Welcome back! Last week we met one of the new samurai Hiro had recruited to help fight against the ronin. This sample picks up where last week's excerpt ended:
She nearly dropped the long wooden chopsticks she used to stir her concoction. "Nakamura-san, forgive me," she cried, quickly turning to bow to her esteemed neighbor.
"Please do not stop your work. I was passing by on the way to the village, and the wonderful aroma from your new home enticed me to investigate."
"Thank you. But — this is actually Hiro’s home," she began.
"And you are merely a servant? No, this will be your home soon, when you and Hiro marry. And then you will have servants to prepare your food."
"Servants? No, I —" she paused in her denial, realizing that Hiro, as the head of the household, would undoubtedly hire servants to take care of the housework. The idea was unsettling. After working hard all her life, how could she sit back and let people work for her?
"Have I disturbed you, Hanako-san?"
"Oh! Of course not. Would you like some tea?"
"You are kind to offer, but my son is outside fixing a broken wheel on our wagon. I must be ready to go when he is. But I wanted to let you know — I have heard about the extra samurai Tanaka-san has recruited. You should not have to feed all these hungry men alone. Please allow me to assist you. Since you already have tonight’s meal started, I will send food over for tomorrow."
Hanako stared in amazement at the woman’s offer. It had never occurred to her to ask for help. "I — I am humbled by your generosity, Nakamura-san," she finally managed.
The older woman smiled. "You are so accustomed to doing everything alone. But these men are helping the entire village and surrounding areas. It is only right we should all help to feed them."
Hanako again stammered her thanks. "But how did you hear about the new soldiers? Watanabe-san arrived only today."
"Tanaka-san is a celebrity in the village. When his friend arrived, asking where to find him, word immediately spread. My sons learned that others are coming. When they arrive, we will all be honored to help feed and house them."
Noburo Nakamura appeared at the doorway. He bowed a greeting to Hanako and then to his mother. "Okaasan, the wagon is repaired enough for us to return home. I am sorry to make you wait."
"It is no trouble, Nobu-chan," the widow replied. "I rather enjoyed this opportunity to visit with our neighbor." Turning to Hanako, she repeated her promise to send food the next day, and left.
Hanako returned to her cooking, but as she worked, she marveled at this unfamiliar feeling of contentment. It wasn’t from the fact that she wasn’t hungry or excessively tired. It wasn’t from the fact that she felt safe with three former samurai in her home. It came from her connection with another human being, another woman, who expressed care for her well-being and was willing to help. This must be what people referred to as friendship.
She decided she liked having a friend.
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