Fandom: Samurai Deeper Kyo. In the era of Tokugawa Ieyasu,
history meets fantasy. Kyoshiro Mibu, a great samurai, and Demon-Eyes Kyo, slayer of a thousand men,
co-exist in the body of a hapless medicine seller. His companions: a female bounty hunter,
a shogun's son in disguise, people from a past he can't always remember, and a villain who won't stay dead.
And then there's Sanada Yukimura, scion of a disgraced family, an irreverent samurai who lives to fight. And drink.
Sanada Yukimura did not drink as much as people imagined.
Oh, he drank all right, sometimes all day and all night, but never so much that he truly became the dissolute sot of a samurai people took him for.
The reasons for this were twofold. First, as skilled a fighter as he was, he was shrewd enough to realize that an excess of spirits diminished those skills, and with Ieyasu's assassins lurking behind every bush, it didn't pay to impair oneself too severely.
Secondly, and perhaps more usefully, when people thought he was drunk they tended not to bother disguising their actions behind polite behavior; it was almost as if he became invisible! Yukimura had discovered all sorts of fascinating, useful information this way. He might've written a tome on what this ploy revealed about human nature, had he been more inclined to literature than to warfare.
As it was, he'd recently discovered something quite fascinating about his current traveling companions (he'd say friends, but other than Saizou and Sasuke he didn't assign that label to anyone, no matter what they'd been through together). Less than a fortnight earlier, while lolling about the front step of an inn, a flask of sake by his side, he'd watched through half-lidded eyes as Yuya (she of the triple-barreled firearm and famously short kimono) bolted around the corner, her face aflame, running as if all the demons of hell were in pursuit.
And maybe they were in pursuit--or at least one of them was. Because not three seconds later, who came around the same corner but the red-eyed pain in the ass himself, Demon-Eyes Kyo, looking uncharacteristically flustered, his scowl even more fearsome than usual.
Blushing girl plus flustered male...hmmm. Yukimura's shrewd eyes invited him to draw certain conclusions, but there were risks in making assumptions without sufficient empirical knowledge. He watched as the girl settled on a bench in the yard, her back firmly toward Kyo. At first she was so deep in thought she didn't notice as Yukimura sidled up to her, until he reached for her hand, and then she jumped and yelped and pulled her arm away. But that instant touch had been enough to confirm his suspicions; the girl was feverish, though her bosom seemed to be heaving healthily enough.
"Yuya-san?" Yukimura slurred at her, "may I offer you some sake?"
"N-no, no thanks." She got up, tugged at her short skirt, and hurriedly strode away, but not before risking a brief glance over her shoulder at Kyo.
Yukimura would've laughed out loud, but now Kyo was walking towards him. He managed to compose his expression as Demon-Eyes stepped into his personal space, glaring.
"What did you do to her?"
"Me?" Yukimura put on his most innocent face. "Why, Kyo-san...I did nothing at all, save offer her a drink." He raised his flask, making a show of swallowing, though in truth little enough passed down his gullet. "Wouldja like some?"
Kyo grunted in annoyance, turned on his heel and left.
Really, Yukimura thought. Such ridiculous posturing!
A few days later, sitting under a tree after a glorious, victorious fight, Yukimura observed a scene that had all the coarse melodrama and low comedy of a cheap traveling show.
Act I: Raised voices, off left - Yuya's first, and then Kyo's:
"You are a pervert!"
"I am not!"
"You are! And a killer!"
"What's your point?"
"Aaaaggh! I hate you! I hate you so much!"
"Not as much as I hate you!"
"Well I hate you more than that!"
"You couldn't possibly!"
"Why you-- you're just a, a, stupid idiot face!"
"And you're just a ridiculous little girl playing at being a bounty hunter!"
"I am a bounty hunter! And don't call me a 'little girl!' I'm a grown woman!"
"I can see that. Your kimono's open. You should stop flashing your tits at everyone!"
"I am not a pervert!"
Etc. Etc. Etc. Yukimura took an actual swig of sake this time and leaned back against the tree, bemused. Satisfactory fighting, tasty beverages, and now amusing entertainment. Life was good.
Act II: Entering from left, Yuya and Kyo, to a spot not ten feet from where Yukimura reclined. Yuya, huffing and puffing and once again flushed, turned on her taller, similarly red-faced pursuer, raised herself on tiptoe and shouted into Kyo's face, "Quit following me!"
To which Kyo replied, "Me follow you? You're the one who won't leave me alone! Why don't you go home? Why don't you go back where you came from? I never said I wanted you here!"
"I'm not leaving until I turn you in and make my bounty, you--you--red-eyed son-of-a-bitch!"
"Not very ladylike, are you?" sneered Kyo.
"I'm a woman, not a lady!"
Kyo snorted. "That's obvious, the way you walk around half-dressed all the time!"
"No, no!" Yuya protested, turning fiery red. "That's not what I meant. I meant--"
Yukimura had to resist applauding in delighted appreciation as Yuya's words failed her. Her large eyes goggled. Her breasts heaved magnificently. With a growl she flung herself at Kyo and shoved him with all her strength...which of course had no effect on his rock-like physique. Kyo laughed, a short, unlovely bark. That was the final straw. Yuya reached up and slapped him hard across the face.
Yukimura put down the flask, and put his hand on his sword. It was unknown how Demon-Eyes Kyo would respond to a slap, even one delivered by a woman. After all, he was unpredictable at the best of times.
But despite an intense flash in the man's already intense eyes, nothing happened--
--which was, Yukimura mused, remarkable in itself.
A moment of utter silence passed between the two. They stared, or rather, glared at each other for an interminable moment, before turning in opposite directions and striding away angrily.
During the entire scene, neither had done so much as glance Yukimura's way. Truly remarkable.
This time he allowed himself the luxury of applauding.
Two days later came another fight for their lives, followed by a period of recovery in the ruins of an abandoned farmhouse. Yukimura was drinking in earnest this time, though nowhere near enough to be as drunk as he'd like. His arm hurt where he'd been cut; his head ached from hitting it on the ground just before Sasuke jumped in to kill the assassin who'd intended to strike a killing blow. After a day like this one, surely a little sake was warranted.
He reclined in his usual lax posture against the ruined clay wall, smiling benignly at Sasuke curled up and sleeping beside him, the boy's arm flung across Yukimura's lap. The occasional twinge in arm and head mitigated by suitably dulled senses, Yukimura watched as another scene played out nearby.
This time there was no fight, though there was an undertone of some intense emotion. Kyo was restless; he paced the same area just outside the walls, ten feet one way, ten feet back, his eyes on the unyielding darkness beyond the line of trees. Yukimura watched Yuya, waiting in the doorway, as she, in turn, watched Kyo.
Yukimura felt a funny, different kind of twinge pass through him, a twinge that might have been jealousy. He distracted himself by wondering how long it would take Yuya to get up the nerve to act.
The answer was, not very long at all. She slid into the near darkness to a place directly in Kyo's path. For once, the killer of a thousand men seemed entirely oblivious of another's presence until he found her in his way. He stopped. She stopped. They stared at each other.
There was no sound but the chirping of insects, and the occasional crackle of the fire.
Kyo, Yukimura noted with interest, was the first to break eye contact. His eyes turned to the trees again, which prompted Yuya to end the silence between them. "Why did you do that today?"
Kyo grunted a reply but did not turn back to her.
"Kyo. You saved me. That thing was about to...about to..." Her voice broke off into a quavery whisper too low for Yukimura to hear. He considered shifting closer, but was too tired and too achy to do so. "Why, Kyo?"
And strangely, Kyo turned back.
Yukimura wished he could see the expression more clearly on Demon-Eyes' face, but in the gloom all he could make out were shadows, and two brighter spots that might have been Kyo's eyes. Seconds passed, and still Kyo said nothing.
But his hand reached out, the same hand that wielded the Muramasa long sword with such deadly force, the same hand that had taken the lives of hundreds of men. With that hand, that deadly, merciless hand, Demon-Eyes Kyo gently cupped Yuya's face.
Well, now. That was certainly worth a toast! Yukimura tipped the flask up, ignoring the dull ache in his arm as he did so, and celebrated the moment with a substantial swallow.
When he turned back, Kyo and Yuya had vanished into the shadows. Yukimura sighed, and slid down against the wall, and pulled Sasuke into his arms.
Sanada Yukimura did not drink as much as people imagined. Which left him fully capable of noticing the minute details signifying a change in the relationship between his traveling companions, the same companions who often ignored him while going about their delightfully silly, unnecessarily complex lives.
Drunk or sober, only Yukimura noticed the slight disarray of Yuya-san's notoriously short kimono and the grass sticking to her back, as she slid surreptitiously back into the farmhouse much, much later that night. Only he saw the stray bits of hay in Demon-Eyes Kyo's uncharacteristically tousled hair, and the haphazard fastening of his garments. And only Yukimura noted how Yuya and Kyo subsequently could not look at one another without flushing scarlet and instantly turning away.
And the next day, when they gathered themselves to continue on their journey, only Yukimura noticed how Yuya's hands brushed Kyo's as she handed him his breakfast, how their eyes met briefly, smiles lurking at the corners of their mouths, and how Kyo's eyes lingered on her as she turned away.
How, when they resumed their travel, the two of them walked side by side, silently, only inches apart.
Yukimura roused himself from his musings. Sasuke knelt before him. "Well, hello there! Anything to report?"
"Nothing, my lord." Sasuke stood up, brushing off his knees. "Looks clear up ahead. We should be in the town by nightfall."
"Not so sure of that, my little friend," Yukimura quipped, amused by the sight of Kyo and Yuya darting off into the bushes together. "I think we're about to have another rest stop."
Sasuke came up next to him, looked in the same direction. "What are you looking at, Yukimura-sama?"
"Eh, nothing." Yukimura said, reaching for his flask. "Nothing. Maybe just a mirage."
"Tsk, hallucination, more like," Sasuke said sharply, and grabbed for the sake. "You drink too much, you know."
"Don't I know it." Yukimura whipped the flask away, dangling it out of Sasuke's reach. He looked once more toward the bushes. "Sometimes, Sasuke, I swear I see the damndest things."