After telling my story I felt parched. Not only because I was speaking for so long though. No. Retelling my story, reliving all of that left me feeling strangely empty. It was by no means an unpleasant feeling but I couldn't say that I liked the feeling either.
Mifune meanwhile seemed to be lost in his thoughts. While his face showed no change in temperament, his eyes did. They held emotions, some of which I could not clearly recognize but one I did most certainly. Pity.
"Don't." I blurted out, simply because I couldn't stand the feeling those eyes, filled with pity, awakened within me.
"My apologies, Makoto. Despite what you just told me… the hardships and things you've went through… you are only nine years old. I cannot help but feel pity for someone that should be playing with his friends or siblings instead of worrying about food on their table or fighting in a war…" Mifune told me with a sigh, and I understand what he meant. Still, I just didn't like being shown pity face to face. It made me feel…angry.
After all, I had experienced all of that and come out alive on the other side. That did not deserve pity. Instead I felt a little bit proud at still being alive, even though I had not done much to still be were I was. Luck was responsible for most of that.
Once again, silence fell upon the two of us, which was broken when Mifune poured himself and myself another cup of tea.
"So, what happens now?" I asked after taking a small sip of my tea, and once Mifune had put his cup down as well he responded with a small hum in his voice.
"Normally I would like to send you back to your family. That however is not an option I believe. Or am I wrong in the assumption that you don't know where your village is located?" Mifune asked me and even though I had known unconsciously that my chances to see my family once again were slim I still had held out hope. Now, that hope had turned to dust in the wind.
"No, I do not." I responded with a strained voice, which caused another bout of anger to bubble up inside of me at my own weakness, before supressing both emotions with an iron will I didn't know I had.
Mifune only nodded in response before he continued. "Then there is the fact that you were part of a losing faction in a war, and should become known that you were apart of said faction, you would be hunted down and executed in the worst case. Best case being incarcerated for the rest of your life.
Besides that, none of us know what happened to your family in the meantime. As hard as that may be for you to accept or even consider as an option, the lands are harsh and the people even harsher. Nothing is certain in these times. Neither is the fate of your family…" Mifune said in a soft tone and I could only nod numbly, deadening my emotions all the while. That was not something I was willing to consider at the moment.
"This leaves us with rather few options for you. But I have a proposition for you, if you are willing to hear an old man ramble for a little bit." Mifune continued while a small self-mocking smile dancing over his lips, to which I responded with a nod, not trusting my voice to be steady at the moment.
"Good, good. Around 20 years back, I had a nephew. He died of a chronic illness and the place he used to live at has been vacant ever since. It is not far away from my own residence and I would rather have someone in need live there then let the house waste away for no reason. If you are willing I would let you stay in said house and study at the local academy if you are interested. Otherwise I could offer you a place amongst the servants in my residence. Both are good choices and who knows what may become of you yet." Mifune finished after which he took a small sip of his tea with a small smile on his face.
I was astonished to say the least. "Why? Why would you do this for me? We barely know each other!" I spoke, a little strongly to my shame, causing me to apologize quickly to not seem ungrateful. After all, I had already been saved from death and now this?
"Your reaction is understandable. After all, you have not been shown much kindness until now. But, I am of the firm believe that if people would only try and be a little bit more kind to each other our world would become even a little bit better for it. So, I aspire to help whenever I can. And besides, it's not as if I don't get anything out of our little deal, if you choose to become a new member of our country that is." Mifune said while he moved his half full cup of tea in small circles, all the while watching as the tea moved in tandem to his motions like it was the most interesting thing in the world.
"I see." Was the only thing I managed to say to that. This whole development was a little bit overwhelming for me right now to be honest, but I was still happy. I had been given this chance at a new start, no matter how much I longed to return to the life I had had before.
Thus, I bowed my head towards Mifune. "Thank you, Mifune-sama. I accept your offer."
"Good. Now, I should mention however that you will be accompanied by one of my guards at all times for the time being. Despite me believing you about your story we still have regulations in place how a newcomer to our society is to be treated. At least for a certain period of time. I hope you understand why." Mifune said, to which I raised my head and shook my head a little in confusion.
"No? Hmm, that is surprising. I was of the believe that Shinobi would be known to you and your village." Shinobi? I thought those were only bed time stories.
"Shinobi are real?" Thus, I asked. Patiently waiting for a response from Mifune, who I hoped would be a little bit more forthcoming about that particular topic I had been told fantastical stories about when I was still a little child.
"Oh yes, Shinobi are very real. You see, each country possesses a hidden village. Well, most of them do with a few exceptions. Those hidden villages are the true military force of their respective countries, ours excluded, as the land of iron does not possess shinobi. However, if you want to learn more about shinobi, the hidden villages and so forth you should probably study up on those topics on your own time." Mifune finished to which I couldn't help but turn my head away in shame.
Mifune must have spotted my action as understanding surfaced slowly on his face. "Do not worry, there is no shame in being illiterate. Be diligent in your studies and you will soon be able to read and write on your own." He said with a small smile that took a small weight off my shoulders.
"Now, I believe it is time for you to visit your new residence. We will speak again once you have settled down a little to see about your future prospects. Until then I wish you a good night, Makoto." Mifune said with a last smile directed at me while he stood up and walked over towards the doors and opened them.
I stood up and walked over towards the doors as well, joining both Mifune and the guard that would show me to my new home. Stepping out of Mifune's office I bowed once more towards the man, after which I turned around and followed the guard away from Mifune who's eyes I felt rest on my back for a couple of seconds before I heard the soft clicking of the wooden doors to Mifune's office.