PS - If this story seems kinda jumbled together, it's because the dividers didn't upload right. I've tried several different ways, but none of the seem to work. Please bear with me until I find a better format besides .txt
Chapter One: Bittersweet Memories
Fuu fingered the delicate lacquer design that had skillfully been applied to the sheathe of the tanto. Well, technically it was her father's tanto. It seemed strange that it was so . . . well . . . pink. Fuu's brow furrowed as she contemplated the reasoning behind the weapon's color. Why would any self-respecting samurai carry around a pink knife? Plus, in stark contrast, the tanto had a skull and dice hanging off of it. Had her father been crazy or just very . . . confused?
"Hmmm . . ." she mussed carefully pulling the blade out. Tentively, she ran her thumb across the edge of the blade as she'd seen her mother do often when she was examining a kitchen knife. To her suprise it was razor sharp and sliced into the pad of her thumb like butter.
She yelped in suprise, pulling her hand back and immediately sticking her thumb in her mouth, sucking furiously.
"Fuu?" the voice of her mother came from down the hall. "What are you doing?"
At the sound of approaching footsteps, Fuu hastily put the dagger back into its sheathe and on its stand atop her mother's dresser. She turnned around just as the slidding door began to open and put on her most innocent face while hiding her injured hand behind her back.
"Fuu? What are you doing?" her mother repeated.
"I was just . . . umm . . . looking for my sandals," she said, before remembering that they were already on her feet. "Found them!" she smiled.
"Fuu . . ." Her mother entered the room, looking down at her daughter with the all-knowing and piercing gaze that only a mother can master. "What are you hiding?"
"Hiding?" She was caught and she knew it, but it was in her nature to fight it until the end. Her mother always told her that she was stubborn just like her father in that way. "What do you mean? I'm not hiding anything."
Her mother smiled, sitting on her knees in front of Fuu. "Let me see your hands."
Fuu sighed, pulling clenched fists from behind her back.
"Open them please," her mother said patiently.
Fuu complied, opening her tiny fists with the palms facing down. Her mother sighed, a smile crossing her face as she took her daughters hands in her own, turnning them over. Her smile faded at the sight of Fuu's bleeding finger.
"Why were you playing with your father's knife," she asked, looking up to find that Fuu had suddenly become very interested in her feet, "after I told you very plainly that you weren't allowed to touch it?"
"I'm sorry, Mama," the little girl muttered, cautiously making eye contact. To her suprise there wasn't anger in her mother's face. Instead they held a soft sadness. "I promise, I won't do it again."
Her mother pulled her slowly into a hug and held her a moment. Fuu could feel warm wet spots soaking through the material of her dress. A few seconds later, her mother had collected herself enough to pull Fuu away from her and look her in the eyes. She smiled at her before standing up and taking her hand.
"Thank you," she said, "I hope you won't. Now, come on. Let's go clean that up so you can help me with supper."
Fuu smiled, following her mother's lead. All was forgiven.
Fuu woke with a start as Momo-san launched himself off of her shoulder. She shook her head, trying to clear it of the scattered remains of the strange dream. Where was she? Suddenly all of the events of the past few hours came back to her. She, Jin, and Mugen had come across an abandoned cabin in the woods where they had decided to stay for the night. They had gone out to find food a little while before sunset, and she had fallen asleep waiting for them.
She stood up, stretching her aching muscles. How long had she been asleep, she wondered as she walked to the broken door. Outside the sun had sunk completely below the horizon and only a slight orange glow remained to fight back the coming darkness. Hmm, it had only been at most an hour, she figured, walking back to the dieing fire, but the dream had felt like it had lasted a lifetime. How strange it was that she dreamed of her mother alive. She almost always dreamed of her mother lying on the floor dead. Oh well, she decided, the dream had been a pleasent change.
As she stared across the unused fireplace at the wall, trying to remember what she could of the pleasant memories the dream had brought, a horsefly buzzed past her ears, stirring her from her thoughts. She vaugely remembered the annoying buzzing before she had gone to sleep and waking up halfway to swat at it. Perhaps that was the reason that Momo-san had flew off, to escape the persistant pest. An old memory surfaced, making her smile. Her hand went to her hip, feeling the tanto. It had been a while, she thought to herself.
"I wonder if I sit got it?" she asked herself out loud, taking the knife out of its sheathe and closing her eyes and waiting.
It was late in the evening, and the sun looked like it was lazily sitting on the horizon, not quite ready to go to bed yet. This was her favorite time of day. Her mother was taking away the dishes from their evening meal while humming a pleasantly familiar tune to herself. The cicadas were starting to quiet down, making the summer heat more bearable. Fuu closed her eyes and just listened to the tranquil sounds of her world preparing for sleep.
A high-pitched whinning buzz next to her ear brought her out of her mesmerized state. How irritating, she thought. The mosquitos were as thick as theives this time of year and they somehow always managed to find a way into her and her mother's home. She swatted at it half-heartedly, but the buzz quickly returned to her ear. She growled irritably, causing her mother to look up from her task.
"Fuu? What's wrong, dearest?"
Again Fuu waved it away from her ear and watched as the uncomfortably large insect darted into veiw. "Nothing," she said watching it as it readied for another attack, "this stupid bug just won't leave me alone!" she wound up yelling as she slammed her open palm down on the low table in front of her. Both she and her her mother jumped at the sound, then there was silence. Even the cicadas seemed to be still, and there was no buzzing anymore.
There's no way . . . Fuu thought doubtedly. The mosquito was too fast, wasn't it? She curiously lifted her hand off of the table to find nothing underneath. "Fuu?" her mother almost wispered. "Did you get it?"
She turnned her hand over, and to her amazement, it was there. The black, crumpled remains of the bug twitched on her hand. She wrinkled her nose in disgust as she quickly scraped it off on the edge of the table. "I guess I did," she said, smiling as she met her mother's gaze.
Her mother looked thoughtful and was silent. For some reason, her daughter's display had set the gears turnning in her head. What if it hadn't been just luck that had enabled her to swat it out of the air? What if, perhaps, her father had had something to do with it?
"Mama?" Fuu spoke cautiously. Her mother didn't look this way often. At the sound of her voice, her mother smiled.
"Fuu, come with me for a moment."
Obediantly, Fuu followed as her mother exited the kitchen and went outside into the dimming twilight. She walked over to the pile of wood that one of the gentlemen across the road had gathered for them to use in their cooking fires and selected a fairly straight stick from the assorment that was maybe as long as her forearm.
"Let's play a game, Fuu," she said pleasantly, sitting down on her knees in front of her daughter. "Now hold this stick with your thumb and finger, like this . . ." she said putting it where she wanted it and raising Fuu's hand up so that it was straight out in front of her. Then she put her own hand just below the stick, half-clutched as if waiting to grab it. "Alright now," she instructed, "I want you to count to five out loud. But, sometime before you get to five - don't tell me when - I want you to drop it. Okay?" Fuu knodded. "Then we'll see how fast I can catch it as it slips through my hand." Again her daughter knodded, getting ready to play the game. "Alright. I'm ready whenever you are."
"One," Fuu said, loosening her fingers' grip on the stick, "two . . . three" she let the stick drop, and her mother caught it just as the bottom of the stick was about half-way through her hand.
"Very good, Fuu," she smiled, holding the stick as Fuu had and taking her daughter's hand. "Now let's see how fast you can catch it," she said positioning Fuu's hand as her's had been right below the stick. "Now, be ready to grab it. Ready?" Fuu knodded her head, excited to see how well she could do.
"One," her mother dropped the stick, thinking to catch her off guard was the best way to test her. To her amazement, Fuu did much better than she'd imagined. Her daughter's hand clenched shut before the bottom of the stick had even begun to slip through her hand, and the stick bounced off of her hand and fell to the ground.
"I didn't catch it," Fuu frowned. "Let me try again. This time, I'll wait a little."
"No, no, dear," her mother stammered with a nervous smile on her face, "That's not necessary." Seeing that Fuu didn't understand this at all and that she was a little upset that her mother didn't want to play anymore, she quickly added. "You won, you see," she explained, "You're very fast, and that's how you win."
"Really?" Fuu brightened. "Can we play again, then?"
Her mother smiled and knodded, and they played again several times. Almost everytime, it was the same result, but always, Fuu would catch it before the bottom of the stick could make it past her first finger.
"It's time for bed, dear," her mother said at last, "Let's go inside."
"HA!" Fuu lunged forward, slicing the air with the tanto. Perfect, she thought to herself triumphantly. A peice of fly was stuck to the blade, and the other piece was probably lying on the floor somewhere.
"Hey," a familiar voice said from the door.
Fuu screamed in suprise. "What are you doing here!" she yelled at the top of her lungs, more embarassed than startled at the casual sound of Mugen's voice.
"Umm, I thought this was where we were going to sleep tonight," the lean samurai said, scratching his head in mock confusion.
"Grrr" she vented, calming down a bit, "Do either of you two know how to walk normal? Or is it just natural for you to SNEAK?"
Mugen didn't say anything, only causally moved his gaze from her blushing face to the tanto she was was pointing at him. "So . . . what were you doing?" he asked calmly, motioning toward the knife in her hand.
Fuu quickly shut her mouth, and even more quickly put the knife back into it's sheathe and tucked it into the obi of her kimono. Somewhere in the back of Mugen's mind a mental note popped up that mentioned he'd never seen her do that without looking before like she had just then. After weighing the options, he chose to ignore it - for now.
"I . . . thought I'd just . . . make sure it was still okay," she said. Fuu scolded herself mentally. That had been the worst impromtu excuse she'd EVER came up with in her entire existance. Oh well. The last thing she needed was for Mugen or Jin to get the idea that she was trying to imitate them like a little three-year old. She shuddered inwardly at the thought of her own stupidity, and at the fact that Mugen looked smuggly satisfied.
The gangly samurai stretched causally, putting both hands on the back of his head as he walked over towards where is bed roll was. He stopped for a moment when he was shoulder to shoulder with her. She didn't have to look. Fuu just knew that he was giving her one of those damn sideways glances that she'd become familiar with since they'd started their journey. After coming to the conclusion that he wasn't moving until she looked at him, she gave in and made eye contact with him.
Mugen flashed her his famous crooked smile with a knowing cockiness. She hated that smile. Most of the time it made her want to throttle him. But then there were other times that it made her want to do something completely different to him . . . Her eye twitched involuntarily with rage as she watched him walk over to his bed roll beside the fire. Now was definatley not the later.
Suddenly, it dawned on her. "Where's Jin?" Mugen shrugged indifferantly.
Fuu sighed. It was not unlike the quiet samurai to wander off on his own for the evening if he felt comfortable enough with leaving Fuu alone under just Mugen's protection. Apparetnly, he hadn't had any "bad feelings" about the place where they were staying.
"Did you find anything to eat?" she asked, sitting down across the fire from her companion.
Wordlessly, he produced a medium sized bag from beneath his red shirt and tossed it to her. Fuu missed it by a mile, and it landed a few feet behind her. Grumbling irritably, she grabbed it and opened it. Mushrooms! "Are they shitake!" she exclaimed, pulling one out of the bag and into the light. She slumped in disappointment. They were only morels which were much less valuable. "Did you wash them?" she asked, sniffing one.
"Yeah," Mugen said, not looking up, "They had little worms all over them."
Fuu wrinkled her nose at the thought. But, undoubtedly, Mugen and Jin had already eaten their fill of them. Mugen seemed to be doing okay. But then again, these were the men who had eaten raw wasabi. At last, she shrugged and popped one into her mouth. The tasted bland and clammy, but she was starving and didn't really care.
From the shadows, Momo-san sailed into view and landed on Fuu's arm. As he climbed up to her shoulder, Fuu wondered if squirrels ate mushrooms. He turnned up his nose at it when she offered him a chunk. A moment later he leaped off of her and sailed over to Mugen.
That was strange, Fuu mused, normally Momo-san wanted nothing to do with him since he and Jin had rescued her from the phony preist. She watched as the squirrel tentatively approached the samurai. Mugen offered Momo something in his hand that the squirrel hastily snatched away and stuffed into his cheeks before scurrying back to Fuu.
Fuu felt a twinge of guilt for yelling at him when he'd come in. "Thank you," she mumbled.
"Eh?" he cocked his head as if to hear better. She knew he could hear her just fine because of that cocky-ass grin on his face.
"I said 'thank you'," she said louder, the guilty feeling quickly dissipating, ". . . for thinking of him."
"The were on the trail," he said, yawning. "I would've eaten them myself if I hadn't already filled up on mushrooms."
Fuu smiled, watching as Momo-san produced chunks of walnut from his cheeks. "They were already shelled and just happened to fall into you hand by complete accident?" she said, taking her eyes off of Momo-san to look back across the room at Mugen. "I understand. It happens to me all the time."
His eyes widened for a split second. He'd been cornered. Oh well, he thought, meeting her gaze and smiling genuinely for the first time that she could remember. So what if he cared just a little? He stretched out on his mat and closed his eyes. He was still cool, damn it, and he'd kill anyone who thought different.
Fuu continued to smile as she lay down on her bed roll. Maybe he wasn't as much of an ass as she'd judged him to be. She rolled over to where she was facing the door so that she could watch Momo-san enjoy this rare treat. "Goodnight, Mugen," she said, closing her eyes.
He mumbled something that she couldn't hear. It proabably wasn't intended for her to be able to understand it, but she was content in thinking that he'd said goodnight to her too.
Awwww. Cute and fuzzy. Just like Momo-san.
Ahem I'd like to explain to anyone who didn't already know, that the 'game' that Fuu's mother made her play is an old reflex test that they showed us in grade school. I don't know if they still do it. You know, it's the thing where you see how fast you can catch the ruler, then you write down the number you land on.
Please bear in mind people that this genre is completely new and uncharted territory for me to be writing. So far though, I think I like it. Reviews are appreciated whether they are flames or compliments, just please don't chew me out over spelling and grammar. I don't have a spell checker or a beta reader, and I like to think that I'm doing very well.
I'll try to get more up soon.