I tried again, one last time. By then, if I ever had any doubts about where Kaemon’s heart belonged, that doubt was almost all gone. Still, being the fierce woman that I was, I needed a clear confirmation of it.
That night, I waited in our shared futon for Kaemon to arrive, since he didn’t have training with Jiro that night. When he did, I watched as he untied the white ribbon from his hair. He took a comb, but before he raised it to his head, I cut in. “May I?”
Without a word, he came to sit beside me, handing it to me. He was in my hands now; he couldn’t run away somewhere when I was combing his hair. “I was thinking, Kaemon,” I began, “Isn’t it about time for you to have an offspring?”
He didn’t even flinch. He made no move to turn away from me. While I knew that his confidence in itself was a confirmation of his lack of love for me, I found myself admiring that confidence as well, at the same time.
“No,” Kaemon answered. “Our clan doesn’t operate in a hereditary system.”
Yes, I knew. It wasn’t a hereditary system. It wasn’t the master’s son that would become the next master, it was the most loyal and capable apprentice. I had asked to test his reaction. I had asked a question that broke my own heart, a heart that only reacted to Kaemon in the first place.
“You have never touched me, in all these years.” I decided to get straight into the topic.
Just when I was getting serious, something completely unexpected happened.
Kaemon smiled. At me.
It was a small smile, but it was a friendly one.
“Kaemon?” Had he changed? I was starting to doubt my own understanding of him.
“You are a much more agreeable woman when you aren’t pretending,” he said. I lowered my gaze then. It turned out that he had paid attention to me, even if he was never in love with me. “Nara, you know the reason for that,” Kaemon said in response to my previous statement. “I will not fool around with your feelings.”
“I see.” I understood. He was cold to me on purpose, because he wasn’t in love with me, but knew that I was. “You are too kind.”
“I hope you will be too. Goodnight, Nara.”
We reached an agreement that night, without anything explicit having to be said.