A young village woman gets in trouble for her rascally goat. Just a snapshot from Ch 2...
|This is just a little piece from my second chapter. I was looking over it fondly and thought it'd be a good chunk for review. Keep in mind I somehow lost my Italics/Bold in the Copy/Paste, so some of the dialogue looks less dramatic. Please let me know what you think! Thanks ~
"Akiraaa?!" Chief Raiden's angry shout penetrated the late morning quiet in the clearing surrounding the young woman’s cottage. A few birds scattered from their places in the brush, but the yellow-haired girl was nowhere to be seen. "Akira, you'd better come out and take back this dirty old goat of yours!"
The Chief was surrounded by four other men of various ages, all of them dressed in their working clothes and puffing from the hike up the mountainside. Among them walked the barrel-chested Kentarou, who, along with the others, was carefully scanning the clearing with an aggravated scowl. The two farmers in the back of the group were dragging a small reddish-colored billy goat behind them. The lively animal bucked and strained against the ropes tied tightly about his face, yanking the two men in all directions as it tried to escape their hold. The five men gathered in the center of the clearing, just outside the cottage entrance, and Chief Raiden shouted again. “We haven’t got all day, Miss Kurono! If you don’t come out soon, I’ll have the Village men cut him up for Plum-Minced Pie!"
"I'm here, Chief Raiden, I'm here!" Akira appeared suddenly at the edge of the clearing, trotting down from the upper reaches of the Mountain and tripping as one sandal became caught on a loose twig. “What’s all this about – Oh..!” Akira almost stopped in her tracks, surprised to see the full company of the farming men on her property. “Hi there, Kentarou, and Daisuke…” She drew herself up and pushed a stray lock of hair behind her ear. “And Mister Kyuzo… and Mister Shino, you’re here, too…” Akira’s petite form seemed to grow even smaller as she walked tentatively toward the group and met them in the center of the clearing. Her bright green eyes fell upon the reddish four-legged animal struggling behind them. Her voice wavered as she tried to maintain a cheerful tone, “I see you’ve all brought back my Little Red…”
“You’re lucky we’ve brought ‘im back alive, little lady!” The youngest farmer retorted as he took a step toward her.
“Easy there, Daisuke.” Chief Raiden raised his arm against the younger man’s aggression. “Let me speak to her first.” He stepped to the front of the group and glared down upon the young woman with his piercing, dark brown eyes. “Akira,” he said, “What in the Flaming Tails are you trying to do to this poor Village? You told me you were going to keep that nasty animal under control!”
Akira opened her mouth, but, flustered, took a moment to reply. “I know,” she finally said. “I’m really sorry, Chief. I didn’t realize he’d gotten out of his pen.” Akira worriedly glanced over the angry frowns of the four tall, strong farmers in front of her. She clasped her hands together and gave the Village Chief a half-smile. “It won’t happen again, I promise! I’ll just take him back now, and you all can be on your way.” Akira stepped to the side of the group and moved toward her beloved goat.
“Not so fast, Miss Kurono.” Chief Raiden had side-stepped, too, blocking her path. “I haven’t yet decided whether or not to give him back to you!”
“What..?” Akira looked fearful. “Whether or not to - ”
“Do you think this is some kind of a game, little lady? Do you think the farmers and I enjoy running all over our fields just to catch your filthy, rotten pet?” Chief Raiden threw his long arm back toward the animal behind him. “That creature has caused us grief for the last time, Akira! And I don’t ever want to see it in the Village again!”
“But wait a moment,” Akira protested, “I don’t understand. Did Little Red do something bad?”
“HA! What a question!” The tallest, strongest farmer stepped forward, dragging Little Red along with him. “This stinkin’ mongrel was runnin’ all over my goat fields before I even got my morning Starberry drink!”
“An’ after he was through with Mister Kyuzo’s fields, he trotted on over an’ defiled mine, too!” Kentarou crossed his great arms over his wide chest, his chin held high with indignance.
Chief Raiden nodded once, confirming the words of his men. “That’s when I went to help them catch the little brat. But by then, the ugly thing had gotten into Mister Shino’s fields, as well!”
Mister Shino, the eldest of the farming men, growled at the memory. “Praise Inari that good ol’ Daisuke had stopped over to the farm. We needed all five of us to catch that billy goat before ‘e could do any damage!”
“But Little Red… he didn’t hurt anyone, did he?” Akira looked anxiously from one farmer to the next. “He didn’t cause any harm? Why is it so bad if he goes for a little romp in the Village?”
“Because it’s the very prime of breeding season, that’s why!” Chief Raiden was livid. He pointed at her and continued shouting. “Don’t you realize what will happen if that filthy, red-colored goat gets in with the nannies at a time like this? He’ll ruin an entire generation of long-haired goats, and this Village will have nothing to trade for years to come!”
“That’s right,” said the young Daisuke, stepping up beside his Chief. “You know perfectly well that we can’t use any of our dyes on colored wool. There’s a whole Region of traders out there, Miss Kurono,” here he swept his arm over the surrounding landscape, “and every year they wait for the Yamayagi Villagers to bring their dyed yarns and fabrics for trade.” Akira’s expression began to harden at the young man’s tirade. “How are we supposed to make a living if our farms churn out a bunch of red-colored kids?”
The older Mister Shino took Daisuke’s arm to quiet him, but continued in his stead. “Akira, you should know that it’s taken over a hundred years to produce the Yamayagi Long-haired Goat. That ‘as only been accomplished by careful selection and breeding of each generation. If your Little Red were to breed with our purebred nannies, we’d be stuck with a whole generation of useless livestock!”
Akira, who had listened politely to the farmer’s complaints, finally crossed her arms and took on a defensive tone. “Well, if you’re all so worried about my ‘ugly’ goat interfering with your nannies, then why don’t you hurry up and breed them to the nice, perfect billy goats you’ve got on your own farms?”
“Any real farmer would know the answer to that!” Kentarou snarled.
“It’s because of the long winter, Akira.” Mister Kyuzo was still wrestling with Little Red, who pulled and twisted against the makeshift halter about his face. “We’ve all got to wait for the right time. I don't want a birthing on my farm until the cold season starts to ease up, so I’ve got my billy goats penned up for the next half-moon. But, you know, if this… animal…” he yanked hard on the goat’s rope, “…is going to ruin my herd for a whole year…” Little Red hooked his rope with one cloven hoofed arm, “…then I might as well breed 'em now and watch the newborn kids freeze to death in the cold!"
Akira was flustered by Mister Kyuzo’s argument. She stood there quietly, helplessly watching her favorite goat fight bravely against the restraint of the strong farmer.
“That animal of yours has wasted an entire morning for all of us, Akira.” Chief Raiden resumed his lecture. “These men have plenty of work to do in their fields, and I need to be attending to more important things – not the least of which is finding out what happened to our Salmon last night!” Akira took in a sharp breath, but kept quiet and avoided the Chief’s scrutinizing gaze. “These men and their herds are vital to this Village. They shouldn’t have to leave their work just to chase after your worthless little toy! It’s just as I told you three years ago.” Akira looked up at this, watching her Chief nervously. “You’re welcome to keep the dud goats that show up in these farms, so long as they cause no trouble or harm to the Village.”
“I think we ought to go back to how it was before Akira moved in here.” A disgruntled Kentarou was observing the frustrated goat with annoyance. “Back then we just butchered the duds when they were old enough. Then we never had to worry about ‘em ruining the bloodline. I don’t see why the little lady’s got to keep them up here, anyway!”
“I allowed her to do it, Kentarou.” Chief Raiden’s tone was slightly apologetic toward the middle-aged famer. “Akira was young, and she had no trade to herself, and she requested to keep the duds on her own property. And she hasn’t been entirely fruitless.” He raised his chin toward the four multi-colored females that dotted the small, steep field nearby. “Those nannies have allowed her to contribute a fair amount of goat cheese and butter for the Village. However, Akira,” he turned sternly back toward the yellow-haired young woman before him. “I will not continue to honor your request if you can’t keep your animals on your own side of the Yamayagi Brook!”
Akira swallowed. “I’m sorry, Chief Raiden,” she said fervently. “I really am. I never meant for Little Red to get out. It’s just… he’s really smart, you see…” One of the farmers snickered. “He always finds the weak spots in my fence, and as soon as he finds them, he gets out of his pen.” Akira heard another farmer sigh impatiently. “But…I promise I’ll fix it! I’ll fix up the fence so he can’t get out. You won’t ever have to see him in the Village again…”
“That would be good, Akira.” Chief Raiden’s voice held a sarcastic tone. “That would be good, if you could actually keep your promise this time.” A moment of silence passed, and Akira froze with fearful anticipation, waiting silently for her Chief to state his decision. “Because if you can’t keep your promise,” he turned back toward Mister Kyuzo, who reluctantly handed him the goat’s restraining rope, “I’ll give this filthy creature back to the farmers, and their wives can make a Plum-Minced Pie for all of Yamayagi Village to enjoy!” He dragged the animal past the group of farmers, fixed the anxious young woman with a stern glare, and held out the rope for her to take.
Akira’s green eyes sparkled, and she allowed herself a relieved but humble smile. “Oh, Chief Raiden,” she sighed, “Thank you…” She took the rope from him and pulled her Little Red close. “I promise he won’t cause you any more trouble.” She bent down and ran her small hand over the billy goat’s coarse, shiny wool. “I’ll make sure he stays out of the Village from now on.”
“Huh.” Mr. Shino was shaking his head. “I’ll believe it when I see it,” he said. “With all due respect, Chief, I think you’ve made a mistake, givin’ her back that goat after all the headache he’s made.”
“You’re just lucky you moved into a Village with such a nice man for a Chief, Miss Kurono!” Daisuke scoffed and turned away, already starting back down the trail.
“Well, thank you, Daisuke,” Raiden said with a smirk. “But you’d better watch it, little lady.” He cocked his head and held up a warning finger toward Akira. “I plan on keeping my promise, as well.” Akira had wrapped her bare arms around the neck of her billy goat, and was holding him tight while she listened to her Chief’s final words. “If that animal ever – and I mean ever – shows up down in the Village again, I will have him butchered and ready to eat before you even realize he’s left your property!” Chief Raiden kept his brown-eyed gaze on her for an extra moment, then decisively turned on his heel and marched past his men to join Daisuke. Mister Kyuzo, Mister Shino, and Kentarou gave the young woman a final glare, then turned their backs and followed their leader down the path through the brush. Akira was very still, kneeling on the cold ground and hugging her animal tightly to her bosom. The unruly animal had finally quieted, and he stood calmly in place while his keeper watched the five men disappear through the woods on their way back to the Village.
Akira suddenly bowed her head and tugged the goat toward her, burying her face in his long, shiny red wool. Little Red sniffed absently at her linen clothing, but did nothing to escape her hold. Akira spoke softly against the animal’s warm shoulder, and there was a slight wavering in her voice. “Oh, Little Red,” she cried, “Why can’t you just keep yourself out of trouble?”