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Journey of Words

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The first time they meet, nothing happens.

No words show up on their skin, despite the fact that they speak to each other several times over the course of the week Miyuki spends at the shrine.

This is not uncommon, as they are children, and Soulmates, common as they are, tend not to be revealed until later in life, usually in junior high or high school.

But the looks Yukimasa gives them over that week of vacation don’t go unnoticed by Miyuki: his father looks confused, and then pleased, for reasons that Miyuki cannot discern.

His father’s never really been that much of a father, so the looks don’t really concern Miyuki at first.

He chooses to ignore them, and Izumiko doesn’t seem to notice at all.

--

They meet again, several years later, and his father’s gaze is critical as he searches visible skin for words that could mean something.

When he finds none, Yukimasa smiles somewhat smugly and makes some stupid comment about Miyuki being Izumiko’s servant, and Miyuki loses it and leaves the room to wander the mountain, only to be joined later by his father-who’s-not-really-a-father, who beats him so soundly that Miyuki wonders if he’s going to die.

So he says yes, he’ll transfer to Izumiko’s stupid country school, and he’ll live at the shrine, and he’ll learn to protect the ugly hick because it beats getting killed.

--

After they begin to attend Houjou together, the look on his father’s face is one of slight displeasure as the words show up on his arm: Sagara Miyuki. I will remember that name henceforth.

By now, Miyuki knows about Soulmates, and he doesn’t even bother asking his father what the words mean.

Obviously they mean he’s destined to be with the hime-gami, or with Izumiko, or both if they do happen to be one in the same.

For some reason this bothers his father, but Miyuki puts it out of his mind.

The words are somewhat embarrassing, but they’ll be covered if he wears long sleeves, so he can avoid questions, at least, for which he’s grateful.

--

It startles him, then, to find words over his ribcage after that night in the other plane.

Come here, right now! is scrawled carefully over the place his phone had been, and Miyuki sighs and goes to join Izumiko at the bonfire, wondering what exactly this means.

Eventually, Izumiko begins to tell him that she needs to think about his comment about needing to know that she needs him, and Miyuki finds it hard to stay awake, what with running through phases and fighting ghosts to get to her.

He does manage to put his hand over hers before he nods off, though her surprised squeak keeps him awake just long enough for him to notice her hand slipping over his.

He doesn’t know if she knows or not, but the gesture is enough to put him at ease before sleep overcomes him.

--

When the school year ends without a visible phrase appearing on Izumiko’s body, Miyuki begins to wonder.

Perhaps he’s destined to serve the hime-gami, and nothing more, despite the phrase over his ribs. Maybe Izumiko and the hime-gami are one in the same, after all.

The thought makes him scowl, and Yukimasa gives him another smug, I told you so smile, and Miyuki storms off so as not to punch his father in the face.

Izumiko finds him at the top of the mountain later, sits down quietly next to him and sets her hand gently over the sentences on his arm.

“I get it,” Miyuki says quietly, avoiding her gaze. “I’m supposed to serve the hime-gami, and that’s all.”

He hasn’t bothered to show her the writing on his ribs yet, for reasons even he himself can’t quite figure out.

Izumiko’s fingers tense up on his arm and she says quietly, “I’m sorry. I’ve been trying to think of a way to tell you.”

She leaves it at that for the moment and Miyuki assumes she’s finished, but then her hand is leaving his arm and tugging at her shirt and Miyuki flushes and looks away because what is she doing???

“I noticed it that night when I was getting ready for bed. It’s not exactly in a place I wanted to show everyone,” Izumiko whispers, timid and yet somehow hopeful.

Miyuki turns to look at her then, and his eyes widen as he takes in the words just above her heart: Come back to me, Izumiko!

“You—You’ve known since then?” he asks in a whisper, wanting to reach out and touch the phrases but forcing himself to keep his hands at his sides.

She’d known since that night at the castle keep, and hadn’t said anything??

He can see why she hasn’t shown him the mark yet, but to not tell him about it?

Had she told Souda? She’d told her about their ordeal at the keep, so it would make sense for her to have confided in her roommate about her mark, as well.

Miyuki finds that he doesn’t want to ask.

Izumiko pulls her shirt back into place as she replies, “I was afraid. You had just spent so much time trying to get me to return to you, and I was afraid that telling you when we had so much to do for the festival would—I don’t know—I was scared!”

She nearly sobs the last few words, and Miyuki sighs as he reaches for her carefully, pulling her close.

“You told me. That’s what’s important.”

Izumiko sniffles and Miyuki smiles, glad they’re both aware.

When her tears have subsided and Izumiko is calmer, Miyuki tugs his shirt up to reveal the words on his ribs—her words, Izumiko realizes; he can see it from the tears in her eyes.

She reaches out to touch them, and then draws her hand back, hesitant as she glances at him.

Miyuki shrugs in response, and Izumiko’s fingers land very gently on the words, tracing them so lightly that he barely feels it.

“I’m sorry it took me so much longer to figure it out,” she whispers, the tears trickling over again as her fingers leave his skin.

Miyuki drops his shirt back into place and reaches to wipe the tears away, assuring her quietly, “It took me a while, too.”

He remembers that night at the castle keep, the way the hime-gami had acted with him, and how desperate he had been to just have Izumiko back.

“But you still have her words on you, too,” Izumiko observes tearfully, motioning to his arm. “What does that mean?”

In every book he’s ever read and every story he’s ever heard about Soulmates, Miyuki has never once discovered anyone else with two Soulmate marks, and it’s puzzled him for a while, too.

“I think,” he says slowly, taking Izumiko’s hand in his, “it means I’m supposed to help you and the hime-gami. You said she chose me, right?”

Izumiko blinks at him, and then says, “Yes, Sagara-san said she had.”

“My guess is that if—when—we find a way to keep the hime-gami from destroying humanity, her words might disappear.”

Izumiko blinks again as she processes that, and then she smiles.

--

Years later, when the hime-gami is no longer a threat, and Izumiko finally feels normal, Miyuki traces the words over her heart as her fingers skim the ones on his arm.

The hime-gami’s words have not left his skin, but now they serve as a reminder of how far they’ve come together.

They’ve been through much in these last several years, and he smiles as he remembers their first encounters.

Izumiko blinks at him curiously, wondering aloud, “We certainly got off on the wrong foot, didn’t we?”

Miyuki reaches for her hand, running a finger over the wedding band there, and kisses the back of her hand.

“We did. But we figured it out.”

“Your father wasn’t happy when he realized,” Izumiko recalls, frowning, and Miyuki squeezes her hand.

“But we were,” he reminds her with a smile.

His father had been less than unhappy after realizing that Izumiko’s skin bore Miyuki’s words.

Her grandparents had taken it in stride, having decided long ago that Miyuki was a nice boy.

Yukariko and Daisei had been surprised, but had both decided there wasn’t much they could do about it.

Yukariko had observed Miyuki carefully, in a way that had made him slightly uncomfortable, before smiling approvingly at him.

Daisei had simply shaken his hand and asked him to continue protecting Izumiko.

Miyuki had nodded in confirmation, ignoring the way Izumiko’s hand had tightened around his own.

It had taken several years, and a lot of discussion with their parents and the Souda siblings and others who knew them, but eventually they had found a way to keep the hime-gami from once again destroying humanity.

She had disappeared, promising that Izumiko was the final vessel and they had successfully saved the world.

Even after all of that, her words remained, a reminder of the journey they had taken together.

This afternoon, as they had said their vows, a new journey had started, but they would never forget the one that had brought them together in the first place.

Miyuki wouldn’t trade that journey for the world.