Sometimes, she thinks she was dreamed into existence, like the oni she used to create. Her parents left her no memories as their legacy; there has only been the sense of her destiny–the weight of a thousand Asakura brides settling on her shoulders like a wedding mantle.

The first time she saw him she was unimpressed: he was skinny and little and did not look strong at all. An oni could have chewed him through in seconds. Parts of her murmured at the sight of him, a thousand old voices that did not belong to her.

He is Asakura, they said. He is strong. He will become the Shaman King, and you will be his First Lady. You will be what we could not.

No, she said back to them, as she watched him, this will not happen. His eyes were autumn-colored, too warm to bear. Very quickly, she saw his youth, his clumsiness. Even as the voices of history whispered their approval of this match, she turned her face away.

He would not become Shaman King. He did not have the strength to master a single spirit, opened himself too freely to the currents of the world around him.

And he was not strong enough to break into the core of her. Therefore, he was worth nothing. One could not question the warmth of his smile, but she was winter-dreamed, and not even her edges melted.

But when he showed her his worth, his tears for the cat-spirit seemed to trickle into the very bottom of her. She pressed her hand to her breast and felt the way her heart shuddered into new life. For the first time in memory, the edge of the winter wind felt cold to her skin.

Love did not melt her, nor did it cause her to bloom into spring. She is of winter, and she does not have the time nor the patience for silly little flowers.

In her “heart,” the part of her mind that feels centered in her chest, she carries her emotions like snow-glass structures. Perhaps, in their own way, they are beautiful. It does not matter much to her, either way. They are simply a part of her, and she cannot cut them away any more than she could pull out her actual physical heart, to present on a platter of crystal and ice.

She knows better than to believe that is what he wants.

He loves differently than she does, warmth and acceptance before the cold necessity of guidance. General happiness is his goal in life, before even the dreams of eternal lazy summer days and his beloved music. No one creature can claim the entirety of him–not even herself, when she has committed entirely to his same path. When he opens his arms, he would embrace the entire span of the world.

It is not purity of heart, however, that inspires his generosity. Love has not blinded her into ignoring his faults.

He loves all because it takes less energy than hating them. Opening yourself with a smile takes less effort and thought than bitterness and suspicion. She knows: she still sleeps lightly, occasionally imagining she can hear the oni’s voice rumbling in her heart.

Within him is an encompassing whole that can swallow her emptiness and still have room for more. She keeps this knowledge safe within the tempered safe of her heart, as an ember that keeps the rest of her from freezing once more. Though his gaze may turn away, she knows to be patient, to wait for it to fall upon her again.

Autumn has come, and the nights are growing long and cold. She sits on the threshold of the door and waits for the sound of his footsteps.

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