Yakusoku: A promise
A raven croaked loudly, waking Hiro with a start. He touched the mat next to him and found it empty and cold.
“Ryū?” Maybe he had gone outside to break water. Hiro looked around the room and saw Ryū’s winter robe missing. The fox was gone too. “Where are you?” he called louder as he got out of bed. He lit the lantern from the market and stepped outside.
The buzz of summer insects died completely near the end of October. Surely Hiro’s mind was playing tricks on him, giving him the impression that he was hearing the song of a koto.
“Ryū!” He sprinted barefoot toward the path leading to the ayakashi. He flew past the lake, failing to see the silhouette watching the moon on the water’s surface.
Hiro stopped and his heart lurched into his throat. Ryū was sitting on one of the rocks that bordered the lake, serene in his winter robe. He held the fox on his lap as he petted her head.
Hiro ran over and grabbed him in a crushing embrace, squeezing the fox between them. She gave a loud yip of complaint and tried to wriggle free.
“You’re safe,” Hiro said breathlessly, his hands cupping Ryū’s cheeks.
Ryū was visibly startled. “Why wouldn’t I be?”
“I thought something had happened to you,” Hiro said, forcing down the lump in his throat.
Ryū’s hands brushed Hiro’s hair away from his face, long fingers combing through his tresses. “Of course I’m safe. What did you think was going to happen?”
“I… don’t know. You left in the middle of the night and I…” Hiro looked out at the lake. “What are you doing here?”
“The fox is not feeling well. She was moaning, and I didn’t want you to wake up.”
Hiro collapsed onto the rock. “Next time you consider disappearing in the middle of the night, let me know. I will come with you.”
The fox snorted.
“Someone’s jealous,” Ryū said, rubbing her ears. She stretched toward him.
“We should probably give her a name. She’s not leaving us anytime soon,” Hiro said.
“What should we call her?”
“How about Paw?”
“Paw.” Ryū raised the fox in his hands. “Do you like that?”
She yawned and licked her muzzle.
“Paw it is, then.”
They sat on the rocks and listened to the comforting silence of the autumn night.
“I’m serious. If you ever leave our bed again, tell me. Especially during Kannazuki. Yakusokuka.”
“Our bed. I like the sound of that.”
Hiro blushed. Our bed. His heart smiled as it replied, Yes. Our bed.
Ryū pecked his cheek. “I will.” He lowered his head onto Hiro’s shoulder. “Yakusoku. I promise.”
The stars twinkled above, and the world was at peace.