By Varon
Here come the darker waters.
They are the tide pools swirling
In the core of the ocean,
Becoming the dark, tumultuous haven
Where respite is supposedly due.

They come
Crashing over me
And I plunge,
into nothingness.

WHERE DO you draw the line between sound and silence?

I seem to be lost. For to me, they somehow found a way -- at a time when I was caught off-guard -- to merge together, as blue and yellow blend into green, a perfect mix of colors until in their homogeneity, the distinction became a void illusion.

Both can be deafening, alluring, or commiserating. At times comfortable, at times, disturbing. Either can constitute grounds for answers, for an agreement, or for tension. Each may build the foundation for a breakup between a longtime couple, or for attainment of philosophical knowledge, in the case of a disciple and his guru. Such diverse things can apply to both, given various situations; how can one distinguish which is which? How can one declare these two words as opposites at all?

More words, more situations are like that to me -- burn out the grammatical fuse that electrifies their meaning and you come face to face with a tabula rasa. More things -- like euphoria and despair, sincerity and deceit, simplicity and complexity -- have somehow crept into my consciousness, clouding my judgment, disabling my ability to identify one or prefer the other.

Confusing... yes, I believe that's the right word. And yet I welcomed it.

I was introduced into this surreal world of relativity -- where nothing seems to be of much striking contrast to every other thing -- when I began an affair with a goddess. A wind goddess.

* d i v i d e r  h e r e *

My friends told me it was jumping at a fantastic career opportunity. But I had one word for my five years in New York as a branch supervisor of an international software company: Soul-searching.

It was an escape, moreover, from the hurtful reality against which I had not learned to numb my nerves, even after so many years. I continued to look for my sister, years after her death, in women -- wanting to see her alive in them, to see her eyes dance when we're together, feel her arms as they once rocked me, comfortingly, when I was younger... Mifuyu-neechan was my one family, and when she died... I died too. Not just a part of me, but the whole of me. At least, it seemed that way at first.

When I found Sakoshita Yanagi, I thought my search was over. Seeing the uncanny resemblance more than stunned me, but it was the kind of astonishment I was more than willing to take. Shocked as I was then, however, I was utterly grateful... I had found my sister; she was alive, again!

And soon, sisterly affection turned into ardent longing. How it evolved past familial emotions was beyond me. But I became too busy gloating over my latest find that I left out one not-so-minor detail: Hanabishi Recca saw her first.

It wasn't fair, I knew, that some sixteen-year-old dork could just discover, in a span of several days, a valuable treasure that I had been hunting for a long time. I bet Hanabishi didn't even know  how cherished Yanagi-chan was. He just happened to see her one day -- without any purpose or agenda, just the same plain luck he was born with, carrying it with him even as he won the most perilous battles. I couldn't imagine how he could have possibly won her over, but somehow he did -- eventually and  rather quickly so. And because of that idiot's stupid luck, I knew my chances were far gone.

I hated Recca then. He took what was supposed to be mine by any other right. Should purpose alone be the sole criterion of winning Yanagi -- if she were a prize in the race I had set against time and the rest of the world -- I knew I would have won.

Yet I was abhorrent in the eyes of the Fates. They made it so that I would fall for a girl who would not love me as much as she loved her Ninja. But I was young then, barely bouncing back from the trauma of my own sister's murder... a seventeen-year-old could only take so much. So I held fast to what was left of my self-esteem (and my pride), and took on the next challenge of battling Recca -- as a Hokage team member spars with his leader, and as a wounded lover fighting ruthlessly against his rival. To me, every situation had been do or die.

However a surprising turn of events came through. I found myself actually respecting Recca. True, he was basically still dense, impetuously rushing into things without thinking twice until Koganei or Ishijima would slap him in the face with the most obvious consequences. But his steadfast loyalty to his Hime -- I cringed as I thought about it -- as well as his determination (which was a lot bigger that his brain) to defeat Kurei, and his dedication to his teammates... those were things that strike at my being. It hit me that I had been too absorbed with wallowing in self-pity and obsessing into looking for Mifuyu, putting on that impassive, bitingly cold facade, to even find time to care for friends and other people like Recca did.

And that hurt. A dignified man and a skilled warrior bowing to the command of a moron was pouring acid on my ego.

But what really pierced my soul was the fact that I could acknowledge my defeat, although it took me a lot longer to do that than for me to develop a passable amount of liking for Recca. Even I surprised myself with that revelation.

And while it pained me the most, I admitted that I knew it right from the start: Yanagi, she -- she wanted Recca, not me.

The Fates were truly against me, unlikely as it was that a man of my stature and wisdom would blame such things on destiny. And yet I could only resort to blaming mythical personifications of the cosmic law... if to ease my burden.

I hurt, and for three long years. I needed healing.

So I went away.

My years in New York weren't bad at all. They were, fulfilling, even, to some extent. Although some bizarre things started taking place -- like losing time. Or was it just me being unable to keep track of it? Whatever it was, it happened so that I was alone in my office one afternoon, figuring out how to raise current net sales. And the next thing I knew, the janitor was knocking loudly on my door because he was going to lock up. I was startled, for I saw the darkness outside starting to wrestle with the vibrant hues of the fading light. I hadn't moved from my spot; where had the day gone?

I didn't give the incident much thought, though, for I somehow heeded more pressing matters. Out of nowhere a certain yearning to go back to Tokyo overcame me. There I was, a loner and orphaned without any real family, and with no reason to boot for a return to Tokyo...it was strange that I wanted to go back. I might have imagined it, but I believed some indiscernible force was pulling me back there, back... home.

Home. Either I was missing it for the sake of familiarity and an odd  sense of patriotism, or five years of monotonous office work was getting to me.

Funny how it seemed that I was getting away from my getaway. I was running from the one thing that could have helped me forget -- and it led me back to the starting point.

Whatever it was, the gentle tug became an insistent pull weeks after. A month later I was on a plane with a reassignment in Tokyo -- at my own insistence, of course.

I had been away for five years and a month. Coming home... what was to expect?

Well, at least one good thing came of my stay in America: To let go of my sister. The more girls I dated, the more it dawned on me that I had learned to accept her death. Though their imperfections would have -- should have -- frustrated me and should have intensified my passion to continue my search... I realized then that I could safely recall Mifuyu-neechan only in the deepest recesses of my mind as the light of her presence forever burns in my heart.

Because in effect, I wasn't looking for my elder sister anymore. Instead, I was looking for a replacement for Yanagi.

I admitted to myself I was looking for love.

And for that, Irony has again chosen me as its guinea pig, playing me for a joke. For a day comes when a man finds himself struck by a force he couldn't control, making him realize that what he's been groping for -- all the times he's gone to other lands in hopes of acquiring that same elusive treasure -- was right in front of him all along. That he was just too blind to notice it.

And when he did notice it... it was a little too late.

* d i v i d e r  h e r e *

It was a hazy dream, it was a vivid memory.  That second encounter, what for so long a time, with Kirisawa Fuuko was the one of the best wake-uppers I've received in my life.

It was three or four days after I've settled back again in Tokyo. I decided to keep a low profile then, not wanting to see any of my old teammates until I've organized everything -- my new house, my office, all that jazz. But I literally bumped into her at the grocery store, while I was buying some refreshments to fill my fridge and my bare cupboard. I was studying a new kind of beer and pondering whether to buy it or not, when I felt something lean heavily against me.

"Hmph," I muttered, a little irritated.

"Oh, gomen ne," the "thing" hurriedly apologized, who turned out to be a woman. "I didn't notice you were in the way -- MIKAGAMI?"

I had turned around to see Fuuko's eyes widen in amazement, before her mouth curved into a smile. "Say, you have stopped writing for Kami-sama knows how long! We ceased to know a thing about you!"

I was in for a surprise -- yet another one that I was unprepared for. Fuuko didn't look a bit like herself. Her hair had grown longer, in a pageboy almost reaching down to her shoulders, framing her shoulders; a cut that suited her fine. Her face showed signs of maturity, too -- her eyes more deep-set, the years taking their toll on her face as the brash teenager gave way to a beautiful woman.

And she was, indeed, beautiful. One would see it after a subsequent, careful glance.

"And how have you been, Kirisawa?" I returned, hesitantly returning her smile.

She prattled on, setting down her armload of groceries on the floor. "When did you get back? Did anybody else know you're here? What happened to your job in the States?"

When I knew I was in for a long talk, I realized that the Drinks section of the Supermarket wasn't appropriate for catching up. "Come, let's not talk here," I said, gathering my beer and some sodas, and helping her carry some of her load, heading for the counter. She followed suit, with a brief "Thanks."

I told her a little of my job and why I came back. After retrieving our groceries and climbing into my day-old Honda, I drove to a secluded beach I passed by yesterday.

She kept lively chatter, I recalled; something about her work as an architect and about the current lives of our former teammates. I kept looking at Fuuko, glancing sideways at her until she asked what was wrong with her. I just smiled and said, "Nothing." I was just checking if the woman beside me was indeed Kirisawa Fuuko. I couldn't get over the change; then again, it had been many years.

We alighted the vehicle just as the sun was setting, and yet another change was soon revealed. As the last rays of the sun shone upon us Fuuko raised her hand to shield her eyes, and something glinted off her finger that caught my eye.

I glanced critically at it. A gold wedding band.

"When did you get hitched?" I asked point-blank.

She looked at men, then at her finger, and laughed self-consciously. "Oh about a year ago," she said lightly. There was an edge to her voice, though; was it regret, some painful longing I couldn't quite grasp then?

I bent down and reach for a pebble, then drew back and threw it into the sea. "So who's the guy?" I asked, watching as the small stone skidded over the surface, forming ripples of water.

"A guy I met at work," she replied casually. "A former classmate introduced us, and we hit it off." She reached for her own pebble and threw it in a good arc, but it didn't reach far off into the distance as mine had. "After three years of going steady, we got engaged. Some time later we got married."

I smiled at her, a small smile. "Congratulations -- belatedly."

"Thanks," she said. "I would have written you about it, but it seemed you transferred residence for a while and never told us about it."

Ah. "Yeah, I did, didn't I?" I asked sheepishly. "Moved to a better apartment." I shrugged. "Sorry about that."

She shrugged. "No biggie."

"He treating you well?"

Agony, if I wasn't mistaken, danced over her expression for a split-second. "Of course," she said, covering her sudden discomfort with an uneasy smile.

She seemed so relaxed, so happy -- so why the sudden change of mood? Something didn't quite fit into the picture.

I didn't know what to make of her  response, and she didn't seem too talkative that time, either. To break the minutes of silence afterward, I attempted to joke. "Well... at least you didn't end up with Domon."

I didn't think that worked, either. I watched as an unreadable emotion played across her features. "You're too hard on him -- he wasn't that bad, actually."

I quirked an eyebrow. "What'd I miss?"

"Nothing!" She said quickly.

I tried again. "What's with Isihijima that I don't know about? Come on, spill."

"I told you -- nothing important!"

"Kirisawa," I threatened, "did I tell you I have my Ensui right here, in the pocket of my blazer?"

Her eyes widened in mock fear. "Gee, I'm trembling now." She shook her head ruefully. "Too bad my Fuujin wasn't as handy ."

I sighed. "So what? Did you and Domon sleep together or something?"

"Heck -- no!" Fuuko laughed.

Even her laughter had changed -- light, airy, melodic. Not like the boisterous guffaw I envisioned her to possess.

Then she sighed as well. "Oh, all right, since I knew you wouldn't leave me alone, I'd tell you."

Fuuko faced the sky, streaked with hues of orange, pink, and red. After a pause, she said, "It was just that... It never really occurred to me that I my rejection hurt him deeply. I knew when we were younger that he was on to me, but I never took it seriously, you know? I always thought his affections for me were nothing more than infatuation.

"But I was wrong, it turned out." She sighed. "Before I got married, Domon told me some things he kept hidden for the most time. He told me that --" She hesitated. "Well, that he did love me and that it upset him every time I would turn him away. More so, when I entertained every new admirer.

"I did like Domon -- he was, after all, a friend."

At those words, I kept my silence. She went on, "But not in the way he would have wanted me to. And yet what troubled me most was that I didn't know how much I really meant to him, and how much I hurt him in the process. Of all the things I never wanted to do -- it was for me to cause someone's grief. It just,,, kills me. And to think that Domon was close to me."

"So I see," I cut in quietly.

Fuuko looked at me, smiling wanly. "You know what Domon said the day before I married Hiroshi? He wished for my happiness, even if he wasn't entirely happy with the circumstances. I was touched, and thankful. Yet the nagging feeling persisted: I was the one who drove him into giving up on me."

She held her hair in place as the wind tousled it. "Mikagami -- I had gotten to know another side of Domon Ishijima that day -- when he 'let me go.' I wasn't sorry I chose to marry Hiroshi; I just wished I could have done so without wounding someone's feelings. I felt responsible for the misery I've caused him."

She paused, and I waited. "And while he's moved on, his confession still triggers a button in my conscience."

Dusk was slowly giving way to the black night. As I digested her story, I felt a wave of sudden admiration wash over me. Though I never would care to change my opinion of Domon, something pushed me to amend my view of the woman standing beside me.

She was blaming herself for something not of her intentional doing. Like I did once, and maybe still do, though with an incident of a much graver degree. How often did I bombard myself with guilt and sorrow over my elder sister's death?

That was the first time Kirisawa -- no, Fuuko --  became real to me. Our  first serious talk alone revealed new horizons, both in her and my perception of each other. I was highly though pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed conversing with her. I never thought she would turn out to be a sensitive, caring person -- well, who would, being the loudmouth tomboy she one was?

It also occurred to me that I never gave her the chance.

Was it possible that in the flash of an instant, I was able to conjure an emotion so shaking, I myself was unable to control it?

It wasn't logical; it seemed unreal, for someone like me. Yet there I was, feeling something I believed I had experienced only once... And this newfound attraction was for someone whom I never though would ignite in me the slightest, remotest flame of romantic interest.

Yet the feeling surfaced, and it was because I was allowed to a quick glimpse of an unseen sliver of personality.

 "Mikagami?" She prodded when I had slipped into silence. "May we go now?"

I nodded once, as if realizing just then that it had grown late. Before I knew what I was doing, I reached out and took her hand in mine. You're special, I wanted to say out loud, but resorted to conveying it through my touch. It would seem to her, though, that I was offering her sympathy for what she'd gone through.

She smiled, though looking taken aback, and it occurred to me that Tokiya Mikagami never showed such liberated actions before. Yet she squeezed it, as if to thank me.

"You've changed, Mikagami. And I think I like this change," she said thoughtfully.

We walked  back to the car in silence, holding hands.

Two days after our talk, a welcoming party was thrown in my honor.  It was also a reunion for all of us Hokage Team members. Needless to say, it was Fuuko's idea.

Yet even with all the revelry going on, I failed to notice the hype around me. Amidst the dancing and loud music and screaming, my eyes were trained on only one couple, the feminine half of which managed to get through to me in only a few hours.

It was stupid, I knew; I was practically obsessing over some new, unabashed emotion. Almost adulterated, at that. Which was out of the line for someone like me.

I watched Recca twirl his fiancée -- his Hime, obviously -- on the dance floor. I was relieved to find out that I inexplicably felt  indifferent.

When I looked over again to Fuuko and Tsukiyuno Hiroshi, being the epitome of a perfect couple... I looked at him with ice.

* d i v i d e r  h e r e *

The Fates, with whom I never found favor before, seemed to have been smiling down at me then. Because for weeks after that talk with Fuuko on the beach, we would collide with each other at virtually anywhere -- at the park, at fast food chains, down the street (since I found out that she lived only three blocks from where I stayed). As if I were iron and she, a magnet; I was irrepressibly drawn to her, because of some natural electromagnetic law.

Soon the frequent coincidental meetings turned into regular "dates", as I'd liked to call them. We would get together at least every two weeks, go someplace where we would talk, eat, enjoy each other's company. And more often than not, we chose that nameless beach in the outskirts of the city as our venue.

I learned more about her the more time I spent with her. I learned of her love for Hiroshi, and while it took great effort to mask my hurt, I had reason to doubt she  loved him as much as she says. Our long talks enabled me to see through her soul -- warm, gentle, insightful. And the more I see of her every moment, my feelings inevitably intensified. I should have known by now that with her, time seemed to fly, and that resulted to my mind once again being in a tumult. Everything that was wrong fused with the right, the rational blending with the irrational.

I may have looked at her countless times and innumerable incidents years ago, but not once did I truly see her, as I do now: her light, her inner strength, her vibrancy. Now I was content to just watch her, and  become aware of her brilliance, her beauty. Desire burned up inside me, and it quickly made its way to my heart.

Though I knew I should leave her alone. She's married. She should be off-limits.

But how could I, when I have finally found the one thing I'd been searching for? How could I even bear to  tear myself away when I had found heaven here on earth?

I wasn't willing to give her up easily. I was willing to hold back, though -- if only a little...

One warm afternoon in July Fuuko unwittingly showed me her husband's true colors.

"Where'd you get that?" I  asked, pointing to the bluish mark on her wrist as I was examining her new silver bracelet. No wonder she was quick to pull away and hide it under her jacket sleeve.

She kept silent and looked away. She didn't even give an excuse to cover it up; she just sat there across from me, looking every inch like a woman desperately holding on to her temper when she has already been pushed so far -- a volcano dormant for a century and was about to unleash its fury.

"It's Hiroshi, isn't it?" I ventured tentatively, for one wrong button pushed and she was going to erupt.

It clicked. "We got into a fight last evening," she said quietly. "I went home late and -- He gripped my wrist too hard. No big deal."

I could not believe it. Years had indeed softened Fuujin-wielder Kirisawa Fuuko -- but with a setback. Was this her husband's doing?

"Why -- why didn't you reason with him?" I wondered, trying to say it as gently as possible.

"I did," she said. "But he wasn't listening. He was being paranoid, saying I was seeing another man --" She stopped. "Well, in a sense I am. But that's different."

I frowned. "Was this the first time he.. hurt you?"

A long pause. Then, "No."

I almost brought down a fist to bang on the table. "If he keeps on hurting you, why don't you leave him?"

I hated Tsukiyuno Hiroshi the fist time I head of him. But what he did to Fuuko was even more repugnant. She was, first and foremost, a fighter. And I hated her husband all the more for taking out the warrior in her, little by little. I wouldn't want to see the day when all of the fire had gone out of her.

Fuuko looked out the window. "Don't misunderstand him, Tokiya. He's a good man. Really. His temper just flares too wildly, sometimes."

A good man, my ass.

I stared at her intently.

"You love him that much?"

Her gaze fell on me, our eyes locking for the longest moment, before she turned away mutely.

That answer was all I needed to hear.

* d i v i d e r  h e r e *

I continued to love Fuuko in my own secret realm; although I knew she would have sensed my feelings for her by now. I thought it would be that way for a long, long time, and if ever I was going to do something drastic about it... But dreams do come true, after all. And I thought it was just an annoying, trite saying to encourage little children not to give up on their goals when they grow up.

My own fantasies came crashing though reality one night.

"Kiss me," she had asked of me then, her perfect mouth carefully pronouncing each word, moving in sync with every heartbeat. Those same red, warm lips had pleaded me -- no, ordered me -- to give her what I had tried to evade. It was a  fight I had all too wanted to give up but somehow didn't. The very same mouth -- whose contours, whose softness, whose warmth tempted me each time my eyes flashed across her lovely face -- was asking me to do something I shouldn't.

The setting was perfect -- the atmosphere was just right, the moon was a jewel set in the center of the velvety sky, the ocean breeze, the balcony of an obscure yet romantic restaurant in the outskirts of the town. It was the timing that was the worst.

"Now why would I do that to a married woman?" It was intended to be a cool reply. But my answer, instead, sounded hollow, nervous. Trying unsuccessfully to mask the doubt -- and, admittedly, the excitement -- welling up inside me.

She took a step forward, I took a half-step back. "Please, just... I -- I just need to know." She sounded almost plaintive.

The sudden gust of night breeze sent the loose frays of her blouse billowing, emphasizing her curves. I turned away slightly then.

"Know what?" Too abrupt.

She remained silent. I was aware she was studying me, and out of the corner of my eye I saw her lips quirk upward wryly.

More minutes passed. I would have stubbornly held my ground, but the curiosity got the better of me; I was  wondering if she were waiting for me to turn and look at her.

So I did.


As soon as the word rolled off my lips, her own sensuous ones were pressed deliciously against mine.

Then and  there I learned the Law of Temptation: The more you resist it, the more it would pursue you a hundredfold. With twice the ardor.  And with twice the pleasure, one would be insane enough to fight it.

Gradually I felt her pull away, though her fingers were still clutching at my collar -- as when she pulled me to her in a movement as swift as the wind.

I was elated, and I let a fraction of this emotion slip through in a wistful smile. I studied her face, and found... wonderment. Mixed with, perhaps, joy.

"I needed to know," she said quietly, her eyes looking straight into mine when I would have expected them to be downcast, "if I made the right choice."

I stared at her a moment, then nodded, as if to myself. I understood.


"I know, it's wrong," she cut in hastily, "but... ever since you came back, and when we've had that talk--" She shrugged helplessly. "Some... old feelings resurfaced."

"Old feelings?"

She almost looked away. "You didn't have any idea, did you? How much I..." She muttered something under her breath. "I liked you back then, Tokiya. Big time. I was just good at hiding it."

I quirked an eyebrow, amused -- and flattered -- at this confession.

She went on, her voice getting lost in her tale, her face taking on a pained expression. "But you were so hung up on Yanagi that I knew I didn't stand a chance. And when it seemed that you finally accepted Recca for her, I gathered my guts. But by then, you decided to work abroad."

She turned back to look at me, a dry, regretful smile on her lips. "I wasn't one to stop you. After all, it was a great career move."

If only she knew.

I kept my silence, though, and put my arms around her waist as she rested her head on my chest, as if she'd grown tired and embarrassed of staring straight at me. "You didn't know," her voice was muffled through my shirt, "how hard it had been for me to forget you. You were like a ghost, you know? You kept on haunting me. I used to tell myself, 'What have you got that other men don't and I just can't seem to get over you?'" She giggled softly then. "And you know what my I come face to face with? 'A lot.'"

"I wouldn't mind knowing those qualities," I said softly. She raised her head to see the trademark, others-say-it's-too-arrogant grin pasted on my face. She narrowed her eyes playfully and laughed.

"You're such a conceited jerk," she said, smiling.

I smiled, but was silent. Her eyes took on a sad light again, she opened her mouth to continue. "I thought I was 'exorcised' when Hiroshi came along --"


I didn't need to listen to the rest of her story to know why she came to me. She had grown unconvinced of and dissatisfied with her marriage, to put it mildly, when we were together. But what mattered to me more was that she had come to terms with her feelings for me, as I had with mine. It was a small triumph for my part; I became the dreamer living out my  longtime fantasy.

She raised questioning eyes to mine. I put a silencing finger on her lips and said, "You have no idea how much I wanted for this to come true." I tucked behind her ear some strands of her hair that had gone astray. "I understand things have gone a little too fast... Are you sure you want to do this?"

She seemed surprised. After a fraction of a second, she nodded firmly, decisively. "Yes."

A slow smile spread across my face. "Good."

When she remained quiet, I held her for some time, as swayed slightly from side to side, content in each other's presence.

* d i v i d e r  h e r e *

The lapses of time were getting too frequent now. I would lose track of time sometimes once a month, sometimes once a week.

More often I would have these lapses when I was home on weekends, seemingly thinking about something, then realizing later on that six hours had gone.

I didn't know what was happening. Nor did I give a damn.  Fuuko -- she was all I cared about.

* d i v i d e r  h e r e *

Nights spent with her had become even more memorable, for the two months that followed.

With clothes undone, we were skin to skin under the stain sheets -- warm breath  caressing bare flesh, nimble fingers exploring every exposed part. Lips meeting, tongues embracing, hips thrusting in one fluid motion. Our limbs entwined, interlocked, becoming a mess of arms and legs... and yet we were one. Body, and soul.

Nothing could have felt more right. As the delicious shivers came running down my spine as she kissed my neck, carnal desires beginning to take over, I manage to let one single nagging thought enter my subconscious.

None of this is mine.

Memorable, stolen moments -- those describe our predicament. She's with someone else. She's married. She's with some other man who beat me to her by a goddamned year.

Brilliant blue eyes stared down at me, and she gave a half-smile before climbing on top of me, straddling me on the hips. She closed her eyes, and I watched as she bent down and captured my lips in a kiss -- with the same fiery ardor, as the first time -- while her hair fell down in a curtain around our faces. I tightened my hold around her waist, feeling her taut nipples graze against my chest, and initiated gyrating motions. She moaned against my mouth, as I held her hips in place and began thrusting in and out of her. I saw her open her eyes as she pulled away from me, arching her back, letting out a moan.

I heard her whisper my name. "Tokiya," she gasped out. I've never heard it uttered so beautifully -- not like the way she'd said it.

Mine, she was mine... If our bodies would have dictated it so, we wouldn't be separated at all.

* d i v i d e r  h e r e *

She was mine. I felt it in every touch, in every kiss. She belonged with me, and not with him. Of that I grew surer as more time passed.

It was from this premise that I swore not to abandon her, not when her marriage was crumbling down, because of a man who didn't deserve her. Again I felt a surge of anger through my veins; I didn't dare oppose it.

It was from that conclusion that I wanted to be with her all the more, wanted to protect her from the cruel hands of Hiroshi Tsukiyuno, for fear of them inflicting pain on her yet again.

And for that exact same reason I found myself going to Fuuko's house one night, planning to take her away from the torture she was going through. To try and save her from the hell of the marriage she had to endure. She wasn't meant for any of that.

That was the intention which I carried with me as I stomped up the stairs leading to their doorstep, and determinedly rang the bell. I would have to let Hiroshi deal with the truth, even if it would come to him a fatal blow, like ten hollow blocks falling over his head.

Fuuko had become my air in those past few months; if she were taken away from me, I knew I wouldn't be able to breathe.

Hiroshi opened the door for me. I remembered introducing myself, absently taking note of a huge aquarium nearby, and being let in the dimly-lit living room. And then...


I -- I couldn't remember.

There had been darkness, enveloping my surroundings. Darkness... yes, it bathed everything in my sight. I didn't see Hiroshi for a second, but then I saw a flash of red. It enabled me to see his figure moving toward me, as if to shove me back up the wall.

After that...

Time stopped.

The next thing I knew, I was jolted back to reality by the sound of something solid crashing to the tiled floor. I simply stood there, registering my environment as it came into focus. Fuuko's house, I remembered, and thought immediately of Hiroshi's reaction when I had told him of what I intended to do.

The unmistakable sound of a woman's sobs reached my ears. Fuuko.

I had looked around for her, and found her just a few feet in front of me. Why was she crying? Was she hurt? Did Hiroshi hit her again?

I made my way over to her, when my attention turned to the figure sprawled on the tiled floor, over which Fuuko was hunched, her face buried in her hands.

Dead. A dead corpse, drowning in a pool of dark liquid. I staggered backward, feeling as if energy had been drained out of me. Blood was still oozing out of the deep slash on his chest. By looking at it I knew that it was a fatal wound.

"Tokiya," Fuuko called out to me, her voice thick with tears, although it sounded impossibly calm even with all this horrible sight.

I sought her eyes, still glistening with tears, but they found mine first. Hers were agonized, terrified.


How what?

Her eyes kept on looking pointedly at the object which fell on the floor, before looking back at me with those big blue eyes. So I looked at the item on the ceramic tiles.

It -- it was my Ensui.

* d i v i d e r  h e r e *

Now, then, where do you draw the line between sound and silence? Was the stillness that bathed this bleak, shadowy room too loud... or was it the sound that was very effectively muffled?

Just like the honorable that had morphed into wicked, the truth into lies, the black into white; they were misleading, questionably opposing dyads of the same abstraction. So I had stopped discerning which was which -- as I had stopped distinguishing what was mine and what was not -- for they were simply a matter of perspective.

I walked over to the seemingly still-mourning woman by the window. Her nightly sobs had gradually subsided. The incident -- which to me was inescapable -- had occured a fortnight ago, and since then she looked to have fallen into a trance. Or was it that she was in deep contemplation? I gently put my arms around her, savoring her presence; she didn't turn me away, but didn't welcome me either.

No matter now. For nothing would come between us now. We would never be separated. Never, ever.