Chapter 1: Chapter 1
Sitting out gazing at the night sky a young man with glasses leaned against the trunk of an old tree, round lenses reflecting the glare of the light from the moon. In his hands he held a small wooden figurine of a girl with a smiling face, the paint was slightly faded but it still retained its most prominent features. Kotori-chan was her name, and she was his one and only friend, for Onoda did not have any friends in the village he grew up in.
“It’s such a pretty night Kotori-chan.” He said quietly to the doll that he was holding, “I hope tomorrow we’ll have better luck.”
Onoda Sakamichi had set off on a journey leaving behind his tiny village secluded at the top of a hill. Recently, the village had been suffering…crops were scarce, the winter had been extremely harsh. It had only taken a turn for the worse when the famine had struck and his mother had fallen victim to it.
“Sakamichi…you cannot stay here.” His mother had said when she was on her deathbed, “You must leave and find yourself a new life.”
Sakamichi had protested at this, claiming that he knew no other way of life.
“You will.” His mother had insisted, “You will, and you will survive.”
‘I will survive.’ Sakamichi thought to himself as he continued to stare.
Suddenly he heard something through the thicket of the woods.
“What’s the status?” a voice said.
“They’re coming, just up the road.”
“One carriage. One driver.”
He heard a laugh, “How naïve to go through this forest without a guard.”
Sakamichi felt his stomach clench. These were bandits. And they were planning to rob someone coming up the road! ‘Of all the things I had to get caught in.’ he thought before putting Kotori-chan in his pack and pulling his dagger that he had kept hidden in his belt. He silently wished that he had a sword but his village had been a peaceful one so weapons were never something they kept on hand.
He then saw the carriage coming up the road and frowned as it came closer in view. Sakamichi felt his legs shake as he desired to run out there and scream at the carriage to turn around. It was as the bandit had explained, unguarded and with one driver. This was bad. They would be robbed blind in an instant. But before Sakamichi could step out and scream a warning at the driver the bandits jumped out of the thicket brandishing swords. One struck the driver who fell off the carriage and the horses neighed in terror as the bandits surrounded the carriage.
“Die fool!” the leader of the bandits cried out as he aimed his sword for the inside of the carriage.
“NO!” a voice called out and that’s when the leader of the bandits found himself on the ground with a dagger in his shoulder.
“Leader!” one of the bandits called out and pointed his sword at Onoda, “You brat! You’ll pay for interfering!”
Onoda Sakamichi shut his eyes tightly ready to embrace death at the moment only to hear the bandits crying out in agony and then the gurgling sound of death as they were impaled by a long blade that belonged to a tall figure with dark hair who had stepped out of the carriage. He had defeated the three other bandits as if it had been a warm-up exercise.
“They were fools to try and rob someone like me.” The figure said before narrow dark eyes turned to Sakamichi who immediately backed away and held up his hands, “I-I’m not with them! I swear! I’m just a traveler!”
“I gathered that considering you foolishly attacked that bandit without any sort of defense.” The person said, “You’re either really brave or really stupid.”
That had sounded more like an insult than it had a compliment in Sakamichi’s opinion but he didn’t pay much attention to it. “Well… I’m glad you’re safe.”
“I would have been safe either way. I was aware of the bandits which is why I had my sword on me. You however, are only armed with a dagger.” He glared, “At least stay at an inn, these woods are far too dangerous to travel through.”
“I’m afraid I can’t.” Sakamichi said truthfully as he cleaned off his dagger in the grass, “I don’t have a lot of money and inns are expensive so it’s easier for me to sleep outside. I didn’t even notice the bandits until they spoke.” He then stood himself back up, “I’m sorry for disturbing your journey…I’ll be off now.”
“You’ll continue to journey through these woods even though you’re aware of the danger?”
Sakamichi smiled, “I have no one to return to, and nowhere to go so I can only go forward.”
The dark haired man frowned before sheathing his sword and opening the door to the carriage, “Get in.”
“Don’t make me repeat myself, get inside now. You know I’m not going to kill you otherwise I would have done it already so get in.”
Sakamichi chose not to protest and got inside the carriage while the person instructed the driver made it back to their seat after calming down the horses before the dark haired person stepped inside. The candlelight inside the carriage showed the person was about the same age as him and that the robes he was wearing were a dark blue.
“What is your name?” the person asked him.
“Onoda Sakamichi. A-And yours?”
“Imaizumi Shuunsuke. Where did you learn to use a dagger?”
Sakamichi averted his eyes, “I…I sort of had to learn by trial and error. My village doesn’t make a lot of weapons and that was the only thing closest to a sword they had.”
“And yet you rushed at that bandit with no hesitation.” Imaizumi commented, “If you had some training you’d make an excellent guard.”
Onoda Sakamichi shook his head rapidly, “Oh goodness no! I’m not fit enough for that! Besides, I just wanted to find some simple work. I’m not a fighter at all.”
Imaizumi rolled his eyes, ‘What wasted talent.’
“Um…where…where exactly is this carriage going?”
“My master’s estate.”
To Be Continued…
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
After living at the estate for a year and training as a fighter, Onoda Sakamichi is given a task.
One year later…
Onoda Sakamichi sat down and panted heavily, his robes were sticking to his body and he had to take his glasses off to wipe his face with a towel.
“Onoda-kun! You’re not getting tired yet are you?” a voice asked him and Sakamichi put his glasses back on so he could gaze at his red-haired friend.
“No…just resting.” Onoda said to reassure the red-head.
When Sakamichi first arrived at the estate Imaizumi was quick to introduce him to Lord Kinjou Shinjo, or as people called him, The Snake of the Stone Path. Imaizumi had taken him inside of the large mansion to a center room where a man sat behind a veiled curtain. When Sakamichi quietly asked Imaizumi why the curtain was there Imaziumi claimed it was because most people were reduced to silence when they met Lord Kinjou face-to-face.
Imaizumi told Lord Kinjou everything about the encounter with the bandits and how Sakamichi had fearlessly taken out the leader, throwing himself into danger. Sakamichi had wanted to protest and say that he really didn’t do much but kept silent out of respect.
Onoda Sakamichi felt intense eyes lock onto him through that curtain, “Were you aware how dangerous those woods were? There are a lot of criminals who like to linger there and take advantage of travelers.”
He shook his head, “I wasn’t. I’m not very familiar with these parts.”
“Where are you from?”
“A small village on top of a hill, my Lord.” Sakamichi said, “My mother requested for me to leave after she passed. The village has been suffering from famine and the winter was not gentle so…she did not think it was wise for me to remain.”
“And where are you traveling to?”
Sakamichi frowned deeply, “A-anywhere, sir. I don’t have any relatives outside the village. And I don’t have a lot of funds either. I wanted to see if I could reach a city and start a life there.”
He could feel the intensity of Lord Kinjou’s gaze soften, “You have the will to live, but you have no reason for it.”
“…Y-yes my Lord.”
The man behind the curtain extended his hand, “Then, allow me to offer you one.”
And that was how Onoda ended up training as a guard. A soldier. A protector. Lord Kinjou wasted no time telling Imaizumi to help Onoda settle in at his estate. From there he was introduced to Tadokoro Jin, the general of his armies. Tadokoro was large and had a loud voice. He was known to eat quite a lot but was also an excellent cook, but only because his parents owned a bakery. He also met Naruko Shoukichi, a red-headed guard in training, who like Tadokoro was also loud. Naruko took a liking to the boy with glasses and immediately deemed him as a friend.
Onoda smiled to himself. He was perfectly content with his new life and his new friends. He was learning a lot on how to fight and how to defend people. Although he tried various weapons the ones he favored were a pair of sai which he had been sparring with a moment ago.
“Oh my, you’re resting already?” another guard said walking over to them. He went by Sugimoto and like Imaizumi he also wielded a katana. “Then again I shouldn’t be surprised since you chose to fight with those weapons. They’re good for disarming someone but with close combat you have to be really skilled with them.”
“Are you kidding? He is skilled. More skilled than you are that’s for sure.” Naruko said, quick to defend Sakamichi.
“Sugimoto…what are you doing over here?” a new voice said and they all looked over to see Imaizumi with a displeased look on his face.
“Oh! Imaizumi-kun…I…was taking a break.” Sugimoto said sheepishly.
“Hm, well if you have that sort of time, then you must have enough time to spar.” Imaizumi said.
Sugimoto stiffened and then looked back at Naruko and Onoda Sakamichi, “If you’ll excuse me then.”
“Good luck Sugimoto-kun.” Sakamichi said.
“Honestly, I don’t know why you put up with him. He’s so condescending.” Naruko said rolling his eyes.
“I-I think Sugimoto-kun is nice. You and Imaizumi-kun are nice too.”
“Onoda! Just the person I needed to see!” a loud voice called out.
Both teenagers looked over to see General Tadokoro walking in their direction.
“Hey old man! Where've you been? You missed our sparring match this morning!” Naruko barked out, “I got my ass up at dawn for nothing!”
“Oh relax red bean, I had urgent business to take care of.” He said shrugging Naruko off.
“You mean you were snacking in the kitchen!”
“Perhaps I was.”
“I knew it!”
Tadokoro laughed at Naruko’s outburst and then turned his attention to Sakamichi, “Lord Kinjou told me that he wanted to see you.”
“O-oh…I’ll be on my way then.” Sakamichi stood up and looked at Naruko, “Sorry to cut our spar short.”
“Don’t worry about it Onoda, I’ll be the perfect entertainment for the red bean.” Tadokoro smiled, “This will make up for our missed spar.”
“You better be ready old man! I won’t go easy on you!” Naruko said.
Onoda Sakamichi smiled at the two before heading off to the inside of the estate where he knew Lord Kinjou would be waiting for him. He really owed a lot to the noble who had allowed him to stay on the estate and train as a guard. Initially he had been hesitant at the beginning, but it was because of Lord Kinjou that he was given a reason behind his will to live.
“You wanted to see me, Lord Kinjou?” Sakamichi asked as he entered the main chamber and bowed deeply before the man sitting behind the veiled curtain. He then frowned as he noticed that the room seemed to hold an abnormal amount of tension. Had he done something wrong?
“Yes Onoda. I have an important matter that I must discuss with you.” Lord Kinjou said, “You have been here for some time now, ever since Imaizumi picked you up in that forest. You have also shown much growth in your abilities to fight.”
‘He is stalling…but why?’
“Onoda…you realize that I am not the only noble in this land. But that there are others who require the protection of a capable guard.” He saw Lord Kinjou’s hands folding together, “Which is why, you will be transferred to another estate.”
Onoda felt his heart sink in to his chest and suddenly the room seemed to become much smaller than it was. He wanted to protest but knew that his status could not allow him to do so. Instead he sat in silence and shock as he took in Lord Kinjou’s words.
“The noble of the estate that I am sending you to is Makishima Yuusuke, he lives at the peak of the mountain west of here. Since you are familiar with mountains and hills you should have no trouble reaching him. It is only a day’s journey.” Kinjou then paused, “You have my permission to speak freely.”
“Lord Kinjou…how long will this transfer be?”
“You will be there until further notice.”
“A-And…how soon will I have to leave?”
Onoda Sakamichi said as he felt his heart clench. Of course he would be going as soon as possible. “D-Does…General Tadokoro know?”
‘But the others don't. I’m going to have to tell them.’ Sakamichi thought as he tried to not cry by shutting his eyes tightly. ‘The life that I have built here is being ripped away from me.’
Suddenly he felt a heavy hand on top of his head and opened his eyes only to be met with intense teal eyes. He felt incredibly lost as he looked into those eyes. No wonder Lord Kinjou had to sit behind that curtain. There was no telling how many people had been rendered speechless because of those incredible eyes.
“Do not let you heart be troubled Onoda. I would not have chosen you if I did not think you were fit to do this. They will understand.”
When Sakamichi left Lord Kinjou’s main chamber he was immediately confronted by Imaizumi, Naruko, and Sugimoto.
“Onoda-kun! Is it true? Is Lord Kinjou really making you leave?” Naruko asked as he grabbed Sakamichi by the shoulders and started shaking him.
“H-How did you know?”
“The old man told us everything!” Naruko said. “He said Lord Kinjou’s making you leave us to protect some noble in the mountains!”
“Y-Yes…it’s true…I leave in two days.” Sakamichi said and clenched his fists, “I’m not a dayfly anymore…I have a duty to uphold. Lord Kinjou gave me this task, I can't fail him.”
“He’s right, Naruko.” Imaizumi said putting a hand on Naruko’s shoulder, “Onoda can’t disobey a direct order.”
“But…why him? He’s hardly got any experience! He’s never even been in a real battle!” Sugimoto protested.
“Lord Kinjou must have his reasons for choosing Onoda.” Imaizumi said, “We cannot question his judgement.”
Those two days went by quickly and mostly consisted of Sakamichi learning what trails to take in order to reach Lord Makishima’s estate and packing for his journey. The good-byes that he shared with his friends were long ones. Naruko had started tearing up only to get teased by Imaizumi which prompted the red-head to start yelling at him about facing him in a spar while Sugimoto tried to calm the two down.
His friends went silent as knelt down immediately as they took notice of Lord Kinjou walking towards the gates accompanied by General Tadokoro.
“Lord Kinjou.” Sakamichi greeted and knelt down quickly.
“I came to see you off.” Lord Kinjou said eyes falling on the horse that was packed down with Onoda Sakamichi’s belongings. “Do you have everything you need?”
Sakamichi felt a hand on top of his head, playfully tousling his messy black hair. “Good luck, Onoda Sakamichi.”
Sakamichi smiled as he looked up at the noble who smiled back down at him. The glasses-wearing boy then stood up and mounted his horse sparing once last glance at everyone before taking off through the gate, back into the forest.
“Kinjou, is it really a good idea to send him to Makishima? You and I know how that guy can be.”
“I have faith in my decision.” Lord Kinjou said to his old friend, “Onoda is exactly what Makishima needs.”
To Be Continued...
Chapter 3: Chapter 3
Onoda Sakamichi arrives at Lord Makishima's estate.
Sorry I didn't manage to publish this earlier, had so many meetings the past week so didn't get as much time to edit. Thank you to those who have been following this story and I promise eventually I will add in pairings I'm definitely building up to that, but you'll just have to wait for now. Thanks for reading! ;-)
Onoda Sakamichi guided his horse up the mountain with care even though the uneven ground caused him to lurch around in the saddle quite a bit. He was getting closer to the top of the mountain where the estate was located.
“I’m almost there.” Sakamichi said to himself and then reached down to gently caress the horse’s neck, “I’m glad I at least have you for this journey. It would have been difficult to get to this place by foot.”
His mind then wandered to what Lord Makishima would be like. Did he also hide his face behind a curtain like Lord Kinjou? He had tried to ask Naruko and Imaizumi if they knew anything about Lord Makishima but both of his friends said that they did not know much about him because he rarely ever came down from the mountain to see Lord Kinjou unless it was strictly for business. They had advised him to ask General Tadokoro since he worked closer with nobility. When he did General Tadokoro had laughed and said, “Makishima? Well…I guess the best was I can describe him is…interesting. He’s not exactly what people expect when they meet a noble.”
Sakamichi frowned, ‘I should have asked Lord Kinjou too. But it’s too late for that.’ Suddenly he noticed what looked like a gate in front of him on the steep path.
‘This must be it.’ But then Sakamichi pulled on the reins of his horse and slowed it down, ‘Hold on…something isn’t right.’ He looked at his surroundings. Despite the birds chirping in the forest and the squirrels running through the trees he felt that someone was watching him intently. Slowly, he reached for one of the sai that he kept in his belt as he felt the presence of the other being getting closer.
Sakamichi’s sai had caught the blade of the naginata before it had grazed his face. He had been sure to turn the horse away from the blade to make sure it would not be harmed. If his horse was killed, he would have been in trouble. The blade of the spear belonged to a handsome young man around his age with shoulder length black curly hair and dark eyes.
“Nice to see Lord Kinjou sent someone who’s aware of their surroundings.” The person said with a smirk, “You must be the one he sent.”
“Y-yes, I am. My name is Onoda Sakamichi.”
The man pulled his spear away, “I hope you don’t mind my little test I gave you there. I’m Teshima Junta, one of the head servants at Lord Makishima’s estate. We’ve been expecting you.”
“Ah…it’s nice to meet you too.” Onoda said lowering his sai.
“Rest assured, I don’t plan on attacking you again. Clearly you’re able to hold your own.” Teshima said, “Come, I’ll bring you to Lord Makishima.”
When they reached the gate they were greeted by another young man with dark blond hair that covered half his face so only one of his eyes was visible.
“Aoyagi, take Onoda’s horse to the stables and give it some food and water.” Teshima said to the blond who nodded his head as Sakamichi dismounted. Aoyagi took the reins and lead the horse away.
“Follow me please.” Teshima said as they both entered the grounds of the estate. It was smaller than Lord Kinjou’s but it was obvious that this noble did have power considering how well-kept the estate was. It looked stunning with the ginko trees lining up to form a path to the estate, the golden leaves covering the sides of the path.
Sakamichi held his pack tighter to his body as he trailed behind Teshima who lead him around the estate until they reached a sliding door. Teshima knocked once on the door, “My Lord, the person Lord Kinjou sent us has just arrived.”
“Bring him in, sho.” A voice on the other side of the door said. The voice held a slight accent that Sakamichi wasn’t familiar with but it wasn’t unappealing just…different. He followed Teshima inside cautiously.
The room was well-lit from the light of the windows but since the sun was starting to set the room was darker and lit with a few candles. General Tadokoro hadn’t been jesting when he said that Lord Makishima was “interesting”. Sitting before him across the table was a tall looking male dressed in regal red and purple robes which clashed greatly with each other. His skin was pale, as if he had not gone outside of his estate in a long time, his face was long and narrow, and his eyes were a bright blue. But what was most unusual about him was his long green hair that was highlighted with streaks of red. Lord Makishima was definitely the most unusual person Onoda Sakamichi had ever come across.
Lord Makishima’s eyes fell on Sakamichi and he frowned, “This is who Lord Kinjou sent?”
“Yes Lord Makishima.” Teshima said looking at Sakamichi, “Rest assured, he is quite skilled. I already had the opportunity to test him.”
Lord Makishima’s facial expression did not change, “If you say so, sho.” He then extended a narrow hand, “Show him to his room and give him something to eat.”
“Yes, Lord Makishima.” Teshima said giving a small bow. Sakamichi did the same and quickly followed Teshima out of the room not wanting to stay a moment longer. When they two made their way farther down the estate Teshima spoke, “I can tell you have something on your mind. Care to voice it? I’ll lend an ear.”
Sakamichi breathed heavily through his nose, “I don’t think I should…it might be offensive.”
“I won’t tell anyone.”
“Well…okay…I don’t think I made a very good impression on Lord Makishima.”
Teshima chuckled, “Is that all? There’s no need to be upset, believe me. Lord Makishima…has trouble warming up to new people. He always has. He’s also terrible with conversations, but I would never tell him that directly unless he asked me to.” He put a hand on Sakamichi’s shoulder, “He just hasn’t seen what you’re capable of yet. Give it time.”
That night after Sakamichi dined with Teshima and Aoyagi in their small room he slid the door open, looking back to make the two were asleep before slipping outside. He sat against the door and placed Kotori-chan on the floor next to him so that she too was gazing out in the distance. The moon was bright and beginning to wane slightly but it was still quite beautiful.
“I wonder how the others are doing.” Sakamichi whispered and looked at Kotori-chan, “Teshima and Aoyagi are nice, don’t you think?” he then picked her up, "I don’t know what I would do without you, Kotori-chan. Thank you for always being by my side.” He said placing a small kiss on top of her head.
To Be Continued…