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Saudade

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It’s been a few years since the end of the Shaman Fight.

The teams all split up to go about their business as if the Shaman Fight hadn’t change their lives forever.

There were letters and phone calls and emails and text messages sent, but they started getting infrequent as time went on. That is, until the Funbari Onsen was remodeled and started attracting tourists -- mostly hipster Americans looking for the “authentic” Japanese stay. Whatever. Business means money and money makes Anna happy. Very happy. She and Yoh do have a child, after all. Kids are expensive.

Ryū does the cooking and Tamao dishes out the hospitality by being the ideal everything, while Yoh and Anna run the business and take care of little Hana. Well, Anna runs the business. Yoh sweeps the floors. Sometimes. He mostly looks after his very active and equally as curious son. Tamao often finds herself picking up his slack late at night. The Hanagumi are also there, though they don’t do much. They’re supposed to be cleaning rooms, waitressing,  and the such, but they kind of just do what they want. Tamao keeps them in check and tries not to get Anna involved.

About a year ago, Horohoro got a call from Yoh asking him if he would like to help out at the onsen by making and maintaining a vegetable garden on the property. American tourists are really impressed when businesses grow their own vegetables, he said. A little bored with the way things were going in in our Small Town Life in Hokkaidō, Horohoro accepted. The invitation was extended to me, too. Yoh said that handmade trinkets were all the rage with tourists at the moment and that I could make them if I wanted. Aboriginal crafts are popular now that colonialism was viewed as a Massive Bummer. I didn’t have to work for them if I didn’t want to, he added; I was welcome regardless. I agreed to go immediately.

Life in Hokkaidō was so slow in comparison to the Shaman Fight. I find it crazy to think that I was content with the sluggish pace before. Although, most of my childhood was spent being my father’s assistant in training Onii-chan. So, I guess it wasn’t as sluggish as I remember. But my youth, my teenage years, were spent mostly in the beds of Ainu kids that had nothing better to do. Boyfriends came and went, but I didn’t ever love any of them. Oh, no.

The closest I ever came to love was when a guy told me he loved me after some Sunday-afternoon sex and I laughed in his face. I didn’t see him after that. I didn’t want to. What kind of seventeen-year-old knows what love is? He was delusional, clearly.

After moving to Tokyo, I decided to get a degree in agricultural studies at a local university. I make trinkets to sell at the onsen when I have the time. They’re actually treated like exclusive items since I make a few at a time and release them on an irregular schedule. This allows the price to be driven up, which pleases Anna. I don’t actually live in the onsen, like Onii-chan does, I live by myself in an apartment a few blocks away. I don’t mind, I have my privacy and Anna isn’t my landlord. Big win.

Onii-chan just got engaged to Tamao. They’ll be getting their own place soon. He and Tamao had a bit of a short-lived fling after the Shaman Fight that lasted from our revival until we all split up -- one of those Life is Short impulse decisions.

They picked up where they left off as soon as Horo and I moved down. No hurt feelings. No resentment. No harsh questions. It was like they had never been apart.

They don’t fight, which is surprising seeing as how Onii-chan can be a handful sometimes, but that’s their love. Onii-chan is quick to anger, Tamao is reasonable. Onii-chan openly flirts with Tamao and she blushes quietly, wishing he would stop doing it in public. Onii-chan does the outdoors work and Tamao -- well, Tamao does a bit of everything, but they complement each other beautifully.

That’s how I ended up in the Onsen tonight, in the dining room where so many feasts have taken place. So many people have been welcomed into Yoh and Anna’s wonderfully weird world where Everyone is Friend. I, too, have been in the inaugural seat, being showered with their unwavering love and acceptance for whomever is lucky enough to meet them.

This place brings me such warm memories, but I feel sick enough to throw up. My nausea hasn’t eased since I was told that Onii-chan and Tamao were having an engagement celebration. My stomach flipped as I knew he would be invited. He agreed to come. He ’ll be here tonight. Ren .

Ren and Jeanne have a baby. Ren has a son. Jeanne has a son. With Ren. I think they’re engaged? Maybe? Or was it just a rumor? I can remember Onii-chan saying how Ren will never let Yoh have anything for long. Guess that’s true.

I haven’t seen or spoken to him since the day we all parted ways. It’s been roughly eight years. Horo saw Renand met his son when Hana gathered up all the Elemental Warriors, when Yoh and Anna finally came home. I couldn’t believe it when Onii-chan told me. Tao Ren a father. Father. Tao Ren holding a baby. His baby . Nothing is impossible. Follow your dreams, kids.

It’s weird to find out your ex-lover has had a kid, especially when you’re this young. Twenty-two is still young, right? I mean, young enough for me to not look out of place in college, but still pretty young to be having kids. I mean, it happens; Yoh and Anna were teenage parents, but that’s because of some bloodline nonsense. Still, kids have kids all the time. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s not uncommon. Some people just start their family early. So, why am I having such a hard time with Ren fathering a tiny sucker? Oh, right. I’m still in love with the bastard. He’s moved on quite a bit and I still think about him as if we belong together. Typical .

I call him an ex-lover and not an ex-boyfriend because that’s exactly what he is. He is the first out of a long line of one-nighters.

He didn’t love me like I had grown to love him, but I didn’t care. It was he who came looking for me that night, not the other way around. Hell, I wasn’t complaining. For one short night, he was mine and I was his. We were just kids.

He’s sure to arrive tonight. I wonder if he’s ever thought of me. I wonder if he even remembers the next day. I wonder if he knows the effect he’s had on my life. I want to hate him.

I’m safe right now, sitting with Onii-chan on one side and Chocolove on the other. Chocolove’s jokes are bad enough for me to keep laughing at my fate without revealing that these laughs are pained and nervous. He makes pretty decent puns, though. Gotta give credit where it’s due.

It’s time to take inventory of the room to calm my nerves.

I see Hana asking his dad if he can try the sake. Yoh shakes his head No. Anna is not too far from them, checking if Ryū has finished the sushi he promised for tonight.

Manta congratulates Tamao on her engagement with a warm hug.  He looks so sincere. No doubt he’s thinking about what a feat it was for her to get over Yoh. We’re all thinking it. I wonder how it was that she was able to move on from a decade-long crush.

The Hanagumi are lazily serving food and drinks while making conversation.

The door slides open. My heart stops. This could be it -- the moment of truth.

In comes Lyserg, still looking as bishi as ever.

My body releases its tension a bit too early because following suit is Jeanne holding a boy who looks like he’s about two. They enter smiling and bearing gifts.

Wait, this is wrong. Why isn’t Ren with her? Are they traveling apart? Is he not coming? He was supposed to be here! I want answers!

An eternity passes in seconds. My palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy, mom’s spaghetti. The acid in my stomach is making a hole through the lining. Maybe I can use this new ulcer to as an excuse to leave early.

I don’t even know if I want to see him anymore.

I empty my cup of sake in one swift move. The warm liquid burns my throat on the way down.

I need air. I get up from the table, my legs threatening to buckle beneath me. I’m not drunk, it’s nerves.

I make my way towards the door that leads to the side yard, taking small, heavy steps. No one notices my attempt to flee the scene since there’s a baby in the room. Who doesn’t like babies? Well, he’s two-ish. Is that still considered a baby? If I ask his age will they tell me in years or in months? Is that directly correlated to whether or not the child is a baby or a toddler? Shut up. Focus. Get out.

Just a few more steps. I can hear the noise level rise.

My hand makes it to the door’s wooden frame.

Freedom is so close.

I can almost feel the breeze coming in from the outside. My hand slides the door open, as I look back to make sure no one is watching me run away from my own brother’s party.

Half a step into the outside world and my body bumps into something. I asses the situation in less than a second. A soft thud is emitted from the brief collision. It was solid, but soft. A body. That smell.

Oh. No.

“Pirika…?”

My soul almost left my body.

A hurricane dances in my stomach. Chills run from my head to my toes. I can hear my eulogy being recited in my head: Here lies Usui Pirika, the fool.

I turn to look at the person I bumped into, full well knowing I walked straight into my doom -- my undoing.

“...Ren.”