A Terribly Large World.
believe in terrible ghosts,
of a strange place
and in my foolishness
to make you laugh.
In a terribly large world,
I feel your fragility.
The Fight of the Giants. (Lucha de gigantes).
The air of the church was heavy with the smell of incense and flowers, the candles only able to lit it halfway, drowning the vitraux in shadows. The mass was over and just a few faithful remained, heads bowed and hands tightly clasped, their lips barely moving as they whispered their prayers, the buzz of their voices barely enough to disturb the place.
His steps seemed too loud as he bowed in front of the altar, doing the cross sign as he had been doing for years. Once, his mother had asked him if he wanted to convert and he had just smiled, saying that he just found churches and temples alike peaceful.
In truth, no one would think twice if he was in a church and speaking alone, if he was careful and kept his voice low. He'd just be praying.
"It's been a while," a grave voice came and Murata hid his smile behind his crossed hands, bowing his head. "Tell me, is there something new in this world of yours?"
"Maa, not much," Murata shrugged a little. "I started Junior High."
"Yeah, but it's still nice… although, I'm starting to wonder if it's a sign that I'm definitely too old that all the kids seem so much younger each time."
He opened his eyes. With the play of shadow and light of the candles, the ghost of the Shinou almost seemed corporeal. If he tilted his head just so, it seemed as if the gold of his hair was actually shimmering with it and his smile was just amused, not jaded and somewhat sad.
"You are only thirteen years old," the Shinou said, shaking his head. Then, he raised an eyebrow, "… physically, that's it."
He grinned, tilting his head to a side. "How many puberties I've gone through, now?"
"Too many," Shinou smiled, amused and Murata bit on his lip to refrain from laughing too. "And yet you seem to enjoy them so much."
"Well, it's easier to enjoy them when knowing the little tricks I've gathered." Murata said with the same grin before he sighed, focusing his eyes on the flowers that adorned the altar.
He felt Shinou's eyes on him, heavy and insistent and worried and he closed his eyes for a moment.
"I met Shibuya today," Murata finally whispered, and the mocking grin fled from the Shinou's featuers, replaced by quiet wonder, his eyes craving and something inside Murata hurt, just behind his ribs so he shrugged. "He's nothing especial, frankly. I thought he'd be taller."
"He's just thirteen," the Shinou repeated with the tone of a father protecting his son and Murata shook his head, smiling. "There's still time for him to grow up. Did you talk with him?"
"Mmm, not much," Murata shrugged, rueful to admit that his voice had threatened to break when he looked at the other boy, and the hopes of four millennium came crashing unto him like a wave, or the sudden urge to hug the boy tightly or cry and laugh at the same time. "But it's better like that, I think. Better to move slowly."
"You think he'll be ready?"
"He's still a kid," Murata reluctantly said; despite the years that he had gone on waiting, almost completely alone, now that they were so close to the end of this battle, they couldn't rush things, despite how much they might want to, "He's a good boy, with a good heart… but we should wait. At least a few more years, give him a chance to gain more experience. It'll be fine."
The Shinou moved a hand and reached to him. Despite the fact that there wasn't any touch on his face, Murata raised his face and smiled. The Shinou's concern was as familiar as his, perhaps even more. Even if at the moment he only had this echoes of nothing, they were more than he had had in centuries. It was okay.
He smiled. Shinou sighed.
"This world is a very large place," Shinou said. Murata closed his eyes and thought he could feel calloused-rough fingers cupping his face. "Through your eyes it seems much larger than Shin Makoku."
"Well… it's more crowded." Murata grinned. "Maa, don't worry. I'll keep an eye on Shibuya, make sure everything goes as we planned it."
"My poor sage," Shinou's smile turned sadder, bitter, and Murata ached again, though in a different way than before. "How I make you suffer."
"Stop it," Murata said with a little more force than he intended. Shinou's eyes widened and a woman in her late sixties turned to look at him, so he quickly bowed his head and hid his mouth with his hands, waiting for a whole minute before daring to whisper again. "It's not your fault, I've told you that. I'm happy to be able to help you."
When he looked up, Shinou's eyes were sad and a little lonely. Murata understood the feeling perfectly.
"Once Yuuri wakes up, I will have to disappear."
"I know that," Murata whispered, before grinning again. "So, you want me to tell you about the last movie I saw? What about the last baseball game? Anything you're curious?"
Shinou looked at him for a moment before leaning forward. Murata closed his eyes and tried to feel the brush of lips against his, or the hand that was surely touching his face.
When he opened his eyes, there was no trace of Shinou other than an almost-not-there whisper of nothing against his lips. Murata closed his eyes and, with his hands clasped, he let the heavy smell of incense and flowers take over instead.