When I opened my eyes again, I was in my room, the one that was shared with Suzu. At the thought of that, I turned to look at the space where Suzu’s futon should be. Instead, the view that entered my eyes was Master Kaemon’s figure. It was at the same time soothing and depressing—soothing in the sense that he was there, depressing in the sense that him being there instead of Suzu confirmed that what I remembered happening had really happened, that it wasn’t just a dream. Casually clothed, the master was gazing down at me. He seemed as gloomy as I felt.
“Where is…Suzu?” I whispered, unsure of whether I really wanted to know.
“Nara will tell you,” Master Kaemon answered in a quiet voice. “She should be fine.”
“Master…I’m sorry…” I murmured, my vision becoming blurry due to the tears that struggled to stay in my eyes.
Yet, the master seemed not to mind it. “What for?” he asked.
“I killed a woman…I made you attack your own apprentice…one of the best too…and…” I sniffed.
Before I finished what I was about to say, Master Kaemon had placed his hand over mine. He had a gentle smile on his face—a smile that reached his eyes. I had always known the master to be cool and magnificent, but it was only then, when he smiled like that, that I realized he was beautiful too. “And?” he prompted, knowing full well that I had forgotten whatever I had planned to say.
“Um…” My ears flushed. I couldn’t gather my thoughts anymore.
“Next time you address me as ‘Master’, make sure to include my name after that,” Master Kaemon said. “And,” he said, “Everything I do is of my own choice.”
“Do you understand?”
“Yes, Master Kaemon…”
As if to reinforce the power of his words, Master Kaemon bent towards me, and lightly stamped a kiss on my lips. “Do you doubt my choice?” he mumbled.
“N-n-no, Master Kaemon.”
I wouldn’t dare.