Chapter 25:

Vol 1: Ch 24: Kazegami Tora

Realms of Destiny

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“She’s friggin crazy, I’m telling you!” said Hiratomi as he took another gulp from a cup of sake in his hands. He held up the bottle to pour more, only to realize that only a few drops were left. “Hey! Waiter! Bring more sake!”

“You’re drinking too much Genji-san, I don’t want to have to carry you back home.” Said a younger man, a katana by his side indicated that he was of a samurai class. “I know you’re no longer of the samurai class, but you still possess samurai blood in you, being seen as an angry drunk is hardly seemly, preserve your honour...”

“Tsugumi-san, whatever honour he had left I’m sure he lost when the girl kicked his butt in a duel.” Laughed another friend.

“Shaddup you!” Hiratomi screamed at the guy, making a vain attempt at trying to grab him, but missed in his drunken state. “That stupid…gur…She shtoopid that one. Who wouldn’t wanna marry me? I got money, I got class..”

“And you’re an angry drunk oji-san.”

“And I’m an - ! Who wazzat?” exclaimed the drunk man as he looked around the inn. All the other customers seemed to be minding their own business, casting annoyed glances in his general direction but not daring to do much due to the presence of the samurai sitting with him. “Tsugumi. Who said that?”

“I’m not sure, came from that general direction.” He pointed behind his friend to a table where a family of four were having lunch. There were two young boys who were laughing loudly at some joke he hadn’t heard. On another table beside theirs was a teenager of about fourteen, dark-skinned, dressed as an adventurer, slurping noodles by himself. Hiratomi angrily stood up and stormed towards the laughing children. “Wazzaya laughin at kid?” he yelled, grabbing the older of the two boys by the sleeve.

“Ahh!” screamed the poor boy in surprise as he felt himself being tugged.

“Excuse me sir, what do you think you’re doing to my son?” said the father, standing up.

“Teaching ya kid some manners!” before the father could react, the Hiratomo lifted his right hand up as to hit the clueless boy. The younger brother started crying and the older one squeezed his eyes shut and braced himself for the inevitable blow. However, before Hiratomi could hit the boy he felt a sharp pain in his hand, a shoyu saucer had hit it. Immediately Hiratomi’s friends stood up to try to pry the man loose from the innocent child. “Who the hell was that?”

“Me. Stop bullying little children oji-san.” The dark-skinned boy slurped the very last of his ramen, put the bowl down, and pulled his legs onto his seat in a cross-legged position. Tsugumi could see that, although small in build, this boy was clearly equipped and an adventurer. He was taken aback by the boy's odd appearance for not only is his skin unusually dark, uncommon within these parts, one of his eye is an unusual colour, it was amber. Leaning by the table’s leg were two short-swords and a travelling pack. The strange boy had a confident look about him and Tsugumi knew right away that this is no ordinary child.

“How dare you brat!” Hiratomi broke free of his friends in his anger and lunged at the boy only to hit his own face on the chair the boy was sitting on. The boy himself was no longer there. He landed nimbly with one foot on Hiratomi’s back and stepped lightly onto the floor.

“How violent, no wonder the lady didn’t wanna marry you.” Said the boy, he walked towards the other boy gave him a brush on his shirt. “You alright?”

“Rarggh!!” screamed the angry man as he swung violently towards the strange teenager’s back. The stranger merely ducked and evaded the myriad of attacks thrown at him as he jumped from one empty chair to another empty table. As the drunken man attacked he left destruction in his wake but otherwise, the boy was able to stay just out of reach.

“Sir, please don’t destroy the inn any further.” Pleaded the distraught inn-keeper. “Lord Samurai, please! My inn is being destroyed.”

“Don’t order me around man.” Said Tsugumi to the innkeeper before he laid a restraining hand on Hiratomi’s shoulder. “Don’t cause a ruckus Genji-san.” By this time the boy had jumped and dodged his way towards the doorway. As he turned back to taunt the drunk man two figures in wedding attire walked into the inn.

“Yamada-san, we were passing by and heard loud noises, is everything alright?” said the bride.

“YOU!” roared Hiratomi, pointing his finger, shaking with rage, towards the face he would never forget.

“Oh. It’s you.” Said Reina in disgust as she looked at the source of the ruckus she’d heard from outside. “What trouble are you causing this time?”

“Good afternoon Yamada-san, is everything alright?” Sousuke asked the innkeeper he used to help out when he was a child.

“Sousuke-kun, not much, it’s just that this gentleman here’s had too much to drink, he’s destroying the place trying to chase down that boy.” The boy of whom he spoke now stood beside Reina watching the exchange between the failed suitor and his lost prize.

“Wow, I’m sorry, but I just can’t imagine an angel like you marrying filth like him.” Said the boy who seemed to have taken a special interest in the newcomers. He looked especially towards Reina then to Sousuke, noting their unusual-coloured eyes and Reina’s gem, hanging around her neck. Reina smiled at this new lively stranger and was shocked to note as well his unusual appearance. On his neck, fashioned into a specially designed choker was a gem like hers but it was light green.

“Dumb brat!” yelled Hiratomi. He grabbed Tsugumi’s sword while his friend was busy studying the woman his friend failed to court, and charged towards the boy. His target quickly moved his hands towards his own swords to parry but before he could do so Sousuke had put himself between the two of them, having drawn his own sword by a fraction just enough to block the attack. “Out of the way tea-boy.” Said the older man.

“I would appreciate it if you didn’t call my husband tea-boy, zero-points.” Said Reina. She felt rather odd calling him ‘husband’ for the first time, but it was fitting in that situation. What’s more, at that word, Sousuke beamed with pride and looked at her with total love and adoration. It was the same look he had given her for many years, yet she had only just noticed the full meaning of it. She blushed a little.

“Congratulations! You two! I’m so happy for you both!” exclaimed Yamada-san forgetting the peril of his inn in all his excitement.

“Congratulations Sousuke-nii! Reina-nee-san!” shouted the young boy who was grabbed earlier. Reina smiled back at them and waved at their parents who had known both of them for a very long time.

“The unqualified daughter of a blind peasant and the tea-boy, how fitting.” Spat Hiratomi in disgust. Within a split second of the insult, even the samurai Tsugumi found it hard to follow the action.

One moment his sword flew from Hiratomi’s hands and embed itself in the inn’s ceiling, his friend’s feet were swiped off from under him; another moment, the no-longer-so-drunk man found himself looking down the pointy tip of Sousuke’s katana.

“I couldn’t care less if you insulted me Hiratomi Genji, but you are no longer a guest in my home. If you’re going to insult my Master and my wife any further…” he narrowed his eyes suggestively at the tip of his sword.

“How dare you peasant point your sword at me, son of a samurai!”

“Filth like you sully the honourable title.” Sousuke gripped his sword again, moving it closer to the man’s nose. Suddenly Tsugumi found himself staring at the unusual blade and the well-crafted guard and handle.

“That sword!” exclaimed Tsugumi in recognition. “Didn’t it belong to Akagawa Shinnosuke – Where did you?“

“My name is Akagawa Sousuke, Shinnosuke was my father.”

“The Bandit-slayer, a hero. He saved his feudal lord from five hundred bandits single-handedly at the age of 18. He also served the shogun loyally for ten years before he met his untimely death. I didn’t know he had a son!” said Tsugumi in awe. Having (not) seen what Sousuke did to unarm his friend, he knew then that they were no match. He looked to his other friend and indicated that they’d better leave.

“I have no intention of hiding behind my father’s name. Even so, you'd better take your friend home before he causes any more trouble. An injured drunk man is the last thing I want to deal with on my wedding day.” With that, he sheathed his sword so that Tsugumi and his other friend could pull Hiratomi up and make their way out of the inn. He turned back to Reina. “Sorry you had to see that Rei-sama.” Sousuke smiled apologetically.

“Don’t be. I would have hit him myself if I weren’t in these.” She lifted her arms indicating the kimono her father had her put on for the occasion. “Though, you better stop calling me Rei-sama now or people will mistake you for a ‘tea-boy’ again. Ne? Sousuke-san.” Her husband gave her another warm smile.

Saying goodbye to the inn keeper, promising they’d come back to help them fix the ceiling, Sousuke and Reina left the inn. They didn’t have to walk very far to notice that they had company.

“Say, that was some pretty awesome stunt you pulled back there nii-san. Oh, and congratulations to the two of you!” Said the dark-skinned boy who seemed to have taken a liking to the two of them.

“Uh, thanks….” Said Sousuke.

“Tora, Kazegami Tora. Nice to meet you.” He gave a short bow to the two of them.

“Nice to meet you Tora-kun. My name is Reina, Ha – I mean, Akagawa Reina.” She corrected herself as she looked at Sousuke. She’s got to get used to this new name some time. “And this is Sousuke.” She gestured to her sempai who nodded. “I take it you’re new in town? You don’t look like you’re from around here.”

“Yea, I’m from Hiroshima, but I got some business to do here.” Said Tora.

“I see. But should you really be following us? If you’ve got business in town then it’s the other way, we’re walking away from it.” Rei pointed out.

“Oh don’t worry I know where I’m headed and it’s in this general direction. I know we’ve just met but man! I like you guys!” Tora beamed at them.

Reina and Sousuke didn’t know why either but they both felt the same way. Though they have never met there was something familiar about Tora’s carefree and energetic nature which put their mind at ease. As they walked home, Tora began relating the eventful story of his journey from the very beginning. 

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