Poinsettia Guidepost

Almost two years too late, here is the guide post for my 2013 advent calendar: Poinsettia.
Thanks to everyone who read and enjoyed it way back when, and new readers; please enjoy, and feel free to leave comments~ ♡

Synopsis: Mizuki doesn’t celebrate Christmas, but then one December, during his foreign exchange year, he has a rather peculiar experience that makes him doubt everything, including his sanity and reluctance towards the holidays.

December 1st

December 2nd

December 3rd

December 4th

December 5th

December 6th

December 7th

December 8th

December 9th

December 10th

December 11th

December 12th

December 13th

December 14th

December 15th

December 16th

December 17th

December 18th

December 19th

December 20th

December 21st

December 22nd

December 23rd

December 24th

December 25th: Christmas Day [Final ]

Want more? Check out my 2012 Calendar: Winter Song

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Love Addict E-Store open! Special release discount!

I had this idea that I was going to hold off releasing Love Addict through the webshop until we’d revamped my website and made it more functional.
These days, I mostly use Facebook or Tumblr to advertise my writing, so there’s not even a speck of info on the website about Love Addict… And frankly, the CS webstore isn’t very functional either, since there’s a separate web store for each book.

But, there hasn’t been much time to think of a functional way of refurbishing the site, much less pulling it off… And I know that my international readers are waiting for the webstore to be launched. At least I hope you haven’t given up on me yet!

So I decided to go ahead and open the webstore, almost five months after Love Addict’s initial release date.

You can now purchase Love Addict here!

However, to make it up to all of you who were patient enough to wait for me, I’ve decided that as an apology, Love Addict will be sold at a special discount of $8 off until March 7th!
All you need to do is to apply the following discount code: 7SW6E3Q3 when placing your order.
Remember that if you want to place an order through CreateSpace, you’ll need to make an account, which takes about 5 minutes, so please do that first!

I am so sorry it took so long to get the webstore on its feet, but I hope it was worth the wait!

Please don’t hesitate to share this offer with all your BL-lovng friends as well!
If you’d like to place an order for either ‘SNOW’ or ‘Jaded’, you’ll find links to their webstores in the sidebar to the right.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Almost there..

The other night, I wrote a blog post, added it to drafts…and scrapped the whole thing.

There is something peculiar about the feeling as a release date approaches. As an avid fan of pre-ordering, the final weeks or days for me are mostly spent waiting; an exhausting, agonizing wait with frequent trips to the mail box, hoping that today….

As an author, the same period of time looks a little bit different.

I can’t really recall how I felt before the releases of SNOW and Jaded. I think… With SNOW it was all so sudden, I didn’t have time to prepare. While Jaded was more like finally.

Up until a couple of days ago, I didn’t think much of the release at all. Maybe I’m getting used to doing these kind of events, or maybe it’s just because I am so busy these days, I hardly have time to sit down and think; I mostly find myself running around frantically trying to cram more hours into my day.

But when I sat down and tried to think and feel.. There’s definitely something there.
It’s anticipation, and admittedly, some nerves.
The latter didn’t exactly decrease when I stumbled across a rather cross review. As an author I am prepared for all kinds of opinions; and all books are not for all people. Still, that’s not to say it didn’t hurt. That said, it’s something that’s probably unavoidable, even though I wish I hadn’t come across it only days before a new release.

I’m excited to finally share Love Addict with you, but at the same time it’s kind of terrifying.
It always is.
There’s something really strange about having kept something to yourself for so long, something that has been yours alone for so long, and then allowing people to parttake in it; to read it and form an opinion on it.

I’m excited, but also nervous. Maybe because Love Addict is so different from the other two novels?
But it would be. All my novels are shaped by the characters that parttake in the story. Although Love Addict has the same universe and characters as Jaded, it’s a vastly different story, because Aki and Miya are such different people. The characters’ personalities and traits ultimately shape the narrative and the story.
I find that rather fascinating.

Love Addict was really fun to work on, compared to the struggles I had with Jaded and Aki’s complex nature. Miya is simpler and way more honest, so it was really relieving to write this story.
Hopefully, you will enjoy reading it as well!

Part of me is terrified to let this project go and see it in other people’s hands, but I know how great this is all going to feel tomorrow, when the release event commences.
There’s definitely a peculiar feeling on the night before a release, but I don’t think I’d want to miss out on it. Not at all.

If you’re in Trondheim, don’t hesitate to drop by Outland! I’ll be there signing books from 12:00 pm!
And if you’re on time, you can leave with a bunch of these sexy freebies as well:

Happy White Day!

Honestly, so much time passes between every update on here. I’m ashamed.

Anyway, to make up for the extremely slow process of getting Love Addict prepped for release, namely due to my cramped schedule, I promised on Facebook yesterday to share a little something with you instead.
This was originally something I thought of a while back, and never wrote. When I sat down to get it done yesterday, I remembered what day it is today, and added a little extra to the original idea.

For those unfamiliar with White Day: In Japan, it’s custom that the girls give chocolate to the boys on Valentine’s Day. The following month, on March 14th, the boys return the favor by giving something to the girls – traditionally something white, like a ribbon, thus the name. It’s getting more and more common to give sweets and other presents as well, but the name remains.

In my case, I write BL, so naturally the pattern of the Valentine/White Day exchanges is kind of skewered, and up to my own mind how to solve.
In this drabble, I decided to take advantage of Yuuki’s career path.
The title comes from a song by GReeeeN, which I strongly associate with Yuuki’s character (though Aki would argue vehemently).

Spoiler Warning.
If you haven’t read Jaded yet, you might want to avoid this drabble. It’s not entirely cannonical, but can be assumed to take place somewhere in the latter part of Jaded, or shortly after the end.
No huge spoilers plotwise – but if you don’t know who Yuuki is, you shouldn’t read on.

The rest of you. Enjoy~

Cooking 彼氏

Arguably, the most positive aspect of being a pastry chef in training was the fact that one could bring all kinds of sweets and goodies home after a day at school. In Sasaki Yuuki’s case, the negatives of this fact outweighed the positives: being surrounded by sweets and cakes all day didn’t necessarily make him feel like eating them at home as well – certainly not after taste-testing everything. The main negative was unquestionably, being with someone who absolutely hated sweets. Alright, so they weren’t really together. Their relation was something vague and fragile. In any case, they were living together – sort of. At some point it had just become a given that they should spend most of their time together at Aki’s apartment in Higashinada. Yuuki was uncertain of whether this was actually a voluntary choice for either of them, but regardless, this was his life for the time being.
And so, he had resigned when his teacher at the culinary school he was attending, had announced that they’d be making sweets on account of the season – this season being every lovey-dovey couple’s favorite, and to him, something completely indifferent, with a slightly bitter aftertaste.

 

He was feeling apprehensive, but somehow ready to fight when he came home that day.
The apartment however, was deserted. Aki could easily be anywhere. Yuuki was used to this, and paid it no mind as he slipped the box he’d brought back from school, onto the kitchen counter, and proceeded to dig through the fridge for something to eat.

When Aki returned later that afternoon, his glance immediately fell on the box on the counter. He jerked his head towards it. “What’s this?” He demanded.
Yuuki shrugged, standing up. “For you.”
Their gazes met. Aki’s eyes were narrowing slightly, focusing on the calendar on the wall behind Yuuki.
“Valentine’s chocolates?”
“They might just be.”
“I hate sweets, Precious.”
“As if I don’t know that?” Yuuki countered elegantly, stepping up to the other man. “You could at least open the box.”
Half-heartedly, Aki tugged on the string tied around the box, and knocked the lid off, exposing neatly lined heart-shaped chocolates, decorated with swirls of melted, white chocolate.
His nose twitched, in the same way kids would react to something they didn’t like.
“What exactly am I supposed to do with these?”
“You’re gonna accept them,” Yuuki replied, his tone calm, lips curving into a smirk.
“Yeah?”
They were face to face, gazes locked. A storm was brewing between them.
“You might not like it,” Yuuki pressed on. “But I poured all my pathetic one-sided love for you into them, and you will eat them.”
Aki clicked his tongue, in the kind of condescending fashion only he was able to express.
Yuuki reached into the box, picking up one of the heart-shaped sweets, holding it up to Aki’s face, touching it to his lips, which remained tightly shut.
Aki seemed intrigued though. He probably enjoyed it; having the upper hand, like always, but also this tense, somewhat aggressive mood. His hand closed around Yuuki’s wrist, holding it tightly, but without trying to pull the hand from his lips.
“And also,” Yuuki allowed himself to crack another smile. “I filled them.”
“With?” Aki’s lips brushed against the candy as he spoke, one eyebrow arched in a quizzical manner.
“Liquor.”
Without meeting resistance from the hand clasping his wrist, Yuuki pushed the heart-shaped candy, which was starting to melt between his fingertips, harder against the other man’s lips, which gave way, parting and allowing Yuuki to pop the chocolate into his mouth. At the same time, he caught the tips of his fingers. Slight chills travelled down Yuuki’s spine at the sensation of Aki’s tongue softly brushing over his fingertips, his lips closing around them, sucking gently, before releasing them again.
“Well played.” Aki cocked his head to the side, smiling ever so slightly. He was in a good mood then. Yuuki felt relieved. He had been worried he’d gone too far earlier, even if it was meant as a half-hearted joke…There was some truth to what he had said, and that notion was more than enough to send them spiraling, he knew that.

He watched Aki chew and swallow the candy without expressing too much disgust.
“What?”
“Nothing.” He shook his head.
He couldn’t very well tell that he was glad to see Aki somewhat accepting his feelings for once.
“They’re not awful, if that’s what you want to hear.”
That was the closest thing to an approval he’d ever hear.
“Thanks. I’m glad.”
“As long as you don’t expect me to get all fluffy on you and return the favor on White’s Day or whatever.”  The words were cool, rolling icily off of Aki’s tongue.
The younger of the two shook his head again. He put his hand on Aki’s shoulder, leaning closer to him and whispered into his ear:
“In the west, I believe they refer to it as the steak and blowjob day.”
He allowed his lips to gently caress the shell of Aki’s metal-adorned ear, before he was pulled back by a strong, slim hand. Aki was smirking at him, he noted, before the other man had leaned close, and caught his lips with his own. He tasted of sweet chocolate and bitter liquor.
When they broke apart, Aki spoke again: “Now we’re talking.”

 

~終~

Character Intro: Koeguchi Keiichi

Hey guys~
I meant to make this post way earlier, but as usual I don’t have much free time outside of prepping Love Addict and cramming for exams. Please forgive my lack of presence lately.
Though I urged you all to guess who this “mystery character” I wanted to share was, there wasn’t much enthusiasm – until I finally posted him. As expected, you all seem very excited!
The formal introduction however, failed to be posted. But better late than never. Let’s talk about this handsome devil, shall we?

keiichi02wm


For those who have read SNOW, you’ve already made yourself acquainted with this guy. Koeguchi Keiichi is Maaya’s art teacher in the early stages of the novel – later they go out.
Although they have quite an age gap between them, they have many things in common, and are able to mostly communicate on a mature, equal level.
At 21, Keiichi is a university student, majoring in art, and teaching art classes in his spare time for some extra pocket money. Though Keiichi is from a well-off family, he doesn’t like depending too much on them, so he works for his own money, and works his ass off to try to get a scholarship to study abroad.
His talent is nothing to wince at, and he is a patient and skilled teacher. His works are often severe and even dystopian, but he is a laid-back, generally happy guy.

When it comes to his relationship with Maaya, he makes some mistakes, and he might often seem less responsible than Maaya himself. However, he genuinely cares for the boy, and hates the way things turned out in the end.

Originally, Keiichi wasn’t supposed to be a very important character – or, he would be, as he was Maaya’s first love. But as far as my intentions went, Keiichi was there for the first part of SNOW, and then he wasn’t supposed to show up again. Thus, I never had him commissioned, and I never really knew what he looked like. However, thanks to a very dear friend of mine, I came to think of him much more than intended. Because she loves him, I came to consider his character much more, and also evaluate his actions and thoughts. Somehow, I came to forgive his mistakes, and see him in a different light. I also became curious about his looks, and decided to commission my dear illustrator to find out if he matched my internal, blurry image, and also to give as a gift to my friend. Lanny of course, is as mind-reading as ever, and skillfully whipped out this amazingly sexy character . As far as the image in my head goes, he is beyond perfect. No wonder Maaya fell so hard for him!

Thank you all so much for your comments and likes on his picture! Although he isn’t considered among the greatest characters, I do like him much better now than  I did when I first wrote him that sounded horrible. Now that I know that he looks like this, I like him even better. Ahaha~

Another headshot will be coming up shortly~

(Also, woah; I’ve been really lousy with the character intros on the blog. The two previous ones weren’t extensive at all… )

Love Addict announced!!

Writing this blogpost in case any of you missed the video below. I feel super awkward about having put up a Youtube video, but at the same time, I’m super excited about what’s going on lately, so please do check it out!

On the morning of New Year’s Eve, just as I was on my way out, the doorbell rang, and a much awaited package was finally delivered.
Inside of this package was the proof copy of Love Addict.
As I said in the video, I’ve been dropping hints for a while about this secret project of mine, without much luck. I am however delighted to announce that I’m finally in the final parts of preparation for release, which will be within months! Currently, the book is being proof read by a friend of mine, and the final details are being polished.
I’ll make sure to go into more detail once the release date has been confirmed. Please be patient until then~☆

For those of you who are using Goodreads, I’ve put up the profile for Love Addict on there, so you can add it to your to-read list! Yey!
Remember that you can also add your reviews to SNOW and Jaded while you’re on, and make sure to recommend them to your friends.
Independent author life is hard.

So anyway, I hope you’re as excited as me about this new release! I’m really looking forward to sharing it with you all, and to hearing your comments when it comes out!

Advent Calendar, Christmas Day

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas Eve yesterday. To those celebrating today; I hope you’ll have a lovely celebration. Thank you for following this calendar of mine to the end. Here is the final part.

25

They had stayed up for hours, watching the light of the Star outside. Naked, they had stayed in bed together, awaiting the time of separation, without voicing it out loud. Settia had told him not to think about it, not to let it ruin anything, so Mizuki had grit his teeth, and given himself over to soft kisses, warm embraces, ripples of honest, happy laughter, and endless supplies of sweets and sweet words alike. When they fell asleep in each other’s arms, Mizuki had managed to push aside the dread and sorrow. Yet, he’d awoken in the middle of the night, fearful. He’d grabbed a pen, and jotted down his feelings, doubts and realizations, but more importantly, his thanks. The note he’d stuck in an envelope, which he sealed with tape, before writing Settia’s name on it. Afterwards, he’d gone back to sleep, nuzzling close to the man he had yet to understand to the fullest.
Time was running out, he knew it.

***

When he woke up, it was Christmas day. Something felt different. There was a chill in the room, and he immediately felt worried, sitting upright to check if Settia—
The spot next to him was empty. The reason he felt cold was because he was alone.
Mizuki pulled the covers tightly around himself, and touched upon the solitude that washed over him.
“You didn’t even say goodbye..?” he said quietly.
It had only been nineteen days since they met. For nineteen days, Settia had been in his life. And in that short amount of time, he had managed to change so many things. But the mystery still remained.
Mizuki didn’t know what to believe, if it had all been a dream or…
There was glitter on the pillow, he noticed, and on his own skin. Something twinkled over by the table. He wrapped the sheet around himself like a robe, and stood from the bed.
A note, scribbled in neat handwriting, glitter glinting towards him from the paper, and the ink itself.
“Since you don’t have a fire place, I put the stocking on the radiator.”
He looked towards the space heater, and found a large, red stocking. Reaching inside, he found candies, and tons of photos. Of the two of them, from last night; of them smiling, kissing, making faces…
He plopped down on the floor, browsing each and every one, trying to figure out how Settia had managed to print them. It was true they had taken photos, but that had been with a disposable camera.
He turned the photos over. Messages were scribbled all over the back sides: “Memories”, “Hey look, magic?”, “Thank you”, “I love you”.
Mizuki swallowed hard.
He dug into the stocking again, and pulled out a note. It seemed to have been written in a hurry.
“Dearest Mizuki. Thank you for everything. Thank you for accepting me into your life, and for helping me with my mission. You’re wonderful, don’t ever forget that. The greatest gift I could ever receive is to have spent this time with you. So thank you, once again. I love you.
– Settia.”

His eyes burned. Hastily, Mizuki dried them with the back of his hand. He missed him so much already. And yet… there was a strange calm inside of him.
His eyes fell on the table again. He realized the letter he had written in the middle of the night was missing. Something that looked like red petals was scattered on the tabletop; their scent rose towards him as he scooted closer. The ceramic pot was standing there, but it wasn’t empty. It was full of soil, and he realized there was something growing in it; a plant which seemed to be all stem, no petals or leaves.
And then he noticed that the encyclopedia about the flowers was open, seemingly turned to a random page, but with Settia’s red ribbon; the one he had worn that first night, draped as a bookmark across the pages. He peered over the book, and read out loud:
‘With care, the poinsettia can be induced to reflower after the initial display seen when purchased. Prune the plant of its colorful leaves, keep it in a moderately lit place, minimal watering and well-drained soil. The oldest known Poinsettia lived for 20 years…’
He took the ribbon between his fingers, and pressed it to his chest, where his heart pounded agitatedly.
“Thank you…” he whispered, leading the silk to his lips, kissing it softly.

~終~

Advent calendar, Christmas Eve

Merry Christmas Everyone~☆

24

Although most of the educational institutes in the region had their final day of the year on the 23rd, Mizuki’s university allowed the students to choose whether they wanted Christmas Eve off or not. Initially, he had planned on staying home, but after last night’s revelations, Mizuki decided to go on by after all, just for a short while. He told Settia he had something he needed to hand in, but the truth was that he needed to think. He felt guilty when he closed the door behind himself, and terrified that Settia would be gone when he came back.

When he got to their usual class room, Noel was already there, struggling with a massive pile of paper, which was supposedly his source material for his thesis.
“They fell out of my bag,” he moaned, “Can you believe it?  Everything is disarranged now. I’ll spend all of Christmas reorganizing them for sure.”
“Yeah, probably.” Mizuki replied, uninterested.
“Oi, what’s wrong?” Noel looked up from the chaos on his desk. “Christmas depression returning?”
“Leave it. Have you seen the Professor? I need to ask him a question.”
“Yeah I think he’s in his office, but he said something about leaving earlier today.”
“I’d better go catch him then,” Mizuki turned on his heel.
“Hey Miz,” Noel grabbed his shoulder. “Is this about that guy…Settia?”
“How do you know?”
Noel didn’t say anything, merely responding with a look of obviousness.
“Yeah he’s….” Mizuki didn’t know how to say it. “Leaving. I found out last night.”
“And you don’t want him to?”
He shook his head.
“Then tell him to stay.” Noel said, as if it was that simple. Mizuki sprinted out of the room and down the hall towards the faculty offices, almost crashing into the professor as he exited his office and was about to lock the door.
“Mizuki? I didn’t think I’d be seeing you again until next year?”
“Professor!” he wheezed. “About Poinsettia…!”
“Yes?” the man looked intrigued, “did you find out if there was a myth?”
“Yes! I mean, it’s not a myth but….Yeah. The human Poinsettia exists.” The words tumbled out of him, before he could organize them. Luckily, it didn’t faze the professor it seemed.
“And?”
“Well…” He hesitated. Why had he come here? What would his professor be able to tell him that he couldn’t have found in his book, or heard from a florist? “Poinsettia….How long does it last?”
“Hmm? You mean how long does it blossom?”
“I’m sure it was in the book but—“ Mizuki bit his lip.
“Usually, only until right over Christmas. Supposedly, they can last and bloom again with the right care but…”
“What happens after Christmas?”
“They wilt, usually. But you know, most people only see them as temporary decorations. They don’t need them all year around…”
“They’re not!” he had to restrain himself not shout.
“Mizuki?”
“No, it’s just… I’m sorry for holding you up, Professor. Thank you!” he rushed back down the hallway, towards the front exit.

Settia had said that he would only be able to stay until the next day at the longest, but surely that didn’t mean….?
He ran as fast as he could over the icy pavement, with the metallic taste of blood in his mouth, in the direction of the mall. The market outside by the parking lot was busier than he’d seen all month.
He looked wildly around, for the man with the cauldron and the candy canes. His heart skipped a beat when he spotted him and his table, over by an old carriage decorated with ribbons and full of what appeared to be wheat sheaves, dressed in the same costume as last time. “Hey! Santa!” he called out, feeling his cheeks flushing. Several heads had turned to look at this grown man yelling out to a man dressed up as Santa Claus.
“Mizuki,” the man replied, smiling in his beard, still with that same chuckle in his voice.  “Good to see you again!”
“You…” he swallowed, trying to catch his breath. “You know about Settia, don’t you?”
The old man’s eyes glinted behind his round glasses. He smiled. “That’s a lovely name.”
“Listen,” Mizuki didn’t care if the man was feigning innocence or not. “He says he has to leave by tomorrow. Why? You’re the one who…gave him to me. Can’t you let him…” his voice fell flat, he didn’t know how to express himself.  “Even if he only came to me for his mission…Does he really have to leave?”
He felt his cheeks growing warm. Why wasn’t the old man answering?
“Please. Say something? What happens after the 25th?”
“He came to me,” the man said. The sudden reply startled Mizuki slightly. “He told me about what you’ve been up to.  He’s proud of you.”
“So—“
“But some things even I can’t change,” he said, shaking his head. “You should hurry on home. I wish you both a Merry Christmas.”
“But-“
In the time it took Mizuki to blink, it was as if the man had vanished into thin air.
Something stung inside of Mizuki’s chest. He felt desperate. He needed to get home, back to Settia – Assuming he was still there.

***

“Settia!”
The red-haired man turned to look at Mizuki as he burst through the door, and into the room. Settia was at the kitchen counter, seemingly preparing food.
“Welcome home…?” he looked a little taken aback.
“You’re still here!” Mizuki kicked off his shoes, rushing over to throw his arms around Settia’s neck. Settia embraced him lovingly. “I’m still here…” he whispered into his hair, kissing the top of his head. “I’ll stay a little longer. Don’t worry.”
“Do you really have to leave..?”
“I think you know the answer to that…” Settia mumbled into his hair, squeezing him a little harder.
Mizuki choked back something like a sob. “What are you doing?” he muttered.
“I thought I’d cook us a Christmas dinner if you don’t mind?”
“I don’t think I can eat…”
“I’m sure you can. Let’s try to enjoy ourselves, okay?”
It didn’t sound convincing at all.

Still, Settia prepared a small feast for the two of them, and served it just in time for the bells to start tolling outside. They ate in relative silence.
“I…didn’t get you a present.” Mizuki heard himself say, looking down at his plate.
“Present?”
“I mean, with it being Christmas and all, I probably should’ve.”
“Mizuki. You don’t celebrate Christmas, and didn’t I tell you that-“
“I know that.” He stood, and took a step over to Settia, placing his hand on the man’s shoulder. “I want to give you a present, because I feel like you deserve it. Not because I feel like I should. You’ve taught me a lot over these past weeks and…” he swallowed.
Settia stood as well, looking him deep into the eyes.  “Silly,” he said, taking Mizuki’s hand and touching it to his own chest, “you gave me your heart.”
So he knew. Knew how much Mizuki’s heart ached and burned; how deeply he had fallen…
“Then…” Mizuki pleaded with him. “Won’t you stay?”
Settia leaned in, capturing his lips in a soft, sweet kiss. “God I wish I could…” he whispered, touching their foreheads together.
“Stay…”
“I can’t…”
“But…” Mizuki protested. “You’ve got magic, right? And that guy…he helped you before, didn’t he? Whether he’s Santa or Father Christmas or—“
“I told you before,” Settia said solemnly, “my magic doesn’t work like that. I didn’t turn myself human. I didn’t make the rules. And I can’t change this, much like I couldn’t make myself well before…”
“Settia,” Mizuki grabbed him by the hand, squeezing it harder than ever as a terrifying thought struck him: “My Professor said that…Poinsettias wilt over Christmas… What happens when the Star shines?”
Settia averted his eyes, glimmering with something entirely new.
“Settia!” he grabbed his shoulder with the other hand, shaking him. “When Poinsettia wilts…Do they die? You’re not going to d-“
“Ssh,” Settia touched one finger to Mizuki’s trembling lips. “Don’t say it. Look…”
He led Mizuki towards the window; it was already pitch black outside, the moon was out, illuminating the town in that same peculiar way it had all those days ago..
Settia lifted his finger towards the sky, pointing to a point above a tall building in the distance. “See that?”
Mizuki’s eyes fell on a star, larger and brighter than any he had ever seen. “The Christmas star…? But you’re still here!”
Settia pulled him close. “I will stay with you tonight.” He whispered. “I love you, Mizuki.”
Mizuki buried his head in Settia’s chest, inhaling his scent. “I love you…”

**TBC**

As you can see, there will be one more part. Tomorrow will be the final installment. I hope you’re all having a lovely Christmas Eve.

Advent Calendar, part 23

23

Settia was warm next to him, his scent strong, and his colors vivid, as if he was blossoming. Mizuki curled up even closer to him, waiting with dread for his alarm to ring, announcing the start of a new Monday. He’d woken up earlier than usual, despite getting so little sleep, and lay regarding the other man, whose arms were tucked safely around Mizuki. The same arms that had felt so strong the night before, muscles tensing beneath his rubicund, tan skin, which felt hot against his own, as he enveloped him with kisses and the weight of his body on top of Mizuki’s.  It felt like a dream, much like large portions of this strange December. But the feelings coursing through him were real. He didn’t want to get up.
His alarm rang, stirring Settia from his sleep as well as Mizuki reached out towards the table, turning the alarm off without making any effort to get out of bed.
“Aren’t you getting up..?” Settia drawled. It was kind of cute how he seemed to have relinquished that morning-person act of his.
“Don’t wanna…” Mizuki replied, kissing him on the shoulder. “I thought I’d skip today…”
“You really shouldn’t do that…” Settia murmured.
“I know,” Mizuki groaned. “But it’s so warm in here, and you’re so…” He felt Settia’s arms squeezing him tightly. “It’s cold out there you know…”
“But baby it’s cold outside…” Settia hummed at his side.
“Dork,” Mizuki nudged him.
“Mhmm,” the other man laughed softly. “You know, maybe you should take the day off.”
“Yeah,” Mizuki yawned, “Taking Christmas break early sounds lovely…”
“Christmas break?”
Mizuki looked away, stubbornly. “That’s what it is, no matter if you celebrate or not,” he defended himself.
“Whatever you say.” Settia grinned. “C’mere…”

They stayed in bed, nodding off for a few more hours. Settia was the first one to awaken this time around. He gently nudged Mizuki, waking him up as well.
“Mizuki…” he said, “Wake up.”
“Nnh..?” Confused, Mizuki sat up, feeling a slight pang of guilt, as he realized it was almost ten, and he should’ve been in history class.
“I was thinking…”
“What?”
“I want to go to church.”
“Uh…?”
Mizuki didn’t think of himself as particularly religious. Sure, he followed the Shinto customs, like the rest of his family, but it was more a ritual thing than a spiritual connection for him. Still, it hadn’t crossed his mind that Settia might have a different standing. “Are you religious?” he asked, looking sleepily at the redhead at his side.
“Of course not,” Settia grinned. “I’m a plant, remember?”
“You won’t stop with that, will you?” Mizuki laughed quietly. “Okay, so I’m curious. Why do you wanna go to church?”
“Many people go during Christmas,” Settia said. “It’s tradition.”
“Yeah, on Christmas Eve.”
“Well, there’s a children’s choir performing today,” Settia said, with a look on his face that could only be described as gleeful.
“Alright. We’ll go.” Mizuki said resolutely.
“Really?”
Mizuki stroked his hand along Settia’s upper arm. “Yeah. Clearly I can no longer say no to you.”
“Heh,” Settia kissed him atop the head. “Maybe. It starts at eleven though. So we should get going.”
“Eleven?” Mizuki exclaimed. “You sure are relaxed, aren’t you?”
He rose from the bed, hurrying to grab a shower and a bite to eat before going anywhere at all.

A rough hour later, they found themselves outside the local church; small in stature, charming with its grey bricks and red roof tiles. There were people assembled on the parking lot outside, waiting for the doors to open so they could be let in to the service. Mizuki assumed they were mostly relatives of the children performing during the mass, but there were probably regular church-goers as well, even if it was a Monday. He’d never been to a church before, and felt a slight tinge of anxiety at the thought. Particularly because Settia had taken his hand again, and he didn’t know how much that would be approved of in this place. Settia didn’t seem to mind though, as he led Mizuki through the large, oak doors when they were opened, smiling at the person greeting them at the entrance.
The room was painted in white, with rows of benches on each side of a red carped stretching towards the altar, where a large cross was nailed to the wall. The colors were subdued hues of red and white, candles burning by the pulpit. The roof was highly domed. The atmosphere in itself seemed to be electric, seeping from the two first rows, where a class of excited and anxious elementary school students were sitting, chatting nervously with hushed voices.

The service itself didn’t give him much. There were psalms, some students coming up to read about the birth of Christ and the minister giving a short sermon, before the kids were allowed to perform a short Christmas play, full of well-known carols. Though he wasn’t sure he got much out of it, Mizuki appreciated being there, somehow. The kids were clever too; he had to admit, even though some of them stumbled over their lines during the play. Settia seemed utterly enticed though, and that was what he had noticed more than anything; how those green eyes gleamed, and how he clapped enthusiastically at the end of the performance.

Afterwards, they were on their way out, when an elderly woman came over to them. She seemed to belong with a group of seniors that were chatting happily over by the altar.
“I just wanted to say,” she started, without even greeting them first. “That it’s lovely to see two young, strapping lads like yourselves attending the service. That’s so rare these days!”
“Is it?” Settie tilted his head to the side. “I really enjoyed it though.”
It was easy to see that she was charmed by him.
“That’s lovely to hear dear. Now, this might come as an abrupt invite, but would you like to join us all for coffee downstairs? We’re always having coffee after the service, but it’s been so long since we were joined by some young, interesting people!”
Surprised by his own initiative, Mizuki heard himself answering; “We’d love to.”
In the corner of his eye, he saw Settia light up, nodding vigorously. “Absolutely! Lead the way!”

They followed the group down a narrow staircase, which was so steep Mizuki was amazed at these elderly people being able to get down at all. The room in the basement was spacious and cozy, with tables already set, and decorated with candles, red tablecloths and Poinsettias in the middle. Mizuki nudged Settia, smiling slightly.
They joined the woman and her companions at the larger of the tables, and introduced themselves. After the mandatory round of questions about where they were from, and what they studied, compliments on their English – they seemed to assume Settia was a foreigner as well, probably because of his name, the talk came to be about Christmas. The old folks were lively, discussing everything from how many different types of baked goods they had stuffed in their cupboards, to what their grandkids were getting for Christmas – and then they started jogging down memory lane. Rather than being filled with irritation at the never-ending conversational topic, Mizuki listened carefully to tales of Christmas in the olden days; of kids shooed to bed while parents decorated the trees, of stockings filled with almonds and oranges, gifts being few and appreciated. He listened to them talk about the luxury of getting dolls or books, and about candles on the tree instead of electric lights. Their stories were so detailed, so vivid, he could almost smell the food they described, and feel the excitement that they had felt as children, on this day once a year when they were the center of attention, and everything was so mysterious and sacred. Finally, one of the elderly men slapped his knees and said; “But one thing that hasn’t changed, is the importance of family. What good are presents, food and a tree if you don’t have your loved ones near you? That’s what it was about back then, and that’s what it’s about now.”
“So true!” said a woman, “When I told my grandson I might not be up for travelling by rail this Christmas he told me that if I didn’t join them for dinner, then Christmas might as well could’ve been cancelled for all he cared!”
They all laughed, and agreed that her grandson was “a delightful little rascal”.
Mizuki sipped at his coffee, smiling. He felt Settia’s hand taking his underneath the table.

***

“I really liked those old people,” he told Settia when they came back later that afternoon. “They were all really spirited, weren’t they?”
“Indeed.” Settia agreed, removing his shoes and making his way into the main room, sitting down on the bed.
“They certainly had a point,” Mizuki continued, joining him. “About spending Christmas with a loved one. I mean…. I still don’t get it, and I don’t really care but… I think I’d be lonely tomorrow if I didn’t have you here.”
Settia grabbed him by the neck, and tilted his head forwards, kissing the back of his head. “I’ll be here…tomorrow.”
There was a slight hesitation in his voice.
“Settia..?”
“Mizuki, there’s something… I didn’t tell you yesterday.”
Not now. Mizuki’s heart froze. Not after last night, and these past few hours which had been so delightful.
“You know that I’m here for a reason, but the thing is…My mission has a time limit…”
“Time limit?” he repeated, feeling his face drain of color. “Does that mean you’re…leaving?”
“Unfortunately, I can only stay until the real Christmas Star shines…” Settia looked down at his feet, as if he was ashamed of not having mentioned this earlier. Mizuki felt cold.
“But…” his voice broke. “You just came… Why can’t you stay?”
“I guess… the easiest way to explain it is still kind of complex…” Settia sighed, looking up at him. His eyes seemed to be slightly glazed over. This was hard for him, Mizuki understood that. “I guess you could say that when the Star shines, the magic runs out and I’m a pumpkin again?”
“But you have magic!”
“Not like that,” Settia shook his head. “When my time’s up, I need to go.”
“How much time do we have…?” Mizuki wondered out loud, without really wanting to know the answer.
“Until the 25th. Tops.”
Mizuki felt something convulse inside of him. He said nothing, but threw his arms around Settia’s neck, and clung to him, feeling as if everything that had been good about today was swept away from him in one cruel motion.
Outside he heard children singing a Christmas song. He wished they would shut up.

**TBC**