Reloaded: Due to many changes, the format got
WAY messed up and I just realized how messed up it was! So I
reloaded it so words that were never supposed to be "glued" or "stuck"
together is now unglued and unstuck. v
Song: Kaze Go Fuku Hi (This was the song that helped me write this story - no lyrics are used from it though)
Kaoru and Kenshin grew up together as neighbors and the best of friends, loving each other before they knew what such a thing meant. Until, one day, Kenshin disappeared and no matter where Kaoru went to look for him, she could not find him. With the help of her friends and the true belief of her kind heart, Kaoru will go on a journey to find and save the man she grew up loving. And in the end, Kaoru may be Kenshin's last and only hope. Because, of all the people in the world, she's the only one who believes in him still and will do anything to melt the ice in his blackening heart. Based on the Fairytale "The Snow Queen" by Hans Christian Andersen.
Before we begin there is a few things different in this AU:
- First off, Kaoru's birthday has been moved from early summer (June) to mid-autumn (October/November). I actually had written it as early summer when I began the story (ironically I was right on the dot at that time) but somehow an inconsistency emerged and caught me in the middle of writing the third chapter. So instead of changing it back to early summer (which would make sense since it would be more convenient for both Kaoru -- her actual birthday in RK -- and consistent with "The Snow Queen" -- the little girl, Gerda's, birthday), I thought I'd keep it at mid-autumn instead due to a technicality that pops up later... It was a larger headache than it was worth for such a small inconsistency I must say.
- Kenshin's birthday will, however, remain in the summer.
- If you have ever read "The Snow Queen" you'd notice that there are definitely changes in this mimicry. The two stories are not the same. And I hope I kept the characters, well, in character while I spin my yarn. Some say you can't have your cake and eat it too, I hope I was able to accomplish both with this story. It really inspired me because it is the few fairytales of old where a little girl goes on a journey to save a little boy that she loves with all of her heart. No prince charming in this one, since well, he's the damsel in distress! I always thought that in the RK universe that Kaoru really did save Kenshin many times by being the moral support that he needed and to ease the loneliness he thought he could live with for the rest of his life as a punishment (until he met her cue sparkly eyes.)
- In this story Kenshin enters university in the Spring term and not the usual Fall term... go figure!
- This story is set somewhere during modern times. There's cars and cities and modern day gadgets, but there's the fairytale touch of Lords and talking animals and wooden swords, magical gardens and rulers of the seasons, etc. This story was truly an inspirational writing experience, and a real hair-puller too when I knew where I wanted to go for the rest of the story except that one scene or two that just refused to be interesting to my writing pleasures... well, sit back and enjoy! I hope you will come to love reading this as much as I had of writing it!
- WARNING: Due to its fairytale nature, this story is slightly overloaded on the sugary contents... don't rot too many teeth while chewing on this one!
Our Garden of Snow and Roses
"Between the conception,
And the creation,
Between the emotion,
And the response,
Falls the Shadow."
-- T. S. Eliot
(The Hollow Men)
Between Two Balconies Lies Two Hearts
The magic of first love is our ignorance that it can ever end.
-- Benjamin Disraeli
They always said that before her birth he was want to be by himself, and until she was born thoughts of him not being alone had never entered anyone's mind. Whoever met him would later sigh in sympathy as adults often do when they encounter a child that did not act like one. But if anyone were to ask what was to be done about it, they would only shake their heads in quiet bewilderment.
His mother had unfortunately died on the childbed since she was not as sturdy as her mountain of a husband. His father soon lost himself, when he could, to drinking. Their finances got bad and by the time he was five, they were forced to move away from the city house he grew up in to a small town wedged between a great mountain, a dense forest, and a peaceful river. It was a very picturesque place, just a few days drive from the nearest city. There, Father and Son lived in a cramped little townhouse made of red bricks. It was a townhouse like the many others lining the streets next to and behind their own, and they settled there in relative peace and quiet.
The balconies between the townhouses, however, were so squished together that it wasn't but a small adult's height from one building to the next when it came to the townhouses that stood back-to-back. And there was where Kenshin first met Kaoru. Over the shaky balconies and rotted window sills, he caught her first sounds and his first sight of her from his opened window. She was a babe then, newly born from the womb, and because she had also lost a mother when she was coming into the world, Kenshin instantly felt a deep connection with the chubby cheeked girl next door when he heard of it. Even if she cried late into the night for attention and, at first, couldn't do much else but sleep and eat, Kenshin was immediately smitten with her.
The Kamiya family had also struggled their way to the townhouses, only they had been farmers before. Father Kamiya was a very stern man who believed that on the grand scale of things, because his late wife wasn't able to give him a son before her unfortunate death, a daughter will just have to do for the plans he had already made. Kenshin could also understand the life Kaoru would soon come to lead, since his own father, Hiko, was very strict himself. Even if his father wasn't sober half the time, while the remaining times of sobriety was spent remarking on the skills lacking in Kenshin, Hiko was still a very sharp and very shrewd man.
So the two children grew up, room facing room from one another. When she couldn't crawl or move around much, Kenshin would read to her loudly from his window over to hers. When she cried in the middle of the night, he would sing lullabies to her from his opened window. And though Kenshin was a loner by nature, he made a habit to include Kaoru in his activities the moment she began to be able to walk around. Kaoru would ruefully say that she remembered best chasing after Kenshin, even as a little girl. That, and somehow or other, his butt always ended up in her face when she was a chubby-cheeked youngling.
They had some great laughs and great hurts as they grew up so close to each other. At first they scaled the clothes lines between their two houses, treating the thin wires like jungle vines that Kenshin had read about in one of his adventure books. But that ended abruptly when Kenshin grew too big and heavy for the lines to support his weight, and he nearly broke his head one day when he was jumping from one tittering balcony to another. Kaoru then pointed out the fact that they were big enough now to get a small ladder to extend towards each other's rooms. Kenshin at first wasn't inclined to such an idea, but Kaoru convinced him after point out the fact that they could make it like the draw bridges in the stories Kenshin read to her once. Warmed by the thought they plotted and planned and had a grand time making a rickety thing out of the left over wood that loggers threw into their eager hands. The men were amused by their determined expressions and secretive whispers behind each other's hands as they inspected the wood they were given. It was a truly entertaining sight, watching the two shifting wood this way and that like a jigsaw puzzle they wished to piece together. The loggers laughed when Kaoru pouted while Kenshin frowned when a piece didn't fit the way they thought it would, and cheered along with them when the small bridge was completed.
By the time Kenshin was twelve and Kaoru was about to turn seven, the two of them took to old oil cans half the size of their heads and stringed an old fishing line they stole from the back of the only fisherman store in town, and made a telephone between their two houses from his room to her room. That way, Kenshin had told Kaoru excitedly, he can read her to sleep every night now that Father Kamiya thought the two of them were way too old to spend their late nights over at each other's rooms. It was about that time that Father Kamiya, in hopes of distracting his daughter from spending too much time with Kenshin, taught her to plant. And Kaoru took to it happily, though she invited Kenshin over to do the deed as her smaller hands had trouble carrying some of the larger pots around.
And so, they planted irises and lilies, morning glories and moonflowers, jasmines, and finally, roses. Kaoru fawned over the irises when they bloomed, happily saying how they were the color of Kenshin's eyes. Kenshin would reply that he loved the lilies best because they were the color of her skin, and she would smile and say how the morning glories would cheer her like Kenshin would when he greeted her good morning, and Kenshin would reply that the moonflower was like her, reminding him that there is life and beauty even in the darkest of nights. But Kenshin really loved jasmine best of all because they smelled like Kaoru and her room, the place that he felt strangely more at home than his own. And Kaoru loved the roses that grew, especially after her father told her that roses were her mother's favorite flowers, because the red rose was a hue close to the color of Kenshin's hair and just as sturdy beneath its deceptive beauty and fragility.
"They're so beautiful," Kaoru would smile dreamily as the flowers all bloomed when their time came, "but the roses are surprisingly resilient. The wild ones, Papa tells me, can take care of themselves without anyone's help!" Kaoru rested her chin as she stared at the roses in fascination, her blue eyes sparkling with pride and joy, "For such a tough flower, it sure is pretty!" Kaoru nodded happily to herself.
Kenshin rested his chin on Kaoru's one tiny shoulder and watched the flowers, wanting to always see the world through her eyes. But he still secretly liked jasmine best, and Kaoru picked up on that. Every weekend, when they were in bloom, she would wrap bunches of jasmine with silk white-ribbons for him and he would keep them, hanging them up in a line against the wall till they were nothing more than dried husks. His father had once remarked on the dead flowers in his room, to which Kenshin only smiled with pure happiness as he explained that even the husks smelled wonderful, long after the flowers had died - especially after Kenshin figured out how to preserve the scent on his own. Because of that, Kenshin's room always smelled like Kaoru and it made sleep easier for him at night.
They still talked sleepily between their windows through their canned phones, and Kenshin still read Kaoru bed-times stories till she yawned and fell asleep to his voice. When Kaoru turned seven, Father Kamiya decided to teach her kendo, a sword fighting style his grandfather had brought from a land far in the East, across an entire ocean to escape persecution for the old man's beliefs. Apparently, Great-grandfather Kamiya was a ronin – which Father Kamiya solemnly explained to Kaoru to mean a wondering and masterless warrior. And with gravity and ceremony, Father Kamiya handed Kaoru her first wooden sword.
Kaoru was ecstatic, and from then on, Kaoru and Kenshin became ever closer as she practiced the art of fighting with him. When the village boys teased her about being a tomboy and when the village girls refused to play with her, Kaoru would run confused and crying to Kenshin who held her close and assured her that there was nothing wrong with her for wanting to play with swords. "Kaoru, do you remember what you said about the rose?" Kenshin asked her when she stopped crying and started to hiccup. Nodding through a hiccup, Kenshin smiled down at her tear-stained face, red-nosed and puffy faced. She hiccupped again adorably. "Remember what you said about the wild rose? How it's beautiful but strong at the same time, how it doesn't need anyone to take care of it to be the way it is." Kaoru nodded again, fighting against a hiccup and losing miserably. "Well," Kenshin explained to her as he led her to a nearby fountain with laughter in his eyes, "that's the way little Kaoru is in my eyes. So remember this, Kaoru, your strength makes you more beautiful than any one of those kids will ever be able to tell you. Because in a garden of flowers, you're the only one that doesn't need anyone else to tend to them to grow and you'd survive winters by yourself till spring, because nothing can kill you as easily as it can kill the other, weaker, flowers."
By the time Kenshin was finished, Kaoru stopped hiccupping since she drank from the fountain he brought them to. Her face glowed happily, and she was more than happy to throw her arms around Kenshin's boyish waist and declare her love for him loudly and with the same joy she always had about her. Even though Kenshin couldn't stop blushing, he was so happy himself that he held Kaoru for several moments longer than usual and whispered his sentiments in return. By the fountain, they threw in their pennies that day and pinky-swore that no matter what happened in the days and the months and the years to come, they would never part. And because they were children with no sense of change, they promised to marry without much of a conception in their heads on what marriage meant, but both were sure that there could be no other for either of them.
So the days quickly sped by till Kenshin was sixteen and Kaoru turned eleven. She had learned a love for healing the plants and animals of the forest that surrounded their small town, and everyday, Kenshin would show up at her door to take her to the forest to explore and to see if there were any animals in need of their help. In the evenings or on days that rained or snowed, they would stay in to learn and read from books in their fathers' studies, teaching each other mathematics and literature, history and science. Together, nothing seemed boring. They spent the warm days exploring every crevice in the great mountain next to them, and looked behind every tree and under every rock in the forest. As spring warmed its way through the lands, Kaoru would find the icy mountain streams that appeared as some of the snow at the top of the mountain melted, while Kenshin brought her wildflowers that they could not grow in their garden. When the summer came once more, Kaoru would eagerly throw on her bathing suit and run to the river to meet Kenshin. There, they would fish and swim and laugh the days away without care.
Slowly their youth seeped away and their love for each other grew, changing shape as they changed shape. And as Kenshin's voice deepened, Father Kamiya became more and more restless over the times his daughter spent with this child that was turning into a man. But Kaoru took no notice, for at night, even though she was too old for such things, she still begged Kenshin to read her bed time stories – even if she already knew them all by heart. After all these years, Kaoru found that she could not sleep without his voice next to her ear. They still did and shared so many of the things they had done as children that Kaoru found no difficulty adjusting to Kenshin's physical changes. So while Father Kamiya worried and Hiko pondered curiously over his son's relationship with such a young girl, they continued blissfully unaware and totally innocent of the happenings around them.
But things were rapidly changing for the two, as Hiko pushed Kenshin to make something of himself. "This is not just for you, you stupid child! This is for Kaoru as well. You don't want to have her live in a cramped townhouse like this for the rest of your lives do you?" And Kenshin acknowledged that the words were true for he wanted to be able to give Kaoru whatever she wanted. So in the fall, he took an examination and got amazingly high scores, and a well-known university a week's travel away accepted Kenshin with a full scholarship, eager to have him join the ranks of their prestigious students.
Saddened by the news of his soon departure but happy for him nonetheless, Kaoru gave Kenshin her first kiss on her twelfth birthday in the garden they had planted together. Knowing he would be leaving after winter was over, they shared her and his first real dance under the autumn moon and cool, twinkling stars. Kenshin, too desperate to hold on to every single moment spent with Kaoru, and Kaoru, not caring for the cold, spent the night and most of the morning on the roof of her house. They both ended up with severe colds and slight fevers that kept them in their respective beds and rooms for the next two weeks, missing the view of the last leaf falling in the forest but not each other as they spent their days bed-ridden but still forever talking over their make-shift telephones. To them, it was the most important times of their lives, and each precious memory together was locked away into their hearts.
Still, winter came as it inevitably does, and blew in something cold and menacing.
High above in the atmosphere over Earth, a demon flew about. For the entire three seasons he had been cooped up with only a few flurries to relish in the far corners of the world. But there had been no one residing there but the animals that were used to the cruelties of the winter wind spirits, ice dancers and even the Snowers. No, civilization and people were much more interesting to play with. People, after all, did not like the cold, and because it really, deeply bothered them, the game became a cruel thing to play against the helpless, furless beings. But that was what made it fun, and the demon loved fun.
The Queen of the Icy Deep was as cool as ever, not letting anyone escape the ice castle until she deemed it was time. Her heart was really a block of ice, and it was so terrible that she would keep them all cooped up with nothing but dumb and slow animals to play with. With nothing else to do, the demon was really glad that fall had finally ended and winter could once more freeze the world over.
However, a brilliant idea came over him as he cooled the warm waters of the lake as he had been told by the Queen herself. His duties being all things dealing with water, after all, so to prepare them for freezing. Looking at his reflection, he remembered the mirror the size of a large, round table top, shining brightly with a similar coldness in the throne room of the Queen. He had viewed his ugly image with pleasure earlier that day, but he knew that its powers was to reflect the worst in everything and magnify ugliness, if a beautiful thing was to be placed before it, that too would become ugly, as ugly as it was beautiful. In the mirror a live flower was decayed and withered, in the mirror the good looked bad and the beautiful would have its smallest flaw enhanced till it became as ugly as it was once enchanting to behold. The mirror was made from a special type of ice, and when absorbed into animals and humans and all living beings alike, it could turn their hearts to be as black as night and drive their minds to madness.
Giggling at the ideas in his head, the demon sprung back into the castle and slinked into the empty throne room. He called upon a friend or two of his to be his accomplices, and they dragged the mirror out into the sky with them. Laughing, they played with it in the sky, reflecting the people, animals and landscapes below them and grinning at themselves and the grotesque figures they were able to reflect through the mirror.
It was all a lot of fun, much more different than the poles had been. But suddenly, a wind sprite stole the mirror from their grasps and while the demons chased it back and forth. The wind sprite dropped the mirror, and in their haste to catch it, the demons ran into each other and between their bodies the mirror cracked and split, easily breaking into small and large pieces that fell all over the unsuspecting world below.
"Oh no," one demon exclaimed, "Her Highness will punish us for this, for sure!" To which the other demons agreed solemnly and fearfully.
"But I have nothing to do with this," the wind sprite interjected and ran away towards the north.
"Damn sprites, they're always trouble!" The oldest demon grumped angrily as they watched the pieces fall.
But, the demon who came up with the idea in the first place brightened as another idea struck him. "It's not so bad, everyone," he assured his comrades. "We all know the affects the mirror has on humans and animals. In the eyes and they'll see only the ugliness in the world, one that is enhanced to encompass all else! On the tongue and all they'll know is to speak nastily to each other. In the ear and they'll never hear a wonderful sound again! And in the heart and they'll become as cold as ice, just like her majesty!"
"Yes, we all know this," another demon interjected, "but how does that help us?"
"Why," the demon in charge grinned, "winter has truly fallen now. Her Majesty surely would not object to a world that has gotten drearier. In this new world, winter may last forever in the hearts of men from this day onwards! And if that is true, no more spring or summer or fall to keep us in doors and locked away. Isn't this great? Freedom forever!"
"Freedom forever!" His comrades sighed excitedly. Soon they began playing again, giggling over the people who the mirror pierced into and beaming all the more when the mirror's victims changed their expressions to fit the disgust and horror they felt when the world they once knew also changed right before their eyes, lips, and ears. And soon, wars began all over the place while people fought each other for what they saw or heard or spoke to be evil, and all the while thinking such things as they know it, as truth.
"Winter forever," the demons chorused as they danced in the skies overhead. And as they celebrated their joyous moment, a red head young man was racing through the snow to make sure all the potted plants were covered from the unexpected storm that was said to be coming. And in that moment as he set the last plant under its protective plastic shelter, he saw a dozen or more sparkles falling from the sky overhead. In that moment of wonder and distraction, just as he reached to rub the sweat from his brow, something fell into his eye. And then an icy, piercing pain shot from his pupil and he felt as if something had ripped through his vision. Crying out in surprise, the garden door burst open as a worried Kaoru came rushing out having heard his cry of pain, the mugs of hot cocoa she had made for them both were now spilt all over the floor of her house. "Kenshin! Kenshin are you alright?"
But Kenshin couldn't see at the moment through his bad eye and all he could do was shake his head. "I don't know, Kaoru. Don't worry so much. It's just that I felt as if something got into my eye." He explained to her as they walked into the house.
"Let's go wash it then." She admonished him kindly as they descended the steps from the roof. She looked back to see the sky sparkling unusually bright that night, "Strange," she whispered softly to herself. But beautiful, she added in her head as she turned back to close the door. "But very, very strange."
She guided them down the stairs with Kenshin leaning on her shoulder for support. "You're such a girl when it comes to little things like this," Kaoru giggled while she teased him.
Kenshin was unusually quiet for a moment, "What did you say?" He asked, suddenly very annoyed.
"Hm?" Kaoru looked to him surprised. "I didn't say anything."
Kenshin shook his head, "Sorry, it's just that I thought I saw your mouth move... never mind."
When Kaoru was sure that the cool water must have flushed out whatever it was that had gotten into Kenshin's eye, Kaoru lifted his face and toweled it dry for him, making him lean down so she could have good leverage. "You really are a baby," she grinned at him nonetheless, "but I still love you." However, when he opened his eyes, she gasped out in shock and surprise at the sight before her. "Ken-Kenshin," Kaoru grasped his face and looked deeply into his eyes. "Your one eye is the color of gold, no, like a tiger-eye stone." She brushed away his bangs and showed him his reflection, but all Kenshin saw was ugliness all around him.
Even Kaoru, his constantly beautiful Kaoru, seemed ugly in his eyes standing next to him. Kenshin could not help but cringe for Kaoru's face was distorted and grotesque, but so did everything else look as every object he laid eyes on seemed to have lost the life and beauty he once admired. "I'm going home," he said instead depressed at the new world he saw before him when, after blinking, nothing changed. Kenshin's non-caring attitude and lethargic actions surprised Kaoru greatly, but when she tried to intercept him, he carelessly shoved her aside.
"Kenshin!" She called after him, hurt and shocked for he had never been so cruel to her before.
But Kenshin didn't hear her as he walked out of her front door without a backward glance or even a goodbye. That night, he didn't speak to Kaoru on their telephone, no matter how many times she called to him. And though, Kaoru could not understand what had happened in such a brief period of time, everything had changed.
That winter, Kenshin wouldn't play with Kaoru anymore. Instead, he secluded himself in his bare bedroom when he wasn't out getting into one fight or another with someone because he point out the ugliness of their character. He stopped talking to anyone with the polite way he always did, instead he became forward and rude and uncaring. Some of the biggest bullies in the neighborhood boys and the most manipulating of the neighborhood girls, followed Kenshin with awe in their eyes while declaring how he saw the truth of the world and spoke it without fear, but Kaoru knew everything that Kenshin spoke now was a lie. That winter, Kenshin grew thin, for he would only eat when his father forced him to, and he argued with the old man a lot more than he ever did. The jasmine flowers he had so carefully strewn about his room were torn down and Kenshin earned a habit of opening his windows till it became icy cold in his room, but even when he got sick from the chill he refused even the suggestion of closing his windows. Kenshin never spoke back to Kaoru kindly again, not even when she called out to him from her own window or on the streets when she saw him. When Kaoru would go calling on their telephone, or even at his door, he refused to answer her.
There were no snow angels or snow man or snowball fights that winter, not with Kenshin anyway. And even if he had wanted to play, Kaoru wasn't so sure she would have complied since Kenshin became rough and cruel when he played with others their age and even older. The kids in the neighborhood learned to fear Kenshin that winter, and so did some of the adults. But Kaoru, though greatly saddened, still visited him each day even if he didn't want to see her, even if she was entirely disgusted with what he did or what she had heard he did. She made them hot cocoa, which Kenshin refused to drink, but she drank in front of him just for the company, even if he never looked to her or indicated that he heard her speak. Kaoru faithfully went to see him every day to be with him and to speak to him. By the end of the winter, Kenshin went to school without a word to Kaoru that he was departing. She showed up just in time to see the last of his meager possessions loaded onto the small, red car Hiko bought for him a year ago when Kenshin was still kind and good.
"Have a good trip Kenshin," Kaoru clasped her hands together hopefully but he acknowledged her no more than he had done the entire winter. Kaoru felt the anger she always did at his newly acquired blank expressions, but she had already hit him and yelled at him all she could before and all to no effect. Kenshin never even flinched away from her blows either and in the end, she ended up hurting herself more through her actions than him. Anyone else, she knew, he would have retaliated against, but somehow this Kenshin knew that to hurt her best was to allow the helplessness in Kaoru grow. This Kenshin knew that if Kaoru hurt him with even the smallest of blows, she would feel it more harshly than he. Still, she did not leave him.
When it came to goodbyes though, Kaoru grasped his head and kissed him very softly, hoping to convey all her emotions in the innocent touch of lips to cheek. But Kenshin was cold beneath her fingers, even though the spring sun was high in the sky like a bright beacon of warmth that Kenshin's body would not absorb. "Please take care of yourself," she told him with concern in her eyes for his well-being.
Kenshin's strange purple and gold eyes blinked at her slowly. "Kaoru?" he said her name for the first time in weeks, seeming to be waking from a dream for just a moment. But then, as she pulled back in surprise, the effect was gone and he pulled completely away from her. "Your warm," he rubbed his cheek with the palm of his hand distastefully as if the contact had burned. He regarded her with the same distaste till her heart ached at the disapproval she found there. "I don't like that."
Without another word, Kenshin got into the car and drove off. Hiko stood by and touched Kaoru's shaking shoulders. "You okay, kid?" the older man asked worriedly. "He's been an ass all winter. I don't know what came over the stupid kid." Hiko apologized in his own gruff way.
Kaoru looked briefly to Hiko with tear-filled eyes. The usual spark in her blue gaze was now dark with the emotions of rage and hurt. "That idiot!" Kaoru turned away and decided to shout after the car, instead. "Why can't you even say a proper goodbye?" she cried and rubbed her eyes trying to stop her tears from flowing. "I'm so angry at him," Kaoru whispered, "that I can't stop crying. I'm sorry." Kaoru went home depressed and angry but it didn't take long for Kaoru to call up Kenshin or write to him for every week that they were apart.
He never replied to any of her mail or picked up one of her calls, but Kaoru was stubborn and determined and she did it everyday nonetheless. "Even if he doesn't want to hear my voice, that idiot will have to!" She huffed. And when summer came, Kaoru was eager to see Kenshin return. Only, he didn't come home. Kenshin had never gotten to the university, it appears. He had disappeared on the way there.
To be continued…