“I am Takenaka Chihiro, and this is my nephew, Takenaka Kenji.”

“My apologies,” said Fujiyama, bowing. “I head heard that you were searching for your brother, but I had not realized you had found him.”

“Ah, no apologies necessary,” laughed Takenaka. “Takenaka Kenji is sadly parted from his father as well. So I still gratefully seek any news of Takenaka Akira, and I will pay a handsomely fair price for it.”

“That is also what I had heard,” said Fujiyama. “If I did have news, you would be able to pay now…?”

“After I have prepared a sumptuous meal, yes,” said Takenaka. “I would, of course, invite you to join me! It is only fair.”

“Give me the money, then, and I will tell you.”

“Ah,” said Takenaka. “I’m afraid I must insist. Information first. You may ask any that have heard my name or eaten my food; Takenaka Chihiro is an honorable man whose word is his bond.”

Steel flashed in Fujiyama’s hand. “He is likely dead after so long,” the ronin said, “and I will take my payment now, in gold, or you will meet him and I will have it anyway.”

Takanaka raised his hands. “I carry no gold, friend,” he said. “I earn the rewards I give from the meals I prepare. If you are hungry, why didn’t you say so? I have some ingredients here, and a fire is easy to start, and I am happy to cook for you.”

Fujiyama’s blade whistled as it swept up to Takenaka’s throat, stopping just short of his jugular. “If I want food, I will exchange it for gold,” he said. “Your money, or your life.”

“I have no money, so I suppose you must do what you must do.”

The ronin drew back his sword and chopped at the cook’s neck. When the swordstroke fell, Takenaka produced his chef’s knife, the Unmei no Fuguhiki, and neatly parried the blow. While Fujiyama was off-balance, the cook darted in and made a small cut on the back of his opponent’s hand, piercing the glove and damaging a crucial tendon.

With a yelp, Fujiyama dropped his sword, which Takenaka collected. He took a moment to secret the Unmei no Fuguhiki back in his clothes, and hefted the stolen sword. “A decent-quality blade, at first glance!” he said. “Perhaps we should put it to the test.”

Fujiyama dropped to his knees. “Go on, then,” he said. “Do it.”

“As you wish, friend.” Takenaka lowered the blade and stepped on it, twisting the handle as he did so. The katana bent along both axes and, after a moment, gave way with a brittle snap.

“Ah, it seems appearances are misleading,” the cook continued. “Not decent at all. More’s the pity that you can’t always trust an honorable exterior to conceal an honorable interior.”

Reaching out to the fallen ronin, Takenaka tied a piece of cloth that he normally used for roasts around Fujiyama’s wound. “There we go,” he said. “That will heal in a month or two, I think. Now, in the meantime, Kenji will fetch us water and wood and I will serve you our meal.”

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!