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03 May 2012 @ 11:40 pm
The Dragon Scroll - Chapter 7  

|| prologue || chapter 1 || chapter 2 || chapter 3 || chapter 4 || chapter 5 || chapter 6 ||

Their footsteps echoed in the empty streets, the smell of burned wood still heavy on the air. Etsuko and Hayate had walked the streets in silence, not speaking a word ever since they left the prison. Etsuko's tears had long since dried, but the empty feeling in her heart remained. But, she figured, if it was this bad for her, Hayate's feelings must have been much worse.

After walking for a while, Etsuko thought about comforting Hayate. It was not something she was good at, she knew that. Cheering somebody up was easy enough, but speaking words of comfort was something she had little practice in. Still, she felt like she should at least try. Etsuko smiled, extending her hand to touch Hayate on the shoulder.

"Hayate," she said softly, "I'm really sorry about..."

"I really don't want to talk about it." Hayate cut across her.

Etsuko drew back her hand. She could feel her smile faltering.

"Okay," she whispered.

Hayate stopped and turned around. He sighed.

"I'm sorry," he said. "I know you're just trying to help. It's just..." His voice trailed away. Hayate took another deep breath, trying to get his emotions under control.
"Look, it's simple. Right now we need to focus on what needs to be done. Can you do that for me?"

Etsuko sniffed, then nodded.

"Good. Let's get going then."

They were nearly there. After a short walk they stood in front of his old masters house.

"And you're sure no one has disturbed it?"

"Positive." Etsuko nodded. "I saw them search it this afternoon, but they didn't take anything."

"Good, that means his swords should still be there. If I'm going to go after them, I'm going to need one."

"So you're really going after them?"

Hayate said nothing as he stared at the house. Of course he would be going. He would never be able to live with himself if he didn't.

"Hayate," Etsuko said, sounding frightened, "you will keep Rei safe, won't you?"

"I have already lost Daisuke, I refuse to lose Rei too. I swear I will keep her safe, no matter what."


Slowly, Rei was making her way through the forest again, following the path the old man had indicated. There was a rustle in the trees. She stopped and looked around, trying to locate the source. A soft hoot greeted her and a small barn owl took flight.

You shouldn't have come here.

Rei spun around, her heart in her throat. There was no one there, just the sound of the wind blowing softy through the trees.

There is nothing for you to find here, little girl.

Rei spun around again and there she was. Or at least, Rei assumed this was the "she" the old man spoke of. She stood in the middle of the road, her pale eyes on Rei. She looked haughty and a small mocking smile played around her lip as she surveyed Rei.

I don't know why you came here, but it's time for you to go. There is nothing for you here.

She turned around and floated away. Rei stood there, rooted on the spot for just a moment. Then she bolted after her.

"Wait!" Rei shouted. But apparently she had no intention of waiting. Rei increased her speed, almost slipping when she rounded a corner.

Rei came to a slippery stop and stared at the scene in front of her, mesmerized. There, surrounded by an old fence, was a small shrine. It looked immensely old. Rei wondered why it was here, surely no one would travel this far to say their prayers. It must have been part of some temple a long time ago.


Etsuko looked at Hayate, as they stood at the gate that marked the entrance to the village.

"Promise me,"she said, a slight shake in her voice, "promise me it will be okay."

Hayate smiled and pulled her into a hug.

"Don't worry, everything will be okay. I promise"

Hayate turned and walked away. He could hear Etsuko shouting something at him.

"You better not come back without her!"

Grinning, he gave her a one-armed wave and continued down the road.


Rei had just taken one step in towards the shrine when she felt waves of cold rage washing over her.
I though I told you to GO AWAY. I don't know why you came here, but listen closely little girl...

Rei's initial fear was replaced with anger.

"No you listen," Rei shouted. "I'm tired, I'm hungry and I've had it up to here with everyone telling me what to do and where to go! I am staying right here for as long as I please and you are going to tell me what I want to know!" Rei glared at the ghost, breathing heavily, anger bubbling hot in her stomach.

So you're a tough little girl, the ghost said in a lofty voice, I can't deny I like that. But in the end, you're just a little girl. I wonder how tough you can really be?

The ghost floated closer and Rei backed away instinctively. She could feel herself losing balance on the uneven forest ground.

A cold laugh rang through the air as Rei stumbled backwards.

"Having fun, are you?" Rei hissed at her though her gritted teeth.

Just a little. It's been a while since I've had something to laugh about.

Rei got up and glared at her.

I wonder who put you up to this... Did that crazy old goat send you here?

"And what if he did? What does it matter to you anyway?"

I knew him you know, a long time ago. He led me here, quite like he led you here today. But it was a mistake back then and it's a mistake right now.
I am betting they're coming after you, whoever it is you are running from. How long will it take them, you think, to track down one little girl? The forest is big, but not that big. There is no way you can win.

Cold fear sweeped over Rei, draining her anger away. The ghost moved to her side, softly whispering in her ear.

There is nothing you can do little girl. And there is nothing I can do to help you. You have wasted your time coming here.

Rei could feel the tears welling up in her eyes.

"No..." she whispered.

"No," Rei said a little louder, whipping her eyes. "No, I refuse to believe that. There has to be something."

Doubtful, but feel free to fool yourself if you please. Now, if you'll excuse me...

"Wait," Rei said. The ghost consented to pause. Floating near the shrine, she seemed to wait. "Maybe... if you told me what happened to you, I could figure out something from that."

Why would you want to know what happened to me?

"The old man said you once guarded a scroll. I have to keep it safe now. Maybe whatever happened to you, could help me figure out what I need to do?"

The ghost moved back to Rei, a soft smile around her lips.

You have the scroll? That's a big responsibility for a little girl. But you're mistaken, I never guarded a scroll. Not out of free will anyway. My story will not help you, of that I am sure. But still, since it doesn't seems like you're going to go away otherwise... Very well, I will tell you.

My story starts long ago. Or maybe, not that long ago. It's hard to tell, they days tend to blend together when you're dead.

It was the same every night. Men came to our home, bargained with the creature I was forced to call Mother for company. My company, to be exact.

I hated the lot of them; the man with their watering eyes, alcohol heavy on their breath, telling me what a divine beauty I was; my "mother", selling me every night. Nobody really cared about me, my dreams, what I wanted out of life.

But you know what they say... I didn't come here because I wanted to, I came here because I had no other choice.

One night, Mother accompanied me to my appointment. It was unusual, but not unheard of. Still, I remember wondering what she was playing at. But as we walked, she filled me in on what needed to be done.

Apparently, Mother told me, some general was looking for a suitable hostess for big parties he would be throwing. His troops were stationed nearby and it looked like they would be here for quite some time. If I succeeded in gaining the generals favor, there would be many parties to attend. And I was to make sure the general favored me over the other girls that would be there.

There were two other girls waiting in the hall when I walked in. I remember one of the girls was wearing a red kimono, just like I was. Hers was prettier though, better fabric and richer in details.

Funny how you remember little things like that after all these years...

A man came in and ordered us to stand in a line, while he inspected us. He was a military man, I recall, so I guess this was just like inspecting his troops.

After "inspections" he gave us our assignments. The two others were to go upstairs to serve the guest at the party there. I was to follow him to a more private gathering.

I remember feeling cold to to bone after that, scared of what this private gathering would be. I had heard the stories from other girls about wild parties, forcing us to do dishonorable things... Still, I bowed and followed him to another room.

In the room, I immediately kneeled on the carpet and introduced myself. I was scared to look up, afraid of what I would find. But when I finally did, I noticed no one had payed attention to me.

"A yes," the man who brought me here said, "she will make us tea, if you'd like it."

They all set down at the table, as I started to pour the tea. I relaxed, this private gathering was held so that whatever they were discussing would not be overheard.

I don't recall what they were talking about. A lot of military terms I did not understand. So I tuned them out as I drank my tea in silence.

After a while, I became aware of one of then men staring it me. He didn't join the conversation, he just kept sipping his tea, throwing glances my way.

At one point in the evening I looked up and met his eyes. He didn't look away, but kept my eyes locked in his and gave me the sweetest smile.

I dropped my gaze, blood rushing to my cheeks. I remember hoping my makeup would cover my blush, but his soft, barely audible laugh told me it didn't.

I didn't dare look at him after that. I just sat there, pouring tea and later sake, making polite conversation with the other men at the table.

At the end of the evening I thanked the men for having me and made my way into the hallway. The man with the sweet smile followed me and whispered in my ear.

"Forgive me for staring all night, but you are the most adorable girl I have ever seen. I just couldn't keep my eyes of you."

After that, he smiled at me and walked back to the room.

When I came home, Mother was pleased. A messenger had told her my presence would be mandatory every time the general was in town. She told me I did well and send me to bed.

After that, my presence was requested at many parties. I never saw much of the general, an elder man with a true talent for strategy, or so I was told. But I saw rather a lot of his two sons, Katsuoru and Kenta. As it turned out, I didn't win the generals favor that night. I won the favor of his sons.

If I hadn't been told they were brothers, I would have never guessed. They were different as night and day, both in looks and in manners.

One night I was talking with Kenta, when Katsuoru entered the room. I had secretly been watching the door all evening, waiting for him to make an appearance. I tried to act casual, but I could not prevent smiling a little when I saw him.

Katsuoru was much more straight forward with his attention than Kenta was. That evening, he brought me a single red rose and told me it had reminded him of me. Kenta was looking angry at that point and I wondered why. I sometimes wondered if the brothers were competing for my attention.

But I remember thinking that couldn't be true. How could they be competing, when all they had to do was talk to Mother and pay her price? To them, it was probably little more than a game.

When I left that night, I was barely out the door when I heard Katsuoru softly calling out my name. I paused and looked at him.

"I have given you presents and attention, did everything I am supposed to do. Please tell me, how much longer will it take for you to return my affection?"

Of course I told him I did not understand. I asked him if he was unhappy with my performance and what could be done to make my next visit more enjoyable for him.

At this, he smiled and took my hands.

"That's not what I meant, silly girl. I meant how much longer will it take you to love me, as I have loved you for so long?"

I'll admit I was very bold with him, bordering rudeness to be honest. I told him he didn't love me, he loved the geisha that had served and entertained him. He loved the illusion of me.
If he had told Mother what I have said, she would have been very angry. That illusion of me is what generated the steady income. And I was ruining that.

But he asked me what he could do to prove his love to me. So I broke another rule. I asked him to come to my house that night and I would show him the real me.

So I lead him to my room and told him to wait. I washed my face and my hair and slipped into a simple kimono. I remember shaking slightly as I walked back to my room. I knew he didn't really love me, no man want to see his beautiful dream turn to harsh cold reality. But part of me wanted it to be true. I wanted him to love me, the real me, like I have loved him ever since our first meeting.

I gave a small small smile when I entered the room.
"Well," I said, "this is me." I twirled around. Looking back, it was kind of silly.

He stood up, walked over to me and let his eyes travel over my body and my face.

And then he smiled, the same smile he gave me that first evening.

"I see no difference," he said, caressing my cheeks, "this is the girl I have always seen, whenever I looked at you. But she was always hiding behind a thick layer of makeup. But, if you looked really closely, you could see her there. I will say it again, Setsuko, I love you."

After that, I was lost. But I didn't care. His strong arms around me made me feel like I was home. And I never wanted to lose that feeling.

But of course, I lost everything...

- I just love it when I mess up HTML. If this blew up your friends page, I am so sorry!
- This took longer than I expected, work sneaked up on me.
- at least no you know who she is ;)
- As always, thanks for reading! <3
scribal_goddessscribal_goddess on May 3rd, 2012 10:19 pm (UTC)
No blowing up here!
Oooh, scary ghosty lady and her story, this is interesting. We shall find out how it pertains to the scroll later, of course. :)
Keonikeoni_chan on May 3rd, 2012 10:24 pm (UTC)
Thank goodness! It stretched into oblivion and not an lj-cut in sight.
But of course :) I aiming for the Saturday after next for chapter 8, so you'll find out soon.
scribal_goddessscribal_goddess on May 4th, 2012 01:18 am (UTC)
Yay! (Slinks off to go actually be productive now...)
llamastars on May 3rd, 2012 11:53 pm (UTC)
I love how there is rarely a clear shot of "her" face, I've no idea if it's intentional, but it makes "her" seem mysterious even while telling her own story. ^.^
Keonikeoni_chan on May 4th, 2012 03:35 pm (UTC)
It was a bit intentional. I wanted to make it seem like the pictures in her story were actually her memories and you never see your own face in your memories. But I included some (partial) face shots later, because I figured it would be nice if you's get to see what she actually looked like :)
delicatesoul88eileen0001 on May 4th, 2012 04:17 am (UTC)
Love the mysterious 'edge' Setsuko has got, definitely love the 'attitude' she has as a ghost. But you know, being a mean, bitter ghost doesn't make you happy - it's the reason why you are still lonely and possibly isolated.

I guess this might be too early to determine, but I am very curious about this:

"But you know what they say... I didn't come here because I wanted to, I came here because I had no other choice".

I probably don't understand a lot about the Geisha culture and how that works, but what could be so bad that this was your only choice/means of survival?
I guess I'll have to wait and find out!

Edited at 2012-05-04 04:17 am (UTC)
Keonikeoni_chan on May 4th, 2012 03:50 pm (UTC)
I had a lot of fun with Setsuko's attitude. You're absolutely right, but she's got a good reason to be bitter, at least she thinks she has.

I'll include a bit of that in the next chapter, but it's not spoilerish, so I don't mind explaining it a little here. I'm not an expert on geisha culture either, but back in the day girls were sometimes send away by their parents to become geisha. The girls themselves had no say in this. They just did as they were told.

So that's what Setsuko was refering to; she didn't choose to become one, she never had a choice.
(Anonymous) on May 4th, 2012 12:01 pm (UTC)
AHHH! I've been looking forward to this chapter! That was beautiful! :)
Keonikeoni_chan on May 4th, 2012 03:51 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm so glad you liked it :D
olivethegreatolivethegreat on May 4th, 2012 04:49 pm (UTC)
This was a great chapter! I am glad we are getting to learn who the mysterious woman is and what her story is. I can't wait to hear more of her story!
Keonikeoni_chan on May 4th, 2012 09:46 pm (UTC)
Thank you, I'm so glad you enjoyed it :) You'll find out more about her story soon (I hope *crosses fingers)
Katekatee412 on May 5th, 2012 09:48 am (UTC)
This was a wonderful update! I loved meeting Setsuko :)
Keonikeoni_chan on May 6th, 2012 02:00 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm so glad you enjoyed it :)
Kategreymanticore on May 6th, 2012 04:43 am (UTC)
This was wonderful! Setsuko's backstory is so interesting, and I want to know more.
Keonikeoni_chan on May 6th, 2012 02:01 pm (UTC)
thank you :) Hopefully you won't have to wait long for the next part or her story, I'm planning to have it out soon.
(Deleted comment)
Keonikeoni_chan on May 6th, 2012 02:02 pm (UTC)
Thank you :D Setsuko's story is a sad one. Rei will find out why she's there soon :)
skellington7dskellington7d on May 10th, 2012 02:30 am (UTC)
I love the ghost lady's story so far. I'm curious to hear the rest of it though I'm also worried how sad it'll be. Excellent chapter, as always!
Keonikeoni_chan on May 10th, 2012 08:02 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm really glad to hear that!
Her story is not a fun one, that's for sure, but I'm not sure how sad it will be. Depends on how everything in my head will come together I guess, hahaha.
Rachelsimsforaranya on May 10th, 2012 10:01 pm (UTC)
I lovelovelove back stories. 8D
Keonikeoni_chan on May 17th, 2012 08:29 pm (UTC)
:D I have a thing for backstories too
Antimaccassar: Stock - Loveantimaccassar on May 15th, 2012 07:19 pm (UTC)
Oh lovely! The backstory is getting me more intrigued by the second! I can't wait for more :-)
Keonikeoni_chan on May 17th, 2012 08:29 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm really glad you enjoyed it. It was a lot of fun to write
(Deleted comment)
Keonikeoni_chan on May 17th, 2012 08:33 pm (UTC)
Thank you, I'm really happy you enjoyed it :D
I had a lot of fun tracking down all the CC for my Japanese hood. The kimono's are from various spots, but Dedidal Sheep (here) has a few good ones. all the others are from the game and MTS.