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— NEW —

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— NEW —

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Deep inside the glittering Heike mansion, there is a small room where no one is allowed to enter. This small room is surrounded by thick walls and a barred door. Contrary to its dark surroundings, the room is lined with colorful cloth and luxurious furnishings. This place filled with disparate yet strangely harmonious items, was called the "bird cage" and was designed to hold one special person in particular.
This person, Shanao, sat in the corner of the room, holding her knees to her chest. Hearing footsteps, she raised her face to the door.
"Hello again, Shanao."
"Tomomori…"
The appearance of Tomomori, the man who had captured her, made Shanao's body tense up.
"You don't look so great. Did you skip your meals again today? That's no good…"
While Tomomori smiled softly, Shanao knew there was no kindness in him. Here in this cage, he ruled mercilessly over her.
"Let me out of here…"
"Oh come now, not again with this…"
"Shut up! I'm going home! I'm going back to my friends!"
Tomomori opened the door and went inside. He walked up to the huddled Shanao and crouched down, peering into her face he spoke like a parent to an obstinate child.
"But you are home. You have no friends. I told you, didn't I? You are to be my wife. You have no need for anything else."
"I refuse!"
Shanao glared at Tomomori, but even she knew how pathetic she must look. Her face was gaunt, all the former strength from her was gone and the light in her eyes had grown dull. Tomomori stared at her as though she was nothing more than a kitten with its claws out.
"You really are something, aren't you?"
"…"
"You trying to hide your fear from me... It's both pathetic and adorable."
"Pathetic?"
"That's right, my love. You are both beautiful and hopelessly pathetic."
When Tomomori reached out for her, she recoiled. She closed her eyes and felt his cold fingers on her cheeks.
"Tell me... If I were to let you go, where would you run to?"
"What?"
"Kurama Temple is no longer your home. The vassals who once served you are gone, scattered to the wind. You have no one."
"..."
"Do you even want to leave...? No...no I don't think you do. I think you want to be here, I think you want to be my pet."
"!"
"Remember? The night I first held you?"
His hands were cold and Shanao shivered.
That night she tried to escape... She was consumed with fear. Worried about her future with no place to turn, it was in that dark place that Tomomori found her. Once she accepted his lies, it was as if she herself had locked herself in this cage.
She always believed she needed to be strong. She had built a wall around her heart. Somehow Tomomori saw through the lies and he exploited the fragility within her.
"I-I…"
Shanao's voice shook as she spoke, and Tomomori pressed his face closer to hers, drinking in her quivering voice.
"You did this to yourself. You chose to reject the fight, to give yourself to me, to give yourself to fate."
"..."
"There's no reason to be ashamed. No one could blame you for making such a choice."
He was right. She shuddered, realizing what she'd done to herself.
"Fear not. I will accept your weaknesses and love you."
Tomomori wrapped his hands around her trembling shoulders. His embrace, loose at first, grew tighter till she was ensnared in his grasp.
Her heart and will broken, she no longer had any strength left to push him away.
"No...don't..."
"No...don't..."
"Very well, I can wait. I told you before, didn't I? I can wait for you forever."
Narrowing his eyes, Tomomori gingerly kissed Shanao's black hair.

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