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CHAPTER 7 ][ On the Run Again
Kaede ][ CHAPTER 7 – On the Run Again
Takeo and I had both known that we were still on the run and in hiding from the Tribe, his birthright to which he did not wish to return. We were fully aware that they had probably come to the conclusion that Takeo had run away from his “responsibilities” as they called them. He had instructed me on how to make a certain bird call to warn him of their coming, and we participated in drills countless times. Takeo had made weapons similar to theirs from wood, rocks, and tree sap. Maybe it was that it had been almost seven years since they had been an immediate problem to us that we did not pick up signs. They must have planned for us being ready for them, and we were, in fact, not. I look back at that day with fear, because it means that they are still watching us, from where we do not know.
That day started out to be an especially peaceful day. Takeo woke me to cook and eat a small animal, and he brought with it a few spices so our son would like it before returning to the forest to find sap. One of our house walls had a hole and needed mending.
“Kaiko,” I whispered to my boy once the meat was cooked well over the fire. “Kaiko, wake up. You must eat.” With a small groan, he rose from his cot in the sleeping corner of our house and walked over to the fire pit, in the middle area. He made some attempt to straighten his messy black hair that looked so much like his father. Sitting down, I gave him a small piece, which he ate slowly. I helped myself as well. For a while we sat silently, eating. Then Kaiko got up again, and stretched, finally fully awake. Striding over to the front door, he looked back and said quickly,
“I'm going to fetch some berries. I'm still a little hungry.” He grabbed a pail we kept by the door for just that purpose.
“Ok, don't take too long. The warm season we are in will end soon, and it's cold outside now,” I replied casually. “Fill our water bucket as well, please.”
“I will,” he called from just outside the wall made of logs and rope, caked with mud.
For a while, all was silent outside. I was listening for any noise I could hear at all, but none came. This would have been normal if I was not including birds, animals, and other sounds of the forest, but indeed I was. Today at this moment, all was completely silent. My instinct grew slightly worried.
Kaiko burst into the room suddenly, out of breath. Closing the door quickly, he said through heavy breathing, “Mommy, someone, is coming. There are, a lot of them, and they, have, weapons.” He huffed. I froze in my tracks, all bodily functions stopping for a heartbeat, for two reasons. That had meant that the Tribe had found us or had a good hunch as to where we were, and that Kaiko could hear just like his father, which meant they would want to take him away too.
I had regained thought and had bounded out the door to call like a nightingale when I ran headlong into Takeo. “You heard them coming too?” was all I said. Takeo nodded, and then went inside. I joined him, and he was going to the secret pocket in the dirt wall we had made for weapons to use against the Tribe when they came eventually. Meanwhile, Kaiko was questioning both of us about what was going on.
“Kaiko, honey, remember last year when I told you a bad person story?” I said kindly to the boy. His big green eyes looked at me, and he nodded. “Well, that was a true story, Kaiko. Those bad people have wanted to take your father away for a long time, before you were even born.” I had to get to the point quick – if the Tribe knew about Takeo's hearing, and they did, they would be rushing to get here any second now.
Kaiko was counting on his fingers. “Mommy, I'm almost seven years old. So they have wanted Daddy for eight years?” His eyes grew bigger with every word.
“Even longer than that, now do you understand my point?” I replied, we needed to get out of here, and now. Kaiko didn't speak this time. He moved his head up and down, so slightly that I could barely see it. “Ok. Now Kaiko, we need to get out of here, so the bad people don--”
Boom!! the door was kicked in, and in strode a very tall man. His head almost brushed the roof of our house itself, which must have been over six feet high. For a moment, we all stood frozen, not even the small group of people behind him filed in through the door. If they gotten here just a few minutes later, Takeo, Kaiko and I would all be in our underground safe by now, and we would have made our house look like it had been ransacked. There was no chance of fleeing there now.
Takeo stepped forward. “You have no argument with them. If you must take anything by force, it will be me, and no one else. Do not harm my family.” By standing where he was, Takeo guarded Kaiko and I completely.
“Actually, Lord Takeo, the Tribe does indeed have business with your family. We have word that Lady Kaede knocked unconscious all of our tails on you Takeo, which we believe was followed by you two running away together to live here.
“And about this son of yours. He is your son, I presume?” The man asked, holding his hand out to Kaiko. He did not take the man's hand, but instead shied away. The man laughed. I assumed he was the Kikuta, leader of the Tribe which Takeo “belonged.”
“He is my and Lady Kaede's son,” Takeo said curtly. He had not moved from his position in front of Kaiko and I, but had shifted so that he could brush Kaiko behind me again.
The Kikuta leader made a hand gesture at his side, and some people filed in behind him. They had swords against their hips, and it was clear that Takeo recognized one. He gasped quietly, and whispered, “Muto Kenji.” At the same time, a person standing on the outskirts of the line looked away, towards the ground. Takeo grew angry.
“Kenji, you think this is for my own good, don't you! All the time I was a lord alongside Shigeru, you argued with him, trying to convince him to turn me over to the Tribe! And now, you're in the pack that's come to force me away from my family?
“Do you not see that I have made myself a life here?! Can you not grasp that I don't want to be with you assassins, killing people solely because I'm good at it for the rest of my life? Why won't you leave me alone?!!” Takeo's yelling grew louder with each sentence. In an attempt to calm him, I took his hand at his side, and immediately I felt how hot it was, and he held me in an iron tight grip.
Kikuta saw also that Takeo was growing angered, and decided to act fast. From a simple gesture with his left hand, a person from each side of him stepped forward and brought a spit chute to their mouth. I knew that they would have something other than spit in them, so I jumped in front of Takeo without a second thought, and felt two darts hit me in my neck. Right away, my vision went foggy, and I lost feeling of my feet, then my legs, and finally my upper body as well. As I saw the world go crooked, I wondered who was screaming my name and why they sounded so distant. Just a split second before my vision went black and my mind seemed to turn off, I remember laying on my back and looking up at Kaiko, who was standing over me, his hands balled into fists with a look I've only seen on Takeo when he was on the mission to kill the Tohan Lord.