The Chronicles of the Otter World : Eastern Tails – Episode 4

Naomi Kazehiko

naomi

“Jun ! Are you alright ?”

Naomi ran even faster towards her son when she noticed him kneeling in front of the child and the bodies.

Jun wasn’t able to say a word. His fist was covered in dry blood.

His mother went closer to the bodies to check their pulse. It was far too late to do anything.

She looked more closely at their faces before realizing she knew the victims. Eiji and Chiasa Matsumae !? Impossible ! How could two of the most skilled fighters in the region have fallen ? Who could have done this ?

Her head then turned towards the child, who wasn’t moving at all. Was he their son ? Did they even have one ? They couldn’t have hidden him for so long, especially considering he looked about ten years old ! One thing was certain about this mysterious child, though : he was breathing heavily and in an irregular fashion. Most likely in a state of shock, given that he must’ve witnessed this carnage.

The night promissd to be rough.

“Jun.” The boy slowly lifted his head. He too seemed shocked. Still, she had to give him clear instructions, yet vague enough so that the young kutz wouldn’t hear something that would make him feel even worse. “Go tell your father about everything that has happened. He’ll know what to do.”

Without a word, Jun got up and ran. Naomi saw at the very last second the tears dwelling in his eyes, yet she didn’t react, powerless.

***

Rintaro Kumo

“SOMEONE CALL A DOCTOR ! QUICKLY !”

Rintaro heard a young man yelling outside. Instinctively, he and a few customers ran out of his shop.

Two people wearing black suits were dragging the unconscious body of a lutris. The grocer was horrified at the sight of the woman’s huge wound. She was bleeding way too much. A huge raion in black was also bleeding, although less heavily from her muzzle, while the third person was covering his left eye with one of his hands. The left cheek was crusted with dry blood.

“Quickly ! Go fetch help !” yelled one of the witnesses.

While some people were running towards the infirmary to look for a doctor, Rintaro ran towards the people in black to help transport the unconscious lutris. In an instant, he ripped the sleeve from his shirt and used it on the wound to try and stop the bleeding. It probably served little purpose, but anything was better than nothing and every second gained was crucial.

“Thanks a lot…” muttered the wincing raion.

The old beayern then noticed the symbol on their suits. A moon crescent cut in half by a shooting star. His eyes widened. “You…”

“No time for that !” hissed the hundini with the headband. He also seemed in a huge pain. “Will you please lead us to the most nearby clinic ! My friend is dying !”

Rintaro faintly nodded, terrified. “Yes, Sir !” He looked at the other villagers, who also seemed to have recognized the symbol. “We need to help them ! Quickly !”

Fortunately for the old man, some people came back to their senses to help.

The Sasaki clan ? Here ? But why !? This wasn’t good. At all.

The group managed to arrive quickly enough to the clinic, where two of three of the village’s doctors were waiting.

Once the three injured were lying on the beds, the hundini with the headband turned his head and looked at his unconscious colleague. He was profusely sweating. “Do you think… She’ll make it ?”

The doctor was preoccupied, yet confident. “I cannot guarantee it, unfortunately, but we’ll do everything we can to save her.”

The hundini smiled. “Good… Thank you…” Then he passed out.

The still fully conscious raion leapt out of the bed she was sitting on. “Master Ryû !”

The doctor ran towards the hundini and turned his head at the woman. “Go back to your bed ! I’m taking care of him.”

The raion winced, then looked towards the door, where Rintaro still stood. He looked worried.

“I need to tell the Boss ! Where can I find an airship ?” she asked.

The doctor, who grimaced as he took a look at the hundini’s eye angrily snapped at the raion. “You will find nothing ! I forbid you from getting out of this building !”

“I need to go to the capital. Now. If the Boss knows his son’s about to die and nothing’s done about it, you can be sure it won’t be just the clinic that’ll know his wrath ! I’m trying to help, here !”

Rintaro thought he’d faint. The boy on this clinic’s bed was Yukito Sasaki’s son !? That was even worse than anything he had imagined ! The raion was right, though : if Yukito’s son died, the whole village would be burned down ! He had to do something.

“I… I can go tell Mister Sasaki if you want.” said the beayern.

The two doctors turned around, shocked.

The raion’s eyes lightened up. “Oh thank you ! Thank you very much ! You’ll be rewarded more than you can imagine.”

“Where can I find him ?”

“When we last spoke to him, he was at his home in Gêmukyo. I think he’s still there. His mansion is located in the noble’s district. It’s a huge Kannostokian-looking house with the clan’s crest and it is well guarded… Here, just a sec.”

The raion prodded her pockets and took out a badge representing the Sasaki’s symbol. She accidentally left some blood on it. “Show them his badge. You should be able to get an audience with Yukito almost immediately if you do. He’ll come here. I know it.”

Rintaro took the badge and put it in his pocket. “Thanks. He’ll be there as quickly as I can make it happen.”

The old beayern didn’t wait to rush outside, only to be interrupted by Akiji, the konijin smith.

“Don’t tell me you’ll go there ! It’s pure madness !”

“Akiji, this isn’t the time ! Every second that passes gets us closer to the possibility of seeing the whole damn village being burned down by Yukito’s goons ! He’ll come here anyway, his son alive or not and we’d better have him come while his son’s still alive and give him the impression we did everything we could to save him.”

“If someone close to the Matsumaes heard you, you’d get killed on the spot… If not tortured first.”

“Yeah, well listen… I’m taking the risk, because you know I value this village more than anything else. So we’re going and you’re going to help me go there, ’cause I certainly can’t pilot one of those blasted airships alone.”

The smith growled. “Yeah ? Well Yûzô and Jun can defend us.”

The grocer felt he was panicking. “Are you out of your godsdamned mind !? Jun and Yûzô are two ! Two of the strongest swordsmen in this country, sure, but two nonetheless. When Yukito will hear the news, you can be daln sure he’ll come with at least a hundred men and most certainly some of the best, so we go to Gêmukyo now and we don’t ask anymore questions, okay !?”

The konijin went silent. “… Okay. But you’ll get the airship ready alone. I need to take a bit of food and make sure no one gets any stupid ideas that could spark a civil war tonight.”

The grocer nodded. “Good.”

***

Jun Kazehiko

Jun ran as fast as he could to his home. He couldn’t clearly see, blinded by the tears that came without stopping. I’m worthless. I couldn’t save them… Why ? Why why why why why !?

He wanted to stop. Scream. Go back to the child and apologize. Everything and nohing at once, incapable of determining the order or importance of what he wanted.

He had to see his father. He’d know what to do.

For that, he didn’t need to go too far, as his Yûzô was running towards him.

“Jun ? What happened ? Dan and Eiichi told me there had been an attack !?”

Jun tried to breathe. He was trembling more than ever before, yet he knew now wasn’t the time to lose his senses. “Yes. I… I managed to fend the assaillants off, but the people there got…”

Yûzô took his son in his arms. “Calm down, Jun. Calm down. I know Naomi’s already there and I’ll go to her now.” For a moment, he felt hesitant. “Go back home. I’m taking care of the rest.”

The young man’s trembling intensified. “I… Don’t know if I can…”

Yûzô frowned, then looked left and right. He discreetly nodded towards one of the villagers that arrived behind him.

“Fukuo, can you bring Jun back to the school ? I need to do something very important now.”

The kutz didn’t seem to get it. “What’s going on ?”

“I’ll tell you later. I need you to help me right now. Please.”

Fukuo saw Jun trembling, then saw the despair in Yûzô’s eyes. The kutz nodded.

“Thank you.” The hundini looked at his son. “Jun, I… I’ll be there very soon. Okay ?”

Then, after a small gesture destined at the kutz, Yûzô ran to go towards his wife.

Fukuo put his hand on Jun’s shoulder. “Come on, Jun. Let’s head back home.”

Worthless… I couldn’t save them… I couldn’t…

Jun screamed.

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