Disclaimers: Shoujoai ni Bokuen and the characters of Yuriko,
Mariko, Midori and Kaori are the sole property of E. Friedman, all rights reserved and are
used with permission. The situations and other characters are copyright 2001, J.
Erica's note: Jude is a brave lass, writing the first SnB fanfic - giver her your
support and let her know how good it is!
And The Cherry Trees Are Blooming
by Jude McLaughlin
"Protect the princess! Protect the princess!" Yuriko bellowed. She drew her katana and held it high.
Just moments before, she'd been calmly sitting her horse, surveying the rocky landscape that lay before her small troop and the palanquin
they accompanied. She enjoyed moments like that, especially since she knew that she cut a dashing figure and drew admiring looks from
samurai and handmaidens alike. For this short escort trip, she'd worn
her favorite kimono, pale cream patterned with lilies, close-fitting
black kobakama (she preferred the freedom of the hakama, but riding
made that impractical), and a matching black kataginu, a
wing-shouldered vest adorned with her clan's mon on both sides of her
chest. Her blonde hair was caught sleekly into a teawhisk topknot,
though a few stray locks swept artistically over her face in the
It was chilly in the mountain pass -- a perfect fall day, sun shining
high in a clear blue sky. She knew that once through and into the
flatlands beyond, there would be more trees turning brilliant fall
colors, and looked forward to seeing it. It had been dry in the
mountains this past summer, so the foliage would not be as
breathtaking as she remembered the lush lands of her clan's allies.
When she glanced over toward Mariko, who had turned her horse back
along the line to check on their passenger, she saw a bush move and a
shadowy figure slink deeper into cover.
With her warning, the bushes all around them spat forth black-garbed
figures. Steel sang from scabbards, and within a fraction of a
second, the two sides closed for battle.
Yuriko cleaved a path for herself through the assassins on the ground,
making for the palanquin, where she knew Mariko was making a stand --
she could hear her snapping commands to the foot soldiers. Then, over
the sounds of battle, Yuriko heard a shrill scream, followed by Mari's
curses. With a shout, she rode down the two ninja who moved to block
her path and broke through to the furious skirmish around the
palanquin. She saw the bloody bodies of handmaidens, retainers, and
samurai scattered around the broken vehicle; two assassins were
hauling the princess away from it. Mari was blocked by a half dozen
hired killers, as well as the wreckage, though she struggled valiantly
to hack her way free.
The pair shoved the princess to the ground roughly and turned to meet
Yuriko's charge. The blonde brought her katana around for a low
side-cut, and one ninja head flew through the air. The other dodged
aside and tried to bring his sword up into her horse's belly. The
horse danced aside, affording Yuriko a downward slash at her remaining
opponent. He partially blocked it, but she drew blood from his sword
arm and he fell back for a moment.
She took that moment to lean down and drag the princess up across her
"Yuri!" Mariko shouted. "Go! I'll cover you!"
Yuriko didn't hesitate in turning her horse and kicking it into a
gallop, but she did glance behind to see how her childhood friend was
faring. The dust and commotion of battle hid all from view.
The princess was struggling now. Yuriko hissed, "Stop that and hang
on, if you want to live!" There was a noise of rebellion from her
charge, but she settled down for the moment.
The ride was fast and harsh, scrambling over rugged terrain into
lower, more wooded territory. Yuriko hoped desperately that there
were no reserves assigned to capture escapees. The sounds of battle
faded behind. After just a few minutes of riding, Yuriko could hear
only her own breathing and the clatter of her horse's hooves on the
stones. She began to hope for the best.
Too much to hope: the horse had been struck with several arrows during
their initial flight, and it finally collapsed under her as they were
crossing a stream. She managed to snatch up the princess and jump for
it as the beast stumbled and fell.
The two of them sat up slowly at the edge of the stream. Yuriko gave
the horse's body a sad look. "Thank you," she murmured to the
valiant, departing spirit, and turned to face the discomfited
She blinked. Yuriko was not personally acquainted with the princess,
but she was pretty sure she wasn't this
"You aren't Princess Kaori!" she exclaimed, scrambling to her feet and
reaching for her sword.
The woman dressed in the rich silks of a princess looked up at her and
laughed, a rich, ringing sound that made the samurai catch her breath.
"I suppose I can't blame you for not noticing in the heat of battle."
She rose gracefully and, untying her obi, began to dispense with
kimono after kimono, dropping the expensive fabric carelessly into the
Yuriko backed up a few steps, gulping air and trying to find firm
footing. "Where is the princess?" she demanded.
"Oh, at our client's headquarters by now, I suppose," the woman said,
stopping at the final kimono, plain and dark. Her long, black hair
was caught into a foxtail between her shoulder blades. It had been
brushed smooth before the frantic ride; now it was tousled in
attractive disarray. She set her fists on her hips and cocked her
head. "Are you going to continue to wave that sword at me or shall we
talk about this, samurai?"
"You kidnapped the princess and took her place?" Yuriko said, feeling
more than a little slow today. She lowered her sword slightly, but
"Well, yes. We thought it would be safer for her in the long run,
what with this rival clan being after her for /their/ client. After
all, I could take care of myself /and/ bring back information. But
your gallantry and skill with the sword seem to have put a hitch in
our plans." She smiled at Yuriko, a surprisingly sweet smile for a
hired killer, and slid past Yuriko's sword to press against her
seductively. "I have an idea, samurai. Let's make a deal."
"I don't deal with assassins," Yuriko said firmly. She had to fight
down her awareness of the other woman's body, though, and the warmth
rising to her face.
"Oh, stop that," the other woman said, playfully toying with the front
of Yuriko's kimono. "You're very honorable, I have no doubt. All I'm
asking you to do is tell one small lie, and you can have your princess
back. There are plenty of girls my client can marry and get as much
status as he would from Princess Kaori."
Yuriko narrowed her eyes. Rival ninja clans battling over the
princess for rival lords seeking to marry her by force. She
determined that she would /get/ Minister Kishi for this. Simple
babysitting job /indeed/. "What lie?" she inquired, gazing down into
the dark eyes and trying not to sound as breathless as she felt.
The woman stretched against her sensuously. "Those clothes are
dreadful, you know that? You wouldn't catch /me/ wearing seven
kimonos every day. And coordinating them to the /season/? At least
autumn is enjoyable for its colors." She arched her back and looked
at Yuriko from under heavily lidded eyes.
Yuriko not distracted enough by this performance to fail to notice the
very slight jingle of metal in her opponent's sleeves. "What lie?"
The ninja smiled lazily and said, "You will tell your lord that the
princess was stolen by our rivals, the Hazu. We will supply you with
the location where you will have rescued her gloriously."
A sudden explosion of noise -- a shout and the clash of steel --
erupted about five meters to Yuriko's left. The woman in front of
Yuriko cursed and sprang away, loosing a half dozen shuriken at Yuriko
as she went.
Yuriko spun to the side, bringing her sword up behind her and to her
side in a blur to block the few stars she couldn't dodge. She halted
in a crouch and brought her wakizashi into her free hand, waiting.
A dead ninja lurched out of the bushes, and a young samurai woman
climbed over him into the clearing. She carried a bloody sword and a
grim mien. Her dark hair was caught into a high ponytail and she wore
the same clan mon as Yuriko.
"We're surrounded," she snarled briefly. "There is no deal,
"I don't deal with assassins," Yuriko repeated, moving to stand with
her back to the other warrior's.
"Good to hear," said the younger woman with an edge to her voice that
suggested she'd heard the entire conversation.
The battle was vicious and brutal. Yuriko finally stood, leaning
against a tree, breathing hard. The ground was littered with dead
assassins, including the woman who had played princess. Her companion
paced, cat-like, among the bodies, making sure they were all dead.
very good with the sword," Yuriko panted.
"Thank you," the younger woman said. "So are you." She peered at
Yuriko. "And you've been wounded."
"Merely a scratch," Yuriko replied, prodding the slash in her upper
left arm with her fingers. It hurt. It always hurt. The trick was
not letting anyone else know.
"Bleeding a lot, though." She drew out her inner sash and a small
flask. "Let me take care of that for you."
Yuriko shrugged, regretted it as fabric rubbed over the raw edges of
the wound, then slid her arm out of her kimono. The younger woman
examined her shoulder critically, then poured wine over it. Yuriko
drew a hissing breath as it stung more than she'd expected, but she
was at least half reacting to the touch of the other woman's warm
hands. "So," she said, trying to distract herself. "I don't remember
your face. Who are you?"
The young samurai stopped, then stared hard at Yuriko. Finally, she
shook her head and said, "Kaori."
Yuriko blinked. "As in," she began cautiously, "/Princess/ Kaori?"
Her companion nodded and finished knotting the bandage. "Minister
Kishi had information about an attempted abduction, so I posed as a
foot soldier while one of my maids took my place." She looked down at
the woman on the ground. "I suppose she's been taken off to marry
whatever lord these," she kicked one of the nearby corpses, "happened
"I suppose." Yuriko sighed. When she looked up from the bodies, she
found Kaori watching her with a strange intensity that made her chest
tighten. "Well, uh," she said, fumbling for anything to say, "we
should be getting you to your
"Yes." The intense stare didn't waver at all.
Yuriko slid her arm back into her sleeve. "So," she said, trying a
conversational tone, "are you looking forward to your marriage?",br>
"Are you a fool?"
The samurai stared back at the princess, startled at the vehemence of
the response. "Aren't you supposed to say something like, 'It will be
very advantageous for our clan'?"
One side of Kaori's mouth twitched. "I hate being predictable." She
leaned closer to Yuriko.
Yuriko's eyes widened as she realized the princess was about to kiss
her. Her lips tingled with anticipation and the nearness of the other
woman's breath. She wondered if she should let her do this
They sprang apart guiltily and it took Yuriko a moment to recognize
Mariko's voice. "Mariko!" she shouted back. "Over here!"
Mariko appeared over a rise with a small troop of the clan's samurai
on horseback. "Is the princess all right?" she asked, cantering
"She's fine," Yuriko said, and jerked her head in the direction of
Kaori. When Mariko's brow furrowed in puzzlement, Yuriko explained,
"Minister Kishi was very
foresighted. Disguise. Bait-and-switch.
That sort of thing."
"Ah," Mariko replied in a tone that suggested a long talk in the
garden later. "Well, come on, both of you. We need to get going.
We've got a duty to perform."
"Yes," Kaori intoned gloomily.
Two samurai slid off their beasts and offered them to Kaori and
Yuriko, who took them gladly. The troop wheeled around and headed
back to the trail.
They rode hard down the mountain trail to the flatlands, trying --
unsuccessfully -- to avoid another confrontation.
"Damn," Yuriko said, watching the slow closing of the circle of
enemies. "I guess the Hazu ninjas are pretty desperate."
"How can you tell the difference between them?" Kaori wondered,
drawing her sword. "They all look like hoodlums in black to me."
Yuriko pointed to a near one. "The Hazu are the ones with the big,
staring, yellow eyes."
"I see," Mariko said, pulling the sheath off the blade of her
naginata. "Well, let's do our best!"
Battle again. Dust, blood, screams, havoc, giant lizards. Yuriko
thought, when she /could/ think, that they were very close to their
destination. She hoped the clamor would draw reinforcements. She
knew they couldn't hold against the horde of assassins pouring into
She ended up unhorsed again, standing back to back with Kaori and
Mariko. There were a few small knots of her samurai still fighting,
but the ninja were overwhelming them. Blood trickled into her eyes
from a copiously bleeding slash on her forehead.
"I didn't think it would end like this," she shouted to Mariko.
"I did," Mariko replied, dropping her textbook and raising her
naginata again. "Back to back, just like always."
"Mariko," Yuriko said huskily, "you know, I've always wanted to
"I know," Mariko replied, leaning closer. "Just once
"Can you stop with the drama and fight, please?" Kaori growled.
They jerked apart, Yuriko with a snarl, and turned to continue their
Yuriko caught a shift in the ebb and flow of everything. "There!
Mariko, take Kaori and run for it. I'll cover you!"
Mariko grinned over her shoulder. "Oh, so /I/ finally get to run off
with the princess. You /always/ get that job." She swung her
naginata wide to make an opening. Kaori grabbed her by the belt and
began to run, weaving her way expertly through the gap in the opposing
team to their goal.
Yuriko screamed and leaped upon the nearest ninja, letting herself
slip into a hazy, semi-conscious state of bloodlust. Weapons clashed,
octopi flew, heads rolled. The earth was dark and slippery with blood
and even less pleasant things, like pastries. She wasn't aware of
time, or where Mariko and Kaori were -- nothing but the endless waves
of masked mecha.
The world tilted dangerously. She looked down and saw blood soaking
the front of her favorite kimono ("Not going to get /that/ stain out,"
she thought), spreading in a fast, dark, dripping way. Her leaden
legs staggered a few meters from her latest kill and she fell to her
knees, then reeled over onto her back.
She gazed up at the perfect azure tiles of the sky and noticed that
the air was full of pale, delicate, pink petals that fluttered on the
Someone shouted her name and slid to a halt on their knees next to
her. Midori leaned over her, face lined with worry. "Hang on,
Yuriko! The doctor's coming!"
Yuriko had to tell Midori -- it was terribly important, more important
than anything she'd ever known before. She managed to sit up and
seized the front of Midori's kimono with both hands. "It's fall," she
shouted urgently, "and the cherry trees are blooming!"
Yuriko woke up with a muffled shout and sat bolt upright in bed,
staring into the dark room around her and breathing hard. She groped
at her belly and found it intact. The digital clock by her bedside
told her she had an hour before her alarm went off. She clawed the
bedclothes in frustration, both at the various tensions in the dream
and at being deprived of sleep. When she finally realized she was too
full of adrenaline to sleep, she got up and went into the kitchen for
On the way, she stumbled over the pile of scripts Aya had assembled
for her. With a vindictive snarl, she kicked the folder on top,
scattering the pages across the floor.
"Note to self," she said aloud. "No reading scripts for samurai
dramas before bed. Never, ever, ever again."