"The perimeter's secured."

His black cloaked whirled out behind him, thrashing against the doorway as he passed through it and crossed to the throne. The crescent moon insignia glinted on his chest and his shoes made noise next to nothing on the cold, stone floor of the castle; the only sound emanating from him appeared to be his voice. Princess Tomoyo, Tsukiyomi, and the priestess who connected the wards of Nihon, was occupying the room in her elder sister's absence.

She looked up and dismissed the servant she had been speaking to.

"Very well. Thank you, Kurogane."

Kurogane narrowed his eyes. "Just why do I have to do this anyway? Not that I mind," he grinned. "On a night like this, the full moon pretty much lights up anyone trying to hide on the grounds or roof. It was way too easy."

The princess straightened the sheaf of papers that she had in front of her. Paper to be used for wards, perhaps, Kurogane mused. He found it odd that she'd take the things along with her; other women occupied themselves with embroidery. Was there something she wasn't telling him about this visitor? Damn it, she knew he hated it when she did that...

Instead, Tomoyo frowned slightly. "You didn't leave any floating in the moat, did you?"

He sighed. "No."

"What about on the roof?"

"No."

"And behind the gardener's shed?"

"Dammit, Tomoyo! No!"

An attendant stiffed. "Sir, you will take care to address the princess by her--"

"Yeah, yeah." Kurogane waved it off. They lectured him about this every time he came in here. Royalty. Tsh.

Arching a brow at him, the princess shrugged. "Well, I hope it's true. I trust you can recall the time when the groundskeeper was scared nearly out of his wits when he found the cache of carcasses that had accumulated behind his quarters."

"Hey! The palace roof just happens to slant that way! I couldn't help it if they all fell down over there and I was kept busy with other attackers until morning. Besides," Kurogane muttered, "it was his fault for being so curious about the smell that he felt he had to go invesigate it himself."

Tomoyo shook her head. One of these days, he was going to push things too far; she knew it, even without the gift of foresight. So far, perhaps, that even Shirasaki might not be welcoming for him. But, until that day came...

"Alright. We have a very important visitor arriving tonight, and I want to make sure that he comes across no unnecessary surprises."

Kurogane scowled. It had been a long time since he'd really gotten to do a scowl--he'd spent the past few hours in a manic frenzy, a smile blazing across his features as he hewed down enemies, and before that it had been boredom --and he did so with great aplomb.

"What sort of idiot travels at night, anyway? Did he just want to make himself a target for every half-wit bandit there is?"

"I will not have you address my guest as such when he arrives. He is a lord traveling here on business of the greatest urgency, and the conditions of his stay are the reasons I called you to me tonight."

Hmm. Another lord.

He didn't like where this was heading.

It was always lords, princelings, dukes and duke's sons-- anyone with a claim to a royal bloodline had been coming to Shirasaki these days. Why? Shockingly, Kurogane hadn't had much luck in finding out the reason. Ordinarily, this would be a disgrace for a ninja, but in his case, it seemed...odd. He was typically assigned to guard the grounds (which he was very good at and enjoyed perhaps much more than he should) on nights when an important meeting between the royal family, namely Tomoyo, and the visiting royal was to occur. When he tried to glean information subtly out of other people (which he was not very good at and got annoyed with very quickly), he was met with failure. All he had been able to deduce was that they all seemed to be here on matters pertaining to trade.

He waited. Maybe Tomoyo was finally going to give him some answers.

She opened her mouth, then closed it. An indecipherable look dominated her features, as though she were trying to say something as seriously as possible without breaking into laughter at the same time. It was a little disconcerting to see on one's princess's face. Kurogane was immediately concerned.

"Tomoyo-hime?" Kurogane asked, in quite a different tone than he had used earlier.

Tomoyo took a deep breath, and seemed to transfix him with her eyes. It was times like these that Kurogane felt most aware of the powers she possessed, not something tangible and ease to sense, as his strength with a sword was, but...different. Like the moon that swam above the castle turrets tonight, golden in full, ever changing through the days, elusive and hiding behind clouds, something just as much a symbol of the royal family as the sigil on his armor and their banners.

"I had a dream about you, Kurogane, and that is what I wish to discuss. "

A dream? About him?

Kurogane's eyes scoured a floor tile to avoid meeting hers. Why on earth had she been dreaming of him?

"So, you had a dream. You have those all the time, right?" Of course she did. Her talents connected her as much to the night as her title.

She smiled. "Surely you've been wondering about all these people coming to the palace lately? And I believe you have found that no one will tell you anything about the reasons for their coming."

He nodded. How had she known? The thought crashed into him, almost painful with its clarity. She would never have withheld--not from him--

"I gave orders that you were to be kept ignorant of the proceedings until such time as I chose to enlighten you. Now, in light of this dream, I find I must speak out. The reason why Shirasaki has been seeing so much traffic from royal families is that," she paused, and whether it was a laughing smile or a sighing smile that graced her lips was impossible to judge, "they have come seeking a marriage contract."

"With your sister?"

He knew as soon as he said the words that it couldn't be true. Marrying the imperial ruler would have warranted a much bigger affair, more fuss, and there would be no one in the entire country that could be kept from knowing the information. While it was still fairly impressive that Tomoyo had managed to keep it quiet for so long, it was nowhere near as impossible.

Affirming his suspicions (and, somewhere in him he realized, some of his worst fears), she nodded. His hands suddenly began to sting, and he found that this was because he had clenched them tightly into fists.

"So, what, do you want my blessing or something?" He retorted, trying to remain aloof.

This wasn't going to get to him at all. Not a chance. Now, if he could just last until the end of this pointless meeting, he was sure that there would be more people that had crept up onto the roof by now for him to vent his anger on...

"No, actually. The talks haven't gone that far yet. What I want," she said, voice commanding, "is for you to make me a promise."

His chest clenched. That he'd just sit back and let it happen? That he'd stand idly by while she bound herself to some scumbag that only wanted her for her title, powers, and prestige? No way. Or, maybe, that he would continue to guard her from afar, watching her be happy and grow old with someone else, watching her life go by, always as her guardian and nothing more...

A growl was building up in his throat, unbeknownst to him. Tomoyo paid it no mind. Instead, she was trailing a finger through the air absently, as though thinking things through.

"I don't suppose you have to promise me this for every one of them that visits the palace, but you must for this one. His family owns a good deal of the rice industry, and if anything transpired that might lead to bad trade relations, our personal stores would be hit hard, to say nothing of the families living under our protection."

"So all I have to do is be nice to the guy, is that it?"

"Ah, no..."

Tomoyo's face took on that odd look again.

"What, already? Spit it out!"

She gave him her most composed look, which took a supreme amount of control, only to be expected from so vital and famous a priestess. "I want you to promise me that what I saw in my dream will not come true. Under no circumstances do I want you to--" her mouth twitched -- "sew sashimi into the interior of his ceremonial robes and laugh as he races out of his rooms, trying to pry them all out."

Kurogane was silent.

"That was what would have happened?" He asked, dumbfounded.

Tomoyo nodded, trying hard to show that the idea was completely not amusing and failing. Wiping her eye, she continued. "The cooks will be furious and the price of rice products will skyrocket."

Kurogane shook his head. "I'm impressed with myself. To think I'd ever want to learn to sew..."

A familiar, wild grin settled on his lips. Sashimi seemed a little slippery, but with practice he could probably pull it off. Now, to find a maid to teach him...

"Alright, I promise. But only for this guy."

Once he'd left, off to check the roof again and probably terrorize the garden staff, Princess Tomoyo finally allowed herself to give into uninhibited gales of laughter. Times like these made her concede that seeing the future really was quite a fun talent to have.


Author's Note:

This is my first KuroTomo fic that's not a drabble! yay! It's really more of a random idea that I kept expanding on and just wrote on a whim. Anyway, hope you liked it!

--cy.