Chapter 27- Faces from the Past
Kiyoko was staring at the three men outside the ramen stand like she had seen a ghost.
He put his arm around her shoulders and said "Let's go this way."
But she pulled away, "No." And she approached the men. "Father?"
Raido was surprised at what she had said and even more surprised when the oldest looking of the men looked up.
The light was behind Kiyoko making it easier for her to see them than for them to see her but as she got closer the older man stepped towards her. "Kiyoko? What are you doing here child?"
Kiyoko ran to him and threw herself into his arms, sobbing. "I didn't think I'd ever see you again!" Then she turned to the other two men, and pulled them both to her one on each side. "Katsuro, Jiro! I'm so glad to see you!"
Raido stood behind her wondering what to do.
Kiyoko turned to him, "Raido, this is my father, Kunio, and my brothers Katsuro and Jiro. This is Raido." She looked up at him smiling through her tears.
"Kiyoko, why are you here, in Konoha? This is a long way from home." Her father asked, looking worried.
Kiyoko's face fell as she realized that she had to tell him all that had happened. "It's a long story. Why don't we find a place to sit?"
Raido agreed and he led them to a teahouse that was quiet. When they had settled Kiyoko looked at her father and brothers carefully. "This is going to be hard for you to hear father. So please, just hear me out until I'm done." She reached for Raido's hand under the table for courage.
Her father nodded, "Ok Kiyoko. I'll be patient."
She looked at him with such sadness. "Father, three days after you left for your trip, Minori sold me to a slave trader named Yori."
Raido watched the three men on the other side of the table for their reactions. Both her brothers looked surprised but kept quiet. Her father looked shocked.
"I knew you two didn't get along but...I don't know what to say." He looked to Raido. "Are you the one who bought her?" He rose.
"Father! NO. Please, you promised."
He sat back. "You're right, I did."
"Raido is the one who rescued me." She explained the story of Fumio and Kin, her escape from them and how Raido had found her and brought her back here. Then she told them of meeting up with Fumio and Kin here and how they'd been apprehended, leaving out the part where they almost killed her. "Fumio and Kin have been dealt with by the Hokage of Konoha, her name is Lady Tsunade. Fumio is in prison, and Kin has been escorted back to Takegakure."
Her father bristled at this.
"No father, she made the right choice and he is banned from the Land of Fire forever." She looked up at Raido.
"So, what will you do now, Kiyoko?" Her father looked at her.
"What will you do? About Minori? It never occurred to me that you would stop here on your way back. I assumed that you would see her first and she would concoct some story about me running away. Will you confront her?"
Her father looked uncomfortable. "I will but it will be very hard. What she did is not technically against the law in Iwagakure. Of course I'm very angry with her for it but I can't have her arrested."
"I know." Kiyoko leaned into Raido a little.
"I will, of course, ask her to leave. And you can come home with us." He looked at her and then Raido.
"No father. I'm staying here." Her voice was quiet.
He looked surprised. "What do you mean?"
"I'm in love with Raido. And I'm staying here and making a life with him."
Kunio looked at Raido as if he was inspecting him. "And you. Do you love her?"
Raido put his arm around her shoulders, "I do Kunio. Very much so."
"But you only just met! How can that be?"
"I know, father. We aren't making any decisions that can't be changed yet. But I am staying." Kiyoko sighed. "Why don't we help you find the Inn? You all look so tired. We can talk more in the morning."
Her brothers looked at each other and then at her.
"What's wrong? Why do you look like that?" She asked, starting to worry.
"Well," her father said, "it's a little embarrassing. We did well in the Land of Snow selling hides and such, and even secured a few new clients. But we got robbed and lost most of the money we made yesterday. We stopped here but when you found us we were counting what we had left to see if we could eat. We can't afford the Inn, we were going to camp outside town."
"That's terrible. No one was hurt?" She looked them over a little more carefully.
"No, we weren't hurt, they just took our money. We should have paid for an escort but I thought it would be safer."
Raido cleared his throat. "I have an idea." He leaned down and whispered in her ear.
"That's a great idea, Raido!" She turned to her father. I've decided to move in with Raido, now father, don't say a word, I'm twenty-eight. But I haven't moved out of the place that I found when I first got here yet. We had just decided today that I would move at all. So you three can stay at my place, it's not huge but it's warm and dry and it's free!"
Her father didn't look happy, and Raido wondered if he was going to get attacked by the old farmer. Instead he turned to Raido. "I hope you will treat my daughter with respect young man. She's a treasure to me."
"She's a treasure me also, Takenaka-san. I will defend her with my life, if I have to."
Her father smiled at him. "Then we have an understanding."
Kiyoko was standing up, "Come on. It's late and you three look tired."
They led them to her little apartment where she let them in and showed them around. "Now, we'll be by in the morning but we both have to work so you'll have to wait until afternoon to visit. There's food in the fridge and towels are in the bathroom on the shelf." She hugged her father, "I love you father." Then she hugged her brothers and she and Raido let themselves out.
"I hope their ok for the night. I never imagined I'd see them so soon! I couldn't believe my eyes." She walked next to Raido.
"It was a surprise. I thought maybe it was the slave trader or something. You looked so scared."
"I didn't know what to think. Come on let's get home."
When they got home and were settling into bed Raido reached out to hold her. "If you want to go home for a bit it would be ok."
"I don't. I want to stay right here." And she snuggled down into his shoulder.
He held her close to him breathing in the smell of her. He was glad she wanted to stay because he didn't think he could handle her leaving.
When they got up in the morning they both hurried so they could stop over at her place and see her father and brothers before work.
"I can't believe you landed a place and a job so quickly Kiyoko. I knew you were good but really, how long have you been here?" It was Katsuro teasing her.
"Just about two weeks. I'll tell you all about it this afternoon. Watch out, it's easy to get lost here." She kissed them on the cheek. "See you after work!"
She and Raido left them, Kiyoko silently hoping they wouldn't get lost before she got out of work.
When work was over Raido met her at the base of the tower and they headed back to her place to meet up with her family.
"How do you think they did?" He looked at her as they walked.
"I just hope they didn't get lost." She laughed. But when they got there all three men were still home. "Did you stay here all day?"
"Actually, we did. We didn't have anything to do, really, except explore and we were all tired from traveling. After you left we all fell asleep again." They all laughed.
"Are you hungry?" Raido asked.
"We are. I'm afraid we ate all your food Kiyoko." Her brother Jiro looked worried.
"Oh that's fine. I hadn't done any real shopping yet and the weekend was, umm, busy."
Raido spoke up again, "why don't we all get barbecue?"
They all agreed that barbecue sounded good. Raido led the way to the restaurant and ordered for them all. "Takenaka-san, do you want some sake?" He looked at her father.
"Maybe after we've eaten. Thank you." He smiled at Raido, he liked this young man that had stolen his daughters heart. And he saw how much they loved each other in how they looked at each other. "So, tell me about this life you are building so quickly here, Kiyoko."
"Well, there isn't much to tell. The Hokage really did it all for me. She found me a job and my place, which I will be giving up when you leave. Everyone here is very friendly and have been very welcoming to me."
"Hmm. And you, Raido. What do you do for work?"
Raido shifted, "I'm a ninja, specifically a Hokage guard." He knew that Iwa ninja had a bad reputation and he worried what Kiyoko's father might think.
Kunio's eyes narrowed, "A ninja, huh?"
"Father. Ninja here are very different from in Iwa. Every one of them has been nice, and they all stepped up to keep me safe. There is even a girl ninja named Sakura, her hair is pink and she is amazingly strong! But she is the sweetest girl you've ever met."
"Hmm." Her father seemed unconvinced and he watched Raido as they ate their food.
Suddenly Kiyoko found herself sandwiched between two men, she looked to her right. Genma was pressing her into Raido. "Hi Kitten. Did you have a good day?" He rolled his senbon as he said this and winked at her.
"Hi Genma. I did." She glanced at her father who didn't look happy. "Father, this is Genma, he's Raido's best friend and one of my new friends. He helped me get settled here."
Genma straightened up and looked at the three men across the table.
" Genma, this is my father, Kunio, and my brothers, Katsuro and Jiro."
Genma greeted them, shaking their hands. "Nice to meet you. What brings you here?"
Kiyoko explained their stop to him and then turned back to her family. "Father, I know it's hard to accept them as ninja, but they're very nice."
Genma grumbled, "Don't say it so loud kitten. You'll ruin my reputation."
She laughed at this.
Kunio smiled at them "Any friend of my daughters is a friend of mine. Thank you both for helping her when we couldn't be there to do it ourselves. We owe you a great debt."
Genma and Raido both smiled at him. "The pleasure was all ours."
"But why did you call her kitten?" He looked at Genma.