21 - To Tie Together

“Miyo.”

Her name was called.
His voice was soft, making this the first time she had been this happy to be called.

“Can you tie my hair with this?”
“Yes. …With pleasure.”

Kiyoka picked up the hair tie and held it out to her. Miyo accepted it and knelt down behind him.

His beautiful hair didn’t feel like a part of an actual human body.
Directly touching it made this very clear. It was smooth and sleek like silk threads. She inadvertently let out a sigh in envy.
If Kiyoka was a woman, this would definitely be a boastful charm point.

Her hands trembled at this sensation like she was handling an expensive treasure.

“I-I’ve finished.”

She managed to tie a simple and loose bind on the hair. She trailed the hair down to the front of his shoulder so he could see the hair tie.
The hair tie Miyo made ended up befitting Kiyoka’s faint, brown hair more than she had imagined now that the two were together.

—The string was violet. It was elegant without being flashy; perfect for Kiyoka.

“What a beautiful color.”

Kiyoka grabbed the tip of the hair tie and let out this compliment.

(Ah, what should I do? My heart is too loud…)

This sound was definitely different from “fear.”

“Thanks. I’ll treasure it well.”

“Y-yes.”

She couldn’t respond properly to his delight.
Miyo felt so fulfilled that she believed from the bottom of her heart that she was glad to have come to this home, glad to have met this person.

“Hana, are you leaving already?”

After everything had settled, Hana appeared and told them, “I should be taking my leave now.” Miyo went with Kiyoka and Yurie to see her off at the entranceway.

Hana was apparently having tea with Yurie when Miyo and Kiyoka were talking. Miyo felt a little ashamed that she took time out of Hana’s day.

“Yes. However, I’ll return home after I do some sightseeing…since Lord Kudou has prepared a stay at a fine inn for me.”

Oh, so that was what happened.
Kiyoka had been taking care of everything so Miyo couldn’t thank him enough. But, it would probably end with him saying, “Don’t worry about it.”
He already had also his subordinate, Godou, bring the automobile over when Hana came by. As such, Miyo secretly decided that she needed to give some kind of thanks.

“My lady, let’s meet each other again soon. I still have much I want to talk to you about.”
“Yes. I, too…want to see you again.”

Miyo no longer had a master-servant relationship with Hana.
Now, they could go shopping or eat a meal together…at any time.

“Hana. Thank you…very, very much. If I didn’t meet you and hear those words, I might have stayed cooped up in my room.”
“I am honored to have been of use to you. I’m also glad for the opportunity to meet you after you’ve grown into such a beautiful and mature woman.”

The two held hands and exchanged smiles.
They were reluctant to let go but did when they heard the sound of an engine approaching and an automobile stopping within the grounds.

“You came, huh. Sorry about this, Godou.”
“No problem~. We had that kind of agreement beforehand anyway.”

The one who popped their head out of the automobile’s window was Godou.
Miyo had only met him once, but he looked as relaxed as usual. He only looked like one of the few elite members of the Anti-Supernatural Task Force because of the military uniform he was wearing.

He had apparently come here because Kiyoka had instructed him to take Hana to her inn.

“The guards?”
“There currently aren’t any. I don’t think they were notified of anything today.”

The whispers between Kiyoka and Godou didn’t reach the ears of Miyo, Yurie, or Hana.
The reason why Kiyoka wasn’t driving the automobile this time was to prevent that suspicious shiki from discovering Hana’s existence and involving her, but Miyo and the others didn’t need to know.

“Well, Mrs. Hana, shall we go~?”
“Yes, thank you very much.”

Miyo watched as Hana stepped into the automobile. Then, she made eye contact with Godou and lowered her head in a grateful gesture. In response, he showed a charming smile and withdrew back into the automobile.

“…Don’t make such a face. You can meet whoever you want from now on.”

As they watched the automobile leave, Kiyoka placed his hand on Miyo’s shoulder and said such.

(Did I really make such a depressing face?)

As she tilted her head, she touched her cheeks with both hands. …She didn’t really understand.

“Husband, thank you very much.”

For comforting her like this now. For allowing her to meet Hana. For accepting Miyo for who she was.
Her “thanks” properly encompassed all of that.

“Don’t worry about it.”

Those simple words filled Miyo and she reflectively smiled.

* * *

“…Tsk.”

Tatsuishi crumbled the bird-shaped shiki he had scattered around after they had finally returned.

After the first ones were all burned, he thought that he shouldn’t have any trouble observing Kudou Kiyoka, but it seemed that he had been running in circles since he couldn’t find what he was looking for.
Rather than Kiyoka, Tatsuishi was more interested in Miyo, but he couldn’t confirm sight of her at all. He couldn’t even tell if ever she entered or left the Kudou manor.

‘Please listen, Uncle. My sister has been shamelessly staying at Lord Kudou’s manor. Even though the best she could do is act as a servant like that.’

Recently, Kaya had been visiting the Tatsuishi household and complaining of such even though there was still no proof supporting her.

He played along with this spoiled daughter for the possibility that he could use her, but she provided absolutely no useful information.

‘Mr. Kouji supports her, and I wasn’t feeling very well that day…’

But, she had witnessed a wonderful gentleman.

The person Kayo described with flushed cheeks was definitely Kudou Kiyoka.
He knew that that youngster had visited the Saimori household. Although he didn’t know what was discussed, he guessed from Kayo’s conversations that Kiyoka must have gone there to complain that they sent him a poor excuse of a woman in Miyo.
One could only see Miyo as a servant if one didn’t understand her true worth.
Since the atmosphere in the Saimori household wasn’t very good, Kiyoka must have demanded nuisance money from them.

(That’s why Miyo should’ve been handed over to me from the beginning.)

It was truly foolish of them.

Tatsuishi ignored his own shortcomings while internally cursing the Saimori household.

(However, at last.)

Once Miyo is expelled from the Kudou household, he’ll protect her and make her a daughter of the Tatsuishi household. When that happens, everything shall be in its proper place.

He would soon learn that Kiyoka planned on making Miyo into his official fiancée, but until then, Tatsuishi chuckled to himself as he hurried to enact his plan.