No flower, no jewel, not even the purest water can quell the memory of your softness on my hands, return the vision in my eyes and quench the thirst in my body.

φ

Her feet dragged against the cracked mud. The fastening on her wrists burned her skin, leaving a gradual bruise. She screamed and struggled but her frequent fight succumbed to fatigued gasps. Soon she began shrieking again like a bird that had lost her infant, kicking and yelling at the beast that pulled her out of her home and into a dispirited journey she refused take.

"Let me go! Let me go." She screamed. "Untie me. What do you think you're doing? My father will kill me."

Her captive carried his casual and dignified pace despite the jerking rope over his shoulder. "If he wants to retrieve his daughter he must come to me first."

Airin sobbed agonizingly, "Wh-why? Why are you doing this to me?"

Red eyes flashed murderously. "I should be asking you this question. What do you think your leaving this town will bring me? You decided to sneak away secretly. Who would've been hurt the most, did you consider me at all?"

She shook her head frantically. "My family is more important. My aunt is waiting for me. Let me go—let me go already!" Airin thrashed about violently.

Like a contemptuous scoundrel he dragged her to an abandoned building and sealed the place with his powers. She sobbingly begged him to release her from insidemof the rooms. With his back against the door, Kaname clamped his eyes shut. His claws scarred over the stoned floors beneath his legs.

"You won't get anything out of locking me up, Kaname!" Airin banged tearfully on the door. "Let me out, yes? Let's sit down and talk. I won't run away—I won't leave you."

Hurting her had never been his intention. Keeping her with him was.

The door swung open and he moved inside. Airin lurched back in surprise at his immediate response. "Yes, let's talk." She declared, "I wasn't running away. My uncle is sick and I need to visit him."

His eyes were pitch black. "Your father said there's a prospective suitor for you." He moved one step as she retreated against the wall. "What I want to know, Airin, is were you planning on leaving to get married?"

"No!" She raptly screamed. "I was going to reject him."

The darkness of his eyes repelled any form of emotion. "Would you have returned to me?"

"Yes." Airin bobbed her head and sputtered in tears. "I-I was. No matter wh-what—I can't live without you."

His arms circled around her and sheltered her in the wall of his body. Kaname sighed in her hair and hugged every feasible part of her body. "Airin, I, too..." With emotion teeming inside him he shuddered from the realization at how much she meant to him. "I can't live without you either."

φ

He let her go with a seemingly frightful understanding at what he was doing.

"Go..." Said the prince to his lover. "Go and comfort your dying uncle."

Late at night the shower of stars outlined their silhouettes on the middle of the road. "Thank you." She traced his fingertips lovingly. "Thank you for loving me."

"But come back to me." He said. "Come back quickly so we can marry and start our life together."

She smiled and held his eyes adoringly. "Hai, Ouji-sama."

Their fingers lost contact. He tucked his hand inside his jacket while she folded her arms and walked home.

"I'll wait for you..." Kaname whispered to her departing form.

φ

"Do you, Kuran, Kaname take Kohana, Yuki to be your wedded wife?"

There was stillness. A type of stillness found on an undisturbed pond colored by the aurora. A patient Calm that waited its partner, Chaos.

Then there was a steep pull of muscles like bulls plowing farmlands and the vibration shot millions of wiry sensations that crawled on the connected lines and finally stretched apart like doors sweeping open. A new chapter, a new venue, a bigger adversary awaited beyond the puzzling maze. Sharp air thrust through the portal like a lancing white sword, searing through darkness in one swing.

That was all it took.

The breath was deep and prolonged, brimmed and complete where another stillness tickled the muscles like firecrackers. The stillness collapsed and the pulling winded too close breaking like crashing waves.

It had come. In the loudness, it pronounced itself verily like an amused devil—Chaos.

Just like the thousand stars hovering the departing scene of the prince and his lover years ago, another thousand and a few hundred shivered from their spectrum of space that was their home at the draught of cold air, which enveloped and crushed him from the inside. Lights dazzled and the stars twisted crazily against black.

"Yes."

They smeared the universe in white ash and crawled beneath the tarp of the underworld. These stars crawled and cried, as did his dying hope.

He became a married man, a husband to a foreign princess. While he thought he could merely resume his lifestyle his so-called wife was a mystery and couldn't be cramped in any convenient space in his life. She didn't want to adjust under his terms. He would've given her an example of what accompanied a furious prince but he decided against jeopardizing their barely developed marriage. She would cry and beg to return home and he could never face his parents. At least he could've told them, he tried. They were simply an incompatible pair and it was a terrible mistake to wed in the first place.

She swept into his vision and his world after a single meeting. Now she was permanent in his life. Someone who wouldn't pack up and scurry away. She was there to stay. A friend, a prospective lover and a coveted pureblood that disregarded her own beauty, a beauty the world grew envious of. Yuki solely belonged to him. If he could find a way to eliminate the veil altogether things may develop easily.

She was a hassle to impress.

"Well, excuse me for being "insecure." How could you think of calling me that?" She hissed.

"Your insecurity is undeniable." He sat reverted on his manuscript.

"You embarrassed me." Yuki accused. "If I had done the same you wouldn't have let it go."

A red eye shifted to the corner of the page and cascaded languidly over her heavy robes. She was rather ethereal and surreal at the same time in the classic palace robes that were given to her from his mother. The material of silk rolled and rolled down her short arms and dragged on the floor at her heels. Every now and then he caught a quivering stir as her chest bounced for air. "Isn't the gown uncomfortable?" He remarked, all knowing and old-fashioned mockery chiming in his voice.

"I am trying to make a point here." She bent over his table anxiously. "Try not to embarrass me in front of the king and queen. We already displease them and can't anger them further."

"If you wish to appease your in-laws bear an heir. They'll never doubt you." Kaname turned the fragile paper over.

Yuki growled and slumped on the floor across his table. "One can't just birth by a mere order."

Kaname tilted his head. "Are you considering it?"

Her head snatched in his direction and her small shoulders stiffened under the veil. "I'd tread carefully if I were you."

Kaname witnessed one of her reactions that had caution labeled all over it. If he could not catch her facial arrangements he'd better start deciphering her body language. Frankly he perceived she was not as innocent as she claimed. Although princesses led constricted lifestyles, before marriage she must've encountered boisterous noblemen worthy of her heart or her adolescent interests. Somewhere along the way she must have fallen in love or desired a man from her court. It couldn't be she lived without wanting someone before.

He shuffled his items carefully, picked one paper and turned it over, mumbling slyly as he continued the procedure with another manuscript. "Someday soon I'll have to jump you regardless of your prohibitions."

"Don't take my warnings lightly." Yuki shot back right away, "Won't you please respect my requests?"

There was an annoying indignation in her tone that struck him in the chest. Kaname raised eyes on her veil and sighed. The air erupting from his lips fluttered his long black bangs over his nose and forehead. "Respect your request? Need I inform you that is exactly what I have done since we met."

"Then why keep pestering me about the nonsense?" Yuki shifted on her spot, fidgeting with the beads of her gown.

"Your in-laws do not consider procreation nonsense." He followed up.

"I understand that. Clearly we think differently." She paused and began assisting with rearranging his documents. Her sturdy hands helped regain ounces of calmness she sought. She continued setting them in the pile he had prepared beforehand, silently contemplative over his words and the illustrations that ran across her eyes.

It was a map, gleaming with colorful depiction of the forest and snowy mountains. She stilled in captivation at the display of the new country she partly governed. The chalky black roads, dusty white mountains and rings of green valleys flourished under continuous implementation. Millions thrived protectively in the country. The people celebrated her coming into their land and joining Kaname.

"Stop... Are you stopping?...I sat stop."

The quiet but cryptic order hurled like a tempest around Yuki. She dropped the papers automatically and flinched under his mute but irritated stare.

"Wh-what did I do wrong?" Yuki mumbled, gesturing to the packets. "Didn't you want them arranged?"

"The map followed a particular order. You jumbled it together." Kaname tipped a brow. "This is the first time you did anything in front of me. It was a simple thing. Are you always so absent minded?"

Yuki clenched her fist on her knee and her words wrenched out of her fangs. "I am not."

"Unfortunately I can't take your word for it, no matter what you say now." Kaname scanned the unorganized map.

Yuki followed his gaze and leaned forward inquisitively, "What is it for?"

"I needed to study the territory before the battle." He stirred and unbuckled his legs before standing on his feet.

"Battle?" Yuki also rose. "When is it?"

He gave her a testy stare. "Do you want to fight too, is that why you're curious?"

"I had no idea a battle was coming."

"These happen often." Kaname brushed the back of his neck. "You'll get used to it."

"So that means—" Her eyes widened. "You'll be going to war?"

Kaname blinked as if he were close to falling asleep. "And this is hard to believe because?"

Yuki straightened her self. "No, absolutely not, excuse me. I was just surprised."

"My apologies, dear one, for we can not have a honey moon before I go. It would not be fair to you if I left you so quickly after our coming together." Kaname smirked.

Her fists leapt high somewhere on her chest. They stood boldly out and he retreated in expectation. She was ready to strike him.

"You really can't stand the idea of my touching you, not even as a joke?" Kaname inspected her fists.

"It's not funny. The situation is delicate." She had thought she made her point clear.

"I disagree. It's quite vigorous."

If he didn't outright openly laugh at her face, his words surely did the job efficiently. Yuki's eyes pierced him as he traversed to the door and waited for her to step out before following.

"I refuse to continue this conversation. Obviously your jests have no ending."

"And why is this dreadful? Every man admires a woman with a soft spot for humor."

She clenched her skirt and kept her pace even. "Shall I relay a grim story about humor getting condoned from court in the presence of certain royals? I am not changing the lifestyle I was raised in."

Kaname folded his arms behind his back, his steps slow and casual, almost speculative on the whereabouts of her trailing skirt and floundering shadow on the paper windows. Her sleeves brushed vases on tables without her notice. "Your comfort is all that concerns me."

"Rest well." Yuki scoffed. "I am the most comfortable person here."

His brows leapt high and resettled. "Satisfied am I to hear you're adjusting well. Although, I wager what to do with my time when I'm always stuck inside the palace with peeping maids and wander into the garden just to talk to flowers and question the perplexities that makeup womanhood in society and why can't I smoke a cigar like the huntsmen in the courtyard?"

The tease embellished in sarcasm was virtually like snipping hair behind the ear. Yuki did not comment like a barefaced idiot and she resorted to keeping her insults silent. "Since you'll be away for the battle. How can I possibly function with you gone?"

Kaname paused and a smirk ghosted over his lips. "You can miss me. When I'll come back I'll make up for the times you thought about me and wanted me. Make sure to tell in me detail so I can deliver my gratitude."

Yuki held back and turned to the side. Her profile a glaring silhouette through the red material of the veil. "What do you promise?"

Kaname leaned unnervingly close to the veil, assuming where her eyes and mouth were, he traced a digit down her forehead and nose. "A delightful treat that will make you remove this veil willingly."

Yuki chuckled, chiming bells and flutes filling the hallway. "We shall see but you must understand, no one can easily win me over. I've had numerous nobles trying to please me. My father might have agreed to our marriage because he already knew all over our country that no noble, lord or prince was worthy of my attention. They were all rejected."

Kaname straightened his shoulders. The action noticeably made him appear three heads taller than her. "Never fear, my delicate wife. I have all of eternity in our marriage to satisfy your every whim. You shall see for yourself."

"How considerate and pleasing to my ears." Yuki grinned, her fangs glinting and catching his eye instantly. "I look forward to see what you have planned for me. In the meantime, however, I wish you a safe journey to your battle." She had turned to leave but Kaname grabbed her elbow.

Yuki turned her head inquisitively. "Is there something else you wanted to assure me with?"

He was grinning like a leopard but only said. "This is not how a wife should depart when her husband is going to battle."

Her smile wilted slightly. "Well, you aren't leaving right now." Her arm tensed within his grip.

"No, but I wanted to give you a hint when the time comes." He stepped closer and twisted his face sideways. The beaded lace draped across her red lips shivered from his fast breathing. "A farewell kiss is the custom here."

She balked as his warm mouth brushed distinctly against her cupid's bow.

"O-Ouji-sama?" A servant stuttered beyond the pair that stood an intimate distance from one another. The embarrassed servant bowed and began scuttling back around the corner. "My deepest apologies, your majesties!"

Yuki conveniently whisked out of his grip and started toward the fleeing servant. "No, it's fine. Nothing was happening. Please, come back."

Kaname clenched her wrist, and this time, not casually but with no intention of releasing her. He tugged her to his side and beckoned the trailing servant. "If you disrupt us again I will evict you from ever coming to my quarters. You should know how important it is for your princess and I to get along. We can't if you interrupt us from what we were doing."

Yuki restlessly yanked her hand. "Stop speaking nonsense and hear the man out."

"I was showing you an important custom."

"I wasn't interested." She snapped, twisting her wrist. "Let my hand go."

"Too late. I can't forgo these essential customs. If you ignore them I'll have to inform the queen that you must attend those sessions you hate."

Yuki paled behind her veil. "What are you scheming here?"

Kaname turned to the quivering servant. "Why did you interrupt us at such an impeccably blessed moment that shines upon us once in a lifetime? Do you know how hard it is to go near her?" He raised Yuki's hand and shook it with meaning.

Yuki stood appalled and began struggling as if he were a rogue. "You let me go this instant."

"This is exactly why I want servants not visiting me when the princess is here." Kaname pointed to the whimpering man.

Yuki tugged back uncontrollably. "Stop your babble and let me go."

The servant sank on the ground before them and wept with his face pasted on the floor. "Forgive me, Ouji-sama! I was mistaken. I will alert all servants to stay away when Hime-sama visits. You will have the privacy you desire. Please excuse this shameless vassal of yours."

"Why did you come here?" Kaname prodded at last.

The weeping servant whispered, "Your horse is ready."

Kaname turned on Yuki as she grunted and rasped strenuously. "You can barely move your hand, give up."

"Unhand me or I'll—"

"You will do no such thing nor will you ever aspire to do anything related to it." Kaname pulled her with him through the hall. "You will be spending the evening with me."

She staggered after him, horrified. "I have things to do. I planned to dine with the queen." Hundreds of reasons to not accompany him piled up but she didn't have the gumption or deft to speak about them. "You can not take me anywhere without my permission."

"Rule of Piety, my lovely jewel, the wife must always listen to her husband. This norm is conducted closely in the palace." Kaname informed.

Yuki shook with fury behind him and muttered, "How dare you think of something like this? What kind of a person are you?"

His crimson eyes lanced narrowly over her shoulder. "If you want to know we can retire to my bedroom and find out in the truest form possible."

"Enough!" Yuki bellowed. "I will never do as you please. I certainly will not accompany you tonight. I am previously engaged."

"Your queen will not stand in the way of your spending the night with your husband, do you want to test my word?" Kaname challenged.

She feared he was right and searched the ground speechlessly. Several times, she tried pulling her hand back but his fingers were enveloped around her carpal, tough as steel.

Kaname led her out into the courtyard, his shoulders relaxed in the dying sunray and his raven hair fluttered around his shoulders from the breeze. The firmness of his steps was sharp and precise and there was a lingering echo in his movement. As if each line, each hair falling freely about his head and each ruffle of his shirt was swaying with some perfect reason, it was entirely angelic and graceful.

The awaiting stablemen bowed and gestured to the white stallion that was named after Kaname. She had been trailing quietly for a certain time and this alarmed him. Kaname looked back at her carefully and expected a reproachful reaction. Since the day he met Yuki he understood she was hot tempered. She did not like being pushed around like he was doing at the moment.

"My apologies, Yuki." He said softly, turning back to the stallion.

She looked up at the gentleness in his voice.

"You've been staying in the palace since you came. Now is my only chance to take you outside. You're bored, I know." Drawing her on the stallion's side, he led her up the stair and helped her saddle.

Kaname saddled behind her and gathered the reins. She gripped the handle and regarded the league of smiling servants as Kaname steered the horse out of the courtyard. Guards opened the gates immediately and the horse trotted out on the stoned path out of the palace. The gray walls hovered by trees and cherry blossoms, petals soared and flickered against the darkness as they wandered toward the main avenue.

She remembered the route when their carriage first arrived to the palace. The village was lit with scones and guards patrolled street corners. Some taverns and inns were open while other shops were shut for the evening. Yuki feasted at the sight of strolling men on sidewalks and the farmland ahead.

She was feeling burdened by being cooped inside all the time, never venturing out to explore. Yuki chuckled silently to herself as she admired her surroundings. The town was new but build extremely well compared to her homeland. Each wall was made of brick and the bridges arched over glowing rivers. The city shops were properly emplaced beside alleys. She inhaled the night air deep in her lungs and realized how glad she was to be able to be outside.

Kaname's arms shifted suddenly around her as he steered to the left on a dark road. The horse galloped easily, following his directions. Both of his hands retained the reins and sat locked in front of Yuki but his solid and stone-strength arms were folded around her sides, effortlessly assuring her they would catch her if she toppled even slightly.

They rode for a few minutes through a valley and entered a moderate, middle-class area. The buildings were rather coarse and the horses weren't in stables but wandered through fields. A woman marched out carrying a pale of water and splashed it on the sidewalk, muttering incoherently to herself before returning inside.

Yuki covered her nose absently at the revolting scent of the water.

He deliberately brought her to a less prosperous district. Kaname slowed the horse beside a building and dismounted. He tied the reins and held up a hand to aid Yuki. She gripped the offered hand and slid down. He only scooped her feet in time from splashing the dirt and tarnishing her silk skirt. Yuki gathered them quickly and wished she had changed her clothes. The gown she presently adorned had been a gift from Kaname's mother.

"Come out of the mud carefully." He escorted her toward dryer pastures. Her shoes tapped next to his as they followed him up the path.

Yuki twisted her head around, observing the avenue. She had never wandered out in the streets late at night. "Where are we going?" She asked, feeling his grip around her arm.

"I frequented these parts during my younger days. I had been meaning to visit here for quite a while. This was the perfect opportunity." Kaname stopped in front of a pair of doors and pushed it open. He waited for Yuki to enter first and followed.

Firelight rippled from that flurry of wind that flushed the room when the door opened. The room of bearded and grime-faced men ceased at the image of Yuki and Kaname. For a long time, not even a fly fluttered. Yuki examined the astonished but awkward expressions of the room and realized their reaction was not because of the pair, but her veil.

The crammed room blinked at Kaname and back at Yuki. She couldn't move an inch if she tried, nonetheless, Kaname grabbed her arm and pulled her further toward the back. Between a wall and a window, he sat down at a table and gestured her to do the same. She lowered her hands from her skirt and sat across from him.

Finally the customers bustled about. Some resumed drinking, others chattered and the hosts roamed from table to table to serve food. Yuki folded her hands in her lap and searched the room.

"Where is this?" She whispered.

"You can relax here." Kaname's eyes were gleaming in the gold light.

She covered her royal badge and folded her skirt under the table to prevent tripping others. "I should have changed clothes. Won't they notice who we are?"

"The family who owns this tavern knows of me. They will take care of you." Kaname assured.

Yuki looked at the bug-infested windowsills and dust filled lamps. She twitched and whispered, "Why did you bring me here?"

"I thought you'd find it interesting."

A drunk man two tables over vomited over his bench.

Yuki covered her mouth with her sleeve. "Interesting, right."

Kaname smirked idly at her reaction. He had no idea before how amusing it would be having a wife. Her manners, reactions and words were unpredictable and this was more riveting than letting her do as she pleased. If he teased her he wanted to know what were her limits before she exploded from vexation. If he dropped her in a field somewhere he wanted to know how long would she survive on her own. If he pulled her hair he wanted to know if she would scream or hit him. Or when teased her constantly about getting intimate, he loved watching her fluster.

If his father had ever told him sooner that teasing his wife was entertaining, he might have started sooner.

"You don't like it?" Kaname asked.

"Well, it is my first time at a place like this." Yuki managed politely. "I'm seeing things I've never seen before."

A half naked woman jumped the lap of a drunken man across the room. Another man grabbed his comrade by the collar and rattled him until they began arguing. A man on Yuki's right kept sharpening his knife ever since they arrived.

"You came here often?" She inquired. "What for?"

A host approached and set two drinks between them. Kaname reached for his cup, "For leisure."

"What can I get for you this evening?" The host asked.

Yuki turned and respectfully bowed her head. "May I have a cup of warm tea, please?"

Kaname's smirk widened behind his hand. "Usually people order wine here."

"Yes, but I would like tea for now."

"Biscuits too?" Kaname murmured.

"No."

"Some bread?" Kaname mouthed, forcing himself not to laugh.

Yuki's eyes narrowed. "No, thank you."

"Actually, her Highness favors fruits. Will you get som—?" Kaname turned to the host for the first time. His face paled at the standing woman nodding at the order. Her silver braids glimmered in the firelight and trembled around her shoulders as she walked away.

He sat absolutely still across Yuki, until the host returned with a tray of fresh fruits.

"Is there anything else you'd like?" The host asked.

Kaname clenched the drink wistfully. "Another order? Yes, orders are easy to obey for some people."

She retreated and bowed to her customer. "If that is all please call for one of us to assist you when you are done."

"I am not done." Kaname fired back.

Yuki jumped in her skin at the scalding tone. His eyes were as sable as the night.

The host nodded, "My sincerest apologies. What shall I get for you then?"

He unclasped the drink steadily. Suddenly the owner of the tavern swept toward Kaname and lurched into a repenting bow. "Forgive us, is there anything that unsatisfied you, Ouji-sama?"

He hadn't looked away from the host.

The owner nudged the host aside. "Go in the back."

Kaname huffed under his breath, "Your services need some improvement. Your maid there especially lacks skills in tending to her customers properly." He consumed the drink and took Yuki's untouched one as well.

"I will immediately take care of it, Ouji-sama." The owner bowed and crept back into the employee section.

Yuki looked at Kaname intently, "Why did you do that?"

"What do you think?" He beckoned another hostess and asked for more drinks.

"She didn't do anything."

"She was vexing anyway." Kaname replied.

She scowled and covered the cup he was about to reach for. "Is there something I don't know?"

"Like what?"

"Why don't you tell me?" She deflected.

Kaname chuckled at Yuki. "You should focus on learning palace customs, Hime-sama, not me."

Yuki firmly snatched the drink out of his vicinity. "No, you should answer me honestly. I have asked you a very simple question and you cannot ignore me."

"What question are you referring to? I'm bored, that's all."

He was not, she knew. Kaname wasn't the type to react recklessly about trivial matters. He rose out of his chair slowly. "I wish to get some fresh air. I will return soon."

To prevent Yuki from interrogating, Kaname swiftly exited the tavern and blended with the darkness of the night. The raven of his hair ghosted in gold-black thread when the breeze arose and he vanished out of sight the second he moved to the side of the building.

Yuki riveted on the empty wine he finished rather sullenly than he wanted. Frankly she was not interested in being abandoned at a random tavern. She had never been left alone outside of the palace in her life. As a child, someone always escorted her.

The man sharpening his knife stood and settled in Kaname's chair. He leaned in and peered at Yuki closely. "What's with the veil?" Another survey at her glistening silk robes, he nodded, "And the garb?"

Yuki scrunched her nose at the distinct scent of alley dust and unwanted matter he bore. It appeared he nestled with rats. "What's with the knife?" Yuki replied.

The man blinked as if he hadn't been aware of the weapon and caressed the sharp tip. "You never know when this can come in handy."

"You don't say?" Yuki mumbled and eyed the exit.

"So you must be the new Hime-sama." He remarked.

She bowed her head gracefully. "Yes."

"Oh," The man leaned back cautiously.

Absently she wondered about Kaname's whereabouts and rose from her chair. "Pardon me but I must see where—"

"Ouji-sama is?" The man's brows lifted. "He's a regular customer around here. He can't get lost. In fact he must be getting along just fine with the women of the tavern. That silver-haired one in particular. They were very much in love. He often came to help around the tavern. The whole town was shocked but they gallivanted their relationship. We thought she'd be the new princess!"

Yuki turned slowly back to the table at the man. "Excuse me?" She whispered.

"You know," He gestured to the tavern owner, "This family survives because Ouji-sama had a relationship with their daughter. Why do you think he comes here all the time?"

She clenched her skirt at her sides. Her chest tightened by the second. "Need I remind you that you are speaking to your Hime?"

"Ah, but what does that matter? You wouldn't have come if you didn't know already." He smirked icily and strode toward the counter and ordered drinks.

Her legs swayed under her and she clutched the table for stability. Yuki squinted her eyes, still knitting the information. He was making casual conversation with another stranger at the moment, but she couldn't drop the matter. She understood early on Kaname had lovers in the past but as she stood in the room full of drunk men and women that belonged to the family whom he was close to, something inside of Yuki twisted and cracked.

The customers gaped widely at the princess storming outside. Regardless of the splashing mud, Yuki hurried toward his horse. He was not there. She lingered around the entrance and checked the streets before strolling to the back of the tavern in deep thought.

Shadows scribbled in the light and fast movement echoed like horse hooves. There was wrestling and hissing and the shapes parted just in time for one of them to deliver a sneer.

"I should ask you first!"

"What a despicable tongue you have." He growled.

She averted and her hair sprayed like silver water in the moonlight from the movement. "I have nothing else to say."

"You lost your chance to provide me answers." Kaname grunted acidly. His fingers skipped through the still wind and trapped her braid in between. "What a pleasure it is seeing you back home. You were looking quite divine the last we met."

Airin glared out of the corner of her eye. "Why are you here?" She whispered rapidly and swung forward, almost lugging him with a punch. "And you brought her with you?"

Kaname smirked coldly. "Why, does the sight of my bride surprise you?"

Yuki flinched behind the corner of the building.

"You assumed I wouldn't proceed with the coronation and wed?" His remark launched with inflections of sardonic amusement.

Airin lowered her arm from his person grimly. "You misunderstood me. I had a pure reason for leaving."

"I'm sure you did." Kaname hissed between bearing fangs. "And I'm absolutely positive you didn't regret it because you were all smiles on your wedding. Everyone danced and drank." He was panting over her head with each spiteful word. "I understand you, we all have to obey laws. But you sure are remarkable. You especially can take any order. So, take my final order and disappear forever. I don't wish to see you ever again."

He rotated and strode through the thicket of shadows as Airin groped the fence for support.

Yuki backed out of the corner and darted to the front of the tavern. Under the porch light she staggered against the rail and righted herself just as Kaname walked around the corner. Noticing her, his eyes narrowed faintly.

"You must've been bored inside. Forgive me for leaving you alone." The kindness of his words were like frigid fog wading in the morning summit and they disappeared the second they fell into the wind. Kaname unhooked the reins from the resting place and brought the stallion to the front.

"Let's retire for the night." He said without looking. Instead, he began helping her mount the horse.

She wordlessly obeyed and stiffened when he joined behind her. Too many things crisscrossed Yuki's mind and she feared spilling them uncaringly. Kaname's cold hands clenched the reins, turning his knuckles whiter than the moon. His arms dug into her sides.

She shifted uncomfortably and he blinked down at her, asking monotonously. "What's bothering you?"

"Your arms, they're hurting my sides." Yuki answered.

He relaxed them and nodded.

φ


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