A new chapter of Samurai NOT
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Samurai NOT 43
“Did you see him?” a voice shouted through the forest.
“He’s around here!” another person answered.
“We need to find him!” a third man screamed.
Tadayoshi felt all the hate coursing in those men. It wasn’t my fault… master… He felt the urge to cry again but forced himself to swallow the tears. If he made any sound, he would be found.
So the young man remained still, waiting for the people below him to leave. He didn’t even breath, worried it would give away his location.
Instead of leaving, however, more people joined the soldiers.
Though it was the last thing Tadayoshi wanted to do, he clutched the handle of this sword harder. Even if he knew them by name, he wouldn’t hesitate to draw the sword if it was for his life.
“Are you sure he came this way?” one of the soldiers asked another.
“Yes, I’m sure. I saw him running into this forest.”
“Then let’s split up and look for him. He can’t have gone too far!” Each one of the then soldiers went in a different direction.
Even if the clearing grew quiet and with no one in sight, Tadayoshi didn’t come down from the tree. He didn’t know for how long, but he waited until his instincts told him it was safe. Ever since he had obeyed his master’s last wish, it was all he could rely on these days.
After a long time, after the sun had set, he carefully moved to the lowest branch. Confirming there was no one around, he jumped to the ground, almost falling with the impact. His legs were numb and weakened after staying in the tree for almost a whole day.
His stomach growled. He hadn’t even something proper for days now. Even so, Tadayoshi forced himself to run. Even if the soldiers weren’t around, it only took one to find him. With a shout, the others would be around him in moments.
However, his luck was against him. Even after running in a different direction, Tadayoshi came upon one of the soldiers. The only good luck for him was that the man was too surprised by his prey coming straight to him.
In the next moment, the soldier recovered and drew his sword.
Tadayoshi was faster and hit the man on the stomach with the handle of his sword with all his strength.
The soldier gasped and spat. He grabbed Tadayoshi’s clothes to prevent the fall. At the same time, he tried to scream, but he was out of air. When he looked into the swordsman’s eyes, there was only hate.
Though it wasn’t the first time Tadayoshi was at the other end of such eyes, it had been too long. And coming from someone he knew for years, who shared a meal together, who fought by his side, made it worse. Even so, he had to do that if he wanted to survive. He struck the soldier with the back of the blade and ran.
From far away, the swordsman heard shouts from the other soldiers. They had found their unconscious companion. He didn’t stop though. He had to keep running.
He only stopped when the sun was rising on the horizon again and he couldn’t move any longer. His entire body was exhausted, in pain, and too hungry to continue. Despite searching for food, Tadayoshi found nothing. No fruit or animal around.
Even so, he had to keep going. After eating some leaves to trick his stomach, Tadayoshi was once again moving. He had no strength to run. No matter what, he had to keep moving. I can’t stay still… I can’t stay in the same place for too long… I need… to keep… going…
And then… what…?
His stomach growled louder after some times. The sound was so loud that he feared it would attract those soldiers who pursued him. The leaves weren’t enough to trick his stomach anymore. But he kept moving.
Only when he could no longer keep his eyes opened, he stopped. Despite the lack of strength, Tadayoshi forced himself to climb a tall tree. After making sure he was safe, he rested the back against the trunk and closed his eyes.
It was a restless rest. The whole day, each and every sound he heard, he opened his eyes, afraid the soldiers had found him.
At night, his fears became true. One of the soldiers picked up his trail and called the others.
By the time Tadayoshi heard their footsteps and climbed down, it was too late; he was surrounded.
“Traitor,” one of them said. “How could you kill Yasuhiro-sama?”
There was nothing Tadayoshi could say against those words. It didn’t matter if the old man had asked for it. He had killed his master. There was no denying the truth. And no one will believe if I explain the real reason… Even now, it’s hard to believe demons exist…
There were no words as the soldiers drew their swords.
Even in the darkness of the night, when the clouds cleared in the sky, the moonlight shone through the trees and Tadayoshi recognized all the faces. They were those who guarded the mansion.
Tadayoshi wasn’t friends with any of them. Far from it. But they had drilled, fought, and shared meals together.
That no longer made any difference. The men had those same eyes full of hate.
They’re the same eyes Kenshin had at that time, the swordsman thought, remembering.
The cry the young master let out when he caught Tadayoshi over his dead father still rang within him. Though he wanted, there was no way he could explain to Kenshin why his father was dead.
With his gloom face taken by rage, the young samurai drew his sword and attacked the person he once treated like a brother. There was only a hated foe before him.
Tadayoshi didn’t even realize when he raised his sword to block.
When Kenshin realized that sword belonged to his father, he only became more enraged.
Tadayoshi had trouble defending the young samurai’s blade, even though he was much stronger. Anger and hatred were giving strength to the boy’s sword. Even so, there’s no way I can fight him…
Even if his life depended on it, Tadayoshi couldn’t.
To the boy, the person before him wasn’t his brother anymore, but the one who had killed his father. Only that.
But anger and hate could only bring the boy so far. Tadayoshi had no idea how, but he had won. When he realized the boy at his feet was wounded, he tried to help. Even if it wasn’t deep wounds, he had to be treated.
Kenshin called for the guards before he could help. As the men entered the dojo, the young master ordered them to arrest Tadayoshi.
Without knowing what to do, he ran away. And he had been since then.
Panting, Tadayoshi defeated the soldiers. But fighting without taking their lives its toll. He could no longer move. If I… stay here… they’ll… wake up… I need… to get… away…
Before he could take a single step, he was enveloped by an immense killing intent.
In that weakened state, he almost fainted.
Forcing his mind to stay awake, he looked around. There was nothing, human or animal, that could be the source of such killing intent. A knife struck at his feet. Out of reflex, he jumped back.
Where there should be nothing, something blocked his path.
“Tadayoshi,” a low voice whispered in his ear. At the same time, a hand held him by the shoulder.
He knew that voice at once. Masa… His throat became so dry it hurt when he breathed. The swordsman couldn’t tell if there was any hate on that tone. But one thing he knew. He was as good as dead now.
There was no way he could win. There was no way he could even react in time. Even so, Tadayoshi wouldn’t simply wait for his end. That’s how the old man taught me. To fight until the end…
But what for…?
Despite what was in his mind, he clutched the handle of his master’s sword. With a deep breath, Tadayoshi turned, swinging his sword at the same time.
Before he moved, he felt a on the back of his neck and everything went dark.
It’s better this way… It’s my punishment for killing the old man… was the last thought he had.
Surrounded by darkness, it was the first time he could rest ever since that night.
The next thing he knew, however, was being pulled back into the world of light. As his consciousness returned, Tadayoshi sought for his sword at once. It wasn’t within his reach.
“Are you looking for this?”
Tadayoshi felt his whole body growing cold. Without making any sudden moves, he turned slowly to face Masa.
The man was standing against a tree, looking at the blade that had once belonged to his master. Even if there was some distance between them, Tadayoshi knew he could never escape.
“Masa, I… I…”
Tadayoshi had no idea how to explain what happened. Even if it was his master’s request, he couldn’t explain how he raised his sword against the old man. Raise the sword with the intention of killing the man who changed his life.
Without any sound, he lowered his head and waited for his end.
The ninja remained where he was. After what seemed a long time, he sheathed the blade audibly. “I know what happened, Tadayoshi.”
Tadayoshi looked into his eyes, the hope filling him for a moment. But then he lowered his head again. “I had no choice… The old man was the one who asked me to… to kill him…”
It was the first time he said it aloud. As his own voice reached his ears, he felt his heart sinking.
Masa showed no reaction.
“It doesn’t matter anyway… The old man is dead… and it was me who did it… It was me who drove that blade through his stomach…”
“I know, son. I know… It wasn’t your fault,” Masa said in a strange voice Tadayoshi had never heard. Then he realized; the ninja was being kind to him.
Masa threw the sword back. Even in that state, Tadayoshi took it with both hands. He stared at it, then squeezed it. Even though it was the same size as his old one, it felt heavier.
Part of soul of the old man’s soul is still here… This is the last sword the legendary samurai, Horou Yasuhiro used…The last sword my master used… And now it’s mine…
This time he couldn’t hold back and cried as he embraced the sword. Damn it, old man… Why… Why did you ask me to kill you…? Why did you have to die like that…?
Masa remained quiet, only watching his master’s first and only apprentice.
After a long time, the swordsman stopped crying.
“Tadayoshi.” The ninja got so close the swordsman had to raise his head to look in his eyes, “I shouldn’t say this. It’s against master’s final wishes but I know what master asked of you. I tried, but I couldn’t convince him otherwise. Because of his selfishness, you are now a wanted man.”
The words echoed in Tadayoshi’s mind, his head struggling to understand.
“You know… the truth…?”
“Yes. But nothing I said could change his mind. Master said you had to be the one. It had to be you and only you.”
A sensation of void and sadness left Tadayoshi. In its place, anger filled him.
“Did he want me to do it just because I’m nobody? Am I disposable? Is that why he trained me all these years? Just to kill him?” Masa said nothing as he poured out his anger. “I’m what then? Why did he teach me to use the sword? If I knew this was my future, I’d never had come with him!”
“Then you wouldn’t have met Inori,” Masa said in a low voice.
Tadayoshi bit his lip and swallowed his anger. The mention of the woman he loved left a lump in his throat.
“How’s she doing?”
“As expected. Though she keeps it together in front of the nobles and everyone else, she cries for his father’s death and misses you.”
“She misses me…? She doesn’t… hate me…?” Tadayoshi forced himself to ask.
Masa was silent for a while.
“When she heard what happened, she said you’d never do it for no reason. That her father must’ve forced you to do it. She’s trying to convince the young master, but he—”
“Won’t listen,” Tadayoshi finished the sentence. “There’s no way he’ll ever forgive me. Not after the look he gave me…”
“I’m… trying to convince him as well…”
“It won’t make a difference. Even when he discovers the truth… If he ever discovers, that is. Either way, my life is over… I… I won’t be able to see Inori ever again…”
As he pictured the woman he loved and his master, he felt both angry and the void filling him. “How could he do that…? How could he ask me to kill him? He knew it’d destroy my life… He knew about us, so why…”
“There’s a reason. I can’t explain it you now… Maybe this could give you some light.” The ninja took a small book inside his clothes. He looked at it with a strange expression before handing it to the swordsman. “It’s master’s diary. I think with this you can understand why he had to ask you to kill him. And maybe you can even forgive him.”
Tadayoshi said nothing as he clutched the book.
At the thought of his master, he squeezed his sword harder. Old man…
“Go to the temple. Find the stupid couple. They can explain more about the demon. I will mislead the young master and all the others in the other direction.”
Tadayoshi nodded, barely listening as he stared at his master’s diary.
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