Author's Note: Welcome welcome to my second fanfic! This is going to be a quite long and, hopefully, quite epic story, haha!
I must confess, I'm not entirely sure about the second genre (Drama right now) yet, and I might change it later if I should see something else more fitting... Suggestions are always very welcome! Although it probably might take one or two more chapters until it will be exactly clear where this is headed.
Well, I hope you stay with me until then!
Special Thanks: First, I have to thank Lapiz Lazuli Luna a LOT! She helped me so much with the story and characters in the very early stages... Thanks, thanks, thanks!
(Go read her story "Those Who Go Overseas", it's awesome beyond words!)
Second, a TON of thanks to Bonnia, who not only prevented me from making a huge, embarassing factual mistake, and helped me further on some details, but also beta read the heck out of this chapter.
Thank you guys SO MUCH!
Warning: This story does not start with all the canon pairings. I hope I don't reveal too much, when I say it won't stay that way, though.
Disclaimer: Unfortunately, I do not own Rurouni Kenshin or any of the characters.
The inspiration for writing a reincarnation story came from "Forever Mine" by Angie-san.
A certain cat was brazenly sto- borrowed from the wonderful "Hajime and Tokio" by Angrybee.
Kaoru knelt on the street in front of the dojo, leaves swirling around her in the air. She stared into the darkness, her eyes searching for someone. She knew someone had just left her. She could feel the despair over her loss in her entire body.
But who was it? Whom did she miss so much her heart felt as if it was broken into a thousand pieces?
"Kaoru-chan? Kaoru-chan! … Nee, Kaoru!" Kaoru's eyes snapped open as something suddenly hit her shoulder. Hard.
"Ow, Misao! What are you doing?" Kaoru asked her best friend with a frown on her face. Misao stood beside her, her petite body clad in a cute little summer dress, and an unusual expression of exasperation obvious on her face.
"You ask me what I am doing? You are the one who just fell asleep in the middle of our shopping trip! I can't believe it! Who do you think we're doing this for?"
Kaoru examined her surroundings closer. Misao was right, they were in the middle of a shopping trip. Kaoru remembered, she had only wanted to sit down for a minute, tired of hours of going from shop to shop and trying on dress after dress. She could hardly believe she really had fallen asleep, though. So sound asleep, she had even dreamt. She still felt the last hints of her dream linger in her mind, the faintest feeling of loss.
Kaoru sighed deeply and shook her head. "I'm sorry, Misao-chan, honestly. However, to answer your question, actually we are doing this for you, since you are the one who wanted to go shopping for her birthday party!"
Misao didn't seem to be fazed by her words and waved them away without showing any sign of embarrassment. "Oh, whatever! Are you ready to go on? You too, Kamatari?"
Her second best friend chuckled lightly at the dialogue of the two girls. "Has there ever been a time when I was not ready to go shopping?" he asked.
"Ha, of course not!" Misao answered high-spiritedly and grabbed both Kamatari's and Kaoru's arms. "Let's go!"
Kaoru doubtfully regarded her two friends for a moment. Misao was full of energy as usual, her long black braid waving with every move she made and every word she said. Kamatari wore almost the same dress as Misao, but while hers was blue, the boy's was green. Kaoru still could remember her shock when she first found out Kamatari was indeed not a girl. That had been at an age where bust size had been of no concern yet, of course.
"Misao-chan, Kamatari-chan... aren't we finished already? I got a dress, you two got even two outfits each. I highly doubt anyone of us will have to change twelve times at your party," Kaoru told them while she was being dragged out of the shop and on to the next one.
"Kaoru, wasn't it you who asked us to help you pick a fancy dress for the wedding? You sure seem to be forgetful today," Kamatari scolded her lightly.
"Oh, right... Fancy dress for the wedding... How could I forget that...?" Kaoru muttered under her breath. The wedding. Kenshin's wedding. Oh, what would she give to forget about that.
"And could you please remind me why I ever agreed to go there as well?" she asked with despair in her voice, which wasn't half as much faked as she would have liked.
Kamatari nudged her. "Because you love that Kenshin guy and want him to be happy and you like his future wife as well and know she will make sure that he is," he told the miserable looking girl kindly.
"And because if you're not present at the church, you won't be able to jump up and say 'I do!', when the priest asks if someone has objections to the wedding!" Misao happily cried and grinned at them with mischief sparkling in her eyes.
Kaoru couldn't help but laugh at those words. "Yeah, right, as if I'd ever do that!" she chuckled.
During the next hour, Kaoru was reminded once again why she had decided to go shopping with her best friends, even though she didn't feel like it in the beginning. Being around Misao and Kamatari, no one could stay blue for too long. Unfortunately that didn't mean they had much success in finding that kind of fancy dress Kaoru had imagined in her mind.
"I still think that pink one would look wonderful on you," Kamatari mused as they sat down to drink some coffee.
"The pink one? You know, in contrast to you, I do not want to look like a drag queen!" Kaoru replied mockingly. The addressed boy just stuck his tongue out.
"Nah, Kaoru-chan's right, that pink dress made her look like a bubblegum. The black one is it, I say!" Misao offered her opinion.
Kaoru shook her head once again. "I'm still not sure whether one should wear that certain dress at a funeral or a night club when you're very lonely, but certainly not at a wedding." She sighed. "Mou, you know what? Screw it, I'll wear a kimono!"
The faces of her two friends lit up at that resolve. "Yes yes yes, a kimono will be wonderful!You look so cute wearing one, especially in that blue one, it highlights your eyes wonderfully!" Misao babbled.
While the girl was still chattering, Kamatari had stood up and started to flitter his hands around Kaoru's black hair. "I shall make you a wonderful hairdo. I have tons of the cutest hair clips at home I've itched to use for years."
Kaoru looked at him frowning. "What's wrong with my current hairdo?" she asked, ripping her usual ponytail out of the hands of her enthusiastic friend. "In fact, I got this wonderful indigo ribbon for my birthday last month and I've had no opportunity to wear it yet. It will look great with the light blue of the kimono!" She stood up and glanced at her watch. "I'm afraid I have to go. Yahiko comes back from his school trip today, and I promised Mom to be home when he arrives. By the way, Misao-chan, don't you have to work today?"
The small girl pulled a face at those words and played with the end of her braid. "Ahh, I don't want to go. Aoshi-san doesn't let me do anything fun, all I have to do is copy things and make coffee. Although it is me, Shinomori Misao, who will inherit the Oniwabanshu one day, and Aoshi-san knows damn well Jiya trained me for that as long as I can remember! Well," she added softly after a short break, "and then at the moment Megumi-san's hanging around all day as well, of course. So yeah, I really don't want to go."
Kaoru looked at her friend with sympathy. She knew exactly how Misao felt about seeing her beloved Aoshi with Megumi, and she was torn between wishing for happiness for her best friend and her older sister.
"Now now, don't look like you're going to a funeral, ladies!" Kamatari clapped his hands resolutely. "At least the two of you have someone to get lovesick about. These beautiful eyes of mine on the other hand have still failed in laying sight on the charming prince that is worth to win over both my heart and body!" he exclaimed dramatically, his hands extended towards the sky to greet his imaginary prince on his white steed.
Kaoru and Misao both started to laugh at the sight.
After that, they all drank the rest of their coffees, gathered their bags and started towards the exit of the mall. Once there, Kaoru turned left, while the others went right.
"Well, see you tomorrow at the party then! And go to work Misao-chan, or you will be fired before you can inherit anything!" she scolded her friend one last time.
Misao only waved at her happily. "Yeah yeah, I'll go! And don't be late tomorrow! You'll love the surprise I got this year!" Waving frantically one last time, she linked arms with Kamatari and dragged him along the way.
Reaching her home, Kaoru unlocked the door, shook off her shoes and entered the dark hall. She shouted "Tadaima!" into the empty house, but the only answer she got was a "Meow" from their black cat Snowflake. Kaoru would have never said it out loud, but she was really looking forward to Yahiko coming back from his school trip. One week without her brother had been quite boring.
Especially now, that her mother worked again. She was used to her father not being at home most of the time due to his work with the police, but now that Megumi had moved out, Yahiko was away on his trip and both of her parents were working all day, Kaoru had avoided being at home as much as possible. She hated the house being this empty and quiet; it had never felt right to her.
She had just emptied one of her father's ashtrays, when her gaze fell on the clock. Noticing the time, she hurried into her room and grabbed her Kendo equipment. She couldn't believe she had almost forgot her Kendo training this afternoon. The shame if she arrived too late would be simply too much.
Kaoru briefly remembered that her mother had asked her to be at home when Yahiko returned, but she knew her father would understand that Kendo training was more important. As strict as he could be, he always supported her and Yahiko when it came to Kendo. Actually, as well as she knew her little brother, he probably had directly gone from the school to the dojo anyway.
She arrived at the dojo just in time. Entering through the gate, Kaoru saw her little brother grinning at her.
"Hey, ugly! You're late!" the small boy greeted her.
She smacked her bokken over his head. "And whose fault is that, moron? I waited for you at home!" Of course that wasn't exactly the entire truth, but no one had to know that. "And didn't your lesson just end anyway?" she asked as she noticed that he was still wearing his hakama.
Yahiko rubbed the lump on his head."I missed so much last week, Himura-sensei allowed me to participate in your advanced class today as well," he answered with a smug grin on his face.
"Oh great, like I don't see your face often enough as it is. On the other hand..." Now Kaoru began to grin herself. "I can't wait to wipe the floor with you."
Just as Yahiko started to retort, another voice interfered in their argument.
"Now, now, always arguing, the two of you, aren't you?"
Kaoru's heart stopped for a second as she heard that gentle voice. The voice of her dreams, belonging to the man of her dreams. She felt a deep blush creeping up her face. Her body had always reacted in some way or another to seeing or hearing Kenshin, but for some reason unknown to her, today was worse than usual. Even her hands trembled slightly, and she couldn't bring herself to turn around yet.
Luckily Yahiko was there as well. "Oi, Kenshin!" he greeted the man happily. "Guess what, Himura-sensei allowed me to participate in the advanced class today!"
"Really? I'm happy for you, I'm sure you will do just fine!" Kenshin answered with the usual smile on his face.
Kaoru finally turned around. She saw Yahiko wildly gesturing around and showing Kenshin some technique he had recently learned. Kenshin seemed genuinely interested as he watched Yahiko and asked him more about what the boy had learned. His short red hair sparkled in the sun and his dark blue eyes seemed to sparkle from within. Kaoru's eyes wandered over his smooth, handsome face until they stopped at the small mole under his right eye. Her hand almost reached out, so much did she long to touch it. Touch him.
She was only jerked back into reality when she suddenly noticed Kenshin's gaze meeting hers.
"Kaoru-san, are you alright?" he asked with worry obvious in his voice.
"Er... huh?" was all she could answer.
"Do you have a fever maybe? Your face seems a bit red." He started walking towards her.
Kaoru involuntarily took a step backwards and held her hands up in front of her. "I'm fine, I'm fine! I just... I was... a little late, yes, that's it, I was late, and therefore I had to run and therefore my face is red. See, nothing unusual at all!" she stammered, before she hastily started to walk towards the training hall.
Yahiko grinned knowingly at her, but didn't dare to say anything as he saw the glare she shot him.
As always, training calmed down Kaoru's mind. Yahiko did quite well, in fact, but she would guess that he had to return to his usual class later, if only because everyone here was too tall for him. She tried to ignore Kenshin as much as she could during the lesson and was a bit surprised herself how well that went.
After the training was over, Kaoru wanted to disappear as fast as possible, when she heard the voice of Himura-sensei, Kenshin's father, calling her name.
"Kaoru-san!" Himura-sensei held a great resemblance to his son, although his long, once red hair, was now almost completely white.
"Ah, yes? I'm sorry, I was so late today, I somehow forgot the time and-" she started, but was interrupted by Himura-sensei with a smile.
"No no, don't worry, you were perfectly on time. I'm afraid your record of punctuality is even cleaner than that of my own son." He let out a deep fake sigh and Kaoru couldn't help but smile.
"So, what is it you want to talk to me about?"
"Ah, right right, sorry. Your summer holidays start next week, don't they?"
Kaoru nodded with an inquiring look on her face.
"Well, I wanted to ask if you would like to teach the beginner's class during your holidays. Myojin-sensei broke his leg yesterday and he won't be able to teach for some weeks."
"Of course, I'd love to!" Kaoru nodded vigorously. But then she suddenly became nervous and added "But, um, shouldn't, um, you know..."
"If you try to say that my stupid son should do that, well yes, he should. But seeing that he only started learning the Kamiya Kasshin Ryu five years ago, while you have almost three times the experience and are also, despite of your age, one of our best students, I would say that you are a lot more qualified than he is. I am sure you will be a great teacher. And the young students already love you anyway" he added, winking at her.
The young girl beamed with pride. "Thank you so much, Himura-sensei! I won't disappoint you, I promise! When shall I start? Monday?"
"Yes, that would be great."
Grinning from ear to ear after this exchange, Kaoru walked to her bike, where Yahiko was already waiting for her. He shot her a skeptical glance. "Now what's wrong with you, ugly?"
Only grinning even wider, Kaoru pinched her little brother in the arm. "Guess who'll be your teacher for the next six weeks, moron?"
Shock flooded Yahiko's face. "What? Don't tell me...! Nooo! Oh you gods, what have I done to deserve such a punishment?" He whined for the rest of their way home, getting nothing else than a grin or a chuckle from his sister in response.
Kaoru woke up late the next day. She hadn't slept very well, because of something she had dreamt. She couldn't exactly remember what it was, but it had been a sad dream, as usual lately. When she was finally dressed and went downstairs, she could hear voices from the kitchen. For a second she hoped her parents were at home, but then she remembered that they were in Kyoto for a conference and would come home only that evening. She still grinned when she saw the inhabitants of the kitchen.
"Megumi! What are you doing here?" She ran to her older sister and glomped her, almost throwing both of them on the floor.
"God, Kaoru! Can't you be a bit more careful?" Megumi scolded her breathlessly, the smile on her face betraying her tone. The young woman pointed towards the tall, handsome man standing next to her.
"Aoshi couldn't abide Misao and her birthday party preparations any second longer, and so I thought we could welcome Yahiko back. And visit you, of course."
They smiled at each other, while Yahiko grumbled, "Geez, I've been gone only for a week. Women!"
Kaoru turned to Aoshi. "Nice to see you, Aoshi-san, it's been a while. I don't know about you all, but I didn't have breakfast yet, shall I make some?" The sudden alarmed look on everyone's face made Kaoru growl. "Mou, or Megumi could make some. Honestly, I don't cook that bad!"
A punch on his head was the only answer she gave to Yahiko's whispered "Yes, you do!"
Three hours later, after a lot of catching up, giggling, punching, and a delicious breakfast cooked by Megumi, it was time for Kaoru to change. Aoshi had offered her to take her with the car, so she wouldn't have to ride her bike at least. Kaoru quickly changed into her new, light pink summer dress and grabbed her present for Misao from the chest of drawers.
Downstairs, she hugged Megumi, who had to leave for her shift at the hospital, one last time, waved Yahiko goodbye and patted Snowflake on the head. Then she ran outside, where Aoshi was already waiting in his car.
She quickly entered the car and fastened her seatbelt. "Thanks again for giving me a lift, Aoshi-san," she said to the quiet man.
"Don't think about it," was the only answer she got.
Minutes passed, with the silence growing uncomfortable between the two, as far as Kaoru was concerned.
"So, um, I hope Misao-chan wasn't too bad today?"
"I guess she really likes her birthday, doesn't she?"
"Well, er, do you know what kind of surprise it is that she promised?"
"I guess you're not involved this year, then?"
Kaoru would have sworn she saw Aoshi's face twitch at that comment. She couldn't blame him.
Misao always had prepared some kind of surprise for her birthday parties, some more successful than others, but the stunt she had pulled last year to make Aoshi show some of his secret ninja techniques she was confident he had mastered, would go down in history. When she saw Misao again one month later – that was how long she had been grounded – the small wannabe ninja had only grinned at her and said it had been worth it.
"No, I am most definitely not involved this year," Aoshi said with an air of determination around him that made Kaoru stifle a grin.
For the rest of the drive, they both remained silent.
When they arrived at the house of the Shinomori's, Misao was already expecting them in front of the door, Kamatari cheerfully standing next to her. She waved both hands in the air and ran to the car. "Kaoru-chaaaaaan! Aoshi-saaaan! You're late, hurry up, hurry up!" she called while literally bouncing around the two newcomers.
"Happy birthday, Misao-chan! Here, this is from Kamatari and me!" Kaoru said smiling, handing her best friend the small box she held. Misao's eyes grew wide as she took her present.
"Ooh! Can I open it, can I, can I?"
"Of course, go ahead!"
On their way inside, Misao swiftly ripped the paper open and eyed the unwrapped box curiously. She opened it and screamed with joy as she saw its contents.
"Oh my god, Kaoru-chan, Kamatari-chan! Kunai! And they actually look... Are they historic?" Misao's eyes widened with awe, as she examined the weapons closer. Kamatari and Kaoru both chuckled.
"Yes, they are," Kamatari explained. "I have a friend who collects ancient weapons, but he is more into swords, so he gave me these for a nice price."
Misao hugged her two friends vigorously, careful not to let her present fall to the ground, and finally entered the house. While Aoshi went upstairs to his room, Misao proceeded to lead her friends to the garden. About ten more of her friends and schoolmates were already waiting there, chattering and laughing and now, as they saw that everyone had arrived, beginning to sing Happy Birthday for her.
The party was a great success, as usual. Misao's parents brought a huge birthday cake and later some delicious food, and her grandpa came to serenade her, which seemingly embarrassed Misao to death, but made everyone else scream with laughter.
The sun already began to set, when Misao glanced at her watch, clapped her hands and said: "Guys, it's finally time for the surprise!"
Everyone fell silent at that and watched their host expectantly. The girl only grinned and whistled through her fingers.
At the piercing sound, two young girls emerged into the garden. They wore a light green and a red kimono and had their hands full of candles, chalk and other little things. The taller one went to a couch that was standing in the middle of the patio. "Here, Shinomori-san?" she asked with a look to Misao, who nodded. The younger girl then proceeded to drape a purple cloth on the couch, while the other one started to draw an intricate looking circle around it. At certain points of the circle, they added little gems, beads or a little pile of colored sand. Finally they placed the candles on the edge of the circle.
The older girl examined their work one last time and seemed to be satisfied with their work, because she called in the direction of the house: "Grandpa! We're done, you can come!"
While the girls had done their work, the party guests had started whispering to each other, a feel of excitement hanging in the air. Kaoru and Kamatari had tried to interrogate Misao what this was all about, but the birthday girl had kept silent, her only answer being "You'll see, you'll see!"
Suddenly a strange music started and everyone fell silent at once. All eyes immediately darted towards the door to the house. The music grew louder and some chanting started.
Then finally, after endless minutes it seemed, an old man came through the door. He wore the traditional attire of a Shinto priest, but instead of being white, his was light blue and his headpiece was of a bright red color. The mysterious man was tiny and wore a long chin-beard and a mustache, the ends of it reaching his chin. In his hand he held a large golden fan. He looked around seriously, and though the individual pieces of his outfit looked a bit ridiculous, his overall appearance was almost a bit intimidating.
But then the music stopped and the man started to laugh. "Ahaha, I love it when you young folks look at me like that, hahaha! Now, Shinomori-san, shall I begin? Do you want to go first?"
Everyone looked around and blinked, astonished by the sudden change in atmosphere. Kaoru was the first one who finally spoke up.
"Misao-chan... Don't you think it's time you finally explain to us what this is all about?"
"Of course!" Misao exclaimed and seemed to grin even wider than usual. "This, my dear friends, is Suzuki-sensei, who is knowledgeable about the old art of past life regression!" She looked at her guests with the expectation of outbursts of joy obvious in her expression. The guests, on the other hand, simply stared at her.
"Come on now, Misao-chan! You don't really believe that crap, do you?" someone shouted.
"Hmm, I don't know," Kamatari mused looking contemplative, his finger tapping against his mouth. "My mother believes in all kinds of this stuff, and she once dragged me to a scary woman who hypnotized me to make me remember my past reincarnations. I have no idea what exactly she did, and whether what I remembered afterward was really my past life, but I tell you, I sure got an idea for the cutest kimono ever! Unfortunately that kimono was more or less everything I remembered in the end," he laughed, and everyone had to chime in.
Suzuki-sensei himself now rose to speak. "I can assure you that I am no fraud. The knowledge about this art has been in my family for centuries and is well approved. But I also have to tell you, since I really will make you remember your past life, you won't all remember to be Cleopatra, or some Shogun. Most of you probably were simply peasants, and some of you even might have brand new souls, whose first incarnation on earth you are. Well well, shall we begin now? I can actually work on two of you at the same time, since there's enough space on the couch. Shinomori-san, you want to go first, I assume?"
"You bet!" Misao exclaimed happily. She turned around and eyed her friends and then clasped Kaoru's hand. "Don't look so skeptical, Kaoru-chan! You'll go first with me, so everyone sees this is real when you're convinced, haha!"
Rolling her eyes in her mind, Kaoru sat down next to Misao on the small couch. "Sure, if it makes you happy..."
Once the two girls were settled down, their eyes closed and their bodies somewhat relaxed, Suzuki-sensei's demeanor turned serious once again. He told the spectators to keep their distance and started to chant in an unfamiliar language. He slowly strode along the edge of the circle, three times clockwise, then five times counterclockwise. Then the old man stopped in front of the two girls once again and his voice grew louder. At what seemed to be climax of the ritual, he reached into his pocket and threw some powder onto the girls. At this point, the other party guests were so tense, they actually expected some kind of explosion or lightning. But nothing happened.
The only thing they could see from the outside was both Misao and Kaoru suddenly crying silent tears.
When the ritual began, Kaoru was shifting nervously in her seat. She didn't believe in these things, but somehow the whole atmosphere made it seem possible that something might happen. She could hear the beginnings of Suzuki-sensei's chants, but at some point, all outer noises seemed to be dulled, dying away more and more, until there was nothing left than silence and darkness.
Kaoru had no idea what happened to her, but she felt safe, for a few seconds at least. Then something seemed to tug at the edge of her mind, some... memory. She suddenly found herself kneeling in front of the dojo, leaves swirling around her, exactly as in her dream.
But this time, she could see the man walking away from her. It was Kenshin. He didn't look like the Kenshin she knew, with his hakama and his long ponytail, but she knew it was the same. She wanted to get up and run after him, call his name, reach a hand for him – but she couldn't move. All she could do was kneel on the ground and cry.
Suddenly the scenery changed. Now she was in the dojo, her father teaching her the basic techniques of the Kamiya Kasshin Ryu as she was still a small child. Her mother watched from the door and smiled as she turned around and ran towards her.
A change of her surroundings once again. She and Kenshin visited Tomoe-san's grave in Kyoto.
Another place, another time. Her wedding day. She was the happiest woman in the world.
Suddenly the gate which had held back her memories broke away completely and Kaoru was flooded with different memories of her former life.
She could only see short moments clearly. The birth of Kenji. She and Kenshin playing with their grandchildren in their garden. Yahiko's and Tsubame's wedding. The day she had met Kenshin. Sano leaving the country and coming back. Enishi kidnapping her. Kenshin rescuing her. Megumi coming back from Kanryu's estate. Kenshin and Saito fighting. She and Misao fighting against Kamatari. Kenshin telling her he loved her.
But suddenly, suddenly she knew everything. She remembered everything. Everything that had happened in her past life, she could clearly remember now.
Kaoru started to cry.
The first thing Kaoru saw when she opened her eyes again – after a lifetime, as it seemed to her – was Kamatari's worried gaze upon her. She couldn't help but flinch, thrown back again into the fight in front of the Aoiya for a second.
Kamatari didn't seem to notice, but offered her a hand and a friendly smile. Kaoru let him help her stand up and gazed at Misao, who was still sitting besides her. Tears were visible on the small girl's face as well, but her eyes held determination. Kaoru had to smile through her own tears for a second – she was quite sure she knew what Misao was so determined about.
She finally examined her surroundings. Everyone stared at them with slight shock visible on their faces. It wasn't often that they saw Kaoru, or Misao even, cry.
Kaoru cleared her throat and tried to speak. "I... erm, well, I..."
"I guess the party's over, guys," Misao cut her off. She managed a grin, which only her best friends recognized as a bit strained, and shooed everyone inside. With an apologizing look towards Suzuki-sensei she added: "I guess this stuff doesn't work after all. Sorry for wasting everyone's time, but it's late anyway, isn't it?" Somehow the girl managed to get everyone out of the house in record time, so that only Suzuki-sensei and his two granddaughters, Kamatari, Kaoru and herself remained.
Suzuki-sensei smiled knowingly. "This reaction is quite common. I warned you, didn't I? Did you learn what you wanted to know at least?"
This time, Misao's grin was honest. "And how I did! Actually I learned even more than I dared to hope! This was the best thing I've ever done! Don't you think so, too, Kao-" Her words broke off as she saw the emotional state her friend was in. It was obvious her friend hadn't stomached the sudden knowledge of their past lives as good as she had. Misao hurried over and hugged her.
"Shh, don't you worry! See, he's meant to be with you! Everything will turn out fine in the end, you'll see!" she whispered in the still silently crying girl's ear.
"But how... Now that he's finally happy with Tomoe-san... How could I...?" Kaoru whispered back.
Suddenly they were interrupted by Kamatari clapping his hands. "Now now, ladies, I have no idea what exactly is going on here, but to me it would seem that dear Suzuki-sensei here did indeed awaken some kind of memory in you?" he asked with an inquiring look.
Misao and Kaoru fidgeted, remorsefully looking back at him. Both of them knew it was stupid, after all those years they had known Kamatari and had been best friends with him, but the shock of learning that they had once fought each other as enemies was something they would have to sleep over for at least one night.
Kamatari shot them a suspicious glance, but then smiled and turned to Suzuki-sensei. "Nee, Suzuki-sensei, shall I bring you home? Then those two over there won't have to whisper anymore."
Kamatari turned around a last time and winked at Misao and Kaoru, and disappeared with Suzuki-sensei and the two little girls into the night.
Kaoru slowly walked into the living room and let herself fall into an armchair. She rubbed her cheeks and let out a deep sigh. Her tears had finally dried, but she still wasn't sure what to say, what to do, or even what to feel. Wearily she looked at Misao.
"For god's sake, Misao, how could you do something like this on your birthday party? Did you really think it would work? And if yes – how could you do that on your birthday party?"
Misao had the decency to look a little bit ashamed. "Well, I wasn't sure if it would really work... Actually I thought it wouldn't. And how could I know the result would be like this? You see, I hoped that maybe I had been-" She was interrupted by the sound of the door being unlocked. Soon after, her mother's voice sounded through the house.
"Misao-chan! Where are you? Is everyone already gone? Where- Oh, there you are! Good evening, Kaoru-san!" Misao's mother walked into the living room, followed by her father, grandfather and Aoshi. Learning from last year, they had gone out to escape the biggest commotion this time. As she saw the look on the faces of her daughter and her friend, she hurried over.
"Is everything alright with you two? Did that Suzuki tell you strange things? I told you it was a bad idea to hire such a fraud!"
"No no, Mom, everything's fine. Actually, it's never been better! But I think we shouldn't let Kaoru-chan take the bus, she's a bit, er..." Misao struggled to find the right words, but her mother only nodded and threw her car keys over her shoulder. "Would you please drive them, Aoshi-kun? Then I can start to eliminate the chaos here."
Her daughter didn't wait for an answer, but jumped up, pulled Kaoru with her and stormed through the front door to the car.
Outside, Misao considered Kaoru pensively.
"You know... I must confess, I think your father's now officially even more creepy than he was before. And I never thought that to be possible."
Kaoru only looked at her friend bewildered for a moment, her face turning pale when the implications of what Misao had just said dawned on her. She resolutely shook her head a second later though.
"Well, you might think so. But he's my father now, and it doesn't matter what he might have done in a past life. And I know you can't believe it, but he's always been a wonderful father! Though... Actually his motto of education suddenly makes a lot more sense!" For the first time after tonight's revelations, Kaoru heartily laughed again. In fact, she couldn't stop laughing. Maybe it was a bit hysterical, but to her it didn't matter. Laughing simply felt too good.
She was still laughing when they finally all sat down in the car. She even had to laugh as Aoshi looked at her, seemingly pondering whether he should drive to an asylum instead of her house.
And she couldn't stop her tears of laughter when Misao smiled at their driver and said "Thanks so much for driving us, Aoshi-sama!"
Everyone else would have crumpled away under Aoshi's glare of death, but Misao simply smiled even brighter.
"Did you just call me... Aoshi-sama?"
"And," his eye twitched, "would you tell me how I earned that honor?"
Misao chimed in to Kaoru's laughter, and both of them couldn't calm down until they reached their destination.
Kaoru quickly said goodbye and moved towards the house. As she saw the car standing in the driveway, she began to run. Her parents were exactly the people she needed to see right now, no matter how their relationship in any other life might have been.
She stormed into the kitchen and flung her arms around her parents' necks. "Mom! Dad!" she cried. Her mother happily hugged her back, while her father simply flicked off the ash of his cigarette.
"Well well, it's been a while since I've been greeted this enthusiastically."
In this life or another, Saito Hajime had never been the person to easily show his emotions. As far as Kaoru knew, that probably wouldn't change ever.
A last note: So that's the first chapter! I hope you liked it - reviews of any kind are very highly welcomed!
To add a last disclaimer: A certain mole is most definitely owned by Takeru Satoh, since it's in his face, hihi :)