This was taken out of the I'll Be story, one of the some 16 fics I am juggling with right now. And since continuing that story is not anymore plausible if I am to keep my sanity (hey, 16 fics IS a LOT!), I came up with this oneshot that would have been written in that story. After I finish the Ren/Piri angle (if I get around to writing it .), I would have to probably delete I'll Be ;;
I dedicate this to Martina my friendster pal and TK-san who now knows how to pronounce Suuuurrr Kakashi correctly. I wub yu!!!
=-= started: 10:09 am ended: 6:46 pm (I will now take my lunch! Nyahahhahhaha!!! Menudooooo!!!!)
"Soulmate?" Pirika looked dumbfounded.
"Uh-huh," Horo Horo said as he played with Kororo. "Tamao's looking for one, so I think I want one too."
"Soulmate…" She tossed her hair behind her shoulders. "Onii-chan, you do know that a soulmate is someone you have kindred interests with…it's not someone to mate with."
Horo Horo laughed. "I know that!" He turned serious. "Tamao's got clues already on her wonder guy and I don't. Soon, Tamao's going to have a new guy in her life, and where would that leave me?"
"Um…near the refrigerator?" she guessed.
"NO!" Horo yelled, making his sister jump. "What is a refrigerator without a cook who would place delicious foods in it?" His fists clenched. "I won't let that happen! No one will take my Tamao away!"
"W-Why not?" she asked, feigning innocence although an idea was already playing in her mind.
"B-Because…" His grin vanished. "Because…"
"Onii-chan?" prompted Pirika.
He sighed and lied down the floor, mindless of the cold ground. How did he start obsessing on this soulmate stuff anyway? Yesterday, he was living a life of a normal healthy, growing boy with pure passion for good food and satisfying shaman battles.
Twenty-four hours later, he was already asking destiny if it had meant someone to be his soul partner. Geez!
His mind replayed to the events that led to the present…
Wu-hoo!!!" yelled Horo Horo in delight. "I'm free! I'm free!!!" He hugged Kororo gleefully. "I can't hear my sister's voice calling me anymore!!!"
The earth spirit cooed happily too.
After hours of playing hide and seek… no, scratch that. After hours of playing Hunt the Prey and Terrorize Him A.K.A. Onii-chan with Psycho Evilness, he finally, FINALLY, managed to escape his little psychotic sister.
Of course, he loved and adored his sister so, but there were times that a man got to do what a man got to do…to preserve his mental well being. And being the guinea pig of his little sister's psychological experiments was definitely not going to help with his sanity safeguarding.
He took his snowboard out. "To celebrate, let's go to the town of Izumo and grab some grub. Yahahahaha!!! No trainings for me today!!! I feel the love!!!"
Kororo groaned and pointed to the sky. It was already dark, and it was too dangerous to go for a stroll in the woods at night.
Horo grinned. "We won't be gone for too long. We'll just grab a chili dog and we go home, deal?" Without waiting for his spirit's reply, he rode on his snowboard and zoomed down and out of the mountains.
Tamao was just taking the muffins out of the oven when she heard something –or someone- crash against the wall.
"Hey Horo Horo, what sort of catastrophe brought you here?" she greeted wanly when she heard the door open.
The Ainu grinned. "Gastronomical catastrophe, Tamao."
"Your timing is perfect as usual," she said wryly. "Do you have built-in alarms for these type of situations?"
"It's my biological make-up," he explained as he took a seat beside her. "It is naturally attracted to anything edible. Food is my destiny."
"Hai." She sighed. "Careful, Horo Horo. It's still hot-" She sighed once more in exasperation when Horo cried out in pain, withdrawing his hand from the just baked muffins. "You're being an idiot purposefully."
Horo Horo pretended to look wounded. "That's not very nice." He rubbed his throat. "I'm thirsty."
Tamao got up to get him a pitcher of juice, although she knew it wouldn't be enough for the appetite of the Ainu. "By the way, Horo Horo, you can get your shirt now. I've sewn it for you already."
"Thanks, Tamao." He eagerly reached for the pitcher of pineapple juice in her hands.
The girl watched him drink straight from the pitcher with much gusto. She had barely noticed the years that went by since their first meeting. It was when Yoh was just eight, and he was on the verge of falling from the cliff then. It was only her who was accompanying young master Yoh then, and she was frozen stiff, not knowing how to help him out. It was then when a snowboarding boy with crazy spiky hair rescued Yoh without even breaking so much a sweat. She could still remember how he helped Yoh down from the snowboard, grinning, after he introduced himself.
"There! I've rescued him!" Horo Horo held his hand out. "Now pay me."
Both she and Yoh blinked.
"Well?" asked the boy, shaking his fingers impatiently.
Yoh sweatdropped. "W-We don't have money to pay…"
The blue-haired boy's jaw dropped open. "Waa!!! No way!!!"
This immediately made her get up. Everyone in the house knew her as the girl with boundless patience, but when it comes to her beloved Master Yoh, she would spare nothing in defending him. She placed her hands on her hips. "Isn't it enough that we owe you a huge debt of gratitude?"
"T-Tamao…" Her master's face was awed.
Which was the complete opposite of the boy's chuckling face. "A huge debt of gratitude can't satisfy hunger."
"I see…" Yoh grinned. "I know! From now on, you're welcome to go to our house in Izumo and eat there to your heart's content whenever you want to!"
Horo Horo's face lit up. "H-Hontou?"
Yoh turned to the girl. "And you'll be in charge of cooking for him!"
Tamao wanted to protest, but she was serving Yoh and his family. She had no right to say 'no', even if she finds the boy too impertinent. For pete's sake, he didn't even had the grace to be modest and refuse Yoh's offer, and just accept it when Yoh insists on it!
"I see you're remembering it again," smiled Horo Horo when he caught her staring off to space.
"Yes. You haven't changed at all since then." She smiled, shaking her head. "You're still cheeky."
Horo shrugged. "And your cooking is still great! Enough to make a man forget the thought of philandering and just go home straight to his wife."
She smiled- he may be cocky, but he sure knew how to flatter very well. "Thanks Horo Horo." She pushed another batch of muffins into the oven. "Just keep on eating, Horo. More muffins are on the way."
Horo grinned. "Tamao, I am so going to marry you someday. I don't think I can live without these." He took a big bite of the muffins. "Yummy!"
Horo Horo arrived in his tribe finally, both he and his stomach happy. He had been eating for hours that he didn't notice the time, so Tamao asked him to stay in the house and sleep there. He was only too happy to oblige. The Asakura refrigerator was magical- it never runs out of food stock. His midnight dinner and breakfast had, in fact, only an hour interval.
He made a mental note to bring Tamao some flowers tomorrow. Not that he was courting her. No, of course not. He just liked seeing the way her eyes light up when she sees her favorite flowers.It's the least I can do for all her hard work in cooking those delicious food…
"Horo Horo, your sister was looking for you," said the leader of the tribe, smiling wickedly. He was seated by the now dead campfire. "You're in for it. She wasn't able to watch Doraemon because of you. She's been looking for you since yesterday."
He winced. He could play his sister's wrath by the ear usually. But her missing her favorite anime was no usual thing…
"Fortunately, she found someone to distract her. A kid she picked up unconscious," continued the man.
Horo smirked. His sister, aside from being a brutal sister and an even more brutal Doraemon fanatic, was a brutal psycho. He was betting his snowboard that right now, she was victimizing the poor kid with her shrink questions.
"How old is the kid?" he asked, joining the leader of the tribe.
"Gee, I can't tell. He looks like a nine-year-old brat. Can't tell…based on his size though, I'll say he's eight or nine."
Horo grinned. "Perfect." His sister would be too distracted to even think of noticing his presence. He looked at the man. "By the way, did you catch the werewolf?"
The man groaned, then went on to narrate that they found a suspect, but the girl was saved by a laidback-looking thirteen-year-old named Asakura Yoh…
Horo choked. "Yoh?! Yoh saved a girl?!" He started to laugh insanely. "But Yoh is scared of women! He thinks they're…they're…all like his grandma!"
"You know him?" asked the man, amused. "It's a good thing then that we didn't decide to burn him down a stake."
"Actually, he's going to fetch his brother's fiancée. The girl must be the one his grandma told him to fetch."
The man looked embarrassed. "If you see your friend, please extend to him the inconvenience we caused him. And to his brother's fiancée too."
"Will do!" Horo stretched. "Better check on my sister and the poor kid. She might start asking the poor guy some killer questions-"
"Your shirt looks new," commented the man.
He grinned. "Yup, Tamao just mended it."
"Looks great on you."
"Any shirt looks great on me."
The man winked. "You know what I mean."
"I don't, actually. I'm clueless." Horo groaned.
"You'll figure it out on your own…all in good time."
"What-e-ver," sighed Horo, then went back to his shack.
Tamao marked a big X on the specific date of the current month's calendar. It was just a week before her thirteenth birthday…well, if you wouldn't count the two months to go before that actual week…and already she was looking forward to it. According to her board, she was going to meet her soulmate and man on that night, when the moon is full and stars are aplenty. She couldn't wait, for she herself was starting to have dreams about that special person. A silhouette, but somehow, it felt strangely familiar. Perhaps, because once upon a random lifetime, they had met already. She believed seriously in souls finding their matches in different lifetimes, that these souls are reborn over and over until one meets his or her destiny. And she, Tamamura Tamao, was determined to find her fate in this lifetime, no matter what.
She smiled. "Hai! And when I do find him, I will never ever let him go anymore." She sat down on one of the stools in the kitchen and tried to shut her eyes to imagine the mystery man in her usually prophetic dreams.
He was slightly taller than her, and he wasn't well-muscled. The shadow revealed the disarray of hair, almost reminding her of a certain person. No, scratch almost. It did remind her of HIM, but HE had NO right taking up space in her daydream. Anyway, she thought she could see the shy smile on the mystery guy's face.
She stood in front of the shadow as snowflakes softly showered them. It was almost surreal, that she could hardly feel the icy cold sensation of the soft snow.
Her heart skipped a beat as he slowly turned to face her. After all these months of dreaming of her soulmate, will she finally be able to see him already?
"Tamao!" Horo's grinning face broke her train of thoughts. He was peering at her face curiously. "Hey, who hypnotized you? Snap out of it!"
"You!!!" she shrieked, feeling the homicidal urge rush into her adrenalin. She was so close to knowing who her soulmate was…so very close.
Horo raised a brow. "Wow, you look so enthusiastic to see me. I didn't know you miss me that much."
Tamao shut her eyes and slowly counted to ten to calm herself. After all, she did care about his younger sister, and she didn't have the heart to deprive Pirika of a big brother so early in this stage of life. But it could still be plausible, depending on how Horo Horo handles her anger.
"I was thinking of my soulmate," she explained patiently, using the tone of voice she uses whenever he was begging to get the icing of the cake or have some of the batter for pancakes.
"Oh." Horo Horo was very much informed about his friend's fascination for that. "Oh, and so?"
"I was just starting to put together the image clues, and I can already see who is my soulmate! But then you came and RUINED my visualization!" she snapped.
"You can go and try to visualize him again. I'll be fine. The refrigerator will entertain me," said the Ainu, grinning.
"That's all you can say?!!" she cried. "I had been dreaming of being able to see my soul partner since ages ago and this was the first time that I was able to see him up close. But you had to go and ruin it by barging into the room without knocking!"
"So what's the big idea? You see a glimpse of your soulmate, and then what? Are you positive that he would make you happy?" Horo wanted to know. "What if this guy was a gay after all? Or a married person?"
The prophetess pouted. When soulmates were created, no one said anything about gender and civil status reliability. But of course, the Ainu didn't need to know that. She stuck by her argument. "It won't dare go wrong with me," she said confidently. "I can feel it."
Horo still looked skeptical. "Oh, alright." He sauntered towards the refrigerator. "As for me, I'm contented with my beloved refrigerator. It responds to all my needs, and it doesn't talk too much. Ah, imagine life without a fully stocked refrigerator. What a sad, sad existence."
Tamao sighed. "Your soulmate should be a cook. That's the only way for you to find a motivation to search for her."
He grinned. "I don't need a soulmate, nor do I desire to find her. Unlike you, I believe that if I am meant to be with one person, no matter how hard I try to run away from my destiny, the will of fate shall still prevail."
"A slacker's motto."
"Maybe, but an effective one, don't you agree?" He then brought out a shiny red fruit from his pocket and threw it at her. "Here. I was passing by a tree when I saw that, and I thought you might want it."
She had to smile. He may be not the most likable gentleman in the world, but he sure was very thoughtful, always bringing something for her when he comes here, flattering her at times when her morale needed it the most, and being sweet and caring, reminding him of a little boy basking in his mother's affection.
He gleefully took out the plate of leftover egg pie from the ref cheerfully. "Who needs a soulmate, when I've got you?"
Tamao laughed. "Thanks, Horo Horo."
"Tamao has a soulmate?" Horo Horo was walking home already, but he still couldn't stop thinking about what his friend said. Whoever thought of the word soulmate anyway? Now he was starting to get curious of his own soulmate too!
"I wonder if my soulmate even exists in this lifetime," he said thoughtfully. "How unfair! Tamao's got omens on her mate and I don't!"
All his life, he had been contented with his everyday routine of eating, escaping his sister's training and psycho sessions, eating Tamao's cakes and pies, sparring with Yoh, and sleeping. Now he wanted to try something new. This whole soulmate thing was a novelty for him.
When he said that he didn't care whether he finds his soulmate awhile ago, it was half-truth only. Sure, he liked food, but it would be nice to fall in love with something that doesn't disappear after you eat it.
He grinned. "If Tamao learns what I'm thinking of, she'll start calling me perverted again…which will be pretty painful on my part… because it's true and the truth always hurts."
But still, he couldn't stop thinking about Tamao's own soulmate. He knew it was ill to think this, but he suddenly wished she won't find him yet, at least until he doesn't find his own soulmate.
Probably because Tamao was the only woman he knew that he could be affectionate with. If she finds another man before he finds someone to replace her position in his life, he would surely kill that man.
Selfish, but it was what he felt.
"Maybe I better ask Pirika about this whole soulmate thingie," he mused. "She seems to know a lot about those soul things."
He continued to walk home, this time humming happily. He now has a new mission in life: to find his soulmate before Tamao finds hers!
"Onii-chan?" Pirika knelt down beside him. "Don't sleep on the floor."
"Pirika. I wanna meet my soulmate!" His almost childish whine made her smile amusedly.
"You're just saying that because you don't want to be alone,"
she said. "Listen, onii-chan, if you can give me another reason – a MORE valid
reason—to help you find your soulmate, then help you I will."
"What more valid reason could there be?" he wanted to know.
"You'll find that out yourself in due time," she said, smiling mysteriously.
"I hate it when you sound like that. So condescending…as if you're more mature than me," he sighed.
"You've grown up. This is it. You're not anymore my baby sister." He cupped his face sadly. "And Tamao will soon have her own man too. Who would I look after now?"
"Silly onii-chan!" She placed her head on his shoulder, smiling. "I'll always be your baby sister who loves you to pieces, even if you make me miss some of those Doraemon episodes and you end up eating more than half your share in our meals. Always. "
"Always, as in you always love me, or that I always end up eating—"
"Alright…I suppose." He looked at her. "Pirika, I'm happy about what you said…"
"But you're worried if Tamao' nee-san feels the same way?" she guessed.
"You're too smart. I hate you."
She burst into delighted peals of laughter. "Why don't you ask her that?"
"Are you kidding?!" His eyes bulged, as if she just told him to go fasting for one week. "You want me to ask her how she feels about me? What if she tells me that she feels homicidal when I'm around?" That was one scenario that happened when he accidentally finished the whole batch of her butter cookies for her Master Yoh.
"OK, maybe you should make her feel the way you want her to."
"I said, make her feel the way you want her to." She smiled. "I mean, do things that you know she would miss when the time comes for her to meet her soulmate."
"Just treat her like a special lady."
"Take her to fancy dinners and stuff?" he asked. That was what he always saw in movies. He wrinkled his nose in distaste. Waiters in tux who could make simple men like him feel out-of-place and elegant dishes that looked too beautiful to eat…
But it would be nice to see Tamao dressed in a scarlet spaghetti-strapped silk gown. Really nice, especially if stepped into crystal pumps to add to her height. That would also show off her whole frame she perpetually keeps hidden in baggy clothes.
He completed his visualization, and found himself looking at the prettiest female organism in the world.
He blinked. This was the first time he ever thought of his friend that way! Shaking his head vehemently, he turned his attention back to his sister.
"Um…" Pirika thought for a moment. "She's not the type to appreciate things like that. She's so simple and down-to-earth."
He silently agreed with that. So the evening gown-clad Tamamura Tamao was off.
"Alright. Just go beyond the extra mile for her whenever she asks you to do something for her," said Pirika.
"Go the extra mile," nodded Horo Horo solemnly. He would do that.
The next day…
"What's taking that Horo Horo so long?" Tamao looked up at the dark clouds overhead. "I just asked him to pick strawberries for my pie. Where did he go?"
After a few minutes, she realized that silence wouldn't answer her satisfactorily. Sighing, she picked up her raincoat and her umbrella. She was just going to get the strawberries herself. She left the Asakura house just as the first few raindrops started to fall.
A quarter of an hour later, she arrived in the strawberry garden. Her forehead creased when she saw no one in the fields.
"I knew it. Horo-kun must have been tempted by a noodle house or something on his way here." She knelt down and began to hurriedly take strawberries, "I could never ever rely on him—"
She turned around and saw the blue-haired boy himself, panting heavily. She got up, forgetting her irritation at once. He was drenched by the rain, and he was carrying on his back a sack of strawberries.
"Horo-kun!" She rushed towards him, worried. "Where have you been? And you're wet!"
He placed the sack down and took off his bandanna, shaking his wet hair to her face's direction, and laughing at the same time.
"Horo Horo-kun!" she squealed. "You're getting me wet!"
"Rain! Rain! I love rain!" He yelled happily. "Wooh!!!" He pumped his arms upward towards the heaven, enjoying the feeling of steady rain on his face and body.
Despite of herself, she smiled fondly at him. He was still very much a child in heart. "Horo-kun, you're going to catch a cold!" she called out, hugging her raincoat.
He turned to her, grinning. "A little cold can't stop me from having fun! And so should you!" He snatched the umbrella from her hand and flung it far away.
"Horo-kun!!!" However, she lost her voice when he reached for the hood of her coat and slowly slid it off, his hand touching her hair down gently as well.
She trembled, but not because of the cold. She was not feeling the chill; it was only the intensity of his ice blue eyes twinkling like a little boy's own.
"T-This is…crazy," she voiced out her last weak sensibility. And it wasn't just because of their bath under the rain.
His eyes softened. "Set it free, Tamao."
The relaxing fall of rain, the natural scent of the ground sweetened by the smell of the strawberries, and the feel of the Ainu's steady, coaxing gaze—everything was too overwhelming for her.
And with that, she whipped her raincoat off her body and took his hand.
"Yahoooo!!!" yelled Horo, laughing delightedly. His hand enveloping hers, his other hand took out his snowboard. "Let's ride!"
"I-I might fall!"
"You think I would let you fall?" he asked, but his eyes were serious.
And the seriousness frightened her, and strangely, excited her at the same time. It was like being with Horo-kun the annoying kitchen pacman for the first time in her life.
"Come on, scaredy-cat!" He helped her up, and the board wiggled with the additional weight. She screamed and automatically flung her arms on his neck. Tightly.
"Aaack! Don't strangle me!"
"Gomen nasai!" she cried, panicked. His hands guided hers to his waist, and it felt like a jigsaw piece finding its right spot. It felt right. And natural.
"OK, let's rock and roll!" The snowboard started to pick up its pace, and already she could sense his furyoku.
She opened her eyes and saw that indeed, they were starting to fly. She turned her fearful gaze at him. "Horo-kun?"
"I won't let you fall, I promise," he said solemnly, then smiled at her.
The smile that sent excited shivers up and down her spine—something she had never imagined she would feel for someone like Horo Horo.
She looked down, shaking her head. Don't get carried away, that's Horo-kun. DON'T get carried away, that's Horo-kun…
The snowboard rocked them both slowly, and she felt that she was being lulled to sleep. She unconsciously laid her head on his back, enjoying its warmth. Its scent even—the smell of the sandwiches she made for him, the orange juice she squeezed for him. The scent of familiarity, yet it still made her heart beat.
"Hmm?" she answered sleepily.
"Are you serious about that soulmate of yours?"
She paused. "O-Of course…"
She sighed. "I don't know…perhaps I'm risking a chance to be happy. Master Yoh couldn't, so I might as well look for another chance to find my happiness."
"But how sure are you that you'll find happiness in that soulmate?"
She was silent for a moment, then she spoke up. "Nothing is ever sure anyway. Life is a constant chain of risks, with varying degrees of things at stake. Mine happens to have happiness at wager, and for that, I would be ready to risk everything. Everything."
He exhaled audibly. "And if you get hurt?"
"It's part of the game. At least I tried. I would rather have tried to be happy than to have remained miserable my whole life."
"Horo-kun?" Did he fall asleep with her speech?
"I know I promised you that I won't let you fall, but I didn't exactly promise that I won't let us smash on the banana stalk," said Horo Horo, grinning sheepishly. They were both seated on the muddy ground, and she had just finished punching his head.
"Why weren't you looking at where we are going anyway?" she asked, groaning. She wasn't hurt—Horo took care of absorbing the impact of their fall awhile ago. She was groaning because she couldn't believe that she let herself go runaway with her queer emotions.
"Were you?" he asked back.
She blushed. "W-What?! You're supposed to be the one maneuvering the snowboard!"
"So? I'm still asking you. Were you looking at where we're going?" he asked, a teasing smile on his face.
If he wanted her to admit that she was too busy enjoying herself with him to look at their direction, well, he would be disappointed.
But what should she reply to that?
He laughed and helped her up. "Let's go home and change." He carried the strawberry sack on his still aching back as Tamao headed for the umbrella.
"AH! The rain's over!" Horo Horo looked up at the first few rays of sunlight filtering the nimbus clouds. "Oh well, it was fun while it lasted!"
She followed his gaze and smiled slowly.
"Onii-chan, you idiot!" Pirika slammed her brother's head with a basin. From the door, Ren watched the scene, amused.
"I did what you said!" he yelped. "I went the extra mile when she asked me to pick strawberries!"
"I didn't tell you to walk one more mile from our strawberry fields to get the fruits! What I said was an idiomatic expression!" she scolded. "Now look what happened! The rain made you catch cold!"
"A classic example of what will happen when you let an idiot and an idiom loose together," muttered the Chinese shaman.
"Hey, don't interfere in family affairs, Grumpy!" he yelled, using his sister's nickname for the freeloader.
"Don't worry I won't, Dirty," smirked the Tao before turning his back on them.
Horo brushed the dirt on his nose, then lied down again. "I can't believe it, Pirika. She's so determined to find her soulmate! I had no idea how sad she was about Yoh's obliviousness until now…"
"Onii-chan, between the two of you, I pity you more."
"She's braver than you. She's willing to try, at least. On the other hand, you…" Her words trailed off.
He rubbed his head. "If destiny meant for me to be happy, then que sera sera."
"You don't care if you're happy or not?!" she was shocked.
"At least I'm certain that I will not be hurt," he said with as much conviction as she could.
He watched his sister shake her head slowly. "Onii-chan…"
"Don't feel sorry for me. I'm happy this way. No worries, see?" He grinned.
"I always hope the best for you, onii-chan. You know I do," she said softly. And when she said that, she only made him feel worse.
"Hey Pirika, someone's looking for your brother!" Ren barged into the room unceremoniously.
Horo's head heated. "What the…you're already first-name basis with my sister?!"
Ren blinked, then blushed faintly. "What do you suppose should I call her if not by her name?"
"Well, anything but her name!"
"Then how would she know I'm referring to her—"
"ANYTHING BUT HER NAME!"
Ren rolled his eyes. "You want me to call her with endearments then." He smirked at the sweatdropping Pirika. "Sweetheart, someone's looking for your brother."
"Screw you, Ren Tao!!!"
"You don't sound so sick, Horo Horo-kun."
The words made him stop. He turned to the door slowly, and indeed, stood Tamamura Tamao, carrying a basket of fruits and flowers. She was wearing a cloak over her usual white and black ensemble, but aside from that, there was nothing unusual about her.
So why was he starting to feel something unusual about her, just looking at her?
"Y-You're courting me?" he croaked, wanting to break the tension building within him.
Tamao blushed hotly. "Horo-kun!"
"And I thought your brother is sick," muttered Ren to Pirika. This made her laugh.
"Ren-kun, it's best if we leave them now."
"Right." He was about to move out when she tapped his shoulder. "Yes?" he asked.
"Where's the endearment, Honey?" she teased.
His face turned crimson. Muttering, he left the room, a laughing Pirika trailing after him.
"I brought you some strawberry pie, Horo-kun," she said, taking a plate out of her things. "My thank you for your help with this."
"I'm glad you didn't
get sick," he said. "And here I am thinking that I have a better immune system
than you because of my battles with shamans."
"A little rain won't hurt me." She smiled apologetically. "And your fever may be partly due to your fall awhile ago…to protect me." She handed him the biggest slice of pie.
"So you're trying to bribe me with pie to forgive you?" he kidded.
"Will you?" she kidded back.
"You are taking advantage of my weakness, Tamamura-san." He emptied the plate with two and a half bites. "I can get used to this. Yummy!"
"Awhile ago, Horo-kun, I want to thank you. For helping me gain one moment of freedom…when we took a bath under the rain," she said softly, eyes on her lap.
That took his attention.
"Being a trainee in the Asakura house, I should be up my toes all the time. I must be on guard for everything that I say and do. All my actions and words must conform to the rules of my Kino-sensei." She looked at him, eyes smiling. "But awhile ago, I felt so free being with you… like no matter what I do, it wouldn't matter. It was…delicious." She turned her gaze to the evening sky just outside his window. "Now I know that even if I live my whole life being under hawk-eye supervision, I will always have something to remember. One rainy afternoon, I set myself free. I will forever cherish that, Horo-kun."
He was silent for a moment, then he smiled slowly. "You make me sound like a saint when I'm not," he said modestly.
"We all know that," she said.
She continued. "But you're you, and that's what so special about Horo Horo-kun." She offered her hand.
"You want me to ask your hand for marriage?"
"Baka!" She slapped him playfully. "I want us to be more than pals. I want us to be good friends." She smiled. "Will that be ok?"
"No prob!" He took her hand and squeezed it affectionately, then it began.
The warmth that flooded his heart awhile ago while they were talking on the snowboard.
It was starting again.
For a moment, they were both rendered speechless, but then reluctantly, he spoke.
"So does this mean I have a more secured supply of cakes and pies?"
"Horo-kun you glutton fiend!"
Horo Horo watched as Tamao circled another date on the calendar. It was just three spaces away from the X mark Tamao made months ago.
Her birthday, and the day she would finally meet her soulmate.
"Bet you're excited, huh?" he remarked glumly as he forked another slice of the sweet mango pie Tamao just finished making.
"That, and more." She noticed the gloom and doom look on his face. "You don't like it?"
Of course I don't! In three days, you'd finally meet the one whom you'd dedicate all your cakes and sweets to, leaving me alone. ALONE!!!, he wanted to yell, but instead he slumped on the counter. "I always like your sweets."
Tamao sweatdropped. "Your facial expression makes me feel that I don't want to believe you."
He pasted a grin on his face, only it turned out to be a grimace. Tamao sighed.
"I told you many times over, Horo-kun. Even if I see my soulmate," which I'm not sure would happen, but I don't really care if he would now that you're here, "I will still cook for you."
"It's not that. I don't care," he said sullenly. "I just can't believe that you will grow so desperate to find your man—"
"Desperate?!" She was utterly shocked by what he said.
"Yes," he hissed angrily. "You're relying on destiny to find you happiness because you are not capable of finding it yourself!"
She looked down, hurt. And Horo Horo immediately regretted the words that came out of his mouth. He didn't mean it like that, but he couldn't stop venting out his anger and frustration at her.
Why can't you see that I can make you happy too, perhaps even more than that soulmate of yours could?
"See you later." He got up from the stool and headed out of the kitchen.
"Horo-kun, wait! The pie—"
He came back, taking the pie along with him. "See you later, Tamao." He gloomily munched on the pie as he made his way out of the house.
Tamao watched her friend go, then looked at the calendar. She sighed audibly and idly played with the pages of the calendar.
Two months ago, she could have been elated by the nearing of her birthday. The prospect of seeing her celestially-appointed destiny on the night of her birthday when snow would fall gently and bathe them with glow from the fireflies…what girl wouldn't look forward to that?
But then, she had to fall for Horo horo.
Two months of being together, laughing, teasing, quarreling, and making up—and Horo Horo was one special guy. Who wouldn't fall in love with him?
She placed her hands on the window and looked at the falling snowflakes. Maybe, when she meets her soulmate, she could finally erase this stray emotion within her.
After all, the Ainu wasn't the type to reciprocate affections. And he treated her the way he treated Pirika.
Who was she kidding? She loved him ever since he saved Yoh Asakura long ago, only she didn't acknowledge it. Horo Horo was always just a pest, a hungry vexing pest, who happened to have the nicest blue eyes she had ever seen.
She never let herself think of him beyond that point.
So what was she doing, thinking of him at THAT point now?
Because for the last two months, he had treated her so endearingly sweet. He was more charming than ever, and he went out of his way to make her happy, which was what she had longed for all her life.
She sighed. She knew her feelings would be going nowhere thought. Aside from food, the Ainu was clueless about love affairs. And who was she to think she could change that?
"Onii-chan, you look so down," said Pirika as she sat down beside her brother. "It's freezing here. Let's go inside."
"Did Grumpy leave already?" he asked, not wanting the conversation to focus on his distressed, unhandsome state.
"I can't make him stay here forever, can I?" she said quietly, cupping her face. "He's got a family."
"Did he really want to leave, or was that his pride talking?" he asked.
He sighed and looked up at the night sky. "That guy looked…happy here. That is remarkable, considering the psychological tortures you give him."
"I'm sure he's glad to be out of the loony bin," she said quietly, a lump forming in her throat. "I just found out who he was. He is the heir of the Tao clan, the rival shaman clan of the Asakuras. I can't believe it until now. I made a Tao clean the house, cook our dinner, wash our clothes, chop our woods—"
"He enjoyed that,
"No sarcasm there, Kiddo." He rubbed her head fondly. "I think Grumpy fell for my little Snow White."
Her eyes welled up with tears. "Stop joking about that matter. It hurts…"
He hugged his sister close, smoothing her hair. "Who said anything about jokes?"
"Don't make me have false hopes. It hurts so much already…"
"Hush, Pirika. That guy would be back, I know his hide. You know why?" He cupped her face lovingly. "Because in one way or another, he reminds me of myself. And you did tell me that you would only fall in love with a guy who's like your handsome and strong onii-chan, right?"
"It was unfortunate that he didn't get the handsome part, but I've observed how he looked at you and talked to you. He's crazy about you, Sis."
"Hush, I said. Stop crying. He would be back in three days, If not, I would hunt him down."
"I love you, Onii-chan!" She burst into tears. "I'm so glad…I'm so glad that you became my brother…even if you eat too much…"
He laughingly smoothed her hair. "I love you too, baby sis…even if you had too much Simon Fraud."
"Sigmund Freud," she corrected him wanly.
"Like what you said."
Well, that solved one broken heart in this house, if only marginally.
Now if his own heart would be mended too…
It was the night she had been waiting for all these months.
The night she would finally meet her soulmate.
As she tied the scarf around her neck, she silently wondered why Horo Horo didn't make it to her birthday today. Everyone greeted her—even Pirika, but no Horokei Usui appeared in the Izumo house.
"Is he mad at me?" she asked her reflection. She had no answer for that.
Sighing, she slid into her jacket. She was now going to the mountains, where her destiny awaits, as her predictions said.
Horo Horo arrived in their shack, tired but satisfied. He went to the Tao mansion awhile ago to confront Ren Tao, only to get the shock of his life.
"When I come back in that house, I'm going to live there forever! And forever means a really long time! I'm still packing my clothes! I was just about to finish when you RUDELY interrupted me and challenged me to a duel!!!" snapped Ren, panting from their shaman battle.
And so, he decided to just continue their fight some other time and let him finish packing his things.
"Onii-chan, where have you been?!!!" screamed Pirika, panicked.
"What's the matter?" he asked wearily.
"It's Tamao-nee'san's birthday today!!!"
"Yes. Did you bring home any food?"
She rolled her eyes. "Tonight is THE night."
He exhaled sharply. "Don't remind me." He went to their sleeping bed and stretched. "Just update me tomorrow who that lucky guy is."
"Baka!!!" She slammed her foot on his head. "Wake up! You can't let this happen!"
"Who am I to stop her?" he asked, lifting one heavy eyelid up. He really needed sleep after the heavy shaman battle with Ren.
"You are her Horo Horo-kun, and you have every right to stop her! Come on, wake up!!!" she said.
"Look, give it up, Pirika. She's hyped up about that soulmate, and I don't want to stand in her way of happiness. Her happiness over mine, Pirika." He stretched to get a pillow, but Pirika kicked it out of his reach.
"Onii-chan, are you just going to sleep on it?" she asked in disbelief.
"Months ago, you asked my help to find you your soulmate, remember?" she asked.
He mumbled. Something that resembled 'yes'. That kept the ainu girl talking.
"Well, I'll help you now. You've just given me a valid reason to do this."
He sighed and turned to face her. "Pirika, I'll indulge you one last time then you'll let me sleep, is that clear?"
The ainu boy combed his hair. "'Kay. Talk."
"Your soulmate transcends into your sub-consciousness, occupies it, and keeps you longing until you finally recognize and understand its message."
"Sort of a politician's ad?"
"Shut up! Anyway, a soulmate carries a part of yourself that you find it easy to spill your guts out to him or her. You can be anyone, and he or she would love you still and all the more. He or she understands your nature, accepts it whole-heartedly, and loves you for it."
"It is the person that since Day One that you've met, he or she had already made an impact in your life. It doesn't matter how short or long you've known that person; you're just sure that you can trust him or her with your heart and soul."
Horo Horo's heart began to race.
"Your soulmate holds the emotional, spiritual and volitional structure of yourself. A part of yourself walking in this world."
Now his mind began to race. What the hell was volitional?
Pirika groaned. "Your soulmate has pink hair, cute eyes, and she can bake sweets like a professional chef!"
That stunned her brother.
"Sounds familiar," he mumbled after some seconds as he got out of his bed, adrenalin coursing through his whole body. "I think I'm going out. Don't wait up for me, Kiddo!"
"Good luck, Onii-chan!" She sighed. "Known at last."
"A soulmate would always be in tune to your emotions and understand, for your hearts are kindred."
Pirika's words ran through his mind as he made his way down from his shack. He had to make it to the Izumo house and stop Tamao!
Kororo appeared beside him, motioning to the snowboard on his back.
He slapped his forehead. "Oh, right. I can use this!"
As he rode on the snowboard, he recalled the time when he and Tamao bathed under the rain, riding on this very same snowboard.
"I was holding her so close…oh damn, why did I ever let her go!" he hissed.
He increased the speed of his snowboard, ignoring the falling snow. He didn't care if he was unprotected from the chill; he needed to see Tamamura Tamao now.
He wanted to see her shy smile, her flushed cheeks, her sometimes trying-hard-not-to-cry-in-front-of-Horo grimace, her everything.
He wanted her so much that he literally ached; his heart did.
"No one will take you away from me because I won't let them." He smiled slowly when at last, he found the outlet for his mute heart's message. "Because I love her. Because I love her so."
Just then, the snowboard where Kororo fused with stopped.
Horo panicked. "Oh no, don't tell me I ran out of gas." He slapped himself mentally. He made Kororo sound like an engine.
Just then, he realized why Kororo stopped the snowboard. He jumped down and started to run down by the cliff.
"So many stars…" whispered Tamao. "A starry winter night…"
She hugged herself
tighter. Was she being foolish by going out here in the cold just to wait for a
man that her unreliable predictions promised?
Tears welled up her eyes. Perhaps, Horo Horo was right. She was just so desperate that she would rely on these things—soulmates, destiny and all those silly moonshine stuffs.
She started to turn around and head home when her heart pounded.
This made her freeze.
Snow fell lightly, just like what she always sees in her visions. And the stars—the stars were shining brightly, happily even, as if congratulating her for the most awaited moment in her life.
But her vision had grown blurred by the tears, especially when she heard the footsteps. She was going to face her soulmate, yet her heart and soul's entirety was kept by someone else.Horo-kun…
She gasped when from the fog came out Horo Horo, panting heavily.
Then everything seemed to piece together. The disarray of hair, the familiar silhouette of a boy's frame, the way the snowflakes touched his body lovingly.
It was affirmed by the shy, heart-melting smile rendered on his handsome face.
Her Horo Horo-kun.
"Tamao, I just stumbled on an interesting development regarding your soulmate," he began. "But I won't say it unless you forgive me…" He fell down on his knees, breathing heavily.
"Horo-kun!" She was about to go to him when he held his hand up. "W-Wait. Let me finish. I must say this now, or I'll never be able to say this again," he explained.
She smiled slowly, nodding. "A-Alright, I forgive you, Horo-kun. N-Now will you tell me what your news is?"
"I just…ah…realized that you are my soulmate and that I…ah…" He scratched his cheek embarrassedly, turning red. "Ah…like that."
"You like it?"
"Won't you ask my opinion about that?"
He looked down, wincing. "I-I'm scared…"
She burst into laughter, making him steam some more.
"It's not funny! I really am!" he yelled. "I'm gambling my heart, my soul, my sanity, and my pride for this…" He clenched his fists. "But you told me that it's better to risk being happy than being certainly miserable all my life."
She fell silent.
"I'm risking all that I have now for a chance…just one chance, Tamao." He looked up at her, eyes shaking. "My happiness…"
It was then that her tears started to fall. She was thinking of that very same thing at that moment. That he too, was her happiness.
It went around into a full circle.
After searching long far and wide, they found their soulmates in each other.
"I love you, Tamamura Tamao. I guess I've always did…I was just too scared to acknowledge that an emotion as powerful as this exists within me. But I'm more afraid of losing that fear… that fear that gave me courage to go through this awkward confession." He smiled sadly. "Any minute now, your soulmate will come, but I'm telling you—I won't hand you over without a fight. I'm going to fight for what I feel, Tamao."
She giggled softly.
This made him freak out. "Tamao, what the—this is funny, I know, but DON'T LAUGH!!!"
She wiped her tears of joy delicately, shoulders still trembling. "My soulmate is not only dense; he also has quite a temper."
"He's here? Already?"
"Yes. I'm talking to him right now," affirmed Tamao, smiling.
Horo froze, the turned around. Finding no one, he turned to his left and right. Finding not a soul around, he slowly pointed to himself.
She nodded smilingly.
And he fainted on the spot.
"Onii-chan, you baka! How dare you faint on Tamao' nee-san when she just told you that you were the one she had been waiting for all her life?!!!" barked Pirika as she watched Tamao wipe her brother's face with a warm facetowel.
"Sorry…I couldn't handle the pressure…" he croaked. "Whew! This confession thing is not for me! I'll never court another woman again!"
"You better not!" Tamao pressed on his nose. "You're stuck with me, soulmate."
His grin faltered. "I think I'm going to faint again…" he murmured.
"Why does he always faint?" asked Tamao, more amused than insulted.
Pirika laughed. "Let's just say, you de-virginized his heart, and he's still feeling dazed about that. After all, you are his first love."
"Hontou…" her eyes softened. She planted a gentle, loving kiss on his forehead, making him smile in blissful contentment.
"You rock, Onii-chan," agreed Pirika, laughing softly.
---- the end -----