It had been going on for at least a week. Eisen had appeared to be very troubled about something, but he refused to say what it was, denying anything was wrong if asked, and then excusing himself to avoid more questions.
Everybody had been confused in regards to the young monk's behaviour, but none moreso than Yasuaki. Yasuaki found it especially hard to understand what was bothering his smaller partner, even though there were times he felt as if he could feel something similar to what Eisen felt. He didn't understand why he felt that way, and so decided to ask those who would be able to tell him; his fellow Hachiyo and Akane.
Everybody finished listening to Yasuaki explaining his situation and pondered what could be happening. "This sounds familiar. Yasuaki-san, do you remember those times you'd started crying when I was?" Akane asked of the onmyouji. She saw him nod in response. "I think that same sort of thing is happening now. You can see Eisen-san is troubled, and it's making you feel troubled as well."
"Why is Eisen so troubled?" Tenma asked. "I mean, sure there have been times in the past he was troubled, but he managed to resolve those in no time flat, so how come this time is different?"
Tomomasa closed his fan. "Normally, I would make a teasing remark, but this is too serious for even myself to joke about. Eisen-sama's behaviour has been very strange lately. He won't even show up at the palace to visit Okami."
Everyone was surprised to hear that, Eisen wasn't even visiting his older brother? Things must be bad for him then. "What can we do to help him?" Shimon enquired.
"Until we know what's wrong, there's very little we can do," Takamichi sighed.
"Still, there has to be something we can do! Maybe not concerning what's bothering him, but just to help him feel less-troubled and more willing to open up about it, ya know?" Inori suggested.
"That's a good idea, Inori-kun, and I do have an idea as to how we can do that," Akane stated. "Something Eisen-san really needs right now is a hug."
"Excuse me, Miko-dono, but a hug?" Yorihisa asked with confusion in his tone.
"Yeah. There's something we say back in our world looks like someone could use a hug. A lot of the time we mean it literally. After all, a hug is a great way to help someone feel better." She turned to Yasuaki. "Since you two are partners, you'd have a better idea as to where he is. Would you be willing to be the one to give Eisen-san a hug?"
Yasuaki nodded without hesitation. He wasn't a clingy person, but he did have no problems touching another if absolutely necessary. He understood this was one of those times. "I shall go find him." With that, he left the room.
Everybody else watched him leave. "Hey, Akane, what if Yasuaki is the cause of his problem?" Tenma asked once the onmyouji was out of earshot.
"What do you mean by that, Tenma-kun?" the miko enquired of her friend.
"Well, before Eisen became moody, there were times I'd caught him looking at Yasuaki when he thought Yasuaki wasn't watching."
Everybody turned to face Tenma, shock marking their features. "Wait, you mean Eisen could have feelings for Yasuaki?" Inori asked the older male.
Tenma nodded. "There's a possibility of that."
"Well, then I think this will work out even better. Do you remember what I asked of Yasuaki earlier? About how he'd start crying when he saw me crying?" She saw all present nod in response. "And then he found himself feeling very troubled when he saw Eisen-san was feeling troubled, he couldn't understand why. I understand now. And, I hope he does too, for both of their sakes."
"Understand what?" Inori asked of the young woman.
"Yasuaki-san possibly has feelings for Eisen-san. Have you ever felt like someone had torn you up when you saw a loved one suffering? It's similar to what's happening with Yasuaki-san."
Once Akane put it that way, they had to admit she had made a very good point. They all found themselves hoping that Yasuaki found a way to understand his own feelings.
Yasuaki found Eisen sitting under a large tree in an isolated part of the forest. He approached the young monk wordlessly. Once he stood in front of him, Yasuaki voiced his concern in the only manner he knew how. "You're troubled."
Eisen nodded, finding he could no longer deny it. If even Yasuaki had picked up on it, then it had to be obvious. "Yes...yes, I am."
"Why did you tell everyone you weren't?"
"I didn't want to cause anybody to worry about me."
"Everybody is worried, they know you are feeling troubled."
Eisen sighed and closed his eyes. "Even when I try not to be a burden, I become one."
"Eisen, you have not been nor never will be a burden." He knelt down in front of the monk. "Miko told me you could use something." With that, he leaned forward, and wrapped his arms around the monk, pulling him close and holding him tight.
Eisen's eyes widened as he felt Yasuaki hold him. He'd never even thought that one day he'd be held by the onmyouji, not unless the situation was dire. He knew how Yasuaki felt about physical contact, and how he would only make it when necessary. He closed his eyes and returned the embrace. "Thank you," he whispered.
"I don't like seeing you troubled, it makes me feel troubled as well. I don't understand why, but it does. Miko said it's similar to the times I started crying when I saw that she was. I still don't understand why it hurts me to see you suffering."
Eisen smiled patiently, he had a feeling Yasuaki wouldn't completely understand. "Do you wish for me to explain?"
"I came to help you, that is what I will do first. My problems do not matter at the moment, yours do."
"If I explain, it might help you understand what needs to be done to help me." Sometimes, Eisen had found, the best way to have Yasuaki listen would be if it was concerning the situation at hand. If Akane had told him to help Eisen, the monk understood that would be at the top of his list of priorities. "So, please allow me to explain."
Yasuaki nodded. "If it will help me to help you."
Just as Eisen suspected. "When someone you care about is suffering, you find yourself feeling upset that they are. You may wish that the pain was upon yourself, not the one you care about, you just cannot stand seeing them in pain."
"I don't understand."
"Let me ask you this, when Miko cried, did you feel as if you couldn't stand to see her crying?"
Yasuaki thought about it and nodded. "It caused a pain in my chest, and tears suddenly fell from my eyes."
"That does happen. You didn't like seeing Miko in pain, it made you feel that same pain."
"The same has been happening recently as well. You mentioned you felt troubled when you saw I was. I apologise for making you feel that way."
Yasuaki shook his head. "I didn't like seeing you upset. It caused a pain in my chest, it was worse than the pain I felt when I saw Miko cry. It was so bad, I couldn't even cry. All I wanted to do was try to help you feel less-troubled."
Eisen knew after being told that his friends had worried about him, but hearing Yasuaki say it hurt, it literally hurt, to see him so troubled, he felt terrible. "I'm so sorry, Yasuaki-dono." He pulled back from the embrace slowly so as not to hurt himself nor Yasuaki. He had to look at the onmyouji when he spoke with him, especially concerning what he felt was necessary to talk about. "I want to tell you what has been troubling me for the last while. Hopefully, if I tell you, it might help you feel less-troubled too."
Yasuaki nodded. He looked into Eisen's eyes and waited for the monk to begin.
Eisen noticed Yasuaki was holding his hands, but that was alright. As long as he could look into the onmyouji's eyes as he said what he had to, it was alright. "You see, for a while now, I have found I have developed feelings of deep affection for someone." He couldn't tell Yasuaki who just yet, so he would keep it at someone and wait for the onmyouji's response. "But, that person may not harbour those same feelings I have for them. It made me feel troubled about the path my heart chose. How could I tell that person how I felt if I would only receive rejection? I couldn't stand it any longer. I tried to keep them hidden, but soon, they were about ready to burst forth. I thought instead of having the person I have feelings for feel as if they were the ones to blame for my wasting away, I should keep it to myself, that way I could keep the blame to myself. So, I kept it to myself, and when asked about what was troubling me, I thought I'd just say it without thinking, so I always took that time to leave before I slipped. I've had these feelings for a while, but I found they were bothering me at least a week ago. And, that's what led to our conversation."
"I am glad you told me. Do you feel better after sharing that much?"
Eisen nodded. "A little, but I don't think I will feel better until I confess my affections."
"Then, do that. If it will make you feel better, do that."
Eisen sighed and shook his head. "It's not that easy. I'm frightened that they may not return my feelings. It could ruin our friendship."
"Do you have feelings for Miko?"
"To admit it, I did a long time ago. But then, I found my heart was drifting to another. That was around the time Miko and Tenma-dono started courting each other."
"Then, if you cannot be around us for fear of saying your feelings without meaning to, you have feelings for a Hachiyo."
Eisen nodded hesitantly. "It's true. I do." How Yasuaki could be so naive yet so perceptive was beyond belief, Eisen had to hide his shock once the onmyouji made his deduction. He only hoped this would not become a guessing game. He noticed a strange expression appeared on Yasuaki's features for a few seconds before vanishing. "Is something wrong?"
"My heart just skipped a beat. I don't know why. Is it normal?"
"It does happen when one is anxious about what someone said."
"Why am I feeling anxious? You just confirmed that you had feelings for a fellow Hachiyo, and then...it happened again."
Could it be the reason why Yasuaki-dono's heart is skipping a beat at what I am saying is because...? He tried not to get his hopes up. "What would you say if I told you that..."
Again, Yasuaki felt his heart skip a beat. "It happened again. Why?" He did not understand, this had never happened before...had it? There had to have been other times he was around someone when that happened, but he failed to recall any. Maybe it was just because of what Eisen was saying. He found himself feeling anxious about what Eisen was saying. He found himself hoping Eisen would say...what? What did he want to hear Eisen say?
"Maybe it would be better if I didn't talk about it here..."
A sudden feeling of disappointment filled the onmyouji. He felt a pain in his heart, it felt as if it was breaking. He felt tears coming to his eyes. "What is happening?" he whispered.
Eisen gasped. "Yasuaki-dono, what's the matter?"
Yasuaki shook his head. "I felt disappointed." He had experienced that feeling in the past, so he knew what it was. "My heart felt like it was breaking, it was very painful. And then...the tears just came." His voice wavered only slightly, but the expression on his face stayed the same.
It was because of what I was saying! "I'm sorry, Yasuaki-dono." He pulled one of his hands out of the onmyouji's grip and reached up to dab away the tears. "I feel I can tell you now. I have been troubled over the last while because I have feelings for you."
Yasuaki gasped, unaware he'd actually done so. He felt surprised, and warm after hearing Eisen declare his affection was for the Chi no Genbu all along. He found himself starting to smile, something he rarely ever did. He wasn't entirely sure why, but he felt very happy. Maybe the intense warmth building inside him was what had been bothering Eisen, maybe he was feeling the same thing. He noticed Eisen started to look a little upset due to his hesitation in replying to the confession. "I have feelings for you as well. I'm sorry it took me so long to answer, but I had to think to confirm if I was feeling the way I did because I returned your feelings, or if it was something else."
"Can you please describe what you felt?"
"Very warm. I felt happiness, something I like and yet am not too familiar with. I no longer felt afraid that you weren't going to say you had feelings for me."
Eisen blushed lightly as what the onmyouji said had sunk in. Yes, he knew that Yasuaki did have those same feelings. A weight felt as if it had been lifted as his confession had been made and received pleasant results. He no longer felt troubled, and while he did feel that he should return to the Tsuchimikado manor and apologise to his friends for making them worry about him, he wanted nothing more than to stay with Yasuaki for a few minutes more. Judging by how Yasuaki was releasing his hand and pulling him into an embrace, he knew he wasn't the only one to desire some alone time.