Okay, first let’s introduce the lovely couple.
It was a brisk evening that night and the moon was as full as a saucer. The stars were shining and the moon was pure and luminous. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. It would have been nicer if it hadn’t been so cold, but at the same time it might have been horrible if it was intolerably hot.
Zakuro glanced at her blonde-haired companion. His large hand slid over her diminutive one. She blushed profusely. She didn’t know how to react, but they’d kissed earlier this month and there were definitely feelings simmering beneath the surface. ‘I love you Zakuro.’ Agemaki cooed. Zakuro stiffened and didn’t know how to react. Then she took a breath and put her head against Agemaki’s shoulder. ‘I love you too, Agemaki.’ she whispered. This time it was Agemaki who had the case of the reddening cheeks.
1. A kiss on the lips means I love you.
As Agemaki began to lean into my face, I was having trouble breathing. I couldn’t think but I knew exactly what was happening. Under the shade of the tree in the courtyard, I had my first kiss. Agemaki continued to lean in and our lips met. My cheeks began to burn; my thoughts began to run around like mad chickens. I kissed back and closed my eyes. It was just as romantic as I thought it would be. Agemaki is such a flirt. I knew kissing him would be romantic. And it was and it made my heart pound harder.
I hear squealing in the background. The moment is ruined for me but I don’t really mind. All that matters is that I love Agemaki Kei: the cowardly, blonde Jesuit human.
The kiss breaks off and he’s as red as I suspect I am. We must look like the sunset together.
2. A kiss on the ear means you’re special.
Zakuro sat on the porch, this time it was during the day. She was watching Mamezo play with the children Kiri and Sakura. She’d laugh occasionally whenever the artificial spirit was able to “tib” one of the pumpkin spirits. She’d been told this was a fun game nowadays, creatively called “tibs”. It was a silly game with no end but it amused them and that’s all what mattered.
Agemaki walked past and caught Zakuro giggling. She looked so happy whenever she laughed. ‘What’s so funny?’ he asked as he sat down next to her.
‘The children.’ she smiled. Agemaki scooted over, closer to her. They were slowly becoming inseparable. Zakuro laid her head against his arm. She smiled a little bit. ‘Human ears look funny.’ she noted.
‘Really?’ Agemaki asked and Zakuro pouted.
‘I’m just used to seeing my style of ears, I guess.’ she defended and wriggled up again. She straightened her posture only to lean close to the soldier again. She landed a tiny peck on his ear. ‘But, yours a perfect the way they are. It’d be funny kissing my ears, wouldn’t it? You’d get hair all over your lips. But I wouldn’t have them any other way.’ Zakuro prattled off. She couldn’t believe she just said – or did that. Agemaki smiled. He leaned in and gave Zakuro’s ears a little kiss. She was right though. He did get hair over his lips but Agemaki didn’t mind. Zakuro was perfect the way she was: fox ears and all.
3. A kiss on the one nose means laughter.
The moments in which they shared, sitting upon the veranda in the moonlight were special ones. They usually had sweets to share or kisses. Unfortunately, they only had the latter as Zakuro hadn’t received pocket money yet and Agemaki had other expenses to attend to. Luckily, it wasn’t the sweets which made these moments special.
‘I have a joke, Zakuro.’ Agemaki said.
‘Yes, a western one.’
Zakuro’s first instinct was to snap at him, saying she didn’t want to partake in Jesuit tomfoolery but she was trying to change that. ‘Fine, tell me it.’
‘Okay, so when I say “Knock-Knock”, you say “Who’s there” then I will say something which you will then say “something Who”.’ Agemaki explained. ‘They’re called “Knock-Knock” jokes.’
‘Okay then.’ Zakuro said, trying to hide her irritability.
‘No, you say “Moo who”.’
‘Fine then. Moo who?’
‘Moo who, I’m a cow.’
Zakuro was unimpressed with the joke but smiled a little bit. Agemaki leaned in. ‘May I kiss you?’
‘Yes.’ He leaned in again and Zakuro readied her lips. Instead, he kissed the bridge of her nose.
4. A kiss on the cheek means friendship.
Agemaki had family in the West and Zakuro thought that explained a lot about him. It explained why he was so frivolous and blonde. She was disappointed when he came home from a trip back to his Manor and had to explain to her that there had been a death in the family. She later wanted to cry for him because she knew how heart-wrenching and life-changing those sorts of tragedies could be. Agemaki wanted to convince her otherwise. He wanted to tell her that he barely knew this Great Uncle and it wasn’t quite the disaster she was imaging but they mourned together anyway.
The following morning, Agemaki had to leave. His family wanted to take him away to France. ‘I’ll be back.’ Agemaki promised.
‘Stay well.’ Zakuro mumbled and Agemaki leaned it and gave her a kiss on both cheeks. she blushed in crimson hues embarrassedly. He refrained from giggling.
‘In France, it is customary between close people to do that. Or at least that’s what my little sister tried to convince me.’
‘It’s just not proper here, th-that’s all.’ Zakuro stuttered. They farewelled soon after.
5. A kiss on the forehead means I comfort you.
It had been a fine morning and everyone was enjoying the softness of the sun and the gentility of the breeze, even though most had chores. There wasn’t anything out of the ordinary about this morning though it seemed they mightn’t get any requests. However, something did strike Agemaki (and the other boys) as odd. Zakuro had missed breakfast. The girls would simply look sympathetic whenever someone tried to bring it up.
By lunch, Zakuro still hadn’t left her room and as her intended, this severely concerned Agemaki. He was just about to knock on the door to his girlfriend’s room when Susukihotaru had stopped him. ‘Ssh, she’s feeling a bit under the weather, if you will.’ The short-haired Half-Spirit was carrying a plate. Balanced on the plate was a tea pot and a pouch of what Agemaki assumed to be medicine. ‘Do you know what she has? She’s not contagious, is she?’ Agemaki worried.
‘Contagious? Don’t be silly.’ Susukihotaru whispered. ‘But I don’t think Zakuro would be erm, in the mood for too many visitors.’ Just as Susukihotaru finished her sentence an anguished moan was pushed through the door.
‘Susukihotaru!’ Zakuro yelled. ‘I’m dying!’
Agemaki’s eyes went wide when he heard this. Deep down he knew she was exaggerating but he was swept up in the moment. He opened the door and saw Zakuro rolled up under the covers like a cocooned caterpillar. She groaned when she saw the blonde. ‘I’m feeling sick, Agemaki. I’m not in the mood.’ This didn’t stop Agemaki.
‘Are you sure? You’re very pale.’ Agemaki fussed.
‘I’ll be good soon.’ Zakuro pouted and Susukihotaru poured the dark-haired Half-Spirit some tea.
‘You’ll feel better once you drink this.’ Susukihotaru said and passed her friend the cup. Reluctantly, Zakuro gulped down the drink then cringed.
‘Gross... it’s so bitter.’ Zakuro whined.
‘Wouldn’t you like us to leave?’ Susukihotaru asked.
‘That’d be good... I just wanna sleep.’ Zakuro said and Susukihotaru got up and took her plate with her. Agemaki gave his intended a peck on her forehead and she blushed profusely and muttered “idiot” under her breath. She didn’t feel as droopy suddenly.
Agemaki left Zakuro’s room, still curious to what ailment Zakuro had come down with. A few days later, Zakuro was right as rain and he still didn’t know. Hanakiri claimed to have worked out what affliction Zakuro had succumbed to and refused to tell, more like he couldn’t. The twins would cut him off whenever, much to Zakuro’s embarrassment.
6. A kiss on the neck means I want you.
Even though they were officially a couple now, Kushimatsu was still fine to let them be. She even let them go on another solo mission. She’d been told it would be a short day trip to the next town over to do some negotiating. Some young Spirit was stealing apples from a farmer: it should be a small negotiation. The two had been told that they should try, they make it that the Spirit could earn the food it wants to take from the farmer. Kushimatsu thought that would be a helpful compromise.
However, due to bad weather, Zakuro and Agemaki had been left alone in a foreign place together. The farming family were there but what could they do against youngsters in love? Kushimatsu couldn’t believe such a thing happened on her watch.
Now Agemaki and Zakuro were in a small room, together. They were thankfully in different futons but the thoughts were definitely there. The farming family, the Fujiyamas, had a small house and only one guest room and it was mostly used for storage.
Mamezo was the only thing separating the two beds. The couple in question had spent most the night talking, gossiping and just enjoying each other without touching. They didn’t want to break the trust they had with the white fox Spirit. Kei let out a yawn.
‘I’m tired, Zakuro, I think I’ll roll over and sleep,’ Kei said but rolled closer to Zakuro. She began to blush furiously.
‘N-No, I’m not ready.’ she stammered.
‘I know.’ he said and leaned closer. ‘Good night, my love.’ Agemaki murmured and gave her a quick peck on her neck before returning to his futon. Zakuro rolled away from him and hid underneath her sheets. She was as red as the fruit she was named for.
Mamezo was none the wiser that this display of affection took place.
7. A kiss on the shoulder means you are wonderful.
It had become a ritual of some kind, for Agemaki and Zakuro to enjoy each other’s company on the back deck onlooking the courtyard every evening. Everyone in the house knew to avoid the area whenever the night was in full bloom. ‘I love you.’ Zakuro said and she leaned onto her intended again. She put her head against his shoulder and put his head over hers, it was a shame she wasn’t taller: they’d fit well like that with his head against hers while she enjoyed his upper bicep. ‘I love you too, Zakuro.’ Agemaki murmured. He felt a slight brush against his sleeve and saw Zakuro giving his shoulder a quick kiss. ‘You are wonderful.’ Zakuro said.
8. A kiss anywhere else... Be careful you two!
Due to the fact that the tanuki maids had come down with the flu, and the flower viewing season was upon them once more, Zakuro and Agemaki stepped up and decided to help out with the preparation of food. Everyone else was too busy with things like getting the good china out again and making sure the mats were clean. It was a shame though that two of their good friends wouldn’t be able to come though.
Zakuro was in charge of cutting the carrots into flower shapes while it was Agemaki’s job to clean the vegetables so they would be right for preparation. Zakuro was humming a little tune and Agemaki had his back to her. The chop, chop, chop of the knife was as constant as the splashes Agemaki was creating in the pot. ‘Ouch!’ Zakuro suddenly yelped and the sound of the knife clattered against the table. Agemaki spun around instantly. Zakuro kept her cutting hand close to her chest. Teeny-tiny tears welled up in her dark eyes.
‘Are you okay, Zakuro?’ Agemaki asked and the Half-Spirit gingerly showed him her hand. She had a tiny slice to her finger. Agemaki wanted to laugh. He had seen her endure worse. ‘Give it here.’ he said gently. Zakuro held out her hand and Agemaki lifted it to his lips. He put a small kiss on injury. ‘Is the pain gone yet?’ he asked with a cheeky wink. Zakuro jerked her hand back and blushed.
‘Y-Yes.’ she spluttered in surprise. ‘Get back to work.’ Zakuro commanded once she had gotten over the small act of affection.
9. Playing with hair means I can’t live without you.
Zakuro leaned in towards Agemaki with an amused smile. She put her hands near his head and he didn’t seem to mind. His hair looked so much paler in the dim light. She began to run her hands through his blonde hair. ‘What are you doing?’ he asked. ‘I don’t mind it or anything.’
‘You have such soft hair.’ Zakuro mumbled. ‘It’s a shame it’s on the head of an idiot who can’t tell good jokes.’
10. Holding hands means you’re a happy couple.
Last year, Zakuro and Agemaki had been complete strangers. Zakuro had hated the blonde with a passion and Agemaki was struggling to try and make the girl trust him. Now, they were inseparable: best friends and hopelessly in love with each other.
Their hands were intertwined.
Last year, the humans had not been so kind. They had given the Half-Spirits and soldiers a variety of disapproving looks and mutters. Gossiping maliciously, slandering their presence.
Oh, how things changed. It was ridiculous to think such harmony had been achieved in such short time. The humans were greeting them like old neighbours. Zakuro and Agemaki could barely contain their affection for each other. They were giggling like children and faces as red as roses.
11. Arms around the waist means that you’re mine and I need you.
The scent of cherry blossoms perfumed the air. The pink petals scattered on the wind. Once again, the Department of Spirit Affairs were able to secure a good area of the park in order to enjoy the flower viewing. This time, instead of being greeted with the usual disdain and whispers, the soldiers, the Spirits and Half-Spirits were welcomed warmly.
They set up and were soon enjoying the food Agemaki and Zakuro had prepared. It was interesting to watch the children play and watch the awkward couple of Susukihotaru and Riken feed each other. It wasn’t just love in the air for Agemaki and Zakuro. ‘We should try that.’ Zakuro suggested in quiet to her partner. She glanced back at Susukihotaru who was holding the chopsticks for her partner Riken.
‘Perhaps.’ Agemaki said and he slumped into Zakuro’s lap.
‘Not like this.’ Zakuro said. He went from having his back against her to his stomach. Agemaki took the opportunity to wrap his arms around the Half-Spirit’s waist.
‘I heard, in class once, that the Romans or the Greeks from Europe would have servants feed them like this.’ he said.
‘Well I’m not your servant.’ Zakuro retorted.
‘Get a room you two!’ the twins cooed. They were also feeding their partner. Only without the gentle pace Susukihotaru was treating Riken with. Hanakiri had a mouth filled with knot-roots again. Perhaps some things wouldn’t change. ‘An’ jus’ so you know!’ Hanakiri tried to argue with what Agemaki had said. Crumbs fell down his front. Before he could continue with is protest, the twins shut him up quickly by feeding him more of the curly vegetables.
12. A hug means I care.
It had been a week and a day since Zakuro’s bout with her mysterious illness. The two had the house to themselves at the moment. The twins and Hanakiri had been sent on a mission, more simple negotiation. Susukihotaru and Riken were running errands with the Tanuki maids; the master of the house was out with Kushimatsu. The two had decided that they’d spoil Sakura and Kiri today by taking them to the park. Mamezo was still home but he was asleep.
Zakuro was swinging her legs off the veranda and Agemaki was sitting next to her. The two were overlooking the courtyard and had a tea set between. They were enjoying light chatter and the breeze. Since they’d run out of gossip, they were allowing companionable silence. Then Agemaki remembered last week. He hoped he wouldn’t offend Zakuro by asking her:
‘Are you alright? It’s just you seemed pretty badly ill, last week.’
‘Oh, I’m fine. Perfect even.’ Zakuro responded almost instantly.
‘You wanna talk about it? Not that you have to, or anything. It’s just, I still don’t know if what you had was the flu or something else. I’m told it wasn’t contagious though.’
Zakuro giggled. ‘You’re so innocent. But I suppose you ought to know. It’s something all women have to deal with.’
‘Oh...’ Agemaki said. ‘I get it now.’ He put his arm around his girlfriend and snuggled in closer.
‘Took you long enough.’ Zakuro snarked. She snuggled in closer to him. She was glad that he cared about her wellbeing like that.
‘Poor Kimiko... I heard that sort of thing was bad, I just hope she doesn’t get it.’ Agemaki commented.
‘I’m sure you’re little sister will be perfectly time when she starts transitioning to adulthood.’ Zakuro said. ‘I’m surprised that you’re, well, not surprised. Kushimatsu was when it was the first time I had it. I suppose most Half-Spirits don’t get to, um, this stage of life.’
13. Smiling at each other means I like you.
Zakuro, being the sore loser and competitive spirit she was, refused to stop playing games until she won. Eventually, they gave up and rigged it so that she could win. Zakuro of course was too focused on her cards and was oblivious to the rather blatant arrangement. Agemaki tossed her some cards in mock defeat. ‘You win.’ he announced melodramatically but the effect that had on Zakuro’s face was worth the cheating. She lit up like a lamp with a bright smile which made Agemaki smile.
14. Raising eyebrows and winking means flirting.
Zakuro found it quite cruel that Agemaki had found time to play during France because he had brought back playing cards as a souvenir, along with a myriad of games they could play using the cards.
The twins were eager to learn the various games and soon everyone was engaged in a game of “Go Fish”. The children were content and happy. Susukihotaru was proving herself as being quite good and remembering what cards had been going where, unlike Zakuro who was sorely losing. She kept glancing at Agemaki who would shrug or wink at her. Soon, Zakuro had begun to retaliate and whenever he glanced at her, she would raise her eyebrows and wink back. Their exchanges had become quite amusing to the twins.
15. Looking away means hiding your feelings.
It was no secret in the Department of Spirit Affairs that Agemaki was very in love with Zakuro or that Zakuro was very in love with Agemaki. What was a little less-than-known fact was that Kei’s father was very against Spirits.
Mr Agemaki’s prattling was torture to Zakuro’s bound ears. She thought the pain of hiding them was bad but no, Mr Agemaki’s voice grating against her made her skin crawl. His prejudiced views were revolting. There was no exit. She couldn’t just leave the table, but how she wished. Zakuro loved Mrs Agemaki and Kei’s little sister, Kimiko but what she couldn’t tolerate was Mr Agemaki. She thought about untying her hair and telling the truth but every time she glanced at Kei he avoided her eyes. They’d been having a silent conversation the whole night. The plates were clean but they couldn’t leave just yet, at least not until the master of the house allowed it.
Zakuro glanced pleadingly at Kei and their gazes were held for a second. Then Kei’s golden eyes went back down to the table and Zakuro wanted to let out a huff. He was such a coward! His father wouldn’t behave as such if someone at this table was able to grow a spine.
But Zakuro didn’t act out on her impulse. She respected Kei’s decision to keep the secret a little longer, even though every other member of his family knew about Zakuro’s ears and her mutual love for Kei.
16. Tender kiss on the side of your lips means you’re mine.
Zakuro almost panicked when she woke up because she was facing an unfamiliar ceiling but then she remembered that she and Agemaki were on a mission, a trip. She turned towards him. Mamezo was strewn across his face. It made her smile, seeing the two looking like that. ‘Good morning,’ she sang and Mamezo didn’t stir. Nor did Agemaki. They could both be heavy sleepers when they wanted to. Zakuro crept across the futon and pushed Mamezo aside. ‘Good morning.’ she tried again and gave Agemaki a tender kiss on the side of his lips. His right eye opened and Zakuro just stared. ‘You were faking it.’ she said.
‘I had a feeling you’d kiss me good morning if I waited.’ Agemaki said. ‘I hope you get to kiss me good morning for a loooong time to come.’
‘Same.’ Zakuro murmured. The two smiled sweetly at each other. Mamezo was still ungracefully asleep, again ignorant to the affection the two shared in.
17. Licking your lips means waiting for a kiss.
It wasn’t unusual for the happy couple while enjoying each other’s presence in the dusk, for them to share after dinner treats, such as bamboo candies. Tonight was one such night.
‘I got something for you, from that new sweet shop – the one you said you didn’t like since it was so western.’ Agemaki said.
‘You didn’t have to get me any treats.’ Zakuro said. ‘Especially from there.’
‘I just thought you’d like it. They’re like the bamboo candies only made from fruits, plus they’re on sticks.’ Agemaki said and showed one of the candies to Zakuro. It was just a little glistening, red ball on a stick. Zakuro didn’t see anything too harmful from it, or interesting. ‘I suppose I could try it.’ she said and accepted it graciously.
She carefully put it to her tongue. It was sugary and tasted like apples. ‘It’s nice.’ Zakuro said stubbornly. ‘I suppose.’ She licked her lips; the candy left some kind of sweet residue on her lips. Agemaki looked into her eyes. ‘Aren’t you getting mature, more accepting of other people’s cultures.’ he said.
‘Maybe I am more mature.’ she said. While she was occupied with admiring her own self-growth, Agemaki swooped in and kissed her. Her lips were fragrant with sweets; so were his.