Finding One Another...
She wondered if they would think any differently of her. So many things had changed since then. She herself had changed much since then, become a little tougher, a little meaner, a little more able to take care of herself. Ever since that night when she'd been camped in the woods... That night had changed everything. Fuu refused to let herself think of it though. She had to believe that her life held more for her than that. Otherwise, she'd never make it through.
Forcing the dark thoughts from her mind she let her usual optimistic nature shin through. Humming again she walked further down the quiet forested path. The birds chirped and the animals scampered and Fuu told herself that all was well with the world. Pretty soon, she was certain, she'd find her lost samurais. They'd laugh and make merry for a few days and life would be wonderful. She needed to store up enough memories to last a lifetime, who knew when they'd meet up again. She only hoped that he wouldn't find out about her past. If she was wrong, and couldn't avoid what that man had seen in her, then she'd never see him again. She would never want him to see her again either. Pushing away her shame once more, Fuu continued walking, remembering the best days of her life, her journey with them.
Man, he felt like he had been walking forever. Who would've thought a samurai and a little girl would be so hard to find. Hmm, he guessed that Fuu wouldn't be much of a little girl anymore. He wondered if Jin had changed much. Nah, he'd always be the same stuffy, stuck-up Jin. Maybe he could finally get him to cut lose when they met up. That would be a sight to see he was sure. Although a loose Jin probably wouldn't be much different than a normal Jin. Neither one promised too much fun. Ah hell, he missed em though. He sat down to rest for awhile by a nearby stream. He had money in his pocket, hadn't even been without too long, wasn't starving...life was damn near perfect, he grinned to himself.
Jin had asked at the teahouse, and the woman in question did indeed sound just like Fuu. They said the young woman had a knife strapped to her waist though. Hmm, that certainly didn't sound very Fuu like. He didn't have any other leads though so he might as well follow this one. They said the girl had left town following the river, so Jin did the same. He wondered if he was any closer to catching his once comrades. It felt good to have a definite purpose again. Doing odd jobs and hiring himself out had passed the time but it was really nice to be doing something just for himself. Walking along Jin allowed himself a slight smile.
One week later:
Fuu had found herself a nice place to camp for the night, fairly well hidden from view with water close by. She had indulged in a nice long, albeit cold bath earlier that day and lay now staring up at the stars. It would feel nice not to be alone, to be able to sleep soundly and know you were protected. As rough as Mugen was and as quiet and less than friendly Jin seemed she knew they both would protect her. Surely time had not wrought so great a change as them not caring. She had to believe that they cared for her. Closing her eyes her thoughts drifted.
Fuu jerked awake. Her dreams had wandered to that other time in the woods. When she had let herself be alone and had not had a care in the world. Her illusions and belief in mankind had been seriously dented that night. She knew that she had had bad experiences but had believed that most of mankind was good at heart. That man had taught her otherwise. As she looked around she realized that the clearing had lost some of its appeal from earlier. The shadows seemed to press down on her as she realized just how alone she was. Pulling her blanket tighter around her she sat up. She decided she had had enough sleep for the night, got up and walked over to a nearby tree. Sitting down at its base she looked up and watched the stars. There were so many of them up there. Watching over her and making her feel as if all would be well. Somehow while watching the stars Fuu let herself drift off to sleep. She was awakened when she felt something tugging at her kimono. Looking up she saw a scruffy old man leering at her and felt her heart clench in terror.
"No! Not again!" she screamed at the man pulling on her.
"Shut up you stupid bitch! Sitting out in the woods all by yerself, just asking for it if you ask me."
He slapped her hard across her face and pushed her down onto the ground.
"NO!" Fuu screamed.
Reaching in the back belt of her kimono she pulled out the knife that she always had ready now.
"You will not have me! Not so long as there's a breath left in my body!"
With that Fuu brought up the knife and stabbed at her attacker. She stabbed over and over again, feeling the knife plunging into the horrible body that loomed over her. The man's grin faded somewhat as her realized what was happening. He grabbed her wrists and forced them away from him.
"I'll teach you to stab at me you whore!"
His words were slightly slurred by the blood loss but he still had some strength left.
He smacked her repeatedly until she screamed.
"This will not happen to me again!" Fuu screamed and started kicking the man as hard as she could.
She felt the blood running down her face where the man had been hitting her. Its saltiness ran into her mouth. She didn't care though, she would not let him succeed. She had learned a lot from that previous occasion. She knew what awaited her if he won. She knew what fate would hand her if she didn't change her path. He had her pinned down now though, sitting on her legs so she couldn't kick him anymore. Her last hope would be help, and she knew not to be too hopeful that she would get any.
"Help me!" she screamed at the top of her lungs. Please let there be someone out there to help her. She couldn't survive this again. It would destroy her...
Jin leapt to his feet, sword at the ready. He could've sworn he heard someone yelling. He was as always a light sleeper and didn't think he could've dreamed a sound like that. It had sounded hopeful and hopeless all at once. Frightened and resigned at the same time. He listened to see if he heard any other sounds.
"Please help me!"
The voice was definitely feminine. It came from somewhere to his right, not too close but not too far. Moving silently yet swiftly he raced to find the origin of the screams.
"Please stop! I can't survive this again! Please don't do this!"
He heard the voice pleading now. As he came upon the site he saw what was happening. A foul old man was trying to force himself on a young woman. The man was bleeding profusely but still managing to attempt what he had obviously set out to do.
"Please, no more!"
The voice was slowly edging away from hopeful. He heard a sob then. It was definitely time to move.
"Unhand her sir."
"Who the hell are you? This is no business of yours so move on."
The man looked surprised to see someone else around. He balled up his fist and hit the woman and Jin noticed she fell silent. When the man moved to stand up Jin went towards him. There was no pity spared for an attacker of young women. Women were to be treated with respect. Even a base-born person should know that. Should he thought to himself but most didn't seem to. As the man fell to the ground he looked over at the woman. His heart broke when he saw that the woman on the ground was Fuu. He raced over and knelt at her side. His heart cracked even more and his anger boiled as he saw the blood on her face and the scratch marks where her kimono had been roughly torn open.