Chapter 24- Similarities and Differences
"So lets go back to my place. We have a lot to talk about." Raido took her hand and pulled her up to him.
They wandered back to his place, neither one of them in a hurry, just glad to be with each other. Kiyoko thought about how much her life had changed. She had been a farm girl with a terrible stepmother who hated her just a few weeks ago. Now she was on the arm of a handsome ninja who loved her. She couldn't be happier.
"You know? I think I should thank my stepmother."
"What?" Raido was confused.
"Well. If she hadn't sold me then I would never have met you. And I am very glad that I did. Unless you made regular visits to Iwagakure in the hopes of finding a girl." Her teasing tone was apparent and Raido joined her.
"Well. I had thought about buying myself a girl since I couldn't convince anyone here to go out with me."
She laughed and said "I thought human trafficking was outlawed here. How would you have explained that to your Hokage?"
Raido quieted, "Really, I shouldn't have made that joke. It's no laughing matter. I'm sorry that you had to have the experiences you had but I'm not sorry I met you."
They arrived at his apartment and they went in.
"Do you want tea or anything?" Kiyoko asked.
Raido looked at her in his kitchen, preparing to make tea. He wondered how it was that she just fit? "Sure. Tea would be great."
When she had made tea and brought him a mug she joined him on the sofa. "So what did you want to talk about?"
Raido had been thinking about this while she made tea. He wanted to be sure she understood what his life was like.
"Kitten... Kiyoko, I know you haven't had a lot of experience with the ninja lifestyle and I want to be sure you understand what you are getting into with me."
"Ok. You're right. I have zero experience but I know that I love you. I'm willing to figure the rest out."
"Well. Being a ninja isn't a very romantic job. It sounds like it might be but it isn't. My first job is to protect the Hokage, and by extension the village, with my life if necessary. And I am sometimes sent out on missions to do that."
"Well I knew that you're an assassin. That's no surprise. What are you trying to tell me?"
"Every time I leave on a mission there is a chance I won't come home. You've seen the memorial, right?"
Kiyoko knew this, of course, but she hadn't put it together with him. "That's what happened a few days ago isn't it?"
"Yes. I was sent out to...eliminate someone. Unfortunately he got me before he went down and his kunai had poison on it. I was out before I even knew for sure he was dead. If the search party hadn't found me when they did, I wouldn't be here talking to you. As it is I barely survived." He watched as the recognition dawn on her face.
"So how did they find you? How did you survive?" Kiyoko was beginning to understand how truly dangerous his job was.
"Mostly luck. I was supposed to check in when my mission was done. Because if I failed then ANBU would send a team out to clean up. When I didn't check in they sent a team out to check on me."
Kiyoko remembered that day. She had thought that Raido would help her move into her new place but he hadn't been there. When Genma and she were leaving those two ninja had barged into the Hokage's office and then left immediately with the Hokage, Shizune and Sakura close behind. Now she understood why they had all seemed upset, and why Genma had looked so concerned, even though he'd tried to hide it from her. "I remember the activity that afternoon. Now it makes more sense. And no one could tell me what was going on because your mission was a secret."
"Exactly. It was hard for them to see you upset and thinking that I was avoiding you. I guess Shizune caved. She'd better hope that the Hokage doesn't hear about it."
"So what if I had been your wife,or girlfriend?"
"You would have been told something similar. That I was busy or called away. Once I was stabilized in the hospital someone would have gotten you and you could have visited but in all likelihood you would not have been told why I was there." He watched her for her reaction.
"Ok. So what if you hadn't come home? What do they tell wives and girlfriends then?"
"They would tell you that I died in the line of duty, but there probably wouldn't be any details, just a funeral and my name would be added to the monument."
Kiyoko shivered. It made her sad to think that Raido might be sent out on a mission and never come back. "That's scary."
"And I might go to work today and be assigned a mission that I have to leave on. I might be able to get word to you but I might just not come home for dinner."
Kiyoko was thoughtful about this. He was right, life with him would be challenging and hard. She looked at him sitting next to her. His smile, quirking at the corner of his mouth, his spiky brown hair sticking up from his headband despite his attempts to tame it and those eyes that she had come to trust over the time she had known him. She realized it hadn't been as long as it seemed, only about a week and a half but she felt as if she'd known him all her life. "That will be hard, but I think I can live with it. Knowing it might happen is better than not knowing."
"And I will probably come home in the middle of the night sometimes."
"No big deal." She smiled at him. "Are you trying to scare me away?"
"No. But I want you to understand. My first responsibility is to the village."
Kiyoko leaned into him, shifting so she was closer. "I understand. It's not so different from farm life you know?"
"Yeah? How is that?" Raido asked.
"Well, my fathers first responsibility was to his farm. It was our livelihood. If the animals died or the crops got destroyed then we went hungry and risked losing everything. Once there were wildfires near us and my father, brothers and I spent three nights in the fields watching to make sure they didn't threaten the crops."
"What would you have done if they did?"
"We would have fought them off in anyway we knew how. Even if it meant one of us dying to protect the farm. We felt the same about the animals. We protected them with our lives, from predators and thieves alike. I learned very young how to use a knife to protect myself. And I spent many sleepless nights in the barn with newborns ensuring their survival. Their survival was tied to our survival."
Raido was gaining a new respect for Kiyoko. Genma was right, she was strong. "I guess I never realized. You were so in awe of ninja when I met you, I assumed you were more sheltered than that. I'm sorry for not giving you more credit."
"To be fair, when you met me I wasn't exactly at my best. I was covered in mud and skunk and terrified of anything that moved."
They both laughed at the memory and Raido put his arms around her pulling her up onto his lap so that he could kiss her.
When he pulled away to look at her she said "Raido. I think I can live with the danger of your job. I will love the moments we are together and when they are over, I will treasure the memories we made." She looked up at him with sincerity in her face, tears glistening at the corners of her eyes.
"Are you crying?" Raido was amazed at the strength of this woman in his arms and he was very glad that he had met her.
"Not really. It's just the emotion of the moment. I know that the day will come when you don't come home and that makes me sad, but not sad enough to give up a chance to make a life with you in the meantime."
Raido held her close. "I am the luckiest man alive, Kiyoko. You are amazing."
Kiyoko smiled and yawned. "Well then I guess I am the luckiest girl alive then because you're amazing too."
Raido noticed how tired she was looking. "You probably need to sleep. Shall I walk you home? I haven't even seen your new place yet."
They walked side by side to her place kicking rocks back and forth and laughing when one of them missed. When they got to her building she led him up the stairs and down the walkway.
"Welcome to my place, Raido." She opened the door and he followed her in. "I know it's not much but I like it, sort of."
"It is nice." Raido observed the small one room apartment.
"Do you want anything?"
"Yeah." He smiled mischievously at her.
"What?" She looked at him with her most innocent face.
He walked up close to her, wrapped her in his arms and said "I want to kiss you again."
She giggled and her lips met his. He picked her up and carried her over to the couch where he sat down with her on his lap again so that they could kiss without her stretching her neck up to reach him. Thirty minutes later they were still kissing.
"I don't want to leave you here tonight, Kiyoko. But I think I need to go."
Kiyoko pulled him closer, "I know." She kissed him again. "You could just stay?" She pulled back to look at him with a twinkle in her eye.
Raido eyed the tiny bed in her apartment. "Kiyoko, I'm six feet tall. Even alone I probably wouldn't fit in that bed."
She giggled, it was true. The bed in her apartment was a small one, unlike his. "Well, I wonder what we can do about that?" She said this as innocently as she could with one finger on her mouth as if she was thinking very hard.
Raido laughed, "You're not a kitten! You're a minx!"
She smiled and put her arms around his neck.
"Are you sure? That will be a big step in our relationship and very quickly."
"Raido, I've never been so sure in my life! Let me pack a few things up so I can go to work in clean clothes in the morning!"