Kouyuu had to admit that he was lost when he found himself on the same street for the tenth time. At this stage, he finally decided to abandon his pride and ask for direction. This was naturally a deep wound, but he took some consolation in the fact that these people would not know him.
"Would you like to buy some flowers? I am sure that they will make your wife or sweetheart very happy as they are such beautiful flowers." The flower seller asked hopefully upon his approach.
"I am not attached!" he yelled out automatically. "I just need to know where the so and so street is."
"That street?" the young woman was clearly trying not to laugh and barely succeeding. "Well, all you have to do is walk to the end of this street and then walk across two streets. It is very close."
Muttering some sort of gratitude, Kouyuu was about to turn away when he suddenly felt his sleeves being grabbed. The next thing he knew was that she was staring intensively at him with her face at a too close distance from his.
"Surely this is not possible but who else would get lost this way?" she muttered. "Kou, you are Kou, are you not?"
"Who are you?!" he immediately demanded, shocked at being called by a name that he had not heard for about a whole decade.
"It's me, Saiya! Don't you remember me?"
"Saiya?" he muttered this name over and over before he finally recollected what he had left behind when Reishin adopted him. "Saiya! Is it really you?!"
They had not been the closest or the best of friends but they did look out for each other. She was an orphan like him so the street was their home, and they both happened to live in the same alleyway with their living spaces very close to the others.
"This is unbelievable." He muttered. "Seeing you again."
"Come to my house and we'll talk there." She decided before smiling with great pride. "Yes, I have a house now."
Normally, Kouyuu would never do such a thing, but Saiya was rather special to him, and he did occasionally thought of her as he could never quite forget the girl who had a rather important position in his childhood.
"I'll come with you…what are you doing?!" his tone quickly turned to one of slight panic when she took him by the hand.
"Kou will always get lost so that is why I always held your hand." She reminded him simply before pointing out: "And it seems that you still get lost."
She used to search for wild flowers to sell while he gathered the branches of plum blossom that he would use for his lottery. At the end of a day, she tended to wait for him and then guided him 'home' by holding his hand.
Her 'house' was not really a house, as it could be barely categorised as a hut. However, the first thing he noticed was that there was a small garden with a variety of flowers.
"I was taken in by someone as well." Saiya explained as she ushered him in, not feeling conscious about the shabbiness of her home at all. Why should she? This was simply the way she lived, the way he would have lived as well. "She was a flower seller with her own garden and when she died, she left this all to me."
"Isn't that what you always wanted?" her dream used to be having a garden of flowers.
What had his dreams been?
"You remember!" she examined out happily before she thrust all her unsold flowers into his lap. "I want you to take them, Kou! Let that be my present to you at meeting you again."
The two of them then spent the rest of the night exchanging what happened since they parted ways.
"I did think of you and I did think of finding you but I…" Kouyou began, rather embarrassed.
"I know, you couldn't find our old home as you always were so bad with directions!" Saiya said with a laugh. "But Kou…what are you going to do now?"
"Now? I know that I want to see you again, to talk to you." He said with full earnestness. "But…well, I am worried that I might have difficulty in finding this place again."
"You meant that you will have difficulty in finding this place again." Saiya corrected him.
"I might, there is a possibility that I won't be!" he immediately protested.
"Kou, is there a street where you can reach without getting lost? I will sell my flowers by walking from here to there, so I can take you here and talk to you again."
Both Shuuei and Ryuuki decided that there was something very strange about Kouyuu the next day. In addition to having a bunch of flowers in a vase on his desk- which usually only contained papers and the basic stationary- the usually serious man had been muttering something about cooking.
Luckily, Kouyuu had some free time in the afternoon and he spent this time in the kitchen of his house, even considering asking someone the direction when he got lost on the way.
There were a lot of things that he wanted to give Saiya but he knew that she would see it as charity. That was why he decided to make her some food himself, even though he could buy her food that were of a higher quality in both the exterior and interior.
His cooking was something she would definitely accept.
When evening came, he found himself standing rather obediently in the bookseller's street with the large basket of his handiwork in his hand. He had been rather paranoid of bumping into Shuuei when he left his house, as he was sure that his friend would never let him live this down.
"Meeting up with a woman and deciding to leave hours before the time you agree to meet as you don't want to be late, deliberately making food for her. What happened to the man that always says he dislike woman?"
"Saiya is different." He said firmly, trying to brandish all thought of the man who was, despite what he might say, his closest friend.
"Would you like to buy a flower?" the edge of his lips actually curled upward very slightly when he heard the voice which has become very familiar again.
"I'll buy them all and give it to you!"
For some reason, the suggestiveness in the customer's voice made Kouyuu more then a bit annoyed, although it was not as if Saiya was being harassed or threatened.
"I told you so many times before: I don't like you that way." She said simply before she turned away from him and upon spotting Kouyuu, she quickly ran to him.
"Who was that?" he demanded as she greeted him happily, resting her hand on his arm.
"One of the men on the streets. You are not jealous, are you?"
"Of course not! Why would I be jealous?" he yelled out a bit too loudly, before adding, "And what are you smiling so happily at?"
"I am just so happy!" she said as she pulled him along with her, "Due to you coming to see me! Is that a present for me?"
"Yes. I made it myself so you better eat it all." He muttered, almost dropping the precious basket when she impulsively kissed him on the cheeks.
"You haven't changed Kou! Don't you remember how you used to give me any plums that you found?"
Generally, Kouyuu's food was perfectly eatable and there were many occasions when it even tasted quite good, yet his food still had a tendency of appearing rather unusual.
That was why he was more then a little surprised at the fact that Saiya seemed to enjoy his cooking, although he reminded himself that this might just be because those who lived on the streets rarely get to have such a rich meal.
"It's been such a long time since I had prawns." She was saying as she continued stuffing herself in a rather unladylike way, but Kouyuu was glad that her behaviour was so different from those affected noble woman.
The sudden knocking on the door made her roll her eyes and instead of getting up to answer it, she simply yelled out: "Go away!"
He wanted to get up and see who would be visiting her at this time of the night but she took hold of his hand and shook her head.
"Do not worry about this. It is simply that man whom you saw this evening."
"Are you safe?" he asked her with great concern, giving another discreet peer at the door.
"He is not the type of man who would attempt rape." She assured him. "He is not a bad man, Kou, as he has helped me out in the past. It is only recently that he started saying that he love me and become a bit annoying."
For some reasons, these two phrases actually hurt quite a bit.
"Kou? Why aren't you eating anymore?" she asked him in great concern, she still preferred to call him by his old name even though he had told him about his new name and what it meant. "Do you want some thing to drink? I don't have any wine but I did get some tea leaves…"
"No, it's alright." He muttered even though he was still staring at his food rather darkly. "It has been so long, hasn't it, Saiya? Since I got adopted and left here."
"About thirteen years, I think it is thirteen years." Like many others who lived on the streets, she did not have a very clear concept of time.
"Despite how strange Reishin-sama is I do have a life of great comfort." He said to himself. "But I did nothing to help you at all even though we were quite close with one another."
"We were only two children who occasionally looked out for one another so why do you feel as if you are obliged to help me just because you happened to be lucky by being adopted by a noble? We were friends, true, but it is not as if we made any promises to one another.
"I am simply happy at the fact that you will still come and see me, that you are willing to acknowledge our old bond."
Upon her words, he finally smiled and he almost reached to take her hand before he quickly dropped his hand.
"If I don't want to see you again, why would I continue to come?" he was not good at saying words to please others so this coming from him was a great indication of his affections.
Even though Kouyuu was rather occupied with the business of the state, he would still see Saiya quite often as he would always try to go to the bookseller's street and see if she was there.
He continued to bring her food that he made as well as giving her fine tea leaves as presents with the justification that they were for him as well as for her.
She was not educated but talking to her about his problems still helped. Despite the fact that she could not do anything to help him, just having her listening made him feel better although he wished that he could tell her all the things that were bothering him.
"Kouyuu-sama?" Shuurei did hear from more then one person that Kouyuu had been behaving rather strange lately, but she was still quite surprised to find him staring out of the window with a queer expression instead of reading the book in front of him.
She was contemplating whether she should wave her hand in front of him when he suddenly noticed her.
"Shuurei, what is it?"
"I am visiting the emperor with the steamed buns that I made and I was wondering whether you would like to have one as well."
He naturally took one but his hand suddenly froze just when he was about to take a bite.
"I just remember, I have something very important to do." Upon saying this, he stood up with the bun in his hand instead of eating it.
"Kouyuu-sama, the exist is at the other direction."
She and Seiran could only exchange a look of profound disbelieve when Kouyuu failed to offer any excuse for his lack of direction.
As Shuuei once said, Kouyuu was a genius in certain areas, yet he completely failed in numerous other areas. If Shuuei was in his position, then he would have realised that there were more then simply him meeting up with a woman that he knew from childhood.
Despite the numerous offers of marriage he would receive on a yearly basis, as well as what his own uncle had told him, Kouyuu failed to realise that him showing the slight interest in any woman might be mis-read as a desire of him contemplating marriage with her.
As he allowed Saiya to take his hand again, he did not notice that they were being observed by two occupants in the carriage. When they started to walk, one of the servants that stood waiting by the carriage quickly bowed to his masters before he followed after the couple.
But neither of them saw this.
"This looks very different from what you usually make." Saiya commented out as she took the steamed bun that was offered to her.
Even though he would really like to take credit for being the cook, Kouyuu decided to tell her the truth.
Much to his surprise, she frowned and put the food back into his hands.
"Are you close to her?" she asked instead. "This lady who made the steamed bun for you?"
"She didn't make it for me, she made it for the emperor." He explained, failing to understand why Saiya's mood shifted so dramatically. "I guess I am a bit close to her, since I used to teach her."
This clearly turned out to be the wrong thing to say as he felt her grip on his hand tightening.
"Why are woman all so unreasonable?!" he couldn't help but to mutter out when her mood still remained rather dark when they finally arrived at her house, the walk unusually long. "And I thought that you are different!"
"Why are men so stupid?!" she snapped back in reply. "How would you feel if I gave you gifts that were given to me by another man?"
"But this isn't the same! Why does woman get jealous so easily?" at this he began to rub his temple wearily. "That is why I always tell Shuuei that women are troublesome."
"I am sorry, Kou." She said softly as she gently placed her hand over his hands to do what he was doing for him. "But I do feel jealous when I think about all these other women you might be aquatinted with, as they will all be so much superior then me."
"I don't know any other woman apart from Shuurei, and that is only because her father is the brother of my adopted father."
Technically this was not how he knew her but they have decided to keep Shuurei's brief time in court a secret in order to stop people from gossiping about her even more.
"But cousins can inter-marry." She said darkly, her hand pausing. "And I bet there are many other nobles who will want you to marry their daughter since you are in such a high position- the emperor's right hand. What importance will poor Saiya be then? She is merely a girl from the part of your past that people pretends to not remember or use to insult you. To be honest, I am so surprised that you still aren't married."
"I don't like women." He automatically quoted out what he always said to any suggestions of marriage. "But you are naturally different." he added very quickly.
"Different in what way?" Saiya asked hopefully, as such a declaration would usually be followed by something quite romantic.
"I don't really see you as a woman." He replied without thinking, failing to notice how her expression was changing very fast. "Although you appear like one just then when… Saiya?!"
"Kou, I think you should go now." She almost hissed out as she began to pull him toward her door. "I am sure you will be very busy tomorrow!"
"Good night, Kouyuu-sama." Saying so, she slammed the door so loudly that he almost wonders whether it was going to break.
Despite being hailed as a genius due to scoring the highest in the exams when he was only sixteen years old, Kouyuu was completely inexperienced in such matters of life that he failed to realise that he just said one of the worse thing that any man could possible say in his situation.
"Saiya, if you are angry with me then you should at least tell me why!" he protested, knocking on her door.
"How could anyone but an idiot not know!" she snapped back.
Those who knew Kouyuu well would be most surprised to see him now, as he actually displayed a most remarkable self control by swallowing his clear anger at such an insult back and continued to reason with her.
The first thing Saiya noticed was that there was a very out of place object in her shabby home: the elaborate box that Kouyuu had put the food he brought for her in. The sight of the object then reminded her of all that had happened last night.
Taking out her hair comb, she angrily yanked it through her hair at the memory of his words.
"Don't really see me as a woman." She muttered. "How could he say such a thing to me!"
The truth was that she was starting to fall in love with him. At first, she was just simply surprised at seeing him once again after so long and thought that it might be quite interesting to talk to him. Upon doing so, she find him so fascinating due to his knowledge and his passion for the state.
Then she was touched by his kindness toward her, how he spent time in making these foods for her because he knew that she would not accept any other gifts from him.
Upon finding out more about his life, she became more then a bit worried each day due to experiencing doubt at whether he would still come and find her. She was so happy to see him each day because she had no guarantee that he would turn up.
Would he still come and find her today? She couldn't help but to regret what she did last night as that just show him a rather negative side, which would definitely not help her.
Even worse was the fact that it was very thoughtless of her to do that! The possibility of him still wandering around in some dark alleyway is more then a bit big! She usually took him to the main streets and even then, she had to guide him to the right exist.
"Kou? What are you doing here?"
He was actually leaning against the wall right next to her door, and his blood shot eye showed that he had little sleep.
"Weren't you the one who made me come here?" he muttered as he gratefully accepted her hand, along with the invitation of being allowed in her home once again. "The last time I got this little sleep was when Shuuei's crazy brother came."
"Are you saying that you stayed the night there?"
"If I go then I wouldn't be able to find my way back."
"Because you will get lost?"
"Yes, because I will get lost!" he finally admitted, something that he very rarely would acknowledge.
"I am sorry for what I did last night." She whispered as she handed a cup of tea to him. "But Kou, you must realise that what you said is rather cruel for me to hear."
"What is it that made you so mad? I spent the whole night thinking about this and I still don't know why!"
"You said that you don't see me as a woman."
"What is so bad about it? I don't like women so that is a compliment."
His matter of fact voice made Saiya realise that maybe his mind really did work in a completely different way.
"We'll work it out tonight." She promised him.
Much to his disgust and anger, he actually spent a majority of his days trying to work out why that particular phrase made Saiya so mad. He was sure that Shuuei would know why but Saiya's anger at him still seemed a bit more preferable to the laughter and teasing that would definitely come from Shuuei.
"Stupid woman." He muttered out once again as he moved onto the next lot of paper rather viciously.
But the knocking on his door quickly made him alter his emotions in order to live up to his reputation.
"Kouyuu-sama, you have a letter."
"Just put it on the table." He muttered, now appearing to deal with his paper work very calmly.
He waited for a few minutes until he picked up the letter because he guessed rightly that it would not be a piece of news that he could read and remain calm, as it was sent to him by his uncle.
"…even if you do not wish to marry Shuurei you should still not be involved with women of questionable reputation…" as he read out these lines, the papers of the state began to alter in form as his other hand was looking for something to release his anger on. "Do you forget that you are part of our clan as well as being a very important member of the court?"
The letter was scrunched up and hurled toward the door.
"Why am I being lectured about such a thing when I didn't do anything at all?" he yelled out in great frustration. "Why doesn't the Ran family do anything like this with Shuuei? That way they can at least make him behave in a less embarrassing way."
"What a way to greet your best friend." Shuuei said as he entered the room, only to be ignored by Kouyuu, who stormed out of the room without saying anything.
Very easily, Shuuei noticed the scrunched up paper in the corner.
"…I did not wish to believe in these rumours- that you are involved with a woman on the streets and even spend a majority of your nights with her, but it seems that this is true…"
Shuuei's laughter died half way when he suddenly realised something very significant: unlike him, Kouyuu was not the type of man who would sped his nights with prostitutes. Therefore, if he would spend so many nights visiting a woman, it must mean that he had great affection for that woman.
But who could it be? If it wasn't for this letter then his first guess would be Shuurei as she was the only woman his best friend seemed to have accepted.
Such a phrase used usually referred to a prostitute but Shuuei realised that this harsh saying might easily be referring to a woman who was simply not of a high enough birth.
A frown re-appeared when the possibility of Kouyuu not realising about the problems that his actions would cause occurred. After all, Kouyuu was probably one of the few people in the world that would just be talking to a woman when he was alone in her room in the middle of the night.
Kouyuu's day turned out to take a turn for the worse because she was not there when he finally escaped to the street where he and Saiya would meet up, after having his foster father criticising him for being a coward.
"Perhaps she is just late." He assured himself when the sun was beginning to set.
But she didn't come, and that was why Shuuei found him drinking once again.
"Why are women so stupid!" this out burst would not have been uncommon if it wasn't for the fact that Shuuei knew that he was referring to a particular woman.
"What is it this time?" he asked as he took a seat beside him.
After hearing a lot of words along the line of: "Saying she will come and explain…" "Throwing me out of her house without telling me why…" Kouyuu finally said what his best friend most wanted to hear.
"Why is she so mad when I said that to her? I was giving her a compliment."
If Shuuei was not a warrior who was also experienced with having all sort of stuff thrown at him by Kouyuu, then he probably would have been hit by the bottle of wine that was hurled at him when he started to laugh.
It was not that he didn't want to help his friend, but it was simply too amusing- it could even compete with the time when Ryuuki announced that he gave a voodoo doll to Shuurei, and then spent a long time worrying about whether she would know that it was from him.
"You were lucky." Shuuei finally said, temporarily stopping his laughter. "You were lucky that she only threw you out of her house."
"I was giving her a compliment!" Kouyuu repeated once again. "That is why woman annoy me, they get worked up about such a minor thing!"
"I hardly think that what you said to her is a minor thing…" Shuuei was interrupted when Kouyuu angrily yelled out: "How can she expect me to work out why she is angry with me if she doesn't explain?"
A week passed, but much to both Kouyuu's disappointment and Shuuei's alarm, Saiya still failed to turn up.
"Why are you here with me?" Kouyuu muttered angrily as they stood at the book seller's street once again.
"Because I want to meet her." Shuuei said very cheerfully before he suddenly turned serious. "Kouyuu, have you consider the possibility that the reason she is absent might not be because she is angry at you?"
"What do you mean?"
So he really hasn't thought about this, Shuuei realised, perhaps he really is more attached to her then I originally gave him credit for.
"Since you scored the top score in the official exams at sixteen you have been pestered by numerous marriage proposals that you always refuse. The only reason that you got away with it is because you showed a distaste for all women, not preferring any one in particular. But now you are constantly in the presence of a peasant girl. Do you think that this will be looked favourably by the other nobles?"
"I am such an idiot!" Kouyuu immediately cursed out. "How could I fail to realise this! Shuuei, we have to find her as she might be in great danger."
"Do you know where she is?"
"I…all I know is that she lives in a small hut that is a bit isolated from the main street."
"Maybe we can find the way there if you close your eyes." Shuuei suggested, only half jesting.
"I will." Kouyuu said, not caring about his pride right now.
He could only hope and pray that she would not be in any danger due to having received his attention.
After a long time, Kouyuu and Shuuei managed to end up being on the street that he first saw Saiya in, which was also the place closest to her house. Once there, Shuuei began to try to navigate with the information of what Kouyuu remembered.
Luckily for them, a guide appeared.
"Ah, you are that oniisan that is always with Saiya-oneechan." A little girl said, gaining their attention by tugging at the end of Kouyuu's cloth.
"Do you know where she is?" Kouyuu asked urgently. "Do you know where she lives?"
"I haven't seen her for a week." The little girl said sadly. "I was actually going to ask you whether she is with you."
"Kouyuu, calm down." Shuuei whispered as it seemed that his best friend was going to start tearing at his hair or yelling in despair.
Even worse was the possibility that he might do both.
"Shuuei, that man over there! I recognise him." Kouyuu suddenly whispered out, "Saiya told me that he is in love with her. I think he might know where she is."
"We'll follow him." Shuuei decided.
After all, it would look extremely bad if the emperor's two closest officials are accused of stalking and harassing someone on the basis that he was in love with the woman one of them was in love with.
But Shuuei agreed with Kouyuu as his instinct told him that that man knows something about the whereabouts of Saiya.
The young woman was treated with the ultimate respect since the beloved brother of the master of this house was in love with her. The man who brought her here had promised her that she would be safe from now on, both from her attackers as well as the others in the house.
"They will never dare to harm you because my brother will dispose of them if they dare to do something that will injure me." He assured her as he gently laid her down on his bed and then covered her bruised body with a blanket.
"I thank you for saving and helping me but I am not going to repay you by sleeping with you." Saiya has whispered out.
"I will never harm you, Saiya." He promised her.
It had been a whole week since that day, a whole week since she arrived. She was now well enough to walk even though her whole body still hurt. The herbs he had given her had helped, but the bruises all over her body was still there.
"Are you feeling better now?" he asked her as soon as he entered with more herbs. "Don't force yourself to sit up if you don't feel that well."
"I am alright now." She assured him. "Why…why are you doing so much for me?"
"Because I love you." He said simply. "Saiya…forget about that man and marry me. Unlike him, who not only brought these troubles to you and abandon you, I will always look after you and protect you."
"I don't think he abandoned me. I think he doesn't even know that this happened to me." She immediately said in Kouyuu's defence, although she secretly was a bit upset that he has yet to find her.
"But a man who can not protect you is not worthy of you."
Once again, she refused to answer.
"Think about it, Saiya. Thanks to him you can't even go back to your home and sell flowers as you might be attacked again. If you marry me then you can stay here and be relatively well off. We have been friends so you know that I am not a bad man."
"That will not be fair on you. I…I think I love him." Saiya whispered. Her voice was so soft that not only did the two outside the window almost failed to hear her, so did the man who sat right across her.
"In love with him? Saiya, you are just infatuated due to his wealth and status…"
"Don't insult me that way!" she snapped angrily. "It isn't because of that at all. I love him because I just do. It isn't because of what he is, but who he is."
"But does he love you?" he demanded.
"I don't know." She admitted. "Even if he does, I don't even know whether he will marry me because of his position. But no matter what I really do love…Kou?"
"Yes, I know that you love him." he said rather impatiently as no man liked hearing the woman they love reminding them that they were in love with someone else.
"I…I am feeling really dizzy right now, can you get some water for me?" Saiya suddenly said, almost pushing him out of the door.
As soon as he left, she blocked the door and went to the window.
Without thinking, Kouyuu suddenly stood up when he heard her claim that she loves him yet doubt his feeling.
"Kouyuu, don't screw this up this time." Shuuei whispered out.
Whatever Kouyuu wanted to say was stopped when he saw the bruises all over her body, her gown had slid down just a bit but that was enough.
"And where were you when I needed you the most?" she asked softly. "If he didn't happen to visit me that day, then I might have been raped at the very lightest."
"What…what happened to you, Saiya?"
At the clear note of concern in his voice, she actually leant against him. Much to the shock of Shuuei, his friend- who was extremely uncomfortable with any sign of physical contact, especially from women- actually placed his arms around her.
"A group of thugs was sent by some nobles who are clearly angry due to you visiting me." Saiya concluded, her body shaking due to the memory of what happened. "They were actually beating me when he came."
"I am so sorry." He whispered out in true sincerity.
Like his foster father, Kouyuu was not good at admitting that he was wrong, let along apologise, but by this time, Shuuei was no longer shocked at seeing another uncharacteristic action from him.
"I know that it isn't your fault but I must admit, I was quite hurt that you weren't there to help me." She told him.
"Saiya…will you come with me?"
"Come with you?"
"I'll take you to my home- you will be safe here. I…I think I do love you too." The rather romantic mood was almost interrupted by what Shuuei whispered out: "If you don't love her then I really began to question your intelligence."
"I want you to come with me because I want you to be beside me." Kouyuu said simply. "I am not doing this because I feel that you need to be saved although I am so sorry at what you have to go through due to me."
"I never wanted your charity in the first place." She said before she nodded and offered him her hand. "I do feel quite bad to just abandon him like this after all that he did for me but I am afraid that he might just keep me here with him until I agree to marry him."
Upon her agreement, he gently slid his arms around her in order to carry her.
Much to Shuuei's surprise, Saiya clearly recognised him as the first thing she said once they got onto their carriage was an express of gratitude to him for helping Kouyuu.
"I have no doubt that he would still be wondering around on the streets if you didn't help him, although to have made it this far is still most impressive for him." Saiya said with a chuckle.
"Has Kouyuu been talking about me?"
"I naturally have to warn her about you in case she meets you." Kouyuu muttered.
"But thank you very much for helping him and me." Saiya said.
"Ah, not to worry, I'll naturally help Kouyuu since we are such good friends." Shuuei said with a wink at Kouyuu before he took her hand and kissed it. "And having the favour of a beautiful lady like you is a bonus…"
"Ran Shuuei, if you ever hurt Saiya then I swear…" Kouyuu hissed out and his tone was enough to make Shuuei quickly drop the hand he was holding and take an extreme interest in the scenery outside.
This was really done in order to hide his grin.
"So, what are you going to do?" he asked when they almost reached his home. "Are you just going to take her to your home?"
"I am naturally not going to take her to your home or to the palace." Kouyuu muttered.
"But your kin aren't going to be very happy about this. Saiya, I will be blunt- you are not the type of woman that his kindred would want him to marry."
"You think that I don't know?" her tone become rather cold as she tugged her gown down to reveal the bruises on her shoulder. "This is my lesson. But I decide to come with him because I want to be with him. You know, life on the streets has a side effect," she said with a slight chuckle. "It makes you not think about the future as we concentrate too much on today. I sell my flowers without thinking whether I can sell more tomorrow, it is enough that I can sell them today."
Despite the time, all the servants in Reishin's household were still up, as their master insisted that they stayed awake until his foster son return.
"I don't think you will be able to sneak in," Shuuei commented. "Not that I think you can manage to find your room yourself."
"Kouyou-sama, welcome home." The steward said very politely before glancing at the woman in his arms. "Should we prepare a room for her?"
"No, she will stay in my room." Kouyou said without any hesitation. "And please tell my father that I would like to see him."
"There is no need, I am here." Reishin announced as he stepped out from his hidden place. After all, he was very curious about what the woman his foster son fell in love was like.
She was not extremely pretty and he doubt that she was well accomplished in anyway. He still much preferred his beloved niece to be his daughter-in-law, but contrary to what Kouyuu thinks, Kouyuu's happiness was the most important thing to him.
That was why he would accept this stranger into his house- he would still tease her, but he would make sure that they would never become serious enough to cause her to leave or regret her decision.
"Reishin-sama, this is Saiya." Kouyuu stated firmly. "She will stay with us."
Reishin was actually a bit shocked at Kouyuu's feeling for the girl, as his tone implied that he would leave if Saiya was not allowed to stay. Though Reishin disliked being on the receiving side of a blackmail, especially from the son who was always so polite and obedient to him, he was not fully displeased at this.
"Did I say that she can't stay here?" he asked as he took out his fan to hide his growing smile. "But you will have to face the consequences yourself. I certainly didn't raise you to be a coward."
"I will deal with this myself." He said simply. "May I be excused now? Saiya needs to rest."
The smile of amusement was replaced by a deep frown when Reishin finally noticed the bruises on the young woman's body. Even though Kouyuu has yet to declare out his intention towards Saiya, it was clear that he cared a lot for her, so her injuries must have hurt Kouyuu as well.
That was a good enough reason for him to act.
"Yes, you may go." Reishin said, already planning the best way to get revenge.
"You were right about your foster father, he is very unpredictable." Saiya whispered as Kouyuu managed to find his room with the help of a servant- this was not a time for him to be proud.
"But he doesn't seem to dislike you." Kouyuu said as he took out a jar of very expensive ointment. "Saiya, this should help you."
"Can you put it on me?" she asked with a very innocent smile, as her hands were still a bit sore
He immediately blushed.
"Why the hesitation?" she asked with just the smallest amount of sarcasm. "I thought that you don't see me as a woman."
"Why were you so angry with me when I said that to you?" Kouyuu asked, recollecting their broken promise.
"I think I love you." Saiya stated this once again. "Yet you say that you don't see me as a woman- which implies that you probably won't love me back. What made matters worse that day was when you said that I was different, I thought that it was because I am special to you."
"But you are special to me." He whispered as he actually placed his arms around her waist in order to let her rest right against him. "Saiya…I don't know what will happen but I will promise you this: I will always be with you."
The household wasn't really surprised when Kouyuu announced his intention of marrying Saiya as she continued to live in his room, although nothing actually happened. He really could just sleep beside her without doing anything else other then holding her, although this did grew progressively difficult.
"If you want to do this, then do it." Reishin said in what appeared to be a tone of carelessness when his foster son told him of his intention, as he finally realised the feeling between he and Saiya that everyone had already figured out. "It might save me some trouble as you are no longer wasting time by meeting with her."
"I will still marry Saiya if you disagree but I really hope that you will not disapprove of this…" Kouyuu began, almost begging.
"It is your life, isn't it? She is to be your wife." Reishin said once again, not willing to display his real emotion. "But since you insist on knowing then I will tell you that I do not disapprove."
Knowing that was probably the closest to a blessing that he could get, Kouyuu excused himself in order to tell the news to Saiya, who was still rather sceptical about this possibility.
He was certain that a woman was not supposed to react to a proposal of marriage by asking: "But do you really think that this can happen?"
If Kouyuu had not been more occupied with Saiya, then he might have noticed the letter that Reishin was writing- and the context would have made him more then a bit happy.
It was addressed to Kurou with the order that he was not to speak against Kouyuu's decision in addition to making sure that his future daughter-in-law would not suffer again while her former assaulters would be punished most severely.
That was why Kouyuu's prediction of things being hard turned out to be quite wrong. The most amount of trouble he had was from Shuuei, who wanted to tell tales of his embarrassments to Saiya.
There were many nobles who would have been very happy to make fun of Kouyuu's new wife due to her background if it wasn't for the fact that the last man who congratulated Reishin on picking up another unwanted object ended up in a very severe condition.
Kouyuu found this rather strange but he wasn't one to trouble himself about such a thing. With the exception of having Saiya in his home, his life didn't really change as he was still occupied by numerous affairs of the state.
"Kou…aren't you going to sleep?" Saiya whispered softly as she went to stand behind him and hugged him by the wrist, her hair falling over his shoulders.
"I have to get through these scrolls first." Instead of telling the person who distracted him to go away, he leant a bit back and patted her hands gently. "But you don't have to wait for me, you can go to sleep now."
"I don't want you to overwork yourself." She began, moving onto her second strategy. "You will only create more work if you get sick."
"I won't get sick." He said in a matter of fact tone.
It seemed that she was going to do what he said since she stepped back and loosened her hold. Kouyuu was just going to bid her goodnight when she slidinto his lap and leant against his chest.
"I'll sleep here then." she announced. "I don't like sleeping alone."
"I won't make a sound, I promise."
While Kouyuu took pride in not being like Shuuei, it was still not very easy to do work when a woman was right in your lap.
"It's more comfortable here." Saiya whispered before she closed her eyes.
This was not the first time that she did this but the result was always the same. He would give up and go to sleep with her in his arms. The truth was that she was right- these works did not have to be finished today and he really should be resting.
He was actually quite happy at the change in his life style- where someone was constantly worried about him. Even though Reishin did love him in his own way, he was not very good at showing this, so Kouyuu did have doubts.
But Saiya showed her love for him rather openly.
"I am really glad that I got lost that day." He said softly as he pulled the blanket over them.
He has yet to blow up the candle beside their bed, so that was why he saw her reply: a very happy smile of agreement. (December)