The sun was several hand widths above the horizon before Rikishi opened his eyes. The bed was more comfortable than anything he had experienced before. Growing up as farmers, the family was not wealthy.For the first few years, he and Tarra would swap who slept on the old bed their grandfather had built and who slept between two chairs pushed together. Once he left the farm for the military, the sleeping arrangements were more varied, but it usually involved the cold, hard dirt. During the victory celebration, he spent his nights in beds, but they were rickety and uneven after a decade of disrepair. The nation switched to a wartime economy when the Order declared war on the Republic and closed many non-essential industries. Furniture repair was way down on the list of essential occupations during war.
As he sat up in the bed, he could feel the breeze from the open window and hear a commotion outside the house. Nan or one of the other staff must have opened the windows when they started work, he remembered checking it before bed, a habit from the war. When they had the luxury to sleep in a home or the remnants of one, they always locked and barricaded the windows to prevent unwelcome midnight visitors. It took all his effort not to move the wardrobe in front of the window before going to bed last night.
A knock at the door startled Rikishi as he slipped on his coveralls with no shirt on. He was in a direct line behind the door and quietly moved to the right.
“Rik? Are you up?” called Tarra from the other side. Her voice lacked the typical cheerfulness and pleasantries she was known for. Did he do something wrong already?
Rikishi glanced down. Without thinking about it, he had pulled the knife from the sheath stitched in his leather boots. He clenched his fists around the knife a few times before looking up again.
“Yeah, Tarra,” Rikishi said with reluctance. “I’m awake.”
“I’m sorry to bother you. I know you, more than anyone, deserve to sleep in but I need your help. May I come in?”
“One second, let me finish getting dressed,” he said slipping the knife back in the sheath and glancing at the empty holster in his other boot. He had forced himself to leave the small revolver he always carried around the farm for protection at home.
“Alright, Tarra, come on in,” Rikishi after slipping on the same shirt he wore yesterday. He owned only a few shirts, most covered in animal dung or tractor grease, so he needed to reuse the good ones often. The extra shirt in his suitcase was for church and special occasions. Visiting the city full of people who looked down on him and his neighbors were neither of those times.
The door opened slowly as Tarra glanced in. “All decent? How did you sleep?”
Rikishi scratched his cheek, feeling the whiskers running wild on his face. “Better than I have in a long time. You have a good bed there, Tarra.”
“Elam has the same bed in his room and Paul and…” Tarra said before stopping, looking down, and clasping her hands, “Paul and I absolutely loved the craftsmanship and quality so his parents bought us the sets for our wedding.”
Rikishi smiled as wide as he could. “Like everything, Paul only wanted the best.”
Tarra looked up and smiled at her brother. “And so did I.”
“So, what do you need from me, Tarra?”
Tarra sighed as the noise from the open window grew louder. “You hear that?” she asked pointing to the window. “I want them off my lawn and out of my garden. I didn’t do all that work for half of the city to stomp on my flowers. But do it nicely.”
Rikishi glanced at the window. “What do you mean? Just tell them to go or you’ll call the constable.”
“There are several policemen out there with the crowd and they are all waiting for one thing. You!”
Rikishi shook his head as he clenched his teeth and fists. “Why? I’m yesterday’s news and the war is over. They need to let it go.”
“You don’t understand, Rik. The families here avoided the worst parts of the war. Most did not lose their sons and their homes didn’t get firebombed. They think of it as some romantic poem with the knight in armor riding his horse to slay the dragon at the end. You are that knight!”
“They can all piss off! I’m done being their little ornament from the days of glory”
“I know but they are not going to leave until they see you. Just go say thank you and you look forward to the celebration. Something simple and they’ll feel special and leave. Please!”
Rikishi did not bother to put on his boots as he charged downstairs, not bothering to look at the two house staff staring at him. Even unshaven and with hair standing straight up, they knew exactly who he was. But he did not care. He had one mission, to get rid of the trespassers and interlopers.
As he swung the door open, several flashbulbs went off, blinding him for a few seconds. As his normal vision replaced the swirling shapes and the overwhelming color of white, Rikishi noticed a couple of microphones propped up on the porch and a film crew in the back of the crowd of fine hats and coats. What a damn boondoggle! These people would be absolutely worthless in the agricultural districts.
Instead of leaving Tarra’s property like he hoped the would do once he came outside, the crowd erupted in cheers. Some even sung a few lines from the popular Republic war songs.
“Uh, thanks everyone,” Rikishi said after waiting a few minutes for the cheering and singing to die down to a calm roar. “The Republic thanks you for your support and your efforts,” Rikishi said remembering the scripted lines from his victory tour. “But I have a favor to ask today. I’m not here on any official business. I’m here for my nephew, Elam, to speak at his school and celebrate with my loved ones. All the people who fought and died are heroes and all we want is to enjoy life with the families we gave so much to protect.”
“But only you sent all those Order bastards straight to hell, Rikishi,” someone shouted. The crowd roared in approval.
“And that favor,” Rikishi continued ignoring the loud-mouth who probably never saw a day of combat or discomfort, “is to get the hell off my sister’s lawn and go home. Thank you.” Rikishi turned as several reporters tried to shove forward and ask questions. Only the freshly painted white door greeted their efforts.
“I’m done, Tarra,” Rikishi said with a sharp tone. “After the event tomorrow, you are taking me home or I’ll walk, I don’t care. Either way, I’m not staying in this damn city an hour afterwards.”
Tarra watched Rikishi walk back up the stairs and slam his door shut.