Disclaimer: Not mine! *huff*
It's the end, ;_; As a tribute to the ending and the fic as a whole, this chapter is longer than usual. I hope you enjoy it. It's been a fun ride, minna-san...
Kendo no Go
In The Language of Kendo
A Fanfic in 100 Chapters
You hold the answers deep within your own mind.
Consciously, you've forgotten it.
That's the way the human mind works.
Whenever something is too unpleasant, too shameful for us to entertain, we reject it.
We erase it from our memories.
But the answer is always
The snow was falling, brilliant and beautiful, from the sky to the empty yard in a wild flurry. Kaoru smiled at the sight, her mind urging her bare feet forward to allow the soft sound of those flakes crunch beneath them, but responsibility held her back.
Part of being a mother, she supposed, was being able to know when to let loose and when to hold back. It was a hard balance, but she was learning.
And some people needed to learn, she decided, as Kenji flew past her, tumbling straight into the snow with a muffled giggle, his father close behind him, slower but no less enthusiastic. They watched in amusement as the boy rolled a snowball between his fingers, trying to hide it, and Kenshin, glancing surreptitiously at Kaoru, pressed his fingers to his lips as a sign for secrecy, and carefully turned his back from the child. Kaoru smiled, pursing her own lips to withhold her laughter.
Kenshin set free a soft "oro" as the snowball collided with his back, and he spun on his heels, chasing his hysterical, mischievous son around the yard, feigning anger and indignance which fooled no one. Kenji fell into the snow again, stuffing the feathery ice around his head as if to hide himself, even as Kenshin's arms curved around the boy's waist.
"Kyaa!" Kenji cried through his laughter as Kenshin tickled him playfully. "Tousan, stop it, stop it!"
Kenshin did, lifting the boy higher to rest on his shoulders, where Kenji twined his hands through his father's hair for support.
"Kenshin," Kaoru called with a grin, holding something in her hands, "Aren't you forgetting something?"
"Oro," Kenshin murmured again, taking the missing sandal from her and curving his head to meet Kenji's eyes. "I thought you had them both?"
"Tousan," Kenji giggled, tugging on the crimson strands between his fingers, "That's yours!"
Kenshin smiled broadly, winking at Kaoru. "So it is," he agreed brightly, balancing on one foot to place the sandal where it belonged. "Shall we go then?"
"Don't forget to ask Tae-san when the engagement party is," Kaoru reminded pointedly, "And bring back some sweetcakes."
"Wai! Sweetcakes!" Kenji cheered, rocking back and forth in his enthusiasm. "Lots and lots of sweetcakes!"
Kenshin smiled musingly. "Just enough for us, Kenji. Maybe if Yahiko comes over, we'll get some extra."
"And if he doesn't," Kenji asked curiously, "Can I eat them?"
Both parents couldn't help but laugh. "Maybe," Kenshin said quietly, so Kaoru would not hear.
Kaoru wasn't listening. She was watching him, her arm rested slightly against the engawa post, admiring his figure in the falling snow. The dark luster of her father's navy hanten looked positively stunning on him, she decided, giving a brief nod in silent agreement. She was glad she had insisted he wear it, and that Kenji had been present to plead with him - or bargain, she corrected, thinking of the child's words.
"If I have to bundle up, Daddy, then you do too!"
"Sou de gozaru ka?"
The memory made her smile, and she waved as they finished preparing to leave.
"Take care on the road," she gave a final warning, and Kenshin merely nodded, not really needing to be told - he was always careful when Kenji was with him - but appreciating it nonetheless.
"We always do, don't we Kenji?"
"Yep!" Kenji's head bobbed in agreement. "See you later, kaasan!"
The wind blew harder, and Kenji shrieked, burying his face in Kenshin's hair. Kaoru caught Kenshin's low chuckle, as he gave the boy's head a comforting pat.
"I love you!" Kaoru called, impulsively, once they reached the gate, not really knowing why. Kenshin seemed to understand - which wasn't unusual, she thought with a slightly envious glint in her eyes - but Kenji merely grinned and waved again, calling back to her, "I love you too!"
"I love you three!"
"I love you four!"
"I love you a million!" Kaoru batted back, her hands on her hips in victory.
Kenji faltered, blinking for a moment, baffled at what he might say to beat her statement. Kenshin leaned back again, whispering in his ear, and the smile reappeared, as he called, "I love you forever!"
Kaoru laughed delightedly, her eyes eternally grateful as they met Kenshin's ever-knowing gaze. He didn't speak, merely mouthed the same words, and left the dojo, Kenji still waving at his back.
"I love you forever," she whispered to herself, crossing her arms across her chest to ward away the cold, even as the words of her family warmed her heart.
The snow was loud beneath his feet, and he felt himself sink with each step. It was still snowing hard, and he wasn't sure if today was such a good day for an unnecessary visit to the Akabeko, but he could hardly deny Kenji's childish pleas, especially after promising to purchase some cakes.
Kenshin wiggled his nose, feeling the chill of a snowflake resting upon his nose, and Kenji laughed, watching him. The snow finally melted on his flushed skin, and he licked his lips, catching the drop as it trailed past his scar towards his chin. Cold, biting cold; he shivered, trying to hide it from his son, but the soft tremor made Kenji blink, arms curving closer around his neck.
"What the matter, Tousan? Are you scared? Don't you like the snow?"
Kenshin replied quickly, "Of course I do, I love it, I'm all right," laughing, lying, and the snow in his mouth tasting of blood.
Kenji was fooled by his hasty response, and they continued on their way, heading towards the Akabeko on a mission of utmost importance.
Tsubame greeted them at the door, blushing and smiling broadly despite her usual shyness. Kenshin bowed low as he congratulated her, and Kenji slid from his shoulders to give her a long hug.
As he pulled away, his eyes like sapphire teacups, he blurted, "Are you and Yahiko-niichan really getting married?"
Tsubame flushed pink again, and she brushed her hand through Kenji's hair, beaming. "Yes we are, Kenji-chan. Isn't it exciting?"
"Yep!" Kenji grinned, darting past her to tackle Yahiko's legs as he too approached them. With the boy clinging to his hakama, Yahiko smiled at Kenshin and clasped his arm as one man to another, a silent companionship. Neither were certain that the engagement was a completely wise idea, despite the obvious mutual feelings between the young couple, but seventeen was still an age Kenshin was wary of, and he carried far too many memories of Yahiko and Tsubame as simple children, involved in an innocent romance and nothing more.
But he could not object to their choice, nor would he - or Kaoru, for that matter, although she was less likely to doubt, having married at a close age herself - and he was genuinely happy for them.
"What brings you here?" Yahiko asked, calling him back to reality, and he was led to a table, sitting down with Kenji and the newly engaged couple to explain the purpose of their outing.
They ended up remaining at the restaurant for several hours, when the gentle snowfall became a storm, far too severe to travel through - perhaps not for Kenshin, but for the child he had brought with him. The pair waited out the storm with their madly blushing companions, the conversation light and unofficial, steering from any discussions of weddings unless Kenji brought it up briefly.
Kenshin was careful to hide his amusement at the evident shyness of the newly-betrothed. He knew the feeling himself, although he didn't mention anything to them; his first marriage had hardly ended well, and that story would not comfort them in the slightest.
When the snow began to die down, a brief respite from the previous downpour, he announced it was time to go home. Kenji was already full of sweets, thanks to Tae's indulgent hands, so he carefully bagged the remaining treats and thanked their host graciously. He placed his hand on Yahiko's shoulder, and squeezed Tsubame's hand, wordlessly speaking to both of them, and he left the Akabeko with a genuine smile on his face, Kenji's hand clasping his.
They were young, he knew, but they were honest and true to each other, and they had hope. Such things were important in a marriage, and he couldn't help but feel a little envious of them.
'If I had hesitated with Tomoe... perhaps...'
But there was no sense in dwelling in the past. If he had hesitated, there may have been nothing to wait for, and the things she had taught him during their time together was truly priceless.
If he had hesitated, there would not be a child at his side, holding his hand with sticky, sugar-coated fingers, chattering amiably about the upcoming celebration.
If he had hesitated, there would not be a bright-eyed, smiling wife waiting for him at home.
Despite his thoughts, he was grateful he had waited to ask Kaoru to be his wife. Haste and reckless choices only caused pain for all involved - he was a living example of the truth in those words. He had to wait, to protect her; he had to be sure.
'I had to be sure I wasn't mistaken... that I wouldn't end up hurting her like I hurt Tomoe.'
He hurt her by waiting too long, though, which was why - when Yahiko came to him initially, eyes hidden and downcast, hands clenching and unclenching at his side, asking if it would be logical and wise to ask Tsubame to be his bride - he had smiled at the young man he had come to call, in his mind, a son, and nodded, saying simply that he must do as his heart told him. If his heart summoned him to marry, then he must do so, or try, at least.
"Hesitation will get you nowhere," he had told Yahiko gently, yet with caution, "But taking consideration in your actions is not a bad idea either. Keep that in mind."
The assistant master of the Kamiya dojo had paused, cinnamon eyes slowly rising to meet his mentor's. "But..." he gulped, chewing lightly on his lip, "What if she says no?"
Kenshin had almost laughed, but was far too considerate of the boy's feelings to give in to the impulse. Sano would have laughed, he was certain.
"Tsubame-dono," he had murmured instead, deadly serious, "Cares very deeply for you, Yahiko. If you are true to her feelings, then whatever you do, you will both be happy."
He would say no more on the matter. One week later, the engagement was announced.
Now, walking home after watching the two of them together, he was confident that the right choice had been made. Yahiko and Tsubame complimented each other, and Kenshin couldn't help but wonder if their marriage would echo his own: both himself and Yahiko needed someone to protect, yet still rely upon. Tsubame, while shy, was certainly a brave and intelligent girl - wise enough to hold Yahiko back if she needed to.
'Just like my Kaoru,' he mused, 'Any faults are far outshone by her spirit. That is how it should be.'
'Tomoe... in your darkness... I wish you could have been like that. I think... it would have made us happier in the end.'
'It has made me happier... this I know...'
And he knew Kaoru was happy as well, despite his own faults, despite the occasional time he had to leave for a week or so, despite the fact that he didn't always look happy, even if he really was.
He was working on that. He genuinely, honestly was.
"It's so hard for me, koishii..."
"When you are happy, then I'll always be happy."
He tried his best to make her happy, to keep that brilliant, beautiful smile on her lips, the light in her eyes that seemed to shine in any weather, any situation.
Beautiful eyes, she and her son. Their son.
He would never let go of these things. They were his - Battousai was always a possessive one, he was forced to admit - and he would not allow anything to touch them, to hurt them.
Even him. Especially him.
"Tousan?" Kenji's voice called up to him, curious and quiet. "Are you cold?"
"Are you happy?"
"Just a little," he responded, giving the tiny hand he held a gentle squeeze. "Are you?"
Kenji's head bobbed. "Hai."
Kenshin halted, knelt down in the snow, and opened his arms, inviting the boy with a nod and a smile. "Come on then; maybe we can keep each other warm."
The child came gratefully, his hands tucked inside his gi as Kenshin's arms wrapped around him, drawing him close. He rose in one swift motion, and Kenji cuddled closer, nestled deep in the navy hanten which was already decorated with snow.
"Is that better?"
Warm. My son. "Much better. Thank you."
Kenji smiled shyly, hiding his face in the hanten's dark warmth. He didn't give a response.
The world never stopped, Kenshin realized then, carrying his small son home, as the snow fell in diminutive tornadoes around them. It never stopped, never hesitated, never waited for anything to happen. It forged ahead, despite faults, or the problems of the people living in it. Like the wind, it carried on, ignoring the icy burdens borne by its weight.
'I want to be like that,' he thought to himself, his head lifted to face the chilling breeze, blinking away the snowflakes which melted on his eyelashes. 'I want to be like the wind.'
'I want to carry on, despite this life, or the life before it. Despite faults, despite what happens to me...'
'I want to keep moving, without moving at all.'
'I... I want to stay...'
The dojo lay before him. Kenji stirred against his chest, a grin appearing on his face at the sight of home.
Kaoru was waiting for them, brushing the loose, light snow from the engawa. He wondered how long she had been there, her cheeks flushed by the nipping of the wind, her hair as white as Gensai-sensei's by the white flakes that coated it. But perhaps she felt it was worth it, for when she looked up and spotted them, her eyes were bright, the smile on her face dazzling amidst the falling snow.
Where he belonged was here, no matter how the wind might blow enticingly towards the road.
This place, this old house with the spying shoji, the immortal dojo, the blossoming garden which held the haunting ghosts of friends long gone; this was the only place he could ever truly return to.
"Tadaima," he murmured, curving one arm around her waist, kissing her pink cheeks and feeling the warmth of her blush, listening to the sound of her welcoming reply.
This place, with his wife and child of bright eyes, of beautiful smiles and contagious laughter, was where he always wanted to be.
This place was home.
Kendo no Go - Owari
After eleven months, 100 chapters, lots of hair pulling, and plenty of encouragement from friends and strangers alike, I finally did it. Kendo no Go is complete.
A lot of changes in this
final chapter, but the original was quite puzzling, and when this idea came to
me I just had to write it. I thought it was a fitting ending, even though in a
way, the story is endless. If I had the inspiration to go on forever I
probably would, ^_^ Which is why I still plan to do a sequel of sorts, if the
muse allows, though I'm not sure when. This was a good distraction from my other fics, but I've
fallen behind a little and I want to take a bit of a break before I go on.
Keep an eye out, because I haven't even titled it yet!
Regarding Yahiko and Tsubame's engagement: who knows when this happened? Heh. At that time, seventeen wasn't such a bad age for marriage, and this fact will tie in further with the sequel. According to Watsuki-san's notes, Yahiko's son is a bit of a rival for Kenji, so they have to have the kid before Kenji is too old, ^_^
The original title for this chapter was "Afraid". The beginning section comes from Evanescence's "Understanding". Thanks to Chelle-san for introducing me to this amazing, inspirational group.
A final thank you goes out to all you readers who have been brilliantly inspirational to me, both in much-needed encouragement as well as giving me ideas for future chapters.
A special thank you to Calger459 (you are truly amazing and I can't wait to see your future projects! Thanks for all your support!), M (some of the most inciteful comments came from you, and I really appreciated the depth in which you hold these little stories), Iram (again, awesome depth, interesting commentary, and great encouragement), Ariane (I'll write the sequel just for you even if no one else reads it! ^_~), haku baikou (you made me laugh, you made me smile. Thanks for everything!), April-san (who puts up with my pokeyness with much patience and a lot of good humour), Michiru Kashyuuno, Eevee, LadyShiin, Maeve Riannon, animefanrk2k, Crystal17, Lucrecia LeVrai, Animegirl, ChiisaiLammy, all for being so vigilant and keeping me going with every chapter. If I forgot anyone who reviewed regularly, it's not because your reviews didn't mean anything to me - I can guarantee that every one was nothing but supportive.
Thank you for reading.
~ Akai Kitsune