Disclaimer: RK is not mine. RK is not mine. RK is not mine. (Damnit!)
Notes: This is my apology to Sou-chan for what I did to him in my parody, "All That Mattered." Ehehehehehhehee. Please don't take this too seriously. I sure didn't. :-P Timeline: Almost three years post-Jinchuu. Heehee.
(or, "The Revenge of Sou-chan." Ehehehhee.)
It all started, one fine spring morning, when a bedraggled Tenken showed up on the doorstep of the Aoiya, looking for a job.
Okashira Makimachi Misao took one look at him and screamed.
"You! It's you! What are you doing here? Get out! You-you-you murderer!" She may have only caught a short glimpse of him, and only once, but there was no way she could ever forget that idiotic smile.
The Tenken grinned at the Okashira stupidly. "Makimachi-san. You actually remember me?"
Before Misao could start tossing kunai at him, Okon and Omasu stepped out, alerted by the screaming.
"Oh, what an adorable kid!" squealed Omasu when she saw him.
"I know, isn't he?" squealed Okon in reply.
Misao rolled her eyes. "First of all, he's not a kid. (He's older than me, darn it!) He's the Tenken. The TENKEN. Remember him? Oh wait, you probably don't. But anyway, I thought you two were in love with Hiko-san?"
But Omasu and Okon had both already rushed over eagerly to get a closer look, and the only reply Misao got was a loud squeal of "Kawaiiiiiii-desu!!!!"
Misao sighed. She honestly didn't know what had gotten into the two older women. The Tenken was dangerous. Sure, Omasu and Okon were two rather dangerus ladies themselves, but she'd seen the Tenken fight. Well, only once, but still. He'd broken Himura's sakabatou, hadn't he? And then, if she was to believe Roosterhead Sano's story, the Tenken had almost beaten Himura later on Hiei-san. And Himura had beaten her beloved Aoshi-sama. Twice. So that meant the Tenken was very very very very dangerous. Describing such a brilliant killer as cute simply disturbed her. Quite frankly, Misao thought he looked like a girl.
... So fine, a rather cute girl.
Well, it really wasn't her problem. Well, maybe it was, considering that she was now Okashira. But management of the Aoiya was mainly Jiya and Aoshi-sama's responsibility, because she didn't like that kind of stuff. She'd never been much good with numbers. So anyway, she had full confidence that her beloved Aoshi-sama would recognize the danger and turn away the job-seeking Tenken.
"Tenken no Soujirou," she heard a deep voice state. Omasu and Okon immediately scuttled back inside to continue working. Misao blushed. Aoshi-sama was here! She felt a silly smile creeping onto her face, one that could rival even the Tenken's smile, but she didn't particularly care. Aoshi-sama was here! Aoshi-sama would save the day!
"What, may I ask, are you doing here?"
"Seta Soujirou," corrected the young man cheerily. "I'm not the Tenken anymore. I'm looking for a job, and I remembered from Shishio-san's information that Shinomori-san's people operated a restaurant in Kyoto. So I was wondering if you had any openings here..."
"Seta-kun," interrupted Aoshi calmly. "You know that is not what I meant."
The former Tenken looked at Aoshi bemusedly before his expression saddened slightly. It was a while before he replied.
"I..." said Soujirou hesitantly. "I have grown tired of wandering."
Aoshi stared at the former Tenken with an inscrutable look on his face. Misao held her breath. She hadn't really been paying attention to the conversation -- instead, she'd been staring intently at her dearest Aoshi-sama. Come on, just say it, she thought.
But at last Aoshi nodded and broke the silence. "Very well. Can you cook?"
"NANI?!?!?!" yelled Misao after a few seconds, stunned. "You can't be serious! This is the Tenken here, you know! I mean, I don't care if he says he's not anymore; he's still dangerous and NO WAY are we hiring someone like that creepy --"
"Misao." There was an exasperated undertone in Aoshi's voice, as if he were a parent dealing with his wayward child. Soujirou smiled hesitantly at the Okashira, sky blue eyes sparkling with a certain warmth.
"Fine!" Misao screamed, feeling tears coming to her own eyes. She would have screamed some more, but passersby on the street were beginning to shoot strange looks at her and she didn't want to disrupt business for the Aoiya. (See, she had matured.) Instead, she stormed off by herself to blow off some steam.
As she left, she heard squeals of "Kawaaaiiiiii-desu!!!" coming from inside the Aoiya.
For days, Misao tried to make life hell for Soujirou. They both worked in the kitchen, as Misao was hopelessly inept at serving customers both politely and gracefully. Well, the grace part she handled fine, usually, but she simply did not have the patience to put up with rude, equally impatient customers.
She forced Soujirou to clean and do the dishes while she helped Kuro and Shiro prepare the food, because, as it turned out, the former Tenken was a horrible cook. (How did he manage to survive, all this time? she wondered -- not that she cared.) Not to mention, Misao hated doing the dishes.
"Seta-kuuuun!" Misao yelled. The man/boy/girl turned and looked at her quizzically. "There's still a spot of wasabi here!" she informed him, even though the dish was spotless, and it was almost time for his lunch break.
But Soujirou merely smiled at her. (Ugh, not again!) "Hai!" he said cheerfully as he set about scrubbing.
She wasn't being fair, she knew. The guy didn't carry a sword anymore. He didn't even carry a kitchen knife with him, as far as she could tell, and having been trained as a ninja, she was pretty sure her senses were accurate. And he certainly seemed safe enough, what with all his moronic grinning. But still... it was no guarantee, and all she wanted was for him to get out of her sight.
She was getting desperate. You see, there wasn't much she could do to him, really, short of beating him up, but she suspected none of her fellow onmitsu would be particularly happy about that. Especially the two women. And Aoshi-sama, and no way was she going to disappoint him. Besides, no matter what she did, Misao suspected Soujirou would still have that idiotic smile plastered on his face.
"Sou-chaaaaan!" Misao heard a high pitched giggle and groaned.
"Sou-chan! You've been working so hard all morning! Aren't you hungry? Here, look, we brought you some lunch!"
Misao harrumphed and stalked off.
Summer had arrived, and the days were long and overwhelmingly hot.
Misao and the former Tenken were washing dishes.
"Ano... Misao-san?" Misao bristled at his usage of her first name, but otherwise ignored him.
"Ano... You're falling in love with me, aren't you?"
"NANI?!?!??!?!" Soujirou ducked the incoming kunai with ease, still smiling. Maybe the sweltering heat had affected what little of his brain was left (that is, if he'd even had a brain in the first place), but it certainly hadn't affected his reflexes.
"No way!!! What the hell are you talking about?! I'm in love with Aoshi-sama! Aoshi-sama is strong and handsome and brave and how could I ever fall in love with a creep like you anyway!"
Soujirou wondered if she even knew what love really was. He wasn't too sure himself, either, but from observing Shishio-san and Yumi-san and Kamatari-san and other various couples he had met during his journeys he was confident that he had a pretty good idea of what love was. Still, he couldn't be sure. Maybe he would ask Shinomori-san later.
If it were even possible, Soujirou's smile grew wider.
Misao sat by the river, sulking. Why oh why did Aoshi-sama hire that creep?!?!?!
She had to come up with a plan. A Plan.
"Hello! What are you doing here?"
She groaned. "Not you again."
"This is a nice place," commented Soujirou, looking around at the clear, rushing water and the rustling green trees. He plopped down beside her. Misao scooted away. For a few minutes, they sat there in complete silence, before Misao finally spoke up, her curiosity overpowering her distrust.
"Why do you even put up with me?" She knew the guy couldn't possibly be that dumb. Well, maybe he was, but surely no one actually enjoyed being bullied around?
"I like you. You remind me of Yumi-san."
Yumi...? Oh yes, she remembered now. Shishio's woman. The one with the creepy green lipstick. She wasn't sure whether she was supposed to take that as a compliment or an insult. At any rate, it looked like Soujirou wasn't going to leave anytime soon.
Misao sighed. She would just have to come up with The Plan some other time. Meanwhile, she would just relax and watch the stars in the black night sky. With the smiling creep.
"Ano... I think Misao-san is falling in love with me."
"... Is that all you wanted to tell me?"
"Ano... I guess so. Sorry for bothering you!"
Hiko Seijurou had come down from his mountain hideout for his monthly visit. (Mainly just to replenish his supply of sake.)
"Hiko-san! Hiko-saaaan! Look, isn't he sooooo cuuuuuuute?" Soujirou was being cuddled and pinched by two enthusiastic ninja women, and was sweatdropping rather heavily. Despite that, he was still smiling. Misao felt sorry for him. Sort of. Almost.
"Please, Hiko-san, you've gotta do something about this!" pleaded Misao in an undertone. She didn't like to beg for help, especially when it was from someone like Hiko, but Hiko was probably the only person who could actually do anything about the situation. "It's disgraceful! Seta-kun is -- er, was -- the Tenken! He's dangerous! And besides, they're about twice as old as him!"
"Hn. I suppose," said Hiko to no one in particular, eyeing the former Tenken. Hiko raised an eyebrow. He hadn't been this amused since... well, since his baka deshi had left.
"Of course, Hiko-san is waaaaay cooler though!"
"It's a pity the kid wasn't my student," he said, after Omasu and Okon had gone back into the kitchen with Soujirou. "He's much more talented than that baka deshi of mine."
"Hiko-saaan, you're no help at all!" wailed Misao. "Hey, wait a second. How can you tell? You've never even seen him fight before!"
Hiko merely smirked again. This whole thing was just altogether too amusing.
"Aoshi-sama, why did you have to hire him??? He says that I'm falling in love with him but I'm NOT cuz how could I fall in love with someone like him? And besides he's always smiling and it's really creepy and he looks like a girl and anyway I'm in love with you! I always have been and I always will be so there's no way I could fall for that creep!"
"..." Silence. Misao stood gasping for breath.
"... Aa. So desu."
"Pleeeaaaasseeee please please can you please fire him Aoshi-sama? Onegai?"
"... I'll... think about it."
"Oh thank you thank you thank you Aoshi-sama! I love you!"
Aoshi picked up a brush, dipped it into some ink, took out a sheet of paper and began writing.
- Shinomori Aoshi
They were sitting by the river again.
"What is it now?"
"You're just in denial, aren't you?"
For the rest of the day, Soujirou had a silly grin plastered on his face. (Sillier than usual, that is.) As well as a strange red mark on his cheek.
Ohohohoho! And just what kind of help do you need, may I ask?
- Takani Megumi
"Hoho! And who might this pretty young lady be?" Aoshi looked up and blinked.
"Jiya!!!!! He's not a girl!!!! (Though he does look like one...)"
Okina had been on a business trip, and had only just returned.
"Now, now, Misao-chan. Don't try to hide it from me, now. I know a girl when I see one. Especially a pretty one like her."
"So, what's your name, o-jousan?"
"Anooooo... Actually, I am a man, o-jisan..."
"Sure you are. Now what was your name again?"
Please. I'm desperate.
"I think Misao-san's in denial."
"... So desu."
"And just where do you think you're going, Aoshi?"
Aoshi looked up sheepishly. Okina wiggled his eyebrows at the former okashira, who just happened to be carrying a small, tidy traveling-pack. In the middle of the night.
"To Aizu. Just for a visit," admitted Aoshi at last.
"Aizu, eh? I never thought you were the type to just run off somewhere on a whim..."
"Actually, I have been planning to visit for a while."
"Oh? How long?"
"Two years, seven months, four weeks, five days, three hours and sixteen minutes."
Misao was at the river, crying. She had been there all day. Aoshi-sama hadn't even told her he was leaving. Sure, it was only for a short visit, but still. He could have brought her with him. She would have followed him, but then Jiya had refused to reveal Aoshi-sama's whereabouts. (Could it be that her Aoshi-sama had a secret lover wherever it was that he had gone?)
Sure she was naïve, but she wasn't so stupid that she didn't realize that maybe, just maybe, her beloved Aoshi-sama wasn't all that she had thought he was. It was something she probably should have realized three years ago, when he had finally returned to Kyoto after the whole Shishio mess. Even after Jinchuu. She felt like a moron. She understood, somewhere deep inside, that Aoshi-sama had left because he cared for her (just not the way she had wished), and he wanted her to realize that love wasn't as simple as she thought it was. As much as she disliked admitting it, Seta Soujirou had been right. She had been in denial.
That certainly didn't make her feel any better.
"Go away!" yelled Misao, turning around to punch the former Tenken. But her fist stopped in midair when she saw what Soujirou was holding out in his hand. A bouquet of wilting wildflowers.
"Oh, thanks," she said, feeling even stupider than before. (How can he keep smiling like that?) "Now can you go away? Please?"
Suddenly, the grin dropped from Soujirou's face. Misao was so taken by surprise that she could not react in time when Soujirou abruptly took her into his arms and kissed her.
Soujirou wasn't really quite sure how this whole kissing business was supposed to work. But using Shishio-san and Yumi-san as an example, he was pretty confident that this was how one was supposed to do it.
When Misao finally got her wits back, she broke off the kiss. She could feel her face burning red. "Now. What. on. earth. was. THAT. for?!?!?!"
Soujirou winked at her cheekily, smile returning to his face. "See, I told you you were falling in love with me!"
In the hazy golden light of the fading afternoon, they watched the butterflies dancing above the lazy blue river.
I'm currently cold, hungry, tired, and cranky. How on earth did I come up with this? (Must get sleep... must get sleep...)
What is it with me and the Aoiya and former villains? (First Enishi, now Soujirou...) And when will I ever give Misao the credit she deserves and actually write something serious for her? :-P