Ikkimaru laid there in bed looking out the window. He then turned and laid on his back before he looked up to the ceiling. He closed his eyes for a few moments before the sound of thunder went off and soon his apartment began to fill with the smell of rain. He sighed as he got out of bed and walked over to the closet. He put on a puffy raincoat before he grabbed a flashlight from a box in the top of the closet. He then walked through his apartment before he turned on the flashlight. He slid on some shoes before he reached for the doorknob. He paused when he noticed a light blue light coming from the outline of the door. Opened the door and stepped out onto the landing where he saw a small ball of light blue light.
He closed the door to his apartment before he walked over to the steps and began to go down them. He then stepped from one step to another before he then panicked and slipped. He stumbled for a bit before he looked down. He felt his foot enter a pool of water, yet what he was standing in was definitely dry. He turned to the ball of light before he began to walk towards it, “Hakama…?” He said softly as he drew closer and closer to it until it was within arms reach, “What the hell is this…?” He reached out to the light before touching it with his finger tip. At that moment the light exploded and the whole earth seemed to change colors.
Ikkimaru jumped back and looked around as he seemed to be what he could only imagine was the beginning of time. His ears were filled with angelic arias before he could hear percussion and ancient Japanese singing. Eventually it came to the surface of the earth, he saw the dawn of the dinosaurs before the meteor hit the earth. They roared and screeched in pain as their skin changed color and started heating up. Their eyes turned white and they screamed as their skin formed bubbles before bursting. The lights went gray and he heard a soft cry. He turned and saw a little T-Rex crying as it wandered around. Ikkimaru looked down at it as it started to walk past him. The little dinosaur had a purple streak on its nose going down to the base of the neck.
The lights and time moved forward in time as soon he saw the first people of earth. Ancient creatures and he saw the little dinosaur again, this time it was a little bigger. It walked with its mouth open and objects inside of it. It noticed the people before it closed its eyes and changed shape becoming a young girl, being about 11 or perhaps 13. She picked up the objects she once had in her mouth and carried them with her as she began to walk off. “Hakama…?” Ikkimaru said as he went to walk after her. Time began to move forward and the lights then started to show humans evolving along with society. It then came to Japan in World War II and the numerous bombs dropped, then came the things that came out of Japan afterwards. The lights swirled before it then settled and the lights seemed to show a field with the sky being a warm yellow color.
Ikkimaru looked ahead of himself to see a large T-Rex nuzzling its face and head against two others before turning to a third. Ikkimaru paused as he saw something from the corner of his eye. He turned before he had fully turned around. His eyes widened as he saw two people standing in front of him. “….mom…dad…?” He then approached them before his mother reached out and touched his face. Tears instantly fell from his eyes as he felt the warmth of his mother’s fingertips. “Mom…” he dropped his flashlight before he reached up and touched the back of his mother’s hand. It was if she had never left. She smiled at him before she began to float into the air, “Wait! No! Don’t go!” Soon she and his father flew into the dark storm cloud filled sky and the lights vanished.
Ikkimaru took a few moments before he realized he was standing in the downpour again. He bent down and picked up his flashlight before he heard and felt a dull rumble. He looked over his shoulder before he turned to the large dinosaur. It looked up into the sky as it sniffed the air before it lowered its head and snorted. It shook its head before it turned and took notice of Ikkimaru. It then turned and fully faced Ikkimaru before slowly approaching him. The ground shook as it approached him. As it stopped Ikkimaru looked up into its warm honey-colored eyes before he said, “Hakama…” She blinked in response before he stepped towards her. He hesitated before she lowered her head and moved closer to him. She pressed the end of her snout against his chest before he wrapped one arm around her and rested his forehead on her nose. “You’ve been alone this entire time….millions of years and…” he then sighed as he said, “I’m sorry…I’m sorry for not believing you, I’m sorry for thinking you were crazy…I just…”
Hakama began to shrink and change before she returned to her human form. She then wrapped her arms around him and buried her face into his chest, “It’s okay, you were in pain, you still are…I didn’t make it any better I’m sure…”
“No, that’s-“ he then sighed before he said, “Come on.” He then turned and wrapped his arm around her as he took her back up the steps before they came to the landing. They then sat down outside his apartment door. “You…” he then sighed as he set down his flashlight and clasped his hands together. He then turned to Hakama before he removed his jacket and wrapped it around her, “Here.” Hakama blushed before she grabbed onto his jacket and wrapped it around her,
“You’re welcome.” He said before he then rolled up his sleeves showing her his bandage wrapped forearms, “After my last relationship, I didn’t want to live anymore…so I began to harm myself. It hurt, but honestly it felt like relief. It wasn’t until it was too late, and I woke up in a hospital that I realized I nearly died. It was a massive reality check…I spent over a week and a half in the hospital, and I eventually came out with antidepressants. I thought my life was fine until I lost my parents.”
“Did you hurt yourself again…?”
“No,” he said, “The look on my mother’s face…it was permanently etched into my brain. I needed an escape from the pain, and that’s when I began drawing. I did it to get my frustrations out, and before I knew it I was serialized.” He flexed his fingers before he he made a fist a few times, “I-“ He shook his head before saying, “I never once got propper help outside my first time in the hospital. Even so, I just gave them lip service so I could go home…I refused their help before I assumed I was fine. Even now,” he cleared his throat before he wiped tears from his eyes, “I know for a fact I’m not fine.” He then turned and looked at Hakama before saying, “And then you came.”
“I-“ Hakama said as she turned to him, “Me? What about me?”
“We haven’t known each other that long, however, you’ve been the one consistent thing in my life. I wasn’t fond of you at first, but ultimately you were just doing your job, which was looking out for me. When I’d wake up you’d ask me how I felt and how I slept. You helped me improve my art in the story, my editor really likes the fixed and sharper action scenes.” He shook his head before he looked out at the bathhouse across the street, “Honestly, you’ve been a huge help, even if I could never admit it. So thank you, Hakama.”
“Yeah, of course.” Hakama looked down before Ikkimaru then said,
“The Wagasa, you seemed really happy to get it, I think you started crying.” He said with a soft chuckle, “Why was that?”
“Oh…” She said softly before her face began to turn red, “The truth is…when they began to show up in the Azuchi–Momoyama period, they looked so beautiful. I’d walk around with my current master and I’d see them out on the street. All the women just looked so pretty with them, so beautiful…my master got one for the woman he loved, and I accidentally mistook it as a gift for me. That’s when he punished me and sent me back to the spirit realm. Every time I’d be summoned after that I’d see them and it’s all I ever wanted. Eventually when I was last summoned in the Edo period I really had a hard time trying to communicate to the mistress that I wanted one…I wanted one because I wanted to look pretty, I wanted to feel beautiful…” Tears swelled in Hakama’s eyes as she sniffled and wiped her tears, “Honestly, you getting me one meant a lot to me. It meant that after several hundred or even a thousand years I was finally beautiful!”
“Hm,” he said as he looked out to the street, “Maybe I should return it.” He said, “If you’re not beautiful without the wagasa then you were never beautiful to begin with. And that’s a lie. You’re actually very beautiful Hakama.” Hakama’s heart skipped a beat as she gave a soft gasp, “You don’t need an oil-paper umbrella just to be beautiful, since you’ve been beautiful from the start.” As Hakama blushed the tip of her nose and ears turned red,
“Even though I’m not skinny like Ryuko…?”
“Who cares if you’re not, Hakama? You’re a little chubby, so what? I think it’s cute!” Hakama swallowed lightly as her blush soon began to make her face disappear.
“Thank you….it means a lot to me….”
“Of course,” he said, “So what was that just now? All the lights?”
“It was part of the Spirit Realm…I was able to project it…I do it whenever I’m summoned and I feel upset…with it I can see my parents along with my brother….”
“I see,” he said as he looked up at the sky, “I got to see my parents too, so thank you for that.”
“Yeah…” she then wiped her nose before saying, “Ikki, do you ever get scared?”
“I was today,” he said as he crossed his legs, “Hakama, when you stormed out I was worried sick about you. I called Ryuko over, and we called the police and the aquarium and the boutique and I even went over to the bathhouse, but I couldn’t find you.”
“I’m sorry…” She said as she pulled her knees into her chest,
“Why are you asking?”
“I…” She pulled her knees closer into her chest as she said, “Whenever I’m no longer needed, and I go back into the family shrine…it’s dark….it’s just
me there, and I can’t see anything other than myself….with nothing and no one….I’m just so alone.” She said as she began to sob, “And now that I’ve fallen in love with you, I don’t want to go back there! Not after everything you’ve given me! After everything you’ve made me feel! I don’t want to go back into the dark!”
Ikkimaru sighed before he stood up and said, “Are you hungry?”
“Are you hungry?”
“A little bit…”
“Come on,” he said as he turned and opens the door to his apartment. She wiped her tears before she stood up and followed him inside. Ikkimaru closed the door and flicked the light switch, “Damn, the powers out.” He then turned on his flashlight and took Hakama to the couch where he sat her down. He turned and went into his bedroom before he came back with some candles. He set them on the coffee table before he lit each of them. Afterwards he went to the bathroom and grabbed some towels and brought one back to Hakama. She began to dry herself off as Ikkimaru went to the kitchen.
He opened the fridge and took out the cake he made with Ryuko before he placed it on the counter. He opened the cupboards and grabbed some plates before placing them on the counters. He then took out a knife and cut two pieces of the cake and put them on the plates. Afterwards he grabbed some forks before he walked back over to the couch. He paused as he saw Hakama had let her hair down to dry it out. He had never once seen her with her hair down, and he thought it was rather nice. She then turned and looked up at him and said, “What…?”
“Nothing,” he said with a smile as he shook his head. He handed her a plate and said, “Happy Birthday, Hakama.” She took the plate from him before he sat down beside her. “Ryuko and I made this cake for you, however, she did most of the work on it. It was made for you for your birthday. So I hope you enjoy it.”
“Okay,” she said as she looked down at the cake. She then turned to Ikkimaru and watched how he used the fork to take a bite of the cake.
“Mmmm!” Ikkimaru hummed, “It’s so good!” He said with a mouth full of cake. Hakama then did as he did and took a bite of the cake. Tears swelled in her eyes as her cheeks turned red. She had never tasted something so soft, fluffy, moist, and sweet before. She then began to eat the cake a bit faster before it was eventually all gone. “What do you think?” Ikkimaru asked as he noticed she finished,
“I never knew food could taste like this.” She said softly as she looked down at the empty plate,
“Yeah, you’d be surprised.” He said just as he finished his piece of cake as well. He then turned to her before he gave a soft chuckle, “Hakama.”
“Yes?” She responded as she turned do him,
“You’ve got a,” he then pointed to the corner of his mouth, “You’ve got some cream on your face.”
“Oh,” she said before she placed her hand on the left side of her face, “Right here?”
“No,” he said before he reached his hand and cupped her right cheek before he wiped the corner of her mouth with his thumb. Hakama blushed before he said, “Right here.” Hakama’s eyes softened before she raised her hand and placed it on the back of his.
“Your hand is very warm,” she said as she gently pushed against him,
“Yeah,” he said, “You’ve been out in the cold for a while. Where did you run off to?”
“I ran to the city, I wandered around and then got lost. So I eventually turned around and came back home, that’s when I went into the spirit realm.”
“I see, well I’m just glad you made it home safe.” He responded as he moved his hand from her cheek to the top of her head where he gave her a gentle pet. “I’m sorry that I threatened to hit you, you said something that struck a nerve. Even so I have no excuse as to why I behaved that way. It wasn’t your fault, it was mine.” He sighed as he removed his hand from the top of her head and said, “I’m a very damaged person, Hakama. I’m broken even. I have so many issues with women that all I want to do is just hide and defend myself as much as possible.”
“It’s alright,” Hakama responded, “I realized I went too far, I just didn’t know if you’d forgive me. The last thing I want is for you to be scared of me.” She pulled her knees into her chest and wrapped her arms around them before she said, “You saw me out there earlier, I’m much bigger than you, and I’m very scary looking, and I can handle anything thrown at me. I’m built for power.” She then rested her head on her knees as tears began to form in her eyes, “Even though I look like that…even though I’m supposed to be strong….I’m terrified…when my family died along with everyone else, I was kept alive for some reason…it was then that I began to see the spirit realm, and one of the spirits said that since I had such a drive to live I was saved and made into a spirit….”
“How old were you when that happened?”
“I was only 11 months old when everyone died….my parents and older brother were fully grown…I was just born along with several other siblings…I was the only one to survive.”
“It must’ve been scary,” he said before he began to rub her back, “But it’s okay to be scared, it’s how you know you’re alive.”
Ikkimaru turned and looked at the candles before he looked up at the wall, “Hey, Hakama, watch this.” He then got up and moved the candle before he knelt behind the coffee table. She looked at him before he pointed to the wall. She turned to the wall and looked at it for a few seconds before a rabbit appeared on the wall.
“It’s a rabbit,” he said before the rabbit became a dog followed by a turtle,
“When I was little and there were thunderstorms, or whenever the power went out, my mom would come into my room and show me how to do this.” He said, “You make certain shapes with your hands, and then the shadows will become something else.” She then turned and looked at Ikkimaru as he held his hands in front of the flame and changed their shapes, “She’d tell me stories whenever she’d do this, and sometimes my dad would join in as well.” He then stood up as he walked back over to the couch and sat beside Hakama, “It always gave me something to look forward to when something scary like this happened.”
“Your mom must’ve meant a lot to you:”
“She did, she was like a best friend.”
“That sounds nice,” Hakama said before asking, “Can I…ask you something?”
“Do you really think I’m beautiful…?”
“I’ve always wanted to be desired by somebody…even though I’ve been more of an aid or a guide, I always thought I’d make for a good housewife. So I just want to know if you really think I’m beautiful?”
“Yeah,” Ikkimaru said, “Of course you are.” He then turned to her before saying, “Despite its abnormal color, you’ve got really soft and beautiful hair.” He then placed his hand back on her cheek and said, “Although your eyes are droopy, they’re just so warm and inviting, they’re very beautiful too. You’re very soft to the touch, and you’ve got an adorable round face.” He then felt himself begin to lean into her as he said, “And…and your lips….they’re so….so…”
“So what…?” Hakama responded softly as their faces drew closer. Before Ikkimaru could respond he and Hakama were already kissing. Hakama’s lips were warm and very soft to the touch. What he felt in that moment at the bathhouse he was feeling once again, here and now. Everytime their lips smooched Ikkimaru felt himself falling more and more for her. Hakama then had no idea what came over her as she then moved and sat on Ikkimaru’s lap being careful not to break their kiss. She wrapped her arms around his neck and ran her fingers through his hair.
They then pulled away for each other for a brief moment to catch their breath. Hakama looked down before she rested her forehead against his. “I felt something when you first kissed me Hakama….when you ran off I was scared, because suddenly that feeling left with you and I didn’t know what to do….I never want to stop feeling with you, Hakama.”
“Okay…” She said before the two then went back to kissing. As their kissing got more passionate and intense, Ikkimaru seemed to block out the things around them. The couch, the living room, the hallway, his bedroom, his bed, their love making. When he and Hakama finally stopped kissing they laid under his covers, naked, and in each other’s embrace. “Ikki…” Hakama said softly,
“No, don’t say anything,” he responded, “Just let me have this, let me have you.”