Little Talks

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A couple of weeks later...

To Sumiko's surprise and relief, Kazama had been doing a rather good job of behaving and keeping his hands to himself, though he would occasionally do something to tease her, as if he found her reactions amusing. He had also gotten in the habit of bringing the cat with him once he realized she talked more with it around to distract her.

"It still feels kind of surreal to be sitting here with you like this so peacefully," she commented as they sat out on the porch outside her room together. She was well enough to get up and walk a little on her own now, and if she had to keep staring at the ceiling much longer, she was going to start ripping the threads out of the tatami mats. "You haven't been acting like your usual self."

"Then, how should I behave? Do you want me to attack you?" Kazama asked, leaning in close.

"Um, no. That's okay... I actually really appreciate you acting like a gentleman," she said as she leaned back, sweat-dropping.

"I'm surprised you haven't tried to escape," he commented as he took the hint and backed off, looking slightly disappointed that she hadn't given him the green light to pounce.

"Well, you gave me a really ominous warning not to, remember?" she replied, feeling a little chagrined that he seemed to think it was sign she was getting attached to him. Well, maybe she was... sort of... in a Stockholm syndrome kind of way...

"I'm still waiting to hear your answer."

"And I'm still thinking about it."

"Why are you so against me?" Kazama asked, frowning. She would allow herself to be shot and stabbed in order to protect her friend, yet she wouldn't agree to marry him?

"Osen-chan's right. You really don't know anything about women, do you?" Sumiko asked, raising an eyebrow at him. "When some random guys show up in the middle of the night saying they're there to take you away, whether you like it or not, the first thought to flash through any normal girl's mind isn't: 'Oh, how romantic!' It's: 'Rape!'. Your presentation left a lot to be desired. No matter how good your intentions, there's no way we'd trust you after that. How do I know you won't go back on your promise to leave Chizuru alone after I give in to your demands?"

"Because Oni always keep their word," he answered seriously, frowning slightly as he realized just how terrible their first impression of him had been. "Maybe you think that I'm an animal or a beast. But Oni do value manners and old tradition. If I am to make you mine, it won't be at just any time or place, so don't worry about it. I'll keep my word," he said resolutely, staring out into the courtyard. Sumiko watched him for a moment in silence before replying.

"Okay," she said with a small smile. She could see that he was seriously trying, even if his methods were a little out of whack... but she was starting to suspect most of his perceived callousness was due more to a lack of common sense than malice. He had probably grown up a well educated but sheltered young master, which left him a bit socially inept now that he was an adult...

"You should be careful when you smile like that," Kazama warned her with a frank tone. "It makes people want to push you down."

"Eh?" Sumiko said, blinking, as her smile fell. 'Does that mean he's thinking about pushing me down right now...? Uwah! This guy really is dangerous...!' "Ah, um... can I ask you a personal question?" she asked, clearing her throat nervously as she tried to think of a way to shift the subject to something less dangerous for her. "Why are you so against us being with the Shinsengumi? Why do you have such a problem with the idea of us getting along with humans?"

"Don't you have any self-awareness as an oni?" he asked, furrowing his brow as he glanced at her. "Oni may appear to be the same as humans, but our wounds heal in seconds, and we can break out unexpected power if we let our rage out. So humans will treat us like monsters and use us."

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