Chapter 8 - Found
Hisao must have had the same idea as Remy. His pack and sword had been laid out with the intentions of taking her into town - or so Remy figured after an awkward conversation of charades. It took no time at all to pack up and head out with the morning sun fresh in the sky.
Two hours of walking brought them to a well used road. It was wide and smooth from travel. Other smaller roads connected and merge with the one they walked. They had even been past by another wagon - this time full of burlap sacks spilling over with different beans and grains. The driver waved jovially at Hisao and naturally did a double-take at Remy. The reaction had dampened her hopes slightly but she still felt determined that she was on her way to finding answers.
Hisao walked silently beside her, his day pack slung lazily over his shoulder and his sword tucked tightly in his belt. He was in much better shape than he was yesterday. His posture was strong and straight. Remy had even checked his stiches before they’d left and decided that she would need to take them out in another’s day time. The sight of his healed wound again gave her a flicker of doubt - the fact that it healed so quickly was not natural - but being transported to a random mountainside wasn’t exactly natural either, nor was being able to read a language she had never seen before.
Still she was taking the best course of action. Hopefully, something or someone in town would point her in the direction of home.
They crested a hill and from the top Remy could see the town splayed out in front of them. The road they were on drove through the town splitting it down the center. The buildings on either side of the road were the largest and held awnings of various colours. Several smaller streets branched off the main vein into the smaller buildings and homes. Remy would guess that the town itself housed a couple hundred people.
Hisao and Remy reached the mouth of town. Dust lingered in the air as wagon rolled slowly through and people bustled about. The road had been wide but as the entered the town stalls took up space on either side and squeezed the traffic to the center. It wasn’t overwhelming crowded, but it was busy for a town so small.
Voices shouted back and forth across the alley and customers bartered with the stall owners. Remy was so enthralled that she failed to pay attention to where she was walking. She felt a sudden grip on her arm followed by a strong tug. Remy was pulled to the side of the alley just in time to avoid being trampled but a pair to work horses pulling a large canopied wagon. Remy looked up to see Hisao right in front of her. His hand still gripped her arm.
“I’m good,” she said with a reassuring nod.
Something flickered across his face again. Maybe irritation - no, it was something else. He let go of her arm and turned back into the market. Remy wondered if she would ever get better at reading him.
The wagon had past and the loud rumbling of it’s wooden wheels faded. Remy felt as though the sound of the market had faded too. What originally started as a bustling place now felt eerily quiet. She wasn’t wrong. When she took a look around she noticed that the town folk had stopped what they were doing and were starring at her. Some had their mouths open while others leaned and whispered to their neighbour.
Well, shit. Remy wondered if this would happen - it most definitely wasn’t a promising sign either. Hisao had stopped shortly ahead and turned to call her, “Remy.”
Remy caught up with Hisao. Her onlookers seem to be staring at them both now. Most returned to their work when they saw who she was with while other weren’t so easily affected. Remy followed behind Hisao. As they walked people called out friendly greetings to Hisao, knowing him by name - but it was always followed by a stuttered silence when they saw who he was with. Greetings, silence, then a wake of murmurs - that was the path Hisao and Remy carved through the town.
Remy tried her hardest to ignore the stares and to focus back on her mission. Were there any signs of the modern world? Electricity? No. Modern Clothes? No. Plastics? No. Corporate logos? No. Things were not looking good.
Smoke meat hung from the awnings. Some stalls held food while others had basic supplies like rope and iron tools. A few stalls even sold luxury goods like art - some were small wooden carvings or handmade jewellery made with flat smooth stones of all colours. Doorways to the buildings along the street were either behind the stalls or tucked between them. Some buildings had large windows - no glass but instead framed with painted shutters. Inside she could see people eating noodle bowls and steaming veggies.
A stall owner called to them with a cheery smile. Of all the greetings thus far Hisao actually made his way over and spoke with this man. Remy saw the man animatedly talk with Hisao - joking and laughing. Hisao’s demeanour remained ever calm and his tone polite and soft. The man eyes flicked over to Remy a few times during the conversation but he did not stare and Remy felt eternally grateful. The man waved a hand at Hisao then ducked behind his stall. The man’s back bobbed up and down behind the bags of different varieties of rice and bean he had on display. Finally he stood and in his hand he held a small red bag marked with a golden insignia. He handed it to Hisao. Hisao accepted and moved to open his pack, likely to pay, but the owner of the stall shook his head in protest. They exchanged a few more words and the conversation ended with the shop keeper giving Hisao a wry smile, several nods, and a dismissive wave.
Hisao looked like he was about say more when a door from a couple buildings down burst open. A woman came tumbling out. She wore a plain full-length robe that was held in place with a wide belt around her waist. Her hands were above her head in a guarded manner. Her tone was rushed and apologetic. From the door emerged three large men. From what Remy had seen thus far was that most of the population was around 5 and a half feet - Hisao being tall at six feet. These men were six feet and then some. They wore grungy looking clothes. The one in the center of the group had shortened sleeves revealing his heavily muscled arms. The word ‘douchebag’ danced in Remy’s mind but their faces were far too frightening for her to utter the term aloud. The center man sported a bald head and the one to his right had a large scar down one of his cheeks. The one on the left had a squashed nose which looked like it had been broken more than twice.
The bald one held a bowl of soup in his hand. He faced the woman and turned the bowl’s contents upside down. The soup and noodles splashed on the ground and if that wasn’t rude enough - the man followed up by dropping the entire bowl letting it smash to pieces. He said some harsh words and sneered. The woman kept bowing deeply in response her string of apologies endless. Unfortunately the whole scene had attracted several onlookers.
An older woman rushed out of the crowd to the young woman’s side and consoled her while directing her away from the aggressors and back into the restaurant. The bald man, however, didn’t approve and reached for the young woman’s arm.
Remy had thought Hisao was standing right next to her. No - she was sure he had been standing right next to her. But there he was - some 30 feet away with his sheathed sword blocking the bald man’s outstretched hand. How on earth did he…
The two men starred at each other.
“Wo kan ni cong bushì. Wo xiang ni yeojong zozhu bu keqi.” said Hisao. Remy was a fair distance away but the ice in his tone was evident.
The man was smiling now. A disgusting sort of sneer.
“Dang wo íkai shi. Nae bangsig-ui,” said the man. He made the motion to push Hisao using both hands. With the cat-like grace Remy had seen before Hisao took a half step back causing the man’s hands to meet nothing but air. The bald man stumbled awkwardly to regain his balance - clearly he was planning to push Hisao with some serious force.
The man straightened out and shot a look back at his buddies with a head hilt toward Hisao as if to say, would you get a load of this guy? Remy had seen that look before - from couple of drunk guys outside of a bar that got into a scrap back in her undergrad days. But this was going to be three on one. Hisao didn’t look scared but Remy felt worried. How was he going to get out of this? Those guys were huge. She looked at the crowd to see if someone would jump in to help him. To her surprise the people in the crowd were smiling with almost eager looks on their faces. The two people next her whispered excitedly and then snickered. Remy felt like she was on the outside of an inside joke.
The large bald man turned on Hisao and without warning swung his fist - fast. Hisao had seen it coming and he causally lean out of its way. The man’s force carried him forward and Hisao parried using the man’s momentum. With a quick twist his feet Hisao spun past the man while rounding his sheathed sword on the back of the man’s neck. The connection was solid and made a sickening crack. It had happened so fast that had Remy blinked she would’ve have missed it.
The second man, the one with the scarred face, charged Hisao. With a similar sidestep Hisao moved past the man and struck him on the side of the leg, right above the knee. The force alone caused the man to fold and fall to the ground. The third man stood looking at this two companions, one writhed and groaned on the ground while the other was out cold. He looked at Hisao, shook his head and then bowed deeply muttering some sort of apologetic sounding phrase.
The crowd didn’t applaud or shout with glee. A murmur swept through and there were some hints of laughter but everyone seemed to be returning to their regular duties - tending shops, buying or selling. Was this a common occurrence? Remy was in awe. What the hell just happened? The third man tended to his friend who moaned in pain holding his knee while the other still laid face down in the dirt. Hisao tucked his sword back into his belt and made his way to back to Remy. He was stopped short by the young woman whom he’d rescued.
She bowed deeply and thanked him several times overs. Remy noticed that girl almost seemed nervous and was blushing profusely. Hisao stood calmly and formally bowed his head only once to her string of praises. He stepped around the girl and continued to make his way toward Remy.
Remy watched as two more girls, dressed similarly to the one who had just been saved, come running out of the shop toward their friend. They talked excitedly, consoling the girl and shooting looks over a Hisao.
What in the f-? Hisao casually approached Remy as if he hadn’t beat two grown men to the ground to less than ten seconds. Remy had to mentally verify that her jaw was not touching the ground. No, her mouth was closed but she was sure the shock she was feeling was blatantly plastered on her face. Hisao’s eyes must had seen it too. Briefly his eyebrows knit together. Why was he surprised that she was surprised?
Remy continue to turn over the her thoughts in her mind - forgetting that they had begun walking again and were steadily winding their way through the market. What had happened sparked so many questions. How had Hisao moved so fast? He had been standing right next to Remy and then instantaneously moved 30 feet. Perhaps she had not been paying attention - but for how long? Then there was the natural acceptance of the fight within the town. Maybe it was a cultural thing - perhaps here they settle their disputes the old fashion way? May the strongest man win - or something like that.
Remy looked at the back of the man she was following. His black hair that was held tight in a long ponytail swayed back and forth - the rhythm matching the slight sway of the equally as dark hilt of the sword tucked in his belt. He was clearly a skilled martial artist. Remy had never seen anyone move like that - not in real life of course. She didn’t even think it was possible. The man had the grace of a dancer and the power of a heavy weight champion. And the way he used his sword - Remy didn’t know much about swordsmanship but Hisao evidently knew how to use one. Is this what he did for a living? Her eyes widened in realization - the cut on his chest… could it have been from a fight he had -
Hisao had stopped walking. Remy nearly collided with him. They had stopped at a stall; this one was filled with papers of all kinds. Images hung - portraits of woman wearing beautiful dresses holding ornately decorated parasols, landscapes of mountains and sunsets, a strange looking wheel that reminded Remy of a clock. Stacks of folded pamphlets lay across the table. The parchment used was thick and rough. Remy noted that each copy looked slightly different indicating they were all made by hand and not a press. Remy inspected the writing. She didn’t not recognized any of it. None was like what she had seen on the statue.
Hisao said something to the smiling man behind the stall. The man went to a table in the back and dug through a pile of large sheets before settling on one that he tugged free. He laid the parchment across the table in front of Hisao and Remy.
It was a map. It had mountain ranges, rivers, and lakes. It had small and large dots that appeared sporadically connected by fine lines - likely roads. The dots were labelled, some with larger font than other’s to which Remy assumed was based on importance. Hisao pointed to a small dot on the map. Then he pointed to himself, then to Remy, then made a sweeping motion with his hand as if to encompass the rest of the town. Remy looked at the map. The dot sat beside a river not far from a mountain range. Hisao was pointing to where they were.
Remy stopped. She looked at the mapped. She didn’t recognized the landmass. The map did have a scale but she didn’t know how to read it. Maybe it was just too zoomed in for her to recognized. She looked at Hisao. He gave her an encouraging nod and asked a question while pointing at the map. She guessed that he wanted to know where she lived. Remy answered ‘no’ with a shake of her head. She brought her hand ups and started with them closer together then spread them apart to show - bigger.
Hisao nodded and spoked to the man in the stalled. The man grabbed a large roll of parchment from a bucket that held several more. He unrolled it out on the table keeping his hands along the sides to stop it from folding up. It was a world map this time. There were landmasses divided by spanning oceans. Remy saw prominent mountain ranges, deserts, and large lakes. All of it was labelled eloquently in the language she could not understand.
… Not that it would’ve helped anyway. The map she was looking at sure as hell wasn’t earth.
She was not in Kansas anymore.
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