Tessai was a samurai of the noble but impoverished Tomioka clan. He was brave in battle, loyal to his lord and treated civilians with respect.

He was also a total pushover.

Ever since he had first begun serving the young lord Ukyo, he had found himself unable to refuse the boy anything. He had badly wanted to set good examples and not spoil his charge. But then Ukyo would look up at him with those big, liquid violet eyes, and the word no would stick in his throat.

At first, when Ukyo was very young, they were requests. Simple requests—a pretty kite, a set of toy cars, some new books (rather a lot of those—Ukyo had developed a love of reading almost from the very beginning).

"Tessai, can you buy me this?"

"Tessai, look! Will you get those for me?"

"Would you bring me that?"

"Can you find me some of these?"

As he grew older, his tutors instilled in him merchants' and nobles' values—arrogance, selfishness, pride, cruelty. His once-polite requests and earnest pleas became sharp orders. And yet Tessai knew that there had to be kindness underneath his cruel façade (but as the years went by, he began to wonder if maybe he was wrong).

"Get me that."

"Buy me some of those."

"Bring me all of this."

"I want her. Bring her to me later."

Out of all the orders, all the requests, all the demands, the pleas, the begging, Tessai had never refused a single one. (How could he?)

Until now.

Ukyo, the Emperor, the lord of Kougakyo, was clearly trying not to panic. Tessai wouldn't blame his high-strung master if he did. A group of five samurai had somehow gotten past all their Nobuseri with nothing but their swords and a dilapidated cruiser, deflecting rifle blasts as they went. If they weren't stopped, they could very well destroy the capital.

"Tessai, come here."

Wordlessly, the samurai approached his master, who was pointedly avoiding his gaze. "Yes, my lord?"

Ukyo shuddered. "T-the samurai are coming. My…other guards…can deal with them. You will take one of the smaller ships and go."

Tessai looked up at him (his master had been taller than him since he was seventeen) and found himself smiling. "No, my lord."

Ukyo focused his gaze of a far corner of the throne room, blinking rapidly. Tessai realized with mild surprise that his master was trying not to cry. "Who are you to disobey me? Go, dammit! You'll surely die if you stay here."

He rested his hand on his sword hilt. "I am a samurai, my lord. Every samurai will gladly lay down his life for his lord…and I will risk mine for my lord."

So saying, he turned and walked away. Samurai were coming to kill his lord (a lord who was more like family to him than his own flesh and blood), and he would stop them if it was the last thing he did.