Hitomi's jaw dropped as she entered the practice yards at the Watari Dojo the next morning to see Daisuke already sitting cross-legged against the back wall. He was humming absently to himself and reading a book while he waited. It was not even eight o'clock yet.
"You're really something, you know that?" she growled as she pulled her sword out of her belt and slammed it down against the wooden wall of the dojo.
Daisuke's head jerked up and a smile as if the sun had risen on him alone spread across his face at the sight of her, "Good morning to you too, Miss Himura! You're looking very pretty this morning, but you probably always do, don't you?"
Hitomi fixed him with a steely gaze as she watched him get rather ungracefully to his feet. Most of her animosity had faded over the night, but it came back with a vengeance as she saw him again and his mouth started in. Keitaro's words from yesterday returned to her and she narrowed her eyes nearly to slits. Then an idea formed in her head. He'd regret saying things like that about her! He was probably thinking them even now. She'd put him in his place. Kei should have accompanied her after all instead of going to the shrine with Aoshi-san. She grabbed two shinais out of the practice barrels and threw one to him without warning.
To her surprise, he caught it and threw her a questioning look.
"If you're going to be here, you're going to work." She said coldly and took up an attack stance. "You get to help me warm up. Try to make it worth my time, huh?"
Daisuke grinned, "Guess some of that ice melted." He said as he took up a defensive stance.
That's right, grin while you can. She thought, tightening her hands around her shinai hilt. She knew that her parents would be disappointed if they knew that she was being so vindictive, but something about this moron really got under her skin and in her head. She couldn't just let him keep getting away with all his little comments. He wouldn't be the first guy to learn the hard way about the Himura girl. There was a good reason why Keitaro wasn't used to guys making fools of themselves over her.
She leapt out of her attack stance with the grace of a cat and their practice swords clacked together hard. For several minutes, the rhythmic sound was all that could be heard in the large practice yard. After she threw off a strong aerial attack with very little effort, Daisuke grinned, "You're stronger than you look! But, you still manage to be so feminine at the same time. Wow!"
That did it. She had not missed the down sweep of his eyes, whether he had realized that he had done it or not. Pervert, her mind hissed and her blue eyes flashed. Without warning, her shinai whirled out of the standard practice stances to fall back and down into a special Kamiya Kasshin attack. She saw his golden eyes widen. There was no way he could know this technique!
"Kamiya Kasshin Style Shoulder Dodge to the Groin!" She yelled and brought her shinai up directly between his legs before he even knew what was happening. She connected with much less than the full force of the attack, but more than enough to teach him his lesson.
Daisuke gasped in pain and all colored drained from his face. His shinai dropped from his hands as they flew to clutch the assaulted area. He sank to his knees and gritted his teeth for a moment until he thought he could talk. "SHIT! What the hell was that for?!" he choked, gazing up at her through a haze of pain.
She glared at him and growled, "That was for what you said about me yesterday to my brother! How dare you!?"
Daisuke's eyes widened and he muttered in a voice broken by pain, "I asked him not to tell you!"
Hitomi started as she felt an unexpected wave of guilt about what she had just done when she saw his crushed look. She'd never felt bad before, why should this be any different?? Shaking her head, she replied, "Of course he told me! He's my brother!"
"My brothers wouldn't have told me anything." He muttered, still clutching the hurt area, "I certainly hope you feel better. I'd hate to think I'm going through all this pain for nothing."
"I do feel better. Now, stop being a baby! You deserved it and you know it." She said, determined to justify her actions. She casually swung her shinai over her shoulder and continued to watch him.
Daisuke gave her a perfectly pathetic look, "No man would ever admit that!" He winced in pain again, "Next time, go for the knee, or the head, or something. Shit, that hurts!"
"Next time, think with your head instead of that and maybe I will!" Hitomi snapped in reply.
Daisuke struggled into a sitting position and looked up at her with big amber eyes, "You never want me to think of you as being a beautiful and desirable woman?" He sighed, "All right, but it'll be hard."
Hitomi stuck her practice sword into the shoulder sheath she wore on her back and crossed her arms. "No wonder your parents call you an idiot! Clown would be even better."
He gave her a hurt look.
"That won't work." She said, rolling her eyes in impatience.
A wide grinned returned to his face, "I know, but I thought it was worth a try." He watched her for a moment before adding, "You know, I told Keitaro that I would never talk about you like that again. Didn't he tell you that?"
Hitomi raised one brow skeptically, "No, he didn't. He probably figured it was a lie. He was probably right!"
Daisuke lifted his chin and replied with dignity, "I told you, I don't lie. I said talk about you, not think about you."
She gave him an exasperated look, "Only Inspector Fujita's son would be able to maintain an attitude like that after what you just got!"
"Heh, I don't know if that would make Dad happy or not. Probably not. He's given up on me. Anyhow, what was that move!? I thought Kamiya Kasshin was defensive! That was just vicious!" Daisuke said, still protectively covering the assaulted area.
"That was a special move created by a master in Tokyo when he was just an apprentice himself. Very useful. Don't look at me that way! It could have been worse, the original move was 'Groin-kick'. You just be grateful I adapted it to shinai!"
Daisuke gaped, "A man created a technique like that? What a sadist!"
Hitomi glowered at the boy at her feet, "Don't insult Master Yahiko Myojin around me. He was the person I trained under the most when I was learning. That's why I can do that move. He taught it to me for self-defense even though the head master of the Tokyo branch doesn't recognize it. He's a whole lot better than you'll ever be."
Daisuke winced. Could he take no right steps with this girl? He managed to give her a sheepish lop-sided grin, "Probably. Like I said, I'm not interested in being a swordsman. Hey, can I get up now, or are you going to hit me again?"
Hitomi shrugged, "You can get up. But, if I think you're even thinking anything bad, you'll end up right back down there."
He struggled to his feet and found himself only have to look down slightly to meet her eyes, "You can't hold me responsible for my thoughts! No, wait. You would. But, the only way to stop me is to wear a bag over your head or something. No, that wouldn't work, there's still the legs- Don't hit me!!" He pleaded as he shrank back from the shinai that seemed to have just magically reappeared in her hands.
"Baka!" she hissed. "You can't even see my legs. I'm wearing hakama pants!" She gestured angrily at the flowing deep purple material around her lower body. She gave him a look that would kill if such things were possible, "Give me one good reason why I shouldn't put you right back down there on the ground?"
"Uh… because it'll hurt?" He held up his hands in truce, "Look, can we make a deal?"
"No." She answered sharply. "You're pathetic, you know that, right? I can't hit something that pathetic. That would just be wrong."
Daisuke's face fell, "Great, you make me sound like a three-legged dog."
Hitomi shook her head, "No, actually, a wolf. You remind me of nothing more than an overgrown, picked on wolf pup when you give me looks like that."
Daisuke sighed, "It's the eyes. Now, do I have to learn to use a sword to get you to respect me?"
Hitomi shrugged again, "I don't care what you do, as long as it involves leaving me alone."
He winced, "That hurts worse than being hit." Then he added with respect in his tone, "You know, you've got a helluva tongue on you."
"Thank you." She replied, flashing him a too sweet smile.
"Progress. We're making progress." He muttered before trying again, "You know, I really meant it, what I said about wanting to learn how you teach."
"I bet you did." She retorted as she settled into some solitary warm-up techniques. She was not going to let this obstinate clown distract her for a second day. "You'll have to prove it after what Kei told me."
He gave her a look, "Your logic is a little backwards. I talked to Keitaro before I noticed what you were doing with the kids."
Hitomi fixed him with an ice-cold stare, "Does it really matter? Now, I'm thinking that you would have told me any old thing to get my attention just because you, quote, 'wanted to get me in a dark room'. What's worse, I actually believed you until I talked to Kei!"
Daisuke pondered this for a moment, "Not any old thing. Not about something that actually matters to me - wait, he actually quoted me??"
"He did. Kei has a very good memory."
"I think I really surpassed myself in sticking my foot in my mouth this time."
She replied in a dry tone, "Yes. You see to have a rare talent for it, Fujita. So, how are you going to go about proving that all you said to me was the truth?"
"What do you want me to do?" He asked as he watched her move in a repetitive practice down-swing technique, "Because I get the feeling that nothing I suggest myself is going to get a tender reception from you right now."
"I have better things to do than think of tricks for you, pup. I just want you to prove to me that you meant what you said yesterday and that it wasn't just a lot of bull to hold my attention so you could stare at me longer."
"Give me two days. I promise to watch without drooling and then tell you what I observed."
"Two days is all you have. My family is returning to Tokyo after that. Better make it good." She said matter-a-factly.
Daisuke's face fell miserably, "You're leaving Kyoto??"
Hitomi stopped in mid-swing to send him a fresh glare. "See! You really weren't listening to me yesterday. I told you that I live in Tokyo."
"I just hoped you'd be staying longer."
"We've been here two weeks."
He mentally kicked himself for finding so many reasons not to go to the dojo over the last few weeks. "Then I'll just have to use the two days I have." He held out his hand towards her, "Deal?"
She considered him for a long moment, "You promise not to bother me next time I'm in Kyoto if I still don't believe you?"
"Uh, don't you even offer a guy two chances?"
"This is your second chance after yesterday. Most guys don't get one. Consider yourself lucky." She informed him as she returned her shinai to her back.
"I suppose you want my word on this, right?"
"Yes! You'll have mine, after all."
"Will I?" He asked doubtfully and again Hitomi felt guilty for her earlier revenge.
"On my honor as a Himura, and if you don't know, we are a very honorable family." Her tone implied that he should know this. "If I believe you, I'll tell the Aoiya people to let you know the next time we're coming to town. That's a big if, mind you."
Daisuke smiled cheerfully, "If is good, if means there's a possibility!" Then he replied seriously, "Your word is good enough for me. I'll give you mine. If you don't believe me, I won't bother you again when you return here." He paused, then brightened visibly, "What, exactly, constitutes 'bother'?"
"Being in my presence! Do you want this deal or not?"
He nodded vigorously, "Yes. You're pretty and I like you, but it's honestly more important to me to learn from you." He shrugged, "I'll just have to depend on you being honest too."
"I would not dishonor my name, not even to get away from you." She held out her hand this time, "Deal, then?"
Daisuke clasped her hand and held it a teensy bit longer than he should, enjoying how it somehow managed to feel both rough, yet delicate at the same time, "Deal."
She pulled her hand away with a look, "Good. You have two days starting now. Good luck, Fujita. You're going to need it to convince me that you're not a pervert."
Daisuke just grinned.
"You know, I'm amazed that you can still like me so much after how badly I treated you. You're not at all like the others who have pestered me."
His grin became more lopsided, "Well, I'm used to being knocked around. My relatives consider it to be the Fujita family sporting event, I think."
She gave him an unreadable look before reaching into her kimono to fish out the small silver pocket watch that she kept in between her outer robe and under robe, "We still have half an hour before the kids start to show up. I don't think you want to spar again, do you?" She asked, a wicked grin crossing her face.
Daisuke's hands flew to protect the endangered area, "No, ma'am!"
She laughed, "I thought not. However, I won't have you just sit there and stare at me either. I know you'll think something dirty."
"I would no-" Daisuke began, but fell silent when she raised her hand.
"Yeah, yeah. I've heard your defense, that doesn't mean I believe it yet. Ummm… how about you tell me about that book you were reading when I came in?"
Daisuke gaped at her, "You really want to hear about it?"
She shot him a look, "I asked, didn't I?"
"Sorry. It's just that my sister, Sachi, is the only member of my family who doesn't tell me to shut up when I start talking about books. They think that they're a waste of time. Well, Mom doesn't, but she says she's too busy to listen to my rambles. Actually, I'm reading this one because Sachi bet me that I couldn't."
Hitomi watched as he bounded over to the wall to retrieve his book. She hadn't even come close to forgiving him, and still wasn't sure that she believed what he had said, yet she felt a small twinge of sympathy for him. Her parents had always taken the time to listen to what she wanted to talk about - even the silly things. It must be awful to be excited about something and have no one care. He was still a clown, but if she had to put up with him for two days, she would at least try to make it tolerable. Starting by finding something to talk about other than herself sounded good to her.
He came running back up to her, his book in his hand. He held it out to her. She took it and looked at the cover in confusion, "This isn't Japanese. It looks like… English?"
He nodded enthusiastically, "Yeah. This is a new book Mom got from a foreigner for Sachi and me. It's called The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." He said, pointing to each word on the book's cover as he said it and doing his best to pronounce the foreign name without dropping any of the sounds.
Hitomi looked at him and was surprised to find she felt the smallest bit of respect, "You can really read English? A few of my family's friends can, but I know they really had to struggle to learn. Alright, you've impressed me. However, that doesn't mean that I like you!"
Daisuke grinned, "No, of course not, Miss Himura." He said in the sing-songy tone he had used yesterday when she had first told him to call her that. "But, don't be too impressed just yet. Sachi may yet prove me right about this book."
"Why is that? I know you're not the type who gives up easily!" She said pointedly.
He laughed and rubbed the back of his head sheepishly, "Well, you know how people from Osaka talk differently than us?" When she nodded, he continued, "This book is like that. The English is written like the characters are talking differently than standard English - speaking in their dialects. That makes it really hard to read. Especially when they start doing strange things like making the phrase 'will not' into one, completely different word."
"That sounds confusing. The English really are strange." Hitomi murmured as she flipped through the book, interested in spite of herself.
"They have some strange customs and a damn hard language to learn, but as people they really aren't any different from us at all. I mean, I can definitely understand the main character in this book. I wish on a daily basis that I could just hop on a raft like he did and float away from all the responsibility that my family wants me to have. Go and do what I want to do without being criticized all the time."
He shot a guilty look at Hitomi and was surprised to find that she was still listening attentively - the glare was even gone from her face replaced by a strange expression he thought might even have some sympathy in it. Yet, he still said, "I'm boring you, aren't I? This is why my family doesn't let me even start in on it. My father says-" And Daisuke paused to strike a pose, complete with flicking an imaginary cigarette, "Get your nose out of that book and do something useful, moron."
Hitomi laughed, "You do that so well. Actually though, you weren't boring me at all. I was thinking how amazing it is that someone like you could have an interesting side."
Daisuke grinned, "Now, that wouldn't be an effort at a compliment, would it, Miss Himura?"
"No, it wouldn't. I just think that English sounds interesting."
"I didn't think so. I could teach you some, you know."
"Don't push your luck, Fujita. You still have to prove yourself."
Daisuke's face fell and he pretended to pout, "I was hoping that maybe you had forgotten about that."
Her cold look returned, "Do I look stupid?"
"No! You look beautiful, but that's what got me into this to begin with, isn't it?"
She shook her head, "You never quit, do you?" Catching a movement out of the corner of her eye, she turned to see the first group of students come in. She waved to them before looking back over her shoulder at her unwanted observer, "Now your test begins Fujita." She tossed his book back to him.
He grinned as he caught it. He was much encouraged by her willingness to listen and the fact that he knew he had seen her attitude momentarily drop, "I'll make you believe me."
She gave him a wry smile, "We'll see, won't we?" With a toss of her hair, she walked off across the yard towards her students, not looking back at him.
"Yes, we will." He replied, as he tucked the book inside of his kimono and followed after her.