Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to Yo-Jin-Bo.
How long had it been since that day? Sayori stared at the pendant in her hand, turning it this way and that to watch the weak morning sunlight glint off its surface. This little thing had brought her so much joy, so much suffering. It was her most precious treasure. This small pendant had brought her to her destiny, after all. It was what led her to the man who lay next to her now, sleeping peacefully. The nightmares that had plagued him when they had first met came less and less frequently. He had been careful to remove the weapons from his belt before laying down now, to save her from experiencing the same terror inflicted that first night they had spent together. She gripped her neck tenderly, a sad smile toying across her features. It was just another wound she would heal on his heart.
Sayori reached down, stroking Ittosai's blonde hair back from his face. The same face that had been so full of cruelty when she had first met him. Now it had softened, those pale lavender eyes often so full of tender care.
"Onna." She smiled warmly as he opened his eyes to look up at her. The princess's fingertips sifted through his soft locks tenderly, gently bringing him into wakefulness. Those pale eyes closed again, the ronin still clinging to the last remnants of sleep. "You need to rest."
"I was thinking." Her tone was soft, almost absent. A soft squeak escaped her as an arm snaked around her waist, yanking her down. She landed on Ittosai's hard chest, sprawled across the swordsman haphazardly. Sayori moved as if to protest before relaxing, her cheek resting against his shoulder. "You shouldn't do that. You'll aggravate your shoulder."
Ittosai had gotten into a fray the night before with a few drunkards. They had surrounded Sayori, who had been returning to camp after purchasing a few supplies. Her kimono had been torn, and likely much worse would have happened if she had not called out for Ittosai out of instinct. He had come running, his murderer's instinct honed to protect his woman. They hadn't stood a chance, but their numbers had overwhelmed him enough for one to pull a knife. The wound had been deep, but harmless to him. He had only needed a few stitches.
"Are you angry with me?" His voice was soft, questioning. Sayori looked up towards him curiously. His eyes were still closed. With a quiet smile she shook her head, resting her forehead against the curve of his neck.
"It wasn't your fault. You were protecting me." She couldn't remember if they had lived or died. All she knew was intense fear one moment, and the feel of Ittosai's strong arms around her the next. She had cried into his coat for what seemed like hours, though it had probably only been a few minutes. He had been so tender, stroking her hair soothingly, whispering in her ear that everything was ok now. She had been shaking so hard.
The memory of it made the young woman grip at him tightly, earning a soft noise. She could feel his fingertips against her side, stroking her calmingly through the fabric. Whether he was trying to reassure himself, or her, she couldn't tell. Touching her was his way of knowing she was there, and tangible. Even after so many months on the road together he still showed signs of being uncertain. Sometimes he would look at her as if she were a mirage. He would touch her hair, or her shoulder, reassuring himself that she was there and with him. And Sayori would remain still as he did so, eventually shifting to lean against him very gently.
They laid there together for some time, letting the sun rise on their small camp. Eventually Sayori moved to tend to the fire, rice porridge soon brewing in the small pot they had with them. Ittosai sat back watching, firelight reflecting off his glasses. She worked quietly, stirring the food before her with a calm smile. This endless revolution of calm, happy days seemed to stretch on before them. Ittosai did not know what he had done to deserve her. Watching her taking care of him set his mind at ease. His head raised when she turned to hand him his bowl, offering her a soft nod of thanks. They ate quietly, sitting across from one another. Sayori looked distracted, staring into her bowl as if it were the only thing in the world.
Ittosai sat in silence only a moment longer before setting his bowl aside. He reached out, stroking a hand against her cheek. She jumped, startled out of her trance. "Sayori?"
The young woman stared at him a moment before looking away guiltily. Her features flushed, and it looked almost as if she were going to cry. Anxiety welled in Ittosai's heart, his pale eyes widening in worry. "Sayori?"
"I received a letter the other day. It was from the castle." She bit her lip, twirling her chopsticks absently. Ittosai waited, allowing her to finish. "They want me to come back. Hatsuhi- I.. I am still their princess, and even though the real Hatsuhime convinced Yahei to make Matsuchiyo the heir, her... my.. father will have none of it."
The two of them sat quietly a second. Ittosai smiled wryly. "Doesn't that mean you'll be getting married?"
Sayori stared at the ground uncertainly, eventually giving a slight nod. Ittosai took hold of her bowl to set it aside, gathering the girl into his arms. He held her quietly, and she gripped his coat as if it were her only anchor. Ittosai thought on their position, soon voicing his opinion. "They wouldn't be able to marry you to someone else if you already belonged to another, right?"
Sayori looked up at him. Was Ittosai... proposing...?