Tonami, Japan, 1871
She noticed Kurasawa's companion sitting across from him in seiza. He was tall, dark haired, dressed in a white kimono with a black obi. His head was to her as she entered, Kurasawa, dressed in a subdued shade of gray with a darker gray obi, looked up at her entrance. She bowed quickly to both men and came over with the tea tray.
She began the progress of serving the two men, politely serving Kurasawa first as he was of higher rank. When she began serving Kurasawa's guest she was aware of his expressionless face, narrow eyes, and high cheekbones. His face was that of an unforgiving warrior.
She wondered what such an individual was doing here with Kurasawa. It was true that he sponsored Aizu and people closely related to the Aizu and helped them relocate to Tonami, but this man seemed dangerous. He had an air about him that hinted that he'd seen bloodshed many times. Perhaps even recently…
After serving she retreated to the side, watching the two men carefully. Kurasawa didn't say anything immediately which was strange for him seeing as he was usually a talkative man.
When he did speak it was after both men sipped their tea and replaced them in their holders. Usually Kurasawa would make a passing compliment to her about its good qualities, but he seemed almost pensive today, much unlike him. His voice was indifferent, "Goro Fujita-san?"
The man, now indicated as Goro Fujita, raised an eyebrow in amusement. "Or should I address you by the name you took while in Echigo Province? Ichinose Denpachi?"
Goro's eyes narrowed even more, but there was a soft upward turn of his lips which she assumed was his way of smiling. "Fujita suits me better."
Echigo Province? Then this man must be an Aizu warrior or at least someone who'd fought on the side of the Bakufu during the revolution.
"Goro-san," Kurasawa chuckled as his companion just stared blankly, "I suppose I should welcome you here. It surprised me when I was told you were alive, but if you're still as you were in the old days, I shouldn't be so stunned, eh?"
He sipped his tea, "I wonder who told you such information? Have you spies watching me?"
Kurasawa smiled pleasantly, "A little bird told me, so they say." He chose to acknowledge her existence then and smiled. "I suppose introductions would be polite of me. Tokio-san was the daughter of the Aizu retainer Kojuro Takagi-san. Goro-san here was formerly known in the days of the Bakufu as Hajime Saito, leader of the third squad of the Shinsengumi."
He was one of those Wolves of Mibu? Shinsengumi…hm…not many of those wolves were alive in this era, especially upper ranking members. She wondered as she looked at Hajime Saito how he had survived as long as this. His answering response was to glance at her briefly with that same stoic expression.
Kurasawa drank some tea before saying, "You'll be staying here I take it?"
"Unfortunately for one of us."
"Me or you?" Kurasawa chuckled, "I think I'm the one worse off here. First you'll be housing here and with your attitude you'll likely scare off my other residents."
"You're mood today is deplorable. Cheer up and relax, this isn't the Bakumatsu anymore. Perhaps some sake would lighten your disposition?"
"I don't drink sake."
Saito's eyes took on a slightly malicious look, his face still unmoving. "I've a tendency to violence when intoxicated."
"You have such a tendency without the sake, Goro-san. A little will not worsen it much," Kurasawa smiled at his indifferent friend. Saito was going to be living here in Kurasawa's residence? She didn't like that idea, she'd have to warn the other ladies about this man's 'tendency with sake' among other things. It would be better if they stayed from his sight as much as possible. She hoped Kurasawa wasn't planning on letting this Shinsengumi man stay for an extended period.
The conversation halted for a time, Kurasawa still his cheery self while the other man sat demurely. A sheep letting a wolf sit beside him and the wolf not chopping the poor sheep to pieces. How bizarre. She was sure the katana at the man's side had seen bloodshed countless times. It sent a little shiver up her spine when her thoughts turned down that road.
Kurasawa talked quietly mentioning something about the full moon tonight, wolves, and stupid actions. Saito stood up and with a polite bow took his leave.
Kurasawa looked at her with a bemused look, "That man, really how rude. I was in the middle of talking …but he knows how things work," he nodded his head in appreciation. "I wonder if he listened to Hijikata-sama as well as he does me? Toshizo Hijikata-sama wasn't one for insubordination they say."
"Did you know Hijikata-san personally?"
He shook his head, "'The Demon of the Shinsengumi' and I, only lowly little Kurasawa Hieimon, never met. And I'm grateful. He was a fearsome man from what I've heard. Even more a wolf than Hajime Saito. And you know, Tokio-san?"
"Hijikata-sama deserves the title -sama more then I do, surely." He smiled and she smiled back. She loved Kurasawa for his warmth and gentle nature. "Besides you know I hate such formality with you."
Suddenly the shoji slid open revealing Yaso Shinoda. Tokio, playing Japanese chess with Haruna, stared at the wide eyed look on Yaso's face.
"Did you meet him," asked Amane before any of the others could speak up.
"Yes." So far the only one of them who'd met Hajime Saito had been Tokio, but she'd refused to say much when prompted by the other ladies of Kurasawa's household. All she'd told them was that he was a man to avoid, which had only fueled their foolish determination to at least see the Wolf of Mibu.
"What kind of man is he?" Satsuki glanced up at Yaso as she braided her hair.
"He's…" she took a breath, "a cold man. He barely said a word to me. Kurasawa-san was all politeness to that man! I don't get it…why does Kurasawa let that…that…Miburo stay here? He's frightening!"
Haruna, Satsuki, Amane, and Yaso gathered together and began chirping like birds. Tokio sat watching them; she just wanted to finish her game. Stupid wolf distracting everyone. Now the ladies would talk of nothing for the next couple of weeks expect that man. And then it would start all over again when another one of them met him. She sighed, why did they always get so excited over visitors or new residents? She could understand the initial curiosity over new members to the household, but Hajime Saito was not someone any of them should be associated with.
It wasn't the fact that he was Shinsengumi that she disliked him. Aizu had actually sponsored the Shinsengumi so she couldn't bring herself to hate him for any Bakufu reasons. Nor entirely did her dislike rest on his personality. In fact she found his personality almost refreshing. She was sick of the gossiping hens around her and Kurasawa, the only man she was close to, was a kind warm person. He was the yin to Kurasawa's yang. Perhaps that was why Kurasawa liked him? Hm...a thought for another time. She disliked the Shinsengumi Wolf for a more simple reason. He murdered people remorselessly. She'd heard the stories about him, how he killed in the name of 'Aku Soku Zan.' He was like a descending falcon diving in to snatch up evil.
She shuddered, such unsavory thoughts. She frowned, Yaso's voice suddenly distracting her. Perhaps a little distraction was necessity right now.
"He's not handsome, I'll just say that first off," great they were still talking about him. "I mean he's tall and muscular looking, but his face. He's just so…ugly." Good sentiment, she mused, agreeing with Yaso. "And scary looking, what with his silences and his dark looks. He looks evil," she pronounced with a shake of her head. Another agreement on her side, he did look evil. So why wasn't that and his reputation enough to make them realize they should forget about Hajime Saito?
Words below are used through the next chapters also. Any new words not included here will be explained in the chapter they appear in. I hope everyone enjoys. If Saito is OC, sorry, this is my first RK story. Please R&R.
Ai shiteru-passionate Japanese for 'I love you'
Aizuwakamatsu-clan capital, Aizuwakamatsu Castle was under siege for a month in 1868, but surrendered. Tsuruga Castle is another name for Aizuwakamatsu Castle. After the fall, Teruhime, Katamori, and Matsudaira Nobunori, Katamori's adopted son, were all placed under house arrest at Myokokuji temple and most Aizu soldiers became prisoners of war.
Bakumatsu-the last days of the Tokugawa shogunate; Was very chaotic and there was constant fighting between the supporters of the shogunate and the supporters of the emperor (Ishin Shishi, aka Choshu/Satsuma/Kenshin's side during the war)
Bira bira-also called fluttering or dangling style of kanzashi (hair ornament worn in Japanese women's hair) these are composed of metal strips attached by rings to the body of the ornament so that they move independently, pleasantly tinkling
Bogu-name for the protective armor worn during sword practice, parts include men, do, kote, and tare
Bokken-wooden practice sword
Bushido-samurai code followed for thousands of years in Japan. The core values of Bushido were rectitude, courage, benevolence, respect, honesty, honor, and loyalty among other things. Also important tenets were respect for lower ranking people and conducting oneself with calmness, fairness, justice, and propriety
-Chan-informal ending used with best friends and relatives
Daisho-term for the wakizashi and katana samurai wear
Do-torso protector, aka breastplate. The target areas of the do are the two lower sides for a slashing cut to the stomach. The top half of the do is a valid target for a thrust in naginata and use to be for a sword, but isn't permitted in sword practice nowadays
Haori-jacket that goes over the kimono (think of the Shinsengumi uniform, the blue jacket)
Hasso-no-kamae/tonbo-no-kamae-the Tonbo-no-kamae has the sword held vertically above the shoulder, the only difference between tonbo-no-kamae and hasso-no-kamae is that tonbo is held higher, used in Jigen-ryu
Hatamoto-upper vassals of the shogun and were allowed to hold audiences with him, where considered to be higher up than the Gokenin
Hitokiri-Japanese for "manslayer" or "assassin"
Fundoshi-Japanese loincloth worn throughout Japan before Americans made boxers and briefs common. Every male wore fundoshi, but there are many different forms. I'm assuming Saito probably wore this type of fundoshi because he was an active person. This type of fundoshi is formed when the cloth is wound around the hips so that there is an excess of apron, which is brought back again between the legs and twisted around the belt-cloth in back. It was also the standard male bathing suit
Fusuma-movable dividing walls in Japan, typically a Japanese house consisted of one room with fusuma dividing them into smaller parts, typically a bathroom (a bathhouse is separate from the toilet), toilet, and genkan (look below) with one multipurpose living space create one complete Japanese housing unit
Genkan-a small entryway level to outside, the house is a step higher. Adjacent to the lower floor is a shelf or cabinet called a getabako where people store their shoes. Slippers for wear in the home are also stored in the getabako
Geta scandals-Geta sandals are any sandal with a separate heel. The wooden geta sandal is the most well known
Gokenin-rank of shogun's direct vassal, they did not have the right to a private audience with the shogun as the Hatamoto did
Iaigoshi-a stance where the feet are parallel and the body faces the opponent
Ikebana-Japanese flower arrangement, very different than a bouquet of flowers in the U.S. Japanese often incorporate stems and leaves.
Ishin-no-Sanketsu-translated as 'three great nobles of the restoration.' Kido Takayoshi aka Kogoro Katsura (Kenshin worked for Katsura), Saigo Takamori, and Okubo Toshimichi
Ishin shishi-usually Choshu, Satsuma, and Tosa clan members, anti-shogunate and usually pro-sonno-joi 'revere the emperor, expel the barbarians', fought against the Shinsengumi (The group Kenshin worked for, Katsura from OVA Trust and Betrayal was a Choshu, several higher up Meiji government officials were former Ishin shishi)
Jigai-name for women's form of seppuku
Jigen-ryu-style of swordsmanship that puts emphasis on the first strike: Jigen-ryu teachings state that a second strike is not even to be considered, founded by Togo Chui in the late 16th century in Satsuma Province
Juban-a slip worn under a kimono for warmth and to accent the collar
Kadomatsu-tree sprigs put in the entranceway
Kagamimochi-flat round rice cakes
Kaiken-a dagger carried by samurai men and women. Useful for self-defense indoors when a katana and wakizashi were too inconvenient. Women carried them in their obi or in a brocade pouch with drawstrings for easy access. The kaiken was usually given to women as a wedding gift
Koishii-'darling' in Japanese
Koi shiteru-affectionate form of 'I love you.'
Kote-hand and forearm protectors, aka gauntlets. The target area is the wrist portion of each kote
Men-facemask and shoulder protector worn during practice, aka helmet. The target areas of the men is the center top, and upper left and right sides for cutting strikes and the center of the throat protector for a thrust.
Menkyo Kaiden-level in swordsmanship, highest level nest to soke (just a note: the real Saito was called a master, but no one seems to be sure what style of swordsmanship he used, Okita was a Kaiden, Hijikata was a Mokuroku (one of the lowest levels), and Kondo was a Shihan (Shihan is another word for Soke, a headmaster of a dojo)
Montsuki-formal black kimono
Naginata-a shaft of wood with a curved blade on the end, usually there is a sword-like guard called a tsuba between the blade and shaft, it was used by samurai women in Japan and a functional naginata was a traditional part of a samurai daughter's dowry
Nakano Takeko-famous Aizu warrior who fought with a naginata who lived from 1847 to 1868, fought in the Battle of Aizu and was hit with a bullet, had her sister cut her head off and bury it because she didn't want an enemy to capture it as a trophy
Nemaki-gauze lined sleeping robe or yukata
Onna-'woman' in Japanese
Saikeirei-"most respectful bow" kneeling bow where one's forehead touches the floor, considered to be the most respectful bow
Saigyo-aka Norikiyo Satoh, warrior, monk, and poet
-Sama-most formal ending, usually reserved for teachers, peers, and respected adults
-San-polite form of address, used on everyone someone wouldn't use -chan or -sama on
Seiza-formal sitting position, buttocks rest on knees, hands rest in lap or at the side (side note: Saito was said to sit seiza even when resting and informal situations)
Shimenawa and shide-a sacred rope of straw with dangling white paper strips called shide, used to prevent evil from entering the house and to show the toshigami
Shinsengumi-"Newly Selected Corps"; Group that supported the shogun; sponsored by the Aizu clan, it was their duty to patrol the streets of Kyoto; also known as the Wolves of Mibu or Miburo
Sugegasa-Japanese word for straw hat worn in Asian countries to protect from sun and rain
Seppuku-men's form of ritual suicide, the person committing seppuku cuts his stomach with his wakizashi, after the cut and sometimes during his second, usually a close friend or relative, nearly decapitates him, leaving only a think layer of skin connecting the head to the body, seppuku is done to restore one's honor after bringing shame to their name or to avoid being captured during war time
Tare-leg and groin protector. Tare is merely for protection purposes so it doesn't have a target.
Tatami scandals and mats-tatami scandals are any flat bottomed scandals, the tatami mats is the floor for most Japanese rooms, tatami is another name for zori scandals
Tatehiza-sitting on your left foot with your right leg against your side and foot facing forward, a stance used to practice sword drawing technique
Toshidana-a special altar that is piled high with foods for the toshigami
Toshigami-spirits who bring New Year with them
Wakizashi-ceremonial sword used to commit seppuku, worn with the katana
Wara-soaked and bound rice straw with a bamboo core, used for practicing cuts, nowadays their made from tatami mats wrapped around bamboo and are called Goza (If you've seen Trust and Betrayal younger Kenshin cuts through one in front of Katsura)
Yukata-lightweight cotton summer kimono
Zabuton-"sitting futon' a cushion used for seiza sitting
Zori scandals-flat bottomed scandals, also called tatami scandals