Once upon a time, on the west end of Tokyo, lived a good doctor by the name of Genzai.  He was an experienced and skilled physician with quite a number of patients.  He owned the only reputable clinic on that side of Tokyo, and patients would come from far to seek treatment.  It was a modest clinic, maybe even a little small for such a popular clinic, but the care one received from him was no less than excellent.  The front yard of the clinic was well tended, with many potted bonsai trees, flowering lilacs and fruiting trees of apple.  The backyard was the source of all his medical secrets:  a garden of medicinal herbs of all varieties grew in rows, and by the fences grew tomatoes, eggplants and peppermint.  His clinic opened early and was open to everybody, prince and pauper alike.  As this was the case, there was usually a long wait to see the good doctor.  Age comes with experience, and age he had much.  At times he would feel the overwhelming load of patients take its toll on his aging back.  For several weeks he feared the need to limit his clinic hours, until a blessing from heaven gave him a young and intelligent assistant by the name of Takani Megumi.

          She was educated in the disciplines of medicine, much to the joy of the old doctor.  She made it easier to attend to every patient; astute and quick on her feet, she knew how to prepare medicines from herbs that grew in the clinic's backyard. 

          Not only was she a wonderful doctor, she was also a strikingly beautiful woman.  So it wasn't a surprise to the old doctor to find his clinic flooded with patients whose only ailment was an urgent need to see her beautiful face.  It was easy to pick out those who were truly ill among those who were entranced by the younger doctor's charms.  Among those who regularly came to see her was a tall, strong man by the name of Sagara Sanosuke.

          A few years her junior, Sagara was known among the townspeople as the rogue of Tokyo.  He has been in and out of bars, and even more gambling joints in the west end of Tokyo.  Feared for his powerful fists, most men who crossed his path thought it easier to be amicably acquainted with him rather than make an enemy of him.  Tall and formidable, waitresses and ladies who pass him by often exchanged hushed admiration for the carefree rogue. 

          Once in a while he would be provoked into a brawl initiated by a drunk patron of a bar.  These fights usually last but a few seconds, and everyone knew who won.  Sometimes his drunken opponents would fall to the floor sleeping even before his fist could touch them.  At other times, they weren't so lucky.

          It was never good for his challengers or him to use his fists.  Many months before, he injured his right hand, which broke all except the bones of his wrist.  Every time he got into a fight, he often bruised his hand, and at times he broke a few bones altogether. 

          It was then necessary to see the lady doctor again.

          "Megumi," the old doctor chimed lightheartedly, "Sanosuke is here to see you!"

          Much to her dismay, his visits never made the treatments on his hand easy.  He was playfully sarcastic, and often provoked the lady doctor to exchange biting words with the rogue.  She was always cool and collected when she spoke, and it was amusing for him to see this trait of hers unruffled. 

          "I know I may be wasting my breath, but let me teach you a little anatomy lesson, Sanosuke."

         

          "Oh, really?  Which body are we learning from?  Ow!"

          She gave the bandage a forceful yank before fastening it midway to his forearm. 

          "You're supposed to relieve the pain, not inflict it!  Hey, where are you going?"

          She briefly left the room and came back with a piece of paper and pencil in hand.  Sitting directly in front of him, she drew a picture of a hand against the top surface of her little medicine cabinet.  "Let's pretend this is the back your hand."

          "What?  No way.  My hand is much better looking than that."

          "Humor me, Sanosuke."

          "I am!"

          Putting her irritation aside, she continued. 

          "On top of the bones you bruised today run these strong elastic bands called tendons.  They help to extend your fingers, let's say like opening your fist."  She drew lines that ran through the middle of each finger diagram.  Then she drew another hand.

          "Now let's pretend this is your hand with the palm facing us.  Deep within your hand are many muscles, and there are also tendons that attach to the bones on this side.  They help you make a fist.  Do you understand so far?"

          After hearing his grunt, she continued. 

          "Sano, the reason why it is so difficult for your hand to heal is because you keep bruising them.  You're lucky you didn't break a bone again, but these bruises are not to be taken lightly.  Hm, how do I explain this…"

          His interest peaked; he patiently waited for her to go on.

          "All right.  Have you seen Dr. Genzai wrap wires around and bend the little trunks of the bonsai plants outside?"

          "Yeah, I've seen him do it.  It's to bend the trunks, right?"

          "Correct.  Let's say the bones in your hand are the little trunks.  Dr. Genzai often applies force to bend the trunks and then reinforces the trunks with the wires to prevent them from bending back.  When your hand," she said, taking his hand into hers and pointing at the tendons, "hits something hard, like a man's face, it takes the same amount of force you used to hit the face with.  What do you think takes on this force?"

          He groaned.  "My bones."

          "Right.  So there's your force.  Now the wires.  Your tendons usually stay fixed, and when I say 'usually', I mean when you don't abuse them like you do.  These tendons are like wires.  When your bones take on forces, your tendons are still attached to them.  When you hit something forcefully, it knocks bone joints out of place even though your tendons are still attached.  If not tended to, your bones will stay out of place and your tendons can hold them out of place.  You complain that it hurts every time I treat you.  Well, it's because I have to knock your bones back correctly into the joints and stabilize them with the bandage."

          "Oh."  He looked down in his hand still held by her firm grasp.  "And here I thought you were just trying to be mean." 

          "Well, that's free of charge, not like you pay for your treatments or anything…"

          "Hey, I would, but—"

          "But what?"

          "But for some funny reason, I can't find my money every time I come visit you."

          "That's because you're a lousy gambler."

          He opened his mouth but couldn't find the words with which to retort.  He knew she was right.  Damn it, bested again…

          "Sanosuke, do you always have to fight?"

          "If insulted, yes.  I've got my honor to defend."

          She laughed.  "Are you sure it's not your big ego you're defending?"

          "You just like being the bane of my life, don't you?"  With a mean stare then a smile, "but you know what?  I don't mind at all…"

          "But my long list of patients does."  Standing up, she scribbled a few characters on the paper, folded and handed it to him.  "Today's lesson is over.  Lay off the hand, okay?" 

          With a grunt, he got up, stowed the paper in his pocket and walked to the door.  Before he walked off, he looked over his shoulder.  "Megumi, you're a very good doctor.  Thanks for the lesson."  With a wink, he was gone.

          Surprised at the compliment, she tucked a lock of hair behind her ear and consciously looked around, afraid that someone might notice the flush in her cheeks.

          Outside the clinic on his way back to the apartment, he took the note from his pocket and looked over his hand diagram.  He remembered every word she said as his eyes followed the lines of the tendons on the paper.  As his eyes trailed down, he saw the doctor's beautiful handwriting in the corner. 

          "Don't forget, Chicken-head."

          He smiled as he folded the paper back neatly into his pocket and whistled his way down the street.