Well, this is it. This is the last chapter to "Sweet Nothings." I hope I didn't disappoint throughout this whole story, and although it makes me sad to know that this story will end, I hope to create more stories in this genre again.
Oh, this is sort of off topic, but I apologize…the last ending quote was just "Light of Love" not Kiseki no Umi…which is an entirely different song…albeit, still by Maaya Sakamoto.
Disclaimer: For the last time, Samurai Champloo belongs to Manglobe, blah blah blah. Just read and enjoy, dammit.
By Youkai Yume
Epilogue: Ever After
They were married in the spring, when the breeze was calm and cool and the blossoms danced in the wind. It had been a small gathering, with only a few close friends. This included the old shopkeeper, Kenta the chef and the other employees at the restaurant, and of course, mainly the children of the town. The ceremony was held not at the village shrine, but right in their own backyard. The sunflowers had bloomed with the leaving of winter, as if it had known all along of their joining.
She had walked hand in hand with him in a kimono of pure white satin, because they couldn't really afford silk, but she hadn't minded in the least.
"Satin is practically like silk anyway!"
And then she had confessed to him that she was glad that they were to be wed so soon because any longer and the barely noticeable bump in her stomach would have swelled so much that her kimono—either silk or satin, wouldn't have been able to hide it. She professed that she would have looked unflattering on her own wedding day.
He laughed then, and knew that no matter how large his Fuu would become—and he had seen her grow quite large before—that she would always be beautiful.
And oh, beautiful didn't seem like the sufficient word to describe her as she walked through that sea full of sunflowers, with tendrils of silky brown hair that hung around her delicate face, and long, dark lashes that brushed against flushed cheeks. How the image of her painted lips upturned in a delicate smile and sparkling hazel eyes that spoke of a day that she never thought would come burned into his memory.
Even Satoru, who had never admitted to Fuu that he thought her pretty before had stared open-mouthed with a healthy blush on his cheeks as she walked by; something that he was sorely embarrassed about when Satsuki and the other girls caught him in the act and giggled insanely.
Amidst the silent murmurs and warm looks that surrounded them, all Jin could really do was stare at his bride throughout the entire time. Afraid that if he looked away—even if for a second, he'd wake up and it would just be another one of his dreams.
As they stood before the Shinto Priest, whose words drowned in their ears, he had sneaked a sideways glance at her and their eyes caught. Even without words, he knew she what she was trying to say:
If he agreed then it would mean a life half-lived. Even at the altar she gave him one last chance to turn away if he wished from their imperfect fairytale.
He twined their hands then. There was nothing more he had ever wanted in his entire life.
The samurai still recalled the first time their lips met as husband and wife on that day. Of course he had shared many passionate and breath-taking kisses with Fuu before and since then…but in that one moment, it had never seemed more sacred and precious. As if that one single act was some kind of triumph of fate that had always been denied them.
When they had finally parted and the cheers and congratulations resounded around them, Jin's eyes noticed a shadow of a figure that loomed beside the large oak tree that wasn't far from where they stood. For a moment, his gaze lingered upon it. Then he blinked and the figure was gone…as if it had never been there to begin with. Jin could have sworn he saw a flash of red.
He had smiled.
"What is it?" Fuu's soft voice had brought him out of his thoughts and he looked down at her with a sort of knowing look before he kissed her again.
"Nothing," he had whispered.
Jin would like to have thanked Mugen properly. He would have liked to hear the pirate's gruff and perhaps even rude blessings on their wedding day. He knew Fuu would have liked it as well. But then again, Mugen was never the sentimental type anyway. It seemed almost fitting that the brazen man had offered his congratulations in his own hidden and silent way.
Besides, even if he had come up to Jin, the samurai knew exactly what the pirate would have said:
"Be happy, ya bastard."
Afterward, Jin had looked down at his new bride, held her hand to his lips and knew that he would be. Even if it was only for a short while.
Her voice rang in his ears as if it were only yesterday that she had spoken the words.
"Guess what, Jin."
"I think I finally wished on the right star."
He never told her, but he thinks that perhaps he did too.
A small tug on his kimono sleeve brought him out of his reverie; Jin looked down at the pair of large hazel orbs that gazed back at him curiously.
"Come on, Papa! We're gonna be late!" she tugged at his sleeve even more insistently. "Momma'll be mad," she warned, causing the samurai to chuckle slightly. He took her small hand in his large one and nodded.
"Alright, Himawari. Let's go."
She flashed her father a toothy grin and with much impatience, practically dragged him down a road that they had both grown so used to walking. In her other arm, she cradled two sunflowers that she had picked out herself delicately against her chest along with her favorite doll.
"Take care of the house Jin-Jin!" The little girl called back to an old, graying cat that slept soundly on their porch, its' ear and tail twitching in response.
Himawari giggled and gave another brilliant grin to her father. She was always excited when they went to visit. Even though they do so almost every other day, the little girl never tired of it.
Today she had even woken up early to fix up her hair all by herself. Well, almost. Jin had helped put in the pins in her hair. The same ones that Fuu always used to wear—even though the samurai had bought her far more beautiful ones, she always loved her first pins best. She told him that they had belonged to her own mother. And now, with her hair tied all tied up, she looked even more like his beloved Fuu than she already did.
Sometimes, it surprised him how much the child reminded him of his wife. Not only in appearance but in demeanor as well. She was as bright as sunshine and loved the sunflowers that she had been named after almost as much as her own mother did. And even though Fuu had always let Himawari have her way, it was of course Jin that spoiled her rotten.
People have always commented on how she was Daddy's little girl.
Himawari began to hum softly to herself a song that she heard her mother sing many times to her. Vaguely in Jin's mind, he imagined that when she grew up she'd sing it to her own children, and then they'd sing it to theirs, and so on and so forth.
Along the way, Jin spotted someone walking down the same path with shoulders hunched over, hands in his pockets, and a slight swagger in his step. To anyone else, the man would appear drunk but Jin knew from the many years that he had been acquainted with the man that it was just the actual way that liked to walk. Which probably suggested that he composed himself quite well as a drunk.
"Look! It's Uncle Mugen!" The little girl cried happily and she immediately let go of Jin's hand to race up to the ragged pirate. Instantly, the brazen man lifted his head and peered over his shoulder at the sound of Himawari's pitter-pattering footsteps that approached from behind and for a flickering second, smiled as the child threw him a hug around his feet.
"Hiya squirt," Mugen grunted, ruffling the girl's hair.
"Don't do that!" Himawari whined. "I fixed it really nice today…"
He scoffed somewhat before meeting eyes with the silent samurai who slowly approached him.
"Bastard," he replied.
"Please refrain your language in front of my daughter."
"Whatever." Mugen peered down at the little girl and scratched his head. "Sunflowers again?"
"Momma likes sunflowers," Himawari explained. "Papa and I are going to give them to her. Were you going too?"
"I guess," the pirate shrugged, and they all continued on their way.
"Didn't you bring her flowers?" the child questioned.
"Guess I forgot," Mugen shrugged again, shoving his hands back into his pockets and scowling ahead.
"That's okay, you can have one of mine, Uncle Mugen! I brought two!" she held out one of her sunflowers for him to take, grinning expectantly. The man could only stare at it for a couple of seconds before relenting and accepted the flower, grunting a soft thanks as he did so.
Jin mentally chuckled. It was shocking really when he first found out that the rough and tough as nails pirate had a soft spot for children. Or perhaps it was only for Himawari. It was a little after five months after their wedding when Mugen had decided to have a proper reunion with Jin and Fuu and claimed that he would be visit once in a while. Fuu, who had been heavily pregnant at the time was indeed happy to see him again and whined a bit about not being able to give the man a proper hug because her bulging stomach was in the way.
"God woman, you're fat," Mugen had said when he first saw her, smirking and sneering. Of course he immediately wished he hadn't because with Fuu's added mood swings, she didn't give him just a slap on the head, and Mugen didn't end up with just a bruise…
He drifted in and out of their lives every so often, and it was implied that he'd never truly stay and perhaps neither Fuu or Jin minded as long as they saw him. But even that didn't last long…
Jin remembered the day that Fuu finally gave birth to Himawari. Admittedly he and Mugen had been quite worried about her condition and feared that due to her illness that she would be too weak to pull through. He had thanked the stars when he held his daughter for the first time in one arm, and Fuu in the other.
"She's beautiful…" Fuu had whispered then, tired and flushed but undeniably happier than he had ever seen her.
"Like her mother," He had whispered back and kissed both his wife and daughter softly on their foreheads.
And Mugen, who had been waiting just outside the doorway and finally let in by the doctor could think of no witty comeback to ruin the moment, only staring with disbelief down at the small bundle in Jin's arms.
After being threatened by Fuu that if he dropped her baby she would kill him, Mugen had surprisingly been allowed to hold Himawari. Jin remembered that scene vividly too. The pirate held her as if she were the most fragile glass—like he had never been allowed to touch something so precious before in his entire life.
Jin had no idea that someone so ruthless and uncouth could be so gentle—and to a child no less. This was a man who once killed an old man just because he didn't understand what the elder was trying to say.
"She's kind of chubby," he remembered Mugen saying. Yet, even then Jin could tell that he had become attached to their daughter already.
Mugen visited more and more often after Himawari's birth, until it was painfully obvious that the pirate wasn't just a visitor anymore. He was family, as he always had been. Of course, Fuu had offered to let him a permanent room in their home, but Mugen declined.
He claimed that he didn't like the idea of being kept awake all night by the baby's cry or Jin and Fuu's…late night activities.
Nonetheless, Mugen stayed nearby. He helped Jin build and add onto their house on top of the hill until it was suitable to be called a dojo. True to his word, Satoru had been the first to sign up as one of Jin's students.
Needless to say, the boy and pirate didn't get along too well when they first met. They still don't.
It hadn't been long before Jin's dojo had attracted more students, and Jin was slowly getting used to being called Seishou. Regardless, the samurai was pleased, even if he wasn't as good as a teacher as his own master was. He made enough to ensure that his family would never starve, Fuu would always have medication, and even enough so that Mugen could occasionally freeload off of them.
It was a lot better than washing dishes that was for sure.
Fuu had often liked to stand by the doorway and watch Jin's sessions with his students whenever Himawari was napping. Sometimes she even brought the slumbering child with her. Even though the samurai usually chided that she should be resting instead she had never listened. Busy or sick, Fuu always found herself sneaking into the classroom and watching him nonetheless.
"Like some sort of dance or something," he remembered was one of her compliments.
Sometimes she even brought snacks for the students. They had become so accustomed to their Shishou's wife that not only did they grow fond of her, but called her Lady Fuu as well. Fuu loved the flattery. Jin didn't…Perhaps he was paranoid, but he even suspected that some of them had a crush on his wife…He knew Satoru sort of did still.
But he had never been worried because first of all, they respected him too much, and secondly he was sure that Mugen made threatening comments when he thought he or Fuu weren't looking.
Mugen…was a frequent visitor to their dojo. He sparred often with Jin's students and so far, has remained undefeated; a record that the pirate was disgustingly smug about.
"If you can't beat me, what makes you think any of your students can?" Mugen had bragged over a cup of sake one-day.
"I never lost to you," Jin had scoffed then. "If it weren't for Fuu I would have killed you."
"Don't use that excuse! You couldn't do it even before you got married to her!"
"Ah, but neither could you. And you're not even married to Fuu, so you have no excuse."
And it was just the way things were. Maybe they're friendship had finally gotten the better of them. Or maybe they both loved Fuu too much. Or…it could just because they were both getting old.
"We're here, Papa," his daughter's soft little voice broke into his thoughts and Jin blinked a bit, realizing that they had reached their destination.
Dark eyes dropped down to the grave marker and softened. Fuu had been waiting for them.
It had been nearly three years since he woke up with her in his arms that one morning, only to find her tender gaze upon him, watching. Nearly three years since she had touched his face then and he understood that it was time. Nearly three years had passed since she closed her eyes as if she was just falling into another sleep, smiled, and simply asked for him to hold her.
His daughter had wept when she realized her mother was not going to wake up, and though Mugen appeared angry with Fuu for leaving, Jin knew that he had wept in secret.
But none of them would ever weep more than him. He wept when he was awake…when he dreamt…and he wept even when no visible tears were falling.
And even though he had known all along that it was inevitable that it would happen…even though he saw her grow weaker day by day and she stopped responding to medication, he had hoped that their wishes went further than just the stars and paper cranes.
She had loved him, and it had saved him.
He had loved her…wasn't that enough to save her?
"Hi, Momma," Himawari crouched down in front of the grave and smiled. "Papa and I brought you a new sunflower." A small hand shot out to take out a withering sunflower in a small vase that stood beside Fuu's grave marker and replaced it with the new one. "Uncle Mugen brought one too. I helped him," she announced proudly.
Himawari glanced back over at the pirate who snorted gruffly before placing the flower that the child had given him earlier next to its' brother in the vase. Jin could see the amusement playing across the man's eyes, and he couldn't blame him.
His eyes lingered on the grave, around it there were budding signs of floral life beginning to grow, and it wasn't coincidence. Himawari had planted them there because she thought her mother should have flowers all the time, not just the ones that she or her father brought for Fuu.
"Mimi came to visit too, see?" Jin watched as the little girl held out her rag doll in which she had been clutching too the entire time as well for her mother to see. "Notice anything new? I made her a new kimono! Papa says that for my eighth birthday next week, I can have a porcelain doll if I want. But I like Mimi better…Papa says he likes her better too, right Papa?"
She glanced back at Jin, who could only return the look lovingly at his daughter and nodded. "Hai." None of the other porcelain dolls could compare to the rag one that Fuu had made for Himawari. They never would. Himawari, pleased with the answer, turned her attention back to Fuu's grave and continued speaking.
She confided in Fuu how she had decided that she would become a samurai just like her father when she grew up, and that Jin promised that he would teach her when she turned at least eleven. She spoke of the other children and the dojo and how Jin-Jin's kittens just had more kittens…
All the while the two men could only watch her. Himawari did this every time they visited. And the familiar beginnings of longing spread throughout him with each breath that he took. It hurt him to look at his own daughter sometimes. She was stood for everything that he and Fuu had shared…the short happiness that he had found with her before it was taken away.
"There's nothing more that you could have done," Mugen leaned over and whispered to him while Himawari's voice drowned in the background.
"I couldn't do anything for her…" Jin said back, inhaling deeply. He mentally scowled when he felt the pirate punch him lightly on the arm in mock anger.
"Shut up, you did everything for her…" He went silent for a while. "You did everything I couldn't."
The samurai turned to look at the man beside him who refused to meet his eyes. He instead stared stubbornly ahead, seemingly focused on the little girl that was now doing hand gestures animatedly. "She was happy, wasn't she?" Mugen mumbled.
And Jin looked back at the grave marker and the sunflower that swayed gently in the breeze and saw his daughter giggling lightly, and he smiled a bittersweet smile. Yes…his Fuu had been happy. She was smiling till the end. And perhaps he would never stop mourning her death and the time that he lost with her, but he would be forever thankful that he got to keep her for as long as he did.
Himawari's voice faded and the samurai realized that the girl was finished with her conversation with her mother. She clutched tightly to her rag doll and returned to her father's side, small fingers grasping the fabric of his kimono.
"Uncle Mugen, Papa? Wanna say something to Momma?" she asked. Jin placed his hand on her head and smiled gently.
"Well, I got nothin' to say today…" Mugen said. "But I got a feeling your dad wants to speak to Fuu alone." The pirate smirked at Jin and took Himawari's hand in his. "I'll treat the squirt to lunch and meet you back at the dojo later, okay?"
Although Jin was a bit hesitant to let the man walk off with his daugher, the samurai relented and nodded. "Alright." He trusted Mugen. Himawari let out a happy squeal and bounded to Mugen's side.
"See you later, Papa!" She called back. Jin let his gaze linger on them for several moments before averting it back to the grave in front of him.
It was just the two of them…just as it always should have been. He crouched down in front of her, trembling fingers tracing over the characters of her name. His stoic mask fell, and he gazed at her with an expression that only Fuu would ever be allowed to see.
Instinctively, Jin's hand went to grasp the hilt of his sword…his fingers gradually touched the sleek feel of his sheath. No matter how worn out it would become, the samurai would never replace it.
He yearned for Fuu…that much would always be true. Sometimes, his need for her was so unbearable that he considered taking his sword from the very sheath that she had given him to place it against his chest…just so he could be with her again.
But then he'd be reminded of Himawari and how Fuu had never wanted her own children to go fatherless that he let go of his hilt. At night, when Jin lay awake he wondered if Fuu had planned it all along and gave him a daughter just so he had a purpose to go on living and not follow her in death. And he did love Himawari so…
He had told her a hundred times over, and would tell her a hundred times more how much he missed hearing her song and hearing her laughter. He would tell her he missed making love to her and the nights they spent just wishing on stars, and he'd tell her he'd never stop missing her.
And years from now, when he was old and gray and Himawari had grown and had her own family…he would still be there, telling her that he loved her. Just in case she had forgotten or by some chance didn't believe that he still did.
"Fuu." Jin whispered, a bittersweet smile gracing his lips as he felt a warm breeze caressing his face…his hair. He swore he felt her with him. He knew she was watching. Listening.
So he'd whisper to her…sweet nothings only she could hear.
I love you more than anyone else
Even more deeply than the sky
Let's meet again
But I am the only one who knows that we can't meet again
And…that's it…the end. Ah, it went by so fast, didn't it? I hope the last chapter wasn't too confusing. I sort of wanted the flashbacks and present time to mush together for a sort of nostalgic effect. I know half of you were hoping that I didn't kill her off, but I'm realistic…
Besides, I wanted the ending to be bittersweet without being overly tragic.
A few extra notes. In Chapter 3, the scene in which Fuu broke her shoe and Jin carried her on his back was something that actually happened to me between a friend and myself. No, it wasn't romantic, it was comedic more than anything and we were only walking to McDonalds…she broke her shoe and demanded that I carry her there because she didn't want her feet to get dirty.
In case anyone didn't catch it, Himawari is in fact the Japanese name for "Sunflower." I thought it would have been fitting that Fuu would want to name her daughter that. I also noticed that a good hefty number of you expected Fuu to die of childbirth. God, you guys are all so morbid! Haha.
This last ending quote is "Into the Light" by Maaya Sakamoto.
I want to thank EVERYONE for reading this fic and for the wonderful support and feedback that I have gotten. I hoped that you all enjoyed reading it as much as I have writing it, and I hope to write more for Samurai Champloo in the future.
PLEASE READ AND REVIEW! For the last time…I really want to hear from everyone who ever read this fic and hear what they think about it. Yes, this includes the lurkers as well. I will try to respond to everyone who reviews.
Again, thank you all and it's been a pleasure. Look out for more Jin/Fuu fics in the future!
Thanks and Ja Ne!