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Title - Unintended: A Tale of Clumsy Matchmaking and the Value of Custom Boots
Rating - T/PG-13

Chapter 3 – Run-In

“I need to return this book to the library first, Kurogane-san.”

The grass still hadn’t recovered from the trampling it took during the tournament the week prior, but they were headed out to the training fields anyway for the day’s instruction. They were a few minutes ahead of schedule and a stop by the library wouldn’t cut into their allotted training time. Kurogane grunted his assent. “It’s on the way.”

Kurogane had never spent much time in the library. The place was just a dusty repository of information he didn’t need. If it was something he did need, no doubt there was a better way to learn of it – through experience. It felt a bit like cheating to just be given all the answers by someone who had so little to do that they had the time to write it down. Still, he was a dutiful bodyguard and followed the prince into the well-lit chamber. There hadn’t been an incident worthy of his attention within the palace grounds as long as he’d worked for the royal family, but habits are hard things to break. He glanced side-to-side looking for anything out of the ordinary when he stopped short. The prince continued ahead and deeming him safe for the time being, Kurogane turned to check on what had caught his eye.

That lithe blond had himself seated at a table covered with books, scrawling a bit here and there in a writing tablet. The man was absorbed enough in his work that he didn’t give any indication of noticing Kurogane’s approach. It gave him enough time to take in the man’s whole appearance. More specifically, time to note the presence of an elbow high glove on the man’s left hand. The matching glove hung with a mid-length jacket across the back of an extra chair. Both the gloves and the jacket were typical of the clothing worn by the lower nobles in court, but Kurogane suspected the gloves had less to do with fashion and more to do with recent events.

He stared at the gloved hand, wondering just how bad it looked since the man felt the need to cover it. He dismissed the thought. It was the other man’s fault he was injured in the first place.

“You don’t have a better place to spend your time than this stuffy library?”

“Ah, Kuro-spar!” The man replied without the slightest hesitation or surprise. Apparently Kurogane’s presence hadn’t gone undetected after all. That nearly irritated him as much as the new nickname.

“My name is Kurogane!” He managed to grind the words out through clenched teeth. He’d known that this was a bad idea. This man was nothing but an annoyance. He deserved whatever injuries he hid behind that glove! It did nothing to help his mood that Kurogane inwardly winced at the viciousness of his own thoughts.

“Of course it is. That’s what I said, isn’t it?”

Kurogane refused to be further baited. “What’s so interesting that you feel the need to have enough books to cover the whole table?”

This, on the other hand, caught the other man off guard. He didn’t fumble his words, but his expression faltered briefly. A long, dark frown slipped in between two of those ridiculous grins that surely no one took for a sign of true happiness.

“I’m researching local myths.” With that bare minimum answer out of the way, the man moved to change the subject. Kurogane wasn’t fooled by the evasion but went along with it anyway. “And what are you doing here when you so obviously don’t have the taste for the written word?”

“I’m on my way to train the kid. He just needed to return a book.”

“Hmm. I see. But shouldn’t you be referring to the prince properly here?”

Well, that confirmed one suspicion. Both this man and his daughter knew who the kid really was. Somehow, it wasn’t as awful as he’d expected. The prince really did seem to enjoy spending time with this man’s daughter. It wasn’t as though he was being cajoled into anything.

Kurogane ignored the question. “How’s your hand?”

“It’s nothing.” The man said it with a smile.

“Then why the covering?”

“Ah.” The man placed his good hand over the back of the gloved hand as though to further hide evidence of his injury. “Sakura-chan worries about things she shouldn’t. It truly is nothing.”

Kurogane wasn’t sure if he could be any more irritated than he already was. “If she’s worried, it’s because she cares about you!” He didn’t like what that said about him and his preoccupation with the injury. Kurogane didn’t miss the second slip in the man’s grin in as many minutes.

“Ah. Of course, you’re right, Kuro-smart!”

“Well, let’s see it then.”

“That’s not necessary.” The man’s voice changed then, turned cold. “I’ve already said it’s nothing.”

“Then you won’t mind showing me.” He didn’t wait for the blond to reply, instead he grabbed the man’s wrist and tugged the glove off himself. Something in the back of his head told him that manhandling someone he had known for such a short time was incredibly rude. He didn’t listen.

The sight that greeted his eyes was no less than he expected. The swelling at the base of the index finger was worse than the day of the injury. The bruising had spread too but had begun to fade to yellow-brown around the edges. “Well, let’s see you wiggle your fingers then.”


Kurogane realized belatedly that the man hadn’t struggled through his rough treatment or complained about the closeness. His mouth went dry and he had to clear his throat before he could speak properly.

“Move your fingers to make sure nothing’s broken.”

The three fingers closest to Kurogane moved freely, but a quiet “ah!” accompanied the stillness of the index finger. Kurogane used his free hand to still the uninjured fingers before prompting, “Try again.”

“Does Kuro-sama have medical training? You’re very knowledgeable about these things.”

“Just field experience. I said to try again.”

“Ah, but Kuro-doc, I am trying.” The finger barely moved.

Kurogane was not pleased. Not with the nickname and not with the severity of the limitations in range of motion. “You need to see a healer. There’s likely a broken bone. You need to have someone make sure it’s healing properly. You don’t want any permanent damage from this.” Kurogane stopped short of poking around to find the exact placement of the break. And he wasn’t happy about the reason he did that either.

Kurogane forestalled argument by adding, “You said you would make up for your insult at the sparring. See a healer.”

The man smiled at him then, a different kind of smile than he normally used. This one was barely there. It looked a little sad and just a bit fond.

“Kuro-sama is very kind.”

Kind? That should have been enough to reaffirm the whole “idiot” conclusion.

“Ah! Fai-san.” The prince picked that moment to return from his errand. Kurogane could only hope the boy hadn’t heard the man’s accusation. He had a reputation to uphold after all.

The blond stood then, swept his hat from his head, stepped back with his right leg and with a smooth movement, performed a bow in a style Kurogane had never seen. The hat made a short arch down to the man’s heart while he bent a respectable amount at the waist as to indicate that he truly did have at least some noble blood in his ancestry. “Prince Syaoran, a pleasure to see you here.”

The prince smiled at the level of formality afforded to him for the first time by this man. “Will you and Sakura-chan be coming to next month’s event?”

“Of course. Sakura-chan is looking forward to the opportunity to see you again.” The man had enough sense to continue and not rely on the now embarrassed but pleased prince to carry on the conversation. (Based on the subtle glaze in the kid’s eyes, he was probably reliving that moment, with the girl stumbling up to him, her third place age group medal around her neck but held up in one hand for him to see, tired smile in place, still out of breath and dripping wet, pronouncing, ‘I put in my full effort.’) “Have you been informed as to the nature of our next entertainment?”

This was a topic Kurogane did not want to dwell on. The prince let out a soft cough as though he knew something but wasn’t in the position to share, so Kurogane answered for him. “I’m betting the Council has something horrible in mind.”

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