Hyuosuke sat on the edge of his bed staring outside the window. The sky was still filled with gray clouds. It had poured the whole day yesterday. He got up to check on his Grandpa and Sore, when he saw Kaneto approaching towards their house, tailed by three more elders, one of whom was Itaru. He grunted, and made his way towards the living room. After what had happened yesterday at the funeral, even the sight of Kaneto made his blood boil. The door to the living room was closed shut. He tiptoed towards the door, and placed his ear on the door, hoping to catch what they were talking about.
“What the hell are you doing?”
He jolted up and turned around to see Akira standing behind.
“Where did you come from?!” He whispered.
Akira pointed towards the main door with an expression that said ‘Duh.’
He beckoned her to the lounge, which was far from the living room.
“What are you doing here Akira?” he asked
“I came here to say goodbye obviously.”
“What? When did Sore tell you?” He asked, confused.
“She didn’t. That old bag Kaneto told everyone in the village. He is mocking you all, you know. I wish Sore had punched him yesterday.” She said through gritted teeth.
They went to Sore’s room. The door was slightly open. A bag sat on the bed all packed. Sore was standing near the drawer in which she kept all her medical supplies. She saw them standing at her door, and gestured them to come in. Akira embraced her in a tight hug.
“Are you okay?” She asked
“Yeah I’m fine,” Sore smiled a little. “It’s good you’re here, I wanted to tell you something.”
“I already know. That old sag Kaneto announced in the whole village about your journey. I hate him, but I’m a little glad he did, because, knowing you, I presume you weren’t going to tell me, and were about to leave without even saying a goodbye.” Akira complained.
Sore didn’t say anything. Part of her knew it was true. Akira saw her expression, and quickly regretted what she had just said. “But now I’m here, and I can wish you all luck.”
Sore smiled, and hugged her tight. “I don’t know if what we’re about to do is the right call or not Akira. I’m scared and worried.” Her voice became teary. “Maybe there might be another way. We should go talk to the elders ourselves.” She said turning to Hyuosuke. He hesitated, “They’re already here. Grandpa is with them in the living room.”
Sore got up, and rushed to the living room. Hyuosuke and Akira went after her. Sore entered the room.
“… and tell your grandkids about this too, I suggest.” Kaneto stopped, and turned to look all three of them standing at the door.
“Tell us what?” asked Sore
“Tell you that all us elders cannot trust you three completely, and that is why we decided that Itaru will accompany you three on your quest.” Kaneto said, staring at Sore. She could hear the mockery in his voice. “There are whispers going around the village that your Grandfather can not be trusted with the Kasai Tamashii anymore.”
“I guess we have you to thank for turning the villagers against us,” replied Sore without even a blink.
Kaneto clenched his jaw. “You have a very fierce soul young lady. Reminds me of your son Hachiro, Eito.” He said, all the while staring at Sore with a crooked smile. “I hope she doesn’t end up rebelling like him. I guess we all should go now. I hope that whatever happens is best for the Kasai land.”
He walked passed Sore, and whispered in her ear. “It was your little outrage yesterday that turned them against you.”
Hyuosuke felt her freeze besides him. “Don’t let him get to you. He’s trying to play the good guy here, which he’s clearly not.”
“We leave in an hour,” Eito said, as soon as the elders left the house, and went to his room followed by Itaru.
Sore and Akira went back to her room.
“I’ll check if we have everything we need,” Hyuosuke said, leaving the room.
Sore and Akira sat on the bed. A silence filled the room.
“What if we can’t find him? Sore finally broke the silence.
“Don’t say that Sore. You will, and then everything will be okay. The whole village knows how loyal your Grandpa is to the Kasai land. They all are just worried and scared, because there isn’t an heir to the Tamashii yet. Kaneto is just toying with this fear of theirs, and manipulating them.”
“Sore it’s time to go.” Hyuosuke said.
Sore picked up her bag, and came to the living room with Akira. Grandpa was double checking everything when she heard a meow. It was Whiskers, standing on the kitchen window. She picked her up, and rubbed her head.
“Don’t worry. I’ll take care of her.” Akira said from behind with a sigh.
“Thank you,” Sore grinned and hugged her. Akira was allergic to cats, and she was worried who would take care of Whiskers, but Akira read her worried expression, and immediately volunteered to take care of her.
“I guess this is goodbye then.” Sore said to Akira. They embraced each other.
“Take care of yourself, and come back home”, whispered Akira in her ear.
“Have a safe trip Hyuosuke,” Akira said, giving him a hug too. Sore noticed Hyuosuke was about to say something, but stopped.
“Come on, we don’t have all day.” Grumbled Itaru, standing on the front porch.
Hyuosuke limped slowly towards his home. His knee was all scratched, and his ankle was swollen. Blood ran down his nose. He grunted and whimpered as he made his way up to the hill. He could taste the blood in his mouth. No one was at home. He went in to the kitchen, and searched for the first aid box. He heard the front door shut, he turned around to see his Uncle Daiki making his way towards his room when he spotted Hyuosuke standing there all bruised up. He rushed towards him, and reached for the medical box.
“What happened Hyuosuke? Who did this?” he asked as calmly as he could
“I was up against Kira. It took him ten seconds to do this to me,” he replied in a teary voice.
Daiki sighed. “Hyuosuke you know you don’t have to do this. You don’t have to burden yourself with this. I don’t know why father has approved of this, but I haven’t. You’re my son, and my responsibility, and I do not approve of you being burdened with the Tamashii anytime in your life.” Daiki finished bandaging Hyuosuke’s knee and ankle, which was sprained, and wiped his arms and face. He carried him to his room and put him to bed.
“Here these will help with the pain,” Daiki handed Hyuosuke a tablet.
He sat there till Hyuosuke fell asleep.
Hyuosuke didn't wake up till late evening, and still his body ached. He heard someone enter his room.
“Who were you up against?” It was Sore.
“Kira,” he mumbled.
“Ugh I hate him! He’s the same age as us, and he acts like he already has been chosen to carry the Tamashii. I bet his grandfather, what’s his name?
“Yeah, Kaneto sure feeds him some kind of potion to make him strong—" Sore kept on talking about how much she hated Kira, because of what he did to Hyuosuke.
“Where’s uncle,” Hyuosuke asked, cutting off Sore from her angry banter.
“In Grandpa’s room. I only heard a bit, but I think he’s asking Grandpa to stop you from going to the training grounds.”
It took almost a week for Hyuosuke’s knee and ankle to heal. He spent the whole week thinking of what to say to his uncle to convince him to go back to the training grounds.
He finally built up the courage to go talk to him. Usually after dinner, Uncle Daiki used to spend an hour or two in their library. He knocked, and went in to see Daiki reading his favorite book.
“Oh, what brings you here, son? Did Sore do something?”
“No,” Hyuosuke replied with a laugh. He hesitated before finally saying, “I want to go back to the training grounds from tomorrow.” He finally said.
Daiki stared at him. Hyuosuke saw the worried expression on Daiki’s face and quickly averted his gaze.
“May I just ask why you are so eager to burden your soul with the Tamashii?” Daiki asked softly.
“I want to be stronger,” Hyuosuke replied in a tiny voice.
“You are quite strong for your age. You’ll get stronger when you grow up. The beating you took from Kira, an average seven-year-old would have fainted.”
Hyuosuke didn’t say anything, and kept gazing at his feet.
Daiki came close to him, and took his tiny hands and clasped them between his hard, big ones.
“Hyuosuke you are my son, and I do not want you to end up like me or my brothers. My father couldn’t protect his sons from the Tamashii, but I want to protect you from it. I love you and Sore equally, and I want to keep you two safe.”
Hyuosuke felt tears running down his cheeks. “I love you too uncle, and that is why I want to be strong, so that I can protect you one day too, like you protect Grandpa, and Sore, and me. Isn’t that what sons do for their families? You are my family, and I want to protect you all too,” he said, while wiping a runny nose from his face.
Daiki smiled and wiped the tears from Hyuosuke’s cheeks, “Ok I’ll let you train. But there are certain conditions you must follow. First and foremost, I’ll be your trainer from now on. Second, you’ll follow a new set of rules that I will announce once I’ve come up with them. And third, and most important, I’m only letting you do this because I care for you, and want you to know that I will not love you less, even if you choose to not burden yourself with the Tamashii, and decide to quit all this.”
Uncle Daiki trained him till it was time for the Battles amongst the clans for the selection of the Chosen. Hyuosuke and Kira were the last ones standing.
“I think we should camp here for the night,” Said Hyuosuke coming out of his beautiful memory with his beloved uncle.
Sore looked at the tired and breathless, Eito and Itaru in front of them. They haven’t spoken a word to each other the whole day.
“I’ll take the first watch,” said Sore. She needed to clear up her mind.
They woke up at the crack of dawn, packed their stuff, and headed towards the south. They stopped at a river for water. They walked ahead when Itaru finally broke the silence, “You need to tell me the exact plan, Eito. How are we suppose to find your son? I mean do you know where he is, or might be? Are we even headed in the right direction? Is it…” within a flash, Itaru was on the ground with Eito’s walking chaff on his chest. It took Sore a few seconds to realize that Itaru had been knocked down by her Grandpa.
“Don’t you dare talk about my son, you traitor! How could you do this to me after all these years? You know I would never hurt my people. And most of all, YOU KNOW I NEVER KEPT THE TAMASHII FOR ITS POWER IT KEPT IT TO PROTECT MY PEOPLE!” Eito’s face was red from anger, and his hands were shaking. He let go of him, and stood up.
“Eito, I know,” replied Itaru. “I never betrayed you for Kaneto, but he was growing stronger and stronger. He had convinced four Councilors to his side. And after Daiki passed away, all the others were with him. I tried my best to stop them, but they wouldn’t listen to me, so I had no choice but to stand with them. I knew you wouldn’t let Tamashii go in the wrong hands, so I was the one to suggest Kaneto hold a meeting. He was planning on taking the Tamashii forcefully from you, even knowing about the consequences, but I managed to convince him to let you go on this journey. I’ve known you all my life, Eito, I knew you would never choose a violent option over a peaceful one. So know this, that I am still your friend, and I am still as loyal to you as I have ever been,” he said while getting up. Eito offered him his hand, and they hugged each other.
“You have lost seven sons to protect our land, Eito, how much more can you sacrifice for our people?” Itaru said, as they started to walk towards the children.
Eito sighed at his friend’s words. It was true, he had sacrificed everything for the people of his village, yet he never regretted it. He knew his responsibilities were much bigger than his family.
“I have seen the darker side of Tamashii, I ha—"
“Grandpa watch out,” shouted Hyuosuke, while holding Sore from her shoulders, and pushing her to the ground. Sore didn’t understand what has just happened when she turned her head to see Eito holding Itaru in his hands with two arrows sticking in his back. They ran to take cover behind a tree.
“Hyuosuke take him with you. Sore go with him,” Eito said “I’ll handle the killer.”
“I’ll come with you” Hyuosuke said.
“NO. stay here and protect them. I’ll be fine.” He said, and ran towards the direction the arrow had come from.
Sore looked down at Itaru. She checked his pulse, which was hardly there. She checked the wound. The arrows had pierced deep into his back. One had hit his spine. The wounds, and his back were turning black.
“They’re poisoned,” she whispered. She saw Itaru’s lips moving. She put her ear closer to his mouth. “Tell Eito to protect the village. He must choose the right heir of the Tamashii.” He stopped breathing.
Sore said, checking his pulse again, “We must tell Grandpa that the arrows are poisoned.”
They ran towards where Eito had gone. They hid behind a bush. Eito was nowhere to be seen. Then, suddenly a blast of fire came from the east, and went in the west direction where the trees were. A whole tree burned down within seconds. Sore and Hyuosuke fell backwards, both panting and sweating from the heat that came from that blast. Something flashed past them towards the burning tree. They leaned forwards, and saw a flame that was running. A shot of fire came out of that flame, and stopped when it reached the burning tree. Sore gasped. The burning figure was Eito using the Tamashii. His head moved sideways, as if trying to sniff out the killer. He jumped up to one of the trees. There was silence. They sat there holding their breaths. A silhouette appeared from within the burning trees. It was Eito. They both ran towards him. Hyuosuke caught him, and carried him towards where Itaru was. “I managed to scare him away I suppose.” Eito said through heavy breathing.
“Lay him down,” Sore said. She started to check his body for cuts and bruises. His arms were bruised with blood seeping out from both his hands. His breathing was heavy and unsteady. She reached for her bag and started to clean the wounds. Her hands were still shaking from what they had just witnessed. They had never seen Eito use his Tamashii before.
“We need to take cover in a safe place.” Sore said
“There must be a cave nearby, I’ll carry Grandpa,” said Hyuosuke
They found a cave beneath a big old tree.
Sore handed a wet cloth to Hyuosuke, “Clean up the blood.”
She took out a syringe from her kit, and started to load it with morphine. She held Eito’s arm, struggling to find a vein. His skin was so hot. She could feel the heat emitting from his skin. She finally found a vein to poke the needle into, when she heard a whisper, “Sore, you should look at this first.”
She turned her head and followed Hyuosuke’s gaze down on Eito’s thigh. In his feeble weak thigh stuck out a tiny broken stick. She didn’t realize what it was until she saw the black spot surrounding it. Eito had been struck by a poisoned arrow. She searched for the antidote inside her medical kit. She filled the syringe with it, and injected it to his thigh.
Eito passed out. They heard the clouds rumble outside, and it started to rain after a few seconds. It poured heavily all night. Hyuosuke and Sore stayed awake the entire night.
“Do you think Kaneto sent him after us?” Hyuosuke broke the silence.
Sore didn’t say a word.
“I doubt it though. He knows very well how the transfer of Tamashii occurs. And killing the one possessing it does not help gain it. But then again, we do not know what lengths he will go to achieve the Tamashii. But what if there are other people who want to get their hands on Kasai-Tamashii, and maybe Kaneto rebelling against Grandpa in front of the whole village might have given them the nerve to do so too.” He looked at Sore who was staring at her feet.
“Earth to Sore,” Hyuosuke said, waving his hand in front of Sore’s face. She was clearly in deep thoughts, and didn’t hear a word Hyuosuke had said.
“You didn’t hear anything I said, did you?”
“Hyuosuke, I don’t think the antidote will work against the poison.”