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Misao quickly serves her customers playing the role of hostess. It wasn't as bad as she originally thought. It was actually fun, joking with the customers listening to the latest gossip. Smuggling and receiving notes to and from operatives. And of course, flirting that past time was just amusing.

Placing the order within reach of the four cops she winks at Chou aka ‘Broomhead’. One officer takes it upon himself to try a sample what's not on the menu. Just before his hand touches a tempting curve her foot hooks under his chair and he finds himself a tangled heap on the floor.

Distressingly Misao bellows, "Oh, Sir are you ok!"

Her dainty hand reaches for his. The creamy swell of her breasts distracts his ascent. After a few falls and bangs to the head against the table, he is righted once again. From the vacant look on his face, she could tell he learned his lesson. The room erupts in laughter.
Men are just raging hormones, take my grandfather. Truly a lethal weapon, he could snuff a cricket in the next room if need be. A sharp mind for tactics and accounting but a hentai at heart. I know where he keeps are his dirty scrolls in the hidden compartment within his floorboards.

Sigh…

Everyone underestimates me. I am a woman after all. Of course, an experienced ninja such as myself takes advantage. Petite, innocent and vulnerable looking, a harmless kitten. At first, it was a means to an end but now I'm finally starting to fill out. My Aoshi-sama doesn't notice me. Well, the opposite sex is starting to sniff. The form-fitting, short ninja outfits replaced by sturdy kimonos of every color and design. The ankle length ponytail in now piled into a serviceable bund with a few stray hairs escaping, exposing my skin just so to catch the eyes…

Reality check...

Quickly giving her last customer their change, she hurries through the dining room. "Jiya! I'm done!" Weaving around with the grace and speed of her hated nickname Misao snatches some morsel of food and bounces out the kitchen door before Okon and Omasu can catch her. Just as Okina hits the door she's halfway down the street disappearing into the sunset with her deliveries.

Shaking his head, "I'm getting too old for this." Spying a pretty customer, he quickly forgets his aching bones.

First stop, the temple.

Bowing to the head priest Misao hands him their supper, a simple price to pay for Aoshi-sama's refuge. The best restaurant in Kyoto feeds the monks twice a day, they need not beg and her love receives a private room to meditate. Bidding her goodbye, she watches people pass by the temple steps. Touching the stone, she nods, from the corner of her eye the operative leaves for a break. Waving her hand to the silk merchant across the street she bounds happily into the temple. She need not ask where her Aoshi-sama sits his ki calls to her.

The sun sets behind him; did he know how beautiful he is? Silently watches her crush of since, well forever. Noting every detail her heart skips a beat. The rustling of his clothes caused by the wind, a lock of hair falls across his eyes. The fading light seems to caress his skin. His lips so soft looking, touchable. The tempting pulse of his jugular screams to be licked, bit or sucked on. Maybe one day he will…. bowing her head, she pushes back the yearning.

I'm turning into Jiya…

Besides he's still not ready to move on from their deaths. Not ready to live, just not ready…

Setting the food and tea next to his still form she whispers.

"It's time to eat Aoshi-sama. Your room is waiting for you." Every day she comes to feed him. Exchange a few words then leave him to his peace. Turning away from the silence she knows he will make his way home.

Within the hidden walls of the shrine a single tear fall. We all grieve but we also remember life. Why can't you see that Aoshi-sama? Why can't you see past the pain? Do you want too?

Walking out she pauses, the shadow returns and she bounds to the fruit stand. She has a bone to pick with Arai Danno the owner; the bastard shortchanged the restaurant. No one crosses the Oniwabanshu. Embarrassment or destroy the stand. Decisions. Well, she has to keep up appearances after all. His next shipment of oranges is due soon. Aoshi-sama loves cream and sliced oranges.

Second stop, the cranky ookami's home.

Meeting shortly after the Shishio incident we, myself and Tokio became fast friends. Much to my delight putting flea bitten ookami into a tizzy. Paranoid jerk, like the Oniwabanshu would hurt her or his family. Grudges are taken with the offender, not the family. Besides Tokio was heavy with their second child. That's even worse! She needed companionship, of the feminine type. And well I was curious who would be crazy enough to marry the mangy furball. Did I mention old, mean, and sarcastic? I digress, she is a true flower, sweet genuine and more mischievous than me and that saying something.

One day so conveniently we stopped by his office with lunch and tea. She, of course, introduced me. Oh, he looked as if he could have just strangled me. Come to think of it he would have if she didn't say "Goro-sama, she is my only true friend here within the city. If something…" Dramatic pause, body slightly trembles with a loud sniff. "Oh, dare I say anything were to happen to my dear Misao." Misty eyes, "I wouldn't know what to do!" The execution was flawless. The girl had him by the balls. That day Fujita Tokio just persuaded a snake to kiss a mongoose.

Yep, she became my Goddess.

Then she got an idea of going to the dress shop. A little coax here and there I got my first kimono. "An early birthday present," she said. Whatever, she bought on behalf of the Mibu as an apology. That was good enough for me. Hand me downs from my family is fine, but to have your own.

Two years and running this queer friendship between a hime and an Itachi.

Eiji greets me at the outer gate eager for the books I always bring. As the acting aunt, I have the right to grill him to see if he understands the contents. Cultivating his young mind to think outside the box.

Snort, right.

I'm recruiting him to my side. One should always be on the lookout for talent. And to having more arsenal against the rabid ookami doesn't hurt either. His adoptive mother, the apple of his eye is becoming weak. After the birth of Tatsuo her body isn't as strong as it was before. Short walks seem to drain her as the nights she has coughing fits.

It's an unspoken agreement between myself and the Mibu. He leaves on missions and I stay at their home. I'm honored to have his trust. Of course, with a few extra eyes never hurt especially since as the Okashira, leader of the Oniwabanshu damage control falls into my lap. For the first time, I really want to kick my beloved Aoshi-sama.

Such a trusting relationship we have, full of hope and desire. To defang one another one day that is.

Last year there was a major Tuberculosis epidemic within the city. It seemed both the Aoiya and Fujita home were passed over. But in early January Tokio developed a cold that won't go away. So now I come every day. Looking out the door I see Eiji lounging reading the porch. Tsutomu and Tsuyoshi practice within sight in the courtyard. Sitting Tokio watches me prepare dinner. Besides the normal kitchen noise and little Tatsuo gurgles its quiet. She smiles with warm content.

I know that she is born of the samurai class. Their marriage was arranged while he was married to his first wife. Yusa, his first wife, childhood love came to claim her. They were betrothed but during the war his whereabouts were unknown and her father wanted his only daughter to be secured. Without fuss, the marriage was annulled.

"Miaso."

"Hai." I know that tone. Quickly I place the vegetables into the pot.

Without looking up I clean the blade then start preparing the fish. "Don't start Hime. You know it would be near impossible to find someone that would understand sometimes he would have to come second." We've had this conversation before. How I should move on and stop pining for my Aoshi-sama. Honestly, I don't think I could. Simply because I don't know how.

Reaching over to the basket holding the youngest Tokio tickles him. "Marriage is about compromises. You have an understanding of rules and abide by them." Tatsuo happily gurgles for more attention. "There is no doubt we were married under a contract. But we chose to go through it because I can laugh at his jokes."

That got me, his dry humor attracted her to him. I almost fell into laughter.

Tokio smiles with a mischievous glint in her eyes. "Miaso what do you think of Goro?"

The giggling Itachi became serious, regarding her friend she decided to be truthful.

"He manages to be one of the noblest man I have ever met. He's a man of morals and principles and holds onto them. Aku. Soku. Zan. Evil. Kill. Instantly. Either than that, I would kill the old ookami for being the ass that he is."

Sighing happily, she tries to stifle a coughing fit. Looking outside the courtyard the clanging of metal is heard as children play. "He is beautiful, isn't he?"

I could only blush. She isn't talking about the baby. Yet again I succumb to my impulse.

"It's the gloves."

Barking in laughter Tokio's mirth is contagious. Both women giggle like little girls. Sobering they sigh it felt good to laugh and forget the pending doom of death. Putting the fish to cook Misao sets the tea down then sits across her best friend. Carefully Tokio holds her hands.

"Good. I need you to grant me one favor."

She dies on the third day within the eleventh month of the seventeenth year of the Meiji era. I just turned twenty. As tradition called Tokio's body was cremated and a meal was given in remembrance. The bones picked out of the ash and passed. Many visitors came in respect burning osenkos and talking. Hajime was a gracious host; the children well behaved. Me, I balled my eyes out in private. No need to show disrespect she was a daughter of a samurai and I am Okashira the leader of the Oniwabanshu. After the appointed thirty-five days of mourning, we buried her within Amitabha Temple in Nanokamachi, Aizuwakamatsu-shi, Fukushima.

Kami, how do I tell him her last request?!
________________________________________
Itachi - weasel
Ookami – wolf
Hime - princess
Osenko – incense sticks
Third day within the eleventh month of the seventeenth year of the Meiji era
Equates to 11/3/1884
Kami - Gods