Words Without

“It’s a nice flower, Juubei.”

“Ah, Ane-ja–”

“I won’t tell Mother that you’ve raided her gardens for this.”

There are two components to Kadsuki’s name: flowers, and the moon. One is much easier to get than the other; for this Juubei has compromised. The multiple layers of petal glow silver-white, even in the noonday sun, and he walks slowly to prevent it from swaying and bruising.

He finds Kadsuki practicing in the gardens. The sound of the koto is strange and lovely, falling notes in the still air. There is a surety and grace to Kadsuki’s hands that could wrap the world in clean bright sound.

When he steps forward, he lets his sandals grate against the gravel. Kadsuki lifts his head and nods to him, solemn, and allows him to approach without a word. Juubei sits a short distance away, turning so that the flower is hidden from Kadsuki’s line of vision.

After the piece is over, and there is a stretched moment of thoughtful silence, Kadsuki says, “I did not know you were coming, today.” Underneath that, he says, I wish you would tell me, so I could look forward to it.

I wanted to see you, and so I came, Juubei starts to say, and cuts himself off. That will not do.

He holds out the flower.

There are many things he could say, he knows; he has studied poetry with his medical texts, trained in the arts of courting conversation as well as fighting. But, he thinks he does not yet know enough about Kadsuki to write about him properly, only that his name has two components, and that his hair, clean, smells like the warmth of summer.

Given enough time, perhaps, he could find the right words. But there is just this moment, the two of them under the dappled shade–and the flower in his hand is as beautiful as any poem he might compose.

Kadsuki lifts his head and looks steadily at Juubei. Even as full minutes tick past, Juubei realizes he is not afraid: these are his feelings, and they have bloomed fully regardless of Kadsuki’s acceptance. It is better to put them into the open, he thinks, than to fail his chosen master because of his own uncertainty.

And then Kadsuki smiles. The sun is not in Kadsuki’s name at all, but there is a brilliance in him that could put it to shame.

“Thank you,” he says.

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