h

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2

           Rin woke. She was lying face down. She lifted her head. A leaf stuck to her cheek. She peeled it off.
         She sat up. She was in a forest glade. A weathered statue of Buddha sat at the centre of the glade overwhelmed by ivy.
She got to her feet. She looked down. She was wearing samurai armour. She inspected herself for injury. She pulled off a glove, ran fingers through her hair and checked for blood. Nothing.
She heard someone thrashing through the undergrowth. A man in red armour emerged from the treeline.
Rin hid behind the statue as the man surveyed the clearing. A path led from the glade to a rock face. There were two cave mouths side by side. The man studied the caves like he was trying to decide which one to enter. 
An instinct for self-preservation prompted Rin to slide her katana from its hilt and lay it on the ground. The man heard the sword rasp against stones. He span round and drew his sword. Rin backed up with her arms raised.
‘Hey,’ said Rin, struggling for words to placate the man. She took another couple of steps backward. ‘Hey.’
The man looked like some kind of bandit. Stubble and scars.
‘Who are you?’ he demanded.
‘I don’t know.’
‘What?’
‘I don’t know who I am.’
The man relaxed a little. He didn’t resheath his sword but he seemed to sense Rin didn’t pose much of a threat. He glanced down a short path that led through trees to a rock face with a couple of cave mouths.
‘I go down there, is that right?’ he said. ‘Which cave? Left or right?’
‘You have to tell me what’s going on. Seriously. I don’t know who I am. I don’t know where I am. I don’t know why I’m wearing this stupid armour.
They could hear distant hoof beats.
‘The Shogun’s men. Tell me quick. Which cave? Left or right?’
‘I don’t know. Toss a coin. Do what you want.’
The man ran down the path. He faced the rock face and dithered, tried to decide which cave mouth to enter. He chose left. He ran into the cave and was swallowed by darkness. The moment he vanished from view Rin ceased to exist.

1

            Rin woke. She was lying face down. She lifted her head. A leaf stuck to her cheek. She peeled it off.  
She sat up. She was in a forest glade. A weathered statue of Buddha sat at the centre of the glade overwhelmed by ivy.
She got to her feet. She looked down. She was wearing samurai armour. She inspected herself for injury. She pulled off a glove, ran fingers through her hair and checked for blood. Nothing.
She heard someone thrashing through the undergrowth. A man in red armour emerged from the treeline.
Rin hid behind the statue as the man surveyed the clearing. A path led from the glade to a rock face. There were two cave mouths side by side. The man studied the caves like he was trying to decide which one to enter. 
‘Hello,’ said Rin. She stepped from behind the statue. ‘Hello, there.’
The man span and crouched. Stubble and scars. She watched him wipe blood from his sword and resheath it. She looked down at the deep slash across her chest. The blade had sliced clean through her segmented leather armour and cut deep into flesh.
Rin folded like she had taken a gut-punch. She toppled to the ground. She kicked with her feet, tried to push herself away from the man. She squirmed across the ground and propped herself against the statue plinth. She left a smeared blood-trail across the grass.
‘Why?’ she murmured, looking down and her blood-wet hands. ‘Why?’ She was dying. She ought to be scared but she was already too far gone to feel much at all. ‘Why did you do it?’
The man ignored her. He resumed his inspection of the cave mouths.
They heard distant hoof beats and the crack of breaking branches. The man knelt beside Rin.
‘Which cave?’ he demanded.
‘I don’t know.’
‘Come on. Which one?’
The hoof beats drew closer.
‘I swear I don’t know,’ said Rin. ‘I don’t know where I am. I don’t know who I am.’
‘The Shogun’s men will be here any moment. Tell me. Which way should I go?’
‘I’m dying. You cut me. I’m dying.’
He slapped her face. He held her chin and forced her to maintain eye contact.
‘Tell me.’
The hoof beats drew closer. They could hear swords hacking through undergrowth.
‘You know,’ said Rin, looking around the forest glade. Death stole over her like welcome sleep. ‘I have the strangest feeling this has all happened before.’