'What had happened?'
I couldn't believe my eyes. I just left for days and now my village, my house… 'Father…mother…Marilyn…' I forced my feet and ran toward my collapsed house.
"Nami!" Ray called.
Ray was calling me but I didn't stop. 'Please let my family alive' I prayed to whatever gods and looked for my family. Some of villagers were crying over their house or families. "Father! Mother!" My eyes blurred with tears when there was no answer. "Marilyn!"
I turned around as I heard Asahi's voice. Asahi and Hinata ran toward me and grabbed me in a hug.
"Nami, you're alive," Asahi said.
"Thank gods," Hinata said.
"What had happened?" I asked after pulling off.
"Suddenly soldiers came to our village and they…they…" Asahi trailed off. Hinata took Asahi's shoulder as she started to cry.
"You remember the rich man?" Hinata asked.
My eyes went wider as I finally realized it. I had seen the man that day, with the warrior. "He…It was him, wasn't it?" I clenched my fists as anger rose inside me.
Hinata nodded her head slightly. "He said he will come again."
"He looked for you Nami," Asahi said.
"What do you mean?" Ray asked.
I forgot she was standing behind me. I looked back at Asahi.
"He was angry with you for making a fool of him," Asahi said, wiping tears off.
"He did this because he was angry at me? I'll make him pay for this," I said between my gritted teeth. I was about to turn around but Ray grabbed my arm. "Let me go."
"He has soldiers with him Nami," Hinata said.
"I don't care! If he wants me he can take me, why have to destroy my village!?" I couldn't hold my anger anymore. I pushed Ray's hand away as she pulled me around.
"You are not going anywhere," Ray said.
I tried to pull hand off but she tightened her grip. Asahi and Hinata said something about calling my parents and Marilyn and left us but I kept my gaze at Ray. "This is not your business," I said. She tightened her grip that I could feel her nails against my skin.
"Yes, it is."
"Let me go!" I shouted. I pushed her back as she pulled me into hug.
I tightened my hold as Nami sobbed against my chest. "I won't let you go, do you hear me?"
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"I'm sorry," I said. I pushed her body a little, cupping her cheeks. "We'll figure this out, together." She nodded lightly. "I won't let something bad happen to you or your family, I promise." I held her tightly as she threw her body on me. 'I need to talk with father'
After leaving Nami with her family, I went to our camp. Our camp was out of the village so it was safe. As soon as Jiro saw me, he dashed toward me.
"Ray! Where have you been!? You just ran…"
I took his shoulder to stop his rumbling. "Look, I need to see my father. Where's him?"
Jiro closed his mouth once before answered. "In his tent, but he's pissed all day."
"Thanks," I said, walking toward my father's tent. Katsuyuki was with him. He approached me when he saw me walked in.
"Ray, thank gods you're back," Katsuyuki said.
I offered a small smile to him, turning to my father. He rose to feet, hands on waist. "Father…"
"What were you thinking leaving camp for days!?"
"I'm sorry but…" I started but he turned around, rubbing his face. I felt guilty to make he worried. "I was doing practice when I saw them, and went to…"
"Save the tavern girl," he said.
I turned to Katsuyuki. He shook his head slightly. 'How did he know about Nami?' "Actually there's something I want to…"
"We're leaving the day after tomorrow."
"What?" I asked, surprised. I glanced at Katsuyuki before looking back at my father. "What do you mean we're leaving?"
"We have to move before the soldiers come again."
I shook my head. "No, we can't just leave them."
"Ray," Katsuyuki said.
He took my shoulder but I pushed his hand and approached my father. "We can help them, we have enough man…"
I stopped abruptly at the name. "Inoue?" He then turned around, looking at my eyes.
"That's why we have to move."
I shook my head. "No, I…I can't leave her…they'll take her, I won't let them take her."
"We have no choice Ray," Katsuyuki said softly.
I took a breath. "Can she come with us?"
"No," he answered immediately.
"Why not? Please father, let her come with us," I said.
"They're looking for her, if she comes with us they will look for us too. I can't let it happen. Forget about that girl."
"No!" I shouted, clenching my fists. "I'd never leave her!"
"His clan is looking for you for years! If they find you're still alive you're going to die!"
"I don't care!" I shouted back. "I've promised to protect her and I will!"
I slapped Katsuyuki's hand away when he reached for my arm. "If she can't come with us then I'll leave. I'm leaving this group."
"She, she, she…" He kicked a chair near him, exasperated. "What is it about that girl? She's just a tavern girl."
I clenched my jaws, holding back tears. I was about to reply when I heard Katsuyuki's voice.
I turned around and my eyes widened when I saw a girl running away. "Nami,"
I wiped my tears, running outside. I ignored my father's yell. "Nami, wait!" I caught her arm. "What are you doing here? It's dangerous to walk alone."
"I just want to say thank you," she said. She kept her gaze aside. "Goodbye Ray."
I grabbed her wrist when she turned around. "Nami wait,"
"What!? Don't you hear what your father said now? They'll kill you too if you're near me!"
"I don't care!" I shouted back. I took her cheeks, keeping her gaze on me. "I told you that I'll protect you and I'll keep my word. I won't leave you."
"Then you're an idiot, I don't need your protection."
I pulled her face closer that I could feel her rage breath against my skin. "If it means I could be with you then I would be an idiotic person or whatever," I said. Her brown eyes were staring back at me. "Come with me Nami."
"But your father won't allow me to come with you."
"I'll talk to him. You don't need to worry. If he still insists then we'll go alone, just you and me, we'll go somewhere far away from here," I said, wiping tears from her cheeks. "You want to see another place, don't you?" She nodded. "Then I'll show you."
"I'm sorry I couldn't protect you."
I leaned off, smiling at my father. "I'm sorry I have caused all of this." He leaned to kiss my head.
"You did nothing wrong. I just hope can give you better life. Please be safe and don't worry about us."
I nodded, turning to my mother. She wrapped me in her arms while crying.
"Be careful Nami. Wherever you go remember that you have family here. I love you."
I nodded as she kissed my forehead. I was wrong; she had always loved me. "I love you too mother."
Marilyn also gave me hug and her favorite brush. I put the brush inside the bundle before turning around to my best friends.
"Hey best friend," Asahi said while trying to smile. "Be careful, will you? Don't get yourself in trouble."
I chuckled and threw my arms as she hugged me. Hinata hugged me from behind, also were crying.
"We'll miss you."
"Ray we have to move now."
"Please wait, she says she will come," I said to Katsuyuki while looking for Nami. Jiro and Katsuyuki helped me to convince my father and finally he agreed. I turned around as father climbed his horse. Everyone was ready to leave too. I gripped the bridle, biting my lip. 'Where are you Nami?'
"I know," I said, frustrated. 'Please Nami, hurry up' I should pick her from the village. When I was about to mount my horse, Jiro called me.
I was relieved to see her and ran toward her. She was panting a little. "You came."
She raised a hand to her chest, trying to catch her breath. "Sorry I'm late."
"It's okay," I said and took the bundle from her hand.
"Can we move now?"
"Yes!" I shouted toward father before taking Nami's hand. "Let's go."
I tied her bundle to saddle first before helping her to get on the horse. I sat behind her, taking reins. I nodded toward Jiro who was on his horse already before squeezing the horse side slightly.
We rode all day since we had to climb down the mountain before dusk. Father and Katsuyuki lead the convoy in the front while I and Jiro were riding in the middle between carts. I gripped the reins while looking at the forest road before us. "So, you never ride a horse before?"
Nami shook her head. "No, we can't buy a horse after all."
I blamed the nobles for setting high tax. That was one of the reasons I didn't like nobles. "What do you think?"
"Well, it's nice."
"Really?" I asked. She nodded. "Tell me if you feel any pain."
"Pain?" she asked, turning to me.
I nodded before leaning to whisper in her ear. I pressed my lips together as her eyes widened and cheek turned red.
I grabbed her hand on my belly. "Hey, no pinch. You'll startle him," I said. She pinched my arm instead and glared. "I'm just saying. Anyway, aren't you worried about your family?" She turned her gaze back to the road.
"A little, my father said they'll be fine. I hope they will. Besides I have no choice," she said the last part softly.
I put my arm around her stomach while holding reins with another hand. "You'll be fine too," I said and offered a smile when she looked at me.
"Thanks," I said. To tell the truth, I was worrying about her. That day I had heard Ray and her father's conversation. I wondered what made Ray has to hide her true identity from the rude man and his family. Her father said her life was in danger if they found her. I shouldn't go with her. I knew I was being selfish but I didn't want to lose her. I couldn't.
"What are you thinking? Me?"
I let out a chuckle, leaning against her. "Of course no."
"Don't be shy. I know I'm handsome, charming…"
"Euw," I teased and leaned off. She had grin on face. "I don't know you're a narcissistic person." She let out a small laugh.
"There are many things you don't know about me. But don't worry I will show you."
I lifted an eyebrow when she winked. I turned my gaze and met Jiro's. He smiled a little before looking away. I blushed slightly and pinched Ray's arm on my belly when she giggled. "This is embarrassing."
"Just pretend we're alone."
"You're enjoying teasing me, aren't you?" I said. Ray nodded and laughed.
"You're cute when blushing."
"Stop it or I swear…" I stopped when Ray planted a kiss on my neck. "Ray," I warned. She just let out a hum. I shivered a little as the soft lips slowly trailed up.
"Oh man," Jiro said before squeezing his horse, moving faster.
I pinched her thigh to stop her. "Ray,"
"Ouch! What was that for?"
"Really, you ask?" I said. Her lips curled up in an innocent grin. I gasped when she pulled me against her. I could feel her breath against my ear. I didn't bother to lean off and just sighed.
I looked at the carts before us. They had to bring all those things with them. Maybe travel around wasn't easy as I thought. Still I was excited that I would be going to see another place besides my village. My village.
We were getting far from the village. Suddenly I felt sad a little. I would miss my family very much, and my best friends. I didn't know if I could see them again. Ray's lips on my head broke my thought.
"Are you missing your village?"
I nodded, leaning head against her. "A little."
"I have something for you."
I looked down as Ray put a necklace on my neck. I took the pendant, taking a look at it. It was a deep purple stone. I had never seen it before. "This is beautiful."
"There's a legend about the stone," she said. "Two persons who possess the stone will be bound forever."
"Really?" I asked skeptically. She nodded again.
"I have it too," she said and pulled a necklace with a deep purple pendant out her hitatare.
"We'll be bound forever?" I asked.
I look at the stone in my hand. My lips curled up. I would be together with Ray forever. My heart fluttered inside my chest at the thought. I released the stone when she took my cheek. I felt something in my stomach as she kissed my lips gently. I would always feel the giddiness every time those lips of her moved against mine. I stared at her deep brown eyes. I heard a soft hum from my throat when she took my bottom lip, pulling it slightly. I did the same with her upper lip and heard a hum from her. Soon I couldn't hear anything else besides my drumming heart and our hums.
I loved the feeling of her lips against mine. I didn't care if the other saw us. On the contrary, I wanted the world to know that she was mine and I was her. Our moment broke as there were shouts. "What happened?" I asked the man behind us.
"I don't know."
I looked over his shoulder. Horses were stamping and rearing up. An arrow flew and stuck on a tree beside me. "They're coming!" I shouted. I kicked the side of my horse, speeding up. I heard Katsuyuki's voice as he shouted to our man to increase the speed.
"They come?" Nami asked.
I could hear panic in her voice. I tightened my hold on her stomach. "Don't worry," I said. But when I heard screams from behind, I got panicked as well. I took a quick glance over my shoulder and saw troop of horses.
"Ray, go first! Go!" Jiro shouted.
I nodded and speeded up. We passed Jiro and carts.
"What should we do? They'll kill your man," Nami said.
"Don't worry," I told her, and myself. I held the reins with a hand while holding Nami with my other hand. Once we reached the front line I saw father shouting at our men to get ready. He then turned his gaze when he saw us.
"We need to separate."
"Listen to me Ray," he said while keeping reins. "Go first and hide. We'll meet again at the base of the mountain."
"You have no choice," he said. "Be careful Ray, now go!"
I glanced at my father. He smiled at me. I kicked my horse to gallop. We passed the convoy before leaving the big road, entering forest. I kept my gaze ahead as I heard screams and horse neighs behind us. I shouted at my horse to increase its speed. 'We'll meet again at the base'
After riding for a while, I pulled the reins to stop the horse and turned it around. I listened to any sound. I let out a breath of relief when heard nothing. They didn't chase us.
"I shouldn't come with you."
I released a hand from the reins and took her hand. "What are you talking about?"
She shook her head. "It's my fault, I shouldn't leave the village."
"Nami look at me," I said and took her chin. "We had agreed you come with us. Even if you don't come, I'll drag you out from the village. Do you hear me? I won't leave you." I took her in my arms as she started to cry. "Never."
It was quiet around us. The only sound was from her small sobs. I tightened my hug and gave a light kiss on her head. I knew she was blaming herself. Honestly, me too. I would never forgive myself if something happened to my family. I knew I was being selfish but I couldn't leave her. Even without the warrior problem I would take her with me.
I closed my eyes, leaning head against her. I just wished thing was different. The warrior never chased us; I could live as myself; we didn't have to fear to be judged by other people; live a life where it was only me and her. However, unfortunately for us, this was our world. I lifted my eyelids when Nami pushed my arms a little.
"I'm sorry," she said sheepishly.
"You okay?" I asked. She nodded, offering a smile. I tucked locks behind her ear. "I think we should move," I said before taking the reins.
"Yes?" I looked at her. She just smiled and shook head.
I let out a chuckle and was about to ask when I heard sounds. I got alarmed.
"What's wrong?" she asked.
"I heard…" My eyes widened as I saw black and red uniforms between trees.
"Hold on tight," I said and kicked the horse sides. I took a glance but couldn't see all of them. 'What should I do now?'
I closed my eyes as the horse galloped between trees. I remembered this; ridding inside the forest with soldiers chasing after us, just like the other day. My heart was pounding inside my chest. I grabbed the horse back to steady myself. I heard shouts from soldiers and Ray's breaths.
I snapped eyes open when the horse reared up. It let out a neigh before landing to the ground. I let out a cry as my body was thrown to the forest floor. Ray grabbed my wrist, pulling me up. I ignored the pain from my ankle and ran. I still heard their shouts behind us. It was like the other day, except this time they wanted me.
I held a cry when I stumbled over a rock. Ray quickly pulled me up.
I nodded while holding back a cry. We started to run again. I greeted my teeth as I forced my sprained ankle to move. The horses were getting closer. For the first time in my life I was scared. 'What if they catch us?'
I heard Ray's mutter and lifted my gaze. I bumped to her back. That was when I realized there was no road in front of us. We were on the top of cliff. Ray tightened her grip on my wrist and turned around. My eyes widened as soldiers approached us. They dismounted from their horses. The rude man passed his men, approaching us.
"Finally I could find you, a nasty piece of work."
Ray pulled out her katana, pushing me behind her. "Ray,"
"What do you want?" Ray asked.
"I just need that girl. Give her to me and I let you alive," the man said.
"And if I don't?"
The man clenched his jaws and shouted at his men. Ray pushed me aside and raised her katana as the soldiers attacked her. I stepped back and watched as she fended off their swords. She didn't lie that she could protect herself. She could beat them easily with her quick move. My gaze glued to her that I didn't realize a soldier came. I let out a scream when he grabbed me from behind.
I stamped on his foot but it didn't make him release his grip. "Let me go! Ray!"
I regretted calling her as I saw a soldier pulling out a dagger. He stabbed it to her stomach. "Ray!" I screamed. She stepped back while looking down at the dagger on her stomach. Another soldier swung his sword. "No!"
Ray fell onto her knees.
"Ray!" I shouted. I couldn't see clearly as tears covered my eyes. "Ray!" I tried to push the man's arms but he held me tightly. 'Please get up Ray, you'd promised to show me beautiful places, you'd promised that you won't leave me…'
'I haven't told you that I love you'
She was crying. Her cry was the only sound I could hear. I lifted my trembling hand and gripped the dagger. I let out a cry as it slid out my flesh. I felt tear in my eyes either from the pain or her cry. I gripped the dagger in my left and my katana in my right hand, forcing my body up.
I raised my katana, swinging and stabbing the soldiers like it was just my training trunk. Bloods covered my face and clothes. I wasn't sure whether it was from the soldiers or mine. 'Don't cry Nami, I told you I won't leave you. Never'
I couldn't feel anything. I just swung my katana. My eyes blurred with tear and blood. I gripped the katana while looking at the left soldier in front of me. He was looking back at me, hands trembling. I let out a roar, raising my katana. He fell onto knees before slumping down. I let out a loud cry. My whole body was shaking with rage.
I turned around and moved swiftly as a dagger flew toward me. I threw the dagger in my hand at the man who was holding Nami. His eyes widened as the dagger stuck on his chest and fell down.
Nami pushed her body up and turned to me. As soon as my gaze laid to her, all the anger and pain drained away. I released my katana, smiling at her. She wiped tear off face, running toward me.
I was too happy to see her that I didn't notice the man standing near a tree. An arrow flew toward me. Fortunately, I noticed it before it could hit my chest. I stepped back and let out a breath of relief as the arrow passed me. But the next moment my body was falling backward. Nami's eyes widened as she screamed out my name. She was the last thing I saw. 'I'm sorry Nami'
"NO!" I forced my feet to run as I saw the ground she was standing on collapsed. "RAY!"
I had always wondered what it felt like to fly like a bird, feeling the wind against my face. It felt nice, the wind.
I didn't need to think and just jumped off. Another time I would be scared to see wide sea below me. But right now, I kept my gaze at her deep brown eyes. She was smiling at me.
Something floated around me. Acacia petals.
It was falling around us. The blue sea, her smile and the fallen petals, it was a beautiful sight. I had never seen something beautiful like this before.
I tried to reach her hand as she raised it. She opened her mouth, saying something. But I couldn't hear it. I didn't need to hear the word for I could see it in her eyes. "I l…" The word stuck inside my throat as she slowly closed her eyes.