Traveling Samurai

Mai and Hijikata

User avatar
Hesh
Posts: 32
Joined: Thu May 23, 2019 10:05 pm
Location: Texas

Traveling Samurai

Post by Hesh » Fri Jun 07, 2019 3:57 pm

Mai stood in the middle of the path, pipe hanging from her lips. It was a still, sunny day and the smoke began to envelop her head. She had been told in the last village that it would only take a day of travel to reach the next village, but here she was, on day three still with no village in sight. She hadn’t quite got used to sleeping outdoors, nor had she really prepared for it, with little in camping supplies or dried foods. She didn’t even know if she was still in the Tea Country or had finally crossed into the Fire Country. She didn’t think it would really matter, the two countries were so close they might as well all be one, and it wasn’t like any country cared what happened to a woman, not like what she heard about the shinobi villages. There it was said to be equal, men and women were both treated with respect. All that mattered was how strong you were, not your sex.

Looking down the path, Mai sighed. Hopefully she would reach the village tonight, she really didn’t want to sleep under a bush again, and she really wanted a bath. She was sure she didn’t smell good, not with all this walking and sweating she had been doing the past two days. The summer was truly the worst. Popping the cork off her gourd, Mai took a small sip before corking it closed again and letting it hang from her waist. She wasn’t going to get any closer by just standing here, so she might as well continue on her way. With her left hand resting on her weapons, and her right holding the pipe, Mai set off down the path. Thankfully the path was clear, and there was no one trying to interrupt her travelling, no one that she would have to pretend to be nice to so they wouldn’t attack her, and hopefully she wouldn’t run into anyone who would try to steal from her; not that she had much to steal anyways.
Characters
Miyamoto MaikoTea Country RoninD-RankTo Become A Corpse

User avatar
ShinobiTruth
Posts: 581
Joined: Mon May 20, 2019 3:48 pm

Traveling Samurai

Post by ShinobiTruth » Fri Jun 07, 2019 11:14 pm

Hijikata had been asked to visit a village in the Fire Country, of all places, to teach swordsmanship. He found it somewhat hard to believe that, despite being so close to a filthy shinobi village, there would still be someone who would want to learn the art of swordsmanship from the old world. He read the letter that had been printed on finely cut parchment. Whatever the name of this village was, they still benefited somewhat from the blood money of the Shinobi Villages. Konohagakure no Sato was both its standing army and its main source of income, as many commoners from around the country would come to Konoha to contract the services of those wretched scum. Hijikata shook his head. He would not allow himself to think about those foul demons any longer than necessary. It would disrupt the serenity of spirit he would need to teach others the path of the sword. It was from these seeds that he might spawn students worthy of learning the Hiten he nurtured and grew with each passing day.

Hijikata was coming directly opposite of the path his unwitting destined acquaintance was traveling. While she had been coming from Tea Country, this was Hijikata's first venture out of the Grass Country. This place was not his first choice as an international destination, but he did not allow his hatred to deny others something he viewed as a fundamental right. As such, he reluctantly accepted the offer. He was being offered a room at the inn in the town in exchange for visiting the local dojo and sparring with elder students. Many of them had little to no experience against Iaido, and in the interest of uniting the common people under the brotherhood of the sword, he was more than willing to grant burgeoning lifelong disciples of the blade much needed experience. It also helped him as well, to both finance his travels with the modest payments he was given in exchange for his services, and an opportunity to face the masters of other dojo in friendly sparring bouts. Yes, that was his focus. Not all the people here were bad. Just the shinobi. Just them...

The grin that had started to form on his lips vanished. Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath again, one of many since he'd crossed the Fire Country's borders.

The path to the village from both ends gave way to a large clearing, breaking from tree lines on either side. Hijikata looked from underneath the rim of his jingasa hat. Simple, worn clothing, slender legs, wide hips... he didn't need to look any higher once he saw the katana and the wakizashi hanging from her side. She was also a samurai, much like him. He had no quarrel with her. Thus, as the paths joined and they both walked towards the entrance of the village, he did nothing, keeping to himself. He was blissfully unaware of her past, nor did he realize that it might play a role in their inevitable conversation.

Let's simply hope that whatever their first interaction was, it would remain as nothing more than words...

User avatar
Hesh
Posts: 32
Joined: Thu May 23, 2019 10:05 pm
Location: Texas

Traveling Samurai

Post by Hesh » Sun Jun 09, 2019 3:11 am

Mai continued down the path, blissfully unaware that another was approaching, at least until the paths converged. Once Mai was walking beside another, the hair on her arms began to rise subconsciously. Her hackles were raised as she did the same as the other, looked him up and down. She noticed the swords at his waist, she didn’t notice any regalia about him to denote him a national samurai. He was a traveler like she was, and that made him all the more dangerous. The two walked alongside each other for a few minutes with nary a word said between them, but in Mai’s head a whole conversation or two had occurred. She already knew he was going to be a self serving, pompous, asshole. He was going to ignore her at best, and at worst, well at worst wouldn't happen as long as she drew breath.

Finally, Mai broke the silence, “So, you study the sword. What style?” She wasn’t used to breaking the ice with others, nor was she inebriated enough to make herself seem normal. And, with that, Mai popped the cork to her gourd, raising it to her lips and taking a long swig. “I’m Maiko,” she said as she lowered the gourd, fastening the cork back in. “I am a student of Iado. My sensei is amazing, he’s probably the best there ever was.” As she finished, Mai wanted to scream. She was being so awkward, and there was no reason to be. Rolling her neck, she thought to herself that she needed to get in control. She knew she was strong, she knew she could protect herself. She didn’t need to be so weird with this guy.
Characters
Miyamoto MaikoTea Country RoninD-RankTo Become A Corpse

User avatar
ShinobiTruth
Posts: 581
Joined: Mon May 20, 2019 3:48 pm

Traveling Samurai

Post by ShinobiTruth » Sun Jun 09, 2019 11:14 am

Hijikata raises his chin slightly in response to the sudden presence of conversation. The young woman’s voice spoke much of her thoughts, or at least they gave Hijikata insight into the mind of his conversation partner. She was at least fairly observant, able to read both his posture and quickly spot the handles of his swords. She also seemed to be quite defensive for reasons he did not understand, as her first inquiry was not of his name, but of his style of swordsmanship. It didn’t seem like she desired a duel or
contest. Hijikata had run into those kinds of fellows; their eagerness and, often times, bloodlust was so obvious that Hijikata could sense it before even getting close. No, her apparent boasting was not aggressive in nature. Rather, it was her shield.

What about him made her apprehensive? How curious.

Still, as a fellow student if Iaido, Hijikata would not spurn pleasant conversation. He would not shift his weapons, keeping a relaxed posture. With a smile, his indigo eyes met Mai’s with a soft gaze, an offering of peace in his own style. ”What serendipity! It is always a pleasure to meet a fellow student of Iaido. I am Hijikata of the Grass,” he introduced, offering a slight nod in respect. ”It is an honor to meet you, Maiko.”

The village was still a ways off. If they were to be spending any length of time in close proximity, he might as well try to lower the stress level of this encounter. ”My father taught me the sword,” Hijikata continued. ”Both he and my mother were instrumental to my foundations in the ways of swordsmanship. I’m privileged with the opportunity to teach basic swordsmanship to the young ones in the village we travel to now.”

User avatar
Hesh
Posts: 32
Joined: Thu May 23, 2019 10:05 pm
Location: Texas

Traveling Samurai

Post by Hesh » Tue Jun 11, 2019 2:09 am

Mai returned the smile to Hijikata, small painted red lips curving up so gently but holding just the slightest hint of reservedness. She was alone on this road with this man, she had to placate him well enough, at least until the two were joined by others. Then she could disappear into the background, a fly on the wall constantly aware of any hand trying to swat it down. The two walked for a few moments in silence until the man next to her spoke again. Telling her how his father was his sensei, and most importantly, that he was now a sensei himself. Her caution waned just slightly at the man’s gentle way of speaking.

She looked at her companion for the time over once more. He hadn’t gotten defensive around her, did he see her as easy prey? Or was she projecting upon him? He was a sensei of Iaido, but she had never heard anything of the Land of Grass. Were the men there gentler than the one she met in the alley? Less carnal in their desires like the ones who visited her mother? She shook her head to herself and pulled her haori closer to her body, covering herself fully.
“You must be blessed to have a father teach you the sword. The only gift my father gave me was…” No, she couldn’t tell this man her weapon was useless in a real fight, as long as her sword was sheathed he couldn’t tell it was a sakabato, “Well, was my life. My mother raised me alone. She is a gentler soul, I doubt she’s ever held a weapon, much less used one.” Holding her haori closed with one hand, Mai grabbed her gourd again and took a sip of the amber colored sake inside before handing it out to Hijikata, “Would you like a drink? Helps deal with the boredom of an empty road,” she said, followed by a slight chuckle at her own attempt of a joke, “My sensei was like a father to me though. I wish I knew more of our style so I could teach others. Especially the young girls so they can protect themselves.”

After getting her gourd back from Hijikata, or his refusal of it outright, she’d take another sip before corking it again, “Do you teach anyone Iaido? Or only the boys?” And, there she had gone and said it. Depending on his answer, Mai would know if she could trust this man, he hadn’t seemed shocked to see a woman carrying a daisho, but perhaps he was better at hiding his feelings than Mai could read, perhaps he was just like those outsiders who had visited her village. She hoped he wasn’t though. She could tell by the way he walked he was quite accustomed to his sword, and she didn’t know if she could best him if it was necessary, and she couldn’t let someone best her again. She had to be stronger, no the strongest.
Characters
Miyamoto MaikoTea Country RoninD-RankTo Become A Corpse

User avatar
ShinobiTruth
Posts: 581
Joined: Mon May 20, 2019 3:48 pm

Traveling Samurai

Post by ShinobiTruth » Tue Jun 11, 2019 10:21 am

It was clear that the young woman had a checkered past. Hijikata could see how tightly she held onto the walls of her shell, the only thing that she felt protected her from those who would do her harm. In his travels, Hijikata had met a number of young woman who all showed similar reservations. It was, more often than not, broken hearts and destroyed trust caused by the selfish, lustful improprieties of men. It was true that Hijikata was raised in a traditional household, and it was true that there were some manners in which he acted differently from his father, but he never doubted his parents’ love and respect for each other. Sadly, not all men in this world treated others with the same respect they deserved.

Hijikata caught the inordinate pause in Maiko’s response regarding her father, but he kept that observation to himself. At the sound of Maiko speaking of her mother, Hijikata chuckled. ”My mother... was a loving, if not stern woman,” he mused, accepting the gourd and taking a small sip of the amber liquid before offering it back. It was stronger than most sake he’d had, but it was still quite good. ”When my will was weak after training with my father, she would not tolerate my childish protests. Though my father taught me the blade, my mother made me stay the path. Were it not for her rough wisdom, I might have had a different life. A lesser one, in my eyes.”

Hijikata modded knowingly at Maiko’s aspirations to learn Iaido. ”Indeed. I actually teach, not Iaido, but basic swordsmanship myself,” Hijikata acknowledged. ”Though it would be great to teach all of my students Iaido, I wish for each student to find their own path in swordsmanship, to match their personality and their style. I use instruction of the sword to instill discipline, industriousness, and mutual respect for themselves and others through my lessons.”

Maiko’s next question, he knew, was inevitable. He had no reservations in answering. ”Swordsmanship is a way to kill. It is the harshest truth of our craft. But so long as one recognizes this, and so long as they are earnest to better themselves and only use it when necessary...”

His smile widened, his eyes alive and filled with energy. ”I will never turn away such a person, no matter who they are. Though much fewer than I’d like, some of my finest pupils have been young women.”

User avatar
Hesh
Posts: 32
Joined: Thu May 23, 2019 10:05 pm
Location: Texas

Traveling Samurai

Post by Hesh » Wed Jun 12, 2019 1:26 am

Mai smiled genuinely for the first time at Hijikata’s final statement, her mouth parting to show straight white teeth, and she finally allowed herself to relax a little around him. Maybe those of the Grass were kinder than those of the Fire or Tea. It was no secret that Fire was a military powerhouse of the world, and Tea leeched off that power as it needed. Perhaps Grass was a more peaceful nation, but no country could compare to the stories of the Holy City of Towers. She would reach that holy land that was said to be lead by women before she ended her travels. It was her goal to see a land ruled by women, a land where she would be safe, or so she thought.

“Oh, I know the sword is meant to kill, but why one uses it to kill is the important thing,” Mai said with a shrug of her shoulders, “It seems you aren’t one to use it for no reason, better than can be said for many.” As they crested the next hill, Mai could make out the small village that was their destination. Almost jumping with joy, it was obvious that she was excited to finally reach civilization again, but not for the same reasons as before. She felt as if she didn’t have to be on complete guard around Hijikata, at least not as much as other men.

Looking up to Hijikata, smiling again, “You said you were coming here to train some kids right? Mind if I watch? After I have a long nap in a real bed and hopefully this village has some kind of hot spring. I could use some time in a hot spring. It’s been ages since I’ve been in one.” Just as she finished speaking, her stomach grumbled quite uncomfortably, and the young onna-bugeisha blushed and finished with a chuckle, “Well maybe lunch before both of those things.”

Picking up the pace, energized at the sight of the village, Mai almost broke out into a jog as the two approached the village, "Come on, Hijikata, you're lagging behind," she shouted over her shoulder as they marched forward, "I'll have eaten all the dumplings if you don't pick up the pace," Mai finished with a smile as the two travelers closed in on the village.
Characters
Miyamoto MaikoTea Country RoninD-RankTo Become A Corpse

User avatar
ShinobiTruth
Posts: 581
Joined: Mon May 20, 2019 3:48 pm

Traveling Samurai

Post by ShinobiTruth » Wed Jun 12, 2019 2:44 pm

Finally, the young woman's guard fell, and her face beamed with a smile as bright as the noon sun. Hijikata could not help but smile a bit more widely himself; such joy was naturally contagious, and he could not help but share in it, as he was wont to do. "Indeed. The spirits are never pleased at needless death. If at all possible, I seek to be peaceable with all people," he nodded, looking forward as the reached the summit of the small hill. At last, his destination was near.

Hijikata was about to dismiss himself when Maiko spoke up, beckoning him along. He blinked in surprise. He'd thought she would likely have her own business to attend to, and the notion that she actually sought his company for an extended period of time surprised the young man. It also admittedly made him curious about the purposes of her travels. Who was Maiko, exactly? Clearly, there was more to her story than this now bubbling personality he saw before him. Perhaps if she saw him fit, he would learn more. "I would never turn away anyone interested in the sword, so long as their intentions are pure. You are more than welcome to observe if you wish. I imagine that it may be a bit different from what you are used to, and I'm still learning as a teacher myself, but I hope you enjoy the experience, nonetheless," Hijikata agreed.

Hijikata had packed provisions, so he wasn't starving, but he certainly wouldn't turn down the offer to try cuisine from new lands. At the pace that she started to move, Hijikata had to imagine that the young woman might be famished. At her behest, Hijikata met her pace. It wasn't much longer until they reached the village gates. The village itself wasn't so much gated off as it was fenced off, a small wooden fence serving to contain the buildings and the citizens, and a child could slip through the fence with ease. The own seemed to be broken into four main blocks, segmented by two main roads in a cross formation through the center of the village, and numerous, smaller roads split through to further divide the buildings and homes apart. Not too far from the opening of the village came the telltale sounds and smells of pans, woks, and sizzling oils. The food was near, and the decadent smells would no doubt torture Maiko's already famished senses further.

User avatar
Hesh
Posts: 32
Joined: Thu May 23, 2019 10:05 pm
Location: Texas

Traveling Samurai

Post by Hesh » Wed Jun 12, 2019 11:33 pm

Coming up on the village, Mai stopped in her tracks as they reached the fence surrounding it. The smells and sounds of cooking hit Mai's nostrils and she breathed in deeply before exhaling. "Now that is where we need to be!" And, like a bloodhound, she was off, ducking down smaller roads and cutting corners, her nose leading her the way to the smells of food. Coming upon a small ryokan, Mai wasted no time in ducking into the small establishment, not realizing she was entering the back, and came upon an elderly man tossing a wok back and forth while watching a another pan sitting over the coals with fresh dumplings sizzling in the sesame oil. At first smiling, and then realizing her mistake in coming in the back entrance, Mai exclaimed while bowing, "Oh! My apologies, I didn't realize." And, with that, Mai backed out of the back door, still repeatedly bowing and backing into Hijikata. Blushing, and turning around, Mai quickly murmured, "Oh, sorry Hijitaka-san, this is the back entrance."

Walking around the building, Mai stepped gently through the front door, slipping her Geta sandals off before stepping up onto the raised floor. "Good afternoon! Can we trouble you for some food!"
Characters
Miyamoto MaikoTea Country RoninD-RankTo Become A Corpse

User avatar
ShinobiTruth
Posts: 581
Joined: Mon May 20, 2019 3:48 pm

Traveling Samurai

Post by ShinobiTruth » Thu Jun 13, 2019 12:55 am

It was not difficult for Hiji to keep pace with his famished friend. At first, he simply followed the young woman, but as she started to wind through various back streets, he suspected that she might be following her nose too closely. These entrances were not likely to be meant for the general public, an observation he made by the obvious lack of signage above the doors. Despite knowing this, Hiji decided to let this play out. He sensed no obvious danger. Besides, it would be a fun memory between the two if their relationship spanned outside the confines of this incidental meeting on the road. Remaining quiet, Hiji watched as the scene unfolded.

Stopping as Maiko approached the rear entrance of the ryokan, he watched the young woman disappear through the portal to the inside of what he presumed was the kitchen, an amused grin on his face. That grin soon upgraded to a mirthful chuckle, which he politely covered with his hand as the sound of Maiko's panicked apologies burst into the air like the first morning cries of a songbird. Watching her profuse bows in apology with innocent revelry, Hiji looked upon the embarrassed young woman with compassion. "Well, you did at least teach them you have the most fearsome sense of smell this side of the border," he innocently joked with the woman before following her to the front of the ryokan. He noted from the summons he'd received that this, coincidentally, was the ryokan he was supposed to stay at.

Stepping into the ryokan, Hiji closely followed Maiko's lead, removing his sandals and bowing as well. "Hello, thank you for the service," he offered in a mild tone, so as not to overpower the conversations of others with his greeting. For obvious reasons, Hijikata had never been to the Fire Country before, and he was wholly unaware of their customs and culture. Though he'd visited a handful of countries, each of them had their own traditions and rules he had been forced to acclimate himself to, and he imagined this place would be no different. Still, he was happy to see how familiar the ryokan seemed on the inside. The owners, a homely and polite couple, approached them and greeted them. He imagined that Mai might have to wait a bit longer for a full meal, as he noted them scanning his clothing and momentarily focused on the dust along the fringes of his clothing and on his socks. Sure enough, the wife posed the request: "Thank you so much for choosing to stay with us! We would love to serve you a hearty meal after your travels, but we must ask you to first check in and wash up. We can prepare your meal for you two while you bathe in the onsen."

The man's lit up in recognition as he looked Hiji up and down. "Say... forgive me for asking, but are you Toshizou-sensei? You've come to teach at the dojo, correct?"

Hijikata nodded slowly. "I am he. Many thanks for your generosity in providing me shelter and hospitality."

Smiling widely, he bowed in return. "The honor is ours, Toshizou-sensei! Is this young woman your companion?" he further inquired.

Hijikata knew the man meant no ill will towards Maiko, but he realized that the phrase "companion" could have negative connotations in certain lands, so he played along with the ruse but clarified with his response. "Yes, we are fellow students of the sword. Maiko-san has come to help conduct the lessons with me," he offered, giving Maiko a slightly mischievous wink.

She would soon see why. "Oh, two teachers! The children will be most pleased. The townsfolk have made certain that your expenses will be covered while you stay with us. Please come, come!" the wife bade to them, waving them towards the reception desk.

Yep, Mai just got free room and board for a week. Booyah.

"Will your quarters be joint, Toshizou-sensei?" the husband asked.

Hiji shook his head. "Nay, we shall need separate accommodations."

After the formalities of checking in, Hiji was directed to the men's changing room, where all the necessary toiletries, soaps, and oils were present. Mai would likewise be rushed over to the changing room by the excited wife, though upon hearing Mai's stomach rumble vigorously, she would quickly excuse herself and bring a small platter with some fresh fruits and hot green tea in a kettle with a cup. She assured the young woman that since it was still the mid afternoon that she would have her side of the onsen to herself.

Enjoying the cool water in the bathing rooms, Hiji scrubbed himself down thoroughly before entering the onsen. It was all the same pool, a quite large one, in fact, but the middle held a large bamboo barrier to separate it into two sides. Hiji, placing the towel on his head and tying his hair up, stepped into the pool and sat down in the corner closest to the tall barrier. They would both have their privacy there. There was a third cordoned off section simply labeled "konyoku". Hiji had never heard the phrase before. "Curious," he muttered to himself.

REPLY

Return to “Fire Country”