Standard Disclaimers Apply.
Soujiro awoke slightly before sunrise, and he gazed at the horizon from his room. The rain stopped that night, but that still meant that the road was muddy. Soujiro wasn’t looking forward to it but he resolved it didn’t matter. He instantly remembered an incident with his step-brothers.
It had rained the previous night, and Soujiro had to do his usual job of transporting the barrels of rice. They always were heavy for him, but, weighing at around fifty pounds, they would be heavy for just about any six-year-old. Nevertheless, his step-father had forced him to do the job or Soujiro wouldn’t receive any dinner. Around the middle of his job his two step-brothers came by to hurt him. “Hmm...looks like a big job, eh Soujiro? Here let me help you, little, weak Soujiro,” the larger of the brothers said, and he tripped Soujiro.
Soujiro winced, keeping as much pain as possible within. He smiled, despite the fact that a fifty-pound barrel was slowly crushing his spine. He quickly loosened the strap and pushed the barrel off of him. When he stood up, the skinnier brother smirked and punched Soujiro hard in the face. While the other, and stronger, brother kicked him in the stomach. The skinnier brother then opened the barrel and let the rice pour out, blaming Soujiro for the ‘accident.’ Given an alibi, the brothers continued to pound little Soujiro. He smiled throughout the beating, and they stopped about five minutes later. That was about when Soujiro’s step-father came out and noticed the spilled rice.
Soujiro looked up, and he immediately knew he was in for it. Soujiro could immediately tell that his step-father was drunk, as usual. The man walked over to him, and grabbed Soujiro’s tiny neck. He lifted Soujiro about two feet off of the ground, and he screamed in the boy’s face, “You incompetent, little shit!” His grip tightened, “How many God damn times are you going to screw up, you little bastard? Look at you, you’re filthy! Just like your Mother, that cheap whore! You‘re useless boy, absolutely useless!”
“Soujiro? Are you okay?”
“Areh?” Soujiro said, a little startled, “Ah, gomen Tetsuya. Sorry, but what did you say?”
“Ne, Soujiro? I asked if you were okay?” he smiled slightly.
“Gomen nasai, I‘m fine Tetsuya,” Soujiro said, now a little embarrassed.
Tetsuya smiled, “Well, we should get going soon. Do you have everything you need?”
“Hai,” Soujiro stood up, “Let’s go.” The pair left a few minutes later.
Tetsuya and Soujiro rested after a few hours of walking to catch breakfast, and to take a break. Soujiro was relieved that Tetsuya didn’t voice his questions, about Soujiro’s musings, any further. Soujiro offered to catch the fish for breakfast, but Tetsuya went with him anyway.
Somehow Tetsuya caught more fish than Soujiro, which puzzled him slightly, and they cooked the fish a little later. While the two travelers were eating Tetsuya’s curiosity peaked, and he asked, “Ne, Soujiro? If I may ask why did you start to wander Japan?”
Soujiro immediately stopped eating, and contemplated the question. ‘Should I tell him my past? No, he might hate me; or even worse, I might have killed close friends or family friends of his. I don’t trust him, but I want to earn his trust. Why? What could I have done to earn his trust? Why should he even trust me in the first place? If he knew my reputation, I would lose his trust all together. Why is that important to me though?’ It took Soujiro a few moments to answer, “I-I want to repent for my past sins.” ‘That should be adequate for now,’ he hoped.
“What sins did you commit?” Tetsuya asked.
Soujiro stood and smiled, “We should leave soon, otherwise we won‘t arrive at Matsumoto until nightfall.”
Tetsuya got the hint and he nodded, and then he bowed, “Hai, gomen nasai for sticking my nose where it shouldn‘t have been.”
Soujiro was confused now, ‘why is he apologizing? I’m not worthy enough to be asked for forgiveness. I should be asking for forgiveness for all of the people I’ve slaughtered. I don’t understand, but I should forgive him anyway to appease him.’ Soujiro said after a few more moments, “There‘s no need for apologies Tetsuya, you didn’t know.”
Tetsuya smiled, “Thank you Soujiro, you‘re a good friend.”
‘I’m his friend? Since when did he trust me enough to be his friend? Since when did I become worthy enough for him to trust me?’ Soujiro pondered in a very awe-struck and confused manner. “Let‘s go,” he said after a few uncomfortable moments.
“Okay,” Tetsuya nodded. ‘I stepped over the line I think, but where? Oh well, I’d better just stay quiet for now, and ask him later,’ he chided himself mentally.
As the pair set off once again, neither spoke for hours. Soujiro had continued to mull over his thoughts, and Tetsuya left him alone. Even though neither of them spoke, they both were mentally glad to have someone to travel with. Loneliness, after all, was the most fearsome enemy for a lone traveler. Soujiro knew this from first-hand experience, and it appeared Tetsuya knew as well.
‘I kind of envy him,’ Soujiro thought, ‘He knows what he wants in life. He just needs to get there. Life is simple for him, while mine is a living hell. I want to keep his life simple; I won’t burden him with my problems. I’ll leave when we arrive at Matsumoto.’
Tetsuya looked over in the general direction of Soujiro. ‘Hmm...he seems to be in his own world,’ Tesuya thought, ‘I wonder what he’s...’
“Anou, Tesuya? What do you plan to do while you’re in Matsumoto?” Soujiro said, breaking the long silence.
“Eh? Gomen, I didn‘t hear you. Could you repeat that Soujiro?”
“What do you plan to do in Matsumoto?” Soujiro asked again.
“Well, I do want to visit my family first, and there might be a job opening for once,” the blind one responded, with a little a hint of frustration.
They both, once again, fell silent. This time, the silence was more comfortable, and peaceful. Neither of them spoke until they arrived at Matsumoto about an hour later.
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