Chapter 23: Yuki

Sitting on one of the many wooden verandas, Jayden watched as the falling blooms of cherry petals drifted off in a gentle evening breeze. Shifting on the red floor pillow he had been kneeling on, he ran his fingers along the silky, golden tassels adorning one corner before he set his sights on the snowflake that had set upon his nose. Brushing it away, he watched as the other delicately crafted flakes fell, dancing about before finally resting upon the ground.

Laughter had him looking up once more to see a child dressed in a red and gold kimono scampering across the crisp, white blanket of snow. Her long, raven-colored hair hung loose save the one small ponytail that was at the top of her head. Her pallid skin made her appear ghost-like; slightly reminding him of Sairix, while a big smile crossed her small, round face. When she glanced his way, he couldn't help but shiver as large, ruby-red eyes looked his way. And no matter how many times he had seen her, roughly six times in the past four days he had been there, he could never hold her gaze for long.

It was just too freaky.

"Runihura-kun!" the small girl called, turning in place, her wide sleeves fluttering about.

Green eyes drifted to see said man hurrying over. From his angle, the blonde could make out the slight smile that had crossed the raven's face as he came to a stop before the little girl. And when she pointed up, Jayden watched as his partner picked the girl up, allowing her to climb around to get to his back as he stood.

"Can you reach it, Aiko-san?" he asked as the girl climbed further up to sit on his shoulders.

"Runi-kun, it's Aiko-chan!"

"With all due respect-"

"Aiko-chan!"

The brown-eyed man merely chuckled. "Very well, Aiko-chan. Can you reach it?" He received a giggle. "I take that as a yes." His smile broadened as he watched a pink petals float down prior to him reaching around to set the little girl down after some time. "What are you making this time, dear?"

"It's a surprise!" Aiko giggled as she turned away.

Chuckling himself, Runi knelt down and waited patiently. His smile broadened the moment the girl turned with a circlet of pink blossoms in her hands. When she held it out, he bowed his head, allowing her to place the item in his hair.

Lifting his head, the man watched as the girl clapped. "Looks that good?"

"Yes!" she said, bouncing in place.

Ru merely laughed before removing the flowery decoration. "You know who would look even better in this?"

Large, garnet-colored eyes blinked in question. "Who?"

"A princess," he replied as he set the pink blossoms atop her head. "There." He sat back a bit, head tilted. "It's quite fitting on you, Aiko-chan."

"You think so?"

"Mhmm," the man said with a smile.

"Do you think Yuki-kun would like it?" she asked as she picked up a small bloom from off the snow-laden ground.

"I don't see why not."

The girl looked around quickly, her red gaze drifting past the blonde seated on the veranda. She then looked elsewhere, bouncing on the balls of her geta-clad feet before running off for what the soul guessed to be the alleged 'Yuki'.

Watching the last bit of her red kimono disappear behind a closing door, Jayden returned his gaze to the falling sakura blossoms. Noticing movement, he allowed his eyes to fall just a bit to see Runihura plucking a pink petal from his head, a slight smile on his face.

Smiling himself, the blonde almost missed brown eyes that had become affixed to his sitting form. Flinching once he noticed the stare, his own smile fell away as he watched his partner rise to his feet. Opening his mouth, the green-eyed man closed it soon after once the raven turned and walked away, leaving him alone in the many courtyards.

Averting his eyes, the soul ran a hand through his hair, sighing heavily. He had only seen the reaper one other time since the argument in his room and, even then, Runihura hadn't said anything. The man barely looked at him for that matter. And the thought of that alone had the blonde wincing inwardly.

"You're not hurting again are you?"

Emerald pools looked up from the wooden floor then shifted to the left.

Sitting comfortably was a woman who was currently busy running their long fingers through white and silvery tresses. When the hair parted, giving view to a glacial blue eye flecked with silver, Jayden scooted away. A soft smile then took its place along the newcomer's fair face as they pulled their long hair away from the rest of her face.

"Gwennette-san, are you not enjoying your stay in Zen?" they asked in a rather soft way.

Jayden faced forward. "The place is nice, thanks."

"I see." Blue eyes faced forward to revere the continuous falling of the petals at the center of the square. "If it's not the atmosphere, what's troubling you?"

"Nothing," he groused, pulling his hands into the warmth of his robes' sleeves. "Everything is fine."

Shifting his own gaze, Jayden watched the swirls of snow past by. He looked to his left every so often to see that the newcomer had their eyes closed, sipping tea from a small cup.

Focusing on what was ahead once more, the soul tensed as the raven-haired reaper walked along the opposite veranda. Green eyes stayed trained on him until the man finally disappeared behind a pair of sliding doors.

"So, that's it." The blonde looked over as soon as the other had set their cup down. Ice colored pools opened then looked to the right. "He's not talking to you is he? Your partner, Runihura-san?"

"Wha-it's not that!" he shouted, rising to his feet to glare at the one still seated.

"It is." Slender fingers wrapped around the ceramic cup before it was lifted. "Or you wouldn't be so cross over the observation, yes?" Emerald pools glared while the one seated merely took a sip of tea. "Maybe I should take you to the onsen. It would help you relax, Gwennette-san."

"What I want is to go home!"

"I see." The blonde took a step back as the teacup was set down. "That would be in a half's best interest I suppose."

"So, you gonna' tell me the way out of here or what?" Jayden asked, folding his arms as he ignored the 'half' comment.

"I could," the other replied as they stood.

She soon turned on her heels and walked away in long, even strides. Watching her go, the man hesitantly trailed behind, watching the sway of the other's long, pink and red robes that trailed after her. Picking up his own pace, Jayden maintained a respectable distance, pausing the moment the female stopped to withdraw an ornate hair stick.

"Yuki-kun!"

The blonde watched as the woman flinched before she slid the pin into her white hair, twisting it around in fluid motion until the hair was done up into a bun, only side bangs hanging to cover her ears.

"Oh, Yuki-kun!"

"Over here, dear," she called.

The sound of something hitting against the wooden floor had the soul looking over his shoulder to see a blur of red and gold go running by. Turning again, Jayden watched as the small, raven girl leapt up to cling to the other's kimono.

Kneeling, the one called Yuki bowed her head, earning a giggle from the child before the little girl climbed up onto the woman's shoulders. She then placed the flower circlet on the older female's head before clapping her hands.

"I see that you have been busy," Yuki stated as small hands resituated the crown of blossoms. "It's quite lovely, Aiko-chan." A smile then crossed her face as she removed the decoration to set it upon the child's head. She then removed the one perched on her shoulders and set her down. "It makes you look like a princess."

"You think so?" the child asked, bouncing in place. "Ru-kun said the same thing!"

"I do," Yuki replied as she turned to continue on her way, the girl following behind.

Rolling his eyes, Jayden followed behind the pair, eyes elsewhere until he heard a stifled hiss. Shifting his gaze forward, he looked down at the little girl that had frozen in place, one foot raised in a precarious fashion.

Leaning over a bit, he saw something white and flattened resting along the floor. When it jerked, fur bristling, the soul realized that it had to be a tail. And sliding his sight upward to the one in pink, his eyes widened as he watched two, white points twitch before laying flat against the woman's head.

The points then swiveled as the man took a step back. When blue and red eyes focused on his retreating form, Jayden stilled, anxious to see if they'd do anything out of the ordinary. And when they didn't move, the blonde took a step back.

"Gwennette-san," Yuki began as her ears twitched at the subtle sound of wood creaking, "you're n-"

"Demon!"

The woman took a step towards him. "Gw-hmm…" she murmured as she and the small child watched him run in the opposite direction.

"Yuki-kun~" Said person dropped their gaze to see the girl bouncing on her heels. "I'm hungry!"

White ears swiveled to the faint rumbling coming from the girl's stomach before Yuki took her by the hand. "Very well, Aiko. Let's go get you something to eat."


Out of breath, Jayden came to a staggering stop outside a pair of paper doors. Resting his forehead against one of them, he balled one hand into a fist before finally allowing it to go lax. Breath steady, he stood up straight before looking over his shoulder.

No one was behind him so he ran a hand through his hair prior to resting up against the closed entrance. Feeling something warm coming from the seams of the door, he turned and slid it open to get a face full of steam. And fanning away the vapors, what greeted him was snow.

Eyebrow arched, he took a step inside, only jumping as the door slid back in place. Glancing over his shoulder one last time, he then continued onward, noting the crisp white snow that lined the stepping stone pathway.

The trail wound about but what struck the soul as odd was that, despite all the snow, it was hardly cold. The air was rather warm, moist actually, and hearing the sound of water up ahead, he quickened his pace until he came to the end.

There was a pool ahead and kneeling down, Jayden felt the steam hitting his skin once more. Sticking his hand into the water, he pulled it out quickly to rub his reddening skin. Once the burn died down, he stuck his hand in the water once again, a smile crossing his face as he leaned forward. Rolling up the sleeve to his own navy kimono, he allowed the bubbles to tickle his arms. And seeing something shiny beneath the subtle waves, he reached for it, simply to tumble forward and into the hot spring.

Sputtering water as he popped up, he scrubbed a head over his face before opening his eyes. Looking around the hazier environment, Jayden looked down to stare at his clothes that were swaying about. Hearing the roar of a waterfall from across the way, the blonde swam across the spring until he reached a rocky shore on the other side.

The sound of rushing water had intensified yet still held that area in an peaceful air. The cooler water was clear and with the waves of the falls were creating, Jayden watched as white and blue lotus lazily drifted by. The clean scent of the area had the man smiling to himself until movement drew his attention elsewhere.

Seeing a towel nearby, the soul looked towards the water once more to see his partner sitting in the water at neck level. His eyes were closed for a time, leaving the man to think that the raven was sleeping. A small smile was on his, making him look relax though, as chocolate-colored pools slowly slid up, Jayden shrank back to hide behind the rocks. After a few moments, he poked his head out to see the man tossing aside a blue flower he must've been studying. And as the dark-haired man reached for his towel, the blonde shrank back to return the hot springs.

Swimming back to a far corner, Jayden caught his breath before sinking lower into the water. He hardly heard Runihura getting out and walking away before he focused on the sounds of waves lapping at the rocky shore. He raised his head, sensing a presence, but spotted no one.

Turning around, he rested his head on a smooth stone, sighing to himself. As several more waves hit against his back, he turned around although he still couldn't see with the increasing amount of mist. With nothing else to do, and deciding it best to get out of his wet clothes, he made his way over, only stopping as he saw the reaper stepping into the water. As dark eyes shifted, Jayden hid amongst the rocks once more, face flushed.

He leaned his head back against the rocks, staring up at the twilit sky before sighing for the umpteenth time as he unknowingly placed a hand to his chest. He looked back down as he heard a small splash and hoped that it wasn't his almost stark naked partner swimming around. After a few moments of not seeing anyone, Jayden peeked over the rocks to see Runi sitting with his eyes closed once again.

Content with that, the man turned around, listening the sound of water falling as well as its quiet splashes. His own eyes slid closed yet they opened when he felt something brush against his leg. Looking down, he arched a brow as something white breached the surface. When it began to grow in size, Jayden backed away, simply to have his way blocked by rock.

As the snow-colored things came to a point, he reached out to poke one and watched as it disappeared. Righting himself, Jayden arched his brow once more as the things came up again.

"Um…" He then shrank back as the points flicked about much like a pair of ears. "Y-"

"One does not normally wear their kimono in the onsen," Yuki stated after she breached the surface. She then moved to the side of him, watching as he moved away from her. "And let's get one-"

"Demon!" he shouted. "D-"

The woman merely shook her head as she shoved his head under the water. When she brought him up, a blue eye focused on the glaring green pair. "Let's get one thing straight; I'm not a demon." Her fingers then left his hair as she cleared her throat. "Anyway, are you hiding?"

"N-no, I-"

Splashing from the other side had the woman climb up and out of the water to perch herself amongst the smooth stones. Spotting the reaper washing his hair, a smile crossed her face. Her ears twitched subtly and she looked over to see the blonde with his hands over his face.

"Don't tell me that you're hiding from Runihara-san."

"No, I...it's, uh-"

"If you're partners, you're going to have to communicate, you know?" she asked, removing the man's hands from his face. Seeing his eyes closed she huffed. "Would you stop acting so childish and open your eyes."

Green eyes cracked open before having water splashed in them. Once he had cleared the water from his face, he glared at the woman to see her looking over the small rocky barrier that separated them from the raven bathing. Her long and wet hair clung to her, hiding away her upper half effectively while her tails swayed about, hiding her lower half quite nicely.

How he had missed those, Jayden had no idea but as he saw the ears move about with the sound of water hitting up against the stones, he closed his eyes as a blue one slid over to look at him.

"De-"

"Runihura-san!" The soul's eyes snapped over to pin the woman with a surprised stare. "Ru-"

"What are you doing!?" he hissed as he pulled Yuki from off the rocks. "He will hear you!"

"You're the one yelling," she replied after one of her tails brushed aside the man's hand, "besides, I was trying to get him to look or come over." The lone eye visible from beneath the strands stared at the man curiously before looking elsewhere. "Runi-san!"

"Would you stop!?" Jayden whispered harshly. "Runi-"

"Yes?"

The soul looked to his right to see the reaper rounding the rocks. The one with green eyes remained frozen in place as darker eyes past by him to revere the white-haired female with ears on the top of her head. Seeing her smile, the raven merely bowed his head before looking towards his partner. Averting his gaze, Runihura simply bowed his head before turning away.

"Oh no you don't, Runihura," Yuki said, grabbing his shoulder just as he went to leave. She then turned to grab the back of Jayden's robe as he tried to get away. "You're not going anywhere either."

"Demon, let go of me!" the blonde ordered.

"For the last time, I'm not a demon!" she hissed through clenched teeth. "Now then, you two need to make up!"

"Yuki-sama," Runi began, "it-"

"Now!" she growled, ears flat.

"De-"

The raven clamped a hand over his partner's mouth. He didn't bother to look over at him though as he regarded the irate female. "Understood," he replied quietly.

"Good," the woman said as she released them both. "Now, hurry and finish bathing. Dinner is just about finished and you know Aiko-chan will not be happy if she has to wait."

"Understood," Runihura said as his hand fell away.

Content with that, Yuki swam away and rounded the rocks. Staring at the man rubbing the back of his neck, Jayden then eased onto the rocks and watched as Yuki swim back to shore. As she got out, she brushed away the hair in her face and reached down to collect the folded, black yukata that had been placed on the rocks.

Shaking herself dry, she then picked up two hair sticks and pulled her hair up, leaving only the sides down like before. Her ears flicked about, drying themselves effectively while her tails bristled. Dry and fluffy, the woman steadily began to rake long fingers through the fur,untangling the knots. And during her ministrations, Jayden noticed one key detail.

"You're…she's a…a…" Green eyes darted towards the reaper to see that he was already swimming back to shore. "She's…a…"

"Runihura-san, are you going to put forth the effort to talk to him during dinner?" Yuki asked. "And I don't mean sitting quietly like a puppet when Omega-sama is present."

"Of course, Yuki-sama," the raven replied as he got out the water.

"I'm serious."

"Of course you are you," Runi said.

Blue eyes then peered through the steam to see the blonde gawking in the same place they had left them. "What's wrong with him?"

Runi simply picked up his towel and secured it around his waist before heading back towards the doors further up the path. "I think he just found out that you aren't a woman."

"A woman?" Yuki questioned, giving himself a look over. "Well, of course not! I'm a male!"

The raven shrugged as he glanced at his partner on the rocks. "Yeah, he knows that now," he said before exiting the onsen.