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11 Hozaka Weaponry

 Ai wiped away the sweats that formed on her forehead as the burning waves of heat surrounded her body. Silently, she took note of the melting metal in the mould and checked the temperature of the heat chamber. "Just nice", she muttered to herself.

It had been a few weeks since Ai had started working with Shion Hozaka and she had explicitly requested to learn how to craft weapons herself. She wanted to further expand her designs and there was no better way than getting right down to the process of it.

Though slightly shocked, Shion had agreed to it eventually and allowed Ai to work in the Hozaka blacksmith workshop. Speaking of Shion, she had realised that the young master of Hozaka Trading rarely appeared in the shop premises and the one that often frequent was his best friend and heir to Yunes Industry, Tamaki Yunes.

Ai scrunched up her face in distress as she thought of the bothersome man. She didn't know why but during her working hours at Hozaka, Tamaki Yunes had stuck to her like a glue and followed her everywhere she went while occasionally making unnecessary encouragements as if to inform her he was there.

As of now, Tamaki Yunes clapped his hands excitedly as Ai took out the metal mould from the heat chamber. She didn't know what he was clapping for since her latest weapon was far from completion and it was just a slab of melted metal in this current state. Yet suddenly a voice whispered in her ears, "Ai, that was impressive!".

Out of reflex, Ai moved away immediately and her hand almost got burnt in the process. She gave him a scorching glare and proceeded to say, "Young Master Yunes, please refrain from standing too close to me, I'm handling a dangerous equipment!"

Ai felt slight anger towards Tamaki for standing too close to her and shocking her and she wanted to reprimand him greatly.

"But Ai, the only dangerous equipment here is you! You are a danger to my heart!" Tamaki yelled out suddenly, catching the attention of Hozaka employees around. Some of the employees whistled, while some clapped as if some sort of celebration and Ai felt baffled by their responses.

This was the cheesiest pick-up line she heard so why were they celebrating it?

Ai decided to ignore the annoying puppy-like man and continued her work. As if sensing her choice to ignore him, Tamaki made a sound that strangely resembled a whine. If he had dog ears, they would probably be flattened by now.

Dear god, doesn't this man have anything better to do?!

After a while of repeatedly ignoring him, Tamaki seemed to become bored and lost interest as he walked away suddenly. Ai let out a breath she had been holding. She didn't like the constant attention on her while she was working and Tamaki was doing exactly just that. This was also the reason why she had left Kit at home and proceeded to work alone here. She didn't want any distraction or attention at work and as much as she was caring to her family, Ai was pretty much a lone wolf when it came to socialisation.

Speaking of Kit, Ai's heart did a somersault at the way the young boy had been behaving. A few days after her decision to collaborate with Shion, she had found Kit, intoxicated and drenched in rain.

That day was the start of monsoon season. Kit had briefly mentioned he was going out. She didn't know what exactly had happened outside but when he was back, Kit was highly intoxicated and had walked through the pouring rain in his drunken stupor.

Ai was studying her weapon books in her room when she heard the raspy knocks at her door. She immediately went to open, only find a very drunk Kit falling at her feet. His blonde hair matted and clothes drenched, the sight was truly heart wrenching to behold. Yet the excited grey eyes looked up at her, chanting her name over and over.

Ai didn't know how to react since this had never happened to her before. But she couldn't alert her father or brother since this might cause Kit to be kicked out of Shizuka household. Code of conduct was very important to her father and she didn't have the heart to abandon the boy she took under her wings.

So dragging Kit's body inside, Ai had sought out Kiya for her help to change Kit out of his wet clothes. She couldn't risk him running a fever and left him in soaked clothes. But the traitor Kiya had run off with a red face saying, she had never seen a young man without clothes and left Ai to her own device.

Ai sighed, sometimes she doesn't know who is the servant and who is the master and it's not like Ai had been around many naked men. She had only seen Jin in her previous life during her marriage and it was indeed very few since Jin Omaru treated her like a disease.

Ai bit her lips in determination and convinced herself that this was for Kit's health. With half-closed eyes, she changed Kit out of his wet clothes with a spare set of Saito's. Well, she had them just in case she has to cross-dressed to escape some sticky situations (cough* Jin Omaru cough*) in the future and it came in handy. Half-way through the changing, Kit had woken up with a dazzling smile and suddenly brought her down to his pale yet toned chest.

Ai had panicked. God grace, what if someone comes in and sees the situation?! With still in the intoxicated mind, Kit had insisted or rather demanded that Ai call him his special nickname. She didn't know why he insisted but it seemed like he won't let her go unless she gave in to his demands. With a reluctant heart, she had called him Kitty a few times before he fell into a peaceful sleep.

As much as Ai viewed him as a younger brother or a close friend, the close proximity with the opposite gender was causing her heart rates to skyrocket. A strange and unfamiliar thought popped into her heart. Kit is really adorable and quite handsome.

Ai slapped herself mentally. She doesn't know what had gotten into her but lusting after a sleeping young man, she wanted to bang her head on the floor to pray to the heavens for her sins. Immediately she shook away the strange thoughts.

With much difficulties, Ai finally managed to break free from the octopus-like arms that encaged her and resumed changing his clothes. That night Ai couldn't sleep since she had allowed Kit to take up her whole bed. By the morning come, she had somehow fallen asleep on her table and found her bed to be empty.

Ever since the incident, they didn't talk much and there was some awkward air in between them. Despite that, Ai decided to focus on her work at Hozaka and continued her routines.

After a few more hours of work, Ai had managed to complete 80% of her latest prototype and decided to come out to the streets for a breather. The streets were very lively with merchants and shoppers milling around. A group of young ladies walked past as they chattered excitedly about what dress to wear for the upcoming annual ball.

Ai shot up her eyebrows. Annual ball. She remembered. The yearly event that allowed the young singles in Shinto to mingle around. It is the most highly-anticipated event of the year and sometimes even the royals from other continents will participate. Ai smiled lightly at their liveliness. How innocent is the young love, she thought.

"You are not going?" A deep baritone voice asked beside her. Ai blushed slightly, recognising the voice.

She shook her head lightly as she smiled at Shion. "No, I'm sitting this one out."

Shion felt intrigued but slightly disappointed. He was thinking a young girl of her age would be excited about such events but Ai seemed to be a completely different breed. She looked rather indifferent as she replied to him a matter of fact tone.

In her previous life, Ai was indeed very excited about this events since she could debut as Jin's fiance at the ball. But this time, she had no reason to join such events and the minimum requirement of the ball was one single person from each household (If there is). So she could ask Saito to join the ball and she would have no obligation for that.

But in life, things sometimes did not turn out to be the way it was planned and it was exactly what happened. Saito Shizuka stopped in front of Hozaka Weaponry as he clutched his sister tightly.

"Baby sis, nearby royalty is visiting and father and I need to go the borders to receive the prince immediately. I don't know how long it will take but there is an upcoming ball that required our attendance, please go on my behalf!" Saito said in one breath before hurrying off in a rush.

Ai felt cold sweats forming on her forehead as the new information suddenly added the invisible weights on her shoulder. So she has to go to the ball?! But she didn't want to see Jin Omaru and she was 100% sure that he would be there!!

Awkwardly smiling, she turned towards Shion, who had been silent throughout. "Guess I will be going to the ball then," she said as she laughed slightly to hide the awkwardness.

"In that case, can I be your partner at the ball, Miss Shizuka?" Shion asked seriously.

To be honest, Ai felt shocked at his question. It's been a known fact how Shion hates crowds and events. He even paid off the officials to fake his attendance and this year he is attending?

But thinking it through, it was not necessarily a bad thing. After all, Shion is big and loaded. If anything, he was the best form of defence against Jin Omaru, both physically and also in terms of influences.

(Author: Ahh readers, I mean Big as in his body size. Since he is the tallest among the harem. Not anything else ah.)

Shion felt nervous as he awaited Ai's answer. He had never asked a lady such questions and this lady currently seemed to be zoned out, causing his nervousness to skyrocket. He was about to say, it's okay if she does not want when Ai suddenly replied.

"Sure, I will be delighted to!"