The box was large and wrapped in dark blue lotus paper. Yumi sat on her futon behind the box,
a spool of silver ribbon in her hand. Impatiently, she blew an errant lock of hair that kept
sliding into her eye, from her face.
"This is harder than it looks," she muttered, unraveling the ribbon from the wooden spool.
It had taken many attempts to wrap the box, the pile of crumpled blue paper strewn around her
asserting that fact. Even after all she'd gone through trying to wrap the stupid box, the paper
was still wrinkled and one corner was torn. But it looked better than her previous attempts so
she'd left it. Well that and the fact that she'd run out of paper.
She closed her eyes and tried vainly to remember how the shopkeepers had tied ribbon around
the parcels of their customers. Back when she'd been a geisha, shopkeepers had wrapped
everything in beautiful paper and pretty ribbons. It had been all the rage. Of course in those
days, she'd been much too preoccupied with herself to notice something as mundane as parcel
Draping the box with what she hoped was enough ribbon, she grabbed her knife to hack off the
silver material from the spool. Instead, because she was busy assessing the ribbon in proportion
to the box, she accidentally stabbed her finger.
"Kuso!" she swore, dropping the knife and sticking her wounded finger into her mouth. She glared
furiously at the offending knife. "You stupid hunk of crap! How dare you stick me like that!"
A throaty chuckle interrupted her angry tirade. Her lover was leaning against the doorframe,
watching her with amused eyes.
He strode into her room and came to sit down beside her. "Are you hurt, Yumi?"
She quickly shook her head. "Iie! I was just...er...that is to say..."
Well there was no use denying it since he'd seen her screaming at the stupid thing. "I never
realized how hard it is to wrap a box," she told him, sighing. "They always do it so easily in
"That's true," Shishio agreed. He glanced at the awkwardly wrapped box. "That wouldn't be for
Soujirou's birthday tomorrow, now would it?"
"As if I'd waste my time doing all this for that smiling little brat," she scoffed, scornfully.
One gloved finger slid under her chin, forcing her to meet Shishio's flaming gaze. "Then who is
it for Yumi?"
She swallowed, lost in the pure intensity of those dark eyes. "It's for...anou...for...for me!"
He let go of her. "You're wrapping a present for yourself?"
Mentally she smacked herself. Yumi no baka! "Er...I wanted to surprise myself."
Shishio laughed and to her delight kissed her deeply. "You always know how to make me laugh," he
She blushed once more, clutching at his strong shoulders. "Shishio-sama..."
He stroked the smooth slope of her cheek tenderly. "How did you know it's his birthday tomorrow?"
he husked, sliding a finger across her full bottom lip.
Yumi's eyes fluttered shut, shivers streaking down her spine and pooling into her stomach. "I
heard you telling him..."
"Hmm?" He nuzzled her bare neck. "Telling him what?"
She suppressed a moan. "To perfect his Shuku-chi by his...birthday tomorrow."
His scathing tongue skimmed down towards her breasts. "So it is for Soujirou," he whispered
against her soft flesh.
Shishio sneered and kissed her lips soundly. "I knew it."
Yumi blinked rapidly and then it registered. "You tricked me!"
He chuckled. "It was obvious Yumi."
"Well it doesn't look that good," he replied bluntly. "But I doubt Soujirou will care."
"I know that but I care!" she cried. Irritated, she raked her bangs from her face. "Besides I
could care less what goofy twit thinks."
Shishio was hardly fooled. "No one else bothered to get him anything. I certainly didn't waste
my time purchasing some frivolous gift. If he becomes the strongest than that's enough of a
She bit her lip. "I know that."
"Then? Why bother buying a gift if you don't even like him?"
Yumi fiddled with the sleeve of her kimono. She sighed. If Shishio-sama wanted her to say it
then she would have to say it. "I kinda like the boy," she mumbled quickly.
"Well can I help it if he's cute?" she retorted defensively. "And I don't like him that much
anyways. Mostly he's just a brat."
"Baka. You adore the boy."
She gasped. "What makes you think that?!"
Shishio snorted. "Why else do you fuss over what he eats and when he eats it? Why do you do his
laundry and dress his wounds when he's injured? Why do you sneak into his room at night and
close the window when you think no one is looking?"
"Well someone has to," she grumbled, mortified that Shishio-sama knew about her nightly check
ups on the boy. She should have known better. Shishio-sama knew everything. She risked a peek at
her lover. "When I was younger I always wanted a little brother," she whispered hesitantly, her
"Hn," he smirked, just before he kissed her. But his eyes were soft.
Yumi marched briskly into Soujirou's room the next afternoon. "Boy," she barked.
Soujirou was sitting on the floor, polishing his sword. He looked up at her and beamed brightly.
"Konnichiwa Yumi-san," he greeted sweetly.
She lowered the box slightly, her view of the boy obstructed by the sprigs of silver ribbon that
festooned the top of the present. "Happy Birthday Soujirou," she said, her voice unnaturally
Soujirou froze, his eyes wide. His katana slipped from his hands and fell to the floor with a
Yumi blinked, astonished. Was Soujirou feeling something other than happiness? How was that
possible? He had no emotions! "It is your birthday today, isn't it boy?"
He stared up at her and slightly shook his head as though to clear his thoughts. That familiar
smile swiftly slid into place as he stood up. "Sumimasen, Yumi-san," he quickly replied. "Yes,
today is my birthday."
"Yes, well..." she trailed off, at a loss of how to give him the present without appearing like
some mushy, mother-like figure. Finally she simply thrust the box towards him. "Here," she
growled. "Take this."
He took it, staring at it perplexed. "Anou...what is it?"
"Open it and find out," she huffed, crossing her arms across her chest.
"You mean it's for me?!" he blurted out, blinking.
"Baka! Of course it's for you! It's a birthday gift. Haven't you ever gotten a birthday gift
before?" She rolled her eyes. The boy was so dense!
Soujirou was still staring at the box. "Iie," he whispered. "Nobody's ever gotten me a birthday
Her heart clenched at those quiet words and the smile that was stretched across his innocent
He turned, the smile broadening. "But now I've gotten one from you Yumi-san! Can I open it?"
She nodded, not trusting herself to speak. The sudden lump in her throat throbbed sharply.
He knelt down and set the box down upon the floor. "I've never seen anything wrapped so
Yumi felt bitter tears sting her eyes. The box looked perfectly hideous, especially with the
jagged, unraveling ribbon plastered on top. It had taken her ages to figure out how to tie the
ribbon. But he thought it was beautiful...
She knelt down beside him, dashing at her moist eyes, annoyed. Why should she care what the boy
thought? "I wrapped it myself," she declared, haughtily.
Huge dark eyes met her own. "Arigatou Yumi-san."
She tossed her head and looked away. "Humph."
He untied the ribbon slowly and gently placed it beside him. Then he began to painstakingly
unwrap the box, taking extreme care not to tear the paper.
"You don't have to go so slow," she muttered, feeling excited against her better will. Afterall
she'd gone through getting the gift, the boy better like it! Not that she cared, of course.
"I don't want to rip the paper," he confessed. "It's so pretty!"
She repressed the urge to smile. The boy could be so sweet. But that didn't mean she liked him
because she didn't. Kami-sama knew that she didn't care one whit about the boy.
At last all the wrapping was off and folded neatly beside him. He untied the reed ropes that held
the box together and opened the box. He gasped, his eyes perfectly round. "Yumi-san..."
"Well don't just let it sit there," she ordered impatiently. "Take it out and see if it fits!"
Soujirou gently pulled out the clothing from the box, his hands shaking slightly. Her present
consisted of a dark blue hakama, a lighter blue gi whose sleeves and opening were colored a
darker blue and a button-down Western styled grey shirt.
It had taken her about a week to find the clothing. She'd been especially picky because browns
and blacks just didn't seem right for Soujirou. And she'd wanted nice, expensive clothes for the
boy, not cheap knock-offs. The boy's clothing was constantly getting ripped and torn and more
often than not, he looked like a beggar. She could only patch his gi so many times. So in the
end, it had taken her much longer to find the perfect outfit.
"You're in dire need of some good clothing boy," she announced, casting his currant clothing, a
torn brown gi and a pair of grass-stained grey hakama, a repulsed glance. She frowned as
Soujirou just sat there, staring at the folded clothing in his hands. "Well? Aren't you going to
say anything? Do you like them or not?"
The smile on his face was genuine. "They're so soft," he said quietly, stroking the smooth
material of the gi. "I've never had such beautiful clothing before Yumi-san."
Yumi found herself smiling back. "Go try them on. And for God sake's, get rid of those rags
you're wearing right now!"
He nodded, beaming up at her. "Hai!"
He returned a few minutes later, clad in the new, blue outfit. "Does it look alright Yumi-san?"
he asked shyly, fidgeting with his huge sleeves.
She nodded studying him. He did look good. Blue was definitely his color, accentuating the
innocence of his smiling face. But the collar of his shirt was upturned a bit. She went to him
and fussed over it, smoothing and fixing it down.
He blushed. "I didn't know how to wear it," he confessed. "I've never seen anything like it
"It's a shirt that men wear in the West," she informed him, straightening his gi. "It's the
latest style right now."
"I don't know how to say thank you," he murmured softly, his eyes shining up at her.
She wanted to hug him but refrained. "Seeing you dressed decently instead of like a beggar is
"I'll never forget this Yumi san," he whispered. "No one has ever done anything for me like
She brushed away silky strands from his eyes before she could stop herself. "Don't get all mushy
on me now boy. Birthdays are a time to have fun."
He tilted his head, his eyes round. "Fun?"
She nodded, smiling. "Fun. And I've got the perfect idea for some fun and you're going to help
"I am?" he asked, blinking adorably.
She pulled out a tiny jar filled with green paste from the sleeve of her kimono. "Do you know
what this is boy?"
He shook his head. "Iie."
She laughed manically. "This green paste is going straight into Kamatari's face powder! That'll
teach that brazen hussy to try and steal my Shishio-sama!"
Soujirou sweatdropped. "Anou...Yumi-san..."
"Well that male bimbo deserves it," she muttered. Unthinkingly, she reached out and brushed a
stray piece of lint from his gi. "And afterwards we can eat the sweets I bought. But," she
quickly continued, seeing the boy about the thank her, "I didn't buy them for you. They're for
He nodded, beaming at her. "Wakarimashita, Yumi-san."
"Humph." Because afterall, she didn't care.