TITLE: Journey to Ryu Airu
GENRE: YA Fantasy
A Japanese slave trying to pay her father’s debts, Kaiya is abducted by Chinese pirates and taken into foreign waters. The pirates are oddly congenial, befriending Kaiya and helping her forget the family duty left behind her. But when she discovers the captain intends to sacrifice her to a dragon, she will do anything to escape, even blackmail her new friends.
The teahouse was loud with alcohol-enhanced laughter and the roll of dice. Some men came in, adjusting their dirty robes as they sat at a table. Keeping my eyes lowered in deference, I hurried over and served their tea. I feared if I raised my gaze, I’d find the man in the corner watching me again.
Long black hair was knotted at the back of his head, revealing broad shoulders and a fearsome look. He hadn’t stopped staring at me since he came in. I once beat off four feral dogs with a stick, but his expressionless eyes made me feel cold and jittery.
Mindlessly I took an order for wine and headed toward the kitchen. A hand rubbed across my cotton skirt and I shifted out of the way smoothly, hearing titters behind me. Four years working in a portside teahouse taught me quick reflexes, especially being the doughy kind of girl men looked for.
In the safety of the kitchen, Gorou-sama lugged a barrel across the floor from the cellar and Midori, my fellow slave, stirred a pot of okayu. I paused in the corner to catch my breath, but Gorou noticed me.
“Kaiya, more wood.”
I bowed. “The newcomers ordered sake and the group in the corner wants more rice wine.”
He nodded without looking up. “Midori will serve it. Go get wood. Oh,” he added, changing topics at lightning speed, “There’s a new ship anchored this evening. It will probably get busier.”
I felt a nervous jolt.
“You said I could go home in an hour.” I tried to keep my tone respectful.