Realms of Destiny
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“Point!” Shouted Sousuke as the wooden sword landed squarely on the forehead of a seven-year old boy who was rubbing his head in pain. “To Rei-sama.” He finished with a smile.
“I wasn’t ready!” Said the boy, trying to stand up from where he had fallen from the force.
“Don’t lie Kenta, you said ‘let’s do it!’ just now.” Said the five-year old girl with pearlescent grey eyes. “That’s five wins in a row. Who’s next?” she asked energetically, looking around the dojo, now filled with students of her father. All the younger kids her age had been beaten and the remaining students were either Sousuke, who is 9, or those older than 10 years old. “Sousuke-sempai, your turn.”
“Uh…no.” He said flatly. Fighting with Reina was never easy. He was better than her, of course, but there is more reason than one that he could not fight her. For one, she is not much more than half his age, his master’s daughter, and he adored her to bits. Though he is better, he knows that the girl is good enough to make him take it seriously. If he does, and wins, he would most likely end up hurting her, which was the last thing he would want to do. Alternatively, he could be branded a bully for beating a five-year-old girl and she would be angry at him for breaking her winning streak. If he pretends to lose, the entire dojo will lose respect for him; and what is worse, she would know that he went easy on her, and would be mad at him nonetheless. This is a fight he cannot win. “Dinner’s in two hours, the master told me to get the groceries today before he left for the nearby town and I haven’t done it. Why don’t we go to the market together? You’ve been training all morning, I think it’s time for a break don’t you?” He hoped that would deter her somewhat.
“You’re just trying to avoid fighting me again. I’m telling you, I’ve been practicing and I’m getting better. Age is just a number. See? I just beat Kenta who’s 2 years older than me.”
“Hey! I told you I wasn’t ready!”
“You will get a match with me ojousama, not today okay?” Sousuke said, half pleading. He had always treated her as a student like everyone else, and in their dojo, gender doesn’t really play a factor and no one discriminates. Although most students are male, there are the occasional female students who are treated just the same. Everyone is viewed with respect on their merits and skills, and Reina has plenty. “Challenge me again in five years and I’ll be your opponent.” At least I’ll seem less of a bully then. He thought.
“FIVE! That’s like an entire lifetime!” The little girl cried in disappointment, which in turn caused the entire dojo to laugh. Sousuke removed his protective head cloth and made his way out of the training hall to get ready for the grocery trip. “Wait for me!” Shouted Rei as she dropped her gears at the back of the dojo and followed him.
The market was a lot busier than usual, and most of the fresh grocery had disappeared. Sousuke inwardly cursed himself for not having come here earlier. The morning was the best time to go grocery shopping as all the fresh food would come in on that day, and if one actually arrived just as the shops were opening, it would still be early enough that not many people would have crowded the street. It is almost lunch time now, the workers have returned to the bustling street to have their lunch. There were so many people that he had to keep Rei’s hand rightly grasped in his or he might lose her in the crowd. The vegetable shop was just on the other side of this noodle stall where people were crowding and queuing if only he could just… there was a bang and a crash, followed by a loud commotion from approximately three stalls in front of them. Everyone got pushed to one side and the flow of people jostled him about. At that moment, a big man standing in front of him tripped and staggered into Sousuke causing him to lose his grasp on Reina’s hands.
“Rei-sama!” He exclaimed. Too late. The crowd broke apart as a thin young man leaped through it, followed closely by four police men. The man seemed to be making taunts at the policemen as he ran through the crowd, carrying an unidentified satchel. He was coming closer and closer towards them all and Sousuke realized, to his sudden fear, that the man looked slightly crazed and had a tanto short sword in his hand, drawn. He quickly looked about for his master’s precious daughter but couldn’t find her. A moment later, the thin man tripped over something and he heard a familiar kiai.
“Yah!” It was Rei.
Oh no, Reina please don’t do anything stupid! The little grey-eyed girl had held out her foot and gave the man’s shins a good hard kick. Sousuke pushed his way through the crowd with utmost urgency and found himself in the empty space that the crowd had made as the crazed man was running through. The man had fallen over and the policemen were quickly gaining on him. Seeing that he cannot possibly escape this predicament, he turned to the source of his downfall and in a frenzied panic, seized her and pointed the tanto at her. “Rei-sama!” shouted Sousuke in horror.
“Sousuke!” Rei shouted back, struggling as much as she could manage within the unexpectedly strong arms of the small-framed man.
“Stop it! Shut up!” Shouted the man at Rei, to no avail. “Or I’ll run this blade through your pretty face girl!” With that, Rei stopped struggling.
By this time the policemen have caught up to him and were moving more cautiously now that they can see the hostage.
“Let the girl go Matsutada.” Said one of the policemen, the leader of the squad, taking a step towards him.
“Don’t move any closer!” Matsutada shouted back, and in his panic pricked Reina’s neck with the tip of the tanto, drawing blood.
“Rei-sama!” shouted Sousuke in horror. Angry and worried he turned on the policeman. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“Alright, alright. Matsutada…let her go, then we’ll talk. We can talk this through alright? Nobody has to get hurt”. Said the policeman.
“How do I know you’re not gonna arrest me if I let her go? I’m taking her across the river, then I’ll let her go once I’m sure I’m safe. She can swim back or whatever.”
“I’m not going across the river with you. I can’t swim!” Protested Reina.
“Well that’s your problem then isn’t it?” said the criminal.
What happened after that would have been the talk of the town for weeks if not months. The captured five-year-old in her annoyance head-butted the man with the back of her head and bit the arm that was holding her with all her might, drawing blood. He dropped her to the ground, and she quickly ran away as fast as she could. The man regained his composure and chased her only to be interrupted by Sousuke who had been waiting for any opportunity, any at all, that would distract the criminal. He did not expect it to come from Reina but he took it nonetheless. He moved swiftly between his ojousama and Matsutada and bracing himself by bending his knees, using his own short height to his advantage, threw a deep punch into Matsutada’s gut, causing the man to double over. He then kicked the wrist that was holding the blade with the back of his heel, sending the blade flying and followed that through with the other foot to the jaw of his ojousama’s assaulter, who fell onto his back. The crowd cheered and applauded the brave young boy and girl who had become the local mini-heroes. The policemen went straight and apprehended Matsutada while the townspeople lifted Sousuke and Reina up onto their shoulders in celebration.
“Sir, it’s alright, please put me down!” Said Sousuke frantically.
“Don’t be modest, boy, you’re a hero.” Said the man holding him.
“No please, really, I must tend to Rei-sama’s injuries.” Said the green-eyed boy. “Her neck is bleeding!” The man gently lowered him down. As did the other man who was holding Reina. As soon as his feet touch the ground he sped to her side.
“Sousuke you’re a hero! That was so cool!” Said Rei excitedly. “You saved me. You’re the best!” She added and gave him a hug. He held her tightly.
“Don’t you ever do that again do you understand me?” Sousuke was glad that he could be Reina’s hero and be able to save her, but he would rather have her not need saving at all. He held her shoulders as he kneeled down on one knee and looked her in the eyes. “Don’t get involved in a crime scene, don’t try to attack someone with a weapon in his hand, and for heaven’s sake, don’t do it when he’s pointing it at you!”
“I’m sorry. It looks like I got blood on your shirt.” She pointed out, pretending to ignore his words.
“I’m telling you off!” As he said that though, he ripped a piece of cloth from his sleeve with his teeth and gently fastened it around her neck. “We’ll have to dress that wound when we get back. Let’s go home.”
“What about the grocery?” asked Rei. Before Sousuke could answer, however, several shop keepers approached them with bags of goods from their shops.
“Here take these! Get well soon little girl!” Said the meat vendor, handing them a cut of pork and chicken.
“Here, have this it’s on me for our handsome little hero!” said the vegetable shop lady, handing a bag of leek, lettuces, and beansprouts to Sousuke.
“Here, have some of this saba fish!”
“Have some ocha from my shop!”
Before they knew it both their arms were full of free goods, and Sousuke had to deny some other kind lady who tried to give him a rather large melon which would not fit in his arms.
“Thank you very much misters and missus, we really don’t deserve this.” Said Sousuke, blushing to the top of his ears from being treated in such a special way.
“Just take it!” They all said at once.
“Thank you very much!” said Reina with the sweetest smile that reached her eyes for all the kindness that had been offered.
The grocery proved too much for the two of them so they took a short break two-thirds of the way home. They had found a place by the canal where there were some soft grassy patches.
“Sousuke….can I see your gem?” asked Rei after a while. There was only one gem that she meant of course, which was an orange gem the size of a go piece which he had always carried around for as long as he could remember. It was a kind of gem she had never seen before, with what looked like twirling flames inside it if she looks closely enough. Well, not ‘never’ per se, as she has one similar to it, but hers is blue and has a mini water tornado twirling around in a playful manner.
Sousuke was busy sorting the grocery, putting smaller bags into bigger ones so that he could carry more and let Rei carry less. “I’m busy at the moment Rei-sama, can I give it to you later?” seeing her disappointed face, he stopped sorting the goods and unwrapped the gem from his wrist where he had it as a bracelet. He then handed it to her, smiling to himself as he sees her face light up. “Don’t drop it.” He added unnecessarily.
“I know.” She replied and started immediately to turn it around in her hand examining it closely. Sousuke didn’t know whether or not it was the fact that he could see her being happy or something else, but whenever Reina held that gem in her hand he would always get a warm fuzzy feeling on the inside, as though someone had just placed a gentle hand on his heart. That gem is precious to him, it had always been with him for as long as he could remember, even before he came to the dojo, and it had never left his side.
On the day Reina was born he could remember that the girl had grasped her own gem tight in her hand when he looked. He did not remember when she had gotten hold of it but when her father tried to remove it from her hand to prevent her from swallowing it she just kept crying like there was no tomorrow. So they had to tie it on a necklace and kept it close to her. Reina now took her own gem out and held it in the other hand, looking at them both. Hers seem to glow a little at the time. She found this quite puzzling but whenever this happened, in the past her injuries seem to hurt less and recover completely the day after. This time was no exception. The irritating pain she had on her neck from the tanto prick is slowly fading away, the bleeding had also stopped.
They ended their break and continued walking until they reached home. Most of the student had gone back for the day but he could see two pairs of sandals, one big one, which belongs to his master, and a small one the size of Reina’s own slippers. It wasn’t in the designated cubby hole and he thought it belongs to one of the younger students so he picked it up and put it into one.
“Father we’re home!” shouted Reina as she sped through the training hall into the living room, leaving Sousuke to put her shoes away as well.
“Wait! Rei-sama we must…” too late, she was halfway through the training hall.”…dress your wound first.” He finished. Sighing inwardly and dreading the punishment he would receive if Hakuda finds out what had happened to Reina when she was left under his care. The boy cleared the front door area and followed in, dropping the grocery in the kitchen before joining her in welcoming his master back. He turned the corner and walked into the living room to find that they seem to have a guest.
“Welcome back master….and…who is this boy?” He was studying the boy intently, for he looked even more unusual than Sousuke himself, or Reina for that matter. A boy who looks to be around 5-6 years old sat beside his master, staring blankly at nothing in particular. He was covered in dirt and looked like he had just been attacked. Who would attack a five-year-old to this extent was beyond Sousuke, but what puzzled him most was how on earth a Japanese boy could have flaming red hair and eyes the deep red of garnet.