A/N: Sapphirina's back! I rated this one M just to be on the safe side and will probably have more T-ratings than M-ones. This story is linked to Secrets so it would be helpful to read that story before this one (if you haven't). It would give you an idea of what happened beforehand and explain some things. And it leads to less confusion. The first chapter might be boring but it should get chapter happens about a month after Enishi's fight if you have an idea of what I'm talking about. So enjoy.
The Return of Bad Habits
The woman sat in the pub, drinking sake in a corner. A sheet of paper laid in front of her on the table she was at and was furiously getting scratched upon by a pen. But then the woman stopped and checked over it to see the flow of the letter, to make sure it wasn't too emotional.
It's been awhile, hasn't it? I heard Lei died. It must have been extremely painful for him. Yan Yan sent me a letter before saying you and Mika are going to marry soon. It is understandable why you're taking your time. These kinds of relationships require it, especially the difficult ones.
I'm just going to let you know how I'm doing. Japan is actually okay. I got a job up here. It pays well despite the unclean conditions. Though I'm always lonely, I get by. I'm even renting a place. It's small and there's no light and hardly anything in there– just a bed and creaky floors unlike my old room in Mafia headquarters (if that's what we call it). And at least I have a kitchen to cook in. The owner of the place is okay if you ignore the fact that he smells, doesn't do anything with that beard, and hit on the female tenants.
Back to your relationship with Mika. I'm very happy you two are getting married. I always thought you should settle down with someone. After all I've known you the longest. But I suppose that doesn't matter and neither does the way I feel. Getting push aside just to make some damn room for some whore you picked up one day at the shore. But I guess I shouldn't be talking, should I? I guess all that matters she's a rich whore and when we met, I had nothing! And you know what else–
The woman crumbled the paper when she saw how bitchy it was beginning to sound. Was it that bad she was being honest rather than some fake, perky person? In a way, yes but she couldn't help herself. She tossed the letter into a waste basket nearby used for broken glasses.
The bartender walked over to her table. "You're Xiang, right?" The woman raised an eyebrow but nodded nonetheless. "There's someone who wants to talk to you." His eyes followed the Chinese woman as she walked to the door.
Xiang's green eyes looked around and finally saw her acquaintance from her job. She looked at the raven-haired female. "Hello, Ayame."
"Hi," Ayame said. There had been several other occasions like this before where she had came to see Xiang and other workers to tell them what the boss had said. It was like Ayame was the boss' personal message deliver.
Ayame took a deep breath before she began her somewhat long message. "The boss said to me to tell you that you're needed at the job tonight so you can perform in front of the men. It's supposed to be a big night and he trusts that you won't screw up because you are a professional at this kind of stuff. He claims he will have some kind of suit for you- I forgot what it was but that's what he told me. He wants you to arrive as soon as the moon appears. Got it? Good." Ayame then walked off, the eyes of several men following her petite form.
Xiang walked back inside. The thought of being considered a professional made her laugh. To her, it was prostitution and anybody could do that- if they felt comfortable in their own skin. The boss, Yamachi Goro, only thought she was because she had said that she started when she was thirteen. And the only reason that happened was that her parents needed money and they sold her to the industry. It had been her father's idea.
The prostitutes there had become her new family and had tried to protect her from the customers that walked in through the doors so often. But that didn't last long. She actually starting at fifteen and it had been with a man in the mafia. And then there were other men that had a 'go' with her. At seventeen, she was (for the first time) paid by a man not to have sex with him. His name was Yukishiro Enishi.
Xiang sighed when she remembered that name. It was the first man she had given her love and her affection to. And he had given his in a way that had sent chills down her back. Until he started to change, so drastically that his attitude became different toward her. But all that was ancient history. Now he was in love with some other woman. From the time they first met, it had taken Xiang a year to make Enishi open up to her- it had taken the other woman a month.
She glared at the bartender furiously when she realized how intently the man was staring at her. "What?" she snapped. Her hand absent-mindedly touched the whip on her hip like she was in combat. Common sense had to remind her that she was no longer in the mafia and fights were no longer a necessity.
His eyes stared at her a bit longer. "Have we met before?" The curious man asked.
Of course, he had been one of her more recent customers. But she didn't want the man to know. She wanted a normal life as well, one which she can walk the streets without someone whispering she worked at the town's brothel.
"No," Xiang instantly lied. "I haven't seen you before in my life."
"Are you sure we-?"
"Look," Xiang said, her lime eyes turning cold, "if you don't stop insisting, I will kill you." She went back to drinking the sake she had abandoned for Ayame. Lately, it seemed like she was just as malicious to everyone around her.
The bartender didn't say anything more but continued looking at her from the corner of his eye, trying to remember where he had seen that face. Such a pretty one too, he thought. The sound of the bell was heard lightly. That distracted him momentarily when he went to see the customer who had waltzed in here. "The gambler," he muttered under his breath.
He was referring to a guy who had brown spiky hair and a red headband covering his forehead. He wore a white outfit, the symbol of 'bad' marking his back. His brown eyes looked around to see if anyone he knew was here.
"Sano!" Someone finally yelled and waved the man over.
Xiang looked up from the second sheet of paper to see who was being called. Her eyes caught the tall guy walking over to his gambling buddies. They had some dice game going on. The money that was in a pile in the center of the table began calling her over.
Sano played with the toothpick placed between his lips. He walked over to the nearest table. "Fujita, what's going on?" He asked, pulling up a seat to the game and sitting by the table that several guys were playing at.
"Just a little dice," Fujita explained, placing his money on the table. He had a question on his mind and was hesitant to ask it since the answer was obvious. But he did it anyway, hoping that there would be a different response this time. "You got any money to bet with?"
Sano looked at his friend with a bored look on his face. He was waiting the question so he could respond with his own. "Can you borrow me some? I'm broke."
Usually he was and Kaoru had called him (as well as Kenshin and Yahiko) a freeloader more than once. It wasn't really his fault. His one real job was gone along with the title the "Fighting Merchant."
Fujita groaned. "I always lend you money and you never pay me back."
"I will this time," Sano claimed. "Besides, I feel lucky tonight." And like every other time, Fujita lent the poor man money. Sano grinned and placed his first bet on the table. That was when he pushed his chair and leaned backward, seeing Xiang for the first time as she came over. A chick, he thought. I wonder what she wants.
Xiang approached the table, grabbed a seat and dropped it by the table in its upright position. She sat on it, crossed her legs, and noticed that the men were staring at her. "I want to play, too," she declared and placed her bet on the table.
"You're a woman," Fujita mumbled. A couple of the guys agreed and told her that she shouldn't play. They said women would just ruin the fun of the game. But Xiang insisted and eventually they agreed.
She pushed her money toward the center pile. "Double-six," she said. After the dice were rolled and came to a stop, everyone saw they were snake eyes. Her eyes watched her money being taken away by a man and felt an urge to take it back. "Let me try this again," she said, placing more money on the small table. And again her money was gone. This happened several times as it became dark out until she had nothing left to bet with.
Sano grinned. He had never seen so much money in his hand before. This girl was really bad at this game and it was going in his favor. Someone else was broke besides him for a change. Then he heard the woman said she'd would place one last bet and his raised his eyebrows. "Really? You don't have anything else to offer."
Xiang grinned seductively. "I do," she said slyly. "I still have my body." They all stopped and looked at her. Some were grinning, some were surprised, some didn't care. Xiang mentally kicked herself for saying those words but her mind kept going in the same direction. "That is what I'll bet. Good ol' me."
Sano raised an eyebrow, his mind thinking of the possibilities. "Fine. Call it."
Xiang crossed her fingers behind her back and took a deep breath. "Snake eyes." Fujita rolled the dice and they bounced until they landed on fives. She sighed. This had to be a sign because everything had been going wrong in the last month. "Shit," she said under her breath. She had lost everything and she wasn't willing to pay the price for gambling.
One of the men stood up with his arms wide open. "Come here, baby," he drawled. "I'll keep you up all night."
Xiang started to walk out, not thinking about the consequences about being with drunk men. "Sorry, can't. I'm not that type of woman." Unless money was involved, she added, feeling disgusted at herself. There was a scramble of chairs and two men yanked her back into the pub, throwing her back. She crashed into a bar table. Her hand went to her whip instinctively, knowing there was actually danger.
One of the bigger guys approached. "Where do you think you were going-!" A whip caught him across the face and he yelped in pain. He stumbled backward into two men that had pulled her back in and they fell to the floor.
The whip continued to swing from her hand. "Who's next?" She asked. She didn't notice that one of them had gotten behind her and got ready to shove the table into her back. It was shoved hard into her spine. Xiang fell unto the table first and then unto the floor.
A guy knelt by her head and held her wrists while another did the same to her legs. The guy who she had lashed started to remove his pants, fumbling the whole entire time because of his anger. "You'll pay for that," the man mumbled.
"Let go of me!" Xiang yelled, trying to kick her way out of the situation. It's nothing you never felt before, a voice said in her head as she struggled. It will be like all your other nights in the last three weeks. Only there's no money involved. They're getting it free.
Although he had several drinks like most of the other people, Sano knew it was going to get out of hand and that no one else would intervene. So he decided to step in since no other brawl would start any time soon. He grabbed the big guy by the shoulder and the man turned around to say what. Before he could ask, Sano used his double layer technique on his forehead. The big guy fell down unconscious. Then he looked at the other two men who were holding Xiang down and started to beat the crap out of them. Fighting felt good again as his fists connected with their jaws and knocking out some teeth. He wanted to beat on the rest of the guys there but it wasn't legit. Not unless they wanted to pick a fight.
But none was willing to do so. Without any challengers to fight him, Sano then walked over to Xiang who was on the floor and extended a hand to pull her up on her feet. "You're okay?" He asked. His eyes looked around to see if any of the guys would attack him. But none even dared because Sano had taken on one of the biggest guys there and beaten him.
Xiang examined the hand as if it was dirty before allowing herself to be helped. "Sure," she told him. First, she looked at the guys on the floor moaning from the pain and then her eyes shifted to her 'knight in shining armor.' "Thanks," she muttered. "But I could have done that by myself."
"Hey," Sano said smoothly and wrapped an arm around the woman's waist, bringing her against his body, "You didn't look like it. If you don't want to be saved, then don't look like you can't defend yourself. Besides," he added, the toothpick bobbing up and down, "I didn't want you getting hurt." He saw the flicker in her eyes and it only made him more interested in the female, even if thoughts of kicking him in the groin were running though her mind.
Sano led her out of the pub. When they were a few yards away, his arm slipped away from her waist. Then he examined the female with interest. She was pretty curvy and seemed like her vitals were good. And she was beautiful. To him, that was the most important thing. "So what's your name?" He finally asked.
Xiang eyed him, thinking about the consequences of letting a stranger know her name. She thought about, figuring he was the kind that would forget quickly. "Xiang Lee. And yours?"
"Sagara, huh?" Xiang thought about where she heard that name and then it came to her. The last name also belonged to Sagara Sōzō, the leader of the Sekiho army. He had been executed by the Imperialists. She wondered if they were related somehow. Whether it was by blood or marriage.
"So," Sanosuke decided to ask, "are all Chinese women like you?"
Xiang glared. "That's being stereotypical. One person cannot define other people who are similar by looks, culture, race or gender."
He raised an eyebrow at the vexed female. "Wow," he muttered sarcastically, "you seem smart, too." Sano had decided to stop teasing the female when he saw how her eyes were already in slits. He hadn't expected the woman to take that comment so seriously. Then Sanosuke came to a halt and so did Xiang. His brown eyes examined her face then, finally resting on her lips. "The moonlight looks good on you."
Xiang watched Sano approached her and cupped her cheek. He was close now, close enough for her to smell the liquor he had been drinking. Her cheeks turned red when thoughts of what he wanted to do with her ran through Xiang's mind. The drinks she had consumed as well were clouding her judgement and allowing the enticement to grow between the two.
Instantly, Xiang killed the mood by sucking her teeth. She had just remembered the gig at the brothel and was already late. She had to go before she lost her job or Goro got mad at her which was even worse. "I've got to go," she said. "It was nice meeting you though, Sanosuke." Before he could say anything to stop her, she took off down the road.
A/N: I think this might be a Fanfic for both Sanosuke and Enishi fans. There will be several flashbacks to the past (with Enishi) and the remainder of the story will be in the present (with mostly Sano of course). Well how was it? Boring? Good? Needs more work? Let me know! Anywayz, till later.