Okabore (Secret Affections)
The steady snow fluttered down on me and around my body. My mantle was billowing with the chilly winter wind, but I ignored it. My eyes were on the ordinary-looking Japanese house I know that is resided by a not-so-ordinary Japanese couple.
But I do know for a fact that the man of the house was away. No matter, he wasn't really the person I wanted to see.
I let myself into the gates of the house, steps light as the snowflakes dropping from the sky like a woman's tears.
The sliding door was left open, and from my location out in the yard, I could already see the flaxen hair that barely touched her slim shoulders. She was seated by the tatami, fingers embracing a cup of green tea. The aroma of the cha reached my senses, enough to warm me all over. I stepped into the house. "Good evening, sister-in-law."
Her face turned my way, the usual icy mask on its place, as it always should be in Kyouyama Anna's dogma. Her eyes went up and down on my figure, her gaze anything but welcoming.
"It's snowing outside, and I hope you don't mind if I sit down here for a moment and rest." I smiled sheepishly as I made myself comfortable by the door, since I didn't get an invitation to come in and sit with her.
"Snow is a fact of life," she said, obviously not eager to have my presence anywhere near her domicile. "You won't die if snow touches you. Or are you like that creature in the horror movies that multiplies when it comes contact with water?"
I smiled good-naturedly. "I'm a snow gremlin." I looked at her steaming kyuusu but she placed the kettle on the other edge of the table. I chuckled. "Now, now. A good woman of the house must be gracious to visitors. Please give your brother-in-law some tea please."
"This good woman of the house is gracious only to the invited visitors," she said.
"What a shame. I would just have to do with the aroma then." I laid my back on the sliding door, enjoying the feeling of the warm wooden floor and the paper door against my weary back. So this is what it feels to have a home- a real home, and not just anywhere I would feel sleepy at.
Now if only I could feel what it was like to have a wife…
The wonderfully delicious aroma of tea made my eyes flap open. Anna had placed a cup of tea by my side, together with a small plate of buttered bread.
"Are you giving this to me for free?" I had to ask.
"Damn me and my conscience. This is the sort of thing Yoh would do, not me," she said coolly.
"I agree," I laughed. "But thank you anyway." I sipped the green tea quickly, then bit on the bread. It tasted like manna all of a sudden, thanks to Anna's presence.
"What misfortune brought you here?" she asked to break the silence.
"Nothing." It was the truth- I was just traveling aimlessly when my feet brought me here.
"I do not believe you."
"Anna, it's not world domination that is in my mind all the time. I also think of food sometimes, like right now." I bit again on the bread. "So where's my otouto?"
"Can you see him here right now?" she asked.
"There's your answer," she said. "He's anywhere but here."
"Shouldn't a wife know where her husband is all the time?"
She blushed. "I know where he is- he is not here."
"Oh. Fine." I waved my hand dismissively. I had this feeling that she didn't like getting her ability as an almost-shaman king's wife getting questioned.
"Is Yoh treating you right?" I asked after some time.
She looked puzzled- I know why. It wasn't my business, and it wasn't the kind of things I should be interested in. She answered me though anyway.
"He's treating me properly," she said simply.
"That's good," I said, out of having nothing to say.
"He is giving me the best life possible, because he is with me." She looked out at the dark, snowy night. "That is the only kind of life for me, being by his side."
"Does he know?" I asked again. "Does he know that you feel that way?"
She paused. "Is it important? We're good as married."
I felt something prick in my heart, but I had to ask it. "Do you want this engagement with my brother?"
She was silent for awhile, then she smiled- it was like the sun rising in midnight. "I admit, love wasn't the reason for this whole engaged-to-be-married commitment, but it is the reason why I know I'm ready to spend the rest of my life with him."
I smiled forcibly. "Fair enough."
This is one of the times that I detested that Yoh Asakura existed, because it was like rivaling myself for the things that I wanted, including Kyouyama Anna.
But then, it should be also my little brother whom I should thank for, because it was he who also endeared Anna to me- the little bit of him left within me that remained even after the final battle between us in the shaman fight.
And it was enough for me to know that Yoh was making her happy.
I got up, to her surprise.
"Thank you for the tea, the bread, and the hospitality. " I lifted my hand in salute. "Greet hello to Yoh for me." I smiled suggestively. "Kiss him for me too."
"I-I will…" Her face was that of something between annoyance and fascination.
I chuckled. Anna Kyouyama, stammering? It was priceless.
"S-So where are you going now?" she asked.
I paused. Did I detect a hint of worry in her voice? I laughed. "I'm going for a stroll, and maybe fifteen minutes later, I'll think of a way to get the shaman king throne and rule the world."
She shook her head, amused. "Good luck then, but my Yoh won't let you get away with that."
"I'll wait for your Yoh then." There was no sarcasm, but if only she would sense the depths of my words, she would feel the slightest twinge of envy.
I headed out of the house.
The snow had not stopped yet, but my body, tenderly warm from my encounter with the itako, was untouchable.