A new chapter of SN
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Samurai NOT 30
“Are you sure about this?” A bearded old man looked at the young man missing a few fingers from the right hand. He didn’t hide his disbelief as he turned to the child, full of bruises, tied to a tree. “This kid is the demon child who cut off your fingers, Tokage?
“That’s him!” shouted the tall boy call Tokage, pointing with the mangled limb to the boy. The moment he did, the bandages, already soaked red, dripped with blood and he held it with the other hand, his face scowling with pain.
It had been a few days since the boy cut the fingers with the rusty blade. Even so, the mangled hand was still bleeding, and the skin around the wrist pale. Even from that distance, the boy tied up could smell the stench of death. The limb was rotting.
In the middle of the night, as he lied against a tree, hugging his sword, the boy woke when he sensed people. As the four strangers blocked his path, his hand went for the handle of his sword. But it wasn’t there. As he looked in the eyes of the strangers, before he could run, one of the men hit him on the head and he fainted.
When he recovered his consciousness, he was tied and surrounded by over forty men and women, ranging from old to young, even a couple of kids younger than him.
“I don’t know why you brought him here, boss!” Despite the pain, Tokage spoke in a lower voice, holding the hand to stop the bleeding. Even so, there was a vein popping on his forehead, his eyes bloodshot as they darted to the boy. “Let me kill him now! He should pay for what he did!”
“Like you did to me when you were younger?” The bearded man said, waving the left hand. It was missing the pinky finger.
Tokage swallowed his words and looked down.
Satisfied, the man got closer to the boy, crouching so their heads were at the same height.
“You cut off his fingers with this?” He showed the rusty sword, now nothing more than half of the blade it once was.
“It was longer,” were the boy’s only words, his face, and voice empty.
He had used the sword to catch a rabbit, and, though the meat satisfied his hunger, it costed more than a considerable piece. Now it could be barely called a sword.
Even so, it was still a weapon and the boy dragged it wherever he went.
The moment he heard those words, two men had to hold down Tokage. Even so, he tried to grab the boy with his good hand.
Bearded let out a loud laugh, his voice echoing through the forest.
“I like you, boy. You got spirit!”
“Please, boss, don’t do it. We already have too many mouths to feed…”
The people said here and there, followed by murmurs of agreement.
“How about if you join us?” The bearded man asked with a big smile despite the groans and sighs around him. “We need people like you in our group. And it’s gonna be safer for you too.”
Tokage became livid. The men had let him go, but they were still by his side, ready to grab him again if they had to.
The mangled tall boy was faster though. He elbowed one on the stomach and grabbed the other’s sword, who jumped back as Tokage banded the weapon at him.
“Have lost your mind?” The boss stood up glaring at the young man. There was nothing of his joyful expression. The others stepped back, giving room. “You know we don’t attack each other.”
Tokage bit his lips and averted his eyes. But when he looked at the boy, his rage won.
“I know that, boss, but you can’t be serious! Look what that demon did! And you want him to join us?” He almost shoved the mangled limb at the bearded man’s face. “He swung that huge sword and tore off my fingers as if it were nothing! He’s gonna pay for that!”
“You tried to get his sword.”
“You told us to check if there was anything left at the battlefield!”
“I never told you to steal. We don’t do that. We are scavengers, not thieves!”
“He attacked me!”
“So he should’ve done nothing and let you steal his sword?”
“So that’s what we are? A bunch of cowards who’d rather go hungry than to get a lousy sword from a random boy?”
The boss said nothing as Tokage’s words echoed in the silence.
He looked around trying to find support. When the others avoided his eyes, he bit his lips in frustration and turned to the boy again.
“I’ll kill him before he joins us!”
Some of the men moved to stand between Tokage and the boss, their hands on the handle of their crude weapons.
The bearded man did nothing as he stared at Tokage. Then he turned around. While he untied the kid, he whispered something so low only the boy heard before handing him the broken sword.
The boy narrowed his eyes as he clutched the handle.
The boss only smiled before turning to Tokage.
“If you wanna kill him, I can’t stop you. I can tell you’d try that no matter what. But you’re already old enough. Be a man and do it right. Killing a child tied to a tree would be shameful even thieves.”
The moment the boss and the others got out of the way, Tokage charged like a beast.
The boy held the broken sword before him, just as he had seen a few samurais training when he sneaked into the cities. Now with only half of it, the weapon was light enough for him to hold it properly.
His mind was already replaying all the fights he had watched from afar. With only one hand on the handle, the enemy had lost half his strength. Even he knew that. But Tokage was older and stronger than him.
If so, he had to rely on what the bearded man had whispered to him. The good hand is the weak one. However, the boy wasn’t sure he could trust those words.
If that was true, the best would be to fall back and wait for the chance. But with a rusty sword, it wasn’t possible. With two or three clashes, the weapon would break and he would have nothing to defend nor to attack.
Tokage was almost within his reach when the boy made his decision.
Instead of waiting, he charged.
When Tokage swung the weapon, the boy jumped to the left hand, escaping the blow and aiming at the mangled hand.
With the blade in that state, it wasn’t enough to cut the remaining fingers. It was, however, enough to hurt.
Tokage shouted and dropped the sword at the same time.
The boy tossed his weapon side and grabbed the new one at once. Without wasting time, he held the blade at Tokage’s throat. Before he could end the other’s life, a hand held him by the shoulder.
“That’s enough,” the boss said in a worried voice. “You lost, Tokage. This boy will join our group and you can’t try to hurt him anymore. You know the rules.”
Tokage looked at the boss and then at the boy. There was only rage and tears in his eyes as his friend helped him walk.
The scavengers remained for a while but then walked away until there were only the boy and the boss.
“I said that, but you didn’t answer. Do you wanna join us?” he asked in a kind voice, something the boy had received in a long time.
“Why you want me?” the boy asked in the same emotionless tone.
“I like you, boy. You remind me my son.”
The kid said nothing. All he did was look in the direction Tokage had disappeared.
“Don’t worry about him. He’s mad but he knows the rules. We don’t attack each other,” he said, looking in the same direction. When he turned, he was smiling again. “So, what do you say? I know you might not like joining a scavenger ground. It’s not a pretty job, but at least you won’t go hungry with us.”
The boy’s stomach grunted loudly and he nodded, getting another hearty laugh from the bearded man.
Thanks for reading.
Hope you enjoyed SN
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