The Gozoku
Chapter Thirty: The Future

"Destiny does not believe in secrets."
- The Tao of Shinsei

Hantei Kusada had never been able to watch the growth of his other children; they, like his power and dignity, had been calmly and easily taken away. In time, a part of him knew that it would be the same with his daughter; that the Gozoku had promised her to the Matsu, and that she would be sent there for training in little more than a year.

His mind told him not to become attached to the little girl…but his heart would not hear such a thing.

From her early days Kusada knew that there was something special about his daughter; she learned quickly, and loved to listen and speak. Even now, as he sat watching the construction of one of the newer temples the little girl seemed to be everywhere, straying far enough from her parents to worry the miharu guards.

Smiling, Kusada waved them away from her, letting the small child wander over to the sand gardens where the monks were tending to their chores.

"She is going to find out soon that her world is much more difficult than she knows," he said sadly, returning to his seat beside his wife. Ayatsuro gave her husband a small smile; he knew that she felt his sadness, but she was stronger, and never let it show.

"The world is what you make of it, husband. I think that our daughter will find a great destiny."

The Emperor smiled at his wife, closing his mind to the possibility that Keizo, his father, and Inosenko died for something as immutable as "destiny." Turning back to the rising structure, Hantei Kusada just nodded towards the heavens.

"If the Gozoku has taught me nothing else, Ayatsuro, it is that brave men do not rely on fate."

* * *

The monk was much bigger than any man the little girl had seen, and as he sat in the shade of a plum tree she was amazed at how tall he still seemed to be. Lifting his head, the man smiled, his broad face calm and serene. She felt…safe, when he spoke to her.

"Hello, little Yugozohime."

No one had ever called her that name. She would have a name of her own one day, of course, but for now her name was "Ojousama" or "Choujo" if it was her father calling for her. But somehow, the name seemed "right" to her.

At that moment, the little princess was sure she had found her name.

"Hello," Yugozohime said, sinking down to sit before the monk under his tree. "What are you doing?"

"I am just thinking and dreaming," the big monk said with a smile. His eyes were like little fires, "I am sure that you know how wonderful it is to dream."

The little girl nodded, reaching down to play with the grass beneath the tree. The monk smiled as he watched her, and waited until she raised her steel grey eyes to meet him again. "Would you like to talk with me for a while, Yugozohime?"

"Yes," she said with a smile, happy that her friend was done sitting and being silent now. "What will we talk about?"

The monk looked up at the plums for a moment, then smiled. "We shall talk about dreams."

To his surprise, the little girl sat rapt with attention, obviously eager to hear what the man was about to say.

"Dreams are wonderful things, Yugozohime," he continued, "I am sure that you have some wonderful dreams. But in this world, there are many people…and each one has their own dream. Some dreams are the same, and people believe in them together, but other dreams are different, and those two dreams cannot both stay."

"I don't understand," Yugozohime admitted freely.

He smiled sadly, watching as the girl fidgeted with her long black hair. "You will, Yugozohime, I am sure of it. Just remember that everyone has a dream that they believe in, no matter how small the person is, and that brave people have the courage to go and look for that dream."

"What is your dream, Yugozohime?"

The princess shook her head. "I do not know."

"That is all right, Yugozohime," the big monk said kindly. "In time, I am sure that you will find your dream." He rose from his seat, then plucked a plum from the tree and gave it to her. "Promise me that you will keep looking for your dream."

Yugozohime nodded. "I promise that I will not give up."

He smiled. "Neither will I."

* * *

It was late in the day when the Empress went to look for her daughter, excusing herself from her husband as he bantered with Master Gaman about go and other games. Ayatsuro walked to the rear temple followed by her bodyguards, tracking the child by the footprints in the sand gardens until they found her sleeping beneath a tree.

"You have been gone a long time," the Empress said as she woke her little daughter. "I worried for you, for a while."

"I am sorry," she said, rubbing her eyes. "I did not want you to be sad, Okasama."

Ayatsuro smiled at her daughter. "Let us go home, Choujo."

"Yugozohime," the girl told her mother. "That is my name."

"Oh, it is Yugozohime now, is it? Have you received your gempukku while I was gone?"

"No," the little girl admitted to her mother, falling in beside her as they returned to where the Emperor stood in wait, "but Yugozohime is my name. A monk told me."

Ayatsuro smiled at her daughter, seeing that those large grey eyes held no intention of relinquishing their hold on the name. "Very well, Hantei Yugozohime, then I think that you will have the honor of telling the Emperor your new name. He may tease you, though…it sounds like you think you are a little boy instead of a little girl."

The princess made a face at the mention of her father's teasing, but when they came to Kusada she strode bravely forward, facing the Emperor with a determination worthy of her family's line.

"My name is Yugozohime. A monk told me, and I am keeping it."

Hantei Kusada made a strange face like none his daughter had ever seen, then looked at his wife, and even the monks and Seppun for someone to explain. Yugozohime's mother simply fell into a tinkling parade of laughter, but in the end, they let her keep the name.

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