Chapter Six: Warmth

Koshiro-sensei appeared to be startled at her presence but for a moment. "Fujiwara-san?"

Mokou tugged at the scarf around her throat, "Good night, Koshiro-sensei. I'm sorry for stopping by so late." The peace she felt was disturbed by the rising heartbeat at the woman's appearance. But she wasn't going to run away this time.

The woman smiled, a beam of happiness in the darkness , "No, I-I'm really happy to see you." The smile became a gentle twist of her lips containing broken bits of melancholy, "I thought you were going to avoid me forever."

Mokou gave a self-conscious cough, as she lowered her gaze. A beat of silence followed and then she stretched out her hand towards the woman. "I'll get that for you."

Koshiro-sensei looked at her outstretched hand blankly, "Hm?"

Mokou's cheeks blossomed into a more vibrant red; an effect she hoped which cold could be mistaken as the culprit. "The bucket-I'll get the water for you. You're not even wearing a coat."

Koshiro-sensei tugged at the shawl she had thrown around her shoulders. "Oh! You're right. I thought it would be fine with just this and I would just make a quick run-"

She was babbling, they both realized, and Koshiro-sensei stopped herself from saying anything further. With a sigh tinged with annoyance she didn't really feel, Mokou took the bucket, taking pains to ensure their fingers did not touch. "Just go inside," she directed, the words a puff of mist, coated in a soft layer of kindness which Mokou did not want to think about too much.

Koshiro-sensei relinquished her hold on the wooden container easily enough. "Okay, the well is around the side-"

Mokou walked off as she was still talking. For a school teacher Koshiro-sensei didn't seem so practical, almost careless. Mokou found herself smiling slightly at her discovery which clashed with Yamaguchi's glowing opinion of how wonderfully put together the new sensei was. It was more than likely Yamaguchi had a little crush on Koshiro-sensei, Mokou surmised.

She made quick work of the little errand and was back at the doorway of the cottage in moments. The woman was there, waiting for her with a little smile. "Do come in, Fujiwara-san."

Mokou nodded, stepping over the threshold a little hesitantly. The door sliding closed behind her sounded a little too loud. The woman took the bucket from her and Mokou slipped out of her boots.

"Make yourself at home. I was just going to make myself some tea, you came at the most opportune time." Koshiro-sensei commented from the kitchen. She giggled to herself and the music of it surrounded Mokou. A quiet humming replaced the chatter of the woman as she busied herself. A kotatsu sat in the center of the room, An open book lay on the table's surface indicating the woman had been sitting in that spot while Mokou had been on the roof above. She settled down on the cushions opposite from Koshiro-sensei's spot. Except for a writing desk in one corner of the room, there was not much else occupying the space. Makes sense I suppose, she didn't have much on her to begin with and she's only been here for a couple of weeks.

"The roles are reversed this time," Koshiro-sensei stated with what could only be a delighted smile as she emerged from the kitchen with a tray. Steam lingered over the cups as she placed them on the table. Closing the book she picked it up and deposited it on the surface of the writing desk before resuming her seat.

She's right, thought Mokou as she recalled their first meeting. She almost smiled as she made the comparison, Even down to the same act of drawing water and making tea.

The woman seemed to read her thoughts. "The only difference appears to the be time of day," she added. Mokou nodded, uncertain about the rest of the conversation. Now that she was here she didn't quite know what to say so she picked up her tea and took a sip. Though hot, the liquid was a welcome respite. Over the lip of the cup she glanced at the woman.

Koshiro-sensei seemed quite calm as she took a sip of tea as well, she gave the impression of having all the time in the world. Mokou thought it ironic, considering their lifespans. She took another sip of tea.

"I'm very glad to have company on such a cold night but I have to say, I'm very surprised you came." Her brown eyes were wide as she looked at Mokou. She found she couldn't look away from such a compelling gaze.

"I was out for some fresh air...somehow I found my way here." Mokou admitted.

"Why?"

She doesn't hold back, does she? Mokou was silent for a long time. Koshiro-sensei simply sipped her tea patiently which provoked her to provide an answer. The one that came was more honest than she intended."I don't know... I'm trying to figure it out myself. Since I met you...there's this strange feeling inside me."

"Strange?"

Mokou nodded, folding her hands together on the table. Contrary emotions welled up in her. The bottom of her feet itched, urging her to run away instead of sitting across from this young woman. But there was another, and it was unexplainable; sitting here with Koshiro-sensei felt like the most natural thing in the world.

It was that feeling that propelled her to speak instead of running away again. "I feel as if I've forgotten something very important."

A kind smile lit Koshiro-sensei's face. Underneath it lingered a current of sadness. "I'm sure whatever it is you're seeking will come to you in time."

"Time," Mokou snorted, "That's right. I have lots of time. All the time in the world." There was a bitterness in her words easily detected by the woman across from her.

Once more there was that flash of sadness and almost pain in the brown eyes. She had already guessed that Koshiro-sensei was the compassionate sort. But for some reason it didn't irritate Mokou as she initially felt it would.

"I see." the woman's curled around the teacup almost protectively. There was nothing else to say regarding that vein of conversation and Mokou was just a tiny bit relieved when the teacher moved on in a different direction. "Anyway, now that you are here with me I hope it means we can be friends, Fujiwara-san."

Mokou couldn't help it, she frowned in response, one of her eyebrows cocked higher than the other in question. But her expression did not offend Koshiro-sensei, it garnered the opposite effect instead. The woman uttered a quiet chuckle of amusement. "Yes, I suppose we can be," Mokou answered.

The laughter eased and was replaced by a smile brimming with happiness. Silence filled the cottage and Mokou was surprised to find it wasn't awkward but peaceful. Even though there were so many questions she suddenly wanted to ask she was content to simply sit with the woman while the winter winds continued to blow outside. Inside, she was warmer than she had been in years.

To be continued.


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