Notes from the shamisen drifted out into the courtyard, drowned out by the sound of the rain on the cobblestones and the rustle of the sakura trees in the tempest winds. Red-lacquered wood arched over the pond in the middle of the courtyard, providing shelter for the fish being pelted by the raindrops. Colorful scales of reds and golds glittered even in the absence of the sun, soft fingertips skimming the rippling water and caressing the spines of the nishikigoi. Mamoru had never been one for parties; he was a warrior, not an accessory.

His kimono was ruined. The silk was drenched and bunched up around his knees in creases that could only be smoothed by one with the utmost patience, one long sleeve trailing into the pond. He was carelessly draped over the bridge, one arm serving as a makeshift pillow as the other dangled above the water, now-familiar fish nibbling at his fingertips. His legs were curled upward, knees to his chest, leaving him in the fetal position, kimono in disarray and exposing his legs to mid-thigh. The kimono he wore was blood red in colour, lilac-tinged orchids decorating the garment in choice places--his sleeves, the hem, the curve of his hips. Long gone were his geta and tabi, the clips that held his hair back and away from his face lost to the veritable waterfall that the rain running off the steps leading to the courtyard created.

Mamoru's eyes--grey as the churning clouds above--followed the movements of a hire naga koi as it swam, its long, wing-like fins shimmering beneath the water as it approached and gently bumped its head against Mamoru's fingers; he reached down to stroke the animal, his attention zeroing in on it. His master didn't approve of hire naga koi--preferring the more traditional nishikigoi over the modern hybrids--but he had indulged Mamoru's whim when he'd shown interest in this particular specimen. It was a gold that shamed the sun, fins pearlescent and scales forever appearing as if they were forged of diamonds. Feelings stirred at the sight of this fish, feelings that he had to analyze to be able to adequately describe. Preference. Fondness. This fish was his favorite.

Footsteps drew him out of his reverie. Mamoru looked up to watch a man approach him, hands in the pockets of his trousers and the jacket of his suit fluttering wildly in the wind. Daniel Leeds' blonde hair was quickly plastered to his face by the rain, his eyes hidden by sunglasses--eyes that Mamoru knew to be blue, and knew were trained solely on him. He quietly gathered himself up and stood, managing a graceful bow despite the state of his clothing. After all, one needed to show deference to one's master.

"Mamoru." The one word managed to sound like a greeting and an admonishment.

"Goshujin-sama," Mamoru acknowledged with the adequate level of respect. Only his master called him by his given name so freely.

"Look at me." Mamoru did so. "You're supposed to be inside."

"With all due respect, Goshujin-sama," Mamoru demurred, "I do not belong among civilians. I am not programmed for fraternization."

Daniel's brows quirked up. "Do you want to be programmed for fraternization?"

Mamoru paused. His master would ultimately do what he pleased, but it wasn't often that Mamoru's opinion on a subject was called for. "It is not my wish," he answered belatedly.

"Very well." Daniel offered his arm; Mamoru took it without question. "Just suffer through another hour with them and you may retire."

"Thank you, Goshujin-sama."