[Epilogue] Thoughts for the long march [Bayushi Kazari]

While much of the region's population is based in Kudo, there are numerous small hamlets and farm estates scattered about.
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[Epilogue] Thoughts for the long march [Bayushi Kazari]

Post by Kosagi » Wed Jul 24, 2019 10:21 pm

Her ribs still hurt, and Kazari had to place her feet carefully. She was also hungry and tired - after being turned loose in Kudo the night before she'd slept fitful at best, and it had been nearly a day since she'd eaten. At least she was used to marching - but still, armed with only a knife she felt vulnerable. It was looking to be quite the march.

A dozen different thoughts whirled through her head, recollections of the past two weeks, experiences, things she was told or witnessed. A huge, raw, jumbled mess. She supposed she should try to make sense of things - but she'd never figured hunger could be such a distraction. She felt weak, and almost as if her body was wrapped around her empty stomach. One more step. There was progress, such as she could measure - just heading north, roughly parallel to the river.

It struck Kazari just how vast the empire was. She never really noticed before, living in cities or travelling on ships or carriages. Now she was making one step at a time, and if felt as though if she tripped...she was not getting up for a while. Just step by step.

Those steps were not worth much. The village on the horizon still seemed so far away....


A few hours later

Life was...different, where she was now. She'd worn the guise of a Ronin, or even a peasant before, briefly, but it had only been an act. This time she did not feel like a Samurai - In torn and stained clothes, only washed in a stream, that still stuck to her body, one knife as her only weapons - and a string of Zeni.
Even that was an act of generosity. It had enabled her buy some barley porridge and stewed cabbage to quell the worst of the hunger, but she had no idea how far she had yet to go, and once again Kazari did not feel safe, either. Another spoon of the thin porridge that was one of the best things she'd ever tasted - and a furtive glance around, hoping no one had noticed her wounds or her zeni. Mere zeni...that were all that lay between her and starvation, or really ugly choices. It was a stark contrast, in a sense. She was the hunted, not the hunter. Hoping not to draw any attention to herself, and it wasn't a game either.

Had it ever been? That was the thought that accompanied her as she left the small guest house to set out again, even though it was already evening. The peasants eyed her questioningly - they didn't know her, and wondered why she would head out again when night wasn't too far away. It made Kazari's face turn into a grimace and her fingers twitch when she had to admit to herself that she just didn't have the money, that she'd be sleeping rough for want of a few spare zeni.


The next day

It had been...what, two days since she'd left Kudo? Her left leg was hard and crampy, and for the first hour every step had hurt until the muscles had gradually loosened. There were sore spots where the uneven ground had dug into her the night before. Still, despite all this, now that the hunger had grown duller and she'd gotten used to the pain, her thoughts went back to the last few weeks, when it had all gone horribly wrong, when what she believed was her path in life shattered.
Kazari suffered as she walked, and blamed Ryuuzou. Blamed the others, perhaps irrationally, for bringing the whole operation down, for treating her this harshly. In a weak moment blamed them for not killing her. Kazari blamed herself, too, for her many shortcomings and failures - what if she'd acted earlier? Stopped Ryuuzou somehow, maybe alerted her Clan in time? Realized how he was lying to her before it was too late? Find a better way to get the others to help? What if she hadn't been too weak to kill him? Had learned, in time, how to navigate, how to survive in the wilds?

Step by aching step she walked, her thoughts running in circles.

Just once, she blamed the Clan, during the afternoon, after she'd passed one more hamlet, she blamed her Clan. What had they expected of her? Was it reasonable to leave her out there, stranded and with no backup, in over her head? Would they accuse her? They probably would, but wasn't much of this their fault?

By the evening, hunger had once again caught up with her, in full force. She dared not eat the various plants around her, no matter how much she craved food, any food. Kazari could have kicked herself for pressing on, for testing her luck and leaving that hamlet behind...just darkness and the hard, cold ground and hunger.


Three days out from Kudo

It had almost been too late when she finally noticed, plodding along in a daze. Almost, but once she realized what she heard her training kicked in and she scampered into the forest, hiding in the undergrowth. Watching, waiting. Forcing herself to be still while stones dug into her and a thorn pricked her face.
But she'd been right as she saw them emerge - two Ronin, also scrawny and not well kempt, sauntering down the street with a unfriendly, angry expressions. Easy targets, maybe, but in her current state - hungry, unarmoured, with just a single knife...they'd easily take her, and take her money, too. Humiliating, she thought, hiding, digging her fingers into the ground as she watched them pass, only daring to move long after they'd passed.


Four days out from Kudo

Kazari had almost wept for joy when she finally stumbled into another village the previous evening, then ate her fill, paid some of her remaining Zeni for a cot and a blanket. Could she afford it? She hardly cared anymore, and she slept like a rock. Woke up starved. She was down to 6 Zeni when she was done with breakfast, but that, too, had been necessary. Humbling, though. She'd never wanted for such basic things when she was training in the Dojo, or even when she was running with Ryuuzou.

Put things into perspective. Just how much life in the empire gave them everyday. How fragile it all was. Kayama Shunsuke had giver her a string of Zeni - just that little, and she'd been confused by the gesture, hadn't yet had time to realize what it meant. It had meant life out her. Also made her realize just how MUCH Ryuuzou had tried to pull from Kudo - or how much the lords of major provinces moved in their ledgers.

Dry theory until she was barely strong enough to lift her feet, hungry, and ached all over. One of the thoughts had come back to her - anger at herself, but also at her Clan. They'd left Ryuuzou to rot, cut him off - then sent her in woefully unprepared. Only that she'd been cut off eventually too. Expected to do crimes, pass messages, move contraband, recruit disposable armed toughs to do things she did not know but could guess at. Work for her Clan - but who knew if that was even true? Without a handler, without ciphered communication it was just signs, and secret handshakes. Orders to execute. But what if the orders didn't even come from her Clan, just a lucky common criminal who'd figured out how to fake it? What if it was a Scorpion, but he wasn't acting in the best interests of the Clan?
Kazari realized she'd never know. It's not like they told her much, or she could really ask them. Just blind obedience, leading to Fortunes knew what. What, indeed, if a man like Ryuuzou held the keys, and just snapped?


A week out from Kudo

Her money had run out safe for one Zeni - but then, without her even realizing, she'd been in Scorpion territory for over a day now. Back roads. No border posts, toll houses - just another detail, her realizing just how that smuggling might have worked for them. But then, she might have also been watched for hours now, with her Clan she never knew.

Home. I'm going home

She felt anxious, dreaded what was undoubtedly to come, but it was the forward. To where she would be able to make sense of what she'd done, seen and learned. She had a lot of thinking to do, she felt, maybe even some growing up. Eventually though, she would return, speak again to those she'd encountered back in Kudo. Properly, in some cases, express her thanks.

Bayushi Kazari straightened clothes as best as she could and announced herself to the town's magistrate.
Scorpion Clan * enforcer * Criminal * Bayushi Kazari

Status: 1.0 Infamy: 2.2 Honour: Somewhat honourable
NPC run by AGM Seroriman

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