I love a good samurai story, and this week’s winner, Sessha Batto, @SesshaBatto, deals them out in scads. You should check her work out sometime. But for today, let’s just give a big congrats to Sessha for her 5MinuteFiction win and enjoy once again her winning entry.
Muffled voices resolved as they grew closer. Mai doused the single candle, grabbing the sword from its stand and slipping behind the elaborately carved jade screen. ‘Hiding like a dog, again.’
Resentment bubbled up inside her, and she forced herself to bottle the urge to strike out at the source, settling instead for eavesdropping. She held her breath, recognizing her brother’s airy tones. His patience with her had been growing thin of late, and getting caught listening in on his private discussions would not help her position.
Mai shifted cautiously, trying to get a better angle on the room through the perforations of the screen, and watched her sibling pace back and forth. Concealment was well worth the discomfort of being wedged into such a confined space. ‘Son of Heaven, indeed,’ she thought with a sniff. ‘If he was a god he would know I was here.’
“It’s high time you made a match for your sister, Mikado-sama. She will be valuable as a bargaining chip. Perhaps the Shogun is in need of another wife?”
She didn’t bother trying to see the speaker. It didn’t really matter which one of her brother’s so-called councilors it was, they were uniform in their desire to get her safely married and miles away. Mai shivered when the emperor’s eyes seemed to meet hers, wondering briefly if his anger would be as much for her state of dress as for her theft. Of course, subterfuge was to be expected in the palace. A princess caught stealing valuable relics, on the other hand, was a serious breach of protocol.
The voices finally grew faint, and she slipped out from the claustrophobic niche . . . only to find her brother waiting for her. “It’s not what it looks like,” Mai stammered.
“Of course it isn’t. You would never stoop to stealing what I would have freely given you, little sister.” His reply only increased her sense of unease, and she darted to the side, hoping to escape into the labyrinth of passages riddling the palace. ‘At least, until he’s had a chance to calm down.’
She made it three feet before a hand fisted in the back of her yukata and threw her to the ground, the object of her obsession clattering to the ground beside her.