Dawn broke and with it a promise of adventure.
Up well before the sun, she sat in one of the tranquility gardens that seemed to litter her uncle's property. Gifts from the shogun and other daimios in the form of plants and statues were spread through many of the gardens. This one contained the cherry tree presented to her family upon the occasion of her birth.
Tiny pink petals floated from the branches still. Even in early fall, when the green leaves turned orange and red, her tree bloomed and coated the ground with a reminder of spring, of a new birth to come.
"Shiina-sama?" She turned to find Genrou standing at the path. His dark good looks were softened by the morning's light, adding a dimension of tenderness. "Am I disturbing you?"
"No, please join me, Takada-san." She smiled and moved to the side of her bench, giving him a place to sit. "Are you here to train?" It was so early, but she knew the best of samurai always rose with the sun. Kyo had taught her that.
He nodded slightly, smiling. "Yes, and there's another errand I was seeing to. I… was hoping to see you." A mild blush touched his cheeks, endearing him to her more.
"I am here," she felt it again. The flattery and a flirtatious nature she was never aware existed inside her. "Thank you for going to my uncle last night. I never had the chance to tell you so after you left. I guess, I mean… I had hoped to see you again, too."
A silky petal fell form her tree, drifting down to settle in her hair. He reached out, brushing it from her temple, using the gesture as an excuse to skim his knuckles down the side of her cheek, to push an errant stand of chestnut hair behind her ear. Silence, comfortable and heavy with a newborn moment, flowed around them.
"Children." They turned at her uncle's voice. Genrou stood, ready to subordinate him self before his master, and stopped short at the sight of the red samurai. At his side she gasped, a whispered word.
The pup moved around, placing him self between her and Kyo. He was not a man without a sense of humor, but the way they had been gazing at one another was in no way amusing.
The way she looked now, the poised, groomed, perfect niece of a famed master samurai, was nothing he would have ever imagined. Nor did he realize the depth of feeling he held for her until it came rushing forward. Jealousy, desire, possession…
"Shiina-sensei, Kyo-sama," Genrou bowed. At his side she stood, neither looking at Kyo nor her uncle. "I was just coming to find you, Sensei."
"I see," and he did. Kyo had no doubt the ancient man understood exactly why this young warrior would be seeking his audience. "Kyo-sama has told me of your adventures together, niece. In particular, about a recent encounter and your disappearance."
She sighed. "Yes, uncle." He knew from her tone that she was exhausted but the look she gave him, one of resigned loathing, threw him back. Where was the fire, the spark of life that fueled their arguments? She was part of the reason he traveled as he did, to kill his nemesis and become a complete man. Without her, Kyo knew he had no reason to continue; her love was his driving force.
"I am surprised at your actions, niece." Kyo winched slightly, knowing what was coming. "You have more honor and better sense than to abandon a husband."
The innkeeper's son turned to her, shock no doubt evident on his face. "Husband?"
She looked away, a single tear glittering along the curve of her cheek. Kyo felt his heart ache as another joined it. "No. He is an acquaintance, nothing more."
"Nothing more!" Kyo realized he was pushing his luck, but he stormed across the garden, pushing aside the whelp. He grasped her arm, pulled her into an embrace far too intimate for mere acquaintances. "Are you so quick to forget all you went through for me? All we have done together?"
She pushed against him and he felt the struggle to the core of his soul. "That is over with," she whispered. The words tore him, anger and fear pouring forth from the wound.
"No." His voice was final, no argument to be taken into consideration. Kyo would not let her go. He would not lose the other piece of his self in this manner. The sound of a sword being unsheathed brought his head around to regard the two men behind him.
"Release her," the boy demanded. "I will not allow her to fall into the hands of an honor less villain." His declaration brought Kyo around fully. He released her to reach for his own sword and was stopped short by her hand.
She gripped him tight, her head bowed now. "Please, Kyo-sama. I'll leave with you, just please don't start this here."
He sighed, letting lose his hold on the sword and drawing her close again. Sighing, Kyo dropped his head along side her face, absorbing her scent and warmth. The emotions that rioted through him near shook his form. How could she defend this child? Why did she not see his feeling for her, his need?
"I cannot allow you to take my niece," Shiina-sensei spoke. Kyo knew that the innkeeper's son was no long the only samurai in the garden. No doubt those that had been hidden had come forth to do their master's bidding.
"You deceived me Kyo-sama, leading me to believe she was the one without honor." He sighed, holding her tighter as her uncle's voice bore into him the shame he felt already. "Release her, ronin."
He had but a moment to tell her, an instant to let his lips brush over hers before the guard was upon him. Kyo relaxed into the capture. Letting her flow from his arms, the shock and confusion shining from her tear stained eyes, he turned with the guard and was led away.
Genrou knocked lightly, waited a heartbeat, and then opened the door himself. Inside she sat at the writing table, the brush flowing smoothly over parchment. She did not even look at him.
"Shiina-sama, will you join you uncle for the evening meal?" He wanted to walk over to her and embrace her much the same way Kyo had, but knew the punishment would be far more severe than that which was to befall the red samurai.
She sighed, finished her missive, and began to blow upon the drying ink gently. Once it was set to her satisfaction, she rolled the scroll, and rose to face him. "I am ready."
He led her from the room and towards her waiting family. At an alcove in the hall, Genrou turned and grasped her arms, stepping them back into the shadow and relative privacy it provided.
"Takada-san!" Her hands came to his chest and pushed to escape. "What are you doing?"
"I need to apologize, Shiina-sama. Please," he took a deep breath, her scent infusing his head and igniting the passion he had begun to feel in the garden. "I doubted you this morning, and I am deeply sorry for it."
She cupped his cheek with one hand. "I understand. You needn't apologize at all; Kyo-sama is Kyo-sama. He does things in his own way." Her gaze and hand dropped, the look in her face softening considerably, and jealousy reared in his mind.
"You love him, don't you, Shiina-sama?" She gasped and her eyes flew to his. He gripped her roughly, pushing her back against the wall. "Was this, me, all a game to you?"
"No, Takada-san! I swear to you on my honor, I didn't think he wanted me anymore." He leaned very close, searching her face for the lie. It was not there.
He had not thought such a simple question would open her so completely. She cried as she told him, begged for explanations of Kyo's behavior, answers he had not to give, and finally crumbled against him, exhausted and nearly broken from the abuse. And it was abuse, Genrou thought, a gross misuse of this woman by a man too prideful to realize the damage he did.
Before he had despised Kyo for the deception, now he felt the first stirrings of hate deep in his heart. "He will never have you, Shiina-sama. I promise you, there will never be another time when you must endure such horrid treatment. Your uncle will see to it, and if not, I will."
She stirred in his arms, raised her head to look at him. "No, Takada-san, I will bear this hurt again. As you said, I love him."
The prisoner cells her uncle kept were little less than stable stalls. Hay and water, a blanket and barred window, it was not the type of place that would contain Kyo for long. She wondered if he was already gone as she made her way under the cover of night.
There was a guard on post, only one man, which was a surprise. She had no plans of going anywhere with Kyo, simply to set him free. They would work something out.
Once the door opened, she hesitated so the guard could enter first. There was no expected alarm, no rushing of the guard to alert others of the prisoner's escape, just a simple 'stand up' before her uncle's man left.
Kyo was still there.
"I thought you would have left by now," she said. His eyes were in shadow but somehow she could see them.
"I came here for a reason. I will not leave until it's fulfilled." He stood apart from her but held a hand out, palm up, inviting her to join him. "Will you leave with me?"
How much did she want to throw her self into his care? When would the hurt end so she could find happiness with him? Would it ever? Shaking her head, she turned to leave. "I cannot."
He moved quickly, spinning her to face him. "Cannot or will not?"
"Cannot! I cannot take any more heartbreak, Kyo. I am not strong enough to hear you tell me I mean nothing again. I cannot be with you." She let the tears fall unchecked, more concerned that he see her as a person, a living being with feelings, than as a weak woman.
His hands on her arms softened and the deep red of his eyes was tender with an emotion she believed she had seen earlier. When her uncle's man had taken him away, he had whispered words, brushed her mouth with his own. She had thought it a hallucination.
"We have a problem if you are unable to be with me."
He held her closer, one arm about her waist and the other brushing tears from her cheeks. "Yuya." The way he said her name, it sounded like a promise. "I cannot exist without you."
His face lowered to her, the dark red mane of his hair falling about them in a curtain, and he kissed her again. Such a strong, always severe mouth, his lips smoothed over hers; first in a caress, then as a demand, and finally a plea. With words and touches, he begged her to have him.
And she accepeted.
Author Note: I apologize for not checking the grammar and spelling before hand. Thought getting the chapter up might be of more interest than a few editing errors. Here it has been corrected.
Also of note, this is the end of the story. I might post an Epilogue at some point but if so it will be a while down the road. I am fleshing out the citrus version of this for my site, but that too is going to be a few months to post.
Thanks to those that have already reviewed.