Choudai walked through the garden, retracing old steps and new memories.
The spot where he'd guided Ai along her way, the place where he and Yoritomo Yuna had shared lunch... and of course the scene of his first real heartbreak.
The lesson there is that it won't be your last. You and Hatsuki will both move on, in time. She'll marry Tanoshii, who at least cares enough about her to be genuinely furious about your own pathetic involvement. And you, you'll... whatever.
The problem with not being a terrible character in a miserable pillowbook was that nothing resolved. Not really.
No ending, no satisfaction, no clarity, just a relentless, mechanical shuffling forward.
About all he had to look forward to besides maybe corresponding with Doji Ki's contacts from the Kakita Academy was more of the same, leavened with a sense of his own failure, heartbreak, and the dislike of someone substantially more dangerous than he was.
No, really. What next?
He seriously doubted his miai with Julia would lead to anything, which was probably good. He honestly wasn't sure what Uncle Koga had been thinking, but it hadn't felt like a punishment. Or at least, not as something intended as one. But it also hadn't done a hell of a lot to cheer him up.
There was the war, of course, but he didn't see himself ending up there.... unless someone who wanted him there pulled some strings.
As bushi go, you're not exactly formidable, are you Choudai?
And despite everything, he knew he didn't want to die. At least, not in some pointlessly futile manner.
Mostly because I'd probably come back as a slug if I were to die right now.
And also because, having been kicked around a bit by the vagaries of fate, Bayushi Oba's grandson was keen to do some kicking of his own.
A hedge maze featuring topiary sculptures of the seven Great Clan totems surrounds a dazzling garden filled with rare flowers, arrays of peonies, and chrysanthemums only surpassed by those tended by the Imperial Families.
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