Dinner that night wasn't the most pleasant experience in the world. Eight people, seven male and one female, sat at a long, oval dinning table. The wooden piece was covered in a crisp, white tablecloth that fluttered off of the sides and teased the hardwood floor. There was a magnificent center piece, which was in the shape of an old candelabra, or a barren tree, depending how you looked at it. Teardrop-shaped crystals hung from the outstretching branches, and were illuminated by small tea light candles around the bottom of the piece. It was absolutely beautiful, and definitely showcased Lord Kazunari's wealth.

Seated at the head of the table was, no surprise, Kazunari. He was dressed to the nines in a black Brioni Vanquish II, with his hair pushed back. Clipped to the ends of his shirt collar was a white-gold chain, that had a large blue diamond pendant attached to it. The blues of the gem brought out the blue hues in his eyes, making them shine. He had on no tie, since it would clash with the gemstone. Beside him, seated on the right side of the table was his supposed "guest of honor", Satsuki Momoi, still dressed in her revealing red dress. Her hand was resting on the Lord's arm, and her breasts were practically spilling over the table as she giggled at any and every word that spilled from the man's lips.

Seated next to Satsuki was Daiki, looking quite uncomfortable with the situation. Well, whether he was uncomfortable or annoyed, it was hard to tell. He constantly held a wineglass in his right hand, but only occasionally took a sip from it. From the frown lines on his face, he seemed to be deep in thought. Across from him, Ryōta was trying to make conversation with Taiga, but anyone who really knew the blonde could tell he was forcing himself to be energetic. Nestled in his amber eyes was a nervousness that must have originated from the happy couple at the end of the table, or possibly from the vibe Daiki was giving off.

Tetsuya was sitting quietly across from Taiga, sipping at his water calmly. Despite his cool exterior, Tetsuya was uneasy from the atmosphere of the dining hall, especially since only two of the eight people were talking. The bluehead hated seeing his superior and friends anxious like this - well, he could hardly call Taiga's mood anxious. It was more unease, rather than anxiety. Even though they were highly ranked commanding general's in the army, they could not ignore the mood of this room, and how awkward the situation was - knowing your friend was marrying someone he didn't love, or even like. Yet he was a few feet away, flirting and chatting casually when the real object of his affection was standing a few feet away, awaiting his next order.

Seijūrō and Atsushi were at the opposite end, one drinking wine and the other fruit-flavored water. The two did their best to keep their opinions neutral, but even they had a slight bias. The Prince could see, although he tried his best to hide it, that Shintarō was very on the fence about this situation. The man looked hurt by his Master flinging around compliments left and right, as if flattery was as easy as breathing air. The redhead could see the butler's fingers twitch whenever Satsuki touched Kazunari, and took note of the dangerous glint in his eyes. He imagined that if he was pissed off enough, that the man would have no trouble beating someone up. Thinking back on the situation between the two, the Prince considered if Shintarō beefed up because he couldn't last on his own in the streets. But after a moment's thought, he shrugged and sipped at his wine.

A resounding clap caught everyone's attention, "Shintarō. Please bring out the first course."

Everyone took note of the way he stiffly bowed, and exited the room. The man was stuck between a rock and a hard place, but sadly had to stare his problem straight in the face for a few more hours - and, possibly, for the rest of his time here. Before they knew it, a few butlers and maids carried out the first course: miso soup with mussels. The dish was beautifully prepared and dished, bringing everyone's anxiety to a temporary pause. Everything from presentation to aroma to serving size had been taken into consideration, which was all Shintarō's doing, no doubt. Honestly, the man thought of everything.

Everyone ate their soup in relative peace, until…

"Mussels?!" A certain pinkhead cried, dropping her spoon with a clatter. A look of annoyance flashed across Kazunari's face for a second before he forced his features into a concerned expression.

"Oh? What's wrong, my Dear? Do you not like mussels?" His voice was dripping in concern, and one may have noticed the underlying tone that said 'I don't care what you want, stop whining'. Whether anyone actually noticed or not was a different story entirely.

"No! They're so gross!" She cried, her lips pressed in a pout. "How dare you feed me something so disgusting!"

"Oh, my word." everyone at the table simultaneously complained to themselves, continuing to eat as if a grown woman wasn't throwing a tantrum like a toddler.

"Ah, I'm sorry, Darling." The Lord sat up and clapped his hands. "Shintarō. Will you prepare a soup without mussels for my fiancée? She seems to not enjoy them." He gave his favorite butler his winning smile, acting like his normal self.

"The nerve."

Shintarō walked up and bowed. "My apologies, my Lady."

"Whatever, just get. it. away from me!" she exclaimed, crossing her arms over - more like under- her chest.

The butler hid his agitation, taking the bowl from her presence and disappearing through the double doors that led to the main kitchen. Kazunari did not miss the flash of agitation in his butler's eyes, which made his stomach heavy with guilt.

As the greenhead left, the atmosphere of the room went from somewhat peaceful to unbearably awkward. Daiki was about ready to smack her when Shintarō walked back in, with a bowl of simple miso soup in hand. The room was quiet as he set the bowl down, bowed, then backed up so he was out of the way.

Several maids came to switch courses a few minutes later, setting down the second course: tofu with crab sauce. Kazunari looked very pleased with the dish, which made the greenhead smile a bit. It was still his birthday, after all. No matter how confused he was about him and Satsuki, the feelings he had for his Master wouldn't change that easily.

"Is this dish to your liking, Lady Momoi?" One of the maids asked, a polite smile plastered on her face.

"Yes, thank you very much." Satsuki said, eating her tofu. There was an universal breath of relief when she accepted the dish.

The last two dishes consisted of chirashi sushi, and miso glazed black cod with sautéed broccoli. Each dish, as expected, was prepared magnificently and under Shintarō's guidance. Over the past two years, Kazunari had to admit the man could cook. Before him, his usual butlers and maids prepared the dish just as well, but there was always something extra when his favorite butler made it, and he could never figure out what it was.

While the Lord was eating, his mind traveled to the conversation he had with Satsuki earlier that day:

"I understand your reasons, Momoi. But I still cannot accept this proposal." Kazunari spoke, holding the letter in his hands.

"Takao, let me clear something up." She smiled, leaning forward. "I know you want your precious butler, and I also happen to know that he wants you too. It's pretty obvious by how you both look at each other."

Kazunari swallowed, leaning back in his seat. "I don't need you pointing out something I already know. Yeah, I have a thing for my butler. And yeah, I know it's wrong to feel this way for another guy. But I can't help that he makes me feel something women never did." He looked down, huffing. "There's one thing I can't agree with, though."

"And what would that be?" Satsuki asked.

"I can't agree with what you said…that he wants me too. I'm just a hero to him, someone who picked him up when he fell down one too many times. He could have died if I hadn't taken him in…how would he ever see me as an equal?"

She frowned, muttering, "Isn't that a very self-righteous claim?"

"Huh?" He looked up. "How so?"

"Do you know that he feels that way?"

He frowned as well, thinking. "Um…not really. But, I'm almost 90% positive it's how he feels."

She groaned, face-palming. "Ugh, men. So simple yet so stupid."

"Excuse me?"

"So, let me make you an offer." Satsuki geared the conversation back on track, ignoring his question.

The young Lord wasn't sure whether or nor this offer would be pleasant, but after a moment's consideration, he decided: "Why the fuck not?" "What's your offer?"

A cunning smile slowly spread across Satsuki's face, and her arms were crossed over her chest. "Marry me, and help me dump my responsibilities into a joint company. In exchange, I wouldn't mind if you actually had a side relationship with that pretty-boy-butler of yours."

He wasn't sure what to make of this offer. "I-I can't do that to you. Even if I don't like you that much, I can't make you a pawn."

The pinkhead sighed, rolling her eyes. "I'm the one proposing this deal. After we merge companies and I give you an heir, we can part ways. I won't bother you, and you can have your butler in your bed, right where you want him."

Kazunari looked down, the idea tempting. "But how would Shintarō react to this? He certainly wouldn't be pleased. I couldn't hide it from him…yet…"

"Not only would you get what you want, it would also get the suitors off your back, as well as solve the commitment problem a lot of your business partners are worried about." She added, noticing his uncertainty. "Killing a lot of birds with one stone."

"And the last dish." Shintarō's voice broke him out of his reverie, and his eyes drifted towards him. He was bent forward, bowing towards the guests. The other butlers brought out the dessert, and some cold sake. "Yuzu crème brûlée." After his little trip down (recent) memory lane, Kazunari couldn't help but shiver at the sound of his voice.

"Oh boy, this is going to be tough."

Somehow, Kazunari managed to make it through the rest of his birthday meal, and the downtime in the upper parlor he had with his company after. Fortunately, Satsuki had been summoned home by her father. All the men at the gathering felt they could take a breath of relief.

"You're really marrying her?" Daiki asked, drinking his sake. He didn't look as if he was upset, it was more like concern.

"Yes, I am." Kazunari smiled a tight smile, his leg crossed over his knee. He hadn't told his friends of the circumstances surrounding the marriage, but he planned on telling Shintarō that night. Soon.

"I wish you all the luck in the world." Ryōta giggled, having had too much to drink already. His cheeks were flushed and his eyes bright, something Daiki had a hard time ignoring.

"Such a lightweight." The Lord thought he heard the dark-skinned male mutter under his breath, but couldn't be sure.

"Despite my fiancée's outbursts and our announcement, I hope you all had a wonderful time." The host said, a genuine smile on his lips. "You all are truly the best friends anyone could ask for." He raised his cup, "To us."

Everyone raised their cups as well, Ryōta a bit more sloppily, "To us!" they exclaimed, and downed their drinks.

Next chapter will be all about Takao and Midorima! Review if you wish :)