It was the sight of her eyes that drawn her to him and his son, eyes reminiscent of the largest sapphire that graced the hair ornaments of the most beautiful geisha in Shimabara. The girl was no older than fifteen, but she was holding a katana and a matching wakizashi, the two weapons tucked into her obi as if she had been a man… She was hiding under the eaves of the small roof over the gate to the inn he was heading to, seeking the smallest form of refuge from the merciless summer rain. There was no doubt that she was soaked to the core.
"Who are you, girl?" he asked her gently, bending down slightly so that he could see her eyes. "What are you doing here?"
The girl looked at him and bowed. "My name is Tsubasa Ryuka," she answered, noting the change of expression upon his face. The name Tsubasa was one that was familiar to him. It was the name of a comrade of his that had fallen to the agents of the Shogunate just recently. Tsubasa had been as eccentric as Sakamoto Ryouma from Tosa had been, and had boasted on many occasions that he had trained his only daughter as a warrior just as he had been by his own father. There were even mentions that he left his title as a samurai to her, as his only child. Even stranger was that she was real and not some boast that they thought he had conjured when he was drunk.
"Chichiue," his son called to him. "We should get her inside. She looks as if she'd freeze to death."
Naturally, he agreed to his son, and told the girl to follow them in. "Do you know where you are?" he asked her further, and heaved a sigh of relief when she shook her head. The inn that they were heading into was not a common inn at all. It was the headquarters of the Choushu-han, one of the main domains that were fighting against the Shogunate to restore the Emperor to power, the other more powerful players being the Tosa-han and the Satsuma-han, Choushu's strongest allies. They were quickly ushered in by the mistress of the inn, who raised an eyebrow at her presence. "Okami-san, please make sure that the girl is changed into dry clothes and is fed. A trick of fate has brought her here to us, and her life is about to change."
The girl undoubtedly knew that he was directly addressing her, and bowed her head low. She was quickly given a bath and clean clothes by the landlady and one of her maids, and the man's son was sent to accompany her for the time being where the landlady could see them both. "I'm Nobutada," the man's son introduced himself. "My father is Katsumoto Moritsugu; we're here on the affairs of the Emperor."
Her eyes widened at the mention of the name of Nobutada's father. "My father said that your father is a great man," she replied, looking up towards the staircase where Nobutada's father had ascended. "But… he speaks little about his work beyond that…" She knew that he was fighting against the Shogunate, which was why he had joined the Choushu-han in their cause, but because of the threat of prosecution, he spoke little about the politics involved. It was done to protect her, his only remaining family. Her mother had died of illness when she was very, very young.
Nobutada thanked her for the praise of his father. "Well, actually, that's not saying a lot," he told her. "Chichiue is a daimyo, but our lands are so small that we only have a village in our name. However, his position as the Crown Prince's teacher grants him the power to fight in this… conflict. That's all I know too."
They spent the whole afternoon talking about themselves, where they came from, what they have seen, while Nobutada's esteemed father, Katsumoto convened with his old friends and comrades of what they were supposed to do with the young girl that he had found.
"Tsubasa was not lying at all when he said that he raised his daughter as an onna bugeisha," Katsumoto said to the men around him. "The girl holds herself exactly like a warrior; she would be an important asset if we can find a part for her to play."
One of them, Yamagata Kyousuke, did not agree with him. "She is still a girl after all, what can she do?" he asked Katsumoto, crossing his arms. "Although it was undoubted that Tsubasa had been a highly talented swordsman, the same cannot be said of his daughter."
Katsura Kogoro, the head of the Choushu-han, on the other hand, begged to differ. "We need all the talent that we can get in these troubling times," he reasoned. "If she is indeed an onna bugeisha, seeing her in action would even inspire more women to support our sentiments. We are, after all, fighting for the equality of all citizens of our country." That was the diplomatic way of saying that he would pit the best and most experienced fighter they had against the girl. If she won, she would be recruited into the Choushu-han's list of combatants, if she did not…
"Wait a minute," said yet another man. He was young like Katsura Kogoro was, the head of the Kiheitai, the militia arm of the Choushu-han. "Even if the girl fails to prove herself, we still need to take care of her. She is Tsubasa's only daughter, and we owe a lot to him. It is not up to us to make it up to her?"
"We are not a charity!" someone argued, but Katsumoto knew better. Tsubasa's daughter was only but a child, but he knew that even she, had boundless potential. With the loss of her father, her training had stopped, but he knew that there was no reason for such a situation to continue.
"I will oversee her well-being and training personally," Katsumoto offered. "She is more or less the same age as my son, and it would be healthier for him to be around children his age in these dark times."
Thankfully, Katsura agreed with Katsumoto whole-heartedly. "Perhaps, my friend, you would have even gained a new daughter."
Katsumoto looked at the girl and his son, now talking animatedly to one another. "We shall see, Katsura-san, we shall see."
HAN: Hello there, people! It's Hanny here, and I would like to present my first legitimate Last Samurai fanfic! I have decided to return to my roots of writing fanfics of the Bakumatsu era, having written fanfics for Hakuouki and Rurouni Kenshin before. Please bear with the backstory for a few chapters, and I shall be presenting Nathan Algren to you soon! ^.^ See ya!