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'Kyuuketsuki to Shikkeishikonin - Tsuishin'
A Gentleman Of Leisure.
Standing in front of the full-length mirror that was the sole luxury in the tiny little apartment, apart from the huge number of plushies and stuffed animals dotted around everywhere, Chiyo unfastened her top two buttons and slipped her blouse down off her left shoulder, revealing the extensive scars still visible there and on her neck, and examined them closely in her reflection.
Standing just behind her, Sakaki made a muffled sound of anguish when she saw the injuries her friend had suffered. Without a word she slipped her arms round the younger girl and bowed her head to gently kiss the scars. Chiyo sighed, and let herself relax into the affectionate embrace.
"Don't worry, dear Sakaki-san," she reassured the other's reflection. "It's nothing like as bad as it looks - honestly."
"I can't bear to think of you being hurt."
"It's OK, Sakaki-san; I really don't remember it at all clearly any more. It's all rather muddled - a bit like a bad dream. Everything was very confusing and sudden because it all happened so quickly. Anyway, I know the scars still look rather horrible, but I've had time to get used to them, and they are beginning to fade quite nicely now. Bibi-sama said they would, though I don't see how she knew that it would be this soon, and the doctors in Seattle couldn't understand it at all. I think they might even disappear almost completely in time."
"The Gods were really looking after you that day, Chiyo-san..."
"Not '-san', dear Sakaki-san. Remember? I told you - I will always be your Chiyo-chan, no matter how old I live to be. Anyway, I had more than the Gods looking out for me that day, didn't I?"
"When I read your letter, I think I almost died myself. If those Amerikan Valkyries, those 'Slayers' hadn't been visiting your College... Well, I can't bear to think..." Sakaki shook her head, and buried her face in Chiyo's hair to hide the tears that were starting to run down her cheeks.
"Don't, dear Sakaki-san. Please don't. I'm fine. In fact, I couldn't be better," Chiyo said. "I was just lucky that these 'Slayer' girls were already looking for the demon. If it hadn't been for poor old Tadakichi-san sensing that the Kyuuketsuki was there in the woods, they would have hunted it down before anyone else could have been hurt at all. Really it was just my bad luck that T-san was so courageous." She laughed. "Still, never mind, he wasn't to know, was he? He just thought he was doing his best to protect me. Of course, as it turned out, that was why the girls were there in the first place." She shrugged slightly.
"Did they tell you all this?" Sakaki asked.
"Yes. Well - sort of, though not actually everything in so many words. Giles-sensei and Bibi-sama came to see me the evening before they left to fly to London in my father's company plane. I told you in my letter, didn't I, that I'd already recognised Buffy-san from the news broadcast of the destruction of their town, Sunnydale? They didn't say right out what had been going on there, but they hinted a lot, and I've rather put together the truth by reading in between the lines of what they did say, and what they left out as well. Hunting down vampires and demons is their job - it's fantastic just to think that such things really exist!"
Sakaki wordlessly tightened her embrace, and Chiyo turned round to press her face against Sakaki so she could hear her heart thudding, slipping her own arms round the taller girl and reaching up to pat her reassuringly on the back.
"There, there. I'm safe here at home in Japan with you now. Don't be frightened for me," the smaller girl said.
"It's just so difficult to believe in such things as Kyuuketsuki being real. What if another one appears?"
"It won't!" the younger girl said positively, and briefly stood up on tiptoe to kiss her friend on the cheek. "Anyway, now I know something of how to protect myself. Buffy-san and the rest of the girls taught me a few things. I think I can cope if anything like that ever happened again. Don't you worry about it. And look," she added, producing a slender, sharply pointed wooden stick, almost a third of a meter in length, from concealment somewhere in the back of her waistband, "Buffy-san gave me this for protection!" She raised her eyebrows suggestively, and giggled, sounding almost like the little ten-year-old girl she'd been when she and Sakaki had first met.
"Wouldn't you want to use the katana they took from it, then?" Sakaki said, looking down at Chiyo, who promptly burst out laughing.
"No, no. It was huge! You have no idea - it stood taller than me! Can you imagine someone my height fighting with a sword that's longer than she is? That's the sort of thing you see in those ridiculous anime serials on TV about magical princesses, not in real life!" (AN1) She shook her head, still chuckling. "No, it belongs to Bibi-sama by right. She rescued me, and disarmed and killed the demon - the weapon is hers."
There was silence for a brief space, during which the two of them moved across the room to sit down on the futon, where Chiyo curled up in Sakaki's lap with her head comfortably pillowed. Mayaa, Sakaki's Iriomote cat, which was snoozing up at the far end of the bed, opened its eyes briefly and then promptly went back to sleep.
"I must learn more about Bibi-sama. She's such a strange woman," Chiyo said thoughtfully.
"Strange? How so, Chiyo-suke?" Sakaki asked, her chin resting gently on the top of her friend's head.
"Because she is so strong, she can move so fast, and learn so quickly - it's all a little hard to believe."
Chiyo sat up straight again to look at Sakaki. "You know, she told me she had picked up enough Japanese to be able to talk with me, in only a day and a half. If that's true, it's incredible. She was pretty good, too - correct grammar and everything! It was amazing - I suspect she might even be more intelligent than me! I think she's really someone quite extraordinary. You will have to meet her someday, and the others too, and tell me what you think. Oh, don't worry," she added hastily, seeing the older girl's slightly unhappy expression, "you are my most special friend, dearest Sakaki-san. You will always have that place in my heart, and I hope you will always keep me in yours... but I need your head too!" she added, giggling again like the youngster she really still was.
"Mm! I'm glad," said Sakaki, blushing. "And I would like to meet anyone you think so highly of. Is she kawaii as well?"
"She's several centimetres taller than I am, just exactly the same height as her cousin Buffy-san, but quite a lot smaller than you. They're both pretty, so I suppose you could say they were cute, though I don't think I would like to be on the wrong side of Bibi-sama on a bad day!"
"Like that, is she?"
"I'm not entirely certain. Maybe worse! But you'll see!"
"I can't wait!" Sakaki said, laughing too.
"Soon," said Chiyo, gently pushing her over and stretching out beside her in the crook of her arm. "I hope to switch to a University in England - and my father agrees with the idea too. Giles-sensei said he thought perhaps Oxbridge - apparently he 'knows' people. And then you can come and visit me."
She lifted her head for a moment, looking thoughtful, perhaps even slightly puzzled.
"You know, it's rather strange - although I looked very carefully at a map of England, I couldn't find the place anywhere!"
AN1: For instance 'Mai Hime'.
AN2: Japanese vocabulary:
Shikkeishikonin: Slayer (dictionary: executioner)