Chapter 5

Taka looked up from grinding the rice on the stone. She smiled slightly as she say Nobutada proudly stride by. Her grin changed as Mizuki almost walked into him by accident. Nobutada instinctively reached out his hands to steady her. She fell into his arms as she tripped on the cold, hard ground. Nobutada tenderly straightened her and went on his way; leaving Mizuki to stand there staring at him with stunned eyes. Taka, smiling broadly, went back to her work. She thought that is was immensely amusing that the two loved each other, but would never confess to each other. She knew that Nobutada would never allow himself to show tender love to the village outcast and that Mizuki would never allow herself to disgrace Nobutada by declaring her love for him. Taka regretted the rift between them, but neither of them would be willing to give up what they considered best for their love.

Nobutada strode proudly to the center of the village. His father and the army of samurai were there waiting for him. Bowing first to his father, then to the generals in the army, Nobutada stood straight and tall waiting for the judgment of the group. He was most surprised when his father hugged him and handed him a daisho pair to rival his own.

"My son, you are now part of our village army. You are now the leader of this village and you will lead your section to victory. Under me, you will be a general worth remembering." Katsumoto bowed to his son and in response Nobutada bowed as well. Then Nobutada opened his mouth to speak, but was lost in the arrival of a scout.

Breathless and haggard, the scout was speechless. The only sound escaping his lips where heavy breathes and coughs. After a few minutes of immense pain, the messenger finally was able to speak. "My lord, the emperor's men are gathering more and more foreigners to his ranks and the railroad is up and running to equip a great army. We must move quickly."

Nodding his consent, Katsumoto strode off to his home to prepare and meditate. Nobutada nodded to the rest of the men and they roared for their new leader. Dispersing, the men ran to their homes to say farewell to their loved ones and to prepare for the battles ahead.

Nobutada walked proudly back to the home of his aunt, where he lived. Holding his daisho in his belt and wearing a smile on his face, Taka could see to joy radiate from him. She quickly let Nobutada in and helped him dress in his armor.

Dressed in his golden armor, Nobutada marched out of the house to return to the village square. However before leaping on to his horse and riding away, he allowed himself one last look at the hilltop where a lone figure stood.

Katsumoto, already on his horse, saw out of the corner of his eye what Nobutada did and as his son leaped upon his horse and turned his back on the hill. Katsumoto saw the silhouette raise its hand to wave. Frowning with disapproval, Katsumoto glared at the silhouette until it by its own intuition noticed that it was being glared at.

Mizuki looked out at the love of her life about to ride away. Struck between waving and letting him go with good wishes or not waving and not blessing him, she hesitated and waved to late. Nobutada had gotten on his horse and left her standing there watching him with a heavy heart. Almost crying, as the tears filled up her eyes, she stood there until Katsumoto glared up at her. Startled, she turned away and hoped with all her heart that Katsumoto didn't recognize her.

Changing her mood, Mizuki walked back to her home hopefully, to practice with her daisho. She first ran to her room and changed quickly to Kaemon's old clothes. Grabbing the daisho on the way out, she places the katana and wakizashi upon her left side. Running to the forest, she reached the clearing in which she practices.

Whipping out her katana, she practiced breathing with the sword held in front on her lap. Lifting up from the sitting position, she charged at the tree and cut it in two. Continuing her practice, she did not hear the approaching footsteps from the front of the house.

Taka walked up the hill, silently and quietly, to sneak past any nosy villager who wondered why the chief's sister was going to visit the outcast. She quietly went into the house and slid the door shut behind her. Astonished, Taka looked around. She knew that Mizuki was hard at work to keep the house neat, but not this neat! The floors, worn and old, were in perfect condition. They were polished nicely and woven straw mats were placed on them tenderly. Taka looked around in wonderment until she finally reached the door to the back of the house. Opening it and staring out into the scenery, Taka noticed a figure practicing in the forest clearing. How could a man still be here? All the men left to for the fight against the Emperor's troops. Who is that? Could it be Mizuki?! No, not again!!

Taka ran toward the clearing as fast as her kimono and sandals would let her. Her mind swam with the possibilities that it could be Mizuki. She would stop Mizuki's madness before rest of the village realized what she was doing.

Mizuki, fully aware of her surrounding now, noticed the struggle of Taka to run in her kimono. Panicking in shock and surprise, she threw the daisho behind her and tied it on the tree's branch. Then hitching her pants up, she shimmied up the tree and hid herself in the tree leaves. Without moving, she peeked out of the greenery to see Taka wildly looking for her. Sighing with relief, she kept on her observations; Taka sighed similarly, but her sigh was of regret and disappointment.

Taka left the clearing with a heavy heart and a world full of disappointment. She knew that Mizuki would never give up on her dream, but is the journey toward it worth the consequences. If maybe a person from the outside world could come and help the village, then all would be better.