The horses' hooves made light clip-clop noises as the Genbu seishi made their way up the rocky mountain path. Days before, they had received word that the seishi named Uramiya lived in a shrine at the peak, so the Genbu no miko and her six guardians had decided to find their would-be ally.
In truth, Takiko was both happy and sad that she was to find her seventh seishi soon. On the one hand, she was close to fulfilling her destiny as priestess, meaning that she could finally make the wish to revive her mother back in Morioka. On the other hand, summoning Genbu would mean going home. Going home meant—
As if sensing her inner turmoil, Rimudo turned slightly and kissed the top of Takiko's head. Her train of thought suddenly crashed, it took her a moment to remember where she was: on horseback with a prince-turned-mass-murderer, who happened to be the man she loved. Takiko tilted her head back to look up at him, but saw only the back of his head. Rimudo was obstinately facing forward, pretending as if nothing had happened. How typical of the stubborn warrior she knew.
It was obvious that he cared for her; he had made that quite clear during the festival in Tomite's village. However, he tended to show his feelings in varying levels of passion. Despite being terribly romantic at times, Rimudo could also be rather dense. For the longest time, Takiko had ridden on horseback exclusively with Tomite—who had once tried to kiss her while she was asleep. The miko couldn't tell whether Rimudo knew that he was letting his beloved ride with the competition and didn't care, or whether he didn't even consider Tomite as competition. Pausing, Takiko remembered that Rimudo was also horribly vain, a trait that probably came from his feminine side, Uruki.
Thinking such unromantic thoughts, the miko couldn't help but sigh. She felt Rimudo shift uncomfortably. After a long, awkward silence, he spoke. "Hey, you know…" Then, as if thinking better of it, he abruptly stopped. "Forget it." He muttered.
"What? What is it?" Takiko asked. She was secretly relieved to end the quiet ride, and wondered whether Rimudo was trying to make her feel better in some small way. The prince did do that from time to time.
"Never you mind, Takiko. It's stupid," he spat bitterly. Takiko, though slightly frustrated, smiled and leaned against his back, closing her eyes.
"Rimudo, you can't just start to say something and then stop. It's not very polite," she scolded gently. "Besides, I like to hear your voice when it's at a normal tone. You yell a lot, you know." She teased.
"All right, fine!" Rimudo shouted, averting his gaze. Takiko could have sworn that he was blushing, probably out of embarrassment. "You know, if we…that is, if you were a normal girl, we could…you know, get married." Rimudo felt Takiko pull away from his back, and slowly turned around to look at her. He was rather surprised to see an annoyed expression on her face.
"Are you saying…that I am not normal?" she murmured through half-gritted teeth. Rimudo gave her a horrified stare.
"You…" he was rather indignant, "Is that the only part you heard?" Takiko paused a moment to replay his words in her head, then, realizing that that had been his idea of a proposal, turned a bright shade of red. She didn't know whether to be shrieking with joy, or smacking him in the head with her naginata for being so blunt and unromantic. Rimudo clocked her on the head with the back of his fist half-heartedly to get her attention, and then averted his eyes again. "If I…you…Ah, forget it. I told you it was stupid. You wouldn't want to marry me, anyway." He turned to face forward again and let out a small inward sigh, disappointed.
Just when he had let his guard down, Takiko spoke up. Her voice was soft and gentle, almost inaudible. "I do want to marry you...Rimudo." Rimudo felt Takiko's arms around his waist tighten, and felt her lean against him. He slowed the horse, signaling the other seishi to do the same, and smiled, craning his head back to look at the sky.
Saving the world could wait.