Hi all! I have decided to write an Okita story 'cause damn, there are so little out there! Well, this is my first time writing something like this, and please excuse me if there are huge historical discrepancies and stuff, and what the hell, WHO wants Okita to die?! Please read and review, thanks!
And the name Yukijorou here means 'Snow Angel', or 'Snow Fairy', whichever rocks your boat. The title, incidentally, also means Snow Angel.
She was back in hell, and she knew it.
The smell of blood and filth pervaded her senses, choking her lungs, as she huddled deeper into the little corner she had come to think of as her sanctuary. Her only safe place where those monsters would not get her. She had been here before, many, many times, and every single time it held that same horror for her.
There was a sudden crack of a whip, and fire erupted down her back. They had found her! "Come, you little rodent. You cannot run from us, haven't you realized?"
They were around her now, shoving and whipping as if she was nothing more than cattle. For six years she had been subjected to torture like this, where basic human rights were denied her, and yet…
She opened her mouth to scream, but the smell of blood, strong and coppery, stopped her throat.
A flash of steel, screams, and heads fell, their lifeless eyes boring through her as their mouths hung open in a macabre show of unnatural death.
Then it was raining. Warm, sticky droplets stuck to her ragged clothes and face, and belatedly, in the haze of her terror, she realized that it was blood.
Yukijorou Jarennna sat up from a futon, a horrified gasp escaping her lips. As she regarded her darkened surroundings with wild, wide eyes, she was convinced, for a moment, that she was back in that hellhole, but the softness of the futon and her awakening senses jarred her back to reality.
She was safe now, had been safe for more than half a year, all thanks to the Shinsengumi First Squad Captain, who had been the one who had saved her from the monsters and had taken her back to the headquarters, where a few women had taken care of her. As soon as she had recovered her senses from the trauma, she had volunteered to work in the kitchens and as a Healer, providing and cleaning for the Miburos. It was tough, but she had latched onto it with an almost desperate eagerness, catching onto that reality lest it slipped away from her once more and those monsters came to claim her again.
When will I ever forget?She wondered hopelessly. When will I ever stop fearing? Her fists, tightly clenched, loosened and covered her face as once again, she wept. Long and lonely.
"Yukijorou-san! Is breakfast ready?" Himitsu Junko, a maid who neared her fifties poked her head into the kitchen and asked. She had a wide and friendly face, but was strict when it came to doing work.
Jarenna hurriedly put the last bowl on the trays. "Hai, hai!" The last couple of trays had been taken out by Kimiko, who had been running in and out like a spirited squirrel afterward, getting more bowls of rice or steaming miso.
Struggling slightly with the heavy trays--more food was cooked because of the entry of the new recruits, hence the especially busy morning--she stepped through the door that Junko was holding open, giving the older woman a small smile of gratitude. She hadn't really mastered up the courage to really talk to her yet, even though Junko had tried to get her to reveal more about herself on many occasions. She just wasn't up for it yet. She would, when she was ready.
The last vestiges of the nightmare faded away as she walked briskly into the dining area. The noise level was high, and she saw many unfamiliar faces amongst vaguely familiar ones. Most of them were young and eager, chatting and laughing amongst themselves. Making her way through the sea of blue haoris, she finally located the tables she was supposed to serve, trying to ignore the sudden drop in the noise level as chatters turned to barely concealed whispers.
"Whoa, if they came this young and pretty I woulda joined sooner!"
"Who is she?"
She absently noted that most of the comments came from the new recruits and the occasional old ones, but dismissed that immediately. They would get used to her.
She set the trays down at the long table and handed out the food, wishing the soldiers a quiet 'Enjoy your meal' as she went down the line. Finally, she reached the one person she had been eager to see all morning.
Soft chocolate brown pools met with her own as she set his tray in front of him. He was smiling, as always, a gentle smile that never failed to make her heart skip a beat. He was always the gentle, cheery one, although she had seen his dark, killer side a little more than seven months ago.
He was her savior, the one who had delivered her from the jaws of madness, and she had to thank him for that.
A tiny jolt of excitement trickled down her spine as their fingers brushed against each other's accidentally, and once again, she wondered why someone like that could affect her so.
"Had a good night's rest, Yukijorou-san?" his voice was a mix of lingering childlike huskiness that was incredibly alluring, and coupled with his boyish looks and a deadlier, more dangerous side, he was someone who had every woman of all ages falling head over heels for him. Herself not excluded.
She nodded slightly, even though it was far from the truth. It wasn't like she could pour her entire life story to him or something, could she? "Hai, Okita-sama."
He had asked this question every day without fail, and she would give the same answer. It was routine, but the other maids would constantly tease her about it, as Okita had never spoken as much as four words to any of them.
Once again, she felt her cheeks warm, and bowed to excuse herself as she headed straight towards the kitchen. There was a lot of laundry waiting to be cleaned.
"Hey, Okita, I didn't know you'd taken a fancy to her!" Harada Sanosuke chuckled across the table from him as soon as the girl was out of earshot. Garrulous with an explosive temper to match, the rooster-headed Tenth Squad Captain winked at his friend as he polished off his rice.
"I did not take a fancy to her, Harada-san," Okita replied patiently after taking his first bite of food. Ever since Yukijorou-san had worked in the kitchens, the food was significantly better-tasting. Even Hijikata-sama, a person who normally ate very little, began taking second helpings. He sighed, why was he bothering with a conversation that had been repeated every single day? "I was just being polite."
"I don't see you 'being polite' to any of the other maids," came the breezy reply. "Come on, admit it. She's really beautiful, isn't she? When are you going to ask her out?"
Okita laughed lightly. "I'm not going to ask her out. We are fighting a war here. It's not the time for romances."
"Ah now, that's a lie. When are you going to stop using that excuse, Okita? Even Saito's seeing Takagi Tokio right now." He snorted. "No time for romances. Che." Harada's constant womanizing was an open secret, but no one really minded as long as it did not affect his duties. In fact, the man was right, besides the occasional Ishin skirmishes and the patrolling, there was nothing much else to do besides training and…well, training.
And after all, Okita Soushi was a man. He wasn't so blind as not to notice how much Yukijorou Jarenna had grown into herself the past few months. She had been nothing more than a filthy slave when he had rescued her, and honestly, he had no idea that she would be that pretty when she cleaned up. Of course, that wasn't the deciding point in capturing his attention. There was just something about her that caught him. Her depthless eyes, the secrets she held, and the hidden face that was reined tightly within her. A spark that hinted that she was capable of incredible passion, and a part of him wanted to see how much.
Almost instinctively, he glanced towards the kitchen door, and for an irrational moment he wanted to see her again, just another glimpse…when the door did not open, he turned back to his food.
Exhausted, Jarenna wiped a hand across her damp forehead as she finished hanging up the last article of clothing, making sure that the clothes were on their respective hangers. It had taken her awhile to remember which haori belonged to whom in the beginning, but now she only needed to glance at the different, insignificant markings she had made on the bottom hem to make things much easier for her.
The hem of her plain yukata was soaked through from the water, but she hardly minded. Kimiko, who was very quickly becoming her good friend, had been doing the laundry with her too, and had livened everything up with her vivacious chatter. It was difficult to be moody whenever she was around, Jarenna had learned, and despite herself, had enjoyed the other girl's company immensely. They talked about everything, the sky, the warriors, the birds in summer, Kimiko's huge family, everything…she didn't seem to mind the fact that Jarenna had skirted around most of the questions pertaining to her family and her past, and for that Jarenna was grateful. She did not want to talk about her past. It was just too traumatizing.
"Finally, we're done." She said as the two of them picked up their laundry tubs and headed inside. The sun hung high in the sky, glaring down at all of them, but nonetheless, it was a wonderful afternoon.
"Yep!" Kimiko said jovially as she bounced along beside her. "It's a beautiful day out, Jarenna-san. Shall we go do something special?"
Jarenna smiled slightly at the younger girl. "Have you finished everything yet? Junko-san will get mad if you go out without finishing your chores."
"Of course! Now come on, I'll show you this new stall in town. They're selling the best accessories around, you'll love it!"
Kyoto, even in the midst of civil battles, still maintained it colorful façade. Shops still opened as per usual, people still did their shopping and walked around. It was only in the cover of the night that the killings happened. Jarenna followed Kimiko at a more sedate pace as she bounced along merrily, acting very much like a child would in a candy store.
Jarenna couldn't help but grin at her behavior, and briefly wonder HOW is it that Kimiko managed to run along without tripping over the hemline of her kimono. They had taken the time to change their clothes, Kimiko in a pretty yellow kimono, and Jarenna in a simple lavender one she had bought a few weeks ago.
"Hurry up, Jarenna-san!" Kimiko laughed gaily, stopping to buy a bag of colorful sweets and offering them to her.
"What's the hurry, Kimiko-san? We have a whole day ahead of us!" She laughed lightly, very much amused as she quickened her pace.
"Half, actually. Now come on. You walk like such a LADY, Jarenna-san, it's not healthy!"
"Hai, hai!" Keeping her eyes peeled for any stall that sold blank books--she had finished her last couple of books, filled with the poems and short stories she'd written down when she had felt particularly afraid. Writing had a sense of security for her, and it had always comforted her to know that there was another larger world out there, a world where anything was possible.
Then Kimiko caught sight of a stall just in front, full of glittering, shining ornaments. A couple of women milled around the stall, and one was busy bargaining with the stallholder. Jarenna watched the exchange with barely concealed delight as the middle-aged woman tried to cut it down to half price.
"I say, it's not possible, ma'am! It's either that or you don't buy it at all!"
Obviously they had been going on for some time now. Kimiko tugged at her and pointed to a delicate looking butterfly kanzashi that lay in the middle of everything.
It was a really pretty thing. The gossamer butterfly wings shimmered in the sunlight, and fluttered gently when she picked it up. The stick itself was gilded with what looked like tiny precious stones that shone brightly, and for it's eyes, a beautiful amethyst color.
"Wow," Kimiko said, goggle-eyed.
"It's beautiful," Jarenna agreed, staring at it. It was simply exquisite, and it wasn't too heavy or light, feeling just nice in her hand.
"Try it, then!" the younger girl urged eagerly, and Jarenna complied, sweeping up her ebony hair and placing it carefully through. Kimiko studied her for a moment, liking what she saw. "Wow, Jarenna-san. It looks fabulous on you!"
The stallholder, who had kept the money the grumbling woman had given him, shot her a cordial smile. "So you've got your eye on this, miss? It's a one of a kind piece, you can't find it anywhere else!"
Jarenna smiled sadly and shook her head. "I'm afraid I cannot afford this, sir." She moved to remove it from her hair, but the stallholder immediately shook his head.
"No, no! It'll be a sin for you not to wear it," he laughed. "Give me whatever you can afford, miss. Whatever you can afford."
"I can't believe he sold it to you for only 3 sen!" Kimiko said incredulously as they went on their way, with Jarenna looking very much like a real lady now and liking it. At least she had something beautiful to hold her hair up with. The day was uncomfortably warm, and she didn't like wearing her hair loose. "Gosh, you must have some kind of special power or something! Did you see the way he argued with that lady earlier for over a couple of sen?"
"Maybe he knows she could afford it," Jarenna offered. "She was dressed in a beautiful kimono, after all."
"Or maybe he found you simply irresistible," Kimiko giggled.
"He's more likely to find you irresistible, Kimiko-san," Jarenna smiled. In her opinion, the younger girl was the prettier one out of the two of them, and besides, with her genki disposition, who wouldn't like her? They stopped in front of a small teahouse. "Shall we have tea? I heard that the delicacies this place serves are wonderful."
Okita blinked and looked again, despite himself. The crowd was making way for his group; they were on their usual patrol and had gotten news that an Ishin meeting was going on a good few streets away. They were just about making their way there when he noticed a vaguely familiar form cross the street a good few meters away from him.
If he wasn't wrong, it was Jarenna.
In a kimono.
Looking no less than a noblewoman.
She even walked like one
He blinked again. It was her, all right, although he almost couldn't recognize her from the lavender coloured kimono she was wearing. Briefly, his mind ran through all the possible noble families she could have come from, but none of them matched the name Yukijorou.
Maybe her family had been far away from here. He had asked where she came from once, but she couldn't answer, having been abducted from her family when she had been a child. He had never asked since then.
"Taichou?" Came a single, inquiring voice that broke through his thoughts. Okita glanced back, and realized that he'd unwittingly stopped in his tracks.
Shaking his head slightly for being such an idiot, he picked up his steps again and banished thoughts of the servant girl to the very back of his mind. He had a job to do here.