Disclaimer: I don't own Yoroiden Samurai Troopers or any characters from it. I do own Katya, Vasha, and Philippe. I make no money from this story.

Author's Note: A parallel one-shot to chapter fourteen of LNC. This one-shot is Katya's reaction to the events of chapter fourteen.

Contains allusions to "Innocent" and the forthcoming "In Bloom." Also contains mild spoilers for the events of the forthcoming short story "Patronymics," if you squint. And definitely contains spoilers for chapter fourteen of LNC, even if you don't squint.

Wearing the Mask

By womanofwords

Katya wasn't stupid. She knew what he meant. Touma never did anything without a reason, and usually he was almost painfully obvious in his intent. She knew that before they had sex, he had been trying to tell her about his feelings. And that poem… There was no other interpretation. Touma was being clear as a bell and plain as day.

And still she pretended like he was just acting in the confines of their deal.

It was better for him if she pretended not to know. Better for them both. If she pretended not to know, she wouldn't get her heart broken when he left (and he would, like almost everyone else had), and he would eventually hate her and leave in frustration, never to truly see how broken she was.

Because Katya was broken. She was just good at hiding it. The last month had been proof of that, pretending like everything was okay and happy and cheerful, and ignoring that there was something just plain wrong about parents who only visited twice a year, and were more acquaintances than parents.

The only thing her parents had ever truly given her was the credo she lived by. Don't love, and don't be loved. Not that that last part was any problem, at least not until Touma came along. Everything until him had been so easy to accept. No one stayed, and no one loved her.

It had been hard not to love anyone back. Katya could remember being so desperate for any little scrap of love that she would have done anything for someone to love her. The fact she perceived her romance with Akio as some kind of fairy tale had been proof of that.

Akio didn't love her, and he ran as soon as he saw how far that old desperation of hers to be loved had run. She hated him for leaving her after they had been intimate, but she knew that it was less about their intimacy and more about how needy she was. He could probably smell it on her, those vibes of "love me, someone please love me," and cut his losses.

But had she really hardened after Akio? No, not really. She remembered that stupid… thing back in January with senpai. Just sex… She had been an idiot. And trying to pretend like it hadn't hurt when he told her why he was ending it...

But it had been a slip. A misstep in her calculations. She was better than that now.

But Touma? He just had to make things hard. It was only supposed to be a deal. She had wanted to give him that experience, something positive and happy and at least somewhat romantic, even if it was a deal. But her intentions had been kind. A positive first romantic experience, something he could look back on and not regret like she did with Akio.

She wondered if she had made a mistake with Touma. They were so similar, the two of them. The broken family, that feeling of isolation from everyone else. But Touma was different from her, or maybe it was just the year gap between their ages. Touma was younger and more isolated, so he was less jaded than Katya.

In some ways, he was who she had been.

And that was why she had to break his heart.

Don't love.

Don't be loved.

And nothing will hurt.

At least that's what she told herself.