Chapter 16:

Getting Closer

Every Side of the World

After Kizou went home, the day seemed to flow by quickly. He helped Grandma with her duties as well as helped around the village some more. Afterwards, he went home and fell asleep instantly. He wasn’t sure whether it was because he was nervous about training tomorrow, or if it was because he was nervous that Tomiko was his teacher. While he never did hate Tomiko, he could clearly feel that she hated him.

Why is she acting so nice now? Kizou thought to himself that night.

He wasn’t sure of the details, but she did say that she acknowledged him trying to protect Grandma and Grandpa. Although he never said that to Osamu, it seemed like Osamu wanted him to get trained by his daughter. For a guy that seemed like he was overprotective of his daughter, Kizou didn’t understand why he said those things. Kizou couldn’t put the pieces together, but he definitely knew that it was Osamu who initiated the whole thing.

The next morning came, and Kizou woke up as usual to do his tasks. As he crept up to leave the house, he saw Grandpa sitting in the chair in the living room. He looked up at Kizou and looked away as it seemed he was just trying to be alone. This had become a daily thing.

Ever since the incident with the individuals, Grandpa seemed more quiet and to himself. It might’ve been due to the fact that he was publicly embarrassed, but his passion for his village was always something cool to Kizou.

“Later Gramps, I’m off,” Kizou would always say before he went on out. Grandpa would always look back at him and look away.

Kizou stepped out of the house, and Grandma walked out to find Grandpa sitting down.

“Did Kizou already head out?” Grandma asked. “He really does love to help.”

“He’s doing a bit too much,” Grandpa said without yelling for once.

“If there was ever a day that you felt like you did Shoma wrong,” Grandma said. “Then this is the time that you’re able to fix it.”

Grandpa stayed fixated on the words that Grandma said. Shoma and him used to be so close, but he left without even saying a proper goodbye. Grandpa didn’t hate Kizou, he just didn’t want to have someone close to him leave him like that again.

Kizou walked outside and grabbed the axe. He let out a huge inhale and exhale. He was prepared for his training later today and wanted to get all of his tasks done as best as possible. As he walked over to his usual spot in the forest, he saw Tomiko standing there.

“Hmm, so this is where you chop the wood,” she said as she saw Kizou coming up.

Kizou was surprised that she was up so early, but he was even more surprised that she seemed to know about his routine. Their training was supposed to start later, so he was confused why she was there.

“Well student, it’s time to get to work,” Tomiko said as he put her hands on her waist and let out a triumphant smile.

“Wait, it’s already starting?!” Kizou exclaimed.

“Well, duh,” Tomiko answered. “A teacher should always be earlier than their student.”

Maybe she wanted to be my teacher just for more self-satisfaction? Kizou thought to himself after seeing her.

Kizou picked up the axe and started chopping the tree down to gather the wood. He would always raise his axe above his head and slash down, because he felt like this would give his axe more force when he sliced.

“No, no!” Tomiko yelled. “You’re doing it all wrong.”

“What do you mean?” Kizou asked annoyingly. He felt like he had more experience than her in chopping up wood.

“Why would you slash from the top down?” Tomiko asked.

“Because there would be more force in these strikes,” Kizou answered immediately.

“But how would the overall wood look?” Tomiko asked with an annoyed face.

“What do you mean overall-”

Kizou stopped in his tracks as he realized the wood that he’d been cutting had uneven cuts and didn’t look usable. He never focused on the bigger picture but rather on just what was in front of him. As Kizou remembered how the past month had been going, it always seemed like Grandpa was using other wood than the ones he brought over.

Wait! What if Grandpa wasn’t upset about the incident, but he was upset about the wood? Kizou thought to himself. He put his hands to his cheeks after thinking about the embarrassment.

“You really are a weird kid, you know,” Tomiko answered with a sigh. “The best way to cut this tree down is to use a horizontal strike.”

“A horizontal strike?” Kizou asked in confusion.

“Yes, raise your sword like this,” Tomiko said as she got into a position with her right hand perched over her left side. “And then do this!”

Tomiko let out a strike, and the tree was cut in almost an instant.

“Wait, what?!” Kizou said as he watched her in disbelief.

Kizou was using an axe that was definitely thicker than her sword, but she easily cut down what took him around a couple of hits.

“It’s not always which weapon is the strongest,” Tomiko said as she wiped off the dust from her sword. “It’s also about how you use that weapon.”

Kizou looked down at the axe and started inspecting it.

It’s how you use that weapon, huh? Kizou thought to himself.

“Well I’ll leave you to get done with your duties,” Tomiko said as she turned around and raised her hand up. “I don’t expect you to come by the river today, since you’ll be tired.”

Hopefully, this will get him riled up, Tomiko thought to herself.

Kizou stood still and raised his axe up with both of his hands and took a huge inhale. While holding his axe with both hands, he got into the same exact position as Tomiko.

This is too heavy, Kizou thought to himself as he struggled to keep his position.

He let out a huge exhale and swung his axe towards the side of the tree. The cut went through but managed to stop once it was halfway through the tree’s structure. The axe was stuck and Kizou fell to the ground and started breathing hard due to exhaustion. He put his hand towards the sky and closed his eyes.

“This is so fun!” Kizou said to himself as he started laughing from experiencing something new. He continued laughing as he was too tired to get back up.

Once Kizou got back up, he started gathering as much wood as he could. It took him longer than usual as he was barely getting used to the new method of cutting down trees as well as all the effort that it takes in doing so. After he finished cutting the trees, he realized that he still had to drag them back.

“This is so tiring,” Kizou said aloud as he fell down to the floor. His enthusiasm changed once he realized that there was no new method to bring back the wood. He kept his eyes closed and could slowly feel footsteps walking over to him. He got up instantly as he realized it might’ve been Tomiko trying to check up on him.

“Don’t worry, I’m almost-”

Kizou stopped talking to see a familiar face walking up to him.

“I already knew it was you, but it feels weird to actually see you doing this,” Grandpa said as he walked towards Kizou with his work clothes on.

“Hey,” Kizou said awkwardly.

“Don’t just say hey! Aren’t we supposed to be bringing this back?” Grandpa said.

“Well, I figured that an old man like you shouldn’t be tiring themselves with this heavy workload,” Kizou said uncomfortably as he didn’t know how to communicate with Grandpa.

“Old man?!” Grandpa said as he crouched down near the wood. “Could an old man do this?”

Grandpa picked up the wood that Kizou could barely drag and put it on top of his shoulder. Kizou looked at him with amazement.

“I should be calling you little kid instead,” Grandpa said as he triumphantly held the wood on his shoulders.

“So, it’s a race now, isn’t it?” Kizou said with excitement. “I’ve got you.”

Kizou and Grandpa ran through the forest while carrying the chunks of wood and laughed with one another the whole time. Kizou would always be trailing, but Grandpa would slow down on purpose just to tease him into running faster.

“Wow, so is that all you got?” Grandpa asked mockingly.

Kizou would smile and continue to run as he caught up to him. Eventually, they both made it back to the house to where Grandma was smiling at seeing them both get along.

A silhouette was behind the trees and seemed to be watching over Kizou the entire time.

“Guess my eyes weren’t deceiving me,” Osamu said as he slowly walked away with a smile. “Let’s see what else he has in store.”