A curse: one like no other. The malediction tears its bearers from the inside out, hurting them not only physically, but diving deeper than that and destroying one emotionally. Set in Japan, one girl had the misfortune to be born with such a hex. From a young age, Airi Kobayashi has had disaster all around her. Once Airi was old enough to understand emotions, the first tragedy of her life began. Her parents were killed due to unknown causes, so her aunt unwillingly took her in. She would always talk down to the child as if Airi didn’t understand what she was saying, but she knew the meaning of the hurtful words all too well. “Stupid.” “Useless.” “Just a waste of money.” Her family was born poor and struggled to find money, and her aunt made sure to repeat this at any occasion she could. Through all the emotional abuse, Airi became aloof to her surroundings. She avoided people around her in fear of becoming the useless, stupid person her aunt had her believe she was. With all the alone time, she would often think to herself, and with her thoughts, this negative voice arose. She could immediately tell that this voice wasn’t her own. It had its own personality and it emanated darkness. This dark voice told her the reason why she was all alone. She bore a curse that would kill all that she loves.
Although the aunt despised the child, she still took care of her for some time until the opportunity arose for the aunt to gain some money in a short amount of time. She sold Airi to a well-off man and bathed in her riches. Through crying eyes, the young girl cried for the woman who discarded her so easily. She didn’t want to go with a man whom she knew nothing of. He scared her, seeming almost lecherous. The man brought Airi to a building filled with many women. There, he told her that she would be forced to become a entertainer, a geisha, if she wanted to be fed with a roof over her head. Until the age of 15, Airi was trained by the many women around her. She grew respect for her teachers and felt saddened after hearing their stories. Most of them didn’t want to live a life serving under men, and the owner would often have the geisha become prostitutes to increase his profits. After becoming accustomed to performing for men, Airi did as she was told until one man came along. He would often ask for her specifically. Once alone, he would tell her to perform acts that were indecent. After refusing the man multiple times, he would grab her hair, yell at her and oftentimes hit her. He would do this and would leave when he was satisfied. The owner couldn’t care less about the well-being of the girls who worked for him as long as they brought profit.
One of the times that he came, the man pushed Airi too far. In an attempt to escape from the man, Airi tried to fight back. She grabbed the closest weapon she could find and stabbed the man. With fear in her eyes, she watched as his body fell to the ground. In a panic, she ran as far as she could to a place she could hide. She knew the consequences of what she had just done. She had just killed a man of high social standing, a well known man amongst the people. If it became known that she killed him, even out of self defense, she would be executed. She wiped off her makeup and took off her fancy clothes to reveal a much lighter and thinner outfit. Her kimono would make her stand out. In order to not be recognized, she cut her hair short and tried to hide her face with her clothing whenever she would go out. She used the ruse of a man. She believed that acting and looking like a man gave her an advantage. They were the ones in charge. Her new persona of a man also brought along a new name. No one would suspect her. Her body was long and slender. She didn’t have much curve so she easily passed as a young boy. She decided she would be called Yuudai Saito. In an attempt to start anew and escape her past, she went by this name. With no money, and no place to go, she stuck to alleyways and tried to mix among the common people. She was forced to resort to stealing to gain any sort of food. Years had passed and Airi’s clothes had become filthy and torn. Her face was barely recognizable under the dirt and she had become scraggly. She was approached by an old man. He offered her a place to stay. All she had to do was help around the house with chores and the like. She took the opportunity to truly be able to have a new beginning. She slowly got accustomed to the place she was brought to. The old man gave her a place to stay at his dojo. Admiring the fighting and sword skills being taught, she would start to watch the sparring between the fighters and would then mimic what she had remembered at a later time when she was alone. The old teacher noticed her nighttime disappearances and confronted her about it. He asked if she would like to participate in his lessons. She had agreed, but in the back of her mind, she thought about how much she fears being touched by others. She developed haphephobia after the traumatizing experience at the geisha house. Sparring would prove to be difficult. She worked hard and trained outside of her lessons to try to catch up to everyone. Once she believed she had learned all that she could, she took what little belongings she owned and left the dojo without a word. If she stayed too long, she would have become too attached to everyone and her friendship would result in their demise. In order to save everyone from her personal burden, she left them.
With her newly acquired swordsmanship and abilities, Airi was able to take the duty of a samurai. However, without a lord to serve, she was a simple swordsman. She often took small jobs that were offered around. She remained without a home and would often travel looking for a job. Although she took on swordsmanship for a respect for the art, she used her skills selfishly and would discreetly cut down any man who disrespected women. She believed that the women of the era needed to be treated better and would remind others who abused or mistreated them with her blade. She knew how to make a clean getaway from the years she had spent running away. The women often gossiped about the men and praised the killer for getting rid of the “good-for-nothing” abusers. Word spread throughout the towns and people started to notice the similarities in all the men. People shared the news that if one ever treats a woman badly, they would be attacked by the “witch”, or other times called the “women’s curse.” Along her travels, Airi was once hired by a young lord who wanted her to be his bodyguard. He’d heard word of the wandering swordsman and wanted to meet. She was known for her acceptable skills and he thought she would be able to protect him. After staying at his residence for a while, Airi began to notice how selfless and kind the lord was. Overtime, he slowly began to earn her trust. She agreed with the man on many points and decided to devote her life to serving him as his samurai. He had her work close by at all times and would often ask her for her thoughts, curious to the person that she was. Airi knew deep down that she had grown attached to the lord. She respected and trusted him with all she had. Although, the curse still lurked, and so, Airi would refuse his friendship as much as she could. Whenever the voice of the curse arose in her mind, she would deny any attachment to him. However, it was already too late. She cared for him as much as she would for a friend. As much as she knew these feelings of love and admiration would result in devastation, it was difficult for her to suppress her emotions. But, determined to keep up her guise as Yuudai Saito and uphold her samurai title, she responded bluntly and coldly towards everyone to refrain from getting too close to anyone.
She started to notice slight misfortunes happening around her lord. To any other person, it would seem as if the lord had a bit of bad luck, but Airi knew better. These mishaps seemed all too familiar. She kept close to the lord, attempting to save and protect him in any way she can. Gradually, these attacks became more aggressive and happened more often. One of the times, Airi was just barely able to push the lord out of the way from a sharp, falling object. In the crossfire, the point pierced her shoulder. She was highly praised for having saved the lord’s life. While her shoulder was being treated, the lord approached her. Through her despair, she wished to tell the lord her problems. She knew that at this point, it was either him or her. Only one would survive the tragedy of the curse. As strong-willed as she was, Airi had chosen to sacrifice herself. She refused to let another person whom she cared for to fall victim due to her personal curse. When Airi had made her final decision, the lord walked into the quiet room and ran to her side to stop the blade from piercing her. However, he was too late. Punctured into her stomach, the sword was pulled out by the panicked man beside her. Spewing blood from her mouth, it was difficult to speak. In her final words, Airi was able to squeak out that she did this to protect him for the curse would get him if she had lived. With so many questions lingering in his mind, the lord remained speechless and wasn’t sure what to do, so he did as any other would and cried. He stayed there, holding her body close, until the people serving under him came to see what the commotion was about. He had deemed her a hero for saving his life on more than one occasion.