Chapter Four: Looking Around

Sachiko waited outside the house, while waiting for the woman her father mentioned. Her name was Suzumi and was busy supervising the cleaning of her house. Giving Sachiko the perfect chance. Right now it was not suitable for her to step in, waiting would be better. She didn’t need rumors to arise about her, since her father had planted her here to keep an eye on things.

The woman had been of average height, her hair long and tied neatly into a bun. She was not old, perhaps being thirty at most. She was dressed in a kimono with only small patterns, enough to signify her status over other maids. Kaede was beside her, also choosing the same. The weather had been colder and she was passed a kimono of this because she had been her personal handmaid.

“Are you sure we should wait?”

“It’s better this way since I need to speak to her privately.” Mostly decorating it for mourning since her father had been declared dead. The body had not been found of him or the crew and there was a large storm. It also had been a full month since the incident; many would rightly assume that he perished. And the situation of Senwari was in a deadlock. It was expected for the Shogun to release him.

But the man was not likely to do so without having another hostage. To him, an unmarried sister would suffice as well. Since they needed the agreement of the Shogun and the clan head for a marriage. Without it they were expected to remain unmarried.

It would come soon enough. “Anything you wish for, Sachiko-hime?” She would keep her head down, in accordance to the respect that was shown to her.

“I would like to have a talk with you.” Even as she had went up in that instant. “It’s something personal.” She was without her mother, but many would expect a daughter to be well versed in running a household. Thus, it was not unusual for her to ask the head maid.

They would head inside to a room. One where it was used to entertaining guests. “Bring some tea.” Kaede would nod before leaving and grabbing it. Even as she didn’t like it one bit.

“I thought you didn’t like it.” She looked at him. Even as Kaede would remain out the door, perhaps awaiting for the next orders or a change in them. And perhaps suggesting that it was something of a signal that she was someone she could trust. It was not something many would have paid any attention to. “Tono-sama had specified it for you.”

“So, you don’t mind if I were to swap it for coffee beans?” She asked. Although knowing that it was perhaps something her father used to tell her that this was the woman she should be seeking for.

“I like it sometimes .”

“Kaede, change it to coffee instead.” The girl nodded at the doorstep, before she left. Even as the woman would raise her eyebrow at it. It was unusual, since Kaede was not someone her father had asked to take care of her.

“I picked her.” It would do little in assuring as she has not proved that she could judge people well. But so far Kaede had given her little cause to doubt so. Only after a short amount of time had passed did they begin the conversation.

“What did my father intend for me to know?” She asked. She could frame it as a curious answer, perhaps to know more. He had stopped by here before he left for the ship on Okiban and before he would disappear.

“Plenty of things.” Even as she would take the chance to look out. Before glancing back. Sachiko knew the reason why. “But it can wait until the coffee arrives.”

“You think Kaede might be a spy?”

“It pays to be careful.” She agreed to it too. “So far, she is incredibly observant.” But there was none of that. Sachiko had known Kaede, who grew up in Fukusei but needed to find employment to earn money for her family. And that even this was meant to dodge the eyes of many.

It was a quick wait before Kaede came back with a full pot. She poured it quickly for each of them. Sachiko took it up once Kaede was done. Even as she looked at her when they finished a sip.

“Close the door and leave would you?” Kaede would nod before closing it, with only the two of them here. This was where they would begin.

“Any reason why you have chosen to come here?”

“Haha thinks it’s time to think about marriage, and Masaki would need to head back to Senwari.” The woman was aware of what this would have meant. “So, I made the trip to Okiban.”

“So, I expect that you would be writing letters to many of the clans?” The woman would ask.

“I would need some help with that as I’m no longer familiar with the place. And whether are there any clans who have expressed an interest in talking with my brother.” It was something that many would assume that she was trying to help her family; cementing a sound alliance. In terms of it, she was eligible to marry into the Shogunate. She had enough connections, and the heir to the Shogun was a young man with no attachments. Or to marry to a feudal lord which would bring her family many advantages.

Although Sachiko was interested in neither. This was merely a ploy for her to see which clans were likely to ally with them, and how she can use it to the Saitou clan’s advantage. “There are many families who have expressed an interest, although not all make it to the table of wakatono. He doesn’t need rumors about him plotting, no matter how many would say that it is difficult to believe a young boy was capable of something like this and turn it around to accuse the clan as conspirators.”

It was easy enough, since it had happened before. The previous Shogun’s assassination had been blamed on his wife, and as such barred his own son from being able to take control. Even as the current Shogun— his brother— did not participate, there were still rumors about his involvement. But above all, was the precedence. This could be turned around and blamed on her mother’s head and perhaps even hers. And the consequences could be terrible for the clan.

Even if it was a young boy of no more than fourteen. This rumors would impact him badly and would raise the suspicion. She knew her father must have had handed her much control, but this was far more than she expected. “The main clans who have inquired have been the Sasaki and the Satou. Those will make our best allies.”

“What of the other clans?”

“Not much have been heard from them. The occasional invitation, but nothing to suggest interest in our clan.” She knew why it had happened, mostly because of the lack of a clear leader. Her father managed to find alliances easy, and with his disappearance it was not difficult to expect desertion. Especially if the future leader is not a man, he wasn’t a boy but he wasn’t fully able to lead either.

“Can you pass me those letters?” Sachiko would ask.

“Of course, hime-sama.” Even as she stood up, knowing that this was all she needed to do for now. The letters could be more clearly handled later. She went out, to find Kaede sitting on the edge and drinking some sake. She raised her bottle to her master.

Sachiko would return it with a smile before taking the chance to go forward, knowing that Kaede was unlikely to be listening in. She had told Kaede a little of her own plans, to many it would seem like the wishful thinking of a girl. A girl who had never hoped to marry, and hoped to leave the confines of her life she start somewhere else.

And taking the steps needed to ensure that freedom. Regardless of what she would be paying for it in the end. She had done all she could in such a situation, there was little else she could do now except wait for Suzumi to bring her the list so that she could assess her options

Kazuho had known just how difficult it would be to find the boy. It had been a full two hours of standing and it being almost early evening which convinced Yuki and Masami to eat something. He expected it, even as he asked around. There was none who could give him a straight answer.

Most would kindly ignore him, while some would laugh at his face once he brought up the check. Something that was lost here was unlikely to be recovered. But Kazuho had not wanted to pay back the money in full, knowing that whoever it was may have taken the money out. He had went to the bank first to see whether it was gone. So far it wasn’t.

Which was the only good thing as they had not made progress in finding who stole the check. While Yuki had committed herself to see as much of Okiban that was possible in one afternoon, even as they were busy trying to find out more about the missing check. Only to have it turn up with little, and feeling that they would probably eat before heading back to the house. There just wasn’t another option for something like this.

“So, any idea on where to eat?”

“How about the one at the end?” He looked to the end, noticing the fact that people had been entering and leaving the place. As well as spotting a merchant or two. It was bustling and it must have tasted good.

“Was that the place you had your eye on for quite a while?” She would look the other way, but was more than enough to tell him that she had intended for it to be so. And honestly, he was more keen to not be eating at dubious places. As for Shinrou, he would bring something back for him. It was easy enough as the man would know that leaving now was difficult.

Even as he entered inside. For most part it was filled with tables, even upon the second floor. The staircase was before them with the tables inside. There was no rule to suggest they needed to wait, so it was up to them to take a seat. He looked around, realizing that it was full in every sense of the word.

He sighed, knowing that it was so if there was so many leaving and at the same time entering.

“Kazuho, Yuki found a place.” He would look at the seat, which had been previous occupied by a bunch of Samurai who had given it up to her. They would make their way there, taking a seat. A menu was at each table, listing all the items. But there were some which were better placed at the top, which had been raw fish and sake.

Yuki had taken one for herself with her eyes focused on the fish. And Masami would look to the right and see the price. “Could you afford it?”

“I can afford to pay the man the full price of the house and take the cost of the theft, doesn’t mean I want to.” She would agree to. It was one thing to be able to afford sand another to be willing. But he knew that it will be what Yuki will do now. “But either way, she would want to try it. Best let it be at a good place than some seedy restaurant.”

She would agree knowing that this needed to be prepare correctly. The wrong sort could cause death when eaten, and some would undertake it as a challenge. And from observing the place around, it was a common dish to be served. It meant that they had been able to afford it.

“How may I help you?” It had been a young man, with short hair and wearing a simple kosode and hakama. The weather was not cold enough to warrant coats yet, it only being in the early autumn. His eyes were a deep hazel, and his hair the regular black.

“Can I have this course meal?” He knew that she would have the moment she saw it. Never having actually sat through the actual duration coupled with the curiosity.

“Excellent choice, although that goes well with the shochu, which is brewed in the house.” He has taken the chance to flip the paper to the back, revealing neatly handwritten beverages. And it was made up of mostly rice, barely, brown sugar and carrots. The latter had been what mostly caught his attention as it had been stranger.

“We’ll take it.” He closed it. Knowing that it was often a pair, most ate it together.

“Are you sure?” She asked.

“Yuki was going to take it regardless of what we do. Might as well be one step ahead. Although I am curious to see how carrots can fit into sake.”

“Won’t that just taste strange?” Masami asked.

“I have the feeling it’ll be great.” She gave a smile back at them, even as they were waiting for food. He could ask for something later for Shinrou. Even as he knew that it would need to be rice; Shinrou may prefer ramen but it was often hot and difficult to carry.

“So what should we do as of now?” Seeing as there was nothing else to do than to wait for their food. Masami had asked him this question, knowing full well of how he was uncertain about this. Or rather uncertain about where to head from here. It was almost dark and he had gotten nowhere.

“How about we ask him if we have the chance?” She would nod, even as it was not a good idea. Just one out of desperation itself. He did not have any clear ideas on where to head from here, and neither did he know where to head. He still wanted to avoid the authorities at all costs.

Even as his attention would be drawn by the serving of thinly sliced raw meat. He knew that this was difficult to prepare, and few could truly claim it. “How about I take a look first to see if it’s truly safe to eat?”

“Why so?”

“Well, if it isn’t done well it can kill.” Which kept her mouth shut. And knew that it was because Kazuho has had a lot of chance to eat it, to be trusted with testing it.

He looked at it, observing for a moment before putting it into his mouth. Even as the wine would come in the next second and he would pour a cup of it and drink a bit. Sake was not strong wine, shoku had been a far stronger variation of it. And perhaps why he had chosen it, knowing that this was how it was normally eaten.

“Is drinking a necessity?”

He would shrug. “I have no idea why, it’s just something all would do when they eat raw stuff.” He had never questioned why it happened, just that they did it. Masami would take one, and so would Yuki. She would eat it, even as Masami helped her with the cup and did it herself. Just as she took the chance. It was going to be a long meal as it was since Yuki had ordered a course meal.

The liquor itself had been good, it was kept well and when it was brewed it was by the hand of an expert. He could taste it, and it was well worth the price spent on it. It knew how to emphasize the carrots, even as it would raise the eye of anyone else who was drinking.

Even as he could taste the mild spiciness and garnish, which had been incorporated into the meat itself. Something that he had not tasted it for a long while, even as it was one which was distinct.

The rest of the meal would pass without a hitch, with most of the dishes being served. Even as Yuki and Masami would often look to him for guidance on eating them. Once they were done, and Yuki was too full to even think of eating dessert.

The boy noticed while handing him the bill. Even as Kazuho spotted his look, which reminded him of a butcher who was about to slaughter his livestock. And pretended that it had not existed. He looked at the bill before taking out his checkbook and wallet.

“That check…” The boy would mention. Even as he turned his eyes around.


“Pay the bill and I will tell you.” Even as he handed it in full, with a little extra as a tip. Even as the boy would be taken aback by the amount. As though he expected him to have lost a lot of money.

He accepted it. “It was from a young boy, his mother has been ill and thus he has been working with us. Today he had came to me with that check asking what to do about it.” And knowing that many would suspect theft if he had came dressed as a poor orphan. That had been something which would have caught their attention.

“Really? Was the amount on there enough to buy a house?”

“A very large one, but yes.” He passed the waiter a bigger tip for such information. “So, it must be yours.”

“I have been searching for it the entire day.” The man did not reveal more like what was his name and where he stayed.

“You’re not heading to the bafuku for something like this?”

“I have reasons not to. I just want the money back, so who is this boy and where he stays?”

“Kaoru.” Even as he passed the address to him. “As long as you don’t bring him to the law, it’s enough. By the way, I really thought that you couldn’t afford it. It’s just the spoiled pig who is demanding things.”

Yuki would glare at him for a moment. As Kazuho gave a laugh at her reaction. “And why didn’t you tell us?”

“You had the menu and the price. And I did want to see her face.” Before he took the chance to leave.

“Well, it seems that we no longer need to keep looking.” She looked at the address. Yuki folded her arms, not being happy at being insulted by someone. But felt that it was not worth the trouble to beat him up. Although Kazuho knew that if they were to come up, she would find some way to get back at him.

He watched Masami stand up, and so did he. Knowing that it was time to leave. Just as he remembered something important.

“But we would need to buy something for Shinrou.”

“We do need something for him before he decides to murder us.” Masami would nod in agreement.

They walked out of the inn to loom for Shinrou’s dinner.