Summary: In volume 13 Usagi rejected Ranmaru's offer when he kept her prisoner for the second time. But what if Usagi was forced to accepted his offer? Will Hazo, Goemon, Yuki or anyone come and save Uasgi? Or will she be forced down the aisle?
Written By Unknown-Ai
Beta-ed by RoseCallisto
Story from Tail of The Moon
Chapter 1: Caged Bird
Just in the outskirts of the capital, a man hiding his face with a straw hat walked gracefully as he made his way to Azuchi. What could be seen was his long, midnight hair tied back in a high tail and a sky coloured kamishimo that he wore, while the rest of his clothes were dark and dull. The man's name was Ranmaru Mori, a loyal servant of Lord Nobunaga. Ever since an event a year ago, when he lost his beloved Usagi, his view on women had changed. He had looked high and low for someone that could surpass her or in the least match her smell, beauty and personality. But no luck had prevailed. Of course, he had been with a great amount of women after the event, but they could never fill the emptiness in his heart.
Suddenly, as if an angel had been hearing his greedy thoughts, he heard her cheerful voice. Immediately he turned to his left to where the voice came from. Usagi, his lost love stood so close, browsing around the small open gift shop next to a man. Another man. Ranmaru had never seen this man before, but he did not look foreign, however, he had an unusual look. He was nearly the same height as Usagi, he had mid-length pink hair, tied at the back of his neck letting shorter cut hair fall just pass his chin and wore a blue and white kamishimo, but with a weird frilly collar around his neck. But it was not his looks that made Ranmaru tick, it was the fact that Usagi - his Usagi - was standing so close to him, smiling and laughing. She had definitely grown into a beautiful creature in just one year. Her short, dark boyish hair had been grown out, just passing her shoulder blades, her chubby cheeks had smoothened, her waist had gone smaller, but her curves showed prefectly with her petite body and to Ranmaru she looked stunning in the purple flowery kimono she wore.
But before Ranmaru could continue to gaze at Usagi, the strange man got closer to her. Questions -Who is he?-What is their relationship?-Where are they going? and Why are they buying a present? ran quickly through his mind. The samurai had no idea what to do other than to walk away to avoid being seen. Secretly plotting how to steal her once again and camouflaging himself into the busy crowds, Ranmaru changed his destination and headed towards an inn to get his plot into action. That is when he decided that he would not let her escape him yet again. He would make her his, even if it was the last thing he would do in his life.
I picked up the bag of medicine and turned to Yuki, who was browsing the other herbs on the display over my shoulder. "Lord Ieyasu's gift - do you think he'll be happy with this Chinese herbal medicine?" I asked, curious to what Yuki would think.
"I'm sure he will," Yuki replied with a gentle smile as he turned leading the way.
While we were walking I noticed a antique shop that looked familiar. As we got closer I remembered, it was the shop where I bought a dogu for Hanzo. Pain shot through me like an arrow in the heart. The memory was so painful I could feel the tears starting to form in my eyes.
Not knowing how long I was standing in the middle of the busy street, I didn't notice Yuki placing one of his hand on my back, rubbing it gently. But soon I could hear his voice calling out my name, quickly I was knocked out of my thoughts and turned to face Yuki.
"What's wrong, Usagi?" He asked with concern in his voice, and his hand was still on my back.
"Nothing," I replied with a cheerful voice. I thought it would be best not to bring up Hanzo to Yuki. After all Yuki and I would be married soon and Hanzo was to be left in the past. "It's late, so why don't we stay overnight someplace?" I said as I looked up at the disappearing sun.
"Huh? Oh- sure!" Yuki's face started to go pink, but I was sure it was nothing serious. Suddenly, I decided to grab his hand and continue walking, and even though I could hear his nervouse grumbles from behind, I still didn't let go.
It wasn't long until we reached an inn, it was only around the corner from the antique shop. Inside an old lady stood by the entrance in a heavy layered kimono. "Two people?" She asked, glancing to Yuki then to me with a fake smile.
Smiling Yuki tried to answer the woman until I jumped in "Yes. Two separate rooms, ple-"
"We'll have a room together," I said lightly, cutting off Yuki.
"To-together!" He squealed.
"That's okay, right?" I saw nothing wrong with sleeping in the same bed as Yuki, there's nothing bad about sleeping with your future husband, right?
The old lady kept on staring at me and I started to feel creeped out but in a second she turned around without a second glance, telling us to follow her. I nodded and picked up the herbal medicine bag but Yuki still stood by the entrance completely hesitating to move.
Earlier that day Ranmaru had paid a visit to the same inn.
"Welcome, young man, would you like a room for the night?" The same old lady that would greet Yuki and Usagi in just less than an hour had come to greet Ranmaru who stood by the door removing his hat. The old lady's cheeks started to burn as she gazed at the young and handsome samurai.
"Before I answer," he stepped closer to the much older woman, making her cheeks blush more harder at every second, "How many inn's are there in this direction?"
The old woman, still blushing decided to act smug and answered: "There are two more, but unless you want to stay with barbaric men or ugly pregnant whores this is the best and the only one." She stated, in a rather insulted tone of voice.
"Forgive me, madame," replied Ranmaru with a sly smile, "but I was just hoping that a friend accompanied with a man with pink hair would stop here for the night." He said the word 'friend' in a low voice, but smiled so innocently the older woman paid no attention to it.
"Well, I'm sure they will stop by, would you like to wait for them?" The woman seemed eager for Ranmaru to stay, but Ranmaru backed away from the woman.
"If, and when they do, come inform me, but let no-one know. I will be just three shops away to the right of your inn. You will be hansomly rewarded when you do."
The woman quickly nodded without hesitating, but before she could say anything more Ranmaru turned his back against her and left, once again covering his head with the straw hat. Thankfully, no-one around paid him any attention as he made his way down the busy streets. The final thing he had to do was tell his men, that waited for him, of his plan, and then just wait patiently for Usagi to fall into the trap.
"Boy, I'm full - that was so good~" I said with a smile as I put down my now empty bowl.
When I looked up to Yuki, I saw that his food was barely even touched.
"Yuki, you haven't eaten much. You don't like the food?" I asked, starting to get concerned if he wasn't feeling well.
"I-I felt like I've got- a lump in my throat-I'm going to take a bath right now!" Yuki stood up and did a quick bow.
Before I could even say one proper word, Yuki left the room in a rush, imminently closing the door behind himself.
'Yuki seems so sensitive about all this…Oh, maybe I'm not being sensitive enough to Yuki's feelings? And we're going to get married too!' With those thoughts in my mind I quickly ran out the room and headed towards the womens bath.
Once I was near the womans bath a saw the old lady from before, walking in the same direction as me. I smiled and waved, but strangely she turned her head away from me and walked the other way from before. I shrugged it off and headed inside, and took a towel from a large pile by the enterance.
Thankfully, I had finished my bath before Yuki. I was already at our room, dressed in my night clothes and our functions had already been laid out for us. The only thing I did't like was that they were far apart. Dropping the towel I pulled my function in to the middle of the room and then Yuki's too. Making sure they were laid out neatly, I discarded the towel and sat on my function, waiting for Yuki to arrive. It wasn't long until the door slid open and Yuki came back looking red and dazed. "I'm back!" He called out in a relaxed tone with his eye's closed.
"Welcome back, Yuki! I was done with my bath first!" I said happily.
But Yuki didn't act like I thought he would, his face grew a darker shade of red. "What the-? Did the maid lay out the functions like that? I'm sorry, I'll move my function right away!" Yuki started to run towards his function, panicking as he did so.
I was worried on what I should do and I did the first thing that came to my mind. Before Yuki could step any closer, I reached out towards him, wrapping my right arm around his shoulders. "It's okay. We're going to get married anyway." My brown eye's looked straight at his light blue eye's. "Right?"
"U-Usagi?" He said nervously.
I could feel a blush forming on my cheeks. I wanted, I prayed that I would have the same feelings for Yuki when our lips would touch…
"This isn't right!" Yuki pushed me away, still holding me by the shoulders, he started to speak again: "It's something we should do after we get married. It- It's not that I don't want to do this with you but-"
Before Yuki could finish, I said calmly: "I understand. I'm sorry. I'm just going out to cool my head abit…" I picked up my kimono and started to put it on. I felt so embarressed at what had happened, I couldn't turn around to face Yuki. He's was so innocent about all of this, I probably shouldn't have pushed him into things he doesn't feel comfortable with. But once my kimono was on, I left the room, not bothering to look back. As I walked out, the only thing I heard was Yuki calling out my name in a sad voice.
A man dressed as a monk covering his face ran into a building, to where his master was. The place was filled with stench of alcohol that could burn your nose and the sound of loud drunken men filled the room. In the corner, by a single window sat Ranmaru and he gazed out to the night sky while he held some sake in his hand. He saw his spy, dressed as a monk walk quickly towards him, careful not to attract unwanted attention.
"Master Ranmaru!" He whispered sharply. "The woman you wanted has left the inn," Ranmaru's eyes widened and scanned the fake monk's face.
"Have you informed my men?" He asked, deadly serious. The man responed possitivly and told him the dircetion in which Usagi was headed. Ranmaru quickly gluged down his drink and threw the empty cup on the table, leaving a few yen to pay for the drink. Ranmaru and the monk left easily without anyone noticing as they made their way to the place the other ninja hunter would lead Usagi to.
Sighing I mumbled: "I blew it…"
I looked up at the stars and started to think. 'I love Yuki… But not the kind of love that gets my heart racing… I'm not sure I should get even get married if I feel like this…' I thought.
I closed my eyes as I walked down the road with my head looking down, but then I heard footsteps of men following me closely behind. I turned my head back to see two samurai men looking at me. Unsure if they were enemies, I made a run for it. Both samurai started to chase me and I had no idea who they were, nothing seemed to point out which clan they were from, so I just kept running.
Suddenly, I spotted a closed well with buckets on top. With an idea in my mind, I ran faster towards it, grabbing the buckets and throwing them towards the men. They yelled in surprise and then it struck me. They must be ninja hunters, the swords they carried were similar to Ranmaru's. Feeling a little scared, I started running faster than before, I made a turn, ignoring the fallen men on the floor as they called me to come back.
Finally out of breath, I stopped in an ally-way panting deeply and thinking I had lost them.
But looking ahead of me, I felt my heart skip a beat and my blood turn cold.
"Why, long time no see… Usagi," his deep, cold voice brought fear into me. The voice of a man who haunted me in my nightmares and ruined my life. Ranmaru - the man who destroyed my home, killed my friends, members of my family and above all Hanzo, the love of my life.
I wanted to scream, but as I stepped back I could only make a small, weak sound to come out of my throat. Just at that moment I heard the men catch-up with me. One of them pulled me back roughly grabbing my shoulders, and another one of them covering my mouth with his hand. Suddenly, I felt one of the men hit a pressure point on my back, near my neck, causing my head to spin.
As I felt more and more lighter, the last thing I managed to mumble was 'Yuki' before everything went black.
"Ngh…" I mumbled. I thought I was at the inn where Yuki was until I couldn't recall falling asleep there. Using the plams of my hands I tried to push myself up weakly.
Suddenly I heard the clinking sound of a sword being put back into its sheath. I snapped my head up in fright to see iron bars in front of me. "This place…" I whispered.
"It brings back memories, doesn't it?" Echoed a voice deadlier than a demon's yet somewhat sad, even melancholic. "You've experienced this before, haven't you? Ah, but you were with a friend last time," Ranmaru sat proudly on an expensive-looking chair, smiling darkly.
I growled as I looked at his face. It made me sick. But he saw this and sniggered under his breath. "Can it be that you hate me? I took everything from you. Your home, your friends, and your love," he said in a mocking voice.
"Of course I hate you! I can't hate you enough!" I screamed in complete rage and sadness.
"Can't hate me enough, huh?" He chuckled still with the disgusting smile.
My hands grabbed the bars: "GIVE THEM BACK TO ME! GIVE THEM ALL BACK TO ME! Aaaghh!" I screamed in pent-up anger, but I couldn't hold it. I broke down while still holding on to the bars, tears slid down my cheeks, but I couldn't care - I felt useless and pathetic at that moment.
"Don't cry," I felt warm hands on my mine, "I want to help you."
"Ranmaru?" I murmured sobbing, stunned by the gentleness of his voice.
"I've never been able to find any other woman like you. I want you to become mine, Usagi."
Before he could finish, I screamed: "No way in hell, you bastard!" I took my hands away from the bars, away from his. "You are sick! You slept with Kame and then didn't hesitate to stab her with your sword!"
"If you remember correctly, she tried to attack me first," he said coolly, not even the slightest bit affected by what I had said to him.
I stepped back, drying my tears and sparing Ranmaru a hateful glare. "Why… Why did you go so far? You didn't have to kill my village! You didn't have to kill them!"
"They were my enemy, Usagi."
"And so am I!"
His smile dropped. "You are different."
Nervously, I slowly asked him: "Why do you want me?" I stepped closer to the bars, once again gripping tightly the cold metal until my knuckles turned white. He hesitated to answer. "Answer me, Ranmaru!" I yelled.
"Because I'm in love with you, Usagi!" He blurted out. I did not remember him being so desperate. Is this really the Ranmaru I have in my memory? I asked myself. "You have no idea what it is like trying to find someone to replace you, your hair, your eyes, your love. It isn't in anyone else!"
As if time had stopped, I froze and stared at him. The leader of the ninja hunters, the loyal servant of Nobunaga was in love with me?
My body shivered as Ranmaru's hand reached through the bars and caressed my cheek. "Do you remember what I told you a year ago? The reason I made love with Kame? It was because she smelt like you. I imagined I was making love to you. All these women that offer themselves to me aren't you, not in smell, looks, personality... it was killing me, Usagi!" His voice started so calmly, but as he spoke, he sounded more and more out of control. "Kame was the closest I could find to match at least a part of you, the others just made me feel worse," his piercing blue eye's locked on to mine, I dared not to move.
Shakingly I took a breath "I'm already engaged-"
"It doesn't matter. Usagi. If you stop being a ninja and become mine, I promise that I will spare your life."
"What? Are you out of your mind?"
'Come on, there must be another way!' I thought, I was too scared to answer. Part of me wanted to say yes and live, the other part couldn't bare to let go of Hanzo and Yuki…
"If you do not accept, your friends won't make it through the night alive, especially that strange fiancée you have," his cold smile returned. "I'm sure you don't want to see more people precious to you die, especially not that boy, Mamezo was it? His blood spilt because of you?" A mocking sneer was directed to me. What have I done to deserve this?
I froze as what he said sunk in my mind. Anyone but them, especially Mamezo - he's just a boy.
I bowed down my face and shut my eyes; biting my lower lip and desperately trying not to cry. But I was failing. "Fine…" I sobbed through a whisper. "Just don't hurt them," my hands covered my face, the pain was just too much to bear.
A click of the lock was heard and the iron door creaked open. I didn't look up, but I heard Ranmaru walk slowly towards me. His muscular arms wrapped around my shoulders, burying my head by his chest and forcing me to look up.
"You are mine now," his head rested on top of mine and my hands were trapped in his arms, "Usagi."
I closed my eyes and prayed in my head: 'Please forgive me great-grandfather, grandfather, Mamezo, Yuki, everyone… Hanzo!'
Just at that moment a man's voice boomed in. "FIRE!"
Ranmaru turned his head and scowled. "Come, Usagi!" He picked me up in both of his arms and carried me out.
"I can run!" I protested.
"I'm not letting you go now," his eyes looked on mine and I nodded, knowing that I could not argue. His subordinates followed behind us, some at the front lead us to the exit.
The carriages were already waiting for us. "My Lord," said a man on our left, one of the men that took me here, "the first carriage is yours. Is that woman coming with us?" He said staring at me.
"Yes, and keep your eyes off her. She's mine." If looks could kill, the man would be dead by the glare Ranmaru gave him.
Finally Ranmaru placed me down, but we were rushed to get in to the carriage. A man, whom I did not know, drove the carriage, leading us away from the burning castle. Both men who took me, sat on one side, Ranmaru and I on the other.
"Who set the castle on fire?" Ranmaru's arm was now around my shoulders, holding me in an iron grip. Oddly enough, at that moment I felt safe in his arms.
The men exchanged glances with each other, looking a little worried. "We… we don't know sir, the others think it was someone with a grudge against Lord Nobunaga."
I was expecting Ranmaru to shout in range, but instead he smiled. "It doesn't matter. I got what I wanted," he said with out a single hint of hesitation.
I could feel his eyes on me, however, I didn't look black at him. Instead my gaze was locked on the burning castle, the fire turning to ashes all the unpleasant memories of my imprisonment there.
My throat was sore, but a small whisper came out, silent enough to not be heard by Ranmaru or the men. "Yuki."
3 Reviews for the first chapter for chapter 2.