Written for my one-year writing anniversary. This is not a part of my other Fuuma/Kamui X fanfiction, Star-Crossed, but feel free to read that too. ;) shameless plug

This was inspired by the Japanese proverb "Tonari no hana wa akai", the English equivalent of "the grass is greener on the other side".

Slight spoilers.

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"Whenever evil befalls us, we ought to ask ourselves, after the first suffering, how we can turn it into good. So shall we take occasion, from one bitter root, to raise perhaps many flowers." -Leigh Hunt (1784 - 1859)

"Flowers never emit so sweet and strong a fragrance as before a storm. When a storm approaches thee, be as fragrant as a sweet-smelling flower." -Jean Paul Richter (1763 - 1825)

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The Neighbor's Flowers Are Red

Kamui used to love red flowers.

When he was younger, he would pass by a thriving shrub, filled with bright scarlet blossoms, on his way out of the Monou's family gate at twilight. If he was alone, he would crouch down to smell the lovely scent they emitted, the perfumed air heady, relaxing his energetic mind and making his whole day better. The dusky sky would seem illuminated with all the colors of sunset, the dying heat and light giving off one last shine before he had to hurry home under the night-sharpened city lights.

Of course, ending a playdate with his cousins saddened Kamui, and he would miss them as he walked home. The short time apart was an eternity for him, when he was younger. An image of the cheerful, coaxing red blooms would comfort him as he hurried down the winding streets to the small apartment his mother rented.

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Much later, after Kotori and Fuuma had died at fate's hands, Kamui moved into the shrine alone. The walls seemed hollow and frail, all sound echoing loudly throughout the space. It was far different from how Kamui remembered it, through a child's eyes. He hated living there, with no one to comfort him and make the night less painfully long, but he loathed the thought of someone else living there even more.

He moved through the rooms as ghost-like as any other returning phantom, which his memories often seemed to project inside the house. A glimpse of Fuuma, a snippet of his voice, all haunted Kamui to the point where he could no longer tell the difference between his mind and the empty shrine. Floating across the rooms, he would touch nothing and make no attempt to break the oppressive silence that pervaded the walls. Touching nothing, that is, except Fuuma's bed. He would fall asleep, pressed deep into the firm mattress, wrapped in the sheets of the friend he had failed to save, the love that no wish could bring back. Resting his head against the pillow, he could almost imagine that Fuuma was there, offering his broad shoulder to lay his head upon as they rode home together, side-by-side on the metro, after a night game at the basketball courts.

Breathing in the smell of him made him hate himself more and more with every inhale. He would sit in the middle of the floor with his arms curled around his body, rocking back and forth until daybreak streaked across the sky, slanting in bars across the hardwood floors. He never cried.

Usually, he would wake while it was still dark out, padding bare-footed along the cold hallways, until he was surrounded by wisps of smoke as he burned incense for the family altar, a stone tablet looming in the alcove, lips moving silently as he prayed. Finally, he would run his fingers down the Chinese characters as if to memorize their grooves, as though this act could save him from his undying gloom.

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The first time he smelled the flowers after a decade's absence, he flew into a fit of rage. The scent was overflowing with the remnants of everything he had lost, and it drove his mind to a brief insanity. He rushed in a flurry of agitation to snatch the hedge clippers from the rusted maintenance shed, before wielding them at the bush. He hacked viciously at the mocking blossoms, until his all-consuming fury had left him, leaving nothing but exhaustion and destroyed blooms to fill his hollow shell.

Weeks went by, and the red flowers grew back fiercer and more quickly than imaginable. The scent was more potent than ever, suffocating Kamui as he ran past the gates. He couldn't help but feel as if it were he that was decaying, his life force making the blossoms stronger, as they grew and rooted deep within his heart. They knew him better than anyone, now, and they could sense his weakened spirit. The gentleness they had once presented to him had somehow turned into a predatory presence that gnawed at him, every waking moment.

The beautiful red was now darker, threatening bloodshed as all breeds of flowers flushed to match their color. Even the laughing sakura blossoms had lost their precocious pink, surrounding Kamui with a storm of falling bleeding petals, blinding him with their vibrance.

The flowers were winding around the gate, climbing around it as tightly and thickly as ivy, tendrils reaching down to ensnare Kamui as he fought his way free. Inside the house, he could see them through Fuuma's window, watching him and mocking him as he shut himself in the dark, safe closet to bite down on his hand and scream.

There had to be a stop to this. The thought echoed inside Kamui's mind without pause. There must be a stop to this.

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The neighbors gathered across the street from the old Monou shrine to watch as the gate and house went up in flames. They hadn't noticed the fire in time, and now they stared out through morning haze at the ruins of the once grand property; the air was heavy and choking from the dispersing smoke. The flowers were nothing but ashes; the gate, a charcoal skeleton.

As for the owner, he had vanished. The neighbors speculated that he had probably gone up in flames as well, but the police never discovered charred bones or the cause of the fire. It was a shame, they said. He had seemed like a nice young man, if not a little odd, keeping to himself.

The land was eventually paved over, and used as a small commercial plaza. The fate of the shrine-owner never came to light, and came close to becoming forgotten, came close to being lost forever in the dusty files of the police department as Case #306275, suspected arson.

An urban legend sprouted about a phantom spirit causing the consistent failures of the business park, a story centered around the bushes of deep red flowers that cracked the concrete, the ferocious thorny plants that weeds and even poison could not kill. Sometimes, the schoolchildren said, late at night when the moon had risen and fire lit the smoky horizon, a boy could be spotted sitting among the blossoms, gazing forlornly through his entanglement of vines to frightened passersby, right before the wind swept him into ashes, a small squall filled with the intoxicating red petals. Though clearly marked by despair, he never cried.

This fire-child, born out of bitterness rooted far beneath the soil, seemed imprisoned, chained to the crimson flowers. During one moonless night a long, long time ago, smoke from the business park fire guided his way as he gave his essence to the air, dissolving as he breathed freedom from his earthly torture, swirling upwards to join with the sky and finally sleep, wrapped around a star.

The people, living in the city, knew nothing of this, no longer remembered the sweet boy who had once run joyously past their homes when dusk painted the sky. They didn't know anything about the mysterious fires that plagued the cursed lot. But the corrupted, dying red flowers had seen it all, and they knew one thing for certain.

Kamui didn't love flowers anymore.

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Forgive me for the more disturbed aura of this one. If you have any comments/criticisms, please review and/or email me. Thanks for reading:)