In Silent Reverence

by: Charlene


Standard disclaimers apply


What I felt for Mifuyu was…was purely familial. I adored her with the whole of my childish heart, somehow believing that she could turn dreams into reality and being with her would make me ridiculously happy. And it did. I believed in her, because she did all a big sister could do for a little brother, and she never compromised her love for me. She was always this beautiful welcoming face, and arms warm with love embracing me, picking me up to spin around. I nearly burst with pride and triumphant exultation whenever I was with her. She always knew what I wanted, and then would do everything in her power to get it for me. And if she couldn’t, she would give me something else in compensation. How could I tell her, with such immature, crudely limited language that as long as she was with me, I didn’t want and had no need for other things?

And then she was taken away. That night, always harsh and weighty in its re-enaction, is engraved in my mind like huge bold letters imprinted on a large rock. They come back to me in the evening, before I sleep. They come back to me in the morning, when I wake up. They come back to me in the day, when I scribble my answers down on my test paper.But even imprints on rock are not forever. They eventually fill up with dirt or fragments of other rock, or they simply melt away with weathering. And that was what I felt when I met Yanagi.

Familiarity so unfamiliar it swept through my being like hot water, freeing where was once frozen. I felt—warmed again, like when Mifuyu was alive. Her presence lit the place. And she was kind, warm and beautiful. She was too much like Mifuyu to be true. Angel…she was an angel. I cursed myself—and her. Heaven was cruel, to put me in such a position. To see my sister and yet not be able to call her Mifuyu, to embrace her or to laugh with her. To watch her smile, and comfort, and laugh. It was too much. I wanted to say, “How dare you pretend to be my sister! How dare you look like her and act like her?” But I couldn’t. I had to be near her, I had to have her. I wanted her to say, “Mikagami, are you alright?” or “Mikagami, I’m so happy to be here with you!” I ached for her presence, I ached for her. She was too much Mifuyu to stay away from.I hated to use underhand ways.

When I saw how much Hannabishi loved her, how much they interacted together and how much they laughed together and...most of all, how much she loved him, something inside me wanted to scream. I took advantage of his love for her, something so low I cringe when I look back at it, even when I knew he loved her just as much, or even more than I did. “Stay away from her! You bring danger to her when you are around her! Do you love her? Then stay away if you want to protect her.” It was a slow and painful realization that I was doing something wrong, and even worse, that I was doing something Mifuyu would disapprove of, but I couldn’t help myself. When I look in her eyes, I see something so fragile, so crystalline I want with my entire soul to protect that single sweetly rare essence of her. Innocence.

But when Hannabishi defeated me in the mirror house, I knew with an unbearable hurt in my chest that he was a bigger man that I was. That defeat left me in shock for days after. Not because of the injuries inflicted, but because of what I had seen.Seeing the fear in her eyes being overcome swiftly with conviction, and her mouth set in a grim determined line, seeing how much she wanted to help him. She slashed herself without a seconds’ hesitation and the image of her kneeling beside him, pouring her life energy into his veins without a thought for herself, forced a deep hot shaft of self-hate and resentment into my being.

And so I left them alone. If I couldn’t be around her without Hannabishi hovering over, I wouldn’t be near her at all. It’s all for the best, I told myself. I lost Mifuyu once and got over it, I can lose her again. But I didn’t get over it! I never got over her death! How can it be for the best when every time I see her my heart constricts? How can it be for the best when the image of Mifuyu in my minds’ eye is gradually fading away, being replaced by Yanagi’s laughing face? It was exactly the opposite. I lost her once, I could not afford to let go again. I wanted so much to be able to protect Mifuyu…and now she’s gone, and I only have you. How can I afford to let you go, I ask you? All that I felt for Mifuyu and more welled up in me, all the suppressed feelings I kept buried deep within me forced me to help Hannabishi and his friends when they were in trouble with Kurei. Or should I say it was my conscience?

After that, I was dragged into the Urabatousatoujin, and more than once, found myself glancing longingly at Yanagi only to be interrupted by a loud obnoxious presence. I fought for her, need I say more? I knew Hannabishi would protect her—he proved that more than once to me, when I challenged him to keep his vow of always protecting her at the cost of his life. He may be a loud obnoxious presence, but he was reliable and trustworthy. But even though he had sworn, and even though I trusted him, I knew his skills were less than enough to protect her during the gathering of the most powerful warriors in the country.He had great faith and pride in his skills, but others did not. I, for one, knew and had seen men powerful enough to slice his body in half one second into the fight. His dragons were strong and worthy of admiration, but Yanagi was a treasure that I refused to allow be lost through the reckless showing off of her “ninja.”

But as I witnessed more and more fights, and as he came into mastery of more and more dragons, I found myself thinking twice about what he was capable of. Mostly, I observed, his power was driven by the desire to protect his “hime” and by the desire to become stronger. He was a worthy opponent and team mate, even I had to admit that. Even as I joined the others throughout the battles, I knew I was not one of them. I knew that they already counted me as one of them, as a friend and a reliable team mate, but I could feel this almost imperceptible hesitation when one of them asks me a question, or tells me something. Almost imperceptible, but not quite.And, I made sure I knew I was fighting for Yanagi, not to gain the trust or friendship of any of those imbeciles.

So I strove on, groping blindly in this strange world where people called themselves your friends, and patted you on the back when you lost, or shouted in glee and celebrated wildly when you were a victor. As I watched Yanagi heal, I thought how appropriate it was that this kind girl who only wanted to give be given this gift. I observed her more than the others gave me credit for. I watched how her eyes softened when she encountered an injured person, or a small animal. I watched how she struggled in every way to prove that she could be something, not just a healer among the fighters. And I watched how she cried in pain and fear when Hannabishi’s loss seemed imminent. A stab in the heart for me? No, more than that. The yearning in my heart scorched me so. I needed to know how she felt. So what if I already knew? I wanted to hear it from her, so I could stop wishing so hard, so I could stop wondering and pondering impossible possibilities.

I managed to catch her alone one evening, wishing to take a short walk in the park for reasons she did not specify. It was a very quiet evening, the kind in which everyone turns in earlier because of lack of things to do. “That fellow Recca isn’t around…” “Yes.” “Don’t know where he’s gone.” Pause. “Are you worried about him?” “Of course! Recca’s always so careless and playful, he might get lost.”I wanted to scream at her then. “Why do you care so much about him? Why don’t you look at the people around you? See who really needs you!”

I curbed the strong upsurge of emotion quickly, knowing it was hopeless and even disastrous to express what I really felt in ways she was unfamiliar with. But I refused to give up. I needed more of an answer to convince me of that… “Yanagi. Do you like Recca?” She seemed surprised, even a little embarrassed that I had asked, for reasons I could not fathom. After all, wasn’t it a known and accepted fact that she and Hannabishi were together? If it was such, you wouldn’t be asking her this, something which didn’t know feeling, only cutting sarcasm, known as logic rationalized.“Asking me all of a sudden…this…I…um…I like him, yeah…but…to be frank…I don’t really know…I…don’t talk to boys very often, so I don’t really know about this kind of thing…before, when I hadn’t met Recca-kun, I never experienced such happiness. When I see him with other girls, my heart hurts…and if he’s not with me, I feel so insecure…what’s going on with me?”

Why did I feel like she had slapped me even though I had been expecting this? Somehow, I felt like I had violated her private thoughts. I didn’t like that. I felt like I had used her to get my answers, even though I knew them already. She was so pure and delicate, listening to her feelings just made me feel like I had no right. “I’m sorry, shouldn’t have asked you that. One of these days, you’ll discover your true feelings. Until then, just stay the way you are.”

My voice sounded so far away, so surreally wobbly, it was hard to believe I was actually speaking. Yes, just stay the way you are, Yanagi. You’re perfect the way you are. Then she accidentally cut her hand, and I sucked the blood and spit it out. “You might get tetanus,” I said. The truth was, I had just wanted to touch her, show her, somehow, there was another waiting for her, wanting to protect her.

The next thing I knew, I was dealt a hard blow on my side. Recca Hannabishi. It was inevitable that that disturbance arrive everytime I tried to get near her. His loud whiny voice reverberated throughout the park as he shouted. Somehow that made me feel sick to my guts that such an uncouth loudmouth could be the recipient of Yanagi’s love. That he could ever hope to experience such an eloquent unexplainable emotion such as love. And then he said something that made me clench my fist.

“I’ve finally seen your true side. What happened to your sister was important, but this is unforgivable. You take hime as your sister, and even cut off her hair!”

“You’re too much…how much do you understand about me anyway? You make me laugh! What do you know!”

He had already turned to Yanagi, not giving his words a second thought, and did not expect my punch which landed hard on his jaw. “Do not be so protective of Yanagi. I’m not Kurei, and I won’t take your hime from you.”

Although my words said something different, my voice was hard, my words grudgingly torn through gritted teeth. I hated him at that moment, more than I ever had since I first found out he had Yanagi’s affections.Who was he to make stupid assumptions about my sister? What did he know? He was simply a street brawler, a pathetic excuse for a ninja. I was going to make him pay for those words so unthinkingly shot out from his filthy mouth.He hit me, and I hit back with all my might and skill.

“Go to hell!” he screamed as my fist collided with his stomach. He retaliated with a flying blow to my chest.

“You go to hell,” I grunted. I was so furious I couldn’t care less what Yanagi was thinking of me. We exchanged blows until Yanagi called Domon who separated us. I was nearly beaten senseless by that time, and Hannabishi was in no better shape.Yanagi healed her darling Recca-kun before she did me.

I suppose one of the reasons why I took to the Ensui so well was because I liked water. Unlike rock or metal, it was bendable and flexible, easy to work. I liked it for its flowing accomodation. The way it melded so easily to every surface it came in contact with, the way it simply flowed past any obstruction it encountered smoothly. It didn’t use force because it knew that wasn’t necessary to overcome the odds. Intelligence, planning and adaptability was what counted.It washed things away and, when I used it, each swipe seemed to slowly wash a little of what tainted me away. It made me forget. All I knew was the next attack, the next step, the next blow. I moved as one with the Ensui.I never let anyone except Meguri Kyouza watch me practise with my Ensui. It just seemed…distracting somehow. My Ensui was a part of me and I wasn’t comfortable with showing myself to others.So, the next evening, on the day that we defeated Uruha Oto, I was surprised and irritated to feel a hidden presence while I was in the middle of practice. I stopped immediately, silently cursing to myself and muttering dark threats to the unknown intruder.

“Who’s there?” I called out, annoyed. I heard the sheepish shuffle of feet behind me, and turned, to see Yanagi standing behind me carrying a tray of food.

“I’m sorry, Mikagami sempai. I just wanted to bring you food in case you were hungry,” she apologized softly.

My gaze softened immediately, then I quickly glanced away. Something was different about her since that night. She seemed more quiet, more hesitant to speak to either me or Hannabishi. And, of course, there was the big sign that hung above her reading in bright neon lights, “Recca Hannabishi’s Property.”

“I’m not. Just put the food there, thanks,” I mumbled.Seeing that I was not budging until she put the food down, she obliged and set the tray down. Immediately I could tell that she wanted to say something. I was not a people person, but I could sense things, especially in people as readable as Yanagi.I waited. Silence.I waited somemore.

“Mikagami sempai, I wanted to apologize for that night,” she blurted out. “You and Recca-kun would not have fought if I hadn’t asked you to take a walk with me. I’m really sorry.” She cast me a bleak glance.

“There’s nothing to be sorry about.” I was firm. I didn’t want her to apologize and feel bad about something that was my fault. More silence. I could almost hear Yanagi fidgeting.

“Well, okay. I just wanted to see if everything was okay,” she said dubiously. No, nothing’s okay. Yanagi, I want you, and everytime I try to say something, you shy away. I know you’re Hannabishi’s, but I don’t—I can’t understand what you find in him that you can’t find in me. What is so wrong with me that you cannot treat me like you do Hannabishi?

“Everything’s alright.”

“Okay, then. I guess I’ll go now.”

With that, she left.My mouth opened to speak to her retreating shadow, to call her back, but closed. I was alone again, in heart, soul and body. The silence, thick and smothering, familiar in its blanketing comfort, threatened to engulf the room. But when the ice cracks, there is always a wall of water to fall back upon.That was a comforting thought.

OWARI

 

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