The boat, Oboro says, is going to be their office as well as their home. It is sparsely furnished now, but he promises it will get better. He promises that a lot of things will get better. Sagiri believes that he believes this, but whether or not that means it will come true is harder for her to say. There was a particular world she occupied for as long as she could remember until an order from the queen turned it upside down. Where would she go if not for Oboro? What would she do?
She is young. Shigure is young too. Oboro says that means they can do something new- "no problem," he describes it because he is optimistic and wants to reassure the two fixed smiles that stand before him. "You have your whole life to move on and learn to do whatever you want." But even if she hasn't lived that long, Sagiri has always been an assassin or in training to become one. Whatever the objective amount it is, your whole life is an overwhelming amount of time to be doing something. Oboro has the most imagination among the three of them if he can picture them doing something else. Is it just Oboro or were things in the Intelligence Division truly that different?
Neither Shigure nor Sagiri is used to being asked their opinion of things. As Nether Gate assassins, they followed orders. They spoke when spoken to. It amazes her that Oboro, who hails from Nether Gate himself, can treat them this way. That he can behave so casually. Is this Oboro the true man who lay underneath the person they called (not knew- no one so unimportant as Sagiri ever even spoke to him) Shinatsu all along, or another sort of act?
At least there is no pressure from Oboro to choose quickly. If she and Shigure have no thoughts on what to make for dinner, Oboro chooses. If several of the fabrics in the shop strike her as equally pretty, he gives her all the time she needs to decide, or perhaps gives in and purchases both. Oboro doesn't know much about how to sew, but he can cut the cloth just fine, so now she covers her hair with what must be the nation's longest cloth ribbon, wrapped around and around like a Nagarean turban until the parts that hang down aren't so long as to trip her.
It must be one of the first things she decides. She likes the color coral.
Sagiri doesn't know what she wants to learn to do. She doesn't even know how to begin looking for something to choose. Even if the something new isn't half as difficult as becoming an assassin though, she knows it will still be hard. In her experience, little about life is easy. You must walk silently though all your clothes are lined with knives. You must follow instructions perfectly. Kill the target without asking why. Don't attract any attention. If someone catches you in the act (and what a disgraceful failure that is), you must kill them too. And smile, always smile. If Nether Gate hadn't taken you in, you would have died in a ditch.
"Smile," was the mantra they enforced upon her. Smile while you're moving and smile while you're still. Smile when you talk and when you are silent. Smile when you kill, smile when you sleep. Eventually she didn't have to tell herself or be told anymore. She just did it. It is as natural as breathing.
Oboro has said that she is allowed to make any face that she likes, but Sagiri finds this is the only one she has now. She is reassured by the fact that Shigure is mostly the same. He looks down over the railing around the deck into the quieter water near the dock (they have no mirror yet) and practices twitching his mouth up and down at the corners, creating hints of expressions.
One of the first things Shigure decides is that if it's up to him what he's going to do, there's going to be a decent amount of time where he chooses to do nothing. He takes off his outer layer and spreads it across the wood of the deck. He lays down and folds his arms behind his head, dozing in the sun along with the gentle rhythm of the bobbing boat.
He is better at this than her, Sagiri thinks. She watches him for a while, until something else moving along across the ship catches her careful eye. One little white mouse runs along the railing, then almost straight down a pole (what funny little feet mice have that let them cling to surfaces like that - wouldn't Kayanu have liked it if he could've trained a child to walk-climb like that?), and into a hole that must lead somewhere inside the ship. Is it normal or unusual for there to be mice on a ship? One that barely contains any food or supplies? …Does Oboro know about his potential rodent infestation problem?
After a moment's deliberation, she follows after to investigate. Sagiri knows where there's a knot in the wood that left a hole big enough for her to peer through.
Oboro is sitting at his desk, perfectly penning his name and that of his new business onto a stack of tiny sheets of stiff paper. Each movement he makes is brisk and economical. He dips the pen and whisks it across each minuscule canvas. But if Sagiri wants to watch him work, she knows she need only ask. Oboro isn't self-conscious; he's happy to talk about his optimistic plans for the future. He'll use his skills for something helpful, he says. He'll be his own boss and be able to choose his clients. Things may never even out, but the scales will tilt if he focuses on doing good.
Sagiri even knows what the small papers are. Oboro hasn't decided on what to call them yet, but they'll serve as a reminder to people as to who he is and what he does (Shigure says that people can still just say they lost the cards instead of that they forgot). Sagiri has never had problems remembering. If anything, she remembers far more things than she would like, but most people don't possess as advanced of abilities in this regard. It's hard to think of herself in a positive light- "special" instead of "adequate." Everything in the world is relative, but that doesn't mean feelings change so easily.
…but, staying on point, Sagiri presses her face up against the wood to look more closely this way and that, where's that mouse? Sagiri knows this is where it went. Could it have been so quick that it made its way in and back out before she caught up? Oh. No. There it is.
The mouse climbs up a leg of Oboro's desk, heading toward a clearly visible human in a display of strangely un-mouse-like behavior. Sagiri may have little experience with animals, but it doesn't take much to find that unusual. Will it proceed all the way up to the desktop alongside Oboro's things? What is it looking for? What will he say?
A lazy spring breeze blows at the ends of Sagiri's ribbon, brushing them against the back of her neck. It tickles and her attention drifts for a moment as she reaches back to push the pinkish tails away.
"There you are, Mr. Mouse," Oboro says. Traces of a smile light up his face. He holds out his hand and the mouse hops onto his palm, runs up his arm, and alights on his shoulder, nuzzling its nose against his face.
So they know one another. There seems to be no end to the laundry list of curious aspects to Oboro. Sagiri draws her eye away from the sight through the peephole and leans back against the side of the boathouse. The wood feels nice against her back, somewhat smoothed by sanding and gently warmed by its exposure to the sun. Would it be nice enough to be smiling about though, if she could do anything up smile?
Sunlight leaps about like a shining fish through the water. Oboro speaks a bit more to the friendly mouse, but Sagiri allows the wooden wall to muffle his words. She trusts that this is nothing for her to worry about. Being aware is good enough. She doesn't need to know every detail of everything that goes on here. Her life doesn't depend on it. …at least that's another one of the things Oboro says.
Sagiri makes her way back onto the forward deck where Shigure is resting. "I've been thinking," he says, "…About things I might want to try out."
He wants her to ask, it seems. "Yes?" she obliges.
"Lime cream pie," he considers, "I saw it in a shop window. It looked kind of amazing. Smoking a pipe. …It looks so relaxing. …Other easygoing stuff too. You can tell me if you come up with anything," he makes an effort to include her in the process, "That'd be nice. You see more things than I do."
She doesn't say anything about how that might be because one of Shigure's other choices has been to let his hair grow out in a way that threatens to hide his eyes completely. Would mentioning it make an "in fun" jibe or a bad one? She decides to stay succinct. "I will."
"…It would also be more fun to do those things- eat and swim and sit around and stuff- if you were doing them with me."
She's free to like him and Oboro too. They're nice. They try hard. It's easy to make that choice.
Time, and the plans for the business along with it, proceed in an orderly manner, though they're slowed, for Sagiri at least, with lots of thinking. Her companions are considerate enough to be there for her when she wants them there and at other times give her space to think.
With the ship in working order (for sure this time, not like that false start with the leaks and the bailing and then the surprising difficulty of finding a place in Stormfist to sell them the materials to patch it), Oboro charts a course along the rivers out of Godwin territory, toward Sol-Falena.
Shigure has his doubts. "Do you think he even knows where he wants to go?"
"Does it matter?" Sagiri's fixed expression leaves her looking placid and patient with it, when her true feeling is closer to the listless apathy her voice conveys. She watches the way the water slides back together in their wake where it was split apart at their passing.
"Hmm, well…" It's not like Shigure has better plans than this. He could leave if he wanted to, but that would force him to take on more responsibilities for himself- somewhere to live, some job to support himself with. He's reluctant to part with his newly discovered leisure time. And then there's also the matter of Sagiri. If he said he were going to leave, would she go with him or stay with Oboro? It's a question he doesn't want to ask without knowing the answer. It wasn't like they were particularly close back in Nether Gate (not like they could've been), but he's become accustomed to her presence. If they split up, how can he look out for her?
"Just seeing the country this way is nice for a change." It's a lot more beautiful than how she used to see it, for one thing. At the time of year, the riverbanks are green with plants. The trio is able to largely keep to themselves, although they're hardly alone as long as they traverse the Feitas and its larger tributaries. There are merchant ships, fishermen, and pleasure boats that pass them by with varying degrees of speed and seriousness. Observing these things is a foundation for many of the other things Sagiri expects or hopes to do. Oboro predicts that many of the subjects they'll investigate will skew toward the ordinary and that's something she wouldn't claim an over-familiarity with.
"…Yeah," Shigure agrees, "But I think I've gotta know. …Whether he knows or not."
He turns and leaves the railing, headed back into boathouse. Sagiri follows after him, two steps behind. Close enough to be going together, far enough apart to be "safe." She shouldn't have to think about being safe with Shigure they way she used to- they're friends, or going to be friends, aren't they?- but it's ingrained in her so deeply she doubts she'll ever shake it. "What are you going to do if he says he doesn't know?" she asks as Shigure reaches for the door.
Shigure stops. "Nothin' probably, but then I'll know whether or not he knows."
She nods, agreeing to this.
"We've been going up and down the rivers for a while now," Shigure launches straight into it. Oboro already has his waterways map spread across his desk anyway, so if there's any need for a demonstration, there will be no need for him to set up. "And I'm starting to think you don't know where it is you're even trying to go."
"Oh. I'd been expecting one of you to bring that up sooner or later," Oboro isn't bothered by the part-question part-accusation. "And I thought it would be you, Shigure. But you shouldn't worry. I do know what it is I'm looking for. …It's where to find it that proved a bit trickier."
"It's not on the map?" Shigure wonders. It looks pretty detailed and up to date, at least to his inexpert eyes.
"It moves," Oboro replies.
Then Sagiri knows. "Why are we headed for Raftfleet?"
"Bright girl," Oboro looks proud.
It's going to take Shigure a bit longer than that. "Wait. What?"
"He hasn't found Raftfleet because it moves."
"But I've asked around when I could, and just today I've been updated and we are almost upon them." The proud glow doesn't leave him. "So trust me a little further. I think when we get there you're going to have a real nice time."
They make it in a day and just a moment on the deck looking at all those people and watercraft and sounds and smells and colors is enough to make Sagiri turn around and go back down to lie on her cot for a while.
Shigure is taken a little aback, but after checking on Sagiri, who assures him she will be fine on her own, he goes out with Oboro to take the lay of the "land" as it were. He comes back with two grilled corncobs. Sagiri is sitting quietly in the deck-level portion of the boathouse (the sitting room/office). The vivid sails and banners and people are pleasant with the distance of a pane of glass between Sagiri and them. "Here," Shigure offers her a cob of corn, "This is for you."
Oboro picks up a sheaf of papers and fans himself. "The sun's blazing strong out there today. …The night should be different though."
"What's at night?" Shigure inquires around a mouthful of corn.
"What I wanted to bring you here for."
"…I don't think it would kill him to give a straightforward answer for once," Shigure stage-whispers to Sagiri, who keeps her mouth politely closed as she chews.
"It's the atmosphere I brought you for," he explains, "But don't worry, I don't expect either of you to go out and do anything you don't want to."
"Well, even for Raftfleet, you can tell this isn't just the usual sort of boisterousness," Shigure observes.
"This is the first day of the Star-Gazing Festival. The part where you chat and dance and mingle with people might be the draw for some folks, there's food and games and shopping too, but I wouldn't have brought you if I didn't know there was something you could enjoy without putting yourselves out into all that."
Sagiri runs her tongue over her teeth. Bits of corn are sticking there, but she won't try to blatantly pick them out with her fingers in front of these two. Her eyes dart over to meet Shigure's and he asks the question that's on her mind as well. They don't share all the same thoughts, but there's turned out to be enough of a connection between them that the most obvious points don't always need to be spoken. "And what's that?" He's already becoming more open than Sagiri, more casual, just like he wanted, and he pokes a fingernail between his teeth to deal with a stubborn bit of corn.
"You don't want to be surprised?" Oboro plays at the patient father.
"Can't consider coming here surprise enough?"
"Well," Oboro sniffs, though he doesn't seem particularly put out, "The two of you figured that out beforehand."
"Please," Sagiri speaks, this single word a deathblow.
"Music," he answers, "Fireworks. We don't even have to get off the boat."
It sounds lovely. Something different, but beautiful. Loud, but safe. The three of them together will be enough. "I already know the best place to watch." It would be no fun for them to squeeze together, press their faces against the glass, and try to watch the sky through a window. "We can sit on the roof. It should hold."
It's all agreed to. They climb up as the sun is going down, Shigure clambering up with the help of a chair and then offering hands down to assist their rise to the roof. Oboro quips that he hopes he's not getting so old that he can't make it on his own, but he's happy for the help.
The night falls slowly.
Somewhere- from the big dragon boat, maybe- a band begins to play.
As the sky blackens, the fireworks follow. The big bursts of color pop and overlap, expanding out across the sky. Sagiri senses Oboro's eyes as they graze her face, but he glances away fast enough that they don't make eye contact. He's looking at Shigure now. Sagiri knows what he's looking for. Some kind of sign, even if it's not a conventional one, that they're happy. That what he's doing is what they want. That it was worthwhile to bring them here.
He cares about her as a person, not as a tool. Shigure too.
Sagiri feels something. Maybe not enough to show on her frozen face, but it's warm and anxious all at once, like a bird fluttering inside her chest. She choses to stay with Oboro and Shigure. Someday that may change (there are shadows from her past that still loom over her), but until there's a reason, she'll chose that every day.