Adventures of An Elemental
Author's note: I hope that my readers will be able to be enveloped in my story and just to enjoy the suspense!
The BeginningFire is a beautiful and dangerous element. It can burn, kill, heal, and warm the flesh of a body. Fire is a miracle and a gift to all souls. Fire is life and death and it is also me. I, Katsumi Hiroshi, can save a life or take a life with a snap of my fingers.
I flicked the orange light dancing merrily on my right index finger, making its glow disappear. The dark night now consumed my surroundings and the warmth from inside me vanished. A sudden chill ran down my spine causing the tiny
Out in the distance on owl hooted creepily yet soothingly. A bell sounded out in the distance, yet I did not know where it came from. Crickets sang their sad song in the rhythm of moving waters from the stream nearby. The wind howled and the trees responded with the rattling of leaves.
I sighed and heaved myself up from the ground. Dawn would be breaking soon and I could not fall asleep on the rotten earth floor. I gathered up the bag of arrows and strapped it against my back. I held my bow ever so cautiously, for you never know what can spring up at you in the dark.
I viewed myself as a walking weapon most of the time. My uniform clung to me tightly, yet it was comfortable and I could move around with proficiency. My uniform also contained many pockets in which I keep my small weapons, food, or other tools. I carried around small smoke bombs the size of my pinky finger nail along with knives, matches, sharpened stones, and tiny needles which can be used for all sorts of things. In two of my pockets I carry crackers for days I cannot find any game. Some other things I carry are small clinical leaves, string, and a cloth. At my waist I carry a katana in a sheath at my right, and a long hammer on my left. Unfortunately, I do not have a water canteen to hold water.
I was only a few minutes to the Village of Hope in search of the naginata, Ame-no-nuboko, for the restoration of our land, Onogoro. I heard rumors of it being guarded in the Village of Hope. I've also heard that multiple villages have been seen protecting it. If the Village of Hope doesn't claim possession of the "Heavenly Jewled Spear," then I am off to the Village of Prosperity. Yet I doubt that the rumors are true. I suspect that the naginata is being held at a base, or-hopefully not- Lord Osamu's castle.
I gave a sound of disapproval as I walked towards my destination. Onogoro's energy soared through my body and I can feel the Kamiyonanayo's sorrow pulse through me. I must find the naginata as quickly as I can before we all die.
A twig broke off in the distance and I prepared for a fight. I snatched an arrow and slid it through my bow and ignited it with fire. In my peripheral vision I saw a deer protrude from behind a tree. Laughing at myself, I straightened and continued along the path to the Village of Hope. Above me, the sky had changed to a light purple and birds stirred and began to sing their happy songs. I breathed in the fresh autumn air and exhaled loudly. Soon it would be winter and that means less food. I prayed that winter would go by quickly.
Just then, a sharp noise went off inside my head. Very recently I've been experiencing migraines randomly. My gut told me that it wasn't a migraine, it was something more.
When I thought the pain dulled and moved on, the screeching intensified, bringing me down onto my knees in agony. I did not scream because I am a strong woman and strong women do not succumb to pain, although I wanted to scream my heart out. Instead, I held in the pain and bit on my tongue.
Soon the noise disappeared, but I stayed in my position. My hands held the sides of my head, my eyes were squeezed shut and my knees dug into he soft soil. I did not want to admit how frightened I am of this because of the dangers it may bring me.
Inhaling courageously, I dropped my hands then opened my eyes, but remained on the ground. My vision was blurred, but when it cleared I noticed two men starring at me. Alarmed, I jumped up but staggered backwards. I gripped my katana nervously.
How strange. Usually I could sense humans through Onogoro's energy. Was it the migrane or the land's loss of power?
The two men gripped the handle of their katanas as well, but someone approaching ordered them to stand down. The man looked about six feet tall and his scraggly facial hair hid his mouth. He wore armour and stood confidentially behind the other two soilders.
"I apologize, traveler." The man's gruff voice rang in my ears. "Might I ask where you are headed?"
I straightened, "The Village of Hope, captain." I replied.
The man's eyebrows shot up. "You seem to be more than a traveler, yes? What is your name?"
One of the soldiers gawked. "You mean you're the-"
"Yes," I hissed at the man.
"Well, Lady Katsumi, it is an honor to serve you." The captain said and bowed. His men followed his lead.
This is exactly what I was not looking forward to. "Rise." I commanded.
"Milady, I am captain Tadao and these are my men, Yoshikazu," he gestured to my left, "And Kei." He gestures towards the right to my fanatic.
"Captain, how long is it to the Village of Hope?" I asked eagerly.
"Milady, it is only a few feet ahead. Please, let us escort you. It would be our pleasure."
I nodded. "Thank you, Captain."
The three men lead me towards the Village of Hope in peaceful silence. Kei, however, glanced at me every now and then, which grew quite annoying.
We came across a clearing where I saw an amazing view of the village. We stood on top of a small hill and down below was the entrance.
"There's a path right over here, milady." The captain said, walking away.
I looked down the mountain and decided to take my way. "No thank you, captain." I slid down the mountain slope with practiced skill. I reached the bottom and looked up to find captain Tadao, Kei, and Yoshikazu starring down at me in bewilderment.
"Well, are you coming down or not?" I called out to the three men.
For a minute, the three men shared worried looks, and then captain Tadao followed me lead. When he landed next to me, he motioned for Yoshikazu and Kei to come on down also.
Once Yoshikazu and Kei made their way down clumsily, we arrived at the entrance to the Village of Hope. Everyone looked curiously at me while others bowed respectively. Children laughed and screamed with joy and the parents chased their kids playfully.
"Milady,I will have one of the servants set up a room for you. If you wish, my cooks will serve you our best." The captain offered.
"Thank you, Tadao. I would also be thankful for a hot bath."
Tadao bowed. "Usagi!"
A short chubby woman came running our from behind a tree. "Yes, captain?"
Get lady Katsumi a bedroom and clear out the bath house. Help her bathe if she so wishes." The captain ordered.
Usagi bowed and turned towards me . "Come, milady."
"I give you my thanks, captain." I bowed slightly to Tadao and then turned and followed Usagi.
Usagi led me to a small cabin all by itself surrounded by trees and bushes. It had two windows and the door was extremely tall.
"I apologize, milady. This village is large and we do not have many construction workers."
"No, it's beautiful." I smiled and nodded.
Usagi gave me a surprised look, then she quickly replaced it with a caring expression.
I laughed. "I've been living secluded in the wild since I was thirteen. To me, this is a gift."
"If you don't mind me asking, milady, but how old are you presently?"
"I am nineteen." I answered.
"Six years is quite a while!" Usagi exclaimed. "Now, would you like to take a look inside, or would you like to bathe?"
"I'd like to bathe first, thank you."
Usagi bowed. "Follow me."
I followed Usagi through the busy village. The aroma of ramen filled my nostrils and my stomach growled in response. Sakura petals swirled through the breeze and lingered on pathways. I saw a strange animal to my left barking at me. It was brown and had black spots, and its ears are quite pointy. The body language of the creature seemed worried or perhaps timid.
"That is a dog milady." Usagi noted my ignorance.
I starred at the so-called dog. "What do dogs do?" I asked.
"You mean you have never seen a dog before? I thought you were only kidding!" Usagi gave me a dumbfounded look.
I didn't reply.
"Excuse my rudeness, milady." She bowed guiltily. "They are loyal animals and companions. They love to hunt and guard their owners. I haven't seen such an animal besides a dog who doesn't mistake humans for food." Usagi smiles.
"I would like a dog. It is a shame I do not have money." I straightened and turned away from the dog. "Let us go now."
A few minutes later, we arrived at the bath house. A noren hangs above the entrance, blowing through the light breeze. When I stepped through the noren, I felt its silkiness envelop me then it disappeared.
"If you'll please wait here, milady." Usagi bows slightly, then runs off to the datsujio.
I stood patiently next to the foot lockers eager to get a good bath. I heard argumentive voices coming from somewhere in the back, then I heard nothing as if a silent death has strickened over everyone. Then there was the sound of rummaging feet. Usagi appeared from the datsujio and she was follwed by other women. The women bowed to me and gathered their shoes and left the bath house.
Once most of the village women had gone, I begun to take off my boots. After taking off my boots, I entered inside the datsujio. Usagi follwed quickly behind me as I was stripping of my weapons and my clothing, leaving me feeling lighter than before.
"I will get you your towel and some other hygenic products, milady."
"Usagi." I look at her and she stops. "If anyone touches my weapons, will be more than pissed and will hold you accountable. Do you understand?"
"Y-yes milady." And with that, Usagi bows and exits.
I enter the bathing area excitedly. A stool stood to the left of me along with a bucket. In the middle of the room was a largebath with scattered boulders around it. From the body of water, I saw steam rising and goosebumps broke out across my skin.
Without thinking, I jump into the hot bath. At first, my body stung with the feeling of pins and needles, and then my whole body went numb and I instantly relaxed more. I surfaced and found Usagi setting out a towl and a pail full of pumice and soap.
"Are you ready to wash?" Usagi picked up the pumice and dashed some soap over it.
"Can you help me get my back?" I grabbed onto a boulder near her and pulled myself up onto it. I sat with my back towards her and I moved my long black hair to the side.
"As you wish." Usagi scrubbed the pumice against my back gently yet with amazing firmness. I could practically feel all of my worries wash away due to the power of the rough rock.
"The attendant who works here is guarding your weapons. She is also keeping away village women until you're complete here." The chubby woman mentioned.
I didn't reply.
After Usagi had finished scrubbing my back, I had told her she needn't bother with me anymore.
"Are you sure, milady? I am more than honored to serve you."
"Yes, Usagi. You can bathe too, if you'd like." I offered.
"No, that is alright, milady. I will be outside waiting for you."
I gathered the pumice from the pail as Usagi left. Then I scrubbed away all of the dirt and grime off my legs, arms, chest, and torso. I got between my fingers and toes and behind my ears, I even got the dirt crammed inside my nails out. Next, I washed my face and neck gently.
Once I was finished with the pumice, I gathered the soap and melded it into my hair. I combed through my hair and took my time, for I knew that I wouldn't get another bath like this in a long time.
Then, when I finished with that, I jumped back into the soothing water and the suds dispersed. I sank down until my chin and mouth were underwater, but kept my nose above. I lurked in the water for who knows how long, but when my stomach cried out, I decided it was time to leave and find some food.
I got out of the pool of steaming water and grabbed the towel the Usagi laid next to the pail bucket. I then dried my hair quickly as well as my body. I abandoned the bucket and entered the datsujio to retrieve my belongings.
My clothes and weapons hadn't been touched and I breathed a sigh of relief. I am very fond of the few things I have left. I pulled on my uniform and strapped on all of my weapons. I took the towel with me, however, and slung it over my shoulders.
I saw Usagi talking to a woman her height wearing red clothing near the entrance to the bath house. I walked towards them and their eyes shifted to me. Both of the women bowed.
I didn't acknowledge their manners. "Usagi, I am quiet hungry. Can we please eat some food?"
They rose hesitantly and the woman in red disappeared to the utility closet across the hall.
"Milday, Captain Tadao has asked that you eat with him and the general at headquarters."
"He did not say, milady."
"Alright then. Show me the way." I ordered.
We arrived at a large dome-shaped building with soldiers swarming the entrance. Usagi had abandoned me to finish up her afternoon chores and to spend the rest of her day with her husband and two kids.
I joined the bustling men, eager to get some decent food. I remember Tadao promising their best. Men gave me the evil eye, and some even cursed at me, but I ignored the angry men and made it inside the cafeteria.
I moved away from the stampeding army and stood near a corner searching for Tadao. I examined the men as the took their seats at a large circular table right smack in the middle of the room. Others didn't even sit at the round table, but entered another room instead.
"Lady Katsumi, I presume?" A gruff voice asked.
I turned towards two men approaching at my right. Captain Tadao smiled and bowed, and the man next to him did the same.
"Please, you don't need to bow. It's quiet annoying, honestly." I argue.
They rise. "It is only our manners, milady." Captain Tadao said. "Anyways, lady Katsumi, meet general Tsuyoshi."
"It is a pleasure to meet you." The general says.
"The pleasure is mine." I reply.
"Please, I'd be honored if you sat next to me at the dining table."
"Thank you, general."
I let him guide me to my chair. I sat to his left and Captain Tadao to his right. Everyone was chatting up a storm and confused soldiers glanced at me. Some men sang songs and drank beer, whilst others just starred off into the distance.
"Would you like anything to drink?" A young scrawny girl asked me. She looked to be about a few years younger than me. The girl's blond hair was tied back into a sloppy ponytail and freckles spotted her entire body. Her pupils were diluted immensely and I could barely see the hazel rim surrounding them.
"Don't you forget your manners, girl." General Tsuyoshi warned.
Her jaw locked. "My apologies. Would you like anything to drink, my lady?"
I studied her and looked into her eyes. She reminds me of my brother. The girl seems to be reckless and independent. Her scrawny nose sniffed and she shifted her weight impatiently.
"Well? I haven't got all day." The girl said.
"Water." I replied.
She did a sloppy bow then left to the kitchen.
General Tsuyoshi sighed. "No matter how many whippings we give her, the girl doesn't learn." He drank his red wine. "My apologies for the young maid's behaviour."
"And what is her punishment this time, general?"
"She will probably be released from her job. Why do you ask?"
"She is a peculiar girl." I replied.
As if on cue, the young girl comes out of the kitchen carrying a glass of water and a mug in the other. She sets out the glass of water in front of me.
"What is your name?" I asked the girl.
She seemed startled by the question. "Maki." She answered.
General Tsuyoshi slammed his fists on the table angrily. "Use your damned manners, girl!"
"Calm yourself, general. You're setting up a very pathetic impression."
I looked at Maki. "Are you hungry?"
"I do not-"
"Someone get this girl a chair and a spot at the dining table." I shouted out loud.
"Milady, what do you think you're doing?" The general asked in shock.
"What does it look like I'm doing? I'm helping her." I snapped.
Maki look dumbfounded. "I have work to do."
"Not anymore. The general was going to dismiss you." I look around the room and notice that not one person has gotten to get Maki a chair.
I stood up and moved away from my seat at the table and ushered Maki to sit down.
"I heard they were serving their best. Please, sit down." I told Maki.
She stood hesitantly over the chair, then looked at me. She must've known that I wasn't going to take no for an answer, so she plopped gracefully onto the chair.
The general stood up in anger. "Why are you insisting that she eat here? She can eat somewhere else! This is where soldiers dine!"
"You dare call yourself a general? You're certainly not the kind hearted man I thought you to be. Listen here, I am no soldier, general. I am a human being and I could give a rats arse how you treat me. What I don't comprehend, Tsuyoshi, is that you do not think of others important. You're only sincere to those you're afraid of, isn't that right? General, you better serve Maki with respect, do you understand?"
Everyone darted their eyes between me, Tsuyoshi, and Maki. The general stared at me baffled in disbelief. Captain Tadao tried squelching a laugh, and Maki looked at me with wide eyes. Then the general took his seat and all was silent.
Someone from the other side of the table stood. "Milady, you can use my chair. I would be delighted to stand."
"How is it that you're delighted to offer your chair to me, but not Maki? Sit your arse down, soldier. I will stand." I reached across the table to grab the glass of water. I chugged it all down without stopping for air once.
"Wow! That is some great water!" I raised my glass. "Can I get a pitcher of this delicious water, please? Oh! And a glass of..." I looked at Maki for an answer.
"Tea." She whispered.
"And a glass of tea!"
A young man hunched over the table next to a soldier straightened and then shuffled into the kitchen.
"Maki," I whispered.
"What?" She matched my tone of voice.
"I have an offer for you. Should you choose to take it, your life will change drastically. Should you decline, well, you will continue to live here."
"What is it?" Maki asked me.
"Come on an adventure with me." I answered.
"Her eyebrows raised. "What's the catch?"
I leaned against her chair and rubbed by chin thoughtfully. "Death, blood, hunger, loneliness, predators, enemies, and theft."
"Why beat around the bush?"
Maki leaned back in the chair. "Theft?"
"Yes. We have to steal to survive."
Maki frowned. "My family need me though."
"Who is your family?" I asked.
She looked at me with sad eyes.
"You don't have a family?" Although it was supposed to be a question, it sounded more like a statement. "Maki, I will be your family."
Just then, many servants came out of the kitchen and set separate plates of food in front of us. The same servant I saw earlier gave me a pitcher of that lovely water I asked for, and Maki some tea. We were all served fried rice and kayu.
My stomach howled. Such fine food! Or at least, the best I've eaten all year.
I stood over my bowl and picked up my chopsticks. Then I dug in while everyone else said cheers. The food was extremely hot, but I didn't care. I was given the gift of food and I wanted to leaved stuffed, not starved.
The rest of my kayu slithered down my throat and my stomach pleaded for more. Then less and less until I couldn't eat any more. I drank water from the pitcher I was given and sighed in satisfaction.
"Yes." I heard Maki's voice drift through to me.
"It's official then! We leave tomorrow at sunrise." I said. "I'll just stock up tonight and then get some rest."
"Alright. Thank you, lady Katsumi." Maki smiled up at me.
I smiled back. "No problem. Tell me Maki, how old are you?"
"I am sixteen years old." Maki replied.
I took another long swig of water. "You're young. Oh, and I'm nineteen in case you were wondering."
"Captain Tadao, will you please help Maki and I stock up for our trip, please?" I shouted across the table to make myself audible between all of the shouting.
"Are you finished eating?" I asked Maki.
Maki looked at the little portion of food in her bowl then looked up at me and nodded.
"Yes, captain, we can begin now."
"You're leaving already?" General Tsuyoshi asked after drinking some of his wine.
"General, I'm on a mission to save Onogoro. The sooner I leave the better." I replied.
"Lady Katsumi, please take me with you. I can be of good use to you." Tadao whispered into my ear pleadingly.
"But captain, you're needed here more than I need you. You offer everyone in this village protection and help. It would be wise if you stayed here. Besides, I'm most certain we will cross paths again."
Tadao bowed but didn't reply. Then, he stood erect and led the way.
We finished packing for the trip. Maki wore comfortable clothes with hiking boots and I braided her hair so it was out of her face. She carried a bag with our food and water supplies. It also contained a sleeping mat. I insisted that I not take a sleeping mat, for I am much accustomed tot he earthly ground.
"I appreciate your help, captain, and I am looking forward to meeting you again." I smile at Tadao.
"No, milady. It was an honor meeting you, and I am quite as excited to meet you again, also. Now, get your rest. You'll both need it." Tadao bowed and made his exit.
"Come, I'll show you to the house where we will be staying tonight." I told Maki.
We walked together silently. I kept my head held high fearlessly while Maki looked down at the ground and occasionally glanced upwards to look where we were going.
Soon, we arrived at the small brown cabin. I slowed my pace and the stopped altogether. I turned my face up towards the heavens and closed my eyes. Then I breathed in deeply and let the rain drops pounce on my face.
A voice boomed closely to me and I snapped my head upright instinctively. I scanned the area but saw no one except Maki who took shelter underneath the cabin's roof and stared at me confused.
My name was pronounced slowly and tenderly as if I had a lover. Yet, the voice sounded alone, hurt, and threatening. The man's voice faded away and Maki scrunched her eyebrows at me. The cabin didn't shield her from the rain much and so she was practically soaked.
I took a step forward to meet up with Maki once more, but as I set my foot down onto the ground, my head exploded with pain and numbed my entire body. The slightest movement made the pain worse and my insides were screaming with torture.
I slumped tot he floor and screamed. Something sticky came out of my ears and nose, but I couldn't see because I kept my eyes glued shut in agony. I felt as if I was spinning and I gradually spun faster.
I think I puked.
I can't hear anything. I tried opening my eyes but I couldn't. I'm too tired. I think I want to sleep.
Yes, sleep sounds satisfying.