The first chapter of part 5, the last one of Samurai NOT
Hope you enjoy
Samurai NOT 45
As Ryuu entered the small lodging, he took off his heavy traveling cloak and looked around. Guess she’s late, he thought when he didn’t see the person he was supposed to meet. He placed the heavy bag on the floor, sat on one of the benches and rested his back on the wall. The instant he did, he felt the relief taking over him and couldn’t help but close his eyes.
I’ve been traveling for too long… Can’t believe this place is so far… And I don’t know if I want the rumors to be true.
“Can I get you anything?” asked a woman with a tired smile.
“Just some tea, please,” Ryuu answered in a sleepy voice.
As the owner’s daughter walked away, three people entered the lodging. When the priest saw the swords on their waists, he clicked his tongue. Damn it. Hope those thugs don’t cause trouble. I don’t need any more.
“Oi, we were here just as we promised!” shouted the one with a scar under the right eye, hitting one of the benches with the palm. “Where’s our money?”
“And bring some food too! We’re starvin’!” demanded the one missing part of the left ear as they sat on the bench close to the entrance.
With her face pale and tears on her eyes, the girl ran to the door at the back of the room. A few moments later, she came back with fried chicken and cups of tea.
“Took long enough!” Scar complained, taking the food from the tray with his bare hands. “At least we can eat this crap this time.”
“Tea? We want booze!”
“I-I-I’m sorry! We don’t have any!”
“Useless. I always thought this place was a crap anyway. Then where’s our money?”
“A-a-about that, we…” the girl trembled and trailed off, taking a step back as the thugs turned to her.
“We can’t pay you,” her father finished the sentence, stepping out of the back door, cleaning his hand on a cloth.
He was a short man and the top of his head was bald but had enough to make it up around it. The owner stood before his daughter, who was only trembled.
As they finished the food and turned the cups over their mouths, spilling tea on themselves and the floor, the three men turned to him. Scar cleaned his mouth with the back of the hand and flashed a scary smile that matched his eyes.
“That’s bold of you to say, owner,” he said in a low and menacing voice. “Are you really trying to pull my leg here? You know what happens with people who don’t pay us, right?”
The man trembled, but he still stood before his daughter, trying to push her back. “I-I’m not… I’d never do that. B-but you know we’re having trouble… Thanks to those weird rumors, few travelers are risking coming this way. It’s not that we don’t wanna pay. We can’t!”
Scar placed the arm over the handle of his sword as he scratched his shallow beard. The owner looked at the sword too, the fear stamped on his eyes.
“Then we both had a big problem, owner. Even if you can’t pay, we still need money, you know? It’s not easy protectin’ this whole area from bandits. Nor cheap.” He pulled the scabbard but didn’t draw the sword. “It costs money to buy equipment and feed my men. If you don’t pay, we’ll be in trouble. And then you’ll be in trouble too.”
“B-but we can’t pay… We don’t have any money…”
Scar looked the man in the eyes and smiled. “Well, there are other ways to pay.”
When he turned to daughter, the owner turned around and hugged her. “I’ll get the money! I’ll find a way! I just need more time!”
“We already did. And you said the same thing. You gotta be kiddin’ me. Today’s the day. If you can’t pay, we’ll get our money some other way.”
As the silence filled the small lodging, Ryuu glanced at his bag. I don’t know if I have anything to stop them… Unless… Yeah, it could work…
Before the priest could act, Scar hit the owner across the face with the back of the hand. The girl screamed and tried to get to her father, but the thug grabbed her by the wrist. “Not so fast.”
“Please, let me go!”
“We can’t do that, girly. And don’t blame us. We’re not at fault here. It’s your daddy’s fault if he can’t pay like he promised. If we could, we’d give him more time, but we can’t do that. We have our own troubles.”
The others laughed as the owner stood up. When he fell, he hit the corner of the bench and now half his face was bleeding. He pressed the wound and turned. “Let her go! Please! I just need more time!”
“Sorry, owner. We gave you more than enough last time. In case you’re forgettin’, we’re the ones who keep this area safe from bandits. Don’t we deserve a little reward for all our hard work?”
“Please, not my daughter!”
“We ain’t gonna hurt her. It’d be a shame do harm such a cute face,” Scar said, running a finger on the girl’s cheek.
“No, please!” she shouted, trying and failing to get away from him.
“Don’t worry, girly, we’ll just have some fun with you,” Ear added, also flashing a creepy smile.
I need to stop them, Ryuu thought, pulling a knife from inside his clothes.
Before he could move, however, someone entered the lodging. Everyone turned to the newcomer. With their head covered by the cloak, it was impossible to tell if it was a man or a woman.
When the young woman saw the three swords at the cloaked person’s waist, two real blades and a wooden one, she reached out to them, “Please, help me!”
While the three thugs laughed and Scar pulled her closer, Ryuu placed his knife back inside his clothes. Thank the Heavens everything is gonna be okay now.
When the newcomer pulled the wooden sword, the thugs laughed even more.
“Look at this! An idiot tryin’ to be a hero,” Ear shouted.
“And with a wooden sword! What a moron!”
“Get rid of him,” ordered Scar as he dragged the screaming girl to the back door. The owner tried to stop him, but he kicked him out of the way.
Ear and the other thug drew their swords and pushed the benches out of the way to get closer to the newcomer. When the cloaked person was within their weapons’ reach, they attacked.
The newcomer dodged them both and swung the wooden sword at Ear’s hand.
The man screamed, dropped his weapon and held the hand against his chest. Ryuu had seen it though. The fingers were broken.
“You bastard! How dare you!’ his companion shouted and attacked again, swinging his sword down with all his strength.
The newcomer met the man’s blade and redirected it to one of the benches. As the thug’s weapon got stuck on the wood, Cloak stabbed the wooden sword at his neck. He gasped, let go of the sword and grabbed his neck with both hands, trying to breathe.
Before the thug could do anything else, the newcomer hit him across the face and the fell on the ground unconscious.
The girl stopped screaming as Scar let her go. She raced to her father, who held and help him walk to the corner, away from the fight.
Ryuu moved to them as quietly as he could, flashing a smile as they turned to him with fear on their faces.
“It’s okay. Everything’s gonna be alright now that she’s here. Until then, let me take care of that wound,” he said in a friendly voice, pulling some herbs and a cloth from his bag and cleaning the owner’s face.
“S-she?” the girl asked, turning to the cloaked newcomer. “That cloaked person is a woman?”
“Yes. She’s Eiko and she’s strong.”
“Eiko?” The girl repeated with wonder as she turned to the swordswoman.
Scar hadn’t heard that conversation. He was looking at his hurt friends on the floor. Then he turned to the newcomer.
“You’re a real idiot. You think I’m lettin’ you walk away after this?” he said, drawing his sword “They’re idiots, but they’re my friends and you’re gonna pay.”
“If your friends are idiot, you’re one too,” Ei said, not even glancing at the thug’s sword.
A vein throbbed on Scar’s forehead, but he managed to contain his rage. “Me, an idiot? You’re the one attacking us. You don’t know who we are?”
“Don’t care. Might be thugs, bandits or whatever. To me, you’re all trash.”
“How dare you talk to us like that? We’re samurai who protect his area! Without us, these people would be in danger!”
“From the little I saw, you’re the danger. Who needs that kind of protection?”
“They need! But they haven’t paid. That was just a way for us to get the money the owner owes us.”
Ei snorted. “On top of an idiot, you’re a bandit. Bad combination. Bad and dangerous.”
Scar shook his head and let out a laugh. “Guess you can’t understand something so simple.” The next instant, he swung his sword.
Ei ducked, rolled on the bench and struck Scar between the legs with the handle of the wooden sword. He grunted, dropped the sword and held his crotch as he fell.
“You bastard!” shouted Ear, standing up. He was still holding hand with the broken fingers against his chest. “We’re gonna kill you and show what happens to those who don’t pay us!”
“No… wait!” Scar managed to say despite the pain. His face was red and wincing, but even so, he showed fear in his eyes. “I know… who this bastard is… She’s Three Swords Eiko!”
Ear’s anger vanished. As those words reached him, his face became pale as he took step back. “N-no way… Why is she here…?”
Scar managed to get up and grabbed his knocked out companion, dragging him towards the exit despite the pain. “Let’s go! I don’t wanna deal with that monster!”
Ear grabbed his companion by the clothes and helped Scar drag him out of the lodging.
Ei sighed, put the wooden sword next to the others and took off her traveling cloak. “Sorry I’m late, Ryuu. I had some trouble with idiots on the road.”
“Me too. But you don’t have to worry. I just got here,” the priest said, finishing treating the owner. Despite the swelling, his face was much better than moments before.
The man, like his daughter, barely understood what had happened. It was clear in their faces. But there was one thing they both showed; gratitude.
“Thank you for saving my daughter,” he said, bowing as best he could with the pain.
“Thank you very much,” she said through tears, bowing by her father’s side.
“It was nothing. I like beating idiots like them. Hope they don’t come back though.” Eiko turned to the door.
“They will. They’ve been looking at my daughter for a while now, but I always managed to pay what they ask. But this time…”
“You pay for their protection? That part was true?” the swordswoman asked.
“Yes… They work for the Lord around here, but our Lord himself has forsaken us to focus on the war… Those three showed up and said they’d protect this area in the Lord’s place if we paid them… We’re not the only ones… Most villages around here do…”
“And they actually do their job?”
“Sort off… We barely had trouble with bandits… This place is too far and the land is hard to work on…”
“And what?” Ei asked when she sensed the hesitation in the owner.
Ryuu couldn’t help but laugh. She realized that too. She’s grown so much ever since Tadayoshi died…
The man exchanged looks with his daughter.
“Since the rumors started, not even merchants have dared to get close to here,” she said, looking at the ground.
“We are on our own…”
Ei looked at Ryuu, who nodded to her.
“Can you tell more about those rumors?” the priest asked.
Thanks for reading.
Hope you enjoyed
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