For Be Not Afraid
by Estirose
c 2012

Yae sighed as she looked around their new home. Ryozo wanted to get closer to his work, that was true, but it didn't mean that she wanted to get closer to it. Himuro Mansion has been the site of several folk tales, and Ryozo wanted to write about it. But it said something about his devotion to her that he wanted her close by. And she had to admit, she did enjoy the clean mountain air.
Himuro Mansion was another story entirely. While there were no skeletons or such that she could find, there were certainly more than a few things that she didn't want to touch until Ryozo got to look at them. She didn't mind some of them, though, because they were either in good shape or easily fixable. They were installing their low table in the room next to the balcony, and Mikoto would live next to that, while she and Ryozo lived in the room with the immovable koto until they could decide what to do with the two rooms off the fireplace room hallway. Ryozo had tried to lift it, found it wouldn't move, and declared it to be one of the mansion's mysteries; Yae didn't mind, because she knew how to play it, and it made her calm.
There was so much she owed to Ryozo that she didn't fuss too much, even as she worried about living in the old place. Her life had begun at fifteen, when Ryozo found her in the ceremonial kimono in the forest, and she only knew a little bit about what had happened in her own home village from the accounts that Ryozo had published. She'd read a little of the book, hoping against hope that it would tell her something of her life before, but it had disturbed her so much she hadn't read much of it.
That meant no matter how much this place disturbed her, she would bear it, for Ryozo's sake. She could tell Mikoto loved it, and that helped too. Plus, it was only a quick walk to the atrium with the cherry tree, and if she was feeling bad, she could always go back there.
She tried to tell herself that there were no ghosts in this place, just bad feelings. Bad history, bad superstition, the kind that Ryozo wanted to help dispel. Or at least document.
"Yae?" Ryozo asked, approaching her. "Are you all right?"
She gave him a smile. She always tried to, no matter how bad she felt. She owed her life to him, and she had married him because of that, and she smiled because of that. "I was just thinking of how much work I have to do."
"We have to do," Ryozo said. "Don't strain yourself, Yae. You've been sick ever since I found you...."
"Was I sick like this... before?" she asked him. He was the only one who'd known her before she lost her memories, and he was reluctant to tell her anything. Based on what she'd read in his books, she hadn't pressed.
"If you were, my friend I-" he stopped himself, as he often did when talking about her past. "You didn't seem so when I knew you." He took her hands. "Don't blame yourself. You did nothing wrong."
Maybe she had done something wrong, and maybe that's why she was always unwell. But she couldn't dwell on that, for Ryozo's and Mikoto's sake.
But instead of agreeing, she bowed her head, shyly. She would let him make of that what he would.
"If there was anything that was wrong, it was something that you had no control over." He let go slightly to pat her hand. "I love you, Yae, and I don't want you to worry. We've got a lot of work to do here."
"I don't like the house," she said, "But I like the place."
He smiled. "That's all I can ask for. Take advantage of the fresh air, Yae. Maybe we can spend the rest of our lives here. I can retire, maybe take on some students...."
That would be a good thing. Yae hoped for it. Maybe she'd get used to this strange, creepy place. Maybe she'd dream of butterflies that weren't crimson, of cherry blossoms and placid lakes. Mikoto loved running about in that fish tank room, running across the boards, and Yae thought that maybe they should farm some fish there. She'd always liked fresh fish herself.
"I would be overjoyed for you," she said. "Have you thought of what to do in the hallway rooms?"
"I'm not sure," Ryozo admitted. "But I'm hoping to make that room with the koto a haven just for you, Yae."
She smiled, a genuine smile this time. "Thank you, Ryozo." Even if she hadn't been grateful to him for rescuing her, she genuinely adored him. Ryozo might be a little bit absentminded at times, but he genuinely cared for her and Mikoto; he'd give up his traveling days for the most part so that he could be with the two of them, and there was little more that she could ask of him. Of course, if he hadn't been a folklorist's apprentice, they would have never have met, and he would have never saved her. But she was grateful that he thought of her feelings.
And wasn't that all that a woman could ask of her husband? To think of her feelings, and to be kind to her?
Other women might have different opinions, but she was glad she had Ryozo and their daughter. No matter what had happened to her in the past, it was gone now. She had a stable life. She had a lovely husband and child.
"You're important to me, Yae." He smiled back. "What would I do without you? I'd starve!"
Somehow, she doubted that. But she'd shaped herself into what she needed to be, tempered herself, become an ideal partner. And he didn't seem to mind.
Mikoto ran up to them, her hair flying out of its hairpin, and Yae reached out for her. Yes, her life was good, and even if Himuro mansion was creepy, she was determined to make the best of it.


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