The sun shined high by this time of the day. Hot and dry was the weather and Kyosuke could only count on his flimsy robes and the long straw hat on his head, to protect him from the burning sun.
It has been a while since he had left the forest that took him six days of traveling to cross. He knew, however, that it only took half a day of traveling to reach the nearest fishing village once out of the forest. Having set out at dawn after a troublesome night filled with bugs, Kyosuke was sure that he would see the village soon.
Drops of sweat often dripped down Kyosuke’s shaven face. Fortunately, he had found a stream of water back in the forest. He drank as much as he could and then stored some of the precious liquid in a water pouch made of bamboo. After some long hours of walking, his throat was dry as the weather itself, and he could not resist the thought of having the water caressing his lips any longer. He desperately reached for the water pouch under his straw belt, took the hook out of it and uncorked it basically at the same second, and drank all of its content without letting a single drop to waste.
The young man placed the water pouch back in its place, near the two katanas that he carried. He gazed at the horizon and asked himself how far away he was from his destination. It was then, that a sudden breeze passed by him, announcing with it the salt of the sea, so commonly recognized along the shoreline. Kyosuke was close.
Having his anxiety well under control, Kyosuke did not accelerate the pace and continued to walk towards the fishing village. His wood sandals made a very good job at protecting his feet through the terrain, but they did not protect them in any way against the sunlight. And yet, he was not in a hurry to get under some shade to safeguard his slightly burned feet.
Now at the borders of the village, Kyosuke found it to be oddly tranquil. The village was built on the hillside, down to the port and beach. There were no walls of any sort, this was a poor village after all. After passing by the first couple of houses, Kyosuke noticed that no one was around. There was no one in sight actually. A feeling of uncertainty came up to his mind and Kyosuke brought his right hand to one of his katanas. He then thought to get a clearer image of the village and went near a ledge before continuing down the road. He was relieved to see a lot of people down at the port and on several small fishing boats. With a sigh of relief, he brought his hand back to the other sleeve and went down to the center of the village.
It was not the first time that Kyosuke had visited this place. He usually hanged around the only local inn there, a quiet place where he could sleep and get something decent to eat. Kyosuke had not seen or heard a soul until he reached the inn’s vicinity. There, he heard loud sounds of revelry, coming from within the inn. Perhaps there was a celebration going on, although he believed it wasn’t a local festivity since most men were still working.
He entered through the main door of the inn and everyone inside stopped what they were doing to see who the newcomer was. The inn was certainly busy for this time of the day since only a table at one of its corners was empty. Bread, ale and roasted chicken filled most of the tables where only men were seated. At Kyosuke’s left, there was a counter with a man behind it, whom he already knew, filling several mugs with ale.
There were about a dozen women serving, women who were too busy to notice Kyosuke’s arrival. A pair of them were being harassed by the clients of the table on the opposite corner of the empty one. And even though these men were paying attention to Kyosuke, they did not cease their efforts in grasping the young women’s bosoms until they could break free of them to continue their work. While the women were not wearing the traditional clothes of the inn’s employees, Kyosuke also noticed that the men that they were serving had a lot of weapons at their disposal. Either on their belts or on the tables themselves, knives, swords and a couple of handguns filled the arsenal of around thirty men feasting there.
Kyosuke had a strange feeling when he entered the village and now he knew exactly why. Pirates had occupied it. It was common for fishing villages to be raided by outlaws of the sea. When he looked at the port earlier, he saw the men of the village working, but now he was sure that they were transporting goods so that the pirates could take them to their ship, while maintaining their women, and possibly children, as hostages.
The young man went up to the counter and the other men in the inn continued to eat, drink and laugh. Kyosuke now addressed the man behind the counter, giving him his straw hat for safe keeping. “Greetings Netero-san. It has been a while.” The middle-aged man stared at Kyosuke and then past him, fearful of what could happen. He snapped out of it after pouring more than enough ale in one of the mugs that he was serving. “Welcome young one. You have changed a lot, I did not recognize you at first.” Kyosuke nodded without sympathy. “Your business is growing it seems. Today isn’t as calm as before…” Netero knew very well how Kyosuke’s mind functioned. He had known him ever since he was a little kid. But under other people’s eyes, Netero had to improvise and just hope for the best. “Yes, today we’re having somewhat of a tough time here… Why don’t you go ahead to that table?” Netero pointed out to the only empty table at the inn. “The usual, yes?” Kyosuke’s eyes sharpened, but he was ultimately convinced by Netero’s subtle plea. “Yes, please. I’m starving.” Netero smiled gratefully. “We have roasted chicken coming out of the fire, we will have you treated very soon.” Kyosuke nodded and turned around.
Despite his slim figure, Kyosuke made quite the sound while walking on the wooden floor. His sandals were not the only cause for such noise. He had a notorious presence wherever he was. And on his way to his appointed table, most of the men feasting in the inn glanced at him, either while eating or drinking.
Now seated at the table, with ample vision of the whole dining area of the inn, Kyosuke joined hands and continued to observe the scum around him. Most of them were dressed in tattered rags, their hair was thick as straw and some others had half their faces completely covered by their beards. Their manners were gross and mostly uncivilized. Breadcrumbs fell to the table and to the ground every time a pirate took a chunk of bread. Small bones were thrown to the ground to make space for more chicken. And every time that a servant passed by, they had their breasts and bottoms caressed by these filthy scum.
Kyosuke could barely support this kind of villainy but he would respect Netero’s wish nonetheless. He was not about to submit, however, so if the pirates sought a fight, Kyosuke was prepared to give them their last. With an arm inside of his robes, Kyosuke had one of his katanas ready should the occasion present itself. For more than five minutes, the young man analyzed the situation and noticed that two of the pirates could not keep their eyes off of him. Kyosuke made the mistake of looking at one of them in the eyes. Showing no fear or intent of looking away, the pirate ultimately did the latter, thus proving Kyosuke’s aggression.
Kyosuke’s meal was coming along. His day was tiresome and he yearned for something decently cooked alongside a fine regional drink. A woman in her mid-twenties carried his order and she slipped past the pirates without getting harassed, leaving Kyosuke’s meal on his table. The two of them exchanged looks. “Oh, Mashiro-san. I didn’t know you had left your father’s legacy.” Mashiro began to pour some saké into a small cup. “Of course I did not Kyosuke…” In between clenched teeth, Mashiro whispered while retaining her fury for Kyosuke alone. “These pirates have been here all morning. They will take what we have, including our own dignity!” She exalted herself and over poured the saké. Mashiro quickly retrieved a piece of cloth from under her sleeve to clean the table. “Do something about it Kyosuke. Neither I or anyone else will be taken into the seas as a trophy…” Kyosuke looked directly into Mashiro’s eyes. “Blood always wants to flow down the mountain…” The young samurai’s eyes shifted left and right. “Mashiro, take everyone into the kitchen and lock the door as best as you can… take Netero as well.” Slightly confused, Mashiro replied “What are you plann—” A hand came over Mashiro’s shoulder and pulled her back, throwing her to the ground. Two pirates came forth to Kyosuke’s table.
“Ei! Wanderer! Are you lost or something?! What do you think you’re doing with the fair lady? UH?!” The other pirate wiped Kyosuke’s table clean with one arm swing, sending his eagerly awaited meal onto the foul surface. The pirates laughed and cheered for their comrades. “We’ll have a piece of her later this night… We don’t want you charming her with your complex words! She’s having manly and dangerous pirates after all! Not some well-dressed traveler who carries two swords for a show…”
Kyosuke remained static for a moment, waiting for Mashiro to follow his instructions. She stood up and hurried to the kitchen, discretely indicating for the other servants to do so as well. Once past the door to the kitchen, she gestured Netero to go there as well. After a quick glance at what was happening, Netero hurried into the kitchen and locked the door without anyone else noticing it. “We can only pray now.”
Now that the innocent were out of harm’s way, Kyosuke could finally take action against the plague that had befallen the village. As soon as Kyosuke began to talk, everyone became silent to listen what he could possibly speak, before being sent to the afterlife. “Katanas have art imbued into them, but the show they perform is not a beautiful one.” A burst of laughter came from everybody present in the room. “I’ll tell ye what’s going to put up quite a show! Your hand flying down to the depths of the sea!” One of the pirates reached out to an ax held on his belt and swung it towards Kyosuke’s left arm, which lied above the table, despite the mess that the same pirate had caused.
The pirate wasn’t even able to see Kyosuke’s movement. He thought that he had cut the young man’s hand, but the contrary happened to him. His hand, still wielding the ax, was now above the table. Huge amounts of blood poured through the pirate’s wrist and a scream of pain echoed out of the inn, alarming his fellow pirates of what happened. Kyosuke now had his right hand out of his robes and a katana in his hand. “It begins… The red flood will course down to the sea.”
In an outrage, the pirates grabbed whatever they could find to get back at the young man. Kyosuke kicked off his table, sending it and the severed hand flying to the group of pirates in front of him. With a swift swing, he dispatched the two closest pirates, leaving them bleeding on the ground. Three pirates charged to Kyosuke from the right and two others from the left, some with daggers, others with swords. Without rushing, Kyosuke sheathed his katana but placed a hand on each of his katanas’ handles. When his opponents were merely two steps ahead of him, Kyosuke spun around once, with a grace that would not be expected from someone with his looks. The five pirates that dared to attack him ended up crashing on the ground. Blood flowed out of their bodies, from cuts either on their throats or abdomens.
He swung both katanas down, throwing most of the blood that stained them to the wooden surface. Food was knocked over, tables were turned and stools were thrown as the pirates ran rampant through the inn to split Kyosuke into several pieces of meat. Three others charged through, after knocking aside the table that was thrown over them. In Kyosuke’s eyes, these pirates were not seeking revenge for the ones that he had cut down. They just wanted to fight and ultimately, to kill. Complete animals in his eyes, and as such, it eased his mind on what needed to be done.
Kyosuke stepped forward once, then twice, evading the pirates’ weapon swings with efficiency and separating them from several limbs all at once. One lost an entire leg, the other an arm and the lower section of the leg beneath the knee and the remaining one both legs and a hand. They could only gasp from the blows since the physical shock was too much to handle and death would soon follow. Kyosuke sheathed his katanas once more, waiting for more of the pirates to attack. They stopped after three more of his comrades had been defeated, thus hesitating to attack head-on.
“Whoever kills him will earn half of the bounty we get from this village! Get him, boys!” A voice shouted from the other end of the inn. It encouraged every pirate to attack and so they did. From the kitchen, several women and children listened to what was going on. Warcries, screams, and moans of pain were constant. The sound of metal clashing with each other was rare, but the sound of bodies meeting the wooden floor was often heard. So too Kyosuke’s sandals pointed to how often he moved his feet. It was something out of this world. There could be six or seven people with the same sandals walking around, that they still wouldn’t hit the wooden surface as fast as Kyosuke.
Blood began to pour from below the door and into the kitchen, but the fight was still happening. Then, a couple of gunshots. Another shout and a flesh cutting sound. Another body fell. Silence. Silence had befallen that noisy place so fast. The children and some of the women were evidently scared, they trembled and cried quietly.
Now only drops colliding on the surface could be heard. Netero was ready to accept his fate, whichever that may be. He unlocked the door and opened it swiftly, holding a sharp knife to kill whoever remained or to die with a vestige of honor at least. Netero dropped his knife and his jaw went on the same way, only not farther since it was attached to his face. A torrent of blood covered the floor, corpses and plenty of their parts lay scattered around the dining room. Broken furniture, pieces of wood, weapons, and food were practically everywhere in the dining area as if some sort of tornado had entered and cast them aside randomly.
Kyosuke was near the counter, the only piece of furniture that remained undamaged. His robes were soaked in blood, his feet and sandals covered by it. The young warrior was cleaning his katanas with a white piece of cloth, proper for that effect. “Kyosuke… How?… Just what… Forget about it. Are you hurt?” Netero approached the young man, studying him to see if he was injured. “I’m fine Netero-san. But my meal was lost in the process. Do you mind preparing another one?” Incredulous to what Kyosuke’s concerns were, Netero only snapped out of his awe when he thought that his savior should be properly rewarded. “Of course Kyosuke, I’ll have it ready soon.”
Netero hurried back into the kitchen. “You!” He pointed to the most athletic women in there. “Go to the port! Tell the men that the pirates are dead! And we need help in cleaning this… This bloodshed.” The women there gasped with hope and some even cried more, but now with tears of joy running down their faces. The appointed woman began to run and was briefly stopped by Netero. “Go straight towards the exit. Don’t look around.” Netero’s serious face could only mean that the scenario was gruesome and the woman nodded in agreement before leaving the kitchen. “Now, the rest of you, clean up your tears and get back to work, we need to prepare food for Kyosuke and for the men who have been working since dawn!” All of the women answered and they were back on their feet, ready to work, now much happier than before.
A woman passed by Kyosuke, a woman that he had never seen before. She passed by him so fast, that he deducted right away that she would be bothered by the present scene in the inn. He continued to clean his katanas, slowly and efficiently. “Here’s to hope that I don’t have to use you in the near future.” And while Kyosuke attended to his katanas, so too did the blood flow out of the inn and down the mountainside where the fishing village was located. Soon the men of the village would return to clean the remains of the pirates slaughtered by the samurai and together they would feast with their savior until the next day.
(PS: As always, the images found within Orient in Turmoil are just to give you an idea of the scenarios and characters that take part in the story. They do not belong to me and they aren’t precise representations of the characters and scenarios that you read about here.)