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Moon Embracing the Sun // Private

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Bishie

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『 擁抱太陽的月亮 』

【 Moon Embracing the Sun 】

____________________________________

 

松平 修造 (Matsudaira) Shūzō

足利 恒雄 Ashikaga Tsuneo

*(surname absent)

 

Genre: Historical drama/romance

Setting: Late Edo period Japan

 

Welcome to our story.

 

_______________________________________________

_________________________________________________

 

 

 

"An army can conquer a general, but no man can rob one of his ambition or spirit." - taken from a Chinese Proverb.

"三军可夺帅也,匹夫不可夺志也。"

 

In the small village town of Yoshikogawa, the trees outnumbered the people, their structures, and all the rice in their fields. The leaves surrounded them in a dense green canopy, providing shelter, shade, and perhaps most importantly of all, security. There was a reason that the villages surrounding them had never even heard of their name, just as there was a reason that their population had been stagnant for years; no man, nor woman, had stepped outside of it and into the forest in decades, while simultaneously no human outside dared to enter, for lack of a path to guide them through and knowledge of what might lie beyond.

 

If anything, the hidden village prospered on living without taxes or the heavy, oppressive hand of a corrupt ruler. All they had to focus on was making sure their fields provided enough for the few families that lived there, especially before the cold, fearful grasp of winter took it's hold. As to be expected, trade was non-existent, while education left much to be desired and both children and adults entirely illiterate. Considering that the people could fend for themselves and the youngest amongst them was nearing twenty-one years of age, this was less of an immediate problem than the cold seasons ever were. However, lack of education led the majority into becoming farmers, workers and brewers whether they wanted to or not, and kept them living in their own irrational fear of what laid beyond the trees and the river that they cherished.

 

But, there was always an exception.

 

When Shuzo was born, there had been a celebration amongst every man, woman and elderly. As the first child in years, he was Yoshikogawa's miracle. He was another set of hands to tend the fields and another pair of eyes to help the blind. He was raven-haired, young and intelligent despite any lack of education or training. He could estimate the time by looking at the sun and judging the shadows at his feet, but he couldn't even begin to write his own name. It was a miracle indeed, but this so-called miracle, of course, hadn't come without a price. The village had no doctors; if there was sick man or woman, the best the people could do was wish them well and keep their own distance to avoid any more causalities. So, when Shuzo's mother caught ill a day after his birth, there was little anyone could do to prevent or stop it. Her name was Yuki, he had later been told; "beautiful Yuki", "sweet Yuki"... Whether the name meant
snow
or
happiness
, he didn't know, but he did know that, although he hadn't even begun to know her, there was a void in his life purely from her absence. And the village's losses and gains in population balanced itself again.

 

Shuzo crafted his own wooden sword at the age of eleven. It had taken him days, a week at most with little help or understanding of how he should create it, but the result had been entirely worth it. He practiced swinging it under the heat of the sun and the gaze of his father and uncle, with the memory of the stories they had told him fresh in his mind. Stories of
samurai,
warriors, and brave men who fought for the land that they now stood on and sacrificed their lives in hope of a better place. At his young age, Shuzo wasn't told the simple but crushing fact that not every samurai was like that, and not every samurai followed a code of honor, or perhaps followed them too closely; in fact, a decent portion of them raped and murdered, then pillaged villages just like Yoshikogawa, whether it was because of their orders or they simply enjoyed the feeling of blood staining their hands.

 

But the truth besides that is, even if he
had
been told, he would never have stopped swinging that sword.

 

_______________________________________________

The sound of wood clashing resounded throughout the small clearing surrounded by trees, startling the birds out of their nests and the rabbits into them.

 

A twenty-year-old Shuzo, recognizable mainly by his waist length raven hair, dodged and parried like he had been doing so his entire life, and when he took a hard kick to the chest he barely even flinched, already moving to counterattack with a kick of his own. There was a grunt as the wood of his geta connected with the man's stomach, and when he keeled over Shuzo took his chance to rest the tip of his wooden sword against the back of an exposed neck.

 

"I win," the prideful tone of his voice was evident, and Shuzo had a grin on his face even before his sword dropped casually back to his side.

 

"I'm getting too old for this," his uncle managed in between a round of coughing, and it took him a few seconds before he could straighten out his back again. "Not bad, I'll admit, but there's just one problem--"

 

Shuzo barely formed the word "what" before he had a wooden sword plunged straight towards his heart, and while it didn't pierce, of course, there was enough pressure there that his skin showed signs of bruising the next morning. He let out a gasp, and he knew that if his uncle had his hands on a
real
blade, he would be dead on the ground by now. "You let your guard down," his uncle said, gaze serious as it settled on Shuzo's face. "You're fast and you're talented, but those two things are not enough in a real fight."

 

"Ojisan..."

 

Daiki's face visibly softened, and the sword fell slightly, but the grip on it remained strong and ready. "I promised I'd teach you to fight, back when you were only eighteen. And now you're nearly twenty-one. I'm not cut out for being a teacher, after all."

 

There was a moment of silence as they just stared at each other, and an unpleasant emotion took root deep inside of Shuzo's gut. He stepped back slowly, and the hand clutching his own sword started to shake as he considered tossing the piece of wood aside altogether. He lost. Again. If he was a good man-- if he was a smart man-- he would drop this stupid dream of becoming a samurai along with this fake model of a sword and just walk away. But...

 

"You are improving, though, kid. Keep it up."

 

There was a warm hand on his shoulder, as comforting and certain as his uncle's voice, and just as soon as the root was placed, it unraveled into nothing, leaving behind the faintest blossom of hope. Shuzo managed a smile, and it felt real. "Thanks, ojisan."

 

Daiski laughed, and the hand fell, but the warmth remained all the same. "How many times have I told you to call me
sensei
?"

 

_______________________________________________

The first time Shuzo stepped into the deeper end of Yoshikogawa's forest, it was only a week before his twenty-first birthday. His wooden sword had been forgotten at home, and he was more or less unarmed and unprotected. He felt foolish as well as terrified, and the darkness that surrounded him seemed hungry, impenetrable. It hung like a heavy cloak over his shoulders, one that he couldn't shake off no matter how hard he tried. He asked himself why he was doing this over and over, but the sound of an unknown animal-- or was it human?-- crying out through the trees echoed in his mind and forced him to put one foot in front of the other.

 

He couldn't see.
He couldn't see
. Was he blind or was this just the work of nature? Either way, he was shaken to the core. His phobia of the dark hadn't left him since he was a child, but he was "man enough" not to break down and cry because of it, no matter how much he wanted to. His eyes had barely adjusted before his foot caught on something, sending him tumbling down into moist grass, dirt and foliage. As a result, the white rags of his clothes stained miserably, his shoes had gotten lost somewhere, and his hair was in an even worse state after how often it got caught in branches and twigs earlier.

 

With a deep breath, Shuzo got to his feet, eyes staring out blankly into pitch darkness. Surely he was close to the source of the sound by now? It seemed like a huge risk to try and call out for someone, or something, but...

 

"Hello?" he tried, and the volume of it was deafening considering the silence that had been crushing him before. "Is anyone there? I'm not here to hurt you..."

 

He trailed off, his attempt at sounding soothing ending up with him seeming like a frightened little boy. Which he
was not, thank you very much.
Somewhere to the right of him, a bush rustled, and his hand immediately dropped to his side as if reaching for his sword, only to remember that he had forgotten it.

 

Well. This is it. He's going to be eaten by the rumored Bear Oni or a wolf or something and it's going to be entirely too dark that he
won't even see
what is eating him and
he does not taste good
and
t
his is
not
how he was planning to die. Shuzo's eyes watered, but he stood his ground, a combat stance coming naturally to him even as he was missing his main weapon. Only a baby would run in this situation. He was a future samurai. As soon as he turned to run, his back would be exposed, and to die with scars on the back was entirely too shameful.

 

He would make his father and uncle proud. He would make his
mother
proud. He would make the village proud, simply for coming into the forest like this in the first place. If he was lucky, they would find his body before there was nothing of him left.

 

Shuzo's muscles tensed. He was prepared now, no matter what happens. "Come out!"

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