Enjoy! [I don't own Samurai 7 or the characters. If I did, I'd be rolling in dough, Kyuuzou would be a girl and would be together with Kanbei. Which I'm not, and they aren't. So there.]
"It's all right, Kirara-chan. Just tell him how you feel in whichever way just feels right! It's not good, you know, bottling it all up like that!" Yukino gently chastised the water priestess, holding her young hand in both of her's.
"I understand, Yukino-san."
The two women stood from their position at the bottom-most stair, and nearly jumped out of their skins as an unwelcome, but not disliked, chuckle sounded from above them.
"Ara, ara... How long have you been eavesdropping on us, Kanbei-dono? It's rude to listen in on a lady-to-lady conversation!" Shichiroji's wife huffed teasingly, not registering the blooming red searing across Kirara's round face.
"Oyasumi-nasai, Kanbei-dono, Kirara-chan. Soreni wa, gambateru-yo!" Yukino whispered the last bit to her companion, ascending the flight of stairs with Kirara at her side. She gently pat the younger lady's shoulder and shot her a sly wink, then left for bed.
Kanbei remained where he was, raising a questioning eyebrow at the child (age is relative) before him. He reached out a calloused hand and cuffed her shoulder as a friendly 'goodnight', and prepared to leave for his own bed. What he had not expected, was for the young village girl to, quite visciously, grab his neck in both hands, and pull him down for a sloppy mouth-to-mouth kiss.
He stared down in pure shock at the girl before him, too stunned to even remove his hand from its spot on her narrow shoulder. Sure, he knew the girl had feelings for him, but this?
Kyuuzou shrugged on her tight red coat, and fastened the silver clasp into place. The dour samurai was feeling particularly off today, a strong wave of unreasoned melancholy had settled over her, and she had simply no idea of what to do about it.
She figured talking to someone could, possibly, help, but her unhealthy amount of pride simply barred that option as off-limits, and so she had obligingly complied.
A walk in the woods didn't sound too bad. Kyuuzou was, for one, glad that the Firefly House was near such a beautiful expanse of natural greenery and clear springs within the greenery despite being in the urbanised area that was Iyashi no Sato.
As it was, the warrior woman dutifully strapped her beloved twin swords (in their sheaths) onto her back. Flexing her, in her opinion, not that she had any problem with them, abnormally long legs, she slipped on her cobalt-black battle boots. She quietly exited her room, careful not to wake little Komachi, and strode down the dark and quiet hallways of the inn.
She could hear Yukino speaking from across the shōji screen, and she discerned a vague 'goodnight' from the inn-keeper. She politely stood at the side of the door, greeting Yukino with a curt nod of her head as the woman stepped into the hallway.
She turned the corner then and there, and soon wished she had never gotten out of bed...
"Ah... Kyuuzou... sama..."
Kanbei, for the second time in less than five minutes, was shell-shocked, shocked to the point where his body had completely shut down into a look and posture of pure nonchalance.
Kyuuzou, his beloved, his first-and-last love ever, heck, his fiancee, standing right there, probably just as shocked as he was, had walked in on Kirara's one-sided kiss.
In a possibly intimate position.
If not intimate, then at least obliging.
He hadn't pushed Kirara away.
... Oh god no.
Kyuuzou seemed to be at a loss, but quickly regained her composure, her face slipping smoothly back into her mask of apathy and icyness. She simply walked past them, acknowledging the two with another of her infamous curt nods, and soundlessly slipped out of the inn, her scarlet cloak sweeping the tatami behind her.
The blonde woman fought the sting in her eyes as she stepped with as much confidence she could muster into the chilling night air. She controlled herself as she turned the right corner into the alleyway to the right of the Firefly House, and supposed anyone who was watching would have supposed that she was some badly crafted mecha-samurai.
She strode purposefully into the dense foilage, made sure she was encased in pure solitude, and then she snapped.
Kyuuzou ran with all the power possible in her lithe body, tripping once or twice over large roots potruding from the ground.
Kyuuzou never tripped.
Her eyes were welded shut, tears effectively clouding her vision. Nothing more than starkly contrasting colours were distinguishable, but at least she could easily identify the river.
The samurai halted, panting and choking with said pants and her sobs. She braced herself unsteadily against a nearby oak, feeling as though she could just cough her lungs out of her chest and be done with it. Heh, no such luck.
How long she'd been running she had no idea. She wheezed pathetically, her knees weak with fury and disbelief. The warrior scouted the sturdy oak above her for a suitably high branch, and struggled to the top.
She wouldn't normally have this much trouble, Kyuuzou mused, the norm would have been that she could scale that height with a single bound. The blonde samurai mercilessly slapped herself both ways across her dull, tear-stained face for becoming so pathetic.
Getting shot through the chest was so much more pleasant than this... With that morbid thought in mind, Kyuuzou slipped into a tumultous slumber.
After Kyuuzou left, Kanbei had stood rooted to the spot, and had not even registered Kirara bidding him goodnight and leaving for bed with uncertainty.
Kissing Kirara, albeit unintentionally, and Kyuuzou had walked in.
Kyuuzou, who did not trust nor love easily.
Kyuuzou, who had finally acknowledged him just barely after she'd recovered from the last war against the Capital.
Now she was probably thinking that he'd been merely toying with her fragile heart, and had gained it merely to smash that delicate crystal into pieces.
Now, she probably wanted to kill him more than ever. Either that or...
Shimada Kanbei was no fool when it came to his comrades' thought-processes, and if there's one thing that he understood of the prideful and somewhat homicidal samurai's mind, is that there were two choices she now faced.
Either Kyuuzou would brutally slay, dismember, or incinerate the one who had hurt her, or she'd slay, dismember, or incinerate...
The dark-skinned samurai blanched considerably, and bolted down the tall flight of stairs, out into the rainy night.
Since when had it started to rain?
Kyuuzou was awoken to the familiar dull crunch that was undoubtedly, the chewing of cud. *Kyuuzou had been born, not into the fields, nor into the higher samurai-class, but into the barns and livestock farms. There was a reason why she had no surname, unlike Katayama Gorobei (god rest him), Okamoto Katsushiro, Hayashida Heihachi and Shima-
You know what? It's only those three.
She peered down curiously at the dark ball of whatever-it-was, just as drenched as she was in the heavy downpour.
Downpour? The crimson-eyed woman shook her head lightly, deciding it didn't quite matter when the sky had decided to start crying along with her.
She leapt from her perch, startling the, rather large and shaggy actually, quadruped. The sheep, as she now identified it, wore a coat of shining, silky almost, coat of jet-black wool. Its skin was equally dark, and it cast its forlorn, bloodshot eyes to her face.
"Hey there," Kyuuzou considered herself mature enough not to talk to animals, but considering her current state of mind as well as the rareness of a lone black sheep, she supposed exceptions could be made.
"You lost or something?" she carried on, whispering gently as she stroked the abnormal wool of this... ewe? wondering if she had ever seen sheep, wild ones as well, in anything smaller than a group of three.
She dropped into seiza beside the female sheep, contented with watching it chew the cud nonchalantly, even as it was undoubtedly soaked to the bones. It's like me in more ways than one... The twin-blade master mused.
She wondered if perhaps it been born a snow-white lamb, frolicsome and playful like every other lamb was. Just as she had been born a cheerful little blonde who loved kites, cooking, kntting, dolls and sewing...
Once upon a time.
Perhaps, like Kyuuzou, certain... circumstances, had forced it into a full hundred-and-eighty degree flip. The white lamb grew into a dark ewe, just a simple, playful farm girl had grown to become one of the coldest, most feared samurai; champion of more than ten thousand foes, esteemed yet unacknowledged peon-turned-hero of the Great Wars of the Era.
And still perhaps, because of what it had become, it had been cast out, when at last the one(s) who cared most had found someone more worthy of their affections. This ewe looked visibly diseased and malnourished. Kyuuzou probably looked like the perfect picture of dejection and melancholy.
After all, why would Kanbei choose such an incapable wife when Kirara was a perfect lady who was offering the entirety of herself up on a silver platter? Of course there wasn't a reason, a man like Kanbei wouldn't love a woman who didn't remember how to be a woman.
So caught up was Kyuuzou in her upsetting thoughts that she jumped in surprise when the black ewe simply stiffened and keeled.
So that was that, eh?
"Kanbei-sama's been searching for quite a long time hasn't he? It's nearly afternoon and time for lunch and rice," Shichiroji worriedly grasped Yukino's hand, his wife equally as worried for both samurai's safety.
"Don't remind me of rice, Shichi-dono. I don't feel like eating anything prepared by... Argh! You know! I don't even care if it's Kanna village rice!" Heihachi fretted, sore and upset by the fact that Kirara had so unceremoniously broken possibly his best friend's heart.
"It's not her fault, Kirara-dono had no way of knowing after all..." Katsushiro tried in as placating a voice as possible, "I'm sure Sensei will manage to convince Kyuuzou-dono to return."
The flame-haired rice-lover groaned in response and shot Kirara a dirty glare, before eating his share of lunch, prepared thankfully by the Firefly House's cooks and not the water priestess.
Komachi glanced worriedly at her sister from her position in Kikuchiyo's metalic lap, a naruto halfway in her mouth.
"When I encouraged you to voice your feelings, I'd assumed that you were referring to young Katsushiro-kun... (his ears tipped red) But if I'd known that you were meaning to confess to Kanbei-dono, I'd have objected straight away! If I'd only known," Yukino mumbled under her breath, her face full of regret.
The door crashed open, and in the doorway stood Kanbei, his face positively black with fury and… grief? In his arms was a red bundle with a hint of silver. For a moment to company's spirits rejoiced at the recovery of a comrade, but their faces soon fell at the noticeble lack of shape and volume of the bundle.
"I hope you're happy," With that, he chucked the bundle upon the tatami floor, and stormed to his room.
The bundle had been apparently Kyuuzou's infamous red cloak, soaked with blood and… river water? With a minor incision in the collar area. The glints of silver had been Kyuuzou's twin swords. One had been left in the scabbard and the other was drawn, blood drying and caking on the edge of the sword.
And so they'd lost the second samurai.
A tall figure in a non-descript rugged cloak shuffled its way through the market place, a basket of groceries secure in one hand. Its long blonde hair flew loose in the breeze, its face aged just a little bit aged, its eyes held wisdom and weariness.
The door to an equally non-descript hut slowly opened with a mild squeak. An old lady wearing a simple floral kimono descended the steps and greeted the cloaked figure in the doorway.
"Ah, **Kanon-chan! Such a lovely dear you are, trying so hard! You didn't have to get up so early to go marketing you know? This old lady's still got it in her to buy her own groceries!" The stout old woman ended with a short jovial chortle as she retrieved the basket from Kanon.
"It's the least I could do to as payment for food and lodging," Kanon replied, her voice dipping on the deep side.
"*Naaaaani, you're the best door guard anyone could hope to have, Kanon-chan! So diligent, sleeping on the couch in front of the door, snapping awake the instant there's something out of the ordinary. You must have been an amazing samurai in your prime, huh? Kanon-chan?"
And so Kanon smiled, moving to the altar to pray. And of course, she gave thanks to the ***gods for sending her that beautiful black sheep.
Maybe Kanbei would find her someday, maybe he would take the hint. The old Kyuuzou was dead, Kanon had taken her place. Maybe, just maybe he was still out there, looking for her.
She snorted, 'Given of course, if he loves me.'
*The way I see their social system is that farmers are just one step below samurai which are one step below the merchants which are half a step below the ruling merchants. Farmers and some lowlier samurais have no surnames, but anyone can become samurai.
**Special thanks goes to Lhye for his/her fic 'What the Rain Said', which is where I originally got the name from. And thanks to Jun-I for pointing out that I forgot to give Lhye credit. Whoops...
***Assuming Kyuuzou's buddhist... Or something... .
WAAAAH!!! 2,190 WORDS!! WHOOP WHOOP! FOR 3.30AM IN THE MORNING THAT AIN'T BAD, HUH!?!? I think this deserves some reviewing! ^_~