The following days and weeks proved to be busy enough to keep everybody’s mind set on the task. Little John worked on his relationship with Soraya while Fuyuki spent most of his time collecting plants and roots with Old John. His worries eased, he could focus entirely on his own goals. He has learned a lot from his venerable host and protector. He took up again his artworks and whenever he had time, he took a horse and visited several artisans to watch them working and to talk about their craftsmanship.
Fuyuki fit easily into the community due to his pleasant personality and charm. He also met Soraya and they got well together even from the beginning; she was a nice girl, totally in love with Little John. Fuyuki couldn’t be happier for his younger friend; it looked that he has finally decided to give away his heart. For the first time in weeks, they talked leisurely, uninhibited like nothing happened before. As days were almost entirely filled with events, keeping him locked on the subject, the evenings and the nights were testing hard Fuyuki.
He made a habit of walking out and staying for hours under the starlit skies, thinking about Yoshiasu. He missed him so much that it hurt him physically. He used to cuddle up in the deep grass and cry for hours like a lost and abandoned child. Old John knew about his torment but he could not ease it. He just hoped that Yoshiasu might come back in time, before anything irreparable happens. A slight sadness was slowly enveloping the sensitive young artist, making him more vulnerable. Though he kept his hurt carefully hidden, it followed him like an invisible cloud.
Little John’s wedding was scheduled for mid-October so both the youth and their families were busy with the organizing. It seemed that the young man matured quickly to meet all the requests put up by his new life. Fuyuki discreetly stepped aside from his friend’s life not wanting to disturb the events. Yet Little John always kept an eye on him; he sensed that Fuyuki was crumbling from inside. He wished to comfort him but he was afraid that it would end in disaster. Despite his oncoming happiness, Fuyuki’s magic was still a powerful magnet for him, carefully hidden but quietly smoldering like the fire hidden under the ashes.
October descended over the land, painting the surroundings with shades of crimson and gold. The autumn sky with its crude blue gave an even more powerful background to that bright flow of colors. The days were still pleasantly warm and the nights were clear and crisp.
Two days before the wedding the friends of the groom and the bride decided to throw (each of them) a bachelor party. They were all in high spirits. Little John came to invite Fuyuki to join the party. Fuyuki was surprised and somehow at loss; he wasn’t a bachelor and the boys were all younger than him. He didn’t know how he would fit into such a place. But looking at Little John’s bright and happy face he just couldn’t refuse him. Later, he turned to Old John for advice.
-You are his best friend, you have to be there-said the old man thoughtfully. I understand your concerns but I’m sure that you’ll make the best decisions. Anyway if something bothersome happens, just drink this. It’ll help you out.
Fuyuki took the small bottle and thanked him. When the sun dropped behind the horizon, Fuyuki left his horse at the stable and entered Little John’s house.
The party went on cheerfully and noisily and foolishly as ever when so many young guys are involved, drink, food and music included! The boys were slightly disappointed since they couldn’t get Fuyuki drunk; he politely declined the alcohol and stuck to non-alcoholic drinks. He didn’t want to dress up in girl clothes to trick Little John though all the boys agreed that Fuyuki was fittingly beautiful. Fuyuki chuckled and said he has tried once and that was enough experience for his entire life.
Everybody wanted to hear the story so they kept on nagging him until Fuyuki gave them a humorous recount of his dressing up in kimono. They all laughed with tears and greatly enjoyed Fuyuki’s company. Little John watched quietly as the air sparked around his friend. He watched intently the photo Fuyuki had on his phone showing him dressed in kimono. Weren’t those unmistakable deep-amethyst eyes, neither him, nor the other boys would’ve believed that the girl in the photo wasn’t genuine. They all made great fun of it and of themselves…The spirits rose higher and higher around! After midnight some of the guests fell asleep and were carried to some rooms; others were still holding erect and having the time of their lives…
Little John called Fuyuki to get out; they both needed the fresh air. They found a quiet and remote spot and sat on the grass, watching the moon rising higher and higher. A cold breeze rustled through the thinning foliage and the fading grass, making Fuyuki shiver. A strand of hair fell on his face and he pushed it away; as he looked up he found Little John gazing at him intently.
Before anything could have been said, he found himself on his back in the grass with Little John over him, kissing him passionately. Fuyuki moaned “Oh, gods! Yoshiasu…Yoshiasu…” Little John pressed his lips against his; trembling Fuyuki closed his eyes and gave up any resistance. As they caught some breath, Fuyuki pleaded:
-Little John…please…you know I can’t resist you…please…his voice was soft and emotional.
Little John lift him up and carried him into a small bedroom of the house, far from the happy crowd. He placed Fuyuki on the bed and locked the door; like the water rushing over a broken dam, all the restrained, hidden emotions built up inside both of them burst out and swept them entirely. Little John undressed Fuyuki and they made love over and over again till exhaustion. As Fuyuki’s moans and cries subsided and the darkness of the night faded away, Little John became more frustrated and restless. He desperately squeezed Fuyuki while his voice broke:
-Why?! Why has this to end like this?!
-Because this is the right thing to do-murmured Fuyuki. We are like two comets incidentally colliding; each of us has its own orbit. We don’t belong to each other. All we have is this unhappily messed up friendship, but still it’s more than nothing…
-Can’t you love ME?-cried out Little John painfully.
-Please, don’t make it harder than already is. I have given you all that were mine. Don’t ask for more. I’m sure that if we’ll ever meet in another life, we could be an item…
Fuyuki stood up and took the small bottle; he drank it out quickly. Little John watched him worriedly.
-What was that?-he asked. Fuyuki what are you doing?!
-It’s my…salvation-whispered Fuyuki. Old John gave it to me. Please- he said and his voice trailed. Could you take me home now? Please…
He was slowly drifting away; he was exhausted, body and soul. His eyes were closing and he was barely conscious now. He whispered:
His breath became even and shallow. The potion was already affecting him. He fell into a deep sleep. Little John watched him for a few moments: the lovely face, the trembling eyelashes closing over starlit eyes, the delicate curve of the neck, the slender body resting peacefully…He dressed him up quickly and took him in his arms, carrying him out. The morning was breaking above the ragged rim of the mountains. Little John took his horse and holding close the sleeping Fuyuki he proceeded towards Old John’s hogan. The old man was already waiting outside. They carried Fuyuki inside and laid him down. Old John covered him with a blanket, touched his forehead and whispered a few words. He let the young man sleep and took Little John out.
-Go home now and sleep it over. You have your own duties to fulfill. Act like a man and make us proud.
Little John opened his mouth to say something but he just couldn’t; he swallowed hard.
-Don’t worry; I’ll take care of him. I’ll mend what you, foolish youth have broken. Come back later but only when you are ready. This is a brand new day and a new beginning; walk proudly on your way! There’s no room for more mistakes.
The young man jumped on his horse and quickly departed. Tears built up in his eyes and he cried in the chilling morning wind. By the time he arrived home he was calm and composed; his carefree childhood ended abruptly. There were people counting on him; he wouldn’t want to let them down. Fuyuki cured him from his maddening obsession; he owed it to him beyond words…
The wedding went on cheerfully; Fuyuki couldn’t attend. Old John kept him in a deep sleep while he struggled with a high fever and mostly delirious state. The old man watched him closely; he made some incantations from time to time, gave him to drink special liquor and soothed him when he cried out in his sleep, tormented by heartbreak and nightmares.
Little John came the fourth day, completely changed. He was another man; he was calm and settled. He waited for Old John to come out, greeted him with deep respect and handed him a present from his new family. They talked about the wedding a little then he asked about Fuyuki.
-How is he?
-He’ll be fine. He’s still sleeping.
-Grandfather…Little John’s voice was serious. Why can’t I forget?
-The spell was put to protect only the innocent-him. You should remember, you owe him that. He has given up everything for you. You are a man now, you have to take responsibility for your deeds.
-I know-he sighed. I’m worried about him.
The old man gave a nod.
-So you should; he is your best friend. You can go inside now; he’s awakening. He remembers nothing but be careful. It is your turn to protect him. One more thing; tell me, are you happy with your current choice?
-I couldn’t be happier, Grandfather-answered Little John. It’s just that I keep wondering what was all this: some kind of madness? I can’t think it was; Fuyuki really is an unparalleled person who touched my life.
The old man smiled slightly.
-It wasn’t madness; it’s just life with its peculiar sense of humor. You were so eager and restless that you’ve opened two doors at the same time. You wanted both of them so when it came to choose, your friend gave up himself to quench your thirst and put you back on your track.
-Thank you-murmured Little John. I thought the same but I needed your wisdom to clear it.
He stepped inside and watched his friend slowly awakening. Though he looked a shade paler than usual and thinner, Fuyuki smiled when he saw him. He laughed softly:
-You see? I’ve told you that drinks and bachelor parties were not my specialty. I’m sorry that I missed your wedding. I have something for Soraya.
He took out a small silk pouch and opened it. There was a beautiful butterfly on a delicate silver necklace. It was handmade by Fuyuki special for this event; Little John was touched. He helped up his friend and embraced him affectionately. During the following days Fuyuki recovered completely; Little John brought Soraya to the hogan and they spent some pleasant days together. She once said, on their way home:
-You know, I was wondering. Your friend Fuyuki is so beautiful that were he a girl, I wouldn’t had a chance to make you even notice me.
-You’re probably right-chuckled the young husband and kissed her lovingly.
( “Almost”-said a small voice in his head; he grinned and dismissed the thought.)
Two days later Yoshiasu arrived unexpectedly; he had finished his assignment two month earlier. Leaving Fuyuki behind for such a long time proved to be more than expected even for him. The same sense of loss gave him the necessary boost to finish his part of the task. Fuyuki fled into his arms; with his love around he regained his sense and balance. He became the same radiant young man they all loved and admired. Old John was even happier to see his protégé back to his old self; the pain and torment were forgotten; only the magic and the mystery of his inner self deepened around his unspoiled beauty.
Yoshiasu and Fuyuki spent the remaining two month on the spot; they’ve helped Old John relocate his belongings to his winter residence. They worked with the community on educational programs and arts. They kept close with Little John and his new family. They indulged themselves with as much nature as they could and it was Fuyuki’s turn to teach Yoshiasu to ride much to Little John’s amusement. They even established a riding school for children and adults and Yoshiasu created a special page on the internet about them.
The two returned to the city after Christmas to spend the New Year’s Eve with their friends from there.
“This was close-said the first one. We almost lost him…The old man saved us with his unexpected knowledge!
“I’m sorry-said the second one. I’ve promised I’d be careful but this turn of the events took me by surprise…That young man gave such a strong push on the cycles that he unbalanced everything we’ve so carefully planned!
“You cannot mess with humans! I’ve told you, some of them are quite unpredictable…So is this young guy. You’ll see, he’ll create us some more problems in the future. And since the Child is affected to…we have to be careful!
“I’m …sorry. Help me; this Child is a real handful.”
They stood silent and preoccupied. They still had a lot of work to do and things were slipping out of their hands.