Director Betty, the head of the Shogun’s secret police, the director of espionage, and well-respected noblewoman was doing something very wrong. It was something that she did at least once a month, but she knew that she should actually do it more often. She really wished that she could do it more often, but she always had so much work to do. She was walking toward a certain teahouse as the sun was setting.
She had taken the walk so many times that she probably could navigate the path with her eyes closed and still avoid being seen, whether she stuck to the rooftops or dipped through the alleyways; the path did not matter. The odd thing for her was that she could not recall the first time that she had made the journey. She usually remembered most things, but the first time that she made the trip escaped her. Perhaps because it was so immaterial to things; what mattered was not when it began, but that it continued. Despite the fact that she could not recollect the first time that she made the journey, she could easily remember the first time that she met the lovely creature that she was heading to see.
The mission outline had seemed simple enough to the seventeen-year-old Betty. She was a ninja, working in a section of the shogun’s secret police. She had gotten the job through her father and his acquaintance with the Shogun. Her father was close enough with the Shogun that she had been childhood playmates with his daughter, whom she still knew, which had its good and bad points. Her father was quite proud of her so far, which was actually something that she was accustomed to. She excelled under his guidance in everything that she did and he just beamed whenever she succeeded. He often told people that she was his favorite son; he was joking, of course. Well, for the most part, he was joking.
It just so happened that she followed her father’s instructions and walked in his shadow better than her twin brother, which was why he told people that she was his favorite son. Her brother was closer with her mother than her father because their mother cuddled him when he failed while their father was a stern man. Her brother seemed to buckle under pressure while she typically thrived under it and her father loved that about her. Despite that fact, when it as all said and done, she knew that her brother was going to inherit their clan from their father because that was going to be her mother’s deepest desire.
At the moment, Betty was hiding out in the room of a teahouse on the ceiling. Her onyx eyes set sharply, scanning the room; she had both of her eyes. She was waiting for a man that had stolen some very important documents from the Shogun’s own castle. She was impressed that someone was so skilled to enter and exit the castle in one piece, but she was not going to fail her mission, which was to capture him and retrieve the papers that he stole.
She was told that she would know the man when she laid eyes on him because he would have hands and feet like that of a monkey. It was rather disturbing, but at least they were features that definitely stood out. He had stolen a few documents referring to a mystical blade and she was assigned the task to retrieve them at all cost. She heard from a very reliable source that the thief was going to be in the teahouse and in the very room that she was currently occupying. All she had to do was wait.
She was quite focused and intent on her purpose, having been up there for close to an hour already. She was still just as ready to pounce when the shoji slid open as she had been an hour ago, though. She thought that the door opening was her target finally entering the room, but she soon found out otherwise.
A blonde girl was callously flung into the area. The girl groaned as she hit the hardwood floor and a short, creepy looking man followed her in. The blonde girl turned to him with a look of sheer fear and panic in her eyes. The man closed the door and stormed deeper into the room after the girl; he appeared to have normal hands and feet, so he was no one important to the hidden occupant of the room. She crawled backwards while pleading with him as tears gathered in her eyes.
Betty watched the scene from her space on the ceiling, conflicted with what she should do, assist the young lady or remain hidden to do her task. The girl was struggling as the man was now on top of her, trying to yank her kimono top open. The girl was crying and begging for him to stop while making it difficult for him to rip her top open, but he was winning out in the contest. Betty’s muscles flexed, dying to drop from her hiding place and save that poor blonde, especially since it was clear that the man was going to win the struggle, even though he was a small fellow.
But, Betty had a job to do. She was supposed to wait for the thief to show up. He was going to come to that room, she had been promised that. So, she needed to hold her position, no matter what. She had to do her mission.
Her thoughts were disrupted as the girl cried out again, louder and more desperate than the first time. Suddenly, her mind could not even recall that she had a job to do, but she continued to hold her position. She stared with greater interest in what was happening below her, though.
The blonde’s kimono was now torn open and the little man was groping her small breasts, delight dancing in his beady little eyes as he feasted on the sight and feel of the girl. Tears began to gather in her eyes and turned her head to see how much he was enjoying his own actions. The girl continued to implore him through helpless whimpering not to do what it was obvious that he planned to do. Betty could not take her eyes off of her the spectacle now, knowing what was coming.
The mission was important, but her mind began begging questions of her. What if that was her friend? What if that was her sister? Would she stay in place or would she act? Well, that was someone’s sister, friend, or daughter. It did not matter whose, just that she was important to someone somewhere and they would want her to help; hell, that girl would want her to help. Betty could not in good conscience just stay up there and play the silent witness to such a heinous crime against a woman.
Betty dropped down from the ceiling like some avenging angel, complete with a look of righteous indignation. She wasted no time kicking the man off of the blonde girl before he could achieve his ambition. He grunted as he slammed into the back wall and Betty stood in front of the girl as if to protect her from another assault, should he be foolish enough to try one.
“I think she said no,” Betty commented in a dangerous tone that she used against enemies to let them know that they should be running. He was not that smart because he stayed put and just turned his eerie eyes toward her. Malicious intent was glazed over in his orbs as he looked over the sudden intruder. Betty stood her ground unfazed and ready; she had seen more disturbing and frightening sights in her own home.
“Who the hell are you?” the decidedly creepy man demanded to know.
“Who I am isn’t any of your concern. Getting out of here alive should be the only thing on your mind,” she replied coolly.
It would seem that he agreed with that and looked at the door that he had closed moments ago. He then turned his attention back to her, as if wondering if she would allow him to make it that far. She really had no intention of doing that because she was rather offended by his actions.
He seemed to know that he had insulted her and that it would have been impossible for him to make it anywhere with her around. So, he pulled out three shuriken and let them fly. Betty dodged them with no problem and charged him. She hit him with a lightning fast combination of three hits, which knocked him unconscious. She then turned her attention to the blonde girl.
“You okay?” Betty asked the slightly disheveled blonde, who had fixed her torn kimono as best she could. She just nodded mutely as a reply. “That’s good. Don’t worry, I’m not going to hurt you,” Betty tried to assure the girl, who was still visibly shaken.
Betty walked over to the girl. The blonde stepped back, obviously afraid. Unbeknownst to the ninja, the girl assumed that she was a male and at the moment, she was not having the best of luck with the male gender. The short haircut, which was done to save Betty from getting caught in a fight by her hair, was working against her.
“I’m not going to hurt you,” the onyx-eyed female repeated.
The blonde did not say anything, but she did point behind Betty. The ninja turned around just in time to see more shuriken coming her way. She dodged those with ease; the man that she had just knocked out was not very skilled at accurately throwing the projectiles. The brunette did not even wonder how he had recovered so quickly. She just charged him to take care of him again. In that clobbering, she was too distracted to react properly as the shoji slid open.
“Filthy shogunate inu (1),” a voice growled.
“Look out!” the blonde hollered, hoping to help her savior.
Betty turned around just in time to find out that the new person in the room was much better at throwing shuriken than the man she was currently beating on. She took a throwing star to the shoulder, arm, chest, and to the eye. She merely hissed in pain while locking her good eye on her assailant.
The newcomer laughed before running off, thinking that he had taken care of the government agent in that assault to the point where the ninja would not be coming after him anyway. He had been spying on her while she was dealing with that little maiko and her pathetic client. She had gotten a good look at his feet though, which looked just like monkey paws and then it dawned on her; she had just been ambushed by her own prey. Kuso (2), she screamed in her mind and did not think twice about taking off after the thief, despite her injuries, especially the one to her eye.
The blonde was left confused on what just happened. She did know that she had just been saved and her savior had probably just lost an eye from interfering. She was not sure if she should follow the ninja or if she should just get out of the room. It did not even take her a second to go after her savior; the warrior might need help considering the injuries “he” had just sustained.
(End of flashback)
Vivian was preparing a room for when Betty arrived. She had dinner ready along with some tea and some senbei (3) since Betty usually enjoyed having those with her tea. She hoped that they would be able to get to the dinner because there was always a chance that Betty would have to run off, which was why she had the tea and senbei set out first. The chocolate-haired warrior would at least make the attempt to finish her tea and the crackers before running off if she had to do so.
Vivian was also dressed in one of her best formal kimonos, even though only one person would see it. It just so happened that the one person that would see it was the only person that she required to see her in it. The lovely attire had actually been given to her as a gift by the only person that needed to see her in it. It was made of a fine, expensive silk and she wore it well, making it look just as expensive as it was.
She always liked to have everything perfect for the woman who had saved her so many years ago. The woman whom she had assumed was a man for quite a while from when they had first met until she learned otherwise. Remembering such a thing actually made her blush from embarrassment.
She supposed that it was a good thing that she had thought Betty was a boy the first time that they met. Had she known that Betty was a female, she thought that it might have been possible that she would not feel the way that she did now about the brunette. But then again, maybe there was no stopping the emotions that she held for the one-eyed warrior. Especially since she thought it was her fault that Betty had lost that eye because the ninja had been protecting her instead of doing her job. The fact that Betty had put herself in harm’s way for her, had saved her, and protected her might have been all she needed for her feelings to bloom into what they were now.
She often thought about how different things would have been if Betty had just stayed hiding on the ceiling that fateful night. She would have more than likely been ravished, which was a fate she was supposed to accept anyway because her geisha mother had sold her virginity to that man…Phen. His name in her mind caused her to shudder in disgust because she could not imagine how she would have been if he had done what he had paid for. Part of her considered that she might not have been able to go on living if he had gotten his way. She was thankful for Betty, even though she often felt so much guilt over Betty’s eye, not to mention the other injuries that she suffered that night.
Vivian was not an athlete by far, but she was fifteen and had strong, youthful legs. So, she was able to keep up, as best anyone could in a long kimono, with the ninja that saved her and whoever it was that injured that kindly shinobi. She had to sneak out of the teahouse to keep up, but the pair made getting out easy by showing her the way, as they were also trying to keep low-profiles. She almost lost them in the dark as they took to fighting on rooftops while continuing to flee.
The fighting was fast pace, which put her ninja savior at a disadvantage since “he” was already injured. Vivian continued to follow them, thinking that she might be able to be of some help to the warrior that saved her. She was unable to see most of the battle, but soon found out who was winning. She watched in horror as her rescuer was dropped from the roof and landed on a pile of garbage. Vivian rushed to the ninja’s side.
“Are you all right?” the blonde inquired in a worried voice.
Betty did not respond and tackled Vivian back, saving the apprentice geisha for the second time that night. It turned out that her opponent had let loose some more shuriken, which the blonde had not seen coming. Vivian ended up on her butt while Betty immediately turned around to return fire with some kunai that she was carrying. The thief was caught in the air, trying to come down on them, but he made himself an easy target for her to hit, even with one eye.
The thief let out a howl like a monkey as her throwing knives ripped into him. He landed, blood dripping onto the ground, and Betty pulled her short sword while standing in front of Vivian. Betty looked rather fierce, even with the blood dripping from her eye like a thick crimson tear. She appeared almost animalistic as she stood her ground, seemingly to protect the blonde that followed her.
“Just hand over the scroll, youngster,” the thief said in a menacing, but dignified tone. He held out his hand-paw.
“I stole it fair and square,” Betty remarked with a demonic smirk. She had lifted the documents off of him when they were going back and forth on the rooftops, but that was only half of her mission. She had to bring him in, dead or alive. “Now give up,” she ordered in a dead serious tone. If he did not surrender, she had no problem with dragging in his half-monkey corpse.
“Give it back,” he commanded.
Betty did not respond. She was not in a talkative mood anymore. She wanted the mission over before she ended up dying from blood loss or passing out from the pain that she currently blocking from her mind as best she could. She eyed the thief carefully, waiting to see what he wanted to do. He seemed to make his choice, attacking her because she appeared to be on her last leg. He was about to be unpleasantly surprised.
The thief went at Betty and she defended against him better than most; he hated to think of how she could counter him if she was totally healthy. She glanced back at Vivian to make sure that she was all right. She did wonder why the girl was there, but she did not have the time to ask at the moment. She just knew that if she and that girl were going to make it out of the alleyway alive, she needed to be at the top of her game. So, she fought the thief with the same furiousness as a wounded animal would fight a predator.
Before long, it was clear that the thief needed to retreat or he was going to regret it. The monkey man took off and Betty collapsed on the hard, dirt ground when he was out of sight. She was breathing raggedly and painting the street with her scarlet life-force from several wounds. Vivian ran to the ninja’s side in a flash once again.
“Senshi-sama (4), are you all right?” Vivian asked with concern laced in her voice.
“Fine. You?” the brunette replied in a heavy breath. She was in so much trouble, she thought. She had failed her mission; the thief had escaped. Her captain and her father were going to be extremely disappointed in her.
“Fine, of course. Let me help,” Vivian offered. Before Betty could protest, the blonde beauty was tearing at her kimono to make a bandage for Betty’s wounds. She quickly wrapped some cloth around Betty’s injured eye.
“Arigato (5),” the ninja whispered. She was actually unaccustomed to getting help from a stranger. She then pulled away. “I’ve got to go,” she said hastily and then she dashed off to at least return the stolen texts. She actually just left Vivian in the middle of the dark street on her own.
(End of flashback)
“Anata (6),” Vivian said with a bright smile as Betty entered the room; it was like all the treasure of the world was just bestowed on the blonde. She called Betty “anata” as a joke and also as a term of endearment. It was mostly a throwback to when she assumed the older female was a man.
“Nikko-chan (7),” Betty replied with a small smile of her own. It was about as happy as the hard-worked warrior would ever look and her current companion knew that.
Vivian wasted no time going up to Betty and embracing her tightly. Oh, how she missed the older woman, Vivian thought; the idea was conveyed through her hug. Betty felt the same about the sun-kissed blonde in her arms as she returned the hold. A month was much too long to be apart, even though neither of them would say that aloud. Vivian was going to chastise the brunette, though.
“Where have you been?” Vivian demanded to know as she broke the embrace, pulling away from the warrior.
“There was a smuggling ring that required my attention,” Betty replied honestly, even though she knew that would be taken as an excuse and nothing else. Still, she had to say something or things would just be worse.
“More work. You’re just going to work yourself to death. Work, work, work, work. What about me?” Vivian inquired in a forceful tone as she started reaching into her kimono sleeve.
“I’m here now,” Betty pointed out, knowing what was coming. She braced herself.
“Unacceptable!” the blonde huffed as she pulled out her fan and slapped Betty in the forehead with it, striking the older female soundly enough for it to echo through out the room.
“Ow!” the one-eyed woman complained as she put her hand to the now-red space in the center of her forehead.
“Now, sit down,” Vivian commanded, as if she was angry. They both knew that it was just a front.
Betty did not argue or protest. She let Vivian be forceful with her, maybe because subconsciously she felt like she needed someone to be stern with her. Vivian was in agreement, someone did have to be severe with Betty or she would work herself to death as far as the blonde was concerned. Betty did not know what was best for her in Vivian’s opinion and she was there to make sure that Betty stopped and took a breath and also enjoyed life a bit. She was there for Betty to see that there was more to life than her work and battle.
Betty strolled over to the table that Vivian had set up. She saw the tea out, but she knew not to touch anything. She was expected to just sit around now that she was in Vivian’s presence. If she touched anything, she was going to get smacked with a fan again and it actually hurt a lot more than most people would think. Vivian wielded her fan just as well as a samurai wielded a katana.
The blonde went to the other side of the table. There was no real formality between them when they were alone, aside for the fact that Vivian was to do everything while Betty was expected to lounge around. So, Vivian just poured the tea, but she did not serve it. Betty could guess what the hold up was.
“I made this little guy just for when you were going to visit,” Vivian said as she sat a new chahakobi-ningyou (8) on the table.
Betty smiled in an amused manner as she got a look at the new doll that the blonde had created. The doll was dressed in a little violet kimono with face paint like a maiko. It was rather adorable, like many of the little chahakobi-ningyou that Vivian made, although she had been known to create some frightening little dolls when the mood struck her. Sometimes, she even used them to play pranks on her geisha or on Betty.
Vivian was very into mechanics, despite her current vocation. She was very brilliant point blank, but especially in that area and Betty had tried many times in the past to get Vivian to leave the geisha world to work with her. Vivian would give her a coy smile and refuse with false shyness and modesty, as if she knew that Betty thought that was cute.
The chocolate-haired warrior had actually brought Vivian one of the dolls that she had confiscated from Drakken. She had to make sure that the blonde understood there were no strings attached to it. It was not brought because she wanted Vivian to tell her what it did or anything. It was just something for Vivian to play with and the blonde thoroughly enjoyed the little toy, easily figuring out how it worked, taking it apart, rebuilding it, and all sorts of other things. Betty was just pleased that Vivian had fun with it, even though the blonde made sure not to explain how the doll worked because she thought that it would just make Betty run off and go do some more work.
Vivian put a cup on the chahakobi-ningyou’s tray and it waddled over to Betty. She was about to take the cup, but Vivian told her to wait for it. The one-eyed warrior did as she was ordered and was shocked as the doll bowed to her and presented her the cup. She could not help laughing once she got over her surprise. Vivian smiled fondly, pleased to hear such a delighted sound coming from brunette. She recalled the first time that she had ever heard Betty laugh and even then, it sounded like heavenly music to her.
Vivian could not get the ninja off of her mind after she returned to the teahouse that she was bound to. Not only had that shinobi saved her from getting ravished, but also stood to protect her from that strange enemy. Now, just the thought the ninja made her blush and caused a warm feeling to spread through her and she could not figure out why that was; she did consider that it was just because she was pleased that she had not been harmed due to that ninja’s actions. She just knew that she wanted to see the warrior once more, speak with the warrior once more, thank “him” for all “he” had done, and she was going to get her way.
Vivian was far from stupid; in fact, she was often told that she was too smart for her own good. So, it was very easy for her to figure out a way out of the teahouse and she was confident that she would be able to make her way out of the district too. The hardest thing that she had to do was find out who that ninja was and where she would be able to find the warrior, but she was in the best place for gathering information and her mind was focused on that task.
“Shut up,” Betty snorted in annoyance for what seemed like the umpteenth time from her space in the corner of her room on her futon. She was covered in bandages, even wrapped around her head because of her wounded eye. Her so-called friend was getting on her nerves with all of the laughing and giggling at her expense.
“I can’t believe it. You lost your eye because of a hot blonde. Where the hell are your priorities?” a fourteen-year-old Shego inquired, still getting in a few chuckles. She had already been a pale green for two years now and was pretty comfortable with it, at least when she was in Betty’s company. Her jet-black hair was long and loose, like a waterfall of ink, which was the way that she preferred it because she had something to hide behind when people stared at her thanks to her mint skin color. She was rather slender, almost lanky, so her kimono hung off of her a bit awkwardly. She hoped that she was going to fill out sometime soon.
“I couldn’t just let her get raped,” Betty argued in a huff. It was nothing about falling for a “hot blonde” as Shego continued to insist. She was just helping a female in need, so that she would not have to live with the trauma of being violated and she would not have to live with the fact that she could have done something, but had chosen not to. She did not need that kind of guilt, after all.
“You say that now, but in your head, you know why you did what you did. She was cute and you always fall for a cute face,” Shego teased with a smug look on her face.
Betty scoffed in disbelief. “You were never cute,” she muttered, quite seriously.
Shego glanced away, quietly indignant thanks to that insult. Three years ago such words would have rolled right off of her, but now that she was green and sporting some claws, any little thing about her appearance could set off her now literally fiery temper. Not too long ago, she probably would have tackled Betty for her words and tried to tear her throat out with her bare hands, but she was getting back into their old flow of taunting each other in whatever way that came to mind.
Before Shego could think of a good come back, they both heard noise coming from down the hall. Betty looked ready to get up, thinking that her stupid husband had come home. He was supposed to be away, visiting relatives or something; she had never been too keen on listening to him when he was talking, or mumbling as she looked at it, so she was not quite sure why he had left. Shego halted her with a hand motion and stood up.
“I’ll go see what’s going on. You just lay there and be stupid over a pair of baby blue eyes,” Shego remarked.
“I’m never telling you anything again,” Betty grumbled. She knew that explaining her failed mission to Shego, who liked to live ninja missions vicariously through her because her father would not allow her out on such assignments until she was fifteen, was going to be a big mistake. She had just assumed that it would take sometime to come back and bite her in the ass. Shego just could not get over the fact that the story involved a woman that Betty described quite readily and she remembered more about the girl than the thief surprisingly enough.
Shego waved her friend off and walked to the door. She poked her out to see what was going on and was rather surprised to see a blonde girl struggling with some guards. It would seem that Betty was not the only one left impressed with the mission, she thought. Shego could not help laughing and hollered down the hall for the guards to release the woman. The guards knew better than to argue with the green-skinned girl and she stepped back into the room before the intruder could see who had just helped her. The pale female turned to her friend with a wicked smirk on her face.
“What? Who’s out there?” Betty inquired, a bit nervous because of the expression. She thought that it might be her father coming to admonish her for failing her mission; she knew that he was well aware of her failure since he knew everything.
“Your eye,” Shego answered with a laugh before escaping the room out of a secret passageway. She thought that the girls could use sometime alone.
Betty was confused for a few seconds before she caught Shego’s meaning. She turned to the door just as Vivian stepped in. She was surprised by the blonde’s presence and it would have shown on her face if most of her face was not covered in bandages. She got the chance to fix her expression anyway as Vivian crouched down to slide the door shut.
“Senshi-sama,” Vivian said, bowing down on her hands and knees to the brown-haired, bed-ridden warrior.
“What are you doing here?” Betty asked curiously. Not that she was upset over the presence of the girl, she mentally added.
“Um…” Vivian, usually quite elegant with words thanks to the line of work she was in, found herself unable to explain herself for a moment. “I was hoping to see that you were all right and to thank you for saving me the other night, senshi-sama,” she finally answered, making sure to remained bowed in the presence of her savior.
“It was no problem,” Betty tried to assure her in a rather nonchalant voice. She did not do what she did for thanks, after all. She did it because it was right.
“Forgive me if this is very forward of me,” Vivian said as it just dawned on her that she was intruding on her savior’s life. She really just needed to see the warrior again. And as she was doing that, her heart began to race, especially when she looked up at the shinobi while keeping her head bowed.
“It is forward of you, but I don’t mind it. You don’t have to bow like that either. It’s all right,” Betty informed the blonde maiko.
“I’d prefer it, senshi-sama,” Vivian replied and that earned a lighthearted laugh from her savior. She was not sure why the warrior laughed at her, but she knew that she liked the sound. Her heart sped up just a little more and she stole another glance at her savior.
(End of flashback)
“Anata,” Vivian said, breaking the silence that they were currently enjoying. Betty was sipping her tea and eating senbei in two bites; dining manners did not seem to be high on her priority list when she was with Vivian.
“Hmm?” the one-eyed woman replied.
“What ever happened between you and that weird man you fought on the day we met?” the blonde asked curiously. She had always hoped that the brunette got revenge against him for taking her eye.
“I never ran into him again, but surprisingly enough, Shego and Kim-dono met up with him when they were coming back to Edo. They said he was oppressing the people working on his land. I’m not sure what happened to him, though. I think Shego said something about his land being confiscated, but I don’t really remember because she was rather flippant while explaining it and only talked about it briefly. I don’t think he was punished the way that she wanted him to be or the way I wanted for that matter. I mean, his crimes really don’t mean much to the Shogun,” Betty explained.
“Why not? Weren’t you chasing him because of some crime?”
“It was against the late shogun. He had stolen something from the castle, but it wasn’t something very important to this shogun, so I don’t think he cares about it. Besides, the sword he was after is with its proper owner now,” the brunette replied.
“I don’t understand. Why wouldn’t he want to punish someone that stole from his father?” Vivian asked in a confused tone. Her face was slightly scrunched up for an expression that matched her tone.
“I’m not sure. I don’t understand this shogun much of the time. I’m just trying to do my duty, what was entrusted to me by the late shogun,” Betty replied with a bit a shrug. She was going to so her job to the best of her ability because a great man, the previous shogun, had given it to her before he died. He had trusted her, a fairly young woman at the time, with such a great honor and she was not going to let him down.
“You should retire,” Vivian suggested in her usual tone, even though it was something that she deeply desired. It was not as random as it seemed because it was something that she had proposed many times through the years. She wished that Betty would retire and then she could have the one-eyed woman all to herself.
“You should move in with me,” Betty countered; to her, it would actually make more sense than her retiring already. It would certainly make her go home a lot more often. It would make home feel more like a home since it was actually her late husband’s house; well, it was supposed to be his anyway, but he probably would have debated that fact if he was alive. It never felt like she belonged there, which was one of the reasons that she tried her best not to be there, even though the servants tried their best to get her there to slow down and take care of herself; many of those servants had come with her from her home when she married her husband. Her servants were a rather loyal lot, adoring her as a kind, compassionate mistress.
Vivian looked away. She used to dream about living in that large manor back when she was younger. She would imagine that she would wake up in her love’s arms and they would do whatever it was that lovers did; she really had not figured out what it was they would do. It did not really matter to her what they would do as long as she could be with the older female all the time. Now, she could only turn the brunette down whenever the subject was brought up and keep dreaming.
“I would love to…” The blonde spoke in a low voice before she trailed off.
“But the girls, right?” Betty asked because she knew the line. She had heard it often enough, after all.
“They’re my responsibility,” Vivian pointed out. “They still need me.”
“You could give the teahouse to one of them, like what happened with you,” Betty countered, even though she understood where her companion was coming from for the most part.
“Not yet,” Vivian answered. She had inherited the teahouse from her second geisha mother. She had been given to the woman because her first geisha mother owed the second a large debt. Vivian seemed to be the equivalent of that debt, which she was happy for because her second mother was much kinder than the first and they had easily grown to adore each other. When she passed on, Vivian felt like she had lost her real mother.
“When?” Betty asked, not pressing the issue. She was just curious about it. She shoved another senbei into her mouth after making the inquiry.
“Soon enough, anata. I won’t keep you waiting much longer,” Vivian promised.
“Then I won’t keep you waiting much longer either,” Betty replied. If the blonde could walk away from her world, then she would do the same. They could hopefully make such sacrifices for each other. It would at least end the ache that they felt when longing for each other, yet they both seemed to be hesitating in doing the things that they vowed to do.
“What would we do then?” Vivian asked curiously.
“What we do now, but more often,” Betty answered what seemed to be obvious to her.
Vivian smiled softly to herself. She would like that. She wondered how long it would take them to do such things. They had been pitching each other the lines for more than a year now and neither seemed closer to keeping the promises, yet they never doubted each other. They did doubt themselves sometimes.
The blonde often wondered which of her geisha should entrust the teahouse to. Bonnie was at the top of her list, but the girl seemed to care more about herself than the others that she worked with. Vivian wanted someone who would take care of everyone and everything with appreciation and tenderness and she doubted that Bonnie would be able to do such a thing. She needed to be careful with her decision, which was why she had not been able to make one yet and she was not really sure when she would.
Betty worried that her job would be given away to someone less than capable if she retired. She did not trust the Shogun to make a proper decision in the replacing her because he was just too idealistic. He was not totally aware of what went into doing her job, so she doubted that he would be able to give it to someone who would do it well. She would like to suggest her nephew for the job, but he was too narrow-minded and uncompromising for it in her opinion. She knew that he would never enlist help if it was necessary because he had the opinion of himself that he could take care of everything. She was not sure who would be able to do her job as well as she did, and she did do it well, so she was not sure if she would ever be able to come up with a suggestion for when she did step down.
The pair sat quietly again. Vivian watched Betty, who focused on her tea and senbei. The blonde continued to smile softly to herself. She sighed, sounding very much like a girl in love. It was a sound that she often made in Betty’s presence and things had been like that since she had made the acquaintance of the warrior.
Vivian had taken to sneaking out to visit with Betty while the ninja was stuck in bed due to her extensive injuries. Vivian was actually enjoying herself beyond just being able to be with her savior, liking an excuse to get out and also an excuse to take care of her savior. Yes, she got to take care of the shinobi.
The warrior was not allowed out of bed and a few strong-willed servants around the house made sure that Betty did not get up. They also looked the other way when Vivian showed up with soups and other things for the ailing ninja. The servants thought it was good that Betty was making friends beyond Shego because it seemed like the brunette would just work herself to death if she was given the chance. They also figured that Shego would happily help her do such a thing if given the chance, be it through martial arts training or encouraging her to go on more missions.
Vivian, however, was a sweet, proper girl in the servants’ opinions and she was looking to make sure that Betty did not exhaust herself or harm herself any further. They probably would have changed their mind if they had known that Vivian was a training geisha, but they assumed that she was just a very proper noblewoman, which was rare for them to see with Betty and Shego.
Through out the time that Vivian got to take care of Betty, over a month, she still assumed that the warrior was male. She had not learned Betty’s first name, taking to calling her “Director-sama” as they got to know each other better; Director was far as Vivian had allowed Betty to introduce herself after Vivian offered up her name. Even though the time that they spoke to each other, which was very often for a pair that really did not have much in common, Vivian just thought that her savior had an odd voice, which she worked passed.
Vivian figured an abnormal voice was nothing compared to the way she felt so good just being around such a kind, thoughtful, intelligent person. The warrior had not said a word about her status while Vivian was around and she had not said anything about Vivian’s status, or lack there of, either. Betty spoke to Vivian like an equal, also like someone that she enjoyed being around.
For Betty, it was changing and pleasing to have company that was not always huffing about something, someone that did not make her scream in frustration every few minutes. She was a bit bothered with being taken care of, but she supposed that she could let that go since her servants were not even letting her out of bed after her father showed up. Apparently, he had a long talk with them about making sure she healed totally and the servants were in agreement, so she was not going anywhere.
Betty and Vivian shared a lot of discourse through their time together, which was something else that allowed them to grow closer. Talking with Vivian got Betty thinking about things that she generally did not think about because she was used to talking with Shego. She and Shego usually talked combat, history, battle strategy, and things of that nature. With Vivian, she talked almost everything under the sun that did not have to do with fighting. It was quite enjoyable.
For Vivian, being around Betty was just a change from what she was used, even though it was something similar to what she did every day. The difference between sitting and speaking with the ninja and sitting and speaking with her clients was quite simple, although it did not register to her conscious mind. It was just that the shinobi treated her as a friend and equal. She felt welcomed and wanted just for being herself and not because someone had paid to spend some time with her. She had never met anyone like the warrior and she subconsciously sighed because of that. It was a content, light sound.
Vivian often hoped that things would always be as they were between her and the ninja. She could not really ask for more, except maybe when the warrior was totally well that “he” come visit her. She wondered if it would be the same. She doubted it because the circumstances would be different, like the ninja would have to pay to see her. She supposed that she was just going to have to continue to sneak out and with luck things would remain the same between them that way.
Betty had expressed some concern with Vivian coming to visit her. She knew that the blonde would get into a lot of trouble if it was found out that she was leaving the pleasure district of Edo. Her worry only made Vivian want to come out more often because she was unaccustomed to someone showing genuine concern for her.
“Director-sama,” Vivian said, breaking the silence that they were just enjoying. They had come to like being around each other without any words having to pass between them; there was a peaceful feeling that was brought in by the comfortable quiet.
“Yes?” Betty replied. She had been taking in the sight of Vivian, who was hiding behind her sun-colored hair as she had a habit of doing. Vivian often sat with Betty with her head down, usually to hide a blush that seemed to be permanently marked on her face when she was with the ninja. The onyx-eyed warrior often had to hold back the urge to reach out and run her fingers through that tempting golden mane, betting that it felt like silk, but resisting finding out.
“Do you suppose we will sit like this when you’re well?” Vivian inquired in a small voice. She was frightened of the answer.
“Well, I’ll probably be a bit busy when I get better,” Betty answered honestly. She had not been reprimanded for her failure to the point where she was never going to get another mission, but she had been informed that she would have to work her way back up to the level of trust her squad leader had in her with tough assignments.
Vivian whimpered a bit, but made sure to swallow it down. She knew that the warrior had a job to do, so she should expect things to change, but she disliked that. She wanted to be able to sit with the onyx-eyed shinobi every day like they did now.
“I understand,” the blonde whispered, unable to talk any louder because of the dull ache coursing through her.
Betty then said something that brightened her visitor completely. “But, I’ll be able to sneak to see you once I get better rather than you having to come here all the time. I wouldn’t want you to get in trouble.”
Vivian could not help grinning because of the concern for her that was expressed in the statement and the fact that the warrior would come to see her, showing that her savior had an interest in her beyond her acting as a nurse. She was happy that she had her head down because she did not want the warrior to think that she was a silly girl.
Betty did notice the expression that her guest was wearing and she actually smiled because of it. Yes, she definitely would make it a point to visit Vivian once she got better. Why would she deny herself such pleasant company, after all? Such a thing would have been downright foolish in her opinion.
(End of flashback)
“You know, you visited me so much more in the beginning of things, especially when I got here,” Vivian commented. By “here,” she meant the second teahouse that she worked at and currently owned.
“It wasn’t the same,” Betty replied. Back then, she was just a ninja. Now, she was in charge of a police force and also in charge of espionage. She had a full plate most of the time.
“I suppose…” Vivian trailed off. She was well aware that Betty had had more free time back then. She was not as responsible for as many things back then. Still, the blonde wished that her savior would make more time for her and that showed in her expression, which fell into a distinct pout.
“Don’t look like that, nikko-chan,” Betty softly pled while reaching across the table and caressing her host’s delicate cheek.
Vivian leaned into the loving touch. “Gomen nasai (9),” she whispered. She was not supposed to bring Betty’s mood down when the over-worked warrior came by. She was supposed to make sure that the one-eyed woman had a good time, relaxed, and was all-around pleased with being there.
“It’s all right,” Betty tried to assure her. She knew the look all too well. It was a look that she had gotten through the years when Vivian thought that she held her job in higher esteem than she held the blonde beauty. She hated that look because it was so untrue.
Vivian took a deep breath to try to rein in her emotions. She was supposed to be an expert of control, yet Betty always took that from her if they were together for a few minutes. Everything always hurt more when it came to the onyx-eyed warrior as far as Vivian was concerned. Despite the fact that because of her feelings for Betty caused her to feel deep pain on occasion, she would not trade in the emotions for anything in the world.
Betty abandoned her tea and senbei, choosing to go to the other side of the table with Vivian. She embraced the sorrowful female and held her close to her chest. Vivian simply returned the hug, wrapping her arms around the warrior’s waist, while resting her head on Betty’s breasts, practically cuddling herself against the cushions. They were still for a few precious seconds before Betty’s hand returned to Vivian’s soft cheek and began gently caressing her.
“I wish things could always be like this,” Vivian muttered into Betty’s collar bone. It felt so perfect to be pressed against her love and touched in a way that conveyed the tender feelings that Betty held for her.
“I do too,” the brunette replied. “But, I recall when things were not always like this,” she added, sounding slightly amused.
Vivian’s brows furrowed together as if she did not know what the brunette was talking about. She looked up at Betty, who was wearing a small, entertained smile. It was then that she realized what the one-eyed woman was talking about.
“Well, how I was supposed to react when I found out that you weren’t a man? I had already fallen madly in love with you by then,” Vivian commented with a forced pout.
“I’ll agree with the mad part. I still have bruises from that,” Betty remarked with a teasing smile. “I still have bruises when you found out about my husband too,” she added.
Vivian snorted like an angry bull. That husband, she mentally huffed. All right, so there had been a few bumps in their relationship that she could not blame on Betty’s career or even her own. There was some jealousy and the brief inability to deal with reality, namely that Betty was a married woman.
Vivian was doing something that was a bit against the established rules that had been laid out with Betty since the ninja has recovered from her injuries; she was going to Betty’s home. Betty did not like Vivian doing something as risky as she sneaking around to see her, so it was decided that she would come to see Vivian. Betty had taken into sneaking into the pleasure district of Edo and she got into the teahouse that Vivian worked in by dressing as a male, which left Vivian still thinking that she was a man.
Vivian was off to the Director home because Betty had promised to come visit her a couple of days ago when she was certain that she would be back from a mission. Betty had not shown up for their appointment, though. She wanted to make sure that the master of the Director home was all right. What if the ninja was injured again, after all?
And, yes, Betty was actually the master of the house. Even though she was married, her father forced her husband to take their family name and, honestly, her father had raised her to take charge, so she often commanded her husband around. Because of her forceful persona, her husband tried to make it a point to not be home when she was going to be around. She could care less since she had only married him because her father told her to.
Vivian was allowed into the house with no problem. The servants greeted her with bright smiles on their faces and directed her right to where she could find their mistress. It took all of her composure to not run to where they directed her, which was good since it was a bit difficult to run in a full kimono, especially full stride like she deeply desired to do. She did stop dead in her tracks as she caught sight of the person that she wanted to see. Something was wrong.
The ninja that made her heart beat faster than a bee’s wings flapped was dressed not in the usual dark blue hakama and matching kimono. Instead, the brunette was wearing a formal kimono with an elaborate obi; she was going to attend a banquet hosted by her parents. It was in that clothing that Vivian noticed Betty’s shape and her mind could not comprehend what she was seeing.
The blonde’s mind offered only one option: flee. So, she turned and ran before Betty even noticed her. How was it possible? How could the person that made her feel lighter than air and like the most special woman on the planet actually be a female? She felt almost sick about it.
To think, she had actually had to fight back urges to kiss that ninja in past. Now, she was happy that she had been able to restrain herself. She had had such deep desires to kiss a woman. She had actually referred to a woman as “anata.” Sure, it was not very often and it was mostly in jest to avoid offending the one-eyed warrior, but she had still done it. Oh, she felt like such a fool.
She shed tears when she was in the privacy of her own room. She was not sure why she was crying, but she tried to tell herself that it was because she felt like an idiot for thinking that Betty was a man. Underneath it all, she knew that she was crying because she thought that her love would go unreturned since her savior turned out to be a female, but she could not admit that to herself.
Once she got over her embarrassment, and unacknowledged agony, she decided to be angry. She was furious that Betty was not a man. She was upset that the ninja seemed to have led her on. She was livid that Betty had been coming to visit her, knowing that outside of workers, women were not allowed in the district, which only added on to her being vexed with Betty not being a man. Betty made the mistake of coming by to see her before the anger ran its course.
“You!” Vivian practically roared as she entered the room with Betty.
The one-eyed woman did not even have a chance to respond or inquire about the tone directed toward her. Vivian charged her and she had to dodge a surprising strong claw attack; Shego probably would have been proud to see it. Betty tried to find out why she was being assaulted, but Vivian was not explaining herself; it might have had a little to do with the fact that she did not know why she was attacking herself, but that did not halt her actions. When no explanation was forthcoming, Betty decided to force the answers out of the blonde and halt the battering against her.
Betty grabbed Vivian’s hands, making sure not to do it roughly, but enough to stop the assaulting blonde. She then pinned the maiko up against the wall. Vivian struggled against her, but Betty made it clear that she was the stronger of the two and things were going to go her way because of that.
“Now, what the hell are you doing?” Betty demanded to know.
“I don’t have to answer to you,” Vivian huffed, turning her head away in defiance.
“You do if you want to get the hell off of this wall. Now, what the hell is the problem?” Betty asked, speaking in an even tone despite the fact that she had just been attacked and she disliked such a thing.
Vivian glanced at the ninja and then looked away again. Part of her told her to just keep her mouth shut and let Betty wail on her with whatever martial arts’ moves the warrior desired. It would make it so much easier to stop having feelings for a deceiver. It would make it easier to cease to love a woman. Oh god, she thought; she actually loved Betty and had admitted it in her own head.
It was because she felt such strong emotions for the brunette that she dared to speak, even though she thought it was going to be beyond mortifying. She supposed that she just needed to watch her words to make sure that she did not offend Betty, not while the woman was holding her so firmly. She turned her bright blue eyes back to the ninja.
“Why didn’t you say anything?” Vivian begged to know, sounding close to heartbroken. Had she known sooner, surely her feelings would not have blossomed into what they were, namely love.
“Say anything about what?” Betty inquired. She wanted to know desperately what she might have done that seemed to have hurt the blonde because Vivian’s expression was now killing her on the inside. She would try her best to make amends as soon as she learned what she had done. She never wanted to hurt the younger female.
“That you’re a girl,” Vivian answered in a heated whisper through gritted teeth.
Betty was shocked by that response, so much so that her grip on the blonde loosened. Vivian immediately noticed and turned the tables. She pushed herself off of the wall and backed down the brunette warrior. The blonde now had the upper hand.
“Why didn’t you ever say you’re a girl? You let me make a fool out of myself. You probably laugh at me every time we part,” Vivian accused the one-eyed female with a growl. She was certain that she was nothing more than a big joke to the ninja.
“Why would I laugh? Why wouldn’t you know I’m a girl?” Betty inquired in a confused tone. She thought that it would be fairly obvious for Vivian to know her sex as Vivian had seen her lying in bed more often than any other person that she could think of. She failed to take to account that in all of that time, she had been covered with blankets to make sure she stayed warm and comfortable. She was also covered in bandages most of that the time too.
“What do you mean why would I know? Because you’re here,” the blonde pointed out. How was she supposed to know that Betty was a woman when she frequently visited a place forbidden to outside females?
“I’m here to see you. I thought we were friends, so I come here to see you,” the brunette argued. She liked being around the maiko for various reasons and if she could, she would like to continue being with the blonde in someway.
“You’re not supposed to be here,” Vivian stated the obvious.
“So? You weren’t supposed to be at my house, but you were there. What’s the problem? You don’t want me here anymore?” Betty asked. It was her turn to sound hurt, maybe even frightened. She liked being around the blonde; it was a wonderful and very welcomed change of pace among other things. Vivian was something calm and soothing in her danger-filled existence.
Vivian was caught by surprise by that question. Did she not want Betty around anymore? It would be nice, her mind jumped in. She would be able to rid herself of her foolish feelings if she never had to see the warrior again. She would also be able to get over Betty and she would also not have worry about the brunette laughing at her behind her back, as she was so certain Betty did, especially when she referred to the ninja as “anata.” Little did she know, but Betty thoroughly enjoyed being called “anata,” even if it was just a joke, as the ninja assumed it was.
“Yes!” Vivian answered with passion, practically roaring her response. She never wanted to see Betty again.
Betty’s onyx eye went wide with shock and ache. So, she was unwanted just because she happened to be a female? She did not understand the logic, but she could tell that Vivian meant that declaration at the moment and she would respect the decision, even if it hurt like hell. And so, she disappeared from Vivian’s life that night and Vivian was hardly pleased to watch her go.
The blonde’s heart hitched in her chest, silently pleading with her to call the brunette back, but she ignored it. It was not until the pain continuously got worse that she even acknowledged that it existed. She did avoid admitting to herself that she felt such agony due to the fact that she had not seen Betty in over a fortnight. She had never felt such a longing before, not even when her parents first left her to become a geisha. She never missed them quite as much as she missed Betty.
She also noticed that her feelings were not diminishing in the slightest; if anything, they were just getting stronger as time pressed on. She still felt the urge to embrace the ninja, to caress the warrior, to kiss and love her savior. She just wanted to be near Betty. What was she supposed to do? She had already banished Betty from her life and Betty seemed to be sticking with that. How could she do something so stupid, she silently demanded to know. And people swore that she was too smart for her own good, she thought sarcastically. Smart indeed, she mentally scoffed.
It took a few days of wallowing in her throbbing internal misery and urges for Vivian to get up and do something about it. She just hoped that she was not going to be making an even bigger fool of herself. She went to see Betty.
Vivian discovered the one-eyed female bedridden again. She quickly found herself concerned and kneeled by Betty’s futon to find out what happened. Betty was surprised by her visitor’s presence, but thankful for it.
“Director-sama, what happened?” Vivian inquired with concern thick in her voice.
“It’s nothing serious,” Betty assured the blonde because she could tell how worried Vivian was. She did not understand why Vivian was so worried about her when almost a month ago Vivian had dismissed her from her life, seemingly severing their ties to each other.
“What happened?” Vivian begged to know while trying to inspect the ninja without touching her or pulling the covers back.
“Training accident with a couple of new squad members, nothing more,” the brunette answered in a nonchalant tone, hoping to ease the worry from her visitor.
“What happened? How were you injured?”
“Oh, the dummies just don’t follow instructions,” Betty replied with a sigh. She had been given the task with complete confidence in her to train two ninja, who did not seem to have a drop of brains betwixt the pair of them and she now had the cuts and bruises to show it. It was a good thing she had sharp reflexes or she would have been killed out there with them. The squad captain was not sure what he was going to do with the pair since she could not even help them.
“Is there anything I can do?” Vivian offered sincerely.
“I thought you wanted me out of your life,” Betty pointed out as if it did not matter to her when in fact she had been feeling the sting of separation just as harshly as the maiko had.
“I thought so too…” the blonde admitted ruefully, looking ashamed now because of her declaration of wanting the ninja gone.
“And now?” Betty inquired, still trying to sound uninterested.
Vivian looked away and hid underneath her golden mane. Betty was not looking to settle for that. She did something surprising to try to get Vivian to feel comfortable with explaining things to her. She reached out and caressed the blonde’s cheek. They were both stunned by the soothing affect the action had on both of them. Vivian was soft, Betty noted, while Vivian delighted in how gentle and loving the touch seemed. Tears began to gather in the blonde’s eyes.
“What’s wrong?” Betty asked curiously and in a tender tone, showing that she cared.
“Why are you so wonderful? Why couldn’t you just be a man? It would have made things so much easier. It would’ve made things right,” Vivian replied, starting to cry even more.
Betty was not stupid, so she was starting to understand what the problem was. But, she actually did not consider it a problem. It was really something that she wanted, something that she wanted for a while since meeting Vivian. Now, all she had to do was hope that it did not bother Vivian because of the strangeness of it.
“It’s all right, Vivian-san,” Betty said in a gentle whisper.
“How is it all right?” the maiko bawled.
“If you accept it, it will be all right.”
“What do you mean?”
“Because I feel the same way,” Betty replied. Not only did she feel the same way, but it was not as strange to her as it was for Vivian. After all, she had been attracted to women all of her life.
Vivian sniffled. “You do? How could you?”
“Because you’re wonderful,” Betty stated with a small smile. “Vivian-san, I know this might seem quite forward of me, but may I kiss you?” she requested.
Vivian went rigid with shock. “Kiss me?” she echoed as if she did not understand.
Vivian could not answer verbally. She could only nod due to embarrassment that she really wanted Betty to kiss her. And when Betty’s sweet lips fell upon her own, Vivian suddenly could care less than nothing that Betty was a woman. All she knew was that she loved Director-sama and from the feel of the kiss, it seemed like the emotion was returned. It was from that moment on that Vivian decided that she just loved who she loved, nothing else mattered.
(End of flashback)
“Did you miss me those few weeks we were apart when I first found out you were a woman, anata?” Vivian inquired, still hugged up against Betty.
“Of course I did. I loved you, didn’t I?” Betty countered. It was only logical that she would miss the blonde and she had missed Vivian something terrible and thought about her almost every minute of every day because of that.
“Then why weren’t you honest with me and tell me that you were married then?” Vivian asked, teasing mostly. She had been very upset when she eventually did find out about that little fact.
“Because I didn’t want you to be mad at me again,” the brunette answered the obvious rather bluntly.
“That didn’t work out too well, did it?” Vivian remarked.
Betty laughed and smiled. “No, it didn’t, but I doubt there was a good time for you to hear that news.”
“No, you’re right. I guess I could’ve handled it better,” Vivian conceded. She had actually broken things off with Betty when she found out that the one-eyed woman was married. It had not been the best plan because she felt that agonizing longing again when she was away from Betty. Eventually, she came crawling back again, acknowledging the fact that she was the one that Betty loved, not that fat slob that she was linked to. He was not a problem for too long, but longer than she liked at the time.
“It would’ve been nice,” Betty commented.
“Well, maybe I wouldn’t get so mad if you just saw me more often,” the blue-eyed female argued.
“Don’t try to blame me that you get jealous easily. You should’ve known that you’re the only one for me, but you always get so jealous,” the one-eyed woman retorted.
“Well, I’ve got a wonderful woman. Of course I think people are going to try taking you from me,” Vivian said while curling up into Betty even more so. The blonde purred slightly from the delightful feeling of being against her love.
“You’re the only one who looks at me like that, so you should stop worrying so much,” Betty replied quite seriously.
Vivian only smiled. She did not understand why more people were not trying to take Betty from her, but that was probably because it never registered to her mind that she saw a Betty that almost no other person on the planet had seen or would ever see. Outside of the teahouse’s walls, Betty was the tough, take-no-nonsense leader of some of the finest ninja in the country. She was hardly known to smile on the outside world. Members of her own family would have been surprised to know that her mouth could curl upward, that she could laugh lightheartedly, that she could speak softly, and that she could be tender with someone.
“You know, the tea’s probably cold by now,” Betty said.
“To hell with the tea,” Vivian remarked, earning a laugh from her love. “I’m staying right where I am,” she stated contently.
“If that’s your desire,” Betty replied. She leaned down and rested her head in Vivian’s soft locks.
Vivian sighed her usual sigh when in Betty’s presence; the sound of a girl in love. She remained cuddled up to the brunette and just felt like everything was right in the world; Betty knew the feeling well thanks to Vivian’s presence. But, Vivian was going to have to rain on their parade in a moment. She was going to have to get up, retrieve the dinner that she made, and set it up, after all. She had to make sure that Betty ate right and she had to take proper care of her love.
1: Inu: dog or spy.
2: Kuso: damn it! Or shit!
3: Senbei: rice crackers.
4: Senshi: warrior.
5: Arigato: thank you.
6: Anata: darling (used by a woman to her husband or boyfriend).
7: Nikko: sunshine.
8: Chahakobi-ningyou: tea-serving dolls.
9: Gomen nasai: I am sorry.
Next time: more flashbacks, the rating goes up, and the story ends.