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…