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Risuko — Chapter 21: Lessons in Dance

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21—Lessons in Dance

The day after we butchered the cow, we began a new set of morning lessons. As we cleared up the kitchen, Mai, who never entered the kitchen if she could help it, poked her head through the door and informed us that, for the first time, we would be taught by Mieko-san.

As she withdrew, Kee Sun asked whether Mai had actually walked into the kitchen before delivering her message. When Toumi snarled that no, she hadn’t—making it clear that no one in their right mind would enter Kee Sun’s domain willingly—the cook gave a nod and a grunt, saying, “That’s good. ‘Cause I told her if she ever stepped a foot in here again, I’d cut it off.”

It was always a bit difficult to know whether he was joking or not. To be honest, I was never quite able to work that out.

Nonetheless, I was excited by Mai’s news; I had hoped that we would be able to study with Mieko, not only because she was kind and lovely but because the other women in Chiyome-sama’s service seemed to respect her so. Even the boisterous ones listened quietly when she spoke.

Continue reading Risuko — Chapter 21: Lessons in Dance

Read Moon Time at Mochizuki, the next exciting chapter of Risuko!

17—Moon Time at Mochizuki

In which Risuko, Emi, and Toumi learn a lot about knives — and rocks. (Teen Historical Adventure)

The routine was almost reassuring: lessons, work, Toumi growling—all of it flowed from one day to the next like a line of ducks swimming up-river. Even the rock-carrying became routine. Occasionally, one or two figures in miko’s robes wandered in through the front gate; just as often, one or more of the women would leave after the morning meal. Yet the little community remained very much the same.

The odd sounds from the great hall were different every day, and always infuriatingly fascinating: sometimes grunts, sometime shouting, and once what sounded like breaking wood. But we weren’t allowed to look, and so this too became part of the pattern.

One day, when the great hall was unusually silent, we were sorting dried mushrooms by color. Kee Sun was very particular about the mix of colors and flavors in all of the food that we prepared. Once we were well into the boring work, he informed us that he had to “go visit the King,” a phrase we never understood, and never wanted to. However, we knew that he would be gone some time. When he had gone, Emi’s sharp elbow bounced against my ribs. Continue reading Read Moon Time at Mochizuki, the next exciting chapter of Risuko!

Read Blades — the next exciting chapter in Risuko!

16—Blades

In which Risuko, Emi, and Toumi learn a lot about knives — and rocks. (Teen Historical Adventure)

As I entered Kee Sun’s kitchen, I kept my face down so as not to catch Toumi’s eye, or Emi’s. I didn’t want either of them to see that I was upset. I took a stack of bowls and began to walk toward the dining hall to get ready for the mid-day meal, but Kee Sun stopped me. “No, girlie,” he chortled, his scar twisting, “Not to go in there this morning. Yeh don’t go in there while Lady Chiyome is running her ladies through their paces unless yeh want yehr head handed back to yeh in one of those bowls.”

I looked at him blankly.

“There’s classes yeh three aren’t welcome to join till yeh’re initiated,” he said with something like a smirk, “so we get ready in here and then run like wood demons to serve out the meal once they’re done. Now, set yehr little squirrel fingers to work.” Continue reading Read Blades — the next exciting chapter in Risuko!

Read Risuko: Chapter 14 — Squirrel on the Roof

14 —Squirrel on the Roof

Kee Sun celebrates Risuko, Emi, and Toumi’s first night at Mochizuki — though not without some unexpected flare-ups.

I was certain that Kee Sun wouldn’t let us eat until after all of the cleaning was done. But as we brought the last of the dishes in from the hall, we found the cook smiling and gesturing to the small feast that he had laid out for us on the low cutting table: grilled beef, kimchee, soybeans, rice—even sake—was set out just as it had been for the banquet.

“Magnificent!” crowed Kee Sun. “Perfect! Not a drop spilled, and everything served hot! The three of you girlies made the last two look like the clowns they are.” Continue reading Read Risuko: Chapter 14 — Squirrel on the Roof

Read a new chapter of Risuko: 13 — A Banquet

13 — A Banquet

Risuko, Emi, and Toumi are put to work serving, and discover that the kunoichi are not the shy, polite shrine maidens they had expected.

We began by fetching a large bag of rice from the storehouse. A pair of rats stared up at us when we entered, but Toumi growled at them while I swooshed the long stick that Kee Sun had given us to shoo them with, and they scattered. The bag was heavier than I was, and it took the three of us to drag it to the kitchen. Toumi muttered the whole way, and I would be lying if I said that Emi and I didn’t join her once or twice.

Kee Sun kept us busy, hanging pots over the fire to steam the rice and soybeans in, lowering a battered metal grate to serve as a grill, fetching more charcoal. As the sunlight began to fade from the room, we lit candles in the kitchen and in the hall. Continue reading Read a new chapter of Risuko: 13 — A Banquet

A new sneak preview of Risuko: Chapter 12 — Novices

12 — Novices

Risuko, Toumi and Emi are quickly thrown into their duties at Mochizuki, their new home. They meet a girl with white hair, discover what a Kee Sun is, and Emi laughs.

“My name is Fuyudori. I am the oldest of the initiates here, and so you may address me as Fuyudorisan or Fuyudorisenpai.” We followed her steady stride toward the back of the compound. It was impossible not to watch the white, silken hair flowing behind her as she walked. “As the head initiate, I make sure that you know the rules and obey them. Any infraction is seen as a failure on my part; I do not accept failure easily. But I also like to think that I am here as an adviser and a friend.” Continue reading A new sneak preview of Risuko: Chapter 12 — Novices

New Year Excitement! Risuko — Chapter 10: Dark Letter

Akemashite omedeto gozai masu! (That is, Happy New Year!)

We’ve got an exciting new chapter of Risuko to start the year off with a bang. In 10 — Dark Letter, Risuko and Toumi stray from the trail and discover far more excitement than they’d bargained for. 

 10 — Dark Letter

We spent the night at a small Takeda fort guarding a rocky, barren place called, for some reason, Rice-Paddy Pass, which marked the border between Worth and Dark Letter Provinces. We were so high that there weren’t any trees. I felt naked. The air was dry and cold, we were exhausted, and the soldiers manning the garrison were edgy, as if waiting for an attack, though how — or why — an army would march so far and high I couldn’t imagine. Perhaps they were frightened of ogres.

The next morning, everybody—even Mieko—looked as grumpy as I felt.

Lady Chiyome shouted to rouse us. “Let’s go! I want to be back at the Full Moon by mid-day so that I can take a real bath and eat real food.”

As it turned out, Mochizuki was down in the valley below Rice-Paddy Pass. We began to descend, and for the first time in days I grasped the mane of Inazuna, Masugu’s stallion.

“Easy,” murmured Masugu—I think more for the horse’s sake than mine. To me, he said, “I thought you liked heights?” Continue reading New Year Excitement! Risuko — Chapter 10: Dark Letter