Shinobi gi

Summary: A brief reflection of Aoshi over onmitsu's clothes. Slight A+M, Jinchuu Arc.

Disclaimers: Rurouni Kenshin © Jump Comics/ Nobuhiro Watsuki.

The wooden box felt heavy in my hands - even though there was only fabric inside. There it was, just a box. Ten planks of light non-lacquered plywood neatly nailed to form a perfect parallelepiped when mortised. It would be indeed just a box... if not for the pair of characters drawn on a white rice-paper rectangle on the cover.

Shinobi and Ao, they said.

Ten years ago, this wooden box had been part of my daily life. As well as the ideogram for 'spy'. To associate the image of an onmitsu with the first ideogram of my name, it was normal. Logical. Obvious. I would open and close this box frequently - sometimes every morning - to retrieve its contents, to begin another day of training or investigation or battle.

But it had been ten years ago, and since then I haven't seen this box. Ao betrayed shinobi. These two characters weren't supposed to share the same context again. I wasn't supposed to see this box again. I wasn't supposed to open this box again. Nevertheless, that was what I did. I opened the box and laid the lid on the tatami mats, the ideograms facing the floor.

And there I found exactly what I would have found ten years ago, the same hues of deep blue and light lilac staring at me in amazement, as if saying "we weren't expecting to see you". Better yet, the fabric was smooth and strong, no rip, no scratch, no stain, not a single blotch of faded colour. Not even a crease.

My eyes searched ahead, finding her slender figure kneeling restlessly, her ocean orbs turning round and round, fixing at everywhere and nowhere - avoiding me. I gaze her intensely, calling her attention, asking why.

"I... didn't know your measurements... I wanted to make a surprise, so I took it from Shiro-- I made it a bit longer since you are taller than him." She whispered awkwardly; I nodded, even if it didn't answer what I wanted to know. "Will... would you try it?"

My fingers caressed the blue silk. Would I accept that chance of being inside the clothes of an Onmitsu Oniwabanshuu again? To have a taste, if only for a minute, of the old days. The good old days. It was a tempting offer. I couldn't have refused.

She left the room after my curt nod. I didn't notice at the moment, but I got rid of my yukata as fast as a young lady eager to try her wedding kimono. Only with fundoshi on, I sighed deeply and took the uniform out of its case.

Once dressed, I opened the door to find Misao outside.

"Uh... the legs are a bit too long", she laughed, noticing the pool of fabric around my ankles. "And the bow is also a bit too long." She looked behind me and frowned at the two lilac stripes reaching my knees. "Oh, well, the shirt is fine, at least."

I went inside the room again, and watched the figure inside the European mirror. It was a tall, well-built, serious man, who inhaled greatly, stuffing his chest, then exhaled at once. Inside his blue uniform, he actually looked respectable. Even honourable.

"I'll adjust the hem for you--"

"Don't worry, it's fine." I interrupted her, still figuring my own self, back to a honoured man's role. "... It's... perfect."

Author's Note: I was just pondering when and why Aoshi decided to change his clothes in the Jinchuu Arc. Then Miss Idea came, and since it was going to be just a quick one-shot I allowed myself that fancy. Still, now I think I could have developed the subject a lil' more... oh well.

The type of box I'm referring to is pictured at Rurouni Kenshin #11.

Glossary of Japanese Terms:

Shinobi = Ninja, spy; "shinobi gi" = ninja uniform

Ao = the first ideogram of Aoshi, means "blue"

Tatami = Japanese mats

Onmitsu = spy (a more politically correct term than ninja)

Yukata = short, cotton type of kimono used at home

Kimono = traditional Japanese clothing

Fundoshi = Japanese men's underwear (like those used by sumo wrestlers)