Time Cat: An American Feline in Edo

Tobias is just an average black cat. Well, almost black - he has a white sock on his left rear foot and a white patch under his nose. One day while exploring the yard of his Human, he comes across a curious glowing orb. He begins to investigate it and inadvertently activates it, creating a rip in the very fabric of reality. Much to his dismay, he is sucked into the rip and carried through time and space to an era much earlier than his own. Now he must track this orb across time and space in order to activate it and bring him back home. Don't forget my author page: tinyurl.com/anrisarynfb

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4. Fishing Day

         Tobias' second day came fast. He didn't realize it was morning until the sound of scampering paws woke him.
         Hitoshi was still asleep. Tobias leapt off the boy's futon, trying to not wake anyone else. This habit of the entire family sharing a bedroom was rather strange; Food Plop Lady's house was a bit smaller and had a bedroom, but no one else was in her bedroom.
         He spotted the mouse a few feet away, but something was very odd about it. It was moving rather slow as if it was sick. Tobias approached the rodent and batted it with a paw. It didn't react. Well, to be more precise, it did react, but very slowly, as if the air was made of gelatin.
         Taking advantage of the strange situation, he killed the mouse and enjoyed an early breakfast.
         Another strange sound drew his attention. He peered around the corner to see the Okaa-san (as Hitoshi called her) tending to the rice pot. She took a small bowl for herself and ate it. But these actions were also carried out very slowly.
         Tobias blinked as another mouse raced across the kitchen. This time he watched as it moved slowly towards a grain of rice resting right below Okaa-san. Watching the scene play out in slow motion made it even stranger.
         The Okaa-san screamed. But it wasn't a normal shriek that Food Plop Lady made when she saw a mouse. This one was a deep drawl that made the Okaa-san sound like a man. Tobias caught the mouse quickly, but the man-screech kept going. He supposed the slowness was catching up.
         But he couldn't live like this. It was fun for a few minutes, but now it was getting old. He yowled and anger and raced out of the slowed house.
         The entire world was slow. The Otou-san was chopping wood in glacial speed. People were collecting water from the well as slow as molasses in December. What was going on?
         He raced back inside to see that the Okaa-san was just calmed down. Her shriek had just finished and she was now displaying a confused expression, wondering where the mouse had gone. Tobias yowled again, racing around the house, tyring to figure out how to fix everything.
         Finally, he simply gave up and began scratching at the wall in frustration. He purred in anger, his tail lashing about.
          "Tobi-kun?" Hitoshi called down the hallway. The feline's ears perked up. He had spoken in a normal tone. It wasn't deeper or slower. He raced toward the kitchen, purring in joy. He rubbed up against the boy's legs and mewed thankfully. Everything was back to normal, but he didn't know how or why.
          "Watanabe Hitoshi!" The tone of his mother's voice told him he was in trouble. She stood with her arms crossed in front of series of scratched along the wall. Hitoshi looked to Tobias, an expression of shock on his face. Tobias mewed an apology, but Akiko would have none of it. "Get that cat out of here!" she demanded, pointing toward the door.
          "But, Okaa-san…" Hitoshi protested.
          "Put him outside!"
         He would have protested, but the expression on his mother's face scared him to silence. He picked up Tobias and placed him gingerly outside the door. He mewed pitifully, but Hitoshi put a finger to his lips and hushed him.
          "I'll talk to her, okay?" the boy promised. Tobias raised his tail in happiness. "Now go," Hitoshi smiled, shooing him away. "Go do whatever cats do in the day." Tobias purred towards his friend and dashed away to find a tee to climb.
          "He can come back," Akiko said, overhearing the boy. "Just make sure he doesn't destroy my house again!" Hitoshi grinned. "I mean it this time!" she added, waggling a finger at him. "Now run along. Otou-san said he wanted to take you fishing today."
         That was a little easier than I thought, Hitoshi realized. Maybe she's being forgiving because it's the new year. It should be the new year every day! 
          "Hito-kun, is that you?" he heard his father ask, the sound of chopping would pausing. He walked around the house, still carrying the axe, it resting on his shoulder. He spotted his son and smiled. "Help me with this last load of wood here and then Okaa-san will be set for the day."
         The two men, one young and one old, carried each a load. Chihiro greeted them while stirring the rice. The grain would be kept warm in the pot all day as she and Akiko prepared sushi. There would be none left after they were done, but the good part of this was that the kitchen would be mess free for three days.
         But this meant they would have to catch a lot of fish today to make this happen.
          "Why are you two still here! You have fishing to do! Go and catch us some dinner!" Akiko said sternly, shooing them off as they placed the wood down.
          "Alright, alright, Aki-chan!" Hideki threw up his hands in mock exasperation and ushered Hitoshi outside again.
          "Here," Hedeki said, handing his son a long fishing rod. "Today I'll teach you to fish for ayu."

         Scurrying down his tree, Tobias raced to catch up with Hitoshi. The boy smiled a greeting as asked the Otou-san if Tobias could accompany them. The Otou-san nodded, and Tobias raised his tail in thanks. He caught sight of a dragonfly as chased after it, getting ahead of the pair.
         They arrived at the water place about ten minutes later. This water place was not small, but it was not like the ocean. The ocean was a big and huge water place, but Tobias didn't like any water, so any water place he stayed away from. 
         But, his curiosity, as always, got the better of him. He approached the small-big water place slowly and looked into the clear liquid. He saw another cat. Why was there another cat here? Was the other cat inside the water?
         He looked up at Hitoshi and mewed a question. But Hitoshi was talking to the Otou-san and didn't hear him. Tobias looked back at the other cat and hissed at it. The other cat did the exact same thing. He backed away, his hackles raised. The other cat disappeared.
         Tobias blinked. Where did the other cat go? He approached the water again and the cat in the water was there again.
         What are you doing in the water place? he mewed at the other cat. But then the other cat did exactly the same. He tried to sniff the other cat, drawing his nose close to the water. The shimmering liquid was gray to match the ominous sky. His nose and the other cat's nose touched at exactly the same time, but Tobias' nose came back wet. He yowled in surprise and he dashed to Hitoshi, trying to hide behind his legs.
          "What are you doing, Tobi-kun?" the boy asked, looking down. "Did your reflection scare you?"
         Reflection? What is this word? Tobias ran back to the small-big water place and the cat looked back at him. He batted at the other cat, trying to touch it. The other cat did exactly the same, but Tobias was the one that ended up with a wet paw. He yowled again and raced into the tall grass, kicking up flying grasshoppers and various other cool weather bugs. 
         Hitoshi and the Otou-san laughed at his antics, which caused him to pause and look at them. Why were they laughing? Was this "reflection" a word that meant something funny?
The Otou-san and Hitoshi stopped at a busy part of the water place where the water ran fast. The Otou-san said this was a good spot. Hitoshi asked why, but the Otou-san just shook his head.
          "I'll show you," he added with a smile.
         Tobias watched as the Otou-san began hooking up the long stick with a bright object that looked like…was that his mousy-string? Tobias blinked a few times and looked again. It was his mousy-string! He made a dash for the oval shape of bright fabric and leapt at it, his chest filling with utter joy. But the mousy-string disappeared. It was up in the air! The Otou-san had it!
          "It looks like Tobi-kun wants to go fishing, too!" Hideki said with a grin, holding the lure above his head. Tobias continued to leap after it. 
         Hitoshi grabbed the feline as he tried to bat at the lure again. "No, Tobi-kun," the boy said, turning Tobias around to look at him. "You don't play with that." 
         Tobias tilted his head in confusion. That was a mousy-string! Why couldn't he play with it?
          "I'll make him one later," Hideki decided. "He seems to like it."
         Hitoshi set Tobias down and he watched the pair for a few moments before dashing off into the grass to chase grasshoppers.
          "That cat is something else," Hideki said, looking back at the lure. He tied it in a few knots, making sure the hooks where on right. "Where did you find him?"
          "He found me," Hitoshi replied, watching Tobias leap about. 
         Thinking back on just the day before, Hitoshi had been going through a stressful time. The village had been talking about the bakufu for years already, and he was just old enough now to actually understand what they were speaking of. On some days, troops would come to the village and a fight would break out. Times weren't going to be easy in the next few years. 
         He wondered if Tobias was part of everything. He often wondered about how things happened,a nd if they happened for a reason or not. He was aware that when someone died, they were reincarnated as something else, be it a bug, a plant, or even a cat. Was Tobi-kun perhaps one of his ancestors come to guide him in this tough time?
         Hideki interuppted his son's thoughts by beginning to explain how they were to fish with these colorful lures.
          "Now, Hito-kun," the older man said, "I'm sure you will like this. This is how the samurai fish."
         Hitoshi's face split into a huge grin. He had always admired the samurai. There were many always around Motonori-san's house. They protected the village from the bakufu troops and also helped when people were in trouble. Some were cold and stern, but others helped int he fields and shared meals with the villagers. He dreamed one day to be just like them and hold a katana with the best of them. He didn't care if the ones in Edo were without work. The ones in Choshu were strong indeed.
         Hideki stood, holding the pole out above the water. He let it drop into the flow and began to walk out onto the stones that extended out toward the center of the river. Here the water was swift, but Hideki was excellent at balancing. People in the village always asked if he used to be a samurai, but Hideki had always refused to answer. He had to learn his skills in combat from somewhere, right?
         Watching the lure, Hideki moved it in and out of the water. "Make sure you keep moving it," he explained. "It has to fool the ayu into thinking it is a fish."
         Hitoshi watched in awe as his father jiggled the pole, still balancing on the slippery rocks. The man had removed his sandals to get a better grip on them. His toes curled around the stones almost like a monkey.
         Finally, Hideki exclaimed in excitment. He had gotten a bite! With deft movements, he jerked the pole upwards and lifted it from the water so quickly, Hitoshi didn't even see how he did it. The line, lure, and a decent-sized fish flew up into the air. Hideki snagged the fish, it's shimmering silver scales even visible without the sun made the boy's eyes widen in utter awe.
          "Now," Hideki said, turning to his son, "you try."

         The morning soon disappeared, and the father-son team began filling their net with enough ayu to last them for days. They had to decide to not keep going after the sun finally peeked out from the clouds to tell them it was almost noon. If they took too many from the river, not only would Akiko and Chihiro be in the kitchen for days, but they river might run out of fish. There were already quite a few others doing the same thing nearby, so it was a good time to stop for them as well.
         The pair watched the sky turn from gray to blue, relaxing by the fast-moving stream. Soon they wouldn't have any free time. The rainy season was over in a few moons and they would be busy planting. The planting season was a big part of the village. Everyone was up from dawn until dusk, sometimes even later, sewing seeds and keeping animals away. Even the women would be out helping when they weren't taking care of the house.
         Hitoshi turned his head as Tobias dashed over. The cat had had enough fun for one day and he curled up next to Hitoshi who stroked his head. Snatches of a conversation trickled over to the boy's ears and he listened without trying to look at them.
          "Did you hear? There is talk about an alliance with Satsuma."
          "I don't know how. They want to reform the court to still allow foreigners in."
          "But we all have the same overall vision, right?"
         Hitoshi looked over at his dad, who appeared to be listening as well. The older man blinked when he realized his son was watching him, then smiled.
          "How are the Satsuma different, Otou-san?" Hitoshi asked, pulling Tobias onto his lap. The feline protested, then settled down into the space between the boys crossed legs.
         Hideki sighed, trying to piece together the explanation in a way the boy could understand.
          "When the Tokugawa family took power, they began to make rules about the daimyos. Choshu, us, and Satsuma, the other region that is far from Edo, were angry because they had to travel across the country to follow the rules."
         Hitoshi knew that before he was born, Japan was always fighting over territory within itself. The daimyos, or rulers of the territories, has many samurai that helped them protect their land. In exchange, the samurai got homes and food for their families from the people that lived under the daimyos. After the Tokugawa family took power by defeating the other daimyos, they made rules that said "every daimyo must spend every other year in Edo so we can keep track of them." Sometimes it became such a chore that the daimyos that could afford it would leave their wives and children in Edo because the move every year was so much of a hassle.
         Ever since the bakufu took power, Choshu had been a place equivalent to the boondocks, and that caused problems not only for the daimyos that had to travel to edo every year, but for the villagers that needed to get supplies for the farming season. They had the least of technology, where Edo had all the modern conveniences. In Choshu, trying to get seeds for planting was a hassle. Every year, they had to pack up and make the long trip to the nearest city just to get tools repaired and get proper planting equipment. Animal feed was also on the list. Lack of say in the government happenings was also an issue, so the entire region of Choshu contained these formless thoughts of anger and revenge toward the bakufu.
          "Is that why samurais in Edo have no jobs?" Hitoshi asked.
          "That's right," Hideki explained. "After the Tokugawa started leading, they made it so samurais were no allowed to carry swords anymore. They had no reason to. Everyone was controlled through the bakufu."
          "But why did it all change?" Hitoshi asked, tilting his head. He ran his fingers through Tobias' fur as he spoke. The cat began to purr rather loudly.
          "It changed because people from outside of Japan came to visit and wanted to make trades with the bakufu. Satsuma wanted to work with the barbarians, but we wanted to make them leave. The bakufu began making more and more rules to keep us quiet. They even reinstated the system where the daimyos had to go to Edo every other year."
          "So if we both don't like the bakufu, why can't we be in an alliance?"
          "It's more complicated than that," Hideki sighed, looking up at the sky. "We don't want barbarians in our land, but the Satsuma thinks we can work with them."
          "What do the barbarians do?" Hitoshi was very curious about this topic. Hideki smiled, but hoped his son wouldn't get too involved in this.
          "They came to the shore and demanded we trade with them. They got very mad when we said no at first, but the bakufu eventually agreed. They even started wearing the clothes they barbarians wore!"
          "Is that bad?"
          "Yes, Hito-kun, it is." Hideki stood up and began to collect the rods, disassembling them to be more easily carried. "Japan is full of history and it is important we do not forget who we are. We are threatened by these Western things. They might take away our identity just like they did with the other countries. We have to be careful," he explained. He had heard stories of the west taking over other places and making them into copies of themselves. "We must not give in."
          "So we don't like the bakufu because they like the barbarians?" Hitoshi asked, standing up. Tobias purred and leaped from his lap, slightly annoyed he was woken up, but if they were moving, that meant he could sleep in a sun patch back in the house.
          "That's right," Hideki said, not looking up from his work.
          "And the Satsuma like the barbarians?" Hitoshi asked as his father handed him the disassembled pole. 
         Hideki nodded. "After the man named Perry-san visited, things began to get bad."
          "Well, maybe we can work something out," the boy suggested.
         Hideki didn't reply. There was a lot his son didn't know, and there was a lot he didn't want his son to know. The world was dangerous these days. Choshu had been buying weapons in secret from other countries in preparation for the battle to come. Hideki had known for a long time that there would be a war, and he wanted to do anything he could to keep him family out of it. He thought about the potential alliance that could be had with Satsuma. At first, he grimaced at the thought, but then considered it. Maybe they could work something out.
         Hitoshi watched his father collect the last of the net and he stood up with a grin.
          "Enough talk of this!" Hideki commanded. Let's bring this home to Okaa-san!" Hitoshi's father sling the net full of wriggling fish over his shoulder and began walking back the way they came. Tobias caught the scent of the fish and raced toward it. But he was hoisted into the air before he could get a good grip on anything in the net.
          "No, that fish is not for you!" Hitoshi scolded him, putting the cat on his shoulder. Tobias mewed in protest, almost as if askingplease? Hitoshi looked towards his father, non-verbally begging to give his new friend a fish.
          "Alright, he can have one," Hideki conceeded. "But only a small one!" He set the net down and selected a small fish for the cat and placed it in the grass. Without hesitation, Tobias raced toward it, snatched it up, and shot back towards the house. Hitoshi and Hideki laughed, glad they had found this wonderful creature.
         The pair walked next to each other in silence, each thinking about what they had learned today. Hitoshi began to worry there would be a big fight or something in town in the next few days, but he hoped not. Otou-san promised they would be safe, right?

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