With a small wave, he saw her flash a last smile at him and then open the door to the large, traditional house she lived in. He stayed there, as if rooted, until he saw a small light flicker on in what looked like the top floor, or maybe the attic.

A little, kind smile found its way onto his lips, and, shaking his head at himself, he decided to walk back to his apartment. It was far, yes.

But he had a lot to think about, and tomorrow's day off.

And so, he went home with his heart feeling strangely light, and, maybe, wishing that he could have stayed there a bit longer –if only, a little bit longer.

.

.

.

Tomoe recognized his defeat that very night.

He didn't need to know about her more than her magnetic smile, feel more than the mysterious pang of nostalgia or scoff at more than her particularly silly way to see the world to know that she represented right about everything missing from his life.

But he also knew that if he decided to risk it, it wouldn't be easy.

When, a couple of days later, and after a lot of coffee and a lot of working late he decided to tell Mizuki about his predicament (seeing how he was his closest friend in a steady, stable sentimental relationship that had begun in a weird way and turned out for the better…), Mizuki wrapped up Tomoe's main concern in a single, sarcastic comment:

'Such an older guy dating a highschool girl… that's a special kind of creepy,' Mizuki said, with a venomous little smirk dancing on his lips.

Tomoe winced, especially at the way in which Mizuki was smirking serenely at him, as if he somehow had become his prey. They were sitting in their living room, Tomoe in one of the individual sofas, and Mizuki taking up the couch, Snakey curled around him (in what anyone else would have considered an uncomfortable manner), its big, fat head resting on top of its owner's own head. Both shared a look, and Tomoe fleetingly thought they looked like they were merged, Mizuki and that snake.

He sighed.

'Let me put it this way,' he said, at length, 'Remember the mushroom episode?'

Mizuki was the one who winced this time. 'I try to forget it every day…'

'Well, if we were actual divine animal spirits, like you and Shinjirou so ardently tried to convince me of (Tomoe enjoyed Mizuki's regretful cringe), then I'd gladly forsake my godliness to be with her, underage mortal though she might be.'

By then, Mizuki's subtle wince at the unflattering memory had been replaced by an almost-cute expression of genuine curiosity.

'…really?'

'No regrets.'

Tomoe's roommate blinked once, twice.

'She must have hexed you, dude,' he said, at length, 'Look, Unari's got a friend who's a purported witch, go check her out, just in case.'

Evidently, Tomoe did not take those words seriously, at all.

'If you're thinking Isahime, let me remind you of what she did to poor, unsuspecting Ryuo when you told him that very same thing…'

Mizuki sighed, shaking his head.

'Look, dude. Just because you're going through some inner turmoil thing doesn't give you the right to be mean and guilt-trip me over and over. I'm just trying to give you a hand, ok?'

Tomoe shrugged, and averted his eyes, successfully chastised. Maybe Mizuki was right, he was being a bit evil, bringing up all those awful past experiences with so little respite between them.

'Listen,' said Mizuki, 'Can you hear anything? Splashing, maybe?'

Tomoe tried to listen, but, in all honesty, all he heard was a breeze picking up outside. It was almost winter. He shook his head.

'Not a thing.'

Mizuki dismissed him with a wave of his hand, and stood up.

'Well, that just shows you've got an animal empathy level rock. That's Mr. Waterdance sploshing around, probably hungry. This is what we're gonna do. I'm gonna go and take care of my gorgeous little water monster, and you are going to make tea and cook something tasty. Think stuff through, while you're at it. And then we can talk some more.'

Privately dumbstruck by Mizuki's sudden display of both eloquence and compassion, Tomoe nodded in silence.

Quietly, he went to the kitchen. He turned on the lights, and fastened his favorite apron around his slim frame. With a sigh, he furtively checked that he was alone, and flicked his thumb over the screen of his phone until Nanami's contact info was on display. He allowed himself some seconds to look at her smiling picture, with an expressionless face that turned into a frown when he realized what he was doing, and he put the phone away again.

He fetched the first cookbook that was within reach and distractedly browsed through it, and through the window he looked at the darkening sky and, tucking away a stray memory of his childhood in the mountains, he thought how he still had a long, long way to go.

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Author's Note:

Hi! I wasn't planning to update, I don't know what happened.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed Mizuki! I sure did :D

I want to send a super tight hug to the awesome people who always review! Thank you so much guys! You're all very special :)

Also, I'm sure I'm not gonna finish this story in one more chapter, so nevermind what I said about 10 chapters ^^.

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Contest! (kind of!)

The most original story behind "the mushroom incident" or "what Isahime did to poor Ryuo" [who, btw, is the Dragon King], will be nicely featured in the coming chapters!