Beyond the horizon of the place

we lived when we were young

-Pink Floyd
"High Hopes"

----

"I don't think I can do this."

"You can't keep running from your mama, Nissho. You're a strong person. You can tell her."

Aoiroten Nisshoku looked away from the road to Kobe and over at her companion. Those dark, charcoal eyes burned into hers, that soft smile made her heart pound. "Am I strong? Am I really? I want every one to think that, but…" She looked away, not able to handle the sincerity and truth in her friend's eyes.

"But what, my dear?"

"But…I don't think I'm very strong." Her gaze flickered back up to the face of the person before her, "I'm weak around you, aren't I?" A pink tinge spread slowly across her cheeks and nose and she lowered her head, her long hair creating a curtain around her face.

"You still blush, even after all these years." The other laughed, pulling the young woman into a gentle embrace.

"I can't help it. I never would have thought I'd do anything like this…" Nisshoku swallowed, trying to push back her fear. She could feel fingers in her hair, lips brushing against her neck. "…We're in public."

"I'm sorry, Dearest. Why don't we stay here in Kyoto tonight? We can go back to your Mama's tomorrow. You'll feel better after some rest."

"All right." She relented. She had been finding it harder and harder to say no. Is this how Gesshoku felt when she was in love?

"Come now, Love. I know a nice inn here, Kikkyou-ryokan, where we can stay the night. We can get a room together and they won't ask any questions. After you've had a bath, something to eat and some rest, everything won't seem so bad."

"I'm sure you're right. You always are." She pulled out of the embrace, brushing back her long, dark hair. "Lead the way."