Ai Shizuka sat silently in her confined room as she watched the swaying trees in the face of stormy weather. A vast land of vegetations surrounded her accommodation, placing her in a lonely and secluded existence.
One of the trees stood out single-handedly, despite not having protections from its surroundings. The lone tree remained rooted despite shivering violently from the strong winds.
How admirable, she thought.
Suddenly her door swung opened, announcing the arrival of the lord, Jin Omaru.
Jin Omaru... She remembered the first time she heard his name, she was only 16 by then. Everyone had spoken high praises of him, from his refined appearance to his successful accomplishments. Silly girl she was, she had unknowingly fallen for him even before she met him in person.
Despite Jin's reluctance, Ai had done everything she could to have him by her side. From convincing her father about the marriage to removing any competitions for Jin's affection, she had done everything in the name of love.
To her, Jin only deserved the best and she was the only who could provide that.
Someone cleared their throat succinctly, directing her attention back to the present. She was greeted by the usual expressionless face of Jin. His eyes stone-cold and unfeeling as he stared at the ex-mistress of the household, Ai Shizuka.
The ex-mistress sat silently in her worn-out light blue kimono, with her silver hair fell limply past her waist. Despite the shabby clothes and apparent lack of care in her appearance, Ai remained an unwavering beauty that can make men stop dead in their tracks.
Jin stood staring, still entranced by the beauty of the woman whom he had shared countless intimate nights with.
Suddenly he felt a soft tag on his sleeves, an innocent pair of violet eyes gazed back at him, reminding him of why he came to the confined room in the first place.
Miko Yamato, Magistrate's daughter and his current mistress stood beside him, looking at him expectantly as she tagged on his sleeves once more impatiently.
Snapping his attention back, Jin relayed the verdict to Ai stoically.
"Ai Shizuka, you are now stripped of your affiliation to Omaru household and exiled from the Shinto province. This is the result of Shizuka family betraying the Shinto clan and the heads of Shizuka family had been executed."
As immediate as it was, the calm eyes of ex-mistress flashed with many emotions.
Shock.. grief.. anger... madness.
Suddenly the grief-stricken lady started to laugh humourlessly. Her whole body shook violently with twisted laughter, while tears flowed down her cheeks unrestrained.
Despite her mad appearance, Jin's heart ached. He couldn't do anything to help her family. Like Ai, her family was stubborn and loyal, doing everything for their young miss, be it morally right or wrong. After all, this punishment was fair and just. They only received what was coming for them.
"Papa...and brother.... the-they did it for me... now they are gone... it's all my fault...an-and... it's also your fault!", Ai muttered in a disturbed frenzy as her pale golden eyes snapped to Jin and Miko's direction.
Subconsciously, Jin's hands reach out to hold Ai. But he was immediately interrupted when the latter suddenly lunged with a silver concealed weapon.
In a reflex, Jin blocked out the attack and tried to take the weapon away. But Ai was too far gone. In her maddened state and struggle, the weapon ended up logged in her chest as blood started to pool through her clothes.
Jin pulled his hands away from the bloodstained knife as he caught the falling Ai into his arms. For the first time in his life, tears started to gather in the eyes of the cold expressionless lord.
Gone was the fierce lady with many manipulative schemes, gone was the headstrong girl who constantly chased after him. Instead, laying in his arms limply was the pale broken body of a former temptress.
Jin's whole body shook with sobs as Ai shakily reached out to cup the face of her beloved one last time, smearing his handsome face with blood from her bloodstained hands.
With a bittersweet smile, Ai choked out tiredly, "Jin Omaru, if I get to live another life, I promise... I promise that I won't ever fall in love with you again."
With that vow in mind, Ai closed her eyes and fully embraced the darkness that enveloped her.