits his teeth, and we hear the metallic ring and snap that finishes off a sword kill. They both fall.

Jin! --cries Fuu, and then the dynamite blows sky high. Poor Fuu. Mugen! she screams…

Mugen lies surrounded by the silent shaman-warriors we've seen before. What's this...you guys again?… I can't move… this time it might really be the end for me, he says, and his eyes slide shut. Shadowy bird figures swoop in as if to take away his soul, but we hear Fuu's voice crying his name, and the shadow-birds scatter…

He comes to; Fuu is kneeling beside him on the beach; you're alive, she says. It's you? I thought you were Death, says Mugen. All I've been doing is crying...I wanted to be able to go on by myself, sniffles Fuu. Idiot, grumbles Mugen.--So were you able to see the Sunflower Samurai? Fuu lowers her head: yeah, she manages. I see--Mugen sits up; Jin is sitting on the beach with his katana; they get to their feet. Mugen holds out his sword in a formal challenge gesture, point down, arm extended level and straight ahead. As promised, time to settle things with you, he says. So it seems, Jin replies, doing the same. Fuu winces and closes her eyes: the moment she's dreaded is here.

They rush each other, clash--and both swords break in half. Mugen grins: Look at us, he says. Jin smiles: Honestly, he agrees. And they both pitch into the sand, out cold.

Fuu and the elder pray at her father's--interestingly, not Christian--grave. He tells her that Seizou-san really wanted to bring her and her mother here, but he knew that they would be hunted and persecuted with the rest of the Christians, and that's why he came alone. Fuu says that though the weakened man she saw didn't match her memories of her tall, strong father, she still felt sure he was really the one.

Mugen and Jin, bandaged, lie sleeping in the dim cabin, Jin opens his eyes. Are you awake?--he asks. --Yo. --It seems this isn't hell, remarks Jin. It feels weird, muses Mugen…y'know, when someone's stronger than me I can't be satisfied until I kill him, but I don't feel like killing you now. Smiling, Jin says quietly that he thinks he's found what he was searching for. Hm?-- I, who was always alone, says Jin, found comrades for the first time.

Fuu and the elder enter and the old one tells them they've certainly slept well, it's been a week. Mugen of course asks for food =) We see them eating, Mugen as usual cramming it down and Jin neatly picking out bite by bite, the old man and Fuu looking on.

And then we see them standing at the crossroads, facing in three different directions. Well, then, says Mugen. Let us meet again, says Jin. (They're dressed in similar but new clothing: Jin in a plain blue-grey gi with no heraldic mon design, Mugen in a red jacket tied across the chest, carrying a European-looking straight sword with a leather shoulder belt and scabbard. ) Fuu makes a confession: the coin toss with which they began their journey, which was supposed to be heads-you-fight and tails-you-come-with-me, actually came up heads. What?! they blurt. That's all, says Fuu walking off; well, see you around. We were tricked, says Jin; what was this journey all about? --asks Mugen; but they're both smiling.

They look after her a moment, then turn and walk their separate ways.

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

Thanks so much to Manglobe and Simoigusa Champloos for this great ride.

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