Summary: Miyuki had set Tatsuya free by restoring his emotions to him. Now, it is his turn to take on different roles such as being a father and a husband. The Shiba family remains undisturbed for three years, before a member of the Yotsuba visits. What does it mean to be a Ojou-sama anyway? Written from the POV of Tatsuya.
Trepidation was a feeling he wasn't accustomed to, a righteous anger born from his only natural instinct to protect his sister; irritation; cynicism; a hint of happiness were feelings he could negotiate and accept. He felt a small hand squeezed his comfortingly. A smile crept on his face. It was a weight and a sensation he fondly recalled but he did not anticipate the dash of warmth that spread from that slight contact.
Would that sense of warmth increase exponentially if he took her into his arms?
Yet, that sensation was novel and exhilarating. Tatsuya blinked owlishly, staring at her small hand squeezing his larger hand.
He swallowed visibly. He felt like an infant, learning to make sense of the new feelings he was starting to experience while being surprised that he could now feel so much and so powerfully.
"It'll take some time, Tatsuya, "whispered the lovely girl next to him, reading his mind again. That sense of disturbing perplex, which accompanied every moment of her perceptiveness, did not make itself known. Instead, he smiled at his companion gently, glad that he did not need to explain everything to her.
The picturesque landscape painted with vivid and fresh colours of pink, fresh red and lush green, paled in contrast to his companion. He felt as if it was the first time he really saw her. Like a starved man, he drank in her countenance. The sunlight exposed the different shades of black in her lush, thick, and wavy hair: ebony, café noir, taupe. The carefree tumble of hair contrasted brilliantly with her gleaming scarlet eyes that were smiling at him. He couldn't quite tear his eyes away from her expressive eyes, but he persisted and allowed his eyes to trail down the small and perky nose, and dainty cheekbones, to her vibrant pink half-smiling lips.
She was wholly disarming.
"Mayumi." His awe for her was baffling, troubling, petrifying but to some degree, right.
A cheeky smile appeared on her face as she leaned into his personal space. "It's about time that you're mesmerised by your intended." Mayumi winked at him cheekily. Intentionally, she lifted her small hand and allowed it to catch the sunlight. The diamond nestled on her fourth finger gleamed proudly for anyone to see.
Her eyes gleamed with apparent pride and gentleness.
Tatsuya blinked in surprise. A disarming surge of warmth at that her obvious delight with the ring flooded him. It felt warmer that the gentle rays of the sun on his skin. Tatsuya turned away, no cynical or witty banter on his lips.
Mayumi kept a polite smile on her face, smiling at nameless faces that recognised her. It was fascinating to see her maintain her public image as the eldest daughter of Saegusa clan. Some of the more polite students and guests returned the smile, but they did not try to stop her for a conversation due to his presence. Hastily, they shifted away from them, as if they were terrified of him.
A wry smile appeared on his face.
He remembered those idyllic days of the past. Miyuki had to deal with a similar problem when she was still at high school. When she became the leader of the Yotsuba family, she decided to inherit the enigma and terror associated with the position and became as dreaded as their esteemed aunt, the Queen of the Night. It did not help that the magical society feared her shadow, the guardian of the new leader of the Yotsuba clan, who was rumoured to be more efficient at killing than she was.
With the return of his emotions, he couldn't quite imagine re-living through those days.
"We were so preoccupied with the ceremony and my sisters that I didn't have the time to speak to you. You didn't have to run away from Miyuki-chan, did you? Did she give you permission to—"
He squeezed her hand, halting before her so that their gazes met. Around them, the faceless crowd continued to swirl around them. They were standing so close that Mayumi had actually averted her gaze. He knew that she was not comfortable with public displays of affection because she had a public image to maintain, but he needed to make it clear to her.
"She didn't have to. She set me free. I'm no longer part of the Yotsuba clan." His voice dropped into an inaudible whisper as he leaned closer to her. Their breaths mingled intimately with each other.
There was a gleam of interest in her eyes. Then, the flush on Mayumi face deepened. Her hands balled into fists, in anticipation. She stared at him, through her long and fluttery eyelashes, transfixed. He didn't know if it was a trick of light, but her eyes had darkened.
Without the crippling of his mental faculties, he discovered that his sense to detect the nuances of her mood had heightened considerably.
Tatsuya tilted his head slightly, so that their noses would brush against each other. That brief contact sent delicious and fresh shivers down his back.
She drew a sharp intake of breath. Lulled, her eyes fluttered shut.
With agonising slowness, he slanted his head slightly so that it was in the perfect angle to satisfy the desire that was written plainly over her face. His face descended purposefully towards her, as his fingers lifted her chin to meet him midway.
Her breath hastened.
Before his lips could meet hers, he paused. His lips curled into a sly smile. With the other hand, he flicked her forehead with his finger.
She leapt backwards, in shock. She stared at him as she rubbed her forehead with a hand. A look of outrage replaced that shock. Her brows narrowed into a frown as she pouted. Her arms folded before her chest.
He could tell that his fiancée was very pissed with him.
Tatsuya, catching sight of the puffy and pouty look of indignation, broke into hearty laughter. He covered his mouth with a hand, a polite gesture, before chuckling.
She placed her arms on her waist, akimbo, glaring bitterly at him.
"How dare you make fun of me this way? Do you have any heart? I had missed you for the past three years. How could you do this to me?" She jabbed him on his arm.
He could tell from the inflection of her voice that she was hurt. If the trick wasn't cruel, she looked absolutely adorable when she was enraged.
Tatsuya grew sombre, knowing how cruel he was to her. He had left her three years ago and literally disappeared from the bowels of this earth. She would have believed that he was dead if she were unaware of his other personas. He merely maintained his other personas for the interest of the leader of the Yotsuba clan. He took both of her hands carefully into his, astonished that she did not attempt to resist him.
"So have I," admitted he honestly. As if for penance, he lifted her hand to his lips and pressed a chaste kiss on the back of her hand. It was a reaffirmation that his being belonged to her, like how he used to belong to his sister.
She sighed, looking slightly despondent.
He was surprised by the touch of wretchedness that took hold of him when he saw her look so miserable. Mayumi did not suit looking so dejected. He did not comprehend why she was so upset. They needed a place to talk. Taking one of her hand into his gently, he led her towards the road where a cherry-red car was waiting for them.
Maybe, he needed to assure her that he would never leave her again since three years was really a long time.
She blinked at him in astonishment but allowed him to guide her. He remained amazed by her willingness to follow his lead into the unknown. Uncharacteristically, Mayumi remained silent until both of them got into the car and were assured of their privacy.
She couldn't wait for him to become comfortable before she barrelled into him, her arms wounded tightly around his neck. He felt her fingers entangle themselves with his hair before she reeled him in for a hungry kiss, her second initiative. She branded him with a kiss, hot and searing, possessive and uninhibited. It awakened a slumbering hunger seated deep in his soul, an intense need to reconnect with her.
That searing need roared through his blood, uncontrolled.
Unconsciously, his hands wounded tightly around her slim and small body, cradling her close to him. Their bodies fitted each other as if they were created for each other.
When they broke away for air, he thumbed Mayumi swollen lips gently. "I'll never leave you again." He affirmed his promise to her, pressing his lips on her ring. He had chosen to love and protect her.
She looked at him with tears-filled eyes. He expected her to lighten the mood with humour instead, she remained sombre.
"I'm not Miyuki-chan." She echoed the words of a distant past, staring at him with grit. "I don't need your subservience."
He was taken aback. He didn't know of other methods to love someone. When he was still mentally crippled, he exhibited his depthless devotion to his sister by fulfilling her every whim and desire, no matter the cost. He became her lover, her protector, her assassin, and her warrior, serving her in any capacity.
She seemed to comprehend his inner struggles. With infinite tenderness, she grasped both of his hands with hers. "We're equals. Do you remember the night you spared my life?"
Due to his ability to recall perfectly, he was able to remember the entire sequence of that event. Even if he wasn't blessed with that ability, he couldn't quite forget the haunting sight of Mayumi surrendering freely to him as he pressed the muzzle of his gleaming, pistol-shaped CAD on her forehead. He could picture the scene in his head. She had stubbornly jutted her chin; her eyes shut as she open her arms towards him, waiting for the inevitable.
She did not expect that inevitable outcome.
It was at that exact moment that his life was derailed. With bare hands, he had wrought the mould he was shaped into—his destiny and his purpose—and reconstructed a new fate for himself by indulging that foreign sensation that tore through his soul like a raging fire. It prevented him from pulling the trigger even though his mind insisted on the need to terminate her. For the first time, he experienced a yawning dissonance in his soul. He tried to negotiate with that discord by justifying that the president wasn't a threat to his sister, although her possession of knowledge of him and Miyuki made her a threat to the Yotsuba clan. On hindsight, he realised that he had probably fell in love with brave, intelligent, insightful Mayumi, who had crawled under his skin since the first time they had met.
That inference was supported by the absence of protest against spending more time with her after that incident.
Indulging in introspection, he was struck by a sudden awareness that even in his emotionally deprived state; he could never lift a finger at her. That epiphany struck a deep chord in him. He dipped and kissed that spot on her forehead, eliciting a gentle smile from her.
That tenderness in her eyes was replaced with determination.
"I want you to learn to make decisions for yourself. I want you to live for yourself. That is what it means to be set free."
He was reminded of how much Mayumi had changed over the years. She had become wiser, as if their years apart had altered her dramatically. If it was possible, the years apart constructed her into his soul mate: she knew what to say or do to bring out the best in him.
"Like how I've chosen to propose to you?" Deliberately, he maintained a neutral face.
As predicted, her cheeks became enflamed. It warmed his heart to know that this aspect of her had not changed.
"How could I stay away from a beauty like you? The perfect ojou-sama—"
She shook her head vigorously. "I'm no longer the flawless ojou-sama—"
His tone was sharp, when he caught the gleam of self-depreciation in her eyes. "You'll always be," insisted he. "No matter, what others may say about you. He's—no our son—is the proof of your courage, the very same valour you showed during the Yokohama incident, a few years ago. I know you've discharged your duties as the eldest daughter of the Saegusa clan honourably. We wouldn't have smoked the rat out of his den without the intelligence you have gathered. The magical society cannot and should not criticize you."
Her denial made him grit his teeth. He was incensed that she had to be humiliated for one of most valiant choice she had made.
Her flush deepened at his high-handed praise. "That's true," relented she, using a reconciliatory tone that made her an apt negotiator. She turned towards him, calm and rational. "It's difficult to whitewash the perceived blemish on my reputation, given the advances in magic, despite my contributions to the society. That's the way it is, Tatsuya. I've never quite took it to heart. I was prepared for the outrage and the public's criticism when I chose to give birth to Gin-chan. I have never regretted that decision because he has brought me countless nights of comfort in your absence."
A part of him was thrilled that she had some comfort in his absence. He couldn't quite imagine the devastation when he had left her then. In his previous state, he had no capacity of envisioning the damage to her because he didn't think he was important enough, despite the physical consummation of their love. Mayumi and the other seniors used to talk about such matters openly in the student council room. He knew that, like Mari, she did not adhere to the belief that she should wait till marriage to indulge in a physical consummation of love. Moreover, given the circumstances that it was probably the last time they would meet, he did not think too much of the meaning of their parting. It was the presence of Saegusa Gin that made him understand the depth of her commitment and affections for him. How could she think so lightly of the choice she had consciously made to have Gin?
"He's amazing. I want both of you to meet," announced Mayumi, with a cheerful and sweet smile.
That sense of trepidation slammed him in full force, making him breathless for a moment. How could he? Why would anyone wish to associate with a man like him?
He rubbed the back of his neck nervously, averting his gaze. "I'm not too sure how to behave around him."
"The God of destruction terrified of a young child?" teased Mayumi, her eyes gleaming with mirth.
He stared at his hands. "My hands are stained with blood of countless others. I'm trained to be a weapon. I-I'm not quite sure if I know how to care for him—"
Her nostrils flared.
"You're no longer a weapon of the Yotsuba family or the army. Besides, you've always been a dreamer, a man who could love so generously—"
He shook his head.
"The way you care for Miyuki, your friends and me are proofs of your humanity," interrupted Mayumi, a fierce gleam in her eyes. "I've seen you fight and I know you fight only to protect those individuals you care. Gin-chan is lucky to have you for a father, so stop such self-depreciating talk."
He turned away, moved by her heartfelt declaration.
Her tone became gentle. "Everything will be fine, Tatsuya. You're a man of many talents, I'm sure we'll be able to work something out."
"There isn't a need to. I'm the new CEO of Four Leaves Technologies," returned Tatsuya, earning a raised brow from her. "The Yotsuba has agreed to leave the company completely in my care and they will stop interfering with the operations. I'm planning to reveal myself as Mister Silver." He wanted the public to know that Gin was their child besides making a formal declaration to the independent battalion 101 that he was committed to becoming a civilian. He wanted to establish himself as a magic engineer, not a weapon.
Her mouth dropped. "Miyuki-chan—"
"—really do love you. I-I can't quite imagine how much it took her to do that." She shook her head, her tresses shaking with that action. "It's incredible."
He shook his head. "Never as incredible as you." Given her status in the magical society, her resources, and her knowledge of him and Miyuki, she could blackmail the Head of Yotsuba clan to hand him over on the account of their son, Gin. He knew that Saegusa-sama would not hesitate to do so if Mayumi did not stop him. Although the acknowledgment of their child meant that the family may be embroiled into a conflict for Gin, he was certain that Saegusa had sufficient political influence and firepower to take on the Yotsuba clan.
The heart of her decision was that she couldn't bear taking away his freedom of choice, another concrete proof of her profound affections for him.
She released an indulgent sigh, pressing a hand on her cheek. "Mind, mind, I think I might have to learn to get used to you."
The corners of his lips lifted to form smile, entertained by her response. "No, Mayumi, you have to get used to this." Without a warning, he leaned in and stole a kiss from her lips.
She was taken aback for a moment. Then, a gleam of mischief appeared in her eyes. "If that's how you want it to be…" Without a warning, she tossed herself on him. Immediately, a playful tussle for dominance broke out in the backseat. Both of them were attempting to pin the other down on the backseat.
It delighted him to hear giggles erupting from her lips as they tussled with each other.
He took care to be gentle with her. To appease her, he allowed her to win the mock struggle for power. With a glowing smile on her face, she flaunted her victory by stealing a lingering kiss from his lips with excruciating slowness.
She grinned triumphantly when she propped herself using her elbows. Gently, her fingers ghosted across his brow. The gleam in her eyes became tender and contemplative, as if she was appreciating the quiet moment with him.
He realised that he had to learn to accept this quiet and introspective aspect of her. Mayumi, in the three years apart, had matured. He took her hand into his, cradled her petite body close to him, and adjusted their positions so that they were sitting upright.
The Elfin Sniper sighed deeply, contented to be tucked close to him.
He placed his chin on her head, marvelling at their closeness. He was conscious of the way her hair tickled him whenever she moved.
The rest of the ride was an alternating between playful repartees, shadowed by an insinuation of sensual tension, and cuddling.
It was novel that both he and Mayumi were so open with their affections, as if the three years had robbed their inhibitions around each other away. She filled him in about her life: the missions, the few incidents of close brush with death, her pregnancy, the extravagant balls hosted by the Ten clans, her first forays into parenting, her life in the university and their son. She had chosen to live with her family because her father was very attached to their son.
His nerves slammed into him in full force when his eyes rested on the opulence of the Saegusa's mansion, the principal seat of their power. Would his son accept him for who he is? Could he rise to the expectation of being Mayumi's partner and a father? He broke from his contemplation when he felt someone nudge him on his ribs. He turned away and met the impish gaze of his betrothed.
"So you wanted to be the perfect gentleman by sending me home? However, I can't wait to be alone with you," uttered Mayumi, before she winked at him.
He kept a straight face.
"Given our history, I'm quite sure that will be impossible," returned Tatsuya, smiling. He was amused by her insatiable need for them to be alone.
Mayumi pouted, folding her arms before her chest.
"We ought to observe proprieties," intoned Tatsuya.
She snorted derisively, crossing her legs. His eyes wandered to them for a moment. That action made her legs look long and shapely. "How more scandalous will it get? We have a son. "
He lifted a brow at that answer.
To his surprise, there was a rapid change of persona when the housekeepers opened their doors. Immediately, she assumed a formal hauteur suitable of a lady of her standings. Elegantly, she exited from the car, her back straight.
Tatsuya could only follow her, after straightening his clothes carefully.
He admired the way Mayumi walked since she mastered the art of commanding the attention. He kept a respectable distance between each other, trailing behind her by habit. The two rows of housekeepers, flanking both sides of the door bowed deeply and welcomed them.
The butler of the house was waiting patiently by the door for them. He greeted both of them warmly. "How did the ceremony go for you, Mayumi-sama? Ah, I see that Shiba-sama was successful in his endeavour." A fatherly smile graced his aged face. "Congratulations are in order then. Saegusa-sama would be very pleased." He reminded him of the guardian of his aunt, Hayama, with his silvery white hair and impeccable manners.
Both of them bowed in gratitude.
Mayumi was especially pleased. "It was good. My sisters did us proud for planning and executing the entrance ceremony well." Mayumi checked her wristwatch, before checking around the foyer absently, as if she was searching for someone.
The butler had a knowing look. His face softened with a fatherly smile. "Gin-sama is with your father. He's expecting both of you in his study."
She sighed loudly. "It's nearly time for his nap. Thank you. We don't need any assistance. You can attend to your other duties."
The elderly butler sank into a deep bow. Both Mayumi and Tatsuya bowed courteously in return before taking the flight of stairs to the head's study.
His heart thumped violently in chest.
As they travelled to meet the Head of the Saegusa clan, Mayumi deliberately hooked her arm around his, pulling him forward so that they would fall in step with each other and close the gap between them. "We're engaged. This sort of affections is expected," explained Mayumi sunnily. "You're my betrothed, not my bodyguard."
"Ah. You'd know better…" He shot her a knowing look.
She pouted immediately, knowing that he was making reference to the last conversation they had in the car about ignoring proprieties. He resisted laughing when she elbowed him on the ribs. It barely wounded him and he could tell that she was miffed that she couldn't hurt him physically.
He smiled at her wryly, earning another pout from her. He had never openly told her that he loved her earnest reactions instead of the practiced mask. The three years as guardian to the Head of Yotsuba amplified that dislike for façade. Miyuki wore them all the time, save for those private moments in her bedroom.
Mayumi had not attempt to probe him deeper about those three years. Eventually, she would put the pieces together and figure it out by herself, just like how she discovered his real identity. It was a trait that he admired.
He did not know if she had cling on him intentionally so that he would remain distracted from the impending meeting but it was an effective diversion. Soon, they found themselves at the large and grandiose study.
The Head of the Saegusa family was making funny faces at a two-year old boy, inciting fits of bright, tinkling laughter from the young boy.
The sound of his laughter soothed Tatsuya's nerves as the newly engaged couple observed the interaction between the grandfather and his grandson. He had never seen the stern and sly man looking so delighted and relaxed.
With the careful hand of his grandfather on his back, the young toddler climbed to his feet clumsily, laughing. His large eyes were the shade of periwinkle blue, gleaming with exuberance. He had a thick mope of wavy black hair, like his mother, but inherited his petite and exquisite features from the Yotsuba family, a face, that God had crafted on his best day.
How could he not notice that the little boy looked like the peerless beauty in the form of his sister? Those large eyes shone with child-like innocence, a goodness that his sister had lost when she became heir of the Yotsuba family. Using his elemental sight, he could tell that he was a very powerful magician and he possessed an inclination towards mind-inference magic.
He was more of a Yotsuba than a Saegusa.
The little boy directed his enquiring gaze at Mayumi when he heard sounds at the door. Immediately, a large and dimpled smile adorned his face. "Mama!" He yelled, his arms outstretched as he tottered quickly to her.
Mayumi hastily crossed the room to pick him up. Playfully, she spun him around. Peals of innocent and delighted laughter filled the air joined her giggles. It was the most pleasing cacophony of sounds Tatsuya had ever heard.
He felt a paradigm shift deep in his soul.
His brows narrowed in confusion. He did not understand the reason for the shift.
So captivated with his son and Mayumi, he forgot about decorum until Saegusa-sama stood next to him. He cleared his voice loudly as light glinted off the lenses of his spectacles.
Tatsuya stiffened for a moment. It took him a while to realise that he had committed a faux pas. Immediately, he sunk into a bow.
Saegusa Koichi shook his head. "It isn't necessary. Indeed, it is a charming sight. It excites me to see my daughter and my grandson so happy." He returned his attention to Mayumi and Gin. "I hope you'll continue to make them happy." Beneath his relaxed exterior, there was a hint of steel in his voice, as if threatening him.
Tatsuya knew that Saegusa Koichi could not defeat him even if the older man wanted to. Singlehandedly, he had defeated the Queen of the Night, three years ago.
However, Tatsuya inclined his head solemnly. "I'll do my best." His gaze wandered willingly to them.
He was distracted by Mayumi's gentle admonishment of their son when their little boy tried to tug her new ring away from her finger. The sight of Mayumi in the role of a mother riveted him.
She wiggled a finger at him as she supported the weight of Jin with her hip. "I want you to meet someone, Jin-chan." The little boy grew excited and turned to look at him.
She smiled at Tatsuya as she spun to face him.
Tatsuya swallowed visibly when he felt Gin's inquisitive and large eyes on him. He looked exactly like his sister, fair and beautiful. Tatsuya started towards him, a hesitant smile on his face.
"Same!" announced Gin cheerfully, looking at his mother, after pointing to his own eyes. For s moment, he was afraid that Gin might jab his eyes in his exhilaration, but he seemed to possess good hand-eye coordination.
Tatsuya understood that he realised that they share the same shade of eye colour. He grinned to himself. He was his mother's son, despite his appearance. He was as perspective and forthcoming as her.
Mayumi nodded at him before setting him on his feet. "Yes, he does." With her eyes, she beckoned him to come closer to them.
Obediently, he drew closer to his son, maintaining a smile on his face so that he did not look intimidating. He repressed his trembling and tried to project a confident look. Tatsuya lifted a brow when he felt him employ magic to read his information.
His son had inherited his ability to analyse and deconstruct information with a glance.
Gin cocked a brow adorably. "Papa?" He glanced at his mother for confirmation.
Mayumi looked astonished.
Tatsuya made a mental note to explain his magical powers to her. He could feel Saegusa Koichi's pensive gaze on them.
He didn't quite know if he should confirm Jin's speculation and looked at Mayumi for cue. His shoulders relaxed visibly when Mayumi entwined her fingers with his, presenting a united front.
"Your Papa," affirmed Mayumi, alternating between looking at Jin and him. She squeezed his hand encouragingly, while patting Gin's head. "Gin-chan, this is your Papa."
The little toddler looked at Tatsuya expectantly. "Papa?"
Tatsuya sank on his knees so that he would be on the same eye level as his son. He felt nervous. Wordlessly, Tatsuya nodded his head. "Hello Gin-kun."
With great effort, he smiled at his son.
Excitedly, Gin threw his arms around Tatsuya, catching him by surprise. "Papa!"
His heart nearly exploded from the surge of warmth at Gin's easy acceptance. Gently, he wrapped his arm around the little boy, hugging the small and fragile boy close to him. In that moment, he understood the paradigm shift he had experienced earlier when he heard his son and Mayumi laughing. It meant home to him. His world had shifted and centred on the little boy in his arms.
A fierce protective feeling scorched him.
Suddenly, the little toddler broke away from his embrace. There was a frown on his face. "Papa, will you leave?"
He shook his head. "No, not anymore."
Easily, he stood up, cradling his son close to him with an arm. He was afraid of dropping him, but his son seemed to have instinctively found a comfortable spot. His small arms wound around his neck.
Tatsuya grinned at his betrothed as he carried his son with an arm. "Mama and I will work something out together but I will not leave you."
He glanced at his fiancée. There were unshed tears in Mayumi's eyes, but a large smile on her face. He could tell that she was overjoyed. He lifted the other arm as he beckoned her closer with his eyes. She barrelled into his arms, sobbing on his chest loudly.
"You don't know how long I've waited for this—"
"—Papa, why is Mama crying?" He was trying to pat her on her head, as if to comfort her. It was clear that he inherited most of Mayumi's character.
"Mummy's just happy that I've returned," returned Tatsuya, his voice louder than Mayumi's sobs as he looked at his son.
"She's not sad?" He looked adorably confused, glancing at both of his parents.
He shook his head. "Let me put you down." He was quite overwhelmed by the need to handle two persons at the same time.
Saegusa Koichi stepped in. "—I'll take Gin-kun—"
"—No! I don't want Papa to go!" He held on to Tatsuya for his dear life, winding both of his arms and legs around him.
"—It's OK. I won't leave you and Mummy—"
"—Gin, be a good boy and let your father go—"
Finally, Mayumi decided to ease his discomfort by moving away from him, wiping the tears off her eyes. "It's okay, Gin-chan. Daddy is here to stay. It's okay. Mama is just too happy that Papa is back." She shot a watery smile at him. "He's here to stay for good."
Gin calmed down slightly. The petulant look on his face was replaced by confusion. He blinked owlishly at her. "For good?"
"Papa will always come back to you," promised Mayumi, smiling.
Tatsuya was amazed by her faith in him.
"Let's get you to bed, Gin-chan. It's your nap time."
His face scrunched up as if he was going to protest again but it immediately quelled at her firm stare. Gin looked abashed for a moment, swaying from side to side. "Papa stories?" asked the toddler hopefully, looking at both of his parents.
Standing beside them, the head of the Saegusa family snorted loudly. He returned to his desk to do his work.
Tatsuya shot an inquisitive glance at his betrothed. To his surprise, her cheeks were dusted pink. She averted her gaze away from him.
"Later, Gin-chan. Be good. Come to me, it's nap time." She extended a hand towards him and allowed him to take it. The little boy tottered to her obediently, shooting hopeful looks at Tatsuya.
"Papa?" questioned Jin, looking at Tatsuya with puppy eyes. He reached for him. He couldn't quite protest against that adorable look, however, he did not know what his son wanted. Helplessly, he glanced at Mayumi for clarification.
"He wants you to put him in bed," translated Mayumi patiently. There was a tender look on her face when she glanced at them.
"Oh." Tatsuya was shocked that he was so clingy to him. He rubbed the back of his neck, looking at Mayumi then his son.
She looked torn between exasperation and amusement. "Gin-chan is tired. You could carry him."
At that suggestion, Gin excitedly extended both hands towards him, his eyes gleaming.
He had no resistance to that expression.
Wordlessly, he scooped the little boy into his arms. He squealed with delight, eliciting a gentle smile from Mayumi.
"Return to the study after you have put Gin-kun in bed," interrupted Saegusa Koichi.
Tatsuya could not read Saegusa-sama's reaction to the reunion of his family.
However, the expression on the older man's man softened when he focused his attention on his grandson.
Dignified, the Head of the Saegusa clan climbed to his feet, tickled the little boy in his father's arms, and bid him to have a good rest. The little boy hugged his grandfather briefly before winding his arms around his father's neck.
The older man acknowledged them with a nod before returning to his desk.
Both Mayumi and he bowed courteously before departing. Together, they fell into step and headed for Mayumi's bedroom. Mayumi held his hand, delighted that she could openly flaunt that they were together.
Gin, worn out by the events in the day, fell asleep on his shoulder. He learnt that he slept in a cot next to her bed, despite the amount of free space in Saegusa mansion.
"Father spoils him terribly. He has an entire playroom filled with toys. I think the rest of his cousins are jealous," whispered Mayumi, looking at their son.
He lifted a brow, as if accusing her of the same problem.
"Alright," admitted Mayumi, throwing her hands up in a position of surrender. "I can't help spoiling him too. I prefer having him close to me. It is not frequent that I'm at home too." She led him into her bedroom. He was delighted to see that the room remained unchanged, save for a large baby cot placed next to her bed. Colourful mobiles of airplanes and cute animals hung above the cot, a huge contrast to the feminine room.
Silently, he put Gin into his cot and covered him with a powder-blue duvet. To match with the rest of the decorations of the room, the corner was deliberately coloured with soft pastel colours. He noticed a pastel blue changing station for Gin. Mayumi busied herself by drawing the curtains close while Tatsuya tucked their child into bed.
It was a strange feeling tucking his child in.
It did not seem difficult. He started to relax.
Despite the fact that the bedroom was enshrouded by shadows, he could admire the peaceful countenance of his son. Gin looked at rest as he slept in a supine position.
He had done something right as his father. He could do this. He could be a good father to his son.
A foreign surge of tenderness flooded him. It amplified when he felt Mayumi rest her head against his arm affectionately.
He felt at peace, a strange feeling. He had lived his life being of use to others and never thought of pursing peace or happiness.
She pressed a fond kiss on Gin's forehead before taking Tatsuya by his hand and leading him towards her desk. She told him to wait for her as she changed her clothes in the walk-in closet.
It felt almost intimate, as if he was allowed into another private aspect of Mayumi's life.
His eyes landed on photograph standing prominently on her desk. It was of them standing next to each other after the Nine schools competition. He sat on the office chair and examined the photograph. Mayumi had told him that she was quite frustrated about him after the Nine schools competition because she could not figure out how he could accomplished so many feats: recovering almost immediately after a fatal blow, and his ground-breaking magical engineering feats.
By accident, he turned on her terminal and it displayed the materials she was reading. At a glance, he could tell that she was reading about the newer magical theories. A smile stretched across his face. since reading was one of the hobbies they shared. She had admitted that she loved the experience of reading.
He felt a pair of arms wrap around his shoulders, and a sweet Sakura scent drifted into his nose. Her thick hair tickled his neck as she pressed a kiss on his cheek. "I can't quite believe that you're here with me and Gin-chan. W-we're sharing the duties of parenting."
Her uncharacteristic shyness made him rise to his feet to affirm his promise to his new family. "We need to work something out. I have an apartment but –"
"—we should move up the wedding so that we can move in to live with you," replied Mayumi easily, entwining their fingers together. "We can keep everything simple."
He shook his head.
"You're the eldest daughter of the Saegusa clan, that would not be suitable for your standing—"
"—Soon to be a Shiba," smiled Mayumi, leaning on his chest. "If I can have my way. A Shiba doesn't live in opulence." She made a face at the grandiose of her room.
He knew that she never appreciated living in splendour. She always saw it as a necessity to maintain her public image as the eldest daughter of Head of the Saegusa clan. He knew that he had been changing her. She could no longer remain as that Saegusa Ojou-sama.
"A Shiba is a conundrum, something I believe you're. The public doesn't know who you really are, even though you're a public figure."
She laughed brightly, winding his arms around his trim waist lovingly.
"We need to talk about Gin-chan. I believe that Father will speak to us about Gin-chan's heritage, now that he knows of it."
"Wait. He doesn't know of his heritage?"
She shook her head.
"I did not confirm his parentage and I made it clear that it was a topic not to be broached."
He was taken aback by that declaration.
"My father is a manipulative man. He would have used Gin-chan as a bargaining chip if he knew that he was a Yotsuba. Your disappearance made it difficult to confirm Gin's parentage or confirm his suspicion."
"How did you persuade him to remain ignorant?"
She smiled. "In exchange of my willingness to acquire information. Besides, he probably thought that I didn't want to talk about you because of the way you disappeared. It helped that there is so little information about you."
He nodded. It must have been tough for her to hide such a important fact from her father.
"Has Gin displayed any signs of having magic?"
She shook her head. "However, he has high Psion count. Father adores him and thinks very highly of him."
He frowned in thought. "Your father has an heir, doesn't he?"
She nodded. "It doesn't mean he would willingly relinquish his claim to him."
Gin was the offspring of the direct lines of two prestigious families in the magical society. If either leader knew that he was a magician, they might be embroiled in a struggle of power for him if they could not work out a suitable negotiation between families.
Tatsuya knew that Miyuki might not relinquish her hold over Gin simply because he was his.
"Gin-kun can perform magic. I believe he inherits his abilities from his aunt and me."
She rose both brows. "An affinity to cold? Your ability to disintegrate?"
He shook his head. "Miyuki's forte is mind-interference magic. I'm not too sure if he is as lethal as her. No, he is able to use a skill quite similar to elemental sight." He did not tell her that his ability to disintegrate was his physical manipulation of Eidos, a more developed skill of elemental sight, which deconstruct information by sight.
She rubbed her chin contemplatively. "That is quite a powerful combination."
He nodded. "I'm not surprised, since he's your son." Mayumi had a brand of magic to detect others in a certain range. His magic was a combination of his elemental sight, which breaks down Eidos, and detecting. "It becomes a problem because the Saegusa clan doesn't have a magician with mind-interfering ability—"
"—While the Yotsuba will be encouraged not to relinquish their hold over him since he has a similar ability to the leader."
He considered the way that the children of the Yotsuba clan were raised. From his conversation with Mayumi, he knew that she had a more carefree childhood. She would not agree with Yotsuba's militant methods of child rearing.
Moreover, a possible clash between the two powerhouses over Gin hung precariously over their heads if the issue was mismanaged.
"We could keep his abilities a secret first which will buy him some time for Gin to decide in the future—"
She nodded. "We'll need to move out to maintain his autonomy," concluded Mayumi easily as if it was an easy decision. "My father needs to remain ignorant of the fact that he is a Yotsuba."
He glanced at her admiringly. She had always amazed him with her valour.
"We'll need to move up our wedding after all."
He shook his head in amusement. "Let's have that talk with your father." He hoped that he did not need to short-change her of a dream wedding.
She beamed. "The wedding is merely a formality. I'm committed to you since that night. I want our marriage to begin right—it's about the other."
He blinked, surprised at her maturity. Mayumi may appear to be a spoilt ojou-sama but she had always prioritised his welfare. Those days in which she used him almost without reservation seemed to be a distant past.
She shot him a smirk. "The most important reason is that I want you all to myself. It's time that you become mine." She smiled happily to herself.
Tatsuya merely shook his head in amusement.
It had been three years since he had reunited with his family, three years since he last saw his younger sister, three years since they had the talk with Saegusa Koichi.
Mayumi and Gin had moved out of the Saegusa household after they were married in a small and simple ceremony within a month after they were reunited. He was surprised that Mari had attended that small ceremony with her husband. She had smacked his head with her hand and told him off for taking such a long time in making an honest woman out of Mayumi. He was glad that Mayumi was too distracted to hear her comments because he did not want them to bicker on the day of her wedding.
He could never understand the chemistry between the two women.
Their haste to walk down the aisle was met with little disapproval because it was an important duty of magicians to procreate.
He had formally acknowledged his son and he became Shiba Gin.
The first year of marriage was fascinating for both of them. Mayumi directed and ruled the Shiba household with a firm hand, reminiscent of the times when she was the president of First High. She would usually influence him to make the decisions she wanted him to make with a slick tongue, warm smiles and pouts. Although he knew that she was manipulating him, he did not mind since she was doing it out of concern for their family.
He had to learn to accept the new spectrum of emotions, which made their adjustment to a new lifestyle even more volatile.
He nearly disintegrated one of Mayumi ardent admirer, Itsuwa Hirofumi, a distinguished heir of one of the clans in the Ten clan, when he tried to flirt with her openly in one of the events. They were required to attend these events since her father had recognised them as part of the Saegusa clan. He also learned that Mayumi was more open to his advances until she gave birth to Gin. She was busy with parenting and missions after that, which meant that they never had a chance to meet until that event.
The foolish heir knew that Mayumi was married but he had persisted in his idiocy, resulting in a physical rebuff from him. He would have disintegrated him into a spark if Mayumi did not calm Tatsuya down by winding her arms around him lovingly.
Itsuwa Hirofumi hastily bowed and disappeared into the crowd, knowing that his audience wasn't interested in him.
Mayumi was torn between morbid delight at his territorial nature (she had wanted to hurt Itsuwa-san for a while) and distress at his lack of control.
"You can't disintegrate people just because they incur your wrath," hissed Mayumi, folding her arms as she stared out of the window of their ride. They were finally alone after the incident. "It's illegal. Besides, can you think of the political repercussions? I don't want to deal with his clan and his sister."
He shrugged, barely paying attention to his irate wife. For a moment, his morality was suspended. He had every right to disintegrate that idiot. If the clan had decided to take revenge, he did not mind a fight on his hands. He did not understand the ugly and consuming feeling in his chest.
Silence filled the car.
"You dated him?"
"Duty. I told him about you after I gave birth to Gin. He was anxious to marry me off to Hirofumi-san."
"And you didn't think you should..."
The muscles on her face twitched.
"Tell you? I promised I will wait for you. I did not, for a moment, thought of turning back on my word. I needed to ensure the safe delivery of Gin while remaining single. He was irrelevant to me."
He knew she was so close to employing magic against him. It wouldn't be the first. He lost count of the number of times she had employed her magic against him and knocked him out due to her anger.
"Did you let him hold your hand, let him kiss you to keep the pretense?"
"Tatsuya." Mayumi did not want to dignify that question with a response.
He turned away from her. He did not know if he was upset at her for accepting Hirofumi's advances or at himself for allowing it to happen. She had to resort to all ways to give birth to Gin. His temper cooled down. He had no right probing Mayumi about that period of time when he had left her.
"What am I going to do with you?" whispered Mayumi with a resigned tone. Her anger was doused. She closed the distance between both of them, choosing to lay her head on his shoulder. "I did what I needed to do, just as you did what you needed to. His touch was nothing like yours and I didn't like it. Hirofumi is uninformed about dating and I was careful to remain in the public eye. Then, Gin-chan was born."
He was blessed with an understanding partner.
Her admission awakened the possessive and ardent side of him.
Mayumi and he had to get used to the volatile, ardent, and even consuming nature of their physical attraction to each other. It burnt him constantly whenever he looked at his wife. It took him a while to regulate his feelings of lust. It helped that the three years had developed an incessant longing in Mayumi for him, which meant that the feelings were mutual. Although the frequency of consummation was largely dependent on their availability.
She had never questioned about the time he had spent serving his sister. He knew she did not have to. With the return of emotions, he felt uncomfortable recalling his past. He was a monster that cared only about the welfare of his sister. Mayumi had brought out his humanity, bit by bit.
He found himself getting used to being a father to Gin. However, Mayumi remained the main caregiver since he did not trust himself to make the right decision for Jin. If it were left to him to make the decision for Gin, he might opt to raise him in a Spartan manner.
Naturally, it was not easy for them to be a family. It was their belief that they were important to each other and a constant appreciation of the fact that they were sharing a life together that glued them together.
A chiming sound, indicating that someone was at the door, disrupted him from his contemplation.
He was giving his son some time to figure out the magical activation sequence that he was working on when he was consumed by his thoughts. Mayumi was in the shower, thus giving them some father and son bonding time.
His son had leapt away from his lap and dashed out to answer the door.
Tatsuya stretched before heading to the living room in a slower pace. His eyes widened when his son, nearly six years in age, ran to him. His periwinkle-hue eyes, partly obscured by his wavy fringe, gleamed with confusion. His eyes contrasted with his porcelain-fair complexion. In private, Mayumi had playfully joked that he was going to be a heartbreaker like his father.
"Father, there is someone waiting at the door."
Tatsuya did not remember that he had an impending meeting. He was quite sure that his wife would have told him if she was expecting any guest that night. Mayumi wanted a quiet week for the family so that they could recuperate from the insanity of work.
"Is something wrong, Gin?"He put a gentle hand on his small shoulder. He could tell from the way his son shifted uneasily on the balls of his feet that he was nervous.
He swayed from side to side. "The guest feels….familiar." He frowned at his feet. "I don't understand."
His heart stopped.
"Is the feeling more similar to your mother or me?" He squeezed his shoulder tenderly as he lowered himself to his son's eye level.
He met his gaze hesitantly. "You don't have a family right, Father?"
That was the confirmation he needed. It was strange that she would only approach him three years later while they were on a vacation in Okinawa. They were on a private property, a place selected by Mayumi, away from the public's eye so that they could have some time to themselves.
Mayumi had whisked them away for a short holiday without giving him any notice. She explained that she noticed that he needed a break from his work. If she was truthful with herself, she would have realised that she missed being with her family.
The Saegusa clan needed her to gather intelligence about a rising conflict between the military and the Magical association, thus she was away most of the time. His time as a military personnel was done and he had no inclination to return to that dangerous life. Perhaps, if they did not have Gin, things would have been very different. They might have fallen deeply in love during a mission.
Due to the dangerous nature of her work, Gin would usually accompany him to work instead. Their son preferred shadowing his partner, Ushiyama, since he had an interest in hardware rather than magical activation sequence. His partner told him that his son showed some promise in his field and promised to groom him.
He looked at his small son. He was turning six quite soon, a suitable age to begin training as a member of the Yotsuba clan.
His blood grew cold.
For the past few years, he had assumed that the Yotsuba family had no interest in his son because of the lack of visits from any members of the family.
"I think you should go to your mother," returned Tatusya, climbing on his feet speedily. His eyes darkened. "Let me speak to this guest alone." He assumed that it was one of Kuroba twins who was visiting them.
Mayumi appeared instantly at the door. Like he, she was untouched by time, as if those who were powerful in magic were naturally resistant to aging. Her thick hair was wet from showering and she looked refreshed. She noticed the expression on his face and her jaws stiffened. A flash of determination appeared in her eyes. He was sure that he couldn't prevent Mayumi from joining him.
The smile on her face did not reach her eyes when she turned to look at their son.
"Gin-chan, why don't you return to your room? It's getting quite late. Father will tell you a story when he's done with the guest."
Gin looked at his mother incredulously. He glanced at him for a moment, as if hoping that his father would help him.
"Be good, Gin," added Tatsuya firmly. Gin was definitely his son since he had a wary disposition. He roughed his son's hair, an action he didn't quite like, earning a scowl from him. He grinned at his son. "We'll see you later, Jin. I'm quite sure Mother will love to tell you another story later." He put his arm around Mayumi's waist, as if he was relaxed.
His son glanced at them again and surveyed their actions. Tatsuya felt as if he was a specimen under the methodical examination of his son.
Tatsuya felt that he needed more encouragement to return to his room. With his free hand, he tipped Mayumi's chin and gradually closed the distance between them. Mayumi's eyelashes fluttered close in anticipation.
"Ewwww! Father! I'll go to my bedroom. A story from Father and Mother each," bargained Gin, with a vivid bright smile. "It's a promise!" Before waiting for their responses, he scrambled towards his bedroom, excited.
Their son loved listening to their adventures.
His footsteps faded away.
He squeezed her waist lovingly after pecking on her lips chastely. "Gin takes after you. He's going to be a wonderful negotiator," commented Tatsuya tenderly. The smile faded from his face when he thought about the unexpected guest.
The smile from her face faded away as she looked at him grimly. "I'll keep an eye on him." She tapped on her CAD meaningfully. She glanced at the door.
He nodded quietly at her. He released her. Mayumi ran her hand through his clothes to straighten them. Unhesitating, he greeted the guest at the door.
A dignified and lovely woman, dressed in beautiful dress of light blue stood patiently at the door. Her face was partly obscured by the shadow cast by the large-brimmed hat she wore. Her long and straight black hair cascaded down her back like flowing water. It almost shimmered under the indoor light of the porch.
His jaw slackened when he realised who was standing before him. It had been years since she stepped out of the mansion.
She smiled at him when their gaze met, folding her thin, gloved arms gracefully before her. She remained as beautiful as before, complemented by the satin dress she wore. He recognised the dress. He had bought that dress for her while they were staying under the same roof.
His stomach lurched painfully.
Periwinkle-hued eyes met those pensive Eton- blue eyes.
"It has been a long time, Onii-sama," smiled Miyuki warmly, gazing affectionately at him, through her long and curled eyelashes. She looked like the beautiful and innocent young Shiba Miyuki he had protected with his life. At the moment, it felt as if the six years did not happen and she was his beloved younger sister, his only family. Her smile became meek. "I hope I'm not causing any inconvenience by visiting so late."
Unconsciously, his face softened with a kind smile. "No, it is no bother. Are you alone?" He glanced around, expecting her new guardian to be with her. "You shouldn't be travelling alone."
Her cheeks dusted pink as she shook her head. "Not anymore. You're here." Miyuki gazed at him with profound devotion. It held a hint of hopefulness that her affections were requited.
He swallowed visibly, knowing that the fondness she had for him was beyond familiar love between siblings. That reminded him of the three dark years in which he became nothing more than a tool for her manipulation. While he had chosen such a path to fulfill his perception of a brotherly duty, he could not justify taking such a path after he became whole. He was alright with the Yotsuba's callous way of using him. The Yotsuba used him because they saw him as a living and uncontrollable weapon, but his sister manipulated his eternal loyalty to her because she loved him neurotically and couldn't free him.
Unknowingly, his body stiffened.
He was startled when Mayumi wound her arm around his arm gently. Immediately, the tension faded from his shoulders. Curious, he glanced at the petite woman who barely reached his shoulders. Mayumi was smiling warmly at his sister.
"Hello, Miyuki-chan. It has been a while. Why didn't you invite her in, Tatsuya?" admonished Mayumi mildly as she glanced at him. He murmured an apology for his tardiness. She returned her attention to his sister. "Please come in. It'll be more comfortable to speak inside." He could tell from the slight inflection in her tone that his wife was putting a brave front.
He rubbed the back of his neck when he noticed that Miyuki had stiffened at Mayumi's chirpy voice. It did not bode well. Almost instantly, Miyuki assumed the hauteur of a dignified and powerful lady and entered the house after greeting Mayumi. Like a well brought up ojou-sama, Miyuki gave her host a polite and practiced smile.
The smile sent shivers down his spine. He could tell that the smile did not reach her azure-shade eyes.
Tatsuya rose a brow when Mayumi entwined their fingers together intimately before her. Was his wife courting for trouble by provoking his sister? He saw Miyuki's eyes land on their intertwined hands.
"We didn't expect having a visitor, would you like to have some coffee? I have a stock of roasted ground coffee beans that both of you are so fond of," offered Mayumi cheerfully, her head slightly cocked.
He knew that Mayumi had always kept a stock of the coffee that Miyuki used to brew for him. The coffee was one of those nostalgic and sweet reminders of those idyllic days when he and his younger were living together in the Shiba house. He never knew how much effort Miyuki spent in the preparation of the coffee he had daily until Mayumi told him about it. It made him appreciate the small things that Miyuki used to do for him then, such as preparing his dinner. He glanced at his sister, trying to gauge her reaction.
Miyuki's eyes widened slightly as she stared at the older woman. "You know what kind of coffee I prefer?" She sounded almost doubtful.
She dipped her head in a nod, surprised at her question. "I asked Tatsuya about the coffee both of you are fond of after I noticed that both of you usually talk over coffee at night. You were one of juniors that made my final year in high school memorable." She pressed her hands on her cheeks in reminiscence before heading to the kitchen.
Miyuki looked lost.
He assumed that Miyuki was surprised by the genuine sincerity of Mayumi.
Tatsuya immediately offered his help, following his petite wife into the kitchen. "She rarely frequents in the kitchen. A true Saegusa ojou-sama,"teased Tatsuya as he removed the drip brew coffee maker from one of the shelves in the wooden cupboard. It was too high for Mayumi to reach for it. He was surprised that the vacation home had such household appliances. Swiftly, as if it was practiced, he heated the pot of water and inserted the filter into the coffee maker, causing Mayumi to pout adorably at him.
"A true former Saegusa ojou-sama. I know my way around the kitchen."
Her irritation was alleviated when he glanced at the teacups meaningfully. The pout disappeared as she busied herself in preparing the three sets of teacups. He smiled to himself.
He did not realise that his sister had followed them into the kitchen until he heard her voice.
"It's strange to see you so domesticated, Onii-sama." She flashed a cheeky smile at him. "I used to do this frequently."
"Because you're a true Shiba ojou-sama," teased Tatsuya.
Tatsuya understood that it was one of his wife's brilliant plans of disrupting the pace of a planned conversation by introducing an element of surprise. Miyuki, the head of Yotsuba clan, would usually be treated with great respect due to her station; however, Mayumi was treating her with excessive familiarity, as if she was always a part of the family. It seemed to help Miyuki to drop the facade of being the head of the Yotsuba clan.
Miyuki smiled sweetly.
"I don't think I'm able to brew a cup as well as you." Tatsuya returned a gentle smile as he prepared the beverage.
He heard her approach him from the side. "You're doing very well," commented Miyuki, staring at the way he was preparing the coffee. There was a light frown of concentration on her face as she observed. She corrected him when he made an error in the procedures.
Miyuki laughed at him. "So you haven't quite mastered the art of drip brew?"
"No, I'll usually grab a cup along the way. Mayumi's coffee is undrinkable." He smiled wryly.
Mayumi scowled. "There is nothing wrong with my coffee. You're too spoilt, Tatsuya. My coffee is fine. It's better than the one prepared by the HAR."
Miyuki snickered but attempted to mute her laughing by covering her mouth.
Mayumi shot a lethal glare at her.
"It's better than the one prepared by the HAR but it remains undrinkable." Out of habit, he handed Miyuki a glass filled of water.
Naturally, he earned a jab on the rib from Mayumi for his comments.
Miyuki took it from him and froze the water in the glass wordlessly. She blinked owlishly at the glass of ice when she completed the domestic task. Nostalgically, she stared at the glass of ice in her gloved hand.
He understood that nostalgia since Yotsuba Miyuki had never stepped into the kitchen. She was his sister that he had fondly remembered. He took the glass from her and shattered the ice into small pieces with his magic. He placed the glass on the small tray that Mayumi prepared.
"Let's have a seat. I think we're done," commented Tatsuya when he noticed that Mayumi was putting the teapot of coffee and the three sets of teacups into the tray. He squeezed her shoulder affectionately before heading out of the kitchen.
Miyuki nodded before following him to the living room.
Tatsuya offered her the armchair and settled down at the couch. He looked at her, desperately finding something to say. The magic in the kitchen seemed to dissipated after they had stepped out of it. He was very conscious that he was speaking to Yotsuba Miyuki, the leader of the Yotsuba family, not his sweet sister. He did not want to talk about the Yotsuba family but he couldn't find another topic to speak. Additionally, Mayumi was usually with him to start a conversation.
Silenced enveloped the living room.
He rubbed the back of his neck. "H-how are you?"
The light in her cerulean eyes dimmed a little. "I'm fine." She steepled her hands together, staring at the coffee table in front of her. She seemed almost disappointed that he did not have anything much to say to her.
He tried to think of more things to reduce the tension that was mounting in the room.
"Is that all you are going to say to your sister?" chided Mayumi, entering the living room with a tray. The sweet fragrance of the coffee filled the room. "Forgive your brother. He's still learning how to be proficient at communication." She set the tray on the coffee table. "It is a surprise that Four Leaves Technology is doing so well." She began pouring the coffee into the three teacups.
Tatsuya wordlessly added a cube of sugar into a teacup, marking it as his wife. Neither he nor his sister took anything with their coffee.
She added crushed ice into that cup.
Miyuki laughed when she saw the tenderness in Mayumi's gaze. "Onii-sama has always been an excellent Magical engineer and researcher, not a businessman. I must admit that it is not the best decision to allow him to become the CEO of the company but he is better than our father."
Instinctively, Mayumi sat near him.
He took a teacup from the table, frowning in thought. The company's profits had dramatically increased under his leadership. The company was now the leading company in research internationally.
"Four leaves technology has been doing well under my direction. If you consider that as a gauge of the effectiveness of my communication skills—"
"—the company does well because of your leadership skills, not your ability to clinch business deals for the company. Your clients choose your company because of the products—" Her scarlet eyes gleamed.
"—which is sufficient," concluded Tatsuya stubbornly, taking a sip from the teacup. The coffee had a wistful and nostalgic taste. He closed his eyes as he savoured the bittersweet taste and the fragrance of the brew.
There was a gentle smile on Miyuki's face as lifted the cup elegantly. "I'm glad that both of you are so happy. "The smile on her face became gracious. "I knew that Onii-sama would go to you after he was set free." She sipped from her cup, allowing her words to sink in.
Mayumi looked at his sister blankly.
He understood Mayumi's disbelief. She did not expect to be reunited with him at all. In fact, he hadn't known that he would immediately go to Mayumi if Miyuki had made him whole. He had never expected to have his emotions restored in the first place. However, he did promise Mayumi that he would eventually return to her. How would his sister know of his promise to her?
"Why are you here tonight?" asked Tatsuya bluntly, setting his teacup on the coffee table. The sound of the teacup hitting the coffee table echoed around the living room. He could feel the change in atmosphere.
She turned to look at them with cold eyes. "The issue of an heir. Your son, Gin, is of age for training. I'm not planning to marry so I'll have to consider Onii-sama's child."
He frowned, leaning forward, his hands on his lap. "You're still young. You might produce an heir in the future. Besides, you have freed me from the Yotsuba clan. Technically, my children do not belong to the clan. "
Miyuki nodded, clasping her hands. Her hauteur had changed as she had assumed the role of the head of the Yotsuba clan, speaking to her subordinates. "Yes I did. However, I did not relinquish my hold over your children, Onii-sama, therefore they are part of the Yotsuba. They remain my precious niece and nephews." A hint of steel entered her voice as she glanced at Mayumi meaningfully.
Mayumi seemed to freeze in her seat.
For a moment, Tatsuya was reminded that he was not talking to his sweet sister. He was talking to one of the most powerful woman in the pacific. His voice dropped into a lethal whisper. "Are you planning to put him through training to become a guardian?"
She folded her hands into her lap elegantly. "No, the training our cousin and I had to go through when I was a child. He'll be in good hands. He's your son, Onii-sama. I'll love him as my own." Her tone brooked no negotiation as she met his gaze firmly.
The sharp sound of the teacup hitting the coffee table caught both of their attention. There was a flash of determination in Mayumi's eyes as she stared at Miyuki.
Miyuki arched a brow, as if entertained that she was challenging her, the head of the Yotsuba family.
Mayumi looked solemn and determined. "No. I'll not allow you to take Gin-chan away from your brother and me."
Miyuki chuckled. Her chilling laughter sent shivers down his spine. "Do you not understand how it works in Yotsuba?" Miyuki stared at Mayumi coolly, creating an repressive atmosphere with merely a glance. "You were born into one of the Ten clans. You ought to know it. You don't have a say in this, Mayumi, my word is the law in the clan."
He made his decision immediately.
"Not in my household," interrupted Tatsuya firmly, looking at his sister. "Gin stays here with Mayumi and me. This is where he belongs."
The Head of the Yotsuba clan faltered slightly, as if she understood the meaning of his words. "You are willing to challenge me like how you had defied our aunt for me?" She sounded almost surprised and hurt.
He maintained his silence as he held her gaze firmly.
It was more of an answer for her.
A flash of hurt appeared in her eyes. Miyuki closed her eyes for a moment as if steeling herself. Her hands were clenched.
Mayumi immediately shifted to his side as if trying to protect his flank. "My father considers this family as part of his clan."
Her eyes were a dark blue when her eyes fluttered open. "I understand." Gracefully, she rose to her feet, staring at them with an icy glare. "I could kill you if I need to, Onii-sama. I can bind your powers as I had once bound them. No one can stop me if I desire it."
"You'll have a fight on your hands. Saegusa Koichi will not let his grandson go. Besides, I don't want my son to go through what I had gone through. I don't want him to be treated nothing more than a weapon—"
" Saegusa will have no say. He'll be my heir. The heir of one of the most powerful clans in the Pacific. He will be the leader of the Yotsuba clan—"
"—I don't want him to become you," yelled Tatsuya, letting the sound of his deep voice resonate around the living room. He climbed on his feet so that he towered dangerously over her. It hurt him to take such a tone with his sister. He took a deep breath. "Isn't it better than Gin-kun doesn't need to grow up with such pressures? Saegusa Koichi doesn't know of my affiliation with the Yotsuba. By taking him away, you will plunge this country into a violent civil war."
"What do you mean like me?"
His gaze softened slightly when he recalled that fateful night when everything changed. "Miyuki, you were such a wonderful and beautiful woman until you were forced to become the Head of the Yotsuba clan—"
"—You're wrong! You and Mayumi made me this way!" returned Miyuki icily as she glared at Mayumi then him. Her voice trembled with uncontrollable rage. "I love you! I couldn't stop myself from loving you! I fought those feelings desperately until the day Yotsuba Maya tried to tear us apart. You didn't even care and choose to arrange a formal meeting with her father!" She pointed a shaking finger at Mayumi. "I was upset! Why can't I love you the way she care for you? I knew I was only important to you because of the magic alteration—"
Her painful outburst shook him to the core. He took a deep breath.
"That's not true. I chose to meet Saegusa-sama so that I can bait our aunt into arranging a meeting with me—"
"Do you think I'm naïve? Gin is coming to six years of age. Both of you used that opportunity to be intimate with each other—"Miyuki looked disgusted at the thought.
Tatsuya stepped forward, his fist clenched. How dare her!
"That's because you force yourself on him first," interrupted Mayumi stridently, glaring at her. It was clear that she was furious that Miyuki had made light of that night. "I wanted to let him go when he told me that both of you had feelings for each other." She stepped between the siblings, her eyes bright with anger. "Tatsuya and I were already together then. I have never said anything about your behaviour because I knew how an imminent parting would force both of you to take desperate measures. Instead of cherishing your brother, you took three years of Tatsuya's life away selfishly. I don't want to include Gin-chan because I chose to have him. However, you denied Tatsuya of the opportunity of watching Gin grow, while he helped you to consolidate your power in the Yotsuba family. He did that because he didn't want you to marry someone you didn't like for political reasons—"
Miyuki's eyes darkened. "You have no right to speak here, Saegusa—"
He stepped forward, furious that she took that tone with his wife.
"—Shiba,"corrected Mayumi fearlessly, her back straight. "I'm Tatsuya's wife, your sister-in-law. He has always cared for you. It pains him to remember those three years you had enslaved him to your bidding—"
"Mayumi!" intoned Tatsuya sharply, looking stern. While he was upset, but he didn't want Mayumi to hurt his sister. There was no need to mention the past when Miyuki had atoned for her mistake by letting him go.
Their heads spun at the sound of his son's voice. He was at the foot of the stairs staring at them in worry. He glanced at Miyuki, afraid.
Mari's words about Mayumi's magic drifted in his head. Her ability to detect must be first activated by her desire to check her surroundings, which could also be her shortcoming. In the brief argument, she must not have paid too much attention to their son.
"Gin-chan?" He stepped towards him. Why was he here? "Return—" Then, he detected a gathering of Psions around his sister as she fixed her eyes on the younger version of a male doppelgänger.
He glanced at his sister. There was frown of concentration on her brow as she activated her magic using her handheld CAD.
Spontaneously, he dived for his son while Mayumi dissipated those clusters of Psions with her bullets.
He glanced at Yotsuba Miyuki, trying to figure out her next move. He noticed that Miyuki was smirking at Mayumi. That cruel and insane smile sent shivers down his spine. He knew that look on her well.
It was a sleight of hand. She did not intend to hurt Gin. Mayumi was her target.
A magic circle appeared under Mayumi's feet and it glimmered a brilliant white.
Using elemental sight, he could tell that Miyuki had created a wall of ice around her in an attempt to crush her.
To his surprise, Mayumi broke through her wall of ice using her own shield, in a contest of magical strength before she fired a shower of bullets at his sister in an attempt to push one of the most powerful magicians into the defensive.
If they were still in high school, a contest between the Elfin sniper and the Queen of Ice would be one of the most highly anticipated matches.
Even though he was a strategic-class magician, he could only watch helplessly as his wife and his sister battled with each other. He wrapped his arm around his son protectively, pushing him into his body so that he would not witness the battle. It was too late for him to shift him away from harm's way.
Mayumi displayed the reason why she was famous for her precision in magic and speed. Whenever Miyuki tried to employ offensive magic against her, she would quickly dissipate that cluster of Psion with her bullets. Since there was a huge quantity of carbon dioxide in the air, Mayumi would not run out of them. However, Mayumi could not employ magic that was more offensive since she was afraid that she might hurt their son.
"We should have this fight three years ago before he married you," argued Miyuki coolly, activating her magic easily.
"So that you can marry him? I can see how that is going to work. You're related by blood. You let him go because you wanted his son."
"I let Onii-sama go because I love him. He was unhappy—"
"Then why are you here for Gin?"demanded Mayumi as she dissolved the clustering of Psions. They were circling each other.
He gathered his son in his arms and backed off, trying not to be involved in their fight.
"Because he's Onii-sama's. I never wanted this position for myself. I wanted it to free Onii-sama. I want his children to inherit this position."
"There's no need to take our son away then!" Mayumi ducked nimbly and fired her bullets by employing the General CAD.
He hoped that his sister was not irrational enough to employ wide area magic.
"Onii-sama's son has to be brought up in the ways of the Yotsuba." Miyuki was finding new ways of breaking the stalemate by cycling through the different magical activation sequences.
Seeing that he could interfere and resolve the fight, he jumped in. "I don't need my son to inherit the position of the Yotsuba,"interrupted Tatsuya, dissipating both of their magic effectively. For a moment, they started at him, dumbstruck. Efficiently, he disintegrated his sister's CAD. He turned to face her.
"Miyuki, I know you have the best interest for me, but I don't want Gin-kun to have a childhood like ours. You should hear Mayumi's tale. She had the chance to enjoy her childhood. Don't repeat the mistakes of our elders who did that to us out of fear."
Miyuki looked betrayed as she glowered at her brother.
"Y-you employed magic against me?" Miyuki trembled on the spot as her voice dropped into a furious whisper. "For her?" She pointed a shaky finger at Mayumi.
"Miyuki—"His eyes went wide when he used his elemental sight. She was using her lethal skill, a mind-interference magic. His heart stopped.
No! She couldn't do that to Mayumi.
He tried to jump in front of her but he was too late.
The light in Mayumi's eyes went out suddenly. Her eyes fluttered close. Almost gracefully, Mayumi crumbled to the ground like a spineless doll.
His heart felt as if it was wrenched violently out of his chest. He had never felt such agony before.
It couldn't be. She couldn't be…
"Mother!" Gin dashed to his mother, tears pouring down his cheeks. He grabbed her with his small hands, sobbing uncontrollably. "Mother, don't sleep. Please wake up. Please wake up!"
She lay on the ground, her hair fanning around her as if she was slumbering.
"Mother?"Gin-chan called helplessly, leaning over his mother chest. He pressed one of his ears to her chest as tears gushed down his cheeks.
He froze, staring at his son bawling painfully.
Tatsuya saw red immediately. He spun around and glared at his sister, his mind completely blank. It had been three years since he felt this way. As if summoned by his will, both of his silver pistols were in his hands. They gleamed brightly.
He ignored the haunting sounds of weeping echoing around the living room.
Once again, the God of destruction had awakened because of Miyuki.
He stepped closer to Miyuki, both pistols in his hands, his eyes fixed on her.
For once, she looked almost petrified. She backed off slowly as he lifted one of his pistols and pointed the muzzle at her forehead. He stepped forward, closing the gap between them as he held her gaze unflinchingly.
Once again, the Yotsuba robbed him of his emotions. He felt nothing when he saw her dread in those eyes. He felt no anger, no despair, no compassion, and no pain.
Then, his muzzle came into contact with her forehead when he had was cornered Miyuki to the wall. His shadow enshrouded her small petite body as she cowered.
He could almost taste her fear from the air.
It brought him no satisfaction or appeasement.
There was a strange calmness as he stared into the eyes of his horrified and helpless sister, a woman he would have willingly exchange his life for hers in the past. He could almost see the irony in the situation: he was going to be her executioner. He would be the very last person she would have the opportunity to look at before she rested for eternity.
Her sharp chin jutted slightly so that she could meet his gaze. He could feel his muzzle pressing against her pale forehead.
For once, he was reminded of the sweet and nostalgic times they once shared as siblings. They used to be dependent on each other. They used to be the axis of each other's universe. His happiness had once hinged on hers. Her safety was once his priority in life.
"Do it if it appeases you, Onii-sama,"whispered Miyuki, looking unrepentant. Her back was straight, as if she was determined not to go down as a coward. "My life belongs to you. It's my pleasure to die at your hands, Onii-sama. What better way to leave this world then to die in the arms of your beloved?" She closed her eyes and spread her arms wide open, as if in a position of surrender.
He was reminded of the turning point of his life when he had attempted to kill another woman. She had stood in the same position. He was brought back to that small and dark alley years ago. The wind whipped her hair wildly around her as she stared at him, with great compassion in her eyes. Though it was difficult, she had surrendered to him because she understood that he was following orders. She did not want him to face the consequences of defying the Yotsuba family. Miyuki surrendered herself to him because she did not want to fight him after taking away the most important person in his life. Miyuki wanted him to murder the very last member of his family and force him to remember her kindly for the rest of his life.
Pain rocketed through him, threatening to tear him apart and his vision became cloudy with tears.
"I'll not," forced Tatsuya as tears descended down his cheeks silently. "You never did understand me the way she did." Mustering his will, he lowered his pistol-shaped CAD. He closed his eyes for a moment, taking a deep breath.
Mayumi would never want him to hurt his sister. She was the only woman who chose to date him with full knowledge that he would always prioritise his sister's welfare. She was the only woman who truly cared for him sufficiently to seek Miyuki's approval.
Mayumi never liked him to behave like a mindless beast.
"I'll not take your life because Mayumi wouldn't like that."
He was conscious of that Yotsuba Miyuki was sobbing her heart out. He took a step back, before expelling a breath. His grief smothered him.
"Mother? Mother! Mother! "
Sounds of gasping filled the room suddenly.
Immediately, he was by his wife's side, trying to soothe her. She was gasping and coughing loudly, as if she was trying to draw more air into her oxygen-deprived lungs.
She was alive! She was alive! He grabbed her, trying to shake her up.
However, she did not respond.
"Papa, I don't sense Mother."
Tatsuya whipped his head to look at his son.
His eyes were wide, as if he couldn't comprehend.
"What do you mean?" His heart stopped for a moment.
Gin reached to touch his mother's forehead tenderly. "I don't feel anything here." His eyes were still wet with tears. He looked miserable as he stared at his mother.
He calculated the time elapsed between her death and her revival. Her cells might have begun to experience an effect from the lack of oxygen. He didn't remember the effect could have kicked in so quickly.
He deconstructed the information of her body with his magic and saw that some of the damage from Miyuki's magic was quite extensive. He detected that another magic had been employed to prevent her from dying. His eyes widened when he detected another consciousness within her body.
Another consciousness meant that…
His heart lurched. His mind returned to the conversation between them earlier. Miyuki had stared at Mayumi meaningfully when she mentioned "precious nieces and nephews." She had already known that Mayumi was heavy with another child.
Their second child.
His heart ached.
Suddenly, everything made sense.
Mayumi had arranged this vacation to announce the wonderful news to them. She wanted to break it slowly to their son since their son was so used to being the sole receiver of their attention.
"She's going to be okay, Jin-chan,"returned Tatsuya gently. He reached to rub his head lovingly. "I'm going to save your mother."
"Can you do that, Father?" He looked at her hopefully.
"Yes, your mother is strong. Don't worry. Look away and close your eyes. Count to 10 for me. You must promise me not to peek."
He swiped the tears from his eyes with the back of his hand. He nodded gingerly before turning around. "I'm going to count to 10 now, Father. 1—"
Using his magic, he transferred her extensive injuries over to himself. It was an agony so excruciating that he collapsed on the ground, grasping his head with both of his hands as he tried to swallow his cries of agony.
Immediately, his body reworked and restored itself back to normal, a process that could never fail.
Vaguely, he heard his son's voice, as if it was very far away. It took a while for his mind to focus on that familiar voice.
Using his resolve, he forced his eyes open. He felt so drained that he could barely keep his eyes open. It took him a while to remember what had happened. Slowly, he stood up with the help of another. Her Sakura scent drifted into his nose.
He was successful! Kami-sama, she was OK!
"Mother! You're OK! You're OK!" He felt his frame jolt when his son bounded into his wife's arms.
"Of course." He could hear the smile in her voice. He was never happier to hear that chirpy voice again. His eyes well up in tears.
He couldn't stand the thought of losing her. He felt her wrap her arms around him possessively. "Your father drained his magic again." There was a hint of admonishment in her voice.
"You can't blame Father. I couldn't sense you anymore. I tried to protect you, Mother, but it wasn't enough."
"What do you mean, Gin-chan?" He heard the curiosity in Mayumi's voice. It seemed as if she had accepted that she had died for a moment.
Tiredly, he turned to look at his son. Mayumi carefully supported him with her small body. Immediately, he felt at rest. His son was hugging his mother possessively.
He looked as if he was struggling for words.
"Y-you tried to protect her mind from the attack?" clarified Tatsuya, uttering each word slowly. His son had never employed his magic besides his unique brand of elemental sight.
"Is that what it's called, Father?" Gin stared at him with his large azure-hued eyes curiously. "I felt that I needed to protect two places." He placed his small hand tenderly on the abdominal of his mother.
He nodded weakly. "I-I sense your magic when I tried to heal your mother's mind."
"A direct counter to Miyuki's magic? What are the odds?" Mayumi mused, staring at her son and husband, amazed.
"As my magic was the counter to my aunt's magic," returned Tatsuya tiredly. It was a strange coincidence.
"Wait, Gin-chan, you said you had to use your magic on two places?" questioned Mayumi as she glanced at Tatsuya shiftily.
He bobbed his head gingerly, child-like innocence shining in his eyes.
She pouted adorably. "It was meant to be a surprise."
"Surprise? Is it a good surprise?" asked Gin excitedly, leaning closer to his mother.
Mayumi nodded, a large smile on her face. "Father already knows the secret. Gin-chan, you're going to have a little brother or sister to play with. In fact, because of you, you will get to see your little brother or sister." She glanced at Tatsuya expectantly.
Tatsuya merely squeezed her hand tenderly. He could have lost both of them if it wasn't for his son.
His cobalt eyes widened in shock. "So I saved my little brother or sister's life?"
Mayumi grinned at him, brushing the fringe off his face lovingly. "Just like your Father." Her gaze was loving when she met his stoic and tired gaze. "He had a sister whom he loved very much," declared Mayumi.
He swallowed visibly, staring at his hands. He had nearly tried to kill his sister.
Gin was shocked by the news. "It is that woman right? That woman who fought with Mother."
"Aunt," admonished Mayumi, looking stern. "That's how your father and your aunt fights."
Mayumi shook her head. "You were the axis to her world when I came into your world. You always dote on her. Can you even blame her for behaving this way? Everything started with that fateful night, didn't it? The night when you chose to spare my life and accepted my feelings."
He sighed, too tired to argue with her. Mayumi had always been incredibly forgiving towards Miyuki, taking her role as her elder sister seriously. It wasn't surprising since her twin sisters adored her. "Do you—"
"I don't sense her any more. I think she probably left the house."
He nodded tiredly. "Shall we turn in? I don't know about you, but it has been a long day for me." His eyelids were drooping. It was going to take a lot of effort to return to the room to sleep.
"For us," smiled Mayumi, kissing his forehead lovingly. She pressed a kiss on Gin-chan's forehead. "Since we're too tired to tell you a story, we'll let you sleep with us tonight."
Gin let out an excited cheer as he followed his parents into the master bedroom to rest.
Tatsuya had the opportunity to witness the entire process of Mayumi's pregnancy. It delighted him to be by her side, watching over her. After six months, the Shiba family welcomed a beautiful and bouncing little girl, Shiba Mio. She looked like her beautiful mother, with brilliant scarlet eyes and delicate features. They couldn't quite tell if she had inherited her mother's thick and wavy hair.
The Saegusa family were excited to receive the youngest Shiba since she resembled their lovely eldest sister.
Tatsuya was quite surprised to receive an unsigned card congratulating them for her birth the next day, along with a copy of a will.
His sister had made him the retainer of the Yotsuba family should anything untoward happened to her and gave him the choice to pick one of his children to become her heir. In her will, she had also abolished the militant way of bringing up children in Yotsuba and dismantled the labs to create living weapons.
They found another personal letter in the will, addressed to both Mayumi and Tatsuya. There were tears in his eyes after he read through the letter. He cradled his petite and tired wife close to him, as if seeking comfort from her embrace. "My sister has finally returned. Thank you." He pressed his lips on her forehead lovingly.
Mayumi, with tears in her eyes, nodded happily at him, basking in the same pleasure.
Dear Onii-sama and Mayumi Nee-san,
I sincerely apologise for that night. No amount of words can adequately convey my heartfelt apology towards you. I know what I have done was unpardonable. I chose to free you, Onii-sama, because I knew that I was taking away your freedom due to my selfishness. Yet, I nearly tried to hurt you and Nee-san permanently due to my selfishness again.
I realised that I have never truly love you in those three years because I was so obsessed about possessing you instead of caring for you. I sincerely apologise for that. I learnt how egocentric I was when Onii-sama tried to kill me out of revenge. I would have died in your arms but I would have saddle you with the pain of killing your own sister. I was stunned when it was Onii-sama's love for Nee-san that stopped him from taking my life.
I'm glad that Mayumi Onee-sama and Onii-sama found each other. You're good for each other. I was too blinded to see it. Thank you,Nee-san, for tolerating my childish and selfish ways. You were forgiving to a fault, but I realised you need to be that way to be with Onii-sama.
Gin is a beautiful child. He looks a lot like our mother, which probably means that he looks a lot like me. He is going to be a heartbreaker like Onii-sama then. He is also a very powerful magician, something I'm sure you'll know. That night, he saved Nee-san and the child from death. I could feel his magic working against mine to save his mother and his sibling. I see that he is a lot like you, Onii-sama, loyal. I hope that the new baby is as beautiful and intelligent as him.
If you have read the will, you'll know that I'm trying to make an effort to make this world a better place, just as what you have been fighting for. I know you want to create a magical society in which magicians will no longer be seen as weapons. I think these changes must begin within the clan.
If you need any help, please let me know. I'll always be willing to help. My life belongs to you.
I wish you all the best, Onii-sama and Nee-san. Take good care of each other.
A/N: Hi, thank you for the kind responses. This is the end of the three-shot. Have a nice day!