Black Lily

Lessons Learned

Written By | Series: Ikkitousen

Notes and Disclaimers: Ikkitousen and all the characters therefrom are the property of Shiozaki Yuji, J.C. Staff, Wani Books, Ikkitousen Partners, Genco, Mediafactory and ATX. I don’t think they’d mind this story terribly, to be honest.

This story contains explicit scenes of sex between consenting women of legal age. If you are a minor and are reading this story – stop right now. If you continue, you are making the first of what is likely to be a series of bad decisions that will set you upon a path in life that will continue downhill for some time, until you learn that your fulfilling base desires should not be the rationale upon which you make your choices. If you stop now, you will likely succeed in life, because you recognize that you are not the center of the universe and sometimes it’s okay if you don’t get what you want right this very second. I heartily commend those of you who stop reading and wish you the best.

If you are of legal age and not likely to be offended, please enjoy. Feel free to email me atyuricon@gmail.com to discuss it, or Ikkitousen, or anything that might be of shared interest between us.

“Worldshaking” Fanfic supports Yuricon and ALC Publishing for their continued celebration of shoujoai and yuri in amnime and manga.

WSF also supports the Fanfic Revolution, because fanfic doesn’t have to suck.

 

Lessons Learned

 

The air was crisp, with a sharp smell of burning wood. Ryomou took a deep breath and let it out slowly. She focused on the broom in her hand, carefully measuring each stroke, varying the pressure and trajectory of her movements. It wasn’t much, but each second of practice counted, she rationalized.

“Mou-chan?”

Ryomou looked up, but did not stop sweeping.

“Mou-chan, why don’t you take a break? You’ve been working all morning!” Goei’s voice was warm and cheerful as always. “I made some tea. Please, join me?”

Nodding shortly, Ryomou laid the broom against the wall and joined the older woman on the veranda. Reaching out automatically, Ryomou took the tray from Goei’s hands and laid it on the polished wood, then proceeded to serve tea for both of them. She glanced up as she handed over a cup, but her eyes dropped again as they met Goei’s.

“You don’t have to be here you know. Hakufu and Koukin are training in the mountains today. I’m sure you have other things you need to do.”

“It’s fine,” Ryomou said. “I don’t mind.”

“Thank you.” The older woman’s voice dropped from its usually frivolous tone. “Thank you for taking such good care of her. Hakufu needs all the friends she can get.” Goei’s eyes were large, Ryomou thought. Beautiful, earnest eyes.

Ryomou’s eyes slipped away again as she bowed. “I don’t…I…it’s my pleasure.” She stared at her own hands, clenched on her lap. Trying to keep the words that so desperately wanted to be spoken to herself, she screwed her eyes shut, but they flew open a second later. Goei’s hand was warm and smooth around Ryomou’s. The blue-haired girl stared down at the pale skin, following the veins across the back of the fist. She clenched her own hand tighter.

“You’ve been here every day, helping around the house, watching over us. It makes me feel very safe.”

Ryomou’s eyes rose once more, searching the smile in front of her.

“I feel as if I can relax for once and let Hakufu be who she is, because you’re here.” Goei’s hand squeezed the girl’s, then retreated.

Ryomou opened her mouth, then shut it again. “It’s nothing,” she managed after a moment.

Goei turned her slight body away from Ryomou and they two sat drinking their tea in silent contemplation. But only one of them found comfort in the silence.

Ryomou’s mind was a whirl of thoughts. Months had passed since the first time she had met Sonsaku Goei, mother of Sonsaku Hakufu, the Junior Lord of Lords, at an onsen in the mountains. She had never met anyone like her; carefree like her daughter, but also aware of herself and the pleasures of the flesh in a way that caused goose bumps to rise on Ryomou’s arms every time she thought about it. There was a carefully masked intensity in this woman that Ryomou found fascinating. Even now, Ryomou could hear the quiet pleading with which Goei had addressed her, when she had begged her to watch over her daughter.

She had always understood her own fate was to be the reborn Ryomou Shimei; ordained to live under this Sonsaku’s command and destined to die her servant. Hakufu, the air-headed Junior Lord of Lords – too stupid to notice her own sensuality, too obstinate to stay down when she was knocked down. Ryomou could understand why her predecessor had served his Sonsaku to the death – there was something honorable in dying for someone so…touched by Fate.

But Hakufu had shown them all another way. Ryomou lifted her hand to her ear where the symbol of their destiny, the magatama, no longer hung. No longer were they nothing more than the reincarnations of warriors of ancient China – now they had their own fortunes, of their own making. Hakufu *had* led them, just not in the way any of the Toushi had expected.

Ryomou thought back to the day when she had come to the house to visit Hakufu, to protect her, as her mother had asked. But Hakufu had already left to meet her destiny and instead, Ryomou had come across Goei shuddering with tears in the middle of the street. In that single moment, Ryomou had found her true path. Without a word, Ryomou Shimei had transferred her allegiance forever from the Junior Lord of Lords to her mother, unnamed in the chronicles. From that moment, she had vowed she would fight…she would gladly die…to keep tears from that face.

Goei sighed and took the empty cups back, then stood with the tray. “I have work to do, but please don’t feel you have to stay and keep an old lady company.” There was laughter in the way she said “old lady.” She expected a denial.

“You’re not old,” Ryomou supplied dutifully. “I don’t mind keeping you…working around the house.” It was nothing less than the truth. This place, with its old, polished floors and tiled eaves was a palace compared to her sparse, lonely apartment.

“Mou-chan?”

“Yes?”

“You’re a very sweet girl.”

And, for a brief moment, her heart soared.

***

“Mou-chaaaaaan!” The call came across the clearing. Ryomou set the broom aside and braced herself for the onslaught that was to come. It was only seconds later that she was tackled by the always enthusiastic Junior Lord of Lords. Today, the redoubtable warrior wore a light sundress and, as usual, no bra. Ryomou looked away as a breast slipped from behind the thin material and became visible.

Laughing, Hakufu rearranged herself and turned to wave at her unfortunate companion. “Koukin! Say hi to Mou-chan!”

The young man resettled a heavy load of luggage on his other shoulder and waved. Ryomou took a step forward, but he shook his head visibly.

Yes, she thought, that is your fate, Shushu Koukin. You are here to serve Sonsaku Hakufu. She nodded meaningfully to Koukin, acknowledging his effort.

“Mou-chan, are you staying for dinner tonight? Maybe we can make Mom make us something special! Mom!!!” Hakufu was off, running across the yard, yelling loudly for shabu-shabu or some other favored meal. Ryomou turned to watch Koukin shed the luggage onto the veranda and heave a wearied sigh.

“Welcome back,” Ryomou said hesitantly. She was still unsure of her place in this house, and did not want to presume friendship where there was none.

“We’re home,” Koukin smiled tiredly. “Hakufu’s gotten too strong for me to fight. Maybe you ought to go with her next time, Ryomou-san.”

Ryomou nodded solemnly. “I could use the workout.” She flexed an arm, reflectively. “It’s been too quiet.”

Koukin sat on the veranda and stretched. “Since Sousou took over, we’ve hardly had any battles. But,” his face grew serious, “it’ll be time for a competition any day. And Hakufu is much, much stronger than she was.”

“The dragon?” Ryomou inquired. “Have you seen any sign of it?”

“Not since she took off the magatama. No,” he shook his head and rubbed an arm where a dark bruise was clearly visible. “It’s all her own strength now.”

Then Hakufu was back and the yard, which had been full of contemplative thought, was filled with shouting and protests and laughter.

***

Ryomou stood and bowed deeply. “Thank you for letting me stay for dinner.”

Hakufu looked up, her usual vapid expression masking the hidden strength that lay within her. “You’re leaving?”

“I think it would be best,” she answered. “Thank you for your kindness.” This last was spoken to Goei.

Hakufu’s mother wore her habitual smile, as habitual as the plain kimono she always wore. “Mou-chan, you don’t have to go, you know. We have plenty of room here. Why don’t you stay tonight?” Goei’s smile widened just a little. “It’s such a beautiful night.”

Ryomou’s answer to this invitation was drowned out by Hakufu’s shouts. Ryomou managed to nod her acquiescence to Goei’s request, as she was dragged away physically by the Junior Lord of Lords.

“Let’s take a bath, Mou-chan!” Hakufu’s child-like enthusiasm was almost infectious enough to make Ryomou smile. She let her lips rise a little, until Hakufu, already stripped to the skin, turned suddenly to face her erstwhile rival.

“Mou-chan?” Hakufu’s nakedness never seemed to bother her, something Ryomou envied. “Why don’t you smile more often? You look so…” her eyes rose as she searched for the right word, “…serious, all the time.” As she spoke, Hakufu scrubbed herself absently with soap, rinsing with water cold enough to make Ryomou shudder.

“I don’t know,” Ryomou answered honestly. “I guess I am serious, most of the time.”

“Well, come on and get into the bath, maybe it’ll help you relax.” Hakufu followed her own advice and entered the bath with a happy sigh.

Ryomou finished rinsing and entered the bath, breathing deeply in the steamy atmosphere. It did feel good, she admitted to herself.

They were in the bath for mere moments when the door opened up and Goei entered. And as quickly as that, Ryomou was once again tight as a drumhead. Her stomach muscles clenched as Goei undressed, showered efficiently and joined them, that same enigmatic smile as always upon her face.

“There’s nothing like a bath after dinner to really take away the stresses of the day, is there?” Goei included both of the younger women, but Hakufu seemed almost unconscious as she lay back in the bath.

Ryomou forced herself to respond. “Yes, thank you once again.”

“Mou-chan,” Goei beamed at her. “You should really smile more often. You have such a beautiful mouth…it seems like such a waste to keep it so serious all the time.”

Stunned, Ryomou had no idea how to answer that, but Hakufu saved her from having to do so.

“I just said that! Isn’t that funny!” The Junior Lord of Lords stood, walked over to Ryomou and grabbed her by the shoulders. Heedless of her breasts swinging in front of Ryomou’s face, Hakufu shook her friend severely. “See, Mou-chan? Mom agrees with me and that never happens! Smile.”

“What?”

“Come on, smile. Right now. Really, smile. Come on – you know you want to!”

The absurdity of the situation, combined with the threat that Hakufu wouldn’t hesitate to tickle her, forced Ryomou to concede. She smiled at her former rival, who smiled back, then tickled her anyway.

Ryomou laughed involuntarily and tried to keep out of Hakufu’s grasp, but Koukin was right – she was much stronger than before. Water splashed all over the bathroom as the two wrestled with each other, their shouts accompanied by Goei’s laughter. And for that alone, Ryomou thought, as she caught her breath before being submerged by Hakufu, it was worth it.

***

Koukin bowed politely at the three women as they emerged from the bathroom. “I’ve taken the liberty of making up a room for you, Ryomou-san.”

Surprised, the blue-haired girl nodded. “Thank you – that was very kind.”

Shaking his head, Koukin smiled. “It’s the least I can do. And now,” he transferred his attention to Hakufu, “if you’ve left me any water, I think I’ll take my bath now.”

As Koukin and Hakufu began to argue, Goei slipped her arm into Ryomou’s and led her across the courtyard. “I’ll show you to your room.”

Nearly paralyzed by the warmth of Goei’s hand on her arm, Ryomou could only follow along complacently.

They crossed the compound, moving away from Hakufu’s bedroom towards the opposite wing. “I hope you don’t mind not staying with Hakufu this time,” Goei was saying, “I live in hope that Koukin will unbend one day. And,” she turned her smile full on Ryomou, “I wanted you to myself tonight.”

With some effort, Ryomou kept her knees from buckling. “T…”

“Oh please don’t thank me anymore!” Goei laughed. “I can’t stand another expression of gratitude. Mou-chan, you’re family now – you can stay here any time you like.” She gave the girl’s arm a squeeze, then stepped onto the veranda. “It’s the least *I* can do, after all.”

The room wasn’t large, but it was clean and smelled of fresh cedar. Ryomou loved it instantly. Spartan, a single futon on the floor, fresh flowers on the tokonoma. It was perfect.

“I’m right next door,” Goei said. “If you need anything, just shout. Okay?”

Ryomou managed both a nod and a shy smile – she would get better at this, she thought, if it made her happy. “Yes, th…yes.”

The older woman wished Ryomou a good night, then took her leave.

Ryomou luxuriated in the feel of the blanket and the sheet on her skin. They were so soft. The air was crisp and cedar-scented, and she breathed slowly to fill her lungs with all the freshness she could take from this place. She heard movements coming from the next room, and thought about Hakufu’s mother preparing for bed.

Ryomou sighed. She yawned. She closed her eyes and waited for sleep to overtake her.

The crickets sang; a slight breeze fluttered against the shoji. Ryomou rolled on to her side and tried to relax. Goei’s footsteps were soft as she moved about her room.

Ryomou rolled over onto her back and stared at the dark ceiling.

She could hear Hakufu’s voice shrill in the distance, importuning Koukin about something. Doors opened and closed, and silence fell over the courtyard. Ryomou sat up staring into the gloom. Her body was tired, but her mind was much too awake. She pushed the blanket away, scrubbed her face with her hands and stood, unsurely.

As quietly as she could, Ryomou slid the screen open and stepped out onto the veranda, stopping short at the sight of a silhouetted figure standing there, one hand on the post.

Goei turned and nodded. “Can’t sleep either?”

“I guess not.”

“Come sit with me, then.” The older woman gestured to the veranda’s edge, but made no move to seat herself. “Come, sit. I’ll bring us some sake.” She was gone before Ryomou could protest.

When Goei returned, she carried a tray with several decanters of sake and two cups. She placed it on the veranda next to Ryomou, and poured for them both.

“I don’t…I’m not sure…” Ryomou began.

“Oh, Mou-chan!” Goei laughed. “I’m not your mother, you know!” Realizing what she had said, Goei apologized hastily for any unintended offense.

“It’s nothing.” Ryomou didn’t feel offended at all. After all, hadn’t her own mother run away immediately after giving birth to a powerful Toushi? Who knew where that woman was, or what she had been like. It might have been nice, she shrugged internally at the meaninglessness of the conjecture, to have had a mother like Goei.

“Please…I hate to drink alone.” Goei’s voice was light, but there was an underlying pain that made Ryomou take the proffered cup with polite words. She sipped at the liquid; the taste was not unfamiliar, but not something in which she indulged frequently. The liquid burned its way down her throat; then, rather more quickly than she would have assumed, it was followed by warmth spreading through her chest. She swallowed the rest of the sake and took a deep breath.

“That’s right,” Goei said, refilling Ryomou’s cup. “I know you Fighters have to be so tough – but you don’t have to fight right now. Drink up and relax.” Ryomou could tell the older woman was smiling, even in the dark.

Goei drank her own cup dry and sighed loudly. “You’re exactly the opposite of my stupid daughter.” Her voice was filled with affection for Hakufu. “Mou-chan is so responsible and dependable. And you work so hard at being the best you can be. Hakufu…well, you’ve seen her. It’s not Hakufu’s nature to be dependable.”

“She’s stronger than I am,” Ryomou said quietly.

Goei was still for a moment before she spoke. “Does that bother you?”

Ryomou drank again. She felt the words slip past her lips, more than heard them. “It used to. But now I know that it’s not really important.” She turned towards Goei, towards the pale shape that was her face. “Hakufu taught me that.”

“Mou-chan,” Goei’s voice was very soft. “What do you want to do with yourself now?”

Ryomou sat back with a guttural noise. “I don’t know.” She looked up at the sky. “For so long I was focused on one thing and now…now I don’t have anything to focus on.”

“Except yourself.”

“I was always focused on myself,” Ryomou spoke with certainty. “Every day was about becoming stronger – learning a new lesson, learning a new technique.” She unconsciously flexed an arm and cupped the muscle in the other palm. “My lessons were always about becoming stronger.” She paused, “Until that old man at the onsen taught me that there were other ways of being strong.” She paused again. “That was the most important lesson of all.” She turned to look at Goei, who sat completely still, but seemed poised for something. Ryomou let a small smile into her voice as she said, “Now the challenge is setting a new strategy.” She leaned forward to refill Goei’s cup quickly, as the older woman put it down.

“You really are sweet.” Goei’s voice was warm. “So – after a life of war, what do you think your next course of study should be? You’re not that far away from examinations – if you try hard you could get into college.”

Ryomou considered. “I think I’d like to be,” she grunted in amusement at herself, “a doctor…maybe something to do with joints.” She smiled at the irony, even though the smile could not be seen.

“That sounds nice. What about a boyfriend?”

Ryomou choked a little on the sake. “I…”

“Come on, you can’t tell me that a pretty thing like you hasn’t got one?” Goei seemed to find this hysterical. Ryomou was just glad for the darkness that kept her red cheeks invisible from her companion.

“I did…a little, kind of…”

“Oh?” Goei leaned forward eagerly to hear the younger woman’s secrets. “What happened?”

“He wasn’t the person I thought he was.”

“That happens a lot with men,” Goei agreed with a light laugh. “So? Is there anyone else you like now?” Her body wriggled a little in anticipation of gossip.

Turning away, Ryomou said, “There’s someone I like, but they’re older and I don’t think they’ve noticed me.”

“Oh, Mou-chan! You can’t live like that!” Goei reached out and took Ryomou’s arm in a firm grasp. “You have to come right out and tell them! Every moment of life is precious – believe me, I know.” Goei’s voice thickened a little on the last word. Ryomou assumed that she was thinking of her daughter again – of how close she had come to losing her.

“Maybe you’re right.”

“I am right. I’m always right,” Goei laughed. She pulled away from Ryomou and sat back on her heels. She sighed happily. “What a beautiful night.” She sat upright, pointing, “Look, Mou-chan, a shooting star, quick, make a wish!”

Mou-chan looked up, just in time to see the star fade out of the sky. “Life is precious,” she said.

“Yes,” Goei agreed. “What did you wish for?”

“It’s supposed to be a secret.’

“But you can tell me,” Goei was laughing again, something that made Ryomou feel warm, warmer than the sake, warmer than anything she’d ever felt before.

“Courage.”

“Courage? To do what?”

In her mind, Ryomou said, “To do this,” and leaned forward to kiss that laughing mouth. Instead, she just shook her head and said nothing.

“You’re a very mysterious person, my little Mou-chan.” Goei patted Ryomou’s hand and filled their cups once more.

“Mysterious? Me?” Once again the liquor slid through her like the proverbial hot knife. This time she refilled their cups.

“You hardly say anything about yourself, you never ask for anything in return for all your help. Go ahead, ask me for anything – if it’s within my power, short of my daughter or my home, I’ll give it to you.” Goei’s voice was a little slurred, Ryomou thought. She’s getting drunk. She noted the syrupy thickness of her own motions and thought, so am I.

Ryomou sat for a long moment, looking down at the ceramic cup in her hand. “Can you teach me…” she swallowed the last of her sake and put the cup down. “…about love?”

Goei’s response was delighted laughter. “What *can’t* I teach you about it?” she crowed. “I’ve been in love so many times.”

“But…where does desire end and love, real love, begin?” Even as she began speaking, Ryomou realized that she wouldn’t be able to stop the flow of words, which were coming from somewhere she couldn’t control now. She wasn’t drunk so much as…free. “What if you admire someone and you think it might be love, but all they want from you is one thing…and they don’t really even *want* it, it’s just all they know, because it’s how they measure themselves…is it a kind of love? What if someone you hate does something loathsome to you and you can’t forgive them, but you can’t hate them anymore, because you realize that it, in a horrible way, was a sign of affection…is that a kind of love? And what….” She took a deep breath, “and what if you see someone who will never really look at you and all you want, all you think about all day, every day, is making them happy even if they never notice. Is that love?” She sat, panting, fighting the urge to scream incoherently at the night sky.

A small noise made her turn to look at her companion. Goei sat, silhouetted against the dark yard, her white hands raised to her mouth. “Mou-chan….” she whispered. “Oh, poor Mou-chan.”

Ryomou’s fists clenched. She stood up and walked away from the veranda so she wouldn’t have to see Goei’s pity for her. “This is your fault,” she said bitterly, tears filling her eyes. “This is your fault, because you said…” she whirled around to face Goei. “I love you! I know it’s dumb, and probably wrong too, because I obviously don’t know what love is, but that’s what I feel. And it’s your fault, because you said that life is too precious and…I should just say it.” She stood in the yard, every muscle tense, ready to run away just as soon as Goei made light of her words, rejecting and belittling her with condescending kindness.

Goei hadn’t moved. “Mou-chan?” came the hoarse whisper. “I….”

“Don’t say you’re sorry,” Ryomou said through clenched jaws. “Don’t be sorry for me.”

“I wasn’t going to,” Goei spoke at last, her voice sharp. “I’m not that kind of a person.” She stood slowly, following Ryomou into the courtyard. When she caught up with the younger woman, she put a hand out. “Mou-chan,” she said softly. Her fingers threaded their way through Ryomou’s, until their hands were intertwined. “I think…there are many kinds of lessons. Let me be your teacher tonight.”

Ryomou allowed herself to be led back to the veranda. Her mouth was dry; her limbs, to her shame, were shaking obviously.

Goei stopped, pulling Ryomou close. “Are you cold?”

“No,” Ryomou whispered.

“Nervous?”

The giggle that came from Ryomou’s mouth sounded hysterical. Goei held her hand tightly. Ryomou focused on that. It was something she understood. A hand in contact with another hand. Clenched, but in a slightly different way than she was used to. Ryomou stared at their hands until she had herself under control once again.

“Yes.”

Goei smiled and slipped her arm through Ryomou’s.

“What about Hakufu?” Even as Goei made to step forward, Ryomou found herself frozen in place. She was stalling, she knew. Here she was, with exactly what she had wanted for months in her hand, and she was desperate to put it off.

“She’ll sleep all day if I let her and Koukin has better manners than to disturb either of us.” Goei renewed her grip on the blue-haired girl’s arm and gave it a gentle tug, rocking Ryomou off her balance instantly. “Don’t be nervous, Mou-chan. Just,” Goei put a hand to her mouth and giggled quietly. “Just be gentle with me – you’re very strong and I don’t want to get hurt.”

Scandalized by Goei’s nonchalance, Ryomou found herself moving forward, led by the older woman.

Goei’s room wasn’t large, but the futon and the few pieces of furniture were of exceptional quality. Ryomou wasn’t surprised at the luxury, but she was impressed. She was sure that the screen was Heian, and she knew for sure that the Tansu chest was Edo period, because it looked exactly like one pictured in her history textbook. She looked at Goei with renewed interest. Not only was the older woman creative in her mode of life, but she also had exquisite and expensive tastes.

“Mou-chan?” Goei had untied her obi. Ryomou couldn’t answer, because her tongue was adrift in a mouth too dry to form words. Goei took one look at the younger woman’s large, staring eye, and walked over to the lamp. She turned the light off, leaving them both in darkness. Ryomou thanked her silently, working to regain her power of speech, as her vision acclimated to the dark.

Neither took long, but then Goei took Ryomou’s hand and led her forward and she was, once again, unable to think straight. In the gloom, Ryomou could make out a dim, pale form and realized that Goei was now completely naked.

Goei’s hands were gentle, but insistent. The belt at Ryomou’s waist was loosened, but the yukata left where it was. She could feel herself trembling again. A warm, soft hand cupped the back of her neck.

Goei’s mouth was close to her ear. “Have you ever…before?”

Ryomou managed a nod, then, “Yes. But…” her stomach clenched again as she thought of Saji’s hands, rough and aggressive. Then her stomach heaved and she gagged at the memory of what Ryofu had done to her. Defeated her, paralyzed her, and….

“But…in a storage room with a boy who knew nothing I suppose?” Goei’s hand kept its place on her neck, while the other stroked her cheek tenderly. “It’s not really like that, you know. When it’s someone you care about.” She leaned forward to brush her lips against Ryomou’s but the younger woman pushed her away with another gag.

“No…I can’t….” Ryomou clutched the yukata about her, doubled over as the memory of Ryofu’s hands on her began to take over. “I…” she fell to her knees.

“Mou-chan?” Goei’s voice held nothing but concern, but there was steel in the voice that brought Ryomou back from her nightmare vision. “Did you…were you…hurt? The boy you were with, did he hurt you?”

Ryomou shook her head angrily. “Not Saji…it was her, it was her…it was…” she gasped for breath, while Ryofu’s hands violated her again and again.

“Oh. I see.” Goei stood up, sucking in a breath. “That will complicate things.” She stood for a moment, thinking, then spoke sharply. “Ryomou, pull yourself together,”

Ryomou’s head jerked up at the tone. Goei reached out and slapped Ryomou across the face – not hard enough to really hurt, but enough to gain her attention.

“Ryomou Shimei, stand up!” This time the command was apparent and Ryomou reacted without thought. In a moment she stood upright, awaiting orders.

Goei laughed, a little embarrassed cough, covered up quickly. “You Fighters are all the same,” she said fondly. “Come here, Mou-chan. Come here.” Her voice dropped to a quiet entreaty on the last two words, and her hand reached out towards the younger woman.

Ryomou could see the arm plainly now, the pale skin visible in what little light came through the shoji. And she understood, after a moment, what Goei was doing. It would have to be her choice. Goei couldn’t very well force her to heal, nor would she be responsible for her choices, either. Ryomou Shimei would have to make her own decisions. Ryomou Shimei, Fighter of legend and pre-ordained to serve Sonsaku Hakufu took a deep breath and reached out, taking the proffered hand into her own.

This time, she didn’t tremble when Goei touched her, or when she parted the yukata. When the hand on her belly slipped a little lower, she trembled, but it wasn’t the same thing at all.

Goei’s lips were warm and her mouth tasted of sake. Her skin was smooth and young-feeling, and her figure rounded without flabbiness…the body of a woman who cared very much about her appearance. When Ryomou’s hands reached Goei’s hair, she was surprised at how soft it was, how fragrant.

Goei pulled away from a lingering kiss. “Mou-chan, this is why you’re always here, isn’t it? Not Hakufu at all?”

“It was Hakufu,” Ryomou admitted, a little embarrassed. “At the very beginning, but when I saw you in the street that day….”

“Thank you, thank you for protecting her. Thank you.” Every phrase was punctuated by a kiss, each one of which made Ryomou’s body burst into flame.

This time it was Ryomou who pulled away. “I’ll protect her forever. I swear to you, not because I serve her…but because I serve you.”

“Mou-chan…!” Goei’s body was touching hers now, and it was getting harder to think rationally, but it didn’t matter anymore, because Sonsaku Goei was in her arms and nothing at all mattered more than that.

“Tell me,” Goei’s voice teased her ear, then her tongue did the same. “What was he like, this boy you had? Was he good?”

Ryomou thought about that for a moment. “I suppose. I haven’t had anyone else to compare it to except…her. And that wasn’t sex. It was rape.” She let her eyes close and tried to remember Saji. He had never kissed her – just toyed with her, groping her when it suited him. But the one time she had let him have what he wanted, he hadn’t been an inconsiderate lover. “I think he must have been pretty good,” she said uncertainly. “He made sure I…” She was blushing all over, she could feel it. Sex wasn’t something she was good at talking about. Breaking arms she could discuss in great detail. Sex…that was something else.

“I’m glad. I’d hate to think that your first experience was awful.” Goei’s hands slid around Ryomou’s breasts gently. “Did he do this?” she asked, rubbing her thumbs gently across Ryomou’s nipples.

Ryomou’s gurgle didn’t answer that question, but it answered another. When she caught her breath, she gasped, “Not like that. He was more…possessive.” And then Goei’s mouth covered one of her nipples and she couldn’t think of anything except the tongue and teeth that touched her, and the hands that molded her and shaped her.

“Tell me,” Goei demanded gently. “What did he do that was good…what did you want him to do?” Her fingers tugged at Ryomou’s nipples, while her mouth traced random paths along her collarbone.

“I…” Ryomou’s head rolled back as lips reached her neck and teeth bit gently at it. “I don’t know…what…should…I…” she gasped as the teeth took a firm hold of her neck, and fingers pinched, hard, at the same time. “…say?”

Goei’s mouth moved away from her. “Start from the beginning. How did he touch you?” Her hands left Ryomou’s breasts. The girl whined involuntarily.

“He would…” she forced herself to concentrate. “He would just reach in my shirt and grab me, I guess.”

“Completely lacking in subtlety,” Goei muttered. “Men are such clods.” She took Ryomou’s hand and led her to the futon, pushing gently on her shoulders until the blue-haired girl was kneeling. Goei kneeled behind her, spreading her fingers across Ryomou’s back. “You have a magnificent body, Mou-chan,” she sighed wistfully. “Such smooth skin…”

Ryomou’s skin twitched as both hands moved slowly across her back, drawing tension away from her shoulders, then down her spine, ending with a tingling feeling somewhere in the middle of her stomach. Goei’s hands wandered her hips, the fingers brushing just the edges of her buttocks. She tried to say something, but her voice once again failed her, as Goei’s finger gently moved between her cheeks, then followed her spine up to the neck. A groan forced its way between her lips when the older woman repeated the motion.

“I…” Ryomou forced herself to speak, her voice harsh and gasping in her own ears. “I wanted him to touch more than just my breasts. I wanted him to touch all of me.” She didn’t know where the words were coming from. When she and the man she had thought was Saji had made love, she had never asked him to touch her – she had never asked him to stop. His lips had been gentle, his hands had been firm, and his…had been warm and hard. When he had entered her, it hadn’t felt too uncomfortable, as she had supposed it would, just surprising. Now she wondered what had been missing. They had never kissed, really, just…had sex. It had almost felt impersonal for him, as if the only way he could bear to be with her was to be seen as a seducer. Thinking back on it, she was appalled at their mutual failure to connect on any level.

“Where?” Goei whispered into her ear. “Here?” Hands threaded themselves into Ryomou’s short hair, stroking the scalp, playing in the blue locks.

“Yes,” Ryomou almost wept at the feeling. No one, not in all her memories, had ever stroked her head, or spoken to her like this. She hunched forward over clenched hands, tears falling from her eyes, but she made no move to wipe them away. She could feel hands pulling her gently backward, until her back rested on Goei’s chest. She could feel the older woman’s breasts press against her back; feel her own nipples harden at the realization that this woman that she had desired so long, now desired her.

The hands returned to her hair, playing in the blue locks, caressing her ears, and brow, and lips and cheeks. Fingers traced the outline of the eyepatch she wore, carefully, delicately, not shifting it from it position. For a moment, hands were cupped around her neck, but Ryomou did not move or stiffen. Never before had she trusted anyone to touch her like this.

“What strong arms you have.” Goei was not really speaking to Ryomou, but the younger woman sat up a little at that.

“Grotesque, you mean.” Ryomou’s words held no bitterness. She knew what other people saw when they looked at her. The eyepatch, the boots, the fetish outfit; all carefully constructed to confuse the enemy. When most men saw her muscles, everything else fled their mind. The battle costume, absurd as it was, successfully drew them back to their weakest point. And it was there, while they drooled at her short skirt and her large chest, that she broke them. She shuddered with the remembered pleasure of an arm snapping, locked in between her legs. She pulled the eyepatch from her face. In the darkness it wouldn’t matter whether she wore it or not. In the darkness, she could admit that she wore it only because, once upon a time, in a far away country and in a different time, Ryomou Shimei wore a patch over his left eye.

Goei’s hands stopped, gripping Ryomou’s arms. “No! I mean strong.” There was a sound of movement, and the warmth left Ryomou’s back. Goei kept one hand on Ryomou as she walked around, seating herself, quite literally, in Ryomou’s lap. Protests died on the younger woman’s lips, as her arms were pulled around Goei’s slim waist and held fast.

“I mean…” Goei’s voice was so soft now that Ryomou stopped breathing to be able to hear it. “…that I’ll feel safe if you hold me, Mou-chan.” And warm lips moved against hers. Ryomou clutched convulsively at the figure in her lap, as their tongues moved together. She could feel her body flood with pleasure and desire for pleasure, and the warmth of the slight figure in her arms, as Goei’s body slid against her own.

There was skin, of course, and tongue, and lips and teeth and hands, but there were also legs, which warmed her own legs with their presence, and there was hair, above and below, tickling her, and wetness, hers and Goei’s, mingling, and pressure from within and without.

Ryomou’s breath was loud in her own ears, now, as she pulled her arms away from the older woman’s waist and brushed her hands across her chest. She could feel Goei jerk back slightly, then press forward, and warm breath blown out as the older woman gasped.

“Mou…” Goei moaned. “Touch me.” Ryomou moved against the other woman once again and was rewarded with another moan and a motion against her leg that left no doubt that she was doing something right. Ryomou threw caution and embarrassment to the wind and stroked her hands along every portion of Goei’s breasts. She hefted them slightly, and rubbed her thumbs across the nipples. When the older woman thrust forward, Ryomou matched the motion with her leg, pressing between Goei’s legs. Even as their motions increased in urgency, some part of Ryomou’s mind knew what it was that she wanted…needed…to do. Pulling away quickly, Ryomou lifted Goei, then laid her out below her on the futon.

“I understand now,” she said aloud quite suddenly, surprising herself. “It’s about control, isn’t it?” She stretched out over Goei staring down at the face she could only half-see in the gloom. “It was always about control.”

Goei lifted a hand to stroke the younger woman’s face. “Yes.”

“Can you give someone something they never had?” Ryomou mused, still holding herself suspended.

“I think so,” Goei said and lifted herself to meet Ryomou. As they kissed, Goei drew Ryomou’s body down towards the futon. In between kisses, she continued, “I think that anyone can give anyone anything. You’re giving me something, aren’t you?”

Ryomou drew her attention back from the slim body below hers, and the leg in between her own. “I am?” She thought about it, while she lowered her head to lick the older woman’s breasts. After a moment she said, “Validation?”

Ryomou could feel Goei laugh at that. “I wouldn’t have said it that way, perhaps, but yes, something like that. There’s something very special about being desired by someone so young and desirable.”

“I’m not that young,” Ryomou said defensively and could feel Goei laugh again, her stomach moving up and down gently.

“You are, compared with an old lady like me.”

“You’re not old,” Ryomou repeated her earlier statement, this time with the force of conviction behind it. “You’re beautiful, and…sexy,” this last was whispered. “And…” Ryomou pushed her body lower on Goei, moving until she lay between the older woman’s legs. “And I want you.”

Between the sensation of slick flesh on her tongue, and the taste, and the sound that Goei made, Ryomou almost came. She felt the same way as she had in the middle of a fight, when a chokehold had weakened her opponent and brought him to his knees. She could feel an urgent pressure build between her legs, while she explored Goei with her mouth. When Goei reached down and pulled Ryomou closer, the pressure built. As her fingers slid into the older woman, in her mind, Ryomou could feel the body of an opponent beneath her dropping; hear his gasping breath along with Goei’s. With her body, right now, she could feel Goei’s passion building, all her muscles straining for that one moment when…

“Oh, Mou-chan,” Goei groaned, and followed it with a quiet little groan and squeaky exhalation. Her body tensed completely, then relaxed, again and again. Ryomou’s own orgasm swept over her, almost unnoticed in her joy. The wave of wetness between her legs, and the new tension that built in her center almost immediately, let her know that she needed more.

“I understand,” Ryomou said, laying her head on Goei’s leg, stroking the soft hair of the older woman’s pussy as she spoke. “I always assumed that I had a destiny that was too great to fight, that I had no control over it. And Saji, he controlled me through desire, and fear. Ryofu,” she bit the name off with a growl, “controlled me through violence, so I wouldn’t think I was strong enough to oppose her. And all along, I thought…I had no control over anything.” She lifted herself up and laid herself next to Goei. “But you’re giving it back to me, by…” once again she grasped for words, “by giving me a choice. No, by forcing me to choose.”

“Yes, my sweet Mou-chan. Yes.” Goei’s voice sounded sad and happy all at once, Ryomou thought. “You asked me to teach you about love, do you still want that?”

“Yes.” Ryomou trailed a hand across Goei’s stomach.

When she spoke, the older woman’s voice was gentle. “Then lesson number one has to be – this is not love, Mou-chan.” She took Ryomou’s hand in her own and brought it to her lips. “You have to know that.”

“You don’t love me.” It was not a question. Of course she didn’t – Ryomou hadn’t ever hoped for that much.

“No. And you don’t love me, either.”

Ryomou didn’t protest. How could she? She knew Goei was right.

“It’s like martial arts,” Goei said unexpectedly. “There’s technique and there’s spirit. Technique can only take you so far without spirit, right?”

Ryomou nodded.

“And spirit with no technique can only carry you so far. To be the best, you need both.”

“Which is more important? Spirit or technique?” For Ryomou Shimei, this was not a rhetorical question.

“It depends, you must realize that already. Your fighting technique was better than my daughter’s, but she defeated you, purely with spirit, right?” Goei sighed, rubbing her lips lightly across Ryomou’s knuckles. “It’s the same with love – and sex. There’s technique and there’s passion and then there’s love. I can’t offer you love, but…I can teach you about the other two. Will that be enough for you?”

Ryomou pulled herself closer to Goei, her head right above the other woman’s. “Please,” she whispered, “please teach me.”

Goei giggled slightly. “It could take months to teach you everything I know.”

Ryomou smiled. “I’m a patient student.”

“Then I think it’s time for your second lesson.” Goei’s voice was barely a breath in her ear, but Ryomou once again didn’t notice, because suddenly there were hands on her breasts, and in between her legs and she couldn’t think of anything else.

“You’re so wet,” Goei said. The words were inane, but Ryomou’s reaction was to press against the other woman’s hands and moan. “Wait, wait,” Goei laughed as she pushed the younger woman off her. “Don’t rush – technique is important too.”

Ryomou could feel Goei shift their positions, separating her legs, lifting one and then a loud groan tore itself free from Ryomou, because she could feel Goei’s wetness against her own, Goei’s pussy against her own, Goei….against…her….

Again Ryomou came, and again it was almost an aside because the sensation was too much for her to process. Again and again, Ryomou could feel velvety skin and hair part and pull at her own. Goei’s breath was rasping and little whimpers as they moved against each other made Ryomou clutch at the futon beneath her.

“I’m…” she whispered into the night, “Goei-san…I’m…”

As the orgasm tore through her body, Ryomou stuffed her mouth with futon to stop the screams that shook her; she gripped the futon with clawed hands to stop the writhing, flailing limbs from hurting Goei. A muffled howl filled her head while her body moved on its own, with a climax stronger than anything she’d ever felt before. As the waves moved through her, Ryomou could just make out the sound of Goei’s own climax, and feel the other woman move against her faster and harder until they both had to stop, just to be able to breathe.

Ryomou lay limp on the futon, her legs still intertwined with the other woman’s, their breathing, loud gasps in the night. Ryomou spent a moment mortified at the thought that their cries might cross the empty courtyard. Poor Koukin…surrounded by beautiful women that he didn’t have the fortitude to approach. And what would Hakufu do if she found out?

Goei pulled herself away from Ryomou with a sigh. “Mou-chan, trust me when I say this. That kind of passion cannot be faked.” She moved, laying her head on Ryomou’s chest, one hand across the younger woman’s ribs. Ryomou could feel her smile. “Lesson three.”

Gently, deliberately, Ryomou lifted a hand and with some slight hesitation, laid it on Goei’s head, threading her fingers into the soft, brown curls.

“You’re very good.” Goei’s voice sounded a little sleepy. “Are you up for one more lesson?” Her lips moved softly against Ryomou’s skin. “But this time, I want to see your face.”

Ryomou wanted to protest, she really did. The thought of looking the other woman in the face, now, after knowing so much of her – it was too much to contemplate. But the word that passed her lips was “Okay.” She could feel Goei lift herself off and walk away quickly. The light didn’t go on, but she could sense Goei moving about the room, opening a drawer, doing something she couldn’t make out.

“Cover your eyes,” Goei said. Ryomou did, and a small lamp snapped on. In the day it wouldn’t make a dent, but after the almost complete dark of the room, it was blinding. So it was a few moments before Ryomou could see Goei. The older woman stood above her looking down. To her surprise, Ryomou wasn’t even embarrassed by Goei’s nudity; because her eyes were fixed to the apparatus strapped to her waist. Ryomou whimpered without realizing she had done so, and Goei was on her knees quickly, her hands wrapped around Ryomou’s.

“There are so many ways to make love, Mou-chan. You shouldn’t be afraid or embarrassed about any of them.” Goei forced Ryomou to meet her eyes. “I won’t do this if you don’t want me to.”

Ryomou half sat up shaking her head fiercely, her blue hair whipping back and forth. “No! No – it’s not that at all!” She smiled, a little embarrassed. “It’s just that…I’ve seen you naked in the bath, but…” Ryomou’s voice dropped to a deep, harsh whisper. “You look so sexy that way…” and Ryomou reached out to draw Goei on top of her. “Oh, god, you look good…” She clawed at Goei, trying to position her correctly between her legs. When her eyes opened momentarily, there was the older woman, looking right at her, memorizing her face in passion, and a moan tore itself from Ryomou’s throat, followed by a deeper sound as Goei entered her.

Wet as she was, Ryomou could feel the moisture sliding down her legs, as Goei moved into her as far as she could go, then lifted herself away again. Ryomou grit her teeth, trying to postpone the orgasm as long as she could. But the feeling was too much – and those eyes looking at her, boring into her, as she moved against Goei…she pushed upwards, as Goei moved forward. She started to scream, but her mouth was filled with Goei’s tongue as her body pounded the futon below her. Her shouting was stifled by the deep kiss, but Ryomou flailed her arms, until a distant memory of Goei’s request to be gentle with her caused her to grip the woman above her and pull her close. Their bodies pressed together, the two women held each other protectively.

It was nothing like she had experienced with Saji. It was nothing like she had experienced in her fights; it was nothing like she had ever imagined, really. Ryomou’s breaths came heavily, long after her body had stopped moving, but she kept her arms around the older woman, cradling her. There was no protest from Goei, just a tired sigh as she laid her head on Ryomou’s chest.

Twice she fell asleep laying there, holding the older woman. Twice she jerked herself awake; the second time, she woke Goei to move out of her embrace, rising to stand on wobbling, unsteady legs and retrieve her yukata from the floor.

By the time Ryomou managed to drag herself into her own room, the pre-dawn darkness was lightening in the east. Ryomou just about managed to cover herself with her blanket, when sleep overtook her completely.

***

Ryomou woke feeling dizzy and exhausted, but happy. She could tell from the light outside that it was embarrassingly late to be getting up, but there wasn’t much to do about it, unless she chose to go back to sleep and try again tomorrow. Yawning and stretching, she rose, folded the futon and blanket into a corner of the room, and dressed quickly, smiling at the lingering scent of Goei on her hands.

It was Hakufu who saw her first. The Junior Lord of Lords waved wildly, running over

“Mom told us to let you sleep late, but I want to practice together later, okay, Mou-chan? And if you stay for dinner Mom’s said that we can have yakiniku and then we can light fireworks, so go have breakfast, okay?”

Dizzied by the flow of words, Ryomou could only nod and smile, bewildered..

Koukin greeted Ryomou cheerfully as he crossed the courtyard. “There’s some breakfast left for you. I’ll get you some tea.”

Hakufu led Ryomou to the main room, which sat open to the sun and air.

“Mom’s gone out on some errands, but she said she’d be back for the afternoon – she said she wants to watch us spar. I think she just wants to cheer you on.” Hakufu laughed hysterically at this thought. Ryomou had to smile, too. She was probably right.

Koukin brought tea and food for two, since Hakufu had announced that she was hungry again.

“Mom says that you’re going to be staying here for a while, is that true?” Hakufu’s eyes glinted with a knowing look. “She says there’s some stuff she’s teaching you. You know,” the Junior Lord of Lords sprawled backwards, “It’ll be really cool to have you here…like a kind of older sister. Don’t you think?”

Ryomou watched Hakufu in fascination. “I….” she was at a loss for words. Stay here? Older sister? “If it’s not too much trouble,” she fumbled.

But Hakufu wasn’t listening. “Mom really likes you, Mou-chan. Normally she’s all giggly about guys, but today she was all quiet and happy. It was nice to see her so happy.” Hakufu kipped to her feet, effortlessly and artlessly, and grinned. “If you make her happy like that, she won’t beat me up and I’ll be happy too.” Her grin widened a notch. “Just for that, I’ll go easy on you this afternoon!” And Hakufu barked with laughter because at that Ryomou was on her feet and charging. Hakufu giggled and ran out the door into the courtyard, laughing, and Ryomou followed, with a scowl so false that she couldn’t maintain it.

As Ryomou Shimei, Fighter of legend, chased the Junior Lord of Lords around the courtyard, she could see that Goei had returned. As she caught the older woman’s eyes, a smile so lovely was formed upon that face that even as Hakufu bowled her over and took her to the ground, even as Ryomou scrambled for a joint lock and even as she was soundly and effortlessly defeated by the Junior Lord of Lords, Ryomou smiled.

“You know, Mou-chan,” Hakufu said, her green eyes full of laughter. “You really look nice when you smile.”

“Yes,” she said, slipping from Hakufu’s grasp and reaching for a painful arm bar, which made Hakufu howl, “so I’ve learned.”