Lonely Sunsets: Chapter 2

When she awoke again she reached out with her senses and felt that she had again woke up on time. Smiling slightly she grabbed her staff and things and put them on. Moving downstairs she left the building for a while to move down to the beach. She figured that at this early hour of the morning no one would see her practice.

She was right this morning as she arrived at the beach and found it completely empty. Leaving her kasa and cloak on she stretched slowly and started into a slow simple Kata. As she moved her rhythm increased, as did the complexity of her steps and forms. The sun was well on its way up when she finally stopped. Knowing that it was not wise to be seen practicing like this she started for the bathhouse that had been pointed out to her.

She paid her fees and as she entered the water in the private bath and heaved a sigh of relief. It felt so good to get clean of the road dust and sweat of the past few days. Cleaning her hair and body she got out of the bath and dried off. Grateful that her clothes were still passable in public she got dressed and retied her hair. She reached the restaurant just as the Manager was opening it and letting her inside he cooked breakfast for her saying that it was his reward for keeping the place from being cleaned out.

Nikki only nodded as she ate until she was full and then headed back to the kitchen. Kasa always on it did make the manager wonder why she wore it. Even in dealing with the thieves the police told him that she was wearing the kasa and refused to show her face. What was so terrible a secret that it had to be hidden by the hat? But, she had asked him not to ask about it and he gave her his word. A man of honor like most in the village he respected her wishes and did not ask.

The dayís events were not too bad and she stayed on another night. The days turned into weeks and soon she was a recognized figure in the restaurant. She held to her routine and she was getting better in the kitchen now that the main cook had returned. She started to study under him to continue her training and he allowed it since she covered for him when she probably had elsewhere to go.

The kasa never came off when she was in public and there were speculations that she had some horrible disfigurement that made her terrifying to look at. Not caring what the rumormongers said she continued working and doing her daily routine. She knew that she would have moved on weeks ago when the cook had returned, but this was the first time she was not threatened and she wanted to enjoy the feeling for however long it would last.

Several customers knew her cooking style and would ask for it when they came in. Cye not being one of them was surprised at how good she was. At one point he thought that he and a handful of others he knew were the only ones that knew the knife techniques that she was using. But there she was cooking and working and never once taking her hat off to wipe her brow in the hot kitchen.

He wanted to know more about her and as he asked the manager about her he could only tell him little since in the time she was here in his restaurant she had reveled little and asked for less. Only recently had she asked for enough money to buy a new shirt and pants. Afterward she had even returned the change, but almost nothing was known about her otherwise. Shrugging he thanked the manager and left the restaurant with his order.

By listening to the talkers of the town and to the manager telling her about the people she learned that he was the supposed guardian of the village. His fetes with the staff were unmatched and that he had taken care of the town from a young age. Cye Mouri was his name and from her knowledge of history she knew that the Mouriís were the guardians of the Hagi Sea. Storing his face away in her mind she went back to cooking. He had seemed friendly enough and just about everyone liked him it seemed. Manager of the Mouri pottery it seemed as if the young man had his hands full with everything he was doing. And yet, something rang false about him, like he was hiding something from everyone. Smacked in the flat of her back with a spoon she was brought back to the present as she realized that she had started thinking again. Never a good thing she finished out the day and left.

It was dark and there was no one at the beach she practiced at. Cloak covering her and Kasa in place she closed her eyes and then looked out at the sea. The moon and stars sparkled on the calm smooth waters like so many pinpoints of lights in a mirror. She closed her eyes again and smacking the staff into the ground in front of her she rested her hands on it and calmed her breathing. She felt the air about her and heard the night sounds that carried clearly over the water. She tasted the salty air of the sea when she breathed in deeply and yet in all of this peace, something clanged on her nerves. Her mind echoed her soulís unease and as she tried to calm her inner self she felt herself slip into a deep meditative trance.

In it she saw many things, Kanji writings, a yin-yang symbol, a strange looking Yari and images that were so demonic that she had to fight to exit her trance. What pulled her out of the trance at last were her physical senses telling her that there was someone near, watching her.

Moving slowly she pulled the staff out of the ground and turned around. On a dune not far from her she saw a young man who was facing a slightly different direction but was still watching her. "You want to know about me. Bring your friends out of hiding and find out what so many wish they did not know."

The young man grinned a fearsome grin and cut loose with a long low call. Hearing the rustling of the sand grasses around her she let her senses tell her what was where. There were about five in all. Judging by the looks of four of them, it was the same bunch that tried and failed to rob the restaurant.

Thought they could not see it, she narrowed her eyes and dropped back to a loose ready stance. There was a leader here, now where was he. She soon had her answer as they all started attacking her. They were good and it seemed that most of them knew what moves to use around the staff-wielding girl. The fight was difficult but in the end she was overcome by the reinforcements that had probably been scattered along the beach.

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