The ship continued to rock as he examined his blade, running a finger down the sharpened surface checking for any imperfections. He finger didn’t notice anything as he swiped it down the folded steel. He lifted the katana up and peered down the honed edge, perfectly straight, not a knick or notch in sight. Perfect. He thought to himself as he wiped the oil from his finger off the blade using a small red cloth he kept with his other sharpening instruments. Swords could handle striking other weapons, armour, trees, even rocks, but the oil from human skin is deadly to the life of a good blade. The barely perceptible oil could rust a weapon within weeks if not properly cleaned. His weapons and his armour were all that he had of his former life, not even his name Kenkito, was the one he was born with. His name and title had been stripped from him when he had been declared Ronin by the usurper Daimyo. He had been hunted, all across the Japanese territory. From the mountains in the north near the Slavs to the warmer southern coast close to the Samoan people, he had been pursued relentlessly. They had nearly caught him. He had taken shelter in a small village while he was waiting for a ship to take him down to the French Polynesia floating city. Pirates, Merchants, and all sorts of people frequented that flotilla, and he knew he could get passage out of the territory if he needed to.
He had stopped in a small coastal town, that was still allied to his Damiyo, the usurper’s forces hadn’t made it this far south yet.
He was eating a meager dinner of cold fish and warm rice when the group that had been hunting him arrived and he finally got a good look at the men and women who had been pursuing him.
They were mercenaries from the far European kingdoms. They were large and burly men from the wilds of Germania, and they had women who trained wolves to track their enemies. The men weren’t the problem, it was the wolves. He could out run the humans, but try as he might he could not lose or out run the tracking beasts. They had cornered him once previously and nearly captured him…
He tore through the woods any notion of stealth cast out of his mind as the wolves nipped at his heels. THese were no common beasts. They were larger than he had ever seen and their mouths reeked of flesh and blood. They weren’t just trackers, they were man eaters. He burst out of the edge of the thicket and skidded to a halt at the edge of a large cliff. The jump across was at least 15 meters across, impossible to jump on foot, even impossible to jump on a horse. He quickly spun and drew his long Katana from its scabbard, he put his back to the edge of the cliff to maximize his defensive capabilities. Once in a battle with his Daimyo, he had been flanked and nearly killed because he hadn’t paid attention to his surroundings, not anymore. He could hear the wolves bounding through the thick brush, making far less noise than he had in his mad dash to get away from the hunting party. Suddenly the noise stopped, he could hear their breathing coming from all around him, they must be waiting in the edge of the trees he thought to himself.
There was a loud shrill whistle and the four beasts who had been pursuing him charged forward. Two coming at him dead on while the other two moved to both of his sides to flank him. He tried to keep tack of them all but their movements and positioning made it quite difficult. Finally the two in front of his charged forward going for his throat. He dropped onto his back at the two beasts lunged, their leap would have taken them square into his chest had he not reacted the way he did. He sliced diagonally with his sword and caught both of them in one swift strike on their underbellies. The two wolves let out a yelp as their momentum carried them over the cliff and into the fast flowing river below. The two remaining wolves let out a howl and a snarl as they prepared to attack. He didn’t like killing animals, but in this case, it was him or them. He scrambled back to his feet as the wolf on his right lunged. The beast closed its jaws around the right pauldron of his armour and spun him in a circle from the force of it’s attack. The second wolf knocked into him as he was off balance forcing him to sprawl on the ground.
He could hear the hunters getting closer, and he didn’t want to have to fight their party and the beasts at the same time. He sheathed his blade and scrambled to his feet before leaping from the cliff in to the river.
He had nearly drowned before he managed to grasp a tree that was half sunk in the swift flowing river. The blind jump to the river had actually given him a day and a half head start while the hunters were forced to back track and go around the cliff. It had taken the wolves another half a day (he suspected) to pick up his trail again as he dashed for the southern coast and potential freedom.
The hunters entered into the small inn that he was using as shelter. He could hear the women and the wolves outside as the four large men came through the door. The owner immediately shuffled over asking if he could help them with anything. One of the men, a man as big around as he was tall quickly drew a blade from behind his back and ran the old innkeeper through pulling the blade up through his gut towards his chest, lifting the old man off the ground. The young woman who had been serving the simple dinner and refreshments he had been eating screamed at the sight of the old man being murdered in front of her. Kenkito was on his feet in an instant, his katana drawn and held in the ready stance. He backed himself against the back wall, made of stone, to cut off one of their avenues of attack.
The Germanics spread out in front of him, spacing themselves about a meter and a half apart from each other; close enough to not give an avenue of escape, but far enough to not get in each other’s way in a fight. They were professionals.
Kenkito took a deep breath as he studied the men in front of him. None of them wore armour, they were dressed in leathers and carried long knives and Falcatas; curved blades that were shorter in nature for drawing and striking in close quarters. These men were trackers and hunters, not warriors and he would use that to his advantage. He eyed them all one after the other looking for any sort of weakness he could exploit. He found one, the big man who had killed the innkeeper was walking with a slight limp on his left side, that will be my first strike, he thought to himself. The others will converge and swing madly trying to cut me quickly, I’ll have to be prepared… he thought to himself as he coiled his muscles in his legs, preparing for his strike. The one, who appeared to be leader, said something in a language Kenkito didn’t understand, but as the others laughed and looked at each other, he sprang forward.
Having caught them off their guard he drove the heel of his dominant foot into the side of the knee of the large man. The big Germanic hunter let out a scream of pain as he began toppling over. Kenkito swiped up as the man fell, his blade slicing clean through the hunter’s neck as his lifeless body fell to the ground, his blood forming a crimson pond on the floor. The other three bellowed a war cry and rushed forward. Kenkito brought his sword to bear and deflected the two strikes from the lead attacker, kicking him in the solar plexus to force the attacker back. As the attacker to his left saw the samurai off balance he lunged forward trying to tackle the ronin to the ground and finish him there. The samurai took the hit and drew his wakizashi. As the force hit him, carrying him to the ground, he drove his smaller blade down into the back of the attacker right through his spinal cord, paralyzing the attacker. The force carried him to the ground where the third attacker tried to stomp on his face. Kenkito let go of his blades and caught the man’s foot mere inches above his face. With all of his strength he twisted the man’s ankle until he heard a resounding snap as the man’s ankle broke, tearing the ligaments to his foot. The attacker collapsed to the ground as the final attacker ran for the door. The samurai quickly grabbed his weapons and extricated himself from the mass of bodies he was surrounded by. He sheathed his wakizashi and hefted his katana back into his ready stance.
The leader threw the door open and shouted in their native language, he returned through the door with two women, the wolf masters. He pushed the women towards the samurai who stood at the ready. The women both looked at each other and drew their short swords, looking extremely nervous as they approached the Samurai who had killed two of the hunters and severely injured another in the span of thirty seconds.
“I.. do.. not want..to hurt.. you..” Kenkito said in broken English to the women advancing at him.
“You speak English?” the smaller of the two wolf masters asked as she eyed up the samurai and the bodies of the hunters on the ground.
“I know… some..” the ronin replied as he continued to eye the women.
“We were forced to join these hunters, they killed our village. They treat us… badly” the other woman said as she pointed at the bodies of the hunters. “They don’t know English, only Germanic and Slavic”, she added as she tilted her head to the leader. The last hunter clearly knew something was going on and he began shouting at the women in his native language making gesture for them to stab the Samurai.
“I can help you. I go to Flotilla, we can get passage away from here”, Kenkito said as he relaxed his posture slightly, the tip of his sword lowering slightly. The leader saw the sword drop and charged forward thinking the women had lulled the samurai into a false sense of security. He shoved the smaller of the wolf masters out of the way as he charged at their target. Kenkito was ready and stepped forward slicing with his long blade as he did. The final hunter clutched his neck as he gargled blood. The hunter managed two more steps before falling over on top of his headless comrade.
The older of the two woman walked over to the hunter who was still clutching his shattered ankle whimpering as she drove her blade through his throat, silencing his cries. For a brief moment all that could be heard was the ragged breathing of the wolves who were obviously tied up somewhere outside.
“You said you would help us?” The small woman said as she stood up to her feet and moved over to the table that the Samurai had been sitting at, his supper still sitting there. She grabbed the bowl and began shoveling the food into her mouth with her hands. She tilted her head slightly as she looked to the other wolf master who went outside quickly.
There were some faint yelps followed by silence as she entered back into the inn cleaning a small knife off and replacing it in the sheath she wore on her hip. Noticing the look on Kenkito’s face at what she just did, the woman held up her hands “They were man eaters. The hunters fed them human flesh since they were pups. We couldn’t let them go. They would’ve terrorized the locals until someone put them out of their misery. This is a more humane death”.
The samurai looked at the two women and finally sheathed his katana. He began searching the bodies of the dead hunters and found what he had been looking for, a small coin purse that was in the pocket of the one he had beheaded. He opened up the purse and took a quick inventory. He grabbed some coins and put them into his own purse and then walked towards the kitchen where the young woman was sitting huddled in the corner, horrified at what she had seen. “I’m sorry this has happened to you. I want you to know I never meant for this to happen to you and your boss…”
Kenkito bowed his head, this man is dead because of me, he thought to himself as he tried to find the words to say to comfort the young woman. When he couldn’t find any words he lifted his head and looked her in the eyes, “This is my fault, I did not intend for this to happen. My Daimyo was murdered and I was supposed to be next to him to protect him and I wasn’t. I have been declared ronin. I am leaving this land, please take this as a small token of my condolences”, he said as he held up the small purse for the woman to take. She gingerly reached out and took the purse from his outstretched hand. She stood up abruptly and ran into the kitchen and disappeared, still clutching the purse tight to her chest.
“Where do we go from here?” the larger wolf master asked as she stripped the weapons from the dead splitting them between her and her compatriot.
“We travel across the ocean to the flotilla, from there we can go anywhere” Kenkito answered as he stood up and grabbed a rag from one of the tables, wiping some of the splattered blood from his cuirass.
“When do we leave?” the smaller woman asked as she took the weapons from her friend, adding them to her own arsenal.
“Now”, the Samurai said quickly as he walked over to his table and grabbed the small pack that had been sitting on the floor under the table this whole time.
“After you then”, the wolf masters said in unison, motioning with their arms to the open door they had all entered through.
“What do I call you?” Kenkito asked as he made his way to the door.
“Ann and Anne” the small woman said as she fell into step behind the Samurai. “I’m Ann without and “e” and she is Anne with an “e””.
“Perfect…” Kenkito muttered under his breath as he hefted his pack onto his back and rested his hand on the hilt of his sword. He stepped out of the small inn and could see the light of dawn cresting on the horizon as they wound their way down to the dock to find a boat to take them to the flotilla.
Kenkito is going to be the glue that holds our team together with his strict code of honour and his willingness to find redemption in a worthy cause after his failure of protecting his Daimyo.
Next up… The Green Queen!