A long time ago, a human mastered the art of mist melting, a common, yet artificial, technique found among the Ninja class. The person seemed to generate their own mystic vapor and disappear without a trace, even after the wind blew it away. Many claimed he was a ghost, others say he was the son of the Wind assistant, Raijin. But whatever he was, he was the only one in the known world who had the power to vanish...
Miyako held her face in her hands as Daisuke's vibrant explanation droned on; she had no intention of looking at the elder he was speaking to. It would not be a pretty sight.
Dai, on the other hand, had no problem exercising his mouth in front of the withering old man in front of him, veins bulging from his forehead every ten words that spilled out of the mahogany haired boy's mouth. The elder's grandson, Iori Hida, had turned pale at the prospect Daisuke was offering for them. I always thought Daisuke was off his rocker, but this takes the cake.
"--And so, I am purposefully throwing myself out of the village in search of this girl."
The whole room was silent, except for the boy's mother, who was sobbing and cursing him with every vulgar word she could think of as well as trying to convince him to stay. Even Jun, his sister, was silent, pondering her fantasy-come-true where her younger brother is gone.
Chikara Hida ahemed softly and stood up. "You speak of the ways we are trying to forget, young Motomiya. What you talk of is punishable by exile..."
"Yes sir, I know."
"But since you know this better than all of us, because of your grandfather, and are willing to leave because of what you know, you will not be exiled, but banished until you realize that the point of the quest you're taking on it pointless." Hida-san sighed. "But."
The villagers gaped at the word.
"But if you return, with proof, that this dream is true, then I shall unbanned the study of legends and worship as such. And if I'm no longer alive when you return, I hold my heir, Iori, to my promise.
"Further more, no one shall aid you in this.... absurd quest after today.--"
"But sir!" Daisuke interjected, looking stricken.
Hida-san narrowed his eyes at the interruption; the villagers were mentally cursing the boy. /Nobody/ stopped the elder's words. "Yes, Motomiya?"
"Well..." Daisuke frowned, "I was hoping that I would be allowed to take someone with me."
Miyako flinched inwardly. Dai was gonna ask... and then she's have to answer.....
"And this person would be....?"
Daisuke turned to his left and let his eyes fall on his best friend by odd circumstances. "Miyako Inoue."
Why did he have to choose me, anyway? Why couldn't he be best friends with Takeru or Iori or Tai's sister Kari? Why /me/?! She felt all the stares on her, even the burning ones of her parents and siblings. She didn't hear the question, but she knew, in her heart, what the elder had asked, and gave an answer from the same origin. "I... I want to go with Daisuke. It's a chance to see the world and discover my meaning in it, if anything."
The room was ladened with a pregnant silence, waiting for the elder's decree. Finally, Hida-san nodded and closed his eyes. "If you so wish it, Inoue-san. You can join Motomiya if you so desire. Remember. After today and tonight, you are on your own, both of you... I'd start getting ready to leave if I were you. Dismissed!"
The next day, Daisuke and Miyako were ready to go. The packs on their backs were full to the brim, with food, water, flint and steel, oil (Daisuke's mother had insisted that he take a lantern), a few sets of clothes, a couple of personal belongings, and the pockets in their pants were filled with as much rupies as they could connive from friends and family. Miyako's father had even given her a hunting knife for protection against muggers.
It was around ten when they were finally able to leave. Their mothers were bawling and Miyako's father was, well, absent. The siblings of both children were threatening to use their rooms as storage areas, but they were empty threats.
And thus started an adventure no one would ever forget.
".....Do you even know where your grandfather is living?"
Daisuke razzed his companion. "Yeah! He lives in the town after Tamachi. Sendai. He told me about it in a letter that came with my birthday present."
Miyako frowned at the juvenile act and fingered the map Hida-sama have given them. "That's a few days away from here, you know. A night will pass before we reach Tamachi and we should reach Yokono by the night of the third day, if we spend one night on the road and the other in Tamachi."
"One night sleeping in the wild. Big deal." He grinned. "It'll be just like that time we fell asleep during a sunset and woke up in the morning covered in dew."
"Except we were in my backyard then, baka!" she shouted, folding up the map. "This is the real wilderness! Real thieves, real wolves, real monsters with real sharp teeth!!"
Daisuke sighed. "Must you be so negative? What's the chance of us running into bandits on our first night out here?"
Miyako slapped her forehead. He had jinxed them. She knew it.
But, they couldn't turn back and so they kept walking, Dai fingering the binding to his book and while Miyako stared up at the sky, occasionally checking to make sure she wasn't going to trip over anything.
If the gods were real, she envied them. They were in the sky, floating on clouds and free to never tread a single foot on the ground. That's where she wanted to be. In the sky, flying on wings... wings that made the average bird envious of them too...
She always had a secret admiration for the creatures with wings. Miyako loved birds, just as much as Daisuke loved dragons. Her dream revolved around the thought of flight and perhaps, one day, being able to train a wild Aquillamon into taking her to beyond the clouds.
Maybe even meet up with the master Ornitholo--
"Wha~at?!" Miya glared at the shorter boy; it was always like him to ruin her wistful thinking. Daisuke pointed out towards the dip in the clearing. "Look. Salastranda."
Miyako blinked, and then nodded. It was a whole colony of red fire-lizards, frequent to this area. They were harmless, unless you ate them and even the stupidest animal knew not to do that. Currently, they were enjoying that carefree feeling, basking in the sun on Seiji-touched rocks, littered about the rise in the valley.
They were common as individuals, but only adults at a certain age could come out this far from the village, and so neither of the two had ever seen a whole colony. Daisuke grinned. "Kinda cool, that we don't have to wait another eleven years to see these sights."
Miyako nodded. "Yeah, it is. ... But it's also creepy, how all the red makes it look like a massacre."
Daisuke shrugged. "I guess so. C'mon." He gave her a winning smile and ran ahead, startling a few of the salastrandra closer to the road and they scampered back to their brethren as Miyako fought to chase him down.
You couldn't deny the smile on her face.
"Okay, this is where we are." Miyako pointed to a place on the map, just barely visible in the dying light. "And if we wake up around sunrise, we should just make it to Tamachi by dusk."
Daisuke rocked backwards in his sitting, gazing at the parchment with a childish curiosity. "So should we rest here?"
Miyako looked around skeptically. It was all fine and dandy... and it would have been great if there was at least an old cave out here, but there were no hills tall enough or sturdy enough to support a deep incision. And the small woodsie area beside them, however small, could be hiding all sorts of unknown dangers.
It didn't help that no one was allowed outside of the village when the sun dipped behind the mountains.
Daisuke laid back, hands supporting his weight and looking upwards. "Think this will take us out of the valley? And into the bigger world?"
Miyako sighed and bowed her head in hopelessness. Daisuke's head was too big to comprehend the stupidity of this situation. The possibilities, if this silly dream was the vision Daisuke actually claimed it to be, of finding the girl (without even a clue to go by, no less) was a ratio of one to one hundred million. "Dai-kun... Don't you think you're being ridiculous? I mean, you're nineteen, a time when boys get... sexually promiscuous in their dreams. Maybe when this girl said she wanted to find the stars, she meant... y'know.. and you just woke up, taking it the wrong way."
Daisuke snorted and said rather casually, "No wet dream of mine had this girl in them; I can vouch for that."
Miyako's face brightened as she hid it in embarrassment. She, eh, really didn't want to be thinking about Dai and... that. "I'm not asking about it. I'm /really/ not."
Daisuke grinned, but did entertain the thought behind a rare mask. That couldn't have been it. /Kari's/ always been in my dreams, not... her. "Okay, okay." Then he changed the subject. "So, how does it feel that we've gone farther than anyone in the village has?"
Miyako raised a mauve eyebrow at him. "You mean everyone who's ever lived there or of the ones who leave and /always/ come back?"
"The second, of course," Daisuke snorted. "I know my grandfather's been out here.. And that Rider too."
The girl nodded and folded the map back up. "I guess it's sort of exciting... and scary. I can't help but recall the horror stories about travelling on roads and thieves getting the best of you."
Daisuke chuckled and flopped back onto the grass, hands behind his head. "People /never/ travel this road, since we're self-reliable and don't need to. If any thief has an IQ higher than two, they'd know that this is a deadend job."
"That doesn't mean that there aren't any this far out, Dai-kun," she huffed, shuffling around in her backpack for the flint and steel. "Go find some kindle, would you?"
The mahogany-haired teen pouted, comfortable where he was, but Miyako eventually got him off his lazy butt. Daisuke didn't have to go very far; Miyako was able to keep her eye on him, more nervous than anything, really. Her fingers finally found the small pouch she was looking for and left it on top of the pack. It was only a short matter of time before Daisuke came strolling back, carrying sticks and twigs.
The fire, placed carefully in a cleared patch of ground, still burned a soft orange yet had become diminuative as the night crept by. The moon and stars shined brightly tonight, but as Daisuke looked up at them from under his blanket, he shivered. They seemed cold and uncaring, like they disagreed with the teens' decision to travel out, away from the safety and naiveté it offered.
Near his feet, Daisuke could hear Miyako's loud breathing. He wanted to laugh-- Miyako always complained about being high-maintenance and here she was, sleeping on the ground like a rock-- but couldn't. No, the urge to stay silent and still was awake and alive in him, only moving to tuck his blanket closer under his body and even that was limited.
He'd been all for this, camping out in the wilderness, under the stars by firelight, but dread tickled the back of his mind, now unconvinced of just how safe it was to stop and sleep.
He was hearing things. Snapping twigs that could or could not've been the fire, vague movements in the corner of his eye. To himself, he complained about starting to see things so early in the night, complained inwardly about why he couldn't be hearing and 'seeing' all this at some point in the morning, /after/ he'd gotten some sleep. But still, the bad feeling persistently flared its warning bells and Daisuke had no choice. He sat up, slowly, and crawled over to Miyako to gently shake her shoulder. "Miya-chan. ..Miyako, wake up."
Miyako only swatted her hand at him and proceeded to turn over.
"Miyako!" he whisper-shouted, shaking her more urgently. "C'mon, Miya, wake up!"
"Wha~at?" came the groggy response as Miyako glared sleepily at him. "S'better be import'nt."
"I..I just..." Daisuke blinked. "I'm having a hard time sleeping."
Miyako narrowed her eyes, then closed them, settling back under blanket. "S'that all? Man, Dai, you were th' one who said it'd be alright out here."
"And... I think there's something out there."
Miyako only opened one eye this time, eyeing him silently. "..Fine. Douse the fire and come sleep near me. I'll protect you from the big, bad monsters."
Indignant, Daisuke made a face, but moved to scoop up some dirt to try and smoother the flames. Miyako sat up while he did this, exhausted from the trek and just wanting to sleep..! but she couldn't deny Dai much of anything. He was a sweetheart. ...A pig-headed sweetheart with a wild imagination, but a sweetheart none the less.
A flicker of something about seven feet away caught her eye. With the fire still bright, she couldn't see that far into the darkness, despite the heavenly light. It had been right in front of Daisuke, but the boy didn't have his head up; too busy with the fire. But once the fire was nearly gone, the glint became quite clear. Miyako's eyes widened. "Daisuke!!"
Daisuke jerked his head up just in time to see the lecherous grin and madness-driven eyes looking down at him, and a knife raised for a diagonal slash. He screamed. The man took that swipe and Daisuke felt the cold steel whip into the air. But it missed. Had Miyako not reacted by pulling Dai backwards onto her, it would not have.
The man snarled and lunged at the tumbled kids, who scampered in opposite directions to get away. Abandoning their things, the duo ran. Side by side, if not slightly apart, down the troddened path. One cursed for not having left her shoes on, the other mentally thankful that he had.
But their bandit was determined, if anything, and was right on their heels, cackling. And slowly but surely, he was gaining.
The light of the near-full moon was just enough to see the distinction between grassline and dirt road, but not what lay on either. Miyako winced as her foot stepped on another sharp rock, but couldn't think of anything but to keep moving..
The change was so subtle, it was a complete shock. A dense fog bank draped over them, both Miyako and Daisuke, along with their would-be killer. A fog so thick.. it drowned out sound. It was then Miyako finally fell, landing painfully onto the road she could barely see, her ankle twisted from the misstep. She couldn't see Daisuke at all, tried calling out his name... Even to her, it sounded muted.
Daisuke also stopped in his tracks, looking around frantically. Couldn't hear, couldn't see.. The mist was cold and Dai felt as lost as a blind pup in a box. "Miyako!"
Nothing called back, and Daisuke clung to himself. He'd never seen fog thicker than soup, never saw fog that hid everything. And he was scared. "MIYAKO!"
Wait. Daisuke cocked his head, shivering. He'd heard something, but from where, he wasn't sure..
It was louder the second time, even though he hadn't moved, and it curled his blood. It was a scream, from Miyako. "Miyako?!"
It was faint, quieter than the scream; later, Dai would realize that it wasn't a surprising thing for her screaming to be louder than her shouting. He'd learn to be thankful, in time. But now, it gave him a general direction to go in. Although, he hardly took three steps when the mist began to disappear. Dissipated into nearly nothing... and Daisuke gawked noisily to the scene before his eyes.
The body of the bandit lay face first on the ground, yet the irony of that was he didn't have a head on his shoulders, let alone a face to be pressed down into the hard soil. His head lay some distance away... Miyako was also on the ground, sitting up and leaning on an arm. Her other hand was balled up and being bitten on by herself. Daisuke couldn't see the light splatter of blood on her person. However, it was the new person and his ride who'd joined them that stunned the boy in the first place.
It was a man, bent over Miyako's legs and gently prodding her foot, ignoring Miyako's whimpers. From what Daisuke could see, he had grey-white hair that wavered close to curls and hung pretty far down his shoulders. Daisuke walked cautiously closer, until he was directly behind Miyako; the stranger was now bandaging up the swollen ankle and cut-up foot, with all the care of a physician.
The dark horse behind him snorted impatiently.
The stranger was hardly disturbed by Daisuke's approach. The bandage was tied off and he rose back onto his feet, shifting his gaze from Miyako to Dai. His one-eyed gaze, Daisuke mused, noting the eye-patch over the man's left eye.
"Well," murmured the man, "as I live and breathe. Daisuke Motomiya."
The mahogany-haired boy's heart simply stopped. It required a moment to restart, but when it did, Daisuke shook nervously. "...How did you know?"
The man stared at him. "Muten Roshi."
Daisuke blinked and the stranger helped Miyako up. He tugged at the horse's reigns, but the black beast was more wary of the strange humans than his master was.
"Gen," scowled the man, rubbing the horse's muzzle. "Behave."
The horse whined and tossed his head, but held still otherwise. Without a word, he picked up Miyako and put her on Gen's unsaddled back. The lavender-haired girl made a stuttered protest, but he ignored it and beckoned Daisuke closer. Daisuke didn't obey, just stood where he was.. Suddenly, he started flailing his arms. "I don't get it! We're supposed to trust a complete stranger who decapitates some.. other guy! and then sling us up on a horse and take us away?! Who are you, what are you, and what do you want??"
The man's expression read annoyance and a pale hand reached up to stroke the horse's neck. "My name is Rajura and I'm an acquaintance of your grandfather's. I live not too far from here and /that's/ where I'm taking you. You'll stay the night and then I'm to take you to Tamachi."
Honestly, neither saw a choice. Rajura hoisted Daisuke behind Miyako and then climbed on himself, holding onto the boy (who held onto his friend) with one hand and controlling the horse with the other. Gen took off into a canter, fast enough to scare the living daylights out of his two young passengers, but slow enough for Rajura not to worry of their safety.
Rajura's home was a small wooden house wedged against a high hill, falling apart in some places, and a two-horse stable right next to it. The stables were empty, meaning Gen was Rajura's one horse. The two teens didn't care really. As soon as the horse dropped from a canter to a trot, their weariness and lack of sleep caught up with them, huffing, puffing, and insulted from being left behind in Gen's dust. Rajura swung down, helped Daisuke off, and lifted Miyako into his arms, carrying her inside. The other teen followed wordlessly.
Inside, the heat of a tame fire warmed the two rooms the house seemed to possess. Rajura passed right through the kitchen/living room and through another door. By the time Dai reached it as well, Rajura has already settled Miyako onto his bed. Miyako herself was almost asleep and the mattress, while not as soft as her's back home, was much better than the hard ground.
Daisuke scuffled in, a little jealous that Miyako got the bed and would've settled for the floor.. except Rajura also ushered him into the bed. The teen hardly battered an eye; it wasn't like he and Miyako hadn't shared beds before. Besides, he was too tired to care. Sleep was just to greedy...
Twittering birds and a distant horse's whiny became that morning's alarmclock. Daisuke yawned before he opened his eyes, but woke up with a start when he saw the other side was empty.
Wait, why should I be considered that it's empty?
But then, he remembered. And groaned quietly. They owed their life to Rajura...
He really didn't feel like getting up, but he felt guilty, over Miyako getting hurt and all. So, wrapping the itchy blanket around his shoulders-- he hoped Rajura didn't mind; it was still a little cold-- he left the bedroom of their host and made his way outside.
The sun was up and smiling down with all its warmth. It had to be about eight or so, Daisuke assumed. A noise to the opposite side of the house alerted him and he turned its corner.. Dai cocked his head in bewilderment.
Rajura has started an oven fire, close to both a well and a wooden enclosure. The oven itself was made of brick, with two metal buckets over the flames. The way they steamed, Daisuke guessed water was in them. Rajura himself was pouring said water from another bucket into an odd contraption, of the likes Daisuke had never seen before. He walked closer. "...What /is/ that thing?"
Rajura looked over his shoulder at the boy. "It's a machine."
Daisuke's jaw slackened at the very word. "...A what?!"
And suddenly, just like that, Rajura smiled. It was slight and tiny, but it existed. "So, your village really is out there. ...A machine is a creation built to do things for you. In this case, it helps bathe you."
Daisuke's eyes went wide and shiny. Rajura's words were soaking into his mind slowly... He'd always thought that 'machines' were stories that his grandfather made up! "....Wow. ...Can I see how it works??"
"You'll find out soon enough." Rajura knocked on the wall of the machine. "It should be ready, Miyako," he called. "If it's still too hot, wait a few more minutes."
It was a day of surprises, that was for sure. Daisuke stared hard at the round thing-- Miyako was inside?-- but Rajura led him away. The plan was to clean up Gen's stable before Miyako finished.
"Why?" "Because it needs to be done. If you want to get to Tamachi, we need to start off soon and that'll be right after you get cleaned off yourself."
Daisuke crinkled his nose. "Does her foot still hurt?"
"Yes. Which is why we're doing this now."
It wasn't without interest. Daisuke learned how to brush a horse's fur, the 'finer' points to pitching hay, and just how tolerant manure could be. By the time Miyako was done, Daisuke needed a bath twice as badly. But when she came out, limping, Daisuke noticed something. "Hey, isn't that--"
Miyako beamed and hugged herself, infinity hugging the clothes she wore. "Yep. Rajura was nice enough to go back and get our things!"
Daisuke scratched his head and mentally good-griefed. Here they were, in the company of a stranger who they knew nothing about-- except that he was able to kill people and had a 'machine'-- and Miyako was acting as if Rajura was her best friend.
What was wrong with that picture?
Leaving Miyako to finish toweling down her hair, Rajura led Daisuke over to the 'shower', as the white-haired man now called it, and despite his suspicion, Dai threw out a million questions about it. How it worked, what it could do. Just about everything.
Soon, Rajura was again filling a metal tankard with well-water and Daisuke became perplexed by the mechanics as he turned the water on, forgetting momentarily about Rajura, his journey, and the girl he was so taken with finding...
The day had been spent on horseback, riding at a leisure pace. Miyako and Dai rode, while Rajura had trekked it, guiding Gen along by his reigns. It was like a tour; Rajura pointed out many things, like the different trees that didn't grow so close to Odaiba, and spoke of places far beyond the barrier of the mountains. They seemed like a dream come true. And when dusk fell, Tamachi was easy to spot on the horizon, with the windows lit up by chimney fires and warm candles. Daisuke refused to stop grinning, knowing they were only another day closer to reaching his grandfather.
Dai had utter faith that Roshi could answer his questions.
It wasn't long before they entered the village perimeters, with an inn to the left. Miyako murmured about how they could pay for it while Rajura tether Gen, and Daisuke shrugged, verbally praying the expenses were very, very cheap.
Rajura shuffled them inside, where the two adolecents noticed a near instant change in atmosphere. Behind the counter, lounging in his uncomfortable stool and drowsily checking over his sign-in book, a boy barely younger than themselves appeared /starved/ on sleep, but found the energy to leap out of his skin after doing a double-take towards the opening door. "Ra-Rajura-sama!" he stuttered, getting onto his feet to do business. "Wh-wh-what b-brings you out h-here?"
The silver-haired man left Miyako and Daisuke in front of the entrance, to stalk over creaking floorboards and stand casually before the young, pale tenant. They spoke quietly, murmurs between them, and Daisuke inwardly grew anxious. People didn't act like terrified rabbits trapped in corners when they were happy, after all.
"Bet he's a home-killer."
Miyako snorted, glaring at her friend for the muttered comment. "Home-killers," she stated, just as quietly, "don't aid the helpless and tend to wounds, or even bathe complete strangers! Home-killers /kill/ strangers, or whoever the heck they don't like in their own town. And would most likely be /us/."
Daisuke's half-lid his eyes warily, like the answer was the most obvious thing in the world. "He knows my grampa, Miya. /That/'s the reason we aren't mince meat. On the reverse side, he didn't just smack that thief around and let him run. It was a /clean slice/ through the neck!"
Miyako didn't pick up the argument. It would have been easy, to explain the possible theory that Rajura'd saved them out of a sense of justice... or something along that par, as well as easily note that Rajura may know his grandfather, but that didn't mean they were still alive because of it. Instead, all the fight was gone from her body as a pile of coins clinked together, dropping with docile intent onto the counter. The boy was still lacking facial color, but a shining sparkle hit his eyes, as though he was grateful. But for what?
"And they better," Rajura threatened, maybe louder than he should've, "find a ride to their next destination, or I may have to pay /another/ visit to you. When you're sleeping."
The youth's eyes widened considerably, a trickle of sweat falling from his temple and lacing its way down a swallowing throat; he nodded his understanding and handed Rajura a rusty key, then took precausiously into a bag the sum of gold on the surface before him, as though any sudden movement might mean his head.
Daisuke and Miyako gulped.
Rajura turned to them then, a tiny smile on his lips. "Second floor, first room. Two beds. Enjoy your night, kids."
The key fell into Dai's hand and the man brushed past them, heading for outside. Miyako spoke out first, incredulous. "Are you leaving??"
"My time with you is over, Miss," he said without stopping, untethering Gen once he was in the evening air. "But don't worry." He swung himself onto the horse's back, eyeing both of their heads stuck out the inn doorway with his one brown eye. "We /will/ meet again."
Daisuke and Miyako hopelessly stared at the lonesome elder, letting Gen slowly lead them out from the town walls. But the pair didn't even reach the walls when mist slowly and gently flickered into existence, pouring from nowhere and subtly surrounding their...friend? ... The cascading cloud past by carelessly, a small fogbank in all said and done, but once it vaporized.... In the little light they had, the two teenagers couldn't believe their half-blind eyes.
Rajura had vanished.
Much later in course of his path, Daisuke come to posess the knowledge of how Rajura did it, how he simply disappeared like a ghost from the grave. But that was many months down the road, and presently, he and Miyako could only gaze at the empty spot in a stricken awe. Sleep would not be coming anytime soon for the two, that was for certain.
[Rajura- Yoroiden Samurai Troopers / English dub: Dais- Ronin Warriors =:+:+:= He's a sub-villain with hardly any screen time, but the only masho/warlord to nearly kill the heros. (His horse was named after the name of his armor in YST)]