A/N: Hi guys! I'd first like to apologize for getting this chapter out so late. Life was hectic and weird and terrible (?) and I've had to change my medication three different times as I spiraled into a self-loathing pool of side effects and angst LOL. I know this chapter might not be the best but I just wanted to get it out there. I'm slowly trying to get back into writing this so hopefully I can finish this fic. I'm also going back to school to finish my degree after YEARS of being out of school so umm expect slow updates if any as I try to adjust to being a student again. Again I AM SO SORRY FOR MAKING Y'ALL WAIT FOR SO LONG. I really want to finish this fic so hopefully I can soon. Anyway Happy Holidays!

The early morning had come and went. The couple had proceeded with their day as usual and were now leaving their apartment. Lina was sending them off at the door as Miyuki gave her instructions in case anything should happen while they were gone.

"Don't worry Miyuki! I got this!" Lina said eagerly as she waived the couple off with a smile on her face.

"Alright, but don't hesitate to call us if anything happens." Miyuki said in a slightly worried tone. While the couple knew Lina was an accomplished soldier and powerful magician, Lina's childlike behavior often gave the couple the impression that she couldn't be left alone for more than a couple of days. There was a dissonance between Lina the soldier and Lina their friend. The couple worried at leaving their friend alone.

Miyuki and Tatsuya arrived at the main house a little past lunch time. The main house had already been informed ahead of time that they would be eating a late lunch at the mansion. Miyuki and Tatsuya were shown to the dining room where a meal had been prepared for the two of them. Tatsuya and Miyuki sat across from each other. Miyuki was a bit uneasy and was fidgeting under the table.

"Tatsuya-sama..." Miyuki started.

Tatsuya saw Miyuki's discomfort and was at a loss for its cause. They had only just arrived at the mansion and have yet to meet Maya. There weren't any incidents on their way here either. Tatsuya was genuinely puzzled.

"Miyuki, what's wrong?" Tatsuya's voice was full of concern.

Miyuki had actually wanted to ask Tatsuya what happened during his meeting with Kouichi last night but she got distracted when they started flirting. She wanted to open the topic earlier at their home in Chofu but Lina was there and she wasn't sure if the topic could be discussed with outsiders present. And after that it was Hyougo who brought them to the main house. This was the first time, today, that they were alone to discuss last night's events.

"About last night, with Saegusa-dono..." Miyuki asked hesistantlty. She wasn't sure if she wanted to know. They say ignorance is bliss but she couldn't afford to be ignorant. To win a war, you not only needed to know yourself but also your enemy. Miyuki steeled herself, she needed to know what had happened.

Tatsuya could already get the gist of what Miyuki wanted to say but he hesitated. He knew telling Miyuki would only worry her but he also knew Miyuki had the right to know. Miyuki was the future clan head and as such should be privy to the movements of the other clans. Moreover, Miyuki is his fiancée and he didn't want to keep secrets from her, especially secrets that impacted his personal life.

Tatsuya didn't wait for Miyuki to finish her sentence.

"Miyuki, I need you to be calm when I tell you what happened okay?" Tatsuya said gently as he moved to sit next to Miyuki. He turned to face her and she turned to face him as well. Tatsuya held both of Miyuki's hands in his.

"Last night, Saegusa-dono proposed that I marry Saegusa-senpai." Agitation quickly grew on Miyuki's face but Tatsuya squeezed Miyuki's hands to calm her. She felt Tatsuya squeeze her hands and looked up to see his reassuring face. Miyuki took a deep breath to steady herself. Tatsuya's touch always had a calming effect on her.

"I rejected his offer and left their estate. I don't think he's the type to take no for an answer but I'm just as stubborn as well. I will never leave you Miyuki and I won't let anyone tear us apart. I promise." Tatsuya looked into Miyuki's eyes. His gaze was full of determination and conviction. It was unthinkable for Tatsuya to ever leave Miyuki.

Miyuki's shoulders relaxed at Tatsuya's reassuring words. She had complete faith in Tatsuya's words. Once Tatsuya promised Miyuki something, he would move heaven and earth to fulfill that promise. Miyuki could put her mind at ease. The rest of the conversation went more smoothly, or as smoothly as it could go considering the topic. Miyuki's eyes widened when she heard everything that Kouichi was offering. Though she agreed that the offer seemed too good to be true, Miyuki still felt a sharp pang of guilt. What Kouichi was offering was essentially Tatsuya's freedom, and that was something that Miyuki could only give when she was clan head. Tatsuya had been a servant of the Yotsuba for so long and even now there were still others in the clan who looked at him with contempt. Miyuki felt it unfair to ask Tatsuya to stay in a place where he had been used and abused, where others still saw him as a monster. Miyuki's mood dampened at the thought of being her beloved's chains once again.

After their meal, Tatsuya suggested that they take a short stroll around the mansion grounds. Their earlier conversation had put a damper on Miyuki's mood and he wanted to lighten it a bit. There was a well manicured courtyard in the middle of the mansion and since it was spring the flowers were in full bloom. Tatsuya intertwined his fingers with Miyuki's as they took in the scenery.

The little stroll fulfilled its purpose as Miyuki's mood seemed to recover. Tatsuya and Miyuki were strolling the garden, hand in hand with their fingers intertwined as Miyuki firmly pressed herself against Tatsuya. Tatsuya smiled lovingly at his fiancée. After their walk, they had retired to their room to prepare for tonight's dinner. They had been given the same Japanese style room as the one on New Year's, the night they were engaged. Miyuki and Tatsuya walked into the room for the first time since that fateful night, looked at each other and chuckled. Though the room had not changed, they had. It felt refreshing to be back where it all began and see how far they've come. Tatsuya and Miyuki walked around the room inspecting their belongings. Their bags had already been emptied and items stowed away but the couple was not checking for anything missing. They were not worried about theft as the staff in the Yotsuba were not only well trained but a deep sense of loyalty had been ingrained into their minds that stealing from them would never be an issue. Tatsuya and Miyuki were simply checking where the items were placed for ease of access later.

While they were familiarizing themselves with the layout of their possessions, Hyougo knocked on their door. He slid the door open and informed the couple that the dinner would be held at the dining room on the east wing of the mansion. This was not the formal dining room that they had used when Maya announced Miyuki to be the next clan head but rather this was the daily use dining room for occupants of the house and those from the main branch. Hyuogo had also told them that Maya had said that there was no need to wear something so formal as it was only a meeting between family. Tatsuya raised his eyebrow as Hyougo gave his last instructions. It seemed to Tatsuya that Maya was relishing his acceptance at playing the part of his son a bit too much.

Though the couple had been instructed to treat this as a family dinner rather than a meeting with the head of the clan, they still thought it prudent to change. They had been travelling and their clothes wrinkled. They also wanted to freshen up before having dinner. They changed into outfits that while not exactly home wear, it was still more formal than plain casual clothes. Tatsuya wore a white button down polo shirt tucked into dark colored pants and wore dark leather shoes that matched his belt. Miyuki wore a plain white dress that stopped mid-calf, to match Tatsuya. It was a sleeveless structured dress with a high neckline and she paired it with beige kitten heels and natural makeup.

Tatsuya and Miyuki arrived at the dining room a few minutes before the agreed upon time and were shocked to find Maya already seated at the table. Maya gestured for the couple to sit down.

"We are very sorry we are late, Haha-ue" Tatsuya bowed with Miyuki following his lead.

"Ara ara, you don't need to apologize Tatsuya-san. I finished my work early hence I came straight to the dining room. Please sit down." Maya smiled.

Tatsuya and Miyuki sat next to each other across from Maya with Maya being directly across from Tatsuya and Miyuki diagonal to her. Hayama clapped his hands when everyone was seated and servants came in with their food.

While the food looked delicious and was no doubt made by the private chef of the mansion, it definitely was decidedly less formal than any meal they had shared with Maya before. The dishes were presented in an ordinary fashion with no excessive flourishes or garnishes. If a stranger were to happen onto this scene, he would think it was a family enjoying an ordinary meal. Though he would not be technically wrong, the dynamic of the relationships between the three people seated were definitely not those of an ordinary family. Tatsuya stared at the food served in suspicion.

"Don't be shy. Eat as much as you want before it gets cold." Maya encouraged the couple to eat as she scooped a spoonful of Japanese style curry rice.

"Don't worry, I can assure you it isn't poisoned" Maya teased before taking a bite.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to be rude, Haha-ue" Tatsuya began to eat and Miyuki followed suit.

The meal continued peacefully and they engaged in idle chit chat about current events and other topics but Miyuki and Tatsuya never stopped using polite language.

"Tatsuya, Miyuki, why are you being so formal with me? Didn't Hyougo-san tell you that this was an informal dinner, you don't need to use such polite language around me right now. In fact, I had also said that you need not change. You two are dressed too formally for a simple family dinner." Maya's lips mischievously curled upwards at the end of her sentence.

"We are sorry, Haha-ue. Seeing that it would be a dinner with you, Miyuki and I thought it was still necessary to dress formally as a sign of respect." Though Tatsuya's words were polite, his tone was emotionless. He was going through the motions of acting as Maya's son and Maya was delighted.

"I guess I can forgive you for this slight indiscretion seeing as my son has not made it intentionally."

The meal was winding down and only Maya, Hayama, Tatusya and Miyuki remained in the room. Maya looked to Hayama and nodded her head. Hayama then proceeded to lock the doors. It seems that Maya did not wish to be disturbed while they had their conversation.

"Tatsuya, why don't we start with what Kouichi talked to you about?" Maya's smile though sweet had a certain bloodlust behind it. It was as if her teeth were dripping with a fatal invisible venom.

Tatsuya was unfazed by Maya's demeanor. Whatever issue Maya had with Kouichi did not interest him and in any case he was not a party to the conflict. Tatsuya proceeded to tell Maya exactly what had happened at the Saegusa estate and Kouichi's offer in a very matter of fact fashion. At times, when Mayumi's presence or her behavior was mentioned, Maya's eyebrow seemed to twitch. Maya also got visibly irritated when Kouichi offered Tatsuya the role of heir and next head of the clan, that was something even she herself could not offer. After Tatsuya finished, Maya's demeanor though still polite had an agitated edge bubbling beneath the surface.

"So what did you tell Kouichi?" Maya asked in a sickly sweet voice.

"I declined his offer. I would never leave Miyuki." Tatsuya's answer was firm and resolute but Maya wanted to test his resolve.

"But he even offered you the position of next clan head? That seems like such a waste." Maya's eyes were cold and calculating as if she were sizing up Tatsuya in a fight.

"I have no such ambitions. Money and power mean nothing to me without Miyuki." Tatsuya once again answered matter of factly. It was true. Tatsuya had no desires for such material things if it meant that Miyuki would not be with him. As far as Tatsuya was concerned, Kouichi's offer was as good as day old garbage left on the sidewalk to rot.

Maya showed a satisfied smile at her son's answer. He would not be leaving Miyuki and Miyuki could not leave the Yotsuba. If an offer as attractive as Kouichi's could not sway Tatsuya, then nothing will. Though Maya knew she had nothing to worry about from the beginning, she was still decidedly on edge when she heard Kouichi's offer. Perhaps her judgement was clouded at the thought of Kouichi snatching away her precious son; the personification of her revenge.

"Now then..." Maya clapped her hands to signal the end of the current topic "I have much to discuss with the two of you." Maya was now looking at both Tatsuya and Miyuki with serious eyes.

"You two are already familiar with His Excellency Todou Aoba but I must also orient you on the organization he is a member of called the Senate."

Maya's talk with the couple dragged on for hours. She explained the basics of the way the Senate operated, who the four elders were, some other known members and the position Todou Aoba held within the organization. She also further expanded on the nature of the relationship that the Yotsuba have with Aoba. Maya also encouraged questions from the couple, most especially Miyuki, and answered them when she could with a thorough explanation but some questions could only be answered with hands-on experience. Maya informed Miyuki that she would soon start her training as the next clan head. Miyuki would soon need to visit the main house more frequently and learn more about the structure of the clan, the business interests they held, the political allies and enemies they had and the side jobs assigned to them by the government. Though the task was daunting, Maya assured Miyuki that she would be there to guide and train her and Hayama would also be there. She also said that they were looking into a new retainer for her since Minami was no longer available. Finally, Maya added that Miyuki would need to live at the main house full time after graduation to attend to these duties and seeing as they would be married, that would mean Tatsuya would live here as well.

"If you have no more questions, that concludes our little talk about the Senate and your future duties." Maya looked at Miyuki with a sweet smile.

Miyuki and Tatsuya bowed gratefully towards Maya as they were escorted to the bath by other servants. Maya sipped her tea in satisfaction.

"That went rather well." Maya smiled.

"Yes, congratulations Madam. Tatsuya-sama has fully embraced his new identity and Miyuki-sama seems eager to learn more about managing the family business" Hayama replied.

"Yes. Tatsuya will never leave now and it seems like he's willing to fight to stay in the Yotsuba. Though, that isn't very surprising given the situation. Who would have thought that the child who was planning to escape is now willing to fight to stay?" Maya let out a soft chuckle.

"It truly was a clever plan, Madam. Once again I must offer my congratulations."

"Thank you, Hayama-san."

Tatsuya and Miyuki arrived from their baths to find a two person futon set up in their room. The couple looked at each other and awkwardly chuckled. The situation was both amusing and slightly embarrassing. They haven't slept together since their first date and given Tatsuya's decision to abstain from a physical relationship until marriage neither one tried to suggest sleeping in the same room as the other.

"I'll go ask for another futon." Miyuki was walking towards the door when Tatsuya grabbed her wrist.

"No. There's no need for that. Haha-ue had this set up and it would be rude to decline the gesture. We can sleep in the same futon while we're here." Tatsuya smirked mischievously at Miyuki before they shared a wry chuckle between them. This situation felt all too familiar. Tatsuya climbed into the futon with Miyuki using him as an arm pillow. Miyuki settled herself into Tatsuya's body before they both drifted off to sleep.

When morning broke, Tatsuya did not deviate from his schedule and chose to train in the supposedly defunct Fourth Institute with some guardian hopefuls. Though Tatsuya did not particularly look on his days in guardian training fondly in particular, he did not hate them as well. Tatsuya was incapable of feeling such strong emotions such as hatred but even if he wasn't he saw the guardian training as necessary. He needed that training to be become Miyuki's guardian, to be able to protect her.

After training, Tatsuya showered and had breakfast. The couple once again dined in the east wing of the mansion with Maya. Anyone looking from the outside would think it was another mundane family meal. It seems that this trio can now effectively pose as a regular family, or as regular as their appearances would allow. Maya looked too young to be a mother of teen boy on the cusp of adulthood and Miyuki looked too divine to be of this realm. Indeed, the most plain looking member of the family was Tatsuya, and even he gave off the impression that he was far from ordinary. Though Tatsuya only had above average looks at most, the way he carried himself could make one quiver. Tatsuya had an air about him that a well trained eye would know that he has killed before and would have no qualms about killing again if necessary. But in this dining room, there was no indication of impending violence or deep seated resentment, the trio shared a meal together as if it was a common everyday occurrence. Perhaps the siblings finally understood the necessity of aligning themselves with Maya.

"Tatsuya, Miyuki, I hope you two slept well last night." Maya said in a teasing tone.

"Yes. We are well rested. Thank you for your hospitality, Haha-ue." Tatsuya said nonchalantly

"Tatsuya, what have I said about being too formal with me? We are family, are we not? I would appreciate it if you stop addressing me so formally when it's just us."

"Of course, Haha-ue. I apologize. It is a force of habit I suppose." Tatsuya smirked as he continued using polite language.

Maya let out an exasperated sigh. It was going to take a while for Tatsuya to trust her completely and even longer to see her as anything remotely close to a maternal figure. Maya's lips then curved upwards into a mischievous smile. Tatsuya was smarter than that and if he fully trusted her so quickly after everything, she would have been disappointed. Maya chided herself mentally for feeling frustrated, she should expect nothing less of her son, he was trained better than to trust anyone blindly after showing one act of "kindness" and besides, Maya loved a challenge. Maya then turned her focus on Miyuki.

"Miyuki, I didn't have the chance to tell you last night but I must say, you have a very lovely engagement ring. It suits you quite well."

"Thank you Oba-sama. Tatsuya-sama designed it himself." Miyuki blushed lightly while retaining the proper decorum of an ojou-sama. Miyuki tried her utmost not to let her facade falter before Maya. Maya smiled again. Miyuki was another nut she had yet to crack. Though her plan to "bribe" Miyuki into staying with Yotsuba by assigning Tatsuya to be her fiance was successful, Miyuki still kept a distance between herself and Maya. Whether this distance was a product of general caution, due to Miya's influence in Miyuki's upbringing, Tatsuya's influence or something else all together, was anyone's guess but Maya still planned to close the distance.

"Is that so? You must be overjoyed to have such a devoted fiance, Miyuki. Other girls are not as lucky." Maya's voice seemed tainted in jealousy and resentment at her last sentence. Maya quickly caught herself and gave a light chuckle to dispel any awkwardness.

"Miyuki, may I look at it up close?" Maya gestured for Miyuki to place her hand in hers to inspect the ring and Miyuki obliged.

"The gemstone is of great clarity and luster and there are no occlusions. This must have been quite expensive." Maya teased Tatsuya and Tatsuya only shrugged.

"The symmetrical emerald cut was an excellent choice to complement Miyuki's beauty, Tatsuya. Well done."

"Thank you, Haha-ue." Tatsuya lightly nodded.

The trio continued breakfast in idle conversation and the meal was winding down when Hayama tapped Maya's shoulder and whispered in her ear.

"Miyuki, it seems that I have an urgent meeting to attend to this morning. We will have to postpone starting your lessons to this afternoon or at least until after the meeting is over. I'm terribly sorry."

"It's alright, Oba-sama. I completely understand, there is no need for you to apologize." Miyuki bowed lightly.

"Tatsuya, accompany Miyuki while she waits for me. I'd hate for her to feel lonely."

Tatsuya lightly bowed and Maya excused herself.

Tatsuya and Miyuki moved to the solarium for their after breakfast coffee. The solarium overlooked the expansive garden and the scenery was lush with greenery and flowers. It was looking to be a beautiful day.

A maid wheeled in a wooden butler cart with prepared coffees and some sweets. There was a selection of sweet breakfast pastries as well as some cakes.

"Tatsuya-sama, Miyuki-sama, here are your coffees and some sweets." The maid bowed politely at the couple.

Miyuki's eyes widened upon seeing the maid. She looked similar to Minami and consequently Honami as well. Though, she was not the spitting image of Honami like Minami was, this person still had a striking resemblance. The most striking resemblance was that she had Honami's eyes. Miyuki felt her chest tighten seeing this new maid as she missed Minami. Minami was in an eternal sleep in Miyakishima and they didn't have a solution yet on how they were going to wake her up or if they were going to at all and if they did, what would happen afterwards. Miyuki held her breath watching the figure serve them. Tatsuya on the other hand seemed unperturbed.

"Thank you Kirin-san." Tatsuya said nonchalantly.

"It is my pleasure Tatsuya-sama. Please do not hesitate to call me if you need anything. Excuse me." Kirin bowed politely as she left the room.

Miyuki then turned an incredulous look at Tatsuya.

"Onii-sama, you know her?" Miyuki in her bewilderment had unconsciously called Tatsuya by his old moniker. Sensing her confusion, Tatsuya did not chide Miyuki for using the wrong name. He answered her calmly.

"Yes, she was my senpai in guardian training. She is about a year or two older than me and she is a second generation Sakurai series magician but unlike Minami, Kirin-san was conceived naturally."

Miyuki nodded in understanding. Minami was made in a lab with her mother being someone with identical genes as Honami. This artificial insemination and subsequent genetic modification is what gave the Sakurai series their distinct appearance and high magical ability. This is also what lead to their unstable life spans.

"I see, you met her in guardian training..." Miyuki mumbled with downcast eyes. Miyuki had never witnessed the training personally but knew how hard it was to become a Yotsuba guardian. She knew of the stories and rumors of the almost inhumane conditions in which they were required to train, the odd jobs and outright vile things these guardian hopefuls were tasked to do. Miyuki remembered one instance when she found out that guardian trainees were sent to Miyakishima island to hunt and kill released prisoners for sport, while inhumane for the prisoners, they were not defenseless. The criminals on Miyakishima were some of the most dangerous magicians in the world hence the need for a maximum security prison away from the mainland. This exercise was just as dangerous for the trainees as it was for the prisoners. Miyuki clenched her fists as she remembered Tatsuya had been sent on this specific kind of training three times.

Seeing Miyuki's clenched fists and the agitation on her face Tatsuya quickly took Miyuki's hands in his and softly caressed them. Miyuki looked up to see Tatsuya looking softly at her. Her shoulders relaxed and the tension in her face disappeared.

"It's okay Miyuki. Guardian training was necessary to allow me to be by your side. All those hardships is what lead me to you, to being here with you right now and I'd gladly do it all over again if it means I get to be with you." Tatsuya smiled lovingly at Miyuki.

Miyuki blushed and lightly nodded. Though she still felt guilty that Tatsuya had to endure all that hardship, Miyuki was deeply moved by Tatsuya's words. To hear that your lover would fight for you and fight to protect you would make any woman swoon. But Miyuki was resolved not to let it come to that. Miyuki was by no means a defenseless girl, she had adequate combat ability in martial arts and could easily fight off enemies with her superior magical abilities. Miyuki would also fight for Tatsuya.

Miyuki grabbed Tatsuya's arm and held pressed it close to her body. Aside from the slight dip caused by seeing Kirin, Miyuki had been giddy since she woke up and it seems that giddiness has returned in full force. Miyuki and Tatsuya continued enjoying their coffee as they watched butterflies flutter about in the garden.

Maya walked in to her study and sat at her desk. She leisurely opened her terminal and switched it on. Though Maya had told Miyuki it was an urgent matter, it seemed like Maya had not given head to this meeting's pressing nature. Maya flashed an insincere smile when she finally joined the meeting.

"It looks like we are all here. Let us start the meeting." Futatsugi Mai suggested since she was the de facto facilitator in these meetings.

"Ichijou-dono, Saegusa-dono, you two called for this meeting. Please begin." Mai gestured towards the two on screen.

Ichijou Gouki cleared his throat to speak while Saegusa Kouichi calmly waited for Gouki to begin. It looked like they were preparing for a two person presentation.

"As you all know, the Ichijou clan has sent a marriage proposal to the Yotsuba clan for Shiba Miyuki-dono's hand in marriage to my son Masaki. We were blindsided when the Yotsuba sent out invitations to Shiba Tatsuya-dono and Shiba Miyuki-dono's wedding when we have never received a formal response to our proposal. It was utterly disrespectful."

"Ichijou-dono, was it not you who acted inappropriately first by replying to an engagement announcement with a marriage proposal of your own?" Mutsuzuka Atsuko, ever eager to defend Maya, rebutted.

"Also, why is this considered an urgent matter for the Ten Master Clans? Marriage proposals are supposed to be dealt with privately. A clan conference is hardly the stage for wedding talks." Atsuko complained. Seeing some other members such as Shippou Takumi and Yatsushiro Raizou nod their heads, Kouichi decided to step in.

"Yes. Normally marriage proposals are ordinarily a private matter for within the family but the marriage of Shiba Tatsuya-dono and Shiba Miyuki-dono is anything but ordinary" Kouichi wedged himself into the conversation. Silence filled the air. Everyone in the conference knew of the peculiar circumstances that surrounded these two's engagement which were admittedly bizarre to say the least.

"I believe that it would be most beneficial to everyone here if Shiba Miyuki-dono and Shiba Tatsuya-dono were to be wed to different individuals." Kouichi continued.

"Saegusa-dono what evidence do you have to support such a claim?" Maya finally spoke

"Yotsuba-dono, is it not a fact that you and your sister Shiba Miya-dono are monozygotic twins? Given that you and and Shiba Maya-dono share identical DNA, it stands to reason and Shiba Tatsuya-dono and Shiba Miyuki-dono are too genetically similar to be allowed to wed."

"I believe there is no law that forbids my son to marry Miyuki, Saegusa-dono." Maya smiled.

"There may not be a law, but as magicians, it is our duty to provide the State with powerful magicians to aid in the defense of this nation. The marriage of your son to your niece, and excuse me for being blunt Yotsuba-dono, would only produce weak magicians at the very least and at most would create a gap in our defenses as the next generation of Yotsuba would be riddled with deficiencies and abnormalities due to Shiba Tatsuya-dono and Shiba Miyuki-dono's genetic similarities." Kouichi looked at the faces on the monitor, Ichijou Gouki and Mitsuya Gen nodded their heads in agreement while the others would not meet his gaze. In all it seemed like no one would disagree with him.

Magicians, especially those from the numbered clans, had an unspoken agreement with the government to provide them with powerful magicians in exchange for State protection. Magicians held a key role in national defense hence powerful magicians, especially those in the Ten Master Clans, were given special privileges which at times allowed them to circumvent the law, in exchange for protecting the country and lending their power to the military. To accomplish this, magicians were encouraged to marry young and leave many offspring. There was also an observation that each generation would be stronger than the last hence the push for magicians to marry younger to allow for the next generation to arrive sooner.

This unwritten agreement was recognized by all, and even Yotsuba Maya could not deny that the privileges she enjoyed as the head of the Yotsuba clan were granted to her because she agreed to and participated in this symbiotic relationship. Even her own sister, Yotsuba Miya, married a man she did not love for the sake of producing a strong magician and heir. But, Maya always had an ace up her sleeve.

"Kouichi.." Maya smiled using his first name as a subtle show of disrespect "While, I understand your concerns, you needn't bother with them. As I told Ichijou-dono before, Tatsuya and Miyuki's offspring will be perfectly healthy and just as powerful if not more so than those among their generation." Maya lips curled upwards at the thought of her future grandchildren's immense magical potential.

"And as I've asked before Yotsuba-dono, what assurance can you give us that their offspring will not have any genetic abnormalities? Surely, you must understand that the marriage of your son to your niece is a matter of national security seeing as they are among the most powerful of their generation. Their genetic material is a national resource just like the rest of ours. We exist to serve and defend the country. Surely, you must understand that we cannot simply 'take your word on it'." Gouki replied. It seemed like Kouichi and Gouki had already planned their arguments in advance.

"I agree with Ichijou-dono" Gen interjected. Mitsuya Gen was an international arms dealer which was made abundantly clear by the vast collection of weapons he had hung on his wall in the background, seemingly as a show of force to the others on the call. Tatsuya had once asked him for assistance regarding the prison break of Lina's friend and Mitsuya Gen knew then that Tatsuya was powerful and knew that the Yotsuba were already powerful without him. He never allowed himself to think too deeply about a Yotsuba Clan with Tatsuya pulling the strings behind the scenes. "Shiba Tatsuya-dono's genetic material is far too valuable to leave up to chance. It would be more beneficial if he married someone genetically diverse from himself to get the best chance of producing healthy and powerful offspring."

"I see. So it seems that you wish Tatsuya to marry someone out to produce strong offspring. That is to say that you value his genetic material and the possibilities it offers." Maya stated calmly and Gen nodded. The corners of Maya's lips curled upward into a cheshire cat like grin. "So you essentially want to treat my son like a prized stud horse?"

Mistuya Gen's face visibly went red in anger and embarrassment. He opened his mouth to rebut but Maya merely continued to speak.

"Does that not go against the very purpose of the Ten Master Clans, Mitsuya-dono?" Maya said in a sickeningly sweet voice. "Isn't the purpose of the Ten Master Clans to safe guard magicians' rights? What sort of example would we be setting if we treat right one of our own like prized cattle for breeding?" Maya feigned concern. She really couldn't careless about this meeting but it was always entertaining to stifle Kouichi's plans.

Gen's face reddened further in anger and embarrassment but before he could speak Kouichi cut him off. "Yotsuba-dono, do not misunderstand us. We are simply concerned for the Yotsuba clan's future." Kouichi stated calmly.

"I was not aware that other clans may now involve themselves in another's activities." Maya smiled sweetly.

"We are not meddling, just simply stating our concerns." Kouichi replied. "We only want what is best for the country and for Shiba Tatsuya-dono. We merely want to offer other options available to the boy."

Maya and Kouichi's conversation was going around in circles and it seemed like nothing was going to be resolved. Shippou Takumi cleared his throat.

"Perhaps we should ask Shiba Tatsuya-dono, what he wants." Takumi hesitantly suggested. He was still new to being a member of the Ten Master Clans but he disliked conflict. If he could avoid confrontation, he would. He also saw this as an opportunity to see how Tatsuya thought. Even with all the news surrounding him and the numerous questionings the Ten Master Clans have conducted with him, the boy continued to be an enigma to him. Takumi was not a betting man and conservative by nature, if there was a threat he wanted to know about it and formulate a defense. He didn't want to antagonize Tatsuya or the Yostuba clan but he needed to know how to defend himself, if he could.

Maya smiled sweetly at the suggestion. "Alright, I'll ask Tatsuya to come to my study." Maya called over her butler Hayama and gave him instructions. The meeting stilled and everyone held their breath in anticipation for Tatsuya to appear.