AN: So sorry for the long wait, you guys! Just wanted to say that the matter with Yammy has been cleared up and it's all fine now. I learnt a few things from her, though, and I would like to apologize for my story if it's a little too shoddily done…I shall put a lot more effort in my work now! Thanks to all of you who patiently waited for the newest chapter to come out! LOL, I'd been a little discouraged at first, but then I promised you guys that I'd get this done, so here it is!
"Why does a man do what he mustn't? For her. To be hers. To be the kind of man who would nev— to be a kind of man. She shall look on him with forgiveness, and everybody will forgive and love. He will be loved." –Spike, Buffy The Vampire Slayer
"Jarenna." Tokio said softly as she sat down beside her sister, who was staring out blankly into space, barely acknowledging her presence. She supposed it was a good thing; she didn't know what to say.
What do you say to someone who tried to kill your father? Especially if she's your sister?
Takagi Kojuurou was dead; Okita had killed him, and it was not much of a guess as to why he did it. But still, she felt disturbed. Sure, she had never liked him, but he was still her father, after all. Aside from the beatings, he largely ignored her. But he had been the one who gave her life and maintained it.
She hated him for what he'd done, but he was still her father. And the fact that her sister had seriously wanted to kill him did not sit too well with her. And now that he's dead…he was a right bastard, what with all the horrible things he'd done, but he had never once committed anything heinous against her.
She caught herself, wondering at the thoughts that now crossed her mind. Hadn't she wanted him dead for a long time? And now that he was finally killed—kami knows he deserved that one—she felt strangely conflicted. I suppose the phrase 'The dead can do no wrong' rings true.
It was disturbing, but it was how she felt. She watched her silent sister for a long moment, a pang of sadness crossing her heart. What was she feeling now? This was her twin, her other half, but not for the first time, she felt every inch of the distance that separated them. She would never understand what Jarenna had gone through, but she was trying. Kami she was trying, and somehow…it was like trying to hold water; it slipped through her fingers everytime.
"Is Okita-san still inside?"
Tokio jumped at her sudden words, realizing that the thoughts that had been foremost in her twin's mind were about Okita-san. How can two people love each other so deeply and yet be separated by a memory? She wondered. It was the ugly truth about reality; there were so such things as fairy tales, there was no such thing as a perfect love. Love hurt, oh did it hurt. Just look at her twin and Okita-san.
"Yes, he is." She responded. "But there's been no shouting from Hijikata-san so far." Another thing that unsettled her. She wasn't too sure about Shinsengumi rules, but there definitely was a punishment for disobeying your superior, right?
Jarenna's brows knitted, clenching her fists.
Tokio touched her shoulder gently. "He'll be all right, Jarenna."
She pulled back from her sister's touch, suddenly not wanting to be anywhere near her. "He didn't want me to kill him." She said softly, so softly that her sister had to strain to hear it. "And he did it, even though he shouldn't."
She closed her eyes, trying not to let the tears spill out. "And now he's being punished."
"He didn't want you to be a killer," Tokio responded, unable to keep from letting her anger show. "I didn't want you to do it either!"
She didn't open her eyes. Please, just go away, Tokio. "I'm sorry."
"Of course you should be. Have you ever tried talking to anyone? To me? It hurts that you cut yourself away from the people who would only love you, from Okita-san, from me. Do you know how much it hurts that you never even thought about me when you were furious?"
Jarenna couldn't look at her. She was right, of course. The years had been hard on her, and she'd been accustomed to doing things by herself.
"You can't bear to look at me now, can you?" She went on, spilling the thoughts that had been brewing in her for so long. "You can't look at me and not think, what if things were different? What if I had not been the one who had been sent away? What if I was the one who had a real home? You can't look at me now, can you? Because I have your face, but I never had your pain."
Jarenna stared at her in horror. "Tokio, no! I don't—"
She laughed bitterly. "Liar. And I don't blame you. You're not perfect. We all have our stories, we all have our own pain. But I'm your sister. You never once remembered that you had a sister who loved you, did you? You were so deep in yesterday that you forgot about today."
Before Jarenna could say anything, Tokio stood up and walked away, leaving the other girl to stare after her, stunned. She wanted to call her back, to explain everything as best as she knew how, but she simply sat there.
She hated lying to the ones she loved.
"I am ready to accept any punishment you mete out, Hijikata-san." Okita's voice was uncharacteristically calm, and there was nothing merry about the tensai swordsman now.
Hijikata glared at Okita, who was knelt in front of him, head lowered, as was the common practice of someone who had gone against the rules. While it was true that the raid on the inn was a success, the loss of Takagi Kojuurou annoyed him.
What annoyed him more was that Souji had gone against his orders.
It was impossible; he knew that it was impossible—Souji had never disobeyed him before, not for anything—but it happened. And it was all because of one girl.
He felt a giant headache coming on; a large part of him told him that he should see this coming, considering he'd sent Okita after his lover's enemy, and Okita being Okita…he should have known better than to assign this to him, especially since he had had a personal interest in this.
This was all his fault. He was getting soft, first with letting Ichimura off for that fiasco a good few months ago after he stupidly wrecked Yamazaki's spying duties, and now he'd sent the wrong person to do the job. This was hardly punishable by seppuku, but the fact remained that thanks to Yukijurou, his plans for Kojuurou were now foiled. He suppressed a growl, she was a bad influence on Souji, that wench.
True, the young man had seemed more comfortable with himself and settled since he'd met her, but really. One headstrong captain who always had his way—Hijikata could never deny Souji anything—was enough, and now the girl had to join in, too. And not to forget that younger Ichimura who kept serving him tea that tasted like pig droppings. Kami they were all trying to drive him to an early grave.
Well, at least the one good thing that came out of all of this was that there were seventeen less Choshu men to worry about.
"Four days in isolation for you, Souji." He replied gruffly. It was an acceptable punishment for disobedience, and since it was not considered a personal fight, seppuku had definitely been out of the question. But he could not let this slight go; he had to be punished in one way or another.
Okita simply nodded. "Hai."
The Vice-Commander's tone softened ever-so-slightly as he bowed and stood up to leave. "You've changed, Souji."
The First Squad Captain smiled faintly. "You noticed too, Hijikata-san?"
He shook his head in resignation. "You have poor taste in women. That wench is too much like you."
"Headstrong, unpredictable. It's giving me a headache. You'd better learn how to control her."
"Don't worry, Hijikata-san," He reassured the older man, a bit of his old humor restored. "It'll be all right now."
He stared darkly at his protégé, his eyes unreadable. "Will it, now?"
He saw her sitting on a stone chair, her hands clasped tightly in her lap, her face downcast. She had not looked any happier, but at least she wasn't crying.
"Jarenna?" he called softly.
Her head whipped up so fast he was surprised that she didn't get whiplash. "Okita-san?"
He smiled at her and made his way to where she was. "Why are you still sitting here? You should go and freshen up. It's been hard for you."
"I wanted to know if you were…I mean…" she trailed off, unable to finish her sentence. The guilt gnawed at her once again. Why couldn't she ever do things right? It seemed like everything she did hurt someone one way or another. She was tired of it. It had not been her idea at all to involve him in this matter, but now…
He nodded. "I'm fine, Jarenna. Hijikata-san punished me to four days of solitary confinement."
"Solitary confinement?" It was as good as being imprisoned for four days. She knew that it was a big disgrace for him, and was all the more ashamed. "Okita-san, I am so sorry—"
"Don't tell me you're sorry, Jarenna." He cut her off before she could finish. "I don't want to hear it from you."
She stopped, stunned at his sudden tone.
He was serious now. "It was my choice. If I had to do it again, I would."
"If I knew you were going to do it again, I would never have let you." She said quietly.
Okita looked at her for a long moment, saying nothing. What could he say? This was something that time would heal. Now that her bastard father was gone, Jarenna could finally move on. "Well," he said with a cheer he definitely did not feel. "I have to get going now; can't spend the whole day out here, can I?"
She made no response; her head was bowed slightly. It was almost as if she was too ashamed to face him.
He continued. "I'll see you in four days, Jarenna." Maybe by then you'll be smiling.
She looked as if she was in a daze before she finally nodded. "Of course." She looked like she had wanted to apologize once again, but stopped herself just in time.
She watched as he left, then looked down at the ground as she wrapped her arms around herself in a bid to keep the chill away. The days were definitely getting much colder.
She coughed, then decided to head into her room. No one wanted her around here now, anyway, and maybe it would be better if she disappeared from sight for a while.
She was so very, very cold.
"Junko-san wanted you to have your dinner." Kimiko said curtly four days later as she slid open the shoji door and lay down the food on the table for her. She had been relieved that Okita-sama had only had four days of isolation as punishment and was due out in an hour or two, but that in itself was short-lived. She was much more angry at the cause of his punishment. She knew what had happened, and she supposed she could understand why it happened, but the heart and mind were two different things; most of the time neither listened to the other.
To her, the man she loved with all her heart was punished and was clearly suffering. She suffered along with him, knowing that there was nothing much that she could do, and hating that fact all the more.
Why Jarenna? It had been her constant thought ever since they got involved. True, ever since they were involved with each other, Okita-sama had been…happier, but he had been sadder at the same time, too. Much, much sadder.
She was a bad influence on him.
Love, Kimiko knew, should not keep hurting the ones who were in it. True, she'd hurt people to try to get close to Okita-sama, but she would rather die than hurt him. Wasn't that what love was all about?
The other girl looked up from where she was staring at a weathered book. "Thank you, Kimiko-san."
Kimiko noticed the dark rings under Jarenna's eyes, and registered the fact that she, too, was in a bad shape. If Jarenna had not been the one who had put Okita-sama through hell, Kimiko would've sympathized, but her heart was now too full of Okita-sama and how he was coping with his punishment to care too much about Jarenna.
"Is…Tokio around?" Jarenna asked softly.
"She had to speak with the Daimyo of Aizu." Kimiko responded bluntly. "That fiasco with your father gave her a lot of mess to clean up. Apparently, her engagement to Saitou-sama is being questioned."
She flinched at that, but said nothing. Even though her father had been in league with the Choshu rebels, he had nevertheless been an important man, and someone whom Matsudaira Katamori favored. Of course, his betrayal would come out sooner or later, but the fact that his daughter had been on a mission to kill him sent ripples of disapproval throughout the faction. Women were not supposed to behave like her, not even the ones with her circumstances.
Kimiko stared hard at her. Aren't you going to say anything? Was she just going to sit there like a rock and do nothing? For the thousandth time, she wondered what Okita-sama saw in her. Sure, she was nice and everything, but there was just…something about her that was kind of wrong. Whoever in their right minds went after their fathers first thing in the morning? Okay, so maybe Takagi Kojuurou was the farthest thing from a good person, but still.
She glanced around the sparsely decorated room. It was plainer than usual, the only thing being the small bag on the floor…wait. Bag?
"What's that?" Kimiko asked. Come to think of it, there was a folded piece of paper on the table. Was she planning to leave?
"I'm going to leave, Kimiko-san. Hijikata-sama approved it yesterday. Once I see Okita-san again, I'm going to go."
She laughed, a bitter, pained sound. "Why do you think? I think I've caused everyone enough grief." She looked over at the bag she'd packed a few minutes ago, at what little belongings she had. "Maybe if I leave, it'll all be better."
Kimiko watched her. Jarenna was right; if she left, maybe Okita-sama would be better off. At least they'd be spared the soap-opera like happenings that were going on now, and Okita-sama could properly concentrate on his patrolling and everything.
"Maybe it will," she agreed. Then she took a deep breath and spoke. "Love isn't supposed to hurt, you know. And the way you keep hurting Okita-sama…he deserves better." This was not said out of spite this time; she was being honest. She never knew that there would be a day when she would say this to Jarenna, of all people.
"I know." She paused for a long moment, her eyes haunted and hollow. She'd initially thought that things would be much better after she killed Kojuurou, but why did it seem like she'd just lost the entire world? Had she been wrong? "Please, take care of Okita-san when I leave. He's been coughing a lot lately."
"I will. Where will you go?"
"I don't know."
The white radish that she'd eaten earlier lay heavily in her stomach as Jarenna slid the door to her room shut. It was getting to be very late; she would have to put up at an inn in the city before she looked for another job tomorrow. She had some savings, after all. She stood at the door for a moment. She was never going to come back here, and already she was beginning to miss everything about this place. But how could she stay, when all she did was causing trouble to everybody?
Of all the things I
I just wanna get it over with
Tears warm behind my eyes, but I do not cry
Counting the days that pass me by…
I'm sorry, Tokio. She thought sadly. For everything.She had not been a good sister, and she regretted it deeply. If there had anything she had been able to change, if…
So many 'ifs'. There's so many scenarios of what could have been…
As of now, Okita's punishment was already over, but she was not going to see him. It would make saying goodbye all the more difficult. She only hoped that he had received the letter she'd sent him through Kimiko. Maybe he was reading it now, and if so, she was sure that he would forget all about her. It would be a good thing, maybe then he and Kimiko could get involved, just like what it should have been before she came along.
She sighed and rubbed at her eyes. She was just so tired of everything, and it was time to try to make things right. She turned to leave, and stopped when she saw Okita standing in the yard watching her, the letter in his hand. The look on his face was entirely alien to her, and she wondered what he would do.
No, she thought sharply. Do what you have to do. Just keep walking. Don't look back. Don't listen.
Hefting her bag onto her shoulder, she stepped from the engawa and started to walk past him. Briefly, she wondered if he could hear her heart thundering in her chest and feel her tension.
I've been searchin'
deep down in my soul
Words that I'm hearin' are starting to get old
Feels like I'm starting all over again…
"You're really going to leave, aren't you?" he asked quietly as she walked past him, deliberately keeping a distance between them.
Don't answer. Don't—her thoughts were cut off as she felt his hand catch onto hers, stopping her movement. His grip was tight, but not uncomfortably so. This was so unlike him, she realized. The normal Okita Souji, the one who laughed and played around and loved sweets was gone, leaving a darkly intense and mysterious one—the side of him she hardly ever saw—in its wake. Which one then, was his true face? But then again, it didn't matter now, did it?
"You already know what I'm going to say."
"Look at me."
She fumbled for an answer. What could she say to that? "I-I have to leave, Okita-san. It's getting late."
"Tell me why."
"Didn't you read the letter?"
"Do you expect me to believe what you wrote? Jarenna, this isn't—"
"Then why won't you look at me and say it?"
I used to get lost in
And it seems that I can't live a day without you
Closin' my eyes, you chase my thoughts away
To a place where I am blinded by the light
But it's not right
Goodbye to you…
"Kimiko can give you what I can't, Okita-san. Please. It's not going to work out, not now, not ever. I owe you too much. You've saved me time and again, and this time, what you've done…it's all too much." She gazed at him then, and he could see the tears shimmering in her eyes. But it was not what had hurt him the most. What really did was the look of finality he saw there. "Go to Kimiko-san, she will give you what I can't afford to give."
"Kimiko cannot give me you, Jarenna."
She stared at him for a long, long moment. The look in his eyes was so pained, and she longed to reach out, to kiss him one last time. But she knew that if she did, she would never be able to leave. I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry…
It seemed like it was all she'd been able to say lately.
And it hurts to want
Everything and nothing at the same time
I want what's yours and I
Want what's mine
"I…I can't, either." What was left of her was never going to be enough for anyone, much less him. She would never be good enough for him. "I'm sorry. Please, let me go."
He was silent, but his grip loosened enough for her to extricate herself. It hurt to know that she would never be able to touch him again, to tell him the words she'd longed to tell him but had never gotten the courage to say.
I want you
But I'm not giving in this time
Goodbye to you
Wrapping her scarf around her neck, she took a deep breath and walked away. she never knew that it would hurt this much just to say goodbye, and regretted not leaving sooner. She never wanted to hurt him; it was altogether too much like hurting herself, but there was no choice. He had to forget her; it would be better for everyone in the long run. Kimiko would get what she wanted, and she could just disappear. This way was better, wasn't it?
Goodbye to everything
That I knew
You were the one I loved
The one thing that I tried..
…to hold on to…
Despite her promise to never cry, she felt warm tears slide down her cheeks as she made her way out of the Shinsengumi gates and his heart.
Okita stared after her, unable to believe what he was seeing. He never knew that it would hurt quite so much just to see her go. Just when he thought that they could finally be together, she had to leave him. After all he'd done, he still had to watch her leave. Was this Fate's way of telling him that no matter how hard he tried, there would never be anyone for him? Was it his punishment for taking so many lives?
Crumpling the letter in his hand, he finally opened his mouth, which had already gone dry. He had to ask this question before he never saw her again. He had to know. "Jarenna, have you ever loved me?"
He saw her stop. She never turned around, but the next word he heard was clear and strong.
You were the one I loved…
It was on this cold winter's night that Okita Souji's heart broke for the first time in a long, long while.
She never looked back, and he never saw her tears.
The one thing that I tried to hold on to….
AN: Personally, I kind of don't think Jarenna is a Mary-Sue. I might be wrong, of course, but still. She doesn't handle important things very well, as you can see from the chapter, and she's pretty much a coward where matters of the heart are concerned. Her basic defense mechanism is to run away, which annoys even me on occasion…
Now, onto the reviewer replies! Thanks go to all my 'regulars' and those who put in kind words for me. It was very much appreciated!
Night-Owl123: I hope you liked this story!
Random Reader: Hey, I thank you for your kind words on my story and for the review after that. I'm fine now, LOL, and thanks once again for your concern; it was really appreciated. It's pretty much all right, because I think I deserved that, anyway. The matter is pretty much resolved now, and I guess I'm back on track and still writing! It'll be better, though. Promise. I hope you liked this chapter as much as you did the previous ones!
Jade-eyed neko: Hello there! There isn't any Kimiko and Susumu here, but I promise there will be them in the next chapter!
MysticIncaHello! LOL, thanks for your kind compliments. Argh…it's that complicated? I didn't know that! Of course, I pretty much don't know a lot of things, but still…I loved the pictures that you and your sister drew for me, really! Which means that I officially owe you guys one; feel free to use that favor! LOL, I'll be happy to help you with anything!
Hikage Onna: Ooooooooooooooooh! Okita stickers:GLOMP: Do you know how much I'm loving you right about now! LOL. I hope this chapter didn't disappoint you too much…I promise that it'll get better! Besides, I'm itching to smack Jarenna upside the head, anyway.
Ione-girl: Hello, helloooooo! Teeheehee, I'm happy that you like my story! Of course, when are you going to ask me to help with your story? I'm waiting….:taps foot: LOL.
Night Imp: Yep! Eighteen…kind of old, huh? I feel so positively ancient… :hobbles away: Grr-argh… Well! I hope this chapter isn't too much of a disappointment for you…
AikohI don't know if she actually has it in her to kill people, but then again she was not in her right frame of mind, so maybe she might have…It's kind of like floundering in the dark wondering how exactly, Okita Souji reacts when he loves someone, but I hope that it isn't TOO ooc…Loving someone is pretty much always the shortest route to misery, but I guess the ensuing sweetness will make up for everything… :wink:
Amasaki Reyoko: Thanks!
Weapon of Choice: Heyya! Thanks for your kind compliments, LOL, I'll still continue this story, 'cause I owe you guys this much! Besides, I love PMK too much to let it go… P.S. PMK Saitou is hot.
ElinvielHello! Yup! I emailed her and it turns out that I've still got a lot, a lot more to learn! Thanks for your kind pointers, though, I would definitely keep it in mind. Don't worry, I will definitely improve on this. I hope you enjoyed this chapter, though.