It was a warm June evening in a village somewhere
on the outskirts of Kyoto. On a narrow dirt road, a young woman paused. Her
eyes strayed to the houses on either side of the street, where faint lights
could be seen within. Sounds of families talking and smells of dinner floated
out and seemed to create an aura around them. She shrugged, sighed, and walked
down the street slowly, towards a much louder building that smelled of food
She slipped in the inn quietly and sat down at an
empty table. Around her were rowdy men talking, eating, drinking, and shouting.
The few women in the room were mostly serving food. The young woman put down
her small bundle and waited for someone to serve her. Her dark blue eyes wandered
around the room aimlessly.
It's been awhile since
I've stopped by here... a year, maybe? Shall I stop by Tokyo or Kyoto while
I'm here? The government has been awfully quiet lately... it's strange. Have
I been too far away from Tokyo to receive any news? Or has the Meiji government
come to its senses? She smiled cynically. Somehow I doubt that . . .
"Would you like a room, miss?" a harried
woman asked her.
"Yes, please. And some sake," she replied.
The sake was placed in front of her, and she poured
herself a cup. She stared at it for a moment.
I wonder who I am like in the matter of sake... Mother never really liked drinking it, even if she was an geisha. Come to think of it, Father loved sake almost as much he loved his sword... or is that a feature of all Hiten Mitsurugi-ryuu masters? Kenshin-senpai doesn't seem like the one to drink much... but you never know....
Sipping her drink, her eyes strayed to the door
as another person walked in. She noted it was a young man with pretty features
and a mild face. His eyes, at first glance, were placid and gentle, but she
found something underneath their depths that disturbed her. He carried nothing
but a small bundle.
The young man looked around, and his eyes met her
glance. For a moment the two stared at each other. Then the boy approached.
"Excuse me, but do I know you...?"
Karen looked at him blankly. Suddenly it dawned
on her. Her face cleared. "You ... you're Shishio-san's follower ...
A look of recognition appeared on Sojirou's face.
"Ah ~! You're Yumi-san's friend, Karen-san!"
They both stared at each other again. "Um ...
may I sit here ...?"
"Suit yourself," Karen motioned him to
sit. Sojirou bowed and sat across from her.
"Where have you been these past years, Karen-san?"
Sojirou asked. "After you left the geisha house..."
"... How did you know I left the geisha house?"
"Yumi-san had asked Shishio-sama to keep an
eye out for you."
Karen unconcernedly poured a cup of sake. "He
didn't do a very good job, if you don't know where I was." She started
to lift the cup, then changed her mind and handed it to Sojirou. "Drink,
Sojirou-kun. Didn't Shishio-san teach you how to drink sake?"
Sojirou wordlessly took the cup and wore a slight
look of panic. Karen laughed. "It seems Yumi didn't have the time to educate
He took a sip of his sake and looked at Karen out
of the corner of this eye. Karen smiled engagingly. "Do you want to ask
"..." Sojirou seemed to be thinking for
a moment. "Karen-san?"
"Could we talk somewhere else?"
"The men here are glaring at me... - -;"
Karen glanced around the room and smiled. "So
they are. Shall I thank them for the compliment?"
She stood up and called for another bottle of sake.
Then she turned to the men and winked. "Sorry, but I'm too expensive for
any of you to afford."
"^^;" Sojirou timidly held up the bottle
of sake on the table as Karen received another from the serving woman.
"Let's go talk outside, Sojirou-kun."
"Wait." One of the men blocked their path.
He held a sword in his hand and a cold look on his face. Behind him were five
other men. Karen looked up at him disinterestedly. "I told you, my prices
"Are you the woman hitokiri that works for
the government?" one of them muttered. Karen shot a look at Sojirou, but
it seemed he hadn't heard. Damn it, have they figured
me out? It sure took them awhile - it's been years since I started... Oh well.
It was bound to happen sooner or later. And that last episode at the Kamia Dojo
was enough to alert even the stupidest of them.
"You've got the wrong lady, misters. I'm just
an ordinary geisha without a job," Karen said sweetly.
"Since when did geisha carry around swords?"
the man glared at her blade.
"Ah, this?" Karen held it up. Sojirou
looked very nervous - he remembered her skill from a few years ago. "Just
a little hobby of mine."
"I don't think so!" Suddenly the man drew
his sword and lunged. Karen swiftly sidestepped his blade. A sound of shattering
china pierced the air.
"...! You broke
my sake bottle!!!" Karen snapped. Sojirou
carefully put down the one he was carrying and tried to calm Karen down. "Ah,
Karen-san, I'll buy another one, all right? Let's get away quietly..."
"Quietly! Over my dead body! They just wasted
fresh sake!!" She turned to the men, her blue eyes blazing. "I will
bring tenchuu upon
them in heaven's name, you dogs who don't know the value of sake!!!"
"Karen-san ... ^^;" Sojirou tried to block
"Revenge!" the man snarled. Karen grinned.
"You sorry dogs, is that
what you want from me? You must be from the yakuza, no?"
For answer, several blades came whistling towards
her at once. Karen smiled, ducked, and pulled out her own. It took less than
thirty seconds before the men were moaning on the floor. Sojirou glanced at
Karen, who had sheathed her blade and called for a bottle of sake to replace
the one broken. He cocked his head in thought.
I never noticed it before, but her kenjitsu is
very similar to Himura-san's. I wonder...
"Let's go, Sojirou-kun!" Karen said cheerfully, swinging her pack and the bottle of new sake. Sojirou smiled sheepishly at the people staring at them and followed her out the door.