At 3, 750 words exactly, I completed the first chapter of my NaNo novel, and I’m pleased to say I really, really love this novel. After the enormous amount of love I had (and still have) for my JuNoWriMo novel, This Curious Madness, a small part of me worried I wouldn’t love The Dying of the Light as much. The concern was totally unfounded – the novels are as different as night and day (aside from the fact they both have oppressive royals and weird characters) but I love them both equally. Honestly, the characters really make it for me, but I also love the setting – futuristic Japan is never boring, especially when I get to do whatever I want with it.
The first chapter is focused almost entirely on Saizou (Robin Hood) and Shi (Much), but also features the first appearance of Haka (the Sheriff of Nottingham). I had a blast, and all I can pray is that the rest of the month goes this well.
Blood rained from the black sky. The storm swelled around him – but the sky was clear, the blackening sky set on fire by the rays of a setting sun. It was not a storm caused by rain or wind; it was a storm where the lightning of exploding bombs flashed before the thunder, a chorus of hoarse, terrified screams.
[WHY YES THIS IS MY MOST VIOLENT BEGINNING TO A BOOK EVER WHY DO YOU ASK]
“Do you want to sit up?” asked Shi. He had shifted his stance, and now the lights flashing across the ceiling of the train car slid across his face in shades of orange and green and white. The colors caressed his mutilated visage, highlighting the open, black nasal passage and the thick, angry scars that twisted the center of his face. His mane of silver-blond hair had come undone and his amber eyes were groggy. He looked like more like a half-awake ghoul than anything else.
The train rocked on its tracks and Saizou gripped the edge of the bed with both hands as Shi shifted with the movement, unflappable.
“Or,” said Shi, “you could lie back down,” and Saizou realized he had forgotten to answer the question.
“I’ll sit.” He straightened under his companion’s watchful gaze. “I don’t need help.”
“Heh,” was the grunted response.
Saizou rubbed his face with both hands. Blood. Hot. Sticky. In his eyes, in his mouth. He opened his eyes again. No blood. He nodded toward Shi, forcing a smile. “You need it.”
“Yes,” said Shi. “I do. What with you talking my ears off all day about your precious daimyo.”
The thought you can’t afford to lose those, too, came to Saizou, but he kept the thought from becoming words.
His silence did not seem to matter; Shi caught the unspoken joke and said flatly, “It’s too soon.”
“I didn’t say anything,” said Saizou defensively.
“You thought it. That’s enough.”
He placed the mask across his face and buckled it around the back of his head. It was an unusual mask; hardened black leather studded with silver grommets, formed to Shi’s forehead and cheekbones, and it closed across the center of his face. It left his mouth and eyes perfectly visible, but it covered his disfiguration.
Saizou nodded, gazing at the waiting passengers. He counted nine people, not including the two manning the service desk. He caught the eye of a young girl, holding her mother’s hand, and stared at her.
Her eyes were wide in her round face, and she did not smile, but she lifted a tentative hand in what might almost have been a wave.
Her mother sensed the movement and glanced down, then followed her daughter’s line of sight. When she saw Saizou, she smiled – but the smile froze and faded as quickly as it had come. She tugged her daughter’s hand and walked quickly to the other side of the platform, near the exit door.
War meant hard times. It meant an increase in unemployment, which meant more homeless victims, which meant more beggars. It meant closed stores and hungry people and increased prices. It was expected, really, by the time they reached the bus stop, Saizou was beginning to wonder if this was really the same city.
“Nice city,” was Shi’s only remark as they stood at the stop.
Saizou shook his head. “War takes a toll on everything. Once the war’s over you’ll see what it was like. It will make a comeback. It always does.”
“That’s what they said about Sakamoto Hisaishi,” said Shi. “Until one day he didn’t.”
“A boxer and a city aren’t the same thing,” said Saizou, adjusting the pack strap cutting into his shoulder. “Be quiet.”
“Do you know who I am?” the officer asked, looking Saizou up and down. He stepped to the side, as if he had been pushed, then straightened.
“A law officer,” said Shi blandly.
The man’s lip curled and he lifted the katana off his shoulder, pointing the blade at Shi. “Commander Haka. You should know who I am.”
“We’ve been informed now,” said Saizou, taking a step closer to Shi, who was eyeing the officer’s blade with complete passivity.
“I like it.”
The man on Haka’s right stepped forward, his hand on the hilt of his katana. “Use respect when you speak to the commander,” he hissed.
“I’ll use respect toward those worthy of it,” said Shi evenly, but his eyes were narrowed, and he had adopted a stubborn stance.
One of the bystanders near the sidewalk, a man of forty-five or fifty years, mumbled, “Doesn’t seem right, taking weapons away from soldiers who have been fighting for us.”
Commander Haka did not turn around, but his eyes and grin widened dangerous.
Saizou and Shi glanced at each other, then at the speaker. Commander Haka lifted his katana again, but after allowing it to point toward the sky for a moment, he slid it into its scabbard and turned, flicking a hand toward his fellow officers.
As he walked past the outspoken bystander, he lashed out with his elbow, slamming it into the man’s face and sending him staggering into the street.
Saizou watched Commander Haka disappear around the corner, flanked by his officers. “How did someone like that become Commander?”
“You tell me,” said Shi. “It’s your city.”