Shinigami Chapter 29

Kyō no Miyako

Kyō no Miyako: Ancient Kyoto

Eventually, Hiro did have to let Ryū go, lest they lose important daylight.

He skipped and whistled all the way back to the hut. He even considered singing. He would have sworn the clouds were actually below his feet.

But once he was back, the day moved in slow torture. Hiro prepared some rice and fed it to the fox, who’d regressed to snapping at him. Then he went hunting, until he got bored and returned home empty-handed. He decided fishing would be more successful. He found the stick Ryū used as a spear, pulled up the legs of his trousers, and waded into the shallow banks of the lake. He managed to catch four medium-sized trout, which he skinned and cooked over the fire. 

“I’m happy,” he told the fox. “This is good. He cares for me too.”

He boiled some water and added a few drops of sandalwood and a quarter of a kikyo root. They had ripped strips from their own garments to make bandages for the fox, but her dressing had become dirty. Hiro removed the soiled strips from her stumpy leg, cleaned the wound with the sterile water, and tied it back up with a fresh bandage. It was healing nicely. She didn’t even bother to growl at him, but she did yip to demand some more food.

The sun dropped over the mountain and night came. Tsukuyomi ruled the night sky, assuming the shape of a full moon captured in a net of shimmering stars. 

Hiro lit a torch and posted himself near the mountain path where Ryū would appear. Not long later, he heard footsteps and splintering twigs, and then he saw a small lantern dangling on a stick.

“Ryū? Is that you?” Hiro called to the darkness. 

“It’s me,” Ryū answered, panting. He dropped the basket from his back and rushed over to Hiro, taking his hand and pulling him toward the other side of the mountain.

“How was it?”

“Later,” Ryū said. “We must go now or we’ll miss it.”

“Miss what?”

“It’s a surprise.”

They were headed in the same direction that Inari had taken Hiro before Kannazuki. 

“Where are we going?” He heard music and panicked. “Ryū, stop, where are we going?”

“I told you, it’s a surprise. Come, you’ll love it.”

They pushed through bushes and walked under the guiding light of their torch, deep within the forest. The music was louder now. 

“Ryū, we have to stop right away.” Hiro planted his feet, halting both of them. “It’s not safe.”

“It’s a festival, Hiro. I saw the people in the city preparing for it. They were lighting the watch fires in front of the houses as I left. I tried to get here as soon as possible so I could show it to you.” He pulled his hand. “Trust me.” 

“A festival?”

Hiro concentrated on the music. Taiko drums were being played, and a choir of voices shouted from below. It wasn’t the sound of a koto.

The night was getting colder. They ducked under a beech branch which was barring the path, and then they had to clamber over several fallen cryptomerias that had been victims of the lightning. Finally, they reached a promontory that projected into a lowland and ended in a cliff.

In the darkness of the forest, under the light of the torch, Ryū’s smile was splendid as his grip tightened on Hiro’s hand. “Just a few more steps,” he said. “We’re almost there.”

In the distance, Kyō no Miyako burned bright. Men carried huge illuminated torches on their shoulders and shouted prayers for Kagutsuchi, the Fire God. 

“I heard in the market that the festival for the Fire God was planned for tonight. I thought it might please you to see the fires from above.”

Hiro watched the torches dance in the night. He couldn’t believe he’d forgotten. The praise-filled singing echoed beautifully in his ears.

“How did you know? The Fire Festival is my favorite.”

“I didn’t,” Ryū admitted. “It’s just that it’s my favorite too.”

They sat on the cliff, feet dangling over the edge as they took it all in. Hiro thought the warmth flowing through his veins might melt him. This felt like ultimate happiness.

“Thank you, Ryū.”

Ryū nodded and squeezed Hiro’s fingers.

“Do you remember the story of the Fire God I told you?” Hiro asked.

“I do, but tell me again.” 

“Izanami was wounded giving birth to the Fire God,” Hiro said. “The flames burned her legs and her womb, damaging her body irreparably. She died in Izanagi’s arms. In his anger and grief, her husband drew his sword and killed his son. Then he traveled to the land of Yomi to bring the love of his life back from the dead.”

“And was he successful?” Ryū asked.

“No. He failed.” Hiro continued, “I was amazed every time I read that story. The greatness of Izanagi’s love for his wife—that he would go to the Land of the Dead to try to get her back. He was ready to sacrifice the glory of everything he was as a god.”

“I think that’s how real love feels,” Ryū said, his eyes shimmering. “And when you lose it, it feels like losing a part of yourself.”

Gods, he is beautiful, Hiro thought.

Ryū blushed and looked away. “Don’t listen to my ramblings. What do I know?”

The ground was cold when Hiro put his palm down and leaned forward. With his other hand, he brushed Ryū’s cheek. “I like listening to you. You always make sense.”

The kagerō began to rise around them. An owl called. Hiro pulled Ryū toward him and their eyes met again briefly. Then Ryū dropped his to Hiro’s lips and let himself be guided.

It started tentative. The kiss held nothing of the crushing wave that had overcome them that morning. It was shy, and it was the most perfect thing in the world. Ryū’s soft lips, his breathing as it melded with Hiro’s, his noises as Hiro deepened the kiss… all of it was divine and surreal.

Hiro wanted more. He wanted to feel Ryū along his entire body. When he pulled him closer, the sound that escaped from Ryū made his heart sing. 

They finally parted, their foreheads remaining pressed together as they steadied their shallow breaths. Kagerō was everywhere, sheltering them from the world, as if they were the only souls left.

Ryū looked out at the festival, and then he became serious as he turned back to Hiro. “I never thought my feelings for you would be returned. I didn’t let myself hope. You had everything, and I had nothing. I would happily have remained your servant until death. I couldn’t hope for more than that.” His voice broke, and he buried his face in Hiro’s chest.

I’d brought the kagerō to give them privacy. Kodama had gathered in the trees, centuries-old spirits, bored out of their wits and curious about the boys’ love. It didn’t feel right for them to encroach on this pure and private moment. It shouldn’t be tainted by anything. 

So I raised the kagerō and then left. I didn’t watch them. My heart had bled enough that morning.


Back at the hut, Hiro found himself being gently pushed onto the mat. He stretched out on his back, and Ryū gazed down at him. 

“What do you want?” Hiro asked, his blood pulsing fiercely.

“I can’t say it. It’s too embarrassing.” Ryū bit his lower lip and looked away. 

Hiro touched Ryū’s knee. “Don’t be embarrassed with me. Tell me what you want.”

Ryū flushed. “I want to know how it feels.” He paused, his brow furrowed in concentration.

Hiro’s hand traveled up his thigh. “Whatever you want to do, we can do it.”

Ryū didn’t move for a few moments. Then, slowly, he straddled Hiro. When he opened the front of his robe, Hiro’s mouth went dry. Ryū was naked underneath, and the head of his hard cock glistened.

“Have you ever touched yourself before?” Hiro asked.

Ryū nodded, his color deepening.

“Have you done it since we arrived here?” Hiro’s voice was hoarse.

When Ryū nodded again, Hiro closed his eyes and imagined Ryū in the thrall of his passion. “When?”

“In the early mornings. When I would wake up in your arms and feel your breath on my neck. I wanted to touch you but didn’t dare, and it was driving me insane.”

“So that’s why you wake first.”


Hiro reached up, folding Ryū in his arms and covering his words with a feverish kiss. Their bodies slowly ground together until Ryū let out a soft moan.

“Touch me,” Ryū begged.

Their robes were in the way. The air was in the way. Even their accursed skin was in the way. Hiro wanted to seize Ryū and hold his very soul. He wanted to make him his in every way he could. 

Hiro gripped Ryū’s swollen erection, eyes intent on his face. Ryū’s spine arched and another moan escaped as he leaned back and opened his legs to Hiro.

“I’ve thought about this,” Ryū murmured.

Hiro was doomed. He pushed himself upward and turned them both over. With Ryū lying beneath him, Hiro captured his lips and sucked teasingly at his tongue. Ryū rocked into him and slid their shafts together, and Hiro briefly wondered if he was going to survive this.

He squeezed his hand over both of their tips. They were leaking so much that it was easy to slide down the skin.

“Yes,” Ryū moaned. His hips shifted on the mat, and his sounds turned louder.

Hiro knew he wouldn’t last. He could feel the tightening in his balls as his strokes sped up. When Ryū’s hand covered his, Hiro’s climax seized him, and he let out an inhuman cry as his body rocked with spasms.

Ryū followed right away, spilling over and shaking with his own release. Hiro fell onto his chest, and they lay panting in each other’s arms.

“Heavens,” Ryū said. 

Hiro kissed the top of his head. “That was… I’m…”

“I know.”

“We should have done this earlier.”

Ryū nodded. “I can’t even move.”

Hiro laughed. He shifted and cleaned them both with the sleeve of his hitatare. “We’ll wash it tomorrow.”

When he drifted off to sleep, Hiro’s dreams were filled with beautiful images of the future.

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