Fuyuki’s presentiment proved to be right; Yoshiasu got a very important assignment on the capital city. Accepting it meant also that he had to leave Fuyuki behind all alone for six month. He suggested him to move to his sister during that half of a year; but Fuyuki wasn’t keen on it. He didn’t want to intrude in her life and he wasn’t a child to be pampered. Not anymore. He told Yoshiasu that he’d rather be back at Old John’s hogan. The beauty of that place and the old man’s wise and comforting company was something that he needed.It was also à magical place to create art. So they’ve sent a message, asking the venerable man if he thought he could put up with Fuyuki while Yoshiasu is out of town. The answer was…yes.
When time came, Fuyuki accompanied his love to the airport; he stood there heartbroken until the plane took off ; then he returned home and packed up for his own trip. The next day, he stopped at the station, looking for Little John who was supposed to meet him. It was still early in the morning and the air was cold and refreshing. Fuyuki left his luggage on the ground and hopped atop of a beam and looked around.
The door of the post office across the road opened and Little John came out, followed by a pretty girl. She was talking excitedly to him and her big black eyes were sparkling like diamonds. She obviously liked him and enjoyed his company. Little John was basking in her radiant attention and his interest towards her was showing in the look of his eyes. The two of them looked wonderful and refreshing together.
Fuyuki smiled and decided to remain silent. He didn’t want to intrude. After a while, the young couple parted; she went back to the office and Little John looked casually around. He suddenly spotted Fuyuki watching him smiling and he turned red. He quickly crossed the road to meet his friend.
-Hi!-said Fuyuki chuckling at his friend’s embarrassment. I’ve told you I’ll be back sooner than expected.
They hugged and Little John took some of the luggage.
-It seems to me that you got yourself a beautiful girlfriend…said Fuyuki.
-Uhm…She’s not my girlfriend…We’re just childhood friends…-muttered Little John unconvincingly.
-She’s lovely anyway-concluded Fuyuki. And it looks that she has a real interest in you; she looked radiant while she was talking to you.
Little John mumbled something but he wasn’t keen to admit his own interest into that girl. Now that Fuyuki was here, his attention flipped entirely into his direction. They went to his house, packed the luggage on a mule and Little John took Fuyuki on his horse. For the young artist it was the first time to ride a horse, so he felt a little funny about it. Fortunately Little John was sitting at his back, holding him firmly with one hand around his waist, the other hand leading the horse on the way. Unable to keep his balance properly, Fuyuki leaned against his friend, the rebellious black strands tickling his face. As they were talking and laughing on their way, Little John wondered about how soothing Fuyuki’s voice was, how soft his laughter and that, oddly enough, his skin had a strange fragrance of…wild flowers. He shook off the thoughts; Fuyuki was his friend. Period.
They arrived safely to Old John; he was already waiting for them. He was pleased to see how well those two were getting together. But he warned them that he wasn’t going to pamper them; they would have to help him out with the hardship of work around the house. The boys laughed that off and they were more than pleased to help. Fuyuki planned to learn more about herbs and cures from Old John. He also wanted to exchange some knowledge with the locals about crafts and arts. On the other hand Little John promised to teach him to ride a horse so they could travel more around.
The riding lessons proved to be extremely funny. Fuyuki was the first to laugh with tears about his own clumsiness. From time to time Little John had to rescue him before getting more seriously hurt. They fell several times one atop the other, chuckling and panting, limbs tangled…Fuyuki’s amethyst eyes sparkled with fun as he was lying on back next to his younger friend. His pearly-white teeth shone as he smiled, his face lightly tanned by the summer sun. His hair has grown a little longer and was tied up in a small ponytail. Usually he was half naked just like his friend, the supple muscles moving with ease and grace under the smooth skin. The hard work and natural life made him stronger and more athletic.
Even his features got manlier, clearly cut and he built up a new confidence. Yet his mild and soft inner side was seeping through the outer walls of his person, trailing around him like an invisible halo.
It was this inner side magic that took Little John always by surprise; he wasn’t able to clearly capture the sense of this duality. He was also at loss with his own short moments of embarrassment when he found himself holding Fuyuki a little bit closer or a little bit longer than usually. Luckily the latter seemed oblivious to his friend’s awkward moments. It was a dangerous game because the more embarrassed he felt, the more he longed for another chance.
At the same time his other half of mind was set on Soraya, the girl at the station. Since that day when his eyes caught her image standing out from the amorphous crowd of uninteresting faces moving around him, Little John enjoyed her attention and her company. He diligently shared his personal time between his friend and his …girlfriend.
Old John watched him closely as the inner world of the young man was bursting out with new emotions and loads of excitement. He knew that there were many confusing feelings mingling in his heart. There were many wishes storming in and out and Little John was ready to try all of them uninhibitedly. He knew nothing about the risks involved and he was too cocky to think about precautions. Like a child, he wanted all the stars from the sky. The uncharted world of feelings was opening before Little John’s avidly curious eyes.
-Thread carefully!- warned him the old man. You might trample on somebody’s feelings!
The youth looked at him questioningly.
-Why do you say that?
-You are driven by many wishes; somebody might end up hurt, you included.
But just before Little John could say anything in his own defense, Fuyuki came out, ready to leave with him. They took the horses and left for a swim in a large lake known by Little John.
The large expanse of water shone under the sun like covered in shining gold leaves, the small ripples gently washing the sandy shore. Further there was another rippling expanse of high grass spotted with colorful flowers so they left the horses to graze at will.
The youths quickly undressed and splashed into the water; it was crystal clear and pleasantly cooling. Since they were good swimmers they fully enjoyed the water. They raced; they fooled around and had fun.
Fuyuki was the first to come out from the water and lay down in the fragrant layer of grass. Little John came after a while and splashed cold water on his friend taking him by surprise. Fuyuki moved quickly and cut him off his legs. Little John fell backwards but fought back. It was the kind of wrestling widely enjoyed by youth, a kind of friendly teasing and showing off.
They fell back on the grass breathless. Little John watched Fuyuki from the corner of his eyes; his friend was slightly flushed but his eyes were sparkling. Sensing the gaze fixed upon him he turned his face towards Little John and watched him silently; the dark-brown eyes were returning the look intently. Little John swallowed hard and Fuyuki’s lavender eyes clouded. Then Little John quickly bent over him and kissed him until Fuyuki’s resistance broke and he gave in trembling.
Breathless, they parted flushed and confused. Little John gritted his teeth in frustration but turned when he heard Fuyuki’s first sobs. The young artist jumped to his feet and ran away until he fell over a mold of dirt and grass. He stood there, face buried in his arms, sobbing bitterly. Little John fled after him. He caught up with Fuyuki and sat next to him. He was taken aback by the intensity of his friend’s pain.
-I’m…I’m sorry-he finally said in a low voice. I never meant to hurt you. You are disturbingly beautiful and I am…I am confused.
Fuyuki sighed and turned to him.
-I know-he whispered. I am sorry; I am more disturbed than anybody else. I keep on hurting people without wanting it. It’s like a curse…
Little John shook his head.
-Don’t worry, I am not hurt. You are my friend and I won’t give up on that. I try hard to understand both you and myself. Forget this, please. I was…pretty stupid. Let’s go back to the river. We still have time to catch some fish for Old John.
He took Fuyuki by the hand and helped him up. They strolled back to their horses.
-You’re happy with Yoshiasu, aren’t you?-he asked casually.
-I love him and I miss him every day-came the honest answer.
-He’s a lucky guy- murmured Little John for himself.
They went back to the river and found a proper spot for a catch. Fuyuki watched admiringly as the athletic young man cornered the elusive fish and caught them one by one. He moved with the grace and the ease of a young god of Nature, skillfully and graceful. The whole scene was like a moment of Paradise captured in time. When they finally turned home they weren’t empty handed.
Old John sensed the subtle change in chemistry between the two youth but said nothing.
In the evening, as they lay down to sleep Fuyuki recalled the incident; he shivered and turned on his belly, head buried in his arms. He felt confused and scared; he was vulnerable; not having Yoshiasu beside him for such a long time left him slightly unbalanced. He liked and he cared about Little John; it was almost an instant bond but it brought up unexpected challenges. Little John himself was struggling with confusing emotions and Fuyuki was afraid that pushing him away would only deepen his obsession.
On the other hand he found disturbing that it wasn’t so hard for him to give in to his friend’s pressure. Fuyuki was torn apart and totally at loss. He sighed deeply and curled up in despair.
-You’re confused, aren’t you?-asked Old John in an attempt to help Fuyuki open up.
-I saw it coming the day the two of you met. You were the first person little John really noticed until then. Your charm was too obvious even for a careless, self-centered young guy like him. He fell back on the earth and hit the ground hard.
Fuyuki shook his head.
-I’m nothing but trouble…his voice was sad.
-Weren’t you to shake up him from that self-absorbed state, he wouldn’t have noticed that girl at the office. They are about to be engaged and she is a proper match for him.
-Then why is he doing this?!!!-burst Fuyuki out.
-You’re both driven to each other from inside. You for instance, you have built up a sense of loss because you miss your pair. You married your first love, isn’t it?
-Yes. All I knew before him was use and abuse…Now I found myself totally defenseless, taken away by unexpected, unknown emotions.
-The logic of the heart can be very tricky at times of vulnerability. A butterfly can easily burn his wings around those flames. But unlike Little John, you’re wiser and considerate. You are his best friend. Don’t get upset; I’m here for both of you. Get some sleep now, young butterfly. Good night.
-Good night-whispered Fuyuki. Thank you.
He closed his eyes and he felt relieved; he soon fell asleep.