Ario was seriously contemplating hiring some big, strong, strapping men to do the scut work on his unfinished deck.
It had to be near the nineties, and it wasn't even noon. Already he had stripped down to his obscenely short cut-off shorts and his work boots, and he was still suffering. There wasn't even a breeze to cool his brow.
He glared up at the sun before he reached for another hewn plank. According to his plans, he should have had the deck made days ago, but all those family interruptions had held him back. In a way it pissed him off, but because of his earlier training, he would never show it. It would not be civilized, and that pissed him off even more.
"Damn Grandfather," he muttered, dragging the plank into place and then bending to pick up his hammer.
Thoughts of a peaceful place to sit and relax put a smile on his face as he reached into his nail pouch and pulled out another nail. It took a few taps to settle the wood into place, and then he was happily banging away. At least pounding wood dealt with the frustrations in his life.
He was reaching for another nail when his phone began to buzz softly in his pocket. "Great. Just when I was getting into the swing of things." He stood up and swiped the sweat from his brow, head tilted to the side as he stared at something that looked odd in the woods on his property. What the hell was that? Then he looked at the caller ID. Japan.
"Who do they think they are?" he shouted to the heavens. "Fuck!"
His anger and frustration boiling over, Ario gripped his phone like a baseball and, with another roar of anger, hurled it as hard as he could into the woods.
He stood there, chest heaving, face scrunched up into an angry visage, heart pounding, when he realized that he had just tossed away his only form of communication.
"Damn," he snipped, before he started to laugh.
And he laughed and laughed until the tears running down his face blended in with the perspiration pouring from him in sheets.
"Kami-sama," he gasped, bending over and clutching his knees as he sought some sort of balance. "I can't believe them."
Swiping his hands over his eyes one last time, he rose up and looked around his land again. His. No one would ever be able to take that away from him.
He spun around and looked at his house and relaxed more.
It was a cream-colored affair, two stories high and with a nice sunroom built on the left side. It was nearly surrounded by the small forest, ripe with cypress trees and wonderful old oak and chestnut trees. The house sat on about an acre of cleared land that naturally blended back into the woods. There was a lake nearby, and the famed Browne's Hill Dolmen.
It was a nice tract of land, and aside from the few tourists who wandered by occasionally, taking delight in the wide-open fields, he was left alone.
And he knew that if he wanted to keep it that way, he had better do something about the numerous phone calls.
He reached for his phone, only to curse softly as he remembered that he had just thrown it into the woods in his back forty, so to speak.
"This is why I don't throw temper tantrums," he grumbled to himself, stepping around the flattened land and the sand that made up the base of his wooden deck. "I hate the clean-up."
Despite the heat, he retrieved his damp T-shirt and donned it before venturing off into the woods where he thought his phone had landed. He sighed when the healthy canopy of leaves and branches above him blocked the sun, but relaxed more as he realized that it indeed felt magical wandering around this small forest.
Through the breaks in the branches, yellow sunbeams highlighted pollen that looked like magical floating fairy dust, giving the place an ethereal feel. Fallen leaves cushioned his boots as he moved around his unexplored territory. The place smelled faintly of rotting vegetation and of rebirth as new shoots grew up at the base of their parent trees.
And the sounds... He could hear the fat gurgle of the small river not far from this forest and the sounds of the returning birds chirping at each other. There was the chittering of ground squirrels and the rush of leaves as rabbits hopped away from the human presence invading their sanctuary.
"Beautiful," he breathed, not realizing he'd given up searching for his phone and was just wandering through the trees, looking at everything with new eyes, forgetting some of the worries that had driven him all the way to Ireland, so far from his native Japan.
This was where he belonged, he mused, feeling more comfortable in the woods than he ever had at the temple in Japan or in either of the host clubs he'd opened up in the States before selling all but a few shares of his business and making his way here, as far away as he could get from the reach of his grandfather and the taint of his Komiko blood.
He closed his eyes to inhale the scents of new life and rebirth, for the forest saplings and for himself, when a buzzing sounded in his ears. For a moment, he ignored the insect, his Shinto upbringing making it hard for him to want to swat the bug. But the small thing was just plain insistent. It buzzed around his head and over his face and finally butted him on the right cheek.
He opened his eyes, prepared to brush away what he thought was a huge beetle, but froze when he saw a pair of human eyes glaring at him. "What the fuck?" he gasped, stumbling back a few steps as he stared in awe at the small body that floated before him.
It was a man, a small man with a set of rainbow-hued dragonfly wings. The fact that the tiny man was totally naked escaped Ario as he stared at the small person, who seemed to be laughing at him. "F -- fairy?" he stuttered as the small man frowned.
"The hell you say," the creature gritted out between tiny pointed teeth. "I am a pixy and proud of it. We drove those awful fairies out of our land centuries ago."
The voice was small, like the body it came from, but it was a rich, masculine sound.
"P-pixy?" It was almost too much to be believed. But then Ario was supposedly descended from gods and had the power to grant erections with his touch. "Shouyousei?"
It circled around him twice, leaving a trail of glittering dust in its wake. "You are male?" it asked, wrinkling its nose.
"Of course I'm male," he snapped, the perceived insult rankling.
"You have the form and figure of a female. Are you sure?"
"I am thin!" Ario rolled his eyes, tired of hearing the same old lines even if they were coming from this small magical being. "But I am a man."
"And you are rather pretty."
Ario snorted. "Have you seen your reflection, Shouyousei? You look like a very small female."
In response the fairy grinned and pointed down to his bare crotch. "Don't think so, pretty boy. All one hundred percent pure male pixy. Though if all the males now look like you, I can see why you were confused."
Ario blinked at that. Snark from a miniature male. It was unique.
"You speak oddly," the pixy said.
"You are the one with an accent." Ario relaxed more. The strange pixy just wanted to chat. Maybe he had never heard of Ario's beloved Nippon. "I am not from this land. You would call my birth country Japan. I am not European. I am Asian."
"Asian," the pixy mused. "Your eyes are like mine."
Ario hadn't thought of that, though that should have been one of the first things he'd noticed, being so far from home. But the pixy was correct. His eyes were almond-shaped and the color of the midnight sky, with no whites to be seen at all.
"They are similar," he agreed.
"These are magical eyes," the pixy informed him. "This shape only belongs to those who are touched by gods."
"Everyone has been touched by a god, pixy," Ario corrected. "And there are millions of people with eyes just like mine."
"Not the shape." The pixy shook his head adamantly. "No, it's what is within them."
"And what is in my eyes?" Ario moved closer now that the pixy was no longer buzzing around him.
"Pain, sacrifice, regret..." He ticked those things off on his tiny fingers one at a time.
Ario paled at those words. What did the tiny creature know? What could he see? "How --?"
"No time for questions, man from Nippon. You have work to do."
Before the word fully left his mouth, the pixy was off, spinning around Ario three times before he shot off into the woods. "Wait!" Ario gave chase, following the trail of silvery dust deeper and deeper into the woods.
It seemed like he ran for hours, jumping over logs and rocks, darting around trees and leaping over ditches. All he knew was to follow the tinkling laughter and the faint trail of dust.
Finally, sweating and heaving, he paused in his thoughtless pursuit. He was out of breath and exhausted. He looked around him and groaned when he realized he had no idea where he was. His small wooded area hadn't looked this deep and vast. Where the hell was he?
This part of the forest was dark and quiet, almost... not ominous, just still. The trees here grew so dense that not even the smallest bit of sunlight seemed to penetrate. It was the kind of cover that let him know that when the day turned into evening, he would be totally and utterly lost without any way to get back home.
He didn't feel fear, just a wary awareness that he was in a place that felt like it had been untouched for years, almost like a tomb.
"Shouyousei?" he called out, realizing that now that he'd stopped following that silver trail, he could no longer see it. It was as if it had dissipated like smoke in the wind. "Pixy?"
There was no reply, and Ario again cursed his stupidity. He tried to recall any stories about Japanese pixies and could only recall the ones about Kodamas, the tree spirits. What he did recall of his legends from home was that as long as you lived in harmony with the small beings, they would do you no harm. He had committed no offense, so he had no idea if the pixy was playing him false.
"Pixy?" he called out again, and this time he heard a giggle. He took off running in the direction of the sound, heedless of all else around him and... thwap! He ran full tilt into something hard and rough that knocked him flat on his ass and forced the air from his body in a rush.
He lay there for a moment, seeing bright stars and flashes of light behind his eyes as his world slowly spun in broad circles.
"Man from Nippon?"
At the voice, Ario sucked in a deep breath, coughing as something light and powdery invaded his nose. He sat up, eyes watering, wheezing and glared at the small pixy, who was hovering around his face.
"Good! You're alive!"
He blinked the tears from his eyes and stared at the small man in amazement. "What?"
"I hope you didn't inhale too much. I didn't mean to pix you."
"I dusted you a little." The small man blushed. "But I was kind of worried about you, lad."
"You may feel a narcotic effect..."
"Drugs?" Ario muttered as suddenly the world was filled with bright colors and smells of earth. "Hmm, drugs."
Ario was familiar with drugs in all of their glory. He was no innocent when it came to intoxicants, and he'd tried them all when he first was cast from his home. But he had outgrown that phase none the worse for wear and left that part of him behind. But this floaty, drifting feeling -- he remembered this.
"I only meant to dust you a little so I could get you to the place that these humans have named Browne's Hill Dolmen."
"I've been," Ario muttered, lifting his hand before his face and giggling as the colors of his hand and the muted colors of this part of the forest blended. "It was a big rock."
"It is more than that, man of Nippon!" The pixy sounded indignant.
"Ario," he corrected. "My name is Ario. My mother named me that, and I haven't a clue why. But the way your accent butchers the name of my country of origin is painful to my ears. Just call me Ario."
"I do not have an accent, boyo!" the pixy snapped. "You do. And you will do well to show some respect, laddie."
"About the rock?" This high was odd. He could understand perfectly everything the little man was saying, yet it seemed his brain was moving a little slower when it came to composing answers.
"It is not a rock, Ario. It is a place worth more than any king could fathom. This is the resting place of the Finnians."
"Huh?" Ario blinked, then could not stop the sloppy grin from spreading across his face. "Right." He struggled to his feet, slipping a few times before he managed to stay upright.
"It is a gateway," the pixy continued. "And the only way for a mortal to see the hidden forest that surrounds this sacred site is if they have a sponsor."
"Doesn't that cost money?" Ario blinked at the small one. But then something else caught his attention. "Ohh! Look at that!" And he was off. "I think it's a door."
"I just told ya that, you daft bugger!" the pixy bellowed, making Ario smile more.
"I like you, Shouyousei," Ario declared as he moved toward the darkened opening.
"Merrick!" the pixy snapped. "Merry met, Ario. You may call me Merrick." But then, pleasantries over with, he began to sound determined again. "I am your sponsor."
"I don't need a sponsor," Ario retorted, swaying on his feet, but just a little. He was in full control. But then he was off again, walking toward the door. "Ohh! What's in here?"
He took one step through the doorway and plummeted. That was the only word to describe the darkness enveloping him and the cold wind rushing past his face as his stomach fought to stay within his body.
He did the only thing that made sense to him at the moment. He opened his mouth and screamed, "Wheeeee!" He was turning ass over ankles, and all he could think of was that this was the most fun he'd had in years. Those must be some damn good drugs.