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Left Behind (fic; SDK; re-post)

Title: Left Behind
Author: opalmatrix
Rating: PG at most
Warnings: none
Pairing(s): n/a
Word count: 1096
Disclaimer: Samurai Deeper Kyo characters and situations belong to Akamine Kamijyo
Spoilers: for vol. 6 (mild)
Notes: Yukimura may have had a rough time in Aokigihara, but things weren't so easy for the ones he left behind, either. This is how it went for Kosuke. (Originally posted to my main LiveJournal account)
(For those who aren't familiar with Samurai Deeper Kyo: Sanada Yukimura, a leading dissident against the rule of Tokugawa Ieyasu, is supposedly in exile at Kudoyama (Mt. Kudo). However, Anayama Kosuke, who is one of the Sanada Juuyuushi - 10 ninja warriors who serve Yukimura - serves as his kagemusha, or body double, allowing him to slip away unnoticed when he wishes.)

Anyone watching Kudoyama on that cold autumn day - and there was always at least one watcher, the residents knew that - saw nothing more exciting than a small, poor clan preparing for winter as best they could. Masayuki-sama, elderly and increasingly frail, kept to the main house. His second son could be seen occasionally, coming out to confer with the senior servants who were collecting firewood, gathering and preserving wild foods from the mountainside, shifting the scant harvest of rice from the few scattered paddies to its winter storage, and unpacking the small contributions of food and other goods that had been smuggled in from sympathizers elsewhere. The observers, whose orders were primarily to ensure that Sanada Yukimura neither left the mountain nor raised an army, noted the smuggling but did not interfere. They watched complacently as the small force of Sanada household retainers patrolled the area around the central compound, and saw with satisfaction that a number of the famous Sanada Ten were missing. Sanada Yukimura, they would report to their master, seemed to be losing his allies.

It was just another boring day in the wilds of Mount Kudo.

* * * * * * * * * *

By late afternoon, the bulk of the day's work was done. The short, slight figure in the rough dark coat, heavy black kimono layered over a softer one of yellow flowered silk, hurried from the main house to a smaller building, originally servants' quarters, now a private retreat. The door slid shut behind, and almost immediately, the shutters were flung open on a window that commanded a splendid view down the mountain. Kosuke's face felt hot despite the chill of the day. She pressed her cold fingers to her flushed cheeks and stared at the dark trees without really seeing them. All day, the sheer drudgery of keeping things going for Yukimura had occupied her whole mind, but now, when she had a chance to catch her breath , all the worries came flooding back.

He had been gone for 12 days. And he had been heading for Aokigihara, to meet with Onime-no-Kyo, who was possibly the only fugitive in the area whose bounty was higher than his own.

This was Yukimura's own study. Everything around her could not help but remind her of him, and the fact that he was not there. She turned from the open window, cold gusts of wind blowing in behind her. The papers on the low desk stirred, but there was nothing else to be done. They could not waste fuel by lighting lamps during daylight. She knelt on the worn matting behind the desk, and pulled a piece of used paper from a small, untidy stack anchored with a water-smoothed cobble - an old inventory of weapons, much annotated, and with more casual scrawls in the margins: witty, naughty little scraps of poetry. All the handwriting was Yukimura's.

The back was still blank. She did not bother with the expensive ink, or the carefully-tended brushes. Instead, she took a stick of charcoal from a box, and started writing rapidly, afraid of an interruption, yet another urgent piece of householding that required her intervention.

Ten Things That I Hate About Kudoyama Today

1. The cooks keep complaining of having to prepare meals of nothing but rice, tofu, mushrooms, and wild greens.

2. The household keeps complaining of having to eat meals of nothing but rice, tofu, mushrooms, and wild greens.

3. Kamanosuke keeps dreaming of a white dog, and insisting that this means one of us will die before the week is out.

4. Rokuro blew all his pay on shoju yesterday and now has such a vile hangover that he's completely useless.

5. Rats got into five of the sacks of polished rice that the Uesegis were kind enough to send us.

6. The household troopers keep pretending they don't hear my orders until I have repeated them the third or fourth time.

7. The weather has been so cold and wet that fully half the household is already suffering from chillblains, and it's not even properly winter yet.

8. We are almost out of oil for the swords, and Junichi has word from the supplier that he won't send us any unless we pay another 10% over what he charged last year.

9. Masayuki-sama has a chest cough, and I worry that he is developing the lung fever.

And then heavily, blackly, underlined over and over -

10. It has been 5 days since we last heard from Yukimura.

The frail stick of charcoal snapped. Yukimura's kagemusha hung her head, thick black hair brushing the desk, the paper, and was about to hide her face in her hands when she realized how grimy her fingers were from the charcoal. She smiled ruefully.

Such behavior from one who is meant to be Yukimura-san.

It was still quiet outside. She grabbed the scribbled page, folded it quickly into a paper crane, and hurried from the room, pausing only to collect a scrap of wood that she lighted from the banked coals of the brazier, Shielding its flame with the folded paper, she slipped around behind the little house, where there was a flat stone, already bearing traces of ash.

She set the sad, smudged paper bird down on the stone and lighted it. It caught at once and burned fiercely in the fresh breeze, flaming so brightly in the quickly darkening evening that she was afraid that someone would notice. But the place remained calm as the brief flare died to ash and a few bright sparks. She picked up the stone slab and dusted it off with a wisp of damp grass, watching as the flakes of ash blew away on the north wind.

As her eyes followed the last motes, she saw a bird mounting up into the sky from the forest. A hawk, it looked to be. Its wings caught the red and gold rays of the setting sun, and it passed directly over her head, flying north, and east. Her heart turned over: it was heading toward Mount Fuji, and the Aokigahara forest.

Watch him for me. See that he's safe, and let him send us word.

You're a fool, Kosuke. It is only a hawk.

Sighing, she set down her impromptu altar, and turned back to the small cluster of buildings that was Kudoyama. They were lighting the lamps there for the evening, and she needed to clean her hands and get back to work.

It was the only thing she could do for him.

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