"I think there's something strange about those girls after all."
"Why do you say that?"
"Well..." one woman glanced around to make sure no one could hear her, an action purely for theatrics, as it was still very-early morning, and not many were even awake yet. Seemingly-satisfied, she leaned forward to whisper to her friend, a hand cupped over her mouth. "I heard it from the baker's son...he saw the pink one, the one asking about flowers all the time? She was carrying something into the forest."
The other woman raised her eyebrows, covering her mouth. "Are...are you certain?" she asked. "But maybe she was only paying a tribute--"
Her friend shook her head, her expression grave. "No. Whatever she was carrying was too small to be any living creature, it wasn't moving...and the boy said that he thought she looked happy. And she didn't stop at the edge of the forest, either--she just went in and kept going."
"You suppose...you suppose our hunch was right after all?" the other whispered.
"It just might be...we'll have to keep an eye on the family for a bit longer to be sure...But I do believe we've a witch or a lesser-demon on our hands."
"I think I might have given you my cold on accident," Hanana said, a little guiltily.
Yukiki shook his head, ignoring the odd achy feeling. "You were sick a while ago," he muttered, at the moment too tired to speak normally. "That's a long time for a cold to travel from person to person. And besides which, I don't even get sick." Do I? he suddenly thought to himself. He never used to get hurt either, but after pricking his finger about a week ago and actually feeling pain, plus this growing achiness, he wasn't so sure now...
At least he was able to hide most of it...Hanana only knew of what she could see: the shadows that got darker by the day, the fact he was moving a little bit slower than usual, and just recently, a quick wince of pain when he pricked himself again trying to pluck a pink rose for her. None of which would be too concerning for her, he supposed.
"But if I am," he hastily added, seeing her biting at her lower lip. "Then it'll blow over soon. I said before, I heal quickly."
"Mmm...if you say so," she murmured. Her arm moved a little bit before she caught herself and forced a laugh. "Oh, sorry, I was about to check your forehead for a temperature!"
At least she could still smile, he thought, forcing a smile himself. "That wouldn't go over well, I'm afraid," he chuckled. "But I mean it; don't worry. I'm alright."
"Are you sure? Because I can run home and get medicine and..."
He just shook his head again, letting his eyes close.
Hanana fell silent, hesitating a moment before walking over to the couch he sat on and gently pushing his shoulder an her finger. She had to laugh a little when he slowly fell onto his side and stayed there. "Maybe you just need a nap," she chuckled.
They said nothing for a few more minutes, so much that for a moment Hanana thought he'd fallen asleep already. She jumped a little when he spoke up again. "You don't have to stay with me if you don't want to..." He couldn't help feel guilty; it was just morning, and she had just arrived for her visit. Now he couldn't even stay awake for her. What kind of...friend was he?
Though he couldn't see, she just shook her head, smiling a bit. "No, it's alright. You probably just woke up early--I'll be in the garden when you wake up, okay?" The only response she got was a low "mmf" sound, and then silence.
She sighed, putting her coat back on and going out back to the garden again. She still had something to do.
That blue rose was still bothering her, for several reasons. It was the only one not with others, on a bush; it had a little layer of frost on it--the only one in the entire garden that did, she knew, she'd thoroughly checked each and every rosebush, getting pricked a few times for her trouble; and it was the only one that was wilting. It looked pretty far gone right now, she couldn't help think as she knelt in front of it. This time she didn't dare reach out for it, not after what happened last time. Back home, I'd have to prune roses, she thought. I suppose I could get rid of this one...
But she couldn't. She just couldn't. Something was holding her back, something she couldn't explain was screaming at her not to touch it, something horribly would happen if she did. But that only raised further questions--like why would Yukiki keep such an awful rose (and she hated having to think of it that way, but yes, it must be something awful, to invoke such a feeling of dread in her) in his garden? "You're not normal," she whispered, half-afraid it could hear her somehow and would retaliate by dropping another petal. "I don't know how or why, but you're not..." Should I ask? It feels rude to bring it up, especially when he's not feeling well, but at the same time...
Ugh, even looking at the thing made her nervous. Unable to take it much more, she forced herself to turn away, walking back towards the red roses. She didn't see another petal drop.
Yukiki didn't wake up again till around noon. But when he did, he at least looked a bit better--the shadows had lightened just a little, his voice was back to normal, and he was moving around at his usual pace now, instead of being sluggish. Hanana felt a surge of relief at the fact; at least he wasn't too sick.
And he was better enough to read again at least--but only a smaller story. Hanana didn't think it'd be very fair to read a longer one in his condition--whatever it was, so she deliberately flipped ahead to find something short.
It didn't stop Yukiki from talking about it, however.
"How did they even know?"
"Know what?" Hanana marked their place and shut the book, tilting her head back to look up at him. Ever since they woke up and caught themselves sleeping against each other on the couch that night, their reading pose had changed a little bit. Hanana would sometimes lean against him instead of sitting shoulder-to-shoulder, or sometimes he'd sit behind her and read over her shoulder, on teh floor instead of the couch. They were in that very pose right now.
Yukiki was frowning. "How did they know they loved each other?" he asked. "They were just...they were together a lot, yes, and they became friends, but...well, how did they know they were beyond that?"
Hanana paused a few moments, thinking it over. Finally, all she could do was shrug. "I'm not sure...no one is, really. Love just sneaks up on you and most of the time you've no idea when it happened." For some reason, talking about this with him was making her chest feel fluttery... "And then you just...realize it. I can't think of any other way to say it." She looked back up at him, shrugging again and sending him an apologetic smile. "Sorry."
He just frowned, staring straight ahead, clearly thinking that over. "I suppose that part makes sense, but on the other hand..."
"It doesn't quite answer the question, does it?"
"No. No, not really." Rather than press it further, he merely sighed, scooting back so he could get up, helping Hanana to her feet. "It's just so confusing sometimes..."
"They say love often is," Hanana chuckled.
The butterflies returned to Yukiki's chest again, in full form. Do you love me? Ugh, why was he thinking such things?! He fought the urge to put his hood back up and hide in it, instead acting as if he was very interested in the window. "I don't think I'd like to talk about it anymore," he mumbled at last. It's far too confusing and makes things worse than they already are...
You're her dearest friend. Nothing more. You should be happy with that.
I am happy with that...
Despite that, the next rose he picked for her was a red one.
Around sunset, there was a knock on the door. Eruru looked up, frowning slightly. Who'd visit them? The snowstorm was over, and it wasn't snowing again, so to her knowledge no one was here to warn them of anything... She went to the door, opening it to come face-to-face with the baker's wife. "Oh, good evening," she said, surprised.
The woman on her steps wrung her hands, looking past her into the house for a moment. "Uhm, yes...listen, I was wondering if perhaps we could discuss your sister? The one with the curly hair," she clarified.
"Hanana? Why? What's she done?"
"Well, I don't quite know, but..."
"What's going on?"
The woman jumped in fright, whirling around to see Hanana, wrapped snugly in a coat, a rose in her ponytail. The woman's eyes widened--there shouldn't be flowers around at this time..."Where did you get that?" she whispered.
Hanana's hand drifted to the rose, and she blinked. Oh no! She'd forgotten she'd even put it there! "I uhm..." she tried to think of an excuse.
But the village woman wouldn't hear it. She backed away from Hanana as if she were diseased, then turned and ran down the path towards the village.