Kourui no Yuki

by: Kagayaki Ame

 

Prologue

 

            Pasts full of angst and doomed love must run in this damn family.

           

            It seemed that no matter how good I was it would eventually catch up with me. You would think that as much as I subconsciously expected it, I would have seen it coming. Maybe I just hoped it wouldn’t happen to me...

           

            But hope doesn’t exist for people with swordsman blood and such an infamous history (no matter how secret). I don’t blame my father. I love him. It’s not his fault.

           

            He can’t help it if destiny is a bitch on a rampage.

 

            I must admit however...

 

            I was jealous of him for another reason after she died.

 

            He still had the love of his life. And I didn’t.

 

            I refused to believe that we’d have the parallelism of luck in that I’d lose my first and fall again for all eternity. Only my Otou-san was that lucky. And I figure, since I’d been blessed more than he in certain ways, I’d pay more than he did in other ways.

 

            Funny though... when I think about it, I suppose it was my hand that she died at, ultimately.

 

            No.. no.. I didn’t swing the blade. I didn’t have to.

           

            The stupid days of my rebellious adolescence; that swung the blade.

 

            My selfish, blind genius. That swung the blade.

 

            My one-sided greed and passion for that which I didn’t understand; THAT swung the blade.

 

            .....

 

            ::sigh::

 

            No matter how much I tried to make up for the past by making amends with my father, trying to soothe my mother, doing well with my life, not lusting for the sword, but learning to love and fear it....

 

            No matter how much I loved her...

 

            My father says he doesn’t want me to seek revenge, but he knows I need to, must and will.

 

            I laugh when I think of what it took to get this sword.

 

            I thought back then that killing for it was no big deal.

 

            But she was the one killed...

 

            And my heart breaks just a bit more every day that I have to face that.

 

            But I guarantee you.

 

            I will take revenge.

 

            I will get those who got her to get to me.

           

            I know who you are.

 

            And, this time, I will personally swing this blade...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*           *            *            *            *

Japanese terms:

Otou-san- father (hon.)

 

 


Kourui no Yuki

by: Kagayaki Ame

 

Chapter One

Ai

 

A month ago...

 

            I watched my father hanging the laundry in the yard for a long time. He knew I was there. But he knew that I wouldn’t come to him until I was ready. I expect that he had foreseen my need for a talk for a few days now. I’d been acting strangely. Everyone saw it. But I had a very important decision to make. And I needed advice.

            I’d much rather ask for my mother's views. I knew my father was wise, but sometimes he likes to play idiot, just to make me reveal to myself what he knew I wanted him to say anyway.

            That got so damn annoying sometimes.

            But it was better than sifting through the sappy emotional explosion my mother would pull me through with her when she heard what I had to say. And maybe my dad would be serious this time...

 

            I walked over to him and patted his shoulder before helping him with the laundry. He smiled at me and we worked in silence for a long time. It must have been funny to see us. Two practically identical red heads, pinning wet laundry, trying hard to silently read each other while not saying anything at all.

            No wonder Okaa-chan laughed at us so often. We were exactly alike.

            Kami-sama knows I didn’t think so a few years ago... but I don’t like to think about that time.

 

            Besides, we’ll get to that later.

 

            So, there we were, father and son, saying nothing but listening as hard as possible to each other.

            I broke first. Otou-kun has had much more practice and possesses far more patience than his fiery offspring.

           

            “Otou-kun... I’ve been thinking about something... and I need some advice.” I pinned mother’s kimono.

            “Honto?” Otou-kun made a surprised noise and smiled. “You usually ask Okaa-chan for advice, de gozaru.”

            “Hai... ano... I think you may help me more in this.” I shook out a practice gi.

            “Well, what is it? I’ll try to help if I can.”

            I paused before beginning. “I... want to... know what you think about Yuki.” I changed my question. I had to feel him out some more.

            He smiled. “Yuki is a wonderful young woman...” he pinned his hakama. “But that’s not what you were going to ask.”

            I gave a rueful smile and shook my head, finishing the last of the pinning. “No. It wasn’t.” I hesitated again. “We, Yuki and I, have known each other a while now. I like her a lot... in fact...” I looked at him sideways. “I love her.”

            Otou-kun remained silent for a moment, still smiling. Then he turned to me. “I know. And I am happy you finally see what we all have been seeing.”

            I faced him. “I want to ask her to marry me, Otou-kun.”

            I think I surprised him a bit. I can never tell. “I can see why you didn’t go to your mother. She would have been beyond containment by now.” He smiled. “You have more than my blessings, aisoku. But I do not understand what advice you are seeking.”

            “I want to know if you think this is wise? If you think she’ll say yes? Am I being too hasty?”

            He smiled. “So many questions.” He placed a hand on my shoulder. “You must do what you feel is right, aisoku. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. That is the best advice I can offer.”

            “Yes... but I mean, as far as wisdom...” I tried not to say it outright. We had all put my adolescent folly behind us and tried not to talk about it. But he knew what I meant. I let my words trail giving him a meaningful look.

            He placed both hands on my shoulders and looked at me. “Aisoku, do not let your past dictate your future. effects have come and gone. Yuki is a new part of your life. Take it from me and leave the rest behind. Someday, you two will talk about it. But don’t rush it. Especially since there is no threat to her life because of your past. What is past is gone. Do not lose Yuki under the guise of protection. It is not a good reason to lose anyone. It is not a good way to live. Trust me. I know.”

            I smiled and nodded. He knew what he was saying. I knew that he’d gone through the same thing. And he always told me that experience teaches wisdom.

 

            “I’m back!”

            We looked around to see my mother entering the gate. I caught the look on my father’s face. Like he was seeing her for the first time. He still looked at her that way, even after nearly twenty years of marriage.

            “Ohayo, Okaa-chan,” I kissed her cheek and took the groceries from her. Before I left, I gave my father a look. He nodded slightly, understanding. Our chat was a secret.

            After I was gone, mother said, “What is he not wanting his Okaa-chan to know, Kenshin?”

            He smiled giving her a look. “It is nothing, Kaoru.”

            She smiled back. “I’d have thought you’d have gotten better at lying to me over the years, Kenshin.”

            He laughed and kissed her forehead. “I have not changed, de gozaru. You have only gotten better at reading me, koiishi.”

            She looked at me putting the groceries away in the kitchen. “I suppose you’ll both tell me at some point.”

            “He is going to make a big decision, koiishi. And I’m sure you’ll be the first to know how it turns out.”

 

* * * * *

 

            “Why are you so quiet, Kenji?”

            I don’t think I heard what Yuki-chan asked me. I’d been staring at her quietly since I’d arrived at her family’s inn, which was very much unlike me. Usually I talk to her and try to make her laugh while watching her work, and helping her out where I could. She always protested my helping her. She was just like Okaa-chan with Otou-kun in that way. But I would politely interrupt whatever she was doing and she would laugh and simply let me help her.

            She had an amazing laugh... and beautiful, soft, lilac eyes...

 

            Her eyes were suddenly very close to mine and I blinked, surprised violet meeting slightly concerned lilac. She waved a hand in front of my face. “Kenji, are you feeling well?”

            I smiled. “Hai, Yuki-chan, I’m fine.”

            She smiled and rolled her eyes, tying her incredibly onyx hair into a loose bun. “Yeah, okay, tell me anything. You’ve been acting strangely lately. Everyone has noticed.” She stood close to me again, looking up at me shyly. “You can tell me, Kenji... just remember that I’ll always listen to you...” she twirled a few strands of my hair around her deft and delicate fingers. I love it when she does that! “I always have.”

            I looked at her for long moments, taking her in. She was so very beautiful. Maybe it wouldn’t be so hard to ask her after all... maybe I could just do it now... but when I tried the words got caught in my throat. Instead I smiled and bent down just enough for our lips to brush. When I rose again, her eyes shimmered and her cheeks were rosy - the way she always looked after we kissed.

            I think she was most beautiful then.

            “I’m fine, Yuki. I’m just a bit thoughtful I suppose.”

            “Hmm,” she mused. “Well, when you’re ready, you come to me first. Don’t make me have to go to your mother.” She poked my chest with her index finger, smiling playfully. “Because you know she knows everything about everything and everyone.” She giggled and turned away to begin washing the vegetables for the inn’s dinner that night.

            “Ah, Yuki, let me.” I rolled up my sleeves and took the daikon from her to begin washing them. I knew she rolled her eyes.

            “Fine, Kenji-kun. I’ll just start the rice.” She stuck out her tongue.

            “You’re never content to let me take care of you, are you?” I laughed.

            “Oh, but I am. I must, however, learn to fend for myself one day, right? I mean,” she took a daikon from me and held it up. “Heaven forbid I should be overwhelmed by daikon one day and you weren’t around. Whatever would I do?” I tried not to laugh, but she tickled me and I cracked. Then I splashed her a bit and she giggled, tickling me more.

            Eventually dinner was ready and I had to leave to join my own family for dinner.

            Before I left, I took her to the side before she went into the dining area to begin serving. “Yuki, I have to talk to you about something important. Can I come by after you close for the night?”

            She looked into me, as was her way, and said, “Hai, Kenji-kun.” She paused. “Are you sure there’s nothing wrong?”

            I smiled at her. That was why I loved her most. She was always thinking of others before herself. “Hai, Yuki-chan. Everything is fine.” I kissed her cheek. “I will be here tonight.”

            She smiled and waved as I left.

            “Konban, Kenji-kun.”

 

* * * * *

 

 

Japanese Terms:

 

·         Ai- love

·         Okaa-chan- Mom (affectionate)

·         Kami-sama- God

·         Otou-kun- Dad (affectionate)

·         Honto- really?

·         de gozaru- Kenshin’s famous definitive. loosely “you do”

·         Hai-yes

·         Ano- umm or but

·         aisoku- beloved son

·         koiishi- my love/ darling

·         Konban- tonight (I’m using it as a farewell, like, “until tonight”)

 

 

Kourui no Yuki

by: Kagayaki Ame

 

 

            …..

           

            I suppose you’re wondering why it was so difficult for me to ask Yuki to marry me.

 

            I mean, besides being afraid of rejection...

 

            I would say I was wondering that myself, but I knew... near the end anyway.

 

            Like I said, I just didn’t want to think that she could be affected by my past. But I knew she could have. And deep down, I think I felt she would. But I didn’t identify with that until it was far too late.

 

            They say hindsight is 20/20...

 

            That doesn’t do you a damn bit of good after someone dies and you might have been able to prevent it.

 

            Everyone makes mistakes. I just happened to make the biggest one of my life at fifteen years old. Joining a radical group of up-stars like myself with incredible genius and even more incredible skill. A bored bunch of know-it-all punks who just wanted to make noise and be heard. We were going to be Japan’s new heroes. Forget the old heroes and monsters like our fathers.

           

            Especially mine.

           

            In a strange way, I wanted to be just like him...

 

            The old him, anyway.

 

            Kill for good. Uphold my beliefs. Feel the rush.

 

            If it sounds insane, then you’ve never killed anyone.

 

            But I assure you, there is a definite rush when you slice through the flesh of another human being and feel the life force draining from their useless shells...

           

            There are three kinds of killers, however.

 

            The first kills and needs to do it again. Just to feel the rush. Just to feel alive. Soon, they convince themselves that this is the only way they CAN feel alive and must kill again and again, for whatever cause, until the day they themselves are killed.

 

            The second feels nothing at all. They begin as a bit of a soul and have it sucked from them to be left empty. They are convinced that their cause is the righteous and best and kill for it. They need not know what the person they’re killing  is being killed FOR. They just need to know they have a reason to die.

 

            The third kills once. And only once. This is not a true killer, but a sad child who wants attention. They wake up after the rush and run home to their mommies, scared... sorrowful... and rid of their need to kill again.

 

            Before I killed, I scorned my father for being the second kind of killer. And admired him for the same reasons. I hated him because he’d changed. He was weak to me. Docile.

 

            And still better than I.

 

            He wouldn’t teach me what he knew. But I learned anyway.

 

            He didn’t support my feelings.

 

            So I rebelled...

 

            ::chuckles::

 

            I don’t even really remember what we all rebelled against. We were just bored teenage misfits.

           

            .....

 

            Bored teenage misfits who decided to murder a very important man one night.

 

            I was the best with a sword in our group.

 

            They got the threats out of my way. And I killed the man.

 

            That’s right.

 

            And afterward, as the gold cleared, I realized what I had truly done.

 

            Yes, the man was a pig. A thief. A sneak. A cheat. A dirty, fucking bastard.

 

            But I killed him.

 

            I... killed him.

 

            That was when I went home. We were all smart kids. We all went home.

           

            Except for one.

 

            He was the first kind of killer.

 

            And he took the rap.

 

            I imagine he was rather displeased at that. But we told him... we told him...

 

            Eventually life went back to normal. None of us talked about it after a while. I apologized to my father and mother. I tried to be the best son I could.

 

            And I returned my father’s stolen Sakabatou.

 

            .....

 

            He never did ask me about the stains of blood...

 

Kourui no Yuki

by: Kagayaki Ame

 

Chapter Two

Kourui

 

           

 

 

            “You’re not eating, aiji.”

            I looked up from my untouched bowl of rice with, what I’m sure was a signature ‘oro?’, look. My mother was watching me closely and smiling her little smile. I smiled back thinking of something to say. But I knew she would see through me. She always did. So I opted for the truth. Or, at least, half of it, anyway.

            “Sumimasen, okaa-chan. I am just thinking…” I trailed off.

            She chewed on her rice casually. I thought for the slightest of moments that she was going to let it go. I was wrong, of course.

            “Of what?”

            I smiled and looked her in the eyes, letting her know that I knew her game. So I told her exactly what she wanted to hear. Then maybe she’d stop fishing for information. “Yuki-chan. I’m thinking of her a lot lately.”

            “Hm… thinking of her has never interfered with your appetite before…?” She trailed into a non-verbalized question.

             “I’m not very hungry. That’s all.” I looked outside. It would be her closing time soon…

            “Why don’t you go to see her now? Perhaps she will join us for dinner and bring your appetite back?” My mother was smiling knowingly. “Besides, it will be closing soon. You don’t want to keep her waiting.”

            I looked her for long moments. Nothing ever slipped by her. I looked at my father. He continued to eat silently, smiling to himself.

            I shook my head. “Hai, okaa-chan.” I rose and headed for the door.

            “Aiji,” I turned back to my mother.

            “Hai, okaa-chan?”

            “Try not to be too nervous, okay?”

            I smiled. “Hai, okaa-chan. I will try.”

 

* * * * *

 

            While trying very desperately not to be nervous on my way to see Yuki, I didn’t really notice how quiet the area was. It didn’t hit me until I rounded the corner to her family’s inn. It was too quiet. I knew it was dinnertime and even time for some of the people to be in bed, but there were no lanterns lit inside any of the homes or businesses. The streets were deserted. I stopped walking and listened very closely. I heard nothing. I closed my eyes and reached out with my mind. If there were any malevolent chi in the area, I could at least find it. There were none. I began walking again, very aware of everything around me.

            When I reached the inn, I felt uneasy almost immediately. Something was very wrong. I stepped inside and looked around. It seemed undisturbed. In fact, the whole place was untouched.

            It looked too right.

            I couldn’t find Yuki anywhere. The family lived above the inn and restaurant. She was nowhere to be found. I was about to leave when I passed her parents’ room. There was the first light I’d seen all night, glowing low and weak.

            “Hitoyama-san,” I called. No answer. No sounds… not even of breathing.

            My heart stopped and I opened the shoji slowly.

           

Inside lay Yuki’s mother and father, in pools of blood, slain in their sleep.

 

            My head reeled. What had happened? Who had done it? Where were they now? Were they still here? All these questions tumbled around in my mind, but the only one to register was…

 

            Where is Yuki?

 

            I ran outside, calling for her. Nobody was around. No one at all! It was maddening. Where the hell were the police when you needed them? I would have thought to check the other houses for living if I hadn’t been so desperate to find Yuki.

            I needed to calm down first. To think clearly. There was no struggle. It must have happened after closing. I was sickened to think that if I’d come earlier, perhaps none of this would have happened. But I had to stop being so emotional. At least for now. What I had to do was find Yuki. Think, Kenji… where could Yuki be? If she’d run in fear, where would she go?

            It came to me and I took off running. If she was still alive, she was probably still in danger.

 

I came to the grove of Sakura we sometimes met in and looked around. She wasn’t there. My mind was spinning. Where could she have been? Did they perhaps take her with them? I was just about to leave when I heard a faint noise. I stopped and listened harder. There it was again. I followed it and when I found the source, I almost wished I hadn’t.

            Yuki lay on the ground, an arrow sticking from her chest. Her skin was clammy and white. Her eyes, bright and lively earlier that very day, were now dark and gray…

            And from their corners… blood… like tears…

            I fell to her side, eyes wide with terror. “Yuki-chan! Yuki-chan!” I didn’t shake her, as not to disrupt any chance she might have still had at living. Instead I turned her face up to mine, smearing her cheek with her bloody tears. Her lips moved… she was trying to speak. She barley croaked…

            “Ken…ji-ku-un… I… I’m so-sor-ry…”

            “No, Yuki-chan! You have nothing to be sorry for!” I felt the tears streaming down my cheeks. I wanted to hold her close… “Who did this, Yuki-chan? Who did this to you?”

            She looked like she was trying to smile. “Ai-shite-ru… Kenji-kun… aishiteru…”

            She reached up to touch my cheek and I placed my hand over hers, turning to kiss her palm. She brushed my tears weakly with her thumb, still smiling. “Aishiteru, Yuki. Sueshijuu aishiteru, Yuki-koiishi.”

            She swallowed with difficulty. “Wh-at d-did you want t-to discuss with me, Ken..ji-k-kun?”

            My heart twisted. Damn my hesitation! I began to cry harder. “I was going to ask you to be my wife, Yuki-chan…”

            She smiled and for a moment the light returned to her eyes.

            “Hai, Kenji…” she whispered. “I will…” She pulled me forward and used what little strength she had to rise and kiss my lips…

 

            And when she pulled away, she had that same look on her face…

 

            …just before she finally slipped away…

 

            As her head rolled lifelessly to the side, my heart felt completely empty… broken… I stared at her in horror. I don’t think it hit me that she was really gone until then. I knew it must be… but I couldn’t put my mind around it.

           

            It didn’t really register until I carried her body into my house, laying her gently on the dojo floor. I knelt in front of her, just staring at her as if my stare could bring breath back to her lungs and resurrect her from the dead.

            “Kenji.” I heard my father… but he was very far away… I almost didn’t hear him.

            He entered the room and gasped, seeing Yuki and then me. “Kenji… aisoku, what happened?”

            I didn’t speak.

            My mother soon followed and threw a hand over her mouth when she saw the sight before her. “Oh, Kami-sama… Kenji…”

            “Her whole family is dead… murdered in their sleep… I found her… in the Sakura grove.” I closed my eyes, the pain twisting my heart. “She was practically dead already.” My mother rushed to me and held me close, kneeling next to me. “She said yes, okaa-chan…” I sobbed, not holding back now. “She said yes! Oh, God, she said yes!” I wailed and my mother cried with me, trying to comfort me. I shook violently, feeling my insides churning. My father came and knelt on my other side and hugged me.

            “Get Megumi-dono, koiishi,” he said to her. Mother nodded and left.

            “Do you know who did it, aisoku. Do you know why?” he asked me.

            I raised from his chest and shook my head. “No…” Suddenly I felt the rage rise inside of me and I looked at my father with a golden gaze. “But I will find out. I will…”

            He looked directly at me, serious and firm. “Be careful, aisoku. Weigh your options carefully. Do not deal with this in haste. Another corpse will bring you no closer to justice… especially if it is your own.”

            I was breathing heavily. I stared at him for a long time, the rage slowly subsiding. Soon violet replaced gold and tears welled from my eyes again. I leaned into him and cried like I did when I was but an infant. And he held me. Comforting and understanding...

           

I don’t think I’ve ever felt so close to my father…

 

*           *           *           *           *

 

Japanese words:

 

·         Kourui- her bloody tears

·         Aiji- beloved child

·         Sumimasen- sorry

·         Hitoyama- mountain (that makes Yuki’s name Hitoyama Yuki which means Mountain Snow or Snowy Mountain… isn’t that pretty?)

·         Sueshijuu- for life/ eternity/ until I die

·         Koiishi- my darling