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Crimson Skies
By: Chibi-angel

Chapter 6


Standard Disclaimers Apply.

~~~~~

[Misao]

His voice resonated in my mind over and over again like a hungry parasite anxious to devour my being. How did he hold that much power over me? Like he could make me or break me whenever he pleased. Was this more my fault than his? Whoever it was, it hurt.

So much.

“Misao-chan,” Sou-chan held out his hand and approached me.

I wiped away a lone tear that escaped from my eye as I gave him a faint smile. “Don’t worry about me, Sou-chan. I’m alright.”

“No, you aren’t,” he insisted.

“I’m fine!” Forcing my smile to become wider, I said in a more cheerful tone, “Let’s just go back to the Aoiya and explain to them why we didn’t bring home the vegetables.”

“Misao-chan…” he protested.

I placed my finger on his mouth, putting a stop to his objections.

He nodded in understanding, wiping the mark made by my tear.

Letting out a loud sigh, I turned around, motioning him to follow me. “Let’s go to the cliff again this afternoon, okay? I want to see the sunset.”

~~~

The day seemed to pass by painfully slower today. Or maybe it was just me. I carried on with my tasks with a heavy heart. Sometimes I would catch Sou-chan watching me so worriedly but what else could I do? I couldn’t stop myself from feeling down. Even if I smiled, my insides would crumble.

Hours had passed but it still haunted me. His words.

Grow up, Misao.

I can’t believe how those three words managed to hurt me so much. Maybe because it was true. And maybe because it came from him— the only man I took much effort to please… but always left unsatisfied.

“Misao? Are you alright?” Omasu asked, peering over my shoulders to look at me more closely.

“Yes, Omasu,” I nodded, turning my head away as I recited my well-practiced lines. “Don’t worry about me. I’m alright.” I started to walk away, not wanting to continue with the interrogation.

“Don’t lie to me,” she called out.

At that, I froze. What had happened to me? Was I turning into a liar? Sighing deeply, I faced her and apologized, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. It’s just that. I don’t want to talk about it now.”

Slowly, she approached me, placing her hands on my shoulder, looking at me worriedly. “What’s happening to you, Misao. You aren’t like this.”

“I guess, I am growing up, ne?” I couldn’t contain the bitterness my smile held at that time so I waved goodbye to her and approached my companion for the afternoon, “Sou-chan, it’s already late in the afternoon. If we leave now, we can make it until sunset.”

“Alright.”

“Ja ne, Omasu!”

“Ja, Omasu-san!”

She nodded at our direction and went her way. She was right. This wasn’t me.

~~~~~

[Soujiro]

We walked towards the cliff in silence. It wasn’t the lack of conversation that bothered me though, it was the sound of the first tear that fell from her eye. “Misao-chan,” I began. “You don’t have to hold back your tears anymore.”

“What?”

“You heard me,” I whispered. I led her to sit under the tree we sat the day before as I looked across the horizon. “Why are you doing this to yourself, Misao?”

“I don’t really know. I guess it’s because I need to grow up.”

“Haven’t you?” I leaned closer to peer at her glassy pools.

She shook her head in negation. Choking on a sob, she replied, “Aoshi-sama doesn’t think so. Omasu doesn’t think so. Even I don’t know anymore. What about you, Sou? What do you think?”

“If being a grown up means wearing feminine kimonos or having an unfeeling heart, then you are a child. But if being a grown up meant facing the world with a positive outlook on life, being able to share your light with other people, being matured enough not to judge other people… then for me, you are already a grown up, Misao-chan,” I answered, staring at the crimson shade of the horizon. Giving her a faint grin, I continued, “But what do I know, ne? I am just a rurouni…”

“Well, you have proven that you know a lot.” She paused for a moment, turned to me and looked straight into my eyes as she said bitterly, “Sou-chan, why can’t I do anything right?”

“Huh?”

I was caught off-guard by her query.

“I do everything to try to please Aoshi-sama. To see him smile even once but why doesn’t he appreciate my efforts?”

“Maybe he does and just doesn’t show it?” I shrugged once again. I never really knew what went on Shinomori-san’s mind.

“Why? Because he is a man and a real man mustn’t show any emotion? That’s…”

Before she was about to say something I knew she would regret, I cut her off by saying, “Misao-chan, people have very different outlook in life. Shinomori-san had been through a lot. You should understand where he is coming from.”

“I know that!” she suddenly exclaimed. “It’s just that I am so confused now because I don’t know what to do anymore. I just— I just love him so damn much that it hurts!!!”

So you really love him, huh?

“…It really hurts that he doesn’t even see me for who I really am…”

I placed my hand on top of hers, caressing it to stop its trembling.

She continued, “…What if he does see me and he doesn’t like what it is there? What should I do? I had always told myself that there would come a day that… that…”

Then, she broke down.

Misao did not need to finish her words. Her tears were enough to carry their meaning.

I didn’t know why but just being there, by holding her hand, listening to her sobs, my heart is feeling this unfamiliar ache. Why couldn’t he just love her?

I laced my fingers with hers as I brought her head to my chest. “Don’t lose that spark of hope left in your heart. It is one of the things that make you beautiful.”

Did it even make her feel better?

“At least you’re not empty.” I bit my lip at that comment. I didn’t mean to say that.

At that, she lifted up her gaze to me. She raised her hand, wiping away the wet trails on her cheek as she tilted her head. “Sou, is that how you feel? Empty?”

I shrugged, not wanting to meet her eyes.

She broke away from my embrace, sitting beside me as she breathed deeply to regain her composure. She whispered, “It beats being broken.”

“Broken things still can be mended. Nothing will come out of nothing.”

“Who said there is nothing there?” She rested her hand on my chest, causing my heart to jump so suddenly.

Does that mean…

“Do you think I am better off empty?”

“Would you want to live soulless?”

Silence fell upon us.

“No,” she finally replied. Just then, a small yet sincere smile appeared on her young face. “Do you think broken pieces can be changed to porcelain?”

“Not if they are already made of gold.” I grinned when her smile widened. “Seriously, Misao, what’s on your mind now?”

“Nothing I haven’t told you already.” In her eyes, I saw determination. She is one amazing woman with a heart so pure and generous.

I knew that moment that she had already set her mind in changing for Shinomori-kun. But still…

“Misao?”

“What it is, Sou-chan?”

“If you want my opinion, there’s nothing about you I want to change.”

Why couldn’t Shinomori-kun just love her the way she is?

Just like the other day, Misao rested her head on my shoulder as she whispered, “You know, you just made me love myself again.”

The moon was slowly clearing up at the sky as the sun began to set.

As I gazed at the crimson sky and the woman beside me, somehow, I didn’t feel so empty anymore.

She made me love myself for the first time.

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