Characters: Klevetati Yoshino
Yoshino was kneeling on the floor in the center of her quarters. Instead of her Ranger robes, she wore a white silk kimono. Before her, face hidden by the hood of his black cloak, stood the oyabun. He addressed her by her real name.
“Takezo Marina, daughter of Eiji, you have dishonored your clan and dishonored yourself. You know what you must do.”**
Yes. She knew.
“Who is to be my second?” she asked.
“You do not deserve one. You are fortunate that I allow you this.” The voice was stern, and Yoshino cast her gaze toward the floor.
She clenched her teeth as she pulled the kimono open, just enough to reveal a narrow wedge of skin from collarbones to navel. She lifted the wazikashi from across her knees, drawing the blade and flinging the scabbard aside.
As she grasped the hilt with both hands, stretching her arms out to allow for the blade to turn inward, she resisted the urge to close her eyes. With no second to end her pain by a swift beheading, she must make her blow clean and sure.
The blade was blessedly sharp, and was already leaving a wake of blood halfway across her belly before she began feeling the pain. Now at last squeezing her eyes shut, she finished the stroke.
The oyabun was laughing.
For a moment, rage overcame pain and Yoshino drew the blade free, dropping it to the floor in a last gesture of defiance. Then she fell forward.
The oyabun stepped forward, rolled her dying body over with the toe of his shoe. He threw his hood back, and Yoshino realized it was not the oyabun at all–it was Sasaki!
She wanted to ask, “Why?” but hadn’t the strength. He seemed to know her thought, because he said,
“I’ve sent you to death with the same blade you used to send me. Perhaps the demons will let me have you when they’re done.” He turned away and disappeared into the shadows, still laughing.
Yoshino closed her eyes again. She could feel her limbs growing cold and her heart racing, trying desperately to pump the ever-diminishing supply of blood. Soon, soon now, it would falter, and stop….
“Klevetati. Her time is past.”
She opened eyes at the use of her adopted name.
Two of her companions from the Phoenix stood over her. Kim Matsumoto and Katia Santiago, the Chief Engineer.
“You are already dead,” Kim continued.
“The shame is not yours,” Katia said.
Something soft and heavy fell across her mouth–
–and she awakened on her own mat, with Kuri crouching on her chest and putting her front paws over Yoshino’s mouth. The cat began purring as she saw Yoshino’s eyes open. She reached out and hugged the furry body close, wanting to feel as much as hear the reassuring rumble.
What could it mean? She hadn’t been as disturbed as some of the crew had been at the thought of going to Vorlon space. The Vorlons were gone, after all. Perhaps she had been premature in that self-assurance. Was this a warning–from them?
Or was it simply from her own mind, memories and fears creating their own tale? The image of Sasaki’s face from the dream blurred in Yoshino’s mind into another–Sasaki again laughing at her, mocking her helplessness as he threw her to the floor of her room–
A yowl brought her back to the present. “I’m sorry, Kuri,” she whispered, releasing the grip that had become crushing. Kuri jumped to the floor and sat down to put her fur back in order.
Yoshino sighed and sat up. “Time.”
Yoshino sighed again, not sure if in response to the hour or the mechanically cheerful tone in which it was announced. No point in trying to go back to sleep now. She threw the blanket back, stood up and went to the wardrobe, finding a clean set of robes to envelop the tapestry of her skin. She held her Ranger pin in her hand for a long moment. She wasn’t alone any more.
She attached the pin at her shoulder and left her quarters. She’d better tell someone about the dream, in case it did have something to do with the Vorlons. But who? Commander Shaver was perhaps the most logical choice, but she wasn’t sure if she had the courage for that.
She let her feet take her toward the mess hall. Perhaps a cup of green tea would help her think.
**Translated from the Japanese