Disclaimer:You should know. I feel no need to say more.
Warning: Whoever died in this fanfiction was dead already before the manga or anime (not counting the OVA) began the tale. I don't want to hear any complaints about it. I didn't have anything to do with anyone dying in this one. This is not an AU, this is a continuation of the Manga, not the anime and the fun whacky-world of a trip that it created. I've already gone down that road before. I've decided that tragedy and cynicism overloaded my emotional taste buds, so here's a much more cheerful fic... um... well, it ends well. So now you know. It's not one of those "everyone dies in the end" ones. I'm so over that phase. (At least, that's what I keep telling myself at night.) So, enjoy! Be merry! And I'll go back to being socially inept and grouchy ]=)
-- Da B-Jeanie
A Few Forgotten Petals
by Blue Jeans
In the morning light,
a few petals escaped
from the blossom
and the tree,
only the faint scent
of what once was whole.
If you were to look at a tree in May, you would see the blossoms ripen and bloom. The air will be filled with the sweet smell of flowers. Soon, the petals will fall, one by one. It is a nostalgic and sad vision to behold, one that will bring tears even to a samurai warrior's eyes and overwhelm him with emotion. It is a vision that has inspired poetry and song that has been reenacted in dance and music, a vision of remembrance and awe. And yet, tonight, all the blossoms have withered, and all the petals have fallen, each crushed by the passing of men and beasts alike. There is only the memory of their presence lingering faintly in the air, in the end that is how it always is like. Soon, summer will wipe away the last of the spring flowers with its scorching heat, and then, one more season of spring would be over. One more season of spring would be forgotten.
Tonight is the beginning of such a night, the beginning of the end of dreams. The fireflies flutter about the green-leafed trees like blossoms floating and falling. Their lights so briefly shining and yet, so suddenly gone.
Spark. Spark. Spark.
That is the pattern of the firefly. The season where they appear but briefly has arrived. As a child, I had waded into the long marsh lands of grass and mud and water, hoping to capture them so to light the gardens Mother kept. At that time, she had been smiling so sadly as she waited, as she had always waited. I had not known then what she had been waiting for, and as an adult, I can only speculate. Still, the lights of the fireflies made her smile, a sad and rueful smile, but a smile nonetheless. I had not known until later that she must have been remembering something or someone when she had been watching those insects float in the yard like small spirits that Kami Sama sends down to comfort the living with reminders of the dead.
Little lanterns, she would call them. Small spirits carrying the light as reminders of things forgotten, of dreams ending abruptly as a new chapter opens. And tonight, I was thinking of such things of the past as well. I was thinking of the laugh lines slowly showing like crow feet in the corners of his eyes. Before, everyone kept saying, "He is so cheerful and polite," and "He's good with the children because he can laugh with them so freely," but I knew differently. Father had lines under his eyes and on his forehead, he frowned a lot in his years and probably lost a lot of sleep over the people he cared about. Father was a serious man and troubled by life, he thought much and in turn, frowned much. He had not many lines in the corners of his eyes because he smiled very little and laughed even less. After Mother died, there had been a great silence echoing throughout the dojo, before the students he had taught arrived and he began to change himself little by little. Still, even with the students to fill the dojo with the sounds of running feet and laughter, there was a constant silence around Father.
He bore his pain filled thoughts silently, only crying when he thought no one could hear him and no one could see him. Father was a very sad and troubled man, as he must have once been. No, Himura Kenshin is such a man like Father on the inside. He just hides it much better than anyone else did. I know because when I had met him he had no lines on his face to mark happiness or sadness. He was a man who had buried everything deep within himself, and when it comes to happiness, no man can hide such treasured moments from his face.
Before Kenshin had come into my life and before Father left, I was a very prideful individual. I carried on as if I was independent and didn't need anyone because that was what I believed in. I thought, as I continued to strive to be as good as Father in the way of the warrior, that I really didn't need anyone after all. I wanted to prove to the town, to everyone, no, to myself especially, that I could handle the responsibilities of the dojo next to Father, and one day, replacing him. When Father had died so suddenly, the hope within me had died as well. Father took with him a life's dream, one that vanished so quickly that I felt nothing but emptiness when the reality of it came upon me. There had been a time period in which I was always angry, angry at everyone. I was angry at the town, at the world, and at Kami Sama, for taking away my last and only support.
"Why, Father? Why did you have to die? Didn't you promise? Didn't you promise me with that smile that you would return?" That was what I had asked him with tears in my eyes when I had visited his grave. And slowly, one by one, the students that did not follow Father into war, left. And those that had gone to war against Father's wishes, never returned. All of them were gone except for a few children who's parents were too poor to send them to another school. So they came to me, stragglers who did not have the fire I had often seen in the eyes of the former students of the Kamiya Kasshin Ryu. The familiar flame of pride and spirit was now missing in the meekness of my own students. Students that Father would have spurned upon sight were the ones that I had to treasure, for they were all that was left of those who followed the Kamiya Kasshin Ryu.
In town, people whispered behind my back as they always did. "There goes that girl who plays in men's clothing! Isn't she ashamed?"
Cruel words from ignorant lips that did not understand that I did not know how to live the way they wanted me to. If I did, perhaps I would have done so. It had hurt, being alone. When at last the opportunity came for me to stand without support from anyone, I discovered exactly how afraid I was of it in the very bottom depth of my heart, a part I had deemed cowardly and ignored for many years. Still, when it came time to face these fears, I could only stand there helplessly while desperately wishing for Father to come back, to be the Master of the Kamiya Kasshin Ryu again and replace me, his daughter, so I could go back to being the top student of my class. But from that moment on, things were never so simple anymore, and the life as I knew it, came to an end.
Looking back, I never realized how fragile a dream I had had. How easily it had ended and how easily I had let it go without a fight. Until Kenshin came into my life, I had fought everything in name only. For my dojo, for myself, and for my dreams, that was what was most important. I did not know how to fight for others. I had only ideals to follow and not a way of life to live by. When Kenshin came into my life, I realized that I had been sleeping for a very long time, not wanting to see the cruelties of the real world and all the pain that it carried with it I had thought myself the only one suffering. Never, not before him, had anyone ever really challenged what I believed in and how I lived to support those beliefs. When Kenshin came, I found someone to live those ideals for daily, someone who needed to believe in such ideals more than I did, someone who truly struggled for it and saw it to be a future to be desired.
Before Kenshin's arrival into my life, I practiced every morning by myself before the students' appearances, because I knew it was what Father would have wanted from me. Still, a part of me whispered secretly, "You can stop, you know? You can go into town and marry a man, have many children, become somebody's wife and live the way everyone else lives. Haven't you heard everyone whispering about you? You can't do this alone. You're only a woman after all, and no woman has been known to live on her own. No woman is ever alone. Anyway, Father is dead. Who can you impress now with your skills?"
Until that time, I had not realized how much I depended on Father. Even though we were Father and Daughter, we were never exceptionally close, even after Mother's untimely death and the great sadness that followed it. Father found his own truth, Father was his own island, and when I had become a student of the Kamiya Kasshin Ryu, the gulf between us only grew. I was his student and he was my teacher, and though there were those who were stronger than me, faster than me, I was a student that Father said "could think during an intense battle and keep her head." Hence, he allowed me to practice with the boys, reluctantly giving in to my desires.
"You have the ability to be decent," Father used to say to me and all those around me at the time. Those words burned within me the desire to prove to him that I had more than the power to be decent. I had started at the age of ten, not as early as many people may have believed, instead it was perhaps at an age others would condemn to be too late. Before that time, I had dabbled, learning the basics from watching the others practice, fascinated but always banned from using a boken or any weapon after Mother's death. I used to practice secretly, but self-taught people can only go so far without proper discipline. Father used to repeatedly say that Mother would have wanted me to grow up to be a beautiful and gentle woman, a woman who would find a husband that could make her smile.
When Father said those words, I thought he looked very sad indeed. Still, as a child starved of praise, I thought he meant that I would never really amount to more than a wife. That I would never be worthy of the sword he loved so much to wield in defense of his deep beliefs. Because I had thought Father meant that I would never amount to inheriting the Kamiya Kasshin Ryu, I began to fight with every inch of my soul to show him how worth I was of the things he loved, and hence, his love. For a while, I hated Mother a little, for taking away the one tie I had remaining to Father. So I set myself to prove him wrong. It took me two years to prove to my Father, after my Mother's death, that I was even worthy enough to learn the way of the sword as all his other students. Two years of scrubbing the dojo floors, washing and patching up the uniforms of students, sweeping away the dust at the steps and polishing the plaques of other students to demonstrate to him that I was serious about what I desired. I was not a son, but I was a Kamiya, and even then I was very stubborn and fixed in my desires. No one could tell me what to do, and no one could define to me the woman I would grow to be. That was the girl I started out as, that was the girl who began as a student under her Father.
Till the age of sixteen, everything I did was to be used to seek out my Father's attention. In a way, I had always felt inadequate to the boys I grew up learning the sword with. I saw the smile Father showered them with when they accomplished small tasks, while I only got the cool face that showed no emotion when performing the same tasks. I always thought, these are the sons that Father never had. These are the men that were trying to replace me in Father's life. In a way, it made me a tomboy. I fought to win every battle. I fought to beat every boy on my level, and then every boy of my age, before finally trying to beat every boy in the school. I was to be the best, because if I slipped, Father will forget about me. That was my greatest fear: That Father will forget about me. And next to that, I did not want to hear him tell me the real reason why he did not want me to practice the technique he perfected, that it was because I was not a son, that I was not what he had wanted.
I was a daughter. I was born to serve tea and arrange flowers, to speak softly and only when spoken to. I was born to follow and not lead, to support my husband but never to be supported by him in the things outside of what was considered proper for a woman. I was to live a life in the shadows, admired and yet, never in the same light or never with the same respect as what my husband would have. I would share in decisions, but if success were to result from it, my husband or father would gain the renown. Not I. I was a woman. I was no son. I could not become a samurai. I could not ride into battle or protect what was important to me with strength of arms. I could not blaze a path in history in the name of Kamiya as a son would. I was to wear a kimono and pick out fabrics for cushions, sew and patch up my husband's and children's clothes. I was not to fight and learn the art of war – my father was not of the status that required my knowledge of such things. I was not to write documents, but poetry and journals. I was to be delicate instead of strong. I was to be protected but I would never be the protector.
Somehow, knowing these things, I was always made to feel inadequate. Here is what I was supposed to be, and here is who I desire to be. When I was very young, when Mother was still alive, my Father would indulge me with a few tips in sparing with a boken, or patching up my wounds as I climbed trees and walls and roofs. At that time my greatest fear was becoming a boy. When I grew older, surrounded by boys my Father seemed to admire and love, I had desired nothing else. When my Father disappeared and then finally announced dead, there were times I found myself saying, "If I were a son, I would have gone to battle with Father so he would not have died. If I were a son, the dojo would not be in ruins. If I were a son, there would still be many students, here. If I were a son--"
For a while, I indulged myself in self-pity. Every time an official came over for taxes, I thought to myself, "How unfair. Don't they understand that I'm the master of the dojo now? Why do they persist to ask for the master of the house every time they come instead of duly giving me the rights to that title without inquiry or surprise that I am the one they're looking for? If I were a son, I would not have these problems and they would respect me and all of my losses, instead of scorning me as if I was less than a dog for trying to survive on my own. If they did not look down on women so, they would not look down at what I am trying to do, I would not have this problem on top of all the others." And with it, I found myself many times shamefully accusing my father for dying then.
"Why did Father die? Was he not the best? Why did he have to leave me to such a fate? Why did the Kami Sama borne me as a daughter instead of a son?" I used to ask myself. "No one could possibly beat Father unless he was the Hitokiri Battousai, himself! He was so strong, who could be stronger than him?" Who would have known the irony of such thoughts in later years? Who could have made me realize the foolishness of spending time on such frivolous things? If there had been such a person who could have shown me, that first year by myself brought no such omens. If I have had the virtues to become someone stronger, smarter, and better, it wasn't in me to have seen it on my own at that time. Perhaps, that is just another testament of my weakness. Perhaps, that is just another testament of my failures.
In the end, there was only me, and I was completely alone -- weak and alone.
During the eleventh year of the Meiji Era, Himura Kenshin came and changed my life forever. Still, before that time, when I was truly by myself for the first time, and struggling with the few students that trickled in from families entertaining the whims of their children, I found myself slowly gaining something back. I began to realize, somewhere along the lines of playing with a boken to trying to make my father see me, that I had fallen in love with the art itself. I had a deep respect for the self-discipline and ideals that the Kamiya Kasshin Ryu sought to teach. And as I taught it, I began to truly love it, more and more.
My students, perhaps because they sensed my eager spirit, joined me in this love in their own reluctant ways -- though their passions never matched those of Father's students. Even if it was but a brief time, I still felt like I was finally returning to the person I was before my father had left. I was returning to that girl with spirit and belief, one who was set in her ways because she knew what it was that she wanted. For a long time, after Father died, I felt adrift and had forgotten such emotions that once burned within me. Aimless, I lived each day without purpose because, for a long time, I lived only to make Father proud. Now, there was no one left to please, no one to gain encouragements from, and no one to share the pain and happiness in life with, not anymore.
Slowly, with the ridicule of the town constantly in my presence, I had lost myself. I used to think to myself, Why am I here? What is the purpose of living this life without direction? Where do I go now? There had been those who had came to my dojo steps then, former students of Father's who had either wanted the dojo or felt it their duty to look after me, and all through marriage, one way or another. I had turned them away at first because of grief, and then later on with scorn. If they had been able to persist when my depression grew, I might have eventually accepted out of my lack of desire to continue to fight on. Still, even bad things have their good omens. When Hiruma Gohei began to sprout the lies of my school under the false name of the Hitokiri Battousai, I felt an anger in me that had been but embers in my heart.
I love my Father -- his name, his honor, and his school. I would have gladly died for him so that Father could live on, continuing to help and change people's lives daily in the way Father had always been able to do. So that Father could continue to teach and bring that smile of satisfaction on the lips of his students that I had seen so many times before, that I had partaken with my classmates so long ago, I would have died in his place if it had been possible. Even I had lost sight of that discipline he had tried to drill into me many times as I struggled through life without him. Even I had forgotten the passion that I had found missing in the eyes of my own students.
Still, a few months before Kenshin arrived, I was returning to myself again. The shame and self-pity earlier that year was melting away. Instead, I realized I had thought too little of myself, letting others look down on me simply because I had allowed myself to walk without pride in all that I had learned from Father. There was honor in what I did, and honor in what he had taught me when he was alive. Such beliefs were mine alone and I should cherish them thusly, from that realization even the false words and insults of others could not make me bow my head ever again in shame.
When Kenshin came, his very presence challenged all that I believed to be the way of the sword. The cost of his struggles far outweighed my own, making me see my own selfishness all the more clearly in my earlier years. For that I am grateful because Kenshin was the one who opened up my eyes to the sufferings of the world. Kenshin's presence encouraged me to strength myself so that I could be closer to him, so that I could understand his heart a bit better. I wanted to know the man who always smiled and laughed, yet had no lines to show the evidences of his true feelings. I wanted to know the man who had the same silence around him that Father carried after Mother's death. Only the Kenshin I knew hid his pain with a foolish grin instead of my Father's frown, but the true footprints of such happy emotions did not leave a mark on his face to show the extension of that emotion to be beyond that of a mask. I wanted to be closer to Kenshin's heart and understand in a way that I had never understood the man who was most important in my life before him.
The fireflies are flickering now, by that river he said goodbye to me so long ago. Now, I have a rueful smile of my own to express, a remembrance of days long ago, like my mother's before me. I do not cry but smile when my husband is off, far away from me and the only home he acknowledges to be his own. I hold no grudge to him, he who I love with all of my heart. In the darkness before Kyoto, these spirits floated around me, and I remembered Father's leave, his foot-falls on the dirt path and the promise he could not keep.
It was different with Kenshin, for I had refused to wait safely and cry soundly at his passing. Slowly, I had become strong in my own way with my own methods. Slowly, I had walked the path that Kamiya men must have followed before me but I had done so with a determined smile on my face instead of a frown. I am no son, so I had to forge my own way and fight my own demons. Still, I am grateful to Father who had taught me how to hold my head up high in defiance and strength. I am grateful to that man who came into my life and gave me a reason to be strong and selfless. I am grateful for the friends that came soon after, friends that had shown me that I was not alone and my strength is an extension of a need to protect those I held closest to my heart.
I am no woman to perform tea-ceremonies, or arrange flowers. I do not sew cushions or do delicate dancing. I patch the wear and tear of my student's uniform. I teach the Kamiya Kasshin Ryu in my Father's place. I run a dojo and am my own woman, earning my keep and walking my own road in life, blazing a trail of my creation even if it is in the shadow of my husband's greatness. I am a mother who smiles and holds my child close to my heart, living a life of example and strength that I hope they will follow when I too am gone. When I cry, I do so in happiness, so that Kenji would never have to puzzle over that silent pain at such a young age. And I keep on smiling, rueful or not, at the memories of the past and the uncertain future.
On this dirt path, Kenshin will return to me. The silence surrounding him needs the strength of my beliefs and the light of my constant smiles. He needs laughter and laugh lines on his face to mark the truth of such emotions beyond his masks and upon his soul, so that he may glance upon a brighter journey than the one he had traveled from that was once lit only by the light of the fireflies. Such small lights that have guided me to his side to help him overcome his darkness will but be the beginning out of the dark tunnel of his earlier years. The spirit of the past does not wish for him to remember them in tears, but to live each day in their place as they had not lived, as they had not had the chance to live. Pain, Kenshin, is like a shovel that digs deep into my heart and yours, so that happiness can be felt and gathered more deeply in that secret place between the space of our two bodies. Such a thing is a burden I wish to always share with you, so that when the sweet morsel of happiness is given, you would also have the chance to savor it fully without the tainted taste of your expressionless grief.
And when the flowers wither and the petals are gone, when the ephemeral tears of the samurai are left to be shed and forgotten in the dark. The fireflies will replace the dark absence they had left behind and fill it with light where the sun cannot shine. But even the night must end some time, even the fragile moon must set so that the daylight hours may reign once more over the lands that used to have neither color nor form. And I shall remember this scent, with a smile and a soft touch on the heads of our child and future children, dreaming only of what is to come and the precious things already gathered.
Death has passed us Kenshin. All we need to do now is live.
Live in the happiness we have struggled for, together.
Boken – Wooden Sword
Kamiya Kasshin Ryu – Kaoru's fighting style
Kami Sama – God (Not the Christian, Catholic, Hebrew, Western God); the Eastern ones! (Yes, it's like plural without an 's'. It's in Japanese, duh ;p)
- Yup, I wrote that sucker of a poem in the beginning.
- Yes, people do catch fireflies in Japan and keep them in gardens during firefly season (yup, there's like a special season/time for them in Japan, which I believe is actually around the end of Summer... but let's just move the time table up a notch ) For mentions of this, feel free to check out the book The Makioka Sisters by Tanizaki Junichiro
- Bored, so I wrote it. I hope you enjoyed it.
- In this fic, Kenshin wonders, he doesn't die. He just leaves home once in awhile. I mean... maybe he went the long way for to-fu and got lost... or, he went to Kyoto to visit Aoshi Sama to have their yearly "Who's prettier? Contest"... who knows. In this one, Kaoru and Kenshin live happily ever after just like Watsuki-sensei wanted it. He's just not in the picture at that exact moment so that Kaoru can brood away. I mean, Kenji Chan is a handful, and I think Kaoru's taking some mental solace from the cute brat on why she's still doing this whole "raising the kids on her own" shit, while her husband runs off to "Who's the bishie in da hot pants? Contest"s… and at Kenshin's age too! Sheesh!
- Yadda, yadda, yadda, any complaints write to the email below. If you have the time to flame me (be grammatically correct please, and make sense, people!), I have the time to delete you if you write an email that is like this, for example here:
Dear bleu, you are sux and i ate you you. ake I sicko so donnot rite anymre the karou wold nver kill batoosi/kenshine is wake so her've not bility to o SO. signed --Flamer
See how it makes no sense. This is in a similar format to a typical flame, not a constructive criticism, don't mix the two up now. This is a flame. It shows me that you obvious don't like me very much (and though that was also hard to make out and it may seem to me at first that you're French, it soon occurred to me that it was a misspelling of my name like everything else in the email – and many emails similar to it. As well as the fact that I still haven't a clue what you're talking about other than that "[I am] sux"). Just remember people, I wrote the story, I am not the story. If you don't like the story and wish to express opinions of such displeasure, please, critique the story in a more civil and sense-making way than the alternative above. I would really appreciate it.
- Yes, and also, I think I'm about as flattered as I am disturbed that there are people out there who take my writing more seriously than I do. Yes, yes, very spirited and passionate replies of hatred for some of the things I have written in the past (ex. That Endless Sorrow, which I should have expected since there was a graphic, main character death scene (which I had put up a warning for)... oh well), but please, use that energy on something more meaningful... I mean these are for entertainment purposes, people. If you don't like it, hit the back button! (That's what I do, what most normal people do. For once, conform! No need to flame the poor author ;-; Please keep this in mind for future authors. Critiquing an author's writing and the author him-/herself, are two different things.)
- Lastly, speaking from previous experiences, if you are going to plagiarize me, have the decency to change the title at least and not post it on fanfiction.net. I will find you and find you pretty damn fast. If I find a plagiarizer (my work or otherwise), I will descend upon you like the she bitch that I am, Enishi-style insert evil laughter O-Ov huggles her kawaii Enishi Kun purr I learn from the best when it comes to evil insanity and heavenly vengeance! insert more evil laughter O-Ov As C.J. from West Wing once wisely said, "I will make him cry. I will make him cry badly. And then I'll tell his Mama about it." (not an exact quotation, but close enough… especially the Mama part) O-Ov Hohohohohohoho!