Disclaimer: New year, new me, but no new ownership of YGO so…. There's that.
Author's Note: Happy New Year everyone! I hope all has been well with you. Things have been a little hectic here on my end, which is why I didn't manage to get this up within the first week of the month. Still, I think you're going to enjoy this chapter. A note before we continue though - some of Kaiba's remarks regarding cultural and religious traditions are not exactly… what you'd call respectful. They're very I guess you could say simplified overviews and the way he talks about them, well, some of the phrasing he uses are more so a reflection of Kaiba's outlook on life than anything else (and they're certainly not meant to reflect my opinions or those of others). Just wanted to put that out there. Now that that's stated, let's get going on this chapter!
Yankii - A subculture in Japan of essentially 'delinquent' or 'rebellious' students - sometimes characterized with bleached hair, thin eyebrows, and modified school uniforms.
Kinkaku-Ji - Also known as "The Golden Pavilion" or "The Golden Temple", it is one of Japan's most iconic landmarks - a zen temple coated in gold.
Fushimi Inari Taisha - Also known as "Fushimi Inari Shrine", where thousands of red torii gates line the way up to the top of Mt. Inari. Another of Japan's most iconic landmarks.
Ginkaku-Ji - Similar in construction to Kinkaku-Ji, it is also known as "The Silver Pavilion" or "The Silver Temple". Though not coated in silver, it is a favorite spot of travelers who visit in Kyoto.
Gion District - Famous district of Kyoto for its edo-period styled construction as well as Geiko (Geisha).
Temizuya - A place for the ritual cleansing of the hands and mouth with water prior to entering shrines and temples.
Mizaru - One of the three wise monkeys at Toshogu ("See no evil")
Toshogu - A shrine in Nikko dedicated to Ieyasu Tokugawa, who united Japan in the early 1600's
Nikko - A famous shrine village North East of Tokyo near Lake Chuzenji. Very beautiful place to go, especially in fall, with Toshogu shrine and the Kegon Waterfall.
The Siblings at Fushimi - I actually saw two siblings like this when I first went to Fushimi Inari Taisha. It was a very striking image that I wanted to include in this story to share with all of you.
Kitsune - Japanese for "Fox(ex)"
1,000 Cranes - In Japan, the legend goes if you fold 1,000 paper cranes, you may have one wish come true. This was made even more famous after the story of Sadako Sasaki, a young girl who was a victim of the radiation poisoning after the bombing of Hiroshima.
Omiyage - Japanese for "Souvenir(s)"
Kyogashi - Kyoto style Japanese sweets
Nama Yatsuhashi - A Japanese sweet sold primarily in Kyoto - "Nama" means 'raw' - in this case, soft Yatsuhashi (it can also be baked).
Anko - Red Bean Paste; usually just a little sweet.
Nikki - Japanese for "Cinnamon"
Wabi Sabi - A Japanese Aesthetic - focuses on minimalistic sense, imperfection, and the ever changing nature of things with time.
Fusuma - Sliding Japanese Screens
Walking and Eating - Not something people commonly do in Japan.
Nanzenji - A Zen Buddhist Temple between Ginkaku-Ji and Yasaka Shrine - known for its towering gate, rock gardens, and the nearby aqueduct.
Higashiyama - A district of Kyoto on the slopes of the eastern mountains - it is a preserved historic district with walkways to and from Yasaka Shrine and Kiyomizudera Temple.
Yasaka Shrine - Shrine in the Gion district of Kyoto, famous for housing the Mikoshi used during the Gion festival
Mikoshi - A portable shrine carried around a town during festivals; they are each individually unique in terms of design
Holding hands in Japan - Showing public affection in Japan almost never happens, so doing something like this is a big deal.
Hanami-koji - Famous old style street in Kyoto in Gion - in it's back alleys, you can often find Geiko and Maiko in the evenings around 5 going to dinner appointments.
Cabs - Cray cray expensive in Japan. Like, super expensive. The fact that Kaiba can afford several is insane to me.
Today's chapter title means "Sightseeing".
"There's a light that you give me, when I'm in shadow,
There's a feeling within me, an everglow."
-"Everglow" by Coldplay
Chapter Seventeen: 見物 (Kenbutsu)
"Bye, Mr. Kaiba! Bye-bye, Blue Eyed Girl!"
Panic. That was a complete and accurate descriptive word for what Seto felt at that moment. When Kisara turned to see him, Seto found his tongue weighing like a lead brick, but the adrenaline rush quickly made that but a nuisance.
"Um..." He began, "Uh, are you okay?"
Kisara nodded her head, "I am... are you?"
Seto did the same, choosing to lean back into his seat slowly, like it was glass while his mind raced. Blue Eyed Girl. He didn't need Mokuba to tell him what that boy was implying. That he liked Kisara and that he liked her because of her looks, her blue eyes. Admittedly, she was... pretty... but that wasn't solely because she had blue eyes. He barely noticed the attendant coming for their bento boxes, his mind was so wrapped up in trying to figure out the best way to address the situation at hand.
"Now Arriving in Kyoto."
The announcement seemed to freeze him in place. From this point on, it was going to be just them. No attendants. No driver. Just him and Kisara. The boy thought he like her. Did he? Or didn't he? Was this just a 'crush' spurred on by the innate natural man? If so, it would mean even he bent to his own humanity, which made him admittedly uncomfortable and perturbed. Or did he genuinely actually like her? Her personality? Her little ticks and quirks? Her outlook on life? The way she expressed herself? In short, did he like everything about her? And why on earth was it so important to him that he knew? What did it even matter?
Seto found himself brought out of his trance and staring up at Kisara. She was now the only one left on the train, partially leaning over the seat in front of her own back at him, waiting. He lowered his chin just enough to confirm that indeed, he was coming. Standing up, he followed behind her, his gaze cast down as they walked. At the train's doorway, Kisara hopped off and glanced up and around while Seto stood at the rim of the train. He blinked as Kisara's silvery white hair spun around her as she did with her arms open to the hot summer air. He wasn't sure why, but his brother's words came back to him.
"The richest guy in all of Domino City can't take a day off to go to Kyoto with a friend? You know, you're always telling me to make the most out of life. Why can't you do the same for once? Just take some time to enjoy life."
The dueling champion let out a sigh and a brief smile came to him, before he looked up at her, "Sorry, I'm coming."
Stepping off the train, he quickly caught up with Kisara and the two started walking towards the middle of the station. He may not have all of the answers to his questions, but that's what this was for. To figure them out. To determine if this 'friendship' was really just that or not that at all or... something more. Kisara's light steps easily allowed her to keep up with his. He smiled as they walked up to a map that gave a general lay out of Kyoto and stopped.
"Alright, so, the lighting of the Gozan no Okuribi doesn't start till 8. Do you have anything you want to do in particular?" He asked, his eyes directing her attention to the map, a basic grid from north to south hidden within the mountains around them.
Kisara looked it over, "Hmm... I don't know Kyoto... how long does it take to get to places?"
"Depends on how you go," Seto told her, "You can walk, bike, take the bus, train, or cab."
"Um... well... I don't, uh, I don't know how to ride a bike... so... can we walk?" She asked, when Seto let out an amused laugh, to which, Kisara, in a panic at the thought he was laughing at her inability, responded, "What?"
"You think I'd bike somewhere? I'd rather take a cab any day," He told her, "There are areas where it won't be prudent to take a cab, but those areas we can walk."
Kisara nodded with a smile, "Oh, okay, well... good."
A small laugh escaped her and Seto turned back to the map, "So... where would you like to go?"
Kisara brought a hand to her lips in thought, reading over the depiction of Kyoto before her, when she glanced up at him, "The best places to see."
Seto cocked an eye at her and suddenly, almost flustered as if she might have said something wrong, Kisara added, "Uh, I mean, if uh, if that's okay. I mean we don't have to see everything, just... the places you think are the best."
The CEO read over the map one more time before making a decision, "Alright, let's start Kinkaku-ji and Fushimi Inari Taisha. They're at opposite ends of the city, but they'll become mobbed as the day goes on. After that, we can head over to Ginkaku-ji and the Gion District."
Kisara's pink lips curved into a smile, "Sure! Sounds like a plan!"
"So when did she tell you about this?" Joey said as he and Tea walked down the steps of the station towards the Game Shop.
Tea brushed her hair behind her ear and adjusted her tiny backpack, trying to keep it flat to avoid wrinkling the contents inside, "I told you, I just found out this morning."
"Did she say when this was decided?" He asked.
"Nope," Tea answered.
"That's it? Just "Nope"? Tea, you're the biggest gossip on this planet, how can you say that?" Joey said, incredulously.
"Rude!" She shouted back to him, "I do not gossip, I pay attention, you should try it sometime. Maybe then you'd realize your sister is much worse about that kind of thing than I am."
"I-" Joey began, when he realized that Tea had a point.
Before he could say anything, Tea took the opportunity to change the subject, "And speaking of paying attention, care to explain why Mai isn't joining us today?"
"Huh?" Joey said, rather taken aback.
"Don't think we all don't know at this point, Joey," Tea said, "What'd you do this time?"
They crossed the street and entered the colorful path that was rising out of what seemed like nothing in preparation for this evening. Joey sighed and rubbed the back of his neck.
"I didn't do anything..." He said, "Mai... we had a fight alright."
"About?" Tea pressed.
Joey wrinkled his nose, "I don't wanna talk about it Tea."
"Oh come on," She said, "You've been going through the days like a puppy that was yelled at for the last few weeks."
"Why does everyone say a puppy of all things?" Joey asked, annoyed.
"Probably because you keep bleaching your hair that awful yanki blonde color that looks like it's better suited to a yellow lab," Tea told him, "No one buys that it's real."
Joey rolled his eyes, "That's not the point of it."
"Yeah, well, regardless, just spill it. We've known each other for years; I'm not going to say anything to anyone if you don't want me to, you know that," Tea told him.
Joey eyed her with such severe scrutiny that Tea was debating whether or not to take offense when he finally opened his mouth, "She's mad at me for not dueling on a pro level anymore."
Tea almost stopped in her tracks, "Wait, what?"
"When I was, she and I saw each other much more often. But you know, the game shop's been so busy and I make a better stream of income that way," Joey elaborated.
"Maybe if you stopped relying on luck cards," Tea told him, "But even then, you're really good Joey."
Joey shook his head, "It doesn't matter. If I'm running a deck based on luck or the Red Eyes or both, even if I do compete and win, I still have to pay for the traveling. I'm forking out money for Serenity's college. Mom helps her when she can, but she's struggling you know? I just... I can't gamble away Serenity's future like that."
"So... she's mad at you for being responsible?" Tea asked, "That doesn't really sound like Mai... I mean, I know she isn't one to settle down in any one place, but... even she knows what it's like when the bills are due."
Joey shrugged as they got to the game shop and he pulled his keys out, "Yeah, well, doesn't matter now... she's got her life and I've got mine, you know?"
He opened the door to the closed up shop and the two peered in. Joey's shoulders slouched.
"Aw, not again."
"Not again, what?" Tea asked.
"I asked Yug if I could be a little late getting in today and if he could open up early," Joey told her, earning a smack over the back of his head, "Ow! What was that for?"
"You idiot, why would you ask that?" Tea chastised, "He's exhausted these days. And why wouldn't you just close up shop for today? It's a holiday!"
"Oi, and you think I'm not? Come on, let's go get sleeping beauty," He said, shutting the door and heading for the door to the house.
All the lights were still off inside the kitchen as well. Joey and Tea kicked their shoes off and looked around, finding the place empty of anyone.
"Hm, you'd think Gramps would be around here, it's practically noon," Joey mused.
"Well maybe he was tired too," Tea said underhandedly.
Joey glared before motioning for her to follow him up the stairs. The second floor was just as quiet as the floor below. Joey peeked in on Yugi's grandfather who seemed to be sound asleep.
"You know, walking around like this feels like trespassing," Tea told him.
"Oh relax," Joey said, "I just don't wanna wake 'im."
Passing by Solomon, the two made their way to Yugi's room, where the door was cracked open slightly. Joey peered in and smirked.
"Lazy bum," He whispered, as an evil look began to appear on his face.
"Joey, what are you-"
"Hold my stuff," He said.
"Cannonball!" He screamed, rushing the room, his yell the only warning a completely out of it Yugi had before his eyes widened and he found himself tackled by his best friend in a wrestling match.
"Joe-Joey!" Yugi said, pushing against his friend's arms which were attempting to get him in a headlock.
"Rise and shine, Game King," He said as the two wrestled.
"Get off!" Yugi yelled, the two struggling as he managed to get out the words.
"As if, I told you to open the shop early!" Joey told him, when the two tumbled to the ground and landed with a rather loud "thump" from the bed.
Tea winced, watching the two as the match continued.
"Since, ugh, when did you, ugh, Joey come on!" Yugi said, managing to get his arm up and through Joey's headlock, effectively removing himself from Joey's hold.
"Oh no, you're not using Pegasus' as your excuse out of this one," Joey said, trying to again get a hold of Yugi as he attempted to make his point, "You're always yelling at me to open up on time."
"That's your job!" Yugi yelled back as Joey grabbed his shirt sleeve as he attempted to roll away from the fray.
"And managing your grandpa's shop isn't yours?" Joey said, pulling on the sleeve, as the two struggled.
Finding the tug on his shirt to be the last straw as it tightened his collar around his neck, Yugi definitively elbowed Joey in the ribs out of nowhere and fell backwards in front of Tea.
"The heck, man what was that for?" Joey said, gasping at the surprise at, what he saw as, an underhanded move.
"For tackling me awake, what do you think?" Yugi said, groaning, when his gaze landed on Tea's socks and then up to Tea, who had been watching the squirmish, "Uh..."
"Morning," She said.
"Mor-" Yugi started when it occurred to him. He was only in an undershirt and boxers, "Agh, sorry Tea, hang on."
He rushed her out of the room and slammed the door shut. Though his intent was to get decent for Tea, it also locked him in the room with Joey. He groaned before rushing to find a pair of pants and a nice shirt, which his closet seemed intent on not belching out.
"Why'd you bring her up here, huh?" He asked Joey in a whisper as he hopped into a pair of jeans.
"You're not wearing a yukata?" Joey asked.
"No, why-" Yugi stopped when he saw Joey's smile.
What had Tea been wearing? Was she wearing one? He couldn't remember. He had been so intent on getting dressed, he hadn't noticed. He ran over, one leg in his jeans as the other pant leg trailed behind, and grabbed Joey by his shirt's collar.
"What's she wearing?!" The note of desperation clear in his voice.
"Aw, come on now, and Tea just told me I don't pay attention," Joey said.
"Joey!" Yugi hissed.
Joey shrugged, "She's gonna wear one later. You're fine."
Yugi released him and instantly was back to getting dressed. Joey shook his head, wondering what he, Tristan, Duke, Serenity, Mai, and possibly even Pegasus had wondered too many times over the past years to count: when would these two idiots just fess up that they liked one another already.
Once Yugi found a shirt, popped it on and added his signature leather accessories to the outfit, Tea found the door to the room opening and a sheepishly embarrassed Yugi poking his head out and grinning at her.
"Ha, so-sorry about that, uh..." He began, "You and Joey wanna go downstairs? I gotta brush my teeth and I'll be right down."
Tea smiled and nodded, "Sure, no rush."
Yugi smiled and ran down the hall to the restroom, which he promptly went into and shut. Joey followed, stretching in the doorway, earning a disapproving look from Tea in the process.
"Oh, come on," She said, "You know, you didn't need to do that."
"No, but it was fun," Joey said as they got to the steps.
Joey's foot didn't reach the first step however before he felt an unexpected whack on his back which sent him skidding down the stairs in an awkward tumble. Tea winced as she heard Joey fall back against the wall down the stairs and glanced back to see where the push had come from.
"I don't care if it was fun, it was loud!" Solomon Muto yelled down the steps, "Now hurry up and open the shop, you good for nothing lazy employee."
Tea found herself snickering despite herself as she hopped down the steps and offered Joey a hand as he growled at Solomon.
"Just wait till Yugi's gone and you're reliant on me again!" Joey yelled back.
"I'd sooner hire a nurse then go back to that time; now go open the shop!" Solomon yelled before slamming the door shut to his room and effectively irritating the manager of his store.
Letting out a growl of frustration, Joey threw his hands up and headed into the kitchen where he pulled a Pocari Sweat from the fridge and began to down it. Tea sat down at the island and Joey gasped for air.
"Don't think you're out of it by the way," He said.
"Out of what?" Tea asked.
"Out of telling us what's going on between Kaiba and Kisara," Joey said, turning his back to finish his drink when the voice he heard from behind turned out to not be the one he had been expecting.
"Wait, what do you mean 'going on between Kaiba and Kisara?'"
The two turned to see Yugi standing over the top of the staircase railing down at them. In the background, the clock alerted them to the time. It was noon.
"Yeah Tea," Joey shot, breaking the silence, "What is going on between that jerk and Kisara?"
Joey took a quick swig of his drink, happy to divert the focus away from himself and onto someone else for them to deal with. In his mind, the game shop manager found himself considering this to not be the worst way for the day to begin, though he could tell that they were in for a long conversation that was sure to cause his best friend nothing but a headache and maybe even a bit of a migraine.
Seto was incredibly grateful that he had been allowed to suggest getting Kinkaku-ji and Fushimi Inari Taisha out of the way first. They started with Fushimi Inari Taisha, in the South East end of Kyoto, where they were met with a barrage of people at the fronts of the Shrine, which only seemed to fade out as they began to climb up the steps. Starting near the entrance, Seto showed Kisara how to show respect upon entry by washing her hands and mouth with the little ladle that was filled by the spring water at the Temizuya (though Seto highly doubted at this point it was actual spring water). Wash the left hand, then the right, then the mouth from the left, and finally the left again.
"Do I have to drink it?" Kisara asked, quietly.
"You don't have to drink it, just swirl it in your mouth," Seto explained.
"But you're not even doing that!" She exclaimed as she watched him bring his lips to his left hand, but do nothing.
"You think I'm putting this water in my mouth?" Seto said under his breath, nudging her side to get on with it.
"Then why do you want me to?" She asked laughing.
"You don't have to be a "Mizaru" all the time," Seto said quietly, referring to one of the three monkeys at Toshogu in Nikko, "And you know, we're at a shrine, you should be quiet."
Kisara pouted, "No one else is quiet."
And it was true, it was loud with so many people.
"Everyone else is obnoxious," He shot back.
Kisara ended up snickering as they finished the ritual and continued their way up to the thousands of bright red-orange torii gates that the shrine was known for. Whereas Seto had been there a couple times before and was fine with just going at a steady pace, the more she saw, the more eager Kisara became to see more, her pace quickening with each step. At one point where the torii gates branched into two separate directions, they found themselves stepping aside as two kids, sister and brother it seemed, ran and laughed their way through the two lines of gates in a continuing circle.
"Do they meet up again at some point?" Kisara asked.
"I think so, not far up again..." Seto trailed off.
"Can we go both ways?"
"How is it possible for you to have that much energy? No, we're going to be walking most of the day," Seto told her.
"Fine, can I?" She asked.
Seto shrugged and Kisara beamed, running up ahead to the left and out of sight. It was like a perfect picture that he had wished he had caught. Seto rolled his eyes and steadily followed, when it occurred to him that she would eventually end up at the same place as where they had started. He turned around to see only other tourists following him down the long square orange tube, so he stopped to wait, during which he took his phone out to snap a photo or two. Mokuba would want to see later... It didn't take long though, maybe three minutes at most for Kisara to come back around, laughing, when Seto found himself snapping a picture of her running up. She leaned over and breathed heavily as she caught her breath.
"Why'd... you move?" She asked.
"What, I'm supposed to stay there?" Seto asked back.
"Well, yeah!" She said, standing up, "What if I had gotten lost?"
"You wouldn't have gotten lost. You knew we were heading up this way," Seto told her.
"Fine, touche," She said, when she saw the screen of his phone, "What's that?"
"Did you take a picture of me?"
"Yes, you did, I want to see," She said, reaching for the phone, capturing a peak of it before Seto shut it off, his cheeks becoming slightly red, "I like it."
"It was an accident," He said.
"But you can take pictures here?" She asked.
"Yeah, why not?" Seto responded.
"Well, it's a shrine; it's holy right?" Kisara continued, "I thought you couldn't do that in places like this."
"Depends on the place. Here it's okay," Seto said.
"Can we take more?" She asked.
Seto shrugged in a lackluster manner, "If you want, I guess, but we have to keep moving if we're going to see everything today."
Kisara laughed and nodded in agreement as they continued on their way. She wasn't sure if she'd ever keep these pictures, but it was fun to take them. As they made their way through the gates, talking about the history of the location, the old kanji used that Kisara wasn't familiar with, and the many kitsune messenger statues they saw, they took pictures and stopped at little alcoves off of the gates' paths to see miniature shrines. Finally, the ascent began a downward trail and they found themselves crossing bridges over creeks and heading towards the entrance/exit.
"So why are there so many torii gates?" Kisara asked, after posing with one of the foxes.
"They're either a bid for wishes of some kind to be granted or a gift of gratitude for a wish being granted," Seto supplied, as they walked down towards the exit.
Kisara nodded, "That's a lot of wishes."
"Yeah... and a lot of money," Seto remarked, as they walked down the steps.
Looking to her left as they walked, a colorful display of paper caught Kisara's eye, each piece folded in the same intricate way, "What are those?"
Seto glanced over to the direction of where she was pointing, "Paper cranes, thousands of them."
"What's their significance?" She asked.
"More wishes," Seto said, "The pervading legend is that if you fold a thousand paper cranes, you'll be granted a wish."
"So this place is all about wishes and dreams then," Kisara said thoughtfully, "That's really nice."
Seto shrugged, "I suppose. Waste of time though."
"I don't think it's a waste," Kisara argued, "What's wrong with wishing, wanting something? Surely you've wished for something before."
Seto stopped in his tracks and looked at her, surprised at the question. Normally, he'd brush it off, but for some reason, probably because Kisara wasn't pestering him like Yugi or his friends normally did, he thought it over.
"I have..." He said slowly, as his gaze met the entrance gates of the shrine, "In the past. But I didn't fold a thousand cranes or donate a torii gate in my quest for them. I went out and made it happen myself, because nothing happens if you don't act. It's not going to just come to you like some Disney fairytale."
"That's very admirable of you," Kisara replied, earning a turn of his head back to her, surprised that she didn't seem crushed by the statement, like one might expect, "You had a wish and you made it happen."
Seto nodded, uncomfortably at the compliment, "Yeah... I guess."
"Do you have a current dream now?" She asked as they continued walking.
"Not... really..." Seto said slowly, "I've wanted to beat Yugi in a duel for the longest time. But he won't duel anymore... not competitively, only if his flamboyant master calls. And Pegasus, for whatever reason, isn't interested in having us duel. So... I don't really know anymore."
"Hmm... maybe the people who folded the cranes were at that stage..." She contemplated, earning a look from Seto to elaborate, "I mean, maybe there was nothing more they could do, you know? So these could have been all silent pleas for help with something beyond their control."
"That's awfully optimistic that every single one of these was donated by someone who couldn't do anything about it," Seto responded.
"Well, why think poorly of people you never knew?" She said, "Besides, it makes them more relatable, doesn't it?"
"Are you saying that I should be like these people who wasted their money on superstitions?" Seto asked.
"No, just that, they may have felt similar feelings to those that you have about your wishes," Kisara answered.
"Alright then, enough about my wishes," Seto said, turning the subject around, "What's your wish then?"
Passing by the large torii gate at the entrance, leaving the shrine and shrine maidens who had been scurrying about behind, Kisara thought over the question carefully, before responding.
"I want to find my home," She said.
"Your home?" Seto repeated, stopping and looking at her.
Kisara nodded, "I want to find the place that I'm meant to be. Whether that be with family or friends or a loved one or even... all alone. I want to serve my role in this world in the best way that I can."
There was a pause as Seto took in her words. She shrugged quietly and nodded over towards the way to the station. They walked quietly towards the train that had brought them there, when Kisara continued, "Sorry, I didn't mean to bring the conversation down."
"You didn't," Seto said as they swiped their passes, "It's... completely understandable, but you know... life isn't just about serving a role or enduring or something, it's about..."
"About what?" She said as the train came by whistling past them to its appointed stopping point.
Seto looked at her, speechlessly, as the sound of the train died, "Nothing, you should just... you should enjoy yourself too."
Surprised at the statement, but happy, Kisara nodded with a smile. They rode back up north via the Nara train line to Kyoto Station where they hailed a cab to get them up to Kinkaku-ji, another tourist trap, in Seto's mind. Getting there took more time than expected though due to traffic. In that regard, he was grateful that they weren't taking a bus even when they got out and the cab bill was at least 5000 yen, which Seto happily paid. The busses had too many people and were too hot and stuffy. A cab suited him just fine.
Walking up the slope to Kinkaku-ji, they purchased entry tickets and stood in line to get in. While the wait took a while, considering there were so many people and the shrine was counting exiting visitors and entering, Kisara seemed to take the wait fine, much better than Seto anyway, who kept looking at his phone for the time and silently simmering. He was just about to see if he could use an... incentive to get them in faster, when they were allowed in with a large group and the wait became worth it. Not because of the grand golden temple before them, but because of Kisara's reaction. Her eyes lit up in amazement and she nearly ran to an opening in the fence, leaning over the edge to get a better look. If it wasn't for the fact that she didn't think she should climb the fence, she might have just jumped over.
"It's glorious!" She exclaimed, turning back to see him, "Oh my gosh, I can't believe something like this exists! Is it all real gold?"
"Well, the exterior anyway," Seto said, "They didn't build it out of gold, if that's what you're asking."
"Oh my gosh, it's still beautiful though! What is that, a bird on top?"
"A phoenix supposedly, yes," Seto said.
"Can we take a picture, oh wow, this place is so beautiful," She said, bouncing on her toes in excitement.
Seto rolled his eyes and pulled out his phone, ready to take her picture for about the 100th time it felt like that day, when she lowered her two peace signs and stopped smiling at him, "What?"
"I meant take one together," She said.
"Huh?" He said, "Uh, no, it's fine. Now smile."
"But we didn't take any with you in it at Fushimi Inari Taisha," Kisara pouted.
"I'm fine, really," Seto said, "Besides, I'm not handing over my phone to someone; it has my deck and business notes in it."
"Then we'll take it ourselves," Kisara said, beckoning him over, "Come on, you said life is about more than just enduring remember?"
Seto sighed and walked over, holding the phone out in front of them. As he clicked the photo with his thumb, he wasn't sure if he'd consider this enjoying himself until he looked at the photo of the two of them. His chest swelled a bit, seeing Kisara's rosy cheeks and smiling wide in front of the Golden Pavilion with him off by her side, but he quickly stowed his phone in his pocket as they continued to walk around, closer to the temple and then around the way seeing the gardens behind on the path. It was probably the shortest part of the day, though Kisara found herself still looking back every now and then at the gold building, smiling wide at the brilliance of it.
It was different than the brilliance of the mammoth buildings of Egypt. It was big, but not too big, tall, but not too tall. Modestly decked out in splendor, reflecting its face into the water. She couldn't believe that she was seeing something so beautiful and marvelous, probably very iconic... No matter the season, be it summer, fall, winter, or spring, she felt it would always be grand, so much so, that just being in its presence made her feel capable of floating.
The path though soon led them out and they walked back to the main road to hail a cab, which they took almost to Ginkaku-ji. During the ride, Seto explained the difference between temples and shrines, Shintoism and Buddhism, and the concept of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, all of which Kisara found herself fascinated with.
"So there are structures all around the world that are 'World Heritage Sites'?" She asked, "How many? Are they as big as Kinkaku-ji?"
"Some are bigger," Seto said, "Like Fuji-san; that's a natural one, but still, you get the point."
"Can you imagine seeing them all?" Kisara said, "I wonder how long that would take."
"Years, probably," Seto supplemented, when a growl could be heard resonating from Kisara's stomach, "You hungry?"
Kisara tilted her head and laughed, "I guess, I wasn't even thinking about food."
"There are places to buy snacks on the way up to the temple," He said.
Shortly thereafter, they found themselves at the base of the road leading up to Ginkaku-ji. Hundreds of people it seemed swarmed the area, many in yukata, buying omiyage, kyogashi, and apparel. There were also a good number of gaijin, which Seto explained to Kisara as 'foreigners', allowing for a variety of languages to be heard as people talked amongst themselves. About halfway to the top, Seto spotted a little shop and motioned for Kisara to follow him in.
"Have you ever had Nama Yatsuhashi?" He asked.
Kisara shook her head 'no', "What are they like?"
"They're a snack, kinda sweet, but mild. You wanna try one? It might hold you over till dinner," He said.
Kisara nodded and Seto treated her to a basic Nama Yatsuhashi. Taking it in a paper sleeve, Kisara looked over the pale triangle. It had a gooey consistency and was slightly transparent. In the center, inside she supposed was a dark maroon filling of some kind. Shrugging and taking a bite, her eyes widened at the taste.
"Hmm! Delicious!" She said, quickly taking another bite, "Oh this is so good; is this anko inside?"
"Yeah, they have different flavors, but this is one of the most basic," He said, as they exited and began to walk up the hill, "Even more basic is probably nikki or cinnamon."
"Oh, could I try more on the way back? Don't worry, I'll pay for myself," She added.
"I brought you on this trip, I can pay. Don't be ridiculous; it's no big deal," Seto chastised.
"No buts," It was like talking to Mokuba when he wanted something. Seto laughed in his head at the comparison.
In contrast with the Golden Pavilion that was Kinkaku-ji, the Silver Pavilion, Ginkaku-ji, was much less crowded and quieter. Again, purchasing tickets and proceeding in, this time they were met by a gravel sidewalk that lead them past a small rock garden on their left and a traditionally styled building to their left to a slightly low entryway. Seto had to duck his head in order to not hit it with his head, but he was pleased to find that people were much more level headed and quieter here as they were met with the scenic side of the forested mountain. Directly in front of them, a sand-like rock garden flowed in almost waves from one end to another where a peak of meticulous detail rose out to what could only be meant to represent Fuji-san, behind which, the ever more subtle Ginkaku-ji stood proudly amongst the foliage in front of a pond. It was a genuine staple of the classic 'wabi-sabi' style of the era it was built in, allowing for a feeling of zen to overcome the visitors. Sensing the quiet nature of the site, the two didn't talk much and rather simply took in the scenery around them.
As they walked through the quiet little reserve in which the earth seemed bound by simplicity, Kisara found every reason to be in quiet awe. From the cranes painted on the sliding fusuma doors to the bamboo fences that led them up the hills, all the while carefully cradling little pools of water in their centers; it was a true display of perfect, imperfect balance in nature. A few times, they crossed the pools and streams on stone paths, from which she could see, much to her delight, large koi fish swimming from one side to the other, their orange skins dotted with black and white scales creating different intricate patterns on each one. And while it didn't hold the same grandeur of Kinkaku-ji, Kisara felt content seeing every bit of the garden surrounding the modest, but spectacular temple. There was the occasion though, when her gaze would wander from the natural beauties around her to her companion who, albeit, sometimes trailing a bit behind her at a much more even pace, seemed at a perfect kind of peace.
"Are you enjoying it?" She asked.
Seto shrugged, "I'm not really one for historical places. But the serenity of it all... is a nice change."
Kisara turned her head, hiding a little smile that seemed born from a little warm flutter in her chest, that she was sure came from knowing that it wasn't boring or unbearable, nay even a bit enjoyable for the CEO... whatever it meant to be a CEO. As they came around the bend of the temple and exited, little omiyage shops busy with tourists created a louder kind of hustle and bustle. When they came back to the little sweet shop, Kisara hopped in and began looking over the various flavors that she had missed before of the Nama-Yatsuhashi. From the Nikki and Anko, there were also Green Teas, Black Sesame, Strawberry, Peach, Mango, Yuzu, Chocolate and even Ramune. She felt a little overloaded, but decided, hoping not to keep Seto waiting, on the Peach, Mango, and Chocolate. She smiled bringing her purchase up to the counter.
"820 yen," Came the total.
Digging into her purse, Kisara had just grabbed her little coin purse when an arm reached over her.
"Keep the change," Seto said, uninterested in the worker's immediate instinct to protest.
"Hey, I said I can pay," Kisara said, as though offended.
"And I said don't be ridiculous," Seto said, exiting the shop, like it was nothing.
Kisara stood flabbergasted when the store worker offered her the bag, bringing her out of her trance. She took the bag with a slight bow and ran off after Seto. Looking up and down the street, she saw him already on his way, hands in his pockets, walking back to the main road. Pursing her lips, Kisara ran forward, watching her step so as not to trip until she had firmly planted herself right in front of him with an unmistakable glare.
"What?" He asked.
"I said I could pay, you didn't have to do that," Kisara said simply, pulling out a 1,000 yen bill. It was 180 yen more than she was originally going to pay, but he'd given the shop owner 1,000 so...
Seto looked at the bill in question, "And I said it's no big deal."
He moved to keep going, when Kisara moved to block him, "Kisara."
"Seto, I know you're... better off than most people, but you don't have to cover everything. Will you please let me take care of what I can?" Kisara asked.
Seto rolled his eyes, "Does this really matter?"
"Yes," She said, "I... I don't want to take advantage... of your kindness. So please. I can take care of myself."
Seto's eyes raised slightly at the statement. No one, not anyone, aside from his brother maybe, had ever called him "kind". He looked over Kisara, whose cheeks were a shimmering red, the same red that matched the sides of her arms. He glanced to his side, seeing a shop, and then back to Kisara.
"Fine," He said, taking the 1000 yen bill, and walking over to the store, leaving Kisara in confusion.
He took a tan and pink straw sunhat off the rack, "Hey, how much?"
The shopkeeper looked up, "1000 yen."
"Thanks," Seto said, placing the 1000 yen bill on the counter and walking off back to Kisara.
"Uh... hey, wait, uh..."
Seto heard the shopkeeper's surprise, but paid him no heed, when he placed the hat firmly on Kisara's head, who blinked up at him with a sound of surprise.
"If you can take care of yourself then don't go off getting burned," Seto said shortly, before continuing.
Kisara brought a hand up to her cheeks and felt the heat being absorbed by her skin, but in that moment, she felt certain that it couldn't just be from a sunburn. She turned to see Seto once again ahead of her. She pulled down on the sides of the hat and bit her lip, as a reluctant little curve of her lips occurred and she ran off down after him. As they reached the end of the road, instead of hailing a cab like she expected, Seto turned off to the left and they made their way down a side stone path adjacent to a canal with stone sides laid in a perfect criss-cross pattern. Short little trees covered them from above and they could hear the trickling of the water run past them.
As they walked by other omiyage shops and kyogashi stores, Kisara pulled out her Nama Yatsuhashi one by one, nibbling on them as they talked. Seto explained that this was the Philosopher's Path and that all of these trees were actually Cherry Blossom trees, though they weren't in bloom. It was said to be the trail of Nishida Kitaro, a famous philosopher, during his meditations, thus its name. He would have continued talking, if Kisara hadn't on occasion, when she found one of the nama yatsuhashi to have a particularly interesting or good taste, offer him a bite. Her favorite was the pink strawberry, which, after a bite, he had instantly made a face as though it was sour and told her that it was 'too sweet' for him. She laughed, but when she tried the blue ramune and found it to have a particularly "interesting flavor", she let him try it, expecting confirmation, though instead got an oddly 'passable' answer. In the end, Seto ended up eating the rest of the ramune, which Kisara suspected he actually rather liked, for her.
Further down the trail, the path got quieter, allowing for a more mellow walk, despite there still being preparation underway for that night, where they could relax. Stuffing the empty bag in her purse and making note to get rid of it when she found a trash can, which might have to wait till dinner, Kisara's eyes wandered to her arms, which were, indeed, a little red. She pulled down the sides of the hat again and smiled to herself, when she noticed the watch on her wrist. She still had to give it back, but after their little... spat, as Tea would say, she was hesitant to bring it up just yet.
She felt a redness come back to her face and inwardly groaned at the blush. He was too good to her... and as they continued, she found herself longing to lean against his arm as her feet began to tingle a bit with numbness from walking for so long. But at the realization, she repressed the urge to do so and instead pulled down harder on the hat as she turned beat red in hopes that Seto wouldn't notice and that the action would somehow berate herself for such a thought. She couldn't... she couldn't really be liking him... could she?
"You're going to break it if you keep doing that," Seto scolded, interrupting his mentioning of where one of the Daimonji characters would be lit to their left.
"Huh? Oh..." She let go, but kept her head down, thanking her lucky stars that Seto was in fact so tall and thus likely hadn't seen her expression.
But while Seto's genetics seemed to be on her side, her mind, it seemed, did not as it continually seemed to crawl back to a little cavern in her mind that attempted to imagine the sensation of holding his hand, keeping the red on her face. She prayed that he'd just think it was just a sunburn. Ending the walk in the Nanzenji neighborhood, Seto hailed a cab to take them to the Higashiyama District. During the whole ride, Kisara made certain to keep to herself as though even touching Seto would turn her into a pillar of salt, not that Seto noticed.
The longer they were in the car though, the slower it seemed to move, waiting upon pedestrians who seemed less inclined to avoid J-walking as time went by. At some point, Seto seemed fed up with it enough to say something.
"We'll get out here," He called up.
Taking out a silver credit card, he quickly inserted the chip and paid while Kisara waited, her own awkwardness retreating as loud noises outside distracted her from her current predicament.
As the cab doors opened automatically and they reached the pavement, Kisara found herself suddenly engulfed in a massive amount of people, much like that one time in the shopping mall. It was so disconcerting, that the fact that Seto was so tall and she could easily pick him out in the crowd gave her a sense of relief.
"Kisara, this way," He said.
She nodded and followed after. While the crowd seemed to follow a general flow that allowed her to keep up, the sheer number of people out was comparable to the crowds that would be in the market place outside of the Pharaoh's palace. So when Seto stopped at the bottom of the steps to a shrine that headed a large street down the way, Kisara felt relief wash over her.
Seto glanced up at the top of the steps where the entrance was, "This is Yasaka shrine; it's very important for the Gion District. It's really crowded though, so we can try to get in if you want, but I'm not sure we'll really be able to see anything."
Kisara peaked up ahead as well, standing on her tiptoes, "What makes it so important?"
"It's where the Mikoshi is held that is carried during the Gion Festival in July," Seto explained, as they heard bells ring inside "They also have a large stage and a number of bells which they say you can ring and call upon the gods with."
Kisara found herself unable to stand on her tiptoes anymore and dropped down to the soles of her feet, "Why do they call them to the shrine?"
Seto shrugged, "Same reason they build torii gates, for wishes."
Kisara nodded, "Well, in that case, it is really crowded; I don't need to go in. I can ring the bells next time."
"You sure?" Seto asked.
Again, Kisara gave a brief, definitive nod, "Yes, unless you want to go in and ring them."
Seto watched her for a moment, surprised, when he shook his head, "No, I'm alright. We can walk through Gion before dinner then."
The two began to make their way down the street, away from the shrine, though the people made it difficult to move about with ease. Kisara found herself tripping over her own two feet as she tried to keep up with Seto, when a crack in the street caught her toe and she gasped, falling forward. She expected to hit the ground when a hand caught her and she stumbled back.
Kisara looked up to see Seto and immediately found her face growing red again, her mouth unrelenting in its silence. So she did the only thing she could do, nod in affirmation. Her gaze trailed down to her hand, which was exactly where she had imagined it earlier, in his, which held hers with a gentleness and strength, the likes of which she felt... were very unfamiliar, but welcome all at the same time.
"Yeah, I'm alright," She muttered.
It was at this point though that Seto recognized what he was doing and let her hand go. Holding her hand, how forward could he be? He mentally berated himself. What was this the second time? Third time? He did turn back because he saw her falling behind, but... he turned away towards Hanamikoji, the upcoming street on their left.
"Alright, let's go," He muttered.
Slowing his pace a bit, he made sure the two of them were side by side even as the crowds swarmed their way around the shops around them. Rubbing the back of his neck, he found himself hoping that she hadn't thought that had been awkward or unwarranted or worse, unwanted. He checked his phone for the time. It was five. Three more hours. He could do that. He was sure he could do that.
But then again, he really wasn't.
A/N: So for those curious, I'll be posting a "One Day Kyoto Tour" article on my blog detailing how to do and see everything that Seto and Kisara are doing on their date while in Kyoto. Granted, They are doing a lot, but if you do go by cab (and train and bus), it is very possible to do all this (though to be fair, it's a stretch to do it during Gozan no Okuribi). You can find my blog on my website www . skywingknights . com . In anycase, I hope you can forgive me for the delay in the update - I'll be better next time. Till then, have a great day and don't forget to spread some joy!