I was relieved. It was over…all over. I had passed the test with flying colors, even managing to make En Tao believe the masquerade. It was unbelievable, but Jun's jovial smile and Ren-kun's relieved face insists that what happened was not a dream.
I wearily went back to my room and laid myself on the bed, smiling.Now I can finally go home…
That afternoon, I performed the last of my duties as Ren's fiancée by sharing the family dinner, conversing with Ren's mother on the phone and answering her very eager queries about her son, and of course, massaging En Tao-sama's back. All of these I committed to my memory. I would never forget how I found a second family in them.
I looked at Ren-kun, whom I felt had been watching me for the last few hours subtly. I felt my eyes shake.
After this…after this…
My eyes went back to the floor just before his eyes went back to me.
At last, En Tao had fallen asleep. Jun laughingly teased me that her father now would stop by more often in the house because of me. I shrugged. This would be the last time that I would do these things.
"You don't really have to go," said Ren's sister when she sensed my thoughts. She draped a friendly arm around me. "We love you," she whispered, winking at me.
I laughed uneasily. "Y-You know that I have to go home to Onii-chan…"
"You don't have to. We can ask him to come here." Jun turned serious. "Please stay, Pirika. I don't want you to leave and take with you the newfound lightness and happiness of the house…and its residents."
I sighed. "Nee-san, you know that from the start, Ren-kun said that this is all a pretend to escape his parents' manipulation…"
I smiled. "I'm sorry, Nee-san. I have grown to love this place, and its people. But…" I bit my lip.
"I won't be able to stop you then," she said sadly. "Won't anyone else be able to do so?"
I blushed, then shook my head. "Thank you for everything, Nee-san."
"Don't give up!" called Jun after me. "You have held the coldest ice and snowflakes… and my brother is not really a glacier." Her eyes softened. "Warm him up and melt his ice with your love."
"I wish he would let me," I replied before going upstairs hurriedly.
The next day, En Tao was aboard one of the private planes of the Tao clan. He looked at Ren and me, who were standing some feet away from him.
"Child, don't let that boy get on your nerves too much. He is pathetic," said En to me. "Maybe next year, I'll be back with my wife. She would love your hands too."
Fat chance, but I managed to nod. "Have a safe trip, Father," I said.
He looked pleased. "Yes." His eyes then turned to his son, and they exchanged curt nods.
Minutes later, we watched the plane disappear from our sight. I dropped my waving hand and turned to Ren, who looked at me at the exact moment. For a second, our eyes met. I saw confusion and embarrassment on his handsome face.
He was the first to look down. He pocketed his hands inside his slacks. "I…I think we better go home."
"Y-Yes," I agreed. "I'm going home."
He looked at me, puzzled. Before he could ask, the limo pulled along from behind. Out came Li Pailong holding my things.
"Where should I put the suitcases, Ms. Pirika?" the kyoshin asked.
I was about to gesture to the other plane when Ren interrupted. "You can put it right back to the car, Pailong," he said authoritatively.
"W-What?!" I exclaimed. "I'm going home already!"
"Exactly," he said. "My home."
"B-But…" I followed him into the car. "Ren-kun, the play is over. Your parents have set you free. What else can you ask for?"
He turned to me, eyes angry. "Get in the car."
"I'm going back to Japan!" I tried to reach for my things but Ren had quickly whipped out his spear and had slashed my suitcases right before my very eyes.
My temper boiled. "Hey, what did you do that for?"
"You're coming home with me!" he barked. "Whether you want it or not."
I looked at Pailong for help, but the kyoshin had refused to meet my gaze. I looked at Ren, frowning. "Ren-kun, you promised that after this, you will send me home." I hugged myself. "I've served my purpose, haven't I? You don't need me anymore."
He exhaled sharply. "I know! I know that very well, but something in me refuses to acknowledge that, damn it!"
I was shocked. What was he getting into?
His face reddened. "Fine, go back to Japan! Never show me your face again! Forget that I existed, and I will do the same with you! Damn you, I hate you!!!" He turned his back on me and threw on the gravel road the remaining things in the car. "Go away!!! I don't need you!!!"
I picked up my things one by one. I was too shocked to be affected by his sudden outburst.
"My life," he said, breathing harshly as he threw out of the car even the tissue box. "Had been perfectly satisfactory and complete and so uncomplicated when you didn't arrive in my life." He threw out the car pillow. "But you had to barge all bright-eyed into my organized way of life and propose to be my bride. God, you were just a kid then! Barely thirteen, and the sister of my biggest rival since Yoh Asakura!" He noticed the car air freshener and threw it out of the car too.
"I hate you! You didn't know what kind of hell you gave me then. Whenever I look at you, I feel my stomach hurt, my heart race…it's annoying…it's horrible!" He turned his attention to the other throw pillow. "I'm not sick, but I feel sick. I feel myself lose control over my own self just because of you." The throw pillow sailed right on Pailong's face.
At last, he ran out of things to throw. Exhausted, he sat down the car backseat and laid his head wearily. I walked towards him cautiously.
"It took me six years and some weeks with you just to know that you are the biggest danger in my life." He eyed me, still panting. "I won't be surprised if you tell me right now that you are the shaman king."
I had to laugh. "Ren-kun…"
"It hurt back then when you disappeared. If I've only known that it would kill me like this when you go again, I shouldn't have went back to Japan to look for you," he whispered miserably. "Damn you, I hate you…" He shut his eyes. "If you need to go, if you must go…go now."
I carefully touched his face. "Ren-kun, if you send me away, please show me that you really mean it…not like this. Not with this false bravado and half-hearted anger." I caressed his eyelids with my thumb. "Ren-kun, I left years ago because you told me that I…that my brother and I have to relocate. It was after you kissed me." I sighed. "I thought you were displeased…and that was your way of telling me to go away. So I did as you said. I went away."
He opened one eye. "I didn't mean it like that. I was just…thinking that maybe your brother would need privacy."
"I was just a child then…very insecure," I said, laughing. "I'm sorry."
"I would have explained that to you if you told me that," he said almost accusingly.
I shrugged. "I didn't think I have the right. I thought the kiss meant nothing to you."
"Hell it didn't!" he barked, face reddening.
"OK…" I got up. "Ren-kun, tell me if you want me to go or stay. Just one word, and I'll do it."
He looked up at me, mouth hanging open.
"Do you want me to go or stay?" I asked, trying to keep the shakiness out of my voice.
It was the moment of truth. I wasn't sure about his feelings but this was the only way that I would know what was going on between us with no doubt.
"S-Stay," he said, his voice nearly squeaking. His face was like that of a little boy, unsure. He said the word as if it was his life he handed over to me.
And it touched me. I sat down beside him and leaned on his shoulders. "OK…I'll stay," I said softly.
"Y-You will?" He sounded like he didn't believe me, and for the first time, I saw Ren Tao bare-naked. His mask was down, and I could see through his vulnerabilities for the first time. He too was afraid, like me.
Does that mean…?
"Thank you," I heard him say softly, kissing my hair.
I laughed and hugged him. "I love you, Ren-kun."
I heard him gasp, then chuckle.
It sounded so relaxed, so happy. Everything suddenly felt so peaceful.
"I…" He clasped my hand and brought it to his lips. "I…"
I laughed when I heard his heart hammer in his chest loudly. I looked up at him, and his eyes met my gaze.
"I love…" he tried again, this time blushing hotly. "I love…"
"Give it up, Ren-kun," I said laughingly. "It's alright."
I knew how hard it was for someone like him to say such thing when all his life he had been sheltered from that kind of emotion.
Determination filled his face. "I want to say it."
I laughed again. "You have the whole life to keep trying, Ren-kun."
His eyes widened. "So you really will marry me?"
I pretended to frown. "You don't want to be my husband?"
"Surely you jest." He hugged me possessively. "Six years of hell…Pirika, I will never go through that hell again. You're stuck with me."
"Oh, alright." I smiled and waited in anticipation as his lips went down to mine.