“What is the worst thing, Uncle?” said Takenaka Kenji.

Takenaka Chihiro’s normally bright face was dour and wan. “The worst thing, nephew, is that Nakamoto-sama will now make me doubt the sincerity of all who ask for help. Because of her selfishness, I will hesitate a moment longer before I assist anyone, be it with a good meal or a steady blade.”

Kenji took this in a moment. “Won’t it also mean that Nakamoto-sama will also start to think that all people who seem helpful are easily fooled?” he said.

Takenaka’s frown deepened. “It’s true,” he said. “Had I been a violent man, a bandit, I might have struck her down where she stood. I fear the road she is on has a violent end for her.”

The morning wind blew quietly around them as Takenaka and Kenji stook there a moment, quiet.

“Well, what will we do?” said Kenji.

“I think I will do some calisthenics, and you will make a fire,” said Takenaka. “Then we will make a fine supper for our own road ahead. I find that a bellyful of good food goes a long way toward brightening even the darkest of days.”

“Has this been the darkest of days?”

Takenaka smiled a little bit. “It will have to be a very good meal. Perhaps my best. And it’s just for you and I.”

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