A/N: Thanks again for the reviews you guys! Your encouragement helps me write better than before… Especially when I've owed you an update for about a month! I'm really sorry about that; I've been on a lot of vacations in the past month and none of them had the internet; except for one hotel and this one couple was always on. Anyways, moving on from rude couples, I'm glad you guys haven't given up on me! That means a lot ;). So, I should be moving on, right?
Golden sunshine poured through the window and formed squares of light on the wooden floor. One of these shapes crept towards the edge of Anna's dress, moving from the slowly rising sun. Anna was wearing a blue kimono, which would probably be comfortable if the whole idea wasn't so foreign to her. Yet, anything was luxurious compared to the soldiers' uniform she used to wear. She had actually begun to sleep soundly for a few hours straight, and it was the first time in a long time she had been able to do so. But she couldn't help but wring her hands worriedly every time she peered through the crack and into Algren's room.
As far as she knew, he hadn't awakened yet. Well, to where he was actually functioning on a normal level. Not that being held captive in a completely strange village was normal; but from what Anna understood from bits of Taka and Nobutada's conversations, Algren hadn't staid conscious for more than five or ten minutes. She hoped he would be alright… If he died, her chances of escaping quickly were instantly slimmed. Not to mention that he was the only person here that she trusted. But she seemed to be handling it alright so far.
Through all of this, Anna didn't notice that there was a new visitor to the home. He had called Nobutada's name a few times from outside; but when he rendered no response, he didn't stop himself from sliding open the front door and stepping in himself. Nobutada himself had been leaning contentedly against the wall, both hands resting in their opposite sleeves. He had been dozing until his senses caught the door opening, where his eyes opened quickly and he became alert.
"Nobutada," Ujio barked to him, slightly angry that he had been ignored when the young man had only been a few feet from the door. The elder samurai gestured for Nobutada to come and speak to him, and the younger kicked off the wall in reply. He approached the hot headed man curiously, having an idea of what he might say: something about the westerners, no doubt. He was right; in a way.
"Katsumoto would like to see the girl.. He says she will be of help to us." Ujio explained, taking a quick glance over the living area that was within view. By this time Anna had heard a few words, and had appeared at the end of the hall to see what was going on. Ujio's eyes hardened and turned cold the moment he saw her, turning promptly and walking through the still opened door. He had been sent to deliver a message, and that was what he had done. He wasn't going to waste his time with some foolish girl when he could be training.
Nobutada turned and approached Anna, a peaceful expression on his face although he had witnessed the quick but tensioned moment between her and Ujio. And even though he could tell she had heard the conversation, he continued to inform her as if Ujio spoke a completely different form of Japanese. "My father would like to speak to you," He told her, as she eyed him warily. She really didn't want to go right now; especially now that she knew how one of the older samurai felt about her. Would she be safe with Nobutada? Then again, would his father assign him to her if she wouldn't? But then again, it may have been political… She only wanted to go to the hill, where the children played. She guessed that somewhere deep down in her she believed that they could be different when they're adults. Not murders, but they might actually do something in life. Nobutada gave her a similar look. "Today; not next lifetime."
The beautiful landscape was framed by a sky of grey clouds. Anna's pace involuntarily quickened, and hurried the calm and collected Nobutada. His gait was leisurely, giving the world around him an occasional glance with a hint of admiration. He had lived here most of his life, and he never lost his love for it; or took it for granted. Anna wasn't one to hate the rain; but she didn't feel like getting drenched with the unfamiliar rain at the moment. This rain made things so cold and distant, more so than usual. And those clouds overhead kept getting more and more ominous looking… But Nobutada didn't seem to notice at all.
Nobutada only accelerated his steps slightly, as he led her down paths that wound around the village. It was relatively close to the small town, and between the various wooden houses, she could see fleeting images of the inside workings of the village. Deep evergreen colored trees lined the other side of the path, with a few young trees peeking up between the path and the houses. Stunning flowery blooms were slowly starting to fall to the ground, littering the forest floor beside them with pastel petals. Anna now understood why Nobutada looked at them so proudly every now and then. The scenery was a gorgeous mask to the true intentions of these people. Or at least what Anna believed were the true intentions.
What felt like mere seconds later, the two had come upon a decently sized shrine. It overlooked a spacey and mysterious-persona field, which was sprinkled with wildflowers and blew gently in the soft breeze. Nobutada continued up the delicately carved steps without hesitation, leaving Anna to follow him slowly and cautiously; as if their roles had suddenly been switched from a few moments before. He stopped at the door and turned to look at her, waiting patiently for her to catch up with him once more before he continued inside.
The inside of the temple was the most striking feature of all. Although the outside may be intimidating; the inside was nothing less than speech taking. She had seen pictures of others, of course, but nothing compared to how it felt in person. Gold seemed to sparkle everywhere, although it had only been used in small amounts and was spread throughout the room. Anna was not a Buddhist, or Taoist, or anything else that might be native in this area… But she could already feel a strong connection of spirituality that lingered thickly in the atmosphere.
Nobutada led her to the center of the shrine, before what Anna assumed was a golden Buddha. Katsumoto was kneeling on the floor, obviously very deep in thought. He was muttering faithful prayers to the gods he believed in. As soon as he was finished moments later, Nobutada gave him a respectful bow. Apparently he understood the mumbling under his father's breath. Anna didn't mirror this but merely observed; trying to absorb everything her senses were telling her.
Katsumoto bowed his head gratefully to the two, patiently ignoring the fact that Anna didn't honor him with a bow of respect in return. She didn't know any better; but yet, she claimed to know all this Japanese… These westerners were so strange. He stood, his stare powerful and commanding the complete attention of the two. With a small and soft nod Katsumoto welcomed Anna.
"Has you stay been enjoyable?" Katsumoto spoke to her as if she were a valued guest at a hotel. This fact upset her slightly; she was sure that he did such a thing on purpose: as if teasing her for being captive. In reality, he wasn't.
"I have been in better situations." Anna replied in a dry manner, crossing her arms across her chest in a subconscious defensive manner. She wasn't going to be talked down to and mocked as if she were some kind of worthless being; at least, until weapons became involved. Nobutada gave her a warning look, as if telling her to be careful of her limits.
Katsumoto merely chuckled at her response. "I'm sure you have. I hope you become comfortable here soon; the passes have frozen and you will be here until spring." He notified her, and there was a ring in his voice as though he would be glad she would be stuck in this place for so long. Anna's heart sank at the news. What were they planning to do with her to keep her here? "But that is business for another time. Tell me, fair girl, what is your name?" Katsumoto was speaking so… politely. Anna paused before answering him.
"My name is Anna Harper. I am the translator for Nathan Algren, the other man-" Anna didn't mention that they were being held captive. For one, Katsumoto already knew the situation. And if she did say such a thing, she wasn't really in the mood to be outnumbered by a handful of angry samurai. A quarter of a samurai could outnumber her; and she knew it. She would have to tread carefully here. Although it was the truth, Anna wasn't about to risk her life on a single immature statement to prove how brave she was.
"Anna Harper…" Katsumoto, like Nobutada, had some trouble learning to say her name. He repeated it quietly to himself twice, before trying on Algren's on his tongue. He muttered the man's name and turned his attention back to the girl in front of him. "It's nice to meet you." He spoke in somewhat broken English, but the sound still caused hairs to stand on the back of Anna's neck. How did he know? "My name is Katsumoto."
"You… Speak English." Anna said aloud, still shocked at the fact. How was she supposed to communicate with Algren now; without them knowing what they were saying? It had been her whole plan to speak to him in English so they would have an element of surprise, however they decided to escape. Obviously the tables had been turned. An amused smirk crossed Nobutada's face, slightly entertained at her expression.
"Yes, some." Katsumoto replied with a nod, proud that she had been able to understand what he had been telling her. "But it's not perfect. I need the teachings of someone experienced." He explained, as Anna eyed him curiously. There was a moment where the wheels in her head turned, trying to comprehend what he had said. The sudden transition of English to Japanese in the middle of a sentence stumped her for a moment, but she was quickly back on track. She did have a feeling as to what direction this was going in… "You have much experience with English, am I correct?" He sounded as if he was speaking to himself his own train of thought.
There was another moment of silence as Anna reluctantly answered. "Yes…"
"Then you wouldn't mind teaching me your language?" Katsumoto had asked a question he already knew the answer to. Anna nodded hesitantly. What more could she do? The fear of punishment for saying no was enough… And he probably knew that she felt this way. Katsumoto bowed his head to her briefly before continuing. "I have important business to attend to," He informed them, and the relieving thoughts that she might actually be able to leave the temple flooded Anna's mind. "Thank you." He said in English, as Nobutada bowed to him from the waist. Anna copied this to some extent, but was quickly returning to her full height in a matter of a few seconds.
The wooden steps outside the temple seemed to have doubled in size since the time they had seen them last. Anna had some trouble following Nobutada, who glided down them in ease. She had been having trouble walking in these Japanese sandals on flat ground; much less down four foot high stairs. She ended up pulling up the edge of her kimono so she could see her feet, concentrating hard and knitting her eyebrows. Nobutada stopped at the bottom of the stairs to wait on her, not with a scowl on his face like she had expected; but rather an entertained expression. Their eyes only met for a moment before she turned her attention back to the village ahead of her. He was intimidating, Nobutada; and it didn't even feel like he was trying.
After a few paces, Nobutada looked back to her. His eyes trailed over to the village, where she was clearly struggling to focus her attention on. His own gaze moved to the busy happenings of the streets, and then back to the fair haired girl's intrigued look. It shouldn't hurt anything… "Do you want to go?" He asked, receiving a confused look from the girl. He gestured to the dirt roads in the town that were not that far from their path. "Inside the village, would you like to see it?"
Anna turned back to the small stream of people who walked on the main road through the village. It sure was interesting, and she would like to see it… But there were samurai in there, and what if she came across that black samurai again? This Ujio? He had been the most frightening of all to Anna; without any mercy or compassion at all for anyone. But then again, Nobutada had to protect her, whether or not he chose to. "I… guess." She answered finally, causing a pleased smile to cross Nobutada's features.
Good, it is a great place." He merely explained, wasting no time on foolish hesitation as he promptly turned and strolled between two wooden establishments and towards the busy area.
The inside of the village was more fascinating than Anna had expected. Then again, everything in this place seemed to be so different and breath taking. Well, most of the things. It was as if it were its own little world; untouched by anything else on the Earth. It couldn't compare to any other experience that Anna had, or anything she had seen. It was amazing.
People of all ages were lingering about, shopping with large woven baskets or just out for a walk. Every person had something set on their mind; a goal for the day and their lives. It was mind blowing how determined some of them were. They seemed so disciplined; the black smiths who sat outside their houses and pounded swords and arrows or the men who sat on their porches and carved out furniture that would one day be for sale. Anna's eyes were wide and accepting to everything detail she could soak in.
This of course, continued until the village actually noticed her. It was suddenly silent, except for the gasping of some women. The whispers weren't what bothered Anna; it was the silence that stung the worst. The cold stare that the men and some of the civilians gave her; one of sheer hate. Some of them looked at her in fear, shutting their doors and closing their windows so there was no possible way she could see inside. Mother's hid their children, scooping them up and hurrying them to safety. The looks she received made her nauseous, an awkward feeling creeping through her.
She wasn't worth anything. She was a monster to these people; and those who didn't think this thought she was scum. She didn't deserve to set foot a mile within the village, much less speak to their extremely respected leader. So what was she doing here, with Nobutada-sama? The important head of their village? She wasn't worthy, and Anna could feel every inch of these thoughts as their eyes bore into her; whether it was from their porch or through a crack in their wall.
"Nobutada…" When there came no reply to her soft words, she tugged on his sleeve gently. She didn't want to touch him; she didn't know him and frankly didn't exactly like him either. But he was her only way out of here at the present; and she didn't know how long she would be able to last in these conditions. He looked down at her curiously in return, raising an eyebrow. "Take me home."
"What? Why?" Nobutada looked around him, noticing a few icy glares in their direction. He tried to ignore them, but they continued to worry Anna. And he could tell; it was hard to ignore a trembling girl beside of you.
They were back at Anna's 'home' in a matter of a few minutes.
A/N: Once again; sorry for the delay! I'm going to be a lot more active now, so don't worry, kay? I appreciate all the reviews!