It's been a while since I posted anything so let's get another good HotD story started. I am going to look at posting about once a week. If it takes off and gets real popular I might speed that timeline up. I have ten chapters written so far and am not sure how many there will be.

This is set in 1855 Edo, Japan, a year after the black ships appear. There will be a lot of Japanese terms used so be sure to check the end of each chapter for the glossary.

As always thanks to the Four Horsemen for their editing, guidance and support.

I do not own Highschool of the DEAD or its characters.


Edo 1855

The mansion's compound was large, about four Cho* inside the walls. There were stables, warehouses and barracks for guardsmen with open grounds for training. The main house was set to the rear of the compound and surrounded by beautiful gardens and courtyards. The wooden porches and hallways of the house were shined to perfection. It was clearly the house of a Lord Commissioner of Edo and a symbol of peace and serenity.

Except for one room…

"No! I refuse! I am not a brood mare to be handed off to some lout just so I can make heirs!"

The statement was made by an irate pink-haired young woman, who was kneeling before her parents, Souichirou and Yuriko.

"Saya you are sixteen years old and it is time you started entertaining young men as candidates for a husband," her mother said firmly.

"No, Mother! I want to study the scientific fields!" the girl insisted. "This is the age of new thinking and progress! There are women physicists, inventors, mathematicians and astronomers! The furthest reaches of the world are being explored! I already know three languages and want to know more! I don't want to be tied down to some man who is only worried about his position in court and how many heirs he can produce!"

Yuriko sighed, "Saya until now you have been blessed with…"

"That is enough."

Those three words brought silence to the room. Lord Takagi frowned as he looked at his daughter.

"Leave," he said. "But be aware this is not over."

"But…" Saya started.

"If you say one more thing I will marry you off to the first man that asks! Do not tempt me, daughter!"

The girl's mouth snapped shut and she bowed before getting up and rushing out the door as quick as her kimono allowed.

The man sighed as he reached for the tea on his side table. He paused as his wife's hand reached out and touched his arm.

"You would not really do that to her, would you, husband?" Yuriko asked with a little worry in her voice.

Souichirou patted her hand with affection, "No, my wife, I would not, but she must come around in her thinking. She is correct; times are changing, but she still must consider her place."

There was a light knock at the door and one of the housemaids cleared her throat. "Please excuse me, Takagi-dono*. Your next appointment is here."

"Send him in and bring fresh tea," Souichirou ordered.

"Shall I go?" his wife asked.

"Oh no, my dear, you know this one well," he told her with a smile.

A minute later the door slid open and a man with a stern looking face entered. He had his hair pulled back into a topknot and it was graying over his temples. He was dressed in a normal kimono with a red sash that had two swords tucked into it. He stepped in and stood looking at the couple for a second before knelling down and then bowing low, "Greetings, Takagi-dono and Takagi-sama. Thank you for your invitation to your fine home."

Don Takagi smirked as his wife hid a laugh with her hand.

"Greetings to you, Sensei, and thank you for coming," the lord of the manor replied. "And please…in private call us by our names."

The man set up and smirked before he winked at Yuriko, "As you wish, Souichirou-san."

"You are always welcome in our home, Busujima-sensei," she said with a smile. "Where is that lovely daughter of yours?"

"She is at home setting things right and packing for the move."

Yuriko's face lit up in joy, "Oh! You are going to take us up on our offer to be the sword master!?"

Busujima Kage and her husband chuckled. "Yes," he replied. "I have decided to leave one of my disciples to manage the Busujima dojo while Saeko and I take over things here."

A month ago the sword master for the Takagi's had gotten himself killed in a drunken fight over a woman at a gambling house. This left his assistant in charge, but the man quickly admitted to Don Takagi he was over his head. This led to Souichirou contacting his old sensei with hopes he would fill the roll.

"Wonderful!" Yuriko exclaimed. "I look forward to introducing Saeko to my Saya. I hope she will be a good influence on her."

Kage sighed, "I am not so sure of that, Yuriko-san. I had hoped for her to look for a husband soon, but she refuses. She says she will not consider a man that cannot best her with a blade."

Yuriko sighed also, "It seems we are in the same state, Kage–san. Our Saya refuses to consider the idea also. She wants to become a scholar instead."

Kage shrugged his shoulders, "Being a scholar is not a bad thing. Our world is changing after all. With the coming of the black ships and the foreigner's influence growing at court, I am not surprised by many things. I must admit, I myself read their books and newspapers so I can try to understand what is happening in the world. To not know your enemy is to be the death of you."

"To be honest, I am not as worried about the foreigners as I am some of our own people," Souichirou said. "It seems to me several factions are pushing for unrest between the Emperor and the Shogun. I honor the Emperor, but the Shogun is our lord."

"Yes, it would be best to try to stay neutral in the times to come," Kage said.

"Let us have tea," Yuriko said as the housemaid opened the door. "We can talk of lighter things for now and look forward to having you and Saeko close to us."

000

Several days later Saya was following her mother across the estate with their handmaids behind them. She knew they were going to greet some new arrivals, but she did not know why.

"Why are we going all the way to the sword dojo to meet these people, mother?" the irritated girl asked. "I was in the middle of reading 'Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy'."

"Sir Isaac can wait. After all, he has been dead for over one hundred years," her mother replied, a smirk on her face. "There is someone I want you to meet that just got in today. I hope you will become great friends."

Saya frowned. Of course her mother knew who Sir Isaac Newton was; she was a highly intelligent and well-educated woman herself. She could manage money with the best of the cities moneylenders and kept the Takagi coffer full with wise investments and… wait…she said she wanted me to meet someone and hoped we would become great friends… Saya's mind raced. Swords…dojo…new arrivals…that means men! The girl's eyes glanced back and forth quickly looking for a way to escape.

"Do not even think about it, Saya," her mother said. "If you do I will have some of the house samurai chase you down and drag you back here. You know the ones I mean.

Oh yes, I know. Saya thought to herself. The three baka, my so-called 'friends' who will do anything mother tells them to!

It was too late to run now; they had arrived. One of the students bowed low on the porch and welcomed them to the dojo. They entered and knelt to one side as Saya looked around.

It had been a while since her last trip to the building, but it looked…cleaner and more organized then it had before. She saw an older man sitting in the master's position, watching a young samurai who had his back to them, advance on a tatami omote* attached to a pole.

Saya was never sure how many cuts the swordsman made, it was blindingly fast and four sections of the tatami omote fell apart before hitting the floor. The samurai slid his sword into his sheath and then turned to bow to the dojo master.

That was when Saya realized the swordsman was in fact a girl.

"Oh my," Yuriko said quietly, a smile gracing her face.

"Very good, Saeko," the older man said. "Now greet our guests."

The dark haired beauty turned and advanced to the two Takagi women. Kneeling down she bowed almost prostrate before speaking, "Greetings Takagi-sama and Takagi-san, this one is known as Busujima Saeko of clan Busujima, daughter of Busujima Kage, sword master."

Saya and her mother bowed back slightly, as proper of their station. "Greetings to you, Busujima-san," Yuriko said. "I am Takagi Yuriko and this is my daughter Saya. I know we were to meet formally tonight at supper, but I thought you might enjoy having afternoon tea with us."

The tall girl paused for a moment before replying, "I would be pleased to partake in tea with the Mistress of the house."

Interesting. Saya thought as the three women got up, made their goodbyes to Kage and left.

They were quiet as they crossed the compound. Saya watched Saeko out of the corner of her eye as the other girl looked around, taking in everything around her.

They had just reached the main house when a party of men and women walked up from the main gate. Saya recognized the man as Miyamoto Tadashi, an Edo police superintendent and friend of her father's. With him were his wife Kiriko and their daughter Rei, who was a year older than Saya.

"It is a pleasure to see you, Superintendent Miyamoto," Yuriko said as the man and two women bowed to her.

"It is a pleasure to see you as well, Takagi-sama," the man replied, a smile on his face.

"My husband is awaiting you in his meeting room," Saya's mother said. "The young ladies and I were going to have tea, would you and Rei-san join us Kiriko-san?"

"Of course, Yuriko-san," the woman said with a smile.

I have a feeling that was the plan all along since they showed up when they did! Saya thought as she watched Miyamoto Rei look around the estate grounds. She's looking for them. I haven't seen The Three Baka today, but I'm sure they are around somewhere.

As the women started following Yuriko and Kiriko around the corner of the house, Saya looked back to see the police superintendent speaking to a dark skinned woman standing with the four honor guards that followed the man around. She was lean and trim with purple hair, wearing a short kimono with leggings and soft looking boots. In the sash at her waist was a Jutte, a traditional police weapon that also served as a badge of office.

"Rei-san, who is that your father is talking to?" Saya asked the ginger-haired girl.

Rei looked back and shook her head, "I'm not sure what her name is. She is one of his chief thief-takers though."

Thief-takers, Saya knew the name. They were low-level police officers who investigated crimes and apprehended criminals. Good thief-takers and their assistants tended to be non-samurai who did a lot of the footwork so the upper officers could get the credit. Many were former criminals themselves who had been offered a chance to change their lives for good. For a female to be one…she must be very good indeed.

Saya filed the information away and followed the group to the tearoom.

As they settled, Saeko bowed to Yuriko, "Please allow me to perform the ceremony and serve, honored Takagi-sama."

Yuriko smile and nodded to the girl, "Certainly, Busujima-san."

The maids came in with the tea service and the dark-haired girl began. Saya knew how to do the tea ceremony; all well-bred young women did, so she watched with a critical eye.

Like her sword work earlier, it was like watching poetry in motion. Every move was perfection, effortless and smooth as silk. Saya had to be honest; it was a joy to watch the swordswoman work.

Saeko presented the first cup to Yuriko who accepted it, took a drink and passed it to Kiriko. The superintendent's wife did the same and passed the cup to Saya, who repeated the process and passed it to Rei. When Rei was through, Saeko took the cup back and finished it.

"That was a wonderful mixing, Busujima-san," Yuriko said as Kiriko nodded in agreement.

"Domo arigato, my lady," Saeko said while brewing a full cup for each this time.

"I take it this is the new sword master's daughter?" Kiriko asked.

"Oh I have been remiss and not made proper introductions," Yuriko said.

Saeko finished with her work by the time Yuriko was done. "So Miyamoto-chan was in the same terakoya* as Takagi-chan?" the dark-haired girl asked.

"Yes," Saya replied. "We were lucky to have a very forward looking teacher in Komuro-sama. She not only taught the classics, but introduced new mathematics, languages and foreign histories as well."

"It was hard," whined Rei. "But Saya-san was always the top of the class."

"If you had spent more time studying books instead of boys, you would not have had a problem, Miyamoto-san," Saya said, as the two mothers glanced at each other and smirked.

"Boys are important!" Rei declared. "I, for one, hope to be entertaining someone to be my husband soon. What about you, Busujima-san? Are you looking for one?"

Saeko reddened slightly, "I have spoken with my father about the subject, but I do not feel I am ready."

"Kage-san told me his daughter said she did not feel she could accept any man that could not beat her in the dojo," Yuriko said, causing Saeko to redden further.

"Here, here!" Saya said. "I agree with you, Busujima-san! Any man I would marry better be at least as smart as I am or better!"

"Eh," Rei replied. "Then you will never get married Takagi-san since you don't think any man is as smart as you!"

This statement caused the older women to smile while Saeko had to cover her mouth to keep from laughing. They were interrupted by a light tapping on the door.

"Come," Yuriko said. A housemaid opened it and eased in to hand the lady a message. Saya's mother glanced at it and passed it to her daughter. After reading the note, Saya spoke up.

"Mother I need to go to the book sellers and pick up some volumes I have been waiting on."

"Can we not just send someone after them?"

Saya frowned, "Mother, you remember what happened last time? These are to replace the ones those baka dropped in the mud when I sent them to pick them up the first time. I refuse to have to wait another two months because of something like that again!"

Yuriko frowned, "Yes I understand. I will have to find someone to escort you though."

"If the lady does not mind, I will be willing to do so," Saeko said.

She thought about it for a minute and then nodded, "Yes, I supposed that will do. After all, the plan was to have you accompany Saya places anyway, Busujima-san. It is not that far, but please be safe."

"Would you like to go with them Rei?" Kiriko asked her daughter.

The girl shook her head, "I would stay with you mother."

Good! Saya thought. All she would be doing is going on about boys any way!

000

Saya and Saeko were out the gate and headed down the street a few minutes later, with a maid trailing them.

Saeko looked around as if to make sure she knew where she was, before settling to scan the faces of the passerby's around them. Her left hand rested lightly on the hilt of the single katana she wore.

"Mmm, it feels good to get out of the house and walk around," Saya said, waving the fan she carried in her hand slightly.

"Do you not get to go shopping and to the markets, Mistress?" Saeko asked.

Saya stopped, "Okay first off, let's set some ground rules. If we are going to be spending a lot of time together, and it looks like we are, all this bowing and scraping has to stop. I understand it has its place, but I just get tired of it. When we are alone, please call me Saya."

Saeko thought this over for a minute before nodding, "As you wish…Saya-san, but please call me Saeko in return."

"Good!" Saya said as she started off again. "Now that we have all that out of the way, what do you do for fun, Saeko-san?"

The tall girl smiled, "Many of the normal things girls do. Flower arranging, sewing for myself and father, reading and of course I do spend a lot of time in the dojo."

"Reading, what do you like to read?" Saya asked.

"I read a lot of histories and military papers, but I do love a good novel."

"Ooo, what are some of the ones you have read?"

Saeko smiled, happy to be able to talk to a peer in a relaxing manner, "I have read many of the ones brought in by the foreign traders. I have Sense and Sensibility, Ivanhoe and just finished The Last of the Mohicans by the American writer Cooper."

"I have heard of that one, but have not seen it yet," Saya replied.

"I would be happy to lend it to you," Saeko said with a nod of her head.

"Thank you! Hmm, I have several I can return the favor with. The one I just finished is Frankenstein. It is a horror novel written by an English woman named Mary Shelley."

"Horror?" Saeko asked, one eyebrow raised. "I do not understand, what is horror?"

Saya smiled, "A story written to cause fear and revulsion. It is supposed to make your senses tingle and your breath quicken, like a good ghost story."

"Hmm," Saeko mused. "I don't know if I understand why you would want to do that, but I am willing to give it a try. I prefer romance and stories of travel and adventure."

"Nothing wrong with that," Saya said. "Everyone has their own tastes. I like to try many different styles. I believe we cannot understand something unless we attempt to learn it." She paused for a moment, a grin crossing her face before she continued, "Soooo, romance hmm? Maybe you're not so closed minded about men after all?"

Saeko blushed slightly, "Every young girl has their dreams, Saya-san; I am no different. My problem is I am the daughter of a well-respected teacher of the sword, and I have had to put up with suitors whose main plan was to woo me and get in my father's good graces. I have been blessed in that he has so far let me be my own woman without forcing a match on me."

"I understand," Saya said. "It is the same thing with me. Mother has been fussing at me lately to start 'entertaining young men as candidates', but I would rather just be a scholar. I know my time will run out sooner or later, but I just hope before then I will meet someone with half a brain in his head."

"Do you have any acquaintances you might consider, Saya-san?"

"Eh, not really, oh there are a few of the 'house' samurai that I could probably put up with, but I think they have a lot of growing up to do yet."

"House samurai? I do not think I am familiar with that term," Saeko said.

Saya made a tch sound with her teeth, "That is what we call them. Father and Mother do not hold to the ideal that you must be born with a sword in your hand to be samurai. They pick them with great care and then grant them a small stipend and a single short sword. Most are super loyal and will do anything to please my parents. That's one advantage to the system. They may not ever be able to advance very far, but a few of them have risen from the lowest ranks to middle."

Saeko thought about this. It was different than anything she had heard of before, but she could see where it could produce men that would give their lives to the Takagi family without question.

"Interesting," she said. "I assume my father knows of Lord Takagi's practice and approves. I can see advantage in it."

"Ah, here we are," Saya said as she stopped before an open front store with shelves of books and scrolls. A middle-aged man in his thirties stepped from the back and bowed to the girls.

"Irashai*, Takagi-sama! I'm sorry I was not able to deliver your items myself."

Saya and Saeko bowed slightly back. "That is fine, Hatchie-san," Saya said. "It was good for me to get out into the fresh air. The question is, do you have anything else new I don't know about?"

The man smiled and bobbed his head, "Yes Mistress I think I do. With this shipment there was another novel by the British author Shelley. It is called 'The Last Man' and has the reputation of being like the other novel you have of hers."

"Hmm, let me see it first," Saya said.

While Saya did her business, Saeko looked around the volumes on the shelves, not that there were many. Bound books were precious things and only higher levels of society could afford many of them. She knew in England and America there were big stores that sold hundreds of books as well as preformed book binding services and copying. The mere fact that Edo had an actual store at all was impressive enough for her.

She also watched the street. She was well aware of her duty to protect Saya for Lord Takagi. She and her father had a long talk before making the decision to move to the estate. He felt the unrest that may be coming was justification for placing himself as a retainer to his old student.

Saeko was happy that Saya seemed to be an open minded young woman instead of the pampered princess she was afraid she would be. After she was content the street currently held no dangers, she turned to watch her new friend as she finished her purchases and helped the maid put the three books, wrapped in oilcloth, into a backpack.

Saeko had overheard some of the maids talking, as maids tend to do, calling Saya, kenkyū no bagu or 'study bug'. This had not been meant as derogatory since it was said with affection. They just wanted the girl to pay more attention to the rules of order in preparing to wed and bear children for her parents to be proud of.

"Thank you for you patronage!" the merchant said as Saya nodded and turned to Saeko.

"Ready?" she asked.

"I await your pleasure, Takagi-sama," Saeko replied with a smirk on her lips.

Saya's eyes narrowed, but a similar smirk spread on her face as she headed into the street. "So, you have a sense of humor as well…" Saeko covered her mouth to hide her giggle.

They had not gone far when a disturbance in a drinking house caught their attention.

"Stop playing and go home!" a shrill voiced woman yelled as three young men burst from the doorway, one of them tumbling to the ground at Saya and Saeko's feet.

"Eh, Yuuki-chan! Don't be like that! We were just admiring your…assets, that's all!" a brown haired young man was calling back through door, a tall gray-haired man stood beside him laughing.

A girl about the same age as Saya and Saeko, with light-orange hair, charged out the door with a stoneware pitcher in her hand. "If you do it again I'll…" she froze, eyes wide, as she saw the scene unfolding behind the two boys.

They turned to look at what she was seeing.

Saeko was in a slight crouch, a thumbs length of raw steel showing from her sword, her right hand on the hilt ready to make a lighting fast draw if she felt the dark-haired boy at their feet posed danger to her new friend.

"You…" Saya said, with venom dripping from her voice. "What are you doing!?"

"Uh oh…" the brown haired boy muttered as the gray haired one face-palmed.

The one on the ground looked up the girls, a stupid grin on his face, "Hey guys! Look who I found! It's Takagi-san and…" He looked puzzled for a second, "I don't know you…" His voice trailed off again as his eyes finally focused on Saeko and the bare steel he could see at her hip.

"Komuro Takashi!" Saya snarled as she leaned forward. "Are you drunk!?"

"Well…uh…"

"Don't lie to me! I can smell you from here! Get up off the ground!" while rapping him on the head with her fan.

The boy held his hands up to Saeko as if to say 'peace'.

The swordswoman reseated her blade and took a step back, eyes never leaving the threesome.

Takashi got up to face Saya, rubbing the back of his neck sheepishly, but she was no longer paying attention to him.

"You!" Saya said, pointing at the serving girl. "Did they break anything or not pay you for something?"

The busty bar maid shook her head, "No they just got a little too fresh talking about my boobs!"

Saya face-palmed as the other two boys tried to look everywhere but at her.

"Do you know these people, Takagi-san?" Saeko asked, still keeping an eye on the three.

"Oh yes," she replied. "Meet my friends. I call them The Three Baka. Komuro Takashi, Igou Hisashi and…wait…what's your name again?"

The brown haired boy threw up his hands, "Morita, Takagi-san!" He looked at Igou, "I've known her for years! Why does she never remember my name!?" Igou, on the other hand, was trying his best not to break out in laughter.

"What is that!?" Saya asked as she pointed to a corked gourd on a string in Morita's hand.

"Ah…just some plum wine, Takagi-san!" he replied.

"And just how much plum wine did the three of you have?" the irate pink-haired girl asked.

"They had three pitchers!" Yuuki-chan chimed in while grinning at fact the trio were getting dressed down.

Saya turned on Takashi, "You knew there is a big gathering at the estate tonight! What were you thinking, baka!?"

"That…we would get a little relaxed…so we would not feel so uptight about all the…ah…" he trailed off as Saya leaned closer in his face. "I guess that was not such a good idea huh?"

Saya leaned back and rubbed her face, "Just how are we going to get you baka sobered up before you get caught?"

"Coffee," Saeko said.

"What?" Saya said. "Coffee? I think I've heard of it, but I don't know anything about it."

"A Dutch trader my father had acquaintance with, gifted him with several bags of beans, as well as a grinder and a brewing pot. I believe it is in our quarters. It seems to have some restorative properties. He likes to have a cup or two the next morning after a night of drinking sake. He says it helps him feel rejuvenated and clears his head.

"Interesting, I didn't know that," Saya said. "Is there any way we could get our hands on some?"

Saeko thought for a moment, "I believe that to help keep my Lord Takagi from being embarrassed I can donate a small amount for the cause as well as prepare it."

"That would be a big help and I would owe you a favor, Saeko-san," Saya said.

"Wait," Takashi said looking confused. "Who is she again?"

An evil grin came across Saya's face. "Oh please let me introduce you," she growled. "Allow me to present Busujima Saeko, daughter of Busujima Kage-Sensei. Ringing any bells yet, baka?"

"Wait," Morita said, looking at Igou. "Did she just say Busujima as in the new sword master Busujima?"

"Oh yeah," Igou replied a sour look on his face.

Takashi's face went through several incarnations as his wine muddled brain tried to process what Saya had said. Finally he held his hand up, index finger pointing towards the sky and said, "AH!...Ohhhhh…oh nooo…"

Saeko, on the other hand, smiled sweetly and nodded to the drunken boy, "Please to meet you, Komuro-san!"

Morita buried his head into the taller Igou's shoulder, "We are soooo screwed!"

000

They were able to slip into the estate and make it to the Busujima's quarters without too much trouble. Once the girls had gotten the three boys settled, Saya watched over them as Saeko prepared the coffee.

They all watched as she retrieved the beans, grinder and cooking pot. She lit a brazier and got a hot fire going before putting the dark brown beans in a wooden box and winding the iron handle on top. This produced a dark and gritty powder close to course black sand. She poured the grounds into a bowl and passed it to Saya for inspection, as she prepared the cooking pot.

A pungent scent arose from the bowl as the pink-haired girl brought it closer to her nose, "The scent is strong, but it smells kind of nice, pleasing I would say."

"I think so," Saeko replied. "The brewed liquid slightly keeps the same smell also."

"Interesting," Saya said as she watched Saeko spoon the grounds into a small linen bag, which she tied off, before dropping it down into the pot of water.

It did not take long before a pleasant aroma rose from the pot. A few minutes later Saeko removed it from the brazier and poured five cups from the spout on the side.

Saya, once Saeko handed her the first cup, went through her investigation process again, smelling and looking at the black liquid closely. The boys and Saeko watched as she put the cup to her lips and took a small sip. Pulling back slightly she looked at the cup again and sniffed it once more.

"A little bitter maybe, but not unpleasant at all!" she said.

Saeko held out a small container, "Try putting a little cane sugar in it, a pinch or two should do. That is the way I like it."

Saya took a pinch and did as she was told. After waiting for it to dissolve for a second she tried the coffee again. "Ohh, I like that much better!"

Takashi and the other two boys followed her example in tasting the brew. The spiky haired boy took several sips before his eyebrows rose on his forehead.

"Wow, that's got a kick like a really strong tea!"

Morita followed Saya and took a pinch of the sugar before nodding, "I like this, and I already feel my head clearing!"

"I agree," said Igou. "This is a truly magical brew. Thank you very much for sharing this with us, Busujima-san!"

"You are welcome," Saeko was saying as she heard the door slide open behind her. The three boy's eyes went wide and they all set their cups down and bowed forward, knuckles on the tatami mat, heads low.

"Please excuse our intrusion, Busujima-sensei!" Takashi said loudly as Saeko heard a growl from her father who was behind her.

"I have enough coffee for one more cup if you would like, father, would you join us?" the girl said with a smirk on her face.

The man cleared his throat, "Ah-hmm, I did not realize you were entertaining, daughter."

"I believe you know Takagi-san, and these are some of her friends."

"I believe I know who they are…" the man said as he knelt down beside his daughter. "You may raise your heads."

The boys all sat up, faces frozen in a neutral state.

Saya and Saeko almost spit their coffee trying not to laugh at the trio.

"Please, finish your coffee," Kage said as Saeko poured him a cup.

The boys were quiet and kept their heads down slightly as they all drained their drinks in a few swallows.

Placing his cup before him, Takashi opened his mouth to speak, but Kage beat him to it.

"Did you enjoy the drink, Komuro-kun?"

"Yes Sensei! It was a new experience and the hot brew really seems to clear your mind."

"Good! Good," the swords master said. "Oh, I wanted to let you know there is some 'special' training I am to do in a few minutes. All of you go to the dojo and await me."

Their eyes widened and Morita's face went pale.

"Yes Sensei, your will is our command. Busujima-san, Takagi-san, please excuse us and thank you kindly for the new experience of the 'coffee'." Takashi said.

"All of you are welcome," Saeko said with a smile. "I look forward to doing this again in the future."

The three looked a little shocked at this statement, but recovered their wits, got up and bowed low to the girls and Kage, before filing out the door.

Everyone sat quietly for a few minutes after they left until Saya finally began to giggle and then laughed out loud. This caused a chain reaction and set Saeko off next. Kage chuckled slightly and relaxed his sitting position from seiza to cross-legged.

"So Saeko-chan, I must say I was surprised to find you entertaining boys in our personal quarters. This has never happened before, what changed this time?"

"This is my fault, Busujima-sensei," Saya said. "I apologize for getting Saeko-san involved in my problem."

"I believe from her description those are the ones your mother told me you call The Three Baka?" the man said with a smirk on his face.

Saya frowned as Saeko laughed again, "Yes Sensei that was them. Please understand they are no danger to Saeko-san or I. In fact they are probably more danger to themselves than anyone else. I have known them for many years and Komuro for since I was around six. His mother taught our terakoya and we played together all the time when it was allowed. I trust them with my life and they normally accompany me when I go out of the estate."

"Ah, I see," Kage said before turning to his daughter. "So how did you end up entertaining, daughter, with my coffee no less, I thought you were with Yuriko-san?"

"We were, father, but Saya-san got a message some new books she ordered had arrived and she wanted to go on to the booksellers and pick them up. Knowing your wishes in getting to know her and acting as yojimbo*, I accompanied her."

"Then we ran into those three on the way back," Saya said. "They came rolling out of a drinking house being chased by a barmaid."

"A rather well-endowed barmaid," Saeko interjected.

"Yes…she was…" Saya said with a frown. "It seems they had gotten into some plum wine and were starting to make nuisances of themselves."

"Saya-san did not want them coming back to the estate the way they were and embarrass her father and mother. I thought about the fact the coffee helped you after a night of drinking sake and offered to make some." She bowed low to him, "If that was wrong of me I apologize for overstepping my bounds."

Kage waved his hand, blowing the action off, "No, no daughter, it was fine. I understand you wanted to make sure there were no problems tonight. If all it cost was a little of my coffee you did well."

Saeko sat back up as Kage got up. "Well," he said. "I think I will go and help them with that 'special training' I was speaking of. I'm sure a hundred sword strikes out in the sun will sweat the plum wine right out of them!"

The girls laughed again as he headed for the door muttering, "Plum wine…what a trio of lightweights!"

Saya finally had to fall over on the floor mats after the man left. She laughed until she had no breath and then lay there smiling as Saeko snickered and finished sipping at her cup. "Thank you, Saeko-san," Saya said as she sat back up. "I have not had a laugh like that or as much fun as this in a long time."

"I am glad you are happy, Saya-san," the dark-haired girl replied. "I must admit I too have not had this much fun in quite a while."

"Umm, well I guess we better go and find mother and the others. I'm sure by now she is wondering where we got off to."

Saeko nodded, "And I am sure there are still plenty of preparations for tonight we should be helping with."

Saya nodded and got up as Saeko placed a top over the brazier to make sure the coals were out.

Going out past the dojo, they saw the three boys standing in the practice yard. They were shirtless and sweating profusely as they swung oversized suburito* over their heads over and over. Kage was sitting on the porch watching with a smirk on his face, smoking a short Japanese pipe.

Takashi noticed the girls and frowned as he saw them giggling as they walked away.


A/N: Please Favorite, Follow and Review.

*Terms:

Cho – about 2.5 American acres.

Dono – when attached to a name it means 'lord' or 'master.

Tatami omote – a tatami (reed) mat that has been rolled, attached to a stand and stood on its end to act as a sword target. It is said to give the same resistance as the human body when cut.

Terakoya – basically a school room. Children were taught by a teacher (sensei) until they were of an age to continue learning own their own.

Irashai – welcome.

Yojimbo – bodyguard

Suburito – Like a wooden sword or bokken, except the blade is twice as wide and twice as heavy. For strength training, like fanning a baseball bat with ring weights on the end.