'Where am I? A cave?'
I knitted my brows as I looked at rock ceiling above me. I turned my head and saw a fire. I pushed body up a little, looking around me. 'Why am I here? Where's Nami?'
I leaned on an elbow and finally noticed that my hitatare belt was untied. I quickly sat up but then let out a cry as I felt pain from my side. Something wrapped around my stomach. My eyes widened as I saw a cloth over my wound. I noticed the garment. 'Nami,'
I leaned on the cave wall while forcing my body up. It was dark outside. I rubbed my slightly heavy head, looking for Nami. I was relieved to find her. She was sitting on a rock near entrance. She must have known about my secret now. 'What should I do?'
After a deep breath, I moved my heavy feet. Nami was hugging her knees looking ahead. "Na…"
"Who are you?"
I licked my lips nervously. "I…"
"Did you enjoy fooling me?"
"Nami, I…" I started but she once again cut me off.
"Do you think it's funny?"
I dropped my gaze down. "I didn't mean to…" I trailed off.
"Lie. Yeah, of course you didn't mean to lie. You just fooled me."
I looked up as Nami rose to feet, facing me. Even in dim light I could see anger in her eyes. And trace of tears. I wanted to punch myself for bring those tears.
"Tell me, do you enjoy playing with my feeling?" She took a step closer.
I shook my head. "No,"
"Don't lie to me!" she shouted angrily. She wiped tears from her cheek. "You know what I feel right now? I feel like an idiot. You think you can play with my feeling? Is this what you have been doing? Make girls fall for you…and just leave when…they fall for you?"
It hurt my heart to see tears on those eyes and hear her trembling voice. "Nami, I'm so sorry. But I do really like you," I said. I reached for her arm but she slapped it away.
"Don't touch me!" She clenched her jaws. "I hate you. You sick…woman."
I couldn't utter any word as she passed me. It hurt to breathe. I couldn't breathe. It felt like my heart shattered into pieces. I didn't bother to wipe tears that came to my eyes. Her words kept replaying in my head. She was right. She had all the rights to hate me. But I didn't mean to break her heart. 'That's why you can't have feeling for anyone Ray'
It had been years since tears rolled down my cheeks. 'I'm really sorry Nami, but what I feel toward you, it's true'
I hated it if I cried, showing my weakness. But tears kept flowing out my eyes. 'Why am I crying?' It had nothing to do with me whether he was a man or a woman. 'But why did it hurt? Why did my chest tighten that I couldn't breathe? What is this pain?' I clenched my fists hoping it would endure the pain. I then fell asleep.
A roar of thunder woke me up. I rubbed my eyes, sitting up. I turned to the fire beside me and threw some branches. It seemed to be raining heavily outside. That was when I realized I was alone. 'Where's Ray?'
'Did she…?' Suddenly I got panicked. I dropped my gaze and saw her katana near fire. I lifted my gaze when a thought crossed my head. 'No, she won't…'
I quickly stood up and ran toward cave entrance. The strong wind blew against me as soon as I stepped outside. I raised both of hands to cover my face from the heavy rain. I covered my ears as it thundered and lightened.
I forced my eyes open, looking around. When it lightened, I saw a figure on my left. Ray was still standing on the same place as I left her earlier. I ran toward her and grabbed her arm. "Are you out of your mind!?" I pulled her around and quickly caught her body as she fell toward me.
"Ray," I called. She didn't open her eyes. I put her arms around my shoulders, pulling her unconscious body into the cave. I laid her down to sit against cave wall. She was soaked from head to toe. When I saw her pale face and blue lips, suddenly I felt those worry and fear again. "Ray, open your eyes. Can you hear me?" I called. I took her cheeks and felt cold skin against my palms. I took her hands. It was cold too. "Ray," 'What should I do?'
I turned around and quickly threw more branches into the fire to make it bigger. I took my hitatare off, drying her face and hair. I pulled her shoes off, undressing her. It seemed I had to replace the herbs since the bind cloth was soaked too. I took the left herbs- luckily I didn't use it all -and ground it. After putting the herbs over her wound, I tore my hitatare to bind it around her stomach. I was about to cover her body with my hitatare but stopped when I saw the soaked bind cloth on her chest. 'She needs to warm up' I put the garment down before I could change my mind. I lifted my gaze, looking at the rock wall behind her as I took the cloth off her chest. I put the soaked cloth on the ground, laying my hitatare over her body. I hoped it was enough to warm her body up.
I then moved to sit beside her. I glanced at her. Her breathing was shallow. I took her cold hand, blowing breath and rubbing it with my hands. 'Idiot woman, I swear I'll punch you when you wake up'
"Ray," I said softly. I blew a breath over her long fingers. I never noticed her fingers were long and slim. It was undoubtedly woman fingers. I turned my gaze and take a look at her. How come I didn't realize it before? The eyebrows, nose, lips and chin, with her hair fell freely over her shoulders like now she was indeed a woman. I let out a small chuckle, shaking my head. I wanted to laugh at myself for being attracted to a woman. 'Attracted? I'm attracted to her?'
At moment I got confused with myself. I was supposed to be angry, to hate her. Instead I was worried and scared when I saw her pale face and blue lips. The anger I felt earlier faded away when I saw her unconscious. 'What does it mean?'
A soft whimper broke my thought. Ray turned her head aside, letting out a whimper. "Ray," I called. I released her hand and touched her cheek. It was still cold. I then noticed she was shivering. 'What should I do?'
I decided to do the first thing that crossed my head. I took the hitatare that covered her body, spreading it on the ground before laying her body down on her side. I took my undergarment robe off and lied down behind her. I lifted her head and put my arm as a pillow. I threw my undergarment over our body before pulling her against me. I inhaled as her cold body touched my warm skin. I put the other arm over her stomach, carefully not to touch her wound, hugging her.
It felt strange; her body against mine. I shook my head lightly. I pushed all the thought that came to my head away and just hugged the shivering woman in my arms. She had tried to protect me all this time even though she was badly injured. This was the least thing I could do for her. I took a breath, closing my eyes.
Once again I was woken up by thunder. I let out a small groan feeling cramp from my arm. I lifted Ray's head slowly, pulling my arm out, and sitting up. My cheeks blushed as I saw her naked back. I lifted my gaze quickly, throwing the garment back over her body. It was still dark outside but the rain had stopped. I shivered a little and noticed the fire almost died.
I took Ray's almost dry hitatare to cover my body and stood up. I threw another branch into the fire, sitting before it. I turned my head when Ray shifted her body but quickly looked away blushing. 'Really Nami,'
I let out a breath, keeping my gaze at the flames in front of me. But after a while I stole a glance at her. Her raven hair was contrasted with her pale white skin. I held my breath as my eyes wandered over her body. She put an arm as a pillow while the other arm was over her taut stomach. The garment covered from her waist to her thighs exposing her long slim legs. The sight was beautiful that I couldn't move my gaze away.
My hand automatically reached for the paper I had thrown earlier. I had lost my brush so I took a coal instead. My eyes never left her as my hand drew lines following the curve of her body.
There were two ways in painting. The first one was to paint following your imagination. And the second one was to transfer the object into the paper without adding anything. I didn't need to add anything else to her picture.
I put the coal on the ground while staring at the picture in my hand. My lips curled up as I looked at it. It was the perfect picture I had ever drawn.
"Am I your model now?"
I lifted my gaze. She was looking at me. I put the paper down and went to her side as she pushed her body up. "How do you feel? Do you still feel pain?" I asked. I helped her to sit and touched her cheek. It was warmer now.
"I feel better now. Thank you, for helping me."
"Next time I'll break your nose, seriously," I said. She let out a small laugh before looking down. That was when I realized my upper body was exposed and so was her. I quickly pulled her hitatare to cover my chest. I thought to move to my former place beside the fire but she took my hand. I kept my gaze at her face. After a moment she raised her head.
"I'm sorry Nami, for not telling you the truth," she said and dropped gaze down again. "I was raised as a man, for a reason, I can't tell you why but," she paused and took my other hand. She finally looked up. "I do really like you Nami, and I have never felt something strong like this toward anyone else before."
"But, how…we…" I trailed off.
"Are women," she said.
I nodded. "How can you like me?" I was surprised when she lifted my hand and placed it over her left breast.
"Do you feel it?"
I could feel the beat against my palm.
"Every time I look at you or being near you, it beats fast. If you ask me why, I don't know. I don't know why I like you, I just feel it."
I pulled my hands from her grip. I didn't know what to say. I never heard a woman like another woman before. Was it possible?
But to tell the truth, it was same for me. I felt that strange feeling too. Even after I knew she wasn't a man, being near her, touching her skin my heart fluttered inside my chest. Perhaps it was because she was a woman. That was why I felt something toward her. Her small voice broke my thought.
"But I can understand if you don't want to see me again."
"No," I said. I took her hands in mine. "I…" 'What should I say? Do I still want to see her?'
It was silent. I could only hear flames flickering sound and my drummed heart. She was staring at me. Afraid. She was afraid.
This was the 'man' who suddenly showed up in my life, turning it upside down with 'his' charming and confident. But it was a woman in front of me now. The same person but she looked small and fragile. As I looked at her eyes, finally I found what I wanted.
I brought my hand to her cheek before leaning to kiss her lips. She was surprised at the sudden kiss but then closed her eyes. These soft lips were the same lips that had kissed me many times. She was still the same person.
For the first time in my life I kissed someone. I moved my lips slowly against her and felt those giddy and warm feelings. I shivered a little when her slightly cold hands touched my bare back. I didn't break the kiss when she slowly leaned back, bringing me down with her.
I didn't know if this was right or no. But one sure thing was I wanted to be with this girl, this person.
"Are you okay?" I asked, perhaps for the hundreds time. I was worried with her wound. We were walking again, following river side after staying in the forest for three nights.
"I'm fine," she said while cutting branches.
"I just want to make sure," I said.
She then turned to me, offering a smile. "Thanks for worrying about me but I'm fine."
"You'll let me know if you feel pain or something."
She nodded. "I will."
"Good," I mumbled. My cheeks got warm under her gaze. 'What was wrong with the blushing thing lately?' I turned my gaze when she took steps toward me. "What?"
"Want to show you that I'm fine."
I took a step back as she leaned closer. "Ray," I warned. She just let out a hum, leaning closer. I inhaled as she put a hand on my waist, pulling me closer.
I licked my lips unconsciously. There was small smile on her face as she moved head down. I held my breath and waited. However, she looked over me and swung the katana swiftly. I turned around and saw a headless snake on the ground.
"That's close," she said.
I pushed her away, starting to walk again. I ignored her when she called.
"Hey, what was that for?"
"You're blocking my way," I said. She giggled. This was the first time I heard her giggles- it was cute actually -but I was angry at her, just a little.
"Why, you're expecting something else?"
"In your dream," I said and she laughed.
After walking all morning, we decided to rest for a while. I took a grilled fish, handing it to her, and taking the last one for myself.
"You sure can survive inside the forest. You know edible plants, herbs and how to hunting."
I let out a chuckle. "Well I live from this forest."
I bit the grilled fish. "Can I ask you something?"
She nodded while chewing. "Sure."
"Did anyone else know that you're…?”
"A woman?" she asked.
I nodded and took another bite.
Ray licked her fingers. "Besides my father, Jiro, the man who's always with me, and Katsuyuki, the tall man you had seen before, no one knows about it. And now you."
"I won't tell anyone," I said quickly. She let out a chuckle continuing her meal. I pursed my lips, debating whether I should ask or no. "Why did he, I mean your father, raise you…" I trailed off. How could a father raise his own daughter as a man? I couldn't understand.
"He wasn't my father actually," she said softly.
"What do you mean?" I asked. She was smiling a little.
"He found me when I was a baby and raised me. He taught me dance and martial arts."
"But, why as a man?"
"That's a long story," she said. "But I promise will tell you someday."
I nodded, returning the smile, and looking back at my fish. Actually there was another question that kept bugging me but I pushed it aside. After having meal, we started to walk again. Finally we found the big road to my village. I let out a joyful scream, running toward the road. "We did it Ray! Ray, we…"
The smile vanished as I saw her leaning against tree. I then ran back to her. "Ray, are you alright?"
She nodded slightly. "I just feel dizzy." She had sweats on forehead.
"Let's take a rest for a while."
"No, we should move, I'm okay."
She tried to walk but I pulled her back. "No, you're not. Don't worry I know this road, we're getting closer to my village," I said and helped her to sit. "Wait here."
I then left her, looking for fruits. She must be tired walking all day. I slapped my head mentally for forgetting her injury. After finding some fruits, I walked back to her. She was leaning head against the tree, eyes were closed. "Here eat this."
She took the fruits. "Thanks."
"You're welcome," I said and sat beside her. "You had promised to tell me when you feel pain or something."
"I'm sorry," she said while chewing. "But I'm fine, we can go now."
"It's okay, I'm tired too," I said. I waited until she finished eating and pulled her head to lean on my shoulder. "Let's rest for a while." She was surprised a little but then relaxed. I put an arm around her waist, pulling her closer, and kissing her head.
I pressed my lips together, trying to hold back a grin. I never thought before that I would be protective over someone. Of course I would if it was about my family or my best friends, but this was different. She was different. I glanced at her. Her eyes were closed. Her sleeping face warmed my chest. At moment I wished that I could hold her in my arms forever. However, I couldn't deny the fact that the she would have to leave me. She was a traveler after all. I felt sad at sudden. I didn't want her to leave. I didn't want to lose her. I felt tear slowly watering my eyes, and falling down.
I opened my eyes when something fluffy touched my arm. It was a squirrel. It then ran away, disappearing into bushes. I turned to Ray. She was still sleeping. I let out a yawn and shook her shoulder gently. "Ray, wake up."
She reluctantly opened her eyes, yawning. "We should get going," I said. I helped her to stand on her feet. I couldn't help a chuckle as she rubbed her heavy eyes. For a moment she looked like a girl.
I shook my head. "Nothing," I said and stretched my back. "Okay, let's go back. I really miss my bed, and I think bath." I sniffed my hitatare and wrinkled my nose. Ray let out a small laugh.
"Yeah, you smell."
"Speak to yourself," I said and she laughed. "Let's go." I took her hand to walk but stopped. She was looking down at our joining hands. "I…" I was about to release her hand but she tightened the grip.
I smiled, following her. We arrived earlier than I thought. I was beyond happy to see the path to my village. "We're back!" I turned to Ray, excited. "Come on." I ran while pulling her with me.
I turned to her when she stopped me. "What's the matter?" I asked. Ray took a small breath while looking at me. She opened her mouth to say something but then closed it. I was too excited that I dragged her with me. "Come on."I jogged toward my house, grinning delightedly. Ray followed behind me. However, I stopped abruptly and eyes widened when I saw the sight. My house and the other houses were collapsed. Mountains of debris scattered everywhere.