A/N: i'm going through massive gintsuki withdrawal. i don't know, this became longer than expected. i was thinking maybe 1000 words at first. and this was supposed to be super G-rated, then it became slightly kind of M halfway. it's nothing explicit. i didn't want to write something too romantic, and i really wanted to keep gintoki's character in line, but i messed up somewhere so i don't care now.
Gintoki yawned as he strolled down the single flight of stairs in his usual sturdy, high-shafted black boots. The old, wooden planks beneath his feet creaked softly from his weight and movement. He had tucked in his arm close to his belly inside his white patterned kimono out of habit, leaving the armless sleeve swaying while he walked.
Street lamps came alight moments after he headed out from his home in Kabuki-cho, down the street leading away from Otose's Snacks and Bar. The evening breeze that brushed his skin and silvery hair was cool and pleasant.
There's no reason to visit Yoshiwara merely for drinks. His own voice inside his head started chidingly. Rational. Perhaps even slightly confrontational.
Should have just gone to the old granny's bar after all. Maybe? He stopped to consider this before turning at the corner, if only for just a second.
Tsk, no way, he thought again, and continued walking.
It was another one of those irritating internal dialogues that seemed to happen lately, and he was becoming more accustomed to how it would transpire: An impulsive decision. Some second thoughts. A full blown debate. In that order. And in the end, he would execute whatever decision he made initially anyway. But today, he was adamant to not deliberate too much.
Night slowly drew itself upon the sky, its deep, dark veils absorbing the very last orange hues – remnants of sunlight. Gintoki sauntered his way comfortably through pavements of split flagstones, taking in the increasingly busy activity around him with his usual half-lidded eyes as he passed deeper into the heart of the city. Bright neon lights of assorted colours flickered on shop signs. An Otsu interview was playing soundlessly on television sets from an electronics store. Ambulatory masses of people walked at varied pace up and down the shopping avenues; crowd chatter and traffic noise blended into the air. Slants of lights from passing vehicles flowed down the roads. Kabuki-cho is lively as always.
Ahh, drinks are a lot more expensive over there.
But I have extra cash to splurge today, don't I? Thanks to that job this morning at the cattle farm. Hahaha.
He had always associated immaturity and indecisiveness with the behaviour of middle school boys, possibly because it was generally accepted that middle school boys have the pounding hormones of a whale in heat in their systems. He could not be sure if he had gotten that from a tv show, but he knew that it was a little pathetic to allow his emotions to flounce about right now – just like a middle school boy's.
The truth is, I haven't seen her in months.
Right that moment, he came by a toy store selling miniature spaceships and various space paraphernalia. Stopping, he took a half-interested look at the fixed model kits through the window display. White cardboard signs held by strings threaded through the corners hung on top of the display case. 20% OFF, it screamed in big, fat, blue marker.
"Actually, I haven't seen Tatsuma around in months," he muttered. It was as if he was trying to overwrite his previous thoughts. His demeanor, facial expression and all manner of speech did not betray the emotions bubbling inside him.
He turned away from the store, and went on his way.
"Well, he's just going to drop out of the sky like he always does. That idiot."
Still, his own voice inside his head continued to challenge him doggedly. Well, I am sure there really isn't any excuse to visit Yoshiwara.
"It's okay, isn't it?" Gintoki replied aloud. No one heard him. His voice slipped underneath layers of the bustling city noise. "I just feel like going there. Nothing wrong with that."
Gintoki never needed a complicated reason to do the things he wanted.
"If there was something he needed to do, he would do it." Zura said of him once, at Otose's bar on New Year's Eve, to the small crowd of Kabukicho regulars who were reflecting on their past year over their mugs of beer and celebratory snacks.
"Straightforward – and full of honest conviction. Notwithstanding his indolence, I look forward to another great year with a friend like him." Zura concluded proudly as he cast a glance at a drunken Gintoki, who was getting yelled at by Otose for being unruly at the bar counter.
Gintoki had a faint memory of something like that occuring. It was a New Year Eve gathering, but everyone was already well deep into their own worlds and nobody was really listening to Zura. Gintoki himself was in a shouting match with the old granny. He was making rude comments about the quality of shochu served that night, thumping his empty glass on the burnished, chestnut-coloured countertop. An equally drunk Tsukuyo was sitting on the stool, laughing by his side. Laughing at nothing particular at all.
He had a memory of her latching onto his shoulders moments later, and with her strong, slender fingers, was brutally shaking him back and forth. She accused him of stealing several pours of drinks from her bottle. His mouth was open, his head nodding around helplessly like a bobble-head kokeshi doll with each yank. Some of these yanks were more forceful than the others, sending him hurtling too close to her face. Whiffs of alcohol breath that were mixed in with musky tobacco wafted around him. Half-dazed, his eyes had inadvertently drifted down, catching sight of her huge chest heaving.
It was then he felt the blood pulsating around his temples, and a gradual stiffening in his groin. He had an urge – fueled by all that drinking – to grab her violently, kiss her softly, and touch her all over right then and there. He wanted to reduce her into a quivering mass so he could hold her in his arms.
But that would be suicide.
Taking everything he had inside, he shoved her off with a strong arm. But he had shoved her a little too hard than intended, because it caused him to lunge backwards from the inertia. A last minute attempt to correct his balance by spinning had failed, and he fell face down on the cold cement floor.
"Damn you, woman," he groaned awhile later, having sat up and gently nursing his bruised nose.
"You were the one who pushed me," she drawled, jabbing a forefinger above his right nipple. Her miniature kunai hair ornaments were barely holding up her falling hair. "It was your own fault."
"It was your fault!" He lashed back. "If you didn't… if those…" his words suddenly softened, slurred into a murmur.
"If I didn't what?"
Your big, big breasts. I –
"Whaaat?!" She repeated, louder this time.
His eyes met hers for a second. Those big, big, purple eyes, so sharp and piercing on normal days were now watered, a little bloodshot, and – still so sharp and piercing. He felt aroused again.
"S-shut up!" He quickly turned his attention elsewhere. "Oi, granny! More drinks!"
"Don't ask for more drinks when you've just insulted the quality earlier!" Otose scolded agitatedly.
"Why do I have to shut up? You shut up!" Tsukuyo took off her boots and started climbing on top of the counter.
"Oi, you stupid woman! Stop that!" He made a grab for her ankle.
"Both of you, stop that!"
That was a good few months ago. What Zura said doesn't always apply, he acknowledged this now, secretly.
Straightforward and full of honest conviction, huh. Tama have called me complex and difficult before.
Gintoki knew Zura was not altogether wrong. He wasn't supposed to be like that. Theirs was a friendship spanning twenty odd years and counting. They have known joy and endured profound grief together. Developed a deep, permeating understanding of each other. Perhaps some things treading on the egotistical pride of men were better left unsaid.
There have been many a time when he forewent hesitation shamelessly. "Ah, I want to play pachinko! I'll play pachinko to increase my fortune!" It would be something like that. Or, it would be something like: "I need some chocolate right now, or I'm going to collapse due to low sugar!" And he would feign passing out at the main door, while Kagura walked by, ignoring him. He would also, on occasion, cling onto Shinpachi's arm as he perform chores around the house. "Buy me a strawberry parfait! I'll pay you back! I promise! A pudding, then! Puuuddding!"
Money. The dearth of it was one of his perpetual remorse. Why would he need anything else? However, as time passed, he came to the realisation that some other things too, have become a little more complicated than he wanted them to be.
All I want right now – is a drink, dammit.
"Ah, maybe I'll put in a request for a beautiful girl to drink with me! Hahaha."
"Nah, maybe not. I have some money, but not that much money."
What are the chances of running into her tonight?
Certainly, it was quite a harmless, optimistic question. With neither any inward mental struggle nor a single word aloud, he held that thought all the way to Yoshiwara.
It was twenty minutes past eight when he decided to go inside. The last forty minutes were spent perusing bars from the outside without stepping into any of them. Since when did he become so undecisive, dilly-dallying over trivialities?
He had casually scanned the streets for signs of the Hyakka, Yoshiwara's paramilitants, carrying a half-expectation of seeing Tsukuyo in a routine patrol. Several black-masked women scurried around as if in pursuit of an elusive target. Their movements were nothing conspicuously out of the ordinary to the Yoshiwara dwellers who were used to their presence, but easily understood by Gintoki who had ample years of experience in combat.
A hunt and search, he surmised lazily. Something must have happened.
The night was getting late, and with no Tsukuyo in sight, he entered the small liquor shop adjacent to where he was observing the Hyakka's activity.
Looks like she's busy with whatever that's happening right now. Oh, well.
Near the doorway of the store, the light inside the red paper lantern flickered momentarily. What greeted him inside were two familiar faces.
"Ah!" Lightly startled, all three men exclaimed shortly at seeing one another.
It was Hasegawa and Yamazaki.
Gintoki's first instinct was to turn heels and walk away, but then he considered there was no harm in eating and drinking with them. Besides, he liked Hasegawa. He was wearing his usual brown three-quartered pants and samue-styled* top, and Yamazaki was in a nondescript teal kimono.
He slid into the only empty spot left at the bar counter.
Looking at what was in front of them, it seemed that they had just commenced eating and drinking not too long ago. "Geez, I thought you were broke, Mr. Hasegawa," he began.
"Yamazaki is treating me, as thanks for some info I gave on a guy he's after. I happen to see that guy in uh – some areas. I've been places, you see."
"Oh, so you've become a snitch for the police. Why do I get the feeling that something will go wrong?"
"It's a paid position. And please don't say that."
"Really. Isn't that nice. But don't you usually take it up upon yourself to do that?" He turned to Yamazaki with an eyebrow raised over half-lidded eyes.
"Informants are always helpful." Yamazaki slurped on his noodles. "The roof at our quarters is leaking badly. Our men repaired it two weeks ago, but it's not holding up. Everyone is busy and our usual contractor has fallen sick. I've been running around doing all sorts of menial jobs on top of my usual workload." He looked up at Gintoki with tired, sunken eyes, oily broth pasted at the corner of his lips. "I have a window of time today. I'm getting out of eating anpan."
Gintoki jumped at the chance of another job. "What the hell? If your roof needs fixing, this is a job for your Yorozuya Gin-chan of Kabukicho! We'll fix it for a reasonable fee. If you want us to be there at nine in the morning, we will be there by eight thirty. We can finish the job in a day! What do you say!"
Yamazaki shrugged. "I suppose. I'll ask the Chief when I get back later."
Gintoki's mood elevated considerably.
For him, getting another job this quickly is great luck. That damn rent can finally be paid in full and it would get the brats to stop lecturing me for a good while.
He ordered a simple meal together with a jar of nihonshu to start his night. And with his two companions, he started taking a sip of his drink happily. He continued to drink, and drink and drink.
Time passed. Their conversation eased into a topic of celebrities, actresses and singers. To people around Gintoki, the only person he had ever professed his love for was Ketsuno Ana, but even so, he knew that all the flapping and excitement were nothing more than a fanboy's adulation of his favourite celebrity girl. As much as he made fun of Shinpachi and his idol worship of Otsu, he knew he was guilty of the same behaviour.
"Ketsuno Ana is the only girl for me!" He proclaimed suddenly without being prompted.
"Still going on about her?" Hasegawa asked.
"Shut up! I'm a loyal fan!"
"I prefer Inoue Nao.*" Yamazaki said, after a moment of consideration. "She's really good in the drama on Edo TV that's airing now."
"Ketsuno Ana is better!" Gintoki barked. He wasn't about to give in.
Ketsuno Ana could keep evil spirits at bay. She had a sunny disposition, a gentle, pleasant voice and probably would have made a good wife. Unlike a certain someone who's always looking so fierce, gloomy and unyielding. As soon as he thought that, Tsukuyo's face floated into his mind.
No, he corrected himself mentally. He flashed back to the times she had selflessly helped him, cared for his well-being, and in her hour of weakness, smiled gratefully when he told her with all sincerity, that she had nothing to be shameful of, for she's someone with a beautiful face and a scarless soul. Affection welled inside of him. Ah, she's actually rather extraordinary.
"That's good and all," Yamazaki replied. "But when it comes to life partners, people usually don't marry the celebrities they have a crush on, do they?"
He snapped out of his thoughts. Hahaha. Marriage. "What the hell are you talking about?" Gintoki cried. "What can you offer her? Haaah?!" It was as if he were shouting at himself. "What can you offer anyone?"
Yamazaki looked a bit hurt. "Well, I guess that's true," he said timidly. "She's a big star. She has everything she wants. There is nothing else an average man can give her."
Gintoki nodded empathetically. "That's right, that's right! You get the idea!" His cheeks were flushed from the effects of alcohol. He had been drinking too much, too fast.
"My heart is Miss Tama's, though!" Yamazaki added, quickly recovering from Gintoki's derision. "I will give her happiness, no matter what you say!"
"You don't even know what happiness is to Tama. It's things like castor's oil and Phillip's screws."
"Why are you saying such mean things!"
"It's true. And I'll tell her you came to Yoshiwara."
"I was here talking to informants!"
"There's everything to get from marrying someone rich and famous, right?" Hasegawa asked, rejoining the conversation. "It's like marrying into money."
Gintoki put a hand over Hasegawa's shoulder. "Mr. Hasegawa, that's a topic you know well. But are you sure you want to jump into your depressing biography right now?"
"I know, but…"
Yamazaki was suddenly very emotional in response to Hasegawa's statement. "I can't allow myself to be dependent on the woman three meals a day!" He raised his voice frantically. "I'm not going to be a himo!* I'm never going to be okay with that!"
"It's not a bad thing if you also work hard," Hasegawa said. "I mean, what if she really likes you?"
The words echoed in his ears. No, it wasn't 'work hard'.
'What if she really likes you?'
Well, maybe 'work hard', too.
"It happens, right? Things like sacrifice and old fashioned happiness aren't impossible. Although, things have turned out differently for me…"
Those words hit Gintoki like anvil. A sharp, hollow drop in his chest. Slowly, he moved away from his companions. I'm not someone who can hold both of these things at once. Feelings of gloom crept up upon him.
"Anyway, you would need a very strong love potion to get Inoue Nao or whatever to fall in love and confess to you."
"I told you, I already have Miss Tama!" Yamazaki repeated forcefully.
"That was just a hypothetical scenario. But I guess you really don't need something like that to confess your feelings to Tama."
"Of course I don't! Captain Okita did it for me already! I'd like to know how she feels about me, though…"
Love Potion? What the hell is that? Sate me with sugar in the daytime, drown me in liquor come night. The simple man works in order to sustain himself and his little surrogate family, plus a damn pet that inhales food like a horse. That is life's only necessary philosophy.
Gintoki poured more drink into his cup. Brought the cup to his lips and tossed his head back. Tilted all the contents into his mouth. The sweet liquid swirled down his throat with a cool, burning sensation.
Had there been something more potent than the hardest liquor, maybe, instead of mindlessly, aggressively attacking him like she always did whenever she was inebriated out cold of her skin – a peculiarity she couldn't control – she would return his advances with equally longing, honest caresses. Because maybe, if such a nonce prescription was given to him, he might have had the courage to be truthful with her, and tell her how much he wanted her to be his. He could tell her that he didn't know whether he wanted her so much because he had been thinking about her so frequently, or he thought about her frequently because he wanted her so much. And if such a thing existed, he might even get her to admit that she loved him.
But that would be pointless.
Because he couldn't give her anything. Not even a single promise of the present, or eternity.
You're not running into her tonight. As long as you sit here…
I'm here for the alcohol. Alcohol! He refilled his cup, threw his head back again and downed the contents.
But he was determined to be happy. His heart burned from resolve. Or maybe it was the alcohol. Either way or both, he refused to be bogged down by this. Ah, it's bothersome, but I have come this far. There's nothing to be gained wallowing in self-pity. Tomorrow will take care of itself.
He had come to have fun. He had wanted to run into her. He did not plan on dropping his upper body weight on the counter. The energy left him as he lay sprawling half an hour later, burying his head in his folded arms. I will be happy. Very happy. I'm totally happy.
"Ah, he's drunk," he heard Yamazaki say.
"What about you?" Hasegawa asked.
"I'm not. I have to return to the quarters soon. If I go back drunk, the Vice-Chief will demand I commit seppuku on the spot."
They parted ways at ten thirty. When they left the shop, Gintoki felt his entire head burning.
Fuck. Fuckkk. Fuckinaway to a whole new fuckinaway. This is bad, this is really, really fuckinaway bad.
No sooner than he had taken twenty steps ahead, an urgent surge of current rose up into his throat. Damn it, I'm going to —
He hurled everything from inside his guts into the ditch.
Vomit. Vomit everywhere.
He propped himself up, leaning his hand on the telephone pole for support. Wiping his mouth on his sleeve, he now realised something biologically natural was flooding in his lower body.
I need to pee.
The streets were quieter now, the cool air felt refreshing against his sweaty neck and ears. Several women were escorting men wearing affluent kimonos and topknots by their sides, the perfume they wore gliding past him. Grimacing at the strong scent, Gintoki looked around for a restroom sign, and soon seeing one, walked towards it.
The restroom was located next to a stairwell that led to the inside of a building. Usually, one would never miss it. In his heavily intoxicated state however, it was easy to make a mistake.
He followed the stairs up, and up, and up. He started to question why was the toilet located so high up a few minutes in, and wondered if the toilet was actually a cubicle on a rotating platform in the sky.
When he finally opened the door at the top floor, and realised that there was no toilet but a vast, open rooftop terrace, he was at his bursting limit. He walked to the edge and unzipped his pants.
Who cares if I sprinkle some holy rain onto Yoshiwara! What kind of toilet is this!
Free-flowing urine gushed out like angry water from a garden hose.
It was then he heard frightful squeals and gasps from a few storeys below. He could make out faint billows of pink smoke ascending from the ground, which dissipated by the time it reached where he was standing.
What was that? Did someone start a fire?
And he couldn't be sure, but he thought he was looking at a sea of what seemed like black-haired, black-masked women in kimonos.
Look, girls! They're girls, right?
"Uuuiii! Penixtinguishing all complete. This isn't a place to be playing with fire, you baaad girls!"
Heavy silence greeted him.
He crumpled his eyes shut, and then opened them, peering down the edge from where he was standing once more. A woman with pale golden hair was standing at the forefront of the group. Willing his vision to sharpen, he blinked. Recognition slowly dawned on him.
She is looking right up. At my completely exposed rod and balls.
"Uhh – aren't you guys –"
My rod was shooting pee downwards in her direction, like a goddamn spigot.
He tried, rather feebly, to process the reality through his numbed, drunken senses that he had peed from the edge atop a building and a group of women had seen him. He was aware now, that he should – as quickly as possible – tuck his manhood back into the confines of his zipper, yet every movement he made following this realisation was sluggish and unhurried.
"What the hell are you pointing at us, dammit!" The voice he knew so well cut through the evening air.
He did not see Tsukuyo dispatching her kunai. As it always is with these weapons, they travel soundless and unseen until the very last seconds.
"Ooff!" His groin registered a sharp, excruciating pain.
He could take her kunai hits any time. All it mattered to him was that he had finally run into her that night.
himo = a man who is financially dependent on a woman for a living, a pimp.
inoue nao = name parody of inoue mao, japanese actress.
samue = japanese casual wear clothing in modern era. traditionally worn by buddhist monks while engaging in physical labour. a while ago i saw sellers on amazon japan putting up cosplay clothings of hasegawa taizou for sale, calling them "samue-style". so i just followed that.