WARNING: Spoilers! If you don't know who Kenji is, please read at your own risk!
WITH DUE CREDIT: This fic was loosely spun off from two fics - "Over the Sting" by sasori and "Chronicles of a Rurouni", one of my earlier fics.
Yesterday's Shadow is Tomorrow's Twilight
Such was life.
Such was life in the dreamy outskirts of the rapidly developing Tokyo.
A group of children played, carefree and happy, in the clearing. They forged swords and spears out of sticks and branches, and proceeded to whack each other silly with pseudo war-cries and mimicry. Having seen and gone through no bloodshed, fights were but tools of boredom relief to the new generation - a game where victors became heroes; where losers ran home to their mothers weeping about how unfair the fight had gone. As the children continued screaming and shouting at each other, their sanctuary was intruded upon - for a stranger had invaded their presence. At once, all noise ceased. The children dropped their game tools, scurrying away from the stranger quickly, fleeing to their caretaker. The man was leaning against the handrails of an old, abandoned bridge, looking at the decay and foul-smelling waters running beneath.
This caretaker welcomed the children, having sensed their presence and, of course, the presence of the intruder as well. After soothing the frantic group - was this place not sacred and ours alone to call? - the caretaker sent the easily distracted children on their way by issuing them an errand. A mission, in the caretaker's words, to run along and stay very still while the caretaker spoke with the stranger. If the stranger was to do any harm, the children were to emerge and yell at him immediately - did they understand?
Of course, the excited children did. They dispersed as quickly as a breeze had swept through the fallen autumn leaves.
Tilting his head slightly, the caretaker met the stranger's eye.
"Good morning, Shinomori-san," Soujirou smiled warmly at the approaching Aoshi. He did not move from his position on the bridge, leaning against the railing.
After a while of silence, Aoshi said, "She said I could find you here."
"Kaoru-san?" Soujirou prompted, and the taller person nodded. "Figures," he snickered to himself. "I came to talk to her about something. And she somehow tricked me into initiating her latest batch of students into kendo. A few of whom got a little too attached to me." He laughed, as if remembering something. "So I've been playing with them out here since." He looked knowingly at Aoshi. "Can't have the local police finding a fugitive camping out in a dojo, teaching the future generation of Japan now, can we?"
Aoshi remained stoic. It was hard to tell whether he was really paying attention or not. "You're not obligated to stay for the children, or for anybody," he eventually stated, monotonously.
"True," Soujirou agreed, returning to looking at the decaying river beneath the bridge. "That must mean that I'm still here for something else, of course."
There was an expectant silence.
"Oibore-san is dying," the wanderer whispered, softly, and let the winds carry his words to Aoshi. "I found that out when I came to pass him Yukishiro-san's sword." He smiled, slightly. "I have to finish what Yukishiro-san started. I won't go until then." He then lifted up the long bundle of cloth that had been leaning against the railing alongside him. "Not that Oibore-san cared, of course. He told me to keep the sword." The wanderer laughed. "He thinks I'll have more use for it than he would. I personally think not." His voice was wistful.
Aoshi moved to unfold his arms from across his chest. "Good to know, in any case," he grunted. "That answers one of the questions I have for you."
Soujirou looked at him curiously. "And what other questions could you possibly have for me?"
Deciding that to be his cue, Aoshi wasted no time. He cut to the chase. "This one's from Saitou," he disclaimed. "Why did you let the two ringleaders go?"
"Oh my," Soujirou turned away from the bridge railing and put a hand on his back sheepishly. He faced Aoshi and grinned. "Did I let them go? Oh dear. I hadn't noticed at all. How careless of me. I must be getting senile."
"Should I bring that answer to Saitou?" Aoshi asked, candidly. Soujirou had by then returned to the railing and looking down at the waterless stream beneath.
"You can if you want to," the wanderer said. "I'm no longer accountable to Saitou-san." He smiled. "And neither are you, as far as I know."
"I never was," Aoshi agreed.
"So why are you running around for him?" Soujirou laughed. "Don't tell me you have some personal interest in that question? You were always so business-like about this particular mission. It's hard to imagine you having any sort of interest in it at all."
"I happen to like closure," Aoshi informed.
"Closure is overrated," Soujirou snorted.
"It keeps me ready for the next great thing."
"Oh, right! Like the great Kyoto sale?"
"Just kidding," Soujirou laughed, when he saw the look of banal displeasure on his senior's face. "Though if there really is a sale in Kyoto, please be sure to inform me."
"I will be sure to do that," Aoshi deadpanned.
The silence continued a little while, before Soujirou sighed. "I don't think he would have wanted it that way," he finally said, quietly. Looking up at the clear, blue skies, he continued, "They were his friends. No matter how misguided they were, he still cared for them. He would have wanted them to have a second chance..." Soujirou smiled, but his eyes were downcast. "...to start from scratch again... just like he did."
"So you let them go?" Aoshi asked.
"I hid them," Soujirou corrected. "If the police had been diligent enough, they would have found them. I wouldn't have protested if they did. If Ming-san and Zheng-san had been found, then they deserve to be arrested," he sighed. "In those circumstances, it was the best I could do. I can outrun the entire police force. But I'm not sure if I can still do that with two people on my back."
The stern ninja took a while to digest all of Soujirou's explanation. "Very well," he said, after the silence, "Saitou will have to make do with the explanation that his men are too amatuer to find a mere wanderer's hidden treasure." Soujirou snickered at Aoshi's way of putting it. "The next question is also from Saitou," Aoshi's sombre voice pulled Soujirou back from his mirth.
"What happened to Yukishiro?"
Soujirou's soft laughter died immediately upon his lips. Yet he continued to smile. His eyes were still crinkled, as if in delight.
"He's gone," Soujirou responded, much quicker than Aoshi had expected him to. He leaned over the railing again and let his hair cover his eyes. "What else is there to know about what happened?"
"Plenty," Aoshi pressed on, folding his arms across his chest and leaning his weight on one foot. "We know it was a fatal shot to the chest - it hit a major vein near his heart. What we don't know is who put the bullet there," Aoshi paused, "...and how is it possible that someone could have won Yukishiro Enishi at his own game."
"There is always a first time for everything," Soujirou looked to a side. "But for him, his first was his last."
"You don't wish to talk about it?"
Soujirou did not answer.
"Very well," Aoshi shrugged. "Saitou also wants to know exactly where you are at the moment."
"I'm at Okinawa!" Soujirou chirped.
"Fine," Aoshi accepted it. "I believe he wishes to reward you for the latest stint, but I could be mistaken."
"Saitou-san is a very crafty man," Soujirou nodded sagely.
"Where will you go after Oibore passes away?" Aoshi's next question was rather awkward, considering the direction the conversation had been going thus far. Soujirou grinned at him.
"Is that a question from Saitou-san too?" He asked, amused when Aoshi's shoulders jumped slightly in surprise.
"That question is mine," the man stated smoothly.
"I'm just a wanderer," Soujirou replied, his voice quiet. "I go wherever the winds take me."
"I expected to hear that," Aoshi's comment caught Soujiruo off-guard. As he turned around to look questioningly at the older man, he saw a shadow flitting towards him at top speed. Quickly reacting, he reached out and stopped the object in mid-air, grasping onto it. He looked at it. It was a kodachi.
"You broke it," Aoshi's voice was slightly scolding, "you have to pay me one back."
"Oh!" Soujirou put a hand on his head, memories of him breaking the blade flooding back to him. "I'm sorry about the blade. It was an emergency. And I /did/ ask Himura-san to apologise on my behalf!"
"He didn't," Aoshi simply informed. Soujirou deflated.
"Umm... I have no money?" Said the younger person, who was trying to decide if Aoshi was joking or not.
"Don't worry," the taller person tilted his head, "we're always short-handed at the Aoiya. Misao wouldn't mind an extra cook."
"I can't cook!" Soujirou protested immediately.
"Then you can sweep and serve," Aoshi pointed out.
"You're serious about this," Soujirou was horrified.
"I am," Aoshi nodded gravely.
"May I start running now?" Soujirou gulped.
"If you want." Aoshi shrugged. He turned, and started walking away. "The Aoiya is open for business every day."
It was a while later before Aoshi heard Soujirou's final words.
"You're really not going to press about Yukishiro-san?"
Aoshi paused, turned, and glanced at the wanderer.
"Like I said," he reiterated, firmly, "the Aoiya is open for business every day." Turning back, he continued walking down the path he had come from, neither seeing nor knowing of Soujirou's agape countenance in response to his sentence. Without another word, he vanished into the shadows in which he had materialised from, leaving behind a confused wanderer, wondering if what he had just heard was real.
A soft breeze blew. Time slowly ebbed.
A small hand tugged at Soujirou's sleeve. Snapping out of his trance, Soujirou glanced downwards quickly, finding himself staring into a few pair of concerned eyes.
"Are you all right, Soujirou?" The little girl asked, her voice brimming with innocent concern. "Did the big man hurt you?"
Soujirou smiled at her. At all of them. "Of course not!" He said happily. "Onii-san is a lot tougher than he looks!"
"Then can we spar you?" One of the taller boys struck a pose and asked him valiantly.
"Of course!" Soujirou laughed. He brandished the kodachi sheath. "Look! The big man gave me a new weapon! This time, I won't lose to you!"
The children erupted into cheers and pomp. In just a while, they vacated the bridge and was giving out war cries to one another in the hidden clearing once again. So absorbed they were with their game, that they did not notice yet another intruder upon their sacred grounds.
"Hey!" The intruder cried out, waving his hand about. "Mind if I joined in?" The voice was young. Fresh and impressionable.
A silence occurred, in which Soujirou and the children looked in the direction of the shout to analyse the newcomer. The children immediately broke into huge grins. Soujirou himself could feel his smile stretching wider.
"I don't see why not," the wanderer said, "Himura-san." ————————————————————— a/n fanfiction . net / s / 2353675 / 1 / if you love the sou/eni dynamics with a dash of sherlock holmes, then you don't want to miss this fic:D
tougenkyou . net / xd
omigosh! ekmisao wrote another spin off of shadow twilight which i must plug! go go! read it now! this time it's written in soujirou's POV, and it's BEAUTIFUL!
fanfiction . net / s / 2353675 / 1 /
if you love the sou/eni dynamics with a dash of sherlock holmes, then you don't want to miss this fic:D
things i was unable to properly resolve within the story:
1) kenji's training with hiko
kenji was supposed to have this huge showdown with yahiko in the epilogue where he demonstrates the sheer prowess of his newly learnt abilities by trashing yahiko and a few bamboo swords up in the process, but the author ran out of steam at the end and apologises for any inconveniences she has caused by her not being able to include the slightly cracked up scene in the unreasonable sombre epilogue.
2) soujirou's hair
aoshi was supposed to bring it up in the epilogue and there was supposed to be this big sniffy conversation in which soujirou explains that he had been growing his hair out only because it used to pissed enishi off so since enishi is no longer around there would be no point in growing it out anymore and what do you mean i cut it because i was traumatised shinomori-san no no you got it all wrong - but alas, aoshi refused to cooperate, so rotten tomatoes in his way, please.
3) enishi's past with the four baddies
i thought of doing a side story, but i figured no one would be interested. (not even myself! XDD) fiction baddies - here today and gone tomorrow. ;.;x
4) who is the main lead anyway? kenji? soujirou? enishi?
it was supposed to be kenji. supposed to be. sou and eni took over somewhere in between tokyo and kyoto. they were unstoppable. i certainly couldn't do it. :O sorry kenji. i'll find a way to make it up to you... in the indefinite future or something. XD
5) and anything else
please forgive me for missing them out. XDDD it's been a rather long ride, tee hee hee XD
all readers - for reading this fic on to the end!
all reviewers - for taking two minutes to help me improve on the story!
sasori - without you i would never have thought of teaming up soujirou with enishi in an action/adventure setting. and what a fantastic team they turned out to be.
april-san - without you aoshi would not have become as 3-dimensional and unfathomable as i now know him to be. he certainly thinks in many layers!
firuze - without you i would never have known how to look deep into the mind of a highly misunderstood, yet dearly important character i now lovingly know as yukishiro enishi.
jbramx2 - i loved reading your thoughts about my crazy story. it made me laugh so hard. you're the first person to ever draw fanart for my fics for me. thank you so much!
ekmisao - i still find it hard to believe that a high-profile, capable author like yourself would find time to write a few spin offs based on shadow twilight! please accept my eternal thanks. you have certainly been my inspiration to go on.
i'm sorry i'm unable to list everybody out here. tanuki-dono, eeevee, fyyyrose, shihali, shadrezad, silver nightingale, espi, zeromaru, kenshinadmirer and koukeisha - thank you especially for your memorable presences. thank you all of those i have missed out and i'm terribly terribly sorry i couldn't list you all out! pelt me with tomatoes! i know i deserve it! XD
in conclusion, i only have one thing to say!
THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH FOR STICKING WITH ME TO THE VERY END!
that's all. yup:packs soujirou up in an express mail box and ships him off to april-san: i haven't forgotten my promise! although his hair may be too short to braid now. eheheh! it'll get longer... eventually. XD
thank you all! and... bye bye! it's been a great ride:D you can email me about the fic if you want, my mailbox is always open:3 see you next fic!
want to read more about fanfics based on the setting of wandering warriors?
www . fanfiction . net / c2 / 8417 / 0 / 1 /
c2 comm - wind fictions of ruroken
has a small but reasonably comprehensive listing of stories that revolve around aoshi, soujirou, enishi, or either two of them together. there are not many fics that feature this setting, after all. WRITE MORE, DAMMIT! AND SEND THEM TO ME! MUAHHAHAH!
www . fanfiction . net / u / 249480 /
ekmisao's fanfiction. i blanket rec all her rk fics.
www . fanfiction . net / u / 121399 /
firuze's fanfiction. she has some fantastic enishi fanfiction going on. check them out sometimes.
sasori and april-san's fics can be found in the c2 comm above. also check out some of the soujirou-centric rk fanfics i have in my fav list. i shall end the epilogue before the author's notes spawn into something that rivals the actual story in length. XDD good bye, and good bye, and thank you for everything:3