Disclaimer: I do not own the Tales of the Otori however much I wish it to be true. All characters and stories are owned by Lian Hearn.

On the road away from the Otori capital an escort road. At the center rode two women, their appearance dignified, strong and strikingly similar. Their thoughts as different as the moon from the sun.

Kaede was no longer herself.

Everything she defined as herself had been taken from her with the realization that had come with Takeo's betrayal. She still could not understand why he had hidden this from her. Why had he hidden his son? To spite her later on for not discovering the truth? Because he hoped that his son would never become a factor in his life? No not the latter for sure; the prophecy had stated that his son would be the one to kill him and Takeo believed that. His son would always have been a factor in his life, he was so caring for one thing – that was perhaps the only good thing about him she thought, the one thing she could not fault him on – for another thing he would constantly be wondering when his son would kill him and the circumstances of it. She hoped, now, that his death would be painful. That he would die in agony and that only then would he feel a fraction of her pain.

"Perhaps," she thought "if he had told me this earlier I would not feel this way."

But this thought hid at the back of her mind to surface later on. At this moment her mind was unhinged by grief at the death of her son and the rage at her husband's deception.

Her sister rode next to her seemingly at her ease on the back of her proud black horse. Hana had been the one to tell her of Takeo's deception. If Kaede had not been so wrapped up in her own pain and anger she may have noticed the slight smile curving her sister's lips at the sounds of the city – Hagi – burning behind them, or perhaps she was smiling at her and her husband's victory over Takeo which was almost certain.

Once Takeo returned from visiting the Emperor he would learn of his son's death, which provided the perfect opportunity to slip his secret to Kaede, and of his wife abandoning him. He would doubtless try to discover what had happened and possibly have a chance to visit his wife in secret. He would soon discover that Kaede's trust and love of his was shattered and then he would withdraw to the temple of Terayama while she and her husband gained control of the rest of the Three Countries and where he would be found and killed by his son, Hisao, and Kikuta Akio.

Yes, all was well in Hana's mind and the screams and smell of smoke from the town behind them only added to her sense of victory.

Kaede, unaware of her sister's triumph, rode on her mind going over all the years she had wasted with Takeo. The pain she had endured while giving birth to his children; whom she had loved completely, though the twins caused her doubts, and now whom she could not think of with out a stab of pain at the thought of their father who was even now driving her away from them.

At the back of her mind however, her love for Takeo burned on. Diminished and strained but still inexplicably there and enduring it burned; waiting for the moment – that would not come until she heard of his death – when she would realize that despite all the deception she still loved him and his deception was, for the most part, out of love for her.

So the sisters rode. One in victory – soon to be over. And one full of pain and confusion that would never truly leave her again.

Okay my first story. Hope you enjoyed it.

Thank you to all who reveiwed it.

My second story is now uploaded and ready to read.

Thanx :)