Mitsurugi's Apprentice

TheInnerMindEye

[08] Mercenary
Just a short story I wrote for fun. If you guys like it I will continue it

PROLOGUE

“Heishiro Mitsurugi. The name alone strikes fear into the hearts of men. He was known as the greatest swordsman in the land, capable of cutting down fields of enemies like a farmer threshes wheat in a field!” said the young man sitting at the bar.

His friend replied drunkenly “I heard he was killed a long time ago in a fierce battle against God himself or something like that…”

“No way,” the young man interrupted, “Mitsurugi is the greatest swordsman ever! Gods and Demons a like trembled with fear when he gripped his blade!”

The two friends argued on and on into the cold, rainy, autumn night over hot plum sake. Eventually the bar was completely empty except for the bartender and an older man who was sitting in a darker corner of the room, quietly drinking his own sake. He listened to the two young men argue about the war-time hero. He thought to himself, “Young fools, they waste their time arguing and making up stories about a total stranger,”

He finished his sake and decided to go home. As he headed to the bar to pay the bartender for his drinks one of the young men stopped him. “Hey old timer, you look like you’ve seen some battles… Ever hear of a man named Heishiro Mitsurugi?”

The old man stopped in his tracks, his face obscured by his rice hat. “Don’t waste your time fantasizing about old legends kid,” he said as he stepped by the young man and placed some coins on the bar. He paid for a bottle of hot sake to enjoy on his long walk home, then left the bar and faded into the autumn night rain.

The young man turned back to his friend and they continued their story telling in their drunken stupor.

The old man silently walked through streets of the small town as he headed towards his farm on the outskirts of town, thinking about the stories he had heard from the young men at the bar. “So… killed by God himself... Not bad.” He thought to himself. He stopped in his tracks and threw his head back and laughed out loud. “If only those fools knew the legend they were making up stories about was sitting in the bar with them the whole time!” he thought to himself. He took a long drag off the warm sake and let the rain fall before heading off on his path again.

Mitsurugi had long since left the battle field after his last encounter with Algol. That was the last worthy opponent he had faced in his lifetime and he knew that after he had bested the Hero-King, that there was not a man alive that could stand before his blade. He decided to retire from the battle field and resume his life as a farmer in his hometown. However, on his journey back to his farm on the outskirts of Bizen , he had stopped at an inn that doubled as a brothel, and been ambushed by a female assassin named Setsuka, who had disguised herself as a geisha. She had managed to shatter his sword in their duel, but he was able to escape by stunning her with a strong punch and made his escape.

The night rain continued to fall as the old samurai walked through the town towards his house. He took another drag of his sake. He sensed that he was being followed, a skill he had learned after many years as a warrior and mercenary. He trusted his instincts. He took a few more steps, feigning to be drunker than he was. He then stopped to take another drink of sake. As he raised the bottle to his lips, he heard a splash of water behind him, as if someone had stepped in a puddle. He acted as if he didn’t notice. Suddenly, he felt a hand reach into his pocket and take the pouch that had his money in it.

“What do you think you’re doing?” he said as he turned around, surprising the thief, and the dark figure ran off into the distance with his money in hand.

The old samurai gave chase. He was still in remarkable shape for a man of his age and moved like a younger man, and caught up with the thief quickly. The thief suddenly ducked into a dark, covered alley-way and Mitsurugi followed. He waited for his eyes to adjust to the darkness before he started searching the alley way for the thief.

“Hiding in the shadows… how pathetic, reveal yourself now and I give you my word that I will show you mercy” he said. He heard movement from the shadows. He took another step forward. “You are eager to steal, yet you do not know who you steal from, a grave mistake,” he said. He waited to see if he could sense anymore movement in the darkness. Nothing. “Hmph, coward” he said as he turned his back. Suddenly he lunged into the darkness. He grabbed the thief by the throat and pinned him to the wall. “Funny” he thought, as he had expected more of a struggle. He dragged the thief from the alley and in to the street. With the aid of a nearby lantern from a hanging from shop awning, he was able to see that the thief was a young boy, no older than seven. The boys’ clothes were tattered, dirty, and obviously too small. He smelled as if he had never been properly bathed in his life. He was skinny and frail and from the looks of it had not eaten a good meal and quite some time. There was the unmistakable look of hunger in his eyes. Mitsurugi had seen the look before on his many journeys as a soldier, from orphaned children and beggars a like. The children he pitied, the beggars not so much. The child didn’t speak.

“You look hungry” said Mitsurugi. The child just looked down at the ground. “Come,” said Mitsurugi, “I will give you food and shelter for the night, boy” The boy’s eyes widened. Mitsurugi headed for his house, and the young boy followed him silently.

Upon their arrival at Mitsurugi’s farm house, Mitsurugi took off his rain soaked cloak and lit some candles. The young boy stood silently near the door, watching the old man, as a puddle formed around his feet from his rain-soaked rags. “Stay there,” said MItsurugi as he disappeared deeper into the house. He reappeared with a loaf of bread, a pitcher of water, and dry clothes for the boy. He placed them on the table in the center of the room. “You are free to leave at any time. Eat as much of the bread and water as you want. We will eat more in the morning if you are still here,”

The boy approached the table and took the bread in his hand. He attacked the loaf of bread as if he had not eaten in days. Mitsurugi watched as the boy ate the entire loaf of bread and drank the entire pitcher of water. As Mitsurugi drank the rest of his sake he thought to himself “Those who are truly hungry will not waste a crumb of bread or a drop of water,”

“Are you still hungry?” he asked., and the boy looked at him with before looking at the floor again.

“Do not be ashamed boy, I have more than enough food here for one man. Change into those dry clothes, I will be back shortly” Mitsurugi took the empty pitcher and disappeared deeper into the house again and soon returned with another pitcher full of water and another loaf of bread. The child stood next to the table, now dressed in the clothes that the old samurai had provided him. Mitsurugi placed the bread and water on the table and motioned to the boy to help himself. This time the boy ate the bread at a slower pace and took his time with the pitcher of water as well. As the boy ate, Mitsurugi brought out a mat and a blanket for the boy to sleep on. He built a small fire in the stove so the young boy would be warm during the night, probably for the first time in a long while. As he turned to check on the boy once again he was surprised to see that he had already lain down on the mat and fallen asleep. Half of the loaf of bread was next to him on the floor, along with the pitcher of water. Mitsurugi chuckled to himself and spoke out loud “Save some room in your stomach for tomorrow boy. We will eat more than bread and water in the morning”. As he walked through the main room of the house to his sleeping quarters that were in the next room he thought to himself “Not a drop spilled, nor a crumb left”.

He meditated for some time before he decided to fall asleep.


The boy had spotted the drunk old man as soon as he left the sake bar and decided that he would take his money in the same instant. He followed him down the street for some time, watching the old man laugh to himself and stumble drunkenly a few times. All he was waiting for was the perfect moment to pick his pocket and then he would disappear into the night. The drunken old man would never know what happened until it was too late. Suddenly, the old man stopped walking. It had caught the boy off guard and he stepped in a rather large rain puddle. He hoped he had not given away his presence to his soon to be victim. He watched as the old man wobbled on his feet, obviously losing his balance from one too many drinks. The boy saw that he was reaching for a bottle of sake and decided to capitalize on the moment to make his move. He quietly snuck up behind the old man and quickly reached into the man’s pocket and felt a large bag of coins. As soon as he grabbed it the old man spoke.

“What do you think you are doing” he said. Startled, the boy turned and ran as fast as he could with the bag of money in his hands. He looked back once only to see that the old man was following him and that he was faster than he looked. The boy was scared. It seemed he had misjudged the old man. He quickly ducked into a dark alley and became even more nervous as the old man stopped at the entrance to the alley.

The old man walked farther into the alley and told him to come out from the shadows and he would show him mercy. There was a tone in his voice that made the boy freeze. The old man didn’t sound so old when he spoke, and there was a menacing tone to his voice. The boy thought about it for a second, but took a step backwards out of fear, tripping over his own feet and making more noise than he would have liked to. He knew he was trapped. The old man warned him about stealing before calling him a coward and turning around, apparently giving up on finding him. The boy didn’t make a sound, and relaxed. At that moment his stomach growled loudly. Before the boy knew what had happened, the old man had turned around and grabbed him by the throat. He was surprisingly strong for an old man, and the boy was now scared for his life as the old man dragged him out of the alley and in to the street. The terrified boy figured in his mind that the old man was going to kill him, and knowing that he was over powered, the boy declined to put up a fight against the deceivingly strong old man. The old man dragged him next to a lantern and looked him over. Much to the boys’ surprise, the old man told him that he would feed him and give him a place to stay for the night. The boy was surprised, confused and relieved at the same time. He had not eaten food in almost three weeks, and it had been even longer since he had slept indoors somewhere. He was still apprehensive about the old man though, but the hunger he felt in his stomach overpowered his suspicions and he followed the old man to his house.

The old man lived on the outskirts of town, farther than the boy had expected. Upon their arrival to the old man’s house, the boy was still nervous. When they went into the house, the boy stood near the door so he could try to run if the old man ended up trying to attack him, although he knew he wouldn’t get far. He watched as the old man took off his cloak and lit some candles to bring light to the house. The old man told him to stay where he was and he disappeared into the house. He reappeared with bread and water and some clothes. The old man set the items on the table in the middle of the room and told him to eat as much as he wanted and leave whenever he felt like it. The old man even promised more food in the morning if the boy had not decided to leave before then. The boy’s stomach controlled his actions as he walked to the table and quickly ate the bread and drank the water. He didn’t waste a drop of water or a crumb of bread. He had not decided if he would stay throughout the night yet, and who knew the next time he would eat again? He was still wary of the old man and stayed standing the whole time.

After he finished the bread and water, the old man asked if he was hungry again. The boy didn’t realize how quickly he had eaten the food and was embarrassed. He realized he must have looked like a hungry animal while he quickly ate the food, but he had been so hungry that he had not thought of it at the time. It was as if the old man had read his mind, and he assured the boy everything was alright, and to change out of his wet clothes before he disappeared into the house again. The boy relaxed a little bit. He put on the dry clothes but decided to stay on his guard in case the old man was trying to trick him.

To his surprise, the old man brought another loaf of bread and another pitcher of water and set it on the table, offering it all to the boy. The boy decided then that the old man was ok and let down his guard totally. He savored the food and ate slowly as he watched the old man retrieve a mat and a blanket for him to sleep on. The boy couldn’t remember the last time he slept inside, let alone the last time he had slept on something other than the ground or a hard floor. The mat and the blanket looked so inviting. When the old man turned around and started building a fire in the stove, the boy took the bread he had not eaten yet and the water with him and he lay down on the bed. He could already feel the warmth from the fire, and accompanied by the fact that he was wearing dry clothes and that he was sleeping inside for once, he felt safe. He tried to watch the old man as he stoked the fire, but his eyes were growing heavier by the second. He fell asleep almost instantly, aided by the food in his stomach, and the old man’s kindness.
 

TheInnerMindEye

[08] Mercenary
The fact that your feed back consists of one monosyllabic word makes it impossible to take your input seriously, but thanks anyway.
 

Blueboyb

[11] Champion
Very interesting read. I usually avoid reading fan-fics (Most are poorly written) but I gotta say, this was one good read. Keep it up, looking forward to your future works.
 

Pocky-Yoshi

[14] Master
I'm really late to critique, but I enjoy when a fan-fic tries to stay true to how a character interacts. I can definitely tell you spent enough time articulating to elucidate how Mitsurugi is supposed to be outside battle.
 

TheInnerMindEye

[08] Mercenary
Thank you Pocky Yoshi! I greatly appreciate your feedback. Also thank you to anyone else who may have enjoyed reading this story!

Sidenote: If you guys are wondering about the rest of the story, I ran into some real life issues, but have also been blessed with more free time to write so expect to see the next part of the story soon!