a new friend
Matsu Chibi was angry. It was obvious to anyone walking into the teahouse. The first clue was the large empty area devoid of patrons centered on her. Second clue was the countless number of sake bottles fallen beside her. The third clue was the expression that could have frozen the flowing river outside. It was a very defined circle; even the serving girls were nervous stepping into it.
The Lion bushi turned her gaze to the latest serving girl. The girl let out a gasp. Matsu Chibi was used to this and it made her smile. It was a crooked smile; a disturbing crooked smile. The scar that ran from her temple down across her mouth divided the smile in two. She mindlessly scratched at the bottom of the scar on her neck, and drew a ragged breath through her nose. “Does this HOLE have anything better?” she tossed a bottle end over end at the servers; the remnants of sake pin wheeled out of the bottle.
The group of serving girls all jumped and scattered. The circle widened a bit as several patrons left quickly. Matsu Chibi slowly stood knocking over more bottles. One serving girl quickly moved to bring another bottle. The girl must have just arrived because she crossed the circle fearlessly. The bushi leapt to standing and grabbed the bottle from the bamboo tray. The server girl stopped short shocked at the assault. She was also shocked to find that the terrifying scarred warrior stood at least a head shorter than her.
The server’s expression triggered a vulgar tirade of insults about the server, her family, her town, the weather and every other clans. “This miserable dung heap should had be thrown across the river to stink up the Crane lands!” Matsu Chibi gritted her teeth. The server reeled backwards, which drew a loud laugh from the Lion bushi.
The server backed into a tall thin man who was removing a traveling hat. The man saved the girl from tripping and gracefully set her to the side. He finished removing his hat and placed his katana against the wall. After a small glance at Mastu Chibi, he picked the katana back up. “Ah, maybe a game of Go,” the man turned his attention to the game table off to the right.
Matsu Chibi saw the man wore the mon of the Kakita. She leapt to where he stood but the man had already walked to where two men played ‘Go’. As the Lion regained her footing, she turned and her face connected with the abdomen armor of a man. She growled and looked up, much further up than she had first expected into the scars of a Crab Bushi, a Hida.
“Out of my way Dirt Mound” trying to step around the Hida, still trying to see where the Kakita went.
It took little effort for the large man to block her. “Don’t” grunted the Hida. He stepped side to side hindering any progress the small Bushi tried to make. Chibi growled shifting her head quickly left then right only to find the Crab’s bulky armor always there. She tried looking between the Hida’s legs. With a frustrated curse, Matsu Chibi threw up her arms, “Are you standing up for that piece of straw?” turning away, but quickly turning back with a surprisingly solid kick to the groin.
The noise “Mmmph” with a slight cough at the end came from the Hida’s clenched jaw. But the Hida remained unmoved. The Hida surveyed the circle growing larger around them and grabbed the small woman by the armor. With little effort, he carried her out the door one handed. On the porch, the Lion bit the Hida’s hand. With a twist, she wrapped herself around the big man’s arm. Drawing her legs in and shooting them out, Chibi kicked the Hida in the jaw, like a donkey. She shot off his arm, and hit the ground. The Hida stepped backwards and went down to one knee. But only for a moment, anger flashed across the Hida’s face.
He stood up and grabbed her shoulder. Pulling her to standing with one hand he slammed a fist into her forehead. Matsu Chibi staggered back and after a few seconds dropped to one knee. “You hit me!” she screamed. The Hida stopped his advance on her at that sound. His face softened some but his gaze stayed intently on her while he rubbed his jaw. The Matsu returned the gaze. Her eyes blazed red with anger.
The staring match continued for some time. The Inn staff all came onto the veranda. They watched and hoped to keep them outside. Matsu Chibi finally shouted, “You hit me like you meant it.” The Crab bushi stood up “You started this,” the Hida said. “You don’t care I am a girl?” she took a step toward Hida. “Grrrr,” was the only response from the Hida. He gave no ground and made no indication of doing so. “Or that I am so much smaller than you?” She said, lunging several more steps forward. Hida raised a fist and rubs his jaw, “Oni can be small”. His fist was only slightly smaller than her head.
Matsu Chibi stopped and examined the Hida. She turned to the Waitress, who stood shaking, the bottles on her tray were rattling. Chibi grabbed two bottles of sake off the tray and turned back to the Hida, “I like you. Been called many thing but never oni,” throwing bottle to the Hida. “I am Matsu Chibi,” She spoke with defiance, stopping to gauge the Hida’s reaction. Catching the bottle, “Hida Nakamuro,” replied the big man. He moved his mouth, checking that his jaw was in place.
She walked up to Hida Nakamuro with a smile. The Crab seemed unaffected by the Lion’s disturbing scar. “YOU can be my new drinking friend!” she exclaimed. She loudly banged her bottle against the bottle in his hand. The Inn staff all moaned in disbelief. The Crab made no move. The Inn owner offered several more bottles but indicated that maybe drinking down by the river edge may be more appropriate.
The Crab still remained unmoved, “I must attend to the Kakita.” Hida Nakamuro indicated with only a nod of the head back toward the door. The Lion’s expression went blank, as she looked from the Hida to the tray of bottles to the Inn owner.
Matsu grabbed all the bottles and said “Bah!” but then muttered “mmm Chugo. Go then duty to the straw man awaits. Pfft.” She gave a perfunctory bow then she turned away with a hiss. The Hida turned toward the door. Matsu Chibi said quickly “But!” and as Hida turned back, she kicked him in the groin. “Ouff” puffed out from the Hida,the edges of his lips clinched. “You will remember me.” and she turned back to the river.