Tears and Rain

Epilogue -- A picture of yesterday and a picture of tomorrow

By Gabi

The rain had stopped by the next morning and Kuri had determined that the best possible course of action was to keep herself busy for the next three days while she waited. Constantly thinking about the situation would only make her sick to her stomach again and that didn't help anyone.

This decision had led her to her current task. After scrubbing the floors in most of the rooms in the house, Yoshida had finally shooed her out into the yard where she was now painstakingly weeding the carrots. She had a little hand trowel and she was down on her knees in the garden thinning the rows so the carrots that did grow would have ample space. She was so engrossed in her garden work that she almost didn't notice being overshadowed by someone standing behind her. She did notice, however, when the shadow cut off her light and made the weeding difficult.

"Go away," she murmured crossly, thinking it was Yoshida, out to criticize her gardening again.

The voice that answered her was soft and familiar, as warm as new milk and as soft as goose down, "I'm not going to go away. I've finally come home."

The voice made her freeze still and she almost didn't want to turn around, for fear she was imagining him, but finally, she managed to steel the courage to turn and face him. She nearly shrieked with worry when she saw him.

He was much the worse for wear. He had a nasty bump on the back of his head and a black eye. His new peach gi was soaked through with mud and grime and it looked from small bloodstains on the gi that he had several shallow cuts across his chest and back.

Kuri made a small wordless sound and then saw him teeter uncertainly. Without thinking she moved to steady him and in this impromptu embrace, he leaned heavily on her. She found tears welling in her eyes and she didn't care to try and fight them. Supporting him as best she could, she began to lead him into the house.

Yoshida was not particularly pleased when he saw that the ronin had returned, but he helped Kuri take him back into an empty examining room anyway. He scowled as he glanced over the battered wanderer and ordered Kuri to clean and wash all his wounds and then put a certain kind of salve on them. He then finished with something like, "I don't have time to treat idiots who get themselves injured," and exited the room with a less than gentle closure of the door.

Soujiro shrugged out of the soiled gi and then rolled onto his stomach so she could clean the cuts on his back first.

She was distressed when she saw the number of them and she cried out, "What happened to you?"

He was sheepish as he spoke, "I wandered into a nasty thicket of thorns on the way back here. I'm afraid I wasn't thinking very clearly for a while."

Kuri didn't answer this admission but instead concentrated on silently tending to his cuts. She didn't press him for any information and this distressed him. He had expected her to be so happy when he'd come back to her. This was a chance to start over. Instead, she was silent and tense and he could feel the hurt in the eloquent glance that she offered only at his back.

"Kuri?" he ventured, but she was yet silent.

"Kuri," his voice was steadier this time, and there was no question in it, "If I ever leave you again I give you permission to hunt me until the day I die."

He heard her make a choked sound and felt her forehead pressed against his back. She clung to him, and as she did, he felt the light caress of two teardrops.

"Kuri?" he asked concernedly, "Kuri, why are you crying?"

She didn't answer for a long time, but eventually, she responded in a tiny voice, "I didn't think you were coming back."

He shut his eyes. He had hurt her by leaving her. He had hurt her by trying to protect her.

"Sumimasen, Kuri," his voice was so tender, "Can you forgive me?"

She was silent and still she clung to his back, refusing to speak, unable to speak.

Finally he said, "Will you come with me?"

Her only response was pent up cry of frustration, "Soujiro no baka! Of course I'll go with you!"


Later he would tell her in great detail about waking up on his back, in the mud, in a field, as the rain finally slacked off. He would tell her how he found his katana thrust into the earth beside a message gouged into the mud. The message read "Go back to your girl, Tenken, and keep trying to find you way. I'll keep trying to find mine."

In his semi-functioning, half-conscious state he had thought the message very good advice and had hastened to follow it, but these were all things he'd tell her later.

Four days after he had come stumbling back into the garden, he declared that he was fit to travel again, and ignoring Kuri's protestations, he packed them up and took his leave of Yoshida as gracefully as possible. Hisashi invited them to come back whenever they were in Kyoto again and Kuri promised that they would visit.

They made for the fastest way out of the city and after only an hour's walk Soujiro led them off the beaten path and up a steep hill that terminated in a cliff. He seemed quite interested in studying some charred wooden posts in the valley below, but Kuri did not press him, at least for a time.

Finally, when her curiosity overcame her she ventured, "Soujiro-kun, did you ever find what you were looking for?"

The question seemed to catch him off guard, yet he still smiled fondly at her as he turned his back on the panoramic view, "Iie."

Pulling his arms into a comfortable position inside his gi, he turned and began to walk back down the hill.

"Iie, but I think it's very close."

Kuri took one last look at the burnt and twisted arches that domed a path that had fallen into disrepair before turning her back on it too. The breeze was light and the sun was warm and somewhere nearby a crow called as the slight girl fell into step a few paces behind the boy ronin.

The End o.o I'm serious. The end. Please read the second story in the continuity "I'll Do My Crying In The Rain" if you're interested in finding out what happens next ^_^