Ladies and gentlemen, we have finally reached the end of our tale. I probably won't be writing E/M for a while after this. Heck, I probably won't be writing much of anything unrelated to school after this summer. Fire and Magic still isn't done, so I will continue the E/M that's presently there.
Thanks to all of you who read my work and survived the inconsistency of my production rate. Thanks to everybody who commented on the occasional character inconsistency, and helped me keep in line. Thanks for believing in an alternate pairing and reading it. Again, I don't hate Aoshi. I really think he's pretty cool, and very handsome. I just don't think he's right for a girl like Misao. ^^
It was one of those days. One of those normal, average weekends. No day could be as normal.
To someone like Yukishiro Enishi, that was highly unusual.
A whole Saturday with absolutely nothing to do was an unprecedented event. Nobody needed him, nothing was needed at the factory, even his wife did not need him. He had absolutely nothing to do, and nothing to think about.
Life in Kyoto for him had assumed a state of routine. He was back to being manager of his increasingly prosperous business. In the mornings he met clients, in the afternoons he finished the paperwork. In the evenings he read his books, in one of several languages. Sometimes he even read aloud to his bubbly little wife.
As for the bubbly little wife, she had found a new niche for herself in his life. Of course, she regularly visited her friends at the Aioya, and most times she still helped them with the cooking. But now she helped run a large Western house like clockwork, in the tradition she had gotten used to as a child. She proved to be a wonderful new hostess during business-related dinners at their house, an inquisitive but unimposing young woman who wanted to learn everything she could about his world.
On this Saturday, she was moving around helter-skelter all over the house. While she was moving around more than usual, the moving around was rather normal, thus he ignored it for the most part.
Everything was so, annoyingly, normal.
Sitting at the second floor balcony with a blanket over his lap, he could only think of the thoughts that he usually buried deep in his head.
Who am I now? What am I? Why am I here? Of the many possible times, why am I not dead yet? What am I supposed to do now?
"You seem worried, so early in the morning, my dear," he heard a voice somewhat above him.
He was feeling somewhat odd, and was not really sure if he had opened his eyes and looked up at the voice.
The person felt at his forehead. "Slight fever," she tsked. "Why don't you go back to bed for a while?"
"I………am……….fine, just thinking about a few things," he answered, whoever it was speaking over him.
"If you say so, but I need you to be really alright by tonight, understand, my white-haired baka?"
Well, only one person called him a white-haired baka. "Oh………'Sao…………good morning…………..why, what is happening tonight?"
"Can't tell you yet, but it'll be fun, I promise!"
He was no longer listening. His wife just made him dizzier than a few minutes ago. He barely made out his wife's voice as she patted his head. "You try too hard to be invincible, silly boy. Even you can get sick. I'll come back with some water, alright?"
"Have………to be………invincible………," he mumbled back.
Indeed, he needed to be invincible. At least, he thought so. Only he could take care of himself. He had no family, and had few friends he could trust with his life. He needed to be strong. He needed to prove to his sister that he was the best, even if she was not there for him. He needed to show her that her memory drove him on to be something……………..he did not exactly know.
It was odd. Now, he had become some person he did not initially want to be. But he knew this is what his sister would have wanted him to be. Instead of a headstrong and powerful man, he was now bordering on kindness. And his sister would have wanted it this way.
He did not object to being this way, not at all. He liked that he did not have to look behind him every single minute, and worry about being shot. He liked it that people did not look at him with much fear now. He appreciated that he was known, in a good way, as a businessman worthy of respect. Life was not boring, but it was much more peaceful.
Was this what he wanted to be? Was this what he was supposed to be?
You are a pathetic weakling!
He looked up at his accuser, and found it to be………..himself.
You let that monster take your heart, you fool! Nee-san is frowning now!
It was himself, when he was roughly 20 years old, when he was just made into the youngest dragon head, one of the most powerful bosses. It wore the orange and blue ensemble, the costume that sent fear into every corner of the Shanghai underworld.
You had him in your grasp. You had him completely under foot. But you let him see your weakness, and you let him beat you. Now, you even accepted kindness from the beast. Worse, you have taken his side! Have you forgotten what he did to nee-san?
He smirked at his younger self. "You don't know what I know about that."
What do I still need to know? It was bad enough nee-san went off to Kyoto and left. But she had to get married to this redhaired assassin. Then, he killed nee-san! What else do I need to know?
"That he did not mean it."
That does not change the fact that he killed her.
"He loved nee-san, even more than I did."
That does not change the fact that HE KILLED HER!
"True. But he has suffered enough about it himself, before I added insult to injury."
You're rationalizing your defeat, loser!
He looked at his younger self, head to foot. He found it hard to believe he was like that, 10 years ago. Angry, crafty, and reckless. It was so long ago he had forgotten he was this way. The world only existed to help him eliminate a man, to help him avenge his sister. If it did not help him in his purpose, it did not exist.
He stared at the specter of himself. Over ten years, his white hair had not changed; it was still tousled and unruly. He had more or less kept himself fit, so he was still of the same build as before. But his face had changed. In the eyes of his younger self, he saw the gleam of vengeance, but not the love of life. Its mouth was chisled in an angry frown. Its whole face had the look of fury.
Seriously? He looked like that before?
What are you staring at, old timer?
"I just noticed how miserable I was before," he answered his specter.
WHAT did you just SAY?!
"And how hotheaded I was." He shook his head at himself.
You are mistaken, very mistaken, about everything!
He rested his head farther into his lounge chair, and gave his younger self another scan. "I was mistaken about a lot of things. But this life I have right now? It's no mistake. I have a good business, I have a nice wife, and I have a brother-in-law who could've killed me but didn't. I already told 'Sao everything about myself, and still she finds it in her heart to accept me. So shut up about me being mistaken. Disappear from my sight, and don't ever come again. And don't you dare send over your version of nee-san, because I know, nee-san is smiling from where she is."
The specter folded its arms and tossed its snowy head with contempt, as it dematerialized before him.
He closed his eyes again. The balcony seemed to spin around him if he kept it open. He knew he had said the right thing, so why was he feeling so miserable right now? Soon he felt like he was in a bottomless vortex, spinning round and round, with no end in sight.
But he felt someone hold his hand. A warm and delicate hand. "Enishi? Are you alright?" A voice asked both from nearby and from outside the vortex. He also felt it hold his head.
" 'Sao?" he asked.
"Yeah, it's me. Can I get you anything?"
The spinning slowed down a bit, but still he was alone in that vast expanse of nothingness he had seen before. He called out to the world outside the nothingness, " 'Sao? Did I make a mistake?"
"Mistake? About what?"
"Maybe I shouldn't have gone back to Kyoto after I escaped from the police, after I lost to Himura. Maybe I shouldn't have stayed in touch with all of you. Maybe I should've gone somewhere else to make a new life."
"And you would've wandered around the place, like Himura and Seta did," she answered. "Look, it took Himura over 10 years to find his answers that way, and it took Sou-chan roughly 2 years to come to terms with himself. Did you really want to take that long to know what you wanted from life?"
"If you left us, would you have known the truth about your past? Would we have met, I mean, really met? And would you have seen Kenji and been his friend?"
He opened his eyes, looked up at her, and slowly shook his head. She smiled and handed him a glass of water.
She rose to leave, but Enishi still held her hand firmly. He brought her gently to sit over his lap, then embraced her.
There had been other times when he had wrapped himself around this little woman, but he knew he would cherish this one. In it, he felt not only her warmth and her love, but also the warmth and love of his sister. In the presence of this bubbly woman, he also felt the constant loving presence of his sister.
Misao would always be different from Tomoe, but with Misao beside him, he would never have to find comfort in Tomoe, again. He would find it in her, whenever he would need it, and he would have more than he would need.
Finally, my dear brother. Finally, I can leave you.
He heard his sister whisper from within him.
I will always be in your heart. But you will find your strength in her.
He wrapped his arms around his wife a little tighter.
"It will be alright, my dear." Even she had felt it. "She will always be here with us."
"But you will be even closer."
"I will try."
With a short kiss to her forehead, he released her and held her cheek. "Thank you."
He then looked around in dismay at the darkening orange sky. He had been asleep on the balcony for most of the day. "Sorry about that, 'Sao, I know you told me to get inside………."
"You were so fast asleep, I did not want to wake you," she gave him a happy smile. "But I felt your forehead just now and the fever's gone. Wanna go down to dinner now? I still have that surprise for you!"
"I guess," he smiled back. "What's the occasion?"
Misao's jaw dropped, then she laughed long and hard. "Baka! You never guessed! You totally forgot!"
He did not understand. What did he forget that was so important?
"I thought you already had everything back! I didn't think you'd still forget a few things!" she kept laughing. "What kind of a man forgets his own birthday?" She held her stomach and continued to laugh. "Silly boy!"
"Birthday? Really? Are you sure?" He scratched his head.
She tugged at him to stand up, still laughing. "Get up and get dressed, hurry! Your surprise is waiting downstairs!" She then skipped off.
"Silly weasel," he chuckled. He was eternally thankful that the silly weasel was his own to love.
He came down the grand staircase of the house, wearing his favorite white, silk Chinese jacket. The one with the large purple stripe across the sleeves and surrounding the buttons. He wore them over pants of the same white silk. His wife was waiting for him at the door of the dining room. She, too, was looking her best, wearing a blue kimono with cherry blossoms at the hem.
"Happy birthday!" she greeted, and opened the door. This was followed by a thunderous "Happy Birthday!" and noisemakers from inside.
And soon he found a squealing little boy hugging his knees. "Eni-chan! Eni-chan! I've missed you, Eni-chan!"
"Kenji-kun!" He took up the boy in his arms and raised him high. "How big you've grown! My, you're a rather large birthday present!" The little boy kept smiling and laughing with Enishi.
A very traditional Japanese banquet was spread out on a new, low, and wide lacquered table. Surrounding the table were Kenji's parents and adopted uncle, all with wide smiles.
"I hope you don't mind, but I invited them over to stay for two weeks," Misao explained. "This is Kenji's first time to leave Tokyo, and it has been a while since Kaoru-san and Yahiko were here last…………"
"If this is your big surprise, weasel, it isn't," he interrupted.
The dining hall suddenly shushed, even Kenji.
"Messenger boys, telegraphs from Tokyo, furniture orders, purchase of two futons, your increased frequency at the Aioya," he looked at Misao. "Since last week I knew they were coming."
Her face clearly sunk at this.
"How dare you do that to her!" Yahiko demanded. "She went through all this trouble to get us here for you, and that's all you can say? Shame on you!"
"I'll have you know, sir, that I stopped taking in new students so I can come on this trip!" Kaoru added. "And look what you just did to Misao!"
"You did not let me finish!" Enishi smirked at them all.
He then smiled at Kenji, still in his arms with a look of shock. "I said, I knew you were coming since last week. It was rather obvious from all the receipts lying around the house. But it doesn't mean I did not want you to come. So I kept quiet. It's therefore no surprise to me. However, I did forget WHY she would have reason to invite you to Kyoto. I haven't celebrated my birthday for a very long time," he said with embarrassment. "I AM glad you are here."
They all breathed a sigh of relief, but kept looking at him, as if wondering what to do next.
After a while he finally spoke. "Well? What in the world are you waiting for? You're all wasting such good food!" He sat down at the head of the table, took up the chopsticks and quickly snatched the nearest crab sushi.
Misao showered tales of Europe upon the Himuras, and elaborated on the events she wrote about to them in her letters. Enishi listened quietly for the most part, and only inserted place names every once in a while when she forgot. He was not much of a talker to begin with, anyway. It was enough for him to see his little friend and his family after so long. It was a month since the couple's return from their trip. The Himuras had not seen them for half a year.
The Himuras in turn told them about life in Tokyo, which had returned to normal as well. The Kamiya dojo now had two more assistant teachers aside from Yahiko, to help with the increasing number of students. Kenji was doing rather well with the basic kendo strokes. His Uncle Yahiko was teaching him, and while Kenji was your normal distractible 4-year-old, he was more patient than others in mastering the strokes, especially at his young age. Every once in a while Kenji himself told stories of how he climbed the backyard tree, caught a dragonfly, drew a picture of his Eni-chan.
It was a very enjoyable evening, filled with food, stories, and laughter.
As the night wore on, Misao and Kaoru went out and brought Kenji to bed. Yahiko soon followed after them with a yawn, saying he would stay with the child. That left Enishi and Kenshin alone to talk, after the servants cleared the table.
"Is there anything I can do for you, by the way, Himura?" he first asked.
Kenshin bowed. "Thank you, but life is good to us. Between Kaoru-dono's dojo and my teaching at the precinct, the finances are alright for what we need."
"I see." He then thought for a while before speaking again. "I have an offer to make you, about Kenji."
Kenshin looked at him with interest.
"I understand that the Americans are making a school in Tokyo. It will have their Western curriculum, and the best of their education. In a school like that, your son will be taught French and English early, and will be able to see the world beyond Japan."
"But a school such as that, will be prohibitively expensive!" Kenshin complained, then understood what the uncle drove at. "Educational support for Kenji might be a burden to you!"
"It will provide the boy an opportunity to be greater than you and I," Enishi explained. "With a Western education, he will have more opportunities to travel, improve himself……….."
"Inherit your business," the father finished.
"If he chooses, why not?"
"Why would you want to do this, for us, for him, Enishi?"
"I am not sure, but I have been taking from people for so long I want to give something in return."
Kenshin nodded, then looked well at his brother-in-law. "I thank you for the kind offer. My wife and I will consider it. But if you want to show kindness so badly………….I suggest you start with the people just around you here."
"You will know, when you see it," Kenshin smiled. "Just look around."
They talked of other things afterward, but in Himura's simple answer, he had found an answer to his questions that morning. It was a new reason to stay alive, a new purpose for living. A troubled past now made him appreciate the bright future.
This he considered, as he leaned on the railing of the balcony, gazing at the midnight sky. The guests had been properly brought to their rooms, the servants had gone to bed, and the house was now peaceful and still.
Misao arrived, and offered a shawl. "Tomorrow, I'm taking Kenji for a boat ride in the lake, then we're going to the harbor to see the ships docking, then we'll all have lunch in the park, then we'll watch ------- Enishi, you really have been altogether too serious today!"
He sighed. " 'Sao, dear 'Sao, little weasel." He put an arm across her shoulders. "I was just thinking a lot. But," as he gazed up again at the sky, "starting today, the stars are now all aligned for me. Things could only get better from here."
"I think so, too," Misao nuzzled into him and replied. " 'Nishi………just one thing…….."
"The Himuras being here, that wasn't my only surprise."
She nodded. " 'Nishi, remember that night, three weeks ago?"
"Well…………you see……….. …..I……..um………am…………um………"
"Out with it, weasel! You aren't sick, are you?"
"No, but……….but………….you see………….I……….am…………can't you guess?"
He shook his head.
"Well, I didn't tell the gang at dinner because I wanted you to be the first to know. You see, Enishi……………I…….I………we're……..going to have…………"
"More guests? Is the smokestack of a policeman coming, too?" he asked with distaste.
"No……NO! I didn't invite Saitou!" Misao took a deep breath and made a resolute face. "Yukishiro Enishi, you will soon have a baby."
Enishi looked at her intently. "Please run that by me again, Misao."
"You're clueless at the most inappropriate times," she chuckled. "I am pregnant, 'Nishi. We'll soon have a baby. Clear enough for you?"
It was clear enough. He scooped her up and gave her a long kiss.
"As I said, things can only get better from here."
Watsuki-sensei never gave the exact day, but I know the birth month is May, if I'm not mistaken. Also, I intentionally left Kenshin's decision on the question hanging. I'm not sure myself what Oro-kun and Kaoru would decide on that. Finally, I am not writing another pregnancy fic. ^^ The White and Black and Nine Months storyline ends here.
Thank you to all the reviewers:
CardMistressSakura – Devil1 – CatH – bittersweetKandy – Mi – Dallisse – bee – Firuze Khanume – JML – Sabbie – beriath – The Magician of Black Chaos – Maeko-Nohara – NightRain2 – Jenna – Mary-Ann – aki6 – amy! – CurlsofSerenity – jbramx2 – kenni – scorpion05
Thanks to the most loyal of them all:
Firuze Khanume – for giving her constant plugging even when she didn't leave reviews. ^^ I know you're busy, nee-san, I'm not taking it against you.
JML – for the constant support for my work, and for all the objective comments
Maeko-Nohara and all her incarnations – for all the quirky reviews, and all the support
Sabbie – for the constant support of the E/M pairing. Congrats on getting into animation school!!
Jbramx2 – for the nice E/M pic and for the nice reviews
CatH – for all the comments about inconsistencies ^^
Final review comments: Everyone commented about the sweatdropping! ^^ I did say, if it was possible, it would've happened. Yeah, I'd like to see a picture of Enishi sweatdropping online too! I haven't been to Paris or anywhere near Europe! I've just had a good exposure to France on TV and Les Miserables. Someday I'd really like to go. Thanks for liking Sano's appearance.
Thank you again for reading Taming a Tiger. It was a blast writing about Enishi. Thanks for tagging along in his little search for himself. I'm sorry if this didn't turn out so well. Many things were bothering my head in the school year this was made in, and it reflected in the writing. I guess it's my fault why I lost a lot of reviewers, but that's OK. I'll try to do better next time. Next school year will be even tougher than last year, so don't expect a lot out of me. But I'll still write whenever I get the chance.