From chapter 1:
Two women were about ten feet away from him, one on her knees planting a sapling, the other holding a parasol over her, a wooden bucket beside her feet. For a second, he didn't even recognize Hikaru as the kneeling woman. She wore loose pants and a plain kimono, her hair was done up in a casual knot under a broad-brimmed straw hat, and her face was bare of any make-up. Bemused, he simply stood and stared at her. Of all the ways he'd imagined meeting her again, none of them had even approached this. Yet, once he'd absorbed the differences and knew her again, he felt the same strong internal pull toward her and the same pleasure in simply seeing her and hearing her voice. That, at least, was one thing which hadn't changed in this world.
With her hands protected by heavy leather gloves, Hikaru patted the earth around the sapling's roots and tilted the bucket to pour water over them. Then she removed the gloves and stroked the bark of the young tree, saying, "There, that should set you up very well, and you'll grow tall and straight and beautiful. Won't you?"
The other woman giggled. Hiko didn't blame her. What an idiotic thing, to talk to a tree. But Hikaru had some silly notion that talking nicely to plants helped them grow better. He'd seen her do it on their river walk. It was absurd, but it was Hikaru, so it was also charming.
He realized that seeing her like this, paradoxically, only made her more dear to him. For once his Master had been wrong about something. Three years ago, Seijuro Hiko the 12th had laughed at him, insisting he suffered nothing more than a boy's infatuation for a pretty face, a charm of manner, and a bottle of sake. Hiko still didn't know much about women (his Master always said there was no way to know about them), but he knew he'd never get this one out of his mind.
The maid saw him first. She gasped and went pale, which he supposed was natural for a woman turning in her familiar garden and seeing a stranger standing there, a very large man with a sword under his cloak. The woman's hand reached down to Hikaru's shoulder and gripped convulsively. "Madame...!"
Hikaru looked up, alert but unalarmed, and saw him. For a long, long moment they were frozen, staring at each other, her eyes growing huge and round, and he knew that he'd been right to seek her out. She hadn't forgotten him, any more than he'd forgotten her. Everything he'd sensed between them, three years ago, which his Master had laughed away, had been real and true, and still existed in all its strength.
Both of them completely forgot their surroundings and stared at each other, silent, Hikaru not even breathing, until the maid bleated, "Madame, we should run."
Hiko's lips twitched as Hikaru's face lit with appreciative amusement. She rose smoothly to her feet, saying to the maid, although she never looked away from him, "Don't be ridiculous, Sakue. This is a guest, a friend of mine. Go prepare the garden tea room. Go on, don't be afraid, it's all right, I promise you." She waved a hand, vaguely, and the maid bowed and went away. When the door shut behind the girl, she said, "Kakunoshin," on a breath, and walked without hesitation into his arms.
He held her for a moment, unable to believe this was the first time he'd ever done so. It felt as comfortable as coming home to his own room after a long trip. She smelled of jasmine and earth. He tilted up her chin. "That's no longer my name," he pointed out.
"I don't care," she said, and closed her eyes for his kiss.
The kiss was also their first, but it was she who was tentative, her lips testing before she gave herself to him. He knew what he wanted, waited a moment for her to soften, and then took it. He kissed her until she was breathless, released her for a few seconds to see the dazed smile in her eyes, took off the ridiculous hat (which was getting in his way), and then kissed her breathless again. This was all he had come to Edo for, so he took his time and took his fill. When he finally let her go, it was only to keep her against his chest, where she rubbed her cheek like a kitten. Remembering his Master's laughter at all the sake and company Hikaru had given him for nothing, he remarked, half to the old man's spirit, "I got that for free, too."
Under his hands, her shoulders shook before the laugh broke out. "You are the rudest man I've ever known. Couldn't you say something romantic at a time like this?"