Maybe Natsume should stop walking alone in the forest. It seemd to always lead to trouble. It was usually where he had to run for his life. But also where he found the best relationships.
The forest was where he found Nyanko-sensei and it was where he felt the most peace when the world refused to be silent or when everything just got too much.
He loved the forest and he hated it too. And that was because of moments like the one he was caught in right then.
His breath came quick and sharp as he ran past trees and ducked under sharp branches. Behind him was the shuffling gait of a yokai that had smelled him and apparently thought him the best snack ever.
It was one of the few times he didn’t have Nyanko-sensei with him and he was regretting it. But even as he ran, he was glad for the momentary peace. If only the yokai had not intruded on it. But that was life.
It was getting close to him no matter that he was fast. If he needed to he would fight it but it was big with many arms and legs. And its tongue dragged on the ground as it ran. For a brief moment, Natsume wondered if this was how he would die.
And then when he could feel those fingers nearing him, he tripped and fell!
And he landed on a bed of flowers.
He was still breathing hard and was wide-eyed at where he was. Wherever he had fallen, it wasn’t in the forest anymore. Because it was the golden-red of fall in the forest but here it was the fresh green of the new spring.
And in the small clearing that he found himself to be in, there were red spider lilies everywhere. A carpet of red that smelled like what he imagined gentleness would be. And that was the strangest thing ever to him because he had never thought gentleness could have a smell.
Except apparently it did, and as he sat up and just breathed, he couldn’t help but enjoy it. Even as he knew he had probably entered into a place separate from his world.
It was as he sat, looking around that he saw something that didn’t belong. For in the sea of red the flowers made, there was black. And as he looked closer, it rose and his heart almost froze.
It may have been an instinctual fear, one that he could never understand or rationalize. Because the boy that rose before him did not look threatening in any way.
He had dark hair the color of pitch and eyes tht were the green of life. He was a stunning creature of pale skin and fae smiles. And Natsume knew he could not be human.
“Hello, I’ve never had visitors before. My name is Midori.” He had a sweet smile, and Natsume saw only peace and gentleness in it. And so he did what he knew Nyanko-sensei would call him stupid for.
“Hello,” he started with a smile. “My name is Natsume Takashi, and it is very nice to meet you.” And he meant it. He had learned early on to enjoy the little moments when he could.
Midori smiled wider and Natsume could feel the joy flowing out. It seemed the whole meadow was brighter for it. Then he blinked and the next thing he knew, Midori was sitting right in front of him.
Natsume noticed that he was actually taller than him, and he wore a beautiful kimono of ink black with red and gold higanbana that seemed to move in an invisible wind.
And then Midori was grabbing Natsume’s hands and though they were slightly cool, they were gentle. And though Natsume could try to deny it till the sun sank, he always had a weak spot for those kind few who were gentle.
He didn’t think too deeply on it and he didn’t worry. Though he hoped that when he left the meadow, it would not be to a world changed by time. He had heard tales of those who fell into a small little world of beauty and dream only to return to a time many years after their own.
And so he spoke with the small boy so full of kindness and light. And when at last he broached his eventual leave, Midori smiled sweetly at him before plucking a higanbana and placing it into Natsume’s hair. Somehow, it did not feel like it would easily fall.
That hand curled against his cheek and natsume found peace in it again. A warmth he had never felt fell into his heart. He wondered why it was that it made him think of love.
“I have enjoyed you Natsume-kun.” That voice was so soft and Natsume felt his eyes close without fear.
“Know that I will remember you for this, and when again we meet, we shall talk once more. And this flower will be a reminder for you who is so gentle. May it nver wither and may those who harm you know my wrath.”
And then he felt a kiss like the petals of a flower against his forehead before he knew no more.
After it was over, he could not truly remember all they had talked about, but he remembered the peace and the joy. And when he told Nyanko-sensei, the cat gave him an ugly stare as if he were the biggest fool.
“Do you know who you talked with, baka!?” The cat exclaimed with Taiyaki in his mouth.
Natsume was chewing his own so he just shook his head no.
The cat looked at him and ate. And then he spoke with a voice more serious than any Natsume had heard before.
“There is only one creature known to be like what you described.” He said.
“Was he a god?” Natsume asked. The boy had been otherworldly and unlike a yokai.
The cat sneered. “To call him a god is like calling a dragon a fish.” He finished the last of the Taiyaki before continuing.
“Midori no Shi. He is the god of death.” Nyanko-sensei said.
“A shinigami?” Natsume coulnd’t see it. He’d never heard of a Shinigami like that. Then again he had fortunately never met a Shinigami. Not that he knew of at least.
“No, he is The god of death. All death. Even the death of other gods.” And now Natsume felt a chill.
“He’s been known to always carry higanbana with him, and those that he gives such to are under his protection.” His hand went to the flower that was still in his hair though he had forgotten about it and that no one had noticed this entire time.
It was still as soft as before, with the gentle touch of that small god with the sweet smile.
As Nyanko-sensei kept talking, he thought back to that smile. And he decided that if that was the face of death, then maybe he had nothing to fear for when that day came. At least, he knew it would be full of gentle warmth and higanbana.