Well... It finally happened.
What?! you ask. Well, that's kinda what I would say, too, but I'm me, so... Well, in any case. Ochiru, in case you haven't read it, is a story about Kenshin, Kaoru, the past, and an unhealthy dose of fear. If you're reading this and are still confused, that means you should go read Ochiru before continuing any further in Kokoro no Tsubasa.
Why?! Because Kokoro no Tsubasa is the sequel to Ochiru.
So, it finally happened.
Rei-chan and I finished the role-play a while ago, but it's extremely long... Collected here, is the sequel to Ochiru, what plays itself out when old wounds are opened... or maybe closed...
There will be several more chapters coming, and, when I can manage, a story set inside the Ochiru continuum about Sano and Megumi... For now, though, simply enjoy the fruits of our evil fun, and my labor.
The way these stories have been worked out is that Rei and I role-play them, and then I write them, flush them out, add scenery and generally more correct grammar. After the first draft is finished, Rei and I go each through the story and fix it up. I make the final changes, Rei approves it, and I add these stupid notes which nobody in their right mind reads.
On another note... Someone suggested, in a review to Ochiru, that we break the hearts of the KnK out there'... Well, we didn't exactly do that, I'm afraid... I'll call our approach cliche with a twist'... In the words of Bob Dylan... Things have changed...
So. On with the show.
To Rei, who shouldn't be so damn flattered to have stories dedicated to her... If I don't give you credit somewhere, I'm a demi-plaigerist.
Kokoro no Tsubasa
Wings of the Heart
Rei and SnM
Yahiko sat on the porch, waiting for his former teacher to come home. She wasn't late, but he worried all the same. She's changed so much since he left... And she won't tell any of us what happened... He sighed heavily, resting his chin in his hands. He didn't like waiting for Kaoru.
Finally, Kaoru came through the dojo gate, several packages in her arms. Smiling to the boy in greeting, she said, What do you want for dinner, Yahiko?
Whatever you feel like making is fine, I'm not very hungry... the young man said, feigning indifference. He watched Kaoru carefully.
Kaoru gave him a knowing look, stepping onto the porch beside him. You mean you don't want to fill up an anything before your date with Tsubame-chan... Yahiko spluttered, flushing darkly. Kaoru just shook her head. It's all right, Yahiko... I'm just going to make some soup... I'm not that hungry either...
Calming down, Yahiko just nodded, and watched Kaoru brush past him and into the house. She's gotten so much stronger... Yeah, she's thinner than she was before, and her eyes have lost some of the fire they used to have, but she's so much stronger, both physically and mentally. Five years ago, when she came to rescue me, I thought she was strong to stand up to those bastards, but now... He sighed. I'd just bet that she's faster than Soujiro now... And probably stronger than Enishi... But she always holds back, like she's afraid she'll hurt someone, or completely break herself... She's been walking such a thin line since the night Kenshin vanished...
It was then that Sano pushed open the gate and stepped into the dojo yard. Yahiko looked up, and reflected briefly on his appearance. Sano looked older and more worn than he ever had, rough around the edges, so to speak, despite the fact that he was rather well-dressed and, from what he told them, living relatively well, too.
Hey, punk, the tall, thin man said, tipping his head to Yahiko. Raising one eyebrow, he asked, Whatcha lookin' so glum for?
Yahiko waved his hand in the direction of the house, and, more specifically, the kitchen.
Sanosuke gave the kid a look, and plopped down on the steps next to him. Yeah? So?
In the kitchen, Kaoru, hearing Sano's voice, doubled the portions for the miso she'd just set cooking.
Yahiko glared at his friend, and, lowering his voice so that only Sano could hear, said, Oh, don't tell me you haven't noticed how much she's changed since Kenshin left, tori-atama! She's not the Kaoru we knew two years ago...
Sano sighed. Obviously, midget boy, but you look like somebody died.
Yahiko snorted in response. In a way, he said, his voice still soft, somebody did.
The tall man smiled ruefully, and ruffled Yahiko's hair before standing. Y' learn t' get over stuff as you get older, short stuff. Yahiko wondered whether Sanosuke's expression wasn't just a little bitter. Kaoru's a big girl. She's dealing with it. With that, he turned away from Yahiko and walked into the house, heading for the kitchen.
As the door slid shut behind Sano, Yahiko scowled. Not well, he said to himself. Not well... Although she's gotten damn good at hiding it...
Kaoru heard Sano in the hall, and turned around as he entered the kitchen. Hi, Sano! she chirped, forcing a smile.
How ya doin', Gramma? Sano asked glibly, smiling a rather false smile of his own. Glancing down at the pot over the fire, Sano made a face. he exclaimed. That's a lotta soup!
Kaoru snorted indignantly. Well, if you're staying for supper, it will be just enough. Now, if you wouldn't mind, go set the table.
W'll, I'll set the table for ya, but I'm not stayin', he said as he got out the dishes. 'Jime's got plans t'night, an' he'll skin me alive if I'm late.
Sighing, the young woman nodded her assent. Fine, then. Tell Yahiko to run over to the clinic and invite Genzai-sensei and the girls.
Can do. Sano set out the dishes, and then moseyed back onto the porch. Yo, shrimp. Kaoru says for you t' go ask Genzai and the girls over for dinner.
Yahiko said, and left the dojo yard at a jog.
Kenshin entered Tokyo through the southern check point, making his way around a group of harried travelers who were regrouping before heading into the city. The sky was pale grey, the clouds bunching together and slowly scattering as a cool, late winter breeze gusted across the road.
He brushed the wisps of his red hair out of his face, adjusted the collar of his wear-faded, black kimono, and set his pack at his feet. Straightening, he could see the rise of Tokyo on the horizon. Between him and his past lay only a dusty road, lined with bare trees shivering in the wind.
Sighing, he picked up his satchel once more and moved off towards the city.
Are you sure you won't have something before you go, Sano? Kaoru looked up from the soup she was ladling into the bowls on the table.
Naw, that's okay. Jime wouldn't-
Kaoru had stilled, frozen in position, bent over a bowl, the empty ladle in her hand. I know that ki...
Uh... Kaoru...? Y'okay...?
Shaking her head, Kaoru pulled herself back to the situation at hand, and smiled at Sanosuke. I'm fine, she said, moving on to the next bowl, ladling soup into it.
Sano said, leaning against the doorframe. Man... That's the look Jime gets when he thinks I'm fucking around behind his back... Kaoru just got a whiff of something pretty nasty...
Yahiko arrived, with Genzai and the girls, a few moments later. Sano said as the girls removed their shoes in the doorway, I'll see y'all later. He flashed a reassuring grin at Kaoru and slipped out past the girls, nodding at their grandfather as he passed. Yahiko watched the young man push open the dojo gate with a heavy heart.
He'd almost forgotten how huge Tokyo was... How could he have...? Even on the horizon, it had been an extensive sprawl of buildings. Once inside, it seemed like the city would never end, much less ever make any sense.
Nonetheless, his feet remembered the way better than he wanted to admit. He began to recognize landmarks, and realized that the Kamiya Dojo would not be more than twenty minutes away.
He was drawn from his thoughts by the sound of many flurried footsteps, and looked up in time to see several young children running towards him. But before they could collide, they stopped, almost as one body. He stood still as they stared at him with wide eyes. Even as they whispered to each other and crossed the street, he remained motionless. Only when he could no longer hear their footsteps did he resume walking again, wondering what their childish fear meant, and whether it was, in all honesty, warranted.
Kenshin's eyes went wide as he saw a familiar figure hurrying down the road, his head bowed. Sanosuke was wearing a kimono, but that wasn't so strange... Kenshin struggled with himself, wanting to run over and embrace his young friend. Thinking better of it, he shut his mouth, and ducked into a nearby alleyway, still as stone.
Sanosuke stopped dead in the middle of the road. Lifting his head, he looked around the dusky road, but found it deserted. Holy shit... For a very long moment, Sanosuke hardly moved, studying the street keenly. But it was empty. Empty... I must be imagining things... Shit, I ain't got time for this... Jime's gonna have my fuckin' head... Without too much more hesitation, the dark-haired youth turned back in the direction he'd been heading, and walked away.
Kenshin slipped out of the alleyway once his friend was gone, and stood in the road for a moment, considering an alternate path. As soon as he had figured out the longest route to the Kamiya Dojo, he turned and resumed walking.
As she hung up her dish rag and untied her sleeves, Kaoru fumed quietly. Why did he decide to wait this long before coming back!? Why the hell did he leave in the first place? She stalked out of the kitchen, and headed down the hall towards her own bedroom.
Despite the fact that she didn't want to do it, Kaoru stopped in front of Kenshin's old room, resting a palm against the shoji. The ghosts of memories, shades that could never compare to the real thing, pased through her mind. His smile, his ferocity, his tenderness, his affection, his tenacity... You took my heart, she said softly into the empty hallway, her voice echoing slightly. Do you know that? The lonely sound of the echo of her voice made her shiver, just ever so slightly, and she pushed away from the door, heading to her own room to change into her training clothes.