Age of the Empire
The Second Tale of Shukumei: Little Child Found
They had a visitor bright and early the following morning. Goku was rummaging through
the fridge for something to eat while Roshi was using the bathroom.
"Ohayo! Is anyone home?" a voice he didn't recognize called from the porch. Goku opened the door and stared at the small bald boy standing on the stoop.
"Who are you?"
The other boy frowned. "It's not very nice to question someone without at least greeting them first."
"Oh. Ohayo; who are you?"
"I'm Kuririn. Is the great Kamesennin Muten Roshi around? I want to train with him." the slightly smaller boy peered around Goku's body into the house. "I've also brought a gift."
He motioned for him to come inside. "He's busy, but you can wait for him." Goku shut the door and went back into the kitchen.
The toilet flushed, water ran, and Roshi emerged with a relieved look on his face. "Nothing like taking care of business first thing in the morning." He then turned and noticed the stranger sitting on his couch. "Er," he said, slightly embarrassed, "may I help you?"
"Are you Kamesennin Muten Roshi?" Kuririn asked. When the old man nodded, the boy leapt to his feet and practically ran over to shake his hand. "I am so very honored to meet you! It's my greatest desire that you train me in martial arts."
"Oh, I don't know," Roshi pretended to think. "I'm getting on in years and I don't have the energy that I used to..."
A cloth-wrapped parcel was nearly shoved in his face. "This gift is for you," he said as Roshi untied the knot. A lecherous grin spread across his face at the sight of the swimsuit magazines. "I hope these will encourage you to change your mind."
"Goku!" he called. "We'll be having another student from now on!"
After breakfast, Muten Roshi sent the boys off to a store several towns away. Goku had no idea what it was all about, but Kuririn knew perfectly. "He wants to be alone with his brand new goodies," the boy snickered. Still not understanding, Goku shrugged and called for his cloud.
"Uh, what is this?" Kuririn asked as he examined the puffy yellow cloud from all angles. "What is it for?"
"It's a flying cloud. We're gonna ride it over the ocean." Goku jumped up and sat cross-legged. "C'mon, Kuririn."
The other boy tentatively touched it and, finding nothing wrong, he climbed up to sit behind Goku. Unfortunately, Kinto'un would not let him ride and he fell straight through to the sand below. "What happened? What did I do wrong?"
Goku shook his head. "You don't have a pure heart. Are you hiding something?"
Sighing, he pulled two more magazines from underneath his yellow tunic and gave them to Roshi. "Since you were happy with what I gave you, I was going to take these back to the store and get a refund. Gomen nasai, Muten."
"You are forgiven," the old man said as he clutched them to his chest in glee. He felt as if both Christmas and his birthday had come early that year. "Can you find me a pretty lady for companionship? It's lonely sometimes without another adult human to talk to."
Smirking, Kuririn nodded. "Of course, Kamesennin. You deserve it." This time, when he hopped onto Kinto'un, the cloud stayed solid. He waved goodbye to his new sensei and found himself clutching Goku tightly when the cloud shot off at a very high speed.
"So," Goku shouted above the roaring of the wind, "how old are you? Where'd you come from?"
"I'm thirteen and I used to live in a monastery." Kuririn frowned as he remembered his life there. "The other monks used to pick on me all the time because I'm smaller and weaker than they are. I heard about Kamesennin and decided to go to his house and ask if he would train me. I want to be stronger than those bullies so they can't push me around anymore." He fell silent for a moment. "So, um, why is he training you?"
"He asked me."
When nothing more was forthcoming, Kuririn shrugged and fell silent.
In an hour's time they were nearing the small fishing town that Roshi had sent them to. The small dock was overly crowded with boats and people whose mass quantities of caught fish emanated an odor so strong that it permeated the air no matter where you went. Tiny one-or-two room huts sat too close upon the dusty ground, creating a twisty maze of narrow lanes. Goku landed expertly in the first available open area and the two boys looked over the shopping list. "I don't even know what most of this stuff is! How are we supposed to find it?"
"Pickled toadstools, snail slime, fish scales..." Kuririn shook his head. "It sounds like he's making some kind of weird potion."
A thought struck Goku. "Maybe this is for his sister. Baba's a little strange."
"What does she do?"
"Reads fortunes, but she dresses like a witch."
To finish their task sooner, the two boys split the list and went off in opposite directions. Kuririn went down to the docks, because a lot of the items listed were sea related, while Goku went off to the small open-air market. He was there for less than five minutes when a loud group of people made their presence known. Thinking quickly, he pressed himself behind the thick support column of a stall.
"Alright, this is how we're gonna do this," a blond woman said while pointing her gun at various shopkeepers. "If you hand over your money, no one will get hurt."
A man spoke up from his food cart and the men behind the woman laughed at his foolish bravery. "My family worked hard for this! I'm not giving anything I own over to thugs like you!" There was a crack of gunfire and his hand shot up to clutch at his arm.
"Did that change your mind?" she asked with a smirk on her face. The man nodded and told his terrified son to hand over the money from the cashbox. The head thief motioned for her people to go around collecting the life savings of the shopkeepers.
Goku frowned as the gang robbed all the innocent people, watching for the right moment to act. He waited until the majority of the thugs were walking past his hiding place before attacking them. Two were down before they'd realized what hit them, but the other six were more competent at defending themselves.
The woman frowned at the commotion and frowned even harder when she spotted the child. "You're holding me up," she said with annoyance. "Get out of my way."
"I can't let you do this to them," he told her. "It's not right. Why should you make money from their hard work?"
"I don't have time for this," she muttered to herself. The woman turned her back to him and told her underlings, "Kill him." The men smirked and all rushed him at once.
"None of you are the leader," he said as he punched one man in the jaw and kicked the other in the stomach. He slid aside as another tried to grab him and twined his tail around another's feet to trip him to the pavement. The one that stumbled fell into one of the others and they both went down in a tangle of arms and legs. The remaining two thugs exchanged glances and ran off in the direction their leader had gone.
Goku debated chasing after them and decided against it. They were only subordinates, after all; no one special. He ran over to the man who'd been shot and examined his arm. "The bullet went straight through." He tore off a strip of fabric from the bottom of his gi top and tied it around his arm. "This'll stop the bleeding, but you need to see a doctor."
"Domo arigatou," he said gratefully. His son bowed in thanks and helped his father down the street.
Once the square was tidy, Goku promised the shopkeepers that he'd return their profits. He waved goodbye and ran off down the street in the direction that Lunch had gone.
"Gomen nasai, Nobuyoki-sama," Lunch apologized while gritting her teeth. She utterly despised her current employer, as she had all her employers. It was always "do it this way" and "do it now" with them; she never got a chance to just be herself. When she got enough money together, though, things were going to be different. She would be the one running things for a change.
A tall man with long dark green hair, the only other occupant of the room, stared at her seriously. "What are you going to do to rectify this?"
She rose from where she had been kneeling and frowned. "I got money for you. What more do you want?" Before she could blink, the palm of Nobuyoki's hand caught her across the cheek in an open-handed slap. Lunch reflexively touched her face.
"Watch who you're speaking to!" he shouted. Then, as if a switch had been thrown, he smiled pleasantly at her as he sat back down. "It isn't nearly enough, Lunch-chan. The Anei Samurai are destined for big things."
"I still don't see how one kid could stop you from doing whatever it is you want to do."
"That's because you don't know him." His knuckles turned white as he clenched the arms of the chair. "Heiwa is a small town, but it is very prosperous. That little brat single-handedly took out many of my men there before you joined up with us. I want him dead!"
She bowed her head briefly. "As you wish, Nobuyoki-sama."
Lunch let herself out of the leader's hotel room and made her way to her own. After this mission, she wouldn't be with them for very much longer. Nobuyoki had struck her one time too many.
The two-star inn was a far cry from the grand mansion that Nobuyoki had grown up in... and later inherited. There were rumors whispered amongst his followers that thirteen-year-old Nobuyoki had been found slitting the throats of his sleeping mother and father. While many doubted the validity of these rumors, Lunch knew them to be absolutely true. There was no doubt in her mind that he was capable of such cold-blooded murder. In fact, that was what had drawn her to him in the first place. He was a man who got the job done quickly and without worrying about the consequences of his actions.
Her latest mission didn't excite her in the least. In fact, it sounded remarkably boring. Find one little boy and kill him. That was it. There was no espionage, no gun fights, and no theft. She supposed that she could get a kick out of the actual murder but, despite Nobuyoki's words, how difficult could it be to kill a kid?
Goku was asking around about the location of the bad guys' hideout when Kuririn caught up to him. He was carrying a large bag and the list had several scratched off items. "Oi, Goku! Do you know what's going on? I heard from some fisherman that something happened in town."
"Yeah, a lot of people down there got robbed. I'm going to get their money back for them. You wanna come?"
The boy thought about it for a second. "Will there be fighting?"
"Then count me in. I need all the practice I can get."
From an older woman they discovered that the gang was staying in a local hotel. They'd rented out all the best rooms and were worrying the owner. He was afraid that his rooms would be completely destroyed by the time they checked out. Already, the maids were reporting that two chairs had been turned into kindling.
The two boys approached the hotel from the east just as Lunch was exiting the building. She didn't notice them, at first. Goku cleared his throat right as she was going past them. "Excuse me."
"Huh?" she looked around in confusion. "Someone say something?"
Goku tugged on the bottom of her shirt. "Down here."
Her green eyes widened when she recognized him. "You!" Her gun was out before he could even blink. Kuririn yelled, "She's got a gun!" and ducked, hands covering his head. Goku didn't move an inch.
"You have something that I want," he said.
"Hai. Give me the money you stole from those people or--" He then proceeded to take a defensive stance. "--I'll take it back."
Lunch started to laugh so hard that tears fell from her eyes and she bent over double. "*You* take something back from *me*? Come on!"
"I mean it!" he said, a little annoyed that he wasn't being taken seriously.
Her eyes narrowed when she realized that he was one-hundred percent serious. "Look, you're all that's stopping me from getting away from this idiotic operation. Stand still so I can shoot you." She re-aimed and pulled the trigger.
The sound of the bullet being discharged caused Kuririn to shriek reflexively. He turned to the spot where the other boy had been and blinked when there was no one there. "Nani?"
"Where did you go?!" Lunch asked angrily. She felt a light tap on her shoulder and spun around.
"Behind you!" Goku laughed. Gripping her shoulder for leverage, he used his right foot to kick the gun from the stunned woman's hand. It flew across the street and into a clump of bushes. Following through with his motion, he landed gracefully onto the ground. Goku paused a moment to consider something thoughtfully. "You know, I feel a lot better. Maybe all I needed was a good fight."
He shrugged. "I just moved out of the way. Are you going to give me back the money now?"
"I don't have it." Lunch turned around and looked distressingly at the hotel. "I gave it to the boss."
"Okay, so I'll just get it from him." He looked at her as if noticing her appearance for the first time. "Could you not leave town? I want to talk to you later."
"Huh? Oh, sure. Whatever." She watched him and Kuririn enter the building with a stunned look on her face. "I guess he was right about him. Who knew that a kid could be so skilled?"
"Excuse me," Goku asked the man behind the front desk. He smiled when the owner looked over at him. "Can I ask you a question?"
"Hai, what is it?"
"Which room is the 'boss' in?"
He knew of only one man they called boss. His brows drew together in a frown as he studied the two boys. "Why do you want to know?"
"Have you heard about what happened in town today? He sent some people out there to rob everyone. I'm here to get their money back."
The man examined his face for a moment and, seeing truth and determination there, and then nodded. "Alright. The room number is 206."
"Arigatou," he took the stairs two at a time.
"Can you hold this for me?" he heard Kuririn ask. "It's for my master. Domo arigatou."
No one was in the hallway on the second floor and Goku found that extremely odd. Usually important people had a lot of other people protecting them... unless they could do it themselves, that is. He smiled widely at the thought of getting into a fight with someone very skilled at martial arts. It would be a pleasant change from the fighters he'd been encountering lately.
"I'm going in. Can you stay out here and watch for bad guys?"
Kuririn looked a little nervous at the idea. "Um, I think so. If you hear me scream, you better come running!"
"I will," he promised. Goku turned the doorknob experimentally and was surprised to find it unlocked. Did that mean the boss was a confident man, or just a careless one? No matter the reason, he knew to be on guard.
Goku stepped over the threshold, keeping his body low to the ground, and smirked to himself when the boss' fist missed him completely, moving far above his head in a rush of displaced air. He stood up and caught him right in the abdomen with his head. "You aimed too high," he said before pushing up with his hands. Nobuyoki was flipped over onto his back where he didn't remain for long. Goku, not expecting him to recover so quickly, was grabbed from behind in a bear hug.
"I have you now," Nobuyoki whispered into his ear. "You aren't getting away with what you done to me before!"
"What did I do?" he asked, confused. He didn't even remember meeting the boss before that day.
"Remember a certain little town where you stopped my people from robbing a bank?" he growled. "All that money, gone just like that!"
He thought back and tried to remember a bank robbery. Then it hit him. Asako had been kidnapped and he saved her. "Heiwa! There was a bank robbery there back when jiisan was alive." His voice wavered just a little when he mentioned his grandfather. Then the full import of his realization hit him. "You mean *you* were the one behind it all?"
"Of course. It was the perfect crime, kid. The perfect crime." He exerted more force and squeezed him harder. Goku grunted at the pressure. "I'm going to crush every bone in your tiny body for that!"
Goku didn't hear him. His mind was still focused on the words, 'Of course.' A fierce anger rose up in him, one that made him see red. "You kidnapped my friend and made her cry!" He strained against the strong arms holding him. "Let me go!"
Nobuyoki laughed. "Do you think I'm stupid? I know how strong you are, kid. If I let you go, you won't hesitate to kick my ass."
"Unless you're going to stand here all night, I'm going to get free eventually." He turned his head to regard his capturer and the man shivered at the hard look in his eyes. "And when I do, you better watch out."
There was nothing but silence for a few moments as the boss tried to regain his composure. He tried to laugh off the boy's threat, but it came out more as a squeak. Angry at himself for letting Goku get to him, he went over to a chair and pushed the boy into it. "You're staying put until I have time to deal with you. I've decided that killing you outright would be too merciful. You deserve to be tortured a little." Nobuyoki then grabbed a long coil of strong rope and tied his captive firmly to the sole remaining chair in the room.
Goku glared at him wordlessly, an action that caused Nobuyoki to flinch slightly. Then, as if to prove that he wasn't afraid, he took his hand and backhanded him hard across the face. Goku's head turned with the blow, but his dark eyes returned to stare at the boss' face. A small trickle of blood ran from his lip where it had been cut open by a ring, but it was the only wound he'd received. Nobuyoki walked backwards from the room, unwilling to turn his back on the boy. His mind, logically, knew that he was immobile and, therefore, harmless. His gut told him otherwise.
"I can't let him get free," he whispered to himself once he'd reached the door. "If he does, I'm going to die."