Tamori Eighteen

She was eighteen, and returning from a journey to Hotoshi dojo. She had studied the unpleasant lore of poisons there, that she might be better able to cure them. The study had been long, and she had been too long absent from Hotaka-chan. Her pulse raced as she though of his arms tightening about her, of his lips caressing hers. She passed through the household gate, bowed before the shrine, and stepped upon the threshold, only to pause in confusion. It was well after dark. Who could be visiting?

She recognized Akemi-san’s voice. Why would she be here so late? Probably clan business. She hoped Hotaka-chan hadn’t been indiscrete again. He hadn’t a guileful bone in his body, and he seemed unable to comprehend that not everyone was as open as he. The magistrates had already spoken to him twice, and the Clan Champion once. But Akemi-san was laughing. Surely she would be more formal if she was here to chastise him.

She stepped into the door, and there in the lamplight were Hotaka and Akemi. They were drinking sake together, and . . .

No one else was in the house. All the servants had been dismissed. And neither her love nor her friend wore slippers.

As the happy smiles faded from the faces of Akemi and Hotaka, her own died as well.

Tamori Eighteen

L5R : Jade Winds edwardstanford