The inspiration of this story is a set of incredible pencil fanart from a Japanese website. That makes me guess that some Japanese person already made a fanfic with the same idea, inspiring said awesome fanart. In any case, I'm copying nobody's work, and I hope you like this little take. As usual, S7 ain't mine, and this is all conjecture and what-if by a crazy fan. Hope you like, though. Do remember I'm a big gearhead fan, and it shamelessly affects this story. I think this will last for 3 chapters.
Wow, EK does descriptions. Incredible. (I frequently do more dialogue, you see.)
Katayama Gorobei was a new soldier, but a pretty good one, according to his superiors. He was a good trainee. He excelled in most weapons. He was brave, and demonstrated it in the few battles he had already fought for the clan. His easy-going nature gave him many friends within the troop. All this, and he had just passed 20 years old.
Today was the start of his first official leave, after half a year of service. He was given a week to do anything he liked. He did not have a lot of money, though. He computed that he may have enough for a few nights at an inn, some good eating, and a nice time at the entertainment districts. Not just to see the girls, although the girls were a nice thing to see. But he was also interested in the side shows: the fire-eaters, the knife-throwers, the acrobats. Those were better sights to see, in his opinion.
Their base was currently placed near a district beside the sea, and a lot of ships and vessels were moving in and out. He strolled there first, chatting now and then with friends among the sailors and the merchants around the ports. He promised to visit them again after his week was over.
Next, he did a little bird-watching on one of the decks. He was not a man of extravagant taste. Simple pleasures in life made him happy, and the thrill of fighting a battle gave him enough of a rush when he wanted it. He took out his binoculars, and observed the seagulls with glee.
One of the blue-white birds flew rather low, and he got to notice one of the smaller vessels passing through the port. The vessel he saw was filled with people at the top deck, and a few guards were checking them every so often. Nothing new. Maybe just civilians being brought to safer territories while the new war was being fought.
He shifted his view to the back of the vessel, and just barely noticed a small speck of red fall from the top deck and into the water.
He scanned the water, and saw the speck of red flap its arms for a while, before disappearing under the water. There was no battle currently going on, so any person falling off a vessel should not be rightly falling off. That person had to be saved, especially considering that the person seemed a bit too small!
He brought down his binoculars, and saw that the vessel was not too far from where he was seated, about 20 meters away. A fast swimmer could get to the redhaired person just in time to save him.
He took off his shirt and dived in.
The red hair was conspicuous even inside the water, and quickly led the young man to the person. Or, more exactly, and what frightened him … the person was a boy, not even ten years old, and small and thin for his age. The boy was already unconscious. He immediately clutched the boy close, and swam up to the surface. He brought him to a deck, and lay him flat on the ground.
The boy was still not breathing, but now he had a good look at him. As he estimated, the boy was small for his age, and was wearing a tunic that was very plain and rather dirty. The boy was also bruised on the forehead and on one arm. "Poor little chap. Now, let's see…," he mused. "Is that the one where I pat you on the back, or push your chest up? No….that's not right….but you're a bit too big already to be treated like a baby…" He scratched his head. "I guess the one for big people will have to do…I'll just be gentle. Now, don't die on me, redhaired little boy…"
He placed his hands together and placed them over the boy's heart. As taught in training, he pressed down at regular intervals, then breathed into the boy's mouth. He tried to place the pressure just enough, but he was getting worried that he was either being too forceful or too gentle that nothing was happening. "Not good…not good…Please, little redhead, come on…"
Finally he heard a slight cough, then a few more. The boy turned over to his side himself and coughed out the rest of the water. He patted the boy's back to help the process.
"Thank goodness you're alright," he said. "You gave me quite a scare, my little friend. But do you feel alright?"
The boy sat up and nodded.
The vessel the boy fell off from was still visible, and Gorobei yelled as loudly as he could to it. He found it really odd that, as far as he could tell, there was no confusion on the ship related to a "man overboard" warning. It was as if nothing had happened. He sighed. But the ship was not his first concern right now. He had to think about the redhaired boy, who was still in his damp clothes.
He squeezed out some of the water out of his own clothes, and sneezed. "Now, we're both sopping wet. I'll try to get some new clothes for you, and have you checked out."
The boy was still a bit too startled to react, and just allowed himself to be carried in the young man's arms.
The young man brought the boy to a little clinic he found, and left him with the resident nurse, while he disappeared for a while to change his clothes. He quickly returned, relieved that the boy had been changed into a tunic and little pants, and that the boy was pronounced fine. The nurse offered to keep the little boy at the health ward, but Gorobei said it was alright. He knew he would be imposing on the nurse, and said he would take the boy out during his leave.
He stopped at a clearing just slightly beyond the ports. He lay down on the ground to think, looking up at the gray and cloudy sky dotted with mecha samurai and cruisers. The boy beside him sat quietly.
"I guess you're stuck with me for a while," he patted the boy's knee. "We do have to find that vessel you fell off from……"
But the little boy slowly but surely began to sniffle, more and more, and little tears began to fall. He wiped his tears with the tunic, but more tears came out to wipe away.
Scared of what he might have done wrong, the young man began to panic. "Now, now, my little friend, stop crying, please, please?"
But the tears kept flowing down the boy's cheeks. He did not bawl, like other children, but he would not stop crying either.
The young man scratched his head. Then he snapped his fingers and smiled as the boy. "I know." He made the boy look at him. "Here's something I learned from my dad. Watch."
He showed the boy his sleeves, then pulled them up to show he was not hiding anything. He opened up his jacket to prove the same thing. He then took the boy's sleeves and pulled them up. He scratched his head. He raised the boy's tunic and tickled him a bit. "Golly, where is it?" He then raised one of the boy's shoes, and drew out a coin. He raised the other shoe, and drew out another coin. He then ran his hands through the boy's unruly hair and took out two more coins near each ear. The boy stopped crying in surprise.
"A little millionaire! You should've told me, you rascal!" he ended by pulling out a final coin from behind the tunic.
The little boy began to laugh and laugh.
"See, my friend? Isn't that nicer?" The young man chuckled. The boy sniffed and nodded. "Now, what is your name?"
The boy sniffed again and rubbed his eyes. "Hei."
"Alright, Hei-chan," the young man patted him on the head. "It's getting dark already, so let's go someplace to sleep tonight, and we'll look for your parents tomorrow. Deal?"
The little boy frowned again and lowered his head. "No mommy, or daddy. Not anymore."
"Dear me, that's quite a problem," he sympathized. "Who do we look for, then?"
"I don't know who they are." The boy began to sniffle and wipe a few tears.
"Oh, dear…" he scratched his head. "All the same, let's find a place to sleep. We'll worry about it tomorrow."
They started walking around, the young man asking for cheap prices at the inns. Unfortunately, all the prices were beyond his expectations. No one would even let them into the kitchen or the stable. He shrugged and grinned at his small companion. "Disadvantages of being such a cheapskate."
But he could see that the boy was getting tired. He stopped and sat on the ground. "Here, Hei-chan," he patted his back. "Hop on."
"Too heavy," the boy shook his head.
"No, I don't think so, you're small enough. Hop on."
The little boy climbed up on his back and slung his arms over the young man's shoulders. He leaned his head on the young man's back, and was soon fast asleep.
"A trusting little fellow, that's good," the young man ruffled the boy's red hair. "I hope nobody takes that from you when you grow up. At any rate, I won't let it start with me!"
He knocked at the last inn. A man came out, and immediately looked at the boy on his back. "A foreign child!"
"Spare us a room, please? For the boy's sake? I'll work for the payment if necessary," he begged.
The innkeeper shook his head. "Me? Let a samurai work for me? I would not subject him to that dishonor!" The innkeeper kept looking at the boy on the young man's back. "Besides, I feel sorry for you having to carry that child."
He bowed, then was led to the smallest room of the inn. He laid his little burden on a futon, and lay down beside him.
The little boy groped in the air for a bit with his eyes closed, until it met the young man's arm. The boy wrapped its arms around it. "Don't….go….away…." the boy pleaded in his sleep.
He ruffled the boy's hair again. "I'll be right here."
I figure there is at most a 15-year (at least a 10-year) age gap between Goro-san and Hei-san, it's just less obvious because they're both older when the series introduces them. (Erm, just take my word for it for now, okay?) Thanks for reading this. Sorry it's a bit short. I'll be back after some time for the next chapter. Opinions and suggestions still accepted. See ya!