Stories on the Wall
While Mika was getting detailed history lesson, Raizo was getting a lot less.
Sipping lukewarm tea in a sitting room covered with aging tatami mats, he knelt across from Noriko, watching her warily, unwilling to simply accept her non-answers. She either really didn’t know much, or knew but didn’t want to spill ahead of schedule and risk incurring her mistress’s wrath.
I wonder, Raizo mused, how the Murasaki punish their own for telling too much. His clan leaders had never hesitated to cut out the tongues of talkative students; Lord Ozunu himself had been known to say he didn’t see why his children needed to talk anyhow. Silence was a ninja’s first language after all, was it not?
“Kameyo-sama has been meeting with heads of all the other clans trying to stop the bloodshed,” Noriko said neutrally. “The other clans tracked down all remaining Ozunu and wiped them out—except for you. But they will try; in order for another to assume the title of Elder Clan, every last one of you must be exterminated.”
“Unless Kameyo-sama’s wisdom prevails,” Raizo said neutrally. “She has mediated clan disputes before.”
“Several times,” Noriko nodded, “since before you and I were born. However, this is about far more than money or territory, Raizo. For the first time in our entire history, we are back to eight clans. You haven’t seen true carnage until you see pride, greed, and envy full consume hundreds of warriors.”
Raizo blinked. “Envy? Envy for what?”
Noriko snorted. “The Ozunu mastered shadow-bending a full century before the other clans. The Ozunu mastered self-healing, which no other clan ever did. Lord Ozunu himself was the wealthiest of the clan lords, and for the past five hundred years, his clan was every government’s first choice when they needed a rival taken out.” She gave a wry smirk. “Resentment is truly an ugly thing, Raizo, especially when it’s had centuries to fester.”
Raizo paused to digest this bit of information, still trying to see where he fit in. Even after his death, clan war would continue so…why? Why was Lady Kameyo protecting him? Was she going to offer his head up to the highest bidder?
“I need to see Mika,” he said suddenly. “Now.”
“We’ve been over this,” Noriko sighed. “She’s safe.”
“I know she’s safe,” Raizo replied curtly, letting his irritation show, “but that doesn’t mean I can’t see her…now.”
Noriko paused, eyeing him for a moment before giving in and leading the way. They found Mika Coretti and Shiori still together. Shiori was sitting cross-legged and eyeing herself in hand-held mirror while Mika knelt behind her, skillfully braiding the ninja’s hair. For some reason, the sight of them like that disturbed the living hell out of him.
Mika had just finished the last braid when Raizo entered the room like a towering storm, glaring at Shiori.
“Get out,” he ordered her, stepping aside from the darkened doorway. “Now.”
Shiori snorted derisively instead, calmly patting her head to make sure her cornrows were tight enough. “Or you’ll do what?” she asked.
“The last time I crossed paths with a Murasaki,” Raizo told her honestly, “I cut her up and stuffed in her a dryer in a downtown Laundromat.”
Behind Shiori, Mika stiffened at his declaration, and Raizo cursed himself for speaking thusly in front of her. But what was done could not be undone, and now he had to finish what he started.
So he took a menacing step towards Shiori. “The First Law of the Murasaki forbids you from harming me or Mika,” he said in an iron tone, “but even if there were still any Ozunu laws left, none of them would forbid me from doing to you what I did to your sister.”
Shiori dropped the mirror at once and smoothly rose to her feet, quick as lightning. Mika’s breath audibly caught; her special heart began to pound. Raizo steeled himself against instinctively snapping the Shiori’s neck.
At least…not in front of Mika. He’d done enough violence in front of her.
“Since we’re talking plainly, I should you remind you that you’re not in Berlin,” Shiori told Raizo with equal honesty. “You’re no longer a ‘favored son’. You are not here as a ‘guest’, and no one in this house will be dying for you or by your hand. Kameyo-sama made it very clear that if you start any of your antics here, your life is forfeit—comprends-tu?”
Raizo didn’t flinch, and his words came out dangerously low. “Stay away from Mika,” he warned, never taking his eyes away from hers.
“Why?” Shiori scoffed gaily. “You obviously can’t.” She leaned into whisper very lightly, so Mika couldn’t hear, “I can smell her on your breath. Is she as sweet as she smells?”
Shiori laughed loudly, practically skipping from Mika’s room and sliding the door shut behind her. Raizo immediately set about to do damage control; it was important Mika understood exactly what she was dealing with.
“She likes you,” he blurted without thinking, before mentally kicking himself. That’s not…quite…how I wanted to start this….
“So?” Mika asked defiantly, rising to her feet. “I don’t feel like getting stabbed in the chest again, Raizo, so she can like me all she wants. They all can like me. You’d do well to make them like you too, you know.”
“No, Mika,” he shook his head, coming forward slowly. “I mean, she…likes you.”
Mika blinked, taking a second to understand. “Ohhhhhhh,” she nodded. She shook her head as if to clear it. “I still don’t see the problem. Her affection still works to my advantage.”
Raizo’s eyebrow shot up. “You sound like a ninja,” he observed, and there was a hint of alarm in his voice.
“I don’t know if that’s a compliment or an insult,” Mika replied.
“Neither do I,” he said truthfully. “This is not what I wanted for you. I wanted to wait until things were more…normal…for us.”
Oh, Mika mentally snorted. So now he wants to talk about that. Why? Because he thinks someone else is interested?
She couldn’t deny that the notion of his jealousy gave her a powerful surge of pleasure.
“Mika,” he began gingerly but seriously, “the Murasaki are extremely charming, sophisticated and beautiful…but they are killers, Mika, which is precisely why they work so hard to develop those traits. So when Shiori laughs with you and tells you stories—”
“She’s simply earning my trust?” Mika finished for him. “Making me more comfortable? Trying to get me in bed by wooing me first? Gee…’cause that such a terrible way to initiate—”
“I didn’t mean for it to happen like that!” Raizo interrupted her urgently, grabbing both of her arms and holding them lightly. “Like I said, I wanted to wait. I thought things could be normal for us. Yesterday, I went to see Maslow. I went to promise him you’d be safe with me, but now…now we are here, dealing with this…and it’s all my fault.”
Mika sighed wearily, shaking her head. “To hear Shiori talk, this really isn’t your fault. Clan wars come and go; all they need is an excuse to start. If it hadn’t been you, it would’ve been something else.”
“This is different,” Raizo shook his head. “I wish it wasn’t but it is. This is bigger, even bigger than I thought. Lady Kameyo arrives tomorrow and I grow more and more…concerned. She’s diffused conflicts before, but this one may be too great for her.” He got that faraway look again, as though he remembering something painful; it caused his brow to furrow ominously before he returned to the here and now.
“In the meantime, Mika, watch yourself,” he cautioned lowly. “No matter how pleasant they are, no matter how sweetly they smile, do not trust them.”
He was leaning forward, as if to kiss her, when Noriko entered suddenly, and Mika knew it was time for Raizo to go. She didn’t like how far apart they were being kept; it smelled too much like divide and conquer. But they were outnumbered and in no position to object.
That night, Mika lay awake on her cool futon, pondering the faded images spread across her walls. Who had slept in this room before her? Was she too a soldier dead and gone?
Shiori arrived at dawn, swathed in a sheer white cloth. She woke Mika with a firm shake. “Viens,” she greeted Mika, “it’s time for the morning bath.”
The bathhouse was located in the west wing of the first floor of Hotel Red Sand. There were no partitions and no shower heads, just tub after wooden tub of steaming water. Dozens of Murasaki ninja filed through, ranging from their late teens to mid-thirties, it seemed. They stripped down without hesitance, and to Mika’s surprise, even chatted with each other.
“Get undressed,” Shiori ordered, and Mika raised an eyebrow. What was with ninja always trying to get her to strip?
Wearily, she complied, noticing how openly Shiori appreciated her naked form. It was on the tip of her tongue to let the ninja know she’d spent her junior year in college as a payback lesbian, only to find the whole thing simply wasn’t for her. But then…Mika reconsidered.
She sank into a tub, gratefully immersing herself in the hot water. Shiori shed her white cloth and joined her, talking all the while.
“Our meals are simple,” she explained. “I hope you know how to use chopsticks. While I am at practice, Kiyomi will be your guide. She’s that pretty blind one over there.” She gestured to a girl no more than fifteen or so being helped into her tub. The child was very lovely, with a purely innocent face. “She was born blind,” Shiori explained, “which meant she could never be an assassin, of course. However, Kiyomi has an impeccable memory and has committed herself to memorizing and recording Murasaki history.”
“And Raizo? Where will he be?”
“Raizo will be at practice with us,” Shiori blinked, as though it were obvious. “There is much we can him teach, and vice versa.” She snorted, lightly sponging her arms. “Alors, it will keep him alive. For a while, anyway.
“One of our sisters did not come home this morning,” Shiori went on, as the old crone from the day before hobbled about, passing out strange green leaves with which the women scrubbed themselves. Mika reasoned it had to do with eliminating scents.
What does it do for cellulite?
“You can have her clothes,” Shiori announced simply. “And before you say no, remember that we cannot have you greeting Lady Kameyo in jeans and a T-shirt, Mika. Mika,” she laughed suddenly. “Do you know what your name means in our language? It means ‘beautiful fragrance.’” She laughed again. “Beautiful fragrance…like pineapple.”
Mika had no clue what to say to that, so she just let Shiori ramble on.
“Three meals a day are served, Mika, and only three. You may not want to miss any of them. You might find them quite bland, but Raizo will no doubt think they are gourmet. The Ozunu never did feed their children well, you know.”
“You seemed know a lot about the way of the Ozunu,” Mika remarked.
“More than the sword,” Shiori shrugged, “more than blending into shadow…knowledge is true power, Mika.”
“Not yet,” Shiori chuckled. “But you will.”
The clothes delivered to her room were simple but highly flattering. She was given, for starters, a plain white linen backless dress which tied around her neck and flowed breezily about her body. She tried not to think about its unfortunate previous owner, but couldn’t help but wonder what her name had been.
The library was in the north wing of the hotel where Raizo was staying; she knew that by the time she got to go there, he would already be gone. Even now he was probably bathing alone in a giant wooden tub somewhere. Her body warmed to think him of naked and soaking alone somewhere, his body surrounded by delicate tufts of steam.
There was a large room on the first floor for meals. Lit with candles, its floor was covered in mats, and it has a single, very long table around which the Murasaki knelt, eating noodles and vegetables from wooden bowls. A young girl served boiled meat, but it looked rather plain, so Mika abstained.
Raizo was late; he came in wearing only black cotton pants, his long hair still wet and dripping tantalizing droplets upon shoulders; they cruelly slid down his sculpted shoulders and chest. Mika tried not to stare; however, she noticed some of the other women smirking at one another knowingly.
How long has it been since these bitches got some? And did any of them ever sleep with him? I think he would at least mention that!
Mika immediately pushed that thought far from her mind, trying to focus on her meal. The vegetables weren’t cooked all the way, so they were still crisp and nutritious. The clear soup was hot, filling, and tangy; it went well with the noodles. The tea was flavorful, slightly bitter but in a good way. She longed for chilled pineapple juice, but knew better than to hold her breath.
After the meal, Shiori escorted Mika back to her room where she was instructed to wait for Kiyomi. Shiori was gone not five minutes before Raizo showed up. He lingered by the door for some reason, with an oddly discomfited look.
“I have been…invited to practice with them,” he told her uneasily. “When you see me at lunch, I may look a bit bloody.”
“I’ve seen you half-dead, remember?” she reminded him softly. She sighed and came over to him. She meant to reach out and reassuringly pat his shoulder but instead she wound up pinned to the wall.
It took her a full second to realize Raizo was kissing her deeply, thoroughly exploring her mouth with his tongue while his hands roamed over her body.
“Mika,” he murmured, sounding defeated, “Mika…what are you wearing?”
She tried to reply but he didn’t break the next kiss for several long moments; by the time he lowered his searing mouth to her neck and clavicle, Mika’d already forgotten what she was going to say. Her fingers sank into his damp hair as she passionately kissed him back, feeling him grow hard against her.
He slid her dress up, reaching underneath and stripping away her panties without hesitation.
Morning wood, she reasoned fleetingly. Turns even the sanest men into morons.
She wanted to object, to let him know Kiyomi was coming to find her, but as always, Raizo was several steps ahead. Already his black pants where pushed down to mid-thigh, while he impatiently hoisted her legs around his waist and quickly took her against the wall before she could talk some sense into him.
He really needed to stop saying her name. Combined with his slow, steady movements, and the muscles tensing delectably in his neck and shoulders, he was making her lose her wits, her awareness of their surroundings which, last she checked, they weren’t supposed to do.
“…can’t…dress…like that…,” he rasped between kisses, never breaking rhythm (indeed, he sped it up instead). “…dress…hides…nothing…too…sheer…so sheer, Mika….”
Damn you, Shiori!
Mika clutched his shoulders tightly, linking her ankles behind his waist and eagerly moving with him, suddenly not caring if they were walked in on or not. In fact, the chance of being caught only made it all the more exciting; after all, the Murasaki were doing their darndest to keep them apart and it was infuriating.
While his left arm remained wrapped around her hips, Raizo’s right hand found its way to her breasts, squeezing and massaging beneath her white dress, driving her to move her hips faster. He was so slick…even as he filled her again and again he was deliciously slick and—
“Mika-san?” a young voice called from the other side of her door. “Mika-san, are you in?”
Raizo’s hand immediately flew from Mika’s breasts to cover her mouth. He pulled her away from the wall and looked directly into her eyes, daring her to make a sound.
“Shiori sent me,” Kiyomi went on, her accent heavily—and surprisingly—British. “I’m supposed to show you the library.”
Mika wanted to tell the poor girl she was being savagely pounded into at the moment and would have to reschedule; Raizo was clearly excited by this little twist in events. Biting his bottom lip to keep himself from groaning aloud, he kept his hand over her mouth and deviously maintained strict, unflinching eye contact with her.
Oh, my! I never would’ve guessed he was this big of a perv!
To be honest…it was hot.
“I guess you’ve already gone on without me,” Kiyomi sighed. Her footsteps soon faded down the hall.
A white hot explosion ripped through them both. Their already sweaty bodies tensed; she clenched tightly as he emptied himself. It took them a long while to slow their breathing and heart rates, but when they finally did, Raizo gently set her down and pulled his pants back up.
“I’m liking this more and more,” he murmured, eyes twinkling as he leaned in for a deep, slow kiss which flushed them both with warmth. “It’ll be a challenge to keep this up with all the interruptions.”
Mika giggled like a drunken schoolgirl. “You think we’ll get in trouble?”
Raizo kissed her again before musing, “It’ll be worth it.”
When he slid her door open, they were both shocked to find a terse young Kiyomi standing right on the other side, arms folded primly across her chest.
“Raizo-san,” the girl asked crisply, “are you not supposed to be at practice?”
His mouth fell open, and attempted to speak. “I—”
“You thought I’d walked away,” Kiyomi snorted, “when it’s the oldest trick in the book. Don’t think because I’m blind I’m stupid. Even someone who’s deaf in one ear could hear what was going on in there. Bodies tend to make a lot of noise, you know.” She cocked her head to one side, eyes eerily unblinking. “With my hearing, I could hear you coming a mile away.”
“Don’t even bother condescending to me, mate,” the girl chortled. “Murasaki bear their own, remember? You do realize that requires at least two people, don’t you? I hate to break it to you, ‘bad boy’, but there’s a lot of fucking that goes on this hotel, and I’ve heard much nastier, thank you very much. Now, get on to practice before you’re late and Noriko orders fifty lashes of the razor whip.”
Raizo mutely slipped by the Kiyomi and hastily took off.
“Now, Mika-san,” the child-woman scathingly continued, stepping into the room and causing Mika to take a step back, “I should probably make it clear right away that I don’t appreciate being ignored. I spent the first ten years of my life being ignored in this hellhole and I’m never going back to that. So the next time I’m sent to babysit you, you better answer your door the first time I call. Because if you don’t, I will tell Lady Kameyo herself that you two think it’s appropriate to indulgently play ‘honeymoon’ during a clan war.
“Now…step lightly,” she said firmly, turning and heading out the door. “The library’s this way.”