The Heart of Oshu

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Akito and Shizuru are twins. When Shizuru spurns the affections of a corrupt magistrate, he demands recompense and sends her brother to serve in Oshu's army. To save her brother, Shizuru swaps places with him and serves as a page of Date Masamune.

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The Kurenai Twins

From the wooden doorframe of the restaurant's entrance, Shizuru applauded the kabuki actors' performance. The audience cheered and some already began heading to the restaurant. When she spotted them leaving their seats, she rolled up the sleeves of her Aegean blue kimono and nodded.

"Here comes the rush hour." She grabbed a tray. "Time to get moving!"

Shizuru poured water into multiple glasses. Once done, she ushered the customers to their seats and then took down their orders. Once confirmed, she sprinted towards the kitchen and put the slip of paper on the wire. She prepared to proceed to the next table when someone tapped her shoulder. When she turned around, she saw one of the kabuki actors behind her. He took off his mask, revealing a young man with dark brown eyes.

"Need help, sis?" The young man grabbed a tray.

Shizuru nodded. "Definitely. Good show today, Akito."

Akito gave her a boyish grin. "Thanks! Let's start serving people or we're gonna hear it from Sachi!"

She nodded and sprinted forward to start serving the other people. As she took down their orders, one of the customers beamed at her.

"Your sister put on a good show today, eh, Akito? Her movements were great!"

Shizuru smiled sheepishly. "She sure did."

"How about you, Akito? How's your swordsmanship class?"

"Doing pretty well. I finished my promotion exam today."

"That's great! Seijuro must be proud of you, kid!"

Shizuru gave the customer an awkward laugh. "He sure is..."

Once she left the table, she sighed. People really can't tell, can they? She shook her head and proceeded to pin the next order on the wire when she spotted Akito sending in his order too.

"Oh no, it's that awkward smile." Akito chuckled and folded his arms. "They thought you were me again."

Shizuru shook her head. "Haven't they always?"

"I get we're identical but we do have some defining features!"

Shizuru dryly chuckled. Akito and she were identical twins. Both of them had fair skin and light brown hair. Their height was almost similar save for a quarter of an inch if one squinted hard enough. The differences were so subtle that even their long time staff had difficulty telling them apart.

"Well, I ain't surprised, Akito," drawled an aged man from the kitchen, "You and your sister act as if you're in the wrong bodies!"

Akito snickered. "Aww c'mon, Sachi. I thought you'd be used to it by now!"

"I've been a cook here even before you two were born and I'm still having difficulty telling you two apart!"

"Well, it is hard. We're identical after all."

Shizuru laughed softly. Sachi had a stern expression but had kind eyes. His wrinkled tanned skin and calloused hands were proof of how long he had worked in the restaurant industry. She sometimes feared that he was balding because of the stress. But he always insisted that cooking made him happy.

"Identical or not, some people oughta get used ta it!" Sachi beheaded a fish. "What makes it so damn hard is how ya two behave! Hells, Shizuru should have been the lad and you the lass!"

Shizuru sighed with a small smile. It was what got people confused. Akito often wore bright, warm-colored kimonos whereas Shizuru wore dark, cool-colored kimonos. Her brother preferred the arts and theatre and she preferred the sword.

"Though, mother didn't see anything wrong with Shi-chan learning how to use the sword." Akito shrugged. "Except when she started breathing on the other boys in the dojo."

Shizuru rolled her eyes. "Really?"

"You're pretty intimidating with a sword, sis. Even the senior students got scared of you."

"That's not my fault."

"True, if they took it as seriously as you and half as talented as you were, they wouldn't be chicken."

Shizuru sighed until she saw three young men come in. They're not from here, she realized. She could tell however they were samurai. All three of them had two swords strapped to their obi but only one had a haori draped over his shoulders. All of them looked in their late twenties but they appeared to be so distinct from each other. The one with taupe-colored hair and a hibiscus colored kimono had an enthusiastic grin. The one next to him had gelled back dark brown hair and was in a navy blue kimono. Then, the one in the moss green kimono had slightly disheveled black hair that reminded her of black olives and an eyepatch over one eye.

"Oi, quit staring, Shizuru! Those guys are gonna be orderin'!" Sachi's holler snapped her out of her trance.

Shizuru yelped and grabbed a tray, jogging off to meet them. "Sorry!"

Shigezane beamed. "Finally, we got to drag Masamune out of his room! I'm amazed you haven't died yet!"

"We could have left faster if you helped me with the paperwork," Masamune dryly retorted. "You barely did anything."

"I did too!"

"Yes, you rolled around and whined for me to go with you until we got here."

"Nooo! Kojuro, say something!"

Kojuro sighed and shook his head. "I am afraid I will have to side with Lord Masamune for this one. You are barely useful in paperwork."

Shigezane sighed. Trust Kojuro to never side with me, he groaned. "But, I was moral support, darling!"

"Hells, Shigezane. Any louder and they'll throw us out of the restaurant."

"... Fine..."

Masamune smirked. "How did you find this place anyway? I thought you were always at Omori."

"I jog here every morning. Go walking now and then."

"... Do you know how far Omori is from here, Shigezane?"

"It isn't that far! If you know my shortcuts..."

"Your shortcuts?"

"Yeah! I'll show you when you're around Omori!"

Masamune gave him a curt nod.

Shigezane grinned. He had been wanting to take Masamune out for awhile. Ever since he was announced as the successor of Lord Terumune, all the more he began handling the other things. Territories, supplies, people's complaints - all of that kept him in his room. So for him, dragging Masamune out was something he was more than happy to do.

"Excuse me, may I have your orders?" a soft voice asked.

Shigezane looked up to see a young woman with a tray. "Yeah! I heard your taiyaki's great!"

"Alright, so that's one order of taiyaki. Anything else?"

"Oh, a Dango too! Anything you guys want?"

Kojuro looked over Shigezane's shoulder. "Is that Oshiruko?"

Shigezane looked behind him. "Yeah, I think so." He then turned to the young woman. "That is oshiruko right?"

She nodded. "We make a new batch every time someone orders."

"Well damn, it is! Kojuro, they have your favorite!"

Kojuro sighed, shaking his head at Shigezane's boisterous voice. "My apologies for my companion's boisterous voice" - he shot a glare at him - "but yes, I would like an oshiruko please."

"Okay. Anything else?"

"Lord Masamune, would you like anything?"

Masamune pondered for a moment, looking over the menu. "Zunda Mochi sounds good."

"Alright, so to repeat: one Dango, one taiyaki, one oshiruko, and finally - one zunda mochi. Yes?"

Shigezane grinned. "You got it, doll!"

The young woman shook her head with a playful roll of her eyes. "Alright, coming up."

That was the Lord of Oshu, Date Masamune? What's he doing all the way here?

Shizuru looked over to their table, giving the cashier. She had only heard stories about the fearsome lord of Oshu. Most of them were what was under his eyepatch. She shook her head; demons in an eye? Get real, she scoffed.

"Huh, that's an interesting sight." She heard her brother approach her. "There's a lot of samurai here now."

Shizuru raised an eyebrow. "Haven't there always been a lot of samurai?"

"Yeah but in our restaurant?"

"That means the food's good!"

"Yeah, but don't they have fancy cooks in their place?"

"Then, it's a compliment. We cook as well as their staff!"

Akito shrugged. "Fair point. I'm surprised though by one thing."


"That magistrate ain't here yet."

Shizuru's face crumpled into an expression of disgust. "Shh, don't invite trouble! I swear if he shows his face here - I'll floor his ass."

Akito chuckled. "So much for being ladylike." He then ruffled her hair. "I swear, every man loses his manhood every time you breathe on them."

"Just the ones who can't take the idea of a woman beating them."

"If only dad were alive now, he'd be having a hoot."

Shizuru smiled weakly. Their father worked in the restaurant also. He knew swordsmanship and was the reason why she got into it. But as to what he did prior, he never said.

Suddenly, she heard a boisterous voice screaming for her.

"Shizuru, darling! I'm here!"

When she looked at the door, a plump man strode through the door. He pointed his flat nose up, smirking at the other customers. He snapped his stubby fingers and men she assumed to be his bodyguards entered. He plucked his yellow haori as if to flaunt it. Shizuru twitched as he wiped his sweaty scalp and brushed his greasy top knot.



"Stab me."

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