“Jinko Story”

Another unfinished story. I think this turned into ‘Striped Samurai’ eventually. I’ve included both versions of it.

I lie in wait. Waiting for my prey to wander by. There was a bear in my woods, and I needed to get rid of it before it killed my elk. I had tracked it for a few days and I knew its routine. It should come by here at five before going back to its den. I didn’t dare wander into its home. I would take it down here, on fair ground. With a spear in my hand, I sat in the brush. My inner clock told me it was just before five. I listened to the chirping of birds and the babbling of the nearby stream. It would have been peaceful if I wasn’t on the hunt. I saw it in my peripheral vision. I didn’t move my head. The grizzly was about to strut through the clearing. I waited patiently. As soon as the grizzly had moved past me, I sprang my trap. I stood up and launched my spear. With a spray of blood and a single cry, the beast went down. 
I walked quietly toward the beast, the spear had severed its spine near the head, killing it near instantly. I sighed, disappointed. I hadn’t had a good fight in ages. I grabbed the beast and threw it over one shoulder. I started back towards my house, wiping the mud off my face. It was a half hour walk, but a 15 minute jog. I got to the edge of my yard in about 17 minutes, the bear weighed me down a bit. I was losing my touch. 

I stopped near the edge of the yard and dropped low. Movement on the deck. I set the bear carcass down gently and moved slowly across the grass. Only a fool would try to rob me here. As I neared the porch, I saw two forms. The first looked like a man, I didn’t recognize him. He was sitting at the table next to the second form. The second person was a woman, she had long pointy ears on the top of her head, pawed hands and feet, black fur on both. She had a uniform on, black and decorated with multiple accolades. I knew who this was. I got up and moved quickly onto the deck stomping over to her before I stood at attention, “Colonel,” I saluted her.
The anubis chuckled a little bit, “Ex-First Lieutenant, Suzanne Thorne. You don’t need to salute me any more. Would you mind explaining why you’re naked and covered in mud?”
I stood at ease, “Hunting, Ma’am. Bear trying to get at my elk.”
I turned to the man who was sitting next to her, he was covering his red face with his hands, “You don’t remember what today is, do you?” The Colonel asked with a wry smile.
“No ma’am. I don’t remember you saying that you were going to bring your husband here.”
She chuckled again, “He’s not my husband. He’s going to be helping you here. Ross, say hello.”
“H-hello,” He stammered peering between his fingers. He was young, which was fine. But he was small and flabby.
“Him? I expected someone larger.”
“Your personalities align. He is here to help you get over issues, not wrestle and fight. He needs your help just as much as you need his,” She clutched his shoulder and shook him a little, “You have almost two feet in height difference. Don’t. Break. Him.”
	I stifled a groan. I had forgotten about this conversation last time she was here. I lived out here to be alone and to keep myself from hurting anyone. I didn’t want to baby sit this kid, “As you command.”
	“Suzie. I’m not trying to punish you, you’re my best friend. I want to see you improve. I’ll call tomorrow. If it doesn’t work out I’ll come pick him up,” She gave me a smile as she put her hat back on, “Now put some clothes on! That’s an order!”
I nodded, “You, inside,” I pointed at the boy and wandered inside. I had left my clothes right by the back door, “Wait here. I’m going to go shower.”
I heard The Colonel talk quietly to the boy as I headed to my room. We went way back. I might not be in the military anymore but I still respect her rank and magical prowess. On the reverse side, she thinks of me as a close friend. I wasn’t too thrilled about this whole thing, but the group she was working with had done a lot to help monsters and humans alike with whatever psychological or physical problems they have. I couldn’t remember this guys story, but why would he need me, a war vet missing one eye? An old seven and a half foot tall jinko with a bad attitude. I opened one of my drawers and pulled out a bottle of whiskey. I stepped into the shower and took a drink.

I came back to the main room to find that the Colonel had left. I was left with this kid now, “Now what?” I asked the air, hoping he might say something.
He looked up from staring at the floor. He looked up at my face before looking away when we made eye contact, he looked back at his feet, “I dunno. I’m not sure what exactly I’m supposed to be doing. You wanna do something for dinner?”
“I’ll get some instant noodles going. Want any liquor?” I walked into the kitchen and filled a pot with water.
“I’ll have some water, if that’s fine,” He followed me and started poking around in drawers and the pantry, “Do... you only eat ramen and drink booze?” 
I looked at him, “Yeah. What of it, kid?”
He recoiled, “J-just asking.”
I almost felt bad, he actually seemed concerned for me. We were still strangers though, I was on guard. I put my hand out, “Suzanne Thorne. What was your name again?”
“Its Ross,” He surprised me with a firm handshake and a look in the eyes. Seemed like a limp wristed alp from first impression, “Do you eat anything else?” He asked after we broke the handshake.
“Jerky and- Shit I forgot about the bear,” I suddenly remembered, “Watch the noodles, I’ll be right back,” I started to stomp out to the backyard.
“Do you want any help with that?” Ross called.
“Pfft, doubt you could help,” I chuckled and stepped outside. I took a swig from my flask as I crossed the yard. The sun was setting soon, so the coyotes would be out soon. Good thing I remembered. I threw the carcass over my shoulder and brought it onto the deck.
“Jesus christ, you can just throw that around like its nothing?” Ross poked his head outside.
“Make yourself useful and grab that tarp,” I barked. He did as I asked and spread the tarp out over the wood. I expertly began skinning the bear. Ross gagged, “Don’t you vomit on this! Go back inside!” I shouted at him as he turned green. He nodded and dashed inside.

I came back inside after an hour. The meat was on the drying rack and the skin was in the laundry room, ready to be washed by hand. Ross was sitting at the table, staring off into space, as if he didn’t even notice me walk into the room, “Kid,” I called.
He snapped to attention, “Huh?” He rubbed his eyes.
“What’s with you?” I growled as I dished up my cold noodles.
He hesitated, “Nothing,” He stared at his half empty bowl of noodles. 
I sat across from him at the table, “Since you’re living in my house, you’re gonna live by my rules,” He nodded and poked at his food, “Stay out of my room, don’t break my shit, and if I make food, you eat all of it.”
“Got it,” He mumbled.
“Look at me when I speak to you, boy. And talk louder when you speak to me.”
“Got it,” He said a little bit louder as he looked up at me.
“Better,” I started eating. Noodles tasted better cold anyways.
“Can I ask you something? Well, a few things,” I nodded and looked up at the kid, he was eating slowly, “Do I call you Lieutenant, Suzanne, or..?”
“Suzanne or ma’am to you, boy. Lieutenant Thorne is fine too, just don’t go using that too much.”
“Got it, uh, ma’am. So you were in the military? Before coming to this world?” 
“Don’t ask me about that stuff. I had a good hunt today and I don’t wanna kill this feeling,” I growled.
	“Sorry,” He looked back down at his food.
“My turn for questions. Last name,” It wasn’t really a question.
“Priest. No, I’m not one,” He looked up at me halfway through speaking, as if he just remembered my rule.
“Age,” I finished the rest of my noodles.
“22. May I know yours?”
“Older than you. Probably too old you, kid,” I laughed and he gave me a small sly grin, “Occupation?”
“Graphic designer. Doubt you care much about that, what about you?” He didn’t look like he wanted to finish his noodles so I reached across the table and grabbed the bowl, he gave me a thankful smile. 
“I get paid for my time in the service. I brew a little bit of my own ‘shine on the side for extra cash, but mostly to drink myself,” He was easy to talk to at least. I finished off his noodles, “Why are you here?”
“I needed to get away from home,” He said darkly, “I don’t want to kill you mood, so I’ll leave it at that.”
I nodded, “Fair enough. You’ll be sleeping in the spare bedroom. Don’t piss in the sheets.”
“I’ll try not to,” His demeanor returned to somewhat cheerful, he gave me a small laugh as well, “I guess I should move into there and finish up a project,” He got up and moved over to the small cluster of boxes and bag, “Oh, one more question and I’m sorry if this is insensitive or something. How’d you lose your eye?” Wonder in his eyes.
I sighed, “Assassin’s blade. I dodged it just in time to not get killed. Anything else?”
“No. Thank you for humoring me,” He picked up his bag and a box.
I stepped forward and picked up some of the boxes, “Over here, kid,” I showed him where the guest room was. Directly across from my room and without an attached bathroom, the guest room had a twin bed pushed up against the wall, a desk and a closet. The only other person who slept here before was the Colonel. I set the boxes down and walked out. He started slowly unpacking as I brought the rest of his crap in. Nothing too crazy, just clothes, a computer and a what seemed to be toys to me. He assured me they were collector's items. It cemented my thoughts of him just being a kid. 
“We should go out and get some food tomorrow. I’ll cook something for ya! For taking me in and all, its the least I can do,” He offered, eyes shining.
“Fine. We’re splitting bills. And you’re paying for that internet, I don’t use that nerd crap,” I told him, downing more liquor.
“Alright, well, I’ll talk to you in the morning,” He gave me a soft smile and went back to unpacking. I grunted something akin to ‘goodnight,’ and left the room.
	I couldn’t believe I was letting myself get attached to him already. His innocence and kindness made my heart warmer than liquor ever could.
I hated it.

I was marching through a forest. My team marched behind me; a minotaur, an oni a hellhound and an ogre. I knew what was coming. I wanted out. I couldn’t stop myself from moving, I tried to scream or beg my squad to stop marching and turn back before it was too late. There was a cry of pain behind me. I turned around to see the hellhound caught in a bear trap.
“Suzanne!” I heard an unfamiliar voice call.

I snapped out of the dream, I was standing up besides my bed. Ross was slumped against the wall in front of me. He was clutching the back of his head, “What the hell are you doing in here?” I growled.
“You were thrashing around and shouting. Begging someone to stop. I just wanted to make sure you were alright,” The kid explained.
“I’m fine. Go away.”
“You threw me against the wall in your sleep!” He shouted, “Who does-”
“I’m about to break you over my knee while awake. Leave me alone,” I interrupted him, seething.
He got up and stormed out. I could see him muttering under his breath. He was lucky I couldn’t hear him. I sat back down on my sweat covered sheets and looked at where he had been sitting. There was a small hole in the wall where I had thrown him. A wave of guilt washed over me. This was the exact reason I was out here alone, to protect everyone from me. I didn’t want to hurt anyone. Guilt washed over me.

Ross and I sat across from each other at the table. Neither of us had slept much. Ross was poking at the potatoes and eggs that he had made for us, “I’m gonna eat those if you don’t.”
“I’m working on it, ma’am. Are we still going shopping today?” Ross shoveled some potatoes into his mouth. He looked exhausted and I still felt sort of bad about hurting him.
“We need more food. I’ll go myself,” I offered, yawning.
“Alright. Want me to do any cleaning? Sheets? Clothes?” He asked.
“Go for it. Don’t go digging around in my things,” I stole more of his eggs.
“Or you’ll tear my heart out and eat it in front of me?” He gave me a sly smile.
“Haven't done that to anyone... yet,” I gave him a murderous smile. He laughed nervously and shut himself with more potatoes, “I’m gonna go wash my hair and head out, write down anything specific you need,” He nodded and went back to eating.

I got up and walked into his room. Flipping the light on, I saw him sitting on the bed hugging his legs, face pressed into his knees.
He looked up, “Here to break me in half?” His words burned me like a fire.
I sat on the side of the bed and stared at the floor, “I-I wanted to apologise. For hurting you. You got me at a really bad time.”
He sighed and moved to the edge of the bed next to me, “I forgive you, Suzanne, but why were you screaming?”
“Recurring nightmare of a mission that went bad,” I said darkly.
The kid slowly put his hand on my shoulder, “I know how you feel.”
I turned to him, ready to shout some profanities. There was a look in his eyes, I instantly knew he had seen some shit. He looked at me like the recruits after their first mission. I put my arm around his shoulders, “I guess that’s why we were paired up, huh?”
“Seems like it,” The kid leaned against me and closed his eyes. 
“Don’t go falling asleep on me, kid,” I yawned.
“If you need anything you know you can talk to me, right?” He smiled at me.
“Anything?” I was still shaken from the nightmare and hurting him, “I could use a, uh, hug.”
“That’s all?” He laughed and stood in front of me.
“Laugh at me again and I’ll- aaaah,” I involuntarily exhaled a sigh of relief as I melted in his arms. He had wrapped his arms around my neck and squeezed pretty tightly. I couldn’t even remember the last time I had hugged someone. When he tried to let go of the hug and back away, without even thinking about it my arms shot out and pulled him back in. He started to laugh again so I shut him up by squeezing him, replacing his laughter with a cry of surprise, “I told you to stop that!”
I finally let him get away from me, he sat back down, “Better?”
I nodded and wiped my eyes, “Yeah. Thanks, kid- I mean, Ross.”
“Anytime. Wait, are you crying?” He put his hand on my shoulder and gave me an incredulous look.
I growled and tackled him to the ground, “TELL ANYONE AND I’LL KILL YOU!” I screamed.
“Okay! Okay!” He cried as I held him down. I was straddling him and holding his hands over his head. He looked up into my eyes and smiled again. I got off of him and lie down next to him on the floor. I couldn’t help but laugh at us. Ross looked at me and laughed too.


	“Oni, Bear, what’s your status?” 
	“Explosives set. Ready to go.”
	“Good. Wolf?”
	“Cameras in the west wing are down. Patching the feed through to your devices.”
	“Sound suppression... good to go.”
	“Tiger, are you in position?”
	“Yes, captain,” I told him through the comm. I had climbed up a watch tower and taken out the only guard there. He lay on the floor in a pool of his own blood. I used the scope on my sniper to scout out targets.
	“Wolf, head to our position and have your equipment ready.”

	I woke up from the dream in a cold sweat. The amount of times I had relieved that nightmare in my sleep was taking a toll on me. I flipped the lamp on and sat at the edge of the bed. I looked behind me, I had clawed up the mattress again. Too bad they didn’t make that stuff out of kevlar. I got up to wash my face. I looked at my face. Scars littered my skin. A large scar over my left eye had blinded it. My white and black fur that covered my arms and legs was looking disheveled. My short black hair could do with a combing. I threw some water on my face and got back in bed. Not like it mattered if I looked good. I was in my late thirties. Too old to find someone. 


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