Meet Lady Chiyome’s Army of “Deadly Blossoms” — Before Risuko Does!
After a century of brutal civil war has torn Japan apart, Lady Mochizuki Chiyome gathers together the most unlikely army imaginable to unite the empire and bring an end to the bloodshed: an army of girls clad in the red and white garb of miko, shrine maidens.
An army of kunoichi.
Together, these girls work as spies, as bodyguards, as assassins — going where no soldier could go, doing what no soldier could do.
Here are six stories of the kunoichi, set before the award-winning Seasons of the Sword novels (Risuko, Bright Eyes, Kano):
- White Robes — Mired in her own grief, Lady Mochizuki Chiyome encounters two young women who give her a whole new, much more interesting opportunity
- Silk & Service — A young Takeda warrior meets a servant who is much more than she seems
- Waiting for Kuniko — Mieko is waiting at a rendezvous behind enemy lines. In the rain. Without a hat. The person who comes up the road is the last person she expected to encounter.
- Wild Mushrooms — A Hōjō commander is delighted when two pretty young shrine maidens enter his camp on the evening before a battle. Perhaps he shouldn’t have been.
- Ghost — At a banquet to celebrate a new alliance, Chiyome contemplates murder, and discovers a new servant
- Schools for Talented Youngsters: Monthly Headmistresses’ Dinner — Three unique ladies get together once a month to share the joys and challenges involved teaching young ladies with very particular… talents. (Historical fantasy/crossover)
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Preview (from “White Robes”)
Chiyome considers the two girls, still dressed in their oh-so-innocent miko garb. They are standing now, no pretense of humility. Kuniko’s face is dark, her nostrils flaring. Mieko looks as if she’s been enjoying a lovely nighttime stroll, except for the dark circles in the middle of her cheeks and the splash of dark red across her white sleeve.
“Well, well, well,” Chiyome laughs. “Aren’t you two entertaining.”
“Yes, my lady,” Kuniko grunts through clenched teeth. Mieko says nothing.
An image: a beautiful screen Chiyome saw at the imperial palace, when her father brought her there to observe some ceremony or other. The screen seemed to her child’s imagination to have shown the whole of Japan, peopled by thousands of figures: armed samurai, elegant nobles, monks, merchants, and, scattered throughout, young girls in red and white. An army.
An anonymous army. Invisible. Able to go everywhere. Able to gather information. Able to strike.
With her toe Chiyome writes on the dusty floorboards: ku (く), then no (ノ), and then finally ichi (一). “Can you two read?”
Kuniko scowls down at the marks. “Nine… in… one?”
Mieko’s peers at Chiyome. She murmurs, “Kunoichi.”
Kuniko blinks at her companion. “Kuno… What’s a kunoichi?”
Mieko’s eyes remain on Chiyome. She knows.
“Ah,” says Chiyome, grinning to herself, “it is… a very special kind of woman. Tell me, ladies. Would you like to end this ridiculous war? Would you like to be kunoichi?”
“Yes, my lady,” the girls answer. Kuniko’s eyes are dark, but Mieko’s glisten.