I'm Going Home

I was walking home that day, thinking -something I rarely favor to do, especially when I just replaced the batteries of my walkman and I had bought myself a new record of relaxing Blues cd. I tried to hasten the pace of my walk, but realized that my muscles hurt for some reason. Sighing, I slowed down.

I still could hardly believe that I had survived the do-or-die battle that Hao and I had. He was a very powerful adversary, with a lot of confidence on his ability - an overwhelming one that was able to almost defeat us.

And now, here I was, back to being good ol Asakura Yoh again, ordinary high school student in an ordinary high school. Just another fellow who's trying his best to pass Math and crams two minutes before the exams. Quite a dramatic change from a hero who just saved the world from an obsessed sorcerer.

"Hey, Yoh!"

I knew at once who called me. Lyserg was running towards me, a cheerful smile pasted on his face. I smiled back. I was delighted to see that he had moved on since his parents' tragic death in the hands of my twin brother. "What are you doing here?"

"I was just around the block, so I decided to drop by. How are you?" he asked.

I grinned. "I'm not doing too badly. They still think I'm normal."

He laughed. "I know what you mean. I know that we shouldn't expect world recognition of what we just did, huh?" He looked up at the sky and shielded his face with the back of his hand. "They'll never believe us."

I followed his gaze. "But if the same situation arises, I'll readily risk my life again for the same people."

He grinned. "Typical Yoh." He smiled. "Now I know why that girl likes you so much," he said softly.

"Pardon me?"

"Nothing."

I waved goodbye happily to the waving Lyserg. I then continued walking, then swerved to the right, bumping into someone.

"Hey, watch where are you going!" yelled the person.

I bowed. "So sorry!" I then recognized the voice. I looked up, grinning. "Ren, I'm glad I bumped into you!"

"Well I'm not," he said crossly as he stood up, ignoring the helping hand I offered him. "You're such an absent-minded idiot. Can't you even walk on a sidewalk without causing hazard to other people?"

"You're overstating," I said good-naturedly. "So where are you going now?" I turned to Li Pailong who was beside him. "And you're coming with him? I'm glad Ren is starting to act more sociable-"

"It is he who wants to come with me!" snapped the Tao.

Pailong grinned. "It's his sister's birthday, and I'm coming with him to see to it that he gets only the best gift for Jun."

"What are you planning to get her?" I asked curiously.

Ren rolled his eyes. "You're wasting my time." But I could see his fists clench and the side of his ears turn faintly red.

"You're still not sure?" I guessed. "You can get her something really useful."

"He's buying ingredients for a cake. He's going to bake his sister one," said Pailong, smiling.

My eyes widened. "Really?"

"Your fiancée's training came in handy," said the Tao grudgingly. I was about to say something when he glared at me lethally. "One word about how sweet my gift is and I'll stab you, understand?" he snapped before continuing on his way to the grocery store, a smirking Pailong behind him.

"Hmmm, cakes make me hungry," I thought to myself as I continued walking. "I better eat already." My eyes lit up when I found that I still had enough money for a small snack.

"A sandwich and a softdrink, please," I told the waitress. She nodded and headed for the kitchen. I decided to look around the cozy interior of the restaurant to kill time.

"Yoh?"

I looked up and saw Horo Horo looking down at me, shocked. My eyes echoed the same reaction when I saw that he was holding my tray of order.

"So you work here already?" I asked, surprised.

"Yep!" he said in not-so-subtle pride. "Nothing that lazy people like you would understand, though."

I laughed." Voluntary labor is just not my thing." I then frowned. "I thought you returned to your tribe already?"

He sighed. "Well, I do love Nature and all, but I sometimes miss the noise and the chaos of the city, disgusting as it may sound. So I do part-time jobs once a week." He then looked at me naughtily. "So...what happened to you? What's the score already?"

"Huh?"

"You know what I mean!"

"I'm a Shaman, not a mind reader."

He grinned wickedly. "Have you scored on her already, or does she still resist your charms, lover boy?"

"What her?" I asked helplessly.

"Her. The impossible queen of special trainings. The princess of pure and unadulterated torture and terror." He pretended to hold a mike. "Kyouyama Annaaa!!!!" I looked around and saw that the customers were giving me and Horo Horo strange glances already.

"So what happened?" he asked again, leaning down towards me as if I was going to reveal the secret to AIDS treatment.

"Nothing."

"Huh?"

"Nothing."

He looked shocked. "How...what..why???""

"Um..." I looked down at the table, suddenly uncomfortable. I always was whenever people bring up the topic of my engagement with Anna. I especially hate it when my family ask when do I plan on making a move on her. They were starting to talk about baby booties and nurseries in the house. "I don't like to rush things."

"Why not?! She's your wife!" He rubbed his head. "Well, she soon would be..."

"I can't," I said, pushing the half-eaten sandwich away from me. I was starting to become thirsty all of a sudden. I reached for my glass of soft drink, but realized that it was in Horo Horo's grip already, half-empty. "Whenever I look at her eyes, I start to get really scared. As if one touch of her skin would send me to the orthopedic clinic. You know how she is."

He nodded sympathetically and reached for my sandwich. "I know, I know. I feel the pain." He bit on my sandwich. I was about to complain when he fired a question.

"Do you love her?"

I blinked, not able to string any phrase of meaningful coherence. The question took me by surprise, for in my family, when it comes to marriage, love is not a factor. Power is. But here I was, faced by a question that I had avoided for some time now.

"Do you?" he asked again.

I forced a weak grin. "I-It doesn't matter. I'll marry her anyway."

"Hmm." He wiped his mouth with a napkin. "She's cute. I just find it hard to believe that you are not getting attracted to her."

I cringed. If he only knew...the presence of a pretty girl in the house can affect you a little or a lot, even if that girl was a devil incarnate when it comes to training.

He looked at me intently. "Hey, if your relationship with her doesn't work out, give me a call. I'll catch her with open arms." He stood up and placed a paper on the table. "Your bill, sir."

I sweatdropped. "But you're the one who ate my food!"

He grinned. "Hoo! You can't fool me with that, Asakura! A bill is a bill, now pay up!"

I wasn't able to eat much when I left the restaurant, but I felt that I was full. Thoughts suppressed my hunger, I guess.

I couldn't help but ponder on what Horo Horo told me awhile ago about attraction. Well, yes there are times when I fear her so much - I fear her more than my own mother! But sometimes, when I see her asleep in her bedroom, or she was staring off pensively to the space - times when her defenses were lowered, I could actually feel delighted when I look at her. When I see her smile, I feel my heart warm up tenderly. I forget about what she really is, or that she was just staying with me because of an obligation.

Do I love her? I'm not sure. I love listening to the walkman and lying around lazily. I love looking out at the waters and feeling the breeze. So...do I love her?

I want to see her everyday. I want her to order me around so I can have my purpose to live. I want her to tell me what to do so my life will be more fruitful. I want her presence so I won't be alone. I want her subtle concern coated in insults and taunts, because it makes me feel needed. I want her badly.

I had not thought of these things before, and it was strange that it was only now that I thought of these things. Unconsciously, I had handed over to her my heart and soul. How did it happen so fast? And the more I think about it, the more pain it brings me whenever I think of the time that Anna and I might not live together in the future.

There is only one way to hold on her for sure.

Marriage.

Suddenly, I wanted to see Anna badly. To tell her that I will marry her, by hook or by crook.

"Yoh!!!" Manta and Amidamaru shouted in unison, running towards me.

I held my hand up in greeting.

"Go back! Anna's worried about you already!" said Manta.

"Yoh-dono, hurry!" said Amidamaru.

"Huh?" I looked up at the sky when a drop of liquid fell on me. And another. Until I realized that it was raining. It was strange though, because the raindrops taste salty. The scent of the rain was that of Anna's too.

"I'm going home," I decided. Suddenly, darkness enveloped me.

The next second that I blinked, I was looking up at Anna's crying face. When she saw that my eyes were roving around the room, relief flooded her face. "Yoh?"

My gaze returned to her face, a mixture of emotions both happy and relieved. "Y-You're back," she whispered as a tear slid down her eye and onto my eye. I recognized the tear - it was the same as the rain awhile ago, meaning, I was dreaming.

But why was Anna, of all people, crying? What happened?

She stepped back and wiped her tears quietly. "You were walking home from school when you got hit by a car, you absent-minded doofus."

I was startled. So that was why I felt my body was more painful this time. I thought it was all a hang-over from the killer training Anna gave me some days ago -doing the laundry.

Her voice was still shaky, and her eyes were still swollen. She looked really shaken up. "Manta called me up, but he said that it was too late. You have lost so much blood..." She looked at me, eyes shaking. "All this time, I could feel that your soul was not in your body anymore, but I didn't stop hoping. I didn't stop praying...I suddenly hated myself because I could feel your spirit awhile ago...that you were dead."

"Anna..."

She stood up, and I realized that I was inside a hospital room. She busied herself with making a cup of tea.

"Here." She reached out to me and made me sip some of the liquid. I drank hungrily - I felt really exhausted with what happened awhile ago.

"It's a miracle that you still made it here," she said quietly.

I was about to tell her about Manta and Amidamaru when she stood up again, facing the open window. "I don't like to be a widow so early in my life. It's bad luck."

"You said it yourself," I said. "I don't want you to be a widow, so I came back. A promise is a promise."

I saw her stiffen.

I forced myself to sit up. "I will marry you."

"Y-Yoh..."

"So I won't leave you yet, and I never would do so against my will."

She turned to me, confused. Until finally, she smiled. "Thanks. I don't want to be alone."

"So do I," I agreed, mystified by how she could melt my heart like so with such a simple act.

I'm not sure right now if I love her, but I do know that I cannot do without her. I know that I want her to be with me in my entire lifetime. I want her.

And when I think of it that way, to admit that I love her feels so right.

end