Friday, July 25th 1027
“Jun ? Can you please go to the village to grab a few things ?”
The boy winced. It wasn’t like he didn’t enjoy helping his mother, but, right now, he wanted to train some more. If he accepted, he’d lose about an hour of his time, as the village was twenty minutes away… Unless he went there running ! Not only would he do a bit of leg work, but he’d also not lose as much time as expected.
“Yup ! What do you need ?”
“Sooooo ? Is everything going well for you, laddie ?” asked the grocer.
The young man nodded. “Yeah yeah. Everything’s fine.”
“I guess you’re ready for what’s happening in two days, then ?”
“You have no idea !” replied the hundini. In two days, there would be a night of full moon like none other this year. The rain was expected to be heavy and it would make the terrain even more dangerous than usual. If he’d win then, he’d feel even more pride in his accomplishment.
The old beayern smiled. “Heheh. Seems like every full moon fills you with determination ! Know that I’ll pray for your victory and I’m wishing you good luck.”
Jun couldn’t help but smile too. “Thank you, Mister Kumo.”
The beayern looked at what the hundini had put on the counter. His gaze changed slightly. “Is that everything you need ? Didn’t you forget any galdehs, per chance ?”
Jun looked at the counter to check. He frowned. “Oh shoot ! Silly me, I totally forgot !”
The old beayern laughed. “Just like your mother !”
The young man looked at the ground, embarrassed. “Didn’t need to say that…” he muttered.
“It’s not that much of a bad thing, you know. Naomi really is one of the kindest women around here and that’s something you both have in common.”
“What ? That I’m the kindest woman in the village ?” slyly replied the young man.
The old beayern burst out laughing. “And the same sense of humour as your old man ! Really, you Kazehiko’s are a precious bunch !”
Jun’s smile widened. “So how much is it ?”
“How many galdehs do you intend to take ?”
Jun swiftly moved to the produce stall to pick four of the crimson fruits and put them down on the counter.
The grocer counted them, then started doing the math. “Nineteen Goldos, please.”
Jun took two regular copper coins from his pocket. “You can keep the change, Mister Kumo.”
“That’s very kind of you ! Thank you, Jun.” The beayern put the groceries in two paper bags before handing them to the hundini. “And here you go.”
“Well thank you ! And good luck for your rematch !”
Because galdehs are very fragile fruits, Jun decided to go back home at a much slower pace.
Indeed, the night of the duel would be even more intense than ever before. The last time he had challenged his father under that much rain was last autumn. The ground had been particularly slippery… Which was the sole reason of his defeat. It wasn’t as embarrassing as the time he had tripped on the pebble, but it still ranked close. Since then, every time it rained, Jun ran outside to practice moving on muddy terrain. His mother was obviously against the idea, especially considering the first time he decided to do this silly schtick was weeks after this humiliation… In winter. And he hadn’t been wearing enough clothes, as he had rushed outside at the sight of the first big drops of rain.
And so he learned the hard way that he had to go outside with tons of clothes and at the very least his favorite straw hat, as he had caught a cold so severe he had to stay in bed for the five following days. In a way, it also made him appreciate going to the hot baths more, as it did efficiently get him rid of the Demons of the Cold.
He was ready now. He felt it. By the next full moon he’d beat his father and…
“EIIIIJIIIIIIIIIII !!!! NOOOOOOO !!!!”
Jun jumped. The piercing shriek immediately snapped him out of his thoughts. A man collapsed to the ground, a hundred and fifty metres from where the boy stood. He could see the backs of three people wearing black clothes as well as the sunlight reflected upon one of the people’s blade.
Jun dropped his bags, his left arm reaching an unexisting blade at his right side. He had left it at home, as his father forbade him of taking it with him. Dammit ! He ran.
“ GWAAAH !!!” One of the people in black collapsed, struck down by the woman who had grabbed the dead man’s blade.
“YOU BITCH !”
Jun was less than fifty metres from the group when he stopped. The woman, who had rushed towards one of the ennemies had been struck down by the tallest of the remaining two people in black.
And as the woman fell onto the ground, Jun saw a very young kutz paralyzed by fear. It was all clear now : a couple had been murdered in front of their kid’s eyes !
Jun’s heart stopped beating for a second. He felt his breath going out of control as he trembled in rage.
Both people in black didn’t move.
Then Jun started running, letting out a scream of raw anger like none other.
The two bandits barely had the time to turn back that the smallest of the two fell onto the ground, having been hit by the hundini’s heavy fist, who swiftly grabbed the man’s blade in the process.
“Master Ryu !” yelled the raion, who then looked at her adversary.
Only pure rage could be seen in the fighters’ eyes.
And as the smaller of the two badits started to get back up, the hundini and the raion ran towards each other, sword firmly in hand.
The blades clashed with a deafeningly high metallic sound. Jun couldn’t control himself, to the point the following three strikes were so powerful both swords shattered.
The raion turned her head and saw that the man in black had been hit by one of the pieces.
“MASTER RY… URGH !”
The raion kneeled. Jun had taken advantage of the moment of distraction to throw away the useless stump and punch her in the gut.
The three people in black were stunned. The raion tried to take back her breath and looked once again at the small man in black, who happened to be a hundini wearing a headband around his eyes. “Master… Are… You…”
The raion took another blow to her muzzle and collapsed.
“JURI ! We… WE SURRENDER !!!” yelled the hundini with the headband as he saw his colleague fall.
Jun wanted to end their lives right now. They had just killed this child’s parents ! They couldn’t deserve mercy !
He looked at the child, who was incapable to move. His eyes looked empty. Jun felt paralyzed by terror.
“Gah… LET’S BAIL !”
Jun turned around and saw two of the people in black wrapping their arms around the third one, who had fallen first and was now unconscious. Jun wanted to hunt them down, but that would’ve meant abandonning the child. He clenched his fist.
Jun looked back. The woman was still alive !
The young kutz jumped. “MOM !” He rushed towards her.
“Mamoru… My son… I’m so sorry you had to see this…”
“MOM ! Mom, stay with me, Mom !” yelled the child.
“I don’t think I can…” She looked at the lifeless body of her husband. Tears started to roll down her cheek. “Eiji… No…”
The child looked at his father’s body and couldn’t move at all.
His mother weakly caressed his face. “Mamoru… Be strong. If I can’t make it, I… Want you to lead the clan… Honorably.”
“NO MOM ! DON’T SAY THAT ! YOU’RE GONNA MAKE IT, I KNOW IT !”
Men started to run towards Jun. He saw them approach and yelled. “GO FETCH MY MOTHER ! She’s at the Kazehiko school ! NOW !”
“R… Right, Jun !”
The women looked at the hundini. “You…” he immediately looked at her. “You saved my son… I am grateful.”
Jun didn’t know what to reply.
“I know it won’t be easy, but I want you to take care of Mamoru… You must protect him at all costs and take him to his grand-parents… They live in Lord Stephenson’s palace. They are… Under his protection.”
She then looked at her son. “Mamoru. I’m sorry… Take care of yourself… And you, sir… Protect him… From… Yukito… Sasaki’s… Wrath…”
The woman closed her eyes after one final breath.
“Mom ? Mom !”
Jun closed his eyes. It was too late.