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Nasuti pulled the jeep in to the driveway of the Yagyu Estate, stopping outside of the automatic garage and parking the car. Taking the keys out of the ignition, she unfastened her seat-belt and looked to Shuten. She hesitated a moment before reaching over and unbuckling his seat belt, remembering the awkwardness that was Shuten's first ride in the jeep back when they searched for the Jewel of Life.

"Watch your head." Nasuti quietly warned as she pulled up the seat-belt. She pointed to the door handle on Shuten's end with her free hand. "Pull that lever there to let yourself out."

Shuten slid back the hat and bent down as he stepped out of the car, following her instructions. It was going to take him a while to get used to this new Japan. While he loathed the changes, he was impressed with what people have come up with. He gave a small smile, pleased to be back in a familiar area.

At least here nothing had changed, save for the lack of the Dynasty watching the estate.  "Let me help carry in the groceries."
Nasuti closed the door on the driver's side, hoisting her purse strap up over her shoulder. "Oh, there isn't much..." Nasuti walked to the back of the Jeep and opened the back overhead door to retrieve the few bags of groceries. "I'm only cooking for one right now anyway."

Despite her insistence, he went ahead and grabbed the few bags. "It must be hard to adjust back to living by yourself. I tend to find it harder to be amongst a large crowd."

He walked alongside her as they walked up to the house and inside. The estate was so vast, but at the same time it seemed rather desolate.

Nasuti closed the jeep door, offering a hand to take at least one of the bags. "Don't leave me empty-handed?" She said this with a bit of a chuckle.

Reluctantly, he allowed her to take one of the bags. Granted his wife would have been furious with him for doing her job in the first place. She probably wouldn't have approved of Nasuti and the way she had been raised. However, so much has changed....her views would have been considered laughable.

Nasuti took the bag and the car chirped as it automatically locked. Wordlessly she led Shuten up the walkway to the front door of the immense Yagyu estate, perched on a hill top overlooking dense forests. It was a good drive from Shinjuku to her home - a good hour and half by the Chuo Line's express train. Luckily the expressway was not as congested in the middle of the afternoon. She still had her keys out, and she jiggled a brass-looking key into the lock on the large dark wooden door framed with full-glass panel windows on each side. The door softly clicked open, and with the side of her hip, Nasuti nudged the door wide enough to get through while kicking off her shoes. "Please come in." She invited the monk inside while stepping backwards to shake off her flats.

Shuten slipped off his sandals and placed the Ancient One's staff by the door. He realized that he wouldn't need any of use of it here. Not now. It would be different if it were his time. It felt a bit awkward for him to leave the staff there. In a way, it was showing that he accepted the fact peace has finally come. The Ancient One would be pleased that they had managed to complete his quest.

Nasuti certainly took notice of Shuten's apparent relief of the staff's duties upon entering her abode. At first it was cause for concern...was he certain that there would be no need for it? She then remembered where she was, and the circumstances surrounding the visit. Arago was gone. Completely gone. There really was nothing to fear. She gave herself a scolding smile, and chuckled a bit to herself, shaking her head while stepping into the hallway. "For a moment, I thought we had gone back in time."
She walked towards the kitchen; not minding in Shuten looked around or followed. "...I should probably get something started..."

He gave a small smile. "Well the community has presented us a unique way of interacting despite the time differences. I can only hope that my time line follows through as yours had."

"What other research have you discovered since peace has been restored?" He asked curiously, following her into the kitchen.
Nasuti balked at Shuten's first words. She hoped it wouldn't. She really didn't. Oh, God, there were the tears again. She focused on the digital clock on the kitchen's microwave, willing herself not to let any tears be shed. She blinked a few times in hopes that any excess moisture in her eyes would be evenly distributed...breathe. Breathe, Nasuti.

"I..." Nasuti croaked out in response, and quickly coughed to clear her throat. "Excuse me--" She turned away and coughed a bit more. At least her eyes were drying. "I have been spending most of my time arranging grandfather's lesson plans for the professors taking over his duties. I haven't quite yet gotten back into any deep research just yet." She turned around and extended a hand to take Shuten's grocery bags. "But soon!"

Shuten gave her a quizzical stare, knowing she was withholding information. It had to deal with him, somehow and it was something that upset her greatly. He was going to have to be more careful of what he asked, despite his temptation of wanting to know. "I'm sorry; I didn't mean to trouble you."

He wondered if this was a wise move coming to visit her.

"No, no, I'm sorry." Nasuti sniffed back any of those traitorous tears, and offered Shuten as sincere a smile as she could muster. "I still get a little weepy talking about Grandfather. It's not your fault." She held out her arms towards Shuten, palms facing up.

He handed her the grocery bags, still not buying her answer. He knew that some of it was true, but she was withholding information and Nasuti wasn't too good at that.

"Tell me more about yourself. What do you like to do outside of doing your research?"

Nasuti looked up from the bag of groceries she was unpacking. What was this about? Why was he asking about her when he could be picking her brain for information on defeating Arago? "I beg your pardon?" She gave an embarrassed laugh, nervously toying with a strand of hair as she tucked it behind her ear.

"I was asking about you. I've never had the opporturnity to ask you what you've done before your research became prominent. All I ever knew was that you were the one who found the troopers and provided them information they needed."

Nasuti paused, looking down at the daikon she was holding. How could she begin to explain most of her hobbies? While she had great interest in Japanese antiquity, her other hobbies, in stark contrast, were extremely modern.

Nasuti walked over to the fridge and opened the door to the cooler. She closed her eyes, relieved at the cool air blasting into her flushed face. "Well. I enjoy driving myself and others around like what we were doing on the way here, for one."

He smirked. The driving made him uncomfortable, and dealing with the metro as well was another thing he didn't like "You can keep the driving...that's something I wish to avoid.”

Nasuti laughed a bit. "Most Japanese people prefer not to drive. It's expensive. I have an international license."

"International license?" He raised an eyebrow. "You are not from Japan?"

Nasuti quirked a brow, and pointed to her green eyes. "Isn't it obvious? I'm half-French." Wait. Did he know what France was? "I'm from the West." Maybe she had to go further than that. "Beyond China." Nasuti shrugged a bit. "I'll show you on a map sometime."

"You forget my knowledge only extends to Japan and Arago's world. I was aware of other places beyond that, but beyond that nothing." Shuten frowned and looked away. He only began to realize just how much he didn't know about the world. He was beginning to really feel out of place.

Nasuti nervously smiles. "It doesn't affect your daily life as much as you'd think." She tried to sound encouraging, but wasn't sure how helpful it was. Shuten really was a fish out of the pond. They'd been so engrossed with Arago and ancient lore before, Nasuti had never really noticed just how out-of-place he was here.

"I think it does more so then you're letting on. Arago really kept us away from the world. The first time we got a glimpse of the world we thought we knew...was when he found out the Troopers existed and wanted us to make our appearance known. Dressing as a monk seems to give me some leverage, but I'm sure if I wasn't with you or one of the Troopers I wouldn't have a clue of how to act."

Nasuti emptied out the last of the grocery bags. "Well..." She pulled out the rice-cooker and the glass jar of rice she kept in a cabinet. "I'm certain that once things settle down for you, you'll have time to adjust."

"Truthfully, I would be content to live at the temple and visit here on occasion." Shuten admitted. It was just too much for him to try and handle.

"Now, don't say that!" Nasuti tried to sound encouraging, but it probably came off as scolding. "There are some things about this modern age that you just won't be able to avoid! Some of it for the better!" Nasuti poured out two cups of rice into the metal bowl inside the rice cooker.

He watched curiously as she prepared the rice. Such a strange way to make it. At least making tea had stayed the same. "What else do you like to do aside from driving?"

"Well, there's jogging, but that's more of a necessity than a hobby..." Nasuti gave a shameful smile. "Reading about where you came from! My research originally started as a hobby, after all."

"I'm kind of ashamed actually. I hadn't thought to come up with a bunch of questions to ask you. Hadn't expected the opportunity." She wasn't sure what to expect, really. Honestly, Nasuti expected to wake up first thing in the morning to discover it was all some bad dream.  She turned on the sink faucet, putting the rice under the running water for a moment while raking her fingers through the rice to clean it.

"Don't worry about it, Nasuti. I'm just thankful for the company. It was a pleasant surprise to learn the community has brought you amongst the rest of us. Is there anything I can do to help prepare for the meal?"

"Oh no, no, don't be silly. You must be exhausted." Nasuti waved a wet hand in front of her face, and turned off the faucet. "Why don't you have a seat on one of the stools over here?" She stepped away from the sink and nudged out a bar stool from the island in the middle of the kitchen.

She then moved to place the pot of rice in the rice cooker, closing it and pressing a button in a deceptively simple fashion. "It's the least I can do after all you've done."

Reluctantly, he did as told and sat down on indicated bar stool. He hated to be idle and would have preferred to help. He proceeded to watch her prepare the meal, trying to learn how she handled everything. He had to admit that the preparation for the rice was a lot faster.

His wife was the same way though, always shooing him out of the kitchen not allowing him to help. Granted at the time it was her role to do the cooking, but he saw it was a rare moment to really spend time with her when he was home.

Nasuti took the towel hanging over the edge of the sink and dried her hands. "Let me get one of the catalogues of grandfather's collection - there are photos inside of the things he has locked away and not on display."

He nodded and took the opportunity to study his surroundings some more. He refrained from getting up to actually study the strange appliances. He didn't want to accidently ruin one of them. With his luck, he would probably damage something. He wasn't sure though why Nasuti's presence triggered old memories of his wife. He had thought he kept them buried. Why were they suddenly resurfacing? Was it the lack of Arago's presence?

Fortunately for both of them, Nasuti knew exactly where the catalogues were kept - on top of her bed. It didn't really crowd her, considering the empty house meant she had the king-size bed all to herself. She flipped through the pages of each in a rush, deciding which catalogue to take first. Finally, she opted to bring both into the kitchen with her. She'd just have to be careful not to get them messy.

Returning to the kitchen with two large, heavy, leather-bound binders cradled in her arms, she placed them on the countertop in front of Shuten with a bit of a grunt. "Here we are." She flipped one open, exposing a laminated page with a color photo of a sword. "Each page has a photo, an estimated date and place of origin..." She dragged a solitary finger down the length of the page, resting it by each line of information as she explained. "...and the last bit of information here is where in the archives he has it. So if you want me to pull anything out, let me know."

Shuten nodded. "Thank you, I appreciate this." Smiling he studied each page slowly. A good portion of the items he didn't recognized, but there were some from time to time that were vaguely familiar.

"Some he inherited, some he bought." Nasuti pulled out a cutting board and knife to start chopping green onions. "There are a lot of auctions, families who don't care about their family's heirlooms so they pawn them off to the highest bidder..." Nasuti sounds a bit disgusted at that point, but with a sigh, lightens up considerably. "But their loss is our gain, I suppose!"

"Hnnn, disappointing to hear, but I suppose that is good for you. It only shows how much people today don't respect their family history as much."

He continued to leaf from through binders and pauses as he approached the kimono collection.

Once Nasuti chops the onions, Nasuti sets them aside in a small tasting bowl, stealing a quick glance at Shuten before heading to the fridge to fetch the soy sauce, eggs, ketchup, and chicken breast. The rice cooker started steaming slowly, the sweet smell wafting gently through the kitchen. Tucking the carton of eggs under one arm, soy sauce in one hand and ketchup in the other, Nasuti bumped the door closed with her knee and returned to the counter. "See anything interesting?"

"Actually, yes. The kimono collection you have. It's quite impressive. These kimonos could sell for the price of your house easily. It really disappoints me to see how they just simply sold them. Instead of the respect they deserved."
Nasuti smiled, feeling rather accomplished that she'd be able to find something to engage the former warlord while she was cooking. She started cracking several eggs into a bowl, tossing the egg shells into the garbage. "Oh?"

The picture Shuten pointed at was a winter kimono done in an orange color with bright colorful cherry blossoms across the back of the kimono and along the sleeves. The obi was a of a sage color with a similar design. He was really surprised to have found this and a mixture of feelings were running through him. His face darkened a bit as his eyes became more distant. There were so many things that were connecting them all together. How could something like an old kimono wind its way back to him?

Nasuti craned her neck to get a better look at what had captured Shuten's attention. Nasuti's eyes lit up, and her polite smile widened to one of genuine wonder. "Wow! What a beautiful kimono! You have a good eye, Shuten!"

He gave a small smile. "Each kimono is a piece of art. There's a whole lot that's put into them. I don't think people realize this today. They see it as part of the older culture from Japan long ago and not necessary."

Nasuti paused, lulling over the words from Shuten. He would think that the Japanese of the modern era had no respect for those things of the past, wouldn't he? She couldn't entirely blame him, it sure looked that way sometimes...she remembered when she first made friends in Japan, she would ask them why they did certain things the way they did. What was the point of Coming of Age Day? Why visit the temples on New Year's? Very rarely did they have answers, outside of "it's because it's what we've always done."

"I think..." Nasuti pulled out a whisk, and started to beat the broken eggs. "...I think the Japanese people of today appreciate things in their own way..." She looked up from the eggs and fixed her eyes on the photo of the kimono. "But there are some things that are more complicated in this day and age. And certainly more expensive."

He gave a nod, understanding what she explained. He still didn't approve of it. But then he was attached to the old ways... It was the only thing he knew. He had a feeling most people would have treated him with less respect for clinging to the past the way he did. Granted he should move on and learn to accept the new ways and build a new life...but it he didn't want to forget himself as he already did once before.

Nasuti tapped the whisk against the glass mixing bowl, setting it aside. "I wasn't scolding." She felt the need to clarify. Was her tone too lecturing? She had a habit of scolding the Troopers, so she had hoped she didn't fall into old ways.

She set the bowl of scrambled eggs aside, and returned to the fridge to bring out the chicken breasts. ...come to think of it, what she was planning to make was somewhat...new, for him. Omrice was a Japanese dish, but it was definitely one influenced by French cooking. She paused for a moment, wondering if she should be doing something different. Oyako-don, perhaps?

"Do you recall how you came across this kimono? Was it an heirloom or did your grandfather buy it?"

Nasuti paused as she looked at the chicken breast in thought. She was better at making omrice; she could risk ruining the oyako-don. "Grandfather has had that one for a long time, before I was born, actually. I would have to look into how he came to possess it."

"I am glad that the kimono at least made it to your grandfather. He would have given it the respect it deserved."  He returned his attention to Nasuti, as he tried to figure out what she was trying to make. The smell of the rice cooking was making him hungry.
Nasuti nodded in agreement, cutting the chicken into small cubes. "He enjoyed every piece very much, and treated them like they were precious heirlooms passed down to him. Even the ones he bought." In a smaller bowl, Nasuti mixed some mirin and soy sauce with the chicken breast, letting it marinate a bit. She took some chopsticks and mixed in a touch of sugar. "You know, it's a shame we couldn't get Shin to join us. He's an excellent cook. Way better than I am."

"He did mention that he enjoyed cooking, but we never discussed more on the subject. Shin is the only one I really got to converse with amongst the Troopers, due to the community. He had been a big help for me when I chose to make my decision to follow Kaosu's advice. However...as a warlord Wildfire was the one I was interested in trying to follow."

Nasuti's eyebrows rose up, and she paused as she looked up to Shuten. "Has your interest shifted, then?" She then resumed stirring for a short while before setting it aside and pulling out a skillet and plates.

"What do you expect? Wildfire was the leader of the Troopers. I was the leader of the warlords. It was my responsibility to discover his weakness and use them against him. Now, it's no longer like that. Wildfire is someone I found worthy of fighting along my side. Given time he would become an excellent leader, if that is his path." As he spoke one would be able to see a change in the energy. He felt more like himself discussing war tactics and of war in general.

The intensity of Shuten's response was not something Nasuti was expecting. Nasuti felt compelled to look up from her cooking to pay closer attention to Shuten's commanding tone. "I..."

"...I guess..." Nasuti felt unusually awkward. She hadn't remembered the last time she saw Shuten speak like this. "...I guess what I meant to ask is what your interest had shifted to, exactly." She lowered her eyes back down to the pans she pulled out in hopes of concealing her blush.

There was a long pause before he spoke. "I'm not sure... My only goal right now is to finish Kaosu's quest. I haven't given any thought to what would happen afterward. I'm not even sure how the rest of the Troopers view me or trust me enough. You've heard what I said earlier. I don't blame them if they don't really trust me at all but are only allowing me to be amongst them because of Kaosu.

"They'll come around." Nasuti says this when a casual certainty. She probably would've anyway, but she did know this for certain. He had proven himself more than he realized, even if he didn't know it yet. "Don't worry about them and do what you need to do, Shuten."

"I can only hope they trust me enough to allow me to do what I need to do." Shuten warily shrugged. Trust was something that Shuten had a hard time with in general, considering all that he's dealt with. "I'm still surprised they allowed me to stay with you and Jun without one of them around."

Nasuti snickered. "Seriously. What were you going to do?" She joked, looking up at Shuten before realizing he was serious. She cleared her throat and walked over to the stove with her skillet.

The reaction surprised, Shuten a bit. Come to think of it he never really heard her laugh or snicker. "I could have easily turned you into Arago, using Kaosu's clothing as a disguise to earn your trust. I could have only fed you what you wanted to hear, the fight between Rajura and I could have been a mere set up. Have you ever thought of that?"

Nasuti turned away from the stove, and walked back to the countertop where behind Shuten sat. "It crossed my mind a few times." She looked straight at him. "I had to be cautious, for Jun's sake, if anything."

Shuten sighed and the energy he had earlier quickly vanished. There was nothing but regret in his eyes. "I really don't see why Kaosu trusts me to finish his job....let alone to be given another chance."

"Because he knows you will stop at nothing to make things right." Nasuti scooped out several scoops of rice, letting the steam waft out while the rice cooled.

"Hmph...it's probably the only thing I have going for me. Please forgive me; you don't need to be hearing about my constant battles with myself." 

Nasuti's eyes softened and she closed the rice cooker so the rice would stay warm. "Shuten..." It's not that. She just wish she'd had known sooner.

He shook his head, not wanting her sympathy. He decided to focus on the binders once more, returning to study the various artifacts. He was curious to know if there were other objects from his past in there as well.

Nasuti frowned, fearing she may have said the wrong thing. Nasuti only had two Shutens in her mind - the warlord who sought to kill her, and the monk who protected her with fervor not unlike the one when pursuing her.

Instead of causing further harm by speaking more, she returned to the meal she was making. "Let me know if there's anything else you wish for me to pull for you." Her tone was tentative, even a little restrained. She had to think about what she could say to undo what she did. An apology would be too simple.

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Nasuti Yagyu

December 2011

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