Another Chance: The arrival of spring
A fanfic set in the Rurouni Kenshin universe
standard disclaimers apply
And suddenly it was spring.
It did not come in quietly, but rather exploded onto the scene—thawing out the ground overnight and bearing the fresh scent of renewal on the wind.
Two men and a boy stood in a field, resting for a moment to admire what they had accomplished in just a few days. Within the lazy stone walls that surrounded the unprotected areas of the Higashidani land, the earth was now tilled, ready to receive the seeds that the eldest son had carried from his journeys.
Sanosuke wiped his brow as he carelessly discarded his tools. His father and brother stood next to him, each ready for the change that these seeds would bring.
They would finally turn this land into a different sort of farm. A home for trees and flowers.
It had been their compromise. Their father knew that two his sons would go back to their fighting ways. Outa himself was a diligent student and like his brother, would never be a farmer. He seemed cut out for a life either as another student and master of the Kamiya Kasshin style or as a man of the law.
As for Sanosuke, his father sensed that where he would go from here was not known, even by himself. Even as a child, Sanosuke's eyes had always been distant, seeing something beyond. Although there was sadness in them now too, his father knew that too would eventually fade.
His son was a strong man, one who took life's disappointments and moved on according to the whims of fate. And he did promise to come here every year, with Outa to tend to these trees, even after he died. And whether someday, the two men would be joined by others – their friends, their children and their loved ones, only time would tell.
As Sanosuke leaned over to rub his brother's head affectionately, Kamishimoemon Higashidani pushed aside his worries.
His son was a strong man.
The girl slept on the floor of the clinic, cradling one of the first bloom's of spring in her hand .
Her teacher smiled as she watched her, her pride and her joy. This child was the last living child of a line that had run many generations. And despite the child's penchant for the mysterious onmitsu ways, Megumi was determined to uphold a promise to herself and to her brother. This child would be taught everything that she knew, but would be wholly untainted by circumstances that had stained the history of her father and her hapless aunt.
That was the promise he had made to her. And it was a promise that over the last few weeks had slowly helped her feel more at ease around the Oniwaban that lurked not only at the Aoiya but around Kyoto.
As dusk fell and she finished cleaning, the woman picked up the girl and carried her down the street, back towards the lights that lined the way to the hotel Aoiya. The streets were quieter now, as Kyoto made its transition from day to night. If she sensed watchful eyes, she did not give any hint of noticing them.
As they drew up to the gate that marked the entrance, she paused and looked past the open gate. She looked down momentarily, the squirming in her arms indicating that her niece had roused.
A sleepy voice intoned, "Where are we?"
Her aunt turned the child so she could have a better view of what lay beyond the gate. She felt herself smile as she felt her child wriggle in delight in anticipation of giving the precious flower in her hand to the man who stood just inside waiting for them.
As Megumi looked up at her husband and felt his hand upon her sleeve, she whispered into the girl's ear. "We're home."
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CREDITS, THANKS, GROVELING TO...
Everyone who left reviews! It meant a lot to me as I chugged along sometimes in what seemed to be a completely thankless avenue of writing a very long fanfic. To the one-time reviewers, thank you especially for breaking out of your shyness! To the ones that emailed me instead, double thanks!
Best groupies: Aoshi/Megumi shippers. Mimichan harassed me early on. Trupana threatened me. Leila, Jieli, The Great Thing, probably accounted for almost all my reviews. Yeah, somewhere along the way I realized early on I'd die a horrible death if the fic didn't end with pairing. But Leila was the one who stuck it pretty much out to the end, so I'm giving Leila like the "most diligent fan" subaward in this category as teh best A/Meg groupie!
Best Sano/Meg groupie: animefreak5483. You hung in there to the end. I will try to eventually make up this sad loss for Sano with a fanart for you without that Aoshi guy. (There is a fanart with that Aoshi guy, Sano and Meg up at the shrine if you are interested ;-) )
Best soundboard: miJ For being my gauge during the last critical chapters I am grateful. Your encouragement in this home stretch was really really important. You have no idea how glad I was to see each of your reviews!
Best conspirators: Cherie Dee and Shinomori no Daiji - it's been a whole lot of fun the last few months just communicating with you.
Best use of the review board: Eevee. I'll miss our weird conversations through the reviews. I realize they make no sense to anyone except us. haha.
My favorite writer pairing duel: Shizimu Hitomi (A/Meg) meet Mirune Keishiko (S/Meg) – Oddly enough, again you both write two different pairings by preference, but your writing styles are very complementary to one another.
Most tolerant reader: junyortrakr. He's a guy. Nuff said. Glad we had enough plot here to not drive you nuts with the screaming fangirl romance addicts. Regarding your comment on 50 - last comment – life goes on, I do agree as do I when it comes to that all things happen as part of a general purpose and plan.
Most mindblowing reviewers: Stealania, ChisaiLammy, kenni. I appreciate the enthusiasm of your reviews particularly when it came to plot and writing.
And now the author comes clean:
I started this fic to test the RK waters and the faithfulness of two factions in the community - Sano/Meg fans and Aoshi/Meg fans. I expected more response from one camp, but to my surprise, that didn't appear to materialize. At one point I had noted that I started to get cold feet about committing Megumi to either of the two men and was contemplating having the fic just end. But that was the whole hook of the fic, and I hate to not keep promises. At the half way point I had already been leaning very hard towards Aoshi because in my mind he is one of the men who is a serious rival to Kenshin in terms of his history, skill, intelligence and strength. (The only thing he lacks is Kenshin's sense of playful humor.) But I started to get cold feet about that too, and I had a good time thinking about Sano from part 30 or so forward as coming in and pulling off a surprise. In a sense, this was one reason why Aoshi and the Oniwaban connection got played up – not just because it was good for him and his character development, but it might create the scenario where he backs off .
Some notes on Sanosuke: It might be argued that his love for Megumi might in fact be greater, for him to be willing to give it up for her happiness and safety. What I didn't come out and state so obviously is that life is full of chances - and that one never knows what may come and whether fate will bring these two back together again. And if not, he is strong - stronger than anyone gives him credit for.
As for the minor characters, it was intended for you to wonder about them and their motives too. Saitou and Okina were quietly working behind the scene. Okina's efforts were more blatant, but Saitou's less so. But who was truly the master manipulator? Think on that kimono and get back to me.
Snippets! As promised, here they are. These were bits and pieces abandoned as they were either unnecessary or just not where I wanted to go by the time I got around to where I had initially thought to use them. I can't use them, so I"ll post them.
A conversation between two men
"But it is a game," Saitou looked bored. "You should have taken the bait earlier, Shinomori. He carelessly flicked his cigarette away. His look turned to amusement as Aoshi glowered at him. "Bodies are just bodies, Shinomori. Death is never absolute unless you see it for yourself. I thought perhaps the former Battousai would have figured that one out easily enough, but it seems that the clues we handed over to them were completely useless."
"So you've known this whole time?"
"I have known of the possibility that Megumi Takani wasn't dead, but I can't verify every body that washes up somewhere in Japan, can I? And you're the skeptic in all matters, so I thought you'd surely go and see for yourself if the police bungled , intentionally or purposefully, the identification of a body."
"Why?" Aoshi managed to force out. "What purpose does doing things this way serve?"
"There are those who would see the Takani's dead rather than have anything of Takani Kenichi's past come to light. My mission is simply to make sure nothing of it does come to light. And that mission may result in a lot more death than is necessary. Do what you need to pay your debt back to the Takani woman. The rest will be mine and my men to deal with. The enemy has been too bold lately. First the taking of one Takani, the attack on your lands, and the flaunting by this syndicates' partners show that they are getting overly confident. But even their partners see the writing on the wall. Some have come forward quietly to inform us. Their patron is becoming too strong for their liking. For at their hearts, most of these folks desire power but more so, prefer their own life the way it is."
"And tell me why I should accept your help."
"Either way, you and I have similar goals. I want to see this addressed, but it can't be handled yet the way I would normally do things. So it's your task if you care enough to help the Takani woman. You find the people, Shinomori and I will find a way to take care of the rest
That damn letter!
Sanosuke has left Kyoto and Aoshi misunderstands. Trying to write towards this kind of conversation would have created more complications, and I abandoned it early on.
She turned her head. "Like I'm going to run off with that roosterhead to Osaka and Mongolia and leave Meg-chan behind.
He didn't know how to answer then. This woman who responded by teasing him, never quite making her actual feelings known. "I would take care of her . . . raise her as one of us."
"And have her turn out to be a little ninja?" She laughed, although it sounded hollow to his ears . "She's going to be a doctor and carry forward her father's legacy. At least, the good part of it."
His silence told her he was serious. "When we thought you were dead, I prepared papers.."
"I appreciate that."
He withdrew something from his pocket. "It is just as easy for you to settle in Osaka as it is here. I'm under the assumption that you were still uncertain about Kyoto. There were things you had mentioned, certain things you were worried about and there was something you wanted to ask …"
"I," she flushed as she suddenly recognized the letter he withdrew. "I don't know that it matters. I mean, it was a strange question. "
"If you are not going to Osaka and are contemplating staying here, we will do our best to help you no matter the issue. The issue you had?"
For once, he had caught her completely off-guard and he did not know why.
She spoke softly, her face still averted. "I didn't want to just come out and ask you, but there was something that I was worried about. Or someone… who I thought might not be happy if I came here. And I sensed tension when I returned-"
"Who would that be?" Aoshi looked at her puzzled.
Aoshi confronts Megumi
takes place shortly after the above...
She whirled around, "Aoshi! You shouldn't be here –"
"You have a bad habit of running away," he moved towards her slowly, his eyes daring her to try to run now. "And there is something I want to know, Megumi Takani, and that is –
She stood still, her eyes wide with nervousness as he continued to draw closer.
"He had another chance – that night when we came to rescue you. . . and another when he left. He has feelings for you. What holds the man back?"
"It was for the best—" she stammered nervously, wondering where this was heading. "Our lives were never meant to head in the same direction. He'd resent being tied down in the end -"
"-and I could never live that carefree lifestyle." She continued on bravely, trying to ignore the tears that came forth. "Or that's what he thinks. He wanted me to stay here. He didn't really want me enough to ask me to come with him."
"Is that so?" He kneeled beside her, touching her hair , trying to offer any measure of comfort., allowing her to cry into the front of his yukata.
After a few minutes, her sniffling subsided. "Tell me, did you ever say anything to him –"
"There was a time when I would say nothing to him. But when it came to seeking his help, He and I did talk quite a bit. I decided at that time to make my intentions clear."
"You wanted to punish the attackers."
"If I wanted revenge, I would have gone much further than I did in Tokyo. All I did was ensure that none of Kurosawa's men or other opportunists would think to come after you again. I left Kyoto for Tokyo to protect young Megumi Takani, but I arrived wanting to save her aunt. And Sanosuke Sagara knew that. "
"Aoshi, I —" She faltered. "You're the reason why he left. He came here and saw something. You've been the reason why he has been so frustrated all along. If I stay here, he'll see it as a sign that —"
"That what he believes – that there is something to you and I?"
"Yes." She hung her head.
Suddenly he saw no reason to hold back again. She had been dead and gone to him, and that had meant something to him after all. But now she was back, and he had another chance to express himself, no matter if now she pined for Sagara. Otherwise, he'd regret it for the rest of his life and beyond.
"And yet it is true. "
She looked up, startled. "What?"
It stood there, unspoken – the knowledge that he did have feelings for her. Not just from the past year or so, but he realized, feeling sthat took root long ago. Even if she loved Sanosuke Sagara, at least he had admitted something to her, and most importantly, to himself.
He paused. "It is true. At least half true"
"I do not expect anything from you. I will protect you and your niece no matter what. It was my promise, and one I intend to keep. Whether you are here, in Osaka, in Tokyo—"
"Alright." She had wiped her eyes dry and placed one hand on his arm.
He looked at her startled.
"Alright means," she smiled up at him. "It means I'll stay."
He took the hand that had been on his arm and clasped it. "You owe me nothing. "
"It isn't a matter of obligation." Her eyes sparked, a little in annoyance. "Or are you insanely dense that you think I'd stay because of that. I go when I please, you know—"
"Don't be stupid!" Okina's voice hissed from outside the door. "She wants to stay, idiot! She wants you to ask her to stay!"
"Okina," Megumi made a movement towards the door, but Aoshi caught her ankle before she could punch through the screen. "What are you—"
Immediately after he had cushioned her fall, Okina chose that moment to swing open the door. "You stupid young people always need someone to push them in the direction they want to go-" His voice trailed off as he saw the two of them on the floor.
"I was just about to come out there and beat you up," Megumi said somewhat irritated but then *he* stopped me.
"My apologies, my apologies!" Okina had turned a bright shade of red and then bowing quickly, flew back out of the room and slammed it shut.
Voices came from outside the room, "Okina! What are you doing up here!"
"Shoo shoo!" came Okina's excited voice. "Shirotome will be so envious!"
"Grandchildren," Aoshi sighed.
"Grandchildren!?" Megumi fumed as she sat up, not noting that she and Aoshi had been awkwardly compromised. If she had looked at Aoshi at the very moment, she might have also observed the slight flush on his face. "How is it that – " her voice trailed off, as she realized what had just happened. "Oh."
And then rather unexpectedly, she started laughing.
He didn't quite understand the joke. "Megumi?"
"I'm sorry," she gasped in between fits of giggles. "But , the very idea that things have progressed to that… well… considering that all you and I seem to do is get into situations like these- where absolutely nothing is happening and people assume-"
She stopped when she realized he still grasped her hand.
She was always difficult; choosing a witty remark or joke over a silence. But, there were other things to fill silence. He took her hand and before she could say another word, kissed it. It was not the chaste kiss that Westerners offered in greeting to a lady, but a soft gliding of his lips over her hand.
He felt her shiver. And as he predicted, it silenced her completely.
*smirks* okay, i admit i just happened to really like the kissing of hand thing from earlier. and that last line.