Disclaimer: I do not own Yo-Jin-Bo

It was strange, being back in the same apartments she had thought to leave for the rest of her life. Sayori sunk down into the bath, staring up at the ceiling. The man who had brought her here, Jouji, had retired to another part of the castle. No doubt Ittosai was sitting out on the walkway somewhere, staring at the sky. The moon had risen shortly after they had arrived, and it seemed the whole castle was in a limbo between celebrating Hatsuhime's return, and being on edge with this new suitor. Her father was still in Edo, under the control of the shogun. He had sent this upstart in his place, to woo the princess and marry her. To become the next Lord. Sayori raised a hand, watching the small droplets of water run down along her fingers. This was a disaster.

After a little while she got out, fixing herself into her new kimono. It was a dark blue, the color of deep water. Her obi was a delicate purple, a beautiful meshing of colors. She opened the door, half-expecting to see Harumoto in front of her. But there was no one. Nothing but old memories floated about. With a quiet kind of smile she moved out onto the walkway, closing her eyes as a cool evening breeze caressed her face.

"Hime-sama." A voice that had grown familiar to her broke through the quiet. She glanced to the side, those soft green eyes landing on a figure she did not want to see right now. Jouji seemed relaxed, watching her with a kind expression. "Are you feeling better?"

"Ah, un, thank you. I feel much better now." She managed a quiet smile. They stood in silence for a moment. "Ah, thank you.. For bringing us back to the castle safely."

"It was my honor, princess." He answered. He paused, looking at her thoughtfully. Eventually his expression quieted. "Hime... Did he... coerce you into this?" The question came suddenly, and Sayori couldn't help but stare at him. He flushed darkly. "Ah, I didn't... Well..." He rubbed the back of his neck.

"Ittosai is.."

"Right here." He answered, appearing behind her. Sayori looked back, admitting to herself that he looked handsome in his kimono. How long had it been since she had seen him without his coat? She couldn't help but smile at his cold expression. Her green eyes fell to Jouji.

"Ittosai is the reason I'm here. If there's no Ittosai, then there's no point in being." It was what she had told Ittosai that day on the road when this had all started. She had remained here in this world to be with him. She had given up her body, her friends, her family... All for the blond. Jouji smiled quietly, watching the two of them.

"I see.. But.. Even if you say that, he's not the only man in the world who could make you happy." The statement had Ittosai growling behind her in warning. Sayori was careful to keep her expression neutral. Eventually she broke into a small smile.

"Ittosai was my destiny from the very beginning. All things are connected." With that she bowed gently, taking hold of the blond's hand to lead him away. Those pale eyes stared the young lord down before following after his woman. It was only when they were along on the walkway that they relaxed, his hand squeezing hers gently. She wore a troubled expression, and Ittosai found himself worried.

"Sayori."

"It's terrible, isn't it? The world here. Things like station and money separate people who have no business being separated." She smiled sadly, pressing a hand against her chest. Her heart hurt. "He's not wrong, I'm sure. There are plenty of other people who could make me happy. People who were born into the station they need to occupy to keep the wheels going. But it's not the same. It's not the same happiness."

Ittosai regarded her quietly, raising a hand to stroke her hair. She was fighting back tears.

"I'm afraid, you know. I'm afraid I'll be separated from you. I'm afraid that they'll tell me I have no choice, no hope. I want to be with you for the rest of my life. It's why I left it all behind."

"I won't let them take you away from me." He vowed quietly, his strong form settling up close to her. He wrapped his arms around her body from behind, drawing the young woman back against his chest. Sayori tilted her head, nuzzling into his upper arm. Tears fell onto his sleeve, rubbed into the fabric by her tender movements. "Trust in me, Sayori. I won't give you up."