Disclaimer: I do not own Genbu Kaiden or any of its characters. That honour goes to Yuu Watase.

Acknowledgements: Thanks to the lovely Lina for shovelling grammatical sense into this piece of work.

Sky Folktale, Chapter One

Lady Uruki Roun was not what one would have called a proper lady. The daughter of a duke and closely related to the Imperial family, it was safe to say she was something of an embarrassment. It was not because of her outlandish ways or her lack of modesty. It wasn't even her very odd habit of cross-dressing as a man and a gajin one at that (though there were rumours that she had gajin blood in her through one parent).

Simply put, it was because she had something that a proper yamato nadeshiko would not have: magic.

Magic was as universal as language, each as unique as the culture from which they originated. However, different cultures led different views about magic. In one, it would be met with disdain and in another with high respect. In Nihon, if you were a woman, you were better off with many other eccentricities instead of magic. Best to salvage your reputation from breaths of scandals than the mess that would be about if anyone even suspected you had magic.

But Uruki couldn't care less. In fact, she cared not at all.

She was going to escape.

Takiko Okuda was no stranger to Tokyo, having grown up there in her earlier years up until a few years ago when her wretch of a father moved their family to Morioka and promptly abandoned them whilst he went gallivanting in Cathay for his magic nonsense. That being said, it had been a few years since then and the city had changed much as new technology and buildings developed. As a result of these developments, she was unfortunately spending more time than was necessary deciphering her relic of a city map in order to find her boarding house.

She knew moving back to Tokyo on her own was not going to be easy. She knew also that becoming a doctor was not a path for the light-hearted, especially if you were a woman, but this was ridiculous. She could put up with naysayers, men or women, and keep her calm but of all things directions were now her greatest obstacle. She sighed. It couldn't be helped; she would need to ask for aid because right now all she wanted was a clean bath, a warm bed, and a decent meal after her few days' journey from Morioka.

It was just that some people had been less than polite on her travels, all because she was a woman travelling on her own. She was nineteen! Hardly a child who needed her hand held the entire way and there was no way she was going to force or bring her dear baaya to Tokyo, not at her advancing age. Besides, this was Takiko's dream and she was going to gain it on her own.

And just as she was about to ask the first person she saw, something crashed into her.

More like someone as the other girl, around her own age or maybe a bit younger, got up, brushed herself off, and opened her mouth only to rudely say, "Keh. Watch where you are going you idiot!"

Well. So much for asking her for directions. Takiko was about to tell her off when she noticed men closing in on the girl from behind. One of them came close enough to grab the girl's arm. "We've had enough trouble today missy. You're coming with us."

The girl snarled. She obviously didn't like being talked to in that manner much less being grabbed. "Like hell I'm going to. So let go."

However, it wasn't as simple for her to just wrench her arm as the man's grip didn't budge. Another man came up on her other side to grab her opposing arm. "Listen you little brat. You're coming home with us right now or else."

She snorted then gave a slight grin. From where Takiko was standing, watching this entire spectacle, it looked more like a show of teeth. Then, the girl rammed her elbow into one man's stomach. His partner, startled by the action, became a prime target as the girl brought down her heeled Western shoes down on his instep. The remaining cohorts, while not outwardly pleased with this display of rebellion shrugged it off as they circled closer. It seemed to Takiko that they weren't trying to fatally injure the girl but subdue her, preferably with little damage to themselves. The girl was just having none of that.

The next man to grab the girl wasn't as gentle as the first two had been. He wrenched her right arm behind her back at a painful angle. The man she'd assaulted with her elbow caught his breath, glaring before returning a slap to the girl's face. "No more tricks from you! Behave on the way back or I'll do worse."

"You wouldn't dare." This girl was either very brave or insane as the man towered over her and was at least double her width.

"Listen missy. Our orders are to take you back by whatever means necessary alive. We'll use anything short of death, though it's a waste if you asked me."

She gave a derisive sniff, turning her head. "Tch. It's not like you were hired for your brains anyway. Or anything else I can see or not see."

That earned her another slap coming, and a harder one too as this one would probably leave a mark for a while. It never came. Countering the slap from the side was Takiko with what appeared to be a broom handle. "Gentlemen, I believe the lady has had enough. Now let her go."

"Stay out of this. It's none of your business."

"Until you let that girl go, this is my business. Now I ask again, please, let her go." She replied firmly and readjusted her hands for a better grip on the broom. It was no naginata, certainly not like what she had at home, but it would do in a pinch.

The man, whom she now assumed to be the leader, gave off an irritated noise as he headed towards her. "Look Miss, this isn't any of your business and you will stay out of it now."

Takiko stood her ground, narrowing her eyes. He took this as her answer, coming closer. When he was within range, she struck, swinging the broom handle in to aim for his knee. He was not expecting a trained combatant, even one who had only practiced in her courtyard and during physical education class. A couple of men closed in, ready to aid their boss. She was outnumbered. If it was just herself, normally she would have ran to gain the advantage of fighting one by one like she was taught but there was no telling what they would do to the girl if she left. Unfortunately they were between two buildings in an alley that was not quite wide enough to be a street. It would be easy for them to surround her.

Her broom connected and just that hit, she swung around again at him, closing in but making sure that none of the others could go behind her back. This time she hit his neck before her wrists made a twitch back to hit him in the neck again, literally knocking the air out of him. She slowly backed up, getting the man to follow her. If she could get him out onto the street, she could call for help. Angry and unthinking, he ran straight towards her, to which she stayed where she was until the last moment when her legs her whipped her to the side flat against one of the alley walls and the man ran out on momentum. She turned to her next opponent, who tried to take advantage of the situation to pin her to the wall but she ducked his arms and whacked in the back of his knees before delivering another blow to his neck.

She was not so lucky with her third opponent who had snuck in behind while she was distracted to grab her. Just as she turned to face her opponent, he was suddenly pushed by some unseen force to join his leader who was heading back into the alleyway. She felt a strong bluster howl its way past her. Another crash and the sound of swearing could be heard as both men struggled to get up and regain their footing.

Wind? Takiko wondered. It was not unusual for there to be strong winds blowing through the city but a bit odd for this time of year, a couple of weeks before the sakura blossoms bloomed. Then her back went rigid. The girl! She was still in the alley with those men!

She whipped her head back towards the girl's direction, just in time to see another man fly over her. Takiko felt her body rise up a couple inches off the ground before she too was blown against the wall at her side and then flattened to it. Her eyes searched the alley and then, there.

The wind. Was coming from. The girl.

For the first time in her life, Takiko was speechless, not a small feat for someone normally outspoken though politely so. No, no, no...

She must have looked rather stupid, with her mouth opening and closing like a dying fish. Her hand was in mid-air with her pointer finger struggling to raise itself as her mind tried to wrap itself logically around the situation.

The other girl, however, was unperturbed as if this was a regular occurrence for her. Takiko would not have been surprised if it was. The girl was rotating the arm that had been twisted behind her back by one of the men as if to loosen it up again, eyes closed.

"You're..." Takiko's tongue was still stuck in her throat. She stayed pressed against the wall, even though the winds around her had died down.

The girl opened her eyes, grey irises staring out towards her. The girl would be prettier if she smiled. She had the look of one of those people. Instead, there was a look of utter arrogance to her.

And rightly so, Takiko thought to herself, taking in the girl's garments. Now Takiko was no stranger to fine things, what with her father being a novelist, her mother from a good family, and herself being able to go to school. She herself had an array of well-made kimonos but she never had something as stylish as the arrow-patterned, the yabane, kimono the girl was sporting along with the finely woven hakama; an embroidered hand-eri collar peaked out of the neck of her kimono. Her dark hair was up in a sokugami style, a chignon borrowed from Western style of what they called a "Gibson Girl" look, adorned with a ribbon, though at one point it must have been neat and tidy. The altercation had left strands starting to fall out. Takiko wondered what the girl would look like with her hair down.

"_staring at? You were able to talk before so I know you can talk."

Oh right. "I beg your pardon?"

"I said, what are you staring at? Did they leave a mark? It's not like it matters." The girl brushed it off, though there was no mark. Given the girl's clothes, she was probably from some good family. Was she kidnapped and if so why didn't the girl have bodyguards? There was the fact that she had just used_

"You're a witch."

Normally one didn't accuse a total stranger of such things but the evidence before them both was difficult to dispute. The other girl shut her mouth, eyes wide and strained.

And then she took off.

For a girl running in those heeled shoes, she was capable running fast. Takiko's feet moved on their own accord off instinct as soon as she pushed off the wall, set on pursuing the girl for more answers. The girl was favouring back alleyways, almost as if she didn't want to be seen. As such, they were passing through the narrower parts of town. It had occurred halfway through to Takiko that this was an idiotic pursuit, especially since she was still carrying her travel baggage with her but something made her want to follow.

Thank baaya for her advice to send most things ahead of me or else these would be much heavier. Between physical education classes and her own practices at home with the naginata, she thought herself to be in good physical condition but if some prissy little rich girl was able to outrun her this much, clearly she had missed out on something when she moved to Morioka.

Right, left, right, right, left, sharp corner. The other girl was showing no signs of slowing down. If anything, she seemed to become much faster as she ran. Another long stretch of back streets. If she didn't know any better, it was as if this girl was toying at her. She was obviously fast, so why didn't she run at top speed out of there if all she wanted to do was get away? Takiko's temper flared. She disliked being the butt of someone's joke, much less made fun of. Just wait till she got her hands on the little...

And then, like the winds she had used, the girl vanished. Takiko looked both ways, all around her. There was nothing except the walls created by the surrounding buildings. On an odd urge, she looked at the sky, could that girl fly?

The rooftops appeared empty except for flocks of settling birds. There was no one else. The girl was gone.

She could have at least thanked me, Takiko thought begrudgingly but then took it back. More than likely that girl didn't want anyone to know she had magic. If her clothing was anything to go by, she was probably some aristocrat's daughter or something. If that was correct, more than likely she was trying to keep it a secret to prevent herself from scaring off a good marriage match. Even though Takiko had been called bossy (among other things), her baayasaid at least she didn't have magic. Then marriage would have been practically impossible for her, not that she wanted a marriage...at least if it wasn't him.

Oosugi. Takao Oosugi. Why did he have to marry someone else? She would have waited.

There was no point in crying over him. She left that back in Morioka, along with the marriage offer she wasgiven.

She took out the map again from her sleeve. At least she was in a more populated part of town now, numerous business people bustling in and out on the streets. It was easier to locate on the map, and maybe this time, her attempt to ask for directions would be less exciting.

As she continued forward, Takiko didn't look up again for if she did, she would have noticed the rescued girl was nimbly hopping rooftop to rooftop, peering over them just so, until she stopped on top of a clock tower for a business building while she watched Takiko disappearing into the masses below.

Soruen took another nervous look at his pocket watch. His lady should have been here half an hour ago but still no sign of her. Their meeting place was the gathering of large willow trees in the back of the Roun family complex. His eyes scanned the land before him.

Spring had brought on a full bloom of flowers and leaves, providing full cover. This was one of many properties the family owned; this one in the Tokyo area being the largest. Not many servants ever wandered here nor did the Roun family themselves. For some reason Soruen couldn't fathom, it was almost as if they were afraid of this area.

He looked at the pocket watch again. Forty-five minutes late, where was she? If it had been anyone else, he would have thought she was having trouble getting out of the mansion. But this was the ojou-sama he was talking about, who was at least twice the trouble after Rimudo-sama had trained her for sneaking off the family grounds unnoticed.

The fact that she was late meant something had gone wrong, either by simple delay or complicated trouble. Hopefully it was not the trouble he was about to report to her, in which case their plans now had a rather difficult hitch.


Uruki-sama was a little worse for wear but unharmed, no different than she usually appeared to him except that she kept massaging her arm as if to ease some sort of pain.

"Ojou-sama, what happened? Your arm?"

"They're doubling the guards. Just sneaking out, I almost ran into three sentries. And," she paused, to flick some of the stray strands of hair away from her face, "they sent guards after me this time. Minutes after I left. They're up to something." She bit her lip, her eyes hardening. Her cage door was closing in and fast.

"The family is discussing on what to do with you. Remarriage is unlikely given your unique abilities."

"You'd think that would have discouraged them. If Rimudo weren't my 'cousin', I doubt they would have bothered with a match."

"Given that, they're thinking of sending you to a psychiatric asylum." Soruen said. There, bad news delivered.

Uruki's eyes widened. A girl who had no fear of balancing precariously on rooftops, scaling walls, and sneaking past guards, trembled, but for Soruen, he knew his ojou-sama well. It was another cage.

"...they're sending me to the madhouse? But why?"

"You should not blame him. Because of how the will went as he was to be the next head and with your uncle's illness_"

"What did Rimudo do?"

"_as it is, your father_"

"Which one? My 'official' one or the one on paper?"

"Temudan, your uncle."

"Soruen, we both know better. He's my father. Rimudo and I look too much alike to be only cousins."

"Regardless, by how Rimudo-sama wrote his will, he specifically stated that you were to be in control of his inheritance. As much as your family would love to dispute it, they cannot. They cannot change a dead man's words, especially not those officiated and witnessed by other peers of high rank."

"Tch, in other words no one they can bribe or bully."

"Exactly, now if you were to be declared insane, which is not difficult to do..."

"...which is why they're doing it. That's why they've raised the number of guards around me. It's no longer about just scandal."

"And that doesn't leave us very much time for our plans. I have the documentation done and have made the proper inquiries. It wouldn't be difficult for us to pack but there's still the matter of the girl. They're planning of sending you off as soon as they can get doctors in to diagnose you."

"Shit." Soruen, who was no stranger to cussing given the social circles he had frequented, winced. It was one thing from men but from Uruki-sama, despite her usual manners, it was something he wasn't quite used to yet. "Did you have any time to put up the notices?"

"No. I was going to start yesterday night but that was when I overheard these plans through servant gossip. I ended up preparing for our journey instead. With or without a girl."

"But with a girl, this would be easier and would raise fewer alarms. Besides, with how paranoid the family is now, wouldn't that be the first place they look?"

"True, but that only means we would need to concentrate more on illegal channels of getting out of Nihon. We would have higher chances of getting caught but it would take more time."

"Yes, for one of the noble Roun family to slum it through third-class accommodations."

"Not even that, Ojou-sama. If you are serious about leaving, we'll be stowing away with cargo areas. The advantage is no one would look for us too hard there but our main disadvantage is how much we would be able to bring."

"If the rumours are true, I'll need that gold with us. Becoming a magician isn't exactly a cheap venture." Uruki wasn't liking this. She was so close. She kept up her usual manner, no more or less rude than usual, all to keep her family from arousing suspicion. If they didn't want her, that was fine. She didn't want them either. But this was one thing she couldn't just let go.

"Ojou-sama, if it were possible to advertise for a girl, it would have to be discreet. We would need to know if she were trustworthy and not going to sell us both out the second a Roun family informer bribes her. She would have to be gentile enough to look and act the part of a daughter from a good family," Soruen paused for a breath, "meaning she's either intelligent enough to mimic the good manners of society or she's a daughter who has fallen on impoverished times. There are a number of traits it would take time to interview and test towards quietly without arousing suspicions, and even then, there is the negative connotation of a strange man and a younger woman who are obviously not married interviewing these girls. I repeat again, we do not have the time."

His lady as it would seem was not paying attention to him. Instead, it looked that she was looking over papers she had pulled out of her kimono sleeve, rifling through them but inspecting with interest. "I think I might have your girl. It's a long-shot but she might do."

He was less than convinced. "And where did you meet this young woman? Did she magically appear in front of you?"

She cut him a hard look that made him in that instant not doubt the possibility she and Rimudo-sama shared closer blood. They almost had the same hard look to them except for a couple facial features. Her face was softer, eyes more wide, appearing younger than her eighteen years. Rimudo-sama's had been sharper, angular, narrower eyes, and could carry in a room with the weight of years of an older man.

"It's still a chance. I'm going to take it." Uruki gently folded the papers again, "Do you have my other clothes?"

"Now? But Ojou-sama_"

"We don't have much time. The guards never seen me cross-dress outside of the house and they won't be jumping every random young man they see." They both knew this. Most of the time when she was outside, she preferred her male garb as it brought about less complications. People saw what they wanted to see. With the trousers, the suit, the hat, and the correct demeanour, people automatically thought man. If her voice was younger than expected, they normally assumed she was the son of some merchant or higher-classed. They didn't stop to wonder if maybe, just maybe, she was a girl.

He sighed, there was no point in arguing. The sooner she got this insane excursion she had in mind out of her, the sooner she could be convinced they needed to leave as soon as possible. He handed her the parcel containing her male clothes and promptly turned around to give her the privacy to change. It wasn't because she had a lack of propriety but because she trusted him. It wasn't fair. Rimudo-sama shouldn't have died in the accident. Because of it, he was now the only one she had left who was on her side, who cared about the girl underneath the family name.

"I'll meet you back here a few hours. Prepare anything else you think we might need but pack as if we have the girl already." Uruki ordered, as she gathered up most of her hair and pinned it underneath her hat.

Soruen suddenly felt uneasy. "You're not going to...kidnap a girl are you Ojou-sama?"

Uruki grinned, "Would I ever do such a thing?" YES!"Don't worry, I'll talk someone around with my charming personality."

And possible right hook... he thought despairingly but he could do nothing to change this. "Good luck, Ojou-sama."

Takiko's bags had arrived promptly before her and had been waiting in the lobby, where she picked them up from the landlady. The boarding house specifically catered to female students who had come into the city to study at the Tokyo Imperial University. An all-female household, almost a dormitory one might say, it was appropriate for single females to stay in where the landlady and her all female staff substituted as appropriate chaperons to ease the mind of worrisome parents and polite society.

After the mysterious girl had vanished, Takiko happened onto a helpful shopkeeper who pointed her out in the right direction. Aside from being travel weary and sore muscles from fighting, she still had plenty of energy to spare for unpacking...that was until she discovered something was missing, a rather important missing something.

"KYA! I know I had it on me. Where is it? Please don't tell me I lost it. I didn't lose it. I didn't lose it. Ididn'tloseit!" She desperately pleaded while ransacked her belongings. "I can't have lost them."

For every student, especially those who lived out of town, a letter of recommendation and more importantly introduction was required to verify one's identity and qualifications for entering the prestigious university. For Takiko's wish to be a doctor, she needed those letters as they were not only from her school teacher but also from a doctor who had recommended that she had the aptitude and intelligence to undertake the long instructional journey into medicine. That thought bit into Takiko even more.

The man she had rejected, regardless of what had happened, had still written his recommendation letter as if nothing had happened. Because he had wished her to be happy.

It wouldn't have worked. Even though I swore I wouldn't marry, if I did, I want to be in love with my husband. It would have been too cruel for Oikawa-san if I had agreed.Times were changing in Nihon, and she wasn't going to stand behind a man who was a doctor when she could become one herself.

"I know I had those papers on me. They were with me when I was at each train station. They were with me when I got off the train in Tokyo," she counted off her fingers. "I headed to the boarding house straight after the train station and...don't tell me."

Her face fell. It was entirely possible the papers could have dropped when she was fighting those men. It wasn't that long either. Maybe they were still there or someone picked them up. If she left a message with the landlady and if someone were to drop them off, she would be all right. Worst-case scenario would be going back to Morioka and asking for another letter from her teacher and Oikawa.

A sharp knock went through her door. "Okuda-san?"

She opened the door to find the landlady with a pinched expression on her face. "Hello, may I help you?"

"Okuda-san, while in the city, I do realize female students revel in their new found freedom away from their parents but as I have stated through correspondence and during our introduction hours ago, I run a proper house," she stated coldly. "As such, in the future, if you must have these meetings with gentlemen, you are to do so away from this house."

"Gentlemen...? I am sorry but there must be some sort of mistake. I only arrived a few hours ago. I didn't have time to meet anyone. The last time I lived in Tokyo was years ago and_"

"Please, Okuda-san. No more excuses. I will keep this discreetly quiet this time as I do not wish to tarnish the reputation of this boarding house. Your young man is awaiting you in the lobby."

"Young man? I beg your pardon but I do not know of any young man. As I've stated, I've only arrived here hours ago."

"Yes, yes, yes," the woman waved off, "I understand your statements but if we will do away with the stories, it does not change there is a young man downstairs who has asked for your name specifically. He has introduced himself as Rimudo, but gave no last name."

So much for it being Oikawa. He wouldn't have any reason to lie."Very well, I will be downstairs in a minute to correct this matter."

"Of course." With that, the older woman turned on her heel and briskly walked back down the hall.

It had occurred to Takiko that there was a chance that the young man who was awaiting her downstairs was one of her opponents from earlier but that didn't seem quite right because she hadn't remembered anyone to be young enough to be called a young man. Going through their faces, she couldn't remember one youthful face out of the bunch. "I might as well go downstairs to clean up this mess. If this has anything to do with that girl that is the last time I go charging in to rescue someone like that."

The young man was seated in the lobby. Upon seeing her come down the stairs, he promptly stood up. He was taller than she was, though not by much, half a head at the most. He hadn't taken off his hat, where the brim shadowed a good part of his face. His skin was very smooth, so it was no wonder he was referred to as a young man.

Takiko squared off her shoulders, facing him. "Sir, I do believe there has been a mistake as I don't think we have ever made each other's acquaintance."

The man smiled, a corner of his mouth pulling up the rest of his lips in amusement as he raised his face towards her. Grey eyes glittered in the humour of an unsaid joke.

She would have been lying if she said the face didn't even vaguely look familiar to her but she quite couldn't put her finger on it.

"You were surprisingly easy to find."

That voice. "You?"

Takiko jumped back, keeping her distance. "What are you doing here? What do you want?"

"Tch, for a girl who beat off a couple men decades older than herself, you sure are rather high-strung." Uruki mused, "And after all the effort I put in to find you."

Takiko's eyes narrowed. "If you're coming here to thank me for saving you, you're a few hours too late. Do you not have any manners?"

"Better than you right now since you didn't let me finish."

Teeth gritted, Takiko nodded her assent for the other girl to continue.

"Now, if you'll pardon my appearance, I find it much easier to travel around the city at night when I'm in men's clothes because people bother me less. I like my privacy. Surely you can see the practicality of that?" Uruki looked at her for confirmation. At her rigid nod, she continued, "Second of all, I came here to return something you have apparently misplaced."

"If you have what I think you have. I didn't misplace them. They were securely in my purse last time I checked."

"Anyway, I am willing to return them to you if you were to listen to a proposal I have."

"Whatever it is, I won't agree to it."

"Fine, disagree to it, but at least hear me out? Please?"

Perhaps it was the please, but what harm could come from hearing this strange girl out? At worst, she could be completely crazy but at least Takiko would get her letters back and the girl out of the boarding house before the landlady took matters into her own hands. "Fine."

"Thank you. My retainer and I are in need of a female companion to travel with us to Europe as my studies take place over there. While my retainer is suitable for my protection, he would not be so for general, proper companionship."

"I can understand that but why not hire a governess? Wouldn't that be easier, especially if she's an older woman?"

"It would be, but my desire to study in Europe has already made me a freak. The good girls of good families are supposed to marry right out of the classroom, sometimes not even then but earlier if lucky," Uruki's mouth twisted in distaste, "instead of going abroad and learning even more things. No governess worth her reputation would agree to this. Judging from these letters, you would understand what that would feel like—becoming a doctor, a female doctor."

"...You read my letters of introduction?" Takiko's forehead that was starting to throb—from a headache or anger, she could not tell.

"And recommendation. You do come highly recommended," Uruki grinned, "which is why I would like you to accompany me."

"Me? Why would I go with you?"

"You can't see the opportunity? Why learn to be a doctor here when if you want to learn Western medicine? Why not go to the source?"

"Even so, you're assuming I would just abandon my placement in the Imperial University to go gallivanting with a delinquent!" Takiko sputtered.

"Delinquent, now that's being a bit harsh."

"I do not know the kind of country bumpkin you take me for, but I am a lady regardless. I know what you city delinquents are up to."

"...I..." Uruki hesitated, at a loss for words.

"Yes those stories about delinquent female students do make it out into the country and for your information I used to live in Tokyo. I know what type of trouble you girls can and will get into, and that certainly explains why you were in trouble earlier. I'm not going to be the butt of your elaborate prank. Now that I've heard you," Takiko held out a hand for the letters, expectantly.


"Look rich girl, unlike some people, I have classes starting tomorrow and work to do. So go back and play your prank on someone else, you and whatever friends sent you here in the first place."

"Of all the female students, you are the most uptight, straight-laced, priggish snob I've ever met. And a stupid one at that." Uruki gritted her teeth. This was not going the way she expected.

"Why you-" Takiko was beginning to regret not bringing her naginata from home. Right now, it would have looked perfect in the middle of the other girl's head. Might even knock some sense into her!

"This is the chance of a lifetime. I'm offering you room, board, and food as well as payment for you to go to Europe." Was she actually going to have to spell it out for this girl? Of course, given the tempest of emotions cycling through between anger, disbelief, and outright annoyance, mayhap this could be a good thing. Uruki was beginning to regret her choice.

"How do I know you're telling the truth?"

"You don't. I guess you would have to trust me."

"And why would I?"

"Because I understand what it's like to not be what you want to be. Even if you go through the Imperial University, how can you trust that they will not hold back on you just because you're a girl? Nihon might be changing, but it's not changing fast enough. Not for you and not for what you want to do." Her audience silent, Uruki continued, "And when you do become a doctor, will people let you, a woman, help them? If you really want to be a doctor, why not go for the best there is? Why not go where you will be accepted, where you'll actually be needed?"

Takiko was no longer glaring at her. In fact, she was not even looking at Uruki. Her eyes stared out emptily to the outside. Silence settled into the room, tempered only by the sounds of the outside world.

"What is in it for you?"


Takiko turned to stare at her, making eye contact but not a look of aggression. "What would be in it for you if I were to go? Why do you want to go to Europe?"

"I already told you. My studies. I'm a weirdo for already going and if I stay here, I stay a weirdo."


"So you can be unladylike."

"If I were to be trust you, you would need to be truthful with me. What is in it for you?"

Uruki was silent. What was she supposed to say? The truth?

"Just telling me you are going to Europe, doesn't give me much information. What are you planning to do? Be frank with me or get out."

"It's as you said earlier."

Takiko cocked her head to one side, as though hearing an odd sound.

"When you called me a witch..."

"You want to be a magician."


"Because over in Europe, they allow for female magicians. You want to study there because here you cannot. Here you cannot be who you are, as ridiculous as it is."

"I figured you didn't like magic."

"It's for dreamers and idiots."

"I guess I'm both, then." Uruki sighed. "My family doesn't want me to learn magic, unsurprisingly. Therefore, I need to sneak out, but in order to do it comfortably well and not impoverished as becoming a magician...or a doctor...you know becoming either does cost a great deal. I need someone to be my decoy. Someone who could masquerade as a woman from a good family journeying to Europe to meet up with a make-believe husband, with the company of a lady-in-waiting and a retainer..."

Every rational part of her was urgently protesting against this endeavour. This sort of dreaming was what had brought that man who dared to be called her father to ruin. He spent his life running around for some magical study or another rather than taking care of his beloved wife, leaving her mother to hope for his eventual permanent return all the way up till her deathbed.

There were too many uncontrollable factors about magic. It was neither a measurable nor equal art. Many people had suffered from the multitude of charlatans who ran around making quick money off simple parlour tricks that their victims had innocently believed to be "true magic".

And not lastly, not everyone was blessed with it. The stronger gifts weren't inherited equally. Not everyone would have the same amount of power base or any magic at all because it was, in part, genetic. It was rather unfair. Because not everyone could practice it, not everybody could reap the benefits of it. It was in this that magic was what was holding back technological advances, with people relying on it as a crutch rather their own abilities.

Why would anyone find a technological way of flying or healing if there was someone out there with the magical ability to do so? Not everyone would have the access to that person. It was a true miracle that medicine and airships even existed with somewhat stunted growth just because it was not the onlyway those things could be accomplished. All people were born with a mind and the ability to reason and think. There was the opportunity to train it rather than rely on those who were born with the abilities.

But that was also why she could understand what it meant to dream. She knew what it meant to chase after a goal rather than wait for someone to hand it to her.

"I'll do it."

"Come again?"

"I accept your proposal, maddening as it is."

Uruki fought the urge to clean out an ear with a finger, as if she hadn't heard right.

"On one condition."

Then again, maybe not. In the back of Uruki's mind, she was beginning to wonder if she had gotten the rawer end of the deal.

Author's notes:

gajin: a politically incorrect Japanese word for foreigner.

yamato nadeshiko: the old-worldview of the perfect Japanese woman who would have attributes that were traditionally desirable in Japan from the perspective of male-dominated society; generally ascribed to people with traditional upbringings. Basically it revolves around acting for the benefit of the family and obeying and assisting authority figures (father, husband, sometimes father-in-law or older brothers, as well as older females of similar personality traits). Virtues include loyalty, domestic ability, wisdom, maturity, and humility.

Nihon/Nippon: the official name of Japan in the Japanese language used long before "Japan". Nihon is used for more of everyday and informal language while Nippon is used for formal language and official business.

ojou-sama: a formal Japanese word for "young lady", the term Ojou (often Ojou-san or Ojou-sama, as they are the more formal honorifics) is typically used when referring to wealthy, high-class female characters.

baaya: a governess or nanny in Japanese. Used in the same capacity as "nana" or babushka.

Cathay: an older name for China.