A/N: …so this is new. I don't know exactly where this came from. Actually, that is a bald-faced lie: this is the result of too much Laby fanfic (featuring Evil!Jareth, incidentally, not that that has any bearing on this story). Somehow, that morphed into this, and I really couldn't explain how if I tried.
This is going to draw on a lot of Japanese mythology, but you guys are lucky in that I don't expect you to know any, which means I will be providing extensive notes so that you aren't all confused out of your minds by what I'm talking about.
Also, this is actually the first RK SaitouTokio thing I've written that is actually pretty light (as to be nonexistent) on Romance, hence the reason it isn't one of the genres. Take that as you will.
This one isn't a priority, so it will get updated with less frequency than Captain Miserable (…so going by my recent track record that's like a chapter a year or something…). This is mostly an experiment for me, because I always wanted to fiddle with Japanese fairy tales/folktales/legends/what have you.
Anyway. I'll shut up and let you get on with it.
Disclaimer: I do not own Rurouni Kenshin, Ugetsu Monogatari or any of the tales referenced, however obliquely, within.
Words To Watch Out For:
Ugetsu Monogatari: translates to Tales of Moonlight and Rain. A collection of nine independent stories, adapted from Chinese ghost stories, written by Ueda Akinari and first published in 1776. The title and the supernatural aspect are where the resemblance between Ueda's Monogatari and mine ends.
Ima wa mukashi: phrase meaning "Now long ago…" It is a phrase beginning every tale in the Konjaku Monogatarishū (Anthology of Tales from the Past). The Chinese-style pronunciation of this phrase is Kon-jaku, and it is from this that the collection gets its title.
quicksilver: the metal mercury; so called for its resemblance to liquid silver.
Ugetsu Monogatari: Tales of Moonlight and Rain
0.: Ima wa mukashi…
It was the odd color of her eyes that drew him.
Hajime was wandering through a park in Kyoto, his preferred city—he found Tokyo a vulgar place, a place that did not properly pay homage to the Old Ways—when he caught sight of the girl-child. At first glance, he found her no more extraordinary than any other child running amok in the park. But he was close enough to see her face very clearly when she turned around to run back to, he assumed, her parents, and that was when he saw her eyes.
They were quicksilver eyes.
His interest was instantly piqued.
The color was unusual, to be sure. It was rare, even now, after all the decades of contamination from foreign blood, to find a Japanese person who didn't have dark hair and eyes. Fair hair was slightly more remarkable than light eyes, if only because the incidence of the former was so much lower than the latter. But that wasn't saying much, really, because one hardly ever saw a native Japanese with light eyes.
And never with quicksilver eyes.
Hajime watched the girl-child, not caring that he was staring, or that his interest in her could be misconstrued; he was not bound by this realm's mores, and so they did not concern him. She toddled back to a man, presumably her father, who took the bright red ball from her chubby hand, and she sprang away to run back a few paces so he could throw it to her. He watched the game for a few moments in silence before he interfered, and soon the ball rolled to a stop beside his foot. He stooped down and picked it up, then straightened and looked at the girl-child, already running toward him to retrieve her plaything.
Those quicksilver eyes met his amber gaze without fear, and he was privately amused—children were so unafraid, at their core, and always of the proper things, too.
What a pity they grew out of it as time passed.
"Hello precious thing," he said when she stopped in front of him.
She executed an awkward bow, her eyes never leaving his.
"Hello," she said. "Could I have my ball, please?"
He smirked faintly, charmed by her—those eyes were large and liquid and so pale.
If he couldn't smell the mortality wafting off her so strongly, he'd have sworn there was magic in her.
"Yes you may," he said, holding it out to her, "since you asked so nicely."
She smiled at him and reached up to take the ball from him as if it were something more delicate than cheap, manmade rubber. His smile widened, and her pale eyes flickered to his mouth, then to his eyes, and then she smiled wider too.
He read her understanding in her smile: she knew he was more than he appeared.
Children were so very good at seeing underneath things.
"I'm sorry," a man said, and Hajime looked up to see the girl-child's father coming toward them hurriedly, apprehension and embarrassment warring for dominance on his face.
Hajime was irritated by the intrusion, unreasonably so, but he was also old enough to know better.
"There's nothing to be sorry over," he said, his gaze moving back to the girl-child, whose quicksilver eyes had never left his face. "It's difficult to muster annoyance at such a pretty child for so small a thing."
"Ah," the man said, sounding nervous.
No doubt, Hajime thought sardonically, the primitive part of him recognizes what the civilized part refuses to acknowledge.
The girl-child stepped closer to Hajime and touched his trouser leg gently, and he obligingly knelt down to meet her gaze on more her terms.
"I like your eyes," she said in a soft, reverent voice, smiling shyly.
"As I like yours," he said with a smile that was just a bit sharper than his last.
If she minded, the girl-child gave no indication, and it pleased him that she was so fearless of him, knowing that he was different, perhaps dangerous, but knowing too that she had nothing to fear from him.
She reached out a hand to pet his cheek, and as soon as she did her impossibly large eyes grew larger and her pink little mouth rounded into an O. He smirked, and was thrilled by the delight on her face.
Now she knew him, and rather than fear him, she was elated at the knowledge.
"Sada," her father said sharply, reaching over and snatching her warm little hand from Hajime's cheek, and Hajime's eyes flashed for a moment with fury at the impudence of the mortal.
But it passed. And his precious thing won his further appreciation for the way she did not flinch away from his gaze when he looked at her again, even though he knew she had seen the white rage flicker in his eyes for a moment, knew she'd seen the brief change that irrefutably labeled him as something otherworldly.
The mortal was making his pitiful apologies for the girl-child—Sada, he thought, rolling the name around in his mind and deciding he approved of it—instead of the apologies he should have been making for himself, for interrupting little Sada's deference to one of the Ancients walking amongst the mortals. But the ignorant man had no way of knowing what Sada did—he categorically refused to.
That shortcoming—denying the fantastic—often afflicted adults. But not children—never children.
It was why the young ones were so beloved by the Ancients.
"She wasn't hurting anything," Hajime said at long last, interrupting the mortal's stupid babbling. "Children are naturally inquisitive."
"You're very generous," the man said.
And you are a fool, Hajime thought coldly, his chilling gaze on the man.
"Some would agree," he said instead. Then he sent the man a feral smile, unable to resist a little pettiness: "But not many."
The man paled a little. Sada only smiled at him, and Hajime smiled back gently, unable to resist those quicksilver eyes.
When her father had grabbed her, she'd dropped her ball. Now, Hajime stooped down and picked it up again. The man held out his hand to take it from him, already thanking him; Hajime ignored him, knelt before Sada again, and offered the ball to her, treating it as delicately as she had only a short time ago.
"Here you are, precious thing," he said, still smiling faintly.
She smiled appreciatively and accepted the ball, then bowed.
Those quicksilver eyes never left his.
"Thank you," she said politely.
"You are most welcome." He reached out and touched the top of her head lightly, gently but quickly, and got the faintest impression of baby fine hair before he withdrew his hand.
It was enough.
Hajime rose and looked at the man—who was watching him warily—his gaze no longer warm and amused. He looked the man over, then dismissed him, gaze again returning to his precious thing.
She smiled at him, and he returned it.
"Goodbye precious thing," he said.
"Goodbye," she returned, bowing again, and he bowed his head, accepting her gesture of respect, before turning and walking away.
He wondered if she would appreciate his gift, impulsively given but lacking no less regard than any other gift.
"Papa, he had wolf eyes!" he heard her say, and he smiled.
Yes, children were very good and seeing underneath things.