Hello, back with Chapter 2.

I felt that Nanashi was being a bit too OOC in this chapter, but men will always be men. You will understand what I mean later -snickers-

This next chapter contains some nudity in the second half of the chapter, so if you want to skip it, go ahead. Other than that, enjoy and review later!

The day was nearing to an end as Kotaro trudged up the mountain path, tagged along by his faithful companion and the Kimono Woman. The sky was slowly turning from light shades of pinks and orange into darker hues, the result of the sun setting over to the east of the mountain. Japanese farmers and rice pickers walked back to their homes, shoulders burdened by baskets of daily harvests and other produces from the day. Midnight critters began to stir, waiting for the world to sleep so that they could roam as if it was day.

He inhaled the cool fall air of the mountain and looked behind him. The Kimono Woman was far behind, struggling to climb up the path with her geta and with the trailing tattered kimono. She supported herself heavily with the usage of the occasional large rocks on the side, sweat beading down her forehead to mix with the face paint. Her eyes were slightly clouded with exhaustion and pain from walking in her shoes.

Kotaro stood at the top of the hill with his arms crossed, huffing at the same time while staring down at her. The young adolescent was used to this kind walking, having experienced run away from the malicious Ming Squad and from training with Nanashi for the past 3 years. He wasn't expecting much from the Kimono Woman, seeing that she wasn't built for this kind of traveling and that women in the brothel weren't paid to travel along the roads.

He sighed tiredly. There was no helping it. After all, it was he who had initiated the chase through the village, weaving through familiar alleyways and backstreets for the majority of the afternoon and eventually hiding up in the mountain. Luckily, they had lost the blubbering whale of a lord and his minions behind at the foot of the mountain, where they gave up and returned to the village.

"H-Hey you!"

Kotaro looked down at the Kimono Woman, who had momentarily stopped to hold herself against a gnarly tree beside the road and to catch her breath.

"Where... are we... going?" She asked, trying to take deep breaths while trying to upright herself, "I thank you for helping me loose those men, but where are you taking me?"

Kotaro fell silent, wondering why did he lead her all the way up the mountain and not drop her off at some shop on the outskirts or at a home, where she could take refuge from the men. Maybe it was because he had gotten caught up in the action or because those men were so persistent and made him run with her on whim. He growled in annoyance and ran his fingers through his messy hair. He was no savior or hero, just a mere errand boy off duty.

"... You have no where else to go, right?" He asked,rubbing his neck that was growing warm to the touch.

"Yes, I don't-."

"Then... Why don't you stay at my place?"

She looked up with reproachful eyes, "Really-?'

"But!" Kotaro interrupted, "T-This is merely a favor though. You should be grateful that Tobimaru and I have room left in our home to spare for you and that we are this gracious. I don't think anyone would want to take in some filthy looking prostitute in just for the night."

The Kimono woman merely gave him a look of annoyance for his crude language, but bowed her head deeply at his graciousness. "I thank you very much."

Kotaro gave an affirmative nod and began to walk down the hilly path, Tobimaru tagging along at his heels. "Just keep in mind that this act will make you become indebted to me. I rarely offer help to strangers, so this offer comes with a pretty hefty price."

She wearily hung her head at words of price and indebted flying through her head. Though it was uncanny that a young boy was going offering her room and boarding in his home after saving, it was worth taking it and pay the boy back with a few silver coins, instead of the copper ryos that hung at her neck in a pouch. He seemed honest enough and didn't look like the type to ravish a young woman in her sleep. Perhaps it wasn't that bad... She could trust this boy.

"Hey, aren't you coming or not?" Kotaro called out to the Kimono Woman. "Don't tell me you are giving up on my offer now, considering that my home is very close by."

"I'm coming!" She gathered up the long tresses of her kimono and hastily treked down the path and followed the boy home.

The Kimono woman blinked in surprise as she stepped into the foyer of the two story shack that belonged to the young boy and his dog.

The exterior of the boy's home was greying with age, moss growing along the edges of the rotten wood and the hay rooftop slanting in from the harsh rain and wind. Most travelers would ignore the home and not bother rebuilding it, seeing that there was a lack of material around the area and that the mountain soil wasn't suitable for farming.

But the inside was surprisingly neat and clean, as if someone had dedicated themselves to cleaning the house every morning. The tatami mats looked like they were regularly swept and the old embers of the fire pit that sat in the middle of the flooring were cleared out. The house was quiet and still.

The Kimono Woman muttered a quick "Gomen kudasai," and shook off her getas. She crossed the tatami floored foyer, careful not to make any noticeable stains with her dirtied skirts and socks. A Buddhist altar sat at the corner of the foyer and a small tokonoma next it the altar. Her eyes landed on the ladder in the foyer that led up to the second landing, presumingly where the boy and his dog slept. The Kimono woman approached the ladder carefully, placing a split-toed sock clad foot on the first rung.

"What do you think you are doing?" .

The Kimono Woman gave a yelp in surprise and nearly fell off the ladder. Her hand shot to clutch the side of the ladder, steadied her fall. She looked over and gave a short bob of her head in respect to Kotaro, who was carrying a load of wood for kindling.

"Oh, hello..."

He raised an eyebrow in question at the young woman and his eyes narrowed, "Don't tell me that you were snooping around."

She vigorously shook her head and lowered herself to the ground. "N-no! I was merely looking for the room that I was going to sleep in." It wasn't the full truth, but the Kimono Woman was curious as to where she would be spending the night.

"Am I going to sleep up there?" The Kimono Woman asked, pointed a delicate finger towards the ceiling.

Kotaro scoffed and returned to sparking up the fire, "What are you talking about? There is no way you are sleeping up here with Tobimaru and I."

"...But, I thought-"

"There's a small guest house behind here. That is where you are sleeping. There's already a futon rolled up somewhere in there and a pit if you want to make yourself something if you don't want to eat with us. Oh, and there is also a bathing bucket and a towel near the door, if you want to take a trip to the onsen."

"An onsen? Is there really one around here?" The Kimono Woman asked incredulously, not believing the young adolescent for a moment.

Kotaro made no reply and jerked a thumb out going west on the path. He began to busy himself with chopping various vegetation and herbs, when he made a sound of realization.

"Oh and by the way," he said as he turned around, "I haven't asked for your name-."

But he was met with an empty wall, no sign of the Kimono Woman anywhere. The onsen bucket and towel he regularly used, had vanished as well. Kotaro grumbled under his breath as he poured rice into the boiling pot, "Woman, I swear."

Nanshi yawned tiredly as he casually strolled down the mountain pass. He exhaled slowly and began to look at the village's scenery below. Though the village was slightly sleepy and not well known on the map, the village people knew how to throw a good omatsuri. From above, Nanashi could see the dazzling red and gold colors of the lanterns hung outside of shops and archways and children screaming with delight in the festival.

How nostalgic, he thought. There was a time where Nanashi had experienced his first omatsuri, though he was merely patrolling for his Lord.

He could still remember al the vivid colors of the festival that night, vendors open and yelling to attract people to their wares; mostly food, with several barbecued and grilled dishes penetrating the air with their smoke and delicious aromas. Several childish games and sharpshooting practices were set out, small dolls and trinkets as grand prizes. Women decked themselves in their best summer kimonos, the fabrics having intricate designs and all the possible colors of the rainbow seen on a sunny day. Normally, he would have turned a blind eye and continued patrolling without a single thought, but the festival had caught his eye and made him long to join the rest of the children in their joyful dance.

The tall native shook his head slightly, clearing his thoughts of the past. He must not think of the past, or else the nightmares would come again. Strangely enough, after meeting Kotaro and become the young boy's room mate, Nanshi had been getting less and less dreams about his gruesome fate of grief and sadness. But sometimes, they just return unexpectedly and leave him a bit breathless and flustered.

He stretched arms over his head and yawned once more. His taunt muscles tensed and relaxed at the action and he let his arms fall loose, one draped across the hilt of his sword and the other lazing at his side. "Wonder what the kid's going to cook tonight," he murmured to himself, "hopefully he isn't cooking porridge again."

Suddenly the sound of splashing water alerted his senses, his hands quickly reacting to the sound to grab his sword. Lately, his jobs had been making him more jumpy, something that was bad for his health.

Nanashi inhaled slowly and began to stalk towards the source of the splashing. His sandaled feet treaded over the damp earth, careful not to step on any dry leaves or branches that would reveal his location. The woodland animals in the night were at their usual work, creating a harmony of sounds with their wings and hoots. Nothing was out of the ordinary, and that meant the splash was hardly a threat.

But he was curious anyway.

As he grew closer, Nanshi could hear the sound of a roaring waterfall and could almost see it in sight. With a swipe of his hands to clear away the brambles of the bush shielding his view, Nanshi was met with the warm steam of the waterfall onsen. At one moment, he could see only hot steam, until the nightly gusts of cold wind parted open the veils of the onsen.

From his point of view, he could see the feminine figure of a woman in the middle of the onsen, her back facing him and her long black hair cascading down her back. Normally, Nanshi would just disregard the image and continue his way, seeing that the woman was of no interest to him. After all, it was just a woman bathing, nothing unusual.

He was just about to do that, until the woman lifted her heavy hair and began to pile at the top of her head, her smooth back arching perfectly in the moonlight and the water.

The color of her back and her skin in general was light in color, contrasting from Nanashi's tan skin from traveling along the coastlines and the blistering summers of the south. No scars marred her flawless skin, mind the unnoticeable bruises that coiled around her wrists. In the moonlight, she looked absolutely ethereal by just standing there, butt-naked in the water.

Nanashi blinked rapidly at the lewd display in front of him and felt the heat rise in his face. He was supposed to be a calm and stoic man, nothing could sway his mind and heart. Even during the time when he was sober for the loss of young Lord and his cowardliness, he would throw himself into a brothel and get drunk with the prostitute's alluring gazes and voice, and come out fine and completely bored. But the woman's exotic dance made his fingers fidget nervously and shy away from the blade, and his eyes would not leave her back. He noted that she had a round ass as well.

"This is probably because of the heat," he grumbled quietly, and forced his body to move and return home.

But his body stayed rooted to the ground, causing him to have a dead weight. He tsked in annoyance at his body's wanton desires and with one last effort, forced it out from a daze. But with that, his legs had fallen asleep and stumbled across the ground floor. Nanshi's clumsy foot managed to step on a nearby twig, snapping it half.

Nanashi could hear the alarms of panic running through his brain as he swiveled head to the spring. His dark eyes met another pair of the same shade, staring back at him with equal alarm and sudden fear. The woman had covered her supple breasts with her arm, and the other hand covering her nether regions.

For once in his life, Nanshi had no cheeky comeback for his mistake and merely raised a hand in greeting.


A scream ripped through the air.

And that is end of Chapter 2. Understand what I meant at the beginning?

And if any of you can guess where Kotaro and Nanashi's house is, I'll give you a cookie.

Well, let me know what you think and reivew! I wasn't really into the chapter until the end, so let me know how it's going so far!