The Titan and The Witch
“Woooh! I’m home!” Lilly breathed as she crossed the threshold of her house. It was a modest little thing, just one large room. The best way to describe it was that it was essentially a shack styled like a traditional Japanese house. It wasn’t fancy, but it was hers.
Just three days had passed since the…incident. She had tried to lay low, but had to make a trip into town because of the things that had fallen out of her bag during her panic. It had been a very unpleasant, trip to say the least. Lilly sighed as she set her bag in the corner.
Word had spread about how she had saved that man…Shinjiro…and needless to say, people had plenty to say about it. They thought she was a whore, a loose woman, a person without honor, a witch who wanted them all to die, a dumb foreigner…being willing to stick her neck out for someone else who was hated didn’t exactly earn her any respect. But she had no regrets. She did the right thing. But it didn’t take away the fact that the verbal abuse had been worse than usual today.
She looked around her home, trying to think of more positive things. Well…she was grateful to be home, and to even have a home here in the first place. And this tiny place was very nice and just perfect for her.
She’d finally been able to beg, bribe; and, okay, maybe threaten; a local laborer to dig a well behind it about a week after she had moved in. A little way off in the trees was a clear, cold creek, but running back and forth for water was a pain. Though the best part was that the creak had a little, mini waterfall in a rock-face and there was a naturally hallowed out space behind it. It was always freezing cold back there, so she would store perishable food behind it and place another rock in the front of the hole to hide the food from stray animals and human thieves. Innovation! Though she had to admit that she got the idea from a children’s book series that her birth father had given her when she was little. But it worked!
There was a little kitchen area to the right when you entered her house. A small area for washing up was hidden behind a screen to the left. In the center of the room was a low table and cushions. Her futon was always laid out in the upper left corner of the house. Strange for Japan but, since she had spent a good part of her life in America, having your bed out and ready 24/7 was just normal to her. And that was it. The only other feature that she loved more than anything was the window seat that she had had put in. She’d fixed up this decaying little closet herself, but she had had to hire the same man who had dug her well to put in the window. He had hated being there and kept looking at her, as if she would gobble him up when he wasn’t looking. He had also been highly nervous and disturbed because of the fact that he had no clue what he was building.
But it was worth the awkwardness. She walked over to the large window and leaned over the seat, staring out at the vast, shining sea. Her little house was located on a peak overlooking the ocean. It was so beautiful! She smiled and appreciated the view for a while, before turning around.
“Okay, time for dinner! I guess I’m just having some tofu and rice tonight!” Ugh…boring food!” But her brain was dead and had no creative ideas for cooking right now.
She bounced over to the kitchen area and jabbed her brain cells into functioning. “Hmmm…why don’t I try turning it into some sort of soup? I have daikon, leek, and carrots. I have spices and stuff to make a good broth so…tofu and rice soup? Sounds workable. I need to take my frustration out on something right now.” She decided.
She was lucky that she lived alone because her cooking style was…odd, to say the least. Since she had spent the majority of her life in America, that was a big enough difference on its own, but add in the fact that her experience in cooking both American and Japanese food were in the 21st century, and you had a very odd personal cuisine that no one else in this time period would dare eat!
But, dare she brag, she thought that it was very good! She’d always loved to cook, and her family loved her food. It was just one of those things that made her feel good because she could feed people and make them smile with her food. She just wanted to bless other people and make them happy, if even just for a tiny bit. She wasn’t the best cook ever, of course, but she was good at it and, since she wasn’t talented, it was one of the only ways that she had to make other people happy.
She got the broth cooking and then got to work chopping the vegetables. As she did so, she recalled the cruel words of the villagers and channeled her anger into dismembering the produce.
“You’re a whore. Why don’t you go to the city? We don’t need a woman like you here and there’s plenty of men who’d loved to be pleasured by a Westerner there.”
“I’ll kill you yet.”
“ You may have saved that thing, but you can’t save yourself.”
Her heart raged. She wanted to scream. How could anyone say such awful things about anyone? She wasn’t a monster. She wasn’t a witch. She’d never slept with anyone in her entire life and wasn’t lustful; heck, back home, she had decided at one point that she thought that maybe she didn’t want to get married! She didn’t drink and had never done drugs. She had never gotten her driver’s license, so she didn’t even have a traffic violation to her name. Her path of study at University guaranteed that she needed a clean record and strong moral fiber to ever get employment after graduation. Her record didn’t have a stain on it or even a hint of scandal. So then…why? How?
Where were people getting these crazy ideas about her? Were they really just that paranoid? Or maybe they were scared because they were subconsciously picking up on the fact that she was a time traveler who shouldn’t have been here at all?
It angered her either way. She hadn’t done a single thing wrong! She kept to herself, worked her little plot of land, and read lots of books. She didn’t talk to anyone or go out if she didn’t need to. Even if this was a different time, they still should have been able to see the fact that she hadn’t done anything and at least been civil.
Was this all her life was meant to be? Was she…was she just destined to never know peace or be treated like a normal person? Was she always going to be the outcast, the weirdo? The person who was either taken advantage of by false friends or betrayed and abandoned by people who couldn’t handle her oddities and emotional disturbances? Was being an outcast with no one who was willing to accept her, even if she was hard to understand and grating on people, all she could be? Even if she was a hot emotional mess, she was still a person; a person who just wanted someone to love and accept her with no caveats, even when it wasn’t convenient or easy. But that was easier to wish for than to find.
She’d only ever had six positive relationships with others throughout her 20 years of life, only six. And only four of those had been truly positive and healthy. But two of those weren’t as close as they once were because they had grown up and drifted away, and one wasn’t exactly a friendship of equals because the person was a child who loved and depended on Lilly as a surrogate sister figure. There was only one truly good, mentally and emotionally healthy, strong relationship that she had ever known. But…her grandpa was dead and gone now.
He’d died right before she had fallen through the time slip. The two people whose relationships with her were unintentionally harmful were likely now dead of heartbreak over her disappearance. Her two distant “best friends” had probably been a little sad but would have gotten over it very quickly. They hadn’t seen her in nearly two years, and they now had families and callings of their own that took up their time and thoughts. That poor little girl would have had been crushed because she had no friends and was an orphaned child being raised by her grandma. But, with time, her pain would heal, and she would surely make friends and be happy. She might even forget about ever knowing Lilly altogether.
If only she had just died back then when she fell through the time slip. Then she would have been with the only person who had truly loved her and encouraged her to be herself. ‘Grandpa…I hope you’re watching me from Heaven right now. As long as you’re here, I know I’m not alone and I’m not scared. I love God, but I question why he made me like this and why he just can’t get rid of all my mental and emotional pain. I miss you, grandpa…’
Lilly sighed, stirring the broth base as it neared its boiling point. Grandpa would have been so happy to try this soup! He loved it when she cooked. He had a major sweet-tooth in his old age, so she was his favorite person in the world when she made him brownies and cookies. He liked watching her whenever she tried out a new recipe; he said that she was cute when she was excited and exploring new things. She never felt scared or awkward around him; ever since she was a baby, grandpa had loved his beloved only grandchild with no exceptions. Her disabilities hadn’t bothered him in the slightest. Why couldn’t more people learn to love and care for others like her grandfather had? He didn’t have a single enemy, and no one could say a single word against him because he was so kind and charismatic.
Lilly rolled her eyes at herself. She could sit and wonder ‘what-if?’ all day and night until she died, but it wouldn’t change anything. She couldn’t bring grandpa back to life; she couldn’t change how people felt and saw her because she couldn’t change the hearts of humans and their tendencies towards evil and selfishness; she couldn’t force people to see her, truly see her as a person on a holistic, spiritual level. She could only depend on herself, and her deep longings and heartache couldn’t change that because she wasn’t God. She was just a powerless, stupid idiot.
* * *
“Mmmm!” Lilly walked out of her house and did a big stretch in the slowly setting sunlight. “This food is going to be so good! I’m hun-gry!” She looked up and her large plot of plowed land caught her eye. She walked over, squatted at the edge of the field, and squinted, trying to see if anything had sprouted. “Come on, little guys! Start growing! I know you can do it! The sooner you start growing, the sooner my economic and dietary stability will be established, then I won’t have to deal with any mean and stupid people ever again!”
She looked out at the beautiful trees of the forest that surrounded her home. She looked at the little patches of wild grasses and flowers at the edges of her property. She thought deeply “Hmm…I wonder if I could transplant some of them to surround my house? Maybe they have some cheap flower seeds at the market. I’ve been thinking…a flower garden outside of my big window and overlooking the sea would be pretty. It would make me happy. I like pretty things. I’d like some orange and yellow ones because they remind me of grandpa. Those were always his favorite colors and he grew marigolds for as long as I can remember. It would remind me of the better parts of back home.”
She got up and slowly made her way around the back of her house. It would be a bit of a wait while her soup slow-cooked, so she wanted to go sit on the edge of the cliff and watch the sun set. It was also so pretty to look at; the sea here was so amazing!
Suddenly, though, something caught her eye and she skidded to a stop. She gave a massive gasp. Someone, a giant someone, was already sitting on the ledge! Her heart thudded in her chest in fright. The man hadn’t noticed her yet; he was lost in gazing off in the distance with a serious, contemplative look on his face.
Lilly scanned the individual up and down. ‘It’s…him!’ she though in shock. ‘Shinjiro…it’s definitely him. It can’t be anyone else; how many monstrously sized men could be in the same small Japanese village? And that white hair, the scars, those deep blue eyes…it is him! I’d never forget him!’
Lilly was unsure what to do. He interested her and she had really wanted to get to know him better, to see him again. But she had opted to just forget about him. It was too intimidating to even consider making any friends or approaching someone. Being lonely was easier and less scary than trying to connect with others. But now…this had to be something like destiny or fate telling her to talk to him. Seriously, how likely was it that the man that she had encountered on the trail the other day would casually find his way to where her house was, out of nothing more than shear chance?
‘Am I…really going to do this? Do I just…go up to him and talk to him? Yeah, I just need to say hi, right? Whatever happens after, happens. Let’s just do this, before you lose your nerve!’
Lilly quietly crept up until she was only a few feet away from him. She took a deep breath and clasped her hands together in front of her.
“Oh! It’s you!” She said cheerfully, causing Shinjiro’s head to snap towards her as he jumped.
“Oh, I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to scare you! It’s just…I just saw you and though that it was funny that you somehow found your way to my house! You’re…Shinjiro…right?” She smiled up at the man, who stared back down at her in surprise.
* * *
“I’m surprised that anyone lives here. I didn’t realize that anyone had moved into that abandoned house. I’m sorry…if I scared you.” Shinjiro apologized, not meeting Lilly’s eyes. Once again, she found his shyness surprising. She was used to people being awkward and confused around her, but someone so big and strong being intimidated and frightened by her…well, that was something else altogether.
The two were sitting side-by-side on the cliff. Lilly wrapped her arms around her knees and stared up at him sideways. They’d get along just fine; he wasn’t scary to talk to at all! She gave him a little sideways smile.
“Hey, you don’t need to apologize.” She gently reassured him. “You had no idea that I lived here. I didn’t even notice you! I just happened to find you because I was planning to sit on this same edge to watch the sun. I didn’t even realize that you were out here, even though I had been looking out my window right before I came out.”
“…have you…lived here long?” Shinjiro asked her.
“No. Maybe a couple of weeks? I haven’t been here for too long. I lived…in another country before this, and…stuff…just…happened, and I had no choice but to come here. I don’t have anywhere else to go, so I just decided to find somewhere quiet and isolated to stay here.” She explained, ignoring the whole ‘I slipped through a time warp’ thing.
“You…you are American…correct?” Shinjiro asked timidly. “I could be stereotyping and being ignorant…but you just look American, with your hair and eyes. And you talk in a strange way”
“Well…yes…and no. My mother was American, and my birth father was Japanese. He immigrated to America as a teenager and met my mother. I look exactly like her and no one can ever tell that I’m part Japanese. My parents divorced when I was little and I lived with just my mother until I was…I guess about 16 or 17? She married my stepfather then. He’s also Japanese, but he’s a wealthy business man who moved to America for a while and met my mother. We moved back to Japan and took my mother’s parents with us, but I went back to America by myself a few years later and lived there for a while. I had to go back to Japan for the funeral of my grandfather on my mother’s side. Then…I’m not comfortable saying what, but some bad stuff happened. I…ran away…and I just ended up here, so this is my home now.”
Shinjiro looked at her in confusion. She talked strangely, mixing her tenses. He’d encountered some Americans and Japanese Americans before, but even they didn’t talk the way this woman did. Was it some obscure dialect, combined with the fact that she hadn’t lived much of her life in Japan? Or something else? Maybe it was just her own, personal odd way of talking. He felt that feeling again; the feeling that something was off about her behaviors, thinking, and mannerisms.
“You talk as if your mother is dead. Did…something happen? The way you speak about your family is hard for me to understand.” Shinjiro innocently inquired, frightening Lilly.
“Oh, I’m sorry!” Lilly panicked. Of course, she would weird him out with the way she talked. Someone who was Japanese-American who had lived in both countries for different amounts of time would already have a strange speech pattern, but she was from modern times! Crap! If she wasn’t careful, then people would become even more suspicious of her! Not good, not good!
‘Okay, breath, Lilly! Just be honest, but also kind of vague. You don’t need to tell him everything. He’s probably already uncomfortable because you’ve said far more than is culturally normal and acceptable. Try to control your motor-mouth!’
“Well…let’s just put it this way…she’s always been a sickly, fragile, and weak-minded woman. I’m convinced that my disappearance will break her heart and kill her, if it didn’t already. My grandmother, her mother, as well. But…no matter how horrible and selfish it is, I can’t go home. I can’t…I kind of do want to go back, but most of me can’t bear to do so. I’m better off here alone because…it’s not a good situation at home.”
“That sounds horrible. No one should be forced to be all alone.” Shinjiro sympathized. “I…I shouldn’t have asked. I won’t ask anything else and I won’t make you tell me anything about yourself…I’m the worst…I’m sorry.”
“Don’t you been so hard on yourself!” Lilly demanded. “It’s not a crime to be curious, and how else would we get to know each other if you didn’t ask me questions? If I was really upset and didn’t want to answer, I wouldn’t answer, and I’d be blunt and tell you to stop. You don’t need to keep being scared that I’m fragile and will get angry so easily.”
“O-okay…” He stared at the sea, not meeting her eyes.
“What about you? Why are you living here? You must live close by.” Lilly questioned, curious as to how she never noticed him.
“…Yes. Do you know the government-backed farm up on the bluffs? Where they grow herbs and things for doctors and medical professionals? Because the government is trying to regulate doctors and medical care so that it’s more efficient and more people can receive care?”
“Yes…a little bit.” Lilly admitted. She didn’t know much about it, but it was one of things that factored into her trying to figure out what exact time period she was in. Though she had now basically decided that she was in the early Meiji period and that that was the ideological hill that she was going to die on.
“…I work there. I’m one of the farmers. And I live up there, too. We’re allowed to build our own homes and have a little community up there. I…don’t come down here to the town or anywhere else because…I don’t like people much. They are…well…I have…trouble…whenever I’m around people. So, I just stay there. But it’s…okay. I like it. I…like working with living things. It’s quiet. All the other men are older than me…they are kind and treat me very well. It’s…it’s safe and I’m okay with it.”
“That sounds…really nice, honestly.” Lilly admitted. “You’re…kinda like me. People…aren’t very nice to me, either. They think I’m…weird. I like it right here because it’s nice and quiet and I’m all alone. I guess you could call me a farmer, too, in a sense. I’m growing a bunch of different stuff and planning on living on it and selling some to pay for other things I need. I’m not a super complex person, I just need the minimum that meets my needs. I’m happy here, happier than I’ve ever been when I was with my family. Well, we aren’t exactly the same…but I think we can at least mutually understand each other, if that makes sense?”
Shinjiro gave one of his small smiles. “…Yes. I’m honestly surprised that we can understand each other so well…no one’s ever…ever tried to understand me. I’ve never…just had someone sit and talk to me like-like…I’m a human.”
“Hey, don’t flatter me like that!” Lilly blushed and looked away. “I…I…I’m awful at talking to people. I just…you’re so nice! You’re one of the few people I’ve ever met who isn’t scary. You weren’t weirded out by me and are sitting here talking to me like we’re equals. And…why do you keep talking about ‘like a human?’ You are a human. You are a person. I don’t understand why you’re acting like you aren’t human and don’t have a right to be treated with respect. Or something like that. I’m really angry because I have all these thoughts and feelings in my head that I can’t put into words and get out of my mind. Please… help me understand. Why do you treat yourself the way you do?”
Shinjiro looked at her in shock. Lilly wondered if she had touched a nerve that she should have left alone. He seemed…hurt…sad…and she knew that he couldn’t have had a great past. Again; the guy had been attacked and almost killed in broad daylight and had basically just surrendered to the angry mob. There was probably a ton of pain in his past. Yet again, she had put her foot in her mouth,and right after telling herself that she would be careful! Ugh!
“…don’t you…see how I…look?” Shinjiro said quietly. “I’m…I’ve always looked like this…and I’ve…I’m strong…too strong. When I was younger, I didn’t know my own strength, but…mostly I just look like a monster. People…have always feared me. What happened the other day? That’s normal. You’re the first person…who’s ever defended me. And the you’re the first person who talked to me as a human being from the moment you saw me. I’ve just…never know what’s it’s like to be treated like…” He looked down.
“I…I’m not strong with words. I don’t really know how to explain so you can understand what I’m feeling and thinking. But…I look…inhuman…evil. So, people fear me…they’ve always feared me. And I’ve never…until recently…I’ve never known what it’s like to have a stable, safe life. I was…no one even wanted me…wanted anything to do with me. They always ran away…chased me…attacked me…being attacked by a mob…that’s happened a lot to me. Even when I was a child. I never wanted to hurt anyone…but everyone was scared of me. Everyone is still scared of me. I…I wonder if my life really matters. No one would be sad if I disappeared. I’m…I’m…” He dropped off.
“You-!” Tears gathered in Lilly’s eyes and she gritted her teeth. Shinjiro cringed, as if he was expecting anger from her.
“Why…why do you have such an awful view of yourself? You…you are a precious human life and it doesn’t matter what others think of you! It doesn’t matter what you look like! I don’t understand, I really don’t. I can’t understand why you think you deserve something so awful and cruel! I can’t understand why anyone would want to hurt someone who did nothing wrong. I just…it doesn’t make any sense to me!”
* * *
Shinjiro stared at the young woman in shock and felt a sense of warmth and affection creep into his heart for her. She genuinely was incapable of understanding the hatred of others because it was so wrong; she instinctively saw him as a human as a matter of course. This woman…she truly wasn’t like anyone he had ever met before.
She was…very genuine and honest. She seemed to understand what it was like to be discriminated against and pushed away, but she was also very confident in who she was. She just…acted like herself and didn’t put up any pretense or excuses.
He stared down at her, taking in her frustrated green eyes and long, curly hair. Her hair looked like soft gold and he almost felt compelled to reach out and touch it.
He blushed and looked away. She was…really beautiful. Not that he’d ever known any women closely, or any people at all, for that matter, but…she was probably the prettiest female he’d ever met.
Maybe it was just something about the fact that she was American and, therefore, visually different and unique, though it seemed that was more if a curse than a blessing for her in this remote village. But either way…Shinjiro couldn’t help being taken in by her looks. Though she was pretty… her kindness and assertiveness were what truly made her radiant in his eyes, but he still appreciated her looks, too. Overall, she was just too bright a person for him to take his eyes off of her.
The thought of anyone talking with him and just trying to connect with him as a fellow living being was already shocking enough, but for someone as…amazing…unique…as this woman to accept him…this had to be a dream!
This thing…these interactions that he had prayed for ever since he was a child…had God heard him? Or would he wake up to find that it was just a dream?
“H-hey! Why are you spacing out like that?” The girl tilted her head to the side in confusion. “Did I say something weird…or…?”
Shinjiro let a slight smile creep onto his face. Even if this was just a dream…it was truly a warm, happy dream, full of light. He would be alright with this, even if it was only him dreaming.
* * *
“Oh, no! I was just thinking about something else…thank you. I’m…I’m glad I got to meet you…to talk with you again.” Shinjiro assured Lilly.
Lilly stared. He was…he looked like he was smiling a little bigger! At least, just a little bit. What would that innocent, yet frightening face look like if he truly smiled from the bottom of his heart? Did…he really not know how to be happy? Judging from what he had told her about his life, probably not.
Shinjiro’s life truly seemed tragic, like how people with disabilities or deformities used to be locked up and hidden away in shame, or even outright killed. He couldn’t help his appearance and seemed far too sensitive to willingly become the kind of monster his appearance suggested.
And…she was glad he was an outcast. Someone on the very fringe of society like him was someone safe to be around someone in a socially precarious situation like her. He accepted her because she accepted him, no judgement, no questions. Though she hesitated to get close to anyone…something was telling her that this man was safe.
“Hey, are you hungry?” She blurted out. “I’m making soup and…I’d like the company…if you’re comfortable with that?”
He blinked at her in confusion for a moment, as if trying to see if he had heard her correctly.
“Y-yes. If that’s okay?” He asked, confused. She nodded yes at him.
“I’d…I’d really like that.” Shinjiro admitted, the tiny smile crossing his face once again.