Notes and Disclaimers: Shiozaki Yuji, J.C. Staff, Wani Books, Ikkitousen Partners, Genco, Mediafactory and ATX created these characters.This story and situation is not *nearly* trashy enough for this anime, really. Especially given the characters’ natures. But it is trite and over-used, which balances it all out. ;-)
Anyway, enjoy. And if you do, please let me know at email@example.com.
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Once again, my thanks to the folks at the Fanfic Revolution (updated for the first time in over a year! Yay!) for their support, their editing, friendship and snarky comments.
Shimei Ryomou had just stepped out of the shower when she heard the knock on the door.
She wrapped herself in a towel, took her toothbrush from its resting place by the sink, put the exact amount of toothpaste recommended upon its surface and just before she thrust the brush in her mouth, said, “Come in.”
She did not worry that her back was to the door. Few people ever bothered to visit her and of them, the likeliest were not people she feared. Hated, perhaps, and loathed. But she did not fear them.
Nor did she give a second’s thought to the fact that her body was clothed only in a single thin towel. Of those people who knew where she lived – or were likely to ever look for her – most had already seen her in various states of undress. Shimei Ryomou was not concerned about such things. Fighters did not concern themselves with such things.
Ryomou could hear the door open and close and the sound of someone entering her small apartment. She rinsed her mouth out and replaced the toothbrush in its holder then turned to greet, if not welcome, her guest.
But, as she caught sight of her visitor, her limbs grew soft and her head spun. Standing just inside her doorway was Housen Ryofu – and Ryomou was indeed terrified of her.
Ryomou was instantly paralyzed. What did Ryofu want? What else could Ryofu do to her that had not already been done? Ryomou’s mind fled in fear as she remembered with unpleasant clarity her last private meeting with the aqua-haired woman and her subsequent physical and emotional humiliation. A fleeting thought left Ryomou’s hand hovering protectively near her one good eye. She did, in fact, have something precious to lose and she *would* die first before losing this.
Ryofu took a step closer. Ryomou stiffened, her hands pulled into tight fists, knowing that however great her skills in fighting, she was completely outclassed here. Ryofu’s skirt shifted and Ryomou shifted her weight backwards in preparation for the attack that was to come.
She could only stare in surprise and cold, creeping horror as Ryofu sunk slowly to her knees, laid her hands flat before her and touched her brow to the floor.
“Shimei Ryomou,” the other woman spoke clearly, although her face remained downwards, “I have come to apologize for my crimes against you. What I did was unconscionable and unforgivable. Nonetheless, before I go to my death, I humbly request that you forgive me.”
Ryomou’s mouth closed only after some conscious effort on her part. She grasped desperately for something to hang on to and found only the least important of the words that had been spoken.
“Your death?” She could barely get the words out.
“Yes.” If anything Ryofu pressed herself closer to the ground. “I am about to go to my final fight to avenge the death of my servant,” Ryofu’s face was lifted and her eyes blazed with a righteous anger that made Ryomou flinch. “My servant, and lover, Chinkyuu. What I did to you was done to her, and she…” Ryofu forced herself to lower her eyes, “She died this morning.”
Ryomou could only stare at her opponent – her mortal enemy – as something unidentifiable filled her. Pity, maybe?
“I’m….sorry.” Ryomou found herself saying automatically. “I didn’t know.”
“You are the first to hear of it.” Ryofu lifted herself from the ground and sat back upon her heels. “Please.”
Ryomou’s hands unclenched. She forced herself to bow slightly. “I forgive you.” She closed her eye as she spoke, expecting it to be a lie. But as the words passed her lips, she knew that it was not. There was no reason to hold this grudge or harbor hatred for this woman. Shimei Ryomou was, like her predecessor, a hardened warrior – and she could see death upon those who time had come. Whatever fate Housen Ryofu was about to face, she would never come back alive. There was no need to foster the hatred she felt for what had been done to her. In that moment Ryomou knew she would never have her chance to avenge it.
Ryofu touched her forehead to the ground once more and stood. “Thank you.” She looked up, her face composed and, if Ryomou was to be honest, peaceful. “I’m dying anyway,” Ryofu continued, a small smile which made her look far older than she was, on her face.
“Housen Ryofu,” Ryomou began, but the aqua-haired woman stopped her with a mere gesture.
“I must go.”
“No,” Ryomou found herself reaching out with one hand, “have a cup of tea before you….”
Ryofu had already turned away, but at this she turned once more, an expression of ineffable sadness in her face. “One cup.”
Ryofu seated herself on the cushion in front of the table, and Ryomou turned to dress. She was filled with an unusual self-consciousness, as Ryofu’s eyes burned into her naked back.
As Ryomou pulled the towel from her body, and began to step into the pair of underwear she held, she could hear Ryofu shift on the cushion.
“You have such a lovely body,” Ryofu commented impassively. “I’m only sorry that I never had a chance to….” she stopped speaking and heaved a tired sigh. “What am I saying?” she muttered almost to herself.
“We could never have been friends, you and I.” Ryomou finished fastening her bra and slipped a loose shirt over her head, then pulled on a skirt.
“No.” Ryofu agreed. “We couldn’t have.” Her eyes sparkled with amusement at a thought. “But what a match it might have been!”
Ryomou turned away from the other woman to pour hot water into cups. “Might have.” She wondered if she would one day regret not having this woman as her lover. Probably not. Her stomach clenched as images of their first meeting assaulted her. Definitely not.
“You think I’m tasteless for wishing that, after what I did to you.” Ryofu gazed down at her clenched fist. “I won’t try to excuse it. I was a soldier under the orders of a hateful general. I was told to break you. I did it the fastest and most effective way I could.” She looked up as Ryomou approached with the cups. “But I didn’t break you, did I?”
Ryomou set a cup down in front of her guest, then seated herself across the table. “Yes. You did.” She took a sip of the astringent tea. “But then something happened to give me myself back.”
Curling her hands around her cup, Ryofu gazed out into the middle distance. “You met your fate.” She took a sip of the tea. “Sonsaku Hakufu.”
Conversation died as the two women contemplated their second meeting, in a deep wood on the side of an obscure mountain.
Ryomou opened her mouth then closed it; swallowing words she didn’t know how to say. “Housen Ryofu,” she began, ignoring the condescending smile on the other woman’s face, “you are facing death today. We both know it. Why…” Ryomou pushed a lock of hair from her eye as she considered her words. “How is it that you seem at peace?”
Setting the tea cup on the table, Ryofu cradled one fist in the other hand, gently rocking it as if it were a child.
“It’s simple, really. I realized what was really important to me. Too late to save her, unfortunately. Or me.”
“What was really important,” Ryomou repeated.
“Yes.” The aqua hair bounced as Ryofu stood. “I appreciate your hospitality, Shimei Ryomou. And your kindness in accepting my apology.” She waited until Ryomou was standing too, then reached out a hand, which trembled slightly. “Accept these final words from a Fighter who is about to die.” She pulled the hand into a tight fist and drew it towards her chest. “Do not lose sight of what is truly important to you. You can never outrun your fate, but the manner of your death is yours to chose.”
Hey eyes closed and as a look of incredible peace filled her face, Housen Ryofu spoke. “I choose to die for love.” Her eyes opened and she smiled.
Ryomou stepped around the table and led the way to the door. Ryofu followed her silently. When the blue-haired woman stopped, Ryofu stepped up to her and laid a gentle hand upon her shoulder. Leaning close to Ryomou’s good eye, Ryofu whispered, “Choose to die for honor and love, Shimei Ryomou. Serve your lord well.” And she laid the gentlest of kisses on the other woman’s cheek.
The door closed and silence fell on the apartment.
It was only a moment later that Shimei Ryomou realized that she was crying.