Author: This is my very first attempt at a fanfiction! However, flames and criticisms are welcome. Other comments too, as they will improve my writing.
Disclaimer: I do not own RK. If I do, Misao would be the main character blink and put in more Aoshi/Misao interactions
Prologue – In the Rain
A mid-aged farmer took ginger steps towards his broken hut, wincing at every agonizing movement, and cursed the weather loudly over the resounding thunder at a distance. Another day of sweat, work and rest is like a dull trance for him; every time he raised his hoe, every time he swung his rusty sickle, his back would always remind him of his condition.
He groaned as he suppressed the urge to collapse here and then. He looked up and glanced warily at darkening sky, grey clusters of cloud looming ominously above, and trudged on, for he'd rather bear with the pain for just a few more moments, reaching his suddenly looking nice and dry hut, than being soaked to the bones.
"Mou, Kurosuke! You shouldn't be out this late! Your back has been acting up again, hasn't it? Here, let me help – I've got dinner ready," a woman with kind brown eyes supported the man carefully, and he was more than content to let his wife do so. He smiled inwardly to himself; Kea is a patient and caring woman, never complaining about their lifestyle, and always encouraging him and their family even in the darkest of times. Thinking that, Kurosuke frowned, his guilt increased everyday by barely providing enough for his family. He sighed as he looked at their tattered rags, hardly qualified as clothing. Kea gave him and understanding look, patting him reassuringly as she led him to one of the two only room sin the hut.
Kurosuke could not help but straighten his back proudly at the sight of their daughter. Only six years of age, Kayko already understood the way they must work to survive, and was lending her papa all the help she could. Ever so energetic, petite girl bounced up and down, her long braid swing back and forth behind her. "Papa!" the girl practically launched herself at her weary father, almost knocking him off balance.
"There, there Kayko. Your Oto-san is very tired today," scolded Kea gently, pulling her exhilarated daughter off him. "Now, now, Kea, my kawaii Kayko-chan is just glad to see her dear-old-poppi, aren't you, ne?" laughed Kurosuke whole-heartedly, giving Kayko a fatherly hug. "Ne, papa, I stacked four piles of wood today! Kayko is strong, ne?" grinned the tiny girl, the smile almost too big for her face.
"That's my little girl!" Kurosuke patted her on the head, once again guilty of their income. His family is so loving and loyal to him, yet his wife could not dress in those expensive kimonos, and his daughter cannot live a normal life, interacting with other kids. They lived in a secluded, deserted area surrounded by forests. His crops have to be sold by carriage, which had been difficult since his good ol' horse had died recently. He sighed inwardly again. He is going to get his little girl education, if it is the last thing he ever did.
"Well, let's have some warm broth, shall we? It's going to get cold!" reminded Kea, helping her husband to the chair. As they were about to start eating, ticking sounds of rain began to clatter on their fragile-looking roof, and thunder boomed somewhere in the distance.
"Quite a downpour we have, anada. Do you think our house can make it through tonight?" asked Kea worriedly, lighting up the last remaining candle they have.
"I think it's quite alright. Good thing I got in before getting plastered by all that water, ne, my Kayko-chan?" Kurosuke tickled her daughter fondly as she nodded and giggled in agreement.
Suddenly, Kayko looked out the window and asked her father in confusion, "Ne, Papa, there's a person out there! Should we let her in, Papa? It must be really cold out there!"
Kurosuke smiled at her in assurance, happy at her daughter's compassion. He pushed his face against the window, trying to get a better look of the person. Who could be doing outside at this hour, and in this storm, no less?
With the light from the lightning, Kurosuke was able to see the shadowed figure standing somewhere between his hut and the edge of the forest; a young woman stood stock still, her face facing the sky, eyes closed like one enjoying a shower. She wore tight azure pants, and a skin tight blue shirt with long, loose sleeves. She had tied her long, dark blue hair at the base of her neck, now drenched and sticking against her skin, framing her small face perfectly. Kurosuke's alarm went off as he saw a long katana belted against her hip, the dark sheath looking perilous and grim. A sword this day and age? This is the Meji era, and a woman no less…
As if hearing his thoughts, the woman turned slowly, and Kurosuke found his eyes locked with hers. His heart was gripped with unknown pain as he looked her large, sapphire eyes like pools of sheer sadness, and made him want to help her.
As sudden as the emotion, her eyes seemed to be icy blue, devoid of any feeling, her face blank as she stared back, making Kurosuke wonder if he had imagined the whole thing.
An opening of the door snapped him out of his thoughts; Kea was calling for Kayko, and Kurosuke ran after his precious treasure, forgotten all about the rain.
As he reached Kayko and the mysterious woman, he was able to pick up their conversation. "Nee-chan? Why are you standing in the rain alone? Isn't it wet and uncomfortable?" Kayko asked, large eyes blinking with curiosity. The woman looked down and smiled, and Kurosuke felt that she looked more beautiful without that unsuitable frown she wore before. She bent down to the girl's eye level and said in a very feminine but quiet voice, "To me, rain is refreshing; it helps me cleanse my soul, as nature embraces me within their protectiveness."
Kayko's inquisitive eyes brightened, "well, Papa said that crying helps cleanse the soul too! Whenever Kayko's sad, I cry and Papa and Mama would hold me until I feel all better! Are you sad, nee-chan?"
The woman eyes looked distant as she replied, "Perhaps I am, little one……Hello, sir. I am sorry to keep your daughter out in rain for so long." She bowed slightly to Kurosuke, who picked Kayko up with effort.
"It's okay, lady. Maybe you want to come inside too? We have more space to spare for a soaking traveler," his eyes glinted good-humoredly, and the woman smiled back, though it lacked the passion Kayko had.
"Thank you for your kindness, I hope I am not intruding on anything," she said politely, walking behind Kurosuke as he led her to his hut.
"Hello there, jou-san. I'm Kea and this is my husband, Kurosuke, and daughter Kayko. Would you like some soup?" Kea smiled motherly at the woman. She can't look more than 19, and she seemed tired and hungry.
Kea was trying to dry her jumping daughter with a large rag, the cleanest one they own. Kurosuke took sips of the broth and felt warmer, his teeth stopped chattering. He did not complain, though, like he would beofre; he was somewhat content at helping out someone.
"I couldn't do that. I have my lunch with me. Thank you for hospitality. You can have some rice balls if you want. It's the least I can repay you all,"The womanbowed slightly again, gesturing at the damp, but not quite soggy bundle she held in her hand. Kurosuke saw that she wore some kind of arm guard, covering her forearms, wrists and stopped at her knuckles. When she saw their hesitation, she smiled again kindly, "Please take some. It would do good to my conscience that I know at least I pay you in some way.
Kayko grabbed one and stuffed it in her mouth. "It's delicious!" squealed Kayko in delight. The woman watched the family, a struggling emotion flickered in her eyes, trying to break free of the seal she put on long ago.
'Hey, we don't get visitors, nor travelers a lot. Do you have any story you can tell us? Kayko's been wanting for some new story for a while," asked Kurosuke hopefully, and Kayko nodded enthusiastically.
The woman looked out the window, lips pursed as if deciding on something, and nodded to herself before turning back to the family. It is time I let it out. I have to let it out sometime, so why not know?
"Very well. I will tell you of a story of a girl I know long ago, whose life had taken a drastic change, and she went on a journey, to train, to find herself again, and to find her retrieve her lost purpose in life," the woman began quietly, scanning the expectant yet anxious looks on the family's faces.
She swallowed as she continued, swirls of emotions spinning inside her head as she dug out her past, the past she forbid herself to recall, "Three years ago, there was a girl named Makimachi Misao, a genki, carefree ninja………"
As her past began to unravel, the woman felt herself being transported back in time, the images, and every single detail still so vivid in her mind. Way back, to the day she found out. The day her hopes were crushed, and her heart gouged and shattered. The day she found out about Aoshi-sama's death.
End of Prologue.
Ne hey, or 'isn't it', or 'right?'
Mou geez (not that informal)
(Japanese translations just in case. Any mistakes are welcome to be corrected.)
(Very first chapter! Please review and tell me what you think)
- Kaco -