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"It is love that asks, that seeks, that knocks, that finds, and that is faithful to what it finds."
- St. Augustine


TH, 1958

Ducking beneath the banister of the stairs, Saki spied on the visitors to their home, the Yoichi family. His mother and father were there to greet them, looking unusually happy and homely for the occasion, ready to take the Yoichis’ coats.

Old Mr. Yoichi was there, looking well for his age of sixty something. His wife was at his side, courteously smiling as she thanked his mother for the invitation. Saki poked his head above the banister so as to get a better look at the third guest, the one he had spent the entirety of last night dreaming of.

The same questions still ran through his mind, still throbbing within his thoughts: What does she look like? Will she like me? What will I say to her?

To his disappointment, the Yoichis ushered the girl off into the dining room after his parents. Trying not to think about it anymore, he found his way back to his room, where he let himself collapse on his futon.

"There you are!" came a squeal from his side. It was Heitchi, and he wasn’t alone. "Let’s get him, sis!"

Heitchi and Miko moved quickly, as if in some diabolical strategy they had talked out in detail. While Heitchi leapt atop the futon and wrestled Saki’s head, Miko tackled him from behind, doing a good job of pinning him down.

It was a first, but he was in no mood for games. "Get off me!" Saki shouted. As they always did, the twins only fought back harder, putting his limbs in skillful locks with a strength that surprised him. Before long he was their captive.

"Gotcha, Saki!" Miko gloated, slobber dripping from her mouth to his forehead. He couldn’t even lift an arm to wipe it.

Heitchi seemed just as ecstatic as he yelled victoriously, "Yesss!"

"Heitchi! Miko! Get off of your brother!"

Saki hadn’t even heard his mother’s footsteps. The twins did as they were told, sliding off the futon and doing their best to look innocent.

"Go wash up and go downstairs, you two," Miyoko instructed the twins. As they left the room, Miyoko felt his mother’s gaze set on him. "Tonight is going to be a very important night for you, Saki. Did you know?"

Saki blushed. "Nagi told me I was meeting my wife."

"Your wife?" Miyoko tittered, clearly on the verge of laughter. "Something like that, I suppose. Your father and I have spent some time now talking with the Yoichi family… we… have arranged a piece of your future."

"A girl…" Saki caught himself smiling at the thought. He not-too-subtly changed it to a frown when he realized.

"Yes. And you will meet her now."

"N-now?" He felt nervousness creep up on him. "Right now?"

"Yes, right now. I’m serving dinner. Wash up and come down. Make sure you fix your hair."

Saki wasted no time doing as he was told.


"So you are Saki," the young girl at the other end of the knee-high table spoke. She just came right out and said it, clearly not as nervous or shy as Saki was.

Saki felt the eyes of everyone around the table fall on him. After his father had asked him earlier why Nagi hadn’t shown up for dinner, no one had paid him any attention. "Yes," he answered, for lack of any kind of a creative reply. "And you are… Minya?"

"Hai," she responded. She leaned forward a notch then, whispering as if no one but Saki could hear her, "We will talk later."

And talk later they did. Sitting through the friendly conversation of their family members, Saki and Minya were graciously excused upon Minya’s request.

As he stood up from his knees, Minya went around the table to meet him. Her proximity only made him all the more nervous. Then she did something that made him do a doubletake.

She took his hand.

Leading him into the living room by it, she sat down cross-legged beside the fireplace, pulling Saki down in front of her. Her forthcomingness continued to astonish him.

"You are going to be my husband," she spoke softly.

It was a statement, Saki noted, not a question. It was all he could do to stammer off, "Th-that’s…that’s what they told me."

He caught a glimpse of her dreamy, entrancing eyes. It was seldom he had the chance to look at girls, let alone ones his age and as cute as her. "Is that what you want?"

The M-word again. "M-marriage?"

Minya smiled, then innocently put her other hand over his. "It’s okay," she assured him. "We don’t need to think about it for some time. And then…" she paused, "…then we will just see what happens."

Marriage suddenly didn’t seem like such a bad thing. All Saki could think about was how much he wanted to be with Minya, how much he just wanted to please her. Then reality caught up with him and he thought better of his crazy thoughts.

For goodness’ sake, he didn’t even know her!

"My father says I will be coming over here more often… maybe once or twice a week. We’ll be seeing each other a lot more."

"I’d like that," Saki burst without thinking.

"I would, too." Minya smiled again, even more warmly than before. "I would also like it if we could be friends. Do you have any?"

Saki thought about it. "There’s a couple of kids at school I talk to, I guess." Then it hit him. "My brother, Nagi. Yes. My brother is my friend. We go everywhere together, and tell each other everything." He realized too late he probably told her more than he felt comfortable sharing right now.

Minya sighed, an almost depressed look coming to her face. "I don’t have any friends. My father is always so protective of me…I never get to go anywhere or talk to anyone. Especially boys." She lit up again, teeming with free-spirited energy. "Except you, I guess."

"I’ll be your friend."

She squeezed his hand. "Really?"

Saki nodded. It took some will, but he knew he meant it. "For as long as I can."


Later that night Nagi was on time again, grappling his way onto the rooftop with cat-like ease with two minutes to spare. He made no sound as he found his way up, one of the more apparent signs of the ninjitsu training he was receiving in the Foot. He found Saki as he always did, lying on the roof staring up at the stars.

Saki dropped his grin when he saw Nagi come up, but it was too late. Nagi had already seen it.

"It went well with the Yoichi girl, I take it?"

Saki didn’t say anything.

"It did, didn’t it?" Nagi chuckled, jabbing him in the shoulder a couple times before laying down beside him. "Come now, you can tell your brother, right?"

"I got to meet her and she was…"

"Yes, yes…?"

"Everything," was Saki’s final answer. There was no one way to sum up his feelings of Minya. Eager to change the subject, Saki asked, "Where were you? Mother and Father were expecting you for dinner."

"I know. I had some stuff I needed to take care of." Nagi looked like he wanted to change the subject, too. "How are Mother and Father?"

"Still fighting over what they always do. I don’t really pay attention anymore." Saki decided to press the earlier matter. "So what kind of stuff was it you had to take care of?"

Nagi rolled on his side, turning away from Saki. Something had gotten to him. "Nothing important."

"Okay." Saki let it go. If Nagi didn’t want to talk about it, he wouldn’t make him.

A long, uncomfortable silence was drawn out. Finally, Nagi turned his head to Saki. "I’m sorry," he said. "You’re my brother, probably the only person I trust in this world."

"I trust you, too, Nagi."

"I’ll tell you, then." Nagi stopped, looking for the right words to begin. "It’s Shen."

"The girl you told me about last night?"

Nagi nodded.

"What’s wrong?"

"She doesn’t return my… affection. She loves Yoshi. She doesn’t admit it, she doesn’t speak of it, and she doesn’t act on it… but I can see it in her eyes. I see it when she goes to him at the end of every training day… the way her eyes light up when he talks to her…" Nagi thumped his head against the roof tiles. "I watch her everyday, try to win her affection in earnest, even her attention… She hurts me so much, and she doesn’t even have to say a word."

Saki came up empty with words of comfort. "I’m sorry."

"It’s all right, Saki," he coaxed his brother. "You don’t have to understand. You’re too young. But one day you will." Nagi grunted. "You’re just the lucky one when it comes to girls, I guess."


"I love her, Saki. Damn it all, I love her." There was pain in his voice. "All I can do is take it out on Yoshi when we fight. I tell myself it is his fault…but I know it is not."

"You said she loves Yoshi…" Saki broke off for a moment, losing confidence in his wisdom, "Shouldn’t you…well…let her go?"

Offering no reply, Nagi slowly rose from the roof, giving his brother one last look before making his way back down, disappearing from sight.

Love was such an awkward thing, Saki decided when he was alone. It could give you everlasting joy…or it could tear you apart at the seams.


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