Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to Yo-Jin-Bo

The road was a long one, it seemed. Getting back to the castle had been an arduous task, as the two of them had traveled very far away. Atonement had taken them all over the island. Still, the two of them took their time, content with the company they had. Alone on this stretch of road the two of them had laced their hands together, walking without care to who was around. Being like this... was it the same as being married? Surely nothing would change. The two of them would still be together forever, as their destiny was foretold. Yes, she was sure.

"Do you think you could do it?" Sayori asked him tenderly, looking over. Ittosai glanced in her direction.

"Become a Lord? No... I have no noble blood." The knowledge hung between them like a curtain. Sayori had what Ittosai did not. Her fingertips rubbed gently against his arm.

"Do things like that matter here?"

"Un. Our stations are determined by our birth. There's only so far a person can raise themselves."

It was a shame. She wished desperately in that moment that they had gone back to her time. But that wasn't possible anymore. Ittosai was here, and Sayori could not change that. Would he even be able to live in the future?

"So you are... Hoping that they won't let me inherit when they find us married?" She couldn't help but smile at his craftiness. He glanced down to her, managing a quiet chuckle.

"Sayori.. It doesn't matter what happens when they find out. I won't allow you to be separated from me."

It was a powerful declaration, and one she knew he would make good on. Sayori found herself smiling despite all the anxiety in her heart.

The definitive statement of her name drew the female out of her thoughts. She looked up, only to be caught in a heated kiss. Her cheeks flushed, green eyes slowly closing as her mouth opened to accept him. She had found out quickly how passionate the man underneath that murderous intent was. Or perhaps he had always been passionate.

No, she wasn't going to think about that now. Instead the femme raised her free hand to comb through his hair, drawing him down against her. The whinny of a horse drew them apart, Sayori's hand flying to her chest. Ittosai glanced down the road, taking note of the man riding towards them. He began to walk again, making sure Sayori remained close behind. She had grabbed onto his coat, trailing behind just a few steps. The man reined in his horse, looking down at the two of them with a sort of scornful derision.

Sayori stole a glance over Ittosai's shoulder. She would admit the was handsome, with obviously young features. His black hair was pulled into a high ponytail as younger samurai often did, those blue eyes watching them carefully. "Identify yourself."

Ittosai stared up at the young samurai with the same cold calculation that he had often possessed when they had first met. "Is it not rude to address us from the back of your horse?"

"Hn.." The young swordsman jumped from the saddle of his horse. The beast pranced, settling at his touch. "Answer the question."

"Tatsunami Ittosai." Ittosai spoke with the same detached tone he often used to introduce himself. Sayori tightened her grip on his sleeve. The samurai looked behind the blond, staring at the pretty girl on his arm. He moved forward, and Ittosai moved into a defensive stance almost automatically.

"And hers?" He was staring intently at the girl on his arm. Sayori hid further behind her lover, showing a quiet uncertainty. Ittosai shielded her as best he could, knowing the power of Hatsuhime's face.

How could she answer him? She could call herself Hatsuhime, or call herself Sayuri. Her gaze shifted to Ittosai's pale eyes. The blonde looked down at his woman before glancing back towards the samurai.

"Mochizuki Hatsuhime." It would be better to drop names. He wouldn't dare harm a princess. "Now, your own name?"

The black-haired samurai looked between the two of them before speaking quietly. "Hatsuharu Jouji." He moved around the blonde in a slow arc, shifting down to one knee. Sayori blinked at him curiously. "Forgive my impudence, Hatsuhime-sama. I did not recognize you. I was sent by your father to escort you back to the castle." He stood slowly, his gaze shifting back to Ittosai. The blond had moved in front of her again, blocking Jouji's view. The two of them locked gazes, an intense dislike sprouting between them. Sayori shifted out from behind Ittosai, no longer as frightened as she had been.

"You came from the castle?" She asked softly. Jouji's attention shifted back to her. He smiled, his features softening in a way that Sayori found attractive. The young samurai nodded.

"I am a noble under the training of your father. He sent me to collect you and bring you home." A noble... This was not good. "If you and your bodyguard would allow me to accompany you back to the castle?"

"Oh... Ittosai isn't my bodyguard." She spoke up with sudden boldness. Jouji looked to her again, confused. He held the reins of his horse in one hand. "He's my... We are..."

She couldn't find the right word. After a moment she looked up to Ittosai for help. The blond smiled absently, raising a hand to stroke her hair before regarding the young noble. "She is my fiance."

The word hung in the air like a bomb. Jouji stared at the ronin as if he were insane, and Sayori blushed darkly. The young male looked towards the princess, who nodded slightly in confirmation.

"This is... strange. The princess is engaged to two people at once?" Jouji smiled wryly, moving down the road. Sayori and Ittosai followed, the blond keeping his own body inbetween the black-haired samurai and his lover. Sayori glanced across his form, looking curiously at Jouji. She would admit he was handsome. Not like Ittosai. He didn't have the roughness of someone who had lived a hard life, or the sharp features that were reminiscent of Ittosai's days as a sociopathic murderer. In regards to her boyfriend, Jouji was actually rather soft. He still had the noble features of a true lord, and she was sure that his slender frame was just as muscled as Ittosai's. The notion made her blush, and she hid at the blond's side again. Ittosai looked to her curiously, frowning at her expression. He glared at the man next to him.

"Engaged to two people?" Sayori ventured quietly, toying with the hem of her kimono. Jouji nodded.

"Your father, Lord Mochizuki, sent me here to retrieve you because you and I are engaged." It was like someone had cracked a mirror. Sayori could hear it shatter. Ittosai clenched his fist, his cold expression darkening. "Or so he had told me. It was quite surprising to go meet you, only to find out that you weren't there. And here I find you engaged to another man?" He chuckled wryly.

"I was under the impression that I had everyone's blessing to be with Ittosai. They had agreed to my leaving with him, knowing how I felt." She answered him indignantly, earning a quiet laugh.

"Forgive me, hime. I should not have been so familiar." He spoke with amusement, which only seemed to irritate Ittosai. "I just thought you would have remembered me."

Remembered... Was he someone from Hatsuhime's past? Sayori looked to the swordsman again, eventually offering an apologetic smile. He smiled at her warmly, shaking his head. "It's ok. We only met once, and that was a very long time ago. But I did not forget about you. It is nice to see you grew up into a proper princess."

Ahahah... She grabbed hold of Ittosai's coat, tugging him closer. The ronin slipped his arm through his sleeve, allowing Sayori to grab hold of it. She used him as a security blanket, hugging his arm snug against her body. Jouji did not miss this affection, finding himself just as irritated as Ittosai had been a moment ago.

"She seems quite attached to you." He spoke like a boy that had been rejected, and his sullen expression matched. Ittosai smirked, glancing smugly at the samurai.

"If she agreed to marry me of her own free will I would imagine she's more than attached." Sayori smiled despite herself, lowering a hand to brush against his. He grabbed hold of it, bringing it to his mouth to kiss. She blushed, leaning her temple against his arm. Jouji glanced over at her.
"Are you tired, hime? Would you like to ride?" The samurai raised a hand to pat the saddle of his mount. Ittosai regarded it coldly before moving to pick her up without a word. Sayori squeaked, her arms wrapping automatically around Ittosai's neck as his arm hooked under her legs. She remembered this feeling. Muneshige had carried her like this that night at the castle. Without even thinking about it she leaned into his warmth. Jouji regarded the two of them scornfully.

"It probably isn't a good idea to be so familiar with the princess. Even if you claim to know her like you do, public displays will only weaken her honor." He spoke tightly, as if trying to hold himself back. Sayori looked between them, her fingertips sliding against the back of Ittosai's neck to calm him.
"If she is tired it would be neglectful of me to help her. Besides, I can hold onto her much better like this than you can on that saddle." The blond spoke firmly, as if he would not broach a rebuttal. Jouji seemed about to respond, but only lapsed into silence. And so the three of them made their way back to Mochizuki Castle.