Suteki Da Ne
It was warm. Unusually warm. Though despite the sudden appearance of warmer weather, it was welcomed and appreciated. Especially for today. Raiden let a sigh out as he walked toward Haiken Shrine. Today marked two years. Two years since the disappearance of his beloved team leader. He had been the first to hear about it, even before his sensei's fiancee. That day still rang fresh in his mind as he looked up to the sky through the breaking trees. This shrine was the start. It had been the place where his team had gone on their first official mission together alongside team Kanmuri.
His eyes shifted then. Just a few paces ahead of him was that team leader. Kanmuri Byakko. Her pained face was brought back into his mind. She'd been torn up about the incident so much so that Raiden stayed at her place for a week after the incident, just to watch over her. He knew she wouldn't do anything drastic, but his concern for her safety was too overwhelming. He couldn't sleep and waited for her to be so exhausted so that she would sleep. For these past two years, he'd been by her side.
Kanmuri looked back at him and smiled softly, and of course, he smiled in return. He could see the pink headband in her hands and looked at it. She turned back to look at the upcoming shrine and he frowned. That headband which belonged to him was the only thing left. He was considered M.I.A two years ago...and yet, he still hadn't returned. Raiden saw the shrine in the distance and her back to him. She'd been devastated. He could still see her face...hear her crying in the night...feel her trembling in his arms...Everything had been shattered and he had to help her pick up the pieces.
They had stopped in front of the entrance to the shrine—he was still lost in his thoughts and almost didn't hear her.
“Hm?” He blinked and looked at her.
Kan had tilted her head to the side and looked at him, concern in her eyes. Concern for him. He shook his head. Raiden was the one who was supposed to be concerned for her, not the other way around. He smiled at her and placed a hand on her shoulder. She smiled weakly at him before nodding. Early that week they had visited the shrine, expecting the upcoming day. At first, he wasn't sure if she wanted to go through with this, but she'd knocked on his door today and told him she wanted to come here. And of course, he agreed.
“Are you...ready?” She asked him.
He nodded. Of course he was ready. The question was if she was ready. “I'm ready for whatever you want, Kan.” He told her softly as the wind whistled through the trees around them.
She nodded and bent down with the headband in place. Raiden watched as she placed it in the small hole they'd dug for it. He noticed how...calm she was today. She wasn't sad nor was she happy. She looked...accepting and for once, he could see her relax. The sun broke the trees then and he felt its warmth against his skin. Out of the corner of his eyes, he could see her fiddle with the small ring in her hands. Her engagement ring. She'd stopped wearing it about a year ago, and he could remember that day just as clear as the day he disappeared. He knew she'd made her peace by now, but he still kept his mouth shut as to not bring up anything that might upset her. All he wanted to do was support her the best he could. Just like he'd been doing since the day he decided to push those two together—of course they'd already been together a few times before that.
He gave a little smirk at the memory and watched as she came up. Raiden stood beside her and started to rub her back, feeling the softness of her hair in between his fingers. She took in a deep breath as she went to kneel back down and placed the ring on top of the village's crest in the headband, folding the fabric over top. She had moved on and he could tell. Kan was ready to put the past behind her now and all he could do was be there. After all, she was just as much as his best friend as he was hers.
As Kan started to bury the little mound of dirt over top of the headband, Raiden got down on his knees beside her. He wasn't very religious—never had been—but he still knew each prayer at each shrine, especially Haiken Shrine's prayer. He tilted his head down and muttered the prayer under his breath, hoping that the spirits would hear his wishes. All he wanted was for Kan to be happy again, and though she seemed fine to nearly everyone else, he knew. He knew the pain she still had and the happiness she hadn't experienced in a long time. If there was anything he could do to help her, he'd do it in a heartbeat.
Kan pat the dirt in place and then dug out seeds from her pocket. White camellia seeds. Raiden noticed them and smiled. He knew that his sensei would've liked these as well as Kan. She planted the seeds over top and he couldn't help but to think about the people who will pass by this shrine. This will be the only spot around the shrine where the camellias would grow and no one would know why. Well, except for them. They'd know. She gave a nod of her head as she whispered a prayer to herself before getting to her feet, Raiden following suit.
He looked at her and tilted his head to the side, watching her carefully. “How're you feeling?” He asked, a smile trying to touch his face.
She smiled back at him and he could tell that it was genuine. A warm feeling rushed through him as he witnessed her smile. It was beautiful, especially since she hadn't smiled like that in a long time. He had no choice but to smile back at her. “Peaceful,” she told him, and he felt it. He could see a sense of acceptance wash over her and he was relieved. Of course, Raiden knew she'd still be sad—just like she was sad about her teammates—but this was the life of a shinobi. Their lives weren't infinite.
He nodded at her and smiled. “Good,” slinging an arm around her, he started to walk away from the shrine. “So...where do you wanna go?” He asked. “We could get ice cream. My treat.”
Kan chuckled at him trying to bring a familiar feeling back to her, but she shook her head. “No...I think...I think I'd like to go to the lake. It's pretty warm out, so I bet the water's really wonderful.”
Raiden chuckled softly and nodded. “Alright, we can go there.” He smiled at her and directed their path to the lake.
It was a hidden lake near the outskirts of Omoichidou. Raiden and Kan had stumbled upon it a few years ago and ever since, it was their meeting place. Everything seemed to stop when they were there. It surprised him that no one had discovered it yet, but at the same time, he was happy. It was their lake. A special getaway from the every day life of the village. It was a place where they could go and talk for hours or simply swim in the warm waters and lose their fears or worries. It was special. Seeing the lake up ahead, Raiden let out a contented sigh. There was something about it that just made him...happy.
Kan must've noticed him because she turned to look at him and nudged his arm playfully. “And what's put you in a good mood, I wonder.”
He chuckled at her and shook his head. “Nothing. The weather is just,” he looked up at the clear sky and smiled, “Isn't it beautiful?”
She closed her eyes and sighed as her hands moved to clasp behind her back, smiling. “It really is.”
“Yeah...” he nodded, watching her. Something very soothing washed over him as his eyes rested on her. He smiled at the feeling and went over to the shore of the lake. He kicked his shoes off and moved in further so that the water could lap over his feet. Like the air around them, even the water was warm.
Kan opened her eyes and smiled as she imitated him and kicked off her shoes, squishing her toes into the sand beside him. She looked up at him and smiled further before she pushed away, moving forward into the water. Raiden watched as she went in and smiled. He could still remember when she was terribly afraid of the water, but thanks to his help, she'd learned to swim and conquer her fear. Her first fear, but not her last. As long as she needed him, he'd be there.
The sun had peeked behind a rolling cloud then and shone down on them. The light bounced off the surface of the water and was blinding at first, but Raiden's eyes adjusted. He simply looked over at her and stared. The light shimmered all around her as she was waist deep in the water and her hands glided on its surface. She seemed oblivious of the light. Kan looked as if she was glowing from the sun's light, making Raiden blink a few times. He couldn't believe what he was seeing. Surely his eyes were playing tricks on his mind. She couldn't really be glowing, right? Yet...he couldn't look away. He was awestruck and shook his head, chuckling. Perhaps he needed to move from where he was. That could help with the angle at which he was seeing her. So, he waded in behind her so that the water was up to his own waist.
Kan sighed contentedly and turned to look at him, raising an eyebrow at his approach. “And what're you chuckling about over there?”
Raiden continued to chuckle as he continued forward towards her. “Oh nothing,” he winked, “just a trick of the light.”
“Oh? How is it tricking you?”
“The water's catching the light and is making you all sparkly.” He told her. “You can't see it?”
“Eh?” Kan held her arms out in front of her as she tried to look for any sparkles. She tilted her head. “I...don't see anything.” She blinked.
He shrugged. “I guess my suspicions were right. It was a trick of the light.” He chuckled.
She rolled her eyes and crossed her arms over her chest, though a small smile spread across her lips. She stood there and stared out towards the rest of the lake, listening to the sound of the waves lapping around her and watched the sun shining off the waters. Raiden waded in further to stand next to her and look out at the lake as well. He cast a glance down at her and smiled softly, seeing as she hadn't noticed his eyes. Raiden saw a misplaced hair in her face and reached over, brushing it behind her ear.
“You've always like brushing my hair back it seems...” She looked up at him through her lashes and smiled a bit.
“It hides your face,” he smiled softly.
“Well...it's not a bad thing...” She took in a breath, her shoulders moving as she did so, and exhaled it.
“But,” he frowned a bit, “I like seeing your face.” He saw a light blush touch her cheeks as she turned to look at him, wanting to hear more. He moved a bit closer to her. “You know, there are other things I like seeing about you...”
She leaned back a bit and he could hear the nervousness in her tone. “O-Oh...?” She raised an eyebrow, her eyes completely on him.
He nodded. “Yeah...your smile is reassuring.”
He chuckled. “Yeah...Whenever I see it, I feel...safe.”
Kan tilted her head to the side and blinked. “Kind of a...strange thing...for a brother to say to his sister, no?” She chuckled nervously.
He stopped as something hit him. Those words: “brother” and “sister”. For some reason, they hurt. She hadn't used those words around them in two years. And now it hurt like someone slapped him in the face. “Not...really,” he shook his head, “Whenever I see Azuna's smile, it reassures me. It reminds me that she's still alive on the inside.” His smile was weak, not genuine.
But Kan smiled up at him. “Of course I'm still alive...Did you think otherwise?”
He frowned as the memories of these past two years flashed before him. “Yeah...at one point...a couple of years ago...” He admitted.
She looked at him and put a hand on his shoulder in an attempt to comfort him. Raiden didn't need comforting...at least, he didn't think. He was always the one who did that that he had no idea if he actually needed it. “I know...” she mumbled.
He placed his hand over hers and sighed. “But now...I feel safe...I know that you're alive.”
Kan smiled up at him. “I always will be. I made a promise, remember?”
Raiden nodded. He could remember vividly the day that they made that promise. It was only for precaution in case they were facing a clone, but the promise had far surpassed that purpose. Now, it ensured the safety of the other's life. He had made the same promise to her. “Yeah...I remember.” He smiled.
“I'll never go back on it.”
“Good,” he nodded and closed his eyes. Taking in a deep breath, he tried to sort through the sounds around them. There was a soft breeze that whistled through the trees. Birds called back on the shoreline. And then there was this soft rhythm beating nearby. Very nearby. It pulsated in his ears and the more he breathed, the more he could hear it. It was a very strong vibration and for some reason, it made him feel strange. It was like a little drum calling out to him...to march out into unknown territory. He placed his hands on Kan's shoulders to steady himself as the pulsation grew stronger.
Kan looked up at him and tilted her head to the side, a bit of worry in her eyes. “Raiden?” Her voice called softly to him, sending this pulsation even faster—now flowing through his whole body.
He tilted his own head to the opposite side and slowly opened his eyes. The light shone all around her again and shimmered. The wind now stopped and the bird's chirping along with it. He took in a deep breath as all he had left was the soft pounding of his heart and the pulsation in his body. “Hey...promise me something else.” He told her. Something forcefully strong seemed to move him, now causing him to tower over her.
She had tried to lean away from him, but she couldn't since his hands were on her shoulders. She brought her hands up to her chest and fiddled her fingers there for a bit before softly asking, “What...What else?”
His voice was barely audible as he whispered to her two simple words. “Don't. Move.” So very slowly, Raiden leaned his body down and moved his face so that it was mere inches away. He could feel her hot breath hit his face as she seemed frozen in time. Ever so gently, he grazed his lips with hers, startling her a bit. He could feel the chill run through her with surprise, but she wasn't the only one who felt a spark dance between them. Raiden didn't pull away after the initial touch and instead went forward. He brought her into a tender kiss, careful and slow. Her taste had reeled him in and he moved his hands from her shoulders down to her waist, pulling her into him.
Kan's eyes were wide as he kissed her. Her instincts acted before her will to keep a promise and she pushed away from him. Her breathing was just as heavy as his, but the fear in her eyes didn't match. “Raiden...Raiden what are you...doing...?” She blinked a few times.
He looked at her, his breathing heavy, and flushed. “I just...I just wanted to...see something...” He told her as he felt his heart racing in his chest and the pulsation only grew stronger.
“J-Just see something...you call that...just...just seeing...something...?” Her voice hitched up an octave.
He nodded and took a step closer. “Kan...” Kan just stood there, her eyes wide and staring. He couldn't tell what she was thinking but the fear in her gaze was great. How could he have been so stupid? What had he just done? He stood in place and cast his eyes away from her, frowning. “I'm...sorry.” She still stayed put and looked as if she was watching him, unsure of how to react. “Maybe...I shouldn't have done that...” He turned his back to her—as much as it pained him—and looked out over at the rest of the lake, watching the sun shine over the water.
“Rai...Raiden...” She whimpered and waded over to him, pressing her forehead on his back.
He turned around at her touch and fixed it so that her head was on his chest instead. He looked down at her and tilted his head to the side. In that moment, he wanted to hold her so bad. He had to force his arms to stay put and respect her.
Her breathing had picked up. “I...don't know...what to...think...” She hiccuped.
Raiden put his hand under her chin and gently pulled her gaze up to meet his as his other hand rested on her shoulder. “It's okay...You don't have to think about anything...It...won't happen again...” He bit his lip.
Looking up at him, her eyes flickered back and forth. “How...How long...?” She asked.
He knew the answer. In actuality, it had been a long time. Almost two years. The defining moment was an ordinary day until he had seen her smile genuinely for the first time in months. In that instant, he could feel something click. Something he had always wanted and that felt like breathing: natural. Being with Kan was like being with someone special. They had started off on the wrong foot back at the Academy, but they grew through that and now, it was a strong bond. A bond he'd do anything to protect...even if it meant hurting himself.
“Long enough...” he answered, wanting to brush the loose strand of hair that had fallen into her face. It was hard to fight off old habits.
“How long, Raiden?” She asked, her voice more firm and authoritative.
Her eyes widened and she pushed away from him, shaking her head. “B-Before...he was...gone...?”
Raiden shook his head. “Not...exactly,” he took in a deep breath. “It was the day—a few months later—when you genuinely smiled for the first time. That's when I knew.”
“All...All that time you were taking care of me...?” She looked up at him with her wide brown eyes.
He moved closer to her. “I would've taken care of you no matter how I felt, Kan...You're important to me...” He couldn't fight his habit any longer and brushed a strand of hair from her face, his hand lingering on her cheek as he did so.
A slight smile flickered across her face as she leaned into his hand. He could feel her pressing into him and felt the same pulsation again, wanting to pull him closer to her. Raiden smiled softly and rubbed his thumb in tiny circles on her cheek. She sighed a bit and brought her hand to her chest, her own heart racing now. Kan chuckled a bit.
“Kan...” He breathed as he leaned in and pressed his forehead to hers, closing his eyes.
“I think...I figured something out...” she muttered so quietly that if there was silence in that moment, Raiden wouldn't have heard her.
“Hm? And what's that...?” He hummed.
She smiled and took his hand from her cheek, bringing it to be placed over her heart. “It's your fault it's always like this.” She looked up at him, blushing a bit.
Raiden chuckled at this. “Then...should I take responsibility?” He asked.
Kan leaned in closer so that their faces were inches apart. He could already smell the vanilla in her hair and the fresh drops of lake water. Her skin smelled of the forest around them and he smiled. “Yes,” she told him, her voice soft, “I think you should...”
He placed a hand behind her neck and the other on her waist as his lips brushed hers. He skipped the initial jolt this time and moved past it. All he wanted was her. Her taste, her touch, her feel. Raiden couldn't get her out of his mind. His kiss turned a bit more fierce compared to the last one as his urgency in just having her increased. He could feel his own heart thrum away as the pulsation also increased. The beating of his heart had blocked off all other sounds. No water. No chirping. No wind. Just his heart and her breathing. That was all that he could hear.
This time Kan didn't pull away either. Instead, she brought her arms around his neck and stood on her tip toes. She leaned into the kiss with all she had and focused on him. The water had started to churn from the wind, but she held onto him, keeping her balance with his more sturdy figure. Every fiber in her being seemed to scream out to her as if they were on fire.
Raiden smiled against the kiss and felt his body fly. This was what he'd been wanting. This feeling of electricity and security. This was what he needed. He pulled back just enough to utter one simple word from his panting breath as a smile took place on his face. “Kan...”