Chapter Six: A Casual Visit

The letters sat on her table. Even after days, she was hesitant to send more than two letters. And those two were because of who their family’s reputation. One was the Sasaki clan, once who helped the Shogun in all issues when he needed someone. Someone who was able to use all means necessary to rid his master of the problem. And was not abandoned by him, where they had lost most of their influence as well as assets. And the clan needing to lie as low as it was possible.

The other had been the Satou. A clan that is long known for their connections to the imperial family and at the same time, the shogunate. Rumors had come up in recent years about their involvement with the imperial court, and the Emperor in particular. Suspicion was viewed with them, and the Shogun took advantage of the Daimyo’s death as he left no sons.

He didn’t take her and betroth her to his son, as it seemed to have been the sensible thing to do. They were hopeful that his son would marry a local woman, and it was best to have one which brought land into the family. As he also left no will.

The same as her own father. She was in a unique situation where she had no clear suitor; a strange thing for a young woman of eighteen. And that put her into a situation where she could do it. And she could also speak to the woman with extreme ease, since they were in a similar position. The Sasaki clan were natural allies, since they would help her and she would be able to help them in covering their existence.

Her father after all, left her with a sizable amount of spies and also money to help with this. Including of the amount which would serve as a dowry, which would give her a reason to remain in the city. The shogun needed to approve of the match, but he would not attempt to force her to marry anyone. That has been the case for the shogun and his subjects, only he could arrange matches for his children.

And why she had felt more confident than the Sasaki. Just as Suzumi entered the room. “The Sasaki had sent a reply letter.” Something that she had been surprised by. If anything she would have expected it to be the latter. She received it, opening the letter in the next instance. To see just what she was looking at.

The letter inside had invited her to the Sasaki clan, it wasn’t exactly for a tea ceremony but neither was it for anything else. The timing was somewhat early as it always took place in the early afternoon. As such, it was much more lunch than anything else. It was still her gain, she had been more than glad for such a meeting.

“Anything else?”

“None as of yet. But there is something else, as Enyou-sama has entered into the compound.” She could guess who it was, the younger sister of the current clan head. And with the hearing of the footsteps next, where she found herself looking at a girl. Her hair was loose, with just a single comb in her hair. Her kimono was in a dark orange kimono, with falling leaves on it.

She gave a bow, one which Sachiko would return in that instant. Even as Suzumi entered into the room bringing a pot of tea and pouring it into two separate cups. She took a seat down, across her. Even as she kept the letter. She had been in here to look for more letters. Even as she had her ink pot on the outside. But it was not an issue.

“Sasaki Enyou. Just call me Enyou.” She gave a small smile.

“Saitou Sachiko. And it should be the same?” Even as they were of largely different families. The Sasaki clan were Samurai, with almost no land. While she came from a clan which held a lot of land. Different, but right now it was not an assurance. She knew that they could lose their wealth and their land. The same way that the Sasaki lost their influence, which had been the most important part of them.

And that they were in danger of doing so because they were now dealing with them. That itself told a lot about the situation. Even as Sachiko felt that she did not have any better choice. They had things unique to them, and they had the connections and a network, but most importantly was the experience in dealing with difficult matters. One which often required delicate handling because of the sensitive nature, to ensure that it could not be connected to them.

Even as they could boast the same, but the Sasaki had been in this for far longer than any other. Her father only built it up in the recent years, often bringing back the Sasaki contacts which had lost their masters.

She took a sip of the drink. “I came here on my own accord, because I wanted to see what of person you are.”

“Is it because you’re curious?”

She nodded. “I mean, it’s a little strange to receive such a letter from a woman after all. And my brother was certainly intrigued.” She opened her own fan, to fan herself. Even as it was in the middle of autumn, where it was getting colder.

“So, are you impressed by what you see?”

“No, but I think that’s the best. You don’t stand out, you don’t draw attention to yourself. It’s not a bad idea, I certainly wouldn’t want that sort of reputation.” It was best for them to try and use their reputation to their advantage.

“I certainly don’t.” Even as she didn’t know where this was heading.

“Either way, I have made a gift for you. Can you bring it in Kaede?” Kaede brought in two bouquets of flowers.

“Thank you, what style is it done in?”

“Shoka.” Even as it was in a bunch of white flowers, as they were still in mourning. It was a considerate gift. Although she was unable to come up with anything in return. Ikebana from her own experience took time, she gave up by the second round. More interested in flowers and what uses it had, either in tea or medicine. As compared to being for aesthetic purposes.

“Thank you. Kaede would you mind placing them in this room?” She took them and did so. “Also, give the other to Masaki.” Something which she knew that she had to do. She walked outside to deliver the gift to Masaki.

“The invitation is mostly to eat somewhere outside. You know the Houya inn?” She nodded, knowing of the place where Kaede spoke of having great wine. And she had tasted it, knowing full well of how good it was. It was stronger than most, done in a more unique style. The flavor had been distinct and why she had agreed to do this at the end of the day. “It’s going to be there. Three days from now and it’s on us.”

“I’ll certainly be there on the date. I remember them because of their liquor, it is some of the best I have tasted so far.” Even as she could guess that it was perhaps under them, and was a much safer place to be talking than say going to the Sasaki manor. They should have their reasons why.

“You’re right about it having some strongly flavored wine. Do you prefer tea or wine?”

“The latter.”

“Makes sense since your personal maidservant is basically drinking outside.” She knew Kaede did that whenever she was outside and felt that it would be a while before they were done.

And she knew that she would have to come in next bringing gifts for them which was equal to this. She would need to think about what to do. But she figured that she could bring something in return. Well, the only thing that she could do had been gifts in botany or wine. Maybe she should see what sort of sake they had in their cellar and what would be a good gift.

“Why didn’t you tell me that we had a visitor?” Sachiko turned around to the voice, whom she knew was her brother. It was surprising to know that he came here upon the mention of a visitor. Enyou didn’t seem all shocked.

And he took a seat on the ground, with Suzumi mostly bringing In some tea and pouring it for him. It was in the early afternoon right now. “The gift was beautiful.” He had complimented her. “You must have spent a lot of time at it.”

She gave a smile. “It wasn’t much, it’s a hobby of mine. If we have the chance, I’ll show you our family’s garden. It’s where we get most of the flowers in the first place.” And required a lot of time to take care of effectively, as far as she knew.

He nodded too. “I mean, as you can see we aren’t really into growing flowers.”

Even as Sachiko could agree that she did grow her own flowers from time to time. It was something which allowed her to pass the time in a respectable manner of her mother’s, even as she often used them as a way to study the medicinal effects.

“Your garden isn’t too bad.” Even as she stood up, knowing that there was nothing else to do here. And nothing which she needed to stay for. They had finished their discussion.

“How about you stay for a tea ceremony?” It was an impromptu decision, but if he suggested it she wasn’t anyone to agree. “It’s in the late afternoon and after such thoughtful gifts, it’ll be bad of me to not invite you for anything.”

“Both Sachiko and I go quite a while back. We used to send letters to each other, so there isn’t really much in the gift. But I’ll take on the offer of tea.” Even as she went out, knowing that it could only occur in a teahouse. There was one, and it was rather nearby. Though her brother had been more than able to do it.

She didn’t offer because she had never really liked them. It involved a lot of sitting around and waiting, not to mention that she had never liked tea. If her brother did the offer, it was a different story entirely.

He had stood up too, giving Suzumi the right orders. She followed, since it was not something she could escape from. And he knew that she had not liked tea even as a child, and thus it was unlikely for her to do one. She knew the traditions, as her mother had brought her along regardless of whether she liked it or not.

And in most cases, there were two types of tea. She didn’t like the taste, but she could hold her own. And she would be able to especially if there was nothing for two hours. And she could boil tea, which was something why she wasn’t terrified. Or Masaki could if he had offered to do so. He knew of her dislike, but would not have guessed that she was capable of serving satisfactory tea.

While Enyou was not a bad conversation partner to have, and thus would nullify the boredom. And a reason why she rather despised joining one back in Senwari, since she did not have anyone to talk to. Her mother surrounded herself with women her age, with no regard for Sachiko. Leaving her to simply listen.

She was also reprimanded for even joining in, as it was not her place to do so. As such, she often avoided it as much as she could. Either by staying in the gardens, and later on when she had her own personal servant, drinking with her. This time around, it had been with Masaki and Enyou. So, she knew it could not be so bad.

“Is everything alright?” Suzumi asked.

“Nothing.”

“You’ll need to head inside as Masaki is already boiling tea.” She nodded. “It’s a hobby of his, as he grew bored of being in here for long periods of time. He receives invitations, but even those do not save him from the loneliness of lack of company. He prides in choosing good tea leaves. The same way with you and sake, maybe you’ll introduce him to that as well.”

She nodded even as she rushed over. Even as Enyou had got up, perhaps hoping to find her. It was suitable as she had been her friend. Or rather a lie to explain their correspondence. She took a seat down, even as he boiled it too. All too familiar with the lack of sound here.

No comments until everyone had drunk from it and finished. After was where they could engage in casual conversations. And she knew that this was etiquette, even as she wondered just how it would have went if they had decided to make the change from tea to sake.

Which Sachiko knew was an inherently bad idea. Intoxication often led to many saying the strangest things, or doing things without much thought in them. This was not anything they could help, as they were under the influence. And hangovers often lasted till the next day. Which was why drinking was a good pastime for the night, but not the day.

In a moment, Masaki was done. Almost as though he was proud of it, even as it was often a woman’s job to boil it. But he brought it out, poured it into a single bowl. He offered it to Enyou first, who had been happy to take a sip from it avoiding its back.

“You can open a tea shop, and I’m sure you’ll still be rich after it.” Even as she wiped the bowl, before passing it to her. There was not a lot, since there was only three of them. Done because Masaki wanted it, without many guests here.

She took a sip too. Knowing full well of what would be expected of her. She tasted it, with the expectation of the bitterness. Even as she recognized the skill in it, her mother had made great tea. And this was comparable to that. Though she knew full well that it was something that would expected of her more than it was of him.

“It reminds me of haha’s.” That was a compliment on its own.

“I did it because I miss her tea.” Glad to see that it reminded him of her. And thus she knew why he had chosen this. It was something which he remembered his mother for. After he had moved here. Even as he kept it, Enyou not even thinking that it was wrong. As though she had seen this before to some extent and did not find it strange.

Even as he poured the remaining into a cup. In an effort to remember just how his mother’s tea smelled and tasted like. Even as he had left, to clean up before bringing in some weak tea. With Suzumi bringing in the food. She helped to do it, even as Enyou picked up the chopsticks to eat it. Knowing that it was simply when they could talk. The main time for chatting.

He had served the tea to them. And she picked it up, drinking it. The worst was over, even as she wore that her mother dragged it out back home. Or it had been the silence which caused it to be so long. Or rather impossible to predict why. But this was much faster than she thought it would have been.

“Either way, I’m surprised. It makes sense that he would be the one to do it.” She gave her a small smile. Though she wondered just how she had come to the truth. “I mean just now, you barely touched your tea.”

She was right in that regard. She often took barely more than a sip or two. It wasn’t anything personal, but just that she often forgot it existed. “How about I prove it here and now?” She took the entire cup and drank it in one sitting. She could finish it, but she disliked the weak taste of it. Because this was thin tea after all.

“Have you tried sake?” She asked the boy.

“No. Not yet.” He returned a nice smile.

“She seems to have great taste in them.” Which had been the truth. Even as she had not told him that. Mostly on account that he was a child. “I’m pretty sure you’ll do great in making a choice.”

It was rather strange for her to do so. Even as she stood up, before going on. “Remember that I’ll be waiting for you three days later at Houya inn. The place that serves great wine.”

Just why had she decided to tell him at this point. It was a hint, something that he could catch or not. But she had never known her brother well enough to tell what was the case. As he came here as a child and grew up in this environment.

“You’re going to meet with the Sasaki clan, aren’t you?” He had caught on.

“Yes. We need them as allies right now.” There was not much which they could do about it. Their clan was in a weak position, one where others could take advantage of.

“Why? Is it something that chichiue assigned you?” He asked. She nodded, knowing that it was best.

“Not really. Except that we need to protect our clan right now and all that we have done.” It was unusual to expect that of a young woman, where marriage would have been the best choice. “And it’s best for you to keep yourself out of it. I can pretend to be an innocent young woman, and many would believe me.”

But he on the other hand, would be placed under suspicion the moment word got around. He was still a child, but he was a boy 3and the heir. Many would expect him to be more cunning than they would ever a woman. “Of course, aneue. I’ll leave it to you. Ensuring that I can leave this place is what I should be focusing upon.”

They nodded, both knowing what they needed to do.

EndlessMidnightMoon

From Singapore, wishes to be an aspiring author. Lover of all things, dark, complex and mysterious. Wannabe time traveler.

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