A Theme in Pentatonic – Interlude One

Sakura and Kazuki reach an understanding of their own, though Sakura understands it rather better than Kazuki does at this point. Drama, I-3

Sakura walked with her hands clasped and her eyes down. She knew Makubex had run ahead with Juubei to leave her with Kazuki. Kazuki didn’t walk out with them very often, and Makubex had taken his opportunity promptly, leaving her with a meaningful look and a bright smile as he tugged Juubei off.

Sometimes, Sakura wished Makubex were a little less perceptive.

“Are you well, Sakura?” Kazuki asked, after they’d walked a few blocks in silence.

“Surely Juubei would say if I wasn’t,” she murmured, hoping to slip aside from this.

He only smiled. “Probably he would. Unless he thought it would worry me, of course. I still don’t see you very often, to check for myself.”

“You could come to visit.” It slipped out before she could catch it.

“I…” Kazuki hesitated. “I’m sorry,” he said, at last, low. “It’s just that Mugenjou pulls at me, when I’m here, and it pulls harder the closer I come to the center. To the Beltline,” he added, lower. “And Makubex is a good friend, he’s becoming a wise leader, but he isn’t Ginji-san, to hold that off from me just by being present.”

Sakura bowed her head. Perhaps she had no excuse to reproach him, even in her heart, because she’d felt the pull he spoke of, the temptation to exaltation or despair or both. And she remembered the ease of following Kazuki, of trusting her honor to the brightness of his spirit. Could she grudge him, that he needed that ease also? “Perhaps I will visit, instead, then,” she said softly.

“You’ll be welcome, always.” Kazuki’s smile was bright. “You, of all people.”

That, she hadn’t expected to hear, and the surprise of it made her start.

“Sakura?” He paused, turning toward her, concerned. “What is it?”

“I…” Her voice caught in her throat and she swallowed, but could find no words.

“Sakura.” Kazuki caught her hands and drew her over to some crates stacked by the wall, guiding her down onto one. He looked down at her with a faint frown. “Sakura, surely you knew that. You and Juubei have been with me from the start.”

She tugged her hands free and clasped them so he wouldn’t feel them trembling. “It had seemed, when you left, that we had no more claim on you.”

And she had hoped, for one bright moment, when he returned, when she saw that the bond between he and her brother was still so strong. But he had returned only to Juubei, it seemed.

She tried hard not to begrudge her brother that.

“Sakura!” He sounded so genuinely shocked that she looked up. “You have always had a claim on me. You always will!” Perhaps he saw her doubt, because he bit his lip. “Maybe it isn’t the same one that it used to be. But never doubt that you are one of those who will always be in my heart and have the right to call on me.”

His words settled over her shoulders like a blanket on a cold night, and suddenly she was smiling. It was a complete contradiction. He said that they were not bound as they had been. No longer liege and vassal. But in the same breath he spoke of her rights in the language of their childhood. “One of those?” she asked, still wanting the reassurance of hearing him say it. “Who are we?”

His smile was completely unselfconscious, warm as sunlight. “The ones who stood at my side and made this place a home instead of a prison,” he said, so gently that she blushed and lowered her eyes again.

It was enough. He might fear to say it, fear that it would pull him back into Mugenjou, but Fuuga was still his heart. They had not been abandoned after all. The knot in her chest that not even Makubex’s renewed smile had been able to undo completely loosened at last.

“Ane-chan,” Juubei called, reappearing at the corner of the road. She stood and brushed off her skirts.

“We shouldn’t make them worry.”

“If you ever find a way to stop him, do tell me?” Kazuki murmured ruefully, as they walked on.

Light-hearted with relief, she laughed.

Makubex was waiting for them at the corner too, with a satisfied smile. Warmed by their care, Sakura linked her arms with both Makubex and Kazuki, leaving her brother to trail behind them with a faintly bemused look.

The world felt right side up again. Her leader didn’t take nearly enough care for himself, and her lord refused to admit that he was, but that was all right. It would all be all right. She had a proper place, and knew it, and stood firm in it again.

Everything else could be dealt with in time.