Old Lover, New Enemy
Countdown to publication: 8 days. Here's another excerpt from HAIKU DANCE:
Two days later, he still had not devised a method to thwart Kyekito’s plan. In a desperate attempt to learn more information, Shino had only one source he knew might be able to help him.
He swallowed his pride and sent a note to Lady Hoshiko requesting an appointment. When he arrived at her home, he was escorted to the veranda where she talked to him from behind her curtain of state.
Staying behind her screens, she did nothing to hide the derision in her voice when she said, “I am surprised you remember me after so many years. When we said our goodbye, I did not expect you to completely ignore my invitations.”
The Tale of Genji - Fireflies, 1970’s Yoshio Okada
“I am not so far from remembering,” he said in the most charming voice he could muster, while restraining his snarl. “You made the decision and I obliged your wishes. After that day, there was nothing more to say, other than general courtesies. As you know, over the years, I’ve moved from one lord to another, one battle to another. However these days, I am chief samurai for Lord Fujiwara no Ichiro, and his concerns fully occupy my time.”
“Ah, yes, I have heard you are his samurai now. What activities take up all your time these days?”
Was Miyoshi right, was she attempting to discern his relationship with her? “My activities would bore you—not very entertaining to your cultured ears.”
“On the contrary, I have heard that you are very entertaining…to someone in particular.”
Miyoshi was right. Her fears are justified. The witch hasn’t changed.
Smiling, Shino ignored her sloppy stab at gaining harmful information. “I’m involved with Lord Fujiwara’s security. A boring subject for a noble woman such as yourself. How often you’ve said it’s beneath you to be concerned with military matters.”
Affecting her formal voice, she asked, “What is the reason for this visit?”
“I know that you have many friends at court. It might be that you can help us both.”
“Help? Both of us? Why do I need your help?”
“Because you want a position of prestige and will do almost anything to remain near the seat of power.” He hadn’t wanted to be so blunt. But tolerating her games had worn thin and his old impatience leaked through. Inhaling, he slowly released the breath and forcibly softened his tone. “I understand how a woman as beautiful as you loves fine things and requires the security power offers. But when you reach too far for too long, as you have done, you risk inviting criticism which can affect your position at court. I’ve heard whispers that you are slipping, losing favor. I’m here to offer you a way to get what you want, and for me to accomplish my goal.”
“I should take affront at your words. But you have always been blunt, Lord Saito. I have always liked that you do not talk forever and say nothing.”
Shino took her relaxed tone as the opening to ask her, “What do you know of the Kyekito family?”
“Why do you want to know?”
He caught the fleeting hesitation and concern in her voice. Knowing she’d never seen him as anything other than an inexperienced lover, he spoke with a samurai master’s intensity that few could withstand. “Is there a scheme at work that would harm my lord or his household? Tell me. Now.”
He heard her fidgeting and clothes rustling. He knew her well enough to know she would answer him. But truthfully? That depended upon where her allegiances were. Should she not tell him everything, and Fujiwara or Miyoshi be harmed as a result, her days at court were over.
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