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|Subject: Ashita no Negai (Tomorrow's Wish) Tue Mar 06, 2012 6:12 pm
Ashita no Negai
Can I call it fate? Can I blame it on destiny? Was it really a meeting made in heaven or a path made by one man’s folly?
Inoue would always ask these questions to herself every time she remembered a memory or two of her past---that past.
She clutched the heart-shaped locket close to her heart. She stared at the moonless, night sky and watched as the shooting stars flickered over its darkness. A tear fell down on her cheek as she laid there amidst the silence of the night. She was listening to the faint whispers of the wind. It reminded her of him. Everything reminded her of him.
It had been three years ago since he died. But to her, it seemed like it happened just yesterday. The memory was still fresh in Inoue’s mind.
It was one peaceful afternoon when she first saw him. She was walking along an empty road to the market because her mother told her to buy the ingredients for their dinner. She went grudgingly because it was supposed to be her brother’s turn to go to the market. Her painting session was disturbed. She had to stop and follow her okasan’s orders because Ikuya, her ototo, was nowhere in sight.
And then he came. He came like a gentle breeze in the lonely afternoon. He rode his bicycle with an air of confidence that Inoue had never seen in any boy before. He was like a breath of fresh air to her system.
Unconsciously, she stopped on her tracks beside the road and stared at his face. He had the fairest of complexions and the reddest of lips.
His eyes were like that of the darkest nights but with the soft glint of the stars. He had a very handsome face.
“Kawaii…” Inoue barely whispered when their eyes locked for just a moment.
He just passed her by. He did not even stop. But why would he do that? Inoue was a stranger to him and him to her.
Inoue looked back and saw him disappear on a curve. The trees hid him from her view.
She only saw him for a few seconds but, when their eyes locked, it seemed like they spent an eternity. She thought she saw his thin lips form into a smile. But everything had happened so fast for her to comprehend if he really did smile. Inoue hoped that he did.
It was not until a week later when she saw him again. It was a chance meeting. If Inoue had not left her sketchpad at the train, she wouldn’t have seen him again.
Inoue ran back to the station, hoping that she would still get her sketchpad back. But the train had already left and along with it was the hope of ever finding her sketchpad again. She just stood there among the people who were waiting for the next train to come. Then her cell phone rang. She answered it without even looking at the screen.
Then a sweet-sounding voice spoke on the other end of the line. “Is this Inoue-san?”
Inoue looked around the station but no one seemed to be holding any sketchpad or a cell phone up on anyone’s ear.
“Hai. Nan desu ka?” she replied.
“Hajime mashite. I’m Haji Asou. I’m pleased to meet you.”
Haji Asou? I did not know anyone by that name.
“I found your sketchpad on the train that’s why I called.”
“Arigato gozaimasu, Haji-kun. But where can I meet you to get it?” She was happy that she was immediately contacted about her sketchpad.
“How about tomorrow at Toru’s Sweet Shop in Arashiyama near the Togetsukyo Bridge?” he said.
“Hai, tomorrow would be fine. Arigato gozaimasu!”
Inoue never thought that that conversation would change her life forever.
She felt relieved that her sketchpad would be returned to her but; on the other hand, she was bothered by the owner of the voice. Before she closed her eyes to sleep, she recalled his words and how his voice seemed to be so sweet. She was excited to meet the owner of that sweet-sounding voice.
The time came for them to meet. She rushed to Toru’s Sweet Shop from the Keifuku Arashiyama Station because she did not want to be late for her meeting with Asou-kun. But it began to rain so she had to run all the way to the sweet shop from the station. She was rain-soaked when she entered the sweet shop.
And then she saw HIM, the boy who was riding a bicycle near our village. He was there at the shop! She scrambled to fix herself because he might chance a glance at her direction.
Inoue felt herself freeze when his eyes zeroed in on her. She saw him smile and she felt herself smile back at him. He stood up and, like a nail to a magnet, her feet immediately carried her towards his table.
“I’m Haji Asou. It’s nice to finally meet you,” he said and deeply bowed.
She bowed too. “I’m pleased to meet you too, Haji-kun.” They both sat on the opposite sides of the table. There were also other customers in the shop but she never really paid much attention to them. All of her attention was on him alone.
He handed Inoue her sketchpad and she said her thanks to him. She did not know what to say afterwards because she was shy and because he just kept on looking at her. He gave her an arresting smile when the waiter was serving them their hot ocha, the Japanese tea, and their wagashi, the exquisite confectionery that countered the bitterness of the tea. They silently drank their tea and ate their sweets while they constantly glanced on each other and passed on some smile.
It was still raining when they decided to go home. He offered to walk her to the station under his umbrella because she did not have any.
They found out that they lived in the same village so they went home together.
Maybe she would’ve seen him before if she went out of her house more often, he said during their ride home.
They just both laughed about it.
After that day, Inoue would always receive text messages from him. They went to different campuses of Kyoto University so they really did not have any chance of seeing each other in their village. Their occasional chat through their cell phones became the start of their blossoming friendship.
Two weeks after their formal meeting, he asked Inoue to go to Arashiyama again. She obliged because he told her that he had a very important favor to ask from her. She carefully dressed for their Saturday meeting.
“Please paint a portrait of my ojiisan for me,” Haji asked as they met in the bamboo groves behind Tenryuji Temple. He said those words while bowing in the deepest way that he could. “It’s going to be his eightieth birthday two weeks from now and I can’t think of no better gift than a portrait of him made by Inoue-san.”
She was surprised by his request but she gladly obliged. She felt happy because he appreciated her talent in painting. He had an eye for her gift while her parents did not pay much of their needed attention to her. True they provided all of the materials for her craft, but they did not even bother to look at her works, saying that they were too busy with their work. Her otosan was an Aikido sensei and they owned a dojo located right beside their house. Her okasan was a writer of children’s books. She stayed in her workroom most of the time while working on her projects to even bother about her paintings. While her ototo was also busy with his sport. Ikuya was a member of his school’s soccer team.
Haji would sometimes come to their house and into their azalea-filled garden where she usually did her painting sessions. He would sometimes watch her work on his grandfather’s portrait. They would have tea and soya sweets together and share a few conversations during the afternoons that they did not have any classes.
Inoue learned a lot about Haji. She found out that he was a good conversationalist with a great sense of humor. She had no dull moments whenever she was with him and as the days went by, she grew more thankful that she accepted the favor that he had asked.
It became a reason for them to connect on a different level from the commonly guarded psyche of their race from strangers. Even when she had already finished the portrait of a photo that he gave her and had handed it over to Haji, they still spent a few afternoons of tea and sweets together.
It was time for the hanami, the cherry blossom viewing. Inoue wore her finest yukata for the occasion. Haji met her outside of their house and they went to Maruyama Koen, the public park next to Yasaka Shrine, in the Higashiyama district using Haji’s car. It was the first time that he used his car on their visits to the different districts of Kyoto.
During hanami, Maruyama Koen (Park) becomes Kyoto’s most popular and most crowded spot. When they reached the park, she was surprised to find that Haji had already reserved a good spot for them so sit on. The park spots were usually taken even before eight in the morning so Inoue was really surprised for Haji’s great effort.
They sat on the blanket and drank their bitter tea. Haji brought the food that they ate while they watched the cherry blossoms and talked about anything that they can think of at the moment. They felt comfortable with one another. They felt like they could do practically anything when they were together and that nobody can ever tear them apart.
A little boy, who was wearing a dark blue cotton yukata, came to them and offered them several necklaces. Inoue particularly liked the necklace with the heart-shaped locket but she was trifting her money because Haji’s birthday was near and she wanted to buy him a nice
gift. Actually, they were born on the same day of the very same year. It was an amusing fact they would sometimes laugh about.
“Maybe next time,” Haji said to the boy and Inoue thought she saw him secretly wink at the boy. Although she was puzzled, she kept her mouth shut about it.
Inoue felt her heart skip when Haji gently held her hand. She turned to look at him with questioning eyes but he just smiled at her. She smiled back and they stayed that way for a long time.
Soseki Asou, the oyabun of the Ikarisongai yakuza clan, entered the Shori family’s house. Mizuno Shori was shocked to see the oyabun. Her face was like that of a person who had seen a terrible bakemono face to face.
“What are you doing here?” Mizuno said, her voice tempered from anger.
“Ohayo, Mizuno. That is not a good way of greeting your otosan for the first time after twenty years,” the oyabun said.
Nobody dared to move. They just stood there beneath the trees in the space between the wooden gates and the house.
“I’m here to talk about my daughter, Inoue.”
“You have no daughter! Inoue is mime! Go away you bakemono!” Mizuno shouted.
“I will come again, Mizuno. And the next time that I’ll leave this house, Inoue’s coming with me.”
Inoue was really happy after their cherry blossom viewing. Haji drove her up to the wooden gate of their house. He even opened the door on her side of the car. Everything around her seemed to be wonderful all of a sudden. But she did not know that the joy that she felt was destined to be a short-lived one.
She just stepped out of Haji’s car when the wooden gate opened. Her okasan angrily grabbed her by the arm and pulled her away from Haji.
“Okasan?” Inoue asked, shocked by her mother’s actions. Her okasan’s grip on her arm was hurting her. “Shut up!” Mizuno snapped at her.
Then she turned to Haji and angrily pointed a finger to his face. “You! Don’t come near my daughter ever again!”
Haji was equally surprised but he immediately hid any trace of emotion. “I’m afraid I can’t do that, Mizuno-san,” he said politely.
“You dare. Aizen!” Mizuno called for her husband.
Inoue panicked when she saw her otosan come out of the dojo along with his students. They all wore their usual white cotton gi for training in the dojo. She only saw her otosan’s student’s close in on Haji because her okasan had already dragged her inside the gate. She heard the sound of men fighting and she prayed that Haji would be alright.
Mizuno locked her inside her room. She was confused and was puzzled by her okasan’s sudden harshness. She was doing nothing wrong but why lock her up?
She banged at her bedroom door and called for help but no one came. Inoue felt despair. She had to know why she was being locked up and she badly needed to see Haji again. She wanted to know if he was alright.
Days had passed and she remained within the confines of her room. Meals were served through the door that only opened three times a day.
She noticed that her bedroom door was tightly guarded by two men.
She thought of Haji and she could not help but cry. She needed to find a way to escape from her prison. She terribly missed her freedom.
Haji nursed his wounds that came from his fight with Aizen’s students. They gave a good fight but he defeated all of them including Aizen himself.
He knew that that event would further the gap between him and Inoue but he was ready to risk everything just for her. He had all the means of getting to her but he refused to depend on his clan.
‘Haji, since you were little, you had been preparing yourself to be my successor. But after all this time, I still have not been able to ask you for your insights about the clan,” the oyabun said to him one afternoon while they were drinking tea in the tea room.
“What are you trying to imply, Ojiisan?”
Soseki Asou looked straight into Haji’s eyes. “I’m going to tell you the truth not because I trust you but because I know that you can handle it well, Haji.
You are old enough to think for yourself and to make your own decisions and I know that whatever path you take, you are sure to find success. The truth isn’t always as we perceive it or wish it to be, Haji. But you must handle the truth as a real follower of the kanryodo (way of the samurai bureaucrat) does.”
Haji felt his stomach tighten. It was one of the signs that told him that he will not like what he was going to hear from the oyabun. “The truth is the truth no matter how many they are. It is solely upon he who seeks the truth to determine which truth he will believe in.”
The oyabun laughed, his eyes disappeared into slits. His face turned serious after a moment. “If that is so, then telling you everything will not be a problem.”
He listened as the oyabun told him everything---from the very beginning to the oyabun’s supposed end of things. He held himself and controlled every nerve of his body. He can never let his emotions betray his words. With clenched fists, he thought of Inoue and how she was being treated in her own home now. He looked at the oyabun like he only met him yesterday---like a stranger.
“Inoue is my daughter and she is the true heir of the clan. But she is a female and also incapable of running the business. Therefore, I have decided that the two of you will to be married at the soonest possible time,” the oyabun said.
“I whole-heartedly obey, Ojii-sama,” he said. Giri, the debt that he can never repay, bounded him to the oyabun. No matter how evil he had been in the past or how manipulative he was now, Haji still had a duty to fulfill for the clan.
“I will send the others to bring her here. I want you to lead them.”
“No,” Haji calmly objected, “I go alone.”
Inoue lay restless on her bed. She could feel that something was running amiss outside but she did not know what. She was anxious to get out of her room. She must get out!
She jumped when she heard something hit her bedroom wall. An arrow had passed through the window and had hit the wood. The arrow had a letter attached to its stem. She ran to it and hurriedly unfurled the letter from the arrow. Along with the letter was the heart-shaped locket that the boy from the park offered to them. She never thought that he would buy it for her.
She inserted her picture in the locket to pair up with Haji’s that was already inside. She carefully read the letter so that she would not miss any details.
She nearly shouted for joy when she found out that Haji was waiting for her at Tenryuji temple in Arashiyama.
Inoue prepared her things in her small backpack and placed it beside the door. She started to control her breathing like any other student of Aikido would in varying situations. She was going to have a palpitation after all.
“Dare ka! Help me! Tsukete onegai!” she banged at the door to alert her guards. She shouted some more and retreated to the far end of her room.
She clutched her chest and faked an attack.
She smiled inwardly as the guards rushed to her aid. One of the guards left to call her okasan. She took that chance to make her move.
There was only one guard left. As he was helping her to her bed, she gave him an atemi, a percussive blow, in the neck. The guard staggered back but was slowly gaining his consciousness. She gave him another blow on the back of his neck and he collapsed unconscious on the floor.
She grabbed her bag and silently slipped out of the house. She was lucky to have escaped unnoticed by anyone. She rushed to Tenryuji temple, to Haji.
“Inoue,” Haji said with a smile on his thin lips.
She ran to him and, without any inhibitions, she hugged him tightly. He hugged her back and kissed her hair. They went to the temple bell and pulled the rope to listen to its sound. They dropped several coins on the wooden slats and uttered their silent prayers. When Inoue opened her eyes, Haji was already looking at her. She felt her cheeks redden but she did not attempt to hide it. Haji held her hand and they took a walk along the temple’s landscaped gardens.
“Inoue, what do you think of me?” he suddenly asked.
“Eh?” she stopped walking and they faced each other.
“Ojiisan once told me that I should choose the persons that I make friends with.” He smiled quite sadly. “Treat only as friends those who have the ability to destroy you, that’s what Ojii-sama always told me when I was young.”
She bored into his eyes and saw something akin to an untold doom. “I can’t understand. I---“
“Before you say anything, I want you to know that you are very special to me. Nothing matters to me more in this world than you, Inoue. And giri binds me to you more than you’ll ever know. But I’m not here with you now because of giri. I’m here because I want to, not because I must. You may hate me but I must tell you everything. You deserve to know the truth because you have all the right to.”
“I’ll never hate you, Haji-kun. I love you demo… I’m confused. Do you know the reason why my parents took me away from you and locked me up in my room?”
“Love is such a complex emotion, Inoue. Love is riddled, at times, with affection, guilt, and unbridled lust. But what is love’s other, darker side? What happens when love is poisoned, affronted? It seems to me now that the deeper one loves, the greater is one’s potential to hate. I don’t want this to happen to us.”
“But it’ll never happen to us, Haji-kun. I know that you’ll never give me any reason to hate you, nor will I.” She motioned to touch his face but he stopped her, holding her wrist halfway.
“I hope so too, Inoue. Maybe not to us but that is what happened between your okasan and my ojiisan, your true father.”
What do you mean? Your ojiisan is my true father?” And it dawned upon her that the hidden dread that she refused to feel in his voice was this truth, the truth about her. “That is not true. Aizen Shori is my father and not Soseki Asou. And you…” She backed away from him but he still held her wrist. “You’re not… We’re not…No!”
“Listen to me first, Inoue. It is not the truth that I want you to believe. Our fates are written in the stars, in every blossom of the sakura no hana. We are meant for each other---yesterday, now and tomorrow, Inoue. That is the wish of the gods for the two of us.“
“I am a yakuza.” She remained speechless so he continued. “I am the heir to the Ikarisongai clan which my ojiisan, Soseki Asou, heads. But I am not his blood relative. All of us thought so too until…”
Haji looked into her eyes. Did she see regret in them?
“Until you came along. You changed everything in my world. Suddenly, I wanted to be free. I wanted to live a life of my own, a life free from my supposed pre-destined path. I escaped my body guards every time that I’m with you because I don’t want you to fear or detest me. But everything was not that simple. As a yakuza heir, I have my duties. And we are now in the middle of a clan war between the Umuuragiri clan. There are dangers. And I can’t let you enter my world. I’m afraid for myself because I might not be able to protect you, Inoue. And I’m going to kill myself if I ever lose you. I won’t be able to live without you. Mizuno Asou is Ojii-sama’s only daughter. He loved her very much, maybe more than a father should.”
Inoue gasped at Haji’s revelation. If what he was saying was true then… then she was a child of sin. She felt her knees weaken. Haji caught her just in time when she was about to fall to the ground.
“That makes you your grandfather’s daughter and the only heir of the Asou family.”
She turned to him. “What about you? I thought you’re the Ikarisongai successor?”
“When Mizuno gave birth to a child, that had a large red birthmark on the back, Soseki-sama was out of Kyoto. Mizuno took that chance and escaped along with the child. When Soseki-sama knew of his daughter’s escape, he took great lengths just to find her or her child. A child with the same red birthmark on the back was found without its mother. The oyabun accepted the child as his own flesh and blood presuming that Mizuno had left it in spite, because of that mark and the child became his heir. I am that child.”
Inoue’s eyes widened. She and Haji had the same birthdate. And they even had the same red birthmark on the back. So that’s why her okasan hated Haji so much. He was yakuza and Mizuno-haha hated everything yakuza because of Soseki Asou. Aizen-san probably knew the truth that’s why he had let his students beat Haji up. She still saw the marks of that fight on his face and knuckles.
“Soseki-sama wants to take you into his house. Inoue, this will not be easy. If you enter the house of Soseki Asou, you also enter the clan of Ikarisongai. All I can do is to protect you if that happens.”
She embraced him with all the love that she felt for him. She felt no fear for their unseen tomorrow. Haji was right there beside her. Both of them will face that tomorrow and they had their love as their solace.
“I am me. Haji-kun is Haji-kun. Ikarisongai or not, I will always be beside Haji-kun.”
“There is something that I have to tell you, Inoue---a secret, my secret.” Inoue held herself as she listened to his words. This was the last truth. And sometimes, the truth that was spoken last was the harshest of truths. “My real father was the one who was responsible for my entering into the Asou family. Inoue, Aizen Shori, your step-father is also yakuza. I did not know how he managed to keep that from you and Mizuno-san but your little brother, Ikuya, knows.
“I am a Shori. Aizen is my birth father. He was the one who helped Mizuno-san hide from Soseki-sama and he was also the one who orchestrated the deception. I knew all of this after I met him when I was only thirteen years old. He told me everything. He tried to persuade me to secretly work with him. He wanted me to betray Soseki-sama, to be the Ikarisongai oyabun when he finally becomes the Okotarukozen oyabun. He told me that we will do all of this while the Ikarisongai and the Umuuragiri clans are killing one another. The Okotarukozen will rule all of Kyoto and the remaining clan members of your clan. He fed Mizuno-san with the seeds of hatred for Soseki-sama while he tried to be your father. He wanted you to follow everything that he told you to do. Even though he acts as if he does not want you to be with Soseki-sama, he is only acting. He wants you to be part of the Ikarisongai clan so that he can manipulate you too.”
“That’s why you’re here now, Inoue-chan.”
Inoue and Haji both turned around. They saw Aizen Shori blocking the path and he had four of his students along with him, only that they were not wearing their white cotton gi but black yakuza-like clothes. The largest of Aizen’s students looked like a student of sumai, a form of battle sumo, rather than an aikido student. He carried a tetsubo, a solid iron bar with a jutsu (working end) covered with iron studs, which was used for armored warfare in ancient Japan.
They closed in on Haji and Inoue. Haji stood in front of her to protect her from their first attack but she was willing to fight. She knew how to defend herself; she had Aizen to thank for that.
“I will fight,” she firmly whispered to Haji.“There will be no fighting here if you two agree to cooperate with my plans,” Aizen said. “I’m offering you a chance to rule Kyoto and the three great clans.”
“You are a man who can kill his wife and sacrifice his son for power. You will do anything to rule Kyoto. What makes you think that we will cooperate with your greed and your lust for power? We are not fools.” Haji said scornfully.
“You are like your mother, do you know that? She also spat those words to me. But she changed her mind in the end. She begged for my mercy.
But it was too late that’s why I killed her.” Aizen laughed.
The hair on the back of Inoue’s neck tingled. She now saw the bakemono that was Aizen Shori. But she was not afraid of him.
“You bastard!” Haji shouted in anger. “I’ll kill you if that’s the last thing that I’ll do!”
Aizen’s brow rose. “That is not the proper way to address your father.” He turned his back on them. “This is the end then. It’s a pity that I cannot make use of you two. The two of you are strategic gambits after all. Were, I mean.” He walked away and left Haji and Inoue with his four students.
Everything happened so fast. Inoue did not know who initiated the first attack but after Aizen left, the fight ensued between his four students and Haji.
It was four against one but she would not let that happen. She fought with the guy who carried a dai katana. She used her agility as her advantage and immediately produced a sai that was attached on a secret pocket of her jacket.
She took a chance blow to the man’s stomach when he used a jodan-no-kamae, a high stance, in launching the dai katana at her. Fighting was also like painting and a sword is like her paint brush. Every stroke of her brush defined the outcome of her paintings as to every slash and swing of her sword determined the injury that she will inflict to her opponents.
Inoue docked and buried her sai on the man’s stomach with all the speed that she could muster. But she was not quick enough for his dai katana. She also received a cut on her left shoulder. It stung and bled but she was now in the Void, the state of emptiness, that enabled her to maintain her balance. She did not have any chance of glancing at Haji because she could not afford giving her opponent that advantage.
The man staggered and had his hand up on his stomach, which was bleeding profuriously. His eyes became as sharp as his dai katana. He really had every intention on killing her now.
“Why you…” He regained his stance and swung the dai katana at her.
If he thought that she was going to run away, he was wrong. Instead, she also attacked him head on. Blade hit blade. The sai’s hand guard was thankfully wide that served as her sword breaker. Inoue amounted all of her strength in blocking the sword with her dagger. She swung her legs and kicked his bleeding stomach. He sprawled on the ground.
Now she turned to Haji. He displayed amazing strength. He fought against three men without fail. One tried to attack him from the back but she got to the man before he reached Haji. Her sai went straight into the man’s head.
The other two were surprised by what she did. It was her first kill but she was surprised to feel no guilt. She had to do something or they will die.
But the upper hand of the fight was not hers. She failed to calculate the movement of the man with the dai katana. The man recovered faster than she calculated. That was her mistake, her very fatal mistake.
It was too late to avoid the attack. The dai katana was already buried right across her heart before she realized what happened. She was already lying on the ground when she heard Haji shout her name.
Haji attacked the man who stabbed her before he even had the chance of pulling the dai katana from her chest. That would’ve been the end of her. He kneeled down beside her when all of his opponents were already on the ground.
She coughed because her heartbeat was disrupted and was slowing down. She reached for Haji and he held her hand. “Everything will be alright. You will live. You must live for me. I’ll make sure that you do. I promise you that, Inoue.” He took his cell phone from his pocket and called for an ambulance.
Inoue’s eyes widened with pain and fear as she saw the large man with the tetsubo stand up and attacked them. “Haji!”
Haji turned just in time to avoid the assault. But he experienced suki, the weakness in defense that resulted from tetsubo jutsu, and was weakened. The big man was now going to attack again.
“Haji! She shouted because she thought the big man was going to attack Haji. But she was wrong. The big man was aiming for her!
She tried to stand up and escape the tetsubo’s path, but she was now so weak that even raising her upper body gave her intense pain. Her heart ached because of the growing pressure that her rising adrenaline caused. The big man was murderous and had an evil grin as he loomed over her. He swung the tetsubo up.
Inoue closed her eyes. She never felt fear like this before. Every beat of her racing heart meant her death but when the tetsubo hits its aim, death would be instantaneous for her.
She felt something hit her body but it was not the tetsubo with its studs. But she heard the tetsubo hitting and breaking something. It sounded like a watermelon being squashed into pulp. Inoue’s eyes flung open when she realized what had happened.
Her eyes widened with fear and despair at the same time when she saw what happened. She could not look away. The felt herself freeze the moment she laid eyes on what was left of Haji.
Everything ceased to exist around her. Had she died? Because she felt like she just died the moment Haji died. Her surroundings dematerialized and only she and Haji’s body appeared before her eyes.
Haji’s killer swung the tetsubo one more time and again aimed at her. She did not care. She was already dead anyway. Let the man end her material body because her spirit was already some place else.
She closed her eyes to wait for the tetsubo’s faithful blow but it never came. She heard a loud bang and the tetsubo hitting the ground.
Everything was quiet for a long moment then she heard her okasan’s voice. She felt hands lift her up and laid her on a stretcher.
Haji, my Haji, there will still be tomorrow for the two of us. Matte kudasai…
Inoue let the Void consume her. And for a few hours, her world ceased to exist.
Inoue stood up from the bed of hanabi petals to look at the owner of the voice. She had patiently waited for him in the darkness.
He kneeled on one knee as he bowed down while his arms had thrust forward an O-katana. “It is done.”
She smiled, but there was no mirth in her eyes, when he stood up and handed her the sword. Hakai Okami looked at her with an intensity that felt similar to Haji’s. He was Haji’s most trusted friend after all. She had met him in one of her visits to Arashiyama with Haji. He was the one responsible for the arrowed letter on that day of doom. And he was also the one who told Soseki Asou about Aizen Shori’s plans.
Without Hakai, she too would have been dead. She would not have realized her destined path.
Hakai became her refuge against the pain and the loneliness. He had become her confidante and guide in the world that she was forced to enter, the world of the yakuza.
Finally, after two years of waiting, she would be able to give justice to Haji’s death. Aizen did a poor job of hiding from her these past two years. And now, the night has come, the night of her retribution.
The wind blew and she heard its faint whispers. They told her a lot of things as she looked into Hakai’s eyes.
“I fancy a funeral tomorrow,” Inoue said as she and Hakai walked into the light.