Fan Fiction http://samuraispirits.net
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"How are you doing, Rani?"
Time passed, and neither of them blinked or spoke, their hatred for one another hanging heavy in the small room like an oppressive cloud.
Lying in bed like this, wounded, he was helpless. Sogetsu could easily kill him if he wished, they both knew he wanted to do so badly, but they both also knew he wouldn't…not yet anyway.
"I suppose I should thank you."
"For not telling the Elders what really happened."
Sogetsu smiled a cold smile and waved the notion away with his hand.
"Why bother? It'd be your word and Hazuki's against mine. I have no proof of your betrayal. I'd only make a fool of myself."
At long last, Sogetsu finally rose from where he had been sitting for a good two hours, making ready to leave, but before he did so, he leaned in close, his words for Kazuki's ears and his alone.
"I know what you are and what you did, brother. You and Hazuki are both a disgrace to the Kazama. And trust me, I will never forget it. One day, I will meter out to both of you the punishment you deserve. And that is a promise."
"If you ever hurt Hazuki, your death will be most unpleasant, brother." Kazuki hissed back.
Sogetsu laughed and patted Kazuki's good leg gently.
"Sleep well, Kazuki, tomorrow is another day. Who knows? Maybe it will be your last, eh?"
Kazuki watched him leave, angrily grinding his teeth in frustration. More than anything he wanted to ask the question that had been burning on his lips to be spoken since his brother's return, but he refused to give Sogetsu the satisfaction of hearing him ask it. But more than that, he was afraid of the answer he would receive.
"Yaggyu-san, I most humbly beg your forgiveness for doubting you and insulting you with my accusations."
"Bah! There is nothing to forgive, Yoshio!" Jubei laughed, smacking the younger man hard on the back, almost knocking him over, "I understood your anger and frustration. It is not easy to maintain manners when a loved one's life is in danger. But that is all behind us now, yes? Your mother is back, the kidnappers have been dealt with, and all is as well as things can be in a situation like this, no?"
"Yes, yes, of course. If there is anything I can ever do for you Yaggyu-san, just let me know!"
"I think keeping your friend, Bado, away from Tanaka before they get into a fist fight would be payment enough, Yoshio-san." Jubei laughed again. The two men were both drunk and involved in a heated argument across the room, which was drawing not a few onlookers.
"Hai! I'd better break that up right now! Excuse me, Yaggyu-san!"
"You do that, and mind you don't get a black eye in the process!" Jubei called after him, grinning.
"He's a good lad, isn't he?"
Jubei turned to address Lady Nozomi, "Hai, he is, and a credit to you."
Nozomi Kaori looked absolutely radiant. She had wasted no time in washing away all the visible effects of her stay in the company of the ninja. She wore a beautiful kimono of dark blues and purples accented by brilliant yellow and orange leaves, and her graying hair had been done up wonderfully with a wide assortment of tortoiseshell combs.
"He's much better than the other two." Kaori frowned, gesturing with her head towards her two younger children, who were sulking by themselves in the corner. "They were ready to write me off as dead, but not Yoshio!"
She cast her eyes downward.
"I see now that he's the only really good thing that ever came out of my marriage with my husband. It hurts, Yaggyu-san, more than you could ever imagine, to know that the man I loved and gave my life too wanted me dead - just so he could pursue his interest in a younger woman he fancied unfettered."
Jubei danced from one foot to the other restlessly; these kinds of delicate conversations always made him antsy.
"Yes…that was most unfortunate, and (ahem)…a surprise to us all."
"I think it hurts Yoshio even more so than me. He loved us both very much, but he adored his father. It'll take him a long time to come to terms with it I think…"
"Yoshio is made of stern stuff, Milady. With time, he'll be all right; I'm sure of it."
They both watched Yoshio now. He had put himself, perhaps unwisely, in between the drunken Tanaka and Bado, who continued to taunt and insult one another, shaking their fists menacingly.
Lady Nozomi laughed.
"Boys will be boys."
"That they will."
A shadow passed unseen through the forest village of the Kazama. The sentries whose job it was to see such things saw nothing and continued their silent vigil unaware of its presence. The silhouette moved with purpose, leaping from one pool of blackness to another, melting and merging with other shadows.
At length, it came to its destination, and it clamored silently through the window in search of its target, dropping to the wooden floor like ink.
He lay sleeping on his mat bed, a troubled look on his young unconscious face; perhaps he was having a nightmare. The shadow stood over him for a time, studying him, taking in his features, noting the care in which the dressings on his shoulder and leg had been placed.
The black figure sank to its haunches and a gloved hand reached out to touch his red hair, violet in the starlight. One finger slid slowly and lovingly down his cheek, and the young man's eyes suddenly flew open, wide and afraid.
His eyes met hers and the shout on his lips died away as it became a smile.
"Hana…or is it a dream?" he whispered. He noticed she had discarded her Lin Kuei uniform in favor of a simpler, plain black design.
"Shh. Yes, it's me." she smiled back.
"How did you get in here? You have to go! If you're caught…"
"I won't be caught."
"When Sogetsu came back alive I thought…"
"What? That he…?"
Her grin widened.
"Your clumsy brother couldn't best me if I let him."
"Why didn't you kill him?"
"I don't know…should I have?"
"Are you afraid of him?"
"Because I let him know in no uncertain terms what I would do to him if anything ever happened to you."
Kazuki shook his head in amusement.
"He's crazy, Hana. There's no telling what he'll do to me, or to Hazuki."
"I'm crazier, Kazuki. And I think your brother will do well to remember that before he does anything foolish."
"I won't argue with that."
She took one of his hands in both of hers and squeezed it tightly.
"I had to come and see you."
"I'm glad you did. I was worried about what had happened to you."
"How much is a lot, Kazama?"
"I'd show you if I could."
Her eyes grew sad and she looked away.
"I wish you could show me."
"What are you going to do now?" Kazuki hastily changed the subject.
"I don't know. A freelance ninja should be able to find some type of work I imagine. But I'll stay close. You'll see me again."