September Story Contest

The Path I Would Never Trade
by HayashiOkami & Dark Steel  age 14

She was proud and loyal and wouldn’t have it any other way.  She had honor received through scars and she would never trade her life for an easier one.  She had neither comfort nor pleasantries.  But she was happy.  Content.  Her work was hard, her payment meager.  The road was tough, but she had the endurance to persevere.  Her opponents were stronger, quicker, more graceful, but she was tough and strong and pretty little baubles were worth nothing in her world.

Her master was demanding but she would travel to hell with him upon her back.  He was human and made mistakes that cost them, but she forgave him because he was human and in the end, that was what it came down to on those cold, frigid nights when he kept her protected from the elements before himself.

Her master was a proud and loyal human of honor who served his principals with the strength only humans could wield. 

He fought and bled for something I knew would never come to fruition.  Unable to tell him this, we both suffered, suffered for a future that could never be. 

The ideals that he preached every night were mere fantasies of a time long before us - a time where honor was the ultimate grace and dishonor meant death.

When his friend, a term that could not apply to me nor should it have applied to him, passed on, I was there to comfort him.  Though loss was not the same in my eyes as his, he hurt and I knew what it was to hurt and we were the only ones left in the end.  Comrades fell before us in a flurry of blades and bullets.  The new era was creeping upon us, and he refused to accept that he was losing.

He fought and that will and honor and pride and all of those silly, human things I too came to accept, were the downfall of us.  His commander was felled and yet we rode on- as one, dying as one.

The wounds hurt more than they ever had and he was still loyal to the end, when I had given up, he continued until he lost the strength to walk.

What awaited us I could not be certain.  There was no sight, smell, hearing, touch, or taste, only the knowing feeling that choked me.  There was him, my master and there was his precious someone, and then I felt another human emotion, love.  I felt all the love they had for each other and I understood it and embraced it and even though it was the end, even though he was the one who brought us down, I had to forgive.  Forgive that foolish, human heart of his that knew hatred and love, greed, pride, sadness, joy, loyalty, loss, passion, and all the rest and above all, choice.  The ability to choose his paths and life, to choose me and our fate.  To choose his ideals and to choose to die for it and to choose to be in an era that no longer wanted or needed him and his ideals.

In the end, I wouldn’t trade my life for anything.  Not for the comforts of a stable every night, not for good food every day, or a master that didn’t lead us blindly to our deaths because of his silly heart, not for the grace and beauty of other breeds, not for an easier life.  I adored those memories, even if that was too human for a horse, and I decided that my life, although hard and unrewarding, was rewarding in a way.  I knew life and its horrors and beauties and I knew all those ideals he fought for and I knew.

That was all I needed.  That, and nothing more.

Author’s Notes:

I loved writing this short piece, it was sweet and complex.  Again, it’s a bit morbid and sad, but I like that theme.  Written in the view of a horse, here’s some background:

The setting is in Japan, during the end of the Tokugawa rule.  The horse’s “master” is a samurai who was a part of a group called the Newly Selected Corps in English.  A samurai was a warrior in high class society.  During the end of the Tokugawa rule Japan was being modernized and there were two factions within Japan.  One supported the Tokugawa, and that is the side that the horse’s master was a part of.  The other supported the emperor.

To me, they were fighting a losing battle, trying to upkeep the way of the sword and the samurai in an era where they were no longer needed.  They were not saints nor were they horrendous.  Like everyone of that time, they fought for their ideals, and died for them as well.

The samurai had a code that they followed called “bushido” or the “way of the warrior”, which preached loyalty, frugality, and honor to the death.  There is a lot more history to it all, but this is the bare minimum.

The horse, which is in another story of mine, is named Michi, which means path in Japanese.  Her rider is the samurai Hayato Okada and his loved one is a friend he grew up with.  They are all fictional characters that I made up.

Hayato died in the Battle of Toba-Fushimi in 1868.  That was where the Newly Selected Corps’s vice commander and many of their other members died.  Most died before that as well. There were a few survivors and two core members lived until their 70’s and 80’s.

Michi’s point of view held to the facts that separate animals and humans, that animals have instinct that guide them and humans are different because they have emotions and free will or choice.  Michi is a Japanese horse of no particular breed.  She is probably a Kiso horse.  The Japanese horses are actually considered ponies since they fall below the height requirement.  She is a bay with a black dorsal stripe- no white markings.  The Japanese horses are known for their endurance and ability to survive on little food and in bad weather.  Their hooves are also particularly sturdy.