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After-Dinner Conversation (Tales of the Kunoichi, Chapter 7)

Submitted by Bookworm Hienrichs on March 7, 2011 – 13:17

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Bookworm wiped her mouth one last time and smiled at Mrs. Sawyers, who was clearing the dishes from the table.  "Thank you, Mrs. Sawyers.  That was an excellent meal."

"Thank you, miss," Mrs. Sawyers replied, gathering her armful together and transporting it to the kitchen.

Bookworm stood and followed Mariah out of the dining room.  She still wasn’t sure she’d get used to having a cook and housekeeper, having been on her own for so long, but she couldn’t deny that it was very useful.  With Captain Undertone gone, she’d been spending more and more time at the militia headquarters, making sure the day-to-day necessities were done.  Between that, her photography, and her training with Mariah, she didn’t have time for much else, especially housework.

As the two of them settled in front of the fireplace in the front room, Bookworm looked over at Mariah.  "Has Mrs. Sawyers had any luck yet with wiggyfish?"

Mariah chuckled.  "No, though not from lack of trying.  It didn’t take the local cat population long to learn to congregate when they hear sounds of pans banging and curses from her."

Bookworm laughed, taking her latest book from the side table and turning up the lamp by her.  After a moment, though, she set the book back down.  "Oh–Miss Hermit stopped by Militia headquarters today."

"Did she have any new information?"

"Not a great deal.  She was mainly interested in learning where we’d buried her attacker."  Bookworm kept silent on the reason, not sure if Mariah believed in ghosts.

The burial of the strange Japanese man did not rank among the most pleasant times Book had ever had.  She still felt uncomfortable about the whole thing–especially her part in covering it up, though she did understand Miss Hermit’s reasons for it.  Given her past connections with the graveyard behind the Mechanix Arms, she’d thought it better to bury the man in the Academy graveyard.  She’d filed her vague report–body found in canal, ruled death by misadventure–and, as she’d hoped, no comment was raised.  She and Mariah had overseen the digging of the grave, once the ground was heated, and helped lower the coffin into it.  She had no idea what sort of funeral rituals the man had held to, but she didn’t like the thought of doing nothing.  So finally, as the gravediggers began thumping their shovelfuls of dirt on the coffin top, she’d sent a wordless prayer toward heaven, hoping it would somehow suffice.

Snapping out of her ruminations, Bookworm continued.  "She also said she’d gotten some messages from home.  She didn’t go into much detail, but she said they don’t believe anyone else from there will be coming after her here."

"So she can relax?"

Bookworm frowned.  "She didn’t seem very relaxed."  She glanced sideways and caught Mariah’s keen look–a look that Bookworm had learned meant she was to think carefully about something.  So she did…and, after a moment, suddenly remembered Captain Lupindo’s attack on Zac and Nell.

"Ahh," she said.  "Not sending anyone here doesn’t preclude them hiring locals to go after her."

Mariah nodded.

"But what good would that do?" Book asked, frowning.  "If someone as well-trained as the stranger couldn’t kill her, what chance would anyone here have?"

"Hmmm," Mariah replied, looking a bit amused.  "You may be underestimating a few people.  Besides, skill doesn’t *always* protect one against luck…or numbers."  Mariah relented at Bookworm’s somewhat stricken look.  "I’ll keep my ears open for anything, though I can’t guarantee I’ll get any news in this line.  People know of my connection to you–and yours to Miss Hermit."

Bookworm nodded, picking up her book again.  "Well, my offer of help for her still stands, and she knows it.  I guess, at this point, that’s all I can do."