Sixteen-year-old Lilly has always believed that everyone has a choice as to how they live their life. They may be scared or think that things will never get better, but they have to stay positive if they want to be truly happy. When she was thirteen, her father would constantly abuse her mother to the point where he killed her. By the time the police arrived after Lilly called them, her father had already killed himself. Ever since then, Lilly has been living in the small apartment she shared with her parents by herself. It's a little uncomfortable, but she doesn't complain because she has something her mother didn't have: independence. Lilly may have been a sweet, pretty, innocent girl with curly, blonde hair and a smile that was as bright as the sun, but she was about to meet a strong warrior who would soon lean on her for strength.
Although Lilly lived in the big city, she liked to take a walk through the forest on the other side of town after school. She was used to seeing tall trees and beautiful flowers, but what she was not expecting to see there was a guy sitting against a log. He looked to be around sixteen, her age. He had his hands in his face and Lilly could see tears falling down his face. Her heart dropped. She could see that he was dressed in an unusual way. He was wearing a robe similar to what karate fighters wear. The robe was white and he had a black belt around it. Lilly immediately wanted to walk over to him and ask if he was okay, but was scared. Still, she couldn't just walk away when this guy was clearly upset. "Um, excuse me?" Lilly said as she shakily walked to the stranger. "Are you all right?" As she got closer, she realized the stranger had long, straight, fiery, red hair. The stranger slowly moved his hands from his face, tears still in his eyes. He saw the girl looking at him with both sympathy and fear in her eyes. "No. No, I'm not," he quietly replied with sorrow in his voice. He lowered his eyes, not wanting the girl to see the state he was in.
Lilly was really getting concerned and was trying to find some way of helping him. Then, she saw something that really took her breath away. She saw a long, thin object laying on the ground next to the stranger. It had a shiny, silver color with a black leather handle. It was a sword. That could only mean one thing. "Are you... a samurai?" She asked, her heart now beating at a thousand miles an hour. The stranger slowly got up from the ground. "Yeah, that's right," he said. He didn't seem to be angry, but Lilly could still feel that something was wrong. She started to slowly walk backwards. "Don't worry, I'm not gonna hurt you. I've got enough problems right now," the stranger said as he rubbed his head. Something was clearly on his mind, as he no longer looked at Lilly and instead looked at the sky. Since he said he wasn't going to hurt her, Lilly felt a little more brave and waked closer to the samurai to where they were only a few feet apart from each other. "My name is Lilly," she said as she shakily put out her hand and gave a very nervous smile. The samurai shook her hand and said, "My name is Zane."
"So, Zane," Lilly asked, feeling a little more at ease, "could you tell me what's wrong?" Zane gave Lilly a puzzled look, looked down at his sword on the ground, then back at Lilly. "You do realize I'm a samurai, right? Are you really that interested?" Zane wondered if this girl was serious. "Well, I guess. It's just you looked so sad. Maybe talking about it well help you feel better." Lilly couldn't believe she was talking to a samurai, but she was determined to help Zane any way she could. "Ugh! Where do I start!" Zane shouted as he grabbed his sword, and with a quick slash, cut a nearby tree down. Lilly felt like she was going to jump out of her skin. Zane was definitely mad, but immediately calmed down when he saw Lilly's terrified face. This girl didn't deserve to see him this way. He carefully sat on the ground. He knew he may regret telling Lilly his life story, but he needed to confide in someone.
"I come from a small village many miles from here. Since I was a kid, I learned martial arts from my master, Hector. He told me that samurai only use their skills to cause pain towards others and take power over them. Even at a young age, I knew this wasn't right, but was too scared to say anything. Then one day, Hector told me we were going to conquer the village. I couldn't support that so I ran away. By now, he's probably either made everyone do what he says or killed them." He paused and was almost about to start crying again. Lilly was more concerned than scared and she slowly put her hand his shoulder. "Zane, that's not your fault. Hector sounds like a monster. You did the right thing." Zane turned his head. "I know that, but it doesn't matter. He's probably conquered the village by now. He claimed I betrayed him, and was not welcomed in his dojo anymore. It was the only home I had ever known. I walked all the way to this forest, not knowing where to go or what to do." Zane looked at the end of his ropes. "Zane, why don't you come live with me?" Lilly couldn't believe that she was asking a samurai to come live with her, but she wasn't going to let Zane live by himself in the forest with no food, water or shelter; he could die! This girl is clearly crazy, Zane thought. A samurai living with a high school girl in the big city. However, he groaned because he knew he had nowhere else to go. "Fine," he hesitantly responded. Lilly smiled sweetly. She wasn't sure why she was so happy. She told herself it was because Zane would be okay, but in her heart, she knew she felt something for this samurai she had just met.
Lilly and Zane walked through the forest back to the city. Zane knew this wasn't a good idea, but what choice did he have? Lilly's apartment was across the street from the forest. It was a small, square-shaped building with a light brown or tan color. It reminded Zane of Hector's dojo, which made him even more uneasy than he already was. Lilly unlocked the door and they walked in. "Well, here we are," Lilly said cheerfully. "Welcome to my very humble abode." She's not kidding, Zane thought. This place is tiny. Lilly grabbed his hand. "Let me give you the tour." She was beginning to feel more confident. "Right now, we are in the living room. There is the couch, that's the TV..." "Hey, what's this?" Zane asked as he picked up a picture of Lilly's parents after their wedding day, obviously in happier times. "Oh, that's nothing," she said nervously as she took the picture from him. "Let's go the kitchen now, okay?" The kitchen had a sink, cabinets filled with dinnerware and silverware, a stove, a microwave and a refrigerator filled with both healthy and unhealthy food. "You must be starving. I'll cook you something and we can finish the tour later," Lilly said with a smile. Zane wasn't sure what was happening. Lilly was a lot less scared of him than when they first met. She even looked happy to have him there.
Lilly cooked cheeseburgers and French fries and went to the living room. She sat on the couch next to Zane and handed him his plate with a glass of root beer. Zane couldn't believe how good it was. He obviously had never had anything like this at the dojo. "Do you like it?" Lilly asked. "Mm-hmm," Zane responded with a full mouth. Lilly couldn't help but laugh. Zane swallowed. "What's so funny?" He asked, clearly annoyed. "Sorry, it's just I know you're not used to this kind of food." Zane smiled back. "You got that right." Lilly couldn't believe it. This was the first time she saw Zane smile. Maybe he can put his past behind him and finally be happy, she thought.
"Now, here is the bathroom. I hope it's not too different from your dojo," she joked with a giggle. Zane rolled his eyes and shook his head. "And last but not least, my room." Lilly's bedroom had a queen-sized bed with a red and blue-patterned quilt. There were a pair of Tiffany lamps on the nightstand with a large mirror. Zane looked at Lilly. "Um, why did you bring me here again?" He asked while raising an eyebrow. Lilly looked back at him with a grin on her face. "Duh! This is where you'll be sleeping." Zane blinked multiple times. "What?! No way!" he shouted. "This is your house. I can just sleep on the couch." Lilly shook her head. "No way. You've been through so much already. I want you to be comfortable." Zane knew it was pointless to argue. Why is she doing all this for me? Zane asked himself. Lilly looked at the clock. 6:00 P.M.. Plenty of time until she had to go to bed. "I'll be back," she said as she headed out the door. "Wait, where are you going?" Zane asked. "I'm going to the mall to get you some new clothes to wear. I can't let the whole city know you're a samurai, can I?" She said with a wink. Zane couldn't help but smirk right in front of her. This girl is smarter than he thought.
While Lilly was gone, Zane looked around the apartment, It was pretty ordinary and pretty small. He sat back on the couch wondering how this happened. One minute he was in the forest, lone and depressed. Now, here he was in this apartment with a girl who didn't mind that he was a samurai. He's never had anyone care about him like this before. He picked up the picture of Lilly's parents. Why doesn't she want to talk about them when they look so happy here? He wondered. Then again, I definitely have some secrets of my own. Hearing the door open, Zane quickly put the picture back and sat on the couch. "I'm back, and I've got some outfits for you to try on," Lilly stated as she walked in, carrying many shopping bags form numerous department stores. "Oh, my God! How much did all that stuff cost?!" Zane shouted. "Not nearly as much as you think," Lilly replied, raising her chin. "Everything was 60% off!" Were all girls from the city like this, Zane mumbled under his breath. Lilly sat on the couch next to Zane. "Now, let's pick out your disguise," Lilly joyfully said. Zane could tell she was enjoying this way too much. After two hours, Lilly felt that she had the perfect outfit. It was a red tank top with a white jacket, black denim jeans and Conserve sneakers. Lilly led Zane to her room so he could see himself in the tall mirror. "I look pretty cool," he said, not able to hide his smile. "Good. I'm happy," Lilly said as she smiled back.
She then yawned and looked at the clock. 10:30 P.M.. "I should get to bed. I have school tomorrow." "What am I supposed to do while you're at school?" Zane asked. "Just stay here and relax," she responded. "I don't know why you feel guilty about living here." Zane smiled and shake his head. "What?" Lilly asked, slightly annoyed. "Sorry. It's just that I've never met anyone like you before," Zane said as he stood up and put his hand on her shoulder. "Well, likewise. You're the first samurai I've ever met." Zane through his head back and let out a big, bellowing laugh. He knew he had never laughed like that before, but he didn't care. Lilly wasn't trying to be funny, but was happy just to see him laugh. After catching his breath, Zane said, "Well, I should let you get to sleep now." He walked out of the living room towards Lilly's room. "Okay. Good night," she quietly said as she laid on the couch.
The next day, Lilly left the apartment to go to school. It was 8:00 A.M.. and she would be back at 3:00 P.M.. Zane slept fine, but for some reason, all he could think about wwas the way Lilly quickly changed the subject when he asked her about her parents, all the things he had done for her and how he put her in danger just by living with her. Why is she always on my mind, he thought. That afternoon, Lilly came back. "How was school?" Zane asked her without making eye contact. "Fine," Lilly said slowly as she walked into the living room. "Is everything okay?" Zane knew he had to ask her. "Hey, Lilly," he asked. Lilly's heart dropped because this was the first time Zane had said her name. "Yes?" She replied while holding her chest. "What's up with that picture," he said as he pointed to the picture of Lilly's parents on their wedding day. Lilly sighed and sat next to Zane on the couch. She knew she would have to talk to Zane about it eventually.
"My parents were happy then. When I was in middle school, everything changed. My dad started abusing my mom." Zane shot up from his seat. "He did what?!" Zane didn't know why he was getting so pissed off, but he was. "He would hit her all the time," she continued. "It got so bad he eventually killed her." Zane tried to calm down, but was still clenching his teeth and forming fists in his hands. "Lilly, please tell me he didn't..." "No," Lilly responded, knowing what Zane was about to ask. "He never hit me." Good, he thought. "But... by the time I had called the police for help, he had already killed himself." Tears started to well up in her tears. Zane put his arms around Lilly and closed his eyes. She wiped her tears away and looked into Zane's eyes. "Since then, I've lived here by myself. I'm happy, which my mom never was." "Lilly, I wish I was like you," Zane said, feeling his heart drop in his stomach. "What do you mean," she asked. "You've been through so much and you still had a choice of what t do. I had no choice but to leave Hector." Zane put his hands in his face, similar to when he first met Lilly. "But Zane," she said with a shaky voice, "you chose to live with me instead of struggling to survive in the forest. So, you did have a choice. You left that old life behind and started again." She then smile and put her hand on his face. Zane looked up and smiled back. I'm home, he thought.
For the next two months, Zane lived with Lilly and felt happier every day. After school and during the weekends, they would do fun things like go to the arcade. "You are going to love this place," Lilly told him as they walked to the arcade. "If you say so," Zane said, as he looked behind him. He couldn't shake the feeling they were being watched. Lilly taught him to play all the games since he obviously had never seen anything like this before. However, there was one game he seemed to be a pro at. "Zane, look!" Lilly shouted as she pointed to a fighting game with a sword peripheral. "That's right up your alley!" "You bet it is," he replied while flashing a smile. He slashed the sword so fast and hard she didn't know what would break first: the sword or the game. When the game was over, Zane had the new high score. "Great job!" Lilly cheered as she gave him a big hug. "Thanks. That was fun," he said as they walked out of the arcade.
The following week, Zane stepped out from Lilly's room after getting dressed in his street clothes and walked into the living room. "Hey, Lilly, ready to go to the arcade?" Lilly was frozen, her hands shaking and her eyes glued outside of the apartment. Zane looked in horror at the man outside. Oh, no, Zane said to himself. The man had short gray hair and wore samurai robes similar to Zane's, except they were light blue instead of white. "So he's back," Zane said angrily with clenched teeth.
"Zane, what's going..." Lilly started to say. Suddenly, Zane grabbed Lilly by the wrist and took her to her bedroom. "Lilly, stay here, keep your door locked and don't get out no matter what." Zane was about to walk out of the door when Lilly asked, "Was that Hector?" Zane let out a heavy sigh. "Yeah. I know he's here to take me back to the dojo, but I'm never going back there again..." He paused then turned at Lilly. "Not when I'm so happy with you." He smiled at Lilly, still seeing the fear in her eyes. "Don't worry, Lilly. I won't let anything happen to you." Zane changed into his samurai clothes, grabbed his sword from under the couch and quickly ran out the door.
Right outside the apartment, Zane came face to face with his former master. "Well, well, well. It's been a long time, Zane," said Hector with an evil smile. "I thought you were a coward, but I had no idea." "What are you talking about?" Zane angrily asked. "You left the dojo you called home to dress like these pathetic people and live in that disgusting hovel," he replied, pointing to the apartment. "Anything's better than living with a monster," he retorted. 'You destroyed that innocent village and now you're going to the same to this city, not caring about all the people you could hurt." Hector crossed his arms. "It doesn't have to be that way. Just come back with me." "Never!" Zane shouted. "Very well," Hector said as he drew his sword.
Zane charged at him, but Hector blocked Zane's sword with his own, then kicked him to the ground. "Don't you understand? You're nothing without me. I made you what you are today ." Then, he stabbed Zane in the shoulder with his sword. Zane let out an incredibly painful wail so loud it woke Lilly up. She peeked outside the window and the sight made her almost pass out. Hector saw her looking at him. "So, that little girl was worth betraying me," he asked Zane, now more angry than arrogant. He twisted the sword further into Zane's skin. He started to cry with tears falling form his eyes. Lilly ran outside, knowing that Hector may kill her, but she didn't want Zane to feel powerless like her mom did. She knew she had to do something.
"Stop it!" Lilly yelled. Hector gave Lilly a smirk and swiftly pulled his sword out of Zane's shoulder. The sword was covered in blood and Zane was struggling to stay conscious. What did I just get myself into, Lilly thought. Hector grabbed her by the hair and put his sword to her throat. "What will you do if I don't?" He taunted. This brought flashbacks to Lilly's childhood when her dad put a knife to her mom's throat. However, unlike her mom, Lilly would fight back. She kicked Hector in the groin and he fell to the ground, groaning in pain. She ran over to Zane who was breathing better, but still had blood oozing from his open wound. "Zane!" Lilly cried. "Are you okay?" Instead of answering, Zane grabbed his sword and stabbed Hector in the back. "I'm not...going to...let you...control me anymore..." Zane stated in between winces. Hector gasped and tried to turn around to look at Zane, but couldn't. When he jumped to his feet he could feel Zane's sword pull out of his back, blood streaming out.
"Why..." Hector moaned. "Why does this little bitch mean so much to you," he snarled while pointing at Lilly. "She taught me how to live, how to make my own choices," Zane responded while pointing his sword at Hector. "I learned...how to be happy." "Happy," Hector scoffed. "Like I said, this city, this girl—it's all made you weak." He slowly stood up, blood still dropping onto the ground. Zane started to shake, almost dropping his sword. "Shut up! You don't know what you're talking about!" He shouted. "Lilly, get back inside!" Lilly ran towards the apartment but Hector pulled her by her hair and slammed her to the ground. He kneeled down and held her by her wrists. "You foolish girl. Don't you understand? A samurai is born to cause pain to others. Did you really think you could change anything?!" He laughed. Lilly breathed heavily as she saw Hector reach for his sword.
Suddenly, Zane tackled him to the ground next to Lilly and grabbed both his and Hector's swords. "DON'T YOU...EVER...HURT HER!!!" He screamed as he began to violently stab Hector with both swords. His eyes, face, arms, legs, chest—every part of Hector's body was vigorously stabbed as he let out blood-curdling screams of agony. Lilly slowly stood up and looked over herself. Oh, good, not stab wounds, she thought. Then, she almost passed out seeing Zane mutilate Hector. In his last breath, Hector began to laugh. "We are one in the same. You try to convince your little girlfriend you've changed? Don't be a fool! You will always be just like me: a cold-blooded killing machine!" Zane began to cry and tears fell in the wounds where he had stabbed Hector. Without another word, Zane took both swords and plunged them into the depths of Hector's chest, puncturing his heart. After one final gasp of breath, his eyes closed and he laid there—dead.
After witnessing such carnage, Lilly began to fell faint. "Zane, I need to lay down," Lilly said, feeling like she was going to throw up. Zane picked her up and carried her into the house. He carefully laid her onto the couch. Despite his messy fight with Hector, there wasn't a drop of blood on Lilly. Zane, on the other hand, saw blotches of blood all over his white robe. They had seeped in to make a shade of pink that was sickly, not sweet. After about 10 minutes, Lilly sat up on the couch. "I feel a little better now," Lilly said with a smile, trying to put Zane at ease, but it wasn't working. "It's all my fault!" Zane growled as he punched the wall. Lilly felt like she was going to cry. Just as she was about to ask him what he meant, he stood up from the side of the couch. "Lilly, thank you for everything, but it's hopeless. This is the life I was born to live. Nothing can change that," Zane said as he headed out the door.
"Zane, wait! Please don't go!" Lilly shouted. "I know that killing Hector did not solve all of your problems but who decided you have to live this way?" Zane stared at the floor, frozen in shock. He then turned around and gave Lilly a big hug. "I love you, Lilly!" Zane cried. "I love you so much!" Lilly's eyes widened. Did he really just say what she though he said? "That's why..." Zane continued, "I can't live here with you anymore." Lilly's whole body started to shake. "I don't understand. We clearly care for each other, so what's the problem?" "Hector was right. There's nothing you or anyone can do to change my destiny. I was meant to cause pain to others before they hurt me." Zane slumped onto Lilly's bed.
"Zane, I'm sorry, but that's a load of crap!" Lilly proclaimed as she stood above Zane. "Like I said, who decided your life has to be that way? You can't just run away from your problems and think you have no control over your life. You've made so many of your own choices. You chose to live with me when you could have stayed in the forest. You went to the arcade with me and had a great time instead of moping about your past. You chose to beat Hector instead of just giving up." She sat on the bed next to him.
"My mom chose to let my dad abuse her. My dad chose to kill himself. You could have chosen to be miserable like them, but instead you chose to be happy..." She held his hand. "Here, with me." Zane looked at Lilly and he started to smile. "You know, Hector used to tell me that a samurai only fights for himself, but obviously, now I see he was wrong." Before Lilly asked what he meant, he leaned over and kissed her. Lilly's face turned hot and she felt her heart about to explode. "I realize that I have to keep fighting...for the person that I love." Lilly put her head on Zane's shoulder. "I love you, too," she replied in a quiet angel-like voice. After spending most of his life running from his past, Zane was finally able to choose his own destiny. He realized he didn't need to have a sword in his hand to feel strong. As long as he was with Lilly, there was nothing he couldn't do.