Kentaro of the clan Inuyama, heir to Okami Province, watched the bird with a faint trace of envy. **You are free. How I wish it were the same for me.**
“My lord?” the voice of Minoru of Izama, councilor to his father and Kentaro’s tutor since childhood, intruded upon his thoughts. “Should we not return to the castle?” The old man smiled. “After all, it is not every day that one meets his prospective bride.”
The falcon spotted his prey, stooped, and began winging his way back to Kentaro as the young lord considered his tutor’s words. **The idea of meeting this woman may be exciting for you, Minoru-sama, but I would much prefer to be binding myself to another.**
At that, Kentaro looked at the young man riding nearby. Though his kimono and hakama were plainer than either Kentaro’s or Minoru’s, they fit the lines of his slender form perfectly, accentuating the clean lines of his limbs and the inherent grace of his movements as he controlled the brown gelding with ease. Shining black hair, bound neatly at the back of his head in the samurai’s traditional topknot, framed a face with features so lovely they might drive a woman to envy. **Were it my choice,** thought Kentaro, **I would be sharing the sake with you, Shun, and not this priestess from Kei. But there is no room in my world for feeling...only for duty.** As the falcon settled on his glove, he nodded to Minoru. “We return to Okami Castle,” he told the hunting party.
As the group rode away, he could feel the sinking of his heart. For today, his engagement with Aya of Kei, priestess to Okuninushi, would be sealed. And with that sealing, his freedom to lead his life the way he chose would disappear.