She didn't know why but her son had changed.
Ever since he came home late last week with his clothes utterly dirty and bruises all over his body something was different.
Of course the first thing that came to her mind was that he somehow got into a brawl. He was a good child and surly he must have had a reason, she didn't doubt that. But Shu knew exactly that she disapproved of violence no matter the reason. So right after she registered the state of his clothes she wanted to lecture him.
But it never came to that.
Before she could say even a single word Shu let go of his bag and wooden sword and ran through the room. His sudden hug startled her and for a few seconds she didn't know what to do. Only when her son eventually muttered "I'm back, mom" did she return his hug.
She was so surprised that she forgot to scold him.
"Oh your finally back, Shu", commented her husband from the dinner table with the newspaper in his hands, "You nearly missed dinner you know." Again Shu ran right away to his father to hug him too. Her husband's reaction was the same as hers. He too was to startled by the sudden action to say something.
"What's up with you big brother? You act weird", her daughter asked. But she already knew her girl wouldn't get an answer but instead a big hug from her brother.
"Hey! Let go! What's wrong with you big brother?!", she shouted while struggling to get out of his hug.
"I'm just glad to be back home I guess! I didn't realize how much I missed all of you", Shu eventually answered. It was a weird statement. Her son was gone as long as always on school days. They just saw each other this morning but it sounded like Shu hadn't seen them in days or even weeks.
"Did something happen, Shu?", she asked worried. There must have. Why else would her son act this way?
He was quiet when he let go of his little sister and stood still for a few seconds. When he turned to answer her Shu smiled.
"A lot of things happened actually."
It wasn't a forced smile. That much she could tell.
But it wasn't a happy one either.
Her best guess was a bitter-sweet one.
Like her son had made a lot of good friends today but lost them again before the day was over.
She didn't know what to think of this.
"Whatever, I'm starving! What's for dinner?", asked Shu laughing and just like that he was the same boy she knew all his life. Laughing and joking while praising her dinner. Actually she couldn't remember that he ever praised her cooking skills as much as this evening. Although he still kept thanking her for all the delicious things she cooked ever since then.
Her husband and her tried to talk to their son about what happened on that day but they didn't get much out of him. Even when her daughter teased him about his confession it seemed like he hadn't thought about it for a long time.
Shu told them that he had met a lot of different people. According to him they were all kind of weird but some of them were also really nice. Apparently he had made friends with some of them. With others he had argued and fought a lot. That was probably where all the bruises came from. Although he had been extremely vague about most of it.
Her son always was bad at explaining things. It's not that Shu doesn't understand them but rather it's because her boy just isn't one for words. He just prefers to do things rather than to talk about them.
Still it seemed to her that he had been deliberately vague about what happened like he didn't want them to know. And that was what worried her to most.
She knew her child. And before this day he never had any secrets from them. He always told what happened during school or kendo practice. Or what he was up to with his friends. Well, his crush was an exception but that was just like boys his age.
Maybe it was just her son growing up but it still worried her. Even after Shu went to bed her mind was on the vague explanation of her son. Her husband's reassurance that their son would talk to them when he feels ready calmed her down a bit.
The following days everything seemed normal at first glance.
Shu was the ever energetic boy he always was. He went to school, hung out with friends and went to kendo practice.
But a few details were different.
In the morning he still slept in to the last second but during breakfast he didn't scarf down his meal like before. Well, he also wasn't eating slowly by any means. Still he seemed to enjoy the taste of his food more then before.
After breakfast he also didn't run out through the store like a whirlwind and left a swath of destruction behind. He even washed his dishes before going to school! And in the evening he always wanted to help preparing dinner.
The whole family noticed the change of his behavior and wondered what caused it. When asked Shu would just grin and say "I never thought about how much work a family can be. But now that I know I should probably help too."
It was weird for the childish boy to act so mature. Still not one of the family members complained about this change. Perhaps Shu really was just growing up.
Besides the showing of a more dutiful side of her son he also started to talk about some people she never heard of before. They were probably some of the friends he made on that day.
Nabuca was apparently a boy his age that he argued with a lot. Her son told them that he was a lot like Oda, a boy from his kendo club. He was very stern but also cared a lot about his friends and village. He also seemed to be very strong and taught her son some things about fighting. A younger boy called Boo seemed to be at his side most of the time. Almost like a little brother.
Shu talked about him like a good friend and maybe even rival in some things.
Then there was Sara. A girl, perhaps a bit older than him. He didn't talk much about her. Not because he didn't have much to talk about but rather like she was a hard thing to talk about. Regardless of that Shu still held her in high regards and talked about how Sara wants to take care of some orphans after their foster mother died.
The foster mother was called Sis. Her son also talked about her. From what she heard Sis was a strong woman who was strict in her education but also a warmhearted person who would give her life for her (foster) children. Although Shu told them that she died he never told them how.
Sadly those weren't the only times she noticed how her son had changed.
There were moments when he would get this look in his eyes like he'd look to a place so far away that he could never reach it. It always took some time to get his attention back from whatever he was thinking about at those times.
And then there were the nightmares.
Her son tried to hide them but as his mother she knew exactly why he was so tired on some mornings or why his eyes were unusually red. And when she heard him cry in his sleep she'd wake him up. It was unlikely that Shu would want to talk about the dreams but at least he would have a break form the nighmares when she woke him up.
She heard him say different names in his sleep.
When the dreams were about 'Abelia' he seemed to be in pain. Maybe it was someone who hurt him? Her mind went back to the scars on his body she didn't even knew he had a few days prior.
When he dreamt about 'Hanzo'?, 'Hando'? or 'Hambo'? - she couldn't really understand that name - Shu seemed to be angry and upset. About what she had no idea. But her son clearly didn't like this Hando guy.
Dreams about a 'Soon' were often followed by tears. Those times she really didn't even want to ask. Her son seemed sad enough after those dreams so she just tried to comfort him.
One week had passed since her son changed.
It was evening, right after dinner and she just finished to wash the dishes. She turned around and saw her husband read the newspaper while her daughter watched some comedy show. No trace of her son. And yet she knew exactly where he was.
That was also a habit Shu had taken on after that day a week prior.
Every evening he sat outside and watched the sunset.
So after she dried her hands on a towel she decided to look after her son. And just like she thought he sat there in the middle of their little garden and watched the sun go down.
"Do you like the sunset?", she asked startling him a bit.
"It reminds me of many things", he answered and chuckled. She didn't know what he meant with that but it seemed to have a meaning to him.
"That's what Lala Ru said when I asked her. I think... I think I finally get what she meant."
Lala Ru. There it was again. Shu had mentioned this name a lot since that day. He even said her name a few times in his sleep. It didn't seem to be nightmares though.
"Can you tell me what is she like?", asked she carefully. Every time her son started to talk about this girl he suddenly clammed up. Like she's a dear friend but there's a bad memory connected to her name.
"Lala Ru is... she's weird, I guess. I mean she's very quiet and doesn't talk much. She also doesn't smile much. But she can smile! I made her smile a few times! So I know", he rambled. Then he goes silent.
She almost thought that he had clammed up again but then he surprised her with a question.
"Mom, do you think I'll meet her again?"
She didn't really expect that. Never did she hear her son sound so uncertain. Most of the time he was so optimistic that it seemed like the world could throw everything bad at him but he would still find something good in it. It wasn't anything like Shu to be insecure.
That just showed her how much this girl meant to him.
"Yes, I'm sure. Someday you'll meet her again", she answered without a doubt.
"How do you know that? I mean-"
"I just know it, Shu, because I know you. As soon as you make up your mind nothing can stop you. So just decide that you'll meet her again, and you will!" Yes, she didn't even know this girl. She didn't know what kind of person she was or how she met her son. But like she told him she knew her son. And if Shu really wanted to meet her again, they would meet again someday. Wherever the girl may be.
It took a few seconds for the words of his mother to sink in.
Then Shu jumped to his feet and shouted motivated to the sunset:
"Of course! Right! No matter where you are, whatever adversities you face, as long as you've got your life something good is bound to happen!"
That was more like her son.
Yes, he had changed.
He met new people, made a lot of experiences and even got into some fights.
But that was also part of growing up.
And as his mother she will always worry about his well-being, no matter how old he is.
She didn't know why he changed that day and maybe Shu won't ever tell her. Only the future will tell.
But this side of him.
The side that refuses to give up.
As long as he still has this side on him he will find his happiness in the future.
And wherever this Lala Ru may go Shu will meet her again.
That's something she is absolutely sure of.
AN: First of all thanks for reading. Man I didn't expect this one-shot to get this long. I started with a few hundred words in mind and now it's over 2000. But I'm satisfied with what I wrote. Though please excuse any mistakes. It's my first time writing a story in English and it's not my first language.
So I just finished Ima, Soko ni Iru Boku and I can only say that this anime deserves more attention. Sure it's a short one but I really like it. It's one of the anime I surely won't forget. The only thing that kinda felt missing was a short epilogue about how Shu lived his life after he returned. And that's why I wrote this one-shot.
I hope you liked it. It was short and from the perspective of his mother but I just wanted to show how I think he would act after coming back. I won't deny the possibility that he may tell everyone about his adventure or that he may need more time to adjust to his old life. But after everything that happened I think he would cherish the normal things like food, water, family and peace more but still live the life he had before. All the different people have influenced him or taught him lessons in one way or another but in the end he stayed true to who he was.
For everyone who felt the same as me I hope this was something of a satisfying end. Well, it's open about if Shu and Lala Ru will see each other again but like Shu's mother said; with his determination that even brought down an insane tyranny I don't have any doubt that those two will find each other again.