Chapter 6- A Frightened Kitten
Raido had cleaned up and was headed to the hot springs to find Kiyoko. Thankfully, the smell had been on his clothes more than him so he didn't smell anymore. He hoped the same was true of Kiyoko. Truth be told he was getting attached to her. She was sweet, even if she was a little clingy, not that she didn't have a reason to be clingy, life had not been nice to her in the last few weeks and to top it off she was in a new place, where she didn't know anyone, trying to start a new life. He didn't mind being her friend as she found her way through it.
He saw Shizune sitting out front in the shade of the building talking to someone but he didn't recognize her, he wondered where Kiyoko was.
"Hi Shizune." He said addressing the hokage's assistant as he walked up. Before he could ask where Kiyoko was though he heard her voice.
"Raido! It feels so good to be clean!" Kiyoko looked up at Raido who looked at her as if he'd never seen her before.
Raido looked with amazement at the young woman sitting next to Shizune. She had a light tan that perfectly complimented her shoulder length blonde hair. Her hair curled softly at the ends as it rested on her small shoulders. Her blue eyes sparkled as she looked up at him from her seat on the bench. She had clean clothes on, obviously given to her from someone but they fit her small frame a lot better than the rags she'd been wearing when he'd found her. He'd had no idea she was so beautiful. She was going to need a bodyguard just to walk through town.
He collected his thoughts, "Kiyoko! I bet it feels good to be clean again. You look so," he fumbled for words, "comfortable." Actually, she looked gorgeous but he wasn't going to say that, she needed a friend not a flirt. "Are you ready? Lady Tsunade wants to see us again to help you settle in here." He was a little concerned, not sure what the hokage would come up with but he knew her to be a fair and caring individual even if she didn't always show it.
"I am. Shizune, are you coming with us?"
Shizune smiled, she was such a sweet girl, she really hoped that she could start a new life and leave the pain of the last few weeks behind her. "I actually have some things I have to take care of before I return to Tsunade, so I'll see you later!" She waved goodbye as she headed off in the direction of the hospital.
Kiyoko turned to Raido. "I feel like all I do is say thank you. Everyone here has been so nice to me." A shadow fell across her face. "But maybe they don't all want me here?"
Raido turned to her with a concerned look, "What do you mean?"
"I heard what Genma said as I was leaving. He thinks I'm weak, doesn't he?"
"Remember what I said about him? He was raised under a rock. Also, he and I go back a long way. He said that mostly to mess with me. Trust me, he wants to help you too. He just has a different way of showing it. Now shall we go?"
"Thank you. Again." Damn, she thought, will I ever stop having to say that and finally be able to say you're welcome to someone?
Raido smiled at her and they set off towards the tower. As they walked she looked around her, realizing that she hadn't really observed the village when she walked through it with Shizune. Well, she thought, you were filthy and smelled awful, you were just trying not to be noticed. She took the opportunity to look around now. As it turned out they weren't far from the tower so she didn't see much. She was a little disappointed.
"Here we are," Raido said, "remember, she's loud but she has a good heart."
Kiyoko took a deep breath, "ok." They climbed the stairs side by side and as they climbed she noticed that a lot of the ninja would stare and then suddenly look away or leave. Did she still smell? "Why are they doing that?" She whispered this to Raido.
"Doing what?" He'd been so busy staring down all the guys who were staring at her that he hadn't noticed anything else.
"Never mind" They were standing at the door to the Hokage's office now and Raido was knocking. She took a deep breath again to steady her nerves, the next few minutes would shape the rest of her life.
Kiyoko was sure that had been heard throughout the village, she reminded herself of what Raido had told her as she passed through the door. Genma was still there and as he turned to greet them she noticed that he looked pale and that thing he was chewing on was hanging precariously out of his mouth. She wondered if he was ok.
"Hello Lady Hokage." Raido said, "we're back as you requested." He greeted Genma with a nod and a look that she was sure meant something but she didn't know what.
"Yes. Hello Lady Hokage." She wanted to bow but that hadn't gone so well last time, she settled for a polite and reverent greeting.
"Oh, hello there." Lady Tsunade was buried in paperwork. "I see you got all cleaned up." She looked up as she said this and was rendered speechless by what she saw. The filthy little orphan that had stood next to Raido several hours earlier had been transformed into a beautiful young woman. She could see her age now, she no longer looked twelve, rather she had the look of a lovely young lady. She managed to get her speech back "Are you feeling better? You look better."
"Yes, I am. Thank you." There were those words again.
"Well, I've done a lot of thinking about your situation."
Here it came, there'd be no place for her here and she would have to go back.
"What skills do you have?" Tsunade continued looking down at her paperwork while she spoke.
"Well. I can manage a farm. I did grow up on one. And I can cook, and clean. And I'm not a bad seamstress, although you could find better than me."
Lady Tsunade sighed, this wasn't going to be easy. She had to find employment for a farm girl with no ninja skills at all and it had to keep her within the village walls, which left farming out.
"Oh. And I used to teach at the village school. It was just reading, and math, and a little writing." Kiyoko finished off.
Tsunade's head snapped up. Hadn't Iruka recently mentioned that he needed help? "Genma!" She barked, "Go find Iruka please and tell him to see me at his earliest convenience."
Genma took off to do as he was asked.
"Well, Kiyoko. I can't promise you a fancy or well-paying job but I do promise we'll find something for you. And a place to live. Unfortunately the Inn is full right now and I don't have a place just yet."
Raido spoke up. "I think I can help, Ma'am."
Tsunade and Kiyoko both turned their attention to him.
"I have room. I can sleep on the sofa for a night or two while you work this out. Really she's scared and she needs to be shown around anyway."
"Hhmmm. I think you're right and it's been quiet lately. Ok, Raido, for the next few days you'll be in charge of her, show her around, help her get settled and introduce her. I want to talk to you alone for a minute though."
"Yes ma'am." Raido led Kiyoko to the door and showed her where she could sit while she waited and then returned to the Hokage's office.
As she sat down she became uncomfortably aware of people staring at her and wished she could melt into the wall behind her.
She jumped. Genma had returned and now squatted in front of her with that sharp thing, what had Raido called it, sticking out of his mouth. "Oh, hello" She wished she didn't sound so scared.
"Don't be scared. We bark loudly here but no one will hurt you. I bet it feels good to be clean again."
His eyes looked so kind when she looked into them that Kiyoko couldn't help but relax. His kind, reassuring manner made her feel comfortable instantly. "It does. I don't think I've ever been so dirty, even when I had to help my father wrestle the pigs!"
Genma smiled at the image of this small girl wrestling pigs, he couldn't picture it very well though. "So what did she say?"
"Just that she'd help me. I'm so glad I don't have to go back. I'd rather die."
"I'll let you in on a little secret." He moved a little closer to her and whispered, "there isn't a man or woman in this room that would have let her send you back, even if she'd wanted to. Every single one of us would have stood up for you. Slavery is wrong no matter how you look at it." He smiled at her as he moved away and sat back on his heels again.
Kiyoko felt relieved, that was a nice thing to hear.
In the office
Raido closed the door and returned to stand in front of Tsunade's desk. "Lady Tsunade?"
Tsunade looked up at Raido as she reached into her drawer and pulled out a small stack of bills. "Here's some money to cover her expenses. She'll need some clothes. Hinata's fit better but they're still too large. And she'll need to eat. Do what you think is best." She stretched out her hand to give him the money but closed her fist around it as he reached for it. "And be careful Raido. We don't know her well and she's beautiful. Don't go getting your heart mixed up in this. I see how protective you are of her. If I have to replace you as her guard I will."
"Lady Tsunade," Raido accepted the money, "I understand your concern but I want to reassure you that my concern for her is completely innocent."
"All right, but watch out."
"You'll have to return here tomorrow afternoon. Hopefully by then I'll have some answers."
"You're sure you're ok with this? Her staying at your place? If she's a spy..."
"I'm ok. And what kind of Hokage guard and assassin would I make if I hadn't thought of that already?" He smiled at his hokage, at least he knew she was looking out for him.
"Ok. See you tomorrow."
Raido exited the office to see Genma squatting in front of Kiyoko, she was smiling at him. He walked up to them. "Are you hungry, Kiyoko?"