My main character is Saito no Shino, chief warrior for the house of Fujiwara no Ichiro, Japan. We open with Shino reflecting back to the love of his life while he guards her tent as their travel back to her childhood home to mourn her mother who died there:
Tonight, after years of denying and repressing the urging of my heart, I now admit I love her. It has always been so. But my heart is weary of fighting for lost causes. I am not of her class and can never hope to have her. She’s a lady of the court of the emperor now, and I, a samurai warrior. There is no meeting place for us except here, where I watch over her tent while she sleeps, guarding her as instructed by my daimyo lord.
Moonlight pierces the thick swath of trees sheltering her tent. Mystifying shadows that dance on unmoving silk curtains, give rise to rebellious thoughts. How did I get to this place—to this role of protector of the love of my youth? We were young and vulnerable then. But now, many years have passed. Yet, when we near each other, we are as children again.
Except for these feelings. These flutterings. That light in her eyes.
I stare at the silk curtains surrounding her enclosure, imagining how her hair falls about her while she sleeps. Oh, to be tangled in those soft black strands and the sweetness of her body.
I hear movement from her tent and tense. The curtain parts. She’s standing in a thin, transparent night shift, fanning herself in the warm night air. I hold my breath, remaining frozen and quiet in the shadows. I should not be observing her like this. I should announce my presence. But I cannot. My eyes refuse to leave off watching her. This is forbidden. Still, I dare. She is my one true love. The one I can never have.
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