Title: Fortune Telling
Word Count: 3956
Author's Note: "Blade of the Immortal" and all of its characters are propriety of Hiroaki Samura. Who is a genious.
They say if you dream of someone's death, it means they're lucky. What if you dream about someone that already isn't in this world? What if you dream about the killer, not the killed?
I suffer from nightmares. When I was younger, almost every night I saw slashed body of my sister. Her favourite toy - plain, rag ball - drenched in her blood. Almost every night I watched as yet another samurai passes the corpse without a glance. Such an unsightly view. It was, indeed, especially when my weak, small arms tried to gather her little body close to my chest, to make her whole again, somehow, to drive away the chill that was creeping inside her as fast as blood floating out of her fatal wound. I don't remember screaming, although I had to, since somehow my older sister appeared some time later. The cortège was long gone and I was sitting in the dirt on the side of the road, hugging my little sister's corpse, drenched in her blood. I remember fingers prying my hands off of her, someone's strong arms carrying me somewhere, whispers, cries, rough cloth scrubbing my skin and tender caresses and whispers lulling me to sleep. But when I closed my eyes I saw it all again, and leaped up, screaming again, night after night.
Eventually I learned to muffle my cries, and then nightmares themselves started to subside as well. But they never went away. From time to time I wake up suddenly, sitting, sweating, with my heavy breathing echoing in the depth of the night.
Just like now.
We defeated another dōjō yesterday. All those samurai jerks, protecting their school, their master, so proud! And then so frightened, when one of freaks that came to them threatening, not all, but just one, defeats yet another of them, easily, hungry for blood, cold and merciless. Every time I fight with someone like one of those bushi from my past I fight for myself from twelve years ago. For this little boy that couldn't protect his sister. For the little girl that didn't even have the time to comprehend that her life is over.
Nevertheless, it doesn't ease the ache that burns in my chest now. It never does, even though I tried to convince myself, that revenge is what I want, what I need. If I could find this bastard that killed her, then maybe... Maybe I could believe that her soul will rest in peace. Maybe I could live normally. What is done is done, though. There is no way I could ever track which samurai tried his sword on my family, so for the sake of my kins I'll kill all that came across my path. This Taito, without as much as a family name, a demon hunting demons.
Loud thump rouses me from my grim musings - hand on a tatami? - and to my terror I realize it came from Kagehisa's room. Without a thought I snatch one of the swords from the rack and silently half-run to the end of the corridor. I stop to listen - there's Kagehisa's heavy breath clearly audible - but it doesn't sound restrained in any kind, nor there is any indication of a fight. I sigh. That's a relief. I feel now, how fast is my heart beating in my chest. So rapid, so violent. It feels wrong, in this house where, paradoxically, there wasn't a single fight that wasn't a training. Yet.
"Oi, Danna, you okay?" I call through the thin paper door, as quiet as possible, so to not disturb anyone unnecessarily. There's a moment of hesitant silence on the other side of the shōji, but then I hear soft sigh of silk and cotton, then the door slides and there is Kagehisa, clad only in light yukata and a little smile.
"I'm fine, thank you." His eyes travel down and fix on the hand I clutch the sword with. "No need to worry." He smiles at me again. Creepy. It's never a good sign when he smiles so much, especially not if it's only a grimace, like now.
"I just heard some noise and thought... Well it might... I mean, I was worried that..." He waves a hand, both dismissively and invitingly. Shut up and come inside it says, and that's what I do, glad that he ended my stuttering before I said something stupid.
Kagehisa sits under the window, gestures me to accompany him. For a while we just contemplate roar of crickets outside. The room is grey instead of pitch black, it's close to dawn. I turn my head to say something, but before I open my mouth I look at him closely. This proximity shows how tired he really is - paper thin skin under his eyes is a shade too dark, corners of the mouth hang down, deep line marks the space between his knitted brows. I wonder what could wake him up in the middle of the night, and almost instantly I come with an answer. Of course.
"Too bad no one else suffers from bad dreams tonight." I start quietly, as if talking to myself. I close my eyes and settle my head back on the broad windowsill. Still, I can feel Kagehisa's surprised look on me. I grin. "We could have a nice middle of the night party!" He laughs discreetly. Somehow I know that this time smile has reached his eyes, if not lips. It's good.
I watch him polish his swords. He never lets anyone else do that – even though Ittō-ryū has already twenty members, and he's busy with newcomers, conquering and search for Makie – but Kagehisa sticks to his routine as if he was still a teenager with only Kuroi and Abayama at his back.
There is an earthy smell in the air from the shower half an hour before, and I wonder, just briefly, could it be tainted with something like drug – because I'm starting to think funny again. There is never just watching with Kagehisa. Somehow, I fall into fine net of thoughts that are both foreign and familiar, natural and appalling.
The futon is still spread on the tatami, Kagehisa himself sits on it cross-legged, all of his weapons waiting for their turn in his hands in a neat pile before him. It's alluring, this strange mix of vulnerability and deadliness. Kagehisa's yukata is loosely bind, his hair for once not tied or restrained in any other way. Hands ghosting over blades are delicate, their movement sure but soft, as if there wasn't a deadly weapon in his grip, but a living thing, fine and fragile. One of his sleeves slipped down his arm a little, and though there's no femininity in the sharp, muscular line of his shoulders, the contrast between paleness of his skin and rich darkness of his hair is deceptively artful. But it's beauty in a raw form. There is hardly a move that is unnecessary.
His face is in its usual stone-cold unmoved state, which always reminds me of statues of warrior-gods from a nearby shrine. Kagehisa's mouth isn't twisted of course, his teeth aren't bared, forehead is clean and smooth. No hint of what is going inside his head is visible on the surface. And yet, he's just like those stone creatures in a way, face seemingly unable to express something more than one perpetual feeling. Determination. Calm and calculated ambition to win, to prevail by any means possible, overpower all that oppose him.
Strangely enough, even with that constant gloom on his face, Kagehisa looks so innocent and young. He barely changed since I saw him for the first time, almost three years ago. It's like he'll forever stay in his young, perfect form, deadly agile, body ready for the battle any time, deceptively delicate features focused on his weapon.
Then it strikes me , that it may be so, considering our lifestyles, number of threats that fall at Ittō-Ryūalmost everyday. He may not live long enough to get old, grow beard, develop all those meaningful wrinkles around his eyes and lips. Perhaps, neither I may live to see the day of his fall. What appals me the most is the realization, that my own death doesn't seem so scary, but one thought of Kagehisa's fall echoes with dull pain in my chest. As my boss, I think, it would be unbearable to loose him, because then I'd loose my purpose as well. But it rings false even in my own head and suddenly I can't even look at him any more.
Turning to leave I notice his eyes shifting at the movement. One, two, three steps and I can hear him move behind me. Soft "What's wrong?" glues me to the ground, so I stand there, not trusting my voice at the moment, with my back to Kagehisa.
"Nothing." I say, and thankfully, it's as dry as it should be for a detached kenshi. I wonder if he'll push, if he'll say I lied - because anyone can tell with me, Kagehisa uses to say - if he'll try to stop me. He does, in the most unexpected way. His hand, calloused and warm, lands on my shoulder, and I can't surpass surprised yelp at the strange gesture. My head turns slightly to regard him form the corner of my eye, and I can see he's amused. No a hint of a smile on his face though. Grip on my shoulder is steady, but has an edge to it, that leaves me the choice - if I want to stay or not. I choose the latter.
"I'll check if Bā-chan has made breakfast yet." I say as I start walking away. Kagehisa is silent, only his hand slides listless down my spine, back to his side.
Bā-chan is still bustling in the kitchen, so I make myself some tea and go to the backyard. The air is crisp after the rain that fell last night, the fragrance of earth mixes with freshness of grass. I sit on the engawa, sip my drink slowly and watch bugs and birds flying back and forth. Grey kitten is slinking to the beetle sitting on a rock. It's moves are smooth and silent, though there is a hint of excitement visible in its slightly shivering legs, nervously twitching ears. Tail, beating rhythmically kittens' sides, stills for a brief moment and then the cat dashes forward, trying to trap the beetle.
It fails miserably, paws only brushing bottle-green crust. Pink nose lands in a puddle.
Kitten sits and starts cleaning itself.
"Ah, it shall rain!" I turn around just in time to see a flinging hem of Kuroi's black cloak. He sits beside me, on my right, so his face isn't obscured by mysterious thing growing from his arm. I never asked what it was, and I'm sure I wouldn't like to know, even if someone volunteer to tell me themselves. It spreads strange smell.
"Wasn't is that the guest arrives, when cat washes it's face?" I ask, trying not to flinch, when I notice slight wavering of this thing on his shoulder. Gross.
"That depends on who you are depending on." That smile. It freaks me out the same as when I first saw him. As if he knew. I don't know what exactly, but still...
"Anyway, neither this nor that would be fortunate for us." Better stop talking with him, before he starts asking questions. Just in case. I down the rest of my tea in one gulp, and get up. Or try to, because in the middle of straightening my back I sneeze. Hard.
"Hahah, someone's talking good about you!" Kuroi graces me with a smile. What an eyesore.
"Wonder who." I try to proceed with going back inside, but then I sneeze again. I bend so hard I have to lean on a column. What the hell?
"Or maybe not that good after all..." He laughs openly now. That thing on his right shoulder bounces slightly. I feel slightly nauseous at the sight. I don't have a chance to reply to that, though, because I sneeze yet again.
"Who would have thought?" Kagehisa appeared in a doorway. "My , my, Magatsu, didn't know you're such a ladies' man." He's amused, obviously. I prey for one more sneeze. I do prey hotly.
It never comes.
Kuroi still laughs and Kagehisa smirks openly. I'd rather have pneumonia, honestly. One little sneeze separate love from sickness. Oh the irony.
"Young master, breakfast is ready." Luckily, Bā-chan rescues me from taunts that surely would follow. I love that woman. Not only does she cook (estimated time of every meal moved around an hour later), she also makes me scrub dōjō's floor with her (she instructs, I scrub), spread and fold the futon (she instructs, I spread and fold), and carry water to the bath (she instructs, I train. Yes, carrying buckets heavy with water is good training!).
Manipulative old hag.
No wonder though that I have bad luck from the dawn. It's tomobiki today. Bad things happening to your friends, they say. Unfortunately for myself, I've found that my amicable feelings towards my boss are mutual. Well, damn. Could've known it'll bring more harm than good.
I sneeze again and go after Kuroi and Kagehisa, who already disappeared into the house.
It's raining again, and there's no ryōkan nor tea house in approximately five ri, so we're marching stubbornly in the downpour, looking for some kind of shelter for the night.
I'm sneezing almost constantly - it was a cold after all! - and it's the only sound, apart from the rain, that can be heard. Visited yet another village in his futile search for his cousin, Kagehisa yet again withdraws, shuts himself from the world. Fine with me. I'm in Ittō-Rryū not for conversation anyway. Have to admit though, it slightly bothers me sometimes. Once again I wish I knew what's in his mixed up head.
Thankfully, even if I ponder strange ways of my boss, I'm still fully aware of the outside world, which allows me to notice familiar tree beside the road. Haphazardly twisted momiji marks the path to the nearby shrine. Roof! All I need now! Constant Chinese torture of raindrops falling on me, bumping stubbornly from my nose, sneaking past my collar is almost too much to bear, when I realize only few minutes away there's a solid piece of roof!
"Oi, Danna..." Kagehisa turns to me slightly, not changing his pace the least. "How 'bout we go and dry ourselves off for a change?"
He raises slender brow inquiringly, and I stop, because we already passed the entrance to the shrine's tract. I roll my eyes at him, which I know he hates. Can't help it.
"There's a shrine nearby." I point backwards with my thumb and sneeze. "I could really use a dry piece of floor right now, you know..." I sneeze again, just for good measure.
He smiles lightly, first expression on his blank face since we entered that godforsaken village yesterday, and even though it looks more like a grimace I somehow feel it's honest. Good, he's insufferable when he feels miserable.
Or maybe that's just me and my cold.
The shrine looks neglected. We pass under weathered black torii, with moss nearly all over it. Underneath there are pitiful remains of shimenawa, an indication that no one was here for a really long time. I stop by temizuya. Kagehisa doesn't say a word, but looks rather amused, as I wash my hands and mouth. Sure we're drenched, but hey, it's a shrine. Abandoned or not, better not fall foul of gods. Unless you are as detached as Kagehisa.
We enter haiden. I go in first, ring the bell, bow, clap my hands and ask kami living in this place to share some space for a little while, with two thoroughly soaked travellers. To my astonishment, when I open my eyes I hear clapping of hands to my left. There is Anotsu, head bowed, concentrating hard on something... Maybe he isn't as cool-headed as I thought? Or maybe he's so desperate to find his cousin, that he turns even to something he usually just smirks at? He could be just mocking me as well...
The floor is so dry that dust flies all around the place when we move to see where to settle for the night. It's still fairly bright outside, but since there isn't anything we could do until it stops raining, a good snooze is seemingly the best way to use our time here. Pity we can't make a fire though, I started shivering a while ago. Every time I sneeze, cloud of dust surrounds me, which only makes things worse. Every place of floor is equally dirty, so I choose the corner farthest from the entrance, which might have be quite cosy, if not for the suspicious tangled pile that moved when I came close. Oh, nice...
"Hey, Danna, we've got company here!" I strain my eyes using little light there is to at least determine the colour of the snake. I wonder if flicker of red is fidget of my imagination. If not we might have nice dinner.
Oh wait, no fire. Damn.
I feel a rush of air behind me. Snake stills with its head up.
„So what are you planning to do with that sweetheart?"
„Dunno. It's probably just a jimuguri anyway. No point killing it." I take my sword from behind my obi, sheath and all, and inch towards the reptile. It dashes forward, sharp teeth sinks into the leather. I grab the snake just behind its head, and go out, into the downpour again, back to the torii, where I set it free.
"Have a nice night with some rat, buddy."
Freshly drenched again I enter the haiden to see Kagehisa has already hung his haori on a tantō he drove into a wall. Currently he was sprawling his pale mint kimono on the dusty floor.
"So... What are the arrangements for the night?" I ask, disrobing myself slowly. Damp clothes are uncomfortable, but I feel as if I could shake the wetness off with my shivers. Kagehisa sits down, back to the wall and smirks at me. I freeze, halfway through unbinding my obi, and gape. And sneeze.
"You don't mean..." I start because that's just too ridiculous and I hope I'm just seeing things. Seriously now. He's just making fun of me, testing how far he can push before I break and say or do something stupid. Somehow I feel that tonight I don't need much.
Today is senbu. No luck before noon, a lot of it in the afternoon. I wonder briefly, if those superstitions aren't mean to read contrarily. Seriously now. That, or they were made by exceptionally cruel demons to start with.
Kagehisa reaches out his hand. "Give me your kimono." As simple as that, he says it and I obey. He sits there, only in his black under-shirt and knee high pants, much like mine. Grabs navy blue fabric with one hand and motions for me to sit down. "Come here."
I stare at him. "You kidding me?" It's beyond funny now, he's serious.
"You cached a cold. I can see you shivering from here. We have to keep you warm." It's that simple for him, just keep me warm, before Bā-chan drenches me in one of her concoctions. I make conscious effort, and sit there, turned back to him. His chest isn't broader than mine, but it feels solid as a wall. I sit up abruptly, gather my hair and tie it with a strap of leather. I sneeze and settle back again. Kagehisa's arms spread my kimono over us both, then encircles me loosely. I'm still shivering, but he emanates heat like a stove.
"Feels weird, you know." He makes an acknowledging grunt, but otherwise stays silent. It still rains. Setting sun changes transparent fluid into brooks of liquid gold and streams of blood. How many real blood we will shed before Anotsu reaches his goal? How many before I reach my goal?
What would that be anyway? Wading in the river of corpses, perhaps? Over past few years I kept on killing samurai, yes, but was it more fore my own sake or Kagehisa's? I lost count of the people I killed, and it didn't even bothered me any more. Which, ironically, bothered me itself. But the most disturbing thing was, I knew I wouldn't leave Kagehisa. That I will kill for him again, convincing myself I do that because it's the fastest way to eliminate those scum that ended the life of my baby sister. Even if deep down I know it's not really my fight any more, that I'm protecting his ideals, not mine.
Quite a friendship we have.
"What next, Danna?" I ask quietly. "It's turn for Tomomi-Ryū this time, right?" I twist my head slightly and I'm met by the perfect view of Kagehisa's chin. He rests his head on the wall, and I think he's asleep, so I settle back down. Then I feel move of muscles behind my head and sense a cheek pressed to the back of my head.
"It is. I planned a visit on next week." His voice is muffled, and I can feel his warm breath ghosting over my ear. Sleepy.
"Good, I'll be as good as new then." I'm warm all over now, so comfortable I could easily fall asleep in the next ten seconds.
"Knowing your luck you'll be pinned to bed anyway."
"Huh? What's that supposed to mean?!" No sleep for neither of us, it seems. I angle my head up and meet his eyes this time. He's amused, clearly.
"Why, you have a fucked up karma, that's all." He grins, so unlike himself, and unwinds one hand from my chest. Sneaks it down my arm and gently nudges the kimono aside, as he brings my our hands closer to his eyes. He examines lines on my palm closely in the last rays of sunlight, velvety scarlet glow bringing out deep wrinkles in a strange relief. Kagehisa knits his brows, twist his lips mockingly and gives a low pensive murmur.
"Yes, I see... Interesting..." Index finger slides along one of the lines. "See, this is fate line. It's short, so it means you're short on luck." He gives me a triumphing look.
I glance on my hand as well. "Danna... That is the head line. If it's short it means I'm not the sharpest tool in a box. This-" I point with my other hand. "Is fate line. The deeper it is, the grater things you achieve." I grab his hand and compare the lines on our palms. "See, yours is deeper than mine."
"Didn't know you're such an expert in this matter." He breathes right into my ear. I shiver slightly. Kagehisa twists his hand and encircles both my wrists loosely, tuck our arms back under the kimono.
"'Am not." I say to distract myself, because I pay attention to Kagehisa's body way too much. now that we're so surprisingly close. "I'm just not that ignorant not to know you should read character from left palm instead of right."
He smirks, lowers his head, rests his forehead at the base of my neck. I lay my head back on his shoulder. "We should sleep now." He whispers.
This evening nightmares spare both of us.
One more note from yours truly: this is actually chapter three, I just haven't wrote first chapter yet... ^^" I didn't want to post every of my Mugen one-shots separately, that's why it's that weird.
Hope you enjoyed!