-Rurouni Kenshin: True Love-
Chapter One - First Meeting
Without becoming a resident of this place, once again a time to stand up is coming. Until then...think of this also as somehow being a chance meeting. Rest easy here.
----Oibore, Rurouni Kenshin Volume 28, Chapter 251 (taken from Serizawa Kamo's RuroKen Translation Index)
(Twenty years earlier, Tokyo, Japan - Rakuninmura Prefecture 1896)
The cheerful old man's, whom he later found out was called Oibore, words continued to repeat over and over again in Yukishiro Enishi's mind. He wasn't sure what to do now, now that he had read his sister's diary and knew the truth. At first, he couldn't believe the words written in the flimsy diary. At first, he thought that someone had forged his precious sister's handwriting to make him fall for the trick of believing them. But the delicate brushstrokes, the way the words seemed to perfectly portray her way of emotion matched everything that Enishi could remember about his sister. These were actually her words, thoughts, emotions, all the way to the day prior to her death sentence by Himura Battousai's hand. No, inadvertently by his hand.
It was so confusing. Everything he had done in order to get her revenge was now meaningless. Since the execution of his plans, nearly ten years worth of planning now were ten years wasted on something that didn't matter anymore. The police had destroyed his organization. His so-called comrades he lured in had been found and arrested. Gein, the man who had further developed his ideas, was dead. And the woman he had targeted to destroy Battousai's life was still alive, although he hadn't intended it to be that way. Every time he looked at Battousai's woman during the time he held her captive, he could see his sister's face replace hers.
The grip on the diary tightened again. Why was it so hard to let go? Why did it hurt so much to even think that even after Tomoe's death, the man who had inadvertently destroyed her -- and his -- life could be let go without so much of an equal punishment?
Enishi closed his eyes to find some solace in the pain. No, he couldn't think it like that anymore. Not after he heard her side of the story.
What should I do now? he wondered. What can I do now?
He felt as if he had lost the ability to picture his sister in his mind like he used to. After escaping from police custody and entering into this rundown area, the only remnant of his sister that he saw as a brief glimpse of her smile -- nothing more.
Enishi feared that he had lost sight of her ghost forever.
"Oh, Yumiko, you're back!"
His eyes snapped open at the voice, wondering to himself why he had opened them in the first place. He hadn't had any reaction to the locals of Rakuninmura other than the bothersome old man Oibore. His emerald eyes locked onto a young woman not far from where he sat slumped against the wall of a random building, talking to one of the locals -- another man around his age. However, he paid little attention to him and focused on the woman.
From what he could see, she had black hair that had been tied up and hid underneath the hat she wore. Her kimono was simple and a bit worn but that was to be expected from a place like Rakuninmura. Strapped on her back was a woven bag holding what seemed to be tree branches, although from his distance Enishi couldn't be sure. In her arms was a little girl sleeping and beside her was a little boy whose hand clung loosely on the lower half of the woman's kimono. The children looked no older than four, five at the most. In his non-intrusive way, Enishi looked away from them just enough so that he could still catch sight of them from the corner of his eye. Not that he was particularly interested, but something inside of him was curious as to how the woman sounded like.
He heard her laughter and for oddly enough, he liked the sound of it. It was soothing, her laugh.
"Yes, I am for a while," he heard her say in a soft voice. She shifted the girl in her arms to take out something that was in her sleeve. "Gen-san, here are the herbs that you wanted. How's your sister doing?"
He continued to watch her from the corner of his eye, oddly fascinated by her.
The man called Gen received the bag Yumiko held. "Oh, Ruri's doing fine. She's been a bit worried lately since you didn't return last week..."
As the two walked away, Enishi's gaze returned to the empty space in front of him, his stupor snapped which left him slightly disappointed. He frowned at himself. Why did he feel...empty? He didn't even know the woman and only watched from a distance -- if she ever ran into him he probably wouldn't even remember what she looked like. Only...her laughter, her voice soothed him. In that brief moment watching her and the other man, Enishi had forgotten about his confusion, his anger, his sadness.
He closed his eyes and tried to shrug off the feeling and somewhere, lost in his thoughts, he could hear the ghostly laughter of his sister Tomoe.
(A few hours later - early evening)
Enishi's time of part brooding and part resting was broken when he heard the sound of footsteps approaching him. He closed his eyes again, deciding to ignore them and hoped at the same time that it wasn't the old man coming to annoy him for the umpteenth time. He wondered why the man continued on visiting him, even when Enishi didn't even bother taking notice anymore. He regretted ever saying anything to the man in the first place, but the bottle that carried the scent of white plums and the odd manner of the man's attitude were so familiar that Enishi couldn't help but to speak to him.
Mulling over this problem made Enishi completely forget about the approaching person again whom he sensed had stopped in front of him. He hoped that his acting would drive the stranger away, but whoever it was in front of him didn't fall for it.
"Hello," came the familiar soft voice of a woman.
His eyes snapped open, staring straight into the eyes of a sea green ocean. Jet black hair fell framing an oval face that had a complexion of a geisha who had been slightly tanned by the sun. The rest of her hair that had not framed the oval face was held up haphazardly together by a dagger-like pin. Enishi blinked and blinked again to make sure he wasn't seeing things. That voice he heard earlier belonged to this beautiful woman?
She gave him a small smile, cocking her head to one side. "I noticed you when I came home earlier. Are you new here?"
Now looking at the owner of the voice, he began to feel a bit...hm, he couldn't quite place the right word for it. All he knew now, staring into the sea-green eyes of his woman, was that she had somehow made him forget about his earlier troubles.
"Yeah, he heard him say while asking himself why he was answering her at the same time. His voice sounded oddly foreign to him from lack of use.
The woman's smile widened and she looked up at the looming clouds above them. Her quick movements allowed Enishi to quietly release a breath that he had unknowingly held back.
"It looks like it's going to rain soon," she turned back to him, recaptivating his attention.
Was he seeing things or did he see concern in those eyes?
"Do you have a place to stay?"
With the way he had been ignoring the populace the past week, Enishi was not surprised that the thought of finding some place to hide from the government never crossed his mind. Actually, if he looked at himself in the mirror right now, he probably wouldn't recognize himself. This made Enishi more surprised that the soft voice that had captured his attention was now actually talking to him.
"No..." he slowly replied, half-wishing to himself that he shouldn't be talking to his woman. That what he should be thinking now was to find some way to regain his dead sister's image in his mind.
Yet he saw the woman frown and couldn't help but think to himself that she still looked beautiful when she did that. And again, a small voice inside of him was berating himself for thinking such trivial things.
"You're going to be soaking wet if you don't find shelter."
She had grabbed one of his hands, the one that held his broken katana -- a physical image of what he had been feeling like for the past week here. Yet seeing her hold his hand without fear or hesitation, the blade looked as if it had captured a glimpse of hope through the reflection of her face.
"You can stay at my home if you'd like," she offered.
Something inside of him was compelled to accept her offer, yet a small part of him resisted. It quietly died, though, when he looked back up into her eyes. Now that he continued to look at her, he thought that the color of her eyes suited her.
"You don't have to worry about room," she added. "I have an extra room at my house. As long as you don't mind having my children around."
He stood up without a word, holding onto his sister's diary and his broken weapon -- the only possessions he actually had besides the clothes on his back. She let go of his hand then, leading him back through the maze of dirt roads of Rakuninmura to her home.
And all the while, Enishi wondered to himself why did he allow himself to follow this woman.
"What's your name?" he heard her ask after a few minutes of silence. Thunder rolled into the sky, and they had quickened their pace.
"Enishi..." the strength in his voice died a little bit and he cleared his throat. "Yukishiro Enishi."
Hm, that sounds a little bit better.
The sound of his voice was beginning to sound more familiar to him. "And you, Miss..."
"Yumiko," the woman replied. "Nagasaki Yumiko."
The name Nagasaki sounded familiar to him, but with his mind beginning to fall back on dark thoughts, he decided to disregard it. After a few more moments of awkward -- to him only, it seemed; from his point of view Yumiko acted as if this was what she always did -- Enishi asked another question.
They had stopped in front of somewhat decent looking home and she glanced back at him. "Hm?"
"Why are you doing this?"
"Doing what, Yukishiro-san?"
"Helping me," he frowned. Her reaction wasn't what he had expected. "...Giving me shelter. We don't...know each other. And for all you know, I could be someone who can take advantage of you and rob you."
She completely turned around to face him, giving him a smile and an answer that he didn't expect. "Are you one, Yukishiro-san?"
He hesitated for a second. He could have said "yes", but he knew that he wasn't that kind of person. Fugitive was a definitive. Murderer, maybe, considering how he decided to survive in Shanghai. Kidnapper was another possibility due to Jinchuu. Yet that was in the past, and it was all because he had wanted Battousai to receive just as much emotional torture as he did for all those years.
Enishi's eyes caught the color of his sister's diary and he was reminded of how much of a shell he was now.
"No..." I can't ever be if oneesan disappears...
Yumiko's eyes fell into a darker hue, looking at him as if she knew the torture he was going through.
"Then I have nothing to worry about, " her soft voice once again took him away from his thoughts. "When I saw you sitting against the wall this afternoon with those lost eyes, you reminded me of someone. Everyone here in Rakuninmura has their own share of problems and their own dark secrets of the past, but we try to help one another regardless of what happened."
She held out a hand to him as the first droplets of rain began to fall from the sky. Enishi stared at it deep in thought, reflecting back on the meaning of her words. He looked back up again to meet her eyes, eyes that were the color of a sea green ocean which held inside a sincerity that Enishi hadn't seen since the day his sister heard the news of her fiancé's death. A twinge of something that he couldn't recognize shivered deep within his heart, and Enishi began to understand why Yumiko's voice had such a calming effect on him.
"That's why I'm helping you," she told him as the rain began a strong downpour over the city. "Regardless of what may have driven you here."
Enishi stared at her outstretched hand again, wondering what to do. Then slowly, he willed his own hand to move until it rested lightly on her much smaller one, accepting her off, and her words.
Yukishiro Enishi would have never guessed that her offer would be one that would completely change his life forever. Only one woman, the gentle spirit of Yukishiro Tomoe, had seen it coming as she watched him from a distance.
And she smiled.
GLOSSARY OF UNKNOWN WORDS
(name)-san: ending that's commonly used among strangers, workers, etc, depending on the person that you are talking to
oneesan: older sister