“Jirou, we must do something!” Ichirou almost screamed the next morning before the ceremony. From his exhausted appearance, he had ridden the entire night to get there in time. “There must be something! Anything!”
“There’s nothing we can do, brother,” the samurai said in a hollow voice, barely looking his older brother in the eyes. “Father has accepted his fate. He chose this. For the sake of his honor and the lives that were lost because of him.”
Ichirou stared his brother, not believing what he had just heard. “It’s our father we’re talking about!” he shouted, attracting attention. But the taller samurai didn’t seem to care at all. “We must—”
“Please, brother… Please… accept… father’s wishes…” Jirou managed to say in a hoarse voice, on the verge of tears.
Ichirou realized that. He bit his lips, held his words and lowered his eyes. Jirou couldn’t cry. Neither could he. Not now, not when many important people gathered to see the ceremony.
Then the older brother faced the reality as well. There was nothing they could do to change the fate of their father. With a sigh of defeat, Ichirou ran his huge hands over his face slowly, taking a deep breath.
Jirou couldn’t face the expression his brother did. He couldn’t see without the urge to cry inside him getting stronger. He turned to face the sky. The sun shone strongly with no clouds to soften its warmth.
Against his will, the samurai started remembering things from his childhood. When he and his brother would sneak out at night to practice. When their father joined on their late-night secret training. When their mother caught them, and give the three of them a lecture. When they all slept outside under the moonlight and their parents would their kids stories about Yasuhiro-sama.
The samurai touched his chest, where the letter, the last one, his father had written. Through his clothes, he squeezed the paper, remembering the words. I’m sorry. Protect your brother. Even now, as his father cleansed himself for the ceremony, Jirou could only imagine his father’s sad smile as he asked his final request.
“I’ll be serving our Lord,” Jirou said after a long while, after he managed to control himself.
Ichirou widened his eyes, his face showing he had not understood.
“I’ll be serving the Lord in father’s place,” the samurai repeated in a firmer voice this time.
“But I’m the eldest,” Ichirou said slowly. “I should be the one—”
“Yes, it should be you.” Jirou raised his head to look his brother in the eyes. “But I’ll serve him instead. I already talked to the Lord. Since it was father’s last request, the Lord has accepted without any complaints.”
Ichirou opened his mouth, but closed it without saying a word. He took a deep breath and then showed a sad smile. “Guess the Lord would be happy this way. You’re always the strongest… Despite my size, I’ve never won against you… Who would want a samurai like me when they can have you?” the man let out a hollow chuckled.
Jirou stopped himself before he could comfort his brother. It’s the best for him… he has a family… he has a son… there’s no reason for him to deal with the Lord… “It’s for the best… brother… Father wanted…”
Ichirou gave him a long and hard stare. “If this is for the best, then why are your eyes so empty?”
“That’s…because…” Jirou could not find a reason to say without mentioning his father. After a long time, he lowered his eyes. “It was father’s request. To make you free and live the life you want with your family.”
“But what about you?” Ichirou said, not bothering to keep his voice down. “You’re not meant to serve our Lord. Don’t tell me you forgot your dream? You admired and wanted to be like Yasuhiro-sama ever since we were kids. I know you wished to be free and travel and get even stronger. Please… don’t destroy your dreams… not for me… I’m already losing a father… I don’t want to lose my brother too…”
Jirou looked around. Many people, important people, stopped to stare at the brothers’ discussion. Even though he couldn’t hear their whispers, he could tell they were judging him and his family.
“Dreams a for kids, brother,” Jirou said in a cold and low voice. “I spoke about that when I knew nothing of the world. What kind of samurai, what kind of honor, would I find if I didn’t serve a Lord? I will serve.”
Once again, Ichirou opened and closed his mouth when he couldn’t find anything to say back.
“Jirou…” Just as the younger brother, the older one was on the verge of crying. “What kind of destiny is this?” he whispered so only Jirou would hear.
“Don’t feel sad, brother. You have the chance to live the life you deserve. Please, raise your kid so once day he will be a samurai just like father.”
The brothers didn’t exchange any more words after that. All they did was seats in the long room where the ceremony would occur.
The vision of their father in white clothes taking his own life was one they could never forget for the rest of their lives.