Vigniti Tres : Part Five
Miki paced by the tree in the northern forest, the arranged meeting place with Juri, and counted the seconds as they passed by. Juri was so damn reckless at times. Once she gets focused on something, puts it in her mind she will do it, there was nothing that could be done to sway her. Logic seemed completely lost on her at times. One of these days it was going to get her killed.
He sighed and leaned against the tree. That would certainly be a sad day. Even now he missed having her around more - back when she’d first been kicked out of her family she’d come to live with his clan. Those were some great times learning the sword from Ruka together, finally having someone he could talk to that didn’t get his sister’s hackles up… watching Juri and her sister get into trouble with the elders.
Then Ruka made his move on Juri, she almost killed him for it, and then the elders denied her sanctuary. Miki had been upset to see her leave, so upset that he implanted the suggestion in his sister’s mind for her to ascend to clan leadership. She was the only one with the ambition and ruthlessness to beat Ruka to the position once the elders stepped aside.
It was only then, two years later, after the Panther had made her debut, had Juri once more returned to the gypsy camp. She was never as comfortable there as she had been in the past, Ruka’s continued presence as well as her knowledge that she’d never belong factors, so she never stayed long. Kozue and Juri… well Miki knew something was going on, but he never wanted to know the details. There were things about his sister and his best friend that he preferred to pretend never happened.
Miki sighed and pushed the past from his mind. He needed to focus on the current situation and hope Juri wasn’t doing anything… stupid. It had to be some girl. He couldn’t think of anything else it could possibly be to draw her back into the minefield where one wrong step lands her in a noose. One of these days she wouldn’t be able to manipulate Captain Kiryuu and he’d have to write her dirge. The seconds ticked by and he thought about scrying for her.
“Like you have any idea where I bury my treasure,” came the amused voice from the branches above him.
Miki looked up, a smile of relief plain on his face. “I’m sure I can come up with a spell that will find it. It’s got to be larger than a dragon’s trove by this point.”
Juri dropped down from the branch and draped her arm over Miki’s shoulders. “If only you knew what I had to go through to find a place large enough,” she joked and then ruffled his hair. “And I’m here, just as I promised.”
“And in a much better mood than when I sprung you from jail.” Miki laughed as he got a better look at Juri. “And from the paint smudged on your lips, not your color I might add, I can guess why you’re in such a mood.”
Juri’s eyes widened for a brief second before she quickly wiped the telltale evidence of her encounter with Shiori from her mouth. Miki was still laughing at her, so she grabbed a pine cone and threw it at him.
“Quiet you. One of these days I’ll be able to say the same thing to you. Then you can know how it feels.”
Miki ducked the improvised projectile and smirked. “What makes you think I’ll be as careless as you?”
Juri raised an eyebrow at him and took deliberate steps in his direction. Miki grinned and took off running, the panther close on his heels. She let him stay ahead of her for a bit before she tackled him into the brush. She pinned him down, grinned and then tweaked his nose.
“Because love does funny things to you.” She let him up and started in the direction of the gypsy camp. “Besides, this just means I’m getting some and you aren’t,” she tossed back over her shoulder.
Miki blushed a little, shook his head, and quickly caught up to his friend. He decided there really wasn’t anything he could say in response that wouldn’t get him teased mercilessly, so he let them walk in comfortable silence. Juri’s presence was comforting, even more so that she was in a pleasant mood. A part of him wondered who the lady was that had captured the rambunctious rogue’s heart. Yet, the other part wanted to be able to disavow all knowledge when Kozue found out about this. His sister could get quite jealous and wouldn’t be pleased.
“So…” Juri started, her voice a bit distant. “What do I owe your sister?”
Miki shook his head. “Nothing, I believe. She took payment out of the guard captain.”
Juri didn’t say anything for a moment. “No, I know how Kozue works. I owe her.” She drew in a deep breath. “I owe her big time.”
Miki cast a glance over. “I wouldn’t worry about it too much. She’s always been rather… fond of you.”
“And that’s the problem, Miki. Things are… different now.”
Miki furrowed his brow. “You mean, because of…”
“Shiori. Her name is Shiori,” Juri said, her gaze forward. “She works in Kanae’s Rose Garden.”
Miki stopped dead and looked over at Juri. He had no idea how to react to his friend’s apparent lack in taste. “The… brothel?”
Juri looked back at him and narrowed her eyes at his reaction. “There’s only one Garden.”
“But… but… Juri,” Miki stuttered. “Those women are whor-“
“If that word comes out of your mouth, Kaoru Miki, I promise you will see the side of me only Ruka has,” Juri growled. “The others may be, but not Shiori. She’s different.”
Gulping, Miki held up a placating hand. “I’m sorry… If you… If you think she’s not…” He just couldn’t think of something to say that wouldn’t trigger Juri’s temper. He took a deep breath and wiped his face. “Whatever you say, Juri-san,” he said, reverting back to when she’d first come to stay with the clan.
Juri glared at Miki for a moment longer, almost daring him to say something else, when she blew out a breath and rolled her eyes. “Stop that,” she said. “We aren’t kids anymore.”
Miki followed along in Juri’s wake and eventually enough time had passed that he drew up along her side once more. “I… I’m just worried. That’s all.”
“I understand that. I do,” Juri replied. “But understand this: she’s different. Call it a gut feeling, call it intuition, give it some damn magical name if you like, but I know she’s not like those other girls.”
Miki was silent for a moment as he contemplated how to respond. He quirked his lip a bit. “Is Ohtori’s greatest thief suddenly in the market for a white horse so she has the proper steed to ride in like a prince and save the fair maiden from the evil men?”
Juri snorted at the image of her riding a white horse and acting like a prince. Then she thought more about Miki’s implication and she quieted down. “Maybe,” she replied.
Miki watched Juri’s face for a moment and noted the look in her eyes. “Just make sure it’s what she wants before you do it. And… be careful. Please?”
Juri was silent for a moment. “Alright,” she said quietly. “I’ll try.”
“Thank you,” Miki replied and then grinned as he heard the faint music from the gypsy camp. “Home sweet home’s just over the ridge. I’ve got your tent stashed somewhere.”
Juri smiled at the sound of the drums. “Please do find it. I’d rather not have to deal with finding someone’s tent to stay in that wouldn’t cause some kind of problem.”
Miki nodded. “I’ll make sure it’s far away from Ruka’s.” If it was too close, the man might just try to sneak into Juri’s in the middle of the night.
Juri flashed a wicked smile. “For his protection.”