hitokiri no musume

by: kouchan

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chapter one

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And without saying farewell to anyone he took his horse and set out upon the journey. He did not spare his horse, and rode up upon the sides of the mountains to shorten his way. He passed safely through the country of enemies. After three days he rode in the autumn rains, which fell upon him and his horse like torrents. The horse began to slip and founder in the mud; the sky was darkened by night; familiar landmarks were washed away or hidden in the dark. The wind moaned in the trees, and Nakamura was lost. At last the horse could go no farther, so Nakamura alighted and led him by the bridle through the wild dark country. He was about to lie down in despair and was sure he would perish without delivering his message, when he thought these things his eyes slid shut and he could open them no more. And then out of the darkness came the "clack clack" of geta. The wind blew an opening in the clouds, and the moon shone through, onto the fallen form of Nakamura.

The maiko girl gasped, "otoko desu!" Her lantern bobbing above her now unpainted face. "okami! otoko desu!" Turning she hurried back to the okiya.

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The girl lay sleeping as the morning sun began it's slow journey along the tatami. "okaasan," the girl murmured in her sleep. Her pale face was etched in a grimace as her small pale hands clenched the blanket at her sides. Then with a start her strange eyes flew open. With an awkward motion she pushed herself up and rubbed her hands across her eyes. Blinking slowly the girl stood and began to untie her yukata. A clean, white yukata lay, folded neatly, just inside her door. After dropping the old yukata to the floor she quickly pulled the clean white one on and tied the simple crimson colored obi around her waist. Bending down she pulled the old tabi off her feet and replaced them with new ones. Then without another thought the girl dashed down the hall. Hesitating at the door to the kitchen she pushed aside the sliding door and peeked in.

"Tsuchan!" called Ryourishi.

"hai, Kintomosan!" replied the girl.

"I need two buckets of water," Ryourishi said curtly as he handed the girl a bucket.

"sono touri desu, Kintomosan!" The girl replied as she grabbed the bucket and rushed toward the backdoor. Reaching up she pulled a large straw hat down from the high shelf that it sat on, placing it firmly on her head, she tied the silk ribbons under her chin. Then slipping her feet into the awaiting zouri she made her way to the well of the Ryokan Shinpei. As she approached she heard the sound of metal hitting metal. Squinting she made out the forms of the two samurai dueling, or training. After a few moments the older man dismissed the younger. The latter began heading toward the well.

"Tsuchan!" he called grinning.

"ohayou gozaimasu, Teijisan," she replied just as happily if a bit more quiet.

"And to you, okusama," he said in mock seriousness, "shall I carry that bucket for you?"

"arigatou gozaimasu," she replied as she handed it to him, "but since when have I been married, Teijisan?" she joked back, "and what is making you so happy today?" The young samurai stopped walking.

"Tomorrow I shall be fifteen!" The girl looked at him imploringly. "It's called genpuku, coming of age. As a samurai I will be treated as an adult!"

"gen-pu-ku" she whispered the word.

The young samurai turned toward her, "What's the matter, Tsuchan?" The girls face was impassive, her lips a tight thin line. Grabbing the bucket she placed it near the well and began pulling on the ropes lowering the bucket and hearing it splash before pulling it back up. The young samurai who stood next to her perplexed watched as she yanked the bucket harshly over the side and poured in into it's awaiting counterpart. Her hands trembled and half of the water was lost before she was finished. "Do you need any help, Tsuchan?"

"iie!" Quietly the young samurai sat and continued to watch as the girl pulled up a second bucket and filled up the awaiting to the brim. Grabbing the handle in frustration the girl attempted to stalk back to the kitchen. The young samurai sighed, "ganko na onna no ka"

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unfamiliar words:

geta : japanese wooden clogs

maiko : apprentice geisha

otoko : man

okami : what the woman who looks after the geisha and maiko is called

okiya : where geisha and maiko live

tatami : japanese straw floor mat

yukata : informal summer kimono

obi : kimono sash

-chan : (suffix) familiar, used when talking to one younger or of lower standing. can be condescending.

Ryourishi : cook of japanese-style meal

hai : yes; here(roll call)

sono touri desu : yes("i understand")

zouri : japanese sandals

ohayou gozaimasu : good morning

okusama : someone else's wife; married woman

arigatou gozaimasu : thank you

genpuku : (from rurouni kenshin) coming of age/ becoming a man

iie : no!

ganko na onna no ko : stubborn girl