Chapter Nine

Montgomery's time in Tatsuya-sama's employ was probably the best time of his short and unpleasant life. He drank with his friends amongst the soldiers, listened to Hirano-sensei and Katsuro's lesson, and trained with the young prince and Anzai to use a even got to visit Toshio's village on his days off. He never had to fight for his life, to kill, to run from danger like a mouse from a cat.

He could hardly bring himself to stop smiling the entire time.

After two months or so living in the Ashikaga manor, Tatsuya-sama decided to take Katsuro down to Osaka to show him how the harbor cities conducted trade and commerce. Montgomery had to go along anyway, but he rather hoped that he'd get to see Bahari on the trip. He missed the old sailor something fierce, and it wasn't like he could contact him by telegraph or something.

He had to ride on horseback with Katsuro for the trip. Kogo and Yuhara teased him about not being able to get onto the saddle, but he quickly silenced them by removing the saddle and blankets and riding bareback just fine.

"How are you doing that?" Kogo murmured. "You couldn't get into the saddle…"

Montgomery snorted as he pat the horse's brown mane. "I can easily ride. I'm just better bareback."

"His ass is also bigger than yours," Yuhara chuckled. "Though not by much."

"Hey, my everything is bigger than yours," Kogo huffed.

Montgomery rolled his eyes. "And mine's even bigger. Let's join up with the others before they decide to leave us behind. Anzai certainly won't mind leaving you two idiots behind."

Kogo glared at him and huffed as he and Yuhara saddled up on their horses. They joined the riding party and helped Katsuro onto Montgomery's horse. He held the boy close with one hand so he wouldn't slip off when they rode out.

Tatsuya-sama rode up beside him on that white horse of his. The cowboy had to stop himself from staring at him. "Where is your saddle…?"

"My ass didn't fit in the seat."

He raised an eyebrow. "So you leave the saddle behind?"

"I can't exactly use it if I don't fit in it." He shrugged. "I've ridden in worse conditions. Don't worry about me."

"I can worry about Katsuro, though."He'll be fine. I'll hold onto him like a miser to is old."

The lord nodded stiffly after a moment. "Alright. Just be careful. Do not take any unnecessary risks."

"I don't plan to."

He nodded and led the party out of the manor gates with Anzai on his right and Montgomery on his left. Montgomery smiled and held Katsuro close as they sped up into a gallop. The kid was having a blast and wanted to go as fast as possible.

"If we go fast, you're gonna fall off."

"But it's fun, and you're holding onto me!"

"Your dad will probably kill me."

"No he won't."

"He would. He seems to like you enough that he'd probably do me bodily hrm if I drop you."

Katsuro rolled his eyes. "He wouldn't."

"Let's agree to disagree." He rolled his eyes at the boy. His head jerked up to look at Tatsuya-sama, who was laughing softly at them. "What's so funny?"

"You two. Your bickering is quite funny."

Montgomery blushed. "S-Sorry…"

"Do not be sorry. If you two wish to go on ahead, then you may. I trust you not to drop him."

"Really?"

"Of course. You are good with a katana and an amazing shot. If you get into trouble, you can get out of it quite easily."

The cowboy grinned lazily. "Well, don't you do how to flatter a person? You really sure about this?"

"Completely. Go have fun."

"Will do." He held tighter to Katsuro. "Ready?"

"YES!" The prince clung to his arm.

"Then here we go!" He dug his knees into his horse's sides and led it out of the riding party as it sped up. The two laughed in exhilaration as the wind blew past their faces. Montgomery almost forgot how much he loved to ride. Everytime he rode, he remembered how he felt the first time he rode. It was night he managed to escape. He and his real father Monty had stolen one of Harrison's work horses, a sweet mare Montgomery called Louise, and Monty put him on and told him to ride off as fast as the wind could carry him and never look back. And that's what he'd done. But good God almighty, did that ride feel amazing. Through trees and brooks and over bushes and logs. Louise wouldn't slow down, and Montgomery didn't want her too.

He kept a hold to the horse beneath him with his thighs alone, holding onto Katsuro with one hand while the other rested lightly on the horse's neck while Katsuro held the reins. He could feel its heart beating and pumping blood through its veins. The horse was just as excited as they were, and he could feel its elation as it thundered down the path. It'd slowed down a bit, but It was still more than content to simply run, just as they were happy to let it go.

It took them about an hour and a half before they reached Osaka. Montgomery took back the reins and pulled them so the horse would slow down to a walk. Katsuro giggled happily in his lap as they rode into the city. He'd never been to Osaka before, and the sights, sounds, and smells of the port city were all so new and exciting to him.

"Your dad should be here within the hour. He's supposed to be going to that really nice inn to do trade stuff, so we can go look around."

"Awesome! Is one of your friends gonna be here?"

"I hope so. Toshio is probably back in his village, but Bahari is usually out at sea. I don't know if he;'s here or on the other side of the world."

"I hope you see him."

"I do too, Katsuro." He paused when he saw a certain freighter before turning the horse towards it. "That's his ship!"

"It's huge!"

"Yup. It's supposed to hold all sorts of stuff and people. It's kinda cramped, though." Once on the dock the ship was docked at, Montgomery hopped down and led the horse by the reins while Katsuro sat on the horse. He looked amongst the sailors before he found the familiarly bald head that belonged to his friend. "Bahari!"

The fellow escaped slave looked up from his task and grinned before meeting up with him. "Montgomery! I see that Japan has done well for you! Where is the fat man you were with?"

"Long dead. The fucker pissed off some soldiers, and I let them deal with him if they'd spare me. I know, pretty cowardly, but ya gotta do whatcha gotta do."

Bahari nodded before raising an eyebrow at Katsuro. "Who is this?"

"That's Katsuro, the son of the lord of the Ashikaga clan. I'm his bodyguard and caretaker. He's a real swell kid."

"Hello! I am Bahari!" The sailor waved at Katsuro, who giggled and waved back.

"Are you Jun's friend?" the prince asked.

Bahari raised an eyebrow at Montgomery. "'Jun'?"

"Hey, no one can pronounce John. Ain't my fault."

He rolled his eyes. "Yes. I am Jun's friend. Are you?"

"He talks funny," Katuro giggled.

Montgomery pat his shoulder. "Be nice. He only knows basic stuff. I wasn't that good at first, remember?"

"Yeah…"

The three talked for awhile with Montgomery acting as a translator. The cowboy was happy to be able to tell his friend about life at the castle. He didn't translate the parts about his feelings for his employer, which bahri found amusing.

"You have to talk to him. You are head over heels for him."

"No, I ain't."

"Yes, you are. It is quite hilarious."

"Shut up, you fuckin' bastard. What if he don't like me that way? I'm just some foreign man who's guardin' his kid."

"Is he married?"

"Not any more. His wife died years ago."

"Does he like men?"

"I… I dunno…"

"Then ask him. If he says no, then you can stay friends or whatever you two are. He lets you call him by his first name, so that might be something."

Montgomery huffed at his friend. "Yer an asshole."

"I know, but you need someone to talk some sense into you. Now, go to your lord. I'm sure he's looking for you."

"Whatever. See ya, Bahari."

"Goodbye, Montgomery."

Montgomery led the horse off the docks and back into the city. He listened to Katsuro babble about how interesting Bahari had been, and it made him smile.

"By the way," Katsuro asked, "what were you guys talking about back there? When you stopped translating?"

"Just some private stuff from way back. Nothing you need to worry about."