He was a lord. He was expected to be sociable and attend parties; now that he was married, his wife was expected to host them.

She was dressed impeccably, all reds and ebonies, yet her attitude was not something so easily concealed. As well behaved as she forced herself to be, they could still see she was edged with Earth.

The noble women who failed to catch him for themselves and their daughters watched her and tittered behind their fans.

"What does he see in her?"

They failed to notice that he was standing right behind them.

"Everything," he laughed, "that you don't."


"Let me get this straight."

"Please do."

"You know how to use a sword."


"Sai, bo staff, ninjato, various assortments of knives…Yet you used a bullwhip all those years."


"A bullwhip?"

"What can I say? Anything else would have made my job way too easy."


It took a while for her to notice, four weeks to be exact. It only took a day for her to convince herself to go see a physician just to be sure, and he confirmed her suspicions. In the time it took to walk back to the castle, she figured out how she would tell him the news.



"That's what I wanted to talk to you about."

He stared at her, pausing a moment to catch up. He blinked, and his eyes drifted down to her still flat stomach.

"You're certain?"


"No. But I rather like the name Ronin."

"Yeah? Well, I rather like the effects of saki, but I won't be getting any of that either."


"Oh, come on. Can't I just have a little sip?

"I have never seen you take just a sip of saki before. I doubt you'll start now."

"What, you want me to beg?"

"You actually know how?"

"Please? Please? ...that's all I got."

"I see. In your condition, I hardly think that it would be wise. You can drink tea."

"…You hate me, don't you?"

"Be serious."

"I'm in a loveless marriage! How can I be more serious?"


Theoretically, a baby is born every day. Out of the three hundred sixty-five days in a year, statistically, chances are that one will be born on a day that is already significant prior to the child's birth.

This is all merely a long way to say that the Lord and Lady of Shu Jing thought it was pretty amazing that their baby came to be born on the same day as his father.


The sight of a new father and his child is only marginally less touching than a mother, but she was taking a well-deserved break.

"He's so tiny."

"Ha! From your perspective, maybe. Push a watermelon out of your body and tell me that's tiny."


"I realize how difficult the pregnancy was for you. While I usually don't approve of this…" he offered her a saki dish, filled with the finest of golden amber liquid.

"I…I don't…Okay, cannot believe I'm saying this, but I don't want any."


"I'll just take some tea."

"You what?"


Little fingers reached for her face, grabbed a tiny fistful of her hair and yanked weakly. Strong, dark hands gently freed her hair and offered his son his own hand to explore. The old butler poured tea and set out leftover cookies and tarts.

If it weren't the middle of the night and if mother, father, and uncle had more than four hours of sleep among them, the scene would have been ideal. Life hardly ever is, and it is often wasted wishing that it were.

Perfection or not, it was their life.