Standard Disclaimers Apply.
Days passed by and much to Soujirou's surprise, things were pretty normal. His life was falling into a simple, yet comfortable pattern. He'd wake in the morning to have breakfast with Kenshin, Yahiko, and Kaoru. After breakfast he would train with Kaoru and Yahiko. Around noon, he'd go off with Yahiko to work at the Akebeko. Tae had given him a small job washing dishes. Then it was back to the dojo for dinner. He would talk with Kaoru and Kenshin until night fell, and then he would go to bed. To most, this would seem boring and dull. But for Soujirou, he couldn't be happier. He was being normal. He was part of a normal family. He was in control of his own life now. He didn't have to kill anymore. He could train because he wanted to, not because he had to. Most of all, he lived with people who accepted him because they honestly cared about him. He had never imagined that he could lead such a fulfilling life.
Today was going to be different though. Kaoru had woken Soujirou early, telling him that she had something special planned.
First, she was taking him to meet an old friend of the family. They walked along the streets of Tokyo, enjoying the absence of the noisy crowds that would soon be present. Kaoru was doing most of the talking, telling Soujirou stories their various adventures. Soujirou had asked about the fight in Kyoto and was amazed at the story of how they beat some of the most powerful warriors in Japan. At the same time though he felt guilty, because he was partly responsible for the attack at the Aoiya. He told Kaoru this and she immediately laughed it off, saying that the past was the past, and that he shouldn't worry about it now. "Besides," she stated proudly, "we won that battle, and it only proves that there are things more powerful than brute strength." Soujirou couldn't help but agree with her logic. The Juppongatana might have been the strongest in Japan, but there was one thing that their opponents had that they didn't, and that was hope. It wasn't strong against weak, it was those who fought for power against those who fought because they had faith in their friends and hope that the future would be brighter. Soujirou only wished that it hadn't taken him so long to figure that out.
After about 15 minutes of walking they came upon a small building, which Soujirou found to be a clinic as he read the sign near the door. Kaoru led Soujirou inside and to a room not far from the entrance. There sat an old man, who was tending to a small child. Soujirou watched as the man gently applied a bandage to the girl's wounded hand, talking soothingly to her as she sniffled, a few tears running down her face. The way the doctor talked to her and handled her so gently reminded Soujirou of his adopted father, the man who promised to take care of him when his mother died. Seta-san was a very kind man, which was surprising considering how the rest of his family behaved. He was Soujirou's only comfort in a world of strange and harsh people. So it had come as a crushing blow when he had died and left Soujirou all alone with those people.
The doctor soon finished wrapping the girl's hand. The little child wiped the tears from her face and smiled brightly, thanking the doctor and bowing politely before running off.
The doctor quickly cleaned up his supplies and greeted his guests.
"Good morning Kaoru-chan. Who is this young man you have brought with you?" He said in a teasing manner, giving her a knowing wink.
Kaoru gave a small chuckle, "It's not what you think, you old pervert. Soujirou, this is Doctor Gensai, he has treated our family since I was little. Gensai-san, I want you to meet Seta Soujirou, odd as it may sound, he's my...."
"Oh, it's you!" The old doctor exclaimed, causing Soujirou to jump in surprise. "How long has it been? Around 20 years if I remember right."
"What? You know already?" Kaoru asked, wide eyed. Soujirou just stared at the old man in confusion.
"Of course! I first saw him when he was about a year old. His mother was very sick, so Kojirou sent her to me." Gensai stated proudly, "And I remember the young child she had with her. You were just so small, I was worried that you wouldn't grow to be very big." The old man reached out and lifted Soujirou's chin to look at his face. "Well, it looks like you certainly have grown nicely. I see you've gotten your looks from your mother." The smile fell from the old man's face. "I'm sorry about your mother. She was a very kind woman."
"If you don't mind me asking," Soujirou asked quietly, "could you tell me what my mother was sick with?"
"Well," the Doctor answered, pausing to bring up past memories, "unfortunately I really don't know what she had. Nobody knew. Whatever it was though, it seemed to be eating at her from the inside. She would eat normally, but she was just so thin. And she seemed so tired. Do you know when she died?"
"I think I was about two year old at the time."
"Ah," replied the Doctor, "It surprises me that she lasted that long. But then again, she did appear to be a strong woman."
"Thank you for telling me." Soujirou was beginning to feel a bit uneasy talking about his mother, so he quickly changed the subject, asking him about his clinic. The Doctor was more than happy to talk about his life's work.
Kaoru watched as the two conversed. She had noticed Soujirou's pained expression when Gensai spoke about his mother. It upset her to see him like that. She felt the immense urge to comfort him, to make his pain vanish. The need was so great because she knew what it was like to lose a parent. She too had a hole inside of her that could never be filled. She would never get her parents back. And although she had learned to live with this fact, it didn't keep it from hurting now and then. At least they had been there during her childhood. She didn't know the details of Soujirou's childhood, but she guessed from what Kenshin told her that he had not had a good one.
They stayed at the clinic for an hour or two. Luckily Doctor Gensai didn't have a lot of patients that morning, so they spent their time talking and drinking tea. Gensai's grandchildren had shown up and demanded that Soujirou play with them. So they all moved out into the yard, where Soujirou and the children played games of chase. Kaoru and Gensai sat on the porch, laughing as Soujirou purposely fell to the ground so the girls could catch him. Finally, Kaoru declared that it was time for them to leave, inciting protests from the girls. After promising to come back and play with them another day, they were allowed to leave.
"Well, you seemed to be having fun there." Kaoru teased.
"You know, that's the first time that I have ever played with children." Soujirou replied.
Kaoru's tone turned serious. "I'm sorry." She apologized. "You didn't have much of a childhood, did you?"
"Not really." He confessed. No friends, no games, and no chances to really be a child. He was nothing but a slave and a scapegoat.
"Someday, would you tell me about it?" She asked quietly.
"Why?" Soujirou turned to her in confusion, wondering why anyone would want to know about his dark past.
"Because I want to know you better." She stated, "You're my brother. I want to know all about you. Your past, your feelings. What you went through to make you who you are now."
He stared at her for a minute, but found nothing but sincerity in her eyes. In that moment, Soujirou had never felt closer to anyone in his life. He never had anyone he could talk to or share his feelings with. No one to comfort him when he was sick or sad. And now here she was, wanting to know all about him. Offering her kindness and support. It was nothing short of amazing.
"Yes, but only if you let me know more about you."
"Deal!" She grabbed his hand and held it as they walked. Soujirou felt content and warm and cared for. And he realized that he would probably never find a better friend than her. God knows he didn't deserve it.
"So, where are we going next?" Soujirou asked as they continued walking.
"That is a secret. You'll just have to wait until we get there." She smiled and squeezed his hand, leading him across town.
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