In the mountains
Yoshiasu and Fuyuki had long before decided to spend their summer vacation in the mountains. They rented a car and a cabin in a very remote place, close to the one of the native counties. The place was wild and almost untamed so they found great joy in discovering brand new spots of unharmed beauty. So the first days in the mountains went without problems. Although after 3 or 4 days they’ve lost communication with the outer world due to a huge solar flare, they were not concerned. They had enough provisions and they knew that communications would be fixed sooner or later.
But problems strike when you expect the least; the trip started well and the weather was fine. They ventured far enough but there were no reasons to worry; not until Yoshiasu slipped on some rotten leaves and lost balance. Instinctively he grabbed a branch but he also closed hand over something/ somebody unhappy about that. The tiny creature bit the hand that came upon it and ran away as the man gave a cry and released the branch. The small red bite mark was sore. In least than an hour the pain grew more intense and the hand became red and swollen.
Suddenly Yoshiasu felt sick and was sweating profusely. Before they could realize what was really happening, Yoshiasu lost consciousness, leaving Fuyuki scared to death and desperate. They were in the middle of the wilderness and Yoshiasu looked very bad. Fuyuki calmed down and tried to take some measures. He laid down Yoshiasu on a higher ground; he put his coat over him and the rucksac under his neck. He garroted the swollen hand to stop the poison to diffuse in the bloodstream. He made a mental notice of the place and descended to the nearby rivulet to look for some plants.
He was so absorbed in his search that he didn’t notice the old man that was approaching him. He only became aware of his presence when he heard him call out:
-Are you looking for something? Can I help you?
Fuyuki looked up and stared slightly confused into the wrinkled and suntanned face from where two piercing black eyes were fixing him. On the other hand the old man himself looked surprised at the flushed young face with wide, worried eyes.
-Could you help me?! My friend was bit by something and now he lost consciousness…Please!
-Was it a snake?-asked the old man.
-No! Rather like a small spider but it fled before we could see it. Help me, please! I’m afraid that I might lose him…
They both hurried to the place where Yoshiasu was lying. His condition was the same. The old man studied the hand and the bite mark and mumbled something. He then made a quick decision; he took Fuyuki and they fetched some materials for a stretcher, tied Yoshiasu on the improvised transport facility and they proceeded downhill.
Old John Whitefeather was very old indeed and during summer he lived here alone in his hogan. He had a few sheep and some horses but his main activity was that of medicine-man. From spring till late autumn he was collecting herbs and fruits for various healing potions and ointments. That day he was out collecting some plants when he spotted the franticly searching young fellow. Since tourists were scarce on this area a lifetime instinct told him that this particular person was in trouble.
The spider bite wasn’t lethal but was nasty; it was both painful and persistent and it looked like this young man was overreacting to some of the poison components. Old John offered to help and thus he learned that the two young men were a couple and that they were in vacation. Old John was surprised to see the amount of strength that fragile looking young man could put up to help his companion.
While preparing an ointment and some herbal tea he took a closer look on Fuyuki. Almost everything about this young man was deceiving: he was an almost feminine beauty, with very unusual lavender-blue eyes; he was slender and well built but looked fragile and vulnerable. He was soft spoken but he wasn’t tiring or complaining about anything. He had no eyes but for his suffering companion but he had a sharp attention to everything Old John was saying. So despite the first impression that he was made of glass and that he might break in any moment he proved to be calm and resilient and deeply dedicated.
Old John cleaned the bite mark, put an ointment and bandaged the swollen hand showing Fuyuki how to do it. It was Fuyuki’s task to change the bandages until the hand would return to its normal aspect. While Fuyuki guarded Yoshiasu, wiping the sweat from his face, Old john made a strong tea from a concoction of herbs and roots and let it cool down. The dark-brown liquid had a strong smell and an even stronger taste but for Yoshiasu it was the only hope to overcome the poisoning.
Every fifteen minutes Fuyuki forced down hid throat 2-3 spoonful of the tea. This went on and on, day and night until the redness subsided on Yoshiasu’s hand and he got back from the unconsciousness. The first thing he saw opening hazed eyes on the world after days of struggle was the thinned face of Fuyuki and his worried eyes.
-What happened?-he whispered. His throat was sore and dry and his head was still heavy.
-You’ve been bitten by a nasty little thing when you fell on the slope. Luckily this gentleman found us and cured you, getting you back from the shadows-said Fuyuki, his voice trembling from the sudden emotion.
Yoshiasu slowly turned his head towards the other shape; the old, sun beaten face of a venerable native man, with intelligent, intent black eyes was looking benevolently down on him.
-Welcome back among the living, young man-he said in a deep, throaty voice. You’re back on track; in less than a week you’ll be good as new.
-Thank you, sir…whispered Yoshiasu. I never thought that something small like that could knock me out.
-I’ve told you: it was small but nasty and it had no sense of humor-said Fuyuki with a playful smile. You have to rest and eat to get back your strength. Luckily you don’t have to eat my cooking; Mr. Whitefeather is cooking delicious meals. All I do is watch and learn; maybe there’s some hope for me…he chuckled.
Old John watched from the corner of his eyes their conversation. It became obvious for him that they were sharing a special relationship; there was a communication beyond words in every gesture and in the lights flickering in their eyes. No matter how unusual it looked to him, love was clearly and visibly connecting the two young men. Old John made a mental note and left them to enjoy each other’s company.
Yoshiasu was regaining his strenght with each day. Fuyuki was busy around him and around the house; he didn’t want to disturb Old John’s whole life. He was more than grateful for everything the old man has done.
One day while he was down at the rivulet cleaning and washing some small fish he saw somebody approaching old John’s hogan. It was a tall, good looking young native riding a beautiful spotted horse. He stopped for a moment, watching Fuyuki with equal curiosity, somehow surprised to see a stranger in that place. He raised a hand in greeting and continued his way towards the hogan. Old John heard him coming and came out to greet him. The young man descended and saluted the elder in great respect.
-I didn’t know Grandfather that you had guests. I wanted to ask you about two young men, tourists. Their friends were worried about them and called the station.
-You can tell them that they are well and that they will get in touch soon-said the old man.
The young man looked at him questioningly.
-Grandfather…who’s that girl down at the river?
The old man chuckled.
-That girl is…one of the two young men you were asking about. You can go and tell him about that phone call. Be polite Little John, don’t stare too much at him. His friend has been bitten by a venomous spider and he needed help to cure him. His name is Fuyuki Tanaka. Go now!
Puzzled, Little John descended the light slope and found himself face to face with the stranger. He has just finished washing the fish and was returning with a bowl and a knife in his hands. He walked lightly, graciously like a cat; he was about Little John’s height and he was slender, with long limbs. He had soft, light skin and rebellious black hair cut short above his neck. But most remarkable was his face: delicate and beautiful, with amazing lavender-blue eyes, just like two gems. He had a friendly, pleasant smile and soft voice.
-Mr. Tanaka…started Little John.
-Fuyuki, please. It seems to me we’re almost the same age and besides, I’m not much of a “Mr.”
He held out his hand to Little John. The two of them shook hands, watching each other with undisclosed interest. Little John was handsome and he was well aware of this; he was slightly cocky but this time the other young man’s charm proved to be disarming. Fuyuki took an instant like on the tall, dark and handsome guy. He looked like a beloved and favored child of Nature.
-Are you a relative of our venerable host?-he asked.
-You could say that. I’m Little John. I came to tell you that we had a phone call at the station; your friends from the city were worried about you.
-Thank you! We were incredibly lucky that Mr. Whitefeather found us! I was totally at loss when my companion fainted because of the poisoning. I’m forever in debt for saving us-he added with sincere passion in his voice.
Little John’s dark-brown eyes rounded up a little at this sudden burst of emotion but he could understand that for a city guy to find himself lost in the wilderness, along with an injured companion could be a traumatic experience. So he smiled and soon they were back at the hogan.
Yoshiasu was already out, chopping some woods for a fire. Little John watched him closely and he had to admit that the guy was good looking and strong despite his recent illness. Yoshiasu was slightly taller than both of them and he was the elder of the group of youth. He was athletic with a strong bone structure and an open, direct manner. They shook hands. Fuyuki’s face lit up as he saw his companion and Yoshiasu smiled back at him reassuringly. The short but intimate communication didn’t escape the young native’s sharp eyes; he was surprised by the sudden flow of emotion between the two young men. To his surprise, he felt a little bit…envious.
As the youngest of them he was full of pride and completely oblivious to love and commitment. He was still in that state of happiness and lightheadedness of the young men of his age. He probably needed another 2 or 3 years of ripening.
Fuyuki helped Old John with the cooking while Little John helped Yoshiasu with the woods. Finally they ate together and the talking went on easily. During the following days Little John came regularly to visit them. The three young men bonded easily; to Old John it became clear that Fuyuki’s mild personality eased the communication and that somehow he was a point of common interest for both of the other two men. There was some kind of discreet magic radiating around him, catching the bystanders.
As Yoshiasu got back his strength, he and Fuyuki were ready to go back to their cabin and from there to go back to the city. They thanked Old John for his help and hospitality and promised to keep in touch. Yoshiasu asked Little John if he could come with them to their cabin; he wanted to send some items to Old John. Little John came with a horse and this way their luggage was more easily carried back.
The young man soon discovered that parting with his newly acquired friends won’t be so easy; there were so many things to talk about… Fuyuki promised him to talk as much as possible. They packed up the things for Old John and the rest of the stuff in the car. They locked the cabin and shook hands with Little John. Fuyuki’s heart sank a bit watching the regrets clouding Little John’s handsome face.
-Something tells me that we’ll be back sooner than expected-he said softly.
A short flicker crossed the deep-brown eyes as they looked intently in those lavender-blue. Fuyuki’s cheeks turned pink under the gaze; he smiled and got into the car. Little John looked as they went away, wondering why was that Fuyuki’s slightly embarrassed smile stood so vividly in his memory…
Fuyuki’s presentiment proved to be right; Yoshiasu got a very important assignment but that meant also that he had to leave Fuyuki behind all alone for six month. He suggested him to move to his sister 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 then 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. They 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.
So 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. It was still early morning and the air was cold and refreshing. Fuyuki set his luggage on the ground and hopped on top of a beam and looked around.
The door of the post office across him 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 twinkling in his eyes. They 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 embraced 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…Little John was slightly embarrassed.
-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 laying 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 pony tail. 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.
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 out 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 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.