Disclaimer:

I do not own Gintama

Gintama belongs to Gorilla-sensei

I encourage reviews and criticisms, but reviews purely for the sake of insult or hate will be moderated accordingly

A/N:

This is a rewrite of the same story as the title. I decided to play around with a few different scenes and some more imagery. For previous readers, please leave reviews as to how this compares, but please give it a few chapters before fully making up your mind on which you like better.


Beneath the dark sky lies a wasteland of war and death. Smoke, black and heavy, covers the land far and wide as the stench of decay and burning flesh permeates the once crisp air. Despite the heaviness in the atmosphere, the night is not silent. The shrill cry of steel cuts through the night as distant explosions echo all around. Four figures rush through the battlefield and carve their way through the enemy's defenses. They are young, barely out of adolescence and not even on their way into adulthood, but their faces are set in grim determination, aging them decades. Beneath their feet the ground is slick and muddy, but rain hasn't fallen in weeks. It is the blood of the dead and wounded that creates an endless river of crimson. The pleas of the dying, the moans of the wounded, and the dull thuds of bodies hitting the ground clash with the sharpness of the fierce battle, creating a cacophony of chaos. Amongst the sea of dark figures, a lone figure was clad in white. With his shining silver hair, his sword gleaming even in the moonless sky, and his white robes stained crimson, he truly had the appearance of a demon. His appearance alone was enough to strike fear into the hearts of those who glimpsed him. A nearby Amanto commander caught sight of the figure and the icy cold twinge of fear filled his veins, freezing his heart for a moment. Unable to do anything but watch as the white demon cleaved through bodies, the Amanto commander soon made up his mind.

"It's Shiroyasha! Retreat! Retreat! Leave the wounded and the dead and fall back! Run for your li-" The Amanto paused and stared in confusion at the site of his own body, standing still on the battlefield, headless. Grey eyes blinked and widened in fear and horror as the realization sunk in before dulling over as death claimed yet another soul. The other Amanto, frozen in fear stood no chance against the ruthless demon and his companions. They were cut down as easily as stalks of rice during the harvest.


Just as the sun was beginning to rise, the last Amanto was struck down, and his eyes dulled over in death before the sun broke over the horizon. The samurai stood in shocked silence for a single moment before cheers rose from every breathing person...except one. The lone white clad figure merely stared and the field of death; his eyes were filled with a deep sadness as he mourned the lives of those he was unable to save.

It was a funny thing to see...a demon showing sadness, but the demon had long since made up his mind. Even if he has to stand alone, even if he has to become the enemy of the heavens, even if the world branded him a demon, he would continue forward...to save that man and protect the things he held dear.

Up in the brightening skies above, the crows began to circle, eager to feast on the fresh corpses.


How many had he failed to save? How many mothers and fathers will mourn their sons? How many sons and daughters will mourn their father? How many wives mourn their husband? And how many promises of return will go forever unfulfilled?

A hundred? Two hundred?


It was easy to lose himself to the rhythm of battle, to cut down body after body. He does not stay his hand. He shows no mercy to those who would seek to harm those he holds dear; he has long since buried the ability to show remorse for those who die by his sword (later, when years have passed, when the burning rage of the battlefield has cooled, and when he has time to truly grieve, he will mourn for every life taken and lost). But until that moment arrives, he is still a demon on the battlefield, crying to the heavens who do not answer.


"Banzai! Sakamoto-sama! Takasugi-sama! Katsura-sama! Shiroyasha-sama! Banzai!"

"Banzai!"

"Banzai!"

As the cries of joy and relief spread through every soldier, the white demon stood in silence. How much of a demon had he become that his own allies refer to him by his monicker rather than his given name?

My name is Gintoki! Please...anyone...anyone...before I forget myself! Call my name!

A warm hand startles him from the suffocating darkness of his thoughts. It is only the familiarity of the voice that stays his hand, "Gintoki...it's time to head back to camp"

"Yeah"

As the two begin their trek, black feathers fall as a soft chime sounds


Have you heard the story?

The story of the corpse-eating demon,

The wandering samurai who sought to kill it,

But instead reached out a hand to the child underneath,

And their tragedy…?

This is how it all began….


The afternoon air was humid and rippled with heat; the slight breeze brought little relief to those who were unfortunate enough to be caught outside in the unbearably hot weather. What once would have been a minor annoyance had escalated to something akin to torture as the scorching heat carried the stench of rotting corpses and decaying fields. The caws of the crows was now an endless echo as the black feathered creatures gorged themselves on the dead and dying. When night fell, the wild animals, starved of prey would carry with them the remains of the corpses the crows had yet to devour.

Village crops were left to die, either from the heat of the sun or from being unattended. The men who once worked the fields had put down their sickles and picked up a sword. Women and children scarcely left their homes, too terrified to be out in the open where the war was.

But it did little to help stave off the horror and grief when their men were returned to them.

Some were returned as cold corpses while others were forced to find the heads of their loved ones along the river banks. And some...some only had a cold piece of steel handed to them, the bodies either too destroyed or never found.

And as sons ventured away from the village, with their father's sword clutched in their too small hands and vengeance in their hearts, brothers turned against each other, hoping to bring an end to the fighting.

Many left and few returned alive...

Those who did return did so to empty houses and burned villages…

With the able bodied men gone, the villages were left defenseless against the Amanto raids. The few men left in the village were either too old or too young. The young boys, barely on the cusp of adolescence were mercilessly slaughtered while the young girls were sold off to the brothels run by the Amanto. Females past adolescence were taken and never heard from again. With the village devoid of life and a future, the elders ended burned the village and themselves with it.

Upon seeing the desolate and scorched remains of their homes, the men left once again, hearts heavy with anger and hatred.

They fought

And fought

And fought

And fought

They died

And died

And died

And died

Death and despair were the only two constants in life

The crows filled the sky with an endless black

Truly...hell had come to Earth

Haven't you heard?

Only demons thrive in hell


A child sits atop a pile of corpses and bites into a riceball; it is cold and slimy, but he pays no heed to the stale taste, long used to eating rotting food. He pays no mind to the stench of rotting bodies and the cries of the crows as they feast on the corpses. Minding little of the difference in appearance, the black feathered beings eagerly carve their beaks into the softening flesh.

Amanto

Human

To the crows flesh was flesh, and a meal was always welcome (but the crows have begun to gorge themselves too much; already some of the back birds were having trouble flying, their bodies too fat and large for their slender wings to support).

As the silver haired child takes another bite of the riceball, he takes a moment to reminisce...

The ground was littered with corpses. Some were still warm, gurgling with the dying echoes of a doomed man. Others had long since been ripped apart by the crows.

A small child walks through the garden of death. He is used to this routine and heads for the fresh bodies. He ignores the dying gurgles and raspy pleas for help as he begins his scavenge. It takes him mere moments to strip the corpse of its supplies. He then makes his way through other corpses, taking only what he needs. There would be plenty of other chances for him to replenish his supplies. As he digs through the supplies of yet another corpse, the child makes a small noise of triumph as he pulls out a half-eaten riceball. It has been days since his last meal, so he savors the meager meal. He had long since given up his hesitation on pillaging from corpses. At first he had been repulsed by the idea of desecrating the dead, but as he grew weaker from hunger and as his own meager resources were taken from him, he made up his mind: the dead had no need for supplies.

And as the danger grew, as others grew more desperate for survival and began attacking others, the silver haired child picked up a sword, and stained his world with red.

It didn't take long for the rumors to spread.

The rumors of a corpse-eating demon.

And like all rumors, the longer it went on, the further from the truth it deviated

A child sits among the corpses and eats his meals

A ghostly child sits among a sea of corpses and eats his meal

A pale creature of the night steals from the corpses to feed his hunger

A monstrous being hunts amongst the corpses to sate his hunger

A demon feeds on the corpses and uses their bodies as his seat

A young swordsman, hearing the rumors, seeks to slay the demon to bring a sense of momentary peace to the people.

But when he succeeds in finding the demon, he is surprised to see a child instead…


A lone child sits on a pile of corpses as he devours a riceball, the stench of rot and the cries of the crows are an ever constant combination. The only color in his monochrome world is the bright crimson of blood. As he lifts the riceball to take another bite, a hand settles on his head. When he glances up he sees a man, eye covered by the bangs of his hair and a strange expression on his face (later he would learn that it is called a smile).

"I came after hearing of a corpse-eating demon...would that be you? A rather cute demon.."

The child pushes the man's hand away and jumps back, glaring at the unknown danger in front of him. He draws the sword (stolen from a corpse) and points it at the man. The sword seems much too large for his small body. It is covered in blood and has cracked edges, but it is still a sword nonetheless.

"Did you also take than from a corpse?"

The child gives no reply save for the tongue that licks a stray grain of rice from his lips.

The man gives another twitch, face full of something the child cannot name (later he would learn that it is called sadness, and would learn to recognize in the faces of others).

"A single child stripping corpses in order to protect himself, is it?" There is a moment of silence before the man speaks again, "that is a very impressive; however, you no longer need that sword."

The child is wary as he stares at the man; a bead of sweat falls down his face. He flinches as the man grabs the sword at his hip, "A sword swung in self-defense while in fear of others should be thrown away." The man holds his sword tightly, making the child grow more anxious. The man throws his sword at the startled child who catches it on instinct before stumbling under the weight. The sword was heavy. "I shall give you my sword. It you wish to wield it properly, come with me." With that the man begins to walk away.

The child stares for a moment, his crimson eyes following the man's back. As his small hands touch his head, he remembers the warmth of the man's hand. Having felt the warmth of another human being (not the warm blood of those he killed, but the warmth of a living person), and wanting to experience it once again, the child runs after the man.

Hearing the running footsteps behind him, the man pauses and turns to face the child.

He stretches out a hand and smiles when a small one is placed in it.


The man and child walk in silence for a while before the man turns to the child, "My name is Yoshida Shoyou, what is your name?"

The child pauses and thinks for a moment. It had been a long time since he had the chance to talk with another being that wasn't trying to kill him, so it comes as no surprise that he draws a blank.

"...Forgot...demon…" His voice is soft and hesitant, as if learning to speak for the first time, but Shoyou is able to decipher the meaning behind those two words.

I forgot, but the people call me demon

Shoyou laughs and the boy is surprised by the pleasantness of it, "That won't do; a cute child such as yourself deserves a name."


The child stumbles, but before he can fall Shoyou lifts him up and places him against his back. The silence carriers on…

As the sun begins to set and the moon is a wispy glimmer in the darkening sky, Shoyou is hit with inspiration, "Gintoki"

There is a small murmur of confusion so Shoyou elaborates, "Your shining silver hair reflects your shimmering soul, and a soul, when properly protected in untouched by time...and as for your surname…" Shoyo glances around and catches sight of a field of rice, "Sakata…"

"...why…?"

Shoyou hummed and smiled, "Who knows?"

Sakata Gintoki buries his flushed face into Shoyou's neck, a small smile formed on his lips, "...thank...you…"

Shoyou laughs and Gintoki savors the sound.

Shoyou is Warm. Shoyou is Kind.

He wonders what the fluttering in his heart is (the love of a father his mind whispers)


Gintoki craves the warmth (love) Shoyou gives. It is a pleasant feeling that chases away the cold twinge of fear and loneliness. Little by little, the ice melts away to reveal more of the child hidden underneath. A child with crimson eyes filled with so much pain and loneliness, filled with fear and sadness, and a wisdom beyond his years whose soul shines as brightly as his silver hair.

He learns how to read

How to speak in full sentences once again

And gradually he learns that lips turned upward are curved in a 'smile' and lips turned downward are curved in a 'frown'

He learns that tears mean sadness, but can also mean happiness

He learns to differentiate the times when a person is crying and when a person is laughing

It is a nice change...learning to live rather than to exist (that is another thing he learns, the difference between someone who is living life and someone who is a living existence).


His sleepless night are reflected in the dark bruises under his eyes and the tightening of his hands on the sword, but warm hands, soothing words, and a gentle embrace chase the sleepless nights away…

When he sleeps, he dreams, and when he dreams he dreams of his life before Shoyou. But the warm hands, soothing words, and gentle embraces continue and eventually his nightmares die down.


Gintoki has learned of sweets.

Shoyou introduced them to him; they are different. They do not provide much nutrition and eating too many of them causes his teeth and stomach to ache. But Shoyou has given them to him, so even if his tongue curls away at first, he grows to love them because Shoyou has presented them to him and they provide a sense of comfort and happiness.

Years later, when his colorful world has turned an endless grey, he would use sweets not as a method to comfort himself but as a method to wash out the taste of blood (and even more years later, when the taste of blood still lingers in his mouth he would continue his habit of using sweets to chase away the acrid taste of iron).


There are more children around; he likes to avoid them by climbing onto his trees. They cause too much noise and gather too close. But since Shoyou has brought them under his wing, Gintoki would love the children too (he doesn't realize when obligation becomes genuine), so he climbs his trees to watch over them more easily (later, when the embers cool, he realizes that he can't hold them close enough).

Gintoki wants to be like Shoyou: Warm and Kind


Fire is neither warm nor kind.

It is hot and angry.

The ash and flames hurt his eyes and cause tears to form.

No, that is a lie…

It is seeing the back of Shoyou grow smaller (Shoyou who is Warm and Kind), and being unable to follow that causes the tears to form. The rods hurt, they force out the air in his lungs, but that pain is nothing compared to the pain in his heart.

It's too hot.

He can't breathe.

Don't take him away!

Please!

Take me instead!

Come Back!

Don't take him away!

PLEASE!

He wants to beg but no sound will come out.

"SHOYOU-SENSEI!"

Don't take away my father!