Hari, the driver that was nominally responsible for Lady Saya Takagi, arrived at the Komuro household at nine-thirty the next morning. His eyebrows rose as the young man he was there to secure came out bearing a rather large bouquet of flowers. Pink flowers, he almost smiled.
This kid just might make it, he said to himself, though his face betrayed nothing.
“Good morning sir,” he said as Takashi neared him.
“Please, no sir,” Takashi shook his head. “Just call me Komuro.”
“As you wish, Komuro-san,” Hari nodded, opening the door. Takashi carefully got inside and Hari was soon back in the driver’s seat, heading back to the manor. He started at least four times to engage in conversation with young Komuro, but each time decided against it. The boy looked nervous enough as it was.
As he opened the door for him to get out, Hari silently wished Takashi well. He was convinced that this young man would be good for his charge.
Saya hadn’t been waiting at the door when the car pulled up, but came bounding outside when Takashi was about halfway up the steps to the door. She faltered when she saw what he was carrying, her steps growing shorter and slower.
“Takashi, what are you doing?” she asked, eyes wide.
“Saya-chan,” he said very carefully. “I wish to speak with your parents. Are they at home?”
“Takashi, what. . .”
“Would you please inquire if they would see me?” he asked, ignoring her stammering. He was determined to get through this.
“Takashi, what is this?” she finally manage to get out.
“You know perfectly well what ‘this’ is,” he told her, looking at her intently. “This is me, at the door of the girl I have worked for weeks to be worthy of, with flowers and chocolate, to ask her parents if I may have their permission to ask their daughter on a date.”
“You. . .you haven’t asked me on a date, Takashi,” Saya stammered.
“Nor will I without your parent’s permission,” he nodded. “If they refuse today, then I will be here next Saturday to try again. And I’ll keep coming back so long as I can get to this door. Now,” he straightened. “Saya-chan, would you please inquire if you parents will receive me?”
Saya straightened as well, out of respect for Takashi’s actions.
“If the gentleman will wait here, I will so inquire.”
“I await your return,” he told her. Saya carefully went back inside and closed the door. She leaned against it for a minute, a slow smile spreading across her face.
He’s really here, just like he said he would be, she thought. It was me, it was me, it was me, me, me!
Suddenly she was off the door and running.
Takashi stood at the front door to Takagi mansion for some time, though he didn’t know how much. He refused to look at his watch, since that would imply he had better things to do. He could wait.
“Most young men would have checked their watch by now,” Souichiro Takagi’s deep voice rumbled softly, making his wife’s chest tremble with it’s baritone. “Impressive.” They were watching him from the window of Souichiro’s study.
“He’s worked very hard to get to this point,” she told him. “And everything he’s done has been for our daughter. Every single thing.”
Takashi managed by force of will not to jump when the door finally opened. A woman in a maid’s uniform stepped outside and looked at him with a bit of the stink eye before waving him inside.
“The master will see you now,” she played her part letter perfect. Takashi walked inside then waited for her to lead him into Souichiro’s study.
Saya’s father sat behind his desk, ostensibly working and busy. Too busy for foolishness. He looked up as Takashi came to a stop in front of his desk, then went back to studying the papers in front of him.
Takashi again forced himself to wait patiently as he knew Saya’s father would test him.
“Momma, what is he doing?” Saya whispered, having changed clothes twice since Takashi had arrived.
“He’s sweating him a little dear,” Yuriko said, smiling slightly. She had made a small wager with her husband that Takashi would not break. There were limits to how far Souichiro could go under these circumstances, and she was certain that Takashi would stand the heat.
“Why?” Saya demanded.
“Father’s prerogative, dear,” Yuriko whispered.
“Young Komuro, isn’t it?” Saya’s father rumbled suddenly and Takashi fought not to start.
“Hai, Takagi-dono,” Takashi bowed very properly.
“I assume those are not for me,” he sat back, eyebrow raised.
“No, Takagi-dono, they are not,” Takashi didn’t stammer. Nor did he smile.
“Then unless they are for my wife, which will require an explanation I would love to hear, I assume they are for my daughter.”
“Hai, Takagi-dono,” Takashi bowed slightly yet again. “They are for Saya-chan.”
“Then why are you standing before me with them?”
“Because I require your permission, and your blessing, in order to ask Saya-chan for the pleasure of her company, Takagi-dono.”
“I do not like hearing my daughter’s name and the word ‘pleasure’ in the same sentence, Komuro-san, when they come from the mouth of a teenage boy,” Souichiro’s voice cracked across the room like a whip.
“Momma, you have to stop him!” Saya was almost beating on her mother as the two watched from the doorway.
“Stop it, Saya,” Yuriko told her. “Have some faith in your young man and watch. You are seeing something few girls ever get to see.” She smiled down at her daughter then.
“You’re seeing a brave young man fight for you.”
“I certainly meant no offense, Don-Takagi-dono,” Takashi bowed again. “However, I find your daughter, Saya-chan’s presence in any capacity a pleasure. It does not matter what we are doing, or what we talk about. We could be studying for a test, or playing a game, or talking about the weather if that’s what interests her. Regardless of what we are doing, there is no one I would rather spend my time with. To say being in her company is a pleasure is in no way inaccurate.”
“Oh,” Saya’s eyes widened at this declaration. “Oh my,” her hand came to her mouth and covered it.
“I see,” Souichiro’s voice rumbled at a more peaceful level. “Perhaps I was hasty in my speech, then, Komuro-kun.” The change to the ‘kun’ honorific was not lost on anyone. Takashi had passed his first test, anyway.
“Do you know that my daughter wishes to, ‘date’ is the word, is it not? How do you know that she wishes to ‘date’ you, Komuo-kun?”
“I do not,” Takashi replied truthfully. “I cannot know until I ask. And I cannot ask her until I have the permission of yourself and your wife. I will not,” he added firmly.
“So you have no idea if my daughter is even interested in you, do you?” the older man looked almost amused.
“I believe, I hope, that she does, that she is, but no, Takagi-dono. To answer your question, I do not. I merely have that hope.”
“How can that baka not know I want to-” Saya hissed, then cut herself off as her mother looked down at her, eyebrow raised.
“Yes, Saya-chan?” she teased.
“Nothing,” the girl murmured, blushing.
“Hm,” he mother nodded and turned her attention back to the show.
“Would it not have been more prudent for you to ensure that she desired your company before coming before me?” her father asked.
“Prudent, perhaps, but not respectful,” Takashi replied calmly.
“Indeed,” Takagi fought to keep a smile from his face. It seemed his wife was right. As ususal.
“Oh, very good, Takashi-kun,” Yuriko almost whispered.
“Mother, you sound like you’re rooting for him!” Saya smiled, looking up.
“Indeed I am, daughter,” she nodded. “I am overjoyed to see this day.”
“R-really?” Saya stammered.
“Komuro-kun, I must know, before I grant any permission for you to approach my daughter, exactly what your designs toward her are,” Souichiro said finally.
“I have no designs at the present, Takagi-dono,” Takashi replied truthfully. “I would not dare consider any without talking first to Saya-chan. At our age, we have time enough to decide what we will do, and where, and who with. For now, I am content to be in her company, and let what will be, be.”
“Oh, well done!” Yuriko exclaimed softly. “So very well done, Takashi-kun!”
Saya just looked from her mother to Takashi and then back again without speaking. Had everyone known but her?
“Takashi-san,” Souichiro stood and walked slowly around his desk to face the teen. His change to Takashi’s first name was a sign of approval. At least Takashi hoped it was.
“Takashi, I am inclined to grant you the permission you seek,” he said formally. “I would have your word, however, that my daughter’s heart is safe in your hands. She is not to be trifled with, not to be scorned or shamed by your treatment of her, nor your behavior.”
“I would never do such, Takagi-dono,” Takashi promised, bowing. “Ever.”
“No, I don’t believe you would,” the older man smiled for the first time. “Subject to the rules her mother will dictate to the two of you then, yes, Takashi-kun. You have my unreserved permission to ask my daughter to accompany you on a ‘date’.”
By great force of will Takashi did not exhale mightily at hearing those wonderful words. He had done it.
“Yes!” Saya almost jumped at hearing that, then slapped herself when her hands shot up to cover her mouth.
“Library,” Yuriko told her. “Hurry!” she urged, nodding to the maid who was fighting a smile of her own.
Takashi emerged from the lion’s den only to face the maid once more. The older woman eyed him in the same way he imagined a hungry cheetah might eye a gazelle.
“The mistress awaits you,” she told him flatly. “This way.” She led him to the library, when he found Yuriko waiting with Saya.
“Takagi-sama,” he bowed to Yuriko. “Saya-chan,” he bowed again to her.
“Hello, Takashi-kun,” Yuriko smiled.
“Takashi,” Saya nodded.
“Takashi, I am pleased to see you today, and I am pleased with your approach to ask for permission to court Saya,” Yuriko decided not to torture the boy anymore. “You may visit any night of the week without advance warning so long as you are on your way home by nine. That time will be extended in summer or other times when school is out, and may be extended permanently as you grow older. We shall see.”
“You may go out on Friday and Saturday evenings, provided you use Saya’s driver and we know your itinerary for the evening. For now I require that you be home by ten thirty. Assuming that you honor that, it might be extended later on.”
“I will expect you to have supper with us at least one night each week whenever possible, and to attend any formal dinners where Saya must be present, as her escort. You may consider that a duty to the Takagi family if you wish,” she added.
“Being in her presence is not a duty,” Takashi replied evenly. “It would be my honor to escort her to any such function, should you and she desire that I do so.”
“Excellent,” Yuriko smiled. “I reserve the right to change these rules, or to add to them as I feel necessary, but for now, that is all. Now,” she smiled beautifully. “I am sure the two of you have a great deal to talk about. You may go where you wish, so long as the door remains open. I would prefer you not go out tonight as I would like you to have dinner here with us, if that’s all right.”
“Of course, Takagi-sama,” Takashi bowed yet again.
“Enough, Takashi,” she waved her hand. “I have been oka-san for a long time now. It is more fitting than ever at this moment. Now I have things to do,” she said as she departed.
And a bet to collect on, she didn’t add.
The two of them just stood there for a minute, neither moving, neither knowing just what to say. Typically it was Saya who spoke first.
“Baka!” she jumped at him, then immediately jumped back when he winced.
“Takashi, I’m sorry!” she exclaimed.
“It’s all right,” he smiled. “These are for you, Saya,” he finally was able to release the flowers.
“Th-they’re beautiful,” she told him, lip quivering. She had heard many confessions since entering high school, and had heard a few in lower grades. No boy had ever brought her flowers, however.
“So is this,” he presented her with the tin. She took it, noting where it came from with a grin.
“Oh, I love this place!” she exclaimed. Setting the flowers on the table, she opened the box, looking inside.
“Truffles!” she squealed. “How did you know?” she looked up at him.
“Lucky guess,” he shook his head. “I was told they were popular.”
“Oh, they are,” she nodded, taking one from the box and biting into it, savoring the delicacy of it. She looked at him and a glint appeared in her eyes. She timidly held the half eaten truffle out to him.
“Try it,” she challenged. Without hesitation he leaned forward and took the remaining bite into his mouth directly from her hand. It was surprisingly smooth and very tasty.
“Nice,” he admitted.
“See!” she grinned, looking through the rest of the box. “Oh, I’ll have to save these and enjoy them a little at the time,” she told him. “They’re so rich, you can’t eat much of it at one time.” She closed the box and set it by the flowers.
“Would you like to take a walk?” she asked shyly.
“I would like to do anything you would like to do, so long as I am with you,” he told her earnestly and Saya felt her heart swell.
“Then come on,” she held out her hand. “Let’s walk the grounds. You haven’t been on them in a long time.”
“Takashi, I have to ask you something,” Saya said. They had been walking around outside for an hour. “I want you to answer truthfully, and there is no wrong answer, I just. . .I just want to know.”
“All right,” Takashi nodded.
“Would you have left Miyamoto for me, if I asked you to?”
“Yes,” he replied at once. “If you had asked me to, especially at any time in the last six months, to leave her and be with you, I would have done so.”
“I suppose that makes me very vain to ask such a thing,” she looked down at the ground.
“Not to me,” he shook his head. “You know how important a promise is to me,” he said and she nodded. “Well, now you know that you are more important to me than a promise, Saya.”
She was in his arms before she realized it and he hugged her to him. Without a thought, Saya pressed her lips to his and enjoyed her first ever real kiss standing in her parent’s flower garden.
It wasn’t Takashi’s first kiss, but he decided that it was the first one that had ever really meant anything to him. As kisses went it was fairly chaste, really, but. . .her lips were the sweetest thing he’d ever tasted.
“Wow,” Saya said as she drew back.
“Yeah,” he grinned at her. “I think this garden is my new favorite place in the world,” he teased.
“Mine too,” she grinned back at him, then kissed him again.
Dinner was not the subdued affair he had expected. The four of them gathered around a small table in regular dining room. The talk was relaxed and casual and the food was good, simple traditional Japanese dishes.
When dinner was over, the Takagis, mother and father, said their good-byes and departed for the evening, on their way to a late engagement of some kind. Saya and Takashi spent the rest of the night hand-in-hand, sitting in the library.
“I think we should look at the Samurai period,” Takashi mused as the two of them talked about their upcoming history assignment. “Not all of it, of course, but maybe focus on just one area, one period. Maybe focus on sword making, for instance. Instead of discussing the battles and styles of fighting, we look at the metallurgy and craftsmanship involved in making a sword.”
“Oh, that’s good,” Saya nodded. “I don’t know that many people have bothered with that, Takashi. Mostly everyone wants to talk about Mushashi, or Toshiro Mfume,” she giggled.
“Well, there’s nothing wrong with that, I guess, but if we’re going to do this, then let’s learn something from it, right?”
“Yeah,” she nodded. “I’ll ask my father if he knows someone we can talk to about it. He would be a good place to start of course, but. . .he will probably know an expert we can go and see.”
“Sounds like a plan,” he nodded. He happened to glance at the clock on the mantle.
“Saya, it’s almost ten o’clock,” he said. “I. . .I guess I need to get home,” he hated the words.
“I wish you didn’t have to go,” she told him sadly. “Takashi, I can’t. . .when you walked up here today, I. . .I so, so wanted to be the girl,” she finally said it. “I so wanted to be the one you were working so hard for. I wanted it so badly I can’t even describe it to you. You. . .you made me very happy today, Takashi Komuro,” she kissed him again. “Very happy indeed.”
“I hope to make you very happy on a regular basis for a long time to come,” he told her plainly. “I wanted to believe you would say yes,” he told her. “There was always that fear you wouldn’t, but. . .yesterday, when you said what you did about impressing you, I decided that I had waited long enough. If you were really impressed, then there was no point in waiting, and if you weren’t interested, there was no reason to keep dreaming about it.”
“Takashi, you know I love you, don’t you?” Saya said shyly, looking at the sofa between them.
“I know I love you, Saya,” he told her just as shyly. “I don’t know at our age if what we feel is like something your parents or mine would feel, but. . .I know that I always want to be near you. For now, that’s love, to me.”
“Me too,” she nodded, and he was shocked to see tears in her eyes.
“No, it’s all right,” she told him, wiping her eyes. “I really wanted to be her,” she sobbed suddenly and threw herself into him, sobbing into his shoulder until he could feel the wetness from her tears through her shirt. “I don’t know what I would have done if I wasn’t her.”
“I don’t know what I would do without you,” he told her again, and she laughed in the middle of crying, pulling back to look at him.
“You made me cry on our first date, baka!” she smiled. “I’m telling Poppa!”
“Please don’t,” Takashi smiled back at her. “I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t like it.”
“You should go, I guess,” she admitted, not wanting to release him. “Call me when you get home.”
“Okay,” he nodded, kissing her on the forehead this time. “Good night, Honey Badger,” he grinned.
“Good night, baka.”