Himiko didn’t know that he was watching her. Almost from her birth, and certainly since her brother had been her primary caregiver, he had been observing her from a safe distance. But as she sat in front of her home on the grass, gathering tiny white blooms in her clumsy, chubby hands, she didn’t seem to have such paranoid thoughts as black-clad strangers watching her every move from a distance.
Yamato didn’t often let Himiko go outside on her own, but as he worked on his perfumes in the kitchen he had to take precautions. After all, it was a necessity and she hadn’t yet learned how to safely breathe around the chemicals in the air. So under his careful supervision from the kitchen window the girl played. He was also an unacknowledged audience to her blissful playtime.
It would take years for Himiko to register why this was an auspicious day in her childhood, for at the time it seemed like another event in a long series of events that weren’t up to her to determine the importance of. A shadow fell over her, and she could pick up a strange smell that she didn’t like very much; a stale, metallic odor that she wouldn’t be able to determine the exact origin of for a long time. But at that young age she’d already developed her heightened sense of smell, and she crinkled her nose slightly as she looked up at the stranger curiously.
“Hi,” she said plainly, looking up at the seemingly gigantic figure before her. He was blocking the sunlight, casting her in shadows. She couldn’t see his face very well beneath the shadowy wide brim of his hat. She could only see his mouth, which tugged up into a smile as he stare down at the little girl.
“Hello,” he returned cordially, reaching up to tip his hat slightly to her as if she were a fully grown gentlewoman. “What are you doing down there?”
Himiko shrugged, opening her hand and examining the straggly stems of the tiny flowers that were clustered in her hand. “Picking flowers,” she explained. “Aniki wanted me to play outside today.”
The tall man crouched down so that he was closer to her level, examining the flowers in her hand more closely. “I see. Is there any particular reason he wanted you to play outside?”
Himiko nodded, not registering that she shouldn’t be talking to strangers at all, let alone this one. “He needs to work on his perfumes,” she explained. “I can’t come inside until he’s done. I can’t breathe yet and he doesn’t want me to get hurt.” She reached over and pulled up a clump of flowers all at once without any finesse. “But I’m getting better! The smoke from his cigarettes doesn’t make me cough anymore!” She sounded very proud of this.
“That’s wonderful,” the man said, his smile getting wider. He reached up to pull his hat up for a moment, not quite revealing his eyes. “Your brother sounds like he takes very good care of you.”
Himiko smiled brightly then, lighting up her naturally dark features. She nodded emphatically. “Uh huh! Aniki knows everything! And he is big and strong and he keeps me safe, and he takes me to work with him and shows me stuff!”
“He sounds like a terrific man,” the stranger agreed. He tossed a glance to the kitchen window, then stood up again. “I am afraid I have to be going now. But it was very nice speaking with you.”
Himiko stood up as well, dropping one handful of flowers and wiping her hand on her shorts. “Okay,” she said. She examined the other handful of flowers, then held them up as high as she could. “Here. For you.”
The man took the little flowers in his glove hand. “Thank you very much,” he said genuinely, his smile tingeing his words.
“You’re welcome!” Himiko said, sitting herself on the ground.
By the time Yamato got around to looking out the window again, the visitor was gone. He would never be informed of the man’s presence at his home that day in his lifetime.