Chapter Four: A Quiet Night in Zazen Town

They opened the small, but sturdy, gates and entered the quiet town. Almost every house was painted with some kind of red, but the General Stores and Inns remained the normal brown coating as in Oedo Town. It was unusually lit up for a dark night; the many street lights reflected off the red coats of paint which gave off an unusually peaceful red glow. The four walked across a bridge leading to the town, and stopped in the center of the small town.

"Well, whaddya guys wanna do?" Goemon asked, folding his arms behind his head.

"I'm gonna go find somewhere to eat…" Ebisumaru replied, looking around for the closet restaurant.

"What?" Sasuke asked. "But you just ate an hour ago!"

"Yeah…?" Ebisumaru trailed off. "…have a point?"

Sasuke sighed. "Guess not…"

"I'm gonna go find the nearest General Store." Yae said, looking for a nearby shop. "Need to forge my katana."

Goemon nodded. "Alright then, Yae."

"I'm gonna go with Ebisumaru…" Sasuke said. "I could really use a nice hot cup of green tea."

Goemon's stomach suddenly rumbled very loudly. "Uh…now that I think about it, I haven't eaten in almost a day…" he rubbed his stomach soothingly. "…I think I'll join you guys…"

Yae nodded, and headed off for a small shop near them. The four turned around, and headed for a small shop covered with red sheets. As they stepped inside, the delicious smell of fresh sushi and noodles filled their nostrils with sweet relief. Except maybe Sasuke. They quickly took a seat near the back, watching as people happily ate their meals and chatted with others at their tables. A very pretty waitress dressed in blue had her hair curled up in the back walked up to their table.

"How may I help you boys?" she asked softly.

"Um…I'll have some sushi covered with garlic spices, and a cup of hot noodles…" Goemon asked, looking captivated by her beauty.

"Same sushi, same cup of noodles," Ebisu said as she looked over at him. "Teriyaki chicken, eight rice balls, and a cup of hot green tea."

She quickly scratched that down, then looked over at Sasuke. "And you, sir?"

He looked over at Ebisumaru, his eyebrow arched. "Um…just a cup of green tea and a bowl of noodles…"

"Thank you for choosing the Golden Trifle." she bowed.

She walked off, and Goemon and Sasuke looked at Ebisumaru.

"What?" he asked.

Goemon shook his head. "Anyway, anyone got any ideas of what we do when we arrive at Ryugu tomorrow?"

"Well, we could storm the castle…" Sasuke mentioned. "If they rebuilt already, I mean…"
"Nah…" Ebisu said. "It's still in rubble. Our fight with Bismaru there last week gave them quite a shock…"

They talked for a few minutes, and then the waitress arrived, carrying a tray with their dishes set on top of it. She gave them their plates, bowed, then returned to the kitchen. The three smiled, and dug into their plates.

"So…" Goemon tried to say with a mouthful of food. "Where do you think Seppukumaru is holding Princess Yuki?"

"Probably in that little seaside town…" Ebisu said with his mouth full of noodles, sushi, and rice balls.

Sasuke sipped his tea. "Probably in some secret ocean lair or something…"

Goemon laughed, and then started on his noodle bowl. "Maybe…"

Suddenly, Yae walked in through the curtains. "There you guys are!" she said, suddenly spotting them.

She took a seat next to Goemon. "What's up Yae?" Goemon asked, his mouth dripping noodles.

"Goemon…you got a little…" she pointed at his chin, which had a noodle hanging from it.

"What?" he tried to grab it, but he couldn't see it.

"Here, it's…"

"What? I don't…"

"Hang on…"

"Here, I got it…"

"I'll get it…" she reached for his chin, and then pulled it off. She flung it out the window.

"Thanks Yae." he replied, then stuck his face back in his noodle bowl.

"Goemon?" a soft voice called.

Goemon rose his head from his bowl, and looked where the voice was coming from. He spotted a very pretty woman standing at the doorway, dressed in a red dress, with her hair bundled up. She was smiling at him.

"Hey, Omitsu!" he shouted. "Come on over here…"

Oh no…it's Omitsu… Yae shifted uncomfortably as Omitsu walked over to their table. I completely forgot that she even existed…how selfish am I?

"Hi Goemon!" she said sweetly as she stopped in front of their table. "Ebisu! Sasuke! Yae!"

"Hey Omisu!" they called, then Sasuke and Ebisu dug their heads back into their plates.

"I heard you guys ran into Seppukumaru back at the castle!" she said. "Good job for driving him out!"

"Wow, news does travel fast…" Goemon smiled. "Yeah, we chased him just outside this town, but then stopped for a quick break. By the way, what are you doing here?"

"Oh, y'know. Just making another delivery from "Viva Oedo!"..." she replied. "Just delivered it to the man at the bridge on the northeast gate…Benkei I think his name his…yes, strange fellow…"

Goemon smiled. "Well, that's great!"

"Well, I'd better be off then!" she said. "I have to get back in time for closing time at the café!"

"Bye!" they all shouted.

She kissed Goemon gently on the cheek. "Oh, and I hope you remembered not to fall off the cliff this time, Goemon…"

Goemon chuckled. "Actually…"

Omitsu laughed. "I thought so!" she headed for the door. "Well, I'll see you later guys!" she waved.

"Y'know, you should really ask her out, Goemon…" Ebisu said.

Yae's eyes widened.

"Yeah, she's really your type…" Sasuke said, sipping his tea slowly.

Goemon leaned back in his seat, apparently full from his meal. "Nah…I don't think she's my type…"

No, I don't think you should… Yae shifted in her seat.

"You know what they say, opposites attract." Ebisu wolfed down a rice ball.

Will you guys just shut up, please!

Goemon closed his eyes. "You really think I should?"

"Yeah, it's time you joined me in the wonderful world of marriage!" Ebisu said sarcastically.

"You should really settle down, and raise a family…" Sasuke said.

"Can this wait 'till after we stop Seppukumaru?" Yae asked impatiently.

"Yeah, you're right…" Ebisu said.

The pretty waitress came over and took their empty plates and bowls. She handed Goemon the bill. Ebisu slowly stood up, readying his dance.

"NO!" the three of them shouted.

Sasuke and Yae quickly pulled him down. Goemon reached into his pocket and pulled out 1,730 Ryo and handed it to her. "Here's a little something for you, miss…" he handed her 500 Ryo to her as a tip. She smiled, and bowed again, and then they headed off for the door.

The night sky was even darker than before as they headed for the nearby inn, which was covered with blue sheets over the entrance. They stepped inside, and were greeted by a pretty young receptionist.

"We'd like a room for four, please…" Goemon said.

She smiled, and then gave him a ticket. "That'll be 300 Ryo, please."

Goemon reached for his pocket, but was stopped by Ebisu. "I got this…" he said, handing her the Ryo.

She smiled. "Room 64A. Sixteenth door on your left in the hall."

They nodded, then headed down the hall. They reached the room, and entered. There were four beds lining the red walls; a beautiful aquarium filled with exotic fish lined the walls. There were even four separate bathrooms, and a hot tub.

"Sweet!" Goemon dived onto the bed second to the right. He lied on the plush green sheets. "I call this one!"

Ebisu took the bed to the far left; Yae third to right next to Goemon, and Sasuke on the far right. Goemon looked at the clock on the wall in front of them. Yae blushed as he pulled his shirt off. Ebisu and Sasuke did the same.

"Alright, guys. It's ten-thirty. We leave at nine tomorrow. Get a good rest."

Everybody nodded, then fell asleep.

-- -- -- --

Goemon awoke. He looked up at the clock. Twelve o'clock…damn…He looked

over at Ebisu, who was snoring softly. Then at Sasuke, who was breathing quietly. But Yae wasn't in her bed. Wha…? He pulled off his blankets, got up and grabbed his shirt, then headed outside. He saw Yae leaning against the railing that overlooked the quiet city wearing her light-purple bathrobe.

"You're gonna freeze your feet off out here, y'know…" he said, leaning on the spot next to her.

"Oh, Goemon…" she said, startled.

"What'cha doin'?" he asked, looking out into the quiet night sky.

"Nothing." she replied, rather quietly. "Just couldn't sleep, that's all…"

He slowly looked over at her. "You all right?"

"Yeah…" she trailed off. "It's just that sometimes, I get this feeling that I won't be able to accomplish something…like my goals or something…"

"You shouldn't worry too much…" he crossed his arms behind his head. "…y'know we'll always be here to catch you if you're falling down."

She looked at him and smiled gently. "I know…" she looked back up at the beautiful sky. "By the way, what are you doing out here?"
"I should be asking you that, Yae…" Goemon answered, slowly closing his eyes.

They both stood there for a moment, gazing up at the star-filled sky. Goemon sighed.

"Yae."

She looked over at him. "Hmm?"

"Do you ever miss your parents?"

"What?"

"I mean, do you ever get the feeling that your parents are there, even though they're not? Maybe I'm just crazy…"

She knew the feeling. Like Goemon and Ebisumaru, she had lost her parents as a very young child. She was adopted by her grandfather soon after, who taught her the skills of the ninja she still uses today. After he passed away, she enrolled and was accepted into the Secret Ninja Investigation Organization, and soon became one of their leading agents. While on her first mission to find out the mysterious assaults in Edo, she met Goemon and Ebisumaru, who both shared the same objective of finding and stopping this criminal.

"Yes I do…" she replied. "I always feel like they're watching me, so I do my best no to show any emotion…so they don't see me weak…"

"How come?"

"I don't want them to see their only child break down, and disgrace the family name…"

"Yae…I don't think they want to see you so stiff."

"Hmm?"

"I think they'd want to see you happy; see that you're enjoying the life they gave you. Not to always be thinking about work."

She stood there for a moment, then blinked. "You-you think so?"

Goemon smiled. "I know so…"

Her eyes looked even more beautiful in the reflection of the moon and it's surrounding stars. They stood there, gazing at one another, then back at the sky. Goemon noticed she was trying to hide the fact that she was cold. He chuckled. He pulled his shirt off, and then wrapped it around her, warming her up a bit. She smiled at him as her eyes twinkled beautifully and her cheeks went pink. They both stood there for a moment, then they both suddenly yawned.

"C'mon." he said. "Let's go get some sleep."
She nodded, and then he suddenly lifted her into his arms.

"Goemon…?"

"You can't walk around in the freezing cold barefoot, Yae." he smiled.

She smiled, and then rested her head against his chest, listening to the soothing rhythm of his heart. Within seconds, she was asleep.

-- -- -- -- --

As he stepped into their hotel room, he noticed that the moonlight shining through the windows illuminated Yae's hair into a fascinating neon-emerald. He gently lied her into her bed, then covered her fragile body with blankets. He looked at her, noticing how peaceful she looked. He gently rubbed her forehead, traveling his hand up her beautiful hair. He smiled warmly, and then genly kissed her forehead.

"Good night, Yae." he said quietly.

He climbed into his own bed, then stared up at the ceiling for a few minutes. Before he knew it, he was fast asleep.

-- -- -- -- --

"Goemon, sir! Wake up!" a voice called.

Goemon mumbled. "What is it, Sasuke..?"

"I saw Seppukumaru heading toward the Bamboo Forest to the east!"

"What!" Goemon leaped onto the ground. "Are you sure!"

"Yes, wake the others!" Sasuke headed out. "I'll meet you and the others at the entrance of the forest!"

Goemon nodded. "Ebisu! Yae! Wake up!"

The two shuffled, then slowly sat up.

"What is it?" Yae asked.

"Is it breakfast already?" Ebisu rubbed his eyes. "No, it can't be…it's still DARK outside…"

"Get dressed, quickly! We have to head for Bamboo Forest!"

Without questioning, the two began to grab their clothes. Ebisumaru pulled his shirt and sandals on while Yae quickly dashed into her bathroom to change. In seconds, she reappeared fully dressed. Ebisu dashed outside while Yae walked up to Goemon.

"Her." she blushed, handing him his shirt. "And thank you…"

He smiled. "Thanks."

The two followed Ebisu through the quiet city, dashing through the gates that would lead them to the entrance of the forest, not knowing what was to come next.