Kim looked almost aghast and she missed a note on her shamisen. She was in a bit of a spot, which was putting it mildly in her opinion. Less than an hour into her role as a maiko, she was being ordered to go be alone with a quiet young man, who she was not even certain was a man. The plan had originally called for her to just sit there and play her shamisen while gathering the information that she and Yori needed to complete their work. She really was not prepared for anything outside of that.
Kim turned her attention to Bonnie, who was pretty much her “big sister geisha.” She was hoping that Bonnie would think of some excuse so she would not have to leave. Bonnie had seemed to want nothing more out of Kim and Yori than for them to sit in the back and stay out of the way, which was why Kim thought that Bonnie would assist her to keep her where she was.
Bonnie had actually been instructed by Vivian to make sure that Kim and Yori did not get much attention drawn to them. Bonnie was not sure why she had been given such commands, but those were the standing orders and she knew better than to disobey Vivian’s orders. Still, she looked at Kim with disdain in her turquoise eyes, which left Kim puzzled. Why was she getting such a horrible look?
“Senior-san,” Bonnie practically cooed, speaking to Junior since it was his suggestion that the silent green bodyguard take Kim to private room. “That one is new. Surely you want someone with better experience to tend to your friend,” she said.
“No, no, no. That one’s perfect. Her red hair is pretty,” Junior commented.
Bonnie frowned; apparently, Kim had been chosen because of her exotic look. Usually, the only exotic look that Bonnie had to put up with was Tara, who was blonde. But, she did not consider Tara much competition on earning patrons because Tara was rather average underneath that blonde hair. She was going to have to see if Kim was the same.
“Don’t do me any favors,” the green-skinned bodyguard grumbled in protest. He was happy with just sitting there as long as the wine kept coming to help him block out the nonsense that Drakken was going on about. It was a good thing that geisha did not share conversations, he thought because Drakken Senior had gone over the plan several times already in front of the same group of women. If those females had some among them that were good with tools, they could use the scheme to take over the government on their own before his boss got around to it.
“No, no, no. I insist. I want you to lighten up and have some fun,” the drunken Junior replied. “You,” he called to Kim.
Kim gulped. Should she answer? Should she pretend that she did not know who he was talking to? She was not sure, but that did not seem to even have to be an issue.
“What’s her name?” Junior asked Bonnie.
“Akako,” Bonnie answered, trying to hold back the venom she was feeling from seeping into her sweet tone. It was a hard thing to do between gritted teeth.
“Fitting name. Akako, come,” Junior called to Kim again and he motioned for her to come over to him.
Kim glanced at Yori, who just continued to play her flute because she did not know what else to do. The redhead bit her lip before doing as she was ordered. She put her shamisen down and went over to Junior. Yori silently prayed that nothing went wrong.
“Akako, maybe you can go and cheer my friend up. He’s always so gloomy, even in the company of so many beautiful women. Surely a creature with your looks can pick his spirits up,” Junior said to Kim.
“Um…” the redhead hesitated. It was not like she could decline, but she did not know what she was expected to do in order to “pick his spirits up.”
“I’m sure she can,” Bonnie concurred and Kim glared at her. “I can arrange for another room,” the tanned female added.
Kim could have sworn that Bonnie was supposed to be on her side. Bonnie was supposed to make sure that she just sat in the back and played the shamisen. It would seem that Bonnie was now being spiteful for some reason that Kim could not figure out; it was not like Kim had done anything to the tanned female.
Bonnie smirked at Kim as she stood up to go arrange for the room. She figured that she would teach the redhead a lesson, especially since the little maiko appeared rather nervous about the arrangement that was going down. While Kim was busy being anxious, the quiet bodyguard tried to protest once more, but Junior urged Bonnie to go get the room anyway.
Kim looked around the dark room that she was sharing with the silent bodyguard whose name she had not even caught. The green-skinned male was looking around too and then he suddenly flopped down on the floor. He sighed and turned his attention to the little maiko in the room.
“You can leave,” he informed her in a disinterested tone.
Kim seemed shocked by that dismissal, as if she had just been told that she was utterly useless. She should have been happy to hear that she could leave, she told herself. She did not know what she was supposed to do in the room alone with him and she really did not want to know. But, she did not leave for whatever reason.
The reason that she stayed might have had something to do with the fact that he had ordered her around and she had a problem with being commanded by someone that she did not know. Or it might have had something to do with the fact that she considered she might be able to get more information from him about the plot to overthrow the Shogun, like when the scheme was going to start. Whatever the reason, she remained where she was.
“You sure you don’t want any company?” Kim asked.
“I don’t,” he replied in a gruff tone that it seemed he was forcing, like that was not his natural voice.
“I can see why with the ‘intellectuals’ you hang out with,” Kim commented. She was going out on a limb because if he took offense to that statement, she would be in trouble.
“Yeah,” he grumbled.
“Why hang out with people you don’t seem to like?” the redhead inquired.
“What, everyone you surround yourself with is someone you love and adore?” he countered with a bit of a laugh.
“All right, I guess you got me there,” Kim conceded.
“Yeah, so like I said, you can go away,” he repeated.
“Yeah, I can see why you would want to be left alone with friends like that,” Kim remarked. She figured that it was safe to say again since she got away with it a first time.
“They’re not my friends.”
“No? So, you’re hanging out with people you don’t even like and they’re not your friends?” Kim asked.
“Once again, I’m sure everyone you hang out with, you love and adore, but most of the world doesn’t work like that. Sometimes you have to put up with people that you really just want to slap around,” he replied.
“All right, I know that one too,” Kim yielded honestly.
“I’ll bet you do with the way your ‘big sister’ sold you out like that.”
“Oh,” Kim muttered in a sheepish tone. “You noticed that, huh?”
“Yeah. She probably looks at you as a threat. Her big, blue-eyed idiot likes things he hasn’t seen before and I’m pretty sure the mountain of red hair flipped a switch in him,” the bodyguard commented.
“Then why’d he send me off with you?”
“Hell if I know. I told you he’s an idiot. Maybe he thinks he’s sharing or something. I don’t know how his mind works and I really don’t want to know how his mind works,” he remarked.
“I know someone like that too,” Kim commented. She was thinking of Ron. She did not know how his mind worked and she really did not want to know. She doubted that Ron had anything else in common with Junior, though.
“Well, I’m starting to pity you right now,” he said sarcastically. “Look, it’s pretty obvious you’re not going to leave for whatever reason, but since you’re here, light a lantern and pour me a drink,” he commanded.
Kim did not argue that, as she knew she was not supposed to. She went and lit a couple of lanterns to illuminate the room. She also went and poured the green-skinned male his drink. She sat formally across him as he sipped his drink and made sure his hat was covering his face; when he had left his party before, he had sure to take his things with him.
“So, what do I call you?” Kim asked.
“Yojimbo (1) is fine,” he answered.
“You know it’s all right to tell me your real name, yojimobo-san,” Kim pointed out.
“Yeah, I’ve heard that before,” he replied. He was not a trusting creature and he did not care how much his employers swore that it was all right for him to speak openly around the entertainers, he still did not believe that. He was not saying anything to anyone about anything.
“You’re a rather protective person, huh?” she asked.
“So what if I am? None of your business,” he pointed out bluntly.
“You got me there.”
“I’m sure I do,” he said and then he glanced up at her. “You know, you can have a drink too,” he said. Drinking alone was not much fun, especially when someone was around him who was not a complete and total ass so far.
Kim smiled a bit and shook her head to decline on the offer. It would seem that the bodyguard was not having that, though. He figured that if he could stand drinking with Junior, then he would have no problem drinking with the girl since she had not proven that she was an idiot.
“Come on, pour yourself one,” he pretty much commanded.
Kim decided that she might as well do it to avoid arousing any suspicions. She did not have anything against sake, but she typically did not drink. She got kicks out of other things in life. She poured herself a cup and began to sip it.
“It’s better to drink with company,” he commented in a low tone. “Which is probably why I don’t drink as often as I’d like to.”
“You don’t have any friends to drink with?” Kim asked curiously.
“You’ve met the people I’m hanging out with. They would be the group that I know and that’s about it.”
“So, you do like them?” Kim guessed.
He was quiet for a moment and sipped his drink. “No, not really. It’s just that I picked them. You might not get it, but it’s nice to be able to choose who you’ll be around and what you’ll do with them.”
Kim thought about it. She did typically choose who she got to be around and what she would do with them. She and Ron ran around doing almost whatever they wanted, no matter how inappropriate other people might think it was, and they had always been able to do that. When Yori joined their duo, she also got to run around and do almost anything that she wanted, which she enjoyed thoroughly. Yori sort of reminded Kim and Ron that they had always lived unique sorts of lives by being able to pick who they desired to be around and do anything that came to mind. Everyone could not do that and she knew that. She bet that it was great for someone to do such a thing if they could not do it before.
“Do you enjoy your gilded cage?” he asked out of the blue.
“There are worse cages,” Kim pointed out.
He nodded. It would seem that he had found some thinking company considering no one else he was with would have thought to say something like that. It was a small relief, like being given warm soup on a freezing cold day, and he hoped that the little shamisen player continued to offer up good responses. It might improve his disposition, especially since he did not want to be there anyway.
“A cage is still a cage, though,” he stated.
“If that’s the case, one can lament, accept, or escape,” she replied.
“Which have you chosen?” he inquired.
“I’m not sure yet.”
“If you’re looking for advice, I’d suggest escape,” he said. “But, that’s just if you’re looking for advice.”
“Did you escape a cage, yojimbo-san?” she asked curiously.
“Maybe I did, maybe I’m just offering up conversation,” he answered cryptically. It seemed that he was trying to offer up intriguing, yet pointless conversation if his answers were going to be so mysterious.
“If I ever make a decision, I’m sure I’ll take your advice,” Kim replied. She was certain that if she ever was in a cage of any kind, no matter how nice, she would escape. She tried her best to not stay some place or do something that she did not want to, unless her parents or grandmother were making her do it.
“Good. You should always do what you want to do.”
Kim nodded in agreement with that and he noticed. He did not expect her to understand and he was in some disbelief that she did agree with his words. He did not see how it was possible for her to comprehend his words since she had probably spent her whole life in her current cage, doing what others told her to do. So it was a little odd for her to agree with him on always doing what she wanted since she had probably never done anything that she truly desired, but then he thought that it was just the girl pretending to comprehend. She was paid to be pleasant and friendly, after all. When that thought entered his mind, he stopped talking.
“Yojimbo-san?” Kim said after a minutes of silence.
“Pour me some more to drink,” he ordered in a curt tone.
“Yes, sir,” Kim replied and her mouth almost could not form the words. Her hands did not want to pour drink, but she forced herself to do it. “Have I upset you, yojimbo-san?” she asked curiously because he had stopped conversing and his tone with her was different from when he had been talking almost casually with her.
“No, but sometimes people need to just enjoy the silence,” he answered.
Kim nodded and sat quietly. The bodyguard did the same while sipping his drink. He glanced up at Kim every now and then, but his hat hid his eyes and masked his actions. She had her hands resting on her knees with her hands balled up into slight, somewhat tense fists. She did not appear very uncomfortable, but there was something about her that seemed off, but he could not figure out what it was.
He decided to inspect the petite entertainer while they were just being quiet, hiding underneath his hat to avoid seeming interested in the little hostesses. The red hair did stand out. It looked like the same color as fox fur, he thought. And then he found himself looking at the shadow that she cast, just to make sure that the girl was not a fox. He then mentally scolded himself for doing something he decided was silly.
She was cute, he noted, but then again, he reminded himself that they were made up to look cute. He did not see why men wasted their money on such an image. She was not really like what she showed, so why did anyone bother? Was that it? The image was worth more than anything else? That would not stand up any place that counted. He bet that she could not do anything worthwhile, aside for playing the shamisen, but that was not really useful.
Kim felt the bodyguard’s eyes on her, but she could not tell if he was watching her or not because of his hat. She was not sure why he was watching. Maybe it was something that he normally did when he was drinking with someone. Kim decided to just sit there and let him examine her because she could not do much else, except maybe return the favor.
She stole a few glances at him to try to put together a picture of what he was like and if he would yield anything useful to her cause. He seemed guarded, even though he was supposed to be relaxing. He just seemed tense and she was not sure why. Was that how he always was or was he just guarded around her?
“Girl,” he said, disrupting Kim’s thoughts. He was going to ask something.
“Akako,” she corrected him.
“Girl,” he repeated and then he decided that he did not care about the question that had been on his mind. “Thanks for the wine.”
Kim just nodded; it was something that she was supposed to do. He glanced at her and then decided that he did not care about what she could or could not do, even if she seemed to have a slight intellect considering the couple of answers that she had come up with to his questions and the fact that she had not managed to totally piss him off like many people did when they were around him for more than a minute. She did not matter, though.
Vivian frowned as she sat in a room with Bonnie, Kim, and Yori. Yori did not understand why she was even there. It was not like she had done anything wrong. She had sat there and played her flute the whole night like she was supposed to. Technically, Kim had not done anything wrong either.
“Bonnie, I thought it was understood that Akako and Ayame were to stay in the room and play their instruments,” Vivian said in an even tone.
“Vivian-san, I can’t control it if Akako-chan leaves with someone,” Bonnie argued in a tone that was level because she knew better than to raise her voice at Vivian.
“I told you to look out for them and not to let them leave the room. They’re not ready for that,” Vivian pointed out.
“But, I can’t control her,” the tanned female debated.
Vivian did not want to hear that, especially since she knew how domineering Bonnie could be. If Bonnie wanted to stop “Akako” then she would have done everything in her power to get the girl to stay there. Sure, Akako might have put up a fight, but things would have gotten to the point where someone would have been called and Akako would not have been left in a room alone with silent bodyguard.
“Bonnie, you can go,” Vivian dismissed the turquoise-eyed female.
Bonnie was about to argue more, but the look in Vivian’s eyes told her to just leave while she had the chance. It was never a good idea to anger or provoke the boss, so Bonnie did not even open her mouth. She calmly climbed to her feet and exited the room. The others watched her leave and then turned to each other as the door was shut firmly. Kim and Yori looked at the floor rather than at Vivian, trying to seem ashamed as best they could even though they were certain that they had not done anything wrong.
The pair was not sure if they were going to be scolded or not and they would rather not be admonished by the blonde female. They were uneasy from the fact that they were probably going to be barked on. They had already discovered that Vivian could reprimand with the best of them from their short stay with her. They had strict martial arts instructors that were kinder than Vivian was if they messed something up. The way she spoke to them when admonishing them, if they were not humiliated when the talking started, they certainly were when it ended. Her very presence made them nervous in a way that they could not associate with anyone else in their lives, except maybe Director Betty.
“Akako, everything was all right?” Vivian asked in a surprisingly understanding tone, which actually went by the ill-at-eased redhead.
Kim thought that she was going to be chastised for disobeying the blonde and that was why she missed the almost sympathetic tone. She expected harsh words because she had left more than her corner, after all. She had left the whole room and the supposed watchful eye of her “big sisters.” She knew better than to offer up any excuses for her behavior, but she might as well answer the question, she figured.
“Everything was all right. Yojimbo-san only wanted to be left alone,” Kim answered, doing her best to not fidget as she responded.
“Yet you stayed in the room with him until his party left,” Vivian noted.
“He didn’t want to return to them and he wanted someone to pour him drinks,” the redhead explained.
“All right. I know I told you already, but you don’t need to do anything that you don’t want to. I mean, Betty-san did trust me to take care of you and I’m pretty sure that having you do something you don’t want to isn’t taking care of you,” the blonde woman commented.
“Nothing happened,” Kim insisted. Yes, she had stayed in the room with the bodyguard until his people left, but she had done that because he did want someone around to pour him drinks. Every now and then, he would say something and they would have a little conversation, but nothing else.
“All right, all right. Nothing has to happen either,” Vivian informed them.
The blonde did not want the spies doing anything that they would not usually do on a job or anything that they might feel compromised with. She had a feeling that they were not just any spies, especially from the way Betty had pled with her to take care of the girls. There had been a look in Betty’s single, onyx eye that seemed to state that she was at more risk than ever using the girls and could not afford something disagreeable happening to the pair. She did not want to do anything that might get Betty into trouble or worse.
Vivian wished that Betty did not do such things to compound the stress in her life by using seemingly special ladies for the assignment. Although Betty might not act it, Vivian knew that the one-eyed woman was not cold and hard like a stone all of the time. There was a side to her that almost no one got to see and because of that, Vivian wanted to keep her out of trouble if possible. Someone had to protect Betty, she thought, considering Betty protected everyone else. Someone needed to be the soft comfort for the person that guarded the rest of the world.
“We understand,” Kim and Yori said at the same time.
“But, if we don’t do something that they request, would that not be suspicious?” Yori wondered out loud. She did not really like the mission as that thought came to mind because it did seem like there was a possibility that they might have to compromise their moral values for the sake of the mission.
“You don’t have to do what they request. If they ask you for something that you don’t want to do and they push the issue, you can come to me. I don’t want either of you fighting with clients, though. You don’t have any weapons on you, do you?” Vivian inquired.
Kim and Yori looked in opposite directions, which sort of answered that question. Of course they had weapons! First of all, there were so many great places to hide weapons when it came to a formal kimono and elaborate obi. Second of all, they needed weapons just in case things got out of hand. Third of all, they always carried weapons. They slept with weapons.
“All right, ladies, hand them all over,” Vivian ordered.
Kim and Yori looked at the blonde woman and then they looked at each other. They then turned back to Vivian and sighed. They then began to disarm themselves. Vivian had never seen so many different kinds of shuriken in one place as they piled up all of the projectiles on their persons. Yori was also carrying poisons, kept in small, egg-shaped containers. Kim had two tanto (2) on her on. When they were finally done, Vivian was incredulous.
“What kind of girls are you?” the blonde muttered in disbelief while looking at the foot high pile.
“Cautious,” Yori answered the rhetorical question.
“Well, you’ll get these back when you’re done here. You can go to your room now,” Vivian told them.
The pair did not argue that and they left the room. They were glad when they were able to get out of the makeup that they were wearing. They could only wonder how they were going to sleep with their hair done up as it was, but they were going to figure something out. They wondered if they were going to have to wake up early for more training, even thought they had already been thrown in the water. They luckily had swam instead of sank in the situation. It was relieving to have gotten the first banquet out of the way, like they had walked through a torture chamber and come out unscathed.
“Did you learn anything?” Yori asked Kim curiously.
“No, not really, except maybe that the bodyguard doesn’t like the people he’s hanging out with. He didn’t talk about their plot at all,” Kim answered.
“Really? The other two just kept going on about how things were going to be when they finally ruled the empire,” Yori replied.
“That’s great that you learned some stuff. Did they say how or when?” Kim inquired. If they had let such information flow, then she and her friend might actually be able to go home soon.
“No, they didn’t. Maybe they’ll be back tomorrow and we can learn about it then,” the ninja said.
Kim nodded in agreement. Maybe they would not be there that long if the elder Senior and Drakken were as talkative on their other visits as they were that day. Maybe they would even show up days in a row, which would give the spies a quick chance to gather everything that they need. And then, they could go back home.
Drakken and his bodyguard returned to their home, which was a cave on the outskirts of the city. The cavern was done up in such a way that it was more like a home than just a filthy cave. As they entered the hidden lair, the bodyguard began pulling off the things obscuring his features. The mask and the hat went flying in a manner that showed the wearer was annoyed with the items, even though the hat was a liked piece much of the time.
“Shego, I really wish you wouldn’t just throw your stuff around,” Drakken huffed as he lit some lanterns make the cave somewhat illuminated.
“Yeah, well, I wouldn’t need to have that stuff if we didn’t have to meet them in a teahouse every time we meet up,” the bodyguard huffed.
As it turned out, the bodyguard was a woman. She appeared fairly irked and it had to do with the fact that she had to dress like a guy just to go to a meeting over nothing as far as she was concerned; although she dressed like that most of the time, but that was beside the point in her opinion. All they did was talk about what things were going to be like when they took over, which she thought was stupid anyway. They were mostly pointless meetings and she hated that Drakken always wanted her in attendance.
She understood that the Seniors trusted those entertainers to keep their mouths shut, but she did not trust anyone. She knew that the Shogun had spies everywhere and she was willing to bet that there were some in every teahouse and brothel in the city. And that was why she did not talk when she was there; well, there was that and she was always so bothered with being there that she could only focus on the one good thing about the place, the alcohol.
She thought that it would have been wiser if the Seniors met with her and Drakken at their lair. But, the Seniors would never do something like that. They would want to be some place that showed class and that they had money to burn. Besides, Junior would also prefer some place with women and booze since those seemed to be his two favorite things in life.
“That’s where he always wants to meet and right now with him supplying the funding for everything, we’ll have to meet there. Besides, they serve good food,” Drakken commented.
“You do know that the whole point of going there has very little to do with food, right?” she asked.
“Well, the drink is good too.”
Shego decided not to say anything to that. She went to her room to leave Drakken to tinker with whatever toys he was working on for the plot. He was such an idiot, she thought, just like that moron Junior.
She could not believe that Junior had actually arranged for her to be alone with that little redheaded maiko. He did not know that Shego was actually a female, so he probably thought that he was being hospitable by giving up a woman that he probably wanted. Though he did have some kind of thing going on with Bonnie, he more than likely was fascinated with the new maiko because of her red hair and Shego wondered if she should be flattered that he would offer her the redhead. She was not flattered, though. In fact, she was insulted if that was what he was doing because no one deserved to be passed off as a gift as if the person was an object.
At least the redhead understood there was a time to be quiet, even though she did not seem to understand that Shego would have preferred to be left alone. The pale female crawled into bed and was about to go to sleep when she realized that there was a tune stuck in her head. She thought about the song for a moment and remembered it was what the shamisen player and flute player were performing. It was a nice tune and they were talented girls. Too bad they were stuck in their gilded cage, she thought as she drifted off into a light sleep.
Drakken did not think anything of Shego disappearing into her room. She often did that when they got back from a meeting. He did not need her around after meetings anymore anyway. He had all the materials that he needed to forge weapons. He used to have to spend her out to steal some things if they could not afford to buy them or if the items were illegal, but they had all of those things now and it would seem that Shego was restless, especially since no one ever really attacked him and she was his bodyguard.
Shego often considered her job as his bodyguard as fitting as a pair of adult zori on a child. She tried it on for size and even though it did not fit, she continued on for whatever reason. It was not like he often got into trouble where she needed to use her vast martial artist skills. Her stealth skills came in handy for him more often than anything else and he had not been using those lately, so she had little to do with her time.
He was willing to bet that Shego would be back in her usual form when the fighting started and when he was ruling half of the empire. Little did he know, Shego did not care anything about him ruling half of the empire. She thought the fact that he settled for half just showed he was an imbecile. She had no problem with telling him that too, but he did not listen.
Drakken believed himself to be a genius and he thought that what they were doing proved that. The world would know of his genius too once he managed to take over the country. The world would know how great he was when he ruled over his own state of Drakkon.
1: Yojimbo: bodyguard.
2: tanto: dagger.
Next time: Kim and Shego end up stuck together again.