The town’s reclusive villagers had come out in force to see the returning samurai, waiting in doorways and back alleys as he stumbled past. Hironosuke did not cut quite as impressive image the second time around; he had torn his jacket’s sleeves to shreds to make bandages for his numerous wounds, and he resorted to using his sheathed tachi as a walking stick to keep himself upright. The villagers, mostly elderly and women, watched silently without comment or offer of help.
The first villager to respond to Hiro was the inn worker Suzume, who gasped in shock as Hiro fell through the inn’s entrance. Despite his weak protestations she helped him back to his room and returned shortly with a bowl of water and fresh bandages. Hiro was uncomfortable with being stripped and washed by the young woman, but was in no shape to stop her.
“That’s quite some local wildlife you have around here,” Hiro said, the words coming out slowly and with great effort.