Friday, March 25, 2016

Onna Bugeisha - Chapter Four

Sorry today's installment is a bit late - I have been on the run since before my eyes were actually open this morning. Still, better late than never (and it is still Friday). So, without further ado, on to chapter four.

Dai Yon Shou
"This will be your quarters.” Kenshin slid the fusama aside to reveal a large room, floored with fresh tatami, with several zabuton arranged around a low table. The butsudon held a simple vase with a willow branch. Shoji panels on the far wall had been opened onto the central courtyard, highlighting the view of an elaborate koi pond and single weeping sakura tree. It was everything Hiroshi admired; simple, restful, and decorated with exquisite taste. “Get settled in. We will talk more over the evening meal. If you need anything my housekeeper is at your service.”
Hiroshi nodded. “Would you mind if I looked around a bit?”
"This is your home now. If you have need of me I will be in the dojo.”
The fusama had no sooner shut than it slid open, servants delivering several elaborately lacquered chests filled with all the belongings from both his father's house and Jun's simple rooms. The message was clear, his old life was over.
He ignored the remains of his past, choosing to explore his new prison. The house was set in the traditional square pattern. The front wing contained public rooms, pristine tatami and the sparse but elegant decoration hinted that these were rarely used. His room and the room of his new master were in the right hand wing. To the left he found the kitchen and servants quarters. The inner walls all slid open to reveal the courtyard, the outer walls opened onto an encircling hallway whose outer walls also opened onto an engawa. In the summer all the doors could be opened to allow cross breezes, keeping it cool and comfortable even when the weather turned sultry.
Across the back stretched a massive training hall. Racks of weaponry and highly polished floors made it clear this room was well-used. Hiroshi watched as his new master went through a series of elaborate kata, each movement crisply precise, his gaze turned inward. His eyes lingered on Kenshin, tracing broad shoulders down a muscular back to a narrow waist. He couldn't help but wonder if the ass hidden inside baggy hakama was as well-developed as the rest of the man. Hiroshi shook his head to clear it of such thoughts, trying to hit on the man in charge of his life was probably the quickest way to guarantee he'd never again be free.
Kenshin finished the last of his kata, bowing to the shrine at the end of the room before turning to address his new pupil. “Are you getting settled in alright?”
"As well as can be expected on such short notice. Once my father decides on something there isn't much time to wrap your mind around it. In his world delay is a weakness.”
"It was as unexpected for me as it was for you,” Kenshin admitted. “I will try to make the transition as painless as possible.”
"So what, exactly, will we be doing?” Hiroshi knew he should have paid more attention to his father's lectures. The martial arts had always struck him as vulgar. When talk turned to battle he usually retreated into his own mind. Now he found himself at a disadvantage.
"How much training have you had?”
"The minimum I could get away with.” The admission wasn't easy. A man of his age and position should be competent in all the disciplines, yet Hiroshi could barely wield a blade. “I can ride well enough, and I've mastered some basic sword kata. Beyond that I'm hopeless.”
"I hardly imagine you're hopeless. Uninterested, perhaps.” Kenshin turned sharp eyes on his new apprentice. Hiroshi certainly had the physique to be a superior warrior, not terribly tall, but nicely proportioned and well-muscled. In hand to hand combat he would have a decided advantage. “Tomorrow morning we will start training in earnest. First we should talk about expectations, yours and mine.”
"I expect to be miserable.”
"I sincerely hope not. Your father expects me to train you, but I have no intention of being a tyrant about it. We will assess your strengths and work on those areas. At your age anything else would require too much backtracking.”
Hiroshi slumped against a support pillar, relief rushing through him. “Thank kami. I was afraid I would punished for my lack of skill.”
"That would be counterproductive. Neither children or adults learn well from punishment.” Kenshin rubbed the back of his neck, unsure how to open up the more personal part of the discussion. “What do you know of masters and their apprentices?”
"Not much. Most of the apprentices I've seen have been boys. I've never heard of anyone taking a student of my age.”
"That's true. Usually by the time a boy reaches adulthood he goes off on his own, although master and apprentice generally remain close. In your case, however, your father believes this arrangement will be beneficial to both of us.”
"Well, I can certainly see the benefit to him.” Hiroshi tried, and failed, to mask the bitterness washing through him. “And I guess it will be of benefit to me, assuming, that is, I ever find myself in a battle. I have to admit I am more likely to run in the opposite direction. What I don't see is any benefit to you. An unwanted intruder who will take up most of your time and energy isn't something most people would wish for.”
Kenshin took a deep breath to steady himself. “There is another aspect to our relationship. One which your father considered before asking me to undertake your training. Have you heard of wakashudo?”
"Old men taking advantage of boys.” The disdain Hiroshi felt toward such a thing was obvious.
"Masters and apprentices sharing love,” Kenshin corrected him. “I had such a relationship with my master and I assure you, I was never taken advantage of. I loved him and he loved me.”
"I am neither a child or a woman. I will not be used in such a fashion.”
"So you prefer to give? I know about your dalliance. Sex with a man is no mystery to you.”
"I am a man, of course I prefer the dominant position.” Hiroshi straightened, preparing to defend himself from being forcibly taken. “So, you see, we are at an impasse.”
"I will not pressure you into anything,” Kenshin assured him. “Although your father hoped that I could turn you away from your lover.”
"My beloved is beautiful and graceful, a talented performer in and out of bed. I can only hope he will forgive me for abandoning him without even a goodbye.”
"Some things are beyond our control. Surely your lover can understand that. If not, perhaps he is not worthy of your devotion.”
"It is I who am not worthy.” Hiroshi dropped his head, stress was muddling his thoughts at the moment he could least afford it. “I am resigned to this apprenticeship. In time, perhaps, we will become friends. I could certainly use one.”
"That is all anyone could ask for.” Kenshin stepped forward and clasped forearms with his new student. “Enough talk. I, for one, could use a good soak. I will be in the furo if you care to join me.”
* * *
Jun woke in an unfamiliar room with a stranger leaning over him. Panic surged and he struggled to push himself away from the threat.
"Don't.” A hand pushed down on his chest, keeping him in place. The image in front of him resolved into a wizened old woman. “I have done what I can, but you are still hurt. Stay as still as you can so you don't undo all my work.”
"Thank you for your kindness, but I will be fine on my own,” Jun insisted.
"You were near death. Relax and let yourself recover. No one will bother you here.” She lifted a small bowl to his lips. “Drink, it will help with the pain.”
He downed the contents, questions bursting in his brain. “Who are you? Where am I?”
"My name is Aoi. I'm a healer. Your neighbor saw the soldiers leaving your house and went to check on you. It is good he brought you here, without treatment you would surely have died.” She turned away and ladled broth into a bowl. “I had almost given up hope. It has been several days, and this is the first time you have been conscious.”
"I owe you a debt I cannot repay.” He sunk back into the futon and shut his eyes, feigning sleep while he contemplated his new turn of circumstance.

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