DISCLAIMER: I don't own Rurouni Kenshin. This fic was written just for fun, not for commercial purposes.
Notes: This is my first (written) venture into the ever-blossoming A/Meg fandom. ^______^ Yay, A/Meg!! I shall now officially join the (extremely) small number of A/Meg authors posted on ff.net. It's like, a special clique or something. lol. ^_~
To all Aoshi/Misao fans and Sano/Megumi fans:
"I got a lot of letters from readers that said 'Aoshi and Megumi look good together,' and 'Sano and Megumi look good together,' but I think that of the former, it's their art that looks good together, and of the latter, it's their personalites (they both have no characters). But, just like I haven't decided whether Kenshin and Kaoru will be a couple…" This was from Watsuki-sensei himself, in the Making of the Characters section for Megumi, taken from maigo-chan's RK manga translations. So there. :-P (And I was a Sano/Meg shipper before I fell in love with this coupling. And I still love a well-written Sano/Meg. Honest. ^_^ Though I never was able to bring myself to accept Aoshi/Misao.)
Seiya no Kinen translates to Quiet (or Starry) Night of Memories. I think. (I hope.) I basically took the Chinese characters (= kanji) and got the Japanese pronunciation using an online Japanese-English-Japanese dictionary. Hopefully, it worked out the way I intended. ^_^
And finally, this oneshot is set during the night of the reunion picnic depicted in the veeeery last chapter of Ruroken. I believe it can be found in the artbook, but you can also access the scans at www dot miburo dot com slash info slash kaden dot html. (And it's in color!!! *goes starry-eyed*)
~ Seiya no Kinen ~
Spring. 16th Year of the Meiji. And very peaceful days.
The night was still and calm and sweet.
Stars, twinkling merrily in the velvet black sky. And sakura petals, pink and white and soft, drifting down aimlessly, swirling about her face. And somehow, though the tranquil spring nights had always been beautiful in her memories, it seemed to her that this night was the most beautiful of all.
They had had the reunion earlier that day, getting together at a small clearing not far from the Kamiya dojo to have a picnic and admire the blossoming sakura. She had not seen any of them for five years. Five years… such a long time. Though she had regularly exchanged letters with Kaoru, it was simply not the same as seeing them all face to face. So much had changed, and yet… so much had remained the same. Ken-san and Kaoru, now happily married and raising an adorable little boy of their own. Yahiko and Tsubame, now grown, and more mature, shyly courting each other. They too, in a few years, would no doubt be married as well, and settled down with children. She smiled at the thought. And of course, there was Misao, still her same unmistakably cheerful self, though the girl had cut off her braid and exchanged her old Oniwabanshuu uniform for a bright red kimono. Or perhaps that had just been for the occasion. And… Aoshi. She had not expected him to be there, though knowing him, he'd probably been dragged there against his will by Misao. He, too, remained unchanged, as cold and silent as ever, save for the fact that he no longer carried his two kodachis everywhere, and that he now dressed in a formal Western suit, the attire of a businessman.
Only one face she had missed, and even now she was not sure if that were a good thing or not. The reckless roosterhead… She didn't deny that somewhere along the way, she had indeed fallen in love with the idiot's rash, moronic ways. But then he had left, and five years… It was such a long time. It had hurt her at first when she realized that the streetfighter had in fact kept in touch with the residents of the Kamiya dojo, while she herself had not even received a single note through all that time… but then she had realized that it did not hurt as much as it perhaps should have, as it once would have. It did not seem to matter so much, anymore. But still… Her father, her brothers, Ken-san, Sanosuke… She wondered, almost bitterly, if all the men she ever cared for would turn and drift away in the wind, leaving her alone, tossing her heart aside like a piece of trash.
Yet it had made her heart dance with joy to see all her friends so untroubled, so carefree, living their lives in peace and happiness. The look of pure bliss on Ken-san's face and the beautiful innocent violet-blue color of his eyes had been enough to bring tears to her eyes. It was a look she would never forget, could never forget; a look she had placed in her heart to cherish forever.
Still, a tinge of sadness remained, a sense that something was missing, or had passed her by, a feeling that she would never be quite whole again. While everyone else had moved on and found happiness, she alone had been unable to come to terms with her past and her lost family, who she had failed to find any trace of, even after five years of constant searching. Seeing all of her friends there at the reunion only made the pain so much sharper. And so, while everyone (except Aoshi, of course) chattered away happily, enjoying the day, she alone had remained uncharacteristically quiet. And later, when the sun began to set at last, and everyone was heading back to the dojo to stay the night, she alone lingered still in the clearing, telling the others that she was planning to return to Aizu that very night. But she knew, and perhaps Ken-san too, ever observant, knew that she was not really leaving. She couldn't, not yet. For tonight… Tonight was a night of memories, both pleasant and bittersweet. Tomorrow, she would return to her little home, to her clinic in Aizu, go on with her life – let go of her past and look to the future. But tonight, just one night, she would remain, and reminisce of the past.
A gentle breeze whispered through the darkness, blowing back silky black strands of her hair with a flurry of pink blossoms.
She felt so old, sometimes.
Suddenly, out of the corner of her eye, she saw a dark figure lurking at the edge of the clearing and she gasped. The figure glanced up at the abrupt noise, and she saw that it was a man… a man she knew all too well.
"Ah, Shinomori-san!" she exclaimed, startled. The man's icy green-blue eyes spoke of surprise as well. She felt uneasy, almost frightened, alone in the dark clearing with the former onmitsu. As he slowly walked up to her, she could feel her entire body tensing. But he did nothing, remaining silent, and she began to relax, thinking herself a fool to fear ghosts of the past. After all, they were allies now… friends.
The man stared at her, his cold gaze piercing through her very soul, and she began to feel nervous again.
"What… are you doing here?" she whispered, her voice cracking.
He said nothing, but averted his eyes, and she calmed herself down, reassured. She wondered then what she ought to say, to fill the awkward silence.
Her fox ears perked up as mischievous thoughts began to dance through her mind. "Could it be… you were worried about me?"
When he turned away but made no reply, she laughed heartily, feeling her sorrow and apprehension float away with the breeze.
"I… did not think you were still here," he admitted at last, his deep, resonant voice sending shivers down her back.
"But surely you noticed my presence with your superior onmitsu senses!"
"… I was distracted."
And she would have opened her mouth to tease him further, but she had heard the sorrow in his voice… the regret, the weariness.
"I… I couldn't leave," she said softly, not knowing what else to say.
"Aa." He paused. "Himura did mention… he thought you might have stayed. He was not too concerned, as this is a relatively quiet area. And the dojo is not too far away."
"I see. Ken-san is as perceptive as ever."
And then they fell silent, one for lack of words, one out of habit, watching the falling sakura petals together.
"The sakura are beautiful this spring, ne?" she asked at last, trying to draw him into a conversation.
"The sakura are always beautiful," came the crisp reply.
She sighed, somewhat disappointed. "I suppose."
"… Though they are even more lovely in Kyoto."
She turned, astonished, and glanced at his face, but it seemed as straight and composed as usual. "I would love to see the sakura in Kyoto someday," she said seriously. "If they truly are as lovely as you say," she added on a lighter tone. But to that there was no response, and she sighed again, wondering if she should feel irritated by his silence or honored that he had even spoken to her.
"How has Misao been doing?"
"…Well. She was happy to have a chance to come to Tokyo and visit."
"Is she sleeping at the dojo right now?"
"You both must really miss the Aoiya."
"…" He shrugged.
At this point, the man was beginning to frustrate her thoroughly.
"Will you be returning to Kyoto, then, tomorrow?" she tried one last time.
She sighed for the last time and gave up, and contented herself with enjoying the sweet serenity of the sakura-filled night. Another breeze blew softly through the clearing, and she closed her eyes, dreaming of carefree days long ago. The man beside her seemed lost in a sweet, quiet dream of his own as well.
And then, abruptly, he spoke, breaking the stillness.
"… Do you… remember?"
She was startled. What was he talking about? What did he mean, did she remember?
But then the memories started coming back to her, and she recalled another quiet spring night, years ago, back in a time when all she had known was despair. It had been a still, peaceful night, the first time she had felt the slightest bit of hope in what had seemed like so long. A night when Kanryuu had been away on business, and she had been, for once, free to herself, if only for a while. The night she had first seen the other side of the harsh young okashira of the Oniwabanshuu, as they had sat together with the rest of his men, admiring the first blossoms of the year. The night he had first presented her with the dagger that she now carried up her sleeve all the time to protect herself with. She was amazed that he still remembered, yet she felt oddly touched at the same time.
"I never thought of you as the nostalgic type," she teased him gently, even as she felt her own eyes moistening. She turned away to hide her tears.
"Megumi…" He reached out hesitantly, taking her hand. And suddenly everything began to make sense to her.
"Is that… is that why you came back here? To remember?"
She smiled, despite herself. So she had not been the only one overcome by sweet memories.
"Arigato… Aoshi," she whispered after a while.
He said nothing for a few minutes. "You shouldn't," he said finally. "I have done nothing you could possibly thank me for. It is I who ought to apologize for all the pain I caused you."
And she laughed, then, her heart lightening of all its troubles, and her laughter pealed through the night like bells.
"Don't be silly," she gasped, still laughing at the amused yet baffled look on the man's face.
And she thought suddenly that he had never truly let go of the past… Perhaps he never would. Perhaps she never would. But it was all right, for they had learned to live with it, to forgive and begin anew. And she realized too that she felt strangely content, standing silently there with this man, her former captor and enemy, yet now her ally… her friend. For once… she felt complete.
And the shadowy night seemed more beautiful than ever.
Hopefully I managed to keep both of them in character. (I have a feeling that last part was rather questionable.) Megumi alone is hard enough to write. (Not being a flirtatious person myself, it's hard to write her foxiness very well. ^_~) Aoshi is actually easier for me, but Aoshi interaction is hard too, especially with Megumi. You know, they never directly address each other once through the entire manga?!?!? So I had no idea if Aoshi would call her Megumi or Takani-san, or maybe Takani-sensei. Urk. And would Megumi call him Aoshi or Shinomori-san? (She only ever refers to him as "the Okashira" and "idiot" in the manga. ^____^) Tho there is one point where Aoshi says something like, "We'll leave with Megumi in the morning." Something like that.
And supposedly Megumi had only known Aoshi for a short period before she escaped. (Supposedly Kanryuu had just recently hired the Oniwabanshuu.) Screw that. My definition of a short period is now officially two years. :-P (Meg worked under Kanryuu for three years.)
Oh, BTW. If you're an Aoshi/Megumi fan, check out this site: www dot mindspring dot com slash ~shrineoficeandfire
Also, I originally planned this to be a oneshot, but while I was writing it, I was suddenly inspired to further develop this piece… Urk, I think this is turning into a saga. I currently have a multi-chapter "prequel" of sorts in mind. We'll see. ^_^