When Jiro fully recovered, I only had more sorrowful news for him. It wasn’t my intention to bring him sorrow, of course, but reality always has its way of reminding you that fate isn’t in your own hands.
That afternoon, Nara had called him to the study, where I sat on one side, her on the other. When Jiro arrived, he was bewildered as ever. It seemed to baffle him whenever Nara was being kind. Well, I could understand why.
“Take a seat, Jiro,” Nara invited. Obedient as he was, Jiro sat. Then, Nara continued. “Everyone knows that you’ve saved the master’s life. Because of that, you’ve rightfully earned your place as ‘heir to the throne’.”
Jiro didn’t speak. Neither did I.
“You may have the privilege…of marrying the eldest daughter of the current Foaane master. Her name is Ikki,” Nara broke the news to him.
After she said so, both turned their eyes on me. Nara’s gaze was accusatory, as she was made to be the one to tell him. Jiro’s was…confusion, if not a slight hint of betrayal.
But Nara kept telling him what he needed to know. “It’s not that big of a deal, Jiro. Listen to me.”
Out of respect, Jiro turned his gaze back to her. “Yes, Mistress Nara?”
“Behind closed doors, we can speak as freely as we like. Jiro, I have loved Kaemon for a long time, but all this time, throughout our marriage, I’ve known that he never once returned my feelings. But I get by, and so will you. Ikki is a good girl. She will understand, just as I have, eventually.”
“But…” Jiro lowered his head in thought. After some time, he raised his head again, looking Nara straight in the eye for the first time. “Mistress Nara, please forgive me for asking, but…you are in pain even so, aren’t you?”
Nara clearly wasn’t expecting this question. Her eyes widened slightly in surprise.
Jiro continued. “I don’t want…Ikki, to be trapped inside a marriage like that. If possible, I’d like to set her free…even if she knew from birth that she would one day be married off to Haki.”
I smiled at that. I had agreed to call him here anticipating those words. Now that he’d said them, I stood. “Jiro,” I said, “Come with me.”