Her steel clashed with the assassin's as they danced in the open space. Karia ducked as one ninja star came at her just missing her left eye. Karia slashed at her opponent with all three of her katanas moving in a downward strike. The assassin parried her strike with a ninjato while taking the opportunity to strike back. The assassin threw multiple ninja stars which made their marks. Karia gasped in pain and jumped back. She realized that one of the ninja stars had hit her side and cursed. Karia then chucked one of her katanas at the assassin aiming for the head. The assassin made an effort to jump back but wasn't fast enough. The katana missed the head but manage to dig into the back of its target.
Karia used her remaining katanas to push herself into a standing position and hobbled over to fetch her third weapon. She picked up the blood stained steel feeling a great deal of pity for the assassin she had just killed. The man had no clue who he was dealing with. A scream made Karia jump. She turned around to her horror; her brother had been run through by the remaining assassin. She was even more scared to see her lord Yosako had pulled her brother into the attack to save himself. Lord Yosako released his grip on her brother's arm and he fell to his knees.
"Itamaru!" she screamed as she ran towards her brother.
She fell down by his side and said, "Itamaru open your eyes stay with me! Itamaru you have to stay alive please!"
Lord Yosako cut down the assassin in the moment of confusion and then looked over at Itamaru. To Karia's surprise the young dying man before her did manage to open his eyes.
Itamaru coughed up blood as he opened his mouth to speak, "Karia….it's alright. Karia you're a big girl now." Karia wouldn't hear it.
"Itamaru no, stay with me!"She shouted.
Itamaru smiled and Karia began sobbing, "You idiot how can you be smiling at a time like this!" she knew the answer to this question even though he didn't answer. She knew that Itamaru was only thinking of her safety. Gradually Itamaru raised his hand to Karia's face.
"My dear little sister please don't cry….. I love you Karia. I'm…..I'm sorry I have….. to leave you now my dear little sis…ter." Karia watched as her brother coughed up blood once more before his eyes closed. His hand fell from her cheek to the blood stained ground.
With tears flowing from her eyes she shakily rose to a standing position. She turned to her lord with a burning anger in her eyes.
"You had my brother killed to save you own life! I can't even stand to look at you. You're a monster," Karia shouted.
"When the two of you came to work for me you were told that your job was to protect me at all cost. Your brother merely served his purpose," Lord Yosako replied calmly.
"I no longer work for you," Karia seethed before turning around and taking off. She ran back towards the village. She passed the village gates and down the street knocking people down by accident in a rush as she went. The wounds she had taken from the throwing stars burned with pain as she ran. Finally she made it to her house. She tore the sliding shoji door open and dashed up the stairs to her room. Karia had to sit down on her bed for a moment to catch her breath and give her injuries a minute.
Karia grabbed a travle bag and stuffed a few clothes and anything of importance into it. Once she had grabbed everything that she had thought of as important she ran back down stairs and out through the door not even bothering to slide the shoji door closed. She raced down the street towards the stables to fetch her horse. As she turned the corner she slid on a broken piece of glass. She hit the ground hard making her cry out in pain. She cursed as her hand automatically went to her side. Then she pushed herself back up and ran to her horses stall. The pain was too much for her to run any further; both the physical pain of the injuries and emotional pain of seeing her brother die before her eyes.
She pulled herself onto her horse and grabbed the reins tightly. She urged the horse to run as fast as it could. The black stallion galloped through the streets of the village and out into the open fields beyond the village gate. As she galloped away with no general direction or destination she began to cry even harder. All she could do now was to get as far away from this place as she could.
When the moon was high she pulled her horse over and dismounted. She made a small camp with a small camp fire. She walked over to the small stream and decided that she would have to fish for her dinner that night. She caught a couple of measly fish and set them on stick next to the fire. While the fish cooked she took her bag and rummaged through it until she found a blanket and then pulled a blanket around her to keep warm. She ate the little fish that she had caught and then kicked dirt over her small fire pit to smother the flames. At first she thought she should do something about her injuries but then decided a moment later that she didn't really care. She then leaned back against a tree and drifted off to sleep.
After Karia had finally gone into a deep sleep a man showed up at the small area she had stopped in.
"How foolish of a girl to sleep in the rain like this. I suppose I could take her back with me and my lord can decide what to do with her later." The man shook his head at the soaking wet girl that was asleep before him. He lifted her onto her horse and made sure he had all of her belongings. He led the horse back to his village and around to the stables. Then he dismounted the girl from the animal and grabbed all of her belongings.
A stable boy approached with a questioning look.
"Take the saddle and reins off of the horse and put it in one of the stables." The boy never asked his question but instead followed the orders given to him. The man carried Karia and her stuff to the castle in which he stayed. As he passed by his lord's room he noticed that the door was open and that his lord was still awake.
"Kojuro who is that girl?" his lord got up and walked over to get a look at the strange girl.
"I don't know my lord. I found her sleeping out in the rain and decided to bring her back here. She doesn't appear dangerous and it wouldn't be right to leave her out in the rain and cold."
His lord scratched his head and said, "bring her in here she can sleep on the floor in my room." The man was surprised by his lord's offer but didn't question him.
The man watched as his lord laid out a large pile of clothes on the floor. Then his lord motioned for him to lay the girl down and the man did as he was told. Once she had been laid down his lord covered her in a spare blanket.
"Stop giving me that look she'll be fine in here. Like you said she doesn't look dangerous. We'll talk more about her in the morning, good night Kojuro." The man named Kojuro nodded, though still unsure of how the girl might react when she woke up. Dangerous or not he didn't have much of a reason to trust a girl he didn't know.
"Good night Lord Masamune."
Karia woke up the next morning when she heard the voices of two men.
"Well question her and find out who she is once she's awake."
"Yes we need to know who this strange girl is and we also need to know why she was in our land."
Karia propped herself onto her elbow and winced as the pain from her wounds resurfaced. Karia looked up at the two unfamiliar men that stood over her.
"Where am I and who are you people?" Karia knew it was a typical question in this kind of situation but the information was useful. The younger looking of the two men raised an eyebrow at her question and then answered with a question of his own.
"I think the real question is who are you and where did you come from?"
Karia sat all the way up and shook her head trying to wake up a little more.
"My name is Karia Kuro. I come from a village about half a day's ride from here." The two men decided to sit down so Karia assumed this was going to take a while.
"Can you please tell me where I am now and I would like to know your names." Karia had to force herself to be polite despite the fact that she was panicked and even a little scared. Karia couldn't stand feeling as helpless as she did. It was the younger of the two that answered her again.
"You are currently in my castle and I am Masamune Date or better known as Ōshū's One- Eyed Dragon. My friend here is Kojuro Katakura or better known as the Right Eye of the Dragon. Just in case you didn't know by now I am Lord of Ōshū."
Ōshū's One- Eyed Dragon! Karia couldn't believe she had wound up in the castle of the Lord of Ōshū!
After a few moment of silence the other man, Kojuro spoke, "I found you asleep in the pouring rain last night and I figured I'd bring you back here. Why were you sleeping outside in the rain anyway?" Karia looked to the floor. Should she tell these people about the tragic event that had taken place the day before? Karia decided that she didn't have much of a choice in the matter. Without taking her eye's from the floor Karia replayed yesterday's events.
"Well you see the lord of the area I came from, my brother and myself were out on a walk yesterday afternoon. As we were walking a small group of two assassins attacked us. I fought one of the assassins while my brother and my former lord took on the other one. After I had disposed of the assassin I heard a scream. As I turned around I saw my former lord's hand on my brother's arm as he pulled my brother in front of him to take a blow from the second assassin. My brother was run through with a ninjato and he died shortly after." Karia stopped after mentioning the death of her brother. The pain of losing the only other family she had left slowly crept back into her heart.
The two men stared at her for quite awhile. They apparently hadn't expected something like that.
Then the man named Masamune spoke up to break the silence, "Well if you ran away from home then why not stay here?" Karia stiffened. Should she stay here? She ran away from home and she didn't have any were else to go. She didn't know these people; she didn't know this area but as her brother once told her. Sometimes taking a huge risk is a huge necessity in order to survive. The words echoed through her head as she tried to make a decision.
"Are you sure I can stay here?" she asked hesitantly. The man simply nodded his head and said nothing more.
Karia gave in to the offer knowing that this guy was going to be persistent. Then Karia looked around the room until her eyes locked onto her bag and swords that were neatly piled in the corner of the room.
Apparently the two men followed her gaze and Masamune asked another question, "Why do you have three swords? Karia turned her head to see the man looking at her with a surprised and questioning look.
Karia smirked back and said, "What you don't think a girl can handle three swords?" Her teasing tone caused him to smirk back.
"Well if you want you could prove me wrong," He replied in the same teasing tone. She was glad that things were turning a bit more cheerful. Karia stood up slowly not wanting to strain her injuries anymore than she was about to. She walked over to the corner of the room and pulled her swords out of their black leather sheaths with one hand and pointed them at her challenger.
"Well let's duel then, Lord Masamune."
The two walked outside and Karia stopped at the porch. The place outside was amazing. The yard outside of the castle was full of people dressed in blue armor training out by the flat area to the left, laughing with each other as they sat outside of one building eating, or riding around the track that Karia only had a glimpse of from where she stood. This place was so different from the place she had woken up to just the day before. Everyone seemed so happy here, so satisfied with their life and their job as a Date soldier. The people back in her home village were always unhappy. They complained about Yosako and the kind of leader he was. But they always hoped that her brother would change him.
Karia was snapped back to reality when lord Masamune called out her name.
"Hey Karia, are gonna fight me or not get over here!" with the mention of a fight between their lord and a stranger quickly got the attention of all the Date soldiers. As Karia approached her opponent a large crowed seemed to appear in a circle. The crowd of people would serve as the ring for this little match she supposed. Lord Masamune drew all six of his swords and Karia was shocked.
"Your three against my six let's see who's the better swordsmen." That smirk, much like her own Karia thought.
Karia started off faking an attack to the left. Lord Masamune raised one set of blades to block but Karia then dashed to strike his right side. So she didn't do any real damage Karia twisted her blades so that the flat side of her swords struck his right side knocking him over. Lord Masamune landed with a thud. The crowd of soldiers that were shouting out encouragement to their lord were now silent. The young dragon got back up and looked at Karia with a raised brow.
"Damn, you're pretty good. Let's see if you can do that again."
Karia accepted the challenge with a cocky grin, "Well I did it the first time without much effort so sure let go for round two." Karia waited for him to make the first move this time. Seeing that Karia wasn't going to make a move lord Masamune charged. Karia was not expecting the speed of his approach, Barley raising her swords in time for a block lord Masamune smashed into her pushing her back. Karia Looked down at the slide marks in the ground to see how far he had really pushed her back.
Karia was satisfied when she looked at her new lord's frustrated face.
"As you can see Lord Masamune I know how to stand my ground unlike someone," Karia said teasingly. Lord Masamune Grunted in annoyance.
"Shut the hell up already were not done with this battle yet." Lord Masamune charged for her again. She met him in the middle and the two clashed swords. Lightning was sparking out from their weapons as they stood at a standstill, neither one giving an inch of ground. The sparks of lighting were flying out all around, Karia's middle sword erupted in flames forcing Masamune to jump back.
"Fire and lighting? That seems a bit unfair don't you think?" Lord Masamune flashed a smirk at Karia and right as Karia was about to charge in for another round she was interrupted.
"Alright that's enough!" Master Katakura yelled out at the young warriors and positioned himself in between the two. Masamune looked over at Master Katakura with an irritated expression.
"Well that a bummer. This fight was just getting started," Lord Masamune pouted.
Master Katakura shook his head at his lord, "If you two kept that going it would've turned into something like a fight between you and Yukimura. And just so you know Lord Masamune I'm not letting you skip out on breakfast today so come on, that goes for you to." Karia realizing that he was talking to her followed him to the dining hall.
Karia walked in and made her way to the long table were Lord Masamune and Master Katakura had sat down. She took a seat next to Lord Masamune as a woman brought over three plate of Tamagoyaki.
Lord Masamune looked over at Karia as she was taking a bite of her breakfast and asked, "Since you called me Lord Masamune during our fight does that mean you'll take my offer to stay here?" Karia froze. She hadn't really thought about it much but after sparring with Lord Masamune and looking around the main area Karia realized that this place would be good for her. It was beautiful, and everyone around her seemed to be kind and energetic. Karia assumed that she would feel more at home here than she would anywhere else.
"Yes I would like that, thank you Lord Masamune." He looked surprised by Karia's thanks and looked back down at his Tamagoyaki.
"Uh…. Sure no problem," he mumbled.
Looking over Master Katakura spoke up to save his lord from saying something stupid, "By the way, looking at your bag I can't imagine you brought a lot of clothes with you?" Karia shook her head confirming Master Katakura's suspicion.
"Well in that case I could take you into town and you can buy some more. If you'll be staying here then you'll need more than just a few changes of clothes," he offered. Karia hesitated before answering. In addition to her lack of stuff she didn't bring any money with her to go shopping for more.
"Um… I don't really have any money," she admitted sheepishly.
Master Katakura just smiled, "Don't worry about it I'll pay for it all."
"No I…I mean I don't want you wasting your money on me I…" She was cut off by the wave of his hand.
"Well you'll be part of the Date army now so think of that as a way to pay me back." Karia sighed. Obviously he wasn't taking no for an answer.
"Uh alright then thank you very much."
After they had finished their breakfast Master Katakura led Karia over to the stables where her horse was waiting. Karia was very grateful to find that her horse had been taken care of. She put her saddle on to her horse and then mounted. Master Katakura and Lord Masamune then mounted their horses. Master Katakura had a beautiful brown horse with a black main and tail. It was big and it looked strong and healthy. Lord Masamune had a black horse much like her own. Karia's horse was a bit bigger but Lord Masamune's looked a bit longer. What Karia couldn't quite figure out was why his horse had metal poles attached to the side of its head almost like handle bars? His horse also had the strangest looking things around the stirrups.
Lord Masamune took off and Master Katakura and Karia followed closely behind. They got to the town within a few minutes. Karia looked around to find shops and small restaurants along one street while the rest of the streets were lined with houses. Over to the side past the shops were rice fields and other sort of things. Karia also noticed a small path that branched off from what looked like the main road up into a wooded area.
"Lord Masamune where does that lead?" she asked.
Lord Masamune looked over to the path and said, "Oh that leads to a small lake." Karia shrugged and lightly jumped off of her horse. She followed the other two into a shop that had multiple styles of clothing. They had a massive selection of Yukata, Hakama, Shitagi, and many others. Karia first walked over to the section of Shitagi considering she would be a Date soldier. It was difficult trying to pick what colors since she didn't really know what her armor was going to look like. Karia narrowed it down to either black white or blue seeing as blue was Date's color.
Lord Masamune walked over to her and said, "I wouldn't worry about Shitagi until you have armor to go over top of it. Go look at the kimono or Yukata something you'll wear other than training clothes. Even though traditionally Hakama are worn by men they would work for training." Karia was a bit shocked to find the One-Eyed Dragon helping her shop but she took his advice anyway. After a few minutes the trio left the shop with a couple of daily outfits that Karia had picked out including the Hakama which Lord Masamune had suggested for training. Then they walked down to the blacksmith's shop at the end of the street.
Lord Masamune casually walked in and started a conversation with the blacksmith, "How's it going old man?" The guy put down the piece of metal he was working with and looked up.
"Oh well if it isn't my number one customer! You haven't come down here to tell me I need to repair you armor again have you?"
Lord Masamune laughed and shook his head, "No I came down here to see if I could get a customized set of armor for my new general here?" Lord Masamune grabbed Karia's arm and pulled here over from the doorway. The blacksmith looked over at Karia and gave lord Masamune an amused look.
"Having the ladies fight for ya in more ways than one now are ya Masamune ha ha," the old man chuckled. Lord Masamune rolled his eye.
"She's better than almost any man I've ever fought." Karia was taken aback by her lord's praise on her fighting skill. She never really thought she was that good at fighting. The blacksmith seemed surprised as well.
"Well what kind of customized armor did you have in mind then boy?" Lord Masamune walked over and started whispering in the guy's ear. The only words she could make out were, Red, flame, and similar. Karia didn't understand why Lord Masamune was whispering what he wanted but with the look he was giving her as he talked told her not to ask.
After the private conversation had ended Lord Masamune said, "Well were done here so let's grab some lunch!" They left the blacksmith shop and headed towards a small diner that had been painted a gold-ish color on the outside with a blue dragon statue on the roof. The sign below the statue said The Blue Dragon.
It was a bit obvious to see where the diner had gotten their theme. While thinking about it Karia found herself looking at Lord Masamune and laughing out loud.
Lord Masamune turned his head to look at Karia and said, "What's so funny?" Karia shook her head and walked in. The interior was just as One- Eyed Dragon themed as the exterior. Blue carpets and seat cushions with gold embroidery, and little touches of gold around here and there. There were even pieces of furniture and tableware with lightning bolts etched on to them. Karia had thought the whole thing to be very amusing. Lord Masamune picked seats at the bar and greeted the owner that worked behind it. She found it comforting to know that Lord Masamune could walk around and practically start a conversation with everyone in the village.
Karia found herself thinking back to a time when Itamaru had taken her up a very large hillside where you could see their entire village. Karia remembered asking him what the most import thing to becoming a good leader was.
He smiled and said, "The first step to becoming a good leader is winning the hearts of you people. You have to get to know them and know their daily problems so that you can fix those problems in order to have a peaceful and successful rule. You promise that you'll always remember that right Karia?"
Karia was brought back to reality when their food arrived. Karia had ordered some Miso Soup which smelled great. Karia wound up in a conversation with the owner of the diner when Lord Masamune drug her into it.
"Yup you're looking at my number one general Karia Kuro the third in command of the Date army!" Karia nearly choked on her food when he said that.
"Th-third in command!" She turned her head to face another one of those cocky smirks. The owner looked about ready to laugh his head off which was staring to bug Karia.
"Wow I guess you weren't expecting that one kid." Karia had come very close to telling the guy to shut up but now that she had a reputation she didn't want to start off screwing it up.
"Um Lord Masamune when exactly where you planning on telling me my position?" Masamune laughed at the detected irritation in her voice.
"Is now a good answer?" he asked with a grin. Karia didn't say anything. She just sat there giving him a death glare.
Then Master Katakura who for the most part of this trip had been silent spoke up, "Well at least he told you before you really got assigned to any tasks." Karia rolled her eyes telling Master Katakura that he wasn't helping. The three men were sitting there laughing while Karia quietly finished her lunch. To her relief they finally stopped laughing after a good few minutes.
"It's about time you guys quit." Then lord Masamune tilted his head and gave her another smirk.
"Awww come on you were sitting there smiling the whole time." Karia gave in at that point because she had no argument. She had been sitting there smiling while they laughed.
By the time they got back to the castle the sun had begun to set. They led the horses back to their stalls and headed back to lord Masamune's room.
When they got there Karia grabbed her swords and her bag and asked, "So what room will I be staying in?"
Master Katakura pointed two rooms over, "You'll take the empty room next to mine." Lord Masamune walked over and collapsed on to his bed.
"Right, see ya in the morning then," he said.
Karia then followed Master Katakura over to her new room and right before she slid open the shoji door Master Katakura spoke, "Karia I appreciate you agreeing to go shopping today. Lord Masamune needed this day off, thank you."
Karia nodded her head, "It was no problem I had a good time today I should be the one thanking you." Master Katakura just smiled and walked into his room.