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54 Return to the Family Home

Their trek in the forest led them on to a dirt road, which ran through a couple of weathered old wooden minka's with tatty thatched roofs that had shredded bits of straw dangling off the eaves.  As they neared the buildings, they saw that the shredded bits were connected to holes caused by bullets. Likely from the air raid that had occurred the night before.

Kei approached one of the elderly villagers who was tending to his garden, which was more mud and weeds than crops of healthy growing vegetables.  The holes were vegetables should be growing were left to bare. 

The elderly villager was a sprightly old man who was suspicious of them at first. When he learned of them being doctors, his attitude had lifted to an expression of being his lucky day.

Kei made a deal to receive directions. The old man offered them water and a moment to rest whilst he gave them the needed directions and a brief history his town. Sean provided medical consultation, as part of their deal, to which the old man was grateful.

Tama leaped onto the old man's lap when he managed to sit in his chair. This made the man chuckle and relax into a moment of dreamy conversation. He voice carried stories of old, which the men felt it was impolite to not hear.

They were eventually free to go.  Although, their ears felt a bit raw from having to listen to his waffle about the time when the shogun ruled.

The whole time, Eiji was amused by Kei's reaction.  A few times he had to stifle his chuckles behind the back of his hand when he saw Kei flinch or gasp at moments of the man's telling.

Kei, who always acted tough and cursed a lot, listened like a little kid. His keen interest seemed to have given the old man another reason to smile.

Tama eventually decided to find another spot to rest. The old man sighed when she hopped off his lap and resumed her place back in the basket bag. He commented on her being a nekomata a few times with a cheeky grin.

They politely took their leave and resumed their journey up the dirt road towards distant evergreen hills flanking their right and the horizon line of what they hoped was towards the sea on their left.

The air was humid with crickets and birds making a near deafening racket, unsuspecting of the men walking through their territory.

"Shuddup." Kei grumbled without looking at the men behind his back as they trudged the rocky dirt road in the direction the old man had given them.

"I didn't say anything." Sean smirked.

"Why are you laughing?" Kei snapped back at him.

"Me? Laugh? You must be dreaming." Sean dramatically feigned innocence.

"Aah, you have to admit, his stories of Okita-san are the bees knees." Tyne exhaled deeply with awe. "That Mumyo-ken technique the old man spun is something to be desired." 

"We do have a tradition steeped with honour." Eiji proudly commented.

"Yeah." Sean sighed. 

The men fell to a deep silence.  Eiji's comments had brought their minds back to their reality. 

They walked through paths of nature that led them downwards towards the smell of wet Earth, pine and faint traces of the sea air.  Kei's keen sense of direction seemed to be moving them into the right direction.  The man truly was a walking map.

"You're like a map." Eiji blurted his thought aloud to Kei.

"I have to be. Otherwise, I'd be dead long ago." Kei stated the obvious.

Eiji nodded. It made sense considering his gang life. To avoid an ambush or escape a fight, it was important to know the area. Kei had obviously acquired the skill of scoping terrain and memorizing locations as a means to survival.

The sun was waning into the night sky when they had eventually reached Eiji's family village and a distant sight of his family's home.

Eiji's heart raced with panicked when he saw a group of men in army-grey uniforms surrounding his mother at the entrance.  They were able to hide behind the cover of bushes and tall trees before anyone had noticed them. 

His worry became paramount when Riku appeared to support his mother and was firmly pushed back by the men who he guessed where part of the neighbourhood watch.

"Riku!" he whispered, twitching with the urge to rush to the scene and protect his family.  

Tyne held him back. "You go there, it could do more harm than good!" 

Eiji's face contorted with anger when the men's threats and his mother's whimpers were carried by the wind to his ears. His whole body tensed when Riku was pushed to the ground again. This time by a punch to the stomach.

"Tyne. My family!" He begged in low whisper.

"You go there, they could die! Do you want to kill them?" Tyne carefully whispered his reasons. "Wait a moment. Let's see what happens next."

Eiji nodded his head, acknowledging Tyne's logic. They waited and watched the scene unfold. Find authorized novels in Webnovel,faster updates, better experience,Please click www.webnovel.com for visiting.

A few more threats and warnings were exchanged by the men before they turned and made their way down the path that led back towards the distant outlines of other minka houses and the roof tops of the boat sheds near the docks.

They waited for a while, watching Riku and Futuba go back inside. When they felt the coast was clear, they stealthily made their way towards the back door of the family home.