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Western Fiction Drama

“So, you want to tell me why we’re going West?” The cowboy asked. 

Percy and Aoyama sat together in the train car, trying to eat dinner. Percy had his letter he was writing to Lucy on the table. His plate was clean. Aoyama hadn’t been eating the past few days, his plate was full. The samurai looked at him, that was all it took for Percy to understand. “I’m completely grateful to you, but I would like to know what favor I am returning. Mr. Hisatomo.”

“Please call me Aoyama.” He murmured. A waiter passed them, making him press deeper into the seat. He cleared his throat, sounding as though he swallowed gravel. 

“If I call you by your name, will you tell me?” Percy asked. He wore a smirk, hoping to soothe him. 

They had been traveling together for two months. Getting to the West was taking much more time than they had planned. It was a combination of both helping every stranger who needed it, and the country dealing with trying to rebuild. Civil wars were breaking out in towns just about everywhere. Any place that televisions could pick up waves was talking about the arguments between countries. It seemed everyone’s fingers were on the trigger. 

Aoyama began to turn paler, covering his mouth, feeling himself start to turn. “Please, excuse me.” He ran from the table and straight to the sleeping cars. Percy sighed, finishing up Lucy’s letter. He told her he loved her, and he wasn’t sure when he’d be back. Percy went to their car, finding Aoyama curled into a ball on the floor of the room. He was sweating and shivering. “You should have told me you were sick.” He said a little firmly. 

“I am not sick.” He answered, trying to sit up, feeling fatigue punch him.

“Yeah, you look a mess for no reason.” Percy bent down, gathered him up, leading him towards the bed. Percy found the thermometer in his packs. “Put this under your tongue. Hey, don’t make me tell you again.” He obeyed. “Yup, you got the flu.” Percy determined after he saw the temperature. 

“I am dying.”

“You’re not dying. I won’t let that happen.” 

“You can not promise such things,” Aoyama declared. He felt Percy’s pull his hair from his forehead, feeling a tiny bit of relief. 

“You should get undressed,” Percy told him. “It’ll cool you down.” 

Ten minutes later he was hidden under his covers with a washcloth on his forehead. Percy was on the top bunk, reading the papers. “I must tell you something.” Aoyama managed, half-wake. 

“Hm?”

“You must never tell anyone what I am about to tell you.”

“Alright,” Percy offered, turning to look at him. 

“I am going to the West to reclaim my Master’s honor. His name has been belittled, and I want to save it.”

“Belittled?”

“His crime was supposedly murder,”

Oh. Did he...do it?”

“No.” He coughed before managing. “No, I do not think he did.”

“Are you gonna prove him innocent?”

“Yes. I will do everything I can.”

“Why are you telling me this?”

“In case I die. I would ask you to end my mission.”

……………………………………………………………………………………………

The morning was met with an even worse cough, ripping through him. They had to leave the train much to the cowboy’s dismay. Percy carted him along, “Let’s find a medicine woman.” Twenty minutes later they arrived at a small camp near the station. The medicine women were beginning tea when they met the edge. “Morning ladies. You got a cure for the flu?”

“Not a cure,” said the head Medicine woman. “But we can help. Put him over there.” She pointed at a small bed in the tent. 

They studied Aoyama, beginning their work. The cowboy received tea. “Thank you for your help. What do I owe you?” The women named their price. He handed off money. He smiled at them nicely, glancing at Aoyama who had not moved for a moment.  

“He will live.”

“I told him that,”

Aoyama moaned loudly from his spot.

“Don’t be so dramatic.” said one woman as she placed a towel on his head.

By the morning he recovered enough to sit up, awaking from his cold sweat. He was finally able to consume bone broth, and his skin had finally turned back to its color. 

“Told ya you won’t die.” Percy laughed. They were able to leave the care of the women and continue their journey by horses. “I reckon I saved you.” He saw his expression. “It was a joke! There’s no atonement yet.”

“Good. It would sadden me if you left so soon.” 

Percy beamed, sitting a little higher on his horse. They rode past dots of little towns, hearing the whistles of the wind and the grass. They stopped every now and again, studying their map. Grass, flowers, and trees began to return to the world. It was the first time Percy had seen flowers that hadn’t been drawn by hand. When they stopped to let the horses drink, Percy ran straight to the nearest patch of grass and found wildflowers. “We should have bought a camera!” He exclaimed excitedly. Aoyama watched him study the flowers, looking excited like a child. That unparalleled thrill was something he had not seen in a very long time. Once the horses were done, Percy had collected as many as he could, Aoyama concluded they would reach the city of redemption soon. 

“Yip!” Percy said to his horse. “That’s why I call him, Yip! What do you call yours?”

“He has no name,” 

“Course not, but call ‘im something.”

Aoyama thought for a moment, “Norio. It was my grandfather’s name.” 

One ride of the night led them into California. Some cities had the luxury of keeping their names: San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Jose, Pasadena. Many cities couldn’t keep up so they chose their own. The city of redemption was named Momentus.

………………………………………………………………………………………………

Momentus seemed endless, covered with people of all ages and races. Everything was cluttered, but nothing seemed out of place. Everywhere you looked you saw something new: food, a color, a language, a person. A cowboy and a samurai on their horses in the middle of an urban street didn’t seem out of the ordinary at all. Aoyama led them to a tailor shop, hopping off Norio. “My family is here.”

Percy brushed himself down, climbing up the side stairs. In the small apartment was a pair of women, who had been waiting for him. “Mother,” He kissed the older woman’s hands. She cradled his face with both hands, tears forming in her eyes. Percy cleared his throat, turning his back to the intimate moment. The younger woman was his younger sister Yua, who kissed him. They all spoke in Japanese, determining the other had grown out their hair so long. 

Percy cleared his throat again, “Can I...uh, turn around?”

“Mother, Yua, this is my friend Percy.” He declared motioning Percy deeper into the room. 

Despite their confusion, they greeted him nicely. “Hello Ma’am, I’ve heard much about you.” He said to the Mother. “I...uh, have heard only good things.”

“I have never met a cowboy before.” Her eyes were warm, dotted with life, like Aoyama’s. “My wife loves Westerns, it is a shame she could not come with me.”

“We can take a picture of him,” said Yua, excitedly. 

They sat down in the living room together. Percy tried to sit the way he saw, hastily removing his spurs and boots. Aoyama and his mother spoke in the tiny kitchen, speaking in their native tongue. Yua watched Percy asking him a flurry of questions, “Have you ever shot an Indian?”

“Never one that didn’t deserve it.” He replied.

“Deserve?”

“You know: hurt a child or a woman or something like that. And uh, we call ‘em, Native Americans. Or that’s what they want us to call ‘em. Some of those old movies aren’t… I mean, we shouldn’t listen to ‘em. Is what I mean. They don’t really represent what cowboys are now.”

“Hm.” She decided. 

“Do not bother him Yua,” Aoyama said as they returned with tea. 

“I am not bothering!” She objected. 

Their mother gave them a stern word of caution. They both pouted for a moment. Percy masked his smirk of delight. The woman served the guest first. They talked and talked until the evening. Percy learned the Hisatomo family was one of Samurais and not just the men. Though there were many family members who were just normal. Mother Hisatomo was now married, though she lived in Tokyo she came to be with her daughter and son in this time. Aoyama’s master, Ito, had been something of a Godsend to them.

“He was the first of our village to defend me,” She said softly. “He said before the whole village that if a man is so inclined to harm a woman, then she should have the honor of defending herself and her children. And my actions were nothing less than justified.”

“If I were in your shoes Ma’am I reckon I would have done the same.” Percy offered softly.

“You are very kind.”

Yua asked him even more questions about cowboys, both determining the other did not know much about the Western genre as they thought. Dinner time arrived earlier than expected, so Yua suggested sushi. Percy watched Yue use her favorite knife to cut a long seaweed roll into portions, ordering Aoyama to begin tempura. “You better not have forgotten!” She said sharply to him. “Aoyama is the only one who can make tempura wonderfully. The only man I should say. But Mother has done enough today!” Aoyama then recounted to them that Percy had given him a whiskey glass of sake. And that Percy got tipsy from only half a glass.

“I am able to drink a whiskey glass now and go out to the markets.” Mother teased him. 

“What kind of cowboy are you!?” Yue exclaimed. 

Before she could be scolded by her Mother, Aoyama explained a cowboy was more than a drinking woman-loving rogue. “He is like me, he lives with honor and courage.”

They eat and drank together well into the evening. Percy was offered to sleep in the living room. The women left to the next rooms to finally go to bed. Aoyama, despite his better judgment, polished off the bottle of sake. He saw Percy’s worried look. 

“You good?”

“No.” Aoyama’s head swam into a fuzzy haze, he had definitely overdone it. “No, but...I will do what I can.”

“Alright, there buddy, can you get to bed?”

“Help me.” 

Percy walked him to the next room, opening the sliding doors, where Aoyama would sleep. He fell into the floor bed, shocking Yue who peeked from her side. “He’s alright, he’s alright! A little drunk though.”

……………………………………………………………………………………………

Percy jolted awake to Yue in the kitchen, as quietly as she tried. He tapped at the doorway, showing he was behind her. She saw him, blinking at him, then relaxed when she recognized him. “Good morning.” 

“What time is it?” He asked her. 

“Nearly five.”

“Oh,”

“Will you be going with him?”

“I will if he needs me.”

“Hm, I think you should. He likes you...Can I tell you something?” He nodded. “I think he did it.”

Percy’s eyes widen. “Oh?”

“I believe so. Not because he was a monster, but he...well I’m sure there was a reason.”

…………………………………………………………………………………………..

Aoyama walked them both to a small garden in the middle of Momentus. The cowboy was now surrounded by samurais who studied him. He tipped his hat to a man kneeling before a garden’s statue. “Howdy, how’s it going?” 

Aoyama tried not to laugh, waving him over, “They are confused by you.” 

They went inside, sliding open the paper doors into a small room. Percy removed his boots, sitting down in the middle of the floor as expected. Aoyama left for a moment to declare himself. A man, dressed like Aoyama, found the cowboy there. “Ah,” He sat down in front of him. He was thinner then Aoyama, and with much thinner hair, but seemed kind. “Who are you?”

“I’m here for Aoyama-”

“And your name?”

He replied his name.

“Hm,” The man leaned forward. “My name is Ito.”

“Misses Hisatomo thinks very kindly of you.”

“She is a wonderful woman,” He replied. “Her only curse would be her son.”

“Beg your pardon, Sir?”

“He was my student, did he tell you? Well, his life was purely sad. His compassion was strong but he could not resist his fears.”

“Fear is normal sir,” Percy decided. “Can’t say I never was.”

“You do not understand,” Ito replied. “His male figure was a beast, but he was unafraid, and loyal to his Masters until the day of his suicide. That is the Samurai’s way, you are loyal to your masters for your entire life.”

“I suppose I don't understand Sir,” Percy replied, voice still steady. “I don't have a master, I just had an awful Pa. I know what an awful Pa will do to you, and I reckon I see it in him too.”

“Does loyalty mean nothing to your kind?”

“Loyalty means plenty,” He argued. “But I know pain and heartache ain’t worth it.”

There was a pause. They stared at the other for a moment.

“I don’t care if you’re guilty or not,” Percy said sharply. “I hope you’re not...you’ll just break his heart. But if you are, I hope you end up getting what you deserve.”

He collected himself, replaced his boots, and excused himself. Aoyama caught him heading to the horses, calling for him. “Will you leave me?”

“No...do whatcha’ gotta do. I’m gonna be by Yip and Norio, and I hope you leave with me.”

…………………………………………………………………………………………..

Aoyama kneeled over, forehead touching the floor. Ito was kneeled next to him, completely straight and staring at the other masters. 

“Aoyama?” 

He did not look up.

“Do you deny what you have said before?”

There were no words.

“Aoyama….do you deny it or not?”

“No.” He answered. “I do not deny it.”

Ito’s eyes pointed at him. 

“Your past confession,” began the Master. “Is it still what you believe? Ito Kenshin murdered a man without reason?”

“Yes.” He whispered.

They glanced at each other, quietly determining the truth. “Ito Kenshin, you will be stripped of the samurai title.”

Ito closed his eyes drowning in the words, “I ask permission to kill myself than to live with this shame.”

Aoyama felt tears stream down his face, body beginning to shake as he felt the guilt and horror flood his every cell.

“You will die by sunset by your own hand, or you will die by our hands.”

“Thank you,” He bowed to the others. Ito stood, stopping when he felt the grasp of Aoyama’s hand onto his sleeve. Ito glanced down at him, seeing his tear-soaked face, body shaking, eyes begging. “You will not atone to me.” A wretched sob burst from Aoyama’s throat. “You have nothing to atone for.”

“I beg to die with my Master.” Aoyama turned to them, body trembling, eyes pleading. “Let me die by his side!”

“Your honor is intact Aoyama, you have spoken truthfully and preserved Bushido. For you to die now will be a great dishonor to your family and yourself.”

Aoyama looked back at his master, “Forgive me! Please forgive me for what I did! My confession was a mistake, I did not mean to speak against you!” He laid on his hand, leaving a puddle of tears on the floor. “Please my loyalty will be yours for the rest of my life.” Ito took a deep breath, looking down at him, seeing the mess of his student on the floor. He pulled his arm away, rose it, and struck him across the face. Aoyama felt his skin sting, not able to move. Ito closed his eyes and walked out of the room. The warrior buried his face back to the floor, flooded with guilt.

……………………………………………………………………………………………....

Percy sat under a tree, placing his hat over his face, hearing the horses around him. The sun dipped down, creating the cool summer air. Percy felt his mind dip deeper into the void of unconsciousness when he heard a cry of anguish. It sounded like a man bursting into a sob. He jerked upright. He waited another moment to ensure there was not another. There was not, so he remained where he was. The crickets chirped, the horses began to get restless. There was a ray of light from the screen doors exposing a shadow. Percy caught the sight of Aoyama holding himself in an embrace. His eyes faded into the distance, not recognizing his friend in front of him. Percy touched him, trying to return him to reality. “Aoyama?”

He still did not look into him, “I want to see my mother.”

“You want to see your mother?”

He nodded.

“Yeah, come on, let’s go home to Mama. I bet she’ll want to see you.”

Percy turned him to the horses, gesturing him to get on Yip. They rode straight to the apartment. Aoyama returned to his mother and sister collecting into their arms. Percy remained outside. 

Redemption did not come in Momentus that night.

November 28, 2020 02:53

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