by Laura Bryannan
"Hey, I gotta borrow your razor."
The young man sitting cross-legged on the futon in meditation did not respond.
"Jin, come on. I know you can hear me. Where is it? I need it."
Again, there was no response.
Mugen growled and paced. He managed to wait all of two minutes before beginning the harangue again. "Jin, it's important. Come on, you shit, get off your skinny ass and get it for me." His worthy opponent continued to ignore him.
Jin knew that Mugen was a most persistent pest and would not stop bothering him until he got what he wanted, but he was damn well going to make him wait for it. The futon jostled and Jin knew he had company. He braced himself. A chin covered in what felt like porcupine quills scraped slowly down his back.
"Jinnnnnnnn," said the monster in an exaggerated low voice, "give it to meeeee." The scratchy face traveled slowly up his back now, and then down his arm. When this activity resulted in still no response, Mugen tried another tack. Jin felt something warm and wet entering his ear. His hand flashed out like lightening and Mugen found himself on his ass halfway across the floor. Laughing, Mugen crowed, "Gotcha!" Expecting the ronin's eyes to finally be open, he groaned to see they were not.
"Jin Jin Jin Jin Jin Jin Jin," chanted Mugen as he crawled back over to the futon. This time Jin felt a warm mouth latched onto his big toe, tongue swirling and tickling. He inwardly cursed the fact that he had given all his clothes to the inn's laundress and was sitting there with nothing but a towel in his lap. Enough! He grabbed the bothersome creature's ear in a sharp pinch and pulled him forcefully up.
"OW!" yelled Mugen, "hey, cut it out!"
"Just what is so important, Mugen? Why are you bothering me like this when you can see I'm busy?"
Mugen happily plopped himself next to Jin on the bed "I'm finally getting with that Taki chick. Today. Soon. So gimme your razor."
"No!" replied Jin firmly.
"Come on. Pleeeeeese." Mugen smiled and batted his eyelashes winningly.
"No!" The answer came more forcefully this time.
"We discussed this last week. You are not to borrow my razor any more."
"I don't remember," said Mugen, remembering. "Why can't I borrow your razor any more?"
Jin rolled his eyes. "Let me recount the reasons: one, you usually forget to return it, and I must waste time hunting for it; two, whenever you use it you always leave it filthy; and three…" Jin looked bemusedly at his lover and rival. "You don't know how to use it properly and end up losing more skin than whiskers. If you don't want your girl to run off screaming at the horror of your stubbly slashed up face, you'll go to the barber like a good boy, and leave me be."
"I don't want to spend the money," complained Mugen. "I need it all for food and sake. She'll need lots if I want to get into her kimono. Come on, Jin. I'll be good. I'll return it. I'll return it clean even, just let me borrow it today."
"No! I'm not going to help you commit accidental suicide by allowing you to use my razor again. That's it, Mugen. Now go away!"
"So show me how to do it right, then."
Jin shook his head incredulously. "Why would I show you how to do it when I don't want you to use it anymore? You've got shit for brains, Mugen."
"Then you shave me!"
"I will not," replied Jin with a withering look. Shaving others was something servants did. "Go. To. The. Barber," he ordered.
Mugen leaned in and licked Jin's cheek, leaving a slobbery trail, then zoomed out of strike range quickly, taking the towel with him. Oh YUCK! Jin hurriedly wiped the slime off his face and then realized his last vestige of modesty was gone.
"Dammit, Mugen!" he roared. "Give it back!" Mugen only smiled wickedly, while twirling the towel in the air and humming a little tune. Jin knew with unfortunate certainty that Mugen would continue to pester and attack him, probably in more intimate ways soon enough. It was only a matter of time before his body would start to respond, and he was not interested in giving Mugen the upper hand in that way today. He realized that the only way he would get some peace was to give into the beast's request.
"All right, all right," growled Jin. "I will shave you on two conditions."
Mugen laughed triumphantly. "Anything. What do you want?"
"First off, give that back to me…now!" Mugen did so. Jin stood up with as much dignity as he could muster and tied the towel around his hips so it could not be stolen again. "Secondly, you must give me your word that, when I am done, you will disappear from here and leave me alone for the rest of the day. Agreed?"
"OK OK, I promise. I'll get some water," and off he went. When he returned, Jin was honing his straight edge on a whetstone.
"You can soap yourself," he noted as he worked. Mugen sat down on the bed next to him and proceeded to do so. The preliminaries accomplished, Jin took hold of the stubbly chin and brought the razor up into position. The glint of metal near his face caused Mugen to shut his eyes tight and wince.
"Don't screw your face up so, I can't work if you do." Mugen relaxed his face, but kept his eyes closed. For such an accomplished man of the sword, it was ironic that Mugen had a problem with this kind of steel. The main reason he didn't know how to wield a straight razor himself was because he never watched himself being shaved. Too many barbers took pride in how quickly they could whip and flash their intimidating weapons around a man's face. He hated to admit it, but it made him nervous. Even though a barber had never actually cut him, Mugen could relax only if he didn't watch how close that blade was to his eyes, his jugular… Finally the deed was accomplished. Mugen opened his eyes with an inward sigh of relief and saw Jin carefully wiping the razor on his towel.
"Thanks, man." He could be gracious now that he had gotten what he wanted.
"Shall I give you a bit of advice concerning your tryst today?" asked Jin.
"You?" Mugen replied with derision in his voice. "You're going to give me advice about women? That's a joke!" he snickered.
Jin simply stared at him and raised one eyebrow.
"Oh all right. What great advice do you have to give me, oh wise one?" Mugen was curious.
"Take a bath."
And with a well-placed kick, the creature was on the floor—where he belonged—yet again.