Chapter 1: Don't Touch The Hat
“Brother!” Jinsu shouted out after catching up to his older sibling.
“Eh?” The older brother looked behind him and, seeing Jinsu huffing and puffing to catch up, he stopped and turned around, tugging the large rim of his hat down to shield his eyes from the rising sun - his trademark lop-sided half-grin gracing his young face.
Leaning over and breathing heavily Jinsu stood in front of him, “I thought you were going to wake me up before you left?” he asked with hurt in his eyes.
The trademark grin was replaced by a slight grimace. “I’m sorry Jinsu, but mother and father didn’t want me to wake you, it is early after all”
“B-b-b-ut you promised!” the young boy exclaimed defiantly, bringing the grin back to his older brother’s face. “You said you’d wake me up and say goodbye before you left for the tournament, Jin…”
Jin sighed dejectedly and pinched the bridge of his nose, a habit of his when in an uncomfortable situation. After a moment of silence, where both brothers glanced at the arid surroundings of their desert home Jin crouched down to his little brother’s height with a concerned look on his face.
“Don’t worry little brother, I’ll be back, and as a Sei no less” he winked joyfully, trying to cheer him up.
“But…but Fira said that people die during the Seis’Houjin…I don’t want you to die brother…I want you stay here…” Jinsu looked up at his older brother; pleading with the person he had idolised all his life; pleading with the one person in his family who seemed to care; and pleading with the young man who had acted like more of a father to him than their own.
Jin looked away sadly, pushing the high crown of his hat down, as if to hide his face and pinched his nose once more in an all too familiar fashion. There was another, longer silence until he spoke, that grin of his spreading like wildfire across his face.
“Well then, we’ll have to make sure I come back then won’t we?”
Before Jinsu could try to decipher what his older brother meant his vision was obscured as Jin dropped his hat onto his head, obscuring the younger brother’s vision. “But…but brother this is-”
“My lucky hat, and I’ll be coming back for it little brother” He lifted the rim of the hat up so his brother could see him wink and the grin on his face.
“Ok!” Jinsu yelled with a grin of his own, although it turned into a slight frown as his brother started walking away again into the distance.
As if sensing his brother’s discomfort Jin turned around again, raising a hand to block the sun’s light, and said one last time “I’ll come back for my hat!” and winked, before disappearing into the distance.
“Gyuh?” Jinsu exclaimed as he suddenly awoke from the nap he had been having. As his brain got used to the strange sensation of consciousness his mind returned to the ever present dream he had been having since the last Seis’Houjin, his thoughts been drawn rather painfully to his brother…
“…you lied…” he muttered dejectedly, pulling the now worn and torn rim of his brother’s lucky hat to protect his eyes from the midday sun.
He stretched from his position in a tree branch, rejoicing in the green-ness of everything here, especially compared to Aria, his home Country, and almost fell out of it. It was then he heard the rustling of movement, and the fog around his brain listed as he immediately became alert for any danger.
“Well well, what do we have here?” said a gruff voice from below him, “It’s a little birdie in a tree”
Jinsu looked down to see a group of large men carrying an assortment of weapons. ‘Bandits…how troublesome…’
he thought to himself. The young man dropped down from the branches and calmly stood before the bandits in front of him, unfortunately such stoicism in the face of danger obviously was not going to dissuade the bandits from targeting him, and he had half a mind just to give them what they wanted, he was probably late as it is to the registration for the Seis’Houjin…
“Hand over any money and weapons you have kid, and you won’t get hurt” the largest of them exclaimed.
Jinsu lazily dug into his coat pocket and chucked a small pouch of coins towards him. “I don’t carry weapons”
The Bandit looked suspiciously at him “This is hardly enough, cough it all up now”
Jinsu sighed exasperatedly, it was
all the money he had, one of the rules of the Seis’Houjin was a strict limit on currency. “That is
all I have, or can’t you tell from the tattered hat and clothes I wear that I’m poor?” he gestured to his desert attire, which, like the hat, was worn and torn.
After a moment the apparent leader of the pack of bandits grunted “Fine, but we’ll be taking the hat as well” he reached out to take it but before he had even properly stretched out his hand to take it Jinsu delivered a fast palm strike to his throat, making the big man collapse onto the ground trying to catch his breath.
“Don’t touch the hat” he said, all semblance of the lazy young man replaced by a deadly glare.
One of the other men yelled “Oh you’ll pay for that brat!” and the rest of them charged towards him.
Jinsu stepped back, standing with his side to his opponents, his left arm tucked behind his back while his right hand was raised directly in front of his face, which was looking to the side and the oncoming bandits. He raised his forefinger, thumb and middle finger so that they pointed up to the sky and into the now familiar position of the Desert’s Palm, the first of his Clan’s famous fighting style.
He sighed mentally and thought to himself ‘How troublesome…why couldn’t they have just taken the money and gone? Oh well, I guess I’ll have to use it…’
Jinsu suddenly closed his eyes for a second, and then opened them to reveal nothing but white, his iris’ and pupils having vanished.
Even after years of training the sensation of using his Blood Trait was overwhelming at first, as he could hear everything around him, from the intense roaring of moving leaves to the deafening cries of animals. However, he quickly tuned out the background noise, and focussed entirely on the sounds of swords being drawn. He glanced in the direction of the felled Bandit and sensed more than saw him standing up slowly, but he didn’t have time for that as he felt one of the bandits slash out towards him.
He calmly, almost lazily, moved ever so slightly to avoid the downward slash and then knocked the man’s arm upwards with his right arm while spinning around to slash of the edge of his palm across the back of the man’s exposed neck, knocking him out instantly.
Continuing the spinning motion his left foot hooked out to catch another charging bandit in the gut before jumping and lashing out at the man’s head with his right foot, landing gracefully back into his ready position, facing the remaining three bandits who suddenly stopped and then turned tail, having obviously not expected to encounter someone with a Blood Trait.
Jinsu relaxed and turned lazily towards the head bandit. “Still want my hat?” he taunted before the large man scrambled fully to his feet, threw back Jinsu’s money and ran after the others.
“I hate bandits…such troublesome gits…” he glanced down to the two unconscious bandits, his eyes now returned to normal, and simply stepped over them, towards the small travelling pack he had left at the base of the tree. “Well, off to Yilandir” his stomach growled in obvious complaint “And fast…I’m hungry”