If I Could - Chapter Five
Somehow everything seemed different at the school. The shadows cast by the
setting sun seemed menacing, and small noises seemed much louder
in the absence of the motorcycle's rumble. They made their way silently
to the forest behind the school, Kohana easily picking up on Kiryuu's
disinclination to talk.
When they arrived at the gates, through the long entrance hall,
Kiryuu said, "Open them."
"I can't. I've tried."
"Try again." He glanced knowingly at her, and then looked
straight ahead at the gates again.
Well, if he wanted to just stand there all night, sure. She walked
up and wrapped her fingers around the smooth stone handle of the
phoenix-topped door, pulling gently at first. It didn't move, so
she pulled harder. Something grated, and the handle moved a bit.
For a moment nothing happened.
I told him I couldn't—
A drop of water came out of nowhere and splashed on her ring, splattering
her fingers. She jerked back in surprise, shaking her fingers to
be rid of the icy coldness. "What the—"
All of sudden, the roar of gallons and gallons of rushing water
shattered the mystical silence of the place. Sluice gates opened,
and Kohana and Kiryuu were cut off from the entranceway by torrential
walls. How interesting. What the hell was going on? Keeping her
face carefully neutral, Kohana watched the proceedings with uncertainty.
Was this supposed to happen?
Mist rose from the water, obscuring the gate. There was a rumbling,
grating sound and Kohana stepped back. If this place was going to
come crashing down around them, she was getting out first. Kiryuu
could get crushed by whatever big rocks sounded like they were avalanching
down. But no, he was completely calm when she looked at him. It
looked like he hardly knew she was there.
The mist and the water soon cleared, leaving the path open behind
them, and when she looked back at the gate, it had transformed itself
into a stone rose, hovering above the open arch. Beyond was a walkway
through the misty forest, lined with pedestals around which roses
twined. And at the end of the walkway—
Kiryuu brushed past her, ending her silent staring. Kohana’s
self possession abruptly reasserted itself—she shook her hand
irritably, as if the freezing water that had splashed her fingers
was the only thing that had bothered her, and began to walk. She
followed Kiryuu to the end of the walkway and up the spiral staircase.
It seemed endless, each loop around the central column topped by
another. The everlasting walk up the stairs soon began to take its
toll on Kohana, but she determinedly trudged on, following Kiryuu’s
back. He neither spoke nor looked back at her. Near what had to
be the top, it began to curve wider, the column growing into a kind
of impossible support for—something. Something big, whatever
it was. Glancing at Kiryuu gave her no clue.
It seemed like eons before they reached the top. As Kohana came
through the stone archway at the top of the stairs, she saw a large
flat area that seemed almost like an arena, the rose crest on the
ring she wore duplicated in red stone on the white floor. Over the
arena hung an upside down castle, seemingly anchored in the sky,
its fairy lights twinkling in every color of the rainbow and flags
flying from its heights. Depths, from her point of view, but her
point of view didn’t appear to make much of a difference at
Suddenly the absolute unreality hit her all at once, and she began
to chuckle softly.
Kiryuu didn't say anything. He just watched her until her laughter
died down. "I don't blame you for not wanting to talk about
this. I doubt anyone who hadn’t seen it would believe you."
Throwing a charming grin at him, Kohana glanced back up at the castle
for a moment. It hadn’t disappeared, though she privately
decided that it would have been purely disturbing if it had.
He smiled and glanced around, as if he knew that someone should
be there. "We must be early. I can answer a few of your questions,
if you like."
Bowing mockingly, Kohana said, "Thank you ever so much. The
castle's not real, is it?"
"I don't know. I've heard that it is, and I've heard that
it isn't. I prefer to think of it as a mirage of some sort, but
I suspect that it has some small reality." He looked up at
it, and his face became sad. "I've heard that the castle holds
miracles, eternity, life itself. Everything that glows. One day
it will come down, for one person, and grant them the power to have
all of these things."
Grant them the power to have—eternity, miracles, life?
Kohana’s mind reeled in shock, and she spoke before she could
stop herself. "You can't be serious." The words fell frostily
out of her mouth. "You're talking about magic. A great big
castle in the sky I can understand. Projectors. Smoke and mirrors.
But miracles? Magic? I don't think so."
"You'll see soon enough. I believe in it, whatever it is."
He smiled and said the words she'd heard Saionji say. "For
the revolution of the world."
"And what's that supposed to mean?"
"It's what we work toward. One of us, one of the chosen few,
will gain this power." He glanced at her, and then said, "Ah,
my opponent has arrived. And the Rose Bride. Stand aside, Kohana."
Kohana glanced behind her and was surprised to see Kaoru walking
up, escorting Kiryuu Nanami. The girl was wearing a yellow dress,
like a ball dress. This got stranger and stranger by the moment.
Walking briskly out of the way, Kohana considered the options. She
could be insane. The strain of knowing she was dying by inches could
have snapped her mind. But she didn't think so—she could think
clearly enough, and she'd heard Saionji speak the same words earlier
on, before the strange things had started.
That left two possibilities. This could be some sort of elaborate
joke. It was tempting to believe that, but she doubted that even
with Kiryuu's money he could afford to build an enormous castle
upside down in the sky, not to mention the unfeasibility and the
fact that someone would have noticed. And if someone noticed,
she heard about it.
That left only the last possibility. That she was sane, fully in
control of herself, and standing at the top of an endless stairway
underneath a castle floating upside-down in the sky.
She didn't like that possibility much more than the others.
Kaoru and Kiryuu were facing off, and Nanami walked ceremonially
between them, pinning roses to their chests. Kohana idly wondered
why as Nanami walked between the two Seitokai members, her hands
fluttering up to the level of her breasts. "O rose of the noble
castle," she intoned. The sky seemed to grow dark, and Kohana
gradually had to look away from the girl because of the bright light
that was emanating from her chest. The wind picked up, whipping
everything, pulling it towards Nanami. "Power of Dios that
sleeps within me, heed your master and come forth!"
Kiryuu caught his sister, letting her drape gracefully over his
arm. Through the lattice of her fingers, Kohana saw something in
the light. It looked like—it couldn't be!
The light disappeared and it was, naturally, a sword hilt. Kiryuu
drew the sword out of his sister's chest, held it in the air and
cried, "Grant me the power to revolutionize the world!"
From somewhere, bells tolled.
A feeling of numbness began to descend over Kohana as she watched
Kaoru pull out his sword. Thankfully, it hadn't come from anyone's
chest. He waited for Kiryuu to approach him, countering fiercely
when he did, and attacked. The duel was equal enough, though they
seemed to be fighting in different styles. Kaoru was good, she noted
absently, but he didn't have the endurance or the strength to beat
Kiryuu. Kiryuu would eventually wear him down.
Something prickled the hairs on the back of her neck, and an electric
bolt of realization shot through her. This was all real. The castle,
the sword, the light, even the goddamn stairs—real.
All of it’s real.
If I beat them... If I could win... I could live. I don't have
If I take the power, I don't have to die!
Practicality had told her that it wasn't a duel to the death, and
it ended with the blue rose on Kaoru's chest being cut off. A warning
peal sounded with the tolling of the bells; Kiryuu himself had said
to trust no one. The truth in that moment had been undeniable. Should
she believe him when he talked about miracles, eternity, life itself?
There was something else here, something she felt she was missing.
It had been in the way Arisugawa had smiled, so full of secret sadness.
Whatever it was, it was the reason Saionji hadn't wanted her to
join the council. And most of all, it was Kiryuu Nanami. There was
something about her, the reason she'd changed, some mystery. Kohana
suddenly felt sure that she'd known about the illness, and that
was the reason why she'd spoken of death and offered her the black
They all knew too much. Why hadn't she noticed Kiryuu shadowing
her? Had he even been shadowing her at all? How had he connected
the bits and pieces of puzzles about her so easily, unless he already
knew there was some secret there?
She'd made it hard, if not impossible, for anyone to tell if there
was something wrong with her. And if someone found out, she had
the migraines to blame. But he hadn't accepted it. Anyone else would
What did the Student Council really want from her?
She didn't know. But it was so tempting to think that it might
be true... She might live. If she could win this game, she might
be able to live a normal life, not a pitifully short span of years,
wasted and dried up by the time she was twenty. At the pace her
life had been going, she was more experienced in many ways than
most adults. In bed, definitely. She'd turned her play into an art
by the time she was fourteen. Painting, playing tricks on the unsuspecting,
gently swaying and twisting the opinions of others around her...
everything she did with regularity had been perfected. But not to
have to pack a whole lifetime into ten more years at most...
Kohana had thought she'd accepted the idea that she was going to
die. It appeared that she hadn't.
In any case, there was no way to tell if Kiryuu had lied to her
or not—unless he himself told her, that was, and she knew
he wouldn't do that. So she had to win the game, however that was
done. And when she did she would have her proof. Even if it turned
out the castle was full of nothing but hollow lies, it would give
her life some meaning besides sex and power, for a while.
And so when Kiryuu approached her after winning the duel, she smiled
at him. "You fight well. I'm being groomed to take your place
in this as well?"
He seemed a little thrown by the way she accepted everything so
calmly, but he didn’t hesitate to answer her. "Yes."
"I've never even held a sword. But I'll learn."
He almost appeared to flinch at this. It could have been her imagination.
"I'm sure you'll do well. We'll discuss that with Saionji or
Juri tomorrow." Turning, he walked toward the stairs.
Kohana followed. There was something he didn't want to talk about,
she was sure of it, but he wouldn't talk about it to her even if
he had wanted to. Maybe if she could find out if he had any close
friends—but he didn't, not if he was the person he seemed
to be. To people like them, others were only tools to use when needed
and ignore the rest of the time. Maybe one friend as close as Sakura
was to her, but even that was unlikely. That was better than nothing,
though, and if she could get them to open up to her...
Who would it be? Not Kaoru. He was too young and innocent. It had
to be either Juri or Saionji, and from what she knew, Saionji would
seem the best choice. He was on the council, a male, and about the
right age. Tomorrow she would confirm it by asking Naoko—the
girl was a fan of both she and Touga. She would know.
Organized thoughts and the beginnings of schemes filled her mind
until they were in the parking lot. Kiryuu Nanami was nowhere to
be seen. Briefly Kohana wondered where she was—didn't she
live with Kiryuu? It had certainly seemed that way when the girl
had interrupted their afterglow.
Dismissing it as unimportant, Kohana almost missed Kiryuu's question.
"... like to stay at my place tonight?"
"If it won't put you out, I'd be glad to." For many reasons.
"Not at all." A car was pulling into the parking lot.
Strange; no one should be here at this time. Kiryuu saw it and sped
up his pace.
"What's wrong?" Kohana asked, catching up to him.
"Nothing," he said. "I'd rather not speak to the
Rijichou right now, though."
The infamous dean of Ohtori Academy. Hardly anyone ever saw the
man. It figured that Kiryuu had, though. He seemed to know everyone.
Ohtori certainly drove a nice car. A convertible. A red convertible,
to be precise. It pulled up alongside them and into the spot beside
Kiryuu's motorcycle. "Seems like we can't avoid it," Kohana
murmured. In truth, she didn't really want to. Any man who had that
kind of taste in cars had to be good for something... and the fact
that the car screamed of pure sex gave her a pretty good idea of
The door opened, and a tall, long legged man got out. He had the
most beautiful milk chocolate skin and tied back silvery hair, though
he didn't look to be much more than twenty-seven or eight. That
was awfully young to be the Rijichou, wasn't it? In any case, he
understood exactly how to flatter himself. Those long legs were
encased in tight black pants that made them look even longer, and
the unorthodox contrast of the purple tie and the red shirt invited
the gaze to crawl up his chest and to his elegantly featured face.
"Hello, Touga." Oh, he had a beautiful voice. Deep, more
of a rumble than a purr. It reminded her of the feeling of raw silk.
"Rijichou." Kiryuu continued walking up to the motorcycle,
and leaned on the seat. Kohana was sure it was by design that the
only two places she could stand near Ohtori were blocked off by
Kiryuu. She decided that she would stand at the end of the bike.
It was further away, but it gave her the best view of Ohtori.
"I see you've chosen your assistant. Will you introduce us?"
Beautiful manners. Along with that beautiful voice and that beautiful
body, he was a stunning creature.
It seemed that a flicker of annoyance passed over Kiryuu's face.
"Rijichou, this is Hoshigawa Kohana. I was just going to take
What would it be like to have both of them at once? Kiryuu didn't
seem to like the Rijichou much... but she could dream, couldn't
Ohtori stepped easily past Kiryuu, taking her hand in his. The
contrast between their skin colors made her bite her lip. "Wonderful
to meet you, Hoshigawa Kohana." He said her name like he was
savoring it. Prickles of delight raced up her spine.
"The same, Rijichou." His sea green eyes pinned hers,
and she saw the corner of his mouth quirk up in an inviting smile.
No wonder hardly anyone ever saw him. He was probably kept in a
cage somewhere to keep him from molesting the entire school populace.
Lucky for her, someone had forgotten to lock it tonight.
"Please, call me Akio. After all, the Rijichou should have
a good relationship with the Seitokaicho, don't you agree?"
There were layers upon layers of innuendo in his tone, and the soft
stroking of his fingers on the back of her hand was driving her
insane. He knew it too, the sensuous bastard. If anyone could bring
her to orgasm just by talking to her, this man might be able to
do it. And wouldn't she love to see if he could.
"Of course, Akio-san," she purred. "But I'm not
the Seitokaicho. Why don't you work on having a good relationship
with both of us?" Oh, if only.
His eyes widened in appreciation of her counter-suggestion, and
he laughed. The sound of it made Kohana's fingers momentarily close
on his. "I'm sure Touga doesn't want to share any more of you
than he has to. I wouldn't." His tone called up images of the
two of them locked in a bedroom for days on end, sweat and twisted
sheets and all the things they could do to each other while not
sharing her with anyone else. "I think he might be jealous
of your time."
Laughing quietly, Kohana leaned slightly toward him, catching a
whiff of rose cologne. "Jealousy’s not a part of his
nature, Akio-san. Besides, why should he be jealous? I’m not
his girlfriend. I’m free to spend time where and with whom
Ohtori's eyes flicked up, over her shoulder, so Kohana wasn't much
surprised when she felt Kiryuu's hands encircle her waist. He stepped
up behind her, pulling her back ever so slightly to lean on him.
It was almost more than she could take. Both of them needed to have
their clothes ripped off, right now. "Speaking of time, Kohana,
I think we should be leaving soon. I did make you a promise, remember?"
The Rijichou answered before she had the chance. "Of course,
Touga. I shouldn't waste your time." A slow grin spread over
his face, and his eyes moved back down to Kohana. "I'll be
seeing more of you now that you're a member of the Seitokai. It's
a pity we didn't meet sooner than this—I have the feeling
I've been missing out on a lot." He brought her hand up to
his mouth and pressed a deliberate kiss on the knuckles. Keeping
his eyes on hers, he slowly lapped at the crevice between her fingers
before pulling away. "You seem like a very sweet girl, Kohana."
Kohana could only lick her lips in reply. Kiryuu, however, said,
"She is." His hand moved from her waist to her belly,
stroking it gently through the silk of her uniform.
"Soon, then," Ohtori chuckled, and then walked over to
his car. As it peeled away, Kohana let herself lean more heavily
"What did you think of him?" Kiryuu asked.
"I wonder why you don't like him," she said honestly.
"He seems—not harmless, but like he only has one thing
on his mind. We have that much in common, I suppose." The words
made her think. Kiryuu seemed like he only had one thing on his
mind most of the time. She knew there was a lot more to him than
that. And Ohtori?
The first chance she got, she was going to sleep with him. Other
than that, she didn't know.
Kiryuu chuckled, though it seemed a bit uneasy. "Let's go."
She had a feeling she never would be able to get a straight answer
out of him on the subject of Ohtori.
The Kiryuu mansion seemed almost deserted. There was only one light
on, upstairs. Was it his parents, or was it Nanami? No matter. If
his parents were anything like hers, she knew how to handle them.
As they walked inside, a ginger colored cat twined around her legs.
Cats were wonderful creatures; they were self-reliant, they were
soft and clean, and they were just as selfish as Kohana was. She
got along well with them. Picking him up, she nuzzled his fur and
set front paws on her shoulder so he would be comfortable in her
arms. It appeared that he appreciated that comfort; he began a loud
purr, pushing his face into her hair and his cold nose into the
side of her neck. She gasped, and then giggled.
"I see you've met Tanrei." Kiryuu had glanced at her
and seen the cat, and he turned to stroke him. It was evident by
the look on his face that he enjoyed cats as well. "He seems
to have taken to you rather well."
"His name suits him. Is he your cat?"
"Yes. A friend of mine gave him to me." His face didn't
change, but Kohana got the impression of sadness. This friend must
no longer be a friend, and if not for the sadness, she would have
bet it wasn't a friend in the first place. So, Kiryuu did have a
little more depth of feeling to him than she did. Wonders would
"I've always wanted a cat." That was the one hard and
fast rule of her house: no pets. She could have anything else she
wanted except a cat. She'd tried taking one home once, but her mother
had thrown him out into the street. Afterward, she'd given him to
Sakura, hoping that her friend could find a home for him.
He glanced at her face, his eyes inquiring. "You can't have
"My mother's allergic. I think she wouldn't like them even
if she wasn't." Kohana nuzzled Tanrei once again, enjoying
the feel of his fur on her face. He reacted ecstatically, rubbing
his cheek against her ear.
"I see." Kiryuu scratched Tanrei under the chin, his
fingers grazing her ear. "Do you want anything from the kitchen?
The cook probably has something put away for me."
"I'm fine. A glass of water, maybe."
It seemed like normality had reasserted itself completely, aside
from the fact that she was actually staying over at Kiryuu's house.
That, however, seemed almost dreadfully normal after the night she'd
had. She followed him into the kitchen, Tanrei's purr and whiskers
tickling her ear. After Kiryuu had finished in the kitchen, she
followed him upstairs to his room. The light on his answering machine
was blinking; he pressed the button, and sat down beside Kohana
to pet the cat while declarations of love and adoration poured from
"The hordes sound like they're getting restless without you.
Have you been away from them for too long?" she teased.
Smiling, he stroked Tanrei a little too far, letting his hand run
off the cat and onto her arm. "Not yet. When they start to
cry, I'll consider coming back."
"Cruel. How can you do that to people who love you?"
Kohana dislodged the cat from her shoulder, setting him on her lap.
He settled in and began to knead her leg.
Unsurprisingly, he changed the subject slightly. "Have you
ever been in love?"
"No." It would never happen. Not even if her life depended
on it. "I've never had anything worse than an acute case of
"Like tonight. When you were talking to Ohtori." A tiny
smile curved his lips. "Your whole body was tense, and your
eyes seemed to lighten."
"I'm going to sleep with him." Was she ever. It was only
fair, after all, that Ohtori kept the oblique promise he'd made.
Kiryuu didn't seem surprised at all. "I know. He has that
effect on almost everyone." At her speculative glance, he smiled
seductively. "He's as good as you are."
"I'd hate to be disappointed. Ever care to try him again?"
Maybe Kiryuu would agree to join she and Ohtori.
"With you, you mean." Weighing the idea, he finally said,
"No. Some things aren't worth the trouble."
Now, that was out of character. Suspiciously, she asked, "How
do you mean?" Kiryuu turning down a night with not one but
two fantastic lovers? The world had been turned inside out. Trying
to think of a situation where she'd do the same stumped her.
"It wouldn't mean anything to you. It's personal." He
was petting Tanrei again, and that inexplicable sense of sadness
was back. It was strange to see—Kohana never allowed herself
to feel sad, and from what she knew of Kiryuu, he seemed not to
allow it either.
What is going on here? It takes a lot for someone like him
to even feel sad, let alone show it.
"Were you... Did you love him?" It was impossible, wasn't
it? People like them always had a reason not to fall in love.
He looked at her as if she'd suddenly dropped down out of nowhere,
and then burst out laughing. "No. No, I don't think I could
ever allow something like that."
She wanted to ask why not, but decided against it. This was only
leading her in circles. "Well, I suppose for tonight I'll have
to try my best to make you forget I ever asked about it." Leaning
close to him, she ran her finger down the front of his uniform,
stopping just above the waistband of his pants.
He caught her hand easily, sliding closer to her. "And tomorrow
As she lay quiet, letting the afterglow fade, she felt Kiryuu shift
restlessly. Her cigarettes were in her jacket, on the floor in the
sitting room. It was too much effort to get them. There was definitely
more to Kiryuu than met the eye—at first glance, he was a
perfect gentleman. Second glance showed that he had an appetite
for sex as voracious as hers, and a matching appetite for power
and manipulation. But that sadness bothered her—it shouldn’t
have been there. It felt wrong. What in the world did it mean? Was
it a result of different experiences? She had to pinpoint exactly
where his personality differed from what she expected it to be or
else she'd make mistakes in using him. It would take time, but she
knew how to distract him for long enough. Letting her voice go soft
and almost vulnerable, she said, "Touga..."
"Yes?" he asked. His guard was up. But he had a weakness
for women in general, and if he was anything like she was, he was
comfortable around her specifically. Now was the time to exploit
that, and if she did it right, he would never know.
She rolled over, lying with her back to him. The silk sheets whispered
around her. "Have you ever wondered what it's like to be in
He laughed softly, after a long pause. "Strange question for
you to ask."
"I can be curious, can't I? It's just one of the things I'll
only ever be curious about." This was going to take some delicacy,
and something real would have to be shown. No lie ever had the same
feel as the truth.
"And why is that?" He sounded mildly curious. Good. Now
came the bait.
With it came real, actual emotion. The logical side of her mind
was suppressed; real feeling came spilling into her voice, tightly
reined in. "You know why."
"No. Tell me." Now he was trying to play with her, trying
to get her to say the words out loud.
A tear rolled down her face. Another followed it. She waited just
long enough, and then said, "Forget it. Never mind." Her
voice wasn't tear fogged. Just misted.
She felt the bed shift and the sheets rustled as he sat up. That
had certainly gotten his attention. "What's the matter?"
he asked softly. Now he would be hoping she would confide in him,
giving him a better handle on her mind and her objectives.
"Nothing." She curled herself into a ball.
"Kohana, don't. It'll help to talk about it." He stroked
her cheek gently, wiping away one of her tears, but, of course,
making no mention of it. "I'm listening, if you want to talk."
She forced a laugh after a long pause. It came out exactly the
way she wanted it; slightly bitter and full of pathetic bravery.
"We act so tough all the time, don't we? Nothing ever bothers
us. Never let anyone see us hurt, because they'll use it against
us. But we aren't like that inside, deep down, where no one knows
about it." She sighed, hugging the sheets to her. "I've
just had a weird day."
He didn't respond for a long time, so long that she thought he
might not after all. Had she misjudged it?
The bed shifted again, and then his arms were around her. They
lay quiet for a while, Kohana wondering what more she could do to
convince him to take the ‘opportunity’ she’d offered
him, but just as she was about to say something more he began to
speak. "I didn't know I was in love for a long time. I thought
it was just the challenge of a girl who was different, who didn't
fall for me instantly.
"And when I knew it, it was horrible. She didn't trust or
like me. I tried harder. If she'd believed me, I know it could have
been wonderful. The best feeling in the world. I started to think
that maybe, if I could just let go for a while, really try to be
what she wanted in a lover, that things might turn out all right
"But something happened. There never was any 'us'. She disappeared."
His laugh sounded bitter, as hers had. "It's the strangest
thing. I can't remember her name at all, no matter how hard I try."
That was more than she'd hoped for. It even seemed like he might
tell her more if she said the right things, acted the right way.
"She must have been a very special person," Kohana whispered,
carefully concealing the triumph she felt. This little feint had
offered up a bonus.
"I don't remember much about her. What I do remember was her
nobility. In that, she was truly unique." She could almost
feel him wavering, hesitating. He almost trusted her... "Tell
me why, Kohana. Why now? Why ask me?"
This one was tricky. She could only hope she didn't screw it up.
"Do you know, I’ve never even had a crush on someone?
I’ve never even had that small taste of it, and… you
understand why I’m asking. You said you chose me because I
was like you, and I’m starting to believe it, so… maybe,
if you knew what it was like, it might be close to what I would
Silence ruled the dark room for a few moments. When he spoke, his
voice was quiet. "Just because you're sick doesn't mean you
won't find love."
"If you were dying, would you let yourself care about anyone?"
Her voice managed to put forth the idea that while she implied she
wouldn't, she desperately wanted to. "You had her,
and you have the rest of your life to love whoever you want. There's
a reason I have nothing, not even a goldfish."
He pulled her closer to him, giving her a comforting squeeze. What
she'd said edged on her real feelings enough that she was actually
upset. "It doesn't have to be that way," he murmured.
"Yes, it does." A surge of mixed emotions filled her.
On one hand, she was still upset. All of the emotions she'd shown
him were real, to a certain degree, and she didn't often let them
out to play. On the other hand... she had him. He'd spend part of
his time and effort trying to make her fall in love with him now.
The thought was gratifying. She'd won this round. "There's
no other way," she said softly, her tone hinting at sadness.
When he kissed the back of her neck, she shivered. Kiryuu's mistake
had been underestimating the very abilities he had chosen her for.
It was understandable, really; in his place, she would have done
the same. After all, no one was as good as she was.