Standard Disclaimers Apply.
I couldn’t believe the amount of explanation Soujiro and I had to go through when we had arrived back at the Aoiya.
I had totally forgotten that Sou-chan, Okina, together with the rest of the Onniwabanshu, and I were supposed to talk about the current situation regarding Sou-chan’s stay early this morning. The long talk I had anticipated became even longer because we had to tell them exactly where we had been and what we did…
…except for the crying part, that is.
I didn’t know what stirred them crazy when I came home. I mean, as if something wrong would happen to me. I had traveled all over Japan alone, which should have showed them how perfectly I could take care of myself and besides, Sou-chan was as harmless as Himura.
Well, you know what I mean.
The long talk proved to be worthwhile in the end. At least, all questions had been answered; all suspicions had been cleared. I admire Jiya for his wisdom. In his years of having the seen the worst in people, he could still shed light on them and give them a second chance. Himura… Aoshi-sama… and now, Soujiro. And for that, I was most grateful.
Of the people who would caught me emotionally off-guard, never in my wildest dreams did I expect Tenken no Soujiro be the one to comfort me. But I guess, I should be thankful. If there was one person who would know how it felt like to hide tears behind a smile, it would be him.
He would know it better than anyone else… maybe even me.
It was already late in the evening but I couldn’t get myself to fall asleep. Many thoughts were bombarding my head, making slumber painfully elusive.
Just then, from the recesses of my consciousness, I could make out a vague melody. I didn’t know if it was just my imagination but I was certain that I never heard it before.
I sat up from my futon, extending my ear to every corner, trying to make out where the sound was coming from. I stood up, fixed my yukata and went out to the hall. I took cautious steps, shivers running down my spice as the music became louder and louder. Then it hit me.
And in this season
Of falling leaves
Share the same fate
It was coming from Soujiro’s room.
‘Til there was you.
I stopped singing as soon as I felt Misao’s presence from behind the shoji door.
So as not to startle her again. I moved my feet more heavily as I walked towards the door. I slid it open, smiled at her and asked, “Misao, is there anything I can do for you?”
“Umm… not really,” she stammered. “It’s just that I couldn’t sleep and well… I heard someone singing so I decided to wake up and investigate.”
“I’m sorry, did I disturb you?” I raised my eyebrows.
“Hmm… not at all,” she smiled back. “So? You can’t sleep, too?”
“Most of the time,” I replied.
For the next couple of minutes, we were both silent, roaming our eyes across the hall so as not to look at each other that moment. I was waiting for her to speak and I guess, she was, too. Giving in, I asked, “Would you like to talk? I mean, just until you get sleepy?”
At that, Misao’s face lit up and nodded.
I invited her inside, motioning her to sit beside me on the futon. “Are you usually a late sleeper?” I asked.
“No, not really,” she shook her head. “It’s just that sometimes… I can’t help but think.”
“About a lot of things,” she answered cheerfully. “You know… day dreams, fantasies, feelings… pain.”
I never thought I would hear someone use fantasies and pain in the same sentence. It seemed so ironic yet even more realistic at the same time. But I guess, I was talking to Misao, the girl who would never cease to amaze me. And she was right, indulging in fantasies does lead to pain.
Especially when you can’t live out that fantasy.
Then, she asked, “How about you? Why can’t you sleep early?”
“Same as you, I guess…” I shrugged and smiled as I continued, “…just replace the day dreams and fantasies part with guilt.”
“Oh,” her face fell.
Was she actually pitying me or just feeling what I felt? Are humans really like this? Feeling each other’s pain like the way I felt hers while she was talking to Shinomori-kun?
Before I was able to ask her that question, she went ahead, “Ano… Soujiro. Can I ask you a personal question?”
“Of course,” came my cheerful reply.
“How do you do it?”
Here we are again with our vague questions. “Do what?”
“Smile though you are dying inside. Didn’t it consume you?”
At that point, I couldn’t hide my shock. It was the first time that somebody actually asked me that question. That somebody actually cared to. Even though my answer would be something far from what I knew she would be expecting, I was glad she asked anyway.
And I was even more happier to answer it because I would be able to express myself.
An opportunity that rarely passed me.
“It didn’t,” I began. “It didn’t consume me because, I never really felt like I was dying inside. I was void of any feelings, remember?”
She nodded sadly. I still don’t understand why.
“…But I guess, now it is different. I am starting to learn things. Learn how to really feel. How about you? Does it consume you?”
Locking her emerald eyes into mine, she answered, “Sometimes it does but sometimes I unconsciously convince myself that I am alright. That I am happy.” Then, she paused for a minute as if thinking over her answers. “But don’t get me wrong, Soujiro. I really am happy. I am really content. It’s just there are just some things that hurt me.”
“You mean someone,” I stressed. “Shinomori-kun, right?”
“Yes. But let’s not talk about that now. That’s enough crying for one day,” she chuckled. “Besides, I realized that whatever Aoshi-sama said this afternoon was for my sake. I shouldn’t think ill of his advice, right?”
“I guess so…” I smiled back.
“So?” she grinned evilly, rubbing her hands together, feigning mischievousness. “What were you singing earlier?”
I widened my eyes intentionally to tease her. I loved seeing her smile. I had never seen anyone smile as brightly as hers.
“Oh come on, Soujiro! Don’t make me plead over and over again— I am in no mood to hammer you to the ground right now.” Instead of smiling, she pouted. A cute pout for that matter, which was equally amusing,
“It was a song Yumi-san used to sing to me when I was still a child,” I explained even if she didn’t ask. “Later on, when I grew up, I could still hear her singing that to Shishio-san. I know it would somehow distort your image of Shishio-san for what I am about to say, but actually, Shishio-san said that it was Yumi’s song that captured his heart the first time he saw her.”
“Oh! How romantic!!!” she exclaimed. “…In a scary sort-of way.”
I honestly didn’t know how to react at what she said. I would never really let anyone make fun of Shishio-san even now that he had departed and I had left his side. He was the one who took me in and cared for me. He was the one who taught me how to survive. Even if I didn’t follow the path that he had showed me anymore, I still respected him.
But, there was something about her innocent yet blunt honesty that justified it all.
Her words held no malice. She was just voicing out her thoughts. She wasn’t a hypocrite.
As I was silenced by my thoughts, Misao-chan had probably assumed it had upset me so she muttered, looking at me apologetically, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be tactless and rude.”
“Don’t be.” I tilted up her downcast face to meet her eyes. “Nobody should be sorry for being honest, right?”
“Still, I am sorry. He was like a father to you.”
“He was. But, again, it’s alright.”
Then, she rewarded me with her genuine smile as she pleaded, “Please, Soujiro, would you sing that to me?”
“Huh?” Are we back to that topic once again? “Why?”
“Soujiro no baka!” she hit me playfully on the arm. “I just want to hear what it took to melt that person’s heart.”
I laughed heartily at that but I still shook my head in negation.
“Oh, come on… please.”
Still, I shook my head.
“Please?” she fluttered her eyelids for added effect.
Crossing her arms across her chest, she huffed, “Fine! I just wanted to hear the lyrics!”
Just then, another smile spread from my lips, “If that’s what you want, then, I would just recite them to you.”
That’s right. Reciting the lyrics wasn’t even close to being half as bad as singing it.
I closed my eyes, I trying to recall the lyrics. I turned my head to the side so that I wouldn’t have to see the expression on her face while I recited it. It actually felt weird stating it like a monologue to someone… weird but not necessarily bad. I wonder if this was how Yumi-san felt like while she was singing to me.
I wonder if she still sang to Shishio-san until now.
I shrugged off the last thought as I recited the remaining verse of the song.
Death in its simplest form,
Could be a sign of rebirth
Just like a discarded seed,
Which would grow to a tree.
Just like a broken heart,
Ready to fall in love again.”
“It’s really beautiful,” she gasped.
I raised my eyebrows in inquiry and asked, “Why so?”
“The lyrics… the meaning… it holds so much emotion. It speaks of death but, with death comes new life. Just like night and day. How could one appreciate the beauty of light when one hasn’t experienced darkness,” she replied, lacing her fingers, staring out at the sky. Pausing for a moment, she blushed. “I’m sorry. I was rambling. I don’t think I made sense back there.”
“Don’t be. Actually…” I scratched my head at her comment. “I never really thought much about it other than when I recall the lyrics. Maybe it is because I never really understood its meaning. I guess… it’s safe to say that I can’t relate to it at all.”
“Me, too,” she confessed. “But can’t you appreciate it even vicariously?”
“The issue of love doesn’t really have much impact in me.”
“Well, it will someday,” she swooned. “Just like with me and my Aoshi-sama.”
I chuckled. “Looks like you’ve been hit hard.”
“Harder than you’ll ever know,” she sighed, leaning her head on my shoulder like she did earlier today while I rested my back against the wall and continued to stare at the window outside.
I had never even stopped to think about that until now. It was something completely foreign to me that I never really bothered contemplating about it… until now. It seemed that the people who made the most impact on my life had a loved one anchoring and supporting them.
Shishio-san had Yumi-san.
Himura-san had Kamiya-san.
And now, Misao had Shinomori-kun.
What is with this love anyway that people couldn’t seem to go on without it. That they let their lives be steered according to it. How does one decide when or who to love? How does one know that the decision is correct?
I was about to ask Misao-chan these questions when I heard her soft and even breathing by my side. She was already asleep.
She looked like an angel. So peaceful. So content. Wisps of her bangs partially covered her closed eyes as her lips where slightly curved up in a smile.
It was only until an hour or so had passed when I realized what I was doing. I never really knew why, but at that moment, I felt so contented just watching her sleep.
Knowing the right thing to do at that moment, I sighed. I felt guilty waking her up from her peaceful slumber for the second time today. However, I couldn’t let her sleep in that position because she would get backache.
That was why I settled with the next best thing. With one swift movement, I carried her in my arms to her room. I placed her carefully on her futon, placing a blanket on top of her so that she wouldn’t catch cold. I tucked the stray hair covering her face, caressing her cheeks lightly. I had always wanted to know how she felt like.
Just then, she stirred in her sleep and whispered in a half-conscious state, “Good night Soujiro.”
“Good night,” I smiled. “Misao… chan.”
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