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Once upon a time

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This is the story of a certain citadel and its sword warriors, particularly a certain pair of grandpas whose behavior was slowly but surely bringing their fellow Touken Danshi to their wits end.

But we do not want to hurry this story too quickly. Let us follow their Hanamaru days and take a closer look at how this citadel’s inhabitants spend their days together.

Take this one day as an example: the sun was shining warmly upon the lush fields of green and a soft breeze made its way through the opened doors of the Honmaru.
The insects roaming through the fresh fields of flowers seemed more busy than the house's inhabitants, who listened to the faint sounds of birds and rustling trees, idling in the warm sun of spring.

Here and there the laughter of children could be heard from where Iwatooshi was playing with a few tantous outside the citadel.

Among the idle swords were a few of the eldest generation, perched on the front veranda like birds, sipping from their tea cups quietly.

Mikazuki Munechika, seated between two of his brothers, listened to the cheerful sounds, his eyes closed. The tranquility of it all put his mind at ease, but his heart was unsettled. Something was clearly missing from his vision. He sighed quietly and stood up.

“I suddenly feel like taking a walk.”

“Enjoy your time, Mikazuki-dono.”

Kogitsunemaru was engrossed in grooming his fur, while Ishikririmaru still sat as still as a Buddha, with his eyes closed and a smile on his face.

Mikazuki left them and his feet naturally brought him on a path he had taken so many times before to the room that belonged to the former swords of the Date clan. He knocked and peeked inside to see if any of the inhabitants were currently there. He searched through the citadel until he found whom he was looking for.

A while later two people could be seen walking along the path near the pond leisurely, one clad in dark blue and the other one completely white. They seemed to have a pleasant chat while admiring the beauty of the clear water that reflected the golden light, sometimes blinding, sometimes simply warming the heart of every onlooker.

Tsurumaru Kuninaga shielded his eyes against some particularly blinding rays and used the chance to steal a few glances at his companion's reflection in the water. The elegant figure turned slightly sidewards and seemed to gaze into the beautiful spring scenery. But in truth his eyesight was focused on a few strands of white hair that sprung forth from Tsurumaru's head with each step and sparkled in the sunlight. It was like the whole person was carved out of precious stones.

Mikazuki's lips turned slightly upwards.

“Yes, it really was a lucky coincidence I met you when I was just about to head out for a walk. It is surely more enjoyable with some company.”

'Truly too enjoyable,’ Mikazuki thought and Tsurumaru's whole face lit up upon hearing Mikazuki's characteristic laughter.

Back at the citadel none of their words could be heard, but people sitting on the veranda had a clear enough view of their casual meandering through the garden. Nonetheless they were completely ignored.

Only the newcomer who shuffled his way in between, right where a place had freed up earlier, spared them some questioning glances.

Izuminokami Kanesada draped his long hair and long legs atop the cushion and struggled until he was able to find a comfortable resting position. Kasen would have called his manner of sitting simply not elegant.

He let out a loud sigh when he finally managed to find a satisfactory place to rest, but none of this could faze the Sanjou swords and the ever so silent Uguisumaru next to them.

Perched between the Sanjous, Izuminokami had a perfect view of the garden with its pond and after a while of observing, he blurted out a question that had bothered him for some time now.

“Sooo... those two. Are they like... what was it called again... dating, or something?”

Izuminokami looked around, curiosity written all over his face, but the old swords did not react to him at all. Maybe because his actions were not so elegant, asking aloud frankly. Or maybe because everyone was too busy sighing inwardly.

It was Ishikirimaru who first broke the silence, with his ever present soft smile.

“Izuminokami Kanesada-san, you might be new here and still wonder about this. But this question of yours, I am afraid not even the great gods in heaven could answer. I am truly sorry to disappoint.”

The long haired sword warrior raised his brows, but did not inquire further. Instead he listened to Uguisumaru's musings about Ookanehira until he felt tired and dozed off.

Uguisumaru’s monologue about Ookanehira went on for a long time even after that, but that was as widely accepted as Uguisumaru’s quirk as it was a general consensus that Mikazuki and Tsurumaru were surprisingly dense.

On another day – it might have been early summer – the two of them were seen by Kashuu Kiyomitsu while putting up the laundry.

It was warm with no wind going around. Tsurumaru Kuninaga was made to wear a straw hat by his ‘friend who did not want to make friends,’ because he was worried about the white-haired getting a sun stroke out there while doing chores.

While Ookurikara was on field duty himself, Tsurumaru Kuninaga was told to hang the sheets out to dry. His appointed assistant that day was Mikazuki Munechika, probably because even the Saniwa took pity on them.

Tsurumaru was carrying a huge basket on his back that made the slender tachi look even smaller. White arms popping out of white Kimono sleeves, white hair that curled around a slender neck, every part of him seemed to be welcoming a sunburn.

If he had not put sunscreen on obediently, the fellow Date swords would have pushed him down together and made him do it, before he could even think of leaving the house. It became a huge battle of sunscreen with everyone smearing thick layers on everyone else’s faces.
The former swords of the Date Clan absolutely did not get sunburnt that day, but the Saniwa had to order more bottles of sunscreen for everyone.

Out in the garden Mikazuki had suppressed his initial urge to take the weight of the basket away from the white tachi, because he knew that this action would not have come across as courteous, but as insulting. Of course Tsurumaru Kuninaga could shoulder this much weight, he was a tachi just like him. But still…

Mikazuki Munechika instinctively reached out and pushed away a strand of white hair that seemed to be in the way of the basket. Only after did he realise that he accidentally brushed over Tsurumaru's naked skin, right next to his collarbone. Mikazuki withdrew his hand quickly and stammered some unnecessary apology, while his mind was tinted pink and fuzzy, as pink as both their faces right at this moment.

Tsurumaru withdrew his wide opened, golden eyes and turned his head away, bringing his pink-tinted ear into view instead. Mikazuki mumbled something about starting from the other end, took his own basket and went to the opposite side of the line to hang up the laundry.

Tsurumaru instantly missed the other's presence and regretted acting so bashfully earlier. But what was he supposed to do in the face of the most beautiful sword of Japan? Of course he would be overwhelmed by the other's elegance and beauty, admiring his perfect build. He truly was worthy to be called the most extravagant work of his swordsmith’s teacher.

Tsurumaru Kuninaga was full of admiration and maybe a little bit more, but still unable to openly admit it. Instead, he dutifully hung up the sheets to dry, until they met again in the middle.

When Kashuu Kiyomitsu arrived, he saw them standing between rows of white sheet that slightly swayed, moved by soft wind. Warm summer sun trickling through between the gaps and tinting the whole scene yellow, like a romantic sepia painting.

Kashuu Kiyomitsu halted.

A warm gust of wind nearly lifted the hat off of Tsurumaru's head, but he held it with one hand, not willing to break eye contact with Mikazuki Munechika for one second.
Both had been standing there, gazing into each other's eyes without speaking. A faint smile appeared on their faces, like they had some kind of secret conversation simply by looking at each other.

by @wamuura

Kashuu waited silently for around a minute. It felt more like one hour to him. When they still showed no sign of moving after that, he rolled his eyes at the freeze image in front of him and turned back. Who knew how long this would go on?

But under the Uchigatana's annoyance hid another feeling. A wish for them to finally overcome this weird stand-still. ‘Just be happy together you old fools!,’ he thought. In the end Kashuu Kiyomitsu was gentle and left them their privacy. Whatever the task he came for, it was not urgent enough to awkwardly break into that scene.

He turned around and left, determined to find someone else to help out. Even though those Heian tachi proved to be useful on the battlefield repeatedly, when it came to housework they a hindrance more often than not.

As time went on, events like these happened again and again. The citadel’s inhabitants became used to the situation being like this. Each time a new sword was added to their ranks, the list of things one had to get used to grew continuously.

On the day Koryuu Kagemitsu arrived and everyone went running through the citadel to announce the new sword's arrival, the "Bake a Cake for the Newcomer"-day came into existence. It became a regular habit for this Honmaru's inhabitants, but this particular day was the founding date of this custom.

It all happened like this:
Koryuu Kagemitsu materialised in the morning and to have an Osafune-like welcome, Kenshin Kagemitsu suggested they could have a celebration with all of them and eat some of Azuki's delicious sweets.

Mitsutada, who thought it was a good idea to help the newcomer settle in, suggested they could prepare cakes for the whole citadel together as a family. Thus the decision was made and Taikogane Sadamune rushed off to inform Ookurikara and Tsurumaru.

Taikogane ran through the hallways in search of Tsurumaru Kuninaga, but when he did not find him in their room, the garden, or the veranda, he went straight to Mikazuki's room.
There he was, lying flat on the floor with his face turned towards the morning sun, basking in the warm rays of sunlight contentedly like a lazy white cat. Mikazuki, who had been writing, looked up and smiled.

"Tsurumaru, I think someone is looking for you."

"Ah? Sada-bou, what's up?"

"Sorry to disturb you Mikazuki-san, Tsuru-san, but Koryuu Kagemitsu just arrived and we decided to celebrate with the whole citadel. Micchan and the Osafune swords want to bake for everyone and I think it would be great if you and Kara-chan join too! Of course you are also invited, Mikazuki-san."

Mikazuki declined and chuckled. "I think it is a good idea, Taikogane Sadamune. You should go and join them, Tsurumaru. It is good to spend some family bonding time together, isn't it?"

"It is." Tsurumaru seemed partly happy, partly sad. Excited to go, but reluctant to leave. "I will join you later, Sada-bou. I have to change into the other outfit first."

"Okay! Meet you at the kitchen then. See you later, Mikazuki-san!"

Taikogane nodded a farewell and rushed off to find Ookurikara.

"Kara-chaaaan, where are youuuu?"

His screams did not make Ookurikara any more willing to respond, but they urged the swords around who knew about Ookurikara's whereabouts to give him away sooner, just to get some peace and quiet again.

When Taikogane dragged Ookurikara into the kitchen with all the Osafune scattered around, piling up ingredients upon ingredients and chatting gleefully, Ookurikara spontaneously decided he was very willing to help and extremely keen on putting up the tables and setting up the dishes. Outside. Of. This. Kitchen.

He told them to have fun and that he would be back later. Eventually. After he finished.
Then he went off to not set any foot into the kitchen again on this day if he found any way to prevent him from doing so.

The Osafune didn't mind and let Ookurikara do as he pleased, pre-occupied by their urge to exchange words about their sudden reunion. But the baking still had to be organised somehow. And the new family member didn't know anything about cooking or baking yet. Or about being a human being with taste buds and such.

"What am I supposed to do?" Koryuu asked with a confused look and a knife in hand. "What do I cut?"

"You are not supposed to cut anything, Koryuu. You should pour the flour."

"Aaah... How do I do that?"

The long haired tachi put his knife away and watched Mitsutada handle some tins and bowls. In the end Mitsutada stuffed a big can into his hands.

"While I stir this, pour in the flour slowly. There you go."

Mitsutada patiently explained all the little steps to their newest addition to the Osafune family like the gentle father figure he is to them and Koryuu Kagemitsu observed as if it was the most fascinating thing he experienced in his life so far.

In the meantime Azuki was preparing the cream and Kenshin cut the fruit decoration with the help of Taikogane. Those cakes would definitely lack style if they did not come with a fancy fruit topping and who would want that?

They were already busy with preparations – and prohibiting Daihannya from pouring alcohol into the dough for the taste – when Tsurumaru entered the kitchen to help out.
His long sleeves were tied back and he rushed to lend a hand to Azuki.

"Oh, Tsuru-san, could you please...?"

Mitsutada had raised his brows and looked at Tsurumaru, who was stopped by the other's pleading eyes. The white crane sighed and walked over to the wall reluctantly to gather an apron that was specifically meant for him. It was a cute apron with sleeves and frills and a crane print. A stylish gift by Sada-chan for last christmas to help his white clothing to stay clean. Although he appreciated the gift he somehow did not like wearing it. It felt a little like... a toddler dressed in protective clothing by the parents.

Daihannya watched Tsurumaru Kuninaga putting on the apron and noticed the hair ornament used to tie back the unruly white hair locks. He smiled. So obvious with the golden tassels. It's not as if they had not seen Mikazuki Munechika wearing this ornament on his head dozens of times before. Daihannya sent a meaningful look to Azuki, who was currently helping Tsurumaru tie his apron.

Azuki Nagamitsu, wearing a pink apron himself, did not quite understand Tsurumaru's problem. But he picked up Hannya's suggestive look and suggested: "If you don't feel comfortable with an apron, why not just wear something simpler to clean? I mean, dark blue does suit you. And I am sure Mikazuki would be willing to lend you one of his house wear sets too. Those seem to be rather practical." And they would fit the other tachi well enough, or so Azuki thought.

Daihannya in the back of the room facepalmed so hard it startled Koryuu and the formerly white crane, who had turned a nice flamingo pink, nearly dropped a platter.
Mitsutada grabbed Tsurumaru, who was frozen stiff for not knowing how to respond, and shoved him out of the way before any weird accidents could happen. They were probably safer with Tsurumaru out of the kitchen from now on, physically and mentally. So he sent Tsurumaru over to Ookurikara, who probably had set up the tables by now already. But why sweat the small stuff now?

Tsurumaru Kuninaga quietly nodded and walked off in his apron, relieved that Ookurikara surely wouldn't ask him any questions now.

Azuki Nagamitsu watched the whole event unfold dumbfounded. "Did I say anything wrong?"

This day they had a good long talk within the Osafune family plus Taikogane and created a whole series of amazing cakes for the whole Honmaru. It became a memorable day for everyone and the next time a new sword appeared, everyone asked for a celebration like theirs. As a result, baking or cooking with the newcomer became the new custom for welcoming new members to this citadel, even though most families' kitchen skills weren't as profound as those of the Osafune swords. That's why it mostly ended up with lots of alcohol and higher bills on delivery food. Nonetheless the custom is well loved by everyone as a great way of bonding.

Bonding is something everyone in this citadel is very fond of. Everyone has their own unique way. Be it sake or tea, talking or working out together. With so many people living together in one big house there were rules that had to be established and broken again and again. It was never boring, even if most of the inhabitants stayed at home for a longer period of time, and they definitely liked to find new reasons to celebrate.

A new friend's arrival? Let's celebrate!

A foreign holiday? Let's celebrate?

No holiday at all? Let's make one!

It was like this.

But the most important part was to spend a joyful time with each other. Therefore, more and more occasions were created.

One autumn day the Awataguchi tantou were watching TV together when Aizen came running in with a leaflet in hand. It was a promotional flyer for a theater troupe that was touring right now and would be presenting a magnificent hero show soon.

"Look what I found everyone! I want to go, who wants to come with me?"

With so many hands reaching up into the air, the Saniwa could not bear to let all the kids be disappointed. Thus a few days later the Saniwa set off with nearly 20 sword warriors for the evening show and told the other Touken Danshi to watch the house and to not do anything stupid while they were gone.

If Aruji had known what kind of events this one small decision would entail, they would have been even less calm about the whole situation.

To everyone's surprise the show was really good and Mutsunokami joining the stage for a couple of minutes did not even spoil anything in the end. What's more, the citadel was clean and not burnt down to the ground when they came back. Kasen and Hasebe had taken proper care of everything and even dinner was prepared. It could have helped to send out most of the potential threats on a long mission early in the morning though.

The tantou – and also the few older swords who joined them for the show – were still excited and talked a lot about what they had seen that day. And when the swords that were sent out came back from their missions, they were already invited to join the newly founded Honmaru theater troupe.

The following weeks more and more swords became busy at home, because they were forced to join by a family member. It was all a huge snowball system.

Apparently the plays were chosen already and they wanted some more people to assist by taking on special supporting roles. The Yari agreed to help with building a stage. They got Yamabushi and Doudanuki to help too as some sort of workout.

Nakigitsune would be the producer and make sure everyone else could concentrate on their respective jobs and Midare was chief of costumes. Aizen even made Akashi Kuniyuki and Hotarumaru join the cast.

Midare, who was notorious for picking up new actors at this point, strutted down the hall where Tsurumaru Kuninaga was gazing at Mikazuki Munechika through an open door one day. He creeped up behind Tsurumaru and had a look at what the other one was watching. Outside in the garden, Mikazuki was playing with Imanotsurugi and colourful fallen leaves. Midare thought those leaves would look nice with Tsurumaru's white outfit too and shouted a "boo!" at the tachi.

“Oya?” Tsurumaru turned around, surprised that someone was able to sneak up on him like that without him noticing.

“Tsurumaru Kuninaga, I have just the right role for you!”

“Eh.... with that you mean..acting in the play?”

Midare explained to him in detail and Tsurumaru laughed. “Okay, I get it. It's a good role. But why should I be the one to play the Princess?”

“Because the dress is white,” stated Midare matter-of-factly with a deadpan expression. He was head of costuming, after all. It was logical to pick actors based upon the outfits he chose.

“Oh,” Tsurumaru dragged his words, thinking. “I understand, hm. Well okay, I think this will be fun. I'll do it!”

“Perfect! Then come with me to the fitting, please.” Midare happily dragged Tsurumaru away.

On the day the stage was finally revealed, the whole citadel had been in anticipation for so long it turned into the major event of the year. All helpers were pumped up and even the audience was brimming with excitement.

Outside in a wide open space behind the citadel stood a wooden theatre, surrounded by benches. There were many rows and enough places for all the Touken Danshi to sit. The Saniwa got a special visitors seat that was prepared.

The stage was well prepared; Yamabushi, Doudanuki and the three Yari had spent some time building it from scratch with wooden planks. The entering actors were hidden by one wooden structure on each side of the stage, each decorated as a house and a tree.

The back wall of the stage was hidden by a huge painted paper paravent. It looked like a mural of a remote European fantasy village, complete with a few tiny houses, a well, and the heads of tall trees peeking out behind the roofs. It was daytime and the audience was drawn into the setting of a peaceful little village.

Yagen, who was chosen to be the narrator of the stories, stepped on stage in a long black coat with a beret and a very solemn expression. He had barely escaped the colourful costume of a German Landsknecht, but Midare wanted him to at least wear a fake beard and a long coat because western storytellers are supposed to be old sages.
Unfortunately it hindered his speech, so he was allowed to go up stage without it.

The long feathers of his beret swayed with every step he took, and his voice carried through the whole garden.

Yagen introduced the play's main character as a sweet little child who was good natured and loved to wear a red cape at all times; his name was Little Red Riding Hood.

Little Red Riding Hood, played by Hyuuga Masamune, hopped on stage, twirled around the fake well, and made his way home to his mother. Mother Riding Hood, played by Houchou on a chair with a big padded chest, sent her cute Little Red to visit Grandma with a big gift basket and warned her child not to leave the path because the forest where Grandma lives is scary and full of Kebiishi and wolves.

“Of course mother, I will be good!” said Little Red and hopped off stage.

The background was changed to a forest scenery.

The red-hooded child made its way through the lush greenery with an enormous basket full of gifts. Little red was a very sweet child and stopped to pick flowers for Grandma, even though he was warned not to leave the path. While he was looking for the prettiest flowers for dear Grandma Riding Hood, a very fluffy creature came up and talked to him.

"Oh dear child, what are you doing?" A husky voice sounded from underneath many layers of silky hair and fake fur.

"I am picking flowers for my Grandma, who lives in the hut down this path,'' answered Little Red Riding Hood. "She is sick and I want to bring her many good gifts."

"Naturally", the voice from underneath the white fur answered. "You are a good little child and I don't want to hinder your task any longer."

Thus said the white wolf and quickly retreated, leaving Little Red Riding Hood picking flowers. He secretly hurried towards Grandma-dono’s hut in the forest and the audience held their breath.

When Little Red finally made it to the Hut, the scene changed again and some props were brought on stage. Now there was a person lying in bed, dressed in a pink nightgown and a pink Bonnet to hide the fluffy white ears.

Kogitsunemaru tried to sound as female as possible, while also wishing to hide underneath the blanket completely. He was happy to be chosen for playing a role at first, until Midare finished the costumes.

Hiding his treasured fur underneath a Bonnet was simply outrageous. But because Imanotsurugi was so happy to see him play, he decided to go through with it. Now that all his brothers came to watch the play, he felt some slight discomfort though.

Little Red Riding Hood, who tried his best to seem oblivious that this masked wolf was in fact not his Grandma, went on with the script to ask his Grandma things until the wolf finally swallowed him too.

Suddenly the hunter came on stage. He wore a tiny little hat with a big feather on top of a bob cut and was wrapped in a wool cape. He heard strange sounds from the hut and came to have a look.
Hunter Maeda quickly realised the big bad wolf had tricked Grandma. He jumped onto the bed with Kogi-wolf and both tumbled down in a huge mess with the blanket. Meanwhile Little Red Riding Hood and the rather gloomy looking Grandma with black hair emerged from underneath the bed to act out their rescue scene.

Grandma Oodenta earnestly thanked the little hunter for their rescue and promised to prepare a few snacks for them all with the gifts Little Red Riding Hood had brought over in his basket.

It was a happy ending for everyone, except for the wolf. Kogitsunemaru was relieved to part with this role though. The audience cheered for the successful first act and sent the actors off with a big round of applause.

After a little break the helpers had finished to change all decorations for the second act.

This time there was a small funny looking hut in front of the painted forest background. It had gingerbread tiles, chocolate covered surfaces, and colourful drops as decorations.

Next to the hut two people entered the stage holding hands. They were Fudou Yukimitsu, with beautiful braids, and Atsushi Toushirou.

"Look, brother!” Fudou exclaimed, pulling at Atsushi’s hand and gripping the hem of his frilly dress. "There, do you see that house? I have been hungry for so long that it totally looks like it was made out of sweets."

"Indeed,” answered Atsushi. "I think there really is a house made out of sweets. Gretel, let's go there!" He pulled his 'sister' over to the hut and both started to eat from the decorations, when the door suddenly opened and a dark clothed person entered the stage.

"Oh dear children!" the person with long silver hair and a pointy hat on top said. "You seem hungry and cold? I have some good sake inside to warm you up."

Witch Daihannya pointed at the door of the hut and Gretel's eyes lit up. But before Fudou could make a move a loud cough came from backstage. The deep voice of storyteller Yagen whispered that this wasn't the text Daihannya was supposed to say. He was not supposed to offer alcohol to children at all, but sweets.

The witch frowned.

Then he started again, imitating the voice of Azuki Nagamitsu. "Then...would you like..sweets?" He looked at the brother and sister pair menacingly.

Azuki in the audience gasped and barely anybody could contain their laughter. Atsushi and Fudou rushed into the hut before they too broke out into laughter. Only Daihannya could not quite grasp what exactly was so funny.

The actors needed a few minutes before they could go back to acting like children imprisoned by the evil witch, who fattened them up with sweets - and sake - to eat them later. Sake, because it makes the flesh more tender, the witch explained when prompter Yagen complained again. Wasn't it obvious he would cook them to his best ability, after all the effort he put in already?

The witch with the pointy black hat and elegant boots cooked and baked only the best gourmet food for the children to fatten them up. You are what you eat, after all. Right? And the witch didn’t want to ruin her own stomach with bad food.

Unfortunately, she was not able to go through with that plan in the end because the children captured the witch with a nice feint one day and shoved her into her own oven. She burnt to death miserably and the audience pitied her. Wasn’t it nice how she always prepared good food for the children?

The spectators seemed to have missed a crucial point, but were greatly amused by the actors. The tantous took Daihannya by the hand and together they received their applause while bowing.

The stage was cleared and redecorated for the last play of the day, everyone already expressed how much they wanted a continuation of this. Aruji even promised they could build a permanent stage in the backyard if they want. There were tears rolling down their cheeks earlier and their body hurt so much from laughing. This was the best kind of workout, the Saniwa thought.

Away from the stage, Daihannya was dragged away by Azuki, who wanted to know if he really seemed that menacing. Everyone still backstage was revelling in the success of the first two acts.

They were not able to go out yet, but the more cheer and laughter they heard, the more they longed to stand in the limelight as well. Yagen and Midare had a hard time to keep all the jittery actors in check.

When the residents of the citadel took their seats after the break, the background and decorations had changed once more. It was obvious how much effort was put into those details by all those who participated in the play. The Saniwa was really moved and so were the rest of the spectators.

This time there was a European castle and Heshikiri Hasebe was the castle's queen.
The queen was the second wife of the king, who died a tragic death some time ago, storyteller Yagen explained to the audience. It was not important how the king died, but before that he married a beautiful queen who unfortunately was vain and proud. She used to ask her magic mirror every day how beautiful she was.

Yagen moved aside to make room for slightly grumpy looking queen Hasebe and the even grumpier magic mirror, played by Ookurikara in a black outfit holding up a huge mirror.

"Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?” the queen asked in an overly dramatic voice.

"You are,” the mirror exclaimed and wanted to be done with this already. But Yagen did not allow him to leave the stage yet.

"The Queen asked her magic mirror every day and the answer was the same every day too. Years went by, until one day the answer was different for the first time."

Yagen looked at the main actors of this scene and Ookurikara sighed. Hasebe once again repeated his question, this time with even more passion than before. Ookurikara rolled his eyes, glad that nobody could see as long as he was holding the mirror up in front of his face. Why did they have to drag him into this? Why did he not insist on refusing?

"Mirror mirror on the wall..." Ookurikara grimaced. "...who is the fairest of them all??"

Unfortunately this story's rating did not allow Ookurikara to express his honest thoughts at this point in time, so he simply answered, "Queen, you are fair and all, but Snow White is even fairer than you. Are we done with this now?"

Snow White heard her prompt and whirled on stage, a flurry of floating white cloth and white hair. Tsurumaru was super excited to be in a play with a few of his best friends or at least people he considered to be his friends.

Yagen introduced Tsurumaru Kuninaga as Princess Snow White, whose entire being was as white as snow. The audience nodded in understanding.

Unfortunately the King was dead and the stepmother, vain and proud as she was, became jealous of Snow White's fairness and decided to get her out of the picture. Queen Hasebe glared at Tsurumaru with real emotion, because the other had played a prank on him while they were waiting behind the stage. It caused him to nearly forget his lines which was a blunder he couldn't make while Aruji was watching them.

The magic mirror walked off the stage before Hasebe and Tsurumaru could start acting out the next scene. Nothing could make Ookurikara stay any longer now, no way would he be willing to watch that drama about Hasebe trying to kill off the snow white crane.

Ookurikara hid behind the stage and stole some secret glances at Mitsutada in the audience. Where in the world did he find those weird fans he was waving around all excited? And why did Mitsutada have more of those than he had hands to hold them in?? It wasn't even that warm anymore! Wait, what was written on them? Oh please...

Ookurikara hid deeper behind the stage and Hasebe gave his all acting on the stage. He put everything he got into it and had Hunter Maeda drag Princess Snow White into the forest to kill her there. But the hunter was a kind man and told the Princess to flee and hide.

She ran off and the scene changed.

The Yari changed the background to a cute little hut with seven beds, seven plates, seven cups etc. etc.

On came the Princess who twirled through the house once and everything was a mess.
After that, she slept in one of the beds with her legs dangling out.

Suddenly, a bunch of six tantou plus Hotarumaru with long fake beards and pointy hats entered the scene. Yagen introduced them as the seven dwarfs living in this hut behind the seven mountains. The stage became quite crowded.

The cute little men decided to shelter Snow White who was surprisingly amusing, although she wasn't of much help with the housework.

The dwarfs and the Princess lived a peaceful life, until the evil Queen found out Snow White was indeed alive somewhere. They even made Ookurikara go back on stage to reveal this fact. But this time the mirror tried hard to not even glance into the audience once, otherwise he would have to see the embarrassing fans again.

Little did he know that Mitsutada had already given those fans to other Touken Danshi in the audience, who saw them and also wanted to cheer on the performers.
He now was holding up a self-made banner from the back row instead.

Alarmed by what the magic mirror said the Queen decided that if she wanted something done right, she would have to do it herself. So she set off to kill Snow White.

She disguised herself and made Snow White eat a poisoned, oversized mochi which the Princess choked on. The seven dwarfs later found her dead on the floor and cried out in grief. The audience felt with them and encouraged them to build a crystal tomb for the White Princess.

One day, a foreign Prince passed by on his horse, but the sun reflected by the crystal tomb blinded him so much he went to have a closer look. The Prince and the horse, played by Taikogane and Kikkou Sadamune, looked into the tomb and saw Snow White lying there peacefully and gracefully.

"The Prince fell in love at first sight,” Yagen said, "and he begged the dwarfs to let him move the Princess into his castle. At first they were not willing to let her go, but the Prince in love moved their hearts."

The seven Dwarfs nodded and allowed Prince Sada-chan to carry the Princess off. Unfortunately they did not see the big rock lying in the middle of the stage and fell over it.

This part was acted out perfectly by Akashi Kuniyuki, who wore a giant rock costume and nearly fell asleep on the stage while waiting for the Sadamune brothers to skip and fall over him with a loud thump.

The spectators were a little worried about the pile of actors whispering "Ouch" and "Aah,” while they tried to gain back some poise. Only Kikkou Sadamune seemed annoyingly happy about being stuck between a pile of bodies.

Suddenly Tsurumaru remembered that he was supposed to play a lifeless person coming back to life. He coughed loudly.

Yagen hurried to tell the story as he was supposed to:

"The Princess fell down and the shock made her cough out the poisoned mochi that was stuck in her throat and did not let her breathe. Happy about the sudden recovery, the Prince decided to marry the Princess on the next day and he invited the dwarfs and the kind hunter to their wedding."

Taikogane Sadamune lifted the Princess up and carried her off bridal style under the whistles and loud clapping of the audience. Tsurumaru blew some cheeky kisses into the air and waved happily.

Everyone was extremely excited about the happy ending and gave rounds and rounds of applause for all the actors who had gathered on the cramped stage to bow. Mitsutada wiped some tears away; next to him was Mutsunokami, who had filmed the whole play. He had to get his hands on a copy of this for sure. It was just too cute how Sada-chan carried off his taller bride with so much style, simply too cool! Tsuru-san was such a pretty Princess and Kara-chan would definitely be the best magic mirror he had ever seen.

All the families gathered in front of the stage, congratulated each other and made merry for the rest of the night. Iwatooshi patted Kogitsunemaru's head, Ichigo told all his brothers how fantastic their play had been, and Aruji moved from group to group.

Only two people sneaked away from the bustling place after a while to speak where it was calmer. A fully white figure followed a man clad in blue around the corner of the citadel, just in time to watch the sun go down together in silence, like they often did.
They stood on the veranda, each one lost in his own thoughts.

Only when the sun was half hidden behind the horizon and the moon slowly started to rise did the first one opened his mouth to talk. It was Mikazuki Munechika, who did not take his eyes away from the setting sun yet. He did not dare look into the other's eyes while saying what he wanted to say.

As trivial as he made it sound, it was not an easy decision to talk about it at all. Mikazuki spoke his words into the wind, hoping that it might carry off his words without them reaching Tsurumaru.

"To be honest, I felt a little envious of Taikogane Sadamune today. Maybe I would have liked to participate as well. Or simply carry off Princess Tsurumaru too," Mikazuki chuckled, his signature enigmatic laughter.

When he finally looked over to the silent Tsurumaru Kuninaga to get a glimpse of what the other one was thinking, he realised Tsurumaru's eyes were all wet. His expression worried him and he asked, "Tsuru.... what's up? Did I say something wrong?"

"No. You idiotic old man. If you want to do it, then just do it! Rather, please give me a pleasant surprise!"

And with these words he took a run-up and leaped straight at Mikazuki.

Mikazuki quickly put his hands up to catch the white whirlwind flinging himself at him, but he got stuck in some layers of white cloth. Long kimono sleeves intertwined and a pile of fabric with two men inside crashed to the floor with both of them crying out in surprise.

"Well... this wasn't exactly what I was going for... I am surprised." Tsurumaru sighed and tried to pull his sleeve out from underneath something for the second time today. "Ouch."

"Hahaha, oww oww, please don't pull there Tsuru. It surely was surprising to this old man, hahaha. I bet everyone would be surprised too, if they found us like this now."

It took them a while to make sure which limb belonged to whom, but in the end Mikazuki helped Tsurumaru up and looked for any stains or dirt on the other man's clothing. What a shame if his unmarred crane would get a bruise or a stain from this.

"So....would you care for some hot green tea in my room, Tsurumaru? To celebrate your successful performance?"

The white crane showed his softest smile and gazed into the blue eyes in front of him.
"Anytime, Mikazuki".

He was lifted up and carried away by a very cheerful Mikazuki, who was visibly content with his celebratory gift.

And that’s how their Hanamaru days continued.