Masamura eased himself into the steaming waters of the "public" members-only Kamahara Bath-house. A long, drawn-out sigh slipped from his lips as the hot mineral water immediatly began to loosen his muscles and ease the tension from his body. Closing his eyes, Masamura slowly slid forward and off the low stone-work shelf that served as a bench-style seat in the pool, and gradually allowed his head to dip below the surface. Raising himself back up to the ledge, he smoothed his hands over his head, squeezing the excess water from his long black hair, and rested his head on the folded towel on the floor behind him.
Masamura took a deep breath, inhaling the healing steam, and closed his eyes as he exhaled in a long, drawn-out sigh. As he luxuriated in the heat, his thoughts drifted to the events of the past two years, since his arrival in Zokia Province. He thought of friends and allies, both those he'd made and those he'd lost. He couldn't help but smile thinly as he remembered his comrade Gahundar, a mage who had also come to Zokia through the mists, running for his life from a ravenous zombie after he'd exhausted his magical energies for the day. He thought of the ancient wolf-were, Rhune, as his fingertips unconsciously traced the scars that criss-crossed his abdomen, bringing a frown to his brow. He thought of his lieutenant, Rook, a Mul gladiator, and how he'd come to be in Masamura's service. Then there was the disastrous pursuit of Ji'haud, a shapeshifter, through the Zokia marketplace. Finally, he thought of the Princess, Michiko, head of House Tzen. Considering the ordeal he'd suffered at the hands of oriental humans, Masamura never thought he'd ever come to truly trust a human again, but she'd proven him wrong. From the moment they met she'd treated him with nothing but respect, and had earned not only his trust, but his admiration as well. As usual, thoughts of the princess and his oath of loyalty to her, moved his mind once again to his all but forgotten homeland, and the fear that he'd never see it again.
So lost in his reverie was Masamura that he never heard the not-so-light footsteps of the portly Mathias Kirsch approaching from behind.
"I declare, Masamura," Kirsch began, dropping his towel and kicking off his sandals. Masamura's eyes snapped open abruptly at the sudden and unexpected voice at his side. "I'd wager something weighs heavily on your mind indeed, if one as 'stealthy' as I can sneak up on you without trying." Masamura closed his eyes again, instantly recognizing Kirsch's voice. Even though he hadn't reacted visibly, he was angry with himself that he'd allowed himself to be so oblivious to his surroundings. He'd made far too many enemies since being appointed head of House Tzen security to be that careless. Luckily, Kirsch wasn't one of them.
"No such luck, Mathias," Masamura thinly smiled. "I smelled that hideous perfume you wear the moment you entered the room." Kirsch chuckled as he dropped unceremoniously into the steaming pool a foot or so to Masamura's left.
"All the better that I decided to bathe today, hmm?" Sighing a familiar bath-induced sigh, Kirsch leaned back and began to leisurely scrub himself with a large sponge. "I wondered if I might have your ear for a moment, Masamura." Inwardly, Masamura groaned, rolling his eyes behind closed lids.
"Of course, Mathias, although I don't know what help I can be to the head of the Third Ward Chamber of Commerce."
"Well, as I'm sure you know, the Autumn festival is approaching, and being that you're head of security in Zokia..." At that Masamura cracked open his left eye and peered casually in Kirsch's direction.
"Just House Tzen, Mathias, not the entire city." Kirsch cocked an eyebrow and grinned at the samurai.