No Choice

He took no pleasure in this. Maybe some would argue, some might describe him as a vindictive man. Jealous of his brothers. Maybe this was even true at times but he took no pleasure in setting up the death of a woman being brutalized by her husband.

He had gone over the options, his brother Kioshi had tried to stay away from her, but the two of them were drawn to one another, like lovers reach from a distant life time. Jealous, maybe. It would be different if her husband treated her well, what ever impotent rage he had ended up forcing his frustration onto his wife. It would be different if her husband was nobody, however he was the brother of the Elemental Master of Fire.

Kioshi clashed with the man in court as often as possible, and it would be different if Kioshi was no one, however he was the brother of the Scorpion Clan Daimyo. The men's feud was well known so if either of them died their Clans would blame the other, it would be war. Leave them long enough and it would be war.

His heart was heavy in this. However if she died it would solve the problem. He had slowly worked to make sure the money he would pay with would not be tracked back to his Clan's lands. The coins origin had been carefully selected. Pick the wrong place for the origin of the bribe and it could mean war.

He had gone without his mask and outside of his clan colours. No one would know him from anyone else. The men he picked were not even good enough to be bandits, thieves who lurked in cities. He picked men effective enough to do the job yet dumb enough not to mind too much about who had hired them.

His brother was very much away as was his target's husband, he had made certain of that. If one of them could be blamed it certainly would happen and the plan would be for not. He was killing his brother's lover, this had to be emotionless and for the good of everyone, emotion would only ruin things and be deadly.

“Do what you will with the woman as long as she's dead within the half hour.” He would very much like to tell them to not dally, not pull out her suffering but then it wouldn't look natural. It would look like she was assassinated, not merely a sad accident.

It had to be an accident. If it wasn't then she would have died for nothing, a war would start. This had to be handled with the utmost care.

Forging the letter was easy, just something simple asking her to meet a friend. She had walked this way often before and the danger would not be apparent. He could feel his mask under his clothes, it was like he was carrying his own face.

It was easy to see why his brother favoured the woman. Sorano, her name was Sorano. Her long black hair had been tied back with an orange ribbon, her warm over kimono had a pattern like feathers. She walked through the quiet streets with the gentle grace of a feather caught on the breeze.

His breath caught and he could not exhale, she was beautiful and he could remember the way his brother looked at her, talked to her, agonized over her. His hand was on his sword, when it had gone there he wasn't completely sure.

He turned to go, behind him in the alley opposite the one he was standing in he could hear her shout of surprise and the sound of her being dragged into the alley. No. He would stay. She deserved that, not to die alone.

He turned back and found himself confused and pulling his mask from his kimono. With everything else she could protect her hands had gone to her stomach. She called out for his brother, no… for him to forgive her.

The sword was out of it's sheath, when it came into contact with flesh it slowed sending blood into the darkness of the alley. The men he had hired weren't expecting anyone, no one who should have been there to save her.

When the third man died they finally realized they had to run, Sorano was dumped on the ground, surrounded by blood but not touched by it. She looked up and she recognized his mask. “Manabu?” She said sounding revealed.

He put down his take her's, “I heard my brother's name.” He admitted, not a lie, he helped her to her feet.

“You don't walk around Ottosan Ouchii saving stray ladies?” She asked brushing her clothes off carefully, before giving him a sweet smile.

“Only those who cry out to someone I am related to.” He smirked under the mask, “Can you walk?”

“You make it sound like that happens all the time.” She shook her head. “No I can walk.”

Manabu looked around, he was certain the men he hired were gone, they were cowards. He flicked the blood from his blade before placing it away. “I will walk you home.” He was not asking and she walked along beside him.

They talked for a bit, about nothing, the weather, the seasons, food Manabus wanted to give her some time to recover. “Do you intend to tell Kioshi he's going to be a father?”

She stared at him for a moment and then looked at her feet as she walked, “Is there anything that can keep itself from your ears Manabu?”

“Weather or not you intended to tell Kioshi.”

She shook her head and smiles slightly, “I will. He's going to know anyways.” When she got to her home she opened the door, Manabu came in with her he wasn't invited but he wasn't going to stop the conversation just yet.

“You should go lie down.” He said gently. “I will make you some tea.” He could hear her going to lie down the servants were asleep, and there weren't that many of them. His eyes scanned the outer room laying upon the letter asking her out he had forged from a friend. He reached out and took it stashing it away swiftly.

Then he made the tea, finding everything with the speed of a man who had been spying.

“I should have been in your family.” She said when he brought her the tea.

“I have never heard a Crane wish to be a Scorpion.” Manabu said feeling sadness himself. “Such talk does us little good.”

“Don't tell Kioshi about this I don't want him to worry more then he does already.”

“I swear to you I will never tell him about this.” Manabu said as he started to close the door. “Goodnight Sorano.”

He heard her as he closed the door, “Goodnight Manabu and thank you.”

If she had some how secretly known about his involvement, he could not have picked words to make him feel worse. Why had he done what he had done? He couldn't exactly say though he had some guesses, so much work to be stopped from by a child.

He took off his mask, his “face” and looked at it before placing the object in his kimono, he would leave the city not as a Scorpion, but as an anonymous man who had made a tough decision. He had either doomed his family or saved it. He took no pleasure in this.

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