Lilith (lilith_queen) wrote in samurai_7,
Lilith
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Second Chances rewritten, ch. 1

We could really use a fanfiction tag and character tags so someone looking for, say, Kanbei fanfic can find it easily. What do you say?

Also, have some fic!
Title: None at the moment. Help me come up with one?
Author: lilith_queen 
Genre: Romance
Rating: T
Summary: Ukyo survives the Battle for Kanna. Barely. Now he has to make some tough decisions on what he wants to do with the rest of his life. Hint: not ruling an empire.
Warning(s): Not unless you consider Ukyo's presence and the use of a few OCs to merit a warning. Also, it's kind of long.

OK, some of you may remember Second Chances. This is not that. This is a reimagining of most of the same events, which may or may not have similar outcomes. It’s the same premise, but hopefully with better characterization and, um, plot. If you read it and it still kinda sucks, please tell me.

&

The world was burning. He was burning. His chest ached, each shaky breath searing his lungs. The wind whipped past him, here on this crumbling ledge deep in the ravine. His hair, sodden and matted with blood, barely stirred. His back was in agony, stabbing pain lancing from the small of his back all the way down to his toes, but he gloried in it. At least he hadn’t severed his spine. Pieces of metal larger than him fell out of the sky and missed him by inches. His eyes burned; he let them flutter shut. It didn’t matter now if he died. Nothing mattered anymore now that she had rejected him.

Oh, my darling, my lovely Kirara-kun…why didn’t you save me? I thought you were going to save me. Tessai…where are you? Yun-chan, Esu-chan, Warya-san…I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry. If I had known…

His mind spiraled into unconsciousness. The stone began to creak; just before it would have given way and plunged him into the canyon below, a Benigumo caught him in one of its massive hands.

It, and the rapidly dying emperor, sped towards Kougakyo.

&

The chief of medical technology at Kougakyo’s most prestigious hospital paced around the hospital bed that had been wheeled into what had once been Ukyo’s bedroom. He paused to glare at the royal advisors huddled by the door. “Do you understand the extent of his injuries?”

One, braver than the rest, spoke up. “His Imperial Majesty must sign off on these new laws immediately, or—”

The doctor’s eyes narrowed. “In addition to the lacerations on his face and the sword wound across his chest—which, by the way, severed muscle and nearly destroyed his right shoulder—he has a fractured skull, a broken back—thank heavens it didn’t sever his spinal cord—and severe smoke inhalation. His jaw is wired shut, and his left leg is broken in three separate places. He is under a medically induced coma right now for his own protection, and I have no intention of bringing him out of it. Your legislation will have to wait, gentlemen. At least until his skull has mended.”

They filed out of the room with all the haughty grandeur of the affronted aristocrats they were. With a sigh, the doctor slumped into a chair and studied the patient by his side. Poor kid. I mean, I know he’s the Amanushi, but…he’s just a kid. Younger than some of the interns I’ve seen.

Ukyo lay in the bed, all blue hair against white sheets and bandages. There was a gauze pad taped to his face just below his right eye, and bandages covered his chest. What skin was exposed was mostly mottled with bruises. Although he was lying on his back, the doctor knew that a full five inches of the man’s spine had been joined by steel pins an hour before. The top of his head was also padded and bound. He was breathing shallowly; every so often, he would let out a little cough. He was hooked up to various machines and tubes; there was an IV in his left arm and a catheter that the doctor did not want to be present for the removal of.

A nurse—young and pretty and wearing a short skirt—came in bearing a clipboard. “How is he, doctor?”

“No change yet. I want someone checking up on him every hour on the hour. If there is any change, I will be informed immediately.”

“Yes, sir.” She turned and left.

He sat there for a while longer, studying the décor. It was large, airy and light, with pierced stonework instead of glass at the windows. Closets made of exotic woods presumably held clothes. Books and scrolls overfilled the bookcase and were stacked on the floor. There was a walk-in safe in one corner; he wondered what it contained for a moment, before deciding it was none of his business.

Eventually, he rose and left the room, leaving the Amanushi Ukyo alone.

&

No. No. No no no no… Ukyo stared at the minister, who was bowed low before him and did not notice his look of shock. His voice, when he finally regained speech, was raspy and hoarse. “Dead.” For a month! A month I’ve been in a coma, and I didn’t know.

The minister still possessed his smooth, cultured tone. He had no reason to be affected by the news he was giving. “My lord, you were the only survivor. I am…sorry.”

He dropped his head and gazed at his hands without really seeing them. Tears coursed down his face and splashed onto his palms. Tessai is dead. He stayed to protect me and he’s dead! And Yun, and Esu, and Warya…and all the servants, the soldiers, everyone…dead because of me! Akemi, you…you thought I could be saved. I’m sorry. I can’t.

“And…and my sister? What of Akemi Matsubayashi?”

The man at least had the grace to look abashed. “There has been…no word. That is, she has not sent word. Amanushi-sama, we could easily send a patrol to fetch her…”

“No.” If she’s alive—and I saw her, she has to be!—she won’t come here. How could she want to see me after this? “Let her live in Kanna-mura.”

Another minister—Okumi or Ohkubo or something, Ukyo had never bothered to find out—shrugged. “The peasants will pay, my lord. It is only one small village; we can wipe them off the face of the earth within an hour.”

“No!” His head snapped up, and the force of his own voice shocked him for a minute. His throat hurt, but he continued. “You will not.”

“Amanushi-sama?” The one who had advanced the idea sounded uncertain now. “They have committed high treason against you and the State. They must be punished!”

He almost growled. “I am the Amanushi. I am his Imperial Majesty! Do you dare question my will?”

“But—”

Ukyo grabbed a bowl of fruit—the remains of his lunch, the first solid food he had been allowed since he had regained consciousness—off the bedside table and flung it at him. The man shrieked and jerked out of the way as an orange ricocheted off the wall. “Get out of my sight!”

Very sensibly, the two men nearly stampeded through the open door to the safety of the hallway. Ukyo barely registered their absence. All his attention was focused on the words pounding in his brain.

Dead. They’re dead. I led them to their deaths! And they…they trusted me! Tessai…you always followed me. Always protected me. Esumeruda, Warya…you might have been mostly in it for the money, but you didn’t have to stay with me so long. Yun…you were so nice! You didn’t…you could have gone home to Qin at any time. I would have paid for your passage. Instead you stayed…

The rods in his back prevented him from curling up into a ball and sobbing, so he threw his head back and wailed.

&

“Did you hear him? Crying out like a trapped animal, the nurses say.”

“I heard he talks in his sleep. Screams at night, sometimes.”

“Have you seen him? The scars on his face? They’re all red. He doesn’t even notice!”

“I took dinner to him last night; I didn’t see that! He looked really pale, though. Didn’t even look at me, and let me tell you, he used to!”

“Well, with your skirt that short—”

“He hasn’t looked at anyone.” This last was from a young maid with blue eyes and dark purple hair clipped short at the nape of her neck. “I took him his breakfast this morning, and yesterday, and the day before that. He just stared at the wall. Didn’t say a word.”

“Really? Oh, the poor man.” This maid had an armload of cleaning supplies. “Well, we’ve got to clean his room anyway. Suzu, you do the sheets. I’ll sweep up.”

“Oh, fine.”

Privately, all of the maids agreed that the Emperor’s physical therapy sessions were a good thing; the sooner he got back on his feet for more than 5 minutes, the more of his things he could pick up himself. Not that there was much clutter anyway, but the less work they had to do, the better. Mai, the youngest and most cheerful of the three on cleaning duty today, started to sing as she picked up socks and underwear that had missed the laundry hamper. She stopped once Suzu made her help change the sheets.

She ran her hands over the fine linen. “They’re messier than I thought. I heard he could barely move.”

“Apparently he gets nightmares.” Suzu didn’t look up; her hands seemed to move of their own accord as she stripped the bed and took fresh sheets from Kotomi’s unresisting hands.

Mai sighed and continued her work. Soon, the bed was made, the laundry had been sent down to the laundry room downstairs, and both wastepaper baskets were empty. Suzu and Kotomi picked up their supplies and left, but she lingered, running her fingers over the satiny wood of the bedside table.

There is so much luxury here, so much finery and wealth…but he’s so sad. I wish there was something I could do. There was an empty vase on the table, made of fine cut glass. She pulled the orange dahlia from her hair and looked at it wistfully for a moment before dropping it into the vase. Maybe it will cheer him up, just a little.

Ukyo entered the room soon after she left. By sheer force of will, he was actually walking. True, it involved a cane and a nurse at his elbow, but for today there was no wheelchair. He took a shaky breath at the door; his lungs still burned when deep breaths were involved. He was more tired than he had ever been in his life, but strangely exhilarated. I did it! I finally managed to get all the way back here…

He staggered over to the bed and collapsed on it, allowing his cane to clatter to the floor. The nurse looked on in alarm. “Your Majesty…!”

“I am fine. Leave me.”

She melted away, leaving him alone. All too quickly, his adrenaline rush faded, and he let out a tiny whimper. Everything hurt. The scars on his face—two of them, tracing his right cheekbone—ached dully. His leg and shoulder throbbed, telling him it was going to rain soon. His back…

Dear heavens, please. I don’t deserve to live. Kill me now, or I’ll do it myself. He would, in fact, do that very deed if he was capable of moving his right arm, an act which was nearly impossible at the moment without causing further pain. He rolled over onto his side and stared out the window, watching as a cloud of sparrows took off from the nearest roof. Why? Why am I alive and seeing this?

Something bright flickered in the corner of his vision; with some difficulty, he raised his head. There, in the tiny crystal vase one of his concubines had bought for him, was a bright orange flower. Huh? Who…? Probably one of the servants. One of the… He felt his eyes fill with tears, and didn’t bother blinking them away. She must have been trying to be nice.

&

Ukyo stared blankly at the scroll in front of him. As soon as the doctors had deemed his head injury healed without permanent damage—save for splitting migraines that descended like lightning bolts at the most inopportune times, like when he was in the bath—his advisors had begun to hint delicately that he really should get back to work. He had taken their advice, but on his own terms. He sat upright in bed, writing tray and stack of paper in his lap. He had gotten all his actual work finished last night in lieu of sleep. The most important thing left was to write letters of condolence to the families of those his own pride and arrogance had killed.

Tessai’s family—mother, sister, brother-in-law, and all his nieces and nephews—had been the first to receive their letter. It had been the hardest for Ukyo to write; Tessai had been with him as a bodyguard (and trainer, and friend) for years. The letter to Esu’s brother had been written and sent off to the translator, while the one for Warya’s mother had been taken to the post office. Now it was time for Yun’s letter. His hand was shaking, making the brush tremble as he set it to the page.

“From the Most Illustrious Emperor who Divides the Heavens, Amanushi Ukyo, to Ambassador Li Bao Zhai and his wife Lin Ying Tai, greetings. I am writing this letter to extend to you my condolences…” He shuddered and squeezed his eyes shut for a moment before opening them and continuing. “My condolences on the death of your daughter, Li Yun. She was my companion for a number of years—” Two. She was with me for two years. “—And she brought me great pleasure, as well as…” What can I say? How she always looked her most calm and sedate before tackling me into bed? How she was nervous around people because of her accent? How she… “As well as great knowledge.” There! “In fact, if it were not for her I would not now be writing this letter to you, but would instead have to rely on translators. She…” He swallowed hard.

She taught me to read and speak Qin. I remember…she never laughed at my accent. Or at my tones. She was so patient, so good…and she would never teach me how to say I cared for her. Ever. I wish I’d been able to say it, now… He began to cry. Dimly, he knew he must look like an idiot, but it didn’t matter.

“Amanushi-sama? It’s your breakfast.”

He wiped his eyes on his sleeve and glanced at the door. It was only nine in the morning and his back hurt already; he decided not to risk the walk. Instead, he hit the button on the control panel by his bed that unlocked the door. “Come in.”

A pretty young maid walked in, skillfully carrying a metal tray with a bowl of fruit, a few pieces of toast, and a jar of coffee. She set it on the table with a slight bow. “I hope you enjoy it.”

He looked at her, actually seeing her for the first time. It was the same young woman who had brought him his breakfasts for the past three days. With her long brown hair, she was not dissimilar to Kirara. Kirara-kun… He made a small noise of pure grief and discomfort. I thought you had come to save me! I thought…I wanted so badly just to see you again, just to make sure you were alright. I would have taken you away from all your toil and danger, but you wanted to stay…and I almost killed you! You and everyone you love…

The maid looked at him nervously. “Amanushi-sama…”

His hand shot out and grabbed her wrist. “You…you brought me breakfast yesterday. There was a flower in your hair. Is this it?” He indicated the one in the vase with a jerk of his head.

Eyes wide, she nodded. “I’m sorry! I thought—you’ve been through so much—I thought it might cheer you up—”

He released her wrist. “Thank you.”

“I never meant to offend—what?”

He met her gaze. Her eyes were nothing like Kirara’s. “Thank you. What’s your name?”

She turned red and bowed until she was bent almost double. “Mai Kuroshima. It was my pleasure, Your Majesty.”

As she walked out, he took a bite of his apple and began to write again. His hand did not shake so badly now.

&

The rest of the week passed in a blur. Ukyo’s thoughts returned to Kirara constantly. Kirara, and Kanna-mura. It had looked so beautiful…so bright and clean. Although the doctors still told him his lungs were too weak to venture into the lower city and his leg and back still ached when it rained, he yearned for a good, long walk. He wanted to feel the sun on his face and a strong breeze in his hair.

He most certainly did not want to be asked to sign new laws that he did not agree with. Whereas before his injuries he would have loved the debates and the decisions, now they only left him with a sort of desperate boredom, the memories of which returned as he lay in bed at night. I don’t want to be here. I want to…

What do I want? He was glad, suddenly, that he had not yet taken the painkillers the doctor had given him for his back; they made him slow and drowsy, and he wanted to think through this. He sat up in bed and looked at his bedroom; as the highest building in Kougakyo, it was lit only by moonlight. This place is beautiful. He swung his legs over the side of the bed, hauled himself to his feet, and crossed the room to the window, looking out over the city. This is my city, and it is beautiful. So why do I want to leave?

He knew the answer before it was even a conscious thought. Kirara. I want her. Since I certainly can’t take her by force…if I want her then I’ll have to go to her. I will have to earn her heart. I can’t do that from here, from this height. I can’t do that as the emperor.

His eyes widened, and he grabbed the windowsill. No. His mind, stubborn, continued on. I’d have to give up everything I…what? Worked for? I didn’t work for it, not honestly. I stole it. I don’t deserve it. I don’t even want it anymore. I shouldn’t be the Amanushi anymore. There. He let out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. Alright, now. Now what exactly should I do? Abdicate, first of all. Even if I didn’t want Kirara-kun I’m not sure I can handle one more meeting without screaming. Then…who should replace me? Who’s closest? No more clones are left, at least that I remember… He shivered, although the night was warm. Those letters had been horrible to write. Akio, Sakyo, Kiyoshi, Kyokuu…all the names had blended together in his head.

“Oh!” I know! My cousin, Michiyuki. He’s the lord of Hamamatsu, to the west. A good, steady man. And he has three children, so no succession problems there. I’ll announce him as my successor, and recommend he move the capital to his city. I’m not sure Kougakyo’s infrastructure can handle any more people. Yes…he’ll be a good administrator. Not quite so good as me, but what can you do? I must remember to leave notes for him.

Right. So. He began to pace, running his fingers through the thick blue hair that now only reached the middle of his back. Destroy important documents—won’t do to have anyone else knowing about that cloning project, abdicate, name Michiyuki the new emperor—that’ll be interesting, I wouldn’t be surprised if it gave the Minister of Agriculture a heart attack—make sure the new magistrate of Kougakyo—that’d be Sakuzen, my father’s brother—knows what’s going on, and then…then disappear. I’ll go see Akemi! He felt a pang of guilt as he thought of his younger sister. Although he knew that news of his injuries and recovery had to be kept secret for morale purposes, he wished he could have at least gotten word to her. But then she would have wanted to come here, and I’m not sure they’d let her leave…and she’d probably want to kill me too. That’s probably why she was on that transport ship with Kirara-kun instead of trying to stop those damned samurai. But…I still want to see her. And she is in Kanna-mura. With…with Kirara-kun. I’ll see her, too. And tell her…tell her…

I’m sorry. He sighed. I’ll tell her I’m sorry. And maybe I can make amends.

&

The news of the emperor’s abdication spread like wildfire throughout Gunma Prefecture and beyond. It reached Kanna-mura with the next turtle express rider.

It had been five months since Ukyo’s failed attack, and the village was growing anew. Komachi couldn’t keep a smile off her face as she sang the rice-planting song.  Her sister caught her eye and smiled back.

Akemi, barefoot and ankle-deep in mud, tried not to wince as she straightened up. Desperate for something to distract her, she had decided to assist the villagers in their planting and was now regretting it. Her back hurt, and her legs were stiff and cold. Not as cold as oniichan, though. Heedless of the mud on her hands, she wiped her eyes on the sleeve of the short white kimono she had been wearing since the attack.

Shino placed a hand on her shoulder. “Akemi-san? You’ve been a big help so far. Why don’t you go relax? I’ll do the rest of the row.”

Akemi blinked up at her. “Really? Thanks, but—”

“Go. I’ll finish up.”

The black-haired girl smiled. “Okay.”

Akemi left the field and began to walk to the cliff. She was still barefoot, and the mud began to dry and fall off with each step. She barely noticed. Oniichan… She had made two small grave markers, shrines, at the top of the cliff. Although Tessai’s sword had been sent back to be buried with him, she had stabbed a tanto he had given her into the dirt instead and scratched his name on a stone with her bayonet. The other…

Oh, oniichan. Ukyo! She had stood there for hours, hands shaking, as she fired shells into the ground to spell his name in katakana. They were rusted, but still present. She dropped to her knees and ran her hands over them. I miss you. “Hey…hey, niichan? I’ve just been planting rice. The village is beautiful. I wish you could…” She choked, coughed, and continued. “I learned how to cook. I’ve been bringing you rice every day…I hope you like it! Kirara-kun taught me. She’s so good at things like that.”

The sound of the turtle express approaching reached her ears. She stood up and walked down to the village. Maybe there’s news from Kougakyo.

This turtle express rider, Sachie, had been running the Kougakyo-Kanna route for three years. So when she stopped in the middle of the village square and cleared her throat, it wasn’t long before the villagers gathered around her. Akemi reached her just as she pulled out a scroll and unrolled it to read out loud. “’Breaking news from Kougakyo! This just in from the Imperial Office of Information, Emperor Ukyo has…abdicated!’...wait, what? I thought he was dead!” She coughed and cleared her throat sheepishly. “Right, continuing. ‘The Emperor announced his abdication on the second day of the fourth month and named Michiyuki Kajiwara, lord of Hamamatsu, as the next emperor. The former emperor’s plans for the future are unknown at this time.’ Oh, and also there’s a letter here for Kirara-san from…Shichiroji and Yukino Hasegawa.”

Akemi felt as though she was watching the scene from very far away as the villagers began to mutter among themselves. She saw Rikichi put an arm around his wife’s shoulders, and Manzo speaking angrily to his friend Kojiro. Her blood pounded in her ears, and she felt tears begin to well up. My brother is alive! Alive! He survived the fall! Ha, you stupid Shimada-san, you smiled when you told me he was dead! Well, you were wrong, weren’t you? She grinned and did a little dance. Oniichan, you’re alive!

She ran home. Although she had at first been awkward and nervous about living in the house Kirara shared with her grandmother and Komachi, it had become her home as well. As always, she wiped her feet at the door. Her things were in the bag she had packed when she first left Kougakyo. She flung off her white kimono and sarashi with abandon and pulled on a modern bra and her crimson kimono top. She fingered the silk with a huge smile. Oh, I thought I’d never want to wear this again! And pants! I missed pants! They were tight denim that had been repaired numerous times, but she hugged them before yanking them on. Finally, she picked up a red brocade headband and put it on. Hey, sensei. I’m wearing your gift again.

She left her thigh holsters and pistols in the bag. There was no point to putting them on now. Still smiling, she folded her kimono and picked up a hand mirror. Her shaggy bangs only partially hid the burn scar on her right temple, a wound incurred in the first battle for Kanna. Yep, looks pretty good. Oniichan, I wish you could see me now!

Kirara stood in the crowd, eyes wide with shock and remembered terror. He’s still alive? But Kikuchiyo-dono knocked him off the transport! We saw him! He…he reached out to me…and he died. I thought he was dead! And now he’s alive and he’s abdicated? What could he be planning?

The rest of the villagers returned to their planting, murmuring to each other. Their expressions were various degrees of nervous and worried. Kirara walked home, holding her letter. She had no desire to sing. Let Komachi do it. Or Shino. Not me, not now.

Akemi was still smiling and buckling her sandals at the door when the water priestess came in. The smile dimmed when she saw Kirara’s face. “Kirara-chan?”

Kirara flinched. “Don’t call me that.” You wanted to save him! You thought he could be stopped peacefully! Well, he’s still alive. Kikuchiyo-dono and Heihachi-dono and Kyuuzo-dono all gave their lives for nothing! Are you happy now?

Akemi shivered at the look of anger in her eyes. “What’s the matter?”

She ignored her and knelt at her parents’ shrine. Mother, father, spirits of my ancestors, kami of rice and water and sky…great Inari-sama, please. I know I am only a former mikumari, but please hear my plea. Do not let Ukyo come here, do not let him attack us again. Please.

&

Ukyo pulled open his closet door and winced at the gaudy clothes in it. I can’t believe I used to want to wear such things. Although they do look good on me… His clothing choices since his injury had been motivated more by comfort and ease of wear than by fashion. He spared a thought for his old clothes, the white shirt and purple pants that had been disposed of to treat his wounds. Akemi would be happy. She hated that outfit. Now, what to wear…

Most of his clothing fit his former station as the next magistrate of Kougakyo. As such, it was designed to attract attention, to keep all eyes on him. He gazed at a red jacket with regret before digging deeper. Surely there had to be something he could wear that wouldn’t stand out so much. I’m not a rich merchant anymore. As of yesterday, I am just a normal man. I must have some normal clothes!

Making the announcement had filled him with terror, but as he spoke, it had been replaced with a sense of calm, of certainty that he was doing the right thing. That sense of calm certainty seemed to have deserted him now as he, clad only in his socks and underwear, dug through his clothes for a sturdy pair of pants. I know there’s something. When I was at Nakuryuu I wore plainer clothes. They must still be in here somewhere…found it! He pulled out a pair of loose black pants, made of sturdy denim. And they fit! Mostly. I think I’ve gained weight since then.

As he started to hunt for a shirt, he caught sight of his reflection in the mirror mounted on the inside of the door. He had avoided mirrors since his injuries, almost fearing to look upon his own face, but now he stared at it. I look so different. His face would remain free of makeup now that he was no longer the Amanushi, and the scars on his face caught the light when he moved. The wound Kanbei had given him had left a large, raised scar slashing down diagonally from his right shoulder, which still gave him trouble when he tried to raise that arm above his head. He knew that if he turned around, he would see a five-inch scar down his spine which had only gotten larger once the rods had been removed. I’m glad the doctors cleared me for physical activity. If I had to wait any longer… He had, in fact, gained a little weight, but it was almost entirely muscle.

He shook his head and pulled out a gray shirt, cut in the same manner of those he had seen peasants wearing but rather better-fitting. OK, this works with these pants and that jacket. Let’s get these boots on, and have I got a decent spare outfit or two in here? Yes, I do. That can go in the bag then.

Two duffel bags had been thrown on the bed. The smaller one, fully packed, contained things he thought the people of Kanna might want; money, bolts of silk and cotton and colored threads, and snack food. It also held some of Akemi’s things; bullets, clothes, and books he recalled her liking. The other was only partially filled. In it, Ukyo was throwing all the supplies he thought he’d need for a new life. He began to run through the checklist in his head again as he packed. Money, painkillers, raincoat, GPS, toothbrush, toothpaste, razor, soap, nonperishable food, spare clothes—do I have enough socks? He moved to the bookcase. Hiroshi Sakuguchi’s Guide to Wilderness Survival. It’s a week’s journey to Kanna; I’m taking that. What else…hmm, book of war strategies, trashy romance novel Asuka-chan left here—better take something to read when I’m bored; detailed atlas…There’s something I‘m missing.

Ukyo hesitantly made his way over to the walk-in safe looming in one corner of the room and keyed in the access code. The door swung open to reveal a veritable treasure trove of guns and other weaponry. I hope I don’t have to actually use any of these. He swung a rifle into place at his shoulder and smiled at how easy the movement felt. This one! It was a beautiful gun, blued with a highly adjustable stock covered in steel engraving. There was a tag hanging from the trigger guard; when he read it, he almost dropped the gun in surprise. Benzaiten! This is from when I won the Kanritsu two years back. Oh, Benten-sama, I’m definitely taking this. He grabbed several boxes of ammunition for it and put it in a case to shove it into the bag. Now for a backup weapon.

Although his sister preferred dual-wielding pistols, he found it awkward and tricky. Instead, he reached for a small, compact submachine gun. It almost looked like a standard Imperial-issued weapon, save for its engraving and more elegant lines. The name, according to its tag, was Insei, with the kanji for “meteor.” He thought it suited well. As an afterthought, he buckled on a short blade, grinning. This sword—more of a long knife, really—had fallen into his possession through a masterful use of legal loopholes. It was double-edged in the Qin style and a centimeter short of being legally called a “tachi.” Therefore, it was perfectly legal for him to wear it in public.

His bags were packed, and he was fully dressed. Now, all he had to do was actually leave. Before he could lose his nerve, he hefted his bags onto his shoulder and left the room, locking the door behind him. Time to go to Kanna-mura. Kirara-kun, my darling, here I come.

&

Author’s Notes

--Yun was the black-haired concubine with the spiffy hat. Esmeralda (Esu, Esumeruda) was the blonde with the buns in her hair, and Warya was the pink-haired one. Yun is the only one who never spoke in the series, and thus I am painting her as the least bitchy one.

--Qin is a large country to the west of the one in which the series takes place. If this country is Japan, Qin is China. Ukyo's "Qin-style" sword is a jian--a straight, double-edged blade.

--Akemi is Ayamaro’s biological daughter. She fought alongside the samurai during the first battle of Kanna, but her presence failed to change anything—which is why I haven’t labeled this story AU. The night before the second battle, she was purposely left behind by the samurai because they didn’t trust her not to help her (adopted) brother. Since then, she’s lived in Kanna as a “guest.” Her relationship with the surviving samurai is nonexistent, since she’s avoided all contact with them. (Not that it was much better before, when she was a gun-wielding merchant and Kirara’s self-appointed “bodyguard.”) She’s been wearing white since the attack in mourning for the samurai, her brother, and Tessai.

Next Chapter

Ukyo makes himself useful. Kirara tries to get on with her life. Akemi struggles.

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