AN: Hoy! Scribe here, reminding you all that this fic is another one of Blackmoon's fine works, not mine, so please direct all comments towards him.
"Dango Mo Ki Kara Ochiru" or, "Even Dumplings May Fall From Trees"
Steel brushed across gleaming steel as a wind blew through the dusty street. Mugen bent forward, balancing on one hand as he spun to bring the sword across again, and again, Jin effortlessly deflected the blade. He ducked under Mugen's spinning feet and thrust his blade- then twice, then three times, and yet, despite the vagabond's uncouth tactics and seemingly random movements, not a single blow could be landed.
In a flash of red, Mugen had altered his stance again and swept past his opponent, attacking from angles unexpected, trying to pierce Jin's defenses, but it was an uneven match; Mugen had the skills and the luck, but Jin was a practiced, nay, master swordsman, and victory was not about to be decisive in this duel.
"Uh, guys...?" Fuu's voice came from the doorway of the restaurant they had stepped out of, unsure, almost insecure in her ability to convince the warriors to cease their brawl.
Not without reason, of course. Without missing a beat, Mugen had shouted a "Mind your own business!" back at her as he continued his attack unperturbed. One of his strikes went off the mark as Jin redirected his sword and nearly hit an unarmed peasant who had wandered a little too close to the scuffle in his curiosity, but this didn't seem to stop either fighter.
By now, a sizeable crowd had gathered to watch the melee. Even in the Edo period, it wasn't a common occurrence to see two samurai having it out in the street- well, not samurai, per se, but a ronin and a criminal; the point was moot, anyway, as the pair's movements were far too frenetic, too blindingly fast to be seen by an untrained eye.
Jin struck low, in an attempt to cripple his opponent's legs, but Mugen's mind was as agile as his body, and he responded by bracing a hand on Jin's shoulder and jumping over him, swinging his sword at Jin's back as he went. Jin whirled and parried Mugen's deadly steel, and Fuu meekly called out to them again, "Guys...? Don't you think this fight is a little... um... silly?"
This time, both warriors barked a sharp "NO!" at her in response. Of course, like last time, Fuu was right. Jin and Mugen weren't fighting over honor, or to decide which of them would have the honor of becoming Fuu's betrothed- as though either of them wanted something like that, or even about who would get to fight the next Villain of the Week.
No, they'd started a swordfight in a public street over who would get the last dumpling.
Oh, to be sure, it was quite a spectacle. Jin's jet-black hair blowing in the wind, his ample sleeves flowing with each fluid sword strike, the shining sun reflected in his glasses making his already icy demeanor all the more inscrutable; and in perfect contrast, the wildman Mugen, his shirt a red blur as his limbs continually switched places, spinning and flipping and even doing a few handstands, just for good measure. Passersby had even started tossing down handfuls of coins, thinking it was some sort of performance.
However, much like a performance, it had to have an end, as even these nearly superhuman combatants had limits, like every other mortal. That end was rapidly approaching. Though the rabble couldn't perceive it, their motions were growing sloppy; Mugen's clever footwork was beginning to slip, and Jin's strikes were beginning to lack precision. Jin would cut, and his fatigue would create just enough leeway to allow Mugen to duck the blow unharmed, despite suffering a hit to his dignity when his foot slipped out from under him, forcing him into an impromptu roll. In fact, it was this exchange that caused the scuffle to close.
Mugen had thought he'd seen an opportunity at the end of his roll, and swung his sword at Jin's back. Simultaneously, Jin had attempted to take advantage of Mugen's vulnerability while earthbound, and thrust down towards him. The end effect was that both, perhaps subconsciously somewhat reluctant to take the life of each other's chosen nemesis, had assumed quite a striking pose- Jin, standing tall and proud, the point of his katana scant inches from Mugen's forehead, and Mugen, crouched low like the bandit he was at heart, limbs outstretched, the edge of his sword nearly touching Jin's back. The two of them stood that way for what felt like hours, each trying to come to terms with what had just happened and attempting to determine the true victor.
Applause broke out from the crowd.
Coming back to reality, they sheathed their weapons and straightened themselves up.
"I couldn't have defended myself. Take it," offered Jin.
"No way, man. I hate to say it, but you totally got me there, you take it."
"Eh, whatever," shrugged Mugen, "I probably coulda taken ya out anyway. Hey, Fuu, where's my victory dumpling?"
"Uh, guys, that's what I was trying to tell you earlier," said Fuu nervously, glancing side to side and sheepishly rubbing her hands together. "I, um... well, you guys were taking so long, and I figured you'd lose your appetite during the fight, and I was really hungry, and the rest were just so yummy..."
"What are you trying to say, Fuu?" asked Jin suspiciously.
"I... might have eaten the last dumpling."
There was a long, almost palpable silence as Fuu avoided the glare of the two men who had risked their lives for a nonexistent prize.
People from towns over would spend the rest of their days wondering about the story behind the gruff voice that had exclaimed "YOU BITCH!" loud enough to be heard from two prefectures that one strange summer afternoon.