Book 2: Chapter 28: s.h.i.+mizu’s Training Partner
Tokugawa s.h.i.+getsugu’s expression morphed into an unsightly one. He didn’t even place a few teachers of the dojo in his eyes because of the influence his Tokugawa family held. Yet he didn’t dare to act up against Minamoto no s.h.i.+mizu.
No matter what kind of family background Tokugawa s.h.i.+getsugu had, strength reigned supreme in the dojo. If he got handled by s.h.i.+mizu because of his lack of skill, he would only get reprimanded if he were to complain to his father.
After all, the Duke of Kamakura attached much importance to the current number one talent among the younger generation. Tokugawa didn’t have the background or strength to contend against her. They were poles apart. Hence, he could only give up and not act rashly.
“Y-You have it wrong, Lady s.h.i.+mizu. This is a misunderstanding. I was just challenging Kondo to a duel between men! Kondo, do you dare duel with me at the dojo tomorrow? You better not cower like a coward if you’re a man. The loser will have to stay away from Ms. Kagami!” Tokugawa pointed at Kondo in a fury.
Tokugawa wasn’t an idiot. He had cleverly obscured the truth with the so-called ‘duel between men.’ Even s.h.i.+mizu couldn’t interfere in such a duel between samurai.
“Hah! I would have let you off if it were for something else, but I won’t back down in any matters involving Lady Kagami. A duel, it is then!” Kondo stated a.s.sertively, a far contrast with his usual scholarly mannerisms.
Lily narrowed her eyes. Although Senior Kondo appeared smart, it looks like things are moving in Tokugawa’s favor. Tokugawa is obviously inciting him, but maybe Kondo has a reason for not backing down? Is it because of me?
Although Lily felt a little guilty about this troublesome matter, she too was helpless about it.
She could only whisper to Kondo, “Senior Kondo, please don’t fall for Tokugawa’s provocation. I’m fine.” However, Kondo looked at Lily affectionately and brimmed with infinite power, “Ms. Kagami, my fight with Tokugawa is a duel between men and not just for you. You needn’t say much.”
A duel between men? For me? Maybe I am part of the reason.
Lily felt a little powerless about this, too, as the blame fell entirely on her beauty for inviting this disaster.
This wouldn’t impress her, yet it seemed like she couldn’t prevent it and could only pray silently for Kondo to win.
“Ms. Kagami, shall we leave?” s.h.i.+mizu clearly had no interest in the so-called struggles youthful men went through for women. “Sigh… Sure…” Even Lily had no interest in this, so she left along with s.h.i.+mizu while feeling bittersweet emotions. No one dared to stop them.
Lily followed s.h.i.+mizu gloomily as they walked through the secluded, verdant surroundings.
“Pardon me…” After pondering on it, Lily still felt uneasy. “Hmm?” s.h.i.+mizu paused.
“I wasn’t aware of your ident.i.ty, Lady s.h.i.+mizu. I- it was arrogant of me to talk back to you. I also overestimated my abilities and challenged you. If you hadn’t held back, I might have got hurt for sure.”
Lily had realized that s.h.i.+mizu hadn’t used her full power in their duel just before. She had slightly revealed her real skill with that last attack, and that alone had sent Lily flying.
s.h.i.+mizu yet smiled calmly in response, “Don’t say that. I heard Ms. Kagami hasn’t trained swordsmans.h.i.+p for long. I believe you are very talented, especially after that last attack. Setting aside your strength and technique, just the courage and decisiveness you displayed at that crucial moment had surpa.s.sed my predictions. Ms. Kagami, in the entire dojo, you alone are someone I find pleasing to my eyes. You’re much better than that Tokugawa and that fellow from Omi.”1
“Lady s.h.i.+mizu… you’re referring to Kondo?” Lily murmured. Following s.h.i.+mizu, she had arrived at the two lodgings beside the lake. “How about we have a proper chat at my place?” “Ah? S-Sure.” Lily replied timidly.
They arrived at s.h.i.+mizu’s residence across the lake from Lily’s. An aromatic scent hit her when they entered the house, but this fragrance differed from the womanly scent in Lily’s room. This was rather… a blend of medicinal incense.
The maid felt surprised when she saw s.h.i.+mizu return along with an unfamiliar woman in tow, yet she prepared tea somewhat jovially. “Lady s.h.i.+mizu has finally brought a friend home to play with.”
The duo arrived atop the lakeside pavilion and took seats opposite each other in a seiza. The cool breeze from outside, the serene waters, the cloudy mid-autumn skies – this picturesque scene of the lakeside pavilion portrayed a unique rustic feel.
When the maid brought out the tea set, Lily felt that it was an exquisite piece of work and an absolute rarity.
s.h.i.+mizu took the lead to make tea for Lily.
“Please, Ms. Kagami.” “Thank you.”
Lily picked up the teacup and sampled it slightly. Tea told much about the maker. Inside this elegant, lukewarm tea laid the slight aloofness that made up s.h.i.+mizu’s core personality.
“I wonder if you could allow me to prepare a cup of tea for you too, Lady s.h.i.+mizu?” “Oh? Ms. Kagami is also proficient in tea ceremonies?” “As if. Although I’m not that proficient in it, I’ve learned it a bit.”
Lily also prepared a cup of tea for s.h.i.+mizu conscientiously. In the end, her intent had condensed into sakura blossoms formed of spirit power and scattered within the tea.
This amount of skill had actually lit up the eyes of the always expressionless s.h.i.+mizu. She received it with much expectation, and courteously finished it with three sips. Placing the cup down, although she had a steady gaze, s.h.i.+mizu looked at Lily with slightly furrowed brows.
“Ah… Lady s.h.i.+mizu, perhaps my tea isn’t to your tastes.”
s.h.i.+mizu remained silent for a while, then looked at Lily solemnly, “Ms. Kagami… your tea brought along the flavor of sakura with it. At first, I experienced the same feeling you gave me, refres.h.i.+ng pureness that also possesses a rich sweetness. But… the aftertaste surprisingly contained a trace of grief… I cannot fathom it, Ms. Kagami. Why does the tea of someone like you, who has flawless looks and figure, a healthy body, literally a woman br.i.m.m.i.n.g with feminine charm, contain such grief in it?”
“Hah?” Lily felt shocked by s.h.i.+mizu’s unexpectedly sharp senses. She had just poured her heart and soul into making tea. Yet, the feeling hidden deep within her heart had affected the process and inadvertently blended a little bitterness into the perfect tea.
“Forgive me… Lady s.h.i.+mizu.” “Please. Although your tea had a slight bitterness in its sweetness, it only enriched the flavor with grace. I’m fond of it, but I just don’t understand…”
s.h.i.+mizu advanced forwards a little and raised Lily’s hand before lowering her head slightly to take a deep sniff of Lily’s palm.2
“Huh? Lady s.h.i.+mizu… W-What are you doing?” Lily’s palms were pretty sensitive, so this action had spooked her.
“I’m just bewildered. Why is the tea prepared by such a healthy girl accompanied by grief…?”
Lily’s gaze turned melancholic, “Even if someone has a healthy body, it’s hard to change tragedy wrought by fate. It’s inevitable for the heart to feel grief when faced with such helplessness.”
s.h.i.+mizu’s slightly warm breath hit Lily’s palm. Then she raised her head to examine Lily anew meticulously, “Ms. Kagami, please excuse me for my behavior this morning. I ended up disrespecting you a tad bit. A vast difference exists in the time we have invested in training, and our circ.u.mstances also differ by a lot. I should not have bullied you.”
“Ah? As if. I’ve benefited a lot from Lady s.h.i.+mizu’s instruction. Normally, it would have been impossible for me to exchange blows with such an expert.”
“Heh.” s.h.i.+mizu smiled faintly. “Lady s.h.i.+mizu, why are you smiling?” “Ms. Kagami, can I call you Lily?” s.h.i.+mizu’s voice became softer than usual by a lot. “Sure…” “Lily, you are truly unfathomable.” “Why?”
“You’re obviously so healthy, cheerful, good-natured, and also bountiful.” s.h.i.+mizu’s gaze fell on Lily’s open collar, and that made Lily cover her bosom nervously, making her wonder what that ‘bountiful’ was referring to.
s.h.i.+mizu continued, “But when you speak such emotional words, it makes others perceive you as an enigmatic woman.”
Lily took a sip of tea and felt perplexed about how to answer her. After all, the secret of the mirror and the secret of her senior sister’s soul weren’t things she could mention to others.
Time pa.s.sed quickly as they went deep into the conversation, right until night arrived.
s.h.i.+mizu shared her past with Lily. Telling her about her frail body in her childhood days that made her fall ill often and how the other healthy girls of the Genji clan looked down on her. Lily couldn’t help but sympathize with her.
In Lily’s childhood memories, that is, in her childhood memories as a boy, although he wasn’t sickly, he had a frail body too. Moreover, he always looked fair and pretty, which made him a target of bullying often.
To think such a genius also had a past like that. s.h.i.+mizu must have worked hard.
As they chatted, the mood gradually turned harmonious while s.h.i.+mizu also got closer to Lily. Her voice became softer and gentle. Truthfully, Lily also felt happy talking to her.
“Lily, why don’t you speak about your past? Where did you grow up? Also, from when you began… growing?” As the night gradually crept up, s.h.i.+mizu’s questions s.h.i.+fted from tea ceremonies to childhood memories to intimate content that ‘bosom friends’ conversed about.
But this put Lily in a bind. She had nothing noteworthy to share, and regarding her ‘growth,’ as she hadn’t actually experienced it, there was no way for her to share that.
“That… I’m sorry, Lady s.h.i.+mizu. I-I suffered amnesia before and can’t recall anything from before arriving at Kamakura.” Left with no other choice, Lily was forced to reply in such a manner.
But s.h.i.+mizu wasn’t as careless as Uesugi Rei and looked at all things with a somewhat wise and sharp gaze. She s.h.i.+fted closer to Lily and asked, “Oh my? You’re making it difficult for Sister s.h.i.+mizu to believe such a vague reason. Say, perhaps you have some unspeakable secret?”
Lily felt startled by s.h.i.+mizu’s words as she really had a secret, that too an unspeakable one. Lily blushed as she had a relatively simple personality in essence and wasn’t good at lying.
“Lily, raise your arms and place them behind your head,” s.h.i.+mizu stated whimsically all of a sudden.
“Ah?” Lily felt dazed. Raise my arms? Is s.h.i.+mizu worried I’m injured from the bout this morning? Really, with her strength, it’s entirely possible that I still haven’t noticed some kind of internal injury she might have left behind. Perhaps she intends to express her goodwill this way? Although she felt puzzled, it wasn’t appropriate for Lily to refuse.
Therefore, she raised her arms just as s.h.i.+mizu told her to.
The loose white dojo uniform’s sleeves slid down Lily’s fair arms until they exposed her underarms a little, and this made her feel a bit embarra.s.sed.
Before Lily could attempt to cover up, s.h.i.+mizu nuzzled her straight nose closely at Lily’s underarm and shockingly took in a breath with her eyes closed.
“Mhm… Indeed… It’s the odor released by a healthy woman post-exercise. Perfect…”3
Lily’s face flushed up immediately, “L-Lady s.h.i.+mizu, w-what are you doing? Don’t nuzzle so closely there, it feels weird…”4
“There’s nothing weird about it. Do you know? Although I train with the sword every day, I rarely sweat a lot. We’re both girls, yet my body is really too different from yours. Therefore, a const.i.tution like yours, which sweats this easily and brims with an odor of youthful, healthy sweat is something I yearn for very much…” Saying so, s.h.i.+mizu snuggled her face closer to Lily’s underarm with a somewhat enraptured expression, slipped her tongue out, and licked there directly.5
“Hyah –– Don’t!” That sudden cold yet warm, wet sensations from Lily’s overly sensitive underarm made her subconsciously evade and lower her arm. However, she still felt the phantom sensations of that moistness, and this made her feel ashamed to death.
How come Lady s.h.i.+mizu appeared so dignified and graceful yet ended up putting out such a graceless act after chatting? And what’s wrong with this body? Why are other women so fond of it?6
It seemed like s.h.i.+mizu relished in the aftertaste of Lily’s flavor. Her eyes lit up as brightly as the stars as she stated, “Lily, that Tokugawa’s group tried to extort you before, right? Although he changed the topic to deceive me, how could I fail to see through it with how they usually act within the dojo. It will be difficult for a girl so pretty and delicate like you to resist them alone. How about… you become my training partner? This way, they won’t dare to disturb you again.”
“Hah? Training partner?” Lily wasn’t too clear about what this so-called training partner implied according to the Heian customs.
s.h.i.+mizu saw the doubt in Lily’s eyes and took a sip of tea calmly. She then looked at the ripples of water in the night scene outside the window. She explained slowly, “A training partner is actually just a t.i.tle within the dojo. It can be someone of the opposite gender or the same gender. Actually, the seniors and juniors of this dojo form pairs and train together frequently. They compare notes with each other, test their mettle with swordsmans.h.i.+p, research secret skill books, and interact through appreciation of poems, paintings, and tea. The journey of training is lonely and fraught with danger. It puts a lot of pressure on a person. Through training in rapport, the partners mutually inspire each other. Whether it be to protect each other or to advance their skills through training exchanges, both are beneficial for partners. It’s just that in this entire dojo, you alone are qualified to train together with me, Lily.”
Pausing for a while, s.h.i.+mizu continued, “Anyway, Lily, don’t think that Sister s.h.i.+mizu is just being aloof or proud. In my opinion, only I alone am suitable to train together with my family’s Lil’ Lily.”7
Heh. Lily forced a smile. Lady s.h.i.+mizu, since when did I become one of your family’s…8
s.h.i.+mizu stared at Lily with a gentle yet intense gaze as she questioned her, “How about it? Do you agree?”
Loneliness and peril riddled the path of advancement. Although Lily progressed rapidly, it was all on account of fortuitous coincidences. Such timely twists of fate wouldn’t keep happening forever.
s.h.i.+mizu’s strength, knowledge, and attainments all surpa.s.s mine greatly. She can definitely provide better guidance to me if I practice swordplay together with her. I can also get lots of inspiration by watching her swordplay and secret skills from beside her. This can also curb the hara.s.sment from Tokugawa and his ilk. Especially Tokugawa’s group, which has members much stronger than me. If Kondo and s.h.i.+mizu hadn’t arrived in succession today, I might’ve spent all my strength in the secluded woods and suffered a greater injustice.
Looking at it this way, Lily couldn’t find any reason to refuse her.
“It’s Lily’s honor to train together with Sister s.h.i.+mizu.”
For some reason, Lily’s answer made s.h.i.+mizu’s eyes s.h.i.+ne. Her gaze seemed to contain a different kind of happiness and antic.i.p.ation that transcended the scope of training.9
- Robinxen: She’s graceful enough to admit her mistakes without acknowledging them as mistakes. I like this girl, and what an appropriate way of handling.
- Robinxen: It’s here……I first read this ages back and forgot.
- Silva: Leeeeeewd
- Robinxen: Get used to it Lily, s.h.i.+mizu has become the authors self insert for his smell fetish.
- Silva: (Covers my face) (Peeks through fingers)
- Silva: My thoughts exactly, you yuri magnet!
- Silva: hmmm… Rei vs s.h.i.+mizu… for Lily… coming soon~
- Robinxen: Lily became an imouto.
- Robinxen: The ‘training’ begins