Rating/Genre: PG-13. Romance / Supernatural-AU
Character(s)/Pairing(s): Greece/fem!Japan, Chiharu = fem!Osaka. Also includes a cat.
Warnings: None, unless you’re allergic to cats and gender-bends.
Summary: In which Herakles pays a visit.
fas·ci·nate / verb. / - to arouse the interest or curiosity of; allure
the spring rain;
a little girl teaches
the cat to dance
As the rains gradually ceased and the days grew warmer, so did the intensity of Kiku's dance lessons. The Kyo Odori was held annually when summer gradually eased to autumn, when the leaves begin to turn and dusted the landscape in a plethora of shades – from golden yellow and burnt copper-orange to brilliant flares of fire red. For the past two years since her debut as a maiko, Kiku never failed to participate in the event. As reserved as she was around crowds, she loved music and dancing. And she loved the odori even more.
It would seem strange at first, to those who didn't know her, of course. How could someone so reserved, someone who felt so out of place and shy, revel being on stage? How was she able to captivate and awe the audience, being the centre of attention during the dance?
Kiku didn't know how to explain it either. But she knew that when the music began to play and when she held out her fan before her, she was ready. She could feel the adrenaline thrumming within her, with every thrill of the note, every beat of the drums. When the music finally reached its highest pitch, she would twirl and turn, the folds of her kimono sleeve flaring out from around her in graceful arcs and swirls, like the waves of the sea crashing against the shore.
And she would dance, feeling the music course through her, the song thrumming in her veins and into every movement of her body.
“That’s enough for today’s practice.” Madam Hinoe said once the music ended. She was the headmaster the dance school, overseeing all practices for the odori. “You dance beautifully, Kiku.”
“Thank you, Madam Hinoe, you’re too kind.” Kiku said, bowing politely. She was too modest to admit it aloud, but the headmaster’s praise always made Kiku feel happy. Encouraged, she would continue to practice her dances when she got home, perfecting all of her moves late into the night.
It was during one of her late-night practices, she heard a peculiar sound outside. It began softly at first – the pit-a-pattering of tiny feet against the wooden floor of the veranda.
Mice? She wondered, pausing mid-way in her dance to listen. She had never seen any in the okiya before; Madam Sakaguchi was terribly strict about housekeeping and cleanliness. Perhaps it was just Pochi, sniffing about inquisitively. He was not exactly allowed into the house, but because everyone was fond of the dog, they didn’t really mind if he occasionally found his way inside.
Kiku moved to the door, sliding it open, only to see that it wasn’t Pochi but a cat that had found its way on the veranda – a calico cat that looked all-too-familiar.
The cat squeaked, almost dropping the piece of grilled squid she held between her jaws. Kiku had to suppress her laugh with her sleeve. She moved forward, kneeling down beside the cat.
“Mii-muu!” the cat mumbled incoherently through a mouthful of squid.
“Hello,” Kiku said. “I’m sorry I frightened you, but what are you doing here?”
“Nagi has a bad habit of sneaking into places at night.”
Kiku looked up at the sound of footsteps and she saw Heracles approaching the veranda from the garden. Pochi was following closely at the boy’s heels, wagging his tail ecstatically.
The cat gulped down the remaining bits of her food. “Don’t blame me. This was your idea.”
At Nagi’s reply, Kiku turned to Herakles, eyebrows raised questioningly. Herakles gave her a tiny, almost sheepish smile, like a child who’d been caught playing pranks on his elders.
“Sorry,” he said, “I was curious and thought of exploring the city. We usually only skirt around the border, but I was bored and wanted to see more. And I was hoping we might have a chance to see you again.”
Kiku felt her cheeks colour at his words. “Ah, I see… but how did you know where I lived?”
“I didn’t,” Herakles said. “Nagi caught a whiff of something delicious and she practically ran into your garden.” He looked over the cat, who was now cleaning her whiskers nonchalantly.
“Grilled squid is hard to come by when you live in a forest,” Nagi said matter-of-factly. She brushed against Kiku’s ankles, purring.
“You said you’d wanted to see me again.” Kiku said as she brushed a hand over the cat. “May I ask why?”
Herakles tilted his head sideways, gazing at her. “You’re the first person who didn’t run away when you saw us in the forest… even now, you’re not afraid of Nagi, even though it isn’t everyday you meet a talking cat.”
To say she was not afraid would be somewhat a lie, but Kiku knew that wasn’t what Herakles was implying. She had been afraid, but she was also far more curious than afraid. It was as if one of her dreams had bled into reality, melding seamlessly into her everyday life. Had she secretly hope for it to happen before? Possibly, when she had been but a child; she knew better as she grew older. But now that the circumstance had presented itself to her, she couldn’t say that she was not in the least bit intrigued by it.
“Why do you live in the forest alone? And Nagi… is she really just a talking ‘cat’?” she asked. She was not usually so bold, so forward with her words, but the questions had been gnawing at her for days.
And she still dreamt of the boy – of Herakles – perched upon the back of the giant carp, skimming under the moon, over the midnight blue of the sea.
“Kiku-san! Are you still practicing your dance? Eh, Kiku-san, are you not in the room before? Where are you?”
At the sound of Chiharu’s voice, Nagi bristled, scampering off the veranda back towards where Herakles stood.
“It’s getting late. We should be going.” Herakles lifted Nagi up to his shoulder, before turning away to leave“Sorry for causing such a disturbance at this hour.”
“Ah wait–!” Kiku called after Herakles’ retreating back. But she heard Chiharu’s approaching footsteps and she fell silent, not wanting to give them away. Madam Sakaguchi would not take kindly to the knowledge that a male stranger – even if he was only a youth – had walked uninvited into the vicinity of their home.
“Perhaps, if you’re still interested,” She could hear Herakles’ soft voice drifting towards her, even as he left the garden. “I could tell you more tomorrow morning.”
“Kiku-san, there you are! It’s time for dinner.” Chiharu said, popping up from the room behind her. She looked questioningly at Kiku, who was still gazing out straight ahead of her from the veranda. “Whatever are you doing out here?”
Kiku blinked and then, turning to face her friend, bowed apologetically. “Oh, it’s nothing. I thought I heard something outside and found that it was only a cat who’d taken a fancy to our gardens.”
“Hehh, so it is! It’s quite a pretty cat, isn’t it? Even if it’s a little on the plump side.”
Pacing about on the garden fence, the calico cat gave a tiny hiss, her bobtail twitching this way and that.
Kiku only chuckled, shaking her head. “Come on, Chiharu. It won’t do for us to keep the others waiting while dinner gets cold.”
The cat continued to watch as the girls disappeared back into the house, sliding the shōji door closed behind them. Then, prickling her ears in the dark, she sneezed lightly and jumped off to other side of the fence, disappearing back into the shadows.
to be continued... soon enough ! ^^; I hope you've enjoyed reading the first three acts.