I watched the girl brush her hair. It was extremely long, and it shined like black water. I felt a wave of envy surge through me looking at it. She herself did nothing for me, but her hair was very pretty. It reminded me of my mother's.
It took her a while to realize I was there. In fact, she didn't notice, until she was about to disrobe and I informed her of my prescience. This probably makes me seem like a pervert, but rest assured, I was completely disinterested.
The feeling was mutual.
"How the hell did you get to the third story balcony?" she asked, too stoically for a girl who almost exposed herself.
"I just came to give you a friendly warning," I said cheerfully, ignoring her question. My face probably looked hollow and disturbing, but I had wanted to scare her.
It didn't work.
"I was just about to bathe," she said in a bored tone. I wanted to snore just hearing her voice.
"Fine! I'll wait right here for you to finish," I told her.
She made some uppity little sound and turned towards me violently, phrashing her next statement harshly.
"Say what you want, and say it quickly!"
"There is a crazed murderess on the island who has been picking off villagers one by one," I said, shrugging. "She seems to target women of wealth or beauty or prosperity. I figured you might be one of those so…yeah. "
There was a long pause as she tried to figure out whether or not I was joking. In fact, I wasn't. There had been a horrendous string of murders committed over the past few weeks, the victims all torn to shreds and defaced.
"How kind of you,. But…that sounds more like a threat than a warning," she said drolly.
I clenched my fists and giggled.
"You got me. I'm the murderer," I said cheerfully, and she shot me a look of suspicion. Seriously, she was annoying.
"Oh and, there's a tournament on Sunday. Will you attend to watch me fight?"
"Why are you changing the subject? Isn't the former a bit more important?" Her expression was annoyed, so I figured it was the 'watching me fight' part that had ticked her off, not the actual change of subject.
"Oh…perhaps…you wanted to join. I'm sorry, women aren't allowed."
"I won't be goaded into a pointless argument, nice try."
"All foreigners like to fight, right?" I said, trying to irritate her more. She was far more interesting when she was angry, I could tell.
"I can't fight," she said plainly.
"Oh really? Perhaps I will ask Hone."
"Honemei does not fight either."
"You expect me to believe two helpless kids just happened to move here on a ship full of refugees?"
"it's none of your business."
"Did he get you pregnant and you ran away? You have a slight gut so I thought maybe-"
"You will not phase me."
"I couldn't tell if you were a ninja or a prostitute from the way you dressed. I'd believe you if you said you were the latter but it's weird that you take people to bed with warpaint on your cheeks-"
"If it really makes you happy," she said through gritted teeth, "I was in the military. I wear the paint now out of habit."
"Cool! See you at the tournament!" I said excitedly, not giving her time to respond, before I added "Oh, wait…you aren't allowed. Damn."
"Why do you hate me so much?" she said in exasperation, finally giving in to my taunts.
"I don't hate you. I just met you! But…I don't particularly like you," I added, smiling. "But why should it matter? You obviously care for no one but yourself."
"Don't get preachy with me," she said, and I laughed again. Then, just for kicks, I moved closer to her, placing my mouth so close to her ear that she couldn't help but jump a little.
"So what is your power," I whispered.
"What?" she whispered back.
"You can see the extent of a person's power reflected in their eyes. But yours are so dead. All I see is myself reflected back."
"And you have the eyes of a madman."
I really didn't like her.
Aré Antaro turned towards me, silhouetted by the sunset. The view, the waning red cast over the city never ceased to amaze me. He himself was nothing short of breathtaking either- although he was my teacher and the most important man in the country he had an eternally youthful appearance, angular face strong, long red hair decorated with feathers and streaked with black.
I knew it was because he was conceited, but he had the right to be. As the Daimyo he had to make an impression, and impress he did.
"Noa," he said kindly. "What brings my best graduate to my office after so long?"
Best graduate….I knew he was flattering me. Rihei had always been his favorite. Aré was a flatterer, his soothing voice making everything seem all right even though it was horribly wrong and he knew it was.
"General, your greatness-"
"Call me Aré," he whispered, tucking my hair behind my ear, placing a cool hand on my forehead, like I was still a child and not 18 years of age.
"I have come to request a division change."
The smile faltered from his face.
"I would like to switch from interrogations to guard Capitan. If that's ok with you." I handed him the papers.
"It's very unlike you, to switch to a division over something like a childhood friend's injury."
"You misunderstand. I am switching to the division to replace Teratin as guard Capitan."
I could see the confusion etching across his brow and smiled softly.
"My country comes before friendship. As I see it, Teratin is no longer fit to carry his position. If you have any doubt in your mind that I am doing this for the good of Tsuchimei, then attend my challenge. That is…if he refuses to step down."
"Which he will," Aré said, chuckling a little.
"Which he will," I repeated sadly.
I spent the night in a bed for the first time in my life. Accustomed to sleeping as a tree or a flock of birds or on the ground, I did not sleep well. I sunk into the mattress, got tangled in the sheets, and eventually flung myself over the side. Finally, I settled for the gigantic bucket in the next room, which I later learned was the bathtub.
When Ichiwa came to my room the next morning, my eyes felt unusually heavy. I looked at her mournfully. She slapped some bread and fruit down on the table and began to eat. My stomach grumbled terribly.
"Your hair is a mess," she informed me. "People will think you're uncivilized." She laughed at her own joke and took a bite of something long and yellow.
"How do I go about getting it to look like yours?" I asked her, trying to comb through it with my hands, but finding them stuck upon less than an inch of raking. I tried to untangle myself with effort as she pushed food towards me.
"Do I need to spoon-feed you or what? You seemed pretty ravenous at dinner last night."
I recalled her telling me I'd made a spectacle of myself, but I wasn't sure how. I had tried my hardest to imitate their manner of eating, but had dirtied my clothes when the spicy yellow blob fell of the eating utensil. They had been replaced by new robes, much nicer than the ones from before, but I was still embarrassed.
I tore into the bread with my sharp canines and refused to meet her eyes.
"I thought you wanted rid of me," I finally told her, after minutes of silence.
"Yeah, well, I changed my mind. You're better company than some."
I had no idea what she was talking about, so I continued to eat. She scoffed, elaborating.
"Tatsumaru is a rather poor host, don't you think?"
"He seems very kind to me," I told her honestly.
"That's because you have no common sense," she told me, and I believed her. She was actually right on this account, and pretty right about Tatsumaru being suspicious, though I was a little too quick to believe her. He had been nothing but kind to me, and Ichiwa so far as I could tell, though I didn't get that some of it was sarcasm. However, he had fed and housed us, and would continue to do so, and I was learning so much.
Food, for example. It tasted so different in the world of civilized people. And manners, and all the weird little things people did, they were very different from my people. And Ichiwa herself was an enigma I was fascinated by, just like I used to be fascinated by butterflies as a child.
After breakfast, we made our way down the corridor. It was lined with mirrors, bouncing our reflections back and forth infinitely. Ichiwa walked quickly at this point, keeping her head down, even though all I wanted to do was touch them, so that my reflection touched me back.
"I hate mirrors," Ichiwa told me.
What a strange thing for a vain person to say.