Raidou lifted the painting carefully down.
It wasn’t something he’s expected to find in Katsuko’s room — a scroll with slightly ragged edges, hanging by a ribbon from a kunai she’d driven deeply into the wall. The art was sketchy, almost calligraphy-like, with thick black lines and only occasional splashes of color. People climbing a path alongside a mountain river, surrounded by trees losing their leaves in a haze of orange.
Not a professional piece, but eye-catching all the same.
“Did you do this?” he asked, tucking it safely into the box.
She glanced up. “My little brother,” she said, with a fleeting smile. “Makoto. That’s one of his earlier ones.”
That’d be the unfortunate civilian brother.
“Pretty work,” Raidou said. He cast about for another task, but Katsuko had taken over emptying her bookshelf and—there just wasn’t anything else.
A whole life in less than five boxes, minus armor and clothes.
Well, weapons, she’d said. She’d need some for the next week, but he could pack the spares—and he much preferred that over going anywhere near her underwear drawer.
“Weapons chest?” he asked, eyeing the single sword rack on the wall. “Or do you just scatter?”
Katsuko jerked her chin. “Under the bed.”
A weapon’s chest was as individual as the ninja who owned it. Raidou had seen converted footlockers, inherited antiques, specially commissioned wooden trunks with hidden compartments, and once, a laundry sack. His was a steel-banded oak chest with inlaid protective seals, because he had standards.
Katsuko’s was a suitcase.
Raidou pulled it out by the handle, brushing dust-bunnies away, and gave it a dubious look. “Any traps?”
There was silence.
“No,” Katsuko said eventually, and offered him a dazzling smile. “Trust me.”
He might have, before she’d done that.
Suspecting a poor attempt at head-fuckery, he ignored her and tapped the suitcase’s soft lid, listening for the gloing of a tripped spring. A few heavy objects clinked gently together. He unzipped the bag.
And sat back on his heels.
He’d expected some variety, but this was a catalogue. Fire Country-made steel katana shared space with Iwa chokutō, lethal-looking Kirigakure hachiwara crossed their hooked blades over black-steel uchigatana. An ancient, pitted broadsword had been so thoroughly blooded that the blade carried a red shimmer. Someone had hand-stitched pockets into the suitcase’s lid, and every one of them contained a dagger—short-bladed, long-bladed, curved, river-edged. One was so wickedly thin, Raidou didn’t dare test his thumb against it.
Not one item matched. Different maker-marks, different binding-styles. Some had family names etched into the sheaths, others were blankly anonymous. All of them were meticulously cleaned and cared for, and every one had marks of use on the blade.
Every one of them, Raidou suspected, was a trophy.