Five times Yasuo could fix everything with just a few simple words.
Iehisa ran into the room carrying all the towels he could find. Yasuo’s young protégé looked like he was ready to burst into tears as he looked at Iijima in pain, trying not to move as Yasuo’s other ward, Hidekane, patched some of her injuries. “Yoi-ma.” he squeaked, lip trembling.
Yasuo gestured to hand the towels over to Hidekane and Iehisa did, albeit unable to keep his nerves in check. “She’ll be fine, Hisa.” Yasuo smiled, trying to assure him. “She’s made of stronger stuff. Right, Iiji?”
Yayoi glared at him as he said that name, but there was no real anger in it. “Yasu, I’m fine enough to still beat you up if you call me that again.”
Their playful banter lightened the mood for a second until Yayoi winced again at Hidekane’s ministrations. Hidekane profusely apologized and Yayoi just insisted she was fine.
Yasuo wanted to believe her. After all, these past few years, getting injured was par for the course since she joined that league. Many didn’t think her the right fit for such a thing, a league of fighters challenging each other to combat for no real gain other than to show off their skills. Even she insisted that she was just in it for her ‘children’; a rag tag group of young men and women who called themselves the Barazoku and looked up to her as a mother figure.
It was inevitable, of course, that Yayoi would not get into some sort of action every now and again. She’s always been a fighter when other people needed her to be.
But this time was different. She hadn’t just faced a random opponent looking to brawl.
The cause of her injuries was a long forgotten ghost who had come to hunt her down.
“Ah, I suppose it was only a matter of time until they found me.” She joked, smiling through the pain. “In my defense, 10 years is a pretty good record, don’t you think?”
Light hearted words were not enough to calm Iehisa though. The young boy was mess. “But why would your brother want to hurt you like that Yoi-ma? I don’t understand.” He wailed, unable to accept what he already knew to be true.
Yasuo wanted to quiet him down, but his other student had words of his own.
“Don’t be stupid,” Hidekane snapped at him, though the concern in his voice was also apparent, even if he thought himself better at masking it. “Yayoi-ma is the eldest son. Don’t you know who her family is?”
“But that doesn’t mean they should have hurt her like that!”
“Oh sweets,” Yayoi interrupted, reaching out to hold either of their hands to calm them. “Your concern is touching. But that’s just the way things are.”
“What will you do, Yoi-ma? Will they still look for you?” Chirped Iehisa.
“Yayoi-ma, you’ll get them back, won’t you?” Hidekane said simultaneously.
Yasuo could not stay silent any longer. “Okay you two, I think you’ve helped enough.” He has never raised his voice at his students, never even so much as showed them any anger. But in this moment, his feelings on the matter threatened to bubble to the surface. He might have said something he’d layer regret if the two hadn’t understood that as cue to exit.
“You’ll be okay, Yoi-ma!” Iehisa made sure to get the last word in before their exit.
Yayoi smiled and waved as they disappeared out of the room but flinched as soon as they were out of view, the many wounds straining against the bandages.
“These kids are idiots sometimes.” Yasuo muttered, assisting Yayoi to lay more comfortably on her back.
She laughed. “They’re only concerned,” she defended. “but they don’t need to be, Jinroku just got lucky. And when did Kotozuki learn to fight? A lot must have happened after I left.”
There was a bitterness to her musing. The thought of her relationship with her brothers deteriorating beyond repair must have been playing through her mind as the words left her mouth.
“So what are you going to do now?” Yasuo asked, looking equally upset.
Yayoi managed a shrug. “I should be happy now right? Now they have no reason to hunt me down. They’ve confirmed what they knew all along. I’m a disgrace, unfit to run the family.”
Yasuo’s grimace deepened and he balled his hands into fists.
That must not have been the reaction Yayoi was expecting out of him because her expression changed to that of concern and let out a small squeak. “Yasuo?”
“Never, ever say that about yourself.” He said, voice trembling and low.
He slammed his fist into the wall beside him, unable to contain himself. “You are a better person than your father, your brothers and all those who look down on you.” He snarled. “Whatever you choose to do, I will support you… but do not ever make decisions because of what anyone like them think of you.”
He was seething in rage and Yayoi first resembled a startled deer before easing into a sad smile. She reached out for his hand and ran her thumb over his knuckles soothingly. “I think I’d like to sleep for now, Yasuo.”
Yasuo wasn’t quite sure how to react, expecting more of a reaction from Yayoi, but he obliged, draping a blanket over her to keep her secure.
And the stage was set for a second confrontation, this time on terms closer to being called fair.
In the last moments of their bout, Jinroku’s monstrous strength could only get him so far. But Yayoi was quicker. Yayoi was better.
Disarming her brother was the beginning of her victory, but the knee she delivered to his gut and the kick she landed on his face not moments after sealed it.
Sending her brother flying back, she pinned him down onto his back, foot planted heavily against his already broken ribs. “Jinroku.”
Jinroku looked up at her full of spite and contempt. His defeat at her hand fueled his already burning hatred of her, but he was in no position to fight back now.
She stepped down sending a sharp jolt of pain through Jinroku’s body, making sure she had his attention. “I am the first son and heir to our father. I have the birthright and I deserve to be head of this house.” She growled ruthlessly.
And just as she raised her sword above his head while everyone– her brothers, her children, Yasuo– watched in disbelief that she would follow through and end Jinroku’s life then and there, she did the inconceivable. “But this house does not deserve to have me.” She lowered her weapon and took her foot up off her battered brother.
Without so much as another glance at him, she walked out, head held high and never turning back.