GREEN TEA by M. P. Watson
Disclaimer: Rurouni Kenshin belongs to me, yes. And if you look up, you'll see the Empress of Blandings fly.
Note: This story takes place at the end of Episode 62 of the TV series.
Constructive criticism welcome.
Shinomori Aoshi waited until the chattering horde composed of Misao, Kamiya, Misao, Okina, Battousai, Misao, that Yahiko kid, Sagara, and Misao withdrew from the meditation room. As their voices died away, he counted silently to ten, then gracefully unfolded himself from the lotus position and made his way to a corner of the room. Kneeling down, he touched three seemingly unmarked portions of wall, then carefully prised up the tatami mat, and brought up a small lacquered box.
He looked down at the box. It had belonged to his mother; it was one of the few tangible reminders he had left of her. She had kept her few pieces of jewelry in it, and underneath the false bottom a supply of non-lethal, yet highly effective powders designed to smooth the progress of certain...aspects of particular missions, so to speak.
Nowadays, he used it to keep his tea in.
He'd gently insisted that Misao refrain from making his tea for him again. Not that her tea wasn't good; never let it be said that an Oniwabanshuu ninja couldn't brew a decent cup of tea—the practice made for excellent cover in surveillance as well as...neutralization...of the target. However, tea, and the drinking thereof, required a soothing, quiet atmosphere, and Misao...well, sometimes Aoshi idly wondered what would happen if Misao was forced to keep quiet for more than twenty-four hours. In his more uncharitable moments, he thought her head would probably explode before the day was half over.
He opened the box and winced inwardly at the meager contents. Aoshi was very particular about his tea, and hated very much to wander around the market looking for shops that would meet his specifications, which was why he always purchased a large amount from the same...place. He always carried around a few packets while traveling, and the rest he kept in this box. In all the excitement of the past couple of months, though, he had not had the time nor the inclination to even move out of this meditation room, much less leave the Aoiya to purchase a new batch. He considered it imprudent, too, to have his purveyor deliver it straight to him. He was fortunate enough not to have lost this box in the restaurant's destruction. He would have to contact his special supplier again.
In the meantime, he would make do with what he had.
He arose and walked noiselessly over to the corner of the room where Okon had considerately left a tray of tea things on the table. Setting aside the prepared packet of chamomile tea she had left for him, he picked up the tray and brought it over to the center of the room.
Now he went through the motions of preparing the tea. Wipe the bowl with a fine cloth. Tea leaves from the box into the bowl. Hot water from the kettle. Whisk. Hot water again.
Now the tea was ready. He regarded his bowl thoughtfully. Aoshi had always considered tea drinking to be more a solitary endeavor than a social occasion. Given the circumstances, this was to be expected.
He'd meant it, though, when he accepted Battousai's offer of a drink together. The poor bastard looked like he needed it, if he was going to be stuck in that dojo for the rest of his natural life.
He closed his eyes and brought the bowl to his lips, letting the soothing warmth sink down into his stomach.
Mmmm. He could feel a calmness settle onto his shoulders, like a silken yukata.
He smiled. It was the mellow, serene, slightly goofy smile of someone who had just realized that the world could plummet into the fiery depths of Hell, and who would cheerfully wave when it did so.
Colors. Ooh, pretty. See them swirl.
He started humming.
1. This story takes place at the end of Episode 62 of the TV series, and was inspired by an acerbic comment made by Saitou Hajime in Fuu-chan's story Night-Painted Hearts, Part Five:
"He's drowning himself in tea, as always." The Wolf grinned widely. "You'd think tea is an addictive substance, judging by the quantities he gets down his throat."
You can read the full story at http::(slash)(slash) fuunoroad (dot) free (dot) fr (slash) fanfic (dot) html (#) rk
2. Details on the Japanese tea ceremony: http::(slash)(slash) www (dot) holymtn (dot) com (slash) tea (slash) Japanesetea (dot) htm
(Apologies for the unwieldy URL punctuation--for some reason URLs get messed up in the process of uploading. Ah well, maybe I'll figure out how to tweak it one day.)