Disclaimer: KOR and all its characters are copy write of their respective creators. The story is mine, so let me know if you want to put it somewhere else.
Horse and Cow: Secret Agents
Sunday, January 5
Residence of Umao and Ushiko
"…a sad performance by Ishida. But onto the weather, Haruka?"
"Thanks, Ken. Today will be cool and mostly cloudy all day. Good weather to be closer with," click.
Umao lay on his back, resting his hand on the snooze button of the alarm clock. Beside him lay his wife and partner, Ushiko.
She was not roused by the alarm, her steady even breathing the sign that she still slumbered peacefully.
Their bedroom was mottled with flecks of light that filtered through the drawn shades.
'Sunday,' Umao thought to himself, 'we'll probably get the call earlier than the rest of the week. It's prime season for couples.' He let a small sigh escape his lips.
A small soft hand slide up his chest, resting over his heart. Umao looked over into the eyes of his beloved and smiled broadly.
They said nothing, but gazed at each other for moments, the beat in Umao's chest becoming rapid.
Just as he thought he may become over whelmed with emotion, Ushiko spoke, "I'm hungry. Can you make breakfast today?"
"Of course," her husband replied, chuckling a little. He slide out of bed and put on a robe, taking a few steps towards the door he turned back to look at her once more.
Ushiko pulled the blankets closer to her chin and smiled at him wryly. "Bacon and eggs, Darling."
He gave her a nod, and smiling, left the room. Umao stopped in the bathroom to wash his face before heading to the kitchen. Their first floor apartment was small, but cozy. They had lived here for a while now, longer than he had stayed anywhere previously.
The bathroom was simple, everything within close proximity, the bath and shower in a separate room but only connected through the bathroom.
A coy grin crawled across his face as he began remembering some of the fond memories the pair of them had shared in this area.
"I don't hear bacon sizzling, darling!" Ushiko chided.
"Sorry, I'll have it ready soon, just had to wash my face," he called back to her. As he left the bathroom he took a quick glace at the bedroom door. It was shut, meaning Ushiko was out of bed and probably changing.
Some days she was shy, hiding herself from his eyes, and other days… Umao giggled slightly as he scratched his upper lip. Being married definitely had its advantages!
Once in the kitchen Umao set to work, busying himself with preparing breakfast; a simple meal for the two of them, crispy bacon, two easy over eggs, some toast and coffee.
Umao suspected not to be around the apartment long; he assumed his wife would anticipate the same. Sure enough, Ushiko entered the kitchen and poured herself a pot of coffee.
Umao watched her as he sat at the table. She had dressed for the weather, a red sweater and tight blue jeans. Walking over to him in fuzzy socks, Ushiko made no noise in her steps.
She leaned over as she approached the table and gave her husband a soft kiss. "Thank you," she whispered to him, sending shivers down his spine.
Umao had always been under the impression that once you got married those kinds of lovey feelings and excitement would decrease as you spent time together, but it would appear that he was wrong. He liked being wrong.
Unfortunately his happiness was cut short by the loud ringing of Utada Hikaru's "First Love" from his cell phone. Suddenly Umao became all business. He exchanged a quick look with his wife. She too was stone-faced and expressionless.
The ringing continued for a moment longer and was cut short as Umao signaled the call to be received.
Without greeting the caller Umao listened. A familiar metallic voice, from the use of vocal changing software spoke to him.
"Mr. Horse." It said in English, the voice monotonous. Again, Umao did not speak.
The voice continued, "We have received word that the winter wonderland festival is going to be a prime target. Intelligence did not confirm when the event must take place, but anticipate sometime in the early afternoon, with a possible reoccurrence late in the evening, as the festival holds an annual ceremony that could cause a commotion. You will be called again when we have more information."
And then a soft click, followed by a steady beeping tone signaling a dead line.
"Where are we going today, my love?" Ushiko asked him. Her face changing back into its normal soft expression.
"The Winter Wonderland festival. Sometime today, I don't know when yet."
Umao did not complete his thought. It was mutually understood that they would head out now and wait for the next call to be received.
Ushiko cleared the table as Umao left for the bedroom. He quickly changed into a red flannel shirt and blue jeans, checking himself in the mirror before meeting back up with his wife at the door.
Ushiko was waiting for him, already bundled in a pink jacket, white wool hat, matching scarf and beige boots. She looked beautiful, Umao thought to himself.
'Of course, she looks beautiful everyday, but that can't be helped for some people I suppose,'
Following suit, Umao dressed in a blue puffy jacket, blue hat and scarf but opted out of boots and wore sneakers instead.
The left their apartment in silence and locked the door behind them. Without warning, their was a high pitched yell, indistinguishable as it came from the second floor, followed by a young man crashing into Umao with the momentum of someone who had just sprinted down a flight of stairs.
The collision knocked the wind out of Umao and drove him to his knees.
"Sorry!" They boy yelled over his shoulder as he continued to run, Umao still gasping for air.
"Kyosuke!" A young girl hollered as she stormed down the stairs in pursuit of the retreating boy. Without taking her eyes of the boy who collided with Umao she ran into the backside of Ushiko who was trying to get her husband to her feet.
The pair ended up lying on the ground, Ushiko over Umao, both slightly bewildered by the hyperactive teens.
As silence once again settled on the first floor landing, Ushiko pushed herself into a sitting position, Umao did likewise.
"It's going to be one of those days," he spoke casually, as if this weren't new at all.
"Mm, Mm," Ushiko nodded in agreement.
From inside, Umao looked through the entrance of the Green Castle Apartment building and was greeted with an inch or two of snow. 'Fantastic,' he sighed, 'should've worn boots, oh well."
He got to his feet and helped his wife to hers. They smiled at each other and embraced one another.
"Ushiko-san," he began.
"Umao-san," she continued.
This time every day used to kill him inside. Because of their line of work, he had to leave her until the next call came in. From there he would be told when are where to be, Ushiko would receive a similar call.
Once in a while he would be told where to pick up some necessary accessories that would be needed to complete the mission.
He hoped they would not be apart for long.
As the two ended their embrace, they strode stride in stride until they exited the building. Umao turned left and headed towards the train station. Ushiko turned right and went to the bus stop.
Umao shoved his hands in his pockets and growled. He had forgotten to bring a pair of gloves.
As he strode down the street he happened upon the girl who had bowled the two of them over. When their eyes connected she looked very panicked and started touching her index fingers together, staring at the ground.
Umao gave her a smile, and walked past her. He heard her release a sigh and let his smile linger a bit longer.
The rest of his long walk to the train station was uneventful; his thoughts always coming back to the time when he would get to see his beloved again. In his semi-focused state, Umao was not completely paying attention and bumped into a very mature looking girl.
"Oh, sorry miss. My head was in the clouds, and I neglected to see you," Umao apologized, bowing his head slightly.
"It's okay, oh!" she exclaimed as they made eye contact. "You, you're…that guy," the young black haired girl struggled to remember him.
Inside Umao panicked. His face remained stoic, but his heart began racing wildly. It was against his code to come into contact with any of the forbidden. This had been made incredibly clear to him when his wife was threatened the first time it happened.
He needed to act fast. "I'm sorry miss, if you'll excuse me."
Umao slide around her as she gave him a look of confusion, head tilted slightly. He broke eye contact with her quickly and hustled to reach the platform for the train that would take him to the festival grounds.
A nasty feeling, like spiders crawling up the back of his neck, worried Umao. Instinct told him that girl would follow him until she remembered where she knew him from. They had only met once before, just as briefly, but he saw her nearly every day.
Umao had to hide; it would be unwise if she discovered his identity. Lucky for him the platform was packed with people who were also going to the festival.
As he passed a garbage can Umao stripped of his jacket and hat. In an equally fluid motion he lifted a pair of sunglasses from a nearby convenience stand as he passed it. Hopefully the girl did not notice and he was anonymous once again.
His training had told him not to draw attention to himself by checking if the girl was indeed following him. This tactic would prove to work, as he was not disturbed by the girl again.
Once the train had arrived he took the opportunity to look around and spotted her easily. She was not looking his way, but instead she was glaring at something on the ground as the boy who had run into him this morning was being glomped by a fair haired girl.
The train ride began and Umao had no further complications. He took his time getting off, and leisurely made his way out of the station towards the festival grounds.
The surging crowd told him the general direction his destination was, but Umao decided to stop by a coffee shop before heading to the grounds. In the back of his mind he worried about his wife, hoping no one had noticed his slip-up; he bit on his lower lip in self-frustration.
Becoming aware of his surroundings was paramount to his job, and floating with his head in the clouds was going to get the two of them in trouble.
On his way to the coffee shop he took notice of the group he was avoiding. They were entering the shop he had picked out, about fifty steps from him.
His eyes widened as the dark haired girl, who almost remembered him started to look over his way. Umao literally threw himself into an alley to avoid being seen. His actions disturbed a stray cat, which clawed him angrily.
As he got to his feet and began to brush himself off his phone began to ring again.
"Mr. Horse," the same metallic voice greeted him, "you had a close call there. If that girl happens to remember you, there would be a conflict of interest. Are we clear that this will not happen again?"
"Un." He grunted, kicking himself mentally.
"Good. Now for the details, intelligence claims that a 'spontaneous' snow ball fight will be started by the events organizers at 3PM as an event. Your partner and you will be in the center of the onslaught at 3:10PM.
Since you were unintelligent enough to dress for the weather, supplies will be provided in a locker in Utashima subway station. The key will be delivered to you shortly. Good luck."
A soft click and then silence. Anger bottled up in Umao, directed at himself for being such a fool. If today went off without a hitch it would be a miracle. Otherwise, he might have to make a break for freedom with his wife.
Deciding he needed a break from the excitement Umao wandered to a park bench, and leaned his head back, thinking back to the day when all this came to be.
About six years ago, back in his high school days, as he descended a large flight of stairs he happened upon a handkerchief dropped by a quiet looking girl, about his age. Being the kind person he was, but more importantly, finding an excuse to talk to the girl, he called her attention.
At that moment, when she turned to greet him, Umao was struck with a feeling so profound he became at a loss for words. Everything he did next felt natural, so right that Umao knew, right there he was in love, and she would be his.
He placed his hands over hers, returning the hankie, but not letting go.
"Thank you," she smiled, "what is your name?"
From that point on, they were inseparable. They graduated but fell on hard times when Umao couldn't land a steady job. It got so bad they had to sacrifice some basic necessities. Their parents begged them to give aid, until it became better, but Umao had to prove to every one, and mostly to himself, that he could provide for his beloved.
One evening, luck happened to find him. At a tiny café somewhere on Orange Road, Umao sat with his head bowed, fighting back tears from bittering his tea.
From behind the bar counter the curly haired owner cleared his throat. "Why don't you come have a seat over here?" He asked in a friendly manner, "You look like you could use a friend."
'Company would be nice,' Umao thought, 'Ushiko is at her parents tonight, so I won't need to come home early.'
"What's on your mind, young sir?" the owner asked politely.
Umao took a sip of his tea before saying, "Things don't turn out the way you hope they would when you fall in love, do they?"
The man nodded in agreement, "So you got dumped then."
"No, nothing like that," Umao corrected, "Just… well you're married, right?"
"And she regrets it everyday," the owner winked at Umao.
"Well when my girlfriend and I first met, and fell in love, I had dreams of a quiet home, a family, a nice job, a family man. But, I can't even get a job to start out with, so how am I to bring her happiness?"
The owner frowned slightly in thought. After a silent moment his eyes lit up, "Do you think she needs those things? I may not understand your situation completely, but I do know my wife, and even though this place doesn't make much income, it's me coming home every night that makes her smile."
Umao took his eyes off his tea and looked up at the smiling man. "Of course money helps, but isn't being together more important?"
"If only it were," Umao sighed, "love may be the fuel that drives me to the races everyday, but without an income, I cannot love her forever."
"What are you trying to find a job in?" The owner asked.
"Theater and traditional Japanese," Umao replied.
"Hmm," the owner mused, shifting his eyes around the store, "I'll be right back."
The curly haired man went into the back, and Umao could hear his voice, as if the man was on the phone, but it didn't seem like he was talking in Japanese. After what seemed like an hour, but was truly only a few minutes, the owner returned.
"Do you speak any English?" The owner asked with suddenly.
Umao took a second to realize the question was directed at him, his mind lost in a sea of sorrow. "Er, well… I suppose, I took it in high school and did fairly well."
"Good," the owner said, his voice low, "What is your name?"
"You know what is interesting about your name? The kanji means horse-man, and is completely unusual."
"I used to get teased a lot," Umao muttered.
"Well Mr. Horse," the owner started to say in English, "A friend of mine wants to talk to you, a job offer, I believe. A director of sorts. Anyways, he wishes to speak with you." He kept his voice low, even though it was unlikely anyone would understand him, even if there was anyone in the café.
The owner looked up, and out the window, "Now, across the street. I wouldn't keep him waiting."
Umao didn't budge; he was finding this all a little hard to take in.
"If you don't walk out that door, you will be throwing away the only chance at happiness you have."
Still unbelieving, but with that threat of losing Ushiko a strong motivator, Umao got to his feet and sprinted out the door.
Across the street, under the beam of a street light sat a very suspicious looking person, indistinguishable in a heavy beige trench coat, black fedora and sunglasses. Umao approached the person with caution.
"Have a seat," the voice was like sandpaper on concrete, mostly because it belonged to a man who clearly only just learned Japanese or was faking it rather well. After Umao had taken the spot on the opposite end of the bench the man continued in English.
"Master tells me you need a line of work. I am looking for someone like you."
'Someone like me?' Umao wondered to himself.
"As long as you can follow instructions unhesitatingly, you will have a job. Master also informs me that you have a partner?"
"Partner?" Umao repeated the word in English.
"A woman in your life."
"Oh. Yes, I do."
"Good, what is your name?" he asked.
Umao remembered when the shop owner addressed him in English not to long ago.
"Mr. Horse," Umao stated, "that is my name."
Someone heavy sat on the bench near Umao, waking him from his memories.
"You looked trouble, young sir," said a familiar voice.
"Master," Umao said, slightly shocked.
"It would appear that you are not dressed for winter weather. Allow me to offer some of my clothes. Unfortunately I left them in a locker at Utashima subway, but you've got some time before it gets too cold," Master smiled at him casually.
"You'd be helping me a lot, thank you, friend," Umao said, the exchange a common occurrence, but never with people he actually knew.
"I'm just glad I was able to help," Master got to his feet, "take care now, young sir. The misses needs you."
Umao was handed a small key. Without another word he was left alone again, but happier that he got to meet Master. They were prohibited from speaking unless it was an order, and Umao missed Master's kindness. Even though Umao may regret his decision now, he knew that he could never hate Master for giving him a chance at happiness.
It was still early, a few hours until the event was to take place. Umao decided to walk instead of take the nearest subway to Utashima station.
His walk went uninterrupted, no more close calls, and completely focused on the mission at hand. After seeing Master again, Umao became all business. He took it as a sign, that maybe he would be let go from service soon, he had hoped this day would come.
At the station Umao found the locker he held the key for and discovered a startling surprise. The jacket and hat he had tossed had been shoved into the locker. Pulling out the jacket and putting it back on, Umao found a pair of gloves in the pockets.
Trying to hide a sudden feeling of anxiety Umao looked for a clock. He had always known that he was watched occasionally, never knowing by whom though.
The fact that someone was tailing him send a chill down his spine that worried him so greatly he became short of breath. It was close to 2:30 now. Umao decided to take the subway to the festival grounds.
He checked the running times; the next train would come in a couple minutes. Umao bit his lip; he would be cutting it closely today.
Tapping his foot, waiting for the train, Umao felt the need to run. Get to the festival soon or there would be trouble. His mind rationalized that the train would be faster no matter what, so he had to wait.
Umao checked the clock so often he felt the second hand was waiting for him to look again just to move one second further.
Finally a whistle and the screeching of metal alerted him to the presence of the oncoming train. When it appeared he pushed his way to the door and then stopped right inside, drawing anger murmurs from other passengers.
He didn't care, time was short and Ushiko would be waiting. The train started its loop, the station nearest the festival would be a couple of stops from here, and then he would have to foot it the rest of the way.
But he had no idea where in the grounds the fight was going to start, he needed more time. Yet he could do nothing to slow the passage of time.
Every time the train stopped at a station he would pray there were few people getting on or off, so the train would get moving faster. 2:55; At the station before his stop there was a flood a people waiting to get on the train, the pushing on his back signaled the anxiety of those waiting to get off.
When the doors opened all hell broke loose as a current of people flowing in either direction caught hold of Umao and dragged him out of the train. "Stop!" He yelled, trying to push people out of his way, complete disregard for human kindness.
He reached, desperately trying to grab something, anything that would get him back on the train. His hand swung at air, 'It's over,' he cried, 'I won't make it in time, and I'll never be with Ushiko again!'
"NO!" He bellowed, and pumped with adrenaline started plowing through people as they fought against him to go in the opposite direction. Moving like someone wading through mud Umao suddenly broke free as the crowds separated and the train doors started to shut.
Even if he leaped now he would not be able to make it. That didn't matter he tried anyways. With strength fueled by the desire to be with his wife Umao jumped. Hand outstretched he just had to get a hand in the door to keep the train from leaving, just a hand, a finger.
The door came closer and closer, he wished his body would grow, but then he started falling, falling, 'I'm not going to make it!'
His body landed with a thud, hands outstretched, face buried in concrete. It was all over.
"Hey you! Get your hand out of the door!" Yelled a train operator.
Umao looked up, did he actually make it?
No, but someone, a young black haired girl, stunningly beautiful and mature looking was holding out her arm keeping the door from shutting. Umao nearly cried from a mixture of happiness, fatigue, and doom.
"She's waiting for you," she smiled at him and offered a hand. The girl pulled him into the train and the door quickly shut behind them.
Umao look down into her green eyes, still unsure of how this whole situation was going to play out. On one hand he was directly in contact with one of the forbidden, on the other, he would make it to the festival in time.
"Don't be late," she said to him warningly, and then turned to walk away.
"W-wait!" He called after her. The girl looked back over her shoulder, "Thank you," he said, smiling.
She returned his smile and walked further down the train, disappearing into the next car.
As the train approached the station Umao was pushing at the doors willing them to open before the train had completely stopped. He nearly fell through when they did open at last, and Umao hit the ground running.
He sprinted to the ground floor and upon exiting the station looked around wildly for signs of the festival.
"I hear their having a snowball fight! Come on!" A fair haired girl cheered as she dragged Umao's reluctant looking neighbor.
Umao ran in the direction the girl had taken off keeping her in sight. Not too far away was the festival grounds, a huge gate had been cut out of ice and frosted to greet travelers.
He could see hundreds of bodies all running around the grounds, screaming and laughing, and having a good time throwing snowballs at each other. In one solid motion Umao donned his gloves, bent over while running, scooped up some snow, formed a ball and looked for his target.
Something caught his eye; the girl from the train was on her butt in the snow, the boy who had run into Umao this morning in a suggestive position above her. They looked into each others eyes, in a universe completely all their own.
This was it. This is what Umao was hired to do, keep young lovers from making the same mistake he did. Love is amazing, truly wonderful and over powering, but if you let it control you, the decisions you make are unwise.
There must be balance, but joy. He had to show them that there is pain, sorrow, and tears, but in the end there is joy and wholeness. Love must be endured, cherished, and attacked without fear.
And there, not forty feet away stood the love of his life. Looking around desperately as if lost in the confusion.
Umao pulled his arm back, ready to throw. "Ushiko-san!" He called, "Wherefore art thou, Ushiko-san?" Umao released his snowball.
"Umao-san?" Ushiko answered his call, and receiving his snowball in the face.
He ran to her as people turned to look at the pair. Brushing snow off her face Ushiko continued, "Wherefore art thou, Umao-san?"
They embraced, holding as if they wouldn't let the devil tear them apart. From the corners of his tearing eyes he watched at the boy helped the girl to her feet. She turned to look at Umao and winked.
The boy following her gazed spoke, "They're kind of weird, aren't they?"
Hello, friends. I hope you enjoyed this little story about some of the most important characters of KOR.
I felt compelled to write this story when I sat down and re-watched this timeless series and was struck with the thought, "How do those two always end up near the main characters? And what purpose do they serve?"
From there the story was born. Maybe a little more involved than I originally planned, but I digress.
Somewhere out on the web, someone wrote how Ushiko and Umao were a comic relief from the drama and suspense of certain scenes in KOR. That they didn't just change the mood, they made you think about how silly some things really are.
So to all my friends, let love find you. And if you happen to be a "ujyuufudan" (indecisive person), don't be completely controlled by your emotions. Attack love head-first, but always keep in mind that what will be, will be.
Until next time,