Last chapter of part 1
The sun had barely risen when Tadayoshi opened his eyes. Still lying on his straw bed, he expended his senses. When the swordsman confirmed he was alone inside the room, he sat up.
His body throbbed and the green paste, now dry and hard, made each movement hurt a little. Tadayoshi winced, but ignored the pain. I don’t have time to waste. The advisor could be back any moment now… and with more soldiers, he thought, removing the paste with his hand. And it’s best to leave before the villagers wake up anyway. This way I can put my hands on some clothes.
While cleaning himself as best he could, Tadayoshi turned around, but when he saw the bowl of food next to his bed, his hands stopped. I was so tired I missed someone passing by me, he realized, a smile crossing his face. But it disappeared right away when he pressed his lips. Even if the chief and his wife were quiet, I should’ve noticed. They wouldn’t harm me, but if it happened elsewhere… Taking a deep breath, he mentally thanked for the food and ate it.
“We haven’t thanked you properly for saving us.”
Tadayoshi turned the moment he heard the chief’s voice coming from the door. When he saw Daisuke-dono, Sumire-dono and Ei entering the house, a meager smile appeared on the swordsman’s lips. How exhausted am I to miss three people? He said nothing as the trio walked to him.
Both Daisuke-dono and Sumire-dono had red eyes. Ei, on the other hand, had dark circles around his. “Thank you very much,” the chief and his wife spoke together. The boy only stared at him, but he bowed along with the couple.
“There’s no need for that,” Tadayoshi said, looking away. “I told you I fought for my own reasons.”
“You saved us. And because of that, I wished we had more than this to give,” Daisuke-dono said and then looked at his wife.
Sumire-dono handed Tadayoshi two wrappings. One he could tell what it was by the smell; food. It can last for a few days, more if I rationed, he thought, judging by the weight. Ever since he began his journey, the swordsman never had any provision, and always had to look for food when his body needed.
The second wrapping was soft and light. Clothes, Tadayoshi realized, his eyes widening. He placed the food with his swords and unwrapped the package. The two-piece kimono was simple, but it was clean and most importantly, in a good state. Comparing to my rags, these are clothes of a lord. There was even underwear, sandals, socks and a sash.
“They belonged to our son…” Sumire-dono had a sad smile, the tears threatening to fall from her eyes. Tadayoshi opened his mouth, but then closed it, pressing his lips. “It’s all right,” she added, looking him in the eyes for the first time. “You deserve more than this.”
I never thought accepting clothes would make me feel guiltier than if I stole, he thought, heading to change in the chief’s room. The black bottom matched the dark blue top, and it fit almost perfectly, the top a bit loose. I guess their son was a bit bigger than me, he noted, tying with the sash.
“They look good on you,” Sumire-dono complemented him. Thought her cheeks were wet and her eyes even redder, the smile was genuine, making his guilt feeling vanish a bit.
While Tadayoshi gathered his possessions, he could feel the boy staring him. I know what’s in your head. And I won’t say anything, he said to himself. That’s your decision. I won’t help you make it.
The swordsman placed the katana and Asahi on his left side and the wakizashi on the right, tying on his waist with the sash. The diary and the knife went inside his kimono and using his old clothes, he wrapped together the food, the sack and the other the other two weapons he got as payment.
Turning to the chief and his wife, he made an exaggerated movement, showing his new possessions. “Thank you for all this.” I think it’s the first time I have so much to carry, he thought, smiling.
“No… This is the least we can do…” Daisuke-dono avoided his eyes. “I’m sorry for—”
“I said there’s no problem,” Tadayoshi interrupted the chief, tired of that subject. “I don’t fight for reward of for glory.” My name’s so ruined there’ll never be any glory in my future. I’ll go down in history as the man who killed Yasuhiro, he thought, a sad smile on his lips. The swordsman looked at Ei, who still hadn’t said a word, and then back to the couple. “Actually, it’s best if I leave soon. I don’t want to bring trouble to the village.” Or to give time to someone think the rewards is too much to let it go, the words popped in his head, but he kept it to himself.
Daisuke-dono sighed in relief and Tadayoshi couldn’t help but smile. So he’s really one of the few who can look past my name and reputation. The chief, together with his wife, knelt and placed both hands on the floor, lowering his head.
“There’s no need for dogeza! That much formality to someone as me…” Tadayoshi trailed off, looking away. Even master felt awkward in his situations… With a heavy sigh, he looked at the couple. “Maybe our path shall cross again,” he said, holding his sudden urge to laugh. I finally got to use one of master’s sentences.
The chief and Sumire-dono made another reverence, but Tadayoshi barely paid them attention, putting on the new sandals and leaving the house. I lost too much time already…
From the corner of his eyes, Tadayoshi saw Ei following him with the same empty expression. The boy opened and closed his mouth, but the swordsman didn’t slow down. Many villagers stopped their chores to watch him, but none said anything nor tried to stop him, so Tadayoshi ignored them.
Ei still hadn’t said a word, but when they were almost near the village’s entrance, he halted completely. Without stopping, Tadayoshi turned his head. The boy stared one of the ruined houses, but his eyes saw beyond the scorched wood.
So the memories will keep you here? Tadayoshi wondered, remembering their conversation. Guess your determination isn’t that strong now… too bad, he thought, sighing. Wait… Did I want a disciple because of my master’s words… or because maybe I could leave something to my name?
Tadayoshi was already in the forest when he heard hurried steps. The swordsman suppress his smile before turning around.
Ei panted heavily. He placed both hand on the knees recover his breath, but never took his eyes from Tadayoshi.
The swordsman stared him in the eyes with the same serious expression he had during the fight, the desire to smile gone.
The boy opened his mouth, but under the swordsman’s eyes, his lips trembled and no voice came from him. Ei lowered his head. “I… I…”
“What do you want?” Tadayoshi asked in a low voice.
Ei became still and suddenly raised his head, looking Tadayoshi in the eyes. “I wanna be strong!” he screamed with all he had. “I don’t just wanna cry and do nothing ever again! I want you to make me strong!” Ei panted even more now, but he didn’t blink
With his face expressionless, Tadayoshi closed his eyes. “It’s not easy. Do you have the courage and determination to after something like that?” He opened his eyes, leaving his words in the air.
“I want to change,” Ei said, without hesitation this time. “I don’t want be someone who can only depend on others! I want to be strong, want to be a samurai!” Ei’s eyes had the mysterious spark that caught Tadayoshi’s attention back.
His determination is stronger now, the swordsman thought, pressing his lips to hold the smile.
His last memories with his master came back to his mind. Though part of him always imagined what would be like to train a disciple, and put him through everything he suffered, Tadayoshi had never considered for real.
I shouldn’t be the successor of the style. I’m just kid master found on the streets. Kenshin should have been the one chosen, since Iori is in the middle of finding himself… Thinking of his old life made him lost himself in memories.
Tadayoshi shook his head to dismiss the nostalgia. Maybe a disciple wouldn’t be so bad, he thought.
“I don’t know what lies ahead my path. It’s dangerous and you could die,” he said, turning around and walking, the smile back to his face. “Since I’m no master, I hope a weak brat like you won’t die with my trainings. And most important, I’m not a samurai.”
The boy ran to keep up with him. When he was at Tadayoshi’s side, the swordsman held the wrapping with food and the swords on his front. Ei turned his arms and trembled under the weight.
“Careful brat. A sword is heavier than you think,” Tadayoshi said, suddenly serious.
“My name… isn’t brat,” the boy said, struggling to keep up with the extra weight. “It’s… Eiko…”
“Eiko, huh? A rather feminine name…” Tadayoshi widened his eyes when he finally understood. “ You’re a girl?”
With difficult, she balanced the wrapping in one hand and pulled the string holding her hair with the other. When she looked up at him, she showed something Tadayoshi hadn’t seen the girl doing once since they met; a smile.
Thanks for reading Samurai NOT Part 1
A long time ago, this was supposed to be just a short story, but it expanded in my head and now it’s much more than just a short story.
Part 2 is written, but it will take a while for me to translate into English
See you in Part 2