A new chapter of Samurai NOT
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Samurai NOT 38
“Tadayoshi, I’m gonna visit an old friend.” Were the first words he heard as he entered the dojo.
“For how long will you be gone?” he asked after a while, not sure if that was what his master expected.
It wasn’t unusual for Yasuhiro to leave the state for longs periods. It was, however, for him to inform his disciple like that. Whenever it happened, he trained with Iori, or if the son went with his father, with Masa.
In the few times he caught his master before leaving for another travel, when he asked, Yasuhiro mocked him, saying little children shouldn’t know, and that he shouldn’t cry because he would soon be back.
“For a week, maybe a little longer, maybe less, I don’t know. It’s not that far from here. We leave after midday.”
The old man snorted. “Yes, we. You think I’m telling you because I worry you’ll cry without me?”
Tadayoshi had no idea how to react. “I… I’ll get ready…”
After the morning training and the meal, they were ready to leave.
It was strange for him being the one leaving. It was even stranger when Masa, Hikari, Iori, Inori, and Kenshin were the ones saying goodbye.
For a moment, Tadayoshi thought the old man had grown tired of him and wanted to get rid of the boy. He knew it wasn’t what. All the samurai had to do was order him to leave and there that was it.
So why is he taking me? Where is he taking me?
Even if Tadayoshi was willing to keep quiet, his curiosity was growing too much. When he asked, where they were going, the old man only said ‘I told you. To see an old friend’ and nothing else.
Tadayoshi wasn’t fond of spending a lot of time on a horse’s back, and the silence made it even worse. Especially after the sky darkened due to heavy clouds and the old man picked up the pace, making the ride more intense.
He was beginning to dislike riding a horse even more.
“Are we there yet?” Tadayoshi asked when he couldn’t stand anymore; his legs were aching too much. Through the top of the trees, he could tell the sun was almost setting.
“Damn it! You had to ask now! I lost to Masa again!” Yasuhiro let out a loud laugh. “I thought you’d complain much sooner. Iori managed as much stay in silence, but Inori complained almost as we left. And yes. We are.”
As they left the forest, Tadayoshi saw a huge construction on a mountain. He had only heard, but he knew what it was. A temple…
With tall columns and curved roofs, the red and gold construction was beyond impressive. Even the tori at the foot of the mountain was amazing.
“I knew you’d show a face like that,” The old man just laughed at his disciple’s reaction. “I know I might be asking too much, but try to behave like in a way befitting of me and not like, a boy raised in the woods. You know, not attacking me and such at least for a while. The leader of this temple is a close friend and I’d like to give him a heads up before you show your true colors.”
Tadayoshi kept quiet. It had taken him too long, but he had finally learned to not react to his master’s jokes, or they would increase.
Inori was harder to ignore though.
As they left the horses in a small stable at the foot of the mountain, everyone came to greet them. Or better yet, Yasuhiro. No one had even batted an eye to the boy next to the samurai.
“Yasuhiro-sama. I’m so glad to see you well.”
“It’s been a while since the last time you visited.”
Look at them… It’s like they admire the old man… If they knew how he truly is at home, Tadayoshi thought.
After talking to most, they proceeded the rest of the way on foot, passing by the rows of tori. The boy could help but feel as if he was entering a special place.
Though it wasn’t a tall mountain, thanks to the horse ride, it took too long to reach the temple. By the time Tadayoshi saw the temple rise before him, his legs were throbbing too much to take another step.
A man who looked about the same age as Yasuhiro was waiting for them at the entrance. He was surrounded by a few children. Unlike the samurai, the priest was bold and had a serious aura around him.
It’s like they’re the opposite of each other… Are they really close friends…?
The priest’s expression was unreadable was the samurai got closer. When they were within a sword’s reach of each other, the bald man smiled and extended the arm. “My old friend, how good to see you alive. At your age, it’s not hard to think the last time would be the last forever.”
Yasuhiro let out a loud hearty laugh as he grabbed the priest’s arm. “Look who’s talking. No one believes when I say you’re still alive. Some even ask if you’re even balder!”
As they talked, Tadayoshi was more interested in children by the priest’s side. Judging by their height, they all seemed around the same age or a little younger than him. Except for a boy with a mean look. He looked older.
A girl with a silky black hair smiled at Tadayoshi. When he turned to her, the older looking boy took a step closer to the girl, his face even meaner.
Tadayoshi stared blankly. He’s just like Ken when Hikari tends to my wounds. He’s jealous… Ignoring the taller, he followed his master as the priest led the samurai inside the temple.
As he had learned, or better yet, as the old man had forcefully taught him, Tadayoshi bent the knees and sat on his legs, leaving some room between him and his master. It was the respectful way to sit in such situations.
That was the extent of his respect. He was not paying attention to the conversation. What he waited as an opening. He’s bound to drop his guard if he’s talking to an old friend.
Even if they were in a different place, the promise was still valid. If he landed a hit on his master, he could get the third weapon on his master’s waist. It was Tadayoshi’s weapon back and he wanted back. Though nothing had happened, he still didn’t like the idea of only having a wooden sword at hands.
After what seemed like an eternity, the priest was laughing and finally standing up. Yasuhiro was about to do the same when Tadayoshi didn’t think twice and drew his wooden sword, attacking his master.
A sneak attack while he was standing up. For a brief moment, he thought he would finally have his sword back.
However, the old man leaned his body back and dodged the attack. The instant his disciple lost the balance, he grabbed Tadayoshi’s arm with one hand and placed the other under the armpit.
Before he could tell what had happened, Tadayoshi saw temple spinning in every direction until finally all disappear in the midst of broken wood and dirt, his head and his body aching. The next thing he noticed was the starry sky. The stars are pretty, he thought as his head stopped spinning.
“I knew you’d try to attack me. You were too quiet for too long,” the boy heard his master’s voice coming from a distance place. “Oh, well. At least try not to have so much hostility. It’s like you’re shouting you wanna attack me.”
“You said he was like that but seeing is different…” The priest said.
“I told you. A wild brat. But he’s interesting…” The voices faded away.
Tadayoshi tried to sit. The pain was too much effort and he gave up, waiting still until he could move.
“I thought you looked stupid. Now I’m sure,” a voice spoke near him.
With difficulty, Tadayoshi opened his eyes. Against a fire from a torch, he couldn’t see who was talking.
“How can anyone be dumb enough to attack Yasuhiro-sama like that? And aren’t you his disciple? Why you did that?”
Though whoever spoke talked in a normal conversational tone, Tadayoshi could sense the mocking behind it. When his eyes finally got used to the light, he saw who was talking to him; the older boy who glared at him when the girl smiled at him earlier.
“I need to hit him just once.” Tadayoshi picked up his wooden sword and stood up.
“Why? Is it some kind of training?”
“The old man said he’d only give my sword back if I hit him at least once. I want my sword back. I can’t do anything with this piece of wood,” he added before the boy could say anything.
Instead of speaking the older boy laughed.
“There’s so much wrong in that, I don’t know where to begin! First, you’re an idiot. A real idiot. I need to make that very clear. You call him the old man, but Yasuhiro-sama is one of the strongest samurai in the country. If you think you can hit him like that, or even get him off guard, you can only be an idiot. Second, a piece of wood can kill someone. You’re weak if you can’t even realize this.”
Tadayoshi blinked at him. The old man is one of the strongest…? No way…
The boy laughed again. “It looks like you don’t know anything. I’ll prove you’re weak, demon child Ashura.”
It had been a long time since he had heard those words. It had never bothered him, but hearing from that annoying boy made him mad.
“Ryuu!” he shouted.
One of the kids watching from far away ran inside the temple. He came back a few moments later with a staff. Before he handed to the older boy, Ryuu tripped.
Though he was tall, the weapon was almost twice his height. Even so, he seemed as threatening as Iori with a sword in hands.
“Come, Ashura. I’m gonna show you what you can do with a stick.”
When the boy flashed a faint smile, Tadayoshi felt an aura closer Inori. He’s strong…
Gulped, he grabbed the wooden sword with both hands and raised it before him. But he didn’t move.
“What’s wrong? Are you afraid of someone with a stick?”
“What? What’s that?”
“Ah… Really? That’s a strange name. Demon child Ashura is much cooler, if you ask me.” The boy smirked. “Speaking of which, I haven’t introduced myself either. I’m Taichi, the guy who’s gonna beat the crap out of you until you learn what a piece of stick can do.”
The moment he finished speaking, Tadayoshi charged.
Taichi met the sword with the stick and redirected almost without any effort.
The wooden blade slid down and hit the ground with more force than it should have, making Tadayoshi lose the balance.
Even like that, he swung the sword back, attacking from that position.
Before his sword could get any closer to his target, Taichi stabbed him on the shoulder with the staff. For the second time on that day, he was on the ground.
Despite the pain, Tadayoshi stood up. Iori beating him is one thing. But he couldn’t take this boy who he barely knew making fun on him.
With his mind blank, he attacked in every way he could.
It was the same as nothing.
Taichi diverted all attacks with the staff with incredible ease and swiftness. It was as if there were a barrier around the priest apprentice nullified all of Tadayoshi’s attempts.
While he got madder and madder, the older boy, on the other hand, seemed to enjoy, even more when he struck Tadayoshi again and again. Even though it was made of wood, every time the staff hit, it was as painful as if made of blunt metal.
“I’m impressed, really. You sure know how to take a beating like no one else. Around our age, there are only a few who could withstand so much from me and still stand.” Though he had an annoying smug, it soon vanished. “Hey, hey. I’m praising you, Tadayoshi. You should be happy I’m doing this.”
The boy barely listened. He was busy trying to stand up. Damn it… how many times he made me fall? He’s just a few years older than me… why can’t I hit him? He’s not even as fast as Iori! How come there’s someone so young and this strong?
No matter what he did, his sword never seemed to get close to his opponent.
With a fast blow, Taichi hit the wooden sword, which flew out of its owner’s numb hand.
“It’s impressive and all, but how are you still standing? Or you’re one of those who enjoys pain…?” he didn’t hide the disgust when he put the staff on the floor and used it to support himself.
Despite the pain, Tadayoshi couldn’t help but laugh. “You forgot who my master is. He likes to best, I mean, train me way worse than this.”
With the face of someone who knew that pain, the boy laughed too.
“So Yasuhiro-sama is just like the head priest… No wonder they’re almost like brothers. Ryuu!” One of the kids who was watching the fight came forward, almost stumbling on nothing. “Can you take care of his injuries?”
Ryuu nodded several times. He was small and seemed to be one of the youngest apprentices. Even with his hair blocking most of his face, the boy could the apprentice was afraid. While Taichi offered a hand and helped Tadayoshi, he ran back to the temple, once again almost stumbling on nothing.
Taichi led Tadayoshi to one of the rooms in the back of the temple. But when Ryuu arrived with a bag on his back that was too big for him and a basin of water, he walked to the door.
“I’ll leave you two at it. I can’t stand the smell of those herbs,” he said before leaving.
Without a word, Ryuu took several materials from the bag. Then he started by cleaning the bruises with a moist cloth. When he noticed Tadayoshi watching, he widened his eyes and lowered the head, focusing on the job.
“M-my name is Ryuunosuke b-but everyone calls me of Ryuu,” he said when rhe silence had gone for too long. But it was soon back.
“Are you training to be a priest too?” Tadayoshi asked. He didn’t care, but part of him wanted to stop the silence. It was strange to have his wounds treated like this. Hikari always talked and made him feel better.
“Y-yes… for now, I’m just an apprentice…” Ryuu flashed a tiny and bitter smile. “There’s a long way until I can call myself a priest…”
Tadayoshi said nothing else. Even if the silence bothered him, when he saw Ryuu crushing the herbs, he winced. Closing his eyes, he waited for the itching, but it never came. It would have been a perfect treatment if the apprentice hadn’t used too much bandages it was hard to move.
“S-sorry… the head priest says I tend to exaggerate,” Ryuu said in a low voice, looking away.
Tadayoshi moved the arm to check and smiled when he realized it wasn’t throbbing. “Thanks.”
Ryuu flashed a wide smile, but before he could say anything, Taichi showed up, saying it was time for supper.
All the apprentices of the temple, the priests, the head priest, Yasuhiro, and Tadayoshi dined in the hall.
Despite the number of people in the hall, the boy couldn’t help but feel strange at the quiet meal. At his master’s house, the meals were noisy and fun, especially thanks to Inori.
Maybe this is normal and the old man’s house is the strange one, he thought. I prefer like that…
Thanks for reading.
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