Once upon a time in a pretty little forest near the sea, there lived a creature too beautiful to be kind who lured men into his den & ate their hearts when he was done with them.
He lay there til a shadow fell over him- a young, pale thing with inky hair & eyes like the sea at sunrise.
“Takashi,” he rasped, and closed his eyes, for the creature’s face was so lovely it nearly hurt.
(more in the morning....😌)
His second discovery was that he was missing an arm. He sat up, slowly, for his head was filled with a strange fog not unlike drunkenness, and examined the scarred stump where his right arm had once been.
“Yes,” Takashi said. “You saved my life.”
The creature’s beautiful face pinched and crumpled. “I did not save you,” he snapped. “Merely prolonged the inevitable.”
“Nevermind death,” the creature said, and grabbed Takashi’s hand, pressing his remaining palm to a milk-white thigh. “I know what you want.”
“But I owe you a great debt,” Takashi protested, and the creature recoiled.
“A debt! No!” The creature scrambled off of him. “You owe me nothing but blood — !”
Takashi peered at him with hazy defiance, the confused fog of his mind leaving no room for fear. All his survival instincts were used up in the shipwreck; if death wanted him it would have taken him already.
All at once the fog melted away from Shiro, & so did the creature’s den.
The men asked Shiro if it was a hideous demon or evil spirit, but he claimed he had not seen it.
“Whatever that thing did to our fathers and grandfathers, we will do ten times over,” the men swore with grim and vengeful resolve. “Only when it is good and dead will our village be truly safe.”
The men willfully ignored this. They had grown up with tales of the terror of the forest, & seized the chance to claim power over that terror at long last. They wanted the forest & its demon for their own.
The men returned to the village with their wriggling prey in the cruel net. Shiro watched from the window.
Shiro slipped away from his window & crept in through the back of the dark temple, which echoed with awful screams.
The creature said nothing. Its golden eyes burned with a hatred drenched in bitter, centuries-old sorrow, so that the longer Shiro looked, the less it looked like hate, and the more it looked like heartbroken grief.
Shiro reached for the net.
“You are too late,” the creature whispered. “Go.”
“I will not leave you,” Shiro said firmly. “They will hurt you, humiliate you, & kill you.”
“I know,” the creature said, face so young yet eyes ancient in their sadness. “They have done it before.”
Shiro paused. “Wait,” he said. “I offered you my blood. I offer it again, now.”
The creature hesitated, then slashed his arm open.
“What is your name?” Shiro asked in the disbelieving quiet.
“I was named Keith,” he whispered, “once.”
“You should have left me there,” Keith said, & turned his face away, closing his eyes as if pained.
“That is a debt you could never truly repay,” Keith sighed softy. “My life was lost long ago, to a man very much like you, Takashi Shirogane.”
Keith’s eyes cracked open. “Not a ghost,” he said. “Worse.”
“You don’t feel like a demon, either,” Shiro told him, & kissed Keith’s knuckles.
“You look like he did,” Keith whispered, clawed hands clasping Shiro’s slowly, “but you don’t make me feel like he did.”
“He hurt you,” Shiro said.
“He killed me,” Keith replied, and kissed him.
“They will not find us,” Shiro said, drawing back and pointing to the back of the cave. Keith followed his gaze to the kayak there. “I can take us home, Keith.”
“How long has it been,” Shiro whispered, “since you felt cared for?”
“I don’t want to hurt anyone else,” Keith gasped to the night, a plea Shiro answered with his tongue.
“Yes,” Keith breathed.
Keith hiccuped on a sob. “He was the first,” he said, pushing Shiro’s head back down.
Shiro ached with exhaustion, yet satisfaction rippled through him like ocean waves. “Then we will take care of each other.”
“You could,” Shiro agreed. “Will you?”
“I will take you anywhere you wish,” Shiro promised, & kissed him as the rising sun kissed the endless sea.