"One million and five hundred thousand."
"You cannot be serious." The young woman interrupted as she stared at the jeweler adamantly with an indignant expression. "These jewels have been in my family's care for more than a century and you can only offer me that much!?"
"Miss, You said that you were in dire need to sell such fine items to me." The man spoke as he inspected the ornate box that housed a set of jewels that glimmered underneath the dim light once more. "That is the amount that I am willing to pay--in cash."
"These are jewels are not only authentic but they all contain years of mana." The Saniwa spoke in a matter of fact tone as she stared at the unyielding man in front of her. "I am sure you are well versed in the craft of Jewel Thaumaturgy."
"I am well aware of that, Miss." The jeweler answered with an unimpressed look on his face while glancing at the open box once more before turning back to the young woman with a small sigh. "But I suppose I can give you a better price."
The female sat stiffly as she waited for the man in front of her to provide her a better offer. Conflict was running rampant in both her mind and body as she took a discreet glance at her twinkling family heirlooms once more. It could be the day that she would need to part with some of her inheritance and it pained her greatly to imagine what both her mother and father would think of her current pitiful situation. She could see the disappointment in their eyes but she considered it a necessity if she wanted to survive in the next few months--she can always get the jewels back and hopefully the mana within them would still be intact.
"Two million for the whole set. My offer is final." The man spoke quietly as she watched him look at her as if gauging her reaction but she remained steadfast in preventing the bastard from seeing how much this was affecting her.
She could almost hear her father's soul crying in the distance and see her mother's anguished face in her mind as a tense silence passed until the Saniwa finally gave a weak nod. The female kept her passive face as she watched the corner of the man's mouth lift ever so slightly and it made her want to punch the bastard hard--hard enough to send him flying against the wall which would be both satisfying and amazing at the same time--but she didn't want to be arrested for assault.
The two individuals shortly went over some papers which indicated various legal matters and when everything was settled, the Saniwa and man finally shook hands as they reached the conclusion of the deal. The man opened the two suitcases which were filled with koban which were neatly stacked together. The Saniwa's eyes widened ever so slightly as she stared at the large amount of currency that was placed before her before looking at the jeweler rather suspiciously before he addressed her.
"Do not worry these are very much real and not counterfeits." The man spoke reassuringly as he closed the box of jewels and placed it in a separate suitcase in a rather delicate manner. "I will also have two of my men accompany you home to ensure that both you and your money will arrive safely."
Okay. He did not seem like a horrible man.
"I like to have my clients safe from harm if they wish to continue business with me in the future."
I take that back, he is a greedy bastard.
"Thank you but I still have business in town. I will be returning home at the end of the day." The Saniwa spoke softly as she got up from where she sat, an indication that she was done and ready to leave the stuffy office she had been sitting in for more than an hour.
"Ah, Then I shall have the suitcases sent to your address before you arrive then."
"That would be much appreciated. Thank you." The Saniwa spoke quietly as she took her own copy of the legal papers before glancing at the smiling male who remained seated.
"I must say you drive a hard bargain, Miss. But it was a pleasure doing business with you."
Get out. Get out before you kill him.
The Saniwa merely held tightly unto the folder which contained the paper before turning around to leave the room. The mask she had been hold slowly crumbled as she finally exited the building. A small sigh left her as the female's shoulders sagged heavily while making her way into the slightly busy streets of the town.
It's all for a good cause. I can always get back the heirlooms anytime but until then…
The girl straightened up and squared her shoulders once more before making her way through the throngs of people in the street. After a few minutes of walking and turning different corners, the Saniwa finally found herself in front a nice-looking the restaurant which didn't seem to be too busy at the moment.
Steeling herself, the female entered the establishment and waved at a few of her co-workers who merely shot her a smile as she passed them. She had been working for the said establishment for the last few weeks and it was a nice change compared to the duties she had as a Saniwa--secretly, she reveled in the company of her female co-workers who would invite her for some drinks. It's not like she disliked spending time with her charges, she loved the old men and young boys like her own family but she missed coming into contact with her fellow human beings and being able to speak about things women of her age .
The young woman made her way to the designated female locker room to change into her provided uniform--a simple baby blue long sleeve shirt tucked into a comfortable pair of black trousers which was covered by a gray linen apron and some black non-slip flats. The Saniwa immediately perked up, closing the door to her locker as she made her way to exit after hearing her name being called by another co-worker.
The door to the locker room closed behind the Saniwa as she readily joined the rest of her co-workers on the restaurant floor for the busy lunch hour rush.
…Let's work hard for the day.
It was only a month ago that the female was able to acquire a pair of new Oodachi swords--Jirotachi and Tarotachi--and after a week of hard training for both, she had immediately sent them on their first sortie alongside Yamanbagiri, Aizen, Mikazuki and Kasen.
Three days had passed when the party had been dispatched with said party having yet to return from their sortie and there had been no sign of them based on the reports of her scouting party she had sent out earlier. For the past two days, she was mortified to find herself losing more hair than usual and it took a few reassurances from Midare Toshirou that she definitely--definitely was not turning bald. The sword's master was had been so worried to the point that she had lost sleep thinking about the different things that could have happened--like the possibility of her swords getting lost, or perishing from a surprise kebiishi attack or even going rogue.
It was only after breakfast that the Saniwa was about to have Horikawa announce the swords who will be consisting of another search party when she heard the bell toll--indicating that a group of swords had returned. The young woman threw the door to her office wide open and dashed into the courtyard only be met by the men who looked ready to collapse in a few seconds. She bit her tongue to prevent herself from starting a tirade in the middle of the courtyard and instead sent them straight to the repair room.
To her utter disappointment, the party came back with next to no resources gathered. Also, It had been revealed that the sortie did not take long for them to complete but due to the lacking sense of direction, the swords took several wrongs paths and got lost. Furthermore, everyone on the said team had received major damages from coming across too many enemies while trying to navigate their way home explaining an unconscious Aizen had to be carried home by Yamanbagiri.
"It cannot be helped." The Saniwa sighed heavily before ushering all the swords to the repair room after hearing the painful explanation and brief report from Kasen. "Please rest for the next few days. I will have someone bring you dinner."
After sending Hakata Toushirou--who gladly accepted the task in keeping tabs on the Citadel's resources and expenses-- along with the injured swords to the repair room, the master of the citadel made her way to her office. Once comfortable, the Saniwa, settled down to both work and review some documents. During her short break, the female prepared a lengthy lecture for Kasen's team which will be on the topic of using the provided carrier pigeons as a means of communication even if it would take a long time for the message to be relayed--something that both her and her hair would be very much grateful for.
"A-Aruji?" Hakata Toshirou peeked from behind the Shoji doors before she motioned for him to come closer.
"Yes, Hakata-kun?" The Saniwa glanced up at the little blonde boy who handed his master the ledger with shaky hands--something she definitely noticed but opted to say nothing as she opened the book carefully. "What's wrong?"
The Tantou looked down towards his feet as he allowed his master to read his report, expecting her to start swearing underneath her breath--it wasn't the first time he heard her do so. The Saniwa finally settled on the page that indicated today's date and her eyes widened at the scribbles all over the said page.
Why is everything in red?
The numbers were written in red ink. A frown appeared on the Saniwa's delicate face as she stared at the ledger for a little longer than usual before going back to inspect the previous page. The young woman read the entry for the umpteenth time before turning the page once more before finally giving up and closing the thick book with a loud smack. The young woman ran a hand through her already messy locks as she released a loud sigh which echoed through her quiet office.
Wonderful. This was just icing on the cake.
The numbers no longer written in black ink but it was written in bright red and accompanied by the negative sign--she was never amazing in mathematics but the Saniwa knew that the negative sign in front of a number definitely means that she was entering debenture which was not a good sign. Hakata explained that there had been an increase in expenses due to the growing number of swords joining her stronghold--something she was not surprised with.
The young woman was also well aware that there had a few things which needed to be repaired such as the corner of the leaking roof in the training hall and the kitchen--she easily covered those with most of the savings that she had put aside for emergencies. But she was currently not aware of the government suddenly cutting down her budget for essential things such as electricity and running water.
Oh, but that wasn't all. Guess who decided to start taxing--yes, TAXING, them.
The tax was placed at different rates but it slowly added up to more than 16 percent for her Citadel's income--that included resources and koban which have been obtained. So, if they acquired a thousand pieces of Charcoal, Coolant, Steel and Whetstone from an expedition, the government was entitled to take the 16 percent of that. At this rate the Saniwa could feel a headache coming as she scrambled to find some painkillers in her drawers. Furthermore, the repair costs of the Kasen's team was higher than usual and she considered it to be a miracle that none of them broke during their journey back home--something that she was thankful for because she didn't want to pay or going to jail for damaging Japan's national treasures.
"I-I'm sorry, A-Aruji-sama."
Lady of the Citadel finally looked up to find a sober but frightened Hakata who seemed ready to cry which made her jolt. The female immediately tried to reassure the blonde boy and promised him that it was not his fault but her's for not paying close attention to the ledgers. After a few minutes of encouragement from his master, the bespectacled Tantou was sent to lunch while the female immediately tried to find a solution to her problem and contacted the Ministry of Modern Sagecraft and Magecraft for some possible way to lessen the financial blow.
Presently, it was now past dinner time and more than half the Citadel was still awake, awaiting their master's return. A few of the older swords accompanied some of the younger ones to bed before returning to wait along side the others. Suspicion in regards to their master's whereabouts became much more heightened when a pair of strangers came to their home to drop off two large suitcases during that afternoon.
The two individuals spoke to one of the guards who had been posted at the gate then quickly leaving before any of the Saniwa's attendants could come and speak to them. According to the guards, the suitcases contained some belongings from their master and were instructed by her to drop them off that day. It was only then that Kashuu Kiyomitsu and Yamatonokami Yasusada mentioned seeing the young woman leaving fairly early that morning and carrying a small suitcase alongside her purse.
"Aruji claimed that she had an appointment in the nearby town and will not be back until later." The brunette supplied as he tried to sit comfortably on the enegawa.
"We offered to come along but Aruji-sama said that she was in a hurry and immediately left." Yamatonokami added as he tugged at his hair nervously, aware that both him and his partner wes being placed under scrutiny by the Tsukumogami--especially Heshikiri Hasebe and Yamanbagiri Kunihiro who were two of their master's most trusted attendants.
"So she just left without any attendants?" Yamanbagiri inquired as he tugged at his hood before glancing at the brunette Uchigatana standing beside him. "Should we assemble a search party?"
"That would be best." A mixture of worry and apprehension was plastered on Hasebe's visage as he glanced at the small clock hanging on a nearby wall. "Those who wish to join the search party are to meet in the courtyard in ten minutes."
A handful of the Touken Danshi immediately left the room to change into more suitable clothing and before heading out into the courtyard. Within the next few minutes, a dozen swords were gathered in the courtyard-all dressed in their battle gear and ready to leave in search of their master.
Two teams were formed with Yamanbagiri as captain of the first team and Hasebe with the second. The first search party consisted of Ichigo, Kashuu, Yasusada, Tsurumaru and Nikkari. On the other hand, the second party consisted of Namazuo, Honebami, Izumiokami, Horikawa, and Shishiou.
The two parties eventually departed and the remaining Touken Danshi watched as the search party for their master disappeared behind the citadel's gates. After a few minutes, majority of the Saniwa's charges slowly began to retire to their own rooms while a few handful swords sat by the enegawa located in front of the Great Hall.
"I hope they will find Nushi-sama." Kogitsunemaru lifted a small cup of sake to his lips as he stared at the cloudless sky.
"I'm sure they will find, Aruji-sama." Mikazuki Munechika supplied as he a poured himself a cup of his own before looking up at the moon. "Until then. We will just have to wait until they find her."
"I shall be going now!"
"Ah! Thanks for the hard work! Have a good night and take care!"
The Saniwa smiled as she returned a wave to her co-workers as she exited the designated female locker room. She had just shortly finished her work shift and it a few minutes longer to change into her regular clothing. A glance at her watch indicated that it was already past ten in the evening and the young woman hurried down the street.
It's already so late! I should get something to eat while on the way.
The young woman came upon an open Taiyaki stand and instantly made a beeline for it. In a few seconds, the Saniwa happily took a big bite from the warm fish-shaped cake as she remained by the food stand. She had a brief conversation with the owner and another few minutes later, the Saniwa held unto two bags of Taiyaki and her ears plugged with her earphones before continuing her way home with a smile on her face.
I hope they will forgive me for coming home so late.
"I'm sorry but have you seen this young lady?" Ichigo asked a passerby while showing them a picture of their master only to be disappointed after shaking their head at him.
"Where could she be?" Kashuu sighed loudly as he continued making his way down the road with Yasusada following him whilst asking passerbys if they had seen their master.
"She mustn't have gone far. Aruji did not bring anything in means of transportation." Tsurumaru supplied as he remain perched on the rooftop of a nearby building with Nikkari.
"She isn't anywhere in the vicinity." The green-haired Wakizashi spoke as he eyed the distant main road. "We should enlarge the search area--wait, is that her?"
The silver-haired Crane peeked up and turned his head towards the road. A small amused smile appeared on his mouth as he finally noticed the familiar figure of his master who seemed to be in a hurry.
"…should we surprise her?"
"Ah, I wouldn't advise--" Nikkari Aoe spoke but halted in his words and released a small sigh when he noticed that the platinum-haired Tachi already disappeared beside him--possibly to try and surprise their unsuspecting master.
Halfway through the journey, the Saniwa had chosen to pass through a dark alley in order to reach the main road leading to the Citadel. It was a small alleyway that barely had any lights but it was a faster route for her to take if she wanted to reach her home much faster. The young woman continued down the small street while carrying the two bags, happily ignorant of the incoming attack.
A silhouette appeared behind the girl as she continued her path. The Saniwa suddenly felt something touch her shoulder and was barely able to turn her head back when she heard a whisper in her ear.
The Touken Danshi stiffened when they heard a familiar shrill scream echo in a nearby alley and immediately took off in the direction of the sound. The nearest swords, Yamanbagiri and Nikkari quickly ran into the dimly lit area only to come across their master smacking the ever troublesome Crane with her purse. The two stood still as they watched their master gently pinching the cheek of a laughing Tsurumaru who engulfed her in a hug.
"Were you surprised, Saniwa-sama?"
"Goodness, Tsuru-san!" The Saniwa sighed as she detached herself from the platinum-haired Tachi to stare at him intently. "What if I passed out of fright in this alleyway!?"I
"No worries, Aruji!" The Crane laughed and sent her a cheeky wink. "I am well versed in mouth-to-mouth resuscitation!"
"Who-who taught you?"
"It was on the television yesterday." Tsurumaru answered in a carefree manner making his master sigh and turn towards the bags she had discarded earlier only to see the blonde Uchigatana and green-haired Wakizashi.
"Yamanbagiri-san! Nikkari-san!" The Saniwa blinked as the two swords stepped forward to help her with the bags. "W-What are you three doing out so late? Did something happen?"
"Search party." The cloaked blonde supplied as he stared at his master with relief in his emerald orbs. "We formed a search party for you, Aruji-sama."
"Why?" The young woman's eyebrows furrowed as she stared at them.
"Yes. Everyone was quite worried for your safety." Nikkari supplied as he handed the other bag to the Crane who both shared an amused smile.
"It's not exactly ideal f or a young woman such as yourself to be roaming in the streets at this time." Tsurumaru supplied as he stood beside his master.
"We should notify the others." Yamanabagiri spoke softly as he tugged at his hood while Nikkari nodded before taking off.
"I'll meet everyone back at the--"
"SHE'S SOMEWHERE HERE!!"
"DID SOMETHING HAPPEN!?"
"I HEARD HER SCREAM--!!"
"Never mind." Nikkari smiled amusedly as the he heard the voices of his comrades at the end of the alleyway which was the main street. "Shall we go then?"
The three blades alongside their master made their way towards the brightly lit main street where a cluster of men and teenagers stood. The female smiled apologetically as she caught her charges' attention, lifting her hand to a wave whilst steeling herself for the onslaught of hugs and attention.
The Saniwa barely had any time to speak when she found herself being engulfed in a smothering hug by Kashuu and Namazuo. A small smile appeared on the girl's face as she patted both their backs in reassurance then giving the rest a small wave of her hand.
"Well, it seems that I have caused everyone a lot of trouble." The young woman took a step back as she fixed her purse's strap on her shoulder, covering her mouth as she yawned.
"Are you alright, Aruji?" Hasebe asked as his master allowed him to ensure that she was in perfect condition. "You're not hurt or anything are you? Did you run into anyone dangerous?"
"Hmm? I'm alright." The Saniwa reassured the said Uchigatana before blinking at the last question. "No. I did not. Why did something happen?"
"Well, we received two suitcases filled with koban this afternoon." Shishou answered as he glanced at the girl beside him who looked slightly nervous.
"What's going on, Master?" Shishou asked as he peeked at his master who sighed deeply.
"Alright, I'll explain everything when we get home."
"These are delicious, Aruji. Thank you." Mikazuki spoke as he took a sip of his tea before setting down the fish-shaped pastry unto a nearby plate. "…But you're avoiding the subject."
The Saniwa stiffened as she was about to pour herself a cup of black tea. The koban glistened in the lamplight from within the two suitcases which were placed on a nearby table. Several eyes trailed over the young woman's form as she tried to retain the air of calmness around herself. A few tense seconds passed until the Tsukumogami's master finally released a deep sigh before finally speaking.
"The Citadel is currently in debenture." The Saniwa trailed her gaze on the suitcases before meeting the sword's face. "I left this morning to sell a few of my things and go to work."
A low murmur passed through the group after the announcement. Majority of the swords looked faintly worried, others more concerned and a few looking confused. The girl released a deep sigh before reaching for an unopened bottle of Sake from the nearby table ad poured herself a good amount in her cup.
"Aruji, you mentioned having sold things." Shishou spoke up and glanced at the suitcases that were filled with gold. "Did you--did you sell your own belongings? I-Is it that bad?"
"Regrettably, Yes." The female answered quietly before taking a large sip of her drink. "The stronghold's operations will eventually be halted if we are unable to pay off the debt."
"But this such a large amount of money. What can you possibly--" Kashuu spoke softly before he whipped his head towards his master with his crimson eyes wide. "Don't tell me. You sold your heirlooms?"
The look of sadness in the female's eyes did not go unnoticed by the Touken Danshi who all felt a pang of guilt. Their master, who both provided and treated them with utmost care, had never voiced her problems or complaints to them. The older swords knew that she preferred to keep them blissfully unaware of the small problems such as money--they were swords who may perish in battle at anytime and she wanted for them to experience happiness.
The Saniwa was a kind person and allowed everyone in the citadel have had a chance to look at those beautiful gems--her family's precious heirlooms. Kashuu remembered how the woman before him presented the gems before him with very careful hands. She had caught him looking at the small yet elaborate box when she finally unveiled its contents. She had explained that it was one of the very few things that her parents had left her after they passed away while she was still a child.
"It's not that much of a big deal." The female shrugged as she smiled weakly before taking a sip of the alcoholic beverage in her cup. "Once we can save enough resources, I'll buy them back eventually so do not worry to much, alright?"
"But they were important to you, weren't they!?" the said Uchigatana shook his head vemhently until he felt the gentle pat on his head making him look up.
"Yes. But my duty as your master is much more important than some cold, hard twinkling pieces of jewels." The reassuring smile on the girl's face was enough to making the Kashuu tear up a bit. "You guys are much more precious than gems."
Smiles graced the faces of the swords as they heard their beloved master refer to them as family. The earlier tense atmosphere eventually changed into a more comfortably relaxed one as the Saniwa passed around the boxes containing the Taiyaki. The swords enjoyed the small treat the young woman had brought home that was until Kasen Kanesada spoke up.
"Aruji." The Citadel's resident poet addressed his master who turned her attention to him. "You mention that you went to work."
"But the Ministry is in the Capital." Kasen's eyebrows knitted together in confusion.
"Ah, Did I forget to mention it?" The lady of the citadel answered after taking a bite of the Taiyaki. "I work for a nearby restaurant. The people are nice and the pay is good."
"Oya? What kind of job is it?" Mikazuki gazed at the female with a relaxed smile on his handsome face.
"Oh, I work as a hostess."
The reaction was immediate and quite a number of the Tsukumogami comically either spit out their drinks or choked on the pastry they were consuming. Clamors and shouts filled the room as all the men and teenagers demanded that their master quit the said job--much to her shock. After a few minutes of patiently waiting for her charges to settle down, the Saniwa explained what her duties were--which were nothing explicit--receiving, entertaining and assisting visiting patrons.
"If you don't believe me then please come visit one of these days."
It was a week later the Saniwa was began to regret telling her charges where she worked when they all started to show up at the said establishment in groups. Currently the Ice Royal Milk Tea were waiting outside the restaurant doors--catching the eyes of not only the customers and fellow employees but also the Saniwa's boss.
"You know them? We should consider hiring them. I'm sure the female customers would enjoy themselves immensely."
Should I just quit? I don’t want to be fined for damaging National Treasures…