t The air was refreshing in autumn with maples turning red. The emperor had set up a maple feast to tie in with the wonderful weather; ministers were invited to the imperial palace. They crowded together in the garden, and were toasted with sake. The whole place was bustling with noise and excitement. While everyone was enjoying the feast, a masked man slipped across the garden to somewhere quiet.
t “Phew...I’m tired. The gathering really doesn’t suit me. I just greeted all the ministers. Hopefully it’s fine if I take a rest here.” Yukimura took off his mask, stretching the shoulders as there was no one around. His brother Nobuyuki was ill, but the emperor’s invitation must not be rejected. Given Nobuyuki could barely get up, Yukimura decided to disguise as his brother to attend the feast, in order to soothe Nobuyuki’s anxiety. However, Yukimura did not enjoy it at all, because he did not like socializing with people, nor he was interested in the feast.
t “The maples look particularly red over there.” Yukimura was gradually relieved from pressure. He took his time to enjoy the scenery and walked to a giant maple at the corner of the garden.
t The maple was magnificent when taking a closer look. The trunk was too big to embrace. As a gust of breeze blew, the orange and red maple leaves were dancing in the air. Yukimura was utterly stunned by such dreamy beauty. Suddenly, he noticed a flash of silver gleam sweeping from behind; Yukimura parried it with a blade on his waist in no time. Clashed! The strike had ruined the peaceful atmosphere. Yukimura stepped back in self-defense.
t “Hold on! I’m not your enemy. Calm down.” A pretty girl sat on a tree, who put away her weapon and kept shaking her hands. “...Why did you attack me?” Yukimura asked as he remained alert to the girl. “You ruined my nap. This is just a mischief.”
t “...I’m sorry,” Yukimura apologized as he put back his blade.
t “I’m the one making trouble. Why did you apologize?” “Sigh...sorry.” Facing a lively girl like Komatsuhime, Yukimura did not know what to do but kept apologizing.
t “Haha, you say sorry again. What a dummy.” Komatsuhime teased at the airhead Yukimura, who immediately felt embarrassed and turned around.
t “Catch me. I’m going to jump.” “Wait! It’s dangerous. I can’t——” Komatsuhime ignored him and jumped off the tree. Yukimura ran to catch her in time, but the momentum was too strong that he fell down on the ground eventually.
t “A-are you okay?” “Haha! I’m fine. I knew you can definitely catch me, but didn’t expect you’d fall. You dope!”

t “Sorry…” “You do love apologizing, don’t you? Look! There is a maple leaf on your head.”
t As Komatsuhime removed the leaf from his hair, both of them were still hugging each other. They began to blush and turned their faces away, but their eyes kept looking back from time to time…
t “Lady——!” a voice came from afar, interrupting their sweet moment. They stood up right away before her maid arrived.
t “Lady, you’re here.” The maid bowed her head and stepped back as she saw Yukimura.
t “Par-pardon me.” “Not at all,” he put on his mask quickly and said in a low voice.
t “Master is searching for you. He’ll cry again if you don’t go back,” the maid whispered to Komatsuhime.
t “Sigh, my father is just like a kid.” Yukimura’s eyes lingered on her face when Komatsuhime puffed out her cheeks like a lovely little girl.
t “Why did you wear the mask? It’s ugly.” “Um...I caught a cold. It’s contagious.”
t “I see...By the way, you haven’t told me your name.” “Name…” If Yukimura told her the real name, his identity would be exposed, embarrassing the whole Sanada’s family. “I’m Nobuyuki, the eldest son of Sanada’s family,” Yukimura did not have a choice but lie.
t “I’ll remember it.” Komatsuhime wore a smile and said goodbye. “Let’s go to watch the maples next time.”
t Attracted by her, Yukimura would love to meet her again, but he did not know his lie had already affected their fates...

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