I met everyone officially that night, though the opening of that introduction was—
“Silence!” Kaemon’s voice boomed through the dinner hall. At his voice, the boys shut up all at once, turning their eyes to their master immediately, like well-trained puppies. I smiled at the thought. Yes, boys were just like dogs.
When I had the attention I needed, I stood from my seat next to Kaemon, who remained sitting. “Good evening, everyone,” I greeted them in a tone I knew was sweet. “I’m back. As you well know, I have spent the past few months with my family, the Foaane clan. We held quite a few meetings there about the Senwan clan, and, all evidence points to the same conclusion.” There, I paused, giving the boys a moment to guess correctly what it was. “The Senwan might be attacking us, sometime soon. I don’t have the exact date, unfortunately, but it will be soon.” I raised my voice then, and changed the tone to an authoritative one—a tone I could use only within Haki grounds. “On behalf of the Foaane clan, I hereby announce that we will stand in support of the Haki. Should assistance be provided, it will be provided at a time when it is needed.” I finished my speech with another warm smile, and sat back down.
As dinner commenced, conversation once again filled the hall. I glanced at the new boy—Jiro, and found him speaking in hushed whispers with his friend, Suzu. I did pay enough attention to everyone in the place, during my stay. It was necessary, for the sake of Kaemon’s safety. “That’s Mistress Nara,” Suzu was telling Jiro. “She’s a wonderful lady, everyone likes her.” When Jiro shifted his gaze to me, I looked away, pretending I wasn’t listening. “She’s Master Kaemon’s wife. They were made for each other, don’t you think? Both are such splendid people.”
“Eh?” The boy named Jiro expressed obvious surprise at Suzu’s statement. When he glanced at me again, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed two details, slightly against my will: in Jiro’s eyes, his shock was clearly not a pleasant surprise; to my right, Kaemon grimaced a little. So little that, had I not been sitting right next to him, it would have escaped even my eyes.
Later that night, when everyone had retired to their respective bedrooms, I talked with Kaemon. “How is the new boy?” I asked.
“Jiro? He is loyal to the clan,” came the nonchalant answer. Kaemon wasn’t even looking at me as he spoke. His eyes were searching a shelf leaning against the wall.
“What about his personality?” I feigned casualness. “Is he cheerful like Suzu? Suzu is his roommate, right?”
“Suzu is his roommate,” Kaemon answered, once again, in a distant tone. “Jiro isn’t the bubbly type. He is rather timid, but he’s a good person.”
That little detail made my heart skip a beat—unpleasantly so. Kaemon had called him a “person”, instead of a “boy” or “lad”, or even “guy”, as he normally addressed the apprentices.
“Is he…special, kind of?” I asked again, lowering my voice in fear of the answer I would get from my beloved.
It was only then that Kaemon looked at me. “He is honest.” Leaving this line behind, the man walked out the door. Honest. Clearly, it was aimed straight at me. Even though Kaemon spoke little, he was by no means insensitive. I bit my lower lip in distaste, sliding the door open again after Kaemon left, only to close it instantly when I saw him walking in the direction of Jiro and Suzu’s room.