Disclaimer: I don't own Mai Hime.
Beta'd by: RevalisPyross
This is a setting I've been wanting to write for a long time, historical Japan. I learned about the Genpei War in one of my Japanese classes and immediately wanted to write Shizuru as Yoshitsune Minamoto and Natsuki as Benkei. Of course, this isn't historically accurate and most of the stories surrounding Benkei are legends; this is my own spin on Japanese history and their meeting.
You'll notice in this piece that Shizuru wields a katana, and Natsuki is in possession of a naginata. Shizuru using a katana is canon in the Destiny-verse and people in Natsuki's profession are skilled with various weapons, one of them being the naginata.
Haha.. ha... eh, I'd like to apologize for the terminology section below- it's a bit long. I might've explained things a bit more than I needed to, but if you're interested, it's there. =) Speaking of which, if you find something incorrect, like one of the translations are wrong or I messed up on some fact (in the terminology section or in the story), please tell me so I can fix it. I'm not an expert, not even close, but I'd like to give people the correct information. =)
Please enjoy! =D
Unmei no Deai – "Encounter of Fate"
Heian Period (from years 794 to 1185) – Japan's "Golden Age." This is the period in time when the Japanese started to move away from Chinese influence and establish their own way of life. (This story takes place in 1184, during the Genpei War.)
Nippon/Nihon – What the Japanese call "Japan." Both words mean the same thing, but Nippon is more formal than Nihon.
Nipponjin/Nihonjin – "Japanese people." People from Japan.
Heian-kyō – This is what capital city was called at this time; known today as Kyoto. It was pretty much the only established "city" of Japan during this time.
-taishou – The honorific meaning the title of "General." I don't actually use it, but it's up here just in case you were wondering.
Nagajaban – The best way to describe this would be undergarments for a kimono. Kimonos were made of finely woven fabrics, so a nagajaban would be worn underneath to keep the skin from ruining the inside of the kimono. They're made out of a softer, thinner, less expensive fabric and are usual white.
Kimono – Literally means "thing to wear." It was the usual clothing of the Heian period (if you weren't a peasant), though the types of kimono worn were both a status symbol, and also marked the occasion (there were both formal and informal kimonos.) Japan's higher class (aristocrats, nobles, etc.) took extreme measures to match colors, not only to look aesthetically pleasing, but to coordinate colors according to the seasons.
Obi – The sash around the kimono to keep the folds from coming loose. Men and women had different obi, the women having more elaborately designed ties. (Natsuki uses a men's obi.)
Tachi – Literally "sword." Different from a katana only by sling and the way it is handled. With a tachi, you swing the sword downward while with a katana, you swing upward. (This is because of where the cutting edge of the blades was placed on each type of sword; tachi has the cutting edge downward and vise versa for the katana.) Tachi were more common during the Heian period.
Katana – See "Tachi."
Sōhei – Literally "warrior monks." Buddhist monks who were trained in weaponry; highly skilled.
Kuge – The aristocrats and noblemen of Japan during this time.
"Hiei-san" – Mount Hiei. In Japanese, you put '-san' at the end of a mountain's name.
Naginata – If you're part of this fandom, I'm pretty sure you know what a naginata is. However, a traditional naginata doesn't look like what Shizuru wields: it's a long, thin pole-arm with an even thinner blade mounted to the very end of the pole. (Shizuru's is more of a western-style pole-arm.) It's mainly used for quick thrusts and slashes as opposed to the western "heavy hacking and chopping" pole-arms.
Takuhatsugasa – The straw hat Buddhist monks wore to conceal the top two-thirds of their face. I'll spare you all the name however, and just call it a straw hat in the story.
Hakama – They're similar to pants, and were worn by men. Their main purpose was to protect the legs of workingmen and conceal the leg movement of martial artists so the enemy didn't know which way you were turning.
Kakusareta Hebi – Shizuru's katana. Literally, "Hidden Serpent."
Tōboesuru Ookami – Natsuki's tachi. Literally, "Howling Wolf."
"even if it is to fetch the Emperor's clothes" – Here Natsuki is reinforcing the fact that she'd do anything. The Emperor, as far as the general public knew, was an untouchable man, whose ancestry could be traced back to the Sun Goddess herself.
Fashion/Emotions/Arts – All of these things were held in the highest of regards for Japan's higher classes; if one did not, they were considered barbaric and shunned by others of their social status. It was good to be ruled by one's emotions, letting themselves be moved by everything that went on around them; crying was highly encouraged.
Almost all of Japan's citizens could write a poem and this was one of the few activities that people from all different classes could come together to enjoy. Chinese characters were still the most used in writing, but the Japanese were creating more and more Kanji during the Heian period to move away from Chinese influence.
Unmei no Deai
The market streets of Heian-kyō were buzzing with daily activity. Citizens and merchants haggled with one another, bickering back and forth about over-priced eggs; hooded monks begged passersby for alms while men, both young and old, gambled in between food stalls. The smells ranged from tempting to downright repulsive, and the heat was enough to make your clothes uncomfortably stick to your skin.
"It's said that our dear cousin is planning to taking control of this city," Shizuru Fujino's voice, though calm, was easily heard over the hustle and bustle around them.
"That's what our spies have told us, yes." Reito Fujino walked next to his younger sister, his hands hidden within the sleeves of his kimono as they expertly wove through the crowd. Normally, the two would have traversed through lesser-dense streets, riding atop of horses, but not today. For the sake of blending in, they opted to simply walk toward the meeting with their allies; no need to draw unwanted attention.
Shizuru spread the fold of her paper fan and attempted to cool off the exposed skin of her neck in small, practiced flicks of the wrist. The brunette briefly contemplated pinning up her hair but quickly cast that thought aside; she had to keep up appearances and long, unbound hair was currently in style. "Reito-kun," her deep red eyes glanced to the right, "we're to meet with the Court and discuss defensive measures to protect the city…"
"Yes?" He raised a thinned brow, edging her on. He, unlike Shizuru, was from the provinces far north so his accent clashed with the peasants around them. He messed with the folds of his pale yellow kimono, trying to subtly move the damp nagajaban away from his skin. The summer humidity seemed to have arrived early this year.
A small smile formed on Shizuru's reserved features, a sharp glint forming in her unnatural eyes, "What say you to following in father's footsteps? Shall we recruit some nearby warrior monks to help us against Tate's plans?" Her katana clattered lightly with each step, placed firmly against her side by her pale pink obi. Upon seeing his startled look, she added, "We are in desperate need of capable hands now that Takeda has joined our cousin's ranks."
This is true, he thought darkly. Tate had split off from the Fujino clan, wanting to start his own rule, and convinced Takeda to follow along; both of them were able leaders with well-practiced armies. Reito himself was skilled in both combat and tactics, but Shizuru was just starting her career as a commanding general, and that lack of experience worried the older sibling. The woman was no less proficient with a sword, but how would she fair when directing hundreds in the heat of battle?
They reached the end of the market stalls when Reito finally responded. A much-welcomed breeze passed by, playing with the folds of Shizuru's light purple kimono, making the pink wisteria flower patterns almost look like they were dancing. "Recruiting the sōhei would definitely help us, but much has changed in the last four years. Many of the Buddhist temples are now at war with one another." While the warrior monks were some of the best mercenaries in Nippon, the last thing their own civil war needed was more political strain.
"Ara, and what better way to keep tabs on a bunch of rowdy soldiers than to bring them into the capital, under the watchful eye of the samurai clans? Methinks neither temple would have much to complain about if both sides are paid the same generous amount for their services, yes?" She flashed him a quick grin before it faded back to its normal size. "We cannot keep asking Princess Mashiro for warriors as Nippon herself is struggling to maintain its own military, so must turn to any other resources available."
"Indeed," Reito agreed, ending their little chat. It wasn't that the Nippon army was poorly trained; they had been studying the Chinese military fighting style for the past three hundred years. No, it was simply the number of people available that made the Fujino clan hesitant about asking for more militia. Ever since the Indians and Chinamen came into their lands, an invisible, evil force had invaded, killing off many Nihonjin in its wake. The military couldn't afford to loan off any men.
The Fujino siblings' geta clapped against the wood as the two stepped onto the Gojo Bridge, slowly making their way across the Kamo River, toward the Imperial Palace. They passed by a fellow kuge reciting a lyrical poem about Hiei-san in the distance, about how such a magnificent sight nearly moved him to tears. Shizuru herself regarded the image of the powerful mountain, wondering how such a beautiful structure could both block maleficent winds and house demons at the same time.
Shizuru had no choice but to abide; the flat side of a naginata was pressed against her torso, blocking her path. Her eyes traced the weapon's length down to its owner and immediately recognized the clothing worn, Speaking of warrior monks. The new general smiled to herself, "Yes?"
Reito already had his hand on his sword's hilt, ready to unsheathe it. He hesitated, however, when seeing the playful glint in Shizuru's eyes. He slowly let go of the tachi, letting the scene play out, Just what are you planning, sister?
The Buddhist monk shifted their sitting position, pushing away from the bridge's wooden railing; the person's bright saffron robe, easily identifiable to all, fluttered lightly in the movement. "Your sword, are you skilled with it?" A rough, but feminine voice asked from beneath the straw hat.
The corners of Shizuru's lips twitched upward a little, "I should like to think so, yes."
In a sudden flurry of motion, orange robes gently drifted to the ground to reveal a woman in her early twenties. The straw hat was cast aside exposing feral, green eyes, sharp as flint, glaring right into Shizuru's gaze, "I will duel you for it!" Long, raven-black streams of hair flowed down a white kimono, ending at the men's obi keeping her dirt brown hakama in place. She stood ready, the sword at her side partially drawn.
"Hmm…" The younger general's gaze scanned up and down the other woman's body, her fan touching her chin in a thinking pose. She suddenly beamed, "No."
"N-no?" The monk echoed incredulously, her pose faltering.
"No," Shizuru repeated. "Why should I duel a random monk for my Kakusareta Hebi when I have nothing to gain?" Her hand moved to rest on her katana's deep purple sheath.
"I am not a random monk!" Natsuki scoffed, "I am called "Demon Warrior Natsuki." I have come down from Hiei-san to become the greatest warrior in the land! And you," she pointed at Shizuru, "will be thousandth straight victory!"
"Ara, such an honor!" the brunette smiled, "But if you take my sword when you win, what would happen if I won?"
Natsuki smirked, "You will not win. It is pointless to talk of stakes when it is certain I will be the victor."
"Then I will not duel," Shizuru answered simply. She started to on her path across the bridge once more, the naginata no longer blocking her way. A small crowd that had gathered around the commotion parted in front of the younger Fujino.
"Wait!" Natsuki blurted out. When Shizuru turned back around, giving her an innocently curious look, the monk sighed begrudgingly, "Alright, I will agree to anything; even if it is to fetch the Emperor's clothes."
Shizuru's eyes gleamed, "'Anything'?"
Reito inwardly sighed, She shouldn't have said that. The raven-haired general was starting to feel sorry for this monk.
"Yes, anything." Natsuki was losing her patience, "Now name your wager, honored kuge."
"As you wish:" Shizuru smirked, standing up tall and looking the warrior monk square in the eyes, "If I were to win, you would become my loyal servant."
"W-what?" Natsuki exclaimed, eyes wide and slack-jawed. "Certainly not!"
"Ara?" Shizuru blinked, then mock-pouted, "I thought you said you'd agree to anything? If you're so certain you will be the victor, a wager like mine should mean nothing, correct? You would win, take my sword and forget this little exchange ever happened." Shizuru sighed ruefully, eyes drifting downward to the worn planks of the Gojo Bridge, "But I suppose if 'Demon Warrior Natsuki' is too scared to duel me then—"
"Enough!" Natsuki sharply cut in, glowering, "I am scared of no one - certainly not you! I accept your conditions. Now fight!" She suddenly charged towards Shizuru, unsheathing her sword and swinging it toward the general in one, smooth and practiced swoop.
The sound of iron clashing rang through the air; Natsuki's tachi was met with the flat side of Shizuru's katana. The monk stared, bright green eyes large in size as they took in the sight, She… she stopped Tōboesuru Ookami! How-?
"Is this how you win all of your fights?" At the sound of Shizuru's voice, Natsuki's eyes shifted to meet red. "Attacking your opponents prematurely?" During the two seconds it took Natsuki to reach Shizuru, the general had slipped her left arm out of her kimono's sleeve and unsheathed her sword just far enough to where it blocked Natsuki's swing; the other side of the katana rested against her left forearm for support.
Natsuki furrowed her brows and retorted, "You were taking too long." She jumped back a good distance and got into a ready position, holding her sword up for a downward slash. Her geta scraped against the bridge as she shifted her hidden legs.
The warrior monk watched as Shizuru changed her pose. Slipping her right arm from the kimono's sleeve, Shizuru let the heavy, spring-colored fabric fan around her hips, the tight obi keeping it from falling to the floor; spreading her left leg back, she loosened the folds of her kimono for easier leg movement; the sweat-damp nagajuban clung to her torso, rising and falling with ever breath the general took.
A soft giggle from her opponent cut into Natsuki's thoughts. "Ara, does Natsuki see something she likes?"
"What?" Upon seeing the amused look on Shizuru's face, she realized she was just caught staring at Shizuru's chest. She glared, unable to keep her cheek from lightly flushing, "Of course not-!" Wait… Natsuki noticed something: She was getting too worked up; this woman was getting under her skin. Maybe that was this kuge's aim all along, rile her and make her lose her focus.
The monk relaxed her muscles, moving into a more fluid pose. She steeled herself, calming her mind and concentrating on the task at hand. She was Demon Warrior Natsuki, victor of nine hundred and ninety-nine straight battles. She would claim her thousandth win and go on a pilgrimage to become the greatest warrior in all of Nippon!
She fixed her steady gaze on her enemy, her eyes as sharp as her trusted blade, Tōboesuru Ookami. No one will stop me.
Someone seems to have gotten serious, Shizuru mused, watching her opponent's every move. She was met with striking green eyes, their gaze revealing a story of countless hardships and sacrifice. This girl has gone through more than one person should ever have to in one lifetime. Red eyes hardened, the monk's deep, telltale stare igniting the fighting spirit Shizuru only felt in the midst of battle. Fujino's grip on her katana tightened as she solidified her stance; she would fight this woman with everything she had. Through your sword, show me what you have accomplished; weigh your burdens unto me so that you don't have to endure them alone anymore.
Their swords connected twice, once in the air and next towards the bridge. They pushed away from one another and Natsuki quickly followed up with a downward slash. Shizuru parried, letting Natsuki's blade slide against the back of her katana before slicing toward Natsuki's unblocked side.
Natsuki winced as the iron cut through the skin just under her ribs. She retreated to a safe distance and swiftly lifted her tachi once more; the trained monk could easily stand this much pain. The cut was shallow enough to where it didn't harm anything inside her body, but it would definitely hurt for a few days. Blood started to seep out and stain her crisp-white kimono. Just another scar to add to her collection.
Shizuru ran forward, sidestepping when she saw Natsuki coming in for a block. However, before the general could lift her katana to attack, the monk changed positions and slammed the pummel of her sword into Shizuru's diaphragm, knocking the air out of her body. Unable to recover in time, a knee slammed into the same spot, causing the general to stagger backwards until she met the bridge's railing. Natsuki smirked, running forward and tilting her sword for one final slash against her cornered opponent.
At the last possible second, Shizuru ducked and rolled out of the way, listening as Natsuki sharply inhaled behind her from slamming her newly formed wound into the railing.
With adrenaline pumping through her veins, Natsuki quickly willed the pain away. She swiftly turned around to face the general, but her whole world was engulfed in a bright orange color. Disoriented, she slashed her blade at the color before realizing that it was her own robe she was slicing. It was at this thought that her legs were tripped up from under her, her back slamming harshly onto the wooden planks of the Gojo Bridge.
Natsuki struggled to get up but immediately stopped when she felt the familiar sensation of a sword's blade pressed lightly against her neck; any closer and it would have cut through the loose, orange fabric and carved her skin. Even through her heavy breathing, Shizuru's words rang loud and clear: "I win."
Iron pressed against her throat for a couple seconds longer before withdrawing, and Natsuki finally allowed herself to relax. She reached up and removed the thin robe from on top her body, green eyes searching for the female general. She expected to find an obnoxious smirk on the kuge's face, but was surprised to find a welcoming smile instead.
"That was a excellent duel," Shizuru was saying, her katana already in its sheath. The Heian-kyō native reached her hand down to help Natsuki to her feet, "We'll have to do this again sometime in the future."
The warrior monk stared on, genuinely bemused. Shouldn't this woman be gloating, boasting her victory to the Gods above? But no, she just continued to hold her hand out, giving Natsuki the warmest of smiles. Hesitantly, the Demon Warrior took the out-stretched palm standing up with Fujino's help.
Upon standing, she winced, painfully reminded of her newest injury. The brunette's eyes moved downward in response, surveying the cut, "We'll have to have that taken care of as soon as we get to the palace," she muttered to herself, peaking Natsuki's interest. Instead of answering the monk's curious gaze, she turned to her brother, "I'll join you and the Court shortly after arrival; I want to have Natsuki cared for first."
Shizuru addressed the monk plainly, pulling her sleeves back over her shoulders, "Once you're treated at the palace, you're free to leave."
"What?" Natsuki's brows furrowed. This woman was full of surprises!
"I said, once you're treated at the palace, you're free to leave. I know you're on a journey of your own and I would never force you into servitude when I know your loyalty already lies with the Buddhist temples," Shizuru replied while adjusting the folds of her kimono the best she could. She loathed to walk around with her clothes in such disarray, but she would bare it for now. Once we arrive, I'll have to change into something more formal anyway…
"Ara?" Shizuru glanced back to the younger girl.
"I said, no," Natsuki repeated, her voice solid. "I lost and must now abide to the conditions agreed upon. I, Demon Warrior Natsuki, never go back on my word!" The monk bowed deeply at the hip, facing her new Master.
Shizuru blinked, looking at the crown of Natsuki's head for a couple seconds in stunned silence. Before she could regain her wits though, Natsuki's eyes met her in a defiant stare, "But that doesn't mean I have to like it."
The female general stared for a few more beats before a reserved smile spread across her face; her red eyes, however, light up, almost dancing to reflect her mounting exhilaration. Bowing in submission while glaring up at her in an act of defiance? What an interesting girl she'd just picked up! "Natsuki…?"
"Just Natsuki," The warrior monk narrowed her eyes defensively.
"Well, just Natsuki," Shizuru echoed with a hint of humor before finishing, "allow me, General Fujino Shizuru, to personally welcome you into this little civil war of ours."