Rurouni Kenshin Fan Fiction ❯ Hanakotoba: The Language of Flowers ❯ Hanakotoba: The Language of Flowers ( Chapter 1 )

[ P - Pre-Teen ]

A/N: This is a scene I always imagined happened off-panel… so, I guess you can say this is my own personal head-canon. This also a bit of a peace offering to Aoshi since I realized he seems to either come off badly or get the short end of the stick in my other fics. I don't hate his character. Really! Here's the proof!
Title: Hanakotoba: The Language of Flowers
Author: Kenkaya
Genre: Drama/Spiritual
Type: Oneshot, post Jinchuu/Revenge Arc
Rating: K+/PG
Pairing: Hints of AoshixMisao, but nothing overt…
Summary: On the way home from Tokyo, Aoshi and Misao make a slight detour...
Disclaimer: The characters of Rurouni Kenshin are copyright/owned by Watsuki, Sony, and other corporate someones who aren't me.
Japanese summers were beautiful, but hot and humid, completely unsuitable for cross-country travel.
Or hiking through the woods, Misao mentally groaned as she followed Aoshi off the well-kept road. At least (she hoped) the dapple patterned shade would provide some relief from the sun overhead. No such luck. The air remained thick and heavy under leafy branches. Flyaway hairs stuck with itchy persistence to the nape of her neck; her blue top clung like dead skin that refused to peel. The rhythmic thump of her long black braid tapped out an irritating staccato against her sweaty back. Misao was, simply put, miserable.
She stared morosely at the ground. Normally, with anyone else, the energetic girl would have exclaimed her misery to the heavens and back by now. But, she bit her tongue. Aoshi had asked that morning (before leaving the Kamiya dojo) if she minded a slight detour. He'd never asked her for anything like that before. She sighed as the ground began to slant uphill, scrutinizing the deep greens and brilliant golden yellows covering the forest floor (a deceptive blanket to hide snares and scratchy brush underneath). Misao couldn't bring herself to question his sincere request then, and she definitely wouldn't do so now. They trekked onwards in uncharacteristic silence.
The quiet broke when a well-camouflaged bramble caught on her tabi and she stumbled, a few choice curses slipping out despite her earlier determination. Glancing up in embarrassment, she saw that Aoshi had stopped, his back still to her, patiently waiting for his companion to catch up. With flushed cheeks and new resolve she scurried after him. He didn't acknowledge her fall; she didn't apologize. There was no need to.
Wistfully, Misao remembered traveling a similar path with Himura what seemed ages ago. The self-proclaimed rurouni had stomped the tall grass and heavy underbrush flat ahead of her, preventing such clumsy mishaps. Still, while the consideration was flattering coming from Himura, she was glad Aoshi made no such gesture: that he trusted her to keep up without assistance. Onimitsu showed kindness to each other through displays of mutual respect, and that respect in turn was a sign of trust. Misao knew Aoshi didn't place trust lightly. To be included in that small circle left her positively giddy.
In return, she bit her tongue on the numerous questions building inside. They echoed through her head instead, distracting- but she welcomed the diversion if it prevented her from breaking his contemplative silence.
Where are we going, Aoshi-sama?
Why do we have to hike through the woods to get there?
Argh! Why do summers have to be so damn hot?! Is a little breeze too much to ask for?
Just how far away is this place? We left the road almost twenty minutes ago!
Aoshi-sama, are we there yet?
“We're here.”
Misao came to a startled stop just in time to avoid collision. Her leader stood stationary, back ramrod straight and dark clothes a sharp contrast to the sunny clearing ahead of them. His head was tilted slightly to watch her reaction through black bangs (a subtlety Misao picked-up easily with her training). The girl tore her eyes away from Aoshi's shadowed gaze several moments later to see where he had led her- and gasped.
The clearing was picturesque: framed by tall moss-covered trees, filled with verdant grasses, dotted with tiny clusters of yellow wildflowers. Cicadas chirped and birds cheeped in the background. But Misao's attention wasn't fixated on her surroundings. Four stones, uneven in shape and size, arranged in a line too exact to be natural, dominated the center. She walked jerkily towards the makeshift graves, ignoring the man still staring intently, and fell into a less-than-graceful kneel at the foot of them.
Four. She knew what that number meant.
Shikijou. Hyottoko. Beshimi. Hannya…
They were here. Her lost family; the ones who walked away into the night when she was a child, never to return. Lids closed over watery blue-green eyes, a few tears escaping through the motion.
Behind her, Aoshi watched as two pale hands (petite, nimble, and calloused after years of tobikunai use) rose together in a standard prayer gesture. He didn't move, didn't make a sound, while she made peace with the harsh truth finally presented to her in physical form. A much-desired breeze blew by, rustling through dark hair and colorful grasses. Even wildlife seemed to still their cacophonous song in the sanctity of this moment. The moment ended abruptly as the wind died. Misao sighed before she stood, placing a reverent hand on each stone. She lingered on the far right marker. Hannya's, if he recalled correctly.
“I'll bring flowers next time. And incense.”
Then, she turned to face the stoic man behind her. Tear tracks still glistened on her flushed cheeks, but she was no longer crying. She smiled brightly.
“Thank you, Aoshi-sama… for bringing me here.”
Misao left the clearing to give him privacy. He gave the graves one brief, parting glance, a respectful nod, and spun around to follow the girl. His men understood, he didn't need to speak to them. His offering said everything.
Aoshi may have failed to grace their graves with the flower of “strongest,” but somehow (even after everything he'd done), he managed to bring a much brighter flower instead.
(The End)