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Chapter 3: The End is Only the Beginning 3

The sun sank low into the sky painting the sky various shades of orange and yellow. The small smoke stacks from the small cottages rose into the darkening sky and in the distance on a hill were roughly 100 riders who were swiftly riding towards the small town of Naebashi. These riders wore the traditional armor of the Sato standard military tunic with the two headed phoenix that represented the Sato Empire.

Captain Takeda Tatsui led the company towards the small hamlet and he was confident that they would reap large rewards from this tiny town. 'For the glory of Sato of course' he thought smiling.

Rize had left to go back to her home leaving Mr. Itakura alone to watch the last sliver of sun fall below the horizon leaving only twilight. In the distance he felt the reverberations of hooves the all too familiar feeling of a company of Sato cavalrymen. Itakura's frown deepened as he was just made a liar to the young Miss Rize who may come to resent him after this night.

Turning towards the eastern gate the company of 100 men approached dismounting just outside the gate. As their leader entered, Itakura saw that his helm was adorned with silver wings that wrapped around the helmet signifying his rank as a captain.

The captain looked around and spotted Itakura "you! Merchant come here" he pointed demandingly at the ground. Itakura smiled innocently pointing at himself as if he had no idea who he was talking to. Rolling his eyes he said something inaudible before repeating himself "come over here now. Merchant."

As Itakura approached the captain started speaking "tell me merchant this town doesn't appear on any of the empires officially established towns why is that?" he asked obviously already knowing the answer, but wanted to confirm with someone more familiar with the town.

"Well, Captain from my understanding it is due to it starting out as a small hunting outpost and just naturally grew into a town and since the lords who own this land don't particularly care much for it since it isn't very good farming land they left the town be." Itakura wasn't going to lie since he could sense the Captain already knew the answer.

A sneer grew across his face as he grunted in acknowledgement of Itakura's statement "Good thank you. You are free to go now. Men follow me to the town center and bring all the towns folk. Go now!" Captain Takeda strutted away as he headed toward the town center.

Minako Kijuro loved his family. His daughter Minako Rize was a truly unique girl even before he settled down with his wife in Naebashi, he was a man who valued peace and quiet. He looked at his daughter who was eating and he cut into his own meat he had just finished butchering that evening.

*BANG*

"Open up! This is the imperial army!" a voice came from outside.

The air froze as Kijuro paused just before eating another bit. Slowly putting down his knife he stood up "Honey watch Rize and don't let her out of your sight."

Rize's eyes were full of confusion as she watched her father open the door. A thread of fear wrapped around her heart thinking of the worst case scenario. Why would the Imperial army be here in quiet little Naebashi?

"Are you the man of the house?" one of the soldiers said, looking into the house which Kijuro was quick to cover up his broad shoulders were intimidating even to a trained soldier.

"Yes that would be me." he smiled at the man who looked small compared to her father "What can I do to help the good men of the imperial army?"

The man smiles "all villagers are to meet at the town center immediately an announcement is about to take place."

"Alright let me get ready and tell my family I will be going out then" he smiled before the soldier grabbed his shoulder.

"Sir, when we say all the villagers it means all of them including your family please. Sorry for the inconvenience." Kijuro nodded as he continued inside. His eyes showed no worry as he confidently stood before them both.

"Nyoko, Rize come out it is okay, no one is going to hurt you" he waved the two of them forward which they cautiously made their way forward to join Kijuro.

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The town center was full of families all nervous by the sudden appearance of the Imperial army in their secluded village. It was rarely a good sign for a small village like this to get a visit from the Imperial army. At the head of the crowd the Captain Takeda stood in front of the villagers with a smile on his face. He was tall and lanky the complete opposite of Kijuro who was much broader, but that wasn't to mistake him as weak he was clearly well trained based solely on his stature.

"Good evening loyal citizens of the empire!" he smiled showing his large white teeth "I am sure a lot of you are wondering why we had you all come out here in the middle of the night, but I promise this is indeed good news for you not grave news at all so please relax! My name is Captain Takeda from the Imperial armies of the Sato Empire"

The tension in the air did not disperse despite his word which he promptly decided to ignore. "Today, I am here to inform you that the empire once again finds itself in a bloody conflict with a rival nation. We are here for two reasons, one a draft of all able-bodied men are to join the imperial army and secondly was that we are to find promising youth to be enrolled into the imperial youth academy at the capital" he revealed a big happy smile as he looked at the frowning faces his smile twitched slightly "what?!? Do none of you desire to serve honorably in the Emperor's army?"

Not a single sound came from the crowd as they looked slightly upset, by the declaration that was to be something 'good' not forced conscription. The Imperial army had only done this one other time in the last hundred years so that meant they expected heavy losses and a long war at that.

"Alright... will all men sixteen years or older please go to the left and register with Lieutenant Kim please do not make this difficult. We would prefer no one be hurt in this process."

Kijuro sighed to himself he was worried it would be something far worse. He knew that one day the empire would turn its eyes towards Naebashi; it was impossible for it to remain unnoticed forever. The imperial army only drafted if they expected a particularly bloody war that did not bode well for the men of this town to come back in one piece. However the imperial youth academy was something he wouldn't simply try to pass up for his daughter to try the entrance exam even if he didn't want that sort of life for her. It was something that not just anyone could do.

"Rize" he said gently.

"Yes papa" she said as the words of the captain began to register with her tears built up ready to break away from her eyes down her cheek.

"Remember what I told you about in the woods?" he looked down at Rize sternly?

"I do papa." He put his hand on her head patting it and looked deeply into her eyes.

"Good" he turned to his wife "Nyoko go find Mr. Itakura and have him take you to the capital, find a job and watch after Rize as best as you can. If she enters the academy she will need your support as much as possible."

Nyoko nodded understanding her husband.

"Alright ladies" he knelt down and gave them a hug "I am going to go now I will see you as soon as I can."

Nyoko spoke up quickly "Be safe and come back to us."

"I will. Don't worry I've survived the wilderness of the Iron forest have no fear I will return! I promise!" he called back over his shoulder not looking back. Rize watched as her father walked away not turning back as he got in line to register and be shuffled away along with the rest of the group. A single tear rolled down her cheek as she finally understood that she may never see her father again. She truly disliked the emperor at this very moment in her child-like heart. The small thread that previously was squeezing her heart from fear was now tightening from melancholy. Her ice blue eyes starting after her father.

Captain Takeda quickly gathered all the children under 15 and older than 7 before both groups set out of the town under the guise of night. It was this night that Rize's world changed two life times in a row. Something that would have a larger impact that Captain Takeda could have predicted.


CREATORS' THOUGHTS
JYLewis JYLewis

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