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.
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.’