* Tokio and Hajime are products of history and Himura Kenshin is the product of
Nobuhiro Watsuki -- though I am choosing to use Watsuki-san's Saitou Hajime/Fujita
Gorou -- I'm just adding my own twisted mind into the messed up mix. Hmm, I think this
is the perfect time for an "Oro?" Ohohohohohoho! ^_^v Well, enjoy!

* "I am the steel beneath the bloom," turning to him arrogantly, I faced him without
hesitation or fear. "Did you forget that...?"
Saitou Tokio was born into a world of prestige. Daughter of a wealthy daimyo,
and the descendant of an honorable family. In a time of shifting allegiances and
oncoming civil war, Tokio, living on the out-skirts of Kyoto will be embroiled in a
family conflict that will reflect the unrest of her beloved country. And with it, a
remarkable journey of a woman fighting to redeem lost justice, rightful vengeance, and
crumbling loyalties, searching for the truth whose cost might destroy everything that
she had ever known and loved, will begin. With it she will face the very tests that
will forge her into the woman that will one day tame the Wolf of Mibu.


* Haha - One's own mother
* Chichiue - One's own father (formal/polite way of Chichi)
* Ojiisama - Grandfather (extremely formal)
* Ookami - Wolf
* Samurai - elite class of warriors who lives by a law that does not apply to common
folks nor does common folk laws apply to those of the Samurai class (i.e. Samurai can
kill without discretion or explaination.)
* Daimyo - equivalent to lords, they own land and are served by loyal samurai. They
are also responsible for the peasants in the region/area that they "rule" over for the
shogun
* Katana - a great sword (same as a daito), mounted edge up
* Chibi - little
* Onna - woman
* Geta - Sandals that were worn by women
* Shoji - A sliding door, composed of rice paper and set in a wooden frame.
* Ara - Oh well
* Nani - What?
* Hai - Yes (Usually used by females)
* Aa - Yes (More masculine, used usually by males only)
* Ki - Similar to chi, life force, or in Rurouni Kenshin, it is either
fighting aura or sword aura.
* naki-onna - woman hired specifically to cry/chant at funerals
* shika - fake flower(s) buried around the grave of the dead
* sode-kaburi - a white head-gear that woman oft times wore at funerals
(for further notes on Japanese funerals, go to the end of the fic)


Ookami no Kiba

.blue.
.blueweber@hotmail.com.


Unsettled Household

Moving through life,
Driven by stubborn determination,
I arrive at the reflection of another's face
Holding onto some unnamed emotion,
Looking back at me.

-- Takagi Tokio
( Her Personal Journals )

It rained on the day of my father's funeral. We buried him next to Ojiisama
while the rain fell onto my white umbrella. Somberly we watched as the Earth ate up
the mortal house of Chichiue's spirit. Etsuyo bowed his head with heavy regrets,
having outlived another master in his honorable old age. He stood bent and
seemingly older than ever, like an ancient tree that had weathered too many storms
of grief. Wrinkles dragged down the lids of his eyes, and he looked like he was
squinting out of those weary, life-worn lines to see the world that was no longer as
clear as it had been in earlier years. Etsuyo stood next to my tall and proud elder
brother, face grim with consternation and thought. To any other observer, my eldest
brother would seem to be in control and brooding, but I could tell that the ordeal
had tired him out and that Chichiue's death had saddened him greatly. There were
many things left unsaid between Chichiue and Ryou, now they never will be shared
again. Backed by Chichiue's grave samurai, Ryou stood out like the lord he would
soon be with the ancestral tablet in his hands as rain water ran in rivlets down his
face like the tears he would never shed. While I, on the other hand, kept a firm
hold on Haha's elbow to steady her once shaking form, though still a part of me
hoped to dissolve into the muddied puddles beneath my feet. But I must be strong
for Haha, and for now, it was enough for human contact to stop her from trembling
uncontrollably beneath our shared umbrella.

White, the color of grief and death, shielded us from the heavenly tears. And
I stood there thinking of how the tiny paper roof over our heads must stand out in
the gloom, acting like a beacon of clarity against the black earth as it called to
the memories of happier days that was lost in a sea of inevitability, never to
return to port again. Days of laughter, days of silence, and even days of tears
washed over me like the tides of forgotten time, all of them cherished in an instant
realization that Chichiue was gone forever. He would not rise out of his murky,
shadowed grave to embrace me -- though he had embraced me very little and not since
my youth -- nor would he be there to laugh with Haha, or to listen with dignified
silence to the words of his samurai men. There would be no more visits to Edo that
he made once a year, no more dark eyes watching me dance beneath the spring Sakura
trees that would bloom in our courtyard come Spring while I practiced, and no more
reasons to wait for his return home from the places outside the walls of the estate
because to where he has gone, no one has ever returned.

Over the branch of the ancient tree, a black crow huddled under yellow eaves
that once seemed like molten gold beneath, the now, hidden sun. Its hollow voice
echoed in my ears and into the silence of my loneliness. As much as I would like to
echo the cries of naki-onna -- hand-picked and hired by Ryou -- I could not, no
matter how much it may seem strange to those around me. Somehow, I ended up
standing by myself next to the dark earth of the new grave, watching the grave-
digger -- a cousin from Chichiue's side of the family -- in the traditional field-
clothing covering up the black hole, watching the petals of the shika dampen and
darken from the rain overhead. With one hand stained and muddied from the dirt I
had thrown down onto Chichiue's grave, I found myself unable to move away even as
the others had left for the feast inside the house. My eyes followed the flight of
the crow in the grey skies from beneath my pristinely white umbrella, beneath the
soft edge of the white sode-kaburi that covered my hair in soft billowing clothes.
I found myself imagining Chichiue's spirit riding on those very wings, farther and
farther away from where I stood on these earthly grounds. My eyes watched its black
form disappear into a black dot in the grey skies after everyone else's departure,
not once noticing Etsuyo gently pulling Haha away from my slackened grasp with
comforting gestures as he patted her back while she wept. In those last moments of
goodbye, Haha had been unable to stop her tears even as she struggled to stand
straight and proud as the dignified wife of the late daimyo and though it was
expected that both of us cry, neither of us had been willing. Ironic how she now
wept tears over a man she had not wanted to marry the first time they met each
other, but maybe now she had a real reason to regret the match.

The gentle murmurs of the naki-onna falls in ryhthm with the water drops
hitting the earth. I reached out a hand, and with rapt fascination, catching a few
fat, dew-like drops in the palm of my outstretched hand, drops that were wetting the
edge of the sleeve of my kimono and washing away the mud that still clung there upon
my opened palm. "Tokio, how long are you going to stand there?" Hajime's impatient
voice came from behind me, but if he was aiming to provoke my anger and annoyance,
he failed again for the second time in a row. That was not a good sign, and I think
he came to that same conclusion when I didn't respond. "Tokio?" he questioned me
softly. And somehow, a part of me now wished with all of my childish heart for the
bright light of youthful days, when Hajime would teasingly call me "Chibi-onna"
instead of using a name so strangely foreign on his tongue that it did not sound
like it belonged to me.

"Do you think the sky is crying for me?" I asked all of a sudden, breaking
the silence of my own creation.

Hajime leaned in to stand under my umbrella since he was so much taller than
me as I had decided not to accommodate to his discomforts by raising my arm higher.
Silently he studied me, as if choosing his words to see what they could do to bring
me out of my isolated shell. "Don't be stupid," he finally scolded me with more
gentleness than I was used to coming from him when he seemed to have arrived at some
conclusion. "You are not so important for it to rain only to appease your grief,"
he spoke clearly so I could hear each word lit like flames within my heart, burning
into place.

"Ara," I smiled though it was more from reflexes than anything else. At least
I remembered how to smile. I thought with bitter amusement, "you're probably
right."

I don't think I have ever given in so easily to Hajime's barbs, I don't think
anyone had reacted like that to his sharp and honest wit, though severe as it
sometimes was. I would like to believe that I am one of the few people to ever
truly catch him by surprise but I would be lying if I did not admit that I had an
unfair advantage that day. At the time, I was not out to impress Hajime in anyway
but I might have done more than I had ever hoped to do in all my years as I
carelessly walked away from him again.

"Saitou," he said. His voice gave me more pause than his words.

"Nani?" I asked surprised as I turned and looked back at him.

"Your father gave me his name when I received his succession technique. I
don't think there is more appropriate a day to take up his offer than today." He
was certainly not asking for my permission, that much I was sure of, but instead
stating a fact that he deemed that I should know. He seemed to be preparing
himself, ready to face whatever it was I would throw at him. I don't think, not
even to this day, that he had ever have been prepared for the hurtful answer I had
given him so carelessly in the blindness of my own pain and sufferings.

"It would seem to me that we are indeed siblings only by name from this day
on, Saitou Hajime-kun." My words made his features harden but I did not know why,
if I did, I had no wish to analyze such findings then. At the time I did not want
to do much more than to gain some steady footing on the stones of my life, trying
not to drown in the sea of my grief. For just beneath those slippery, stepping-
stones of normalcy lay something that waited to consume me, and all that I had
become. Hajime's words left me no steady footing nor gave me any assurances, so I
had paid him little to no mind to what my words could do to him.

"It would seem that way, wouldn't it, little sister?" he asked me through
gritted teeth. "Ryou's waiting for you at the feast," he said at last after another
long pause under the gloomy weather.

I nodded and left him in the warm, sad rain with the phantom tears I could not
shed on my Chichiue's grave. As I walked to meet with the new head of the Saitou
family, I found my heart unusually lighter than before. He had said that the rain
would not cry for me, and his honesty lifted me from my grief for but a moment, and
I clung to the memory of his voice in my mind like a fool sputtering on the soggy
sands, clinging to land when the horrible waves of tragedy abated for a moment into
the distance. "Hajime-kun," I looked behind me one last time to see his back to me,
tensing at my calling. Whatever words I meant to say died on the tip of my tongue
when I realized how much I must have hurt him before. I looked down to the ground
next to me, averting my eyes in guilt.

"Don't stand too long in the rain," I finally finished softly, "you might get
sick." If he heard me, he did not respond, and I would not have known anyway
because already I had turned away to go, too shame-faced to look back behind me at
what I had done.

Just for a moment in time we had stood side-by-side, and though I had hurt him
later with those cruel words of mine, there had been a moment when my hand was wet
with rain and he had looked at me with those haunting, amber eyes. And that moment
was eternity to me.


* * * * *


I gripped my calligraphy brush so hard as I stared at the blank page that I
was surprised it had not yet snapped! I was ready to snap, and my whole body shook
with unvoiced anger. The little sleep I had taken the night before made me more
susceptible to these warring emotions from within than I dared to acknowledge. I
have not had a serious talk with Ryou since the feasting after Chichiue's funeral.
In fact I had been putting it off up till now, not really wanting to face anyone
after the burial. It was only this morning that I went to him after a night filled
with tossing and turning as a million questions and regrets ran through me as it had
since Chichiue's death. But all of those thoughts were pushed aside to give room to
my anger.

How dare he?

Like the perfect sister, I had been obedient and quiet throughout the whole
ordeal. But now that I was on my own I shook with unspeakable rage as my fingers
dropped the calligraphy brush, watching it land with a thud and roll along my desk
before coming to a stop. My fingers gripped the edge of my table but I knew it
would be unwise to show any emotion beyond consent, bowing my head to the new
authority instead of giving in to this deep feeling of betrayal.

When Chichiue... when he has but just been buried and Ryou... how dare he ask
me to...

I rose to my feet, unable to sit still as I walked to my door. Taking my
white umbrella, I carefully donned on my geta at the steps leading to the gate of my
home. Without a thought of a guard or even a servant in attendance, I slipped out
of the door and out of the walls that enclosed around me for the fourteen years of
my life. Setting my feet one step out of the wooden gates and then another, my
heart shuddered with anticipation and fear. I looked down the muddy road, filled
with leaves of dying life, too old and heavy to withstand the winds of change and
come to a decision that I had not realized I was trying to make at the gateway
between past securities and the uncertain future.

I will not be a leaf, I thought to myself as I closed the door behind me with
gentle determination. I will not bow to that wind and die from this heavy grief
that burden my heart. Nor will I allow this sorrow to weigh me down to the ground
and be crushed by the feet and the wheels of passing travelers, carts and carriages
driven by others. No, I will be like the tree trunk that stands against the
harshness of winter and blossoms again in spring. I will live and survive and look
down this road without fear or hesitation as I journey onwards, unhampered by this
anticipation of future pains that has yet to come. I could and would handle them,
to that I have little doubt.

Walking under the bared branches, I head in the direction of the rising sun.
Grey clouds still lingered overhead but I knew that the burning god of light will
eventually break out of that gloom and warm the earth again as he has done countless
times already, never failing and ever present.

I had never been out on my own before, and the freedom was exhilarating.
Smelling the damp air, feeling the mud beneath my sandals, I pause as the trees fall
back to reveal plains upon rolling plains of farmland.

My breath caught in my throat and I thought of Haha in the gardens, telling me
her childhood tales. I remember the light in her eyes as she described my uncles
and aunts, and the honest work that was bitter and hard and yet, endearing. And I
wondered if my maternal Ojiisama's farm in Edo was as magnificent as this.

Even the grey skies could not make the site less beautiful to me and I stood,
imagining what it would be like if it were earlier in the fall when the fields were
to stretch out in rows of gold and summer when it was of a luscious green. Or even
spring when the wild flowers first peeped their heads up from the emptiness of
winter, to fill that void with the joyous colors of celebration.

I don't know how long I stood there, awed by the sight. But for a moment,
just a moment, I was no longer a part of the life of Saitou Tokio, sister of the
daimyo, or Saitou Tokio, a daughter who had just lost her father, or even Saitou
Tokio, granddaughter of the shogunate's elite samurai who one day became too
crippled to do what he loved best. Instead, I was simply a girl, holding a white
umbrella of mourning, and having forgotten all about why she was sad in the first
place as she simply stood, enjoying the painting of turmoil, anger, death and the
soft promise of renewal that nature presented before her, a picture of herself in
the fields and the sky and the muddy terrains.

This was my haven in between the blinks of an eye, lost too easily but never
forgotten.

I closed those simple eyes in peace for the first time in days, feeling my
body sway in the gentle wind with exhaustion. I lifted my arm and rested the palm
of my hand on rough bark, soggy from the rain. A tear slipped from my closed lids
and clung to my lashes before burning its way down my cool cheeks. Another soon
followed and then another, and as the sky slowly cleared away to reveal the setting
sun, I remembered again what it meant to cry.

I remembered the meaning of tears and my sorrow washed over me like a brimming
teacup accidentally knocked over, spilling my emotions onto the muddy grounds at my
feet and onto the dark material of my obi. It dripped out the sorrow of my heart,
content by content, and cleansed me like the rain could never have done.

In that moment I smiled a real smile through my tears, no longer so afraid or
so lost as I had been since the day of my father's death.

Hajime had been right, the heavens would not cry for me and even if it did, it
would not have eased any of my sufferings. Only I could do that, only I can bear
the weight of my grief instead of waiting for another to take my place because of my
fears of facing that same, horrible, and almost unbearable, pain. But I can bear
it, and with that knowledge I raised my face to sky and once again remembered how
two years ago I had held a bird in my hand and how he had let me touch his wings
before I had fearfully moved away.

I let my hand fall from the tree that had once steadied me, knowing I no
longer needed the support and turned to walk back to the estate. Swiftly did I walk
this time, for there was someone I needed to apologize to and for once, the defeat
of my pride hurt me not at all, but instead, set me free into the winds of change.

I knew that there would still be nights that I cry at the image of Chichiue's
face, or be stilled by a memory of a time lost forever in his presence. But today
was the day I take my first step to moving on, and the first time I would face my
emotions with the strength and tears of a woman, and not that of a child.

The setting sun warmed my retreating back, beginning the slow process of
evaporating the tear puddles collected from the infinite sky.


* * * * *


My presence was not missed when I stepped back onto the grounds of the estate,
and much to my relief, the door was not locked during my absence either. One of the
samurai looked up surprised to see me walking back onto the estate from the gates,
and I bowed apologetically. "You were out, Tokio-sama?" The samurai asked and
bowed in return from where he knelt on the steps leading to the walkway.

I sighed as I straightened, "Hai," I smiled with all the apologetic remorse I
was supposed to be feeling. "I hope I did not worry anyone," I half-asked him
meekly, though it wasn't entirely a lie. "I needed to be alone to think," I looked
away and knew he saw the tear streaks on my cheeks. It was enough for him not to
inquire further of my actions and for that, I was thankful. Sometimes men were too
predictable, but I was relieved a little at this, relieved that he was nothing like
Hajime. The other would have seen right through my act and then forced the truth
out of me, if he did not know what had trespassed already. "Please don't tell Ryou-
sama," driven only by the power of my will was I able to say my brother's name so
calmly without any sarcasm to be laced within it. "It would worry him terribly and
after Chichiue's passing..." I trailed off, eyes cast to the ground as if in shame
at having caused so much unnecessary trouble.

"Aa," the samurai answered gravely. "Tokio-sama, please do not venture out
alone again," the other admonished me kindly. "Nobody wishes to see you hurt and
especially, not at a time like this."

I bowed again in thanks before walking passed him, "I am grateful for your
understanding." With that I glided towards my room, every movement made with
calculated precision. It was too close, I knew, and I would rather enjoy the little
freedom I did have without Ryou breathing down my neck about it. That and I had no
wish to explain myself to my older brother. I have my weaknesses, but I did not
like to share them with others, especially not with Ryou who might one day use it
against me.

It was only coincidence that I passed Chichiue's old study on my way back to
my room. I don't know why I had drifted to that part of the house that day, but I
did and perhaps caught something that I wasn't meant to hear.

"--you are a fool, Ryou, if you believe that this will solve any of your
problems." Hajime's voice drifted through the shoji. He sounded more annoyed than
usual, but it has only been a week since Chichiue's passing and his grave was still
quite fresh. It was probably the only reason why Hajime had allowed any emotion to
seep into his voice these days.

I blinked, confused at what those two seemed to be arguing about now. They
never really argued before, but it was probably only because, at the time, Chichiue
was alive. "What would you know, you lower classed whelp?" I could practically see
Ryou snarling on the other side. Well, that wasn't very civilized, I thought with
distaste. Perhaps, I wasn't the best judge since Ryou was definitely not my
favorite family member, nor have any of his present behaviors earned him any more of
my affections.

A silence came and then Hajime's voice struck me to the core like a spear to
my heart. "You think you can get away with this little "accident" don't you,
brother?" I froze. The smug voice told me that Hajime has composed himself, if not
his anger for the moment. But it was not that that had stilled me but my puzzlement
at his words, words that made me think of horrible, traitorous thoughts--

"I am not your brother!" Ryou answered with equal civility but the underlying
bite was still there. "I will never be related to a street ruffian like you who was
born with blood on his hands!" More mysteries, more to add to my growing curiosity,
and leaving me hanging and uncertain of where these little clues would lead me.

"Not anymore dirtier than yours," Hajime answered calmly. "At least I do not
dally so blatantly and stupidly as you do."

Whatever were those two talking about? I glared at the door, wishing they
would not shift around the truth but refer to it directly. Whatever they were
discussing, I knew it was not meant for my ears and knowing Hajime, he probably
already sensed... oh dear.

"Do not compare yourself to me! You and I are of different breeds and it is
about time the world saw you for what you really are... at best a servant. What
applies to you cannot be compared to what applies to me." My eyes widened, what is
Ryou up to? It can't be of any good! How dare he even refer to Hajime as if he
were nothing? Chichiue made Hajime our brother, and if not by blood then by word,
and Chichiue's word was law whether or not he still lived. It would dishonor our
father's memories to defy his wishes so, especially at such a time!

"Oh, then you shall be known as the apostate son that you are?" Hajime
drawled out lazily.

I blinked.

"Get out!" Ryou roared in outrage, "As of today you are no longer a part of
the Saitou family. If you wish to stay, your status would be nothing more than that
of a menial servant's."

"Well then, I guess I shall go." Hajime answered calmly, as if he was but
talking about the weather. I covered my mouth in disbelief at what was occurring
before me, helpless to stop where it was headed. "Whatever would Haha say to this,
Ryou-sama? She would be so very disappoint in you as would Chichiue in his grave."

"Out!"

I moved as silently as I could, blinded by tears. Stumbling a little as I
turned the corner just as I heard the shoji slid open behind me. Hajime is leaving,
those words repeated over and over again in my mind. Another important man in my
life would soon be gone as well. And then, where would I be? Where would Ryou put
me? Who would be able to protect me now? I stumbled again as I pushed myself from
the wooden beam that supported me, and strong hands reached out to steady me when my
feeble legs failed to do so.

Gasping in surprise, I turned with dread to meet amber eyes that looked down
to me with arrogant disdain. "What are you doing here, Tokio?"

Thoughts, thoughts, thoughts, all in disarray as it run amuck in my head. Not
one made any sense and at the time I could not have voiced any and have sounded sane
in the process.

I shook in his hold as I faced him, hating how he was a witness to one of my
weakest moments as I gripped his forearms and hated myself even more for the act.
"Don't go!" Two simple words escaped me before I knew what I was about. I looked
away ashamed. Here, now, a daimyo's daughter, begging. It did not suit me I
thought with bitterness and Hajime said just as much with his sardonic voice. Yet,
it was welcomed this time, for I needed the cutting remarks to part away my raging
emotions as I fought to get a hold of myself. So close had I been to controlling
all of my sorrows when I had first set foot into the courtyard of my home that now,
as my control once again begins to slip away, I am suddenly at a loss about what to
do.

"Not even going to deny that you were eavesdropping, are you, Tokio?" I
blinked at his amused question. It brought me back to my senses as I turned my eyes
to him. Inside, I clung to that indigent anger and embarrassment, holding to the
last threads of my dignity.

"How did you know I was here?" I asked with annoyance, "I was certain that I
had not breathed so loudly this time."

The corners of his eyes crinkled in amusement, indulging both of us in the
little normalcy's in life that had so easily slipped away. But for now, reality was
held in check. "You never breathed very loudly at all," he answered, "but you could
never hide your ki from me either."

For a long time I paused, unsure how to answer. Looking up at him I could not
begin to fathom a day without him in it. I woke to him in the darkness of mornings
and slept with him on my mind in the shadows of nights. Always Hajime had been
there for me as Haha and Chichiue had, and my admiration for all that he stood for
outlasted even the waking hours at times. And yet, so simply had Hajime shattered
the one remaining fact in my life, turning everything I knew into the very change I
dreaded when he had declared his leave. "Chibi-onna," I questioned him with the
little strength remaining, and with words that came tumbling out of me as clumsily
as my earlier flight, "why did you stop calling me that?"

Hajime brushed away a strand of hair that has fallen out in my graceless
attempt to get away from the door of my brother's study. "You aren't little
anymore, Tokio." He answered gruffly and then stepped away to a more respectable
distance.

I blinked at the action and his words.

No, I am no longer little. I am no longer the daughter of a daimyo but the
sister of a new lord over my father's land and his father's land, and I am the
descendent of a respectable family. I straightened in realization that I am
stronger than the crying servant girls that begged brothers and husbands to stay. I
am stronger than that because I was born to nobility, trained in the arts of
deception, war and politics, and I shall not dishonor that knowledge and those
skills by becoming weak.

So I did not ask him if we would meet again, nor did I beg him to give up his
dignity for me, for I knew Hajime would never even consider it even if I did ask it
of him. Instead I bowed low, humbled by that same realization, acknowledging that
for a moment I was weak, and thanking him for reminding me of my duties and of my
status. "You were never my brother," I told him as I straightened, "you were
always, and will always be, more than that." And without waiting for a response to
my odd farewell, I walked away.

It would become the longest walk in my life, and as I neared my own room, I
silently promised myself that this would be the last day of my youth and the last
time I would ever reveal a weakness to anyone ever again, not even Saitou Hajime.
For if not a daimyo's daughter, I am the granddaughter of an elite samurai of the
shogunate court, and from this day forth, I will be guided by the heritage of
warriors from times past...

And never again shall I be weak!


* * * * *


Haha watched my brother pace about before us, back taunt with hidden
agitation. Hajime had been gone for no more than a night and already Ryou had sent
the household guards out to search for him. Apparently, though Hajime didn't take
much, he had taken Chichiue's katana -- the family's sword passed down through
generations. It was amusing for it was a blatant statement on Hajime's part,
declaring that obviously, he did not find Ryou worthy enough to carry such a blade.
And Ryou was furious when he had discovered that the sword was gone.

Now, Hajime pride had reduced him to the status of a common criminal.

I knew from this day forth I could never again mention his name under this
very roof, at least not for a long time to come. I worriedly looked over to Haha's
face, composed and still as she watched her only son by blood pace back and forth
like a caged beast. "Ryou, if he is to be found you will find him." Her voice
sounded huskier than usual, rusted from the lack of usage in the last few days. But
then again, Haha have had very little to say since Chichiue's death.

"That bastard--"

"Watch your tongue, Ryou. You are a daimyo now, so conduct yourself
properly." Haha's voice rang with authority within the family's den.

Ryou stopped and glared down at the floor as sullen as any little boy that was
scolded by his mother. "Forgive me for my rudeness, Haha."

I saw that Hajime's words about what Mother would think of Ryou's actions had
indeed hit home. Ryou was far from a kind and honorable man, but he loved Haha,
more so than he ever cared to show to Chichiue. It was probably because Haha
treated all members of the household equally, never looking down to Ryou for not
having been born with the talent of a swordsman. He was almost docile in Haha's
presence, surprisingly considerate at times, as well. It saddened me that he was
not always like this, "You are the daimyo now," Haha continued. "And it is time you
take a wife."

I blinked and Ryou looked up sharply in surprise. "Haha?" I heard his voice
faint and suddenly a appalling suspicion fell upon me just as the triumph of having
him experience what he had put me through, left. There was someone, someone Ryou
was obviously never going to be able to marry.

"At least I do not dally so blatantly and stupidly as you do." Hajime's words
echoed in my mind.

I had been so distraught about Hajime's absence that I had not looked over the
clues in that conversation. Intrigued I closed my eyes, trying to recall what had
been said. Something about an accident, spoken so sarcastically that it must have
meant something else. And then the same traitorous thoughts flood over me again,
those words long lost. Something about hands that Hajime claimed to have been
dirtied -- perhaps bathed in blood. And what were the words he had used? What had
Hajime accusingly called Ryou? An "apostate son" I mouthed as my eyes snapped open
to see Ryou sharply turn and pace before me, stopping as if he felt my intense,
accusing gaze as his shifted onto my still, kneeling form.

By then my head was bowed, my body forced into the relaxed pose as if I were
but half-awake as every fiber of my being was flooded with a million possibilities,
each one more terrible than the next. I had never dreamed that such a day would
come, the day that this household would be dismantled so thoroughly that I could
feel it physically manifesting itself onto the wooden beams and rice-paper screens.

Piece by piece, what once was crumbled in my questioning hands, and piece by
piece, I vowed, I shall put it back together again, and discover the truth. Still
that ominous knowledge lingered within my being as I heeded the reality that was
invading my peaceful world, one that might tear everything that I have ever come to
known, asunder, leaving me with nothing but change and terrible lies.

With the heat of the filtered sunlight on my back, I shuddered inwardly with
the anticipation of a coming doom, ever mindful of the watchful eyes that suddenly
seemed to surround and focus on my being with each passing breath.



to be continued...


* Hmm, I don't think I explained this earlier but here are what the suffix means:
-san - A way of addressing someone you are not entirely familiar with, as well as to
show polite respect.
-kun - (Mara, you're right. It should be -kun ^_^v) Addressed to men/boys who one is
familiar with.
-sama - This is extremely formal, equivelent to "great one" or lord/lady Tokio use it
because her grandfather's high status in society and because she never met him,
so to show reverence for the dead and her respect for her grandfather, she's
using -sama. She does the same with Ryou when he becomes the daimyo -- though
sarcastically on her part.
* Understand, women during the time period that Tokio was in was expected to not
question the decisions made by men. Hence why Tokio says that she acting like an
obedient daughter/sister to the head of the house (once her Father and now her
brother), agreeing to their decisions even when she does not approve of what they
demand of her in any way at all.
* Oro... Sorry if whatever I wrote in my footnotes insulted you Mara-san ^_^;; I don't
mind your criticisms at all and I agree with you on many of your suggestions which, by
the way, is very helpful. I have already gotten advice on not using too many japanese
words from writing fanfics for Sailor Moon, but I just felt that it is appropriate in
this case. As for why Chichiue and not Hahaue? The reason is simple. Chichiue is the
head of the family and as Tokio admits, she is not very close to her father. She
respects him but she doesn't really know him. Her mother is the one that raised her,
and so Tokio, along with her brother Ryou and our beloved Hajime, all call their mother
Haha without the -ue suffix because they are much more familiar with her. I hope
that's not too confusing... sometimes I think in circles and what makes sense to me
makes very little sense to the rest of the world ^_^;; I blame it on my insanity ^_^;;
But thank you for your patience and for reading this fanfic nonetheless. Sessha is
thankful ^_-
* When Tokio said that it may seem strange to outsiders that she is not crying, it
is because women are expected to cry at funerals, to not do so is sometimes
considered a bad omen.
* I did some research on Japanese funerals and that scene in the OAVs finally made
sense, you know the one with Katsura-sama in it... a handsome, determined, and
feiry Katura-sama... ^_- And I've decided to take a few specific things out to
mention about funerals in this chapter. Yes, ADDITIONAL japanese words... because
it just sounds weird if I call the naki-onna "criers" or "hired crying woman" ^_^;;
And the fake flowers are real too. I researched! I didn't realize how MUCH I had
left out, and the process of a funeral in Japan, in the old days, were long ones. I
thought since Saitou-sama IS a daimyo, he might go down with somewhat of a bigger
show than if it had been just anyone! Hence, descriptive details. I didn't
describe the WHOLE thing in this fic, goodness, I do want to pick and choose I what
I inculde. But Tokio will have flash backs to her father's funeral for some
chapters to come. I think they are specifically so long so one wouldn't forget
^_^;;
* Family members are ones that are expected to fill the graves of the dead, as they
are also expected to throw dirt on the casket. Funerals, like weddings, is a very
large family affair/gathering, though it "may" include non-family memembers.
* The new head of the house hold is supposed to have the family tablet with him and
add the deceased name onto it, if I remember correctly. Shika are buried around the
grave, I believe four of them, one in each corner. White is the color of grief, and
there is always a feast after the funeral, so I couldn't think of how to do without
it. One is also supposed to cleanse oneself after the funeral, with water or a
sprinkle of salt, mentioned in next chapter. Parts of the long funeral rights would
both be mentioned and explained in later chapters.
* Yes, crows are symbols of Death in Japan. Not surprising, these birds tend to be
the symbol of death in many countries and folk lore alike. Poor birds.