Tsuki no Dankai
(Phases of the Moon)
A Recca no Honoo fanfic
By: Tenshi no Ai
I've been saying for over a year that I don't own Recca no Honoo's plot or characters...it's like slow torture...
I. New Moon: A time for all things to begin
The wail of her week old child woke her up from an unpleasant dream.
In this dream, her son was an adult and he was as beautiful as the full moon. He was almost feminine in his mannerisms and form, but he was unmistakably masculine in his instincts. When he smiled, it was almost like staring into the impossible void of space.
It was beautiful, but it was devoid of all emotion.
In this dream, her son did unspeakable acts of depravity. He did not go on frequent binges of alcohol or food, and he was not in the company of loose women.
He was a killer. A beautiful, seductive assassin holding the form of a crescent moon as his blade.
He was very good at his job.
This Sybil shook her head. Her son was just born; the dream-son looked eighteen. There was no such thing as prophetic dreams. She was already in enough trouble as it was without delusions.
A young woman in her early twenties walked into the small, darkened bedroom, holding a tiny baby like an invaluable treasure. Moemi-chan, I think your son is hungry, this woman smiled slightly as the baby scrunched up his face at her as she deposited him into his mother's waiting arms. The newcomer waited until Moemi began to breast-feed the baby, then she said in a worried tone, Have you decided what you will do now?
Moemi looked down at her son, her sleek black hair falling over him like a thick curtain. I will not let him have our baby, she spoke a little above a whisper, I'll go far away, into Tokyo. I'll change my family name...not back to my maiden name, but a new name. He can't possibly be able to find me in a place as crowded and anonymous as Tokyo. I'll make sure of it, she looked up at her friend, who was shocked at this display of determination, thank you for taking care of me, Emi-chan.
Emi blinked in confusion, then quickly smiled and shook her head, her short black hair bouncing around every which way. It settled to frame her small face as she bowed her head in embarrassment. We're friends, right Moemi-chan? This is what friends do.
You took me in when I was three months pregnant, hiding me away from that man...you even found a midwife, as rare as those are, just so I wouldn't have to register in a hospital and leave a clue to my whereabouts to him... Moemi's voice was thoughtful, and Emi blushed some more.
But, Moemi-chan, you didn't know that he would turn out like that, a...forceful...man, the short-haired woman gently countered, you're so beautiful that everyone in this little prefecture wanted you...he was different than what he showed to everyone.
Moemi looked up at her friend and smiled. Even though her hair was a little matted from just having taken a nap, it was a pure black that was so much more dark than the average hair color of a normal Japanese. It helped to showcase her ivory skin, the result of almost twenty-three years of preferring to stay indoors, of being a studious child to being a quiet housewife who disliked sharing her company with other young housewives in her neighborhood. Her violet eyes twinkled merrily on her milky complexion, showing a spirit that was not evident even seven months before this day.
The Kyoto geisha of bygone days would've used her as an example, the epitome of womanly beauty.
Emi blushed at her friend's sudden high spirits, then smiled back. On to happier subjects, Moemi-chan. What will you name your son?
the new mother pulled her son away from her breast, and placed him in such a way that she could begin to burp him, ...I'd like for his name to be beautiful...
That's my Moemi-chan, always thinking about the beauty of things, Emi gently teased, then shook her head, but your son is a boy. Don't you think that he'll be teased if he turns out as beautiful as you? And with a pretty name, too?
Moemi started patting the nameless child on the back. Truly beautiful things will never be mocked, she said in complete seriousness, do people make fun of flowers? Do people laugh at the sun? She tilted her head at the window, Do people dare insult the moon?
You do have a good point there, Moemi-chan... her friend was saying, but Moemi couldn't help keeping her attention at the window. Or rather, out the window.
For her eyes beheld the moon in all its glory.
She could've sworn that it was the new moon phase, but there was the full moon, shining with milky illuminance, an object of purity surrounded by limitless darkness. Tiny sparkles danced around the glowing orb, like faeries giving tribute to a nature goddess.
In that moment, Moemi believed that she finally beheld the beauty that eluded her ever since the day she had married that man.
...are you even listening to me, Moemi-chan?
Moemi turned around, and Emi started, in shock and awed surprise. Her friend looked as if she had seen a kitsune spirit, she looked like she had been possessed and it was still registering in her friend's mind what had happened!
Slowly, the pale woman reached for her son, whose head was hanging off of her shoulder, having burped already, and cradled him against her chest.
E-excuse me? Emi stuttered, now wondering if her friend had been possessed by a kitsune after all. The current phase for the moon was of the new moon, so she was completely clueless to what Moemi was referring to. There's nothing outside, Moemi-chan...
Moemi smiled up at her friend, completely oblivious to the fact that she had been seeing things, it's the perfect name for my son.
II. Waxing Moon, starting: A time to start learning new subjects
Ikehara Moemi stared at the kitchen counter and wondered when she would have to reveal her past.
For a month after Tsukishiro's birth, she had stayed at her friend Emi's house. However, she couldn't impose on her friend any longer, and left for Tokyo.
Her only possession were her clothes and her son.
Once they arrived in the capital of Japan, she changed her family name and registered her son as Ikehara Tsukishiro'. Finding a small apartment was next, and then a nice job as a salesperson in the local mall.
It was all an anonymous life, almost painfully so.
She began to strum her fingers on the counter, waiting for her seven-year-old son to come home from school. Today was her day off from work, and she wanted to spend some time with her son.
Her beautiful son.
Tsukishiro was amazingly pretty for a boy, although he was still at the age where a boy is more androgynous than anything else. Still...he fooled everyone. Even though he dressed like a regular boy (a little more poorly than his mother would've liked), his teachers, other adults, his peers...everyone assumed that he was a pretty little girl. He didn't mind, because his mother taught him that it was a compliment above all others.
To be lovely to the eyes, ravishingly attractive...it was a blessing to be so.
The door slowly opened, and the lithe young boy walked in. Moemi smiled and walked over to the door, kneeling down and hugging her dear son close to her body. Whatever she risked to keep him safe, it was worth it.
Tsukishiro let his mother hold him for a second, then wiggled out of the embrace. he smiled waveringly,
Something twinged inside of Moemi, but she chose to ignore it and smiled back. Okaerinasai, Tsuki-chan.
The small boy tried to smile for just a little longer--his mother told him plenty of times how beautiful a smile was, especially his--then a questioning look on his mother's face made him stop his innocent charade. Okaasama, where is Otousama?
Moemi stared at her son. She knew that one day he would ask where his father was, but she didn't think...she didn't think it would happen so soon. Why do you ask, Tsukishiro?
Tsukishiro's face scrunched up in concentration, trying to remember the exact incident, some of my friends asked me why I had only an Okaasama, but no Otousama.
The single mother sighed. I knew that I would have to tell you one of these days...
If Okaasama doesn't want to, Okaasama doesn't have to, Tsukishiro said decisively, but the look on his face betrayed his emotions. He wanted to know.
Moemi tried to figure out what to say to her son. A lot of it had to be edited, censored until he was old enough to fully understand, but she didn't want to leave the question completely unanswered. I left your Otousama before you were born, because he was... she searched for an appropriate wording to describe her husband to her son, ...he was ugly.
The lovely little boy scrunched up his face, like, he looked like an oni, or a kappa, or something?
It seems like it's fairy tale week in his class, the young mother thought drily. Out loud she said, no, he was very handsome on the outside. But there are two types of beauty, Tsukishiro.
Tsukishiro blinked in confusion. He only knew of people being beautiful because they washed their faces, brushed their teeth, had good nights of sleep, and made sure not to do anything that would cause unsightly bruises to form on their skin. I don't understand, Okaasama, he admitted.
People have two faces, the ones on the outside, and the ones they hide in their hearts, Moemi explained, the faces in their hearts are either beautiful because they do good things to help others, or they have ugly faces on the inside because they hurt other people.
Wowww... thought Tsukishiro. Do I have a beautiful face inside me? And can I see it?
Moemi laughed. It takes a special mirror to see that particular face, Tsuki-chan, her face darkened as she remembered what brought about her analogy, your Otousama...had an especially ugly face inside him that no one knew about. He only showed this face in private, and it was... she paused, trying to push those memories away, it wasn't very pretty at all.
Tsukishiro looked at his mother, who seemed very sad all of a sudden. He didn't want to know any more about this man with the ugly inside-face. It was hurting his mother, who had two pretty faces. He walked over to his mother, and hugged her tightly. I'm sorry, Okaasama. I'm sorry.
Moemi looked down at her son and attempted to smile. What are you so sorry about, Tsuki-chan?
I'm sorry I made you remember the bad man.
The woman still haunted by the memories of her husband suddenly began to cry. She held onto her son, and she cried.
III. Crescent Moon: The beautiful blade
At the age of fifteen, Ikehara Tsukishiro was a blessed boy indeed.
As he walked down the street, whistling some nameless tune and swinging his schoolbag around like he didn't have a care in the world, people stared.
They stared at this teenage boy who, at the age of fifteen, rivaled girls in the category of beauty. He had inherited his mother's every physical charm, such as the inky black hair which was tied into a tiny ponytail, alabaster white skin, and lively violet eyes that held a mischievous glint in them. His figure was lean and lanky, and no one could tell if he was just thin or if he was wiry and muscular with the school uniforms as loose as they were. The basic black of the guys' school uniforms suited Tsukishiro, though. He looked good, and he let everyone know it.
So he let them stare as he made his way home.
His mother had expounded the ideals of being kind to everyone he came across, and he performed them well. So, he figured that his little vanity wasn't so bad.
A couple of girls across the street squealed out his name, and Tsukishiro turned and waved at them. Minako-san, Tani-san, Kae-san, konnichi wa, he called in his velvety voice, and the girls squealed a little louder. They were seniors at the high school he had just entered a month ago. He smiled, thinking about all the friends he had made in a month, and all the friends he planned to make in the next years.
Ikehara Tsukishiro was a blessed boy indeed.
He reached his apartment building, then decided that he would like to go to the ice cream shop instead. After all, he was a growing boy who needed some sweets.
It was eight at night when he returned to the apartment building. A crescent moon hung above, like a scythe held by a farmer ready to cut wheat. Humming another nameless tune, Tsukishiro walked to the elevator, went up to his floor, and briskly walked to his apartment. His mother wouldn't be very worried, but all the same he felt a twinge of regret at not telling her where he'd be.
He opened the door and couldn't see his mother anywhere in the small living room and kitchen. Shrugging, he walked over to his room
then froze. For a second he thought he had heard his mother. Maybe she's in her room, he thought. Well then, I should just pop in and say hi. He walked over to the door across from his room and opened it.
And then he stared.
There was his mother, sitting against the end of her bed, crying.
There was a man, stradling her lap with his back to the door, holding a knife to her face.
As Tsukishiro watched with growing horror, the man began to lightly trace the edges of his mother's face with the blade of the knife, calling her Moemi-chan' and asking her in a silky voice why she had left him so long ago, almost sixteen years ago in fact...
The teenage boy backed away from the horrific scene in front of him. He didn't know what he was doing.
What he did do was stride into the kitchen and pull out an elegant looking, slightly curved knife that his mother had bought from a place that sold swords and other sharp implements. What he did do was walk back to his mother's room with measured steps.
What he did do was stab the knife into the man's left shoulder blade.
As the man turned to look whoever just stabbed him, Tsukishiro pulled out the knife from the man's bony back, and then slashed it across the front of the man's neck.
The blood sprayed out of this new wound, splattering the bottom of Tsukishiro's pants and his shoes. The newly made corpse followed the blood, falling onto the teenager's shoes.
Moemi, in shock from the recent events, fainted against the edge of the bed.
Tsukishiro blankly looked at the man laying on his shoes. He looked at the knife in his hand. The blinds were open, allowing the crescent moon's weak light to fall onto the contents of the room.
The knife glinted, not only with metal, but with the liquid on the metal.
Tsukishiro stared at this knife for a few minutes, almost perfectly lucid. He knew he just killed a man. Judging from what the man had been saying before he had died, this man was his father.
But the blade looked so beautiful, glinting like that.
He never knew things, simple things, could look so beautiful with blood and moonlight on them.
Especially a blade.
IV. Half-Moon: When a person is given a choice, they can either say yes or no
At the tender, vulnerable age of fifteen, Ikehara Tsukishiro saw the inside of a jail cell for the first time. And unless desperate measures were taken, he would get very used to seeing the inside of a jail. A neighbor had called the police concerning the Ikehara apartment after hearing Moemi's frantic screaming, fifteen minutes before Tsukishiro had come in and saved his mother.
The police had come just in time to observe the young high school student, holding a bloody knife in front of his face. There was one body lying across the boy's feet, another against the edge of the bed.
And so Ikehara Tsukishiro was charged for the grisly murder of one Tanimura Masaharu, a small-time businessman from Shiga prefecture in western Japan.
He was in a cell by himself, sitting on the cold cement floor, his knees drawn up to his chest, head bowed and covered by his forearms to any passing police officer. His hair was disheveled, the tie for his ponytail clinging onto a few scant strands of hair. He was still in his school uniform, and its bagginess on his slim frame made Tsukishiro appear as if he was a junior high student wondering what the high school uniform would look like on him in a couple of years. The faint traces of his skin color were a sickly yellow, a result from the fluorescent lights that liberally flooded into his cell.
His father's body, the fact of paternity which would later be proven by DNA tests, was cooling in the morgue at a nearby hospital, its most notable wound a gaping, smoothly executed slash across the throat. Although the teenager looked like a harmless young boy, this was what he had done.
His mother was in the hospital. Shock.
Every once in awhile for a couple of nights, a couple of officers had come down to the cells to take a look at this tiny captured rabbit of a boy, trying to connect his present image to the brazen teenager who had merely looked over at the cops entering the small bedroom, the knife still held in his hands. They wondered what he was thinking. Was he crying softly, or perhaps in a shock of his own? Was he contemplating suicide? What was this boy, who had not risen his head once he had placed in his cell, thinking?
A blade, gleaming in the moonlight, blood lazily dripping from the tip.
He wanted to see his beauty again.
At half past three on the fourth morning of Tsukishiro's arrest, every person inside the police station mysteriously fell asleep.
A boy, dressed in a comfortable white ninja outfit, made his way into the now unprotected building after ingesting certain herbs, an antidote for the sleeping gas he had earlier inserted into the upper level filtration unit. His untied shoulder length brown hair fluttered behind him as he quickly moved through the hallways, finally reaching a thick door that lead downstairs. Quickly, he pulled a small paper clip from his bandana, unbending it while kneeling down to the doorknobs level. He inserted the straightened wire, twisting it with a practiced hand. Something clicked, and the ninja smiled to himself in congratulations before grasping the knob with a gloved hand, the other hand reaching into one of the folds of his outfit.
Before the guards of the cells could even turn around to address the intruder, they were all down. Shuriken were sticking out of the napes of each of the five guards. He carefully stepped past each of their bodies, knowing that tonight he had given the world five new crippled people from the neck down.
He dismissed the thought when he stood in front of the last cell. Smiling, he began to knock on the wall next to the bars. The occupant didn't move. He knocked harder. The occupant twitched. Normally one of endless patience but the need for expedience extreme on this night, the ninja reached to the string of balls hanging down from his belt, plucked the bottom one off and threw it into the cell. It exploded in a show of sparks and smoke a mere inch from the prisoner's foot, who looked up in shock. The ninja smiled at him. Good morning, Ikehara Tsukishiro. I'm here to extend an offer on behalf of my leader.
Tsukishiro twitched, his pleasant dream broken. Who...who are you? he tried to sound strong, but the disuse of his vocal cords gave the question a whispery, helpless connotation.
I'm Jyushinshuu Raiha, he grinned, don't worry, I'm not here to kill you. Would you like to come with me?
Trembling, the boy on the other side of the steel bars stood up. Is Okaasama okay? he asked, reaching out toward the bars to steady himself. I'll go with you...but is she okay?
Raiha nodded, his perpetual smile making him appear like a boy playing dress up. She's in the hospital, but she'll wake up soon. You really did a good job, protecting her like that. Please move away from the bars for just a second, okay?
Tsukishiro, his mind somewhat clouded from all the events of the night, did what the ninja requested of him. Raiha reached into his robe, pulling out a circular disk with a crystal on top of it. He pressed it against the keyhole of the cell, and the metal bars seemed to be pulled into the disk. Raiha caught the odd object as its job was done. He looked up into Tsukishiro's wondrous eyes. It's a madougu called he explained.
'Metal suck', Tsukishiro said in passing, what's a
The ninja reached out towards the seemingly calm schoolboy, marveling at Tsukishiro's quickly regained coherence. Kurei-sama was right he thought as his hand grasped the black-clad shoulder and found that Tsukishiro was not shaking whatsoever, he would make a good Uruha, and he's my age...he could be easily trained.
As the two teenage boys strode down the main hallway leading to the exit of the police station, Raiha stopped Tsukishiro. If you walk out of that door, your life will be filled with a lot of hardships. I can't promise that you'll think that it was all worth it, but I can promise that you'll be well rewarded. Is this something you can handle? he asked, staring into violet depths.
Tsukishiro thought. He thought of the life that he had been living, and the fun he had been having in that life. He thought about the life that he would be entering, as a thank you for being rescued from what he felt was not a mistake, but what had to be done. He thought about his mother, and the various lessons she taught him each day. Tsukishiro thought, but it didn't take him very long to come up with an answer.
Okaasama would be displeased if I didn't repay you and your leader for your kindness.
And with that, Raiha opened the door, and the two were swallowed into the darkness of the night.
V. Waxing Moon, three-quarters: Doggedly going on, no matter what may come...
The mysterious ninja called Raiha took Tsukishiro to a large house in a neighboring district. Raiha told the teenager to wait until he brought the people that Tsukishiro would be working with, as well as his new madougu. Shrugging in compliance, the displaced student waited.
While he was waiting, he found some paper in a study on the main floor, and he began to write. Every once in awhile he would make his way into the kitchen and snack on something sweet, but for the most part he spent his waiting period attempting to write one letter.
He wanted to tell his mother that he was all right, but that he would not be seeing her for a while. A long while.
Raiha, accompanied by three others within in Uruha, came to the house the day after the next. He left the three in the main room while he went to go find their newest teammate. Luckily, Raiha bothered to check the study first and found a sleeping Tsukishiro at the massive desk, a letter by his face. The ninja, curious, picked up the piece of white paper and read it. When he finished, he pocketed it.
He'd send it out later.
the young ninja murmured, I've brought your new teammates, as well as your madougu.
With a groan, Tsukishiro opened his eyes, looking up at the very ninja who had rescued him from jail a couple days earlier. He was nervous. He didn't know what to expect at all. Raiha gestured to the door, and the two, one cheerfully indifferent, the other anxious to the point of nausea, walked into the living room.
There were three men. Tsukishiro supposed that whatever he had joined weren't going to have many girls, so in that regard he wasn't surprised at all.
They, as a group, were just weird.
The first person that he noted in oddness was the short one. The very short one. Tsukishiro figured that he was the same height as this man when he was seven or eight. Also, Shorty happened to have only one eye open, the pupil of that just being a pinprick in size. He must have a hard time seeing in the dark, Tsukishiro supposed. The right eye was closed, nothing noting its existence other than a horizontal line. He was also mostly bald, save for the tiny ponytail just after the dome of the head curved downward.
The two other men looked somewhat alike. They must be brothers was what the young teen deduced. While they both had strong facial features, one of them had a goatee growing, bleached hair on top, and a tattoo of what looked to be an over simplistic black rose in the middle of his imposing forehead, just below the point of his widow's peak. The other man seemed more conservative, with gelled back black hair, hard onyx eyes, and no visible tattoos.
All three men were wearing expensive designer three-piece suits. Tsukishiro wondered if he had inadvertently joined the Yakuza.
Please introduce yourselves to Tsukishiro-kun, Raiha commanded in the same calm tone he had always expressed himself in.
I am Magensha, the conservative man stated arrogantly.
Honored to meet you, Ikehara-kun. My name is Gashakura, the more laid-back version of the first man bowed slightly.
Kashamaru, at your service de gozaru, the stump of a man grinned.
Tsukishiro lowered his head, Ikehara Tsukishiro. I'm pleased to meet you.
Raiha smiled. It seemed as if the others approved of Tsukishiro. Tsukishiro-kun, your madougu are waiting for you at the main mansion, for security reasons. Of course, when you are doing missions, you will probably be required to carry at least one of them, but it's really at your discretion, the ninja shrugged, but what is more important to discuss at the present moment is what your missions will be.
Kurei-sama, the head of the Uruha, and myself, first of the Jyushinshuu, have studied your files. From what we can tell, you would be best suited for the Uruha section with more of an stealth requirement. Kashamaru-san is a capable ninja, and Magensha-san and Gashukura-san are both powerhouses, so your entrance into their group will even things out. A lot of times you will be required to kill, but it doesn't seem as if you'll have a problem with that, Raiha blinked several times, trying to remember if he had left out anything important, Kashamaru will supervise your training, and so will Iwahara Miki, because of her current reassignment... he narrowed his eyes, ah...I believe that's it. Magensha is the head of your group, Gashakura the second leader. You will follow their orders at all times, unless any of the Uruha Jyushinshuu have an order overriding theirs. Anything else you have questions on, you can ask your teammates, Raiha stopped making funny faces while trying to remember crucial bits of information and smiled.
Tsukishiro felt overwhelmed.
He had willingly given himself to be a murderer at this group...this Uruha. He wasn't sure what to say.
But then he thought of the blood dripping off a slender naked blade.
And then he found himself anticipating whatever might come.
The drive to the Uruha mansion was uneventful. Raiha explained a bit more about who Kurei-sama' was; the adopted son of Mori Kouran, a known businessman who was, on the outside, a benefactor to many social works. However, this benefactor had many enemies in the business world, and it was up to Kurei and the Uruha to deal with those unpleasant details.
Kurei was seventeen years old, and recently committed to the Uruha after a recent tragic event that Raiha wouldn't elaborate on. He was planning on his Jyushinshuu, the elite ten warriors who would be loyal to him. Raiha was the first one, and there were also Noroi, Kai, Jishou, Genjuurou and Mikoto. Raiha was training Iwahara Neon to become Jyushinshuu, so that made seven, as well as two others that Raiha had never really met. In fact, Raiha started cheerfully, Tsukishiro would be training with one of Neon's younger sisters, the older twin Miki. The younger twin Aki was being trained by Kashamaru, and the short ninja twitched painfully at this.
To someone who had lived with a single parent for his whole life, the Uruha seemed like one huge family.
When Tsukishiro unwrapped this madougu, delicately covered in white cloth, that was the word he whispered in hushed reverence. Through the open windows of his new room, the waxing moon entered his room and caressed the sleek metal of Tsukishiro's madougu, giving it their blessing.
The Kaigetsu was one large blade, an imitation of the crescent moon crafted from a silver metal. At one end, there was a curved handle sticking out of the inner part of the blade; on the other end there was an elongated hole close to the inner curve, serving as another handle. There was a crystal ball after the hole, more to the middle of the Kaigetsu, with the kanji Getsu' imprinted on it. The outer curve was extremely sharp, as Tsukishiro found when he ran a finger lightly along the outer curve and found that his finger was bleeding. It was so sharp that its victims didn't feel the pain immediately after being cut.
It was a merciful moon.
The second madougu was a large, thin, nearly transparent sheet of cloth that Tsukishiro found soft to the touch. He held it up to the light of one of the open windows, and found that the moonlight seemed to not pass through the cloth. It was called Oboro'.
Carefully, he folded up the Oboro, rewrapped the Kaigetsu, and lay on top of the blankets of his bed. He still wore his school's uniform, but he figured that he'd need a costume change.
He just hoped that he didn't have to wear one of those banker-like three piece suits.
VI. Full Moon: The greatest chance of anything happening
Moemi opened the letter with shaking hands. She was in her apartment, only having been discharged from the hospital once she informed them that she had no money.
When she came home, the police informed her that her son escaped from jail, apparently with help. Could her darling son have had ties with a large gang organization? Empathetically, she denied such a ridiculous allegation. Tsukishiro was only fifteen! What fifteen-year-old high school student would have ties to a gang syndicate?
The night after she was released from the hospital, she dreamt of her son.
He was a killer. A beautiful, seductive assassin holding the form of a crescent moon as his blade.
When she woke up, panting and sweating and staring into the darkness that comprised her room, she wondered if she had had that dream before. It seemed like deja vu...
The next day, she found a letter in her mail box. It was addressed to her, but had no return address. Moemi did not recognize the handwriting. She brought it upstairs and opened it, wondering who it was from, and her hands began to shake when she began to think that it came from her son.
I cannot tell you much, but I just wanted you to know that I'm still alive, and I'm unhurt. I hope that this letter reaches you in good health. I heard from my rescuer that you were in the hospital for shock. I'm sorry for all the misery that I've caused you, and I only wish that I could make up for it. I cannot come back just yet. I have to repay these people for rescuing me first, then only will I return. So, I'll try my hardest, Okaasama, I'll try my very hardest so that I can see you again soon. Any time that I can, I will write to you. You won't be able to write back to me.
I miss you, Okaasama.
Ikehara Moemi couldn't help it. She laid her head on the kitchen counter, her arms helping to cushion her face, her long hair scattered messily over her like a veil hastily thrown over her.
And then she began to cry.
Kashamaru and Tsukishiro immediately hit it off at the breakfast table.
The both of them woke up at the same time--eight o'clock--and happened to run into each other as they left their respective rooms. Politely, the short man lead the helplessly lost boy to the kitchen. Surprisingly enough, they realized that the both of them liked a traditional Japanese breakfast far more than the fattening butter-on-toast, bacon and eggs that Jishou, Magensha, Moukuren and Kaoru were chowing down on. So, as the cook scurried about to make miso soup and sashimi, Kashamaru gleefully pointed to each of the people huddled at the kitchen table from the kitchen doorway and whispered to the bent over Tsukishiro each of their stories.
...yeah, that's Koganei Kaoru, a reserve Uruha de gozaru. He's ten, but he's also the partner of Nagai Moukuren, that one with the long hair...
Tsukishiro pointed discreetly.
Yeah, that's him de gozaru yo! He's a sadistic prick, but most of the hardcore' killers around here are like that. What makes Moukuren worse is that he has this thing for killing young women...he loves to stab into them with the branches supplied by his madougu, Kodama...
The younger of the two twitched. And that's not a term for something else, is it Kashamaru-san?
...That's a good question de gozaru. I don't work with him, so I wouldn't know, Kashamaru shook his head slowly, the expression on his face one of disgust, I mean, young women de gozaru yo! I've seen the way he looks at the twins, even young Ganko...
Um, what about Magensha-san? Tsukishiro interrupted. He hadn't met the twins' or young Ganko', but he already felt sorry for them.
Kashamaru scowled. He's a prick too, but he's our leader so I'm not going to say anything more de gozaru. But Gashakura, his otouto, is a lot nicer, and a hell of a lot more honorable. I don't think that anyone here is more honorable than Gashakura de gozaru. Right now he's probably meditating. He's already eaten sometime at dawn...
After breakfast, where Tsukishiro desperately tried not to look at Moukuren, who he sat across from, and to not wince when Jishou slapped him on the back for being the newest Uruha (Tsukishiro could see how Jishou was one of the Jyushinshuu), he found out from the diminutive ninja that he was to meet the Iwahara twin Miki in the back yard. So off he went, hoping to digest his food first before meeting one of the only girls in the Uruha.
She stood next to an orchid tree, her back to him. She wore a tight black bodysuit made of spandex, and a loose red shirt hung off her shoulders. The bodysuit had shortened sleeves, so much of her arms and legs were bare. Red and black high-tops covered her feet. As he neared her, he could see that she had short auburn hair, the sides of which were flipped up at her ears. Ah, Miki-san? he called out, and she turned around and stared at him.
You...you are Tsukishiro? she gaped at him, you...you're really beautiful...
Tsukishiro blinked. Thank you, Miki-san. He was used to this.
She grinned ferally, walking up to him and placing her hands on his shoulders and looking up into his shocked face. Do you think that I'm cute, Tsukishiro-kun?
Tsukishiro stuttered, never having encountered an aggressive woman before. Miki's smile turned into something less vicious and she let go of him, stepping back a couple of inches. Tsukishiro wasn't sure whether to be relieved or disappointed.
Do you expect to fight in that? she pointed to the school uniform that he was accustomed to wearing. He looked at her evenly.
I haven't had much time to shop, he smiled charmingly, perhaps you'll show me where to find the latest in fighting gear?
Miki's lips upturned in a hard smile. If you can touch me, Idaten Miki, I'll even buy it for you.
Couldn't even touch her hair de gozaru ka? Kashamaru sympathetically offered to the stumbling Tsukishiro, who emitted a low groan in reply. Yeah, her madougu's helped her muscle training far more than ordinary weights could do, he stopped when the younger Uruha collapsed against the side of the wall, breathing heavily and holding his side, need help?
Gratefully, Tsukishiro grasped the hand that was offered to him. Girls...shouldn't be allowed to be that battle-ready...unless they don't plan to be married.
A week and training sessions with only Kashamaru later, Tsukishiro was wandering the halls of the Uruha mansion, fully taking in the opulence of his new home. Through one of the doorways at the back of the atrium, he spotted a doorway leading outside. He walked through it and discovered a world in bloom.
Amazed, Tsukishiro walked into the elaborate rose garden, taking in all the different variants in bloom. He stopped in front of one that produced the loveliest crimson blooms and bent down to test if its scent was as comely as the sight of it was. Hopefully a bee won't come out and sting you, a voice sang out next to the teenager's ear, and he jumped back and into a body.
Oh, sorry, I was just... Tsukishiro turned around and came face to face with Miki. She was now dressed in a French maid's outfit, holding a red watering can. Ah, Miki-san, hello.
The girl smiled. Hello yourself. A pleasure to see you again, Tsukishiro-kun. And here I figured you'd died on your first mission, she jabbed in lightly, subtly hinting that she knew that he didn't want to be trained by her, do you like roses?
Tsukishiro smiled, but I don't know this variant. Miki nodded in approval.
Neon-sama and I call it the Kurenai', not just because of its vibrant red color, but...
...Because it was the name of Mori's adopted daughter, dead now after an unfortunate incident', the boy absently finished. Kashamaru had been very helpful in improving his Uruha knowledge.
Miki nodded. You're picking up on the nuances of Uruha very well, Tsukishiro-kun, she looked over at the bush, would you like a rose? At Tsukishiro's nod, the young maid retrieved a pair of cutting shears from one of the pockets of her uniform and carefully reached over and cut a full blossom. Almost reverently, she handed the rose to him. Put the stem of it in your mouth, she suddenly ordered when it was apparent that the boy didn't know what to do with it.
After a sideways glance, the stem found its way to the corner of Tsukishiro's shapely mouth. Miki backed away, admiring the young man before her as if he were an exhibit at the local art gallery. she whispered, her words touching upon his ears like the faint brush of a feather, with your beauty, all you need is the right style and no one could possibly resist such a beautiful blade like you, she pursed her lips, then bade him to remove the dying rose, but you'll need to protect that face of yours...
What's with the basket de gozaru ka? Kashamaru called out to the cheerful Tsukishiro, who was strolling out of his room. The young boy turned around, a genuinely content smile making him look even more feminine than usual.
Picnic with Miki-san. And with that, he turned and went on his way.
The stout ninja shook his head. That's the sixth date, and he's only been here two months...why can't I be as lucky in love and get Neon-san or something?
Tsukishiro-kun, tell me more about school...what's high school like? Miki looked up at Tsukishiro wonderingly, her head on his lap. The boy, who was sitting against the orchid tree where they had first met, smiled and placed his right hand on her silky hair, his left hand clasped by her hands and resting on her taut stomach.
...To be honest, Miki-san, it's been four and a half months since I was last in school, his eyes narrowed and his delicate face took on a more thoughtful look, there's lots of people, and the teachers come to you, and you're forced to work with whatever they give you. Here, I can read all the English books I want, and completely avoid math!
Miki smiled at this, but she was still curious. Her life was such that she had never gone to any school higher than primary, but her book knowledge was not one to scoff at. However, other than her sisters, Raiha and now Tsukishiro, she had never really been able to enjoy the social life of most fourteen-year-old girls. How are the people...the other students like, Tsukishiro-kun? Are the girls very pretty? Are the guys very cute?
Tsukishiro laughed. Nobody was as cute as me...I was far more beautiful than all of them, and I loved knowing that, his narcissistic streak had been showing itself lately, completely unbound from all the morals his mother had instilled in him. Grinning, the auburn-haired girl closed her eyes.
I bet you look even more beautiful in that outfit I made for you...I think it fits your theme perfectly.
Aa...you are the cold, beautiful night, and either the clouds will cover you up and make your beauty impossible to see, or your moon will be in front of you, the mutual beauty magnifying the other...
You just wanted to see me in a spandex bodysuit, the only thing visible being my arms and my face, Tsukishiro teasingly accused, you're just like every other girl I've known.
Miki's eyes snapped open, and the look on her face was one of feline distaste. I'm like every girl you've known? Believe me... she tightened her hold on his hand on her belly with her right hand, quickly sitting up and holding the back of Tsukishiro's neck with her left hand. Their faces were very close, and she giggled mentally at his look of utter shock. Some assassin you are, Tsukishiro-kun. How many girls do you know would do this? Instantly the gap between them was closed, her lips pressing against his with passionate inexperience, the latter soon melting off.
After all, Idaten Miki wasn't just fast on her feet.
VII. Waning Moon, starting: The beginning of the fall...
Six months after Tsukishiro joined the ranks of the Uruha, the team he belonged in was called up into Mori Kouran's office. With different emotions, they all trudged up to Mori's main mansion, wondering if they had happened to have botched a mission without knowing it.
The Uruha team of Magensha, Gashakura, Kashamaru and Tsukishiro stiffly appeared before Mori's grand desk, wearing their sleek Armani suits and serious faces. They looked quite different from their normal appearances, from which even when they were on a difficult assignment Kashamaru and Tsukishiro would be joking with each other on the tackiness of a businessman's office, Gashakura smiling on his watch and Magensha simply pretending that none of their juvenile behavior was affecting him. No, this was more than business and they intended to treat it like so.
Mori Kouran let his eyes fall upon each of the four warriors standing before him, the Uruha team designed for stealth and espionage. You four have been more than commendable as of late. So much so, in fact, that I'd like to offer you a business proposition.
Whatever you offer, we will accept, Mori-sama, Magensha spoke for all of them. Mori nodded.
As it should be. My offer is that you move from being Kurei's mere Uruha footsoldiers, to being my newest Ura Uruha.
Kashamaru and Tsukishiro glanced at each other while moving their heads only fractionally. What was Ura Uruha'?
My Ura Uruha is designed simply to watch over the regular Uruha, the astute businessman deigned to explain, as I'm sure that you are aware, the larger an organization becomes, the more discontent and anger is likely to appear, finally leading to betrayal. Treason.
The Ura Uruha work on the very inside, designed to weed out those discontent factions and make sure that the remaining loyalty remains unpoisoned. Of course, this means that you four will have to be kept separate from the Uruha, so that any feelings on your part to spare a traitor will not fester.
Warily, the newest of this group blinked. Miki...I won't be able to see Miki...
Gashakura shuffled a foot, his first action since Mori began to talk. Mori-sama, the Uruha will still be able to remember us, he stated quietly, and they would wonder where we were...
Mori raised his hand, quieting the powerhouse. That will be taken care of...won't it, Aoi?
From beside Mori's chair, a slim figure darkened into view. It appeared to be a young girl, with a mass of bangs covering one eye, below the other a sideways white cross. She wore a white beret, a bi-colored white and blue short-sleeved jacket, and dark sleeves protruded under that. Three green balls on her left arm dully shone in what little light the covered windows failed to block. Her eyes were dark brown and dispassionate. Yes, Mori-sama, she intoned, then faded out of existence.
Aoi's hardly better than a complete failure in terms of cultivating a flame, Mori noted indifferently, but he's the only one who can control the memory madougu to near perfection. Anyway, is there anything else?
Tsukishiro wanted to cry out that he would rather stay with the Uruha under Kurei, but he dared not to open his mouth and object, banishing every thought of Miki from his mind. If there's a person who can erase memories, then there's someone that can read minds.
He hoped they couldn't read hearts, because he knew that Miki would always be there.
VIII. Waning Half Moon: One or the other...it's gone...
Three years later, a colder, more arrogant Tsukishiro walked among the Ura Uruha. Without any good reason to be kind, without his mother's soothing smile or Miki's gentle touch, the growing teenager really had no reason to continue using the morals instilled in him. They were buried in a darkness that resembled Chaos, so dark that there was no point in possibly asking for mercy from the beautiful killer.
To be completely immersed in the depths of Uruha, peering up from the darkness only to kill, how could he be any different?
Tsukishiro delighted in killing off any Uruha who could possibly challenge his beauty. On his last assignment, shortly before the Urabatousatsujin III, Tsukishiro and Kashamaru were ordered to eliminate a lowly Uruha reserve who was asking too many questions, using his bright green eyes and wide, friendly smile to attract the answers he needed from any female Uruha, as well as some male Uruha.
Tsukishiro was there, hidden behind his precious Oboro, when this Uruha flirted with Miki, who unconsciously seemed to not reporicate the little touches and teasing smiles.
I'll kill him, he shudderingly whispered, watching Miki twitch away from another soft caress to her face, I'll make him unfit for human eyes...as ugly as an oni...I'm supposed to be the most beautiful...only me... he held his breath as Miki bowed quickly and walked away, not seeing the anger suddenly bloom on the Uruha reserve's face, ...that's impotent anger right there my friend, because I'll make sure that you won't be expressing that nasty emotion anywhere near Miki-san...oh, how your rage twists your face so...how can people possibly think that you're the most beautiful?
That night, Kashamaru, under the guise of Kurei, told the reserve to meet him for a special assignment in one of the spare offices in the Uruha mansion. Good naturedly, he showed up in the front of the specified office on time. The door opened, and after he crossed the threshold, it quietly shut. This new Uruha looked around, perplexed. It was dark, but it still didn't look like anyone was there. he called out, his voice fluctuating with the tiniest quiver.
In front of the grand window across from the door, a figure shimmered into view. this new voice replied seductively, Uruha Matsurou, he who wields the Shin no Hikage, the madougu that could, conceivably anyway, pull a shade onto someone's heart, depressing them so much that they would rather kill themselves than to go on with life anymore, his lips upturned in a cruel smirk, how pathetic.
Who...who the hell are you? I'm supposed to meet Kurei-sama here, not some pale girl in spandex! Matsurou haughtily shot back, desperately trying to use his madougu on this stranger.
But how could shade work on a heart immersed in pure darkness?
I am Ura Uruha Tsukishiro, the most beautiful of the Uruha... the teenager's eyes hardened, always the most beautiful. There's no place for the likes of you, someone who prostitutes their questionable looks for the sake of a few answers.
The reserve tried to measure up his arrogant opponent. How did this Ura Uruha' know of his questions? He had never heard of Ura Uruha anyway. Was this punk supposed to be a spy of some type? Matsurou grinned, his confusion disrupting his comely mask. So then, Tsukishiro, what are you here for?
Tsukishiro knew how to play his cards, manipulation was a skill learned long ago, maybe I just want to see if you're more than someone who knows how to play with a ball on a pretty chain. Maybe you need to defeat me before you visit Kurei-sama, a maniacal grin stretched his face, transforming his looks from an angel to a demon of the deep, maybe I just want to kill you and make sure that I'm the most beautiful.
Matsurou quickly brought one hand up to his chest, touching, through his shirt, the small madougu which indeed did hang from a nicely wrought chain. How did he know so much? Well, fuck it, if it's a fight he wants... the Uruha reserve charged at the lithe Ura Uruha, one hand outstretched to grab Tsukishiro's pretty little neck and choke the life out of the narcissist.
Exactly what Tsukishiro wanted.
Grinning wildly with wide open eyes, Tsukishiro side-stepped the charging man, then reached out one slightly calloused hand and pushed the handsome, traitorous Uruha forward.
Something glinted in front of the window.
Just before Matsurou had come to the room, Tsukishiro had been hard at work. He first cleaned the window up, then he reached into a bag with an item he had bought for this night's purpose in mind. After all, he could easily kill this Uruha reserve by himself, but revenge for being more attractive, for hitting on Miki was the prominent thing on his mind.
Tsukishiro had then began to thread piano wire over the window.
Matsurou ran into this brutal trap face first. Wires sliced into his skin, blood and flesh welling up from both sides of each thin cord. An eye was quartered inside its socket. And yet Matsurou hung there like the helpless fly inside the spider's web, the wire literally buried in the flesh of his face.
Kashamaru appeared from the corner closest to the door. Is he dead?
Hm, I wouldn't really know, Tsukishiro responded. He grabbed Matsurou by his luxuriant locks--mentally comparing them to his own silky threads of hair--and with a vicious yank, pulled the stuck man out of his special web. Some of the wire was so embedded into the flesh that, when the Uruha reserve popped out of the web, the flesh ripped off the skull and clung to the metal string like globs of wax imitating Christmas lights on a pine tree. The ninja looked at the face, patches of skin and meat torn from the skull, one eyeball oozing some unknown clear liquid, an intricate set of criss-crosses that looked like it belonged on a mad stitcher's doll, and he turned his head away. Tsukishiro peered into the permanently disfigured face, a peaceful smile growing on his pleasant face. My, that doesn't look too pleasant, does it Kashamaru?
Kashamaru, not as susceptible to the darkness of the Ura Uruha, merely nodded his head.
The teenager began to giggle, staring into the cruelly ruined face of his imagined opponent in beauty. Really, I'm not a possessive man, but flirting with Miki-san was your death sentence, he let go of the mass of hair, and the Uruha reserve Matsurou thumped onto to the ground, his blood immediately beginning to soak into the plush beige carpet, Kashamaru, let's go get the clean-up, okay? Tsukishiro turned away and began to walk out of the room, Kashamaru slowly following behind, desperately trying to forget the vindictive act of his best friend.
Urabatousatsujin III? Gashakura echoed his brother's statement in the form of a question. Magensha nodded, planning to use this murderer's contest to springboard himself--and possibly his brother too--into the Jyushinshuu. There weren't too many traitors to the Uruha, save for the younger recruits such as Koganei Kaoru and Morikawa Ganko, and he was getting restless with the lack of action.
Urabatousatsujin III, the murderer's tournament, Tsukishiro clarified for his comrade, the last one was held four years before. He reveled in being the information center' for all of the Ura Uruha.
All the Ura Uruha had been told to meet concerning who was going to participate in the contest. Aoi and Hiruko stood off in a corner, noncommittal to the whole situation. Kadotsu and Kirito stood by, making the Shishiten complete. Kirin lounged in a spare chair; Rasen calmly sat next to her. Magensha, Gashakura, Tsukishiro and Kashamaru stood in another corner, the first of which was warily staring at Kadotsu. Kamui sat across from Kirin, Soukakusai next to him. Fumimaru was hidden in the darkest corner of the room. Gaou stood behind Kamui and Soukakusai, and like a mirror image, Hisui stood behind Kirin and Rasen.
Yes, that's right, Aoi's eyes touched each person in the room, so who's going? I'm needed with Mori-sama.
Hiruko looked down at his fellow Shishiten. I'm staying with Aoi.
Hisui closed her eyes, her heart ready to take any challenge.
Everyone looked at Magensha, the speaker. Kadotsu spoke first. Trying to imitate my strength some more, hm-
Aoi overrode, I'll assume that you're referring to Gashakura, Kashamaru and Tsukishiro, right? The three mentioned solemnly nodded, not thinking of the fact that they really didn't have a choice once they had been selected.
Urabatousatsujin III, Tsukishiro's violet eyes darkened, I have a strange feeling...things will change...
Tsukishiro looked at the placement board, a sneer of disgust on his face. I have to fight that chimp? he thought, wrapped head to foot in bandages, except for a small and very convenient hole for his eyes. He heard a female voice yell, Uruha Ma first fighter--Tsukishiro!! He smiled blissfully, prematurely experiencing the compliments for his unexpected beauty once he sliced off the constricting bandages.
Then he began to use Kaigetsu to make his first appearance in the Urabatousatsujin III.
Shuddering sobs had been emitting from Tsukishiro's room for several hours. After all of the rush of being betrayed by Magensha and inadvertedly ending that battle between the former leader of Uruha Ma and Ishijima Domon, Tsukishiro had been feeling all right. Exhausted, yes, but it did distract.
Then he looked into a mirror.
Ugly purplish bruises had already formed and still appeared to be growing. They would eventually heal, of course, but it would be a good week before they would even start to fade into mere discoloration on his face.
The moon with visible craters on it doesn't look very beautiful.
Tsukishiro had gone on a rampage, destroying all the mirrors in the suite the Uruha Ma had in the local hotel, shrieking and crying and all around destructive until Gashakura, already highly strung in the wake of his older brother's death, shoved the temperamental teenager into his room much like a father who had had enough of his bratty child. And so Tsukishiro was locked in his room, weeping over the loss of his precious, precious face'.
I can't take this anymore, Gashakura sighed at the kitchen table. Kashamaru looked at Tsukishiro's door helplessly.
What are you thinking of doing, Gashakura-dono?
The large man shook his head. To the Hokage suite...I've heard that all their opponents seem to be drawn into that suite and frankly, it's better than hearing that boy caterwaul over the momentary loss of his beauty, Gashakura lumbered over to the door, then turned as a fresh cry ripped through the air, perhaps this was all for the best, he commented before exiting.
Kashamaru silently padded his way over to Tsukishiro's room, wondering when his best friend had gone off the deep end. First that gruesome murder of Matsurou...not even a murder, but much worse...now this. Ura Uruha...of course we...I should've seen that all those depraved killers would've made an impact on his impressionable heart...I mean, he was only sixteen! Only... Kashamaru's thoughts of the past shut off as he stood in front of the barrier that separated his person from the boy that he had instantly made a connection with years before.
A shuddering inhale of air, then,
Okay, so maybe you can't change the past, but... Hey, I think I have an idea for you de gozaru, the compact ninja tried to sound confident.
Hope is always a good thing, right?
Tsukishiro's voice sounded stronger than that whimpering, rough tone that happened after a crying bout.
Well, about your face...I mean, Hokage has a healer, so...why don't you just go to them and ask for her help?
The door opened, and Tsukishiro himself stood before Kashamaru. His eyes were dangerously red from his bawling, and he must've been trying to get rid of the bruises by scratching at them, because horrible red marks ran down the length of his once attractive face. Are you sure? he demanded in a harsh voice, and his best friend couldn't tell if that was because of the crying or because he genuinely wanted to know.
Well, it couldn't hurt, right de gozaru ka?
Without a word, Tsukishiro strode past Kashamaru and out of the suite. The ninja was left staring at the very changed teenager's wake.
Did I say the right thing?
Mm...so late at night...who could it be? Sakoshita Yanagi, the healing girl of the Hokage, rose from her bed and started making her way towards the front door of the Hokage suite. She glanced at the alarm clock on the way and mentally noted that it was 1:34 in the morning. Yawning, she opened the door.
Two hooded eyes hovered above her, framed in a marred ivory face. Everything else about him was dark.
Who...are you? the young healer's voice wavered as she took a tentative step back. She could feel an injury on him, a grievous wound that the healer in her wanted to cure, but the timid girl in her wanted to bolt.
There was just something wrong about him.
Healing girl...Sakoshita Yanagi, the words rolled off Tsukishiro's tongue thickly, honey dripping off the honeycomb. Totally contrasting his speech, he lunged at her, grabbing her nightshirt's collar, and pulled her to him. He smiled widely at her fear. Heal me, make me beautiful again...if not...I'll make you...
Yanagi gasped weakly, the collar cutting off her air supply. Y...you're...Tsukishiro...Uruha Ma...tried to kill Kaoru...kun!
So what of it? Tsukishiro whispered, seductive in his madness, if that stupid guy in your section hadn't requested me to kill the chimpanzee, I wouldn't be so disfigured!
The pained look on the young girl's face was replaced by a more peaceful expression, her eyes beginning to roll back up into her head. Won't...heal...anyone who hurts my friends...like you!
The point of a sharp weapon pricked the bottom of Tsukishiro's jaw. Let Yanagi-chan go.
The once beautiful face of Tsukishiro twisted into a vicious snarl as his eyes darted down, meeting with Koganei Kaoru's coldly serious light green orbs. You...the chimp who ruined my beauty... He didn't get to say anything else as the young teenager below him nimbly twirled the Kougan Anki in his agile hands, striking the Ura Uruha assassin in the face with the blunt end of the golden madougu. Tsukishiro stumbled backwards, letting go of Yanagi, who Kaoru neatly caught before she fell to the floor, coughing slightly. Wiping the blood trickling down the corner of his mouth, Tsukishiro whipped his head to glare at the Uruha traitor, the full force of his insane rage transmuting his once pleasant face. But then something caught his eye and he couldn't move.
It was himself.
Tsukishiro stared in mute horror at the one of the mirrors flanking the suite door. His eyes caressed every horrid detail, such as the wide eyes, the pupils near pinpricks, the whites bulging. There were lines everywhere on the smooth face, creasing it roughly. His shiny white teeth were bared in a sad imitation of a vicious guard dog. And then there were the splotchy, dark purple bruises splattered across his ivory skin, like paint strewn around by a preschooler.
This was Tsukishiro's once devastatingly attractive face, now looking more like a demon's mug than a model's best feature.
He stared at the mirror for a long moment.
--People have two faces, the ones on the outside, and the ones they hide in their hearts--
He tried to find the familiar beauty that he knew was his own.
--The faces in their hearts are either beautiful because they do good things to help others, or they have ugly faces on the inside because they hurt other people--
And then it struck him.
--It takes a special mirror to see that particular face, Tsuki-chan--
Muffling a sob, he ran out of the Hokage suite, leaving a stunned Kaoru and Yanagi in his wake. He had to get away. He had to get away.
Ikehara Tsukishiro's inner face was ugly.
IX. Waning Crescent Moon: Even a tiny silver can cut away at the darkness
Gashakura lumbered to the door, hardly perturbed at the idea of a visitor to the suite. It was seven in the morning, and he had just finished his own breakfast. His teammates were in the same room, still blissfully asleep.
He didn't know of all the details, but two days before Tsukishiro had come back to the suite at a very late hour. Instead of the frenetic state that he had been in after the match against the Hokage, he seemed calmer, some of his natural beauty reappearing with his calm disposition. Yesterday he had corralled Kashamaru before the ninja could accompany Gashakura to the Hokage suite, stating in no uncertain terms that he would like to talk to him. Then, when the massive Magagamo wielder had returned to the suite, he found Tsukishiro and Kashamaru at the kitchen table, gravely talking over sushi rolls. When Gashakura began to linger in the kitchen, the two discreetly went into Tsukishiro's room, where they had stayed the whole night through.
And now there was a knock at the door. the giant warrior stated politely. A woman wearing a brown halter top, baggy khakis and pointed dog ears stood on the other side of the door.
Hello, is Tsukishiro of the Uruha Ma here? she asked nicely, holding a white envelope tightly between her hands. Gashakura nodded.
Inuko-san, one of the referees, right? I'll go get him, he turned to leave, but a cool hand clamped onto his thick biceps. He turned to Inuko's surprised face.
How...how did you know that I was one of the referees?
Gashakura pointed to the top of his own head. Your ears, Inuko-san, he mentally laughed at her puzzled expression as it made way into embarrassment, then he walked over to Tsukishiro's door, knocking on it slightly. Tsukishiro, you're being asked for, he called quietly. The door opened, revealing a wide awake teenager with bandages criss-crossing his face. He walked past Gashakura to the suite door, then that door closed. Curiously, the honorable warrior peered into the young assassin's room, noting that Kashamaru was asleep on the floor. He turned just in time to see Tsukishiro walking towards him. What happened?
Tsukishiro held up the envelope in his hand. Urabatousatsujin finals. They want my knowledge for commentary during the matches. Interesting, isn't it, Gashakura-kun?
What do you plan to do after that, Tsukishiro? The question just burst out of the older Uruha. The teenager merely shrugged.
Away from the Uruha is enough for me, wouldn't you agree?
Gashakura nodded gravely. Uruha had killed his brother in a gruesome display of meting out punishment, and although he could put the memory of Magensha behind him, he couldn't forgive the Uruha, especially Kurei and his pawn J-Kipa. Jyushinshuu be damned. His brother wanted to be Jyushinshuu, but he ended up being killed by them.
I can't wait to see what's out there, in the normal world, Tsukishiro went on, I can't wait to see Okaasama again, I can't wait to be something more than a murderer, he paused, looking up at one of his constant partners throughout his history in the Uruha, at one point I had a beautiful face, but it degraded until two nights ago. I won't let that happen anymore, he walked into his room, closing it before Gashakura, who stared at the door contemplatively.
Somehow, I don't think he's talking about the match he had between Koganei...
Aki-san, it's nice to see you again, Tsukishiro tried to smile through his makeup at the short-haired illusionist as they sat down to await the start of the Urabatousatsujin finals. She stared at him suspiciously, eyes narrowing as she crossed her arms tightly over her baggy men's button-down.
Do I know you...oh, you were Hokage's opponent during the semifinals. You're the one...who talked about the Ura Uruha, here the blue eyes flickered with some unknown emotion, Tsukishiro of the Ura Uruha...
Ah, I'd forgotten that she wouldn't know who I was, since her memories of me with her twin were erased... He struggled to keep his pleasant demeanor, instead of bursting out with something like, You should know me! I was once Uruha Tsukishiro! Your twin Miki was my girlfriend! You used to glare at me all the time because she spent more time with me! Am I really the only one who remembers anything anymore?'
Instead, he nodded. And you're Uruha Aki...Kotodama no Aki who lost to the gorilla of the Hokage.
Aki vainly struggled to not try to choke the life out of the narcissistic know-it-all, Miki-chan can kick your ass any day, and she's not even a fighter, so what do you think someone like me can do to your skinny ass?!
Tsukishiro blinked. Three years haven't changed her personality one bit. No wonder Kashamaru hated to teach her illusionary tactics. Out loud he quietly responded, I'm sure that your sister Miki is much better than you give her credit for.
She could beat me down any day, even if I were trying...I wonder how it would be now?
We're hitching a ride...
'Cause we have no money de gozaru...
Where are we gonna go...?
Wherever the driver takes us de gozaru yo--!
I suggest that you two don't take your act on the road, Gashakura drily noted to the two figures in front of him. He was in civilian dress, the Magagumo sealed inside a containment madougu much like the one for Ishijima Domon's Kuchibashi Oh. I'm sure that you're scaring away all the potential rides.
Tsukishiro grinned, his face almost fully healed after various treatments with different facial creams. He was holding Kaigetsu casually behind his back. Ah, Gashakura-kun, we're already on the road! We're running from our life as Ura Uruha assassins...well, we're really walking very slowly from the demolished Urabatousatsujin Dome, thanks to Hanabishi Recca, but I'm sure that we could be motivated to run... he trailed off as he looked behind him, ah, a truck! An ugly truck, but for once I wouldn't mind being seen in something like that...well, probably.
Snickering beside him, Kashamaru attempted sincerity in his next comment. I'm sure that you'll improve the style of any vehicle that you ride in, Tsukishiro!
Yeah, I know, but...Kashamaru, why'd you just fall over? Trip over something?
Gashakura rolled his eyes, amused by the whole scene. You two, the truck's slowing down. Try not to scare off these people, okay?
How about I just seduce them with my omnipotent attractiveness?
Well, if the driver's a man, and he thinks you're a woman, then you're screwed de gozaru.
Literally and figuratively, I imagine. Good point.
The beat up truck rolled past the three hitchhiking assassins, slowing to a dusty stop along the side of the road. Although the color of the truck was faded brick red, it had nice, new tinted windows, enabling the three to make their own guesses about the weirdo behind the wheel. I suppose we better go meet our new chauffeur, Tsukishiro smiled brightly, gracefully walking over to the truck, hello, kind sir, my companions and I would be satisfied if you could drive us into...Kuukai?
Hey, Tsukishiro, there's no place nearby named Kuukai'! I don't think there's even any place in Japan called Kuukai' de gozaru yo! Kashamaru yelled out helpfully. The teenager swiveled his head from the driver's open window to his best friend, angry that his intelligence was being insulted.
I meant the Kuu shihan-dai Kuukai, the leader of Team Kuu, who was beaten in the first round of the Urabatousatsujin to the Hokage...not a local place around here!
The door to the driver's side of the truck opened, and out stepped the respectable leader of the Kuu-style martial arts. So, I didn't know that Uruha assassins hitchhike to their victims now, he smiled. Tsukishiro pouted.
And I didn't realize that Kuu assassins drive ugly pickup' trucks on the way back from death tournaments. Kashamaru, who was standing next to the emotional teenager, stepped on his foot as a reminder that they were trying to get a ride, not show off his wittiness.
Kuukai shrugged, his massive shoulders rolling easily. Do as you will. I was going to give you a ride until you insulted my beautiful truck, which Saichou washes every weekend... he started to step back into his vehicle.
I apologize for Tsukishiro's rash comments, Gashakura, a fighter whose peacemaking skills were seriously underrated, soothed, we've been walking for some time.
Ah well, that's different, Kuu's shihan-dai smiled widely, you can get into the back...no room in here with Saichou, Minamio, Daikoku, Fujimaru and myself. You all just want to get to the nearest town?
Gashakura stared at Kashamaru, who in turned looked to Tsukishiro for advice. Tsukishiro knew a lot more than even his cockiness exposed, and the two had come to depend on his advice as well as his fighting skills. The teenager knew this, and despite his going through a complete change in personality in the last five days, he still thought out everything logically.
I would like to see Okaasama, but there's still the Ura Uruha to account for. They won't take lightly that three of their members just up and decided to quit. Unless Gashakura is hiding something, we have less than no money...should've collected the last paycheck before suddenly quitting, though failing to stop Hokage is kind of our termination as far as Mori Kouran is concerned. Best if we three stick together for awhile, just for the protection. And it'd be even better if we could be in a larger group of fighters...
Tsukishiro smiled. Kuukai-san, as the situation is right now, we're just going with anything that comes to mind. We are Uruha, we had to give up our families. There's really...no where else for us to go, he shrugged, so, really, do as you will with us.
The middle-aged fighter listened to this thinly veiled request for room and board and smiled slightly. Even though he places too much on his looks, he's not so bad...a little like how I'd want Saichou to be in a couple of years, a little more loosened up. Well, if you like, you can stay at the Kuu dojo in Tohoku. It's summer, so it'll be warm still. How does that sound?
The smile on the young ex-Uruha's face became more sincere. It sounds like home, Kuukai-san.
Tsukishiro's eyes wandered over the expansive Kuu dojo, noting the simplicity of it with a touch of distaste. Years spent living in a mansion had increased the young man's sense of material worth, and he found himself missing the opulence which he had lived among. However, he couldn't deny that he also felt a sense of comfort at the basic layout.
It reminded him of his mother and their small apartment in Tokyo.
A young girl wearing a junior high school uniform ran out of one of the smaller buildings flanking the main dojo. She stopped just a few feet away from the Kuu-Uruha group, her eyes touching upon all in the group. she questioned, knowing that he would be the only one advocating to pick up hitchhikers. Kuukai smiled widely.
These three were competitors at the tournament, he explained to his daughter, we all lost to the winning team. They'll be staying here awhile, Misora, so why don't you go and prepare some rooms for them, he paused, in fact, I'll even help! He hadn't seen his daughter in what felt like months, and had even thought that he wouldn't be seeing her again.
Misora smiled. It's nice to see you back, Otousan... her eyes flickered onto Saichou's frame, Saichou-kun...Kuu no minna... she bowed to the ex-Uruha, it's nice to meet you, minna-san.
Gashakura and Kashamaru nodded back respectfully. Tsukishiro smiled. he murmured, making the young teenage girl blush. He ignored the pained look that Saichou was giving him as Misora and Kuukai went to the tiny building where she had just exited.
A backward swing with the right hand. Swing the left arm forward. Bring the right hand out while the left arm was brought down to the waist.
Ah, Tsukishiro-san! A voice called from the entrance of the dojo. The practitioner inside the large dojo got out of his stance and looked over, then waved.
Saichou-kun, hi. I was just thinking, but I'll leave the dojo to you, Tsukishiro made as if to leave, but the hand on his forearm stopped him,
Tsukishiro-san, do you practice martial arts as well as swordplay? the younger boy inquired. The older of the two shook his head. Well, if you like, I'll teach you a kata. I use it for meditation.
I thought that you recited haiku for meditation.
A smile spread on Saichou's gentle face. I recite tanka, not haiku, his smile lessened, you and Misora-san thought the same.
Misora-san? The daughter of Kuukai? Tsukishiro was surprised, is she your girlfriend?
Saichou, who was in his beginning stance, looked over at Tsukishiro, his face dangerously red. G-girlfriend? M-my girlfriend? he looked down, trying to get ahold of his racing heartbeat,
Your best friend?
...Well, yes, and... the young teenager couldn't get any further in his explanation. His companion in the dojo, confused over Saichou's nervousness, shook his head.
Ah...I think I see...
Saichou snapped his head up at Tsukishiro's direction. Excuse me?
Hm, but I never would've expected it from such a nice boy like you...
Tsukishiro held up one finger in front of the completely baffled Kuu second-in-command, you're friends with benefits, and you're afraid of her father finding out! Ah...your secret's safe with me...
Saichou blushed, then looked away. You shouldn't...say those sort of things...I'm not like that...Misora-san's not like that...I could never...Misora-san's too special...
the former Uruha's eyebrows arched delicately, it certainly sounds like you like her as more than a friend...
the younger teenager looked away, we have an arranged marriage...
Taking a step away back, Tsukishiro stared at his contemporary in fighting, how old are you, anyway?
Fourteen...my birthday is in March.
...An arranged marriage planned since birth, huh? I didn't think that people did that anymore...
It's a special case, Saichou's blush paled off slightly, Shihan-dai wanted it...anyway, does Tsukishiro-san have a girl...girlfriend? Talking about girls was an odd subject for the young fighter who was devoted to the Kuu, but he desperately wanted to head off anymore questions about Misora and himself. Tsukishiro sighed.
I used to have a girlfriend, but...she doesn't really remember me anymore...
Saichou was interested, was she at the Urabatousatsujin III?
Was she a spectator, or did she fight?
Saichou stared at the normally composed ex-Uruha, who was now looking away nervously. Did I see her fight?
I wouldn't know, I wasn't there. But if the Kuu was watching all of Hokage's fights, then you probably did.
...It's not Mikoto-san, right? I heard about her fight with Fuuko-san...
Of course not!
One of the women in Uruha Oto?
Saichou frowned slightly. It can't be Neon-san...so it has to be one of the twins? He snuck a peek at the ex-Uruha, who was nervously shuffling his feet. But which twin is more like Tsukishiro-san's type?
Tsukishiro twitched. I'm not nearly that stupid...
That's mean, Tsukishiro-san... Saichou shook his head as punctuation for his unspoken words.
Oh, your girl's Miki? Y'know that your bitch tried to kiss Mikagami during their fight? The two teenagers looked over at the entrance of the dojo, where Fujimaru was leaning against the shoji. Tsukishiro calmly smiled, while his ki sparked like the EKG monitor of a patient whose heart stopped and whose doctor was using a defibrillator to restore the normal heart rhythm.
Feh...like I said, her memories of me were erased by another Ura Uruha, his fists clenched while the pleasant expression still remained pasted onto his face, if she did remember me, she wouldn't have hit on that Mikagami idiot because she'd know that she has the most beautiful lover in the world!
The Kuu stared at each other, then blinked.
X. Waning Moon, three-quarters: A tiny spark of hope in the darkness...
Tsukishiro rested against the front of the dojo, the Hikaru Utada song from his CD player effectively drowning out the sounds of Gashakura and Kuukai sparring inside. He was dressed in dark gray pants and a sleek inky black button down with short sleeves, courtesy of the nearest clothing store. Sunglasses covered his eyes; a small smile pursing up his lips as he sang along with the Japanese pop artist. You are always gonna be my love...itsu ga dare ka to mata koi ni wo shite mo...I'll remember to love, you taught me how...
As the newly carefree eighteen-year-old crooned softly, taking the words of the song to heart, a fat crow landed on his head and cawed.
Tsukishiro twitched, get off my head now, crow.
He batted at the crow, which fluttered its wings but refused to move, off, now!
Tsukishiro was beginning to wish that he had brought Kaigetsu out with him. What made his predicament worse was the appearance of Kashamaru. Tsukishiro, why do you have a crow on your head? the ninja carefully questioned.
I don't know! Will you get it off for me, Kashamaru? The younger man almost looked as if he were pleading.
Eh? You actually answered a question you didn't know with I don't know'? Wow, I'm amazed, Kashamaru was more amused, though, as evidenced by his wide grin, help you get the crow off your head de gozaru ka? Wouldn't that be a waste of shinobi skills? I mean, a crow de gozaru ka?
Hey, maybe when the crow does its business you could use that for your hair or something!
...To my knowledge, crow feces will not improve the glossiness of my hair...
From the side of the dojo, Saichou and Misora emerged, the latter helping the former carry a training mat to the front of the dojo. Various members of the current Kuu were going to perform for the community in order to bring in students, and therefore money and a legal method for making money. Saichou could be credited for the idea, although he and Tsukishiro thought it out for several nights. There was no way that the second in command of the Kuu was going to let his shihan-dai's daughter find out that they were all, at one time, hired assassins for anyone who had the money. Ara? Tsukishiro-san, you have a crow on your head! Misora announced cheerfully, blatantly ignoring the older teen's pointed glare, I've always wanted to actually hold a crow, but they're so skittish. Here crow... She held her hands out, and the crow obligingly hopped into her hands. Tsukishiro's look instantly transmuted into one of grateful affection.
Waa, you're so talented! Would you like to be my girlfriend, Misora-san? Saichou sent the ex-Uruha another pained look, while Misora wisely just giggled and inspected the obese crow in her hands, leaning towards Saichou while doing so.
Ah, its claws are so sharp! Ara...? It's holding a note...Saichou-kun... Smiling, the gentle Kuu fighter leaned over the crow in Misora's hands and pried the note from its talons. As soon as he did so, the crow flew away. Misora shook her head, her sharply cut hair swishing from left to right. Saichou was mesmerized until he remembered that he held a note.
the young teen rolled open the apparently large note, Addressed to... 'Tsukishiro, Gashakura, and Kashamaru, formerly of Ura Uruha', he looked up questioningly at the two mentioned in the note that were actually outside, and Kashamaru waved him on, hmm... This is Kagerou of the Hokage, requesting your help in dealing with a new enemy, or rather the same one. Mori Kouran has abducted Sakoshita Yanagi in order to consume her. He has acquired the madougu Tendoujigoku' and has in fact bonded with it, and it appears that Yanagi's life is what he needs in order to become at full strength. Please, if you can, come and help the Hokage. Mori's stronghold is located in central Honshu...' Saichou trailed off, what a horrible development.
Well, we're off to save Recca-dono's princess de gozaru... Kashamaru made as if to walk into the dojo, then turned around. Tsukishiro had not moved from his spot, and indeed looked very hesitant, we are all going, aren't we, Tsukishiro?
Tsukishiro stared at him blankly, then pulled out his headphones. Sorry, just wanted to catch the last words. Anyway, it's very nice of Kagerou-san to send the traitors of Uruha a note for help, but where's a note for Kuu?
Another crow alighted on Tsukishiro's head, a rolled up note clutched in its right foot.
Members of Kuu and the ex-Uruha sat in the meeting room, in conference. Ideas had been tossed about concerning what the area was expected to be like, and the enemies most likely to be encountered. All of these ideas had come from the Kuu; the ex-Uruha were quietly observing. Finally Kuukai noticed their taciturn behavior. Well, is there something you all would like to share with us? he smiled, although it was a thin-lipped stretching of the lips.
Gashakura closed his eyes. Magagamo's container laid next to him, ready to be donned by its master. The owner of the name he had just called sighed. Still impeccable in his looks, there was the faintest hint of stress in his eyes.
The Shishiten will definitely be controlling the various areas of this compound. They are comprised of four warriors who are arguably better than the Jyushinshuu...although against a high-level Jyushinshuu like Raiha, they would easily fold. They are Aoi, Hiruko, Kadotsu and Kirito. Aoi is the top Shishiten and controls the Shinryoushikon', the madougu that can affect a person's memory. Hiruko is also known as Hiruko the Immortal' who possesses the madougu Ketsushu', which thickens blood. He uses his blood as a weapon, Tsukishiro paused, his eyes narrowing while trying to remember all those people from not so long ago, trying to remember the nuances of they who had made him into a cold-blooded killer, Kirito has...three madougu, I believe...Rinne, Nehan and Shiguma. She is mainly a spy, due to Rinne, which changes the age of the user. And Kadotsu... he noticed Gashakura stiffen with the mention of that name, he is the worst.
Everyone was quiet, contemplating the consequences of meeting up with any of these Shishiten. Hm...who are we more likely to face, then?
Tsukishiro closed his eyes. I have never heard of a large compound in western Honshu. However, if there are large, wide open areas...Kadotsu would be most likely to patrol. He loves mass killings.
The shoji screen was suddenly pushed open, and Misora walked in with a platter full of cups of tea. Oolong tea, Otousan's favorite, she announced. Most of the Kuu sighed with relief. Kuukai-shihan's daughter was the balancing weight of normalcy for these men, and they appreciated her kindness. Saichou stared into Misora's eyes as she set a cup down in front of him, and she gazed back, then quickly turned away to serve Minamio.
Although she didn't like it, she knew that he was going to fight.
After Misora left, the tension seeped back into the room.
All dead...Kuu no minna... Saichou murmured as he, Gashakura, Kashamaru and Tsukishiro walked away from Kadotsu's apparently dead body. Gashakura patted the distraught boy on the shoulder.
They are dead, but you still live. You've many years ahead of you, don't regret that. Use those years to become the man that they expected you to be.
Saichou stared up at the giant madougu user, tears still drying on his youthful face. What do I tell Shihan-dai? What do I tell Misora-san...?
You won't have to, Tsukishiro morbidly pointed out, they'll be able to tell just by looking at your face, he leaned over and spoke into the younger teen's ear, informing about a death is like beauty: you can try to plan it all you like, but sometimes you'll get the best result if you just let it be. A little comforted by Tsukishiro's obsession with beauty, Saichou chuckled.
And then he saw Kuukai in front of him.
Saichou! Have you seen the rest of Kuu? I assisted Recca in a fight, and I've brought back some food for everyone!
The fourteen-year-old shihan-dai of the Kuu fell to his knees and began to cry. It wasn't a show of weakness, the four men surrounding him understood this, it was a release of emotions.
Better to mourn now, than to have that grief consume you whole.
Horrendous bursts of fire exploded from the main tower of SODOM, surprising the warriors on the grounds of the compound. This was the only signal of life for the next half hour.
Then their madougu all began to crack, the kaku of which shattered before its containment did. This made them think of the worst.
As Kaigetsu shattered into pieces, Tsukishiro felt a deep pain inside his heart. Kaigetsu...as an assassin, you've helped me enough. But now...I have to be a regular person...
Finally, Kashamaru, who had wandered off to scout out the area some more, came running back and practically leapt into his best friend's arms. They're...all of them...alive de gozaru yo!! They saved the healing girl! Everyone began to cheer, even the normally skeptical Fujimaru, who Daikoku had bothered to rescue from Marie's house on his way back to meet up with everyone else.
When the Hokage actually became visible to the ground fighters, the latter charged up to the former, their weapons all sorts of compliments on their battle prowess. Tsukishiro and Kashamaru lagged behind the Kuu and Gashakura, not really aligned with any of the Hokage or the Shishiten who were trailing behind them. Kashamaru, I thought you said that all of the Hokage had returned?
I did, the cheerful shinobi looked up at his friend, slightly worried, wasn't I right, Tsukishiro?
Where is Koganei Kaoru?
...Not there. Tsukishiro, do you think that he could be...?
the younger of the two was calm as usual, they would've never left behind his body. Come to think of it, Kurei's not there either. Perhaps...perhaps Koganei wasn't a traitor after all...!
Kashamaru looked up at Tsukishiro worriedly. What is it?
Shishiten Aoi...the Shinryoushikon...destroyed! What was once a wholly collected teenage male was now a wholly stunned boy. His partner frowned in utter confusion. He didn't remember the significance of the memory madougu and their being Ura Uruha in the first place.
From out of the trees that surrounded the late Mori Kouran's hidden game' compound walked three former Uruha and Uruha Jyushinshuu.
From out of the trees that surrounded the late Mori Kouran's hidden game' compound walked Iwahara Miki, Aki, and Neon.
She hadn't changed from the last time that Tsukishiro observed her, when she was talking to Matsurou. She still had flashing hazel eyes and a charming smile, which seemed a bit more tempered. Her auburn hair was longer, yet the ends of the sides were still curled up. Her figure had filled out now, in her seventeenth year of life, and the long-sleeved gray shirt and the black capris she wore just added to the image of a healthy teenage girl. To Tsukishiro, who was wearing a version of the black spandex outfit that the same girl had made for him three years prior, with a useless Oboro tied around his waist, she looked so painfully normal that he wanted to just run up to her and hold her in his arms.
He wondered if she remembered him, now that the Shinryoushikon was destroyed.
He wondered if it really mattered.
And then he heard his name spoken from her lips.
She was right there, right there in front of him. Less than two feet, in fact. Her honey-colored eyes shimmered, but he knew that it wasn't with tears. Miki could be almost a sap about certain things, but she wouldn't cry. Not with so many people around. Hello, Miki-san, he whispered, the name sounding foreign to his own ears. He hadn't use it half as much as he would've liked. He wanted to ask if she remembered him, he wanted to hold her if she did and kiss her if she didn't.
That way, she couldn't tell him.
But, in the end, he didn't have to make a move. Miki walked up to him, a pained smile on her face. Tsukishiro-kun, for a long time...about three years now, I've had this feeling that there was something...important that I was forgetting. There was a blank that I had to fill in, but I didn't know where to start. And then...in there, she waved behind her, to the tower in the distance, after Idaten and Yamabiko suddenly broke, the blank in my memories was filled...with you, she blushed prettily, I probably would've hunted you down...I'm sure that Neon-sama would've appreciated how much she's motivated me.
The words were out of his mouth before he realized it. Miki-san, I'm going to stay with the Kuu for awhile. Do you and your sisters need a place to live?
the reddish-auburn haired girl understood what he wanted to say, and Raiha-kun too, Tsukishiro looked over at Neon and Aki, and spotted Raiha casually hanging off of Neon's arm, heavily injured, I hope that we can work out a new start, she said in a blur of words. One would've suspected that Idaten would always be with its mistress forever.
Tsukishiro was normally smooth when it came to words, but having an actual conversation with the one person he thought he had lost forever shook him up, this isn't a new start...it's a continuation after a four-year hiatus. I'm sure we can make it work.
Ikehara Moemi was tired when she arrived at her apartment after a ten-hour shift. After Tsukishiro's disappearance, she quickly became a workaholic with lots of money, but no happiness. Only an occasional letter to and from her childhood friend Suzuhara Emi was all that she looked forward to.
Every day she wondered about her son. He would be nineteen now; his birthday in June, only about three months prior. Was he really okay? Or did something happen while he was paying his rescuers back?
What had happened on that day, three years ago?
Why can't a mother know everything about her child? She only wants to know in order to protect them better.
Then she thought of her late husband, and she shook her head as if to physically shake those memories of him away.
Maybe it should be the other way around. Maybe a child should know everything about their parents, because they deserve to know the truth.
They deserve that much.
Who could that be? Moemi wondered out loud to herself. She rose from her chair, her forty-one years affecting her joints only slightly. Her natural beauty had matured faster in the three years of her son's disappearance than in the fifteen years before that, but she was still a lovely woman. She opened the door, a smile appearing almost instantaneously, a side effect from working in the mall for what seemed like forever. Hello, what can I do for you...?
The smile dropped off her face.
I'm home, Okaasama, Tsukishiro said quietly, suddenly feeling very small. After all, he had not sent her another letter since the first one, which he had technically not sent because of Raiha's preemptive kindness. He studied the woman before her, and saw the stress that he had placed on her with his disappearance. I'm sorry that it's taken me so long to return, Okaasama.
Tsuki...shiro...my Tsuki-chan, all grown up... Moemi reached forward with her hands, lightly tracing the shape of his face with her gentle hands, my beautiful son... her hands fell from his face, and he caught them with his own larger hands.
Mother and son stayed in that pose for a long while, connected by their hands and hearts. After a long while, she had the presence of mind to invite him into the apartment where he had grown up. It was small but clean, and Tsukishiro didn't realize until this moment just how much he had missed it.
He hadn't realize just how much he had missed his mother.
Ikehara Tsukishiro had returned home.
XI. New Moon: A time for all things to begin
The alarm clock rang quietly, rousing Iwahara Miki from her dreamless sleep. Ikehara Tsukishiro slept with his back to her, and she smiled into his untied black hair. Her right arm was over her lover's side, and she noted with pleasure that he was still holding onto her hand, even in his deep sleep. The alarm continued to ring, and with a sigh the nineteen-year-old woman rose from her somnolent position, her bare breasts brushing across the comatose twenty-one-year-old's back. He stirred, but failed to wake up. Miki giggled--she knew that later when she had to try and wake up her long-time lover that she would probably be pissed off--and stood from their futon, turning off the alarm as she strolled towards the shower in their hall of the Kuu living quarters.
In the two years after SODOM and the destruction of all the madougu, life for many of the living warriors had improved. Tsukishiro was an instructor of swords at the Kuu dojo. They needed one because martial arts had suddenly become popular in Japan as a whole. In Tohoku, the Kuu dojo was popular for their famous and devastatingly attractive sensei-tachi.
Iwahara Neon, Miki and Aki were all instructors at the Kuu dojo as well, to the delight of the mostly male students. Neon's defense was near impeccable; Miki was a literal speed demon and Aki was known for her attack power, so they often humiliated their male students as well.
Takagi Raiha had mysteriously left after one year, citing that he had unfinished business that he intended to take care of before possibly returning to the dojo. Neon, the only person who knew what this business' was, would only grin anytime someone brought up the subject.
Kashamaru and Gashakura also lived at the dojo, although they weren't as keen on handing down their techniques to any student; they had been assassins a lot longer than Tsukishiro had, and consequently it was the only sort of skills that they were truly knowledgeable in. Still, Kashamaru would demonstrate his shinobi abilities, while Gashakura would consistently prove how strength and speed could exist in such a large man.
Saichou was still a shihan, his girlish cuteness belying skill almost unparalleled, except for Kuukai himself. The shihan was now sixteen, and Misora, still the caretaker of all the Kuu, had just turned sixteen.
By the agreement Saichou and Kuukai had, Saichou would become a member of the household, not just of Kuu but of the practicing family Minamikawa, if he would agree to an arranged marriage. The agreement held that the marriage would be performed after Misora's sixteenth birthday, while the two were still sixteen. Since this was a couple months before the law had raised the marriageable age to eighteen, the deal could still be set.
Today was the day of the wedding between Saichou and Minamikawa Misora.
Ahhh...nothing like a good shower, Miki smiled to herself as she walked back into the room, a towel around her slim frame. She noted with a measure of annoyance that her boyfriend was still sleeping peacefully. I can understand why you'd still be sleeping, since it's four in the morning, but it's one of your best friends' wedding day! Your okaasan is coming by early this morning to deliver your haori and hakama, and you're still asleep... she sighed, patting her taut stomach, well, you tire yourself out, Tsuki-chan...
Miki blinked at this apparent awakening. Was Tsukishiro indeed going to rise, or would she be stuck blasting loud music next to his ear and annoying everyone else in this area of the living quarters?
Tsukishiro rolled over, trying to hug his girlfriend. When his unconscious mind registered that she wasn't on the futon with him, he reached blindly and hugged her pillow close to him.
Of course, it goes without saying that the wedding was a complete success.
Under the limitless night sky not even distinguished by the pale iridescence of the moon, two lovers in traditional Japanese wear aimlessly strolled through the far reaches of the Kuu compound. In complete silence, their only connection being their clasped hands, they slowly made their way to a small bridge curving over a piddling river. They stood at the apex of the sturdy wooden bridge and gazed out into wild, preserved forests blanketing the Kuu legacy.
Reluctantly, Tsukishiro let go of Miki's hand, only to instead wrap his arm around her shoulders. He looked down at her profile, noting once again how, despite her hair being pinned up with multiple shiny clips imitating butterflies, her face was unmarked with any makeup. It would've only taken away from her beauty, anyway. How, despite the stiff, red with a white orchid pattern material of her kimono, she still seemed to move so fluidly, so gracefully. Miki...
The former Uruha Oto member looked over at Tsukishiro's face and smiled, knowing that he was staring at her. Every time he did this, it made her redden with giddy embarrassment. He would always have on that small smile of content, that smile that made him even more beautiful than he already was. But I won't tell him that...then he'd try to smile like that all the time and it'd take away from that pure beauty... However, the warm fuzzies currently dancing around her stomach were just begging her to tell him, and in a desperate act to keep her most well-kept secret--that her lover could be even more beautiful than he already was to her--she raised her hand in front of his face and pointed out in front of them, to the endless forests ahead. Tsukishiro, curious, looked out in that direction, and Miki snuggled against him, grateful that her plan worked. Tsukishiro...
Above them, the night sky twinkled with a thousand near-invisible stars. Tonight was a new moon, and although it was invisible to the human eye, it still lingered above these two.
Tomorrow, a tiny silver of that eternal orb would peek out, teasingly giving a small hint of what was to come.
It would be the start of a new cycle.
This story was started during the full moon in late April, and I'm finishing it now, during the new moon of November. I remember looking up at the moon six months ago while taking a stroll to clear my head, and all I could think about was Tsukishiro. The obvious question would be, Why make a Tsukishiro story? I think the only answer I have is, Because it felt right. For a story about Tsukishiro's past, it's pretty weird, and I'm sure that a lot of people would probably not be inclined into accepting it, but...well, this is what I do, right?
If you've read the manga, you'll notice that the Urabatousatsujin III stuff in Waning Half Moon', particularly the whole thing with Tsukishiro wailing in his hotel room and then later confronting Yanagi in a desperate attempt to become beautiful once again is obviously not canon. Personally, I never cared for the manga canon of that part anyway, where Ura Uruha immediately started hanging out with the Hokage. I can understand why Anzai-sensei had done it, but...
I don't know how old Saichou was in the manga. You could argue either way that Misora was wearing either a junior high or high school uniform, but try as I might, I can't be convinced that Misora or Saichou are even Recca's age. Maybe fifteen years old, but they both look so young that fourteen seemed appropriate. Given the fact that lots of people in Recca no Honoo are younger than they appear to be (Kurei is twenty? He just reached the age where he can smoke and drink legally in Japan?), I'm operating under the logic that, if they look young, they must be really young. Same goes with Raiha (age is inferred), Miki and Aki.
If I'm not mistaken, the age limit on marriage rose in 1997 or 1998. Before, the age limit was sixteen, which is why Tsukino Usagi of Bishoujo Senshi Saliormoon can dream of marrying Mamoru once she gets into high school...or so I've heard. But that's the example presented to me, and that's the example I present to you. Recca no Honoo started in 1995, and roughly spans the period of April or May(when Recca and Yanagi meet) to about the end of October/early November (Mikagami had never turned seventeen, but Kaoru did turn fourteen). So, by the end of this story, it's about 1998.
Tsukishiro and Miki...why? shrugs Why not? There's been weirder that people have supported, one more's not going to hurt...much. ;; Oh, and why didn't I write about the wedding? Because this is a Tsukishiro story, not a Saichou story...hint-hint
And the final story note...why is this not written up in seperate chapters? Well...that would be a good question, actually. Whoops.
If anyone has any questions, feel more than free to email me or put it in a review or something. Thank you for reading!