Title:

When the Caged Bird Sings

Author:

Shun'u [ff.net ID: 61008]

Genre:

Drama

Series:

Kakutou Komusume Juline/ Juline (US release)

Rating:

PG

Notes:

(House of Kenga) Juline, Seiju/Sai, Ryoku, and Shiga Kio

Disclaimer: Juline and all of the characters used in this fan fiction do not belong to me. They're the creation of and © Kakinouchi Narumi (also creator of Vampire Princess Miyu) and all subsequent parties.

November 2001

W H E N • T H E • C A G E D • B I R D • S I N G S

A Juline Fan Fiction

By Hanashiro, Shun'u

Prologue: Let Imagination Take Flight

Father has always been a distant memory; his comforting touch and masculine scent an elusive one that I can barely recall in daydreams and flights of fancy. Years have passed since he was an active part of my life, and yet I still find myself crying at night for his presence. During the deepest hours between sunset and sunrise, my subconscious mind has a will of its own and drags my conscious self along as it imagines a life with Father by my side to guide me.

In these scenes I am a little girl again. Black hair in pigtails and dressed in soft pinks and joyful reds, I traipse along after him as he takes me for rural walks on the grounds that wrap around the House of Kenga. He is smiling as he describes to me the different uses for flowers and trees, uses much more practical than I would have attributed to them at that young age; it was enough that they were beautiful.

We stop by one of the stone benches that are scattered intermittently along the path for the weary traveler to rest. He sits and I climb up into his lap to better wrap chubby arms around his strong neck. He lets me do this and we sit in contentment. Father always had a distinctive fragrance on his skin. Like wood burning, it was warm and smoky, sharp but pleasant. Now I realize that it was sandalwood that was in his hair and on his skin from long hours of meditation in incense saturated rooms. But back then, as a child, I did not try to dissect the how and why. I simply accepted the scent as being an aspect of my Father, much as the raven-wing color of his hair, or the warm chestnut-brown of his eyes.

I let my cheek rest upon his chest and listened for the strong beating of his heart. It was there, that thump-thump that was so strong it nearly leapt from him and into me. Sitting there, with eyes half-drooping, I breathed in time with the rise and fall of his chest. Our closest times together were often when nothing was said or done. Sooner than was welcomed, something disrupted the peaceful atmosphere, as if life could not bear to stand still and be forever preserved in the perfection of silence.

Father laughed at the brown and gray squirrel and pointed him out to me. "Look, Juline, we have a friendly visitor."

"He looks funny, Papa. What's the matter with his cheeks?"

"He seems to have been a little greedy and stuffed his mouth before he could finish chewing and swallowing. Not unlike my Juline." Father teased.

He pinched my cheek for emphasis. Father sometimes did that to get my attention. It put me out of sorts whenever Kio tried to pinch my cheeks. They were constantly in a partially blushing state no matter what the weather or my disposition was. But when Father did it, I knew that he was just showing his affection and not picking on me like Kio. Still, I pouted a little to show that I didn't appreciate being treated like a child. He just laughed at me some more. Honestly, sometimes I thought that Father would never take me seriously; he seemed to want to keep me forever swathed in the soft restraints of childhood.

Needless to say, I couldn't keep my serious expression for long. Father was the center of my universe, the one foundation that I clung to with a passion. Mother existed, but she was like wispy smoke compared to his scorching flame. She fed me, and taught numbers and letters, and how to color inside the lines. She always made sure that my skies were blue and my fields were green.

But Father...

Father taught me how to fight with Bo and sword, with hands and feet. He made me understand that my mind and body could be more deadly than any weapons could be. Under his guidance I thrived. He let me color outside the lines and make the sky red just because red was my favorite color. He let me skip out on lessons if the sun was shining so that we could go fishing on the lake.

That was why I almost hated my dreams of Father. For in them I could believe that anything was possible in the whole wide world, and that was not so. When he died, I think that he took a huge chunk out of my soul. Not half, but greater than that. I still remember the day we were walking hand in hand and I was dressed in palest yellow. Then and there I should have realized that something awful was going to happen that day. They say that yellow is the color of death. Yellow is too bright of a color; nothing can live up the expectations of being in a constant state of joy, therefore the radiance of sunbeams can only serve to illuminate the inevitable disappointments and tragedies in life.

We had been talking about something inconsequential. Maybe the discussion was about what we were going to have for dinner that night, I'm not sure anymore. Anyhow, the mood had changed sometime after we lost sight of the dojo. Father became quiet; for him that was not a normal state to be in. He was always laughing and joking, always a prankster outside of the dojo where he was heir to the school. With me he was even more laid back. Which is why I picked up on his mood so quickly. He wasn't acting normal.

He was talking about family and legacies, destiny and honor, and all sorts of abstract things that my young mind could barely wrap around. Some confusion must have shown on my face because Father suddenly stopped and tapped my shoulder. I gazed up at his towering form and wondered at the frown that pulled his handsome face down.

"Juline, I have to ask a favor of you."

"What is it, Papa? I'll do it," I promised with absolute faith that whatever task he set would be within my power to complete. How was I supposed to know?

"I want you to keep this." He handed me a small letter opener that was designed to look like a katana encased in black lacquered sheath. I slipped the tiny sword out and found to my delight that it was sharpened to a razor's edge. "It is the Kenga clan's most valued treasure. Will you keep it safe for me, my Juline?"

"Yes, Papa. But why don't you keep it?" A scary thought took root in my mind. "What if I lose it? What if I lose the family treasure, Papa?"

"You won't lose it, Juline." He knelt down to my level and looked directly into my eyes. "I have faith in you. Remember, this is a secret between you and me, all right?"

"But how come you can't keep it, Papa?"

Father's face grew sad. I almost blurted out a tearful apology because it hurt me so much to have hurt him, no matter how inadvertently, but he answered me before the words could tumble out. "I'm going away for a little while, Juline."

Fear trembled on my lips. "Away?"

"Yes, I'm going into the mountains to train, to become a great warrior worthy of this dojo and our clan."

"But you're already a great warrior, Papa!" I would have made any excuse to keep Father by my side, but in this case it was true. "You're the best fighter our clan has ever had. Everyone says so." A brilliant plan occurred to me. "Let's go see Grandpa and he'll tell you what I say is true."

Father laughed a little at this. "My Juline, I'm going to miss you while I'm away," he said. And I knew, somehow I knew that he would not be swayed. "Take care of your mother while I'm away, okay? And when I come back I'll expect you to be the best fighter in the world."

I remember nodding obediently at this point, but not much else. Somehow my memories of Father were always focused on that one moment in time, that late autumn day when the leaves had turned from green to yellow, orange, red and brown, and they had already begun to blanket the ground and leave the trees bare and frightening. As I grew into adolescence it began to eat at my insides why I could barely remember my early childhood with Father and had an even harder time remembering Mother at all even though she still lived. It was as if a great wall had come between the past and me, and there was only a single glimmering doorway that connected past with present, in which this one memory stood.

Author's Notes:

What do you think? Is there potential to continue? ^_^ To those of you following my Inuyasha stories, I'm still working on them. *cough* They're just coming along very slowly right now… On a good note, Inuyasha the Movie is coming out December 22 in the theatres. And for any RK fans out there the second set of OVAs (Jinchuu Arc) are due to be released December 19, 2001, and February 2002.