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(Original fic) the Song of 27 Sakura - Not a rock, I'm just Ruth
All Me, no apologies
just_ruth
just_ruth
(Original fic) the Song of 27 Sakura
Title: The Song of Twenty-seven Sakura
Author: Ruth
Theme: Song
Original or Fandom: Original(Doryuu)
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: m/m themes
Symbols: _italics_ *bold*
Beta: Unbeta'd

*****
Inoue Ryoma knelt and lit three sticks of incense before the large pillar marked with the name of Lord Saigo. Thirty years ago he had come to the lands of Saigo as a fourteen year old, as clumsy and big footed as a wolf cub. The wise Lord Saigo had seen his potential. Now, he was a man of whom ballads were written – silent as a hunting wolf, lean as a deer, hard as steel, with a warrior's top knot like the tail of a wild horse, a mouth as shapely as a geisha's, a straight, narrow nose, black eyes as cold as a winter's night, graceful eyebrows, and a clear, dark tenor voice. He was master of the sword Touei; the flicker of light on its keen edge supposedly all his enemies saw before the blade took their lives. On his left arm, from shoulder to elbow stretched a tattoo. It was the branch of a cherry tree with twenty-seven blossoms. One blossom for each man he had killed.

Very few people knew his true name, they called him Twenty-seven Sakura.

He sighed deeply. He had sworn a year ago to the New Lord Saigo. Yurimasa was fifteen years younger than Ryoma. He did not yet have his father's wisdom. He had asked of Twenty-Seven Sakura to avenge an insult. His father would have never asked such a thing.

"What do I do, Master?" he asked softly. A steady tapping made him start and turn. An old man with the shaved head and the robes of a priest, a scarf bound across his eyes to announce his blindness, probed his way forward with a cane.

"Who is there?" he called.

"One who merely seeks guidance, Master," Ryoma came to the man's aide. He was the same height as he, but thinner. Up close, the bandage hid a scar across the man's eyes.

"This is the marker for Lord Saigo, yes?" asked the blind man.

"This is so, Master," Ryoma answered.

"And are you Inoue Ryoma?"

Ryoma was taken aback that the priest knew his name. "Yes, Master, I am."

"Ah," said the blind man with satisfaction, "then I am in time." He tapped to the dais of the marker and sat down on the lowest step.

"Forgive me, I do not understand," Ryoma frowned.

"Inoue Ryoma, this night you have been asked by the new Lord Saigo to seek out one Hitachi Kamakura and punish him for an insult he has given your Lord, yes?"

"Yes, Master, this is so."

"In the name of your old master and in the name of the Sun Goddess that smiles on the house of Saigo will you grant me a single favor this night?"

"If it is not against the honor of my house or of my oath of loyalty, I shall do so."

"So," the blind man nodded. "Good. Leave Touei here, before the marker of the old Lord; take only your wakizashi."

"Leave Touei? But - -" Ryoma stopped. He thought about it. Hitachi Kamakura was barely into his twenties; young and apparently very stupid. There would be no honor for his sword in a fight with someone like him.

Still, one did not have to kill someone to punish them. Even if his Lord did not know this, Ryoma was wise enough to know for him.

He nodded. "I shall do as you say, Master." He drew the blade and, using the dipper he had washed the stone with, he poured water over it. Ripping off the sleeve of his haori, he carefully dried the blade before laying it, unsheathed, before Lord Saigo's monument.

"Bless you. Bless you," tears ran from beneath the old priest's bandage. Ryoma bowed to the priest and to the monument before he left the temple, very puzzled indeed.

*****

He did not seek out Hitachi in the pleasure district as he planned. He went to the Hitachi household. Hitachi lived with his parents; he was married with two sisters and a younger brother.

"Please forgive me, sir," Ryoma bowed to the elder Hitachi. "I bring unfortunate tidings. Your son, Hitachi Kamakura, has insulted and anger my Lord Saigo Yurimasa and he has ordered me to punish him."

There was a shriek from behind the screen where the women had scurried at his entrance.

"Master Sakura," the elder Hitachi's hands shook with distress. "I beg you, please do not! My son is young and very foolish. Surely, there is some way to make amends!"

"That is why I am here, Master Hitachi, I do not wish to cause your family distress but I fear my Lord will be satisfied with only one thing. . ."

*****

Kamakura was singing a bawdy song with his two friends as he tramped back home. He'd won at dice and had a tidy purse full even after celebratory drinks. To his astonishment, there were two carts in front of the house and his father was directing the servants in loading one, while the other was lit with lanterns and he could hear his mother's voice inside.

"What is happening?" he demanded.

His father turned and cuffed him on his ear. "You idiot! You've insulted Lord Saigo! We have to leave his territory now before you are killed."

"Who says?" cried one of Kamakura's friends.

"He does!" the elder Hitachi pointed to Ryoma sitting calmly to one side beings served a cup of tea by one of the maids. "Twenty-Seven Sakura!"

Ryoma silently sighed. He wished people remembered his real name.

"You!" Kamakura snarled. "How dare you! If Saigo has something to say to me, he can come say it himself!"

"He is Lord Saigo now," Ryoma reminded him.

"Yes, Lord," Kamakura gripped his sword convulsively. "Damn him! And damn you Old Man!"

"No!" shouted his father as he drew his sword. Kamakura lunged – and found himself stumbling, his blade plowing the ground as Ryoma stepped aside.

Ryoma's short sword traveled in a high arc. Kamakura's top knot fluttered to the ground.

One of Kamakura's friends turned white and ran off. The other drew his sword, but gnawed his lip nervously.

"Enough!" the elder Hitachi stepped between the two younger men and Ryoma. "Stop this at once! Master Sakura has graciously offered this family an alternative and you will not spoil this chance! Thank Master Sakura now and get on your horse! We leave now!" A servant brought Kamakura's horse. His friend asked for another horse to be brought and joined them.

"May I ask one question before you leave, Hitachi-san?" Ryoma returned his wakizashi to its sheathe. "What did you say to so anger my Lord?"

Kamakura glared at him from atop his horse. "I told him that his brother was sleeping with his Chamberlain and I suspect it's for the Chamberlain's advantage!"

"So," Ryoma sighed, he had dealt with the Chamberlain before.

"Thank you for graciously sparing my life," Kamakura said harshly. "And I hope I never see your face or your Lord Saigo's again!" he spurred away after the wagons.

Ryoma walked away slowly. If he had not done as the blind monk asked, he would not have learned the true possible enemy of his Lord.

"Iori, Iori, when will you learn?" he sighed.

*****

The Chamberlain was seated to the right of Lord Saigo Yurimasa. Miyuki Iori had been as old as Ryoma when they came as pages to Lord Saigo. He was only two fingers width taller than Ryoma and sleeker, more refined. Iori was as supple as a cat with a cat's golden eyes. To the Lord's left sat Yurimasa's younger brother; Yashura was five years younger than his brother with a face that echoed the late Lord's first wife, he sat with a more relaxed stance.

Ryoma bowed to his Lord and sank to his knees. He placed a cloth-wrapped package next to him.

"What is this we hear, Twenty-seven Sakura?" Yurimasa began imperiously. "Hitachi Kamakura still lives?"

The Chamberlain smiled thinly.

"Yes, my Lord, but he is in exile from your territories; he and his family. The punishment is sufficient."

"Not for _me_," muttered Yashura, pouting. Yurimasa shot him an annoyed look.

"His house and his lands are yours to dispose of as you will, my Lord," continued Ryoma.

"Perhaps you wish them for yourself?" Iori purred.

"I do not." Ryoma shook his head. "I have never desired wealth or position."

Iori's eyes narrowed. Ryoma felt the heat of his anger. _I have never desired wealth or position, these things you could forgive._ Ryoma thought, _what you cannot forgive, Iori, is that I never desired *you*_

"I do not understand, Sakura-san," Yurimasa frowned. "We told you he insulted our family and our person."

"Forgive me, my Lord, but that is not true," Ryoma laid a hand on the cloth wrapped bundle he had brought in with him. "He told your Lord the truth."

"How dare you --!" began Yashura. Lord Saigo held up his hand for silence.

"He accused our Chamberlain of sleeping with our brother for his own ends."

"My Lord shall make his own judgment," Ryoma unwrapped the cloth and handed Lord Saigo a bundle of rice paper tied together with a blue silk ribbon. Yashura exclaimed in shock and Iori sat up, turning white.

"How did you get that?" Iori exclaimed.

"It was not hard," was all Ryoma said. Iori counted the maids of the castle as nothing. Ryoma was not so foolish. It took only a little kindness and they gladly helped him find his proof.

"What is this?" demanded Lord Saigo.

"I believe it is called "a pillow book," my Lord."

Iori roared. He shot to his feet and rushed at Ryoma. Ryoma ducked the blade that flew over his head. He was sorry he had left his sword back at the temple.

"Stop, Miyuki Iori." Lord Saigo used a tone not heard in the room since his father died.

"My Lord, he has always. . .!"

"Brother, please. . .!"

"Silence."

Lord Saigo stared at all three of them. "We shall consider this. Twenty-seven Sakura, you did not draw your sword."

"Touei rests in the Sun Goddess temple; guarding your father's marker."

"Why did you leave it there?"

"A priest asked me to."

There was another silence. Lord Yurimasa looked long and hard at Ryoma.

"Go. I do not care where you go but go. I am not my father. I will rule this land _my_ way. You will not change my orders again, Twenty-seven Sakura."

"Ryoma," he said as he bowed to his Lord.

"Eh?"

"My name is Inoue Ryoma," he stopped at his quarters long enough to fill a pack he swung on his back. He kept a modest amount in his purse and gave the rest to the maids to distribute among the servants.

He returned to the temple. A priestess was tidying the temple.

"Where is the old man?" Ryoma asked.

"He is gone," she smiled. "He redeemed himself when you took his advice."

Ryoma didn't understand.

That night, as he slept in a small inn not on the main road out of the capital, he dreamed.

_ He swung Touei at Kamakura. He saw the death blow. Kamakura's one friend turned white and ran away. The other, biting his lip nervously, drew his sword. Ryoma spun to block the clumsy swing.

Touei broke. The flickering edge of the blade was the last thing he saw.

Blind, he wandered for years until he reached a small temple on Kokoro island.

The priestess was a strange woman who called herself Emi. He recognized her as the priestess who had been tidying the Sun Goddess' temple.

'If you could have anything you desire, what would it be?" She asked him one day.

"I would go back and warn my younger self against a foolish act."

"Be careful. You might not listen to yourself."

"I would take that chance, Lady Emi."

"So, then, take my hand."

His staff tapped on the smooth stones of a different temple.

"Who is there?" he called._

Ryoma woke up in a cold sweat.

_fin_

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Comments
lil_1337 From: lil_1337 Date: July 22nd, 2007 04:29 am (UTC) (Link)
That was really cool! I like the way history did a loop and how Ryoma changed his life. I suspect Lord Saigo will live to regret his choices.
just_ruth From: just_ruth Date: July 22nd, 2007 09:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you! Yes, he will (Iori is not just sleeping with Yashua)regret his descision, but I had to wrestle and be stern with this or it would have galloped off into an epic or something.
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