First Day

Robert was laughing now. It put me on edge. The sound of his laughing wasn't the problem, it was more the fact that when he laughed, he laughed with his entire body. It was like an epileptic going into a seizure after too much Pokemon. If his damn hand wasn't wrapped around the gun, I'd care less. As it was, I was full of enough holes already and wasn't in any particular rush to add more to the list. Good lord how long this guy could carry on.

I shifted my gaze to the clock. Time was going by so slowly it seemed. It may have been the blood loss, but the day was beginning to feel less and less as bright as it had only a few hours prior. How much longer could I really keep this game going? How much longer did I have before…

"You…are such a lucky bastard." Robert snorted.

"I suppose." I answered.

"Suppose all you want. I mean…every dire situation that you seem to be a magnet for, you manage through, by the skin of your teeth."

"If I were that lucky, I wouldn't find myself in so many of these sorts of situations to begin with Bob."

"Maybe. Still, you come out of them. That's the key. Take an average guy off the street, and I'd be willing to bet that his good luck wouldn't run for so long. Yours on the other hand, just seems to float around you or something, like a cloud. Don't suppose you have a rabbit's foot or something?"

"No. Though, I'm pretty surprised Mr. Cutting."

"What at?"

"Having said all these things, how is it you're managing to keep so composed? After all, I'd be willing to say that this is a pretty dire situation. With luck like mine…"

"I figured you'd be thinking that. But then again, I have the benefit of knowing my own fortune in life as well Turbeville. Even if the ground is still a little uneven given that, there's something pretty key here that should be brought to light."

"And what might that be?"

"Your luck, or fortune, seems pretty much all tied up in this Hattori guy. Or at the very least, if not him, one of his subordinates…or just other people in general. If it were just you alone, then you would have still been wandering the streets of Thailand looking for the next bottle. No life, no future, a pointless existence. It wasn't until your brush with Hanzo, that your life took its turn. Meanwhile, at least so far, it sounds like you've just been a pain in his ass. It's like you feed off his luck or something."

"You're saying that on my own, I'm worthless?"

"Well, not entirely. Maybe you had been then. It seems like you've been doing well enough for yourself since that time, but I don't know the details now do I? Are you going to deny how much you've had to rely on people up to this point then?"

I only stared at him, and thought over the question.

"No."

A look of genuine surprise overtook his face. I figured now was as good a time as any to continue the story before getting myself into a situation to get shot over.

I awoke with a start, sending the moist towel on my forehead to fall into my lap. Looking around, there was nobody in the immediate area. My head throbbed, but it wasn't so bad that I couldn't just ignore it mostly, getting to my feet. My shoulder had been put into a simple sort of cast. Someone had set it while I was out, as well as changing my clothes. I shuddered at the thought of the old man undressing me, and quickened my pace along the wooden floors to look for some signs of life.

Sometimes, when you're on a floor above ground level, your body somehow knows it, and you can even feel the effect. My body was going through that feeling right then. I was on a floor higher than just a single one. How high, I wasn't sure, but the feeling alone was enough to tell me that I was a guest in Hattori's club house. Now if only I could find a window.

I made my way toward the sliding paper door closest to me and opened it slowly. For whatever reasons, I felt like I should tread carefully. It wasn't so much fear of where I was. If Hanzo wanted to hurt me, he wouldn't have any problem with that most likely. It was more like the feeling a true faithful felt when he entered a church. At least, that's what I imagined the feeling would be like, having never been to a church. Not on purpose anyways.

To my left, was the wall I was closest. Directly ahead, there was another paper doorway. And finally on the right, was a short sort of hallway that lead to what looked like a very small room. It couldn't have been much taller than an average man. Or at least the average Japanese man that is. Other than that, it must have been about an arms length in every direction. I was tempted to just go directly there, but decided to see the room across the hall first.

I open the door, and nothing. Basically it was just another copy of the room I came from. The current doorway I was standing in, and then another one across the futons that lay on the ground. The only difference I really saw, was that unlike the room I found myself awake in, this one was less kept. The otherwise dark wooden floor, had a fairly thick layer of dust. The corners of the walls had intricate patterns of webbing and unknown generations of arachnid living in each of them. I made my way across the floor to the door on the other side, and opening it, found myself in another hall, looking at another doorway and the same small single room down the hall.

I went from one room to the next just to make sure I wasn't missing anything. In reality I knew in my gut that they were all the same, but to some degree, I felt uneasy about only having one way out, one way down. After each of the dusty three rooms were uncovered, leading back to my own, I stood in a hallway staring at the single room. It was so dark. The four rooms that created a perimeter at the corners of the top floor of the castle, all had some lighting in them, due to exceptionally high porthole type openings. They may have been used for defense of the castle, in order to fire on enemies in the courtyard below, but only if the archers of ancient Japan were about twelve feet tall. Still, there was nowhere near as much light touching that single square in the middle of where those four rooms' corners where facing.

I went to the room I had been staying, and picked up one of the standing candle holders, depositing the waxy contents on the floor. Now armed, I felt a little better about heading over there. A little, but not a lot. I still thought I was being stupid, considering if the old man wanted me hurt, he'd have done so. But then again, the revival of the prior night's events in my mind said that even as a leader, he is still just another man. He couldn't be held to keeping me safe from everybody in the clan if there were enough of them who didn't want me.

"Fuck it." I whispered.

I gripped the candle stand so hard it hurt my palms, and tensing my muscles sent pains shouting through my shoulder. The pain helped a little, making me more pissed off in general, but especially at the three guys who tried to attack me that night, and in a second hand kind of way, anybody who wanted me dead without even knowing a damn thing about me in this fucking ninja theme park. Before I realized it, I had broken down the little paper sliding door swinging my weapon like an axe. There were stairs, and it was fairly lighted toward the bottom as I looked at it.

The stairs were strange. There were four of them leading up to my current level, lining each side of the square space I was peering down. They were so narrow that they looked more like ladders than stairs. I just couldn't see the function of such a design. Then came the feeling of fear and anger once again. As narrow and steep as these steps were, it would be too difficult for me to descend to the lower floor, with the metal in my hand. I could either go stealthy, and leave the weapon here, or throw it down and get it once I got there.

I had to think a moment, far longer than I probably should have. I was in a castle, with god knows how many ninjas running around practicing with their little smoke bombs and throwing darts and whatever. The whole point to them bringing me up these steps to begin with may have been as part of a test. I should think like a ninja. I should leave the weapon, and go quietly so I don't get pounced on. That would make the most sense to a ninja right?

I placed the candle holder down quietly next to the first step. I began to make my way slowly and then paused while about half way into the square hole. If this was a test, just to see what I was doing, then they'd already be down there waiting. Or even if it isn't, they could be waiting anyways. But if it is, then they're just manipulating me into doing what they want!

"Well fuck that!" I thought.

I grabbed the brass holder quickly and just jumped the rest of the way down. It banged against one edge of the opening, most certainly alerting any living thing within the castle that I was awake and on my feet, at least for the next half of a second. The distance was further than I took it to be, and the shock of landing caused my legs to buckle, sending me sprawling backwards. The candle mount left my hand as I clasped my head after it made acquaintances with the floor. I tried to recover quickly, rolling onto my stomach and grasping the metallic weapon. Making it to my feet, I looked around me slowly. Nothing. Stealth is overrated.

The floor I was on, was massive compared to the first, or fifth depending on how you looked at it. Of course it would be that way, given the way these castles were build somewhat pyramid like and all, but I didn't expect the change to be so rapid. It actually didn't make sense, geometrically that is. At least it didn't until I looked up. The floor above me was high. The reason I was caught by surprise from that fall was because I was assuming I was only one floor up. In truth, from the looks of things, the fifth story, was actually two full stories above this one. It was as if the architect left out the fourth floor on purpose, in order to achieve higher ceilings.

So now that I figured out that I was on the third flour, or perhaps the second, it really depended and I didn't want to waste too much time going in circles on the design of the castle for now, it was time to find my way down, or to a window that wasn't twice my height.

As it turned out, the windows here were still fairly high. The crafting of this castle was increasingly irritating to me. The only comfort was that upon surveying the vast and desolate space that made up the current level, there were four sets of stairs that lead down one level. What was even more comforting, was that they were real stairs. There was one set in each corner of the floor, I had no doubt they all equaled the same type of freedom, and so I didn't waste my time trying to think of which way would be best to go down. A repeat of over thinking gone bad was not something I was aiming for after what had just happened. I could already feel a bump start to develop on the back of my head.

I descended the long stairs quickly, with my trusty candle holder in hand and ready to strike. Once again I was greeted with a floor with higher windows than eye level. It appeared that the only way I'd get a look outside, was if I made it out. There was nothing to suggest why that would be a problem, but still I became nervous. This floor was large, and a combination of the two above it. Not as wide open and empty such as the one before this, but also not as shut in as the very first.

Down to my direct right and left, following the castle wall, I could see both other stairways. The center of the room was what had held my attention. There were walls, but they were almost more there for looks than anything else, like partitions. You could see through numerous holes in the wood, like a chain link fence. There was nothing within this little space, except for mats, not completely unlike the sort you might remember from gym classes in school. Toward one end, the one closest to my own and the staircase to my left, there was a small chair. I knew it was Hanzo's.

I walked along the perimeter of the wooden partition, finding some openings into the small area. This didn't interest me though. I could also see toward the furthest wall, right in its center where the largest opening into this confined space was, what looked like a front door. I moved quickly to the two doors and swung it open without a second thought. It was daylight and I suddenly became aware of two things. The bright light did nothing to help my headache. There was somebody in the room with me. Only, the person wasn't just with me, but directly behind me. I could feel him now as if he'd been standing there all along. Maybe he had. Either way my spidey sense didn't kick in soon enough, but I was hoping my reflexes would make up for it.

I swung the candle holder as fast and hard as I could given the condition of my arm and even felt it connect, or so I had hoped. Rather than the follow-through that usually accompanies hitting a person with something, my weapon was stopped dead in the air. It had met this man's hand like it would if it connected with stone. The look of the man said that it may very well have. He wasn't a particularly bulky one, but he was tall, with large limbs. In an instant, his open hand became closed, and he wrenched the metal stand out of my hands so quickly it felt like my arms would follow if I hadn't lost my grip. He didn't say anything, he just looked at me with strange gray eyes, that didn't hint at anything but strength.

I was only in awe of him for a moment before realizing that he was a monster, who could very well be there to hurt me. I figured I was in no condition to be getting into a straight scuffle right now, especially with this giant. So I came to one conclusion. Fight dirty. Even a giant man still has all a man's sensitive bits. I swung my foot up, or began to anyways, but it was as if he had read my mind somehow. Rather than move aside, or simply block the attack, he did something odd. The man dropped his left knee across to the right, stopping my kick, and actually pinning my foot to the ground. I thought I saw an opening, but apparently, while I was preparing to monkey slam the guy, his entire move was only about half way done. He moved like a snake, while down on his left knee, his right elbow came flying over his head and shoulder into my face. I was already down for the count from this, but he wasn't finished. Instantly after I began to stagger back, his knee lifted from my foot, and I felt a front snap kick enter my stomach like a cannonball, sending me literally flying out of the front entrance of the castle.

A strange smell entered my nostrils, forcing my eyes open, and causing hurried breaths into my lungs. My vision was still blurred, and I was only vaguely aware that I was lying on stone, flat on my back. The air was warm. I could feel sunlight on my face, but then there was a shadow, and my vision righted itself.

"Rise and shine." The old man grinned.

I felt myself lifted, only somewhat by my own will, and was soon standing face to face with Hattori. My head drooped, and swung over to my left. There was a pair of tennis shoes that lead to sweatpants and a black wife beater. A very large wife beater actually. The man who had only seconds prior, or longer, sent me out of the castle, was keeping me on my feet now.

"Sorry." His deep voice whispered.

"Don't be sorry to him." Hanzo said. "He shouldn't have picked a fight with you."

"Hey…I wasn't…" I tried finding my words.

"Who swung a candle holder at who? You didn't even know who it was, or could have been."

"I was hoping…it was you." I said smiling through my anger.

The air seemed more tense than usual after I said that. The grip the large man had on me seemed to tighten slightly, though, not in an aggressive manner. But the group that was around us, after I was focused enough to notice, appeared to have shrunk in on me a bit. Hanzo sighed deeply before making a motion to the big man holding me, who virtually lifted me with one arm, and began leading me back into the castle. I looked back over my shoulder as best I could, as the old man was directing the small crowd to get back to whatever they were doing.

The giant had placed me on one of the mats that were closest to the little chair that marked the leader's spot in the room, and then began to leave.

"Thank you." I said.

"You aren't that heavy." He replied, with what might have been a shadow, or a smile that flicked across his lips.

"I mean for last night."

He stopped and looked at me a moment. If his face ever gave much, I'd say that it showed a little bit of surprise at that time. Hanzo came in, and whispered something to the large man, who then took his leave and closed the door behind him. The old man made his way to the small chair, with what looked like a little cup in his hand. He pulled something out of a pocket, and dropped it into the steaming liquid. It smelled like tea.

"I need to talk to you about a few things. I apologize for not doing it when you first got here. I suppose I felt that they could have waited, but apparently, I was wrong. There are things you need to understand before you continue your life here. But first, drink this."

He placed the cup close to where I could reach.

"What is it?"

"Tea."

"Ok, but what is it for?"

"It's going to make you relax, it'll make you feel better."

"Sounds like a roofie Hanz."

He didn't respond, and I stopped caring and just drank it. He was right. I felt relaxed, I felt better. I felt so good and relaxed in fact, that I lay back down, and seemed to sleep. Even through the general happy and calming feeling the tea had given me, one of my last thoughts before entering what seemed later like a dream state, were…shit, it really was a roofie.