A/N: Second oneshot! And on a very special day, too!
It turns out that I was reading the first volume of Ao no Exorcist this morning before school and when I reached Fujimoto's file at the back, I saw his birthday was May 10th. As coincidence would have it, today IS May 10th, so I decided to write a oneshot in his honor... or kinda, something of the sort xDD Part of this piece was inspired by what happened on the OVA, when Kuro runs away and finds Shiro at the graveyard. Aaaaand spoilers for this oneshot, but anyway! Just go ahead and read!
And don't forget to congratulate the Paladin! 8D
I do not own Ao no Exorcist/Blue Exorcist; Kazue Kato does.
A certain spirit on the 10th of May
Back to the graveyard, only this time as a special occasion.
Rin stood at the entrance, staring on ahead with a knot in his stomach. The place, as was expected at such time in the night, was deserted and barely lit. Oddly enough, it had looked a bit more 'appealing' two days ago, when Rin and Yukio had gone into town. They'd dropped by the monastery on their way back to their bus stop, and had also gotten a look at the graveyard. There had been a few people there, walking around with flowers in their hands, and on such a bright day, it had looked a lot less sinister than what graveyards usually did. But right now, in the middle of a cold night, it seemed ready to act as a horror movie scenario.
Adjusting the Komaken's sling over his shoulder, Rin headed inside at a steady pace.
He remembered the first time he'd been there, at his father's funeral- his true father Shiro Fujimoto. Rin could thank that it wasn't raining, because talking to a tombstone -as he had the intention of doing- under the rain would've looked weird. Not that he cared about the impression that would cause, really: he'd accidentally talked to Kuro while in the middle of a crowd, had gotten the odd looks because of it, and Rin had just shrugged it off like it was nothing. Kuro, on the other hand, was somewhat embarrassed and did not say a word until they were back at the dorm. Rin couldn't help a smile at that memory.
When he arrived at Shiro's grave, though, the smile disappeared as quick as it had come.
For some reason, it had again become difficult to cope with Shiro's passing. Lately, the old Exorcist had plagued Rin's thoughts and of course, Rin had been unable to shake them away; because of that, even Rin's mood had been affected. Every day he woke, he did so wishing that wherever he was, Shiro was watching him grow stronger with each passing moment. That wish-turned-conviction kept Rin motivated in his studies (much to Yukio's surprise) and distant from everybody, his brother included. Kuro had regrettably received a similar treatment, and the poor demon cat was more than neglected. Rin kept reminding himself to take better care of Kuro and make it up to him with whatever the little guy wanted, but procrastinating due to his black moods was inevitable. And so, Rin kept putting his chores off.
After staring at the tombstone for a good and long five minutes, like he used to do every time he came by, Rin started praying. Though aware of his agnostic disposition, Shiro had forced Rin -back when he was eight- to memorize and learn by heart an incredibly long list of prayers. The boy had had no choice, despite rebelling and declaring that praying was useless. Now, seven years later, praying while standing before the grave of the person Rin held the closest to his heart was working wonders on him. And for no special reason, too, but Rin felt relieved nonetheless.
"...and thou shall kneel before God and claim His name with unwavering devotion; believe. Do so, and He shall lend you the Hammer of Righteousness for you to bring down upon those who defy Him and His mandates, and evil shall be erased from existence," Rin said as a finishing touch to his quiet prayers. "Yeah, I memorized that one, too. Never seen it in the Bible, so I guess it must've been one of your quotes, right? Guess I'll never know for sure now."
Given that he was alone, Rin sat cross-legged in front of Shiro's tombstone with the Komaken on his lap, smiling briefly. He was sure that Shiro was listening, and so he begun his narration of recent and not so recent events. "If you wanna know, something important's happened. It turns out that Yukio's powers awakened some time ago and believe me, it's still being hard for him. He'll be fine, though: he's got me to show him around. Kuro's also doing okay; he's an awesome companion. I think he likes me more than he ever did you, you old fart!"
Rin let out a laugh that came out weaker than he himself was expecting.
"About me, there's a lot to tell, but I'll get to the important stuff. I've got a good bunch of friends, who all know about my true nature. It took them a while to accept it, because it's demons Exorcists are supposed to fight, but we get along even better now! Bon and I still compete over a lot of things, obviously, but he's a great guy. There's also the flame issue: Shura helped me exercise better control on them, and with candles! It was awfully boring and frustrating, but... it still had its fun moments. You would've liked to be there."
Oh yeah, Shiro would have loved it.
Rin suddenly remembered the time he'd burnt off Yukio and Shura's clothes. He could only imagine Shiro laughing his butt off... though not before throwing whatever typical remark at Shura about her, ahem, physique; Rin had known his father long enough to at least have that certainty.
During the silence, Rin felt his smile falter and eventually vanish once more. A feeling of emptiness settled in his chest. It was eating away at his soul, nurturing his anger and frustration even further. Rin gripped his sword so tightly his knuckles went white, all the while plucking out the determination to open up a bit more. Yukio had enough on his plate and there were some personal matters Rin wasn't ready to trust his friends with yet, so the only person he had was Shiro- again, wherever he was.
"And... well, I miss you, you-" Rin hesitated before speaking that accursed word. "Dad, I miss you. All this time, I've done my best to carry on and become a successful Exorcist, and I've always done it knowing you had my back. But now... now I'm here, talking to a frickin' tombstone and ready to..." Rin felt tears pricking at his eyes, but he swiftly wiped them away. "Yeah... ready to cry my eyes out one more time. I miss you so damn much..."
Rin ducked his head, unable to keep his gaze upon Shiro's grave, and then his tears flowed. Despite the knot in his throat, Rin continued speaking, unwilling to back out now. "I'm sorry for what I said that day back at the monastery. I was... angry and- and confused, and I don't know why I believed you were trying to push me away because I was a demon. All those years of... of love and care and I had nothing else to say but that when you were clearly trying to protect me..." Rin leaned forward and rested a hand on the cold tombstone. "I've apologized many times before but-"
"-but you never felt like it had been enough, right?"
Rin jerked back and jumped to his feet as if he'd just received an electric shock. He looked back and forth between the ground he had been sitting on and Shiro's tombstone with wide eyes, shaking like a leaf. Seeing demons was one thing, but now hearing the voice of the dead?
"Don't look so surprised; I spoke to Kuro some time ago, too! What is it? Can't a dead man stay around 'ere for a while?"
And before Rin's eyes, Shiro Fujimoto appeared sitting on his own tombstone, a wide grin on his face. Rin felt his heart sink and the knot in his throat tighten while sensing the color drain from his cheeks. "H-how...?" Rin couldn't utter a single word and at this, Shiro's smile broadened even more.
"Geez, look at yourself: used to fighting demons bigger and meaner than you but you can't even hold a straight face when talking to a dead man."
"That's exactly why!" Rin bellowed, pointing a finger at Shiro at the same time the Paladin burst out laughing. "You're dead! Exorcists can see demons, not spirits!"
"Says who?" replied Shiro, quirking up an eyebrow. "Kid, you live in a supernatural world... kinda. These things are meant to happen. As to how I'm still here, I wanted to stay for a while and keep an eye on you two. And know this: I'm incredibly proud of the two of you."
Shiro's last words hit home. Rin held onto his composure for dear life, waiting for Shiro to keep on talking. He also wanted to shout a few things into the old man's face, but the heavy weight on his chest kept him from doing so.
"I still can't believe it..." Rin whispered with an aching throat. "And all the times we've been here and you've never come out...?"
"I was waiting for the right moment. Turns out that this was it, you little baby!" Shiro released a loud guffaw. In normal conditions, Rin would've snapped at him and attempted to smack Shiro in the face. But they weren't normal conditions anymore so, instead of going back to old times, Rin stared at his father wordlessly, struggling to keep his tears back. He failed miserably, though at least managed to avert his teary-eyed gaze and hide it behind his forearm.
"Don't make this any more difficult, alright?" Rin said between sobs. "I'm... I can't-"
"Then don't. There's no need to say anything, Rin."
Rin's heart suddenly skipped a beat: Shiro had pulled him into a light embrace and Rin could feel him just as if he were alive. Shiro was warm, solid: he was really real. Rin could even sense Shiro's heart beating steadily, a sound Rin remembered having fallen asleep to many times in the past. A question that arose in Rin's subconscious was that he was being hugged by the ghost of his father, a ghost that ever so conveniently had a beating heart to boast of. Rin fought against his common sense, burying it under false joy and relief. Because Rin wanted to be fooled, if only just for once.
He quickly returned the hug, clinging on to Shiro with the fear that he would vanish at any time. Oh, how he was now despising that rebellious nature and gigantic ego of his, two things that had prevented him from truly getting along with Shiro. For the first time in what it seemed ages, Rin felt safe. Had he not changed, he would've considered it a 'loss of dignity', but Rin couldn't care any less anymore: he missed Shiro and wasn't afraid to admit it, not even in front of the Paladin himself, who would surely mock him for such openness.
"No hesitation, eh, Rin? What happened to that headstrong attitude of yours?" asked Shiro. That was a question Rin would never ever reply to for sure. "I didn't expect you to miss me this much; I can't believe you didn't even fight to get away."
Rin clenched his teeth in sudden anger. "You don't get it, do you?"
"Nope," Shiro replied immediately. "What I also don't get is why you're still blaming yourself for what happened to me while you so openly accept Yukio's accusations. Isn't it time you left it behind? Damn it, kid, it's been more than half a year since that!"
"So what? The passing of time doesn't change the fact that it was my fault!" Rin snapped, backing a couple of steps away and glaring at Shiro, who crossed his arms and frowned.
"This isn't like you, Rin," he said in concern. Anger kept on rising inside Rin, making his heart speed up. "And I can tell from experience, believe me. You-"
Rin decided it was time to ask the question that had been nagging at him for quite a while, so he sharply interrupted Shiro. "Tell me something, old man! Do you... hate me for what happened to you? I know Yukio still has mixed feelings about that, but I... I need to know, now that you're here."
The look of shock on Shiro's features unsettled Rin immensely. He couldn't help but shift his weight as the seconds of silence crawled by.
"And you've been wondering that all this time?" Rin's worry grew when he detected the utter disbelief in his father's tone. Shiro swiftly seized Rin by the shoulders and fixated him with a hard and serious look. "Don't you even dare think that, Rin! How could I hate you, son, when you've been my soft spot this whole time? The person I love the most in this world -aside from your brother- and whom I gave up my life for?" He suddenly smiled. "Are you stupid or what? I'd never, ever hate you. You can rest easy, boy."
Rin was aware his knees were shaking but did nothing about it. As indirect as it had been, he'd longed to hear that answer, but he could only gape whilst Shiro's confession sunk in as if it was being hammered into his skull. He saw truth and sincerity behind Shiro's words and expression, and it had a soothing effect on his still-open wounds. With this in mind, Rin soon recovered his wits and dried his eyes with his sleeve.
"There's another reason I came here today," he ventured to say.
"Aside from moping?"
"Shut up! You wanna hear it or not?"
"Okay, okay: you have my attention."
"Today's the tenth of May, and I'm sure a certain somebody hasn't forgotten the day he was born."
"Oh, did you?" Shiro inquired, putting two and two together. Rin smiled, his energies renewed, then reached inside the Komaken's protective cover and carefully pulled out three red carnations. Shiro lifted his eyebrows in surprise.
"I remember you had some by the kitchen balcony at the monastery," said Rin as he set the flowers by the tombstone, "and I wasn't sure of what else to get. So... yeah, they're for... you."
Silence again. Shiro was suspiciously examining the flowers. To Rin's dismay, he then said, "A guy buying flowers to another guy; how sweet is that?" between barely-contained chuckles. Disappointment and shame were inevitable, emotions out of which Rin brusquely turned on his heel to leave, but was stopped by Shiro before he could take a step. "Hey, I'm just kidding! I didn't know you knew about the carnations."
"Well, I did cook often- duh!"
Shiro looked down at the flowers with a kind and grateful smile. "Thank you; they'll bring back good memories. You should get going, Rin: it's a bit too late for you to be around here."
"I won't argue with you there; I still need to get back to the monastery, because there won't be any buses to get back to the Academy."
"You should've had that in mind."
"I'm not the ever-so-observant Yukio!"
"It's not about your brother, dumbass; it's common sense!"
"Oh, so that's your 'thank you', huh, you old fart?"
"No, my other 'thank you' is this one."
Rin was too late to sidestep before Shiro's hand fell upon his head. Just like old times, when Rin was in need to encouragement, Shiro ruffled his hair amiably. Behind his annoyed facade, Rin was actually revelling in the sensation. That hair-ruffling had always cheered him up when he was a kid, and it didn't fail to do so once more. "Do me a favor and take care of yourself... and don't put too much stress on Yukio."
Rin smugly puffed out his chest. "He should be the one to be careful, 'cause now he's putting stress on me."
"And since when did that particular word exist in your dictionary?" Shiro replied, lightly pushing Rin away. "Now go on and leave! You've got a life to live, Rin Okumura!"
"And I'll live it to the fullest!" Rin declared with a firm nod. "I'll be back soon."
Shiro shrugged. "Take your time; I can wait. After all, birthdays don't really mean a thing to me anymore. Oh, and by the way," he then added with a smirk, "try and bring Yukio next time. I wanna give him the scare of his life."
A wide grin spread across Rin's face. "Yeah, I will. I'll see you around and, well, thanks."
Rin briskly walked away from Shiro who, by the time Rin turned around, was already gone. But that emptiness didn't come again; instead, it had been replaced by happiness, and Rin was overflowing with it. He was sure that nothing would erase the grin on his face for the next few days, nothing at all.
It was time to leave old feelings behind and replace them with new ones. Rin would get rid of his remaining guilt and replace it with pride and determination.
All thanks to a certain spirit on the tenth of May.