"What, no hissing today?" the birds taunt me.
I suppose I am one to be taunted, the little birds gather around my favorite napping spot on the porch, under the big reed tree. I usually come here to read after I've finished my odd chores around the resort, and sometimes I play games online or draw, I should be drawing. Today the birds woke me up in the middle of a dream,and they chirp so loudly, "I'm going to eat you one day, nice and fried on a stick." I hiss at them and they flock away quickly, some left behind I paw at, "so annoying."
I close the book I was reading and take in the afternoon heat, not searing on my back, even though this yukata is thin I can't feel it burning down like usual, probably because the wind is so cold, it gets chilly like that when the tide is coming in early. That means I have to move, I can't be too close to the shore, and it'll be on the ledge of this terrace in about an hour. I used to like the early tide when I was a kid and I grew up on the resort, and island part of a bigger island Shogio, our small island is called Starry Waters, or Hoshi-mizu island, named after the the glittering jewels under our island's water, it's really just harmless sea stones, but they shine at night, no one really knows why, but it's made us famous of sorts. My family knows though that these waters are proof of our curse. You see, I'm not exactly human, well I am but, not entirely.
I collect my things and make my way through the dock back to the main house. Passing by tourists and other workers of the resort I look about to them, children playing in the sand, parents drinking fruit filled alcoholic drinks, walking by the water fall lovers kiss behind the falling water, more kids play in the pools. It's a bit nostalgic, but as a kid, I was never really allowed in while customers were here. Usually the resort is empty most of the year, we get a few customers because of the volcanic spring during winter, but usually Summer's like these are what get us through the year. "Hikaru-kun!" I hear behind me and a sudden stroke of my hair, it's the activities director a young girl with pretty bleached hair and a tanned complexion, my friend Hanna. "Hi Hanna," she walks next to me drinking a bottle of melon juice with ice, she's wearing her blue uniform bathing suit and a resort shirt cut to tie about her waist, a little flowery anklet and red shaded glasses. "You look didn't come to breakfast , let's have lunch together!" I let her drag me to the lounge, which is really a terrace on the fourth floor of the main hotel, food here is actually very great, a whole table full of good food and automatic glass doors filled with cool air to beat the heat, we had the terrace on the main floor by where the main restaurant was but the area was too hot and some of the lifeguards and camp counselors would get dehydrated from being out in the heat so long, now we have a special area in the hotel. I sit at a round table and tell her to bring me anything good, "I'll get you a special, I'm getting one too." I almost called out to her to get me something else but I haven't any real reasons to object. There were other employes at the lounge, usually I try to ignore the stares but today I look them back, "You need something?" a pair of guys to the left of me apologize for staring and turn away another group of employes also look away, it isn't everyday I eat here but that's not why they are staring. Most of them are staring because they didn't know the owner's had another child, they only know my younger brother and older sister who is head of the household. Roku my younger brother manages the activities, he's actually dating Hanna, who is also Shika like us, Roman my older sister manages the resort from Tokyo but comes here often, she's in charge around here since my parents retired and now live in the big house on the main island, I am currently staying the sea shore hotel of our resort helping out this summer and developing my next manga. I'm a manga artist, and writer, I used to teach art in a private high school in Tokyo but, I couldn't stay there anymore, it hurt too much. I moved back home my editors weren't happy with that but it was my condition, I am actually a very famous author, I got by several pen names though, it's important I'm never tracked, because of who I am.
I'm not a very important person, nor is my family, in the normal human world, but in the world of the Shika, my family is of very old and noble linage, you see, still have magic in our blood. My mother can see into the future, not always but sometimes she can, it came in handy when she made business arrangements for the resort which has been her family's property for generations. My father is of another clan and can command fire with his hands, he can also never burn. Also like me, my father can shape shift into an animal that has been a rare and now extinct creature, the horned cat, a calico cat with a deer's antlers and eyes. My mother and sister are both of the Kageki clan's dogs, so if my brother, but I for some reason got the same shape as my father, which is the only redeeming quality in their eyes. When I left the island to become an artist's assistant they threw a fit. They had planned to marry me off to some other family, I left in the middle of the night but once they found me in Tokyo they weren't too happy. I had a hard time in Tokyo, but I had a job and a roof over my head, but it was when the artist I was working for had fallen for me that I knew I made the right choice. Daisuke was not my first lover, but her was my first love, even know I recall those delicate hands entwined in mine when he caught me in his spell. I never knew how deep a love I could have than with him, he was tall too, we usually did it with me on top, that was a first for me, usually because of my size guys like to push me down, always on top, I mean, I was already the bottom, what else did they have to prove? But with him, he put me on a pedestal of sorts, too gentle, maybe it was because of my docility that I didn't notice when he'd gotten tired. It was three years later, a few weeks after my 24th birthday, I had just gotten back from picking up a copy of my newest manga, when I heard them in the drawing room, our room. He was young and foreign, of course he was, and tanned skinned, I saw them and he wasn't so gentle with him, he was rougher and aggressive. I slept in the studio that night, never telling him what I saw I broke things off a day later, when he asked me why I told him that I knew he'd grown tired of me, and that's not what I wanted to be to him, he insisted that the guy from last night meant nothing, I told him I knew, and that I loved him, but I had to go. He begged me not to, he said he wanted to marry me, but I pushed him away, my heart was broken, I might have not known much about the world but I knew how I felt about him, and I now knew how he felt about me, and nothing could take back the pain he was never supposed to make me feel. I left that very night on the first train back to Hokkaido, I took a ferry back to Shogio and when i showed up at the main house, my mother embraced me, because she knew what had happened and she'd been expecting me for a while, apparently their affair had been happening for a few months, she was just waiting for me to find out and come back home. 'I bought you new sheets and futon, my precious child, don't be sad now, you are home.' My mother always understood me, though my father mostly ignored me, he caught me on the terrace drawing one day and said, 'you'll soon see, that there are plenty more fish in the sea, don't worry, if the big catch bi your hand you have to throw them back into the lake, and wait for a bigger fish.' He patted my back and went back inside, it wasn't much coming from my dad it meant a lot and slowly, very slowly the pain in my heart began to lessen until it was tolerable. I've been here about a month, on my second week mother sent me to the resort, they don't really see my manga business to be a career, but I guess that will never change, and I just help out when I can, mostly because I need to clear my mind and find myself again, the break up really did a number on me, and for my new book, I need to find who I am again so I draw decently again.
"I'm back, hey stop spacing out, people are staring again," Hanna put down a plate in front of me of salad, mini sandwhiches and rice, I hissed at her, she pet my head, "easy tiger, eat first we can talk about your problems later." Surely, as soon as I finished the melon pudding I brought from the food table, she started.
"You still bumming about the break up?"
"Kind of, how about you, still in a fight with Roku?"
"Kind of, I just don't get it, if he wants to be official why not meet my parents?"
"He's afraid of commitment?"
"I guess, I'm tired of turning down every guy who asks me out, commitment sounds nice. Hey how about you?"
"Am i commited?"
"No, have you been turning down guys too? I hear them talk about you you know, specially the foreigners, they really love your orange eyes, so sexy they say, and I agree, it is your best feature."
I laugh a bit, "Is that what they say? Well I haven't heard it, no one's bothered me much."
"So sad, but would you go out with one if they asked you out?"
"I don't know, it depends,"
"Oh yeah, I wanted to ask you, have you heard about the Miya-Mafia's head?"
"It changed this year?"
"Yeah, the oldest brother, you know the one that used to date your sister, he's head of the family now, at 32, he's also got a wife, she's a Shika from the mainland, apperantly they have Shika there too."
"Oh I didn't know that, interesting,"
"Oh that's not my point, there's talk in town that the younger brother is getting married too,"
"So? That's not a shocker, mafia get married during dragon year."
"Yeah but, here's the kicker, apperantly, they are having bride selections, and any family that wants to can put up their kids to be chosen as the bride of the young mafia general."
"What? an open omai?"
"Yes, my parents want to put me and my younger sister on the chopping board, I told them I was still with Roku, so they passed me, and Kaori is too young, so they gave up. But, maybe your parents will put you up since you know, you're so special."
"Special? You mean my horns? I'm not sure wolves like that sort of thing,"
"You never know, but would you do it?"
"It's my parents, if they decide on it, I wouldn't have a choice would I?"
"I suppose so, but being a wife of the Miya-Mafia's general, what a life, it's an olde family too, like yours only more dangerous and ancient, I heard all types of rumors, they keep us safe at their expense so the magic goes deeper than with us. You can make wind and I can walk on water but they, they can do real miracles."
After our little conversation Roku came to my room, "knock, knock." he opened the door and came inside, he was dressed in formal clothing, meaning we'd be going to the big house on the main island. "They rang?" I asked already getting up to get ready. "Yeah, apperantly they wanna discuss something with us, " "What, is it an omai again?" I asked, and he seemed t just realize it and go pale, "oh god I hope not, I think Imma meet Hanna's parents next week," "you guys got back together?" I asked, throwing on a vest over my long sleeved shirt, "Yeah, she said I didn't have to meet her parents but after a year i think it's time, right?" I grabbed my work bag with my sketchbook and laptop and headed out the door with him slipping my outing shoes on. "I think things will work out well for you two, lets go." He drove us to the house, on the way he asked me a lot about Tokyo, we hadn't had time to talk since I got back and adter hearing how I ended things with Daisuke he pulled over and gave me a hug, he wanted to drive to tokyo to kick his ass but after explaining what a waste it would be I talked him back to taking us home. He's very much like Hanna, I'm glad my little brother has a reasonable mate.
It wasn't long before they dragged us to the tea room and put it all out on the table.
"I'm sure you've heard the rumours," mom started, "The Miyahara clan are looking for a bride for their prince general and only selected family's are allowed to present bride candidates to them, we, have been lucky enough to be invited to provide a candiate on such occasion, and your father, sister and I, think you two should figure out which one it will be."
Shock could not being to express how I felt, that my parents would do this to Roku as well however was beyond me, "Why did you accept?" I asked, Roku had a look of shock as well, but he bowed saying nothing, "Why? It would be an insult not to, not that you would know about that young runaway and ungrateful child of ours, but our furtune is running short, years are getting shorter, and not enough tourist have been coming, the resort would benefit grateful from this." "So there's a prize?" I asked mockingly, and they took note of it but didn't back down. "Well, the family will of course recieve a dowry, it is customary, but the Mafia isn't a normal family, they have codes, and that code would take care of us forever. So of course, we would like you to give us this opportunity, it's once n a lifetime." I looked over at Roku, who was surely about to ask them for forgiveness, I on the other hand, what do I have to lose? No one owns my heart, and I did dishonor my family, I've been rebelious for too long. "Fine," I took the tea before me and bowed to them, "If you must gamble one of us, it should be me, Roku isn't born with female attributes like me, and I guess you knew that, but if you have to have this, I have no objections being a candidate for my family." The words seemed not like me, and they weren't expecting it, but nevertheless they accepted me,and moved me back to the main house the selection was tomorrow, leave it to my parents to do everything last minute. My mother was braiding my hair for tomorrows selection, along with a dresser who was sewing my kimono to fit, she began talking. "I used to dress you in girl's clothes you know, when you were younger, even though you are a male with female attributes I had always thought of you as a girl, look at your pretty eyes and long curling hair, I guess the name your father picked really suits you." "I guess it does," is all I can say and in the mirror i do look like a girl, "Human's would never stand for it you know, having a child like me, they think it disguisting, a man should be stronger, and more robust in their eyes, being Shika is so much easier, being home is easier." He patted my shoulder, "Your father looked a lot like you when he was younger, oh sure he looks like that now, but you do have more delicate features, because you got them from my side of the family," I wondered, "Did you marry dad in the same way, was it an omai?" I seemed to have taken her aback, but she answered as if she didn't register it, "Sort of, I didn't know it then, but your father had admired me for a long time, but I never payed him much attention, on the day we met though our parents let us know that we had an arranged marriage, I was glad, actually, because he was not ugly, and most of all I liked his form, those horns, you don't see that everyday," I laughed a little, "So you think he'll pick me because of my antlers?" she laughed as well, "He wont see them at first, but he might sense them, you know they have an ancient magic, the Miyahara clan, if he picks you, he'll be very lucky, you have a lot of love to give my child, you give it to him if he's worthy." I had to ask then, "and if he's not?" She sighed, "Then he's a fool. Don't worry about that, odds are, you wont even get chosen, but there's no harm in trying." I tried to have some comfort in her words, but my mother knew the future. I had a strange feeling she already knew the outcome, I wonder what she see's behind those dark blue eyes. If I could see my future now, would I accept it, or run away? All night long I couldn't shake the feeling in my stomach, that regaurdless of the outcome, my life would never be the same.