In Yulan there was a tale about a creature that resembled a wolf. He lives in the forest to feed during the full moon, but never hurts humans. Adults have told their children that he would eat them if they didn’t stay inside, so the creature was always alone. He was known to some as Atsuo, the wolf guardian. He was a very lonely creature that had been around since Yulan first came to be. He hunted never making contact with humans, but that changed when he went hunting in the forest near Go Province on the night of the full moon.
Atsuo stalked a female deer grazing on grass. He scratched the ground with his claws keeping his breathing low. When the deer looked alarmed, he pounced on it breaking its neck with his sharp teeth. The deer died instantly. Atsuo tore a chunk of meat from the deer’s neck letting the blood flow. He swallowed the meat and was about to take another bite, when he suddenly heard approaching footsteps. He recognized the footsteps of a human and retreated into the trees taking his kill with him. The deer dangled in his mouth as he glared down from the tree.
Out of the bushes emerged a six-year-old black haired boy with a small pouch over his shoulder and a lantern tied to his waist. Leaves stuck out of his hair as he walked. Atsuo growled as he looked at the boy, but stopped when he noticed a black wolf sneaking up behind the boy. The wolf pounced at the boy from behind, but Atsuo jumped out of the tree quickly dropping his kill and tackled the wolf against a tree. The boy flinched and looked back only to see Atsuo wrestling with the wolf. Atsuo managed to toss the wolf against a tree, but the wolf jumped back to its feet and jumped at Atsuo. Atsuo extended his claws ready to tear out the wolf’s neck, but the boy suddenly jumped in front of him.
Atsuo was ready to toss the boy aside, but the boy took a fighting stance and kicked the wolf away sending the wolf flying against the tree again. The wolf whimpered and ran off staggering.
Atsuo’s eyes were wide as he looked at the boy. The boy glanced at Atsuo and asked, “Are you OK?” Atsuo nodded staring at the boy. The boy’s eyes suddenly widened. Atsuo knew that the boy saw his wolf features at that moment and was about to walk off, but to his surprise, the boy grabbed Atsuo’s hand and asked, “Are you the wolf creature from the tale?” Atsuo nodded.
“Then can you tell me how to find the Aqua Blossom?” asked the boy. Atsuo narrowed his eyes. The Aqua Blossom was a flower that could grant anyone wishes and it was rumored that only the wolf guardian knew its whereabouts. From his knowledge, he knew that the Aqua Blossoms bloomed by the sea, thus its name, but when it bloomed in the forest its magical properties increases, but can only grant one wish before dying. Many humans have tried to get the Aqua Blossom, but their greed led to their demise or they never found the flower. Atsuo believed this flower to be a curse.
Atsuo turned away from the boy refusing to speak and shook the boy’s hand away from him. He wanted to separate from the boy as soon as possible to hunt for something else to eat, but the boy grabbed his hand again with determined eyes.
“Please Mr. Wolf, I need to find the Aqua Blossom,” begged the boy. Atsuo looked at the boy with stern eyes.
“You want to find a blossom believed to be myth?” asked Atsuo. The boy nodded and added, “I believe it exists.”
“And why is that?” asked Atsuo. The boy smiled and said, “Well you were supposed to be a tale, but you are real, so it must be the same with the Aqua Blossom.” Atsuo raised an eyebrow at the frankness of the boy, but also at the fact that the boy was this close to him and wasn’t shaking in fear. Atsuo sighed turning away from the boy.
“It is too dark to search now, so rest for the night and if I feel like it, I will help you, but no promises.”
The boy nodded releasing Atsuo’s hand and sat near a tree. Atsuo stared at the boy as the boy began to lean against the tree and fold his arms in front of him.
“Are you resting here for the night?” asked Atsuo. The boy nodded and glanced in the direction he previously emerged from.
“I made a promise to my sister that I wouldn’t return until I got the Aqua Blossom for her birthday.”
“So it is for your sister?”
The boy nodded looking at Atsuo.
“My twin sister, Mikan, and I turned six yesterday, so we went to the library to read some books in celebration. Mikan saw a tale about the Aqua Blossom and wished that she could wear it in her hair when she goes to work, so I promised her that I would find it and give it to her for her birthday.”
“But you said that your birthday was yesterday.”
“Well I had to finish my shift in the library before going on this small quest.”
Atsuo sat in front of the boy and said, “Many search for the flower for their own selfish wishes, but you wish to give it to your sister?” The boy nodded and added, “I am willing to do anything for Mikan.” Atsuo smiled and patted the boy’s head.
“You’re a good kid, but let’s see if you will stay this way after you find the flower.”
The boy nodded and then held his hand out to Atsuo.
“My name is Megumi Yoh and you are?”
“I won’t tell you my name, but you can call me Mr. Wolf if you like,” stated Atsuo. The boy, revealed to be Megumi, nodded and then took Atsuo’s hand from her head. Megumi pressed his hand against her cheek and whispered, “So warm.” Atsuo felt his heart skip a beat as he let his hand go limp against Megumi’s warm cheek.
A clash of thunder awoke Megumi from her slumber. She found herself covered by what looked like banana leaves and deer hides with a campfire burning next to her and was in what looked like a cave. She sat up, but cringed when she felt pain radiate in her legs and right shoulder. She felt her legs and then pushed aside the leaves and hide to lift up her pant leg. Megumi frowned when she saw the bruises. She didn’t feel any traces of a broken bone on her legs or shoulder, so she concluded that the fall was only hard enough to bruise her. It was actually a miracle that she wasn’t dead considering the height.
Megumi looked at her surroundings and wondered how she even managed to get in a cave and why she didn’t even remember going in. Megumi suddenly heard droplets of water followed by footsteps and looked to her side only to see the wolf like man entering the cave dripping wet with a dead rabbit in his grasp. Megumi flinched as she looked at him. The wolf like man approached Megumi and then kneeled next to her.
“Are you in pain?” he asked. Megumi gulped and said, “I’m bruised in my legs and shoulder, but the pain isn’t too bad.” The wolf like man looked relieved. He handed Megumi the dead rabbit and said, “You should eat.” Megumi stared at the dead rabbit and sighed, saying, “You should cook this you know.” The wolf like man stared at the rabbit and nodded taking it from Megumi’s grasp. He hung it over the fire staring at it the whole time. Megumi shook her head and said, “You need to remove the fur first.” The wolf like man nodded and tore off the fur like it was a coat leaving only the flesh. Megumi gasped, but then remembered that her old friend Mr. Wolf did something similar.
Megumi glanced up at the wolf like man and asked, “Are you Mr. Wolf?” The wolf like man only nodded in reply. Megumi smiled and said, “So you really are him, I’m glad.” The wolf like man, Mr. Wolf, glanced at Megumi and then looked back at the cooking rabbit.
“I thought you forgot,” muttered Mr. Wolf. Megumi shook her head.
“I just wasn’t sure if you were Mr. Wolf. It would have been rude if I mistook another wolf like man for you.”
Mr. Wolf averted his eyes from Megumi’s glances.
“So you are not afraid of me?”
“Why would I be? You helped me when I was six and you are helping me now. You would never hurt me.”
Mr. Wolf pulled the cooked rabbit from the fire and then placed it on the leaves in Megumi’s lap. He stood up saying, “The rain will last until the sun rises in the morning tomorrow, so rest here for now.” Megumi nodded tearing a small piece of meat from the rabbit. Mr. Wolf watched the rain pour from the opening of the cave listening to Megumi eat behind him with reddened cheeks.
Seven years ago, Mr. Wolf, also known as Atsuo, slept under a tree breathing softly. He suddenly heard the squeal of a rabbit and snapped awake sitting up. He looked around and noticed that Megumi was no longer beside him. He looked around frantically and suddenly heard a bush rustle behind him. He looked back and saw Megumi emerging from the bush with a dead rabbit in her grasp.
“I got us food Mr. Wolf,” announced Megumi dangling the dead rabbit in her small right hand. Atsuo sighed standing up. He hit Megumi softly on her forehead and said, “Don’t disappear like that.” Megumi nodded and then handed Atsuo the rabbit saying, “Let’s eat.” Atsuo nodded and was about to bite the rabbit, but then remembered that he should share with Megumi. He looked at Megumi and saw that she had started a fire to cook the rabbit. Atsuo hung the rabbit over the fire, but Megumi glanced at him and said, “We should remove the fur first before cooking it.” Atsuo nodded and tore the rabbit fur from the rabbit making Megumi gasp. Atsuo gasped realizing what he did, but was surprised that Megumi was smiling instead of looking in fear.
“That was amazing, Mr. Wolf.”
Atsuo stared at Megumi and smiled.
“You’re an interesting kid, Megumi,” stated Atsuo. Megumi giggled.
After they ate the rabbit, Megumi and Atsuo began to walk through the forest. Megumi glanced at Atsuo and asked, “Do you have any ideas where the Aqua Blossom would bloom in a forest?” Atsuo nodded looking up at the blue sky.
“The Aqua Blossom would grow in a place where it could see the blue sky that resembles the ocean, but the place would still need to be concealed, so humans wouldn’t pluck it.”
“I see, so a place that it can see what it likes, but also a place that is safe,” stated Megumi. She rubbed her chin and then smiled.
“If an Aqua Blossom would bloom in the forest of Go Province, then it would be on a cliff with thorns.”
“Thorns on a cliff?” asked Atsuo with a raised eyebrow. Megumi nodded and added, “My doctor told me that Herbal Thorns grow on cliffs in Go Province’s forests. It would be perfect for the flower to grow there.” Atsuo nodded in agreement.
“You’re well informed.”
Megumi nodded and held Atsuo’s hand gently saying, “Let’s hurry, Mr. Wolf.” Atsuo nodded holding Megumi’s small hand.
Atsuo snapped back to reality and looked back at the present Megumi. Megumi placed the remaining meat of the rabbit on a leaf and pushed it to Atsuo saying, “Please eat your share.” Atsuo nodded sitting next to Megumi. Atsuo nibbled on the meat and then glanced at Megumi.
“So why are you traveling, Megumi?” asked Atsuo. Megumi smiled placing a hand on her injured shoulder.
“Well it was for my training as an Official.”
“You decided to become an Official?” asked Atsuo in surprise. Megumi nodded.
“What about your sister? I thought you would never leave her,” stated Atsuo. Megumi looked saddened as she said, “Mikan died a few months back.” Atsuo gulped saying, “I’m sorry to hear that. You really loved her very much.” Megumi nodded.
“I’m becoming an Official to avenge her death.”
“Avenge, are you saying that her death wasn’t caused by illness but by someone else?”
Megumi nodded and said, “Mikan and my mother were murdered in a fire and my brother Satoshi was kidnapped, so I am becoming an Official to find the culprits and save my brother.” Atsuo frowned clenching the meat in his hand.
“Humans really are the worse.”
Megumi glanced at Atsuo and said, “I’m a human too you know.”
“You are different,” stated Atsuo. Megumi chuckled.
“You really haven’t changed, Mr. Wolf,” stated Megumi forgetting her previous anger.
Atsuo stared at Megumi after finishing the last of the rabbit. He noticed that her hair had grown longer making it shine against the campfire and that her skin looked smoother. What made his heart jump was her warm smile, the same smile that she wore as a child when speaking to him. Atsuo crawled over Megumi making Megumi gasp.
“What are you doing, Mr. Wolf?”
Atsuo leaned his head against Megumi’s shoulder making her flinch and sniffed her.
“You still have the same scent: a scent that belongs only to you,” whispered Atsuo. He licked Megumi’s left ear making her shiver. Megumi pushed Atsuo away gently and said, “I’m not a child anymore, Mr. Wolf.” Atsuo nodded and pulled away. He sat cross legged in front of the fire and said, “Please get some rest, Megumi.” Megumi nodded laying back. She glanced at Atsuo and then closed her eyes to sleep.
Atsuo glanced at Megumi remembering another event with Megumi.
Six-year-old Megumi climbed up the face of the cliff toward the Herbal Thorns with Atsuo watching from below.
“Are you sure you can do this?” asked Atsuo in doubt. Megumi nodded.
“I climbed up a well by myself and did other training worse than climbing a cliff, so this is nothing,” stated Megumi. Atsuo sighed wondering how Megumi could be so strong willed when she was so young. Megumi’s foot suddenly slipped making Atsuo flinch, but Megumi immediately regained her footing. Atsuo sighed in relief and then said, “I can help you know.”
“I’m fine,” stated Megumi getting closer to the thorns. Megumi finally reached the top and peeked through the thorns. From the look of happiness in Megumi’s face, Atsuo could tell that Megumi saw the Aqua Blossom. He thought Megumi would just grab it, but instead saw her descending down the cliff with no blossom in hand.
“What are you doing?” asked Atsuo. Megumi glanced down at Atsuo with a warm smile.
“I saw the Aqua Blossom, so now I can go back home,” stated Megumi.
“But I thought you needed it for your sister,” stated Atsuo. Megumi giggled and said, “I did need it. I just needed to see it, so I can make the Aqua Blossom hair clip for Mikan.”
“You never intended to pluck it?” asked Atsuo. Megumi shook her head.
“But what about the wish it will grant you when you pluck it?” asked Atsuo. Megumi smiled and stated, “As long as I have my family then I don’t need magic wishes. Besides, someone else someday would need that wish more than me.” Atsuo stared at Megumi in disbelief. Megumi landed in front of Atsuo and thanked him with a bright smile. Atsuo smiled back with a blush against his cheek.
“You’re different from other humans.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment,” stated Megumi and then walked forward. She looked back at Atsuo and asked, “Do you want to tag along?” Atsuo nodded going to her side and taking her small hand into his.
Atsuo snapped back to reality at the sound of roaring thunder. He laid next to Megumi as she breathed softly in her sleep. He caressed her cheek feeling warmth touch his hand.
“I was sad that you had to return to Go Province’s village, but I watched you from the trees when I could for almost a whole year. I saw your smiling sister when you gave her the flower pin you made. I saw you open your lottery and then finally become a merchant. I even saw your saddened face when your best friend ran away from you. I saw so little of your life, but those times still warmed my heart.”
Atsuo kissed Megumi’s forehead, but then withdrew with a frown.
“I hate it that I can smell another person’s scent on you. I don’t want people touching you, especially not a person like Reo, but I know you wouldn’t listen if I told you.”
Atsuo wrapped his arm around Megumi pressing his forehead against Megumi’s. He remembered that before he separated from Megumi seven years ago, he bit the tip of her left ear placing a mark in the shape of a water drop. He stared at her closed eyes also remembering that she now wanted to get revenge for her family. His cheeks were red as he spoke.
“I hate that you want revenge, but I know that you will still do good for others, so I want you to keep that mark. You will be the only one I will mark in this lifetime.”
Atsuo then kissed Megumi’s lips softly feeling his heart race and the heat in his body rise.
I will always love you, Megumi.
Megumi opened her eyes the very next day and saw the sun seeping into the cave. Megumi sat up and flinched. She lifted up the leaves and deer skin and saw that her legs had no sign of bruising. She looked at her shoulder that was miraculously healed and raised an eyebrow. She stood up feeling no pain. She didn’t understand why she was healed until she saw the large leaves more clearly. The leaves were a rare medicine called Alazne that could heal any wound like magic by just being wrapped around the wound. Megumi smiled and looked around the cave.
“Mr. Wolf?” called Megumi, but there was no answer. Megumi walked out of the cave still calling for “Mr. Wolf,” but there was still no answer or any sign of him. Megumi sighed and said, “I seem to recall that he just disappeared too when he returned me to Go Province seven years ago.” Megumi walked onto the muddy ground and then looked up toward the trees.
“I don’t know where you are, but thank you for helping me once again, Mr. Wolf!” stated Megumi and then ran off.
Atsuo watched from the highest tree noticing that the water from the rain stuck on the trees seemed to make Megumi’s hair shine as she ran.
Megumi soon reached the path to her relief and smiled when she saw the carriage in the distance.
“Hello!” called Megumi. Reiji, who was about to climb into the carriage, looked back and saw Megumi running toward him. Reiji smiled with tears starting to escape from his eyes and ran toward her. Chiriko and Naohito were confused at first until they saw Megumi in the distance. Naohito tried to run toward Megumi, but tripped, so Chiriko remained with him not tearing his eyes away from Megumi’s approaching form.
Reiji immediately embraced Megumi nearly lifting her off the ground crying tears of joy.
“I thought I lost you,” whispered Reiji. Megumi smiled and hugged Reiji back whispering, “I’m fine, Reiji.”
Reiji and Megumi returned to the carriage hand in hand. Naohito embraced Megumi after getting to his feet saying her name repeatedly with tears flowing down his cheeks. Megumi chuckled and said, “I’m fine, I’m fine.”
Chiriko placed a hand on her shoulder making her look at him. He smiled and said, “I’m glad you’re OK.” Megumi nodded smiling at Chiriko.
Megumi suddenly heard the horse and looked up only to see Keiki getting off the horse with a glare. Megumi separated from Naohito and Chiriko as she looked at Keiki.
Keiki approached Megumi staring at her. He suddenly pulled her into a hug making Megumi gasp. She was about to protest, but fell silent when she heard Keiki’s sobbing and felt tears touch her cheek.
“You idiot. I thought for a moment that you were going to die just like Mikan.”
“I thought you wanted me dead. You usually try to kill me and you always say you hate me.”
Keiki was shaking as he spoke.
“That’s what I thought, but when you fell over that cliff, I realized that if you died, you would be gone forever and my last words would have been that I hated you. I don’t want that. I don’t want you to disappear forever. I don’t want you to die knowing my last words were that I hated you. I don’t want that.”
Megumi’s eyes were wide and then she smiled hugging Keiki back.
“I’m not going to disappear from this world anytime soon, you idiot,” stated Megumi with a chuckle. Keiki just hugged her tighter with tears falling from his eyes.
Chiriko and Naohito were uncomfortable when watching Keiki and Megumi hug, but they knew that Keiki was probably more worried than the two of them put together and needed this moment with Megumi. Reiji watched as well, but his feeling of relief covered the pain in his heart at that moment.
From the top of a tree nearest to the path, Atsuo watched Megumi. He placed a hand to his lips remembering the feather touch of Megumi’s lips and turned red as his heart raced.
I love you Megumi, but I can never bring you happiness.
Atsuo jumped back into the forest with hurt in his eyes.
After a short while, Megumi was riding in the carriage with Chiriko, Reiji, and Naohito, while Keiki rode from the outside. Reiji smiled at Megumi and said, “It’s nice that you are willing to ride in the carriage.”
“Well I can’t ride outside without a horse,” pointed out Megumi. Naohito and Chiriko nodded in agreement. Megumi pushed aside the drapes looking at Keiki.
“You OK out there?” asked Megumi. Keiki nodded and stated, “I can protect the carriage just fine without you.” Megumi smirked and said, “If you want I can ride behind you on the horse.” Keiki turned red in the cheeks and then glared at Megumi.
“I definitely refuse!” yelled Keiki. Megumi chuckled and then waved at Keiki saying, “Then protect the carriage well.” Keiki scoffed turning away from Megumi.
Megumi glanced at Chiriko, Naohito, and Reiji, who were talking to one another about politics, and smiled.
Thank you Mr. Wolf for letting me see my friends again.