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


Chapter 5 – Errands


“Keep your foot back.” Kurogane knocked the kid’s leg into the right position with a practice sword. “There. Good. Remember, balance is key. If you can’t keep your feet below you, you can’t move your sword where you want.”

The kid had only finished his warm ups a few minutes ago and Kurogane was in the process of teaching him a new balance drill.

Just as his student managed to finish his first complete run through of the exercise, a messenger came rushing onto the practice field. “My lord!” The servant took a moment to acknowledge him as well with a glance and a hasty “Kurogane, sir,” before launching into his message. “My prince, your presence is required immediately at court.”

“Hey, I’ve got this hour blocked for the prince to train.”

“My apologies, sir! The king will be hearing reports shortly and he has requested the Prince Syaoran’s attendance.”

“This sure as hell better be a damn important report!”

The kid gave his practice sword to one of the waiting armory attendants and came over to join the conversation. “It must be about Jashar. Haven’t you heard the rumors, Kurogane-san?”

“I don’t listen to gossip.” He particularly didn’t listen to gossip from Jashar. The rumors had suddenly gotten worse less than two weeks ago. It was all anybody in town wanted to talk about. It was just as well that Kurogane didn’t like talking with them anyway. It seemed the official report was finally ready.

The prince filled him in. “In addition to their usual problems, people are saying that the king is ill. It’s expected that they will have a new ruler before spring.”

Ugh. “Successions have a way of causing messes.”

“But the king has one of his sons set to inherit the throne.”

For a prince, the kid could be a bit naïve when it came to politics. Maybe it was a result of living in such a peaceful time for the kingdom, or maybe as the younger son, he was sheltered from certain unpleasant realities.

“That only helps if he has the support of the court and the people.”

With that, he put Jashar out of his mind. Whatever their problems, it had nothing to do with him.

He followed the Prince back to the castle, handed the boy off to one of his co-workers, and realized somewhat abruptly that he was now free for the remainder of the day. It gave him time to run a few errands he’d been putting off.

He went to the farrier to schedule a time to bring his horse for routine hoof care, he purchased the latest installment of the monthly story he liked to read from the printer’s shop, and finally, he stopped by the cobbler with a pair of worn boots in hand. A few more weeks of wear and he’d actually have holes in the leather on the inner side between the toe box and the vamp – the place where the boot bent the most.

The cobbler’s shop had windows, but they were facing the wrong way for the time of day. Kurogane’s eyes took a moment to adjust to the dim interior before he realized that not only was he not the only customer in the shop, but that the other person there was none other than the Prince’s girlfriend’s self-appointed father.

He should have expected as much; the man seemed to be everywhere these days, not just at the library but also in the market, at the forge, on the narrow streets of the lower town. A few days ago, he’d caught a glimpse of the man walking through the section of palace gardens that was left open to the public. The other man never saw him, was rarely even facing the proper direction, but there was no mistaking that pale hair or that lanky silhouette.

In front of him, the blond and the shoemaker were involved in conversation.

“They are truly a remarkable piece of work. The stitching pattern alone…I’ve never seen it before, but it’s very sturdy. I’m surprised you had any trouble with these at all. Please, Fai-san, do try to remember the name of the craftsman who created those boots for you. I shall have to keep an eye on them if I am to stay in business!”

“These have been through many miles with me. I’m afraid I’ve been so many places, I’ll never remember just exactly where I picked them up.” The man said it with a smile. None of the blatant seriousness remained from the last time they’d interacted, but it very well could be that the man was just trying even harder than usual to cover up his pain.

“I doubt you have to worry though,” the man continued. “I haven’t even been in this area for a year and I’ve had these boots much longer than that. Whoever made these won’t be giving your business any trouble.”

“In that case, I’m very lucky! I’ve learned a thing or two working on these.” The cobbler set the boots in question on the counter. “Please, try them on before you leave. Make sure the repairs are to your satisfaction.”

Kurogane dropped his boots on the cobbler’s worktable to indicate his presence while Fai went about taking off the boots he had been wearing and replacing them with the ones he had just gotten back from the cobbler.

“Kuro-sama!” It should have seemed strange that the man looked genuinely happy to see him. Maybe he was imagining things. “You have perfect timing. You can give me your opinion.” His mask of happiness didn’t falter while he tugged his repaired boots on over his legs. He displayed a remarkable sense of balance, never wavering and ignoring the opportunity to use the cobbler’s worktable to support him while he stood on one foot.

“There! What does Kuro-sama think?” With that, the man set his a foot on the stool the cobbler had customers use so that he didn’t have to bend over too far from his chair to inspect his work.

The dark brown, almost black boot on display fit perfectly around Fai’s slim leg. They were obviously custom made. How could a person forget where they had such a thing commissioned? But why would anyone lie about it either?

The slimness of the man’s leg didn’t make him appear weak, but graceful, elegant. The top of the boot ended a little past the knee, but Kurogane’s eyes continued up.

Kurogane told himself the man was just showing off his footwear, but for some reason, it seemed that Fai was displaying his whole leg for Kurogane’s approval. The thought came unbidden to wonder about the smoothness of the skin above the boot top…his inner thigh. It was currently clothed in tight breeches as near to white as was possible for anyone less than the king to afford, but beneath that…

He felt his whole face warming and turned to the cobbler in case an inappropriate ting was growing on his cheeks. His throat had gone dry as well and after ridding himself of his hoarseness, he forced himself to give the same appraisal he would to any other person. “They look ridiculous.”

“Boo! Kuro-mean obviously has no taste in fashion. These are my favorite, too.” The man could pout with the best of them. “Things always seem to go my way when I’m wearing them.”

Kurogane nearly asked what “going my way” meant at that exact moment in time, with his leg still on exhibit. He stopped his question before he made a fool of himself. Kurogane never displayed his body so overtly. True, he often kept the sleeves of his shirts rolled up past his elbows for ease of movement, but that only exposed his forearms. Certainly no one found that to be a big deal.

He tried to change the topic, but Fai said, “I hear our next entertainment will be a competition of games. Maybe I should wear these boots for luck.”

“You do that.” He meant to sound dismissive, uninterested. Judging by the way the nobleman grinned at him, he wasn’t sure he succeeded.

Check the Cameo Master List?
Proceed to Chapter 6.
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