"Aoshi-sama when are you going to stop this madness! Stop hurting yourself! Why won’t you let me help you?"
I looked at Misao sitting in front of me at the temple. She had stopped preparing the tea as her impatience got the better of her. I knew her waiting for me wasn’t good for her and I was happy she was finally realising this.
"Leave me be Misao, I must sort out my guilt for myself. I don’t wish for your help."
I looked up into her determined blue eyes glistening with unshed tears. Those blue eyes etched with hurt from my previous statement. I knew I shouldn’t have said this, especially to her. Didn’t she realise I wasn’t ready to forgive myself? I watched her stand and brush away the tears that fell down her pale face.
"You may not wish to have my company but I know that you are afraid of being left alone for the rest of your life, but if you so wish to be alone then I’ll grant you it Aoshi-sama! I won’t come around anymore! I won’t bring you tea and you will not see my presence wherever you go! I may not know exactly what you are going through because I wasn’t there to see what happened, but I know what it is like to loose loved ones. I have felt pain as well Aoshi-sama."
I had stood up as well when she began to speak. All her words had effected me immensely but I dare not show my feelings. As I stared at Misao’s shacking form as she hugged herself, the wind howled evilly outside and blew the curtains around fiercely. The breeze had flown towards us and my long bangs where flipped around giving Misao a chance to gaze her beautiful eyes into my blue-green ones. In a matter of seconds I stood shocked at the events that took place next. Her eyes seemed to look straight through me and they widened as if detecting some hidden danger I couldn’t find. At that instance Misao snapped her eyes closed throwing her arms up to cover her ears and screamed as though she had been stabbed through her body. Her legs caved in as they couldn’t hold her weight any longer. I lunged forward and wrapped her in my embrace stopping her from hitting the wooden floor of the temple.
"MISAO! MISAO WHAT’S WRONG?"
I yelled frantically trying to wake her. The events that happened moments ago had sent her unconscious. The door opened and a couple of the monks that lived in the temple and let me meditate here had heard my alarmed yelling. They had entered the room hurriedly and walked towards me.
I was shocked at how weak my voice had sounded. I looked to see them staring down at Misao cradled in my arms. They silently nodded and moved to a door further away. I abruptly rose taking Misao into my arms and followed them into the room. Although small, the room was a sanctuary obviously for ill members of the temple to rest in peace and get better. The room was filled with flowers either placed on the furniture or dry ones hanging upside down from the ceiling. Dark blue curtains draped over the large window but where drawn open to let in the sunlight for the day. A futon was placed opposite the window already made for the next occupant to sleep in. The small chest of draws was by its side. A small table was placed in the far corner of the room with a chair pushed under it and a lantern and many candles waiting to be used when the sun set. I wrapped Misao in my trench coat as the monks turned back the blankets so I could place her under them. I turned to the monks and nodded my head in thanks but they led me out the room.
I was walking back to the room Misao rested in and thought about what the monks had said. The monks knew I didn’t wish to leave Misao alone even though I didn’t speak my protest when they led me out of the room. They told me that the ill need to figure out what is going on inside their own bodies before anyone can help. I felt utterly useless for Misao. I had told them the events of what occurred and they thought it most strange. Not even they knew what was wrong with her. I asked one of them to send word to Okina about what had happened and that Misao will be staying in the temple. I knew he would understand that the best place for Misao is to be in the presence of the gods. I opened the door and nearly dropped the tea I was carrying as I watched the scene in front of me. Misao was awake and standing at the window hugging herself tightly in my coat. It draped on the floor, as she was too small for it to fit her properly. Her eyes where closed as the sunlight shone on her and highlighted her long beautiful hair framing her face.
I stepped forward and spoke quietly to get her attention. Her eyes snapped open and she took off my coat and placed it on the chair and then proceeded to walk towards me. Instead of stopping in front me she stepped past me and walked to the door entrance.
"I must get back to the Aoiya. Okina would be worried Aoshi-sama."
Misao had stated with her back turned to me. Didn’t she remember what had occurred moments ago? Didn’t she realise she had induced pain as I could still hear her horrific scream echo in my mind. Why couldn’t she remember what had happened to her? Did I just imagine it all? I abruptly turned around and placed my hand on her shoulder but immediately took it off as if I had been burned when she tensed up. Misao had never been like that around me and yet…now…she was…
"Misao what happened?"
She turned to face me with a confused expression on her face.
"What are you talking about Aoshi-sama?"
I knew I couldn’t have imagined something like this. Her screamed was now permanently within me and to me it was very real. What if I told her about the monks coming in and helping me with her? Or when she had fallen unconscious? I shock my head as if to clear my thoughts and tell Misao not to worry anymore.
"I must be going Aoshi-sama."
"I’ll walk with you."
I stated firmly to her. She shrugged her answer and began walking out of the rooms to the main entrance of the temple. I grabbed my coat and put it on and caught up to her easily with my long strides. As we walked in silence back to the Aoiya the wind blew the leaves of the trees and our footsteps made small crunching sounds as our shoes came in contact with loose rocks. Me of all people couldn’t stand the silence any longer.
"Misao, don’t you remember what happened?"
"Aoshi-sama you are acting weird. Ano…I thought you never wanted me around so why are you here?"
I was struck at her question. Yes she had remembered that, but why not the rest? I turned my head to look at her, as she had not turned her gaze away from the path in front of us. I had no answer to give so I just kept silent and that’s the way it was for the rest of the journey back to the Aoiya.
Misao had walked into the dining room while I began to ascend the stairs to my room. Okina’s frantic voice could be heard over the top of everyone’s as they began talking to her at once. Her laugh had sent them all into silence as she told them they were all being silly. I walked into my room and closed the door behind me. I sat on the window seal, as it was large enough for me to sit on. The sun had begun to set casting oranges and reds throughout the sky. Misao was making her way to the bathhouse to freshen up.
The sun had set ages ago but I had not moved from my position on the window seal because I was staring at were Misao had entered awhile ago. She had not emerged out of there at all and I figured she’d just be taking her time and relaxing in the hot bath. I closed my eyes and remembered what she had said to me early that day.
‘You may not wish to have my company but I know that you are afraid of being left alone for the rest of your life, but if you so wish to be alone then I’ll grant you it Aoshi-sama! I won’t come around anymore! I won’t bring you tea and you will not see my presence wherever you go!’
I let out my breath that I had been holding when I retraced her words. Alone, was one of the words that hit me the most. I knew I didn’t want that, but what did I want. Did I wish to have Misao around? My thoughts were soon shattered when I heard that scream again. It came from the bathhouse. MISAO! I jumped to the ground from my window and silently landed with ease and ran to where I heard it come from. I threw the door open nearly pulling it off the rails and my breath caught in my throat at what I saw inside. Misao lay unconscious on the floor facedown. Her long wet hair fell around in a mess and she held onto a mirror in both hands that miraculously hadn’t been broken when she fell. I ran closer to Misao and found that she was dripping wet and naked as she had fallen before she could dry herself off. I shrugged out of my trench coat immediately and wrapped it around Misao’s naked form. I picked her up in my arms and turned around to see Okon, Omasu and Okina standing at the door. Okon was the only one who could find her voice.
"Aoshi-san, what happened to her?"
I shock my head not having a clue. It was exactly like earlier this morning. Would she remember it this time when she woke up? I walked back to the Aoiya and up the stairs to Misao’s room with the others following close behind. Omasu had suggested we ring the city doctor but I disagreed. What good would he do when we didn’t even know what was happening to her. If we couldn’t figure this out then neither could he.
"We should all get some sleep. We will ask Misao-chan what happened in the morning."
Okina had stated firmly and left the room with Okon and Omasu after him. I brushed Misao’s hair away and looked at her prone form.
"What’s happening to you Misao?"
I asked in a low pained voice but no one could hear me, not even her. I left the room, closing the door behind me and entered my own. Something was definitely wrong and I desperately wanted to find out what it was. I fell into a restless sleep, but the morning came rather fast.
My eyes snapped open and I ran into the hall and down to Misao’s room when I had heard Okon scream. I entered the room to see Omasu hugging Okon in comfort trying to stop her small cries. Omasu looked at me tearfully and what she had said next crashed my heart.
"Misao-chan is gone Aoshi-san."
I turned and left the room hurriedly trying to find Okina. I found him sitting alone in the dining room.
"Okina, do you know if she left any small sign of where she was headed?"
I spoke emotionless as ever but inside I prayed to the gods hoping she was safe. He silently reached for something inside his robe and then placed it on the table beside him.
"I don’t understand what it means Aoshi."
I walked and kneeled beside him picking up the piece of paper, which had Misao’s handwriting on it.
I’m sorry I left without telling anyone where I was going,
but I wish to see them again. I have missed them so much
these past years…
"Aoshi, who is Misao talking about?"
I knew she wasn’t speaking about Himura and the others in Tokyo. She’d seen them a few months back. My eyes widened when I finally realised she must be talking about Hannya and the others, ‘…but I wish to see them again. I have missed them so much these past years…’ I had no idea as to how Misao found out where Hannya, Beshimi, Shijuksho and Hyotokko were buried. I hadn’t told a soul. I kept it all to myself. I stood and placed my hand on Okina’s shoulder.
"I know where she’s gone Okina. I’ll bring her back…"
Okina smiled and nodded for me to leave. I hurriedly left the room and raced up stairs to grab a few things, making sure to crap my discarded coat from Misao’s room and left the Aoiya to find her.
A day had passed and I would not rest until I found Misao. I was walking to their stones, which were placed in a bare area in the forest. I knew the exact location as I had been here many times. Over the past 24 hours my mind raced with images of my four fallen comrades and what has happened to Misao over the past few days. Would she be all right? Had anything happened to her? My mind raced with questions of Misao’s well being. I hadn’t found her tracks and hurriedly jumped into the trees to make my way there faster. I was getting closer to my destination and once I arrived I found Misao standing in front of the stones, her back turned to me. I jumped to the ground silently and made my way closer to her. I had not been to the stones for a long time and I fell to my knees behind Misao looking at her and the gravestones.
"I just wanted to see them again."
Misao’s voice was soft and weak and held much emotion as she had obviously only just stopped crying moments ago. I didn’t wish for her to find out this way. I wanted to tell her exactly what happened and then show her where I had placed them. I felt ashamed at being such a coward all this time.
"How did you know?"
I asked quietly to her. She whipped around surprised I was there and walked towards me. I watched as she fell to her knees in front of me and raised her shaking fingers towards my face. I could do nothing but stare at her. One of Misao’s hands wiped away my long bangs from my eyes while a couple of her fingers on her other hand touched the right side of my face next to my eyes. I looked deeply into her innocent blue eyes and watched helplessly at what happened. Misao eyes filled with unshed tears and she frowned sadly. Her bottom lip began to quiver as if something was frightening her. She let out a pained moan and closed her eyes tightly as some of her tears escaped. She placed her hands on her head as if trying to stop what was happening inside of her and then screamed again. Her hands went limply to her sides and she began falling backwards to the forest floor. I lunged forward throwing one arm around her small body to stop her from falling any further while the other was placed in the grass to hold myself above her. I felt Misao’s unconscious body begin to shake. Misao’s was a petite young woman and at this moment very fragile. She fit in my lap perfectly and I opened my coat up and wrapped it around her as it was big enough for the both of us and began rocking her in my embrace.
"Someone tell me what’s wrong with her…"
I had asked brokenly to the heavens but received no answers. I began praying that Misao would hopefully remember and would wake soon to tell me. Moments later I felt a drop of rain on my head and looked up to see storm clouds had rolled in. I silently stood with Misao in my arms and walked to a large tree that would shelter us from the rain. It began to pour down hard taking away all visibility of the stones.
Although it would be hard for any enemies to spot us as we were hidden by the large roots coming up out of the ground I decided to stay on alert just in case. I promised Okina I’d bring Misao back and absently tighten my embrace around her and my kodachi’s that were lying across her back and left side. I was ready to protect her with my life like I had sworn I would years ago.
The rain still drizzled down as I gazed over at the head stones of my comrades. It was now light as the sun had risen hours ago behind the clouds and yet Misao still lay in my embrace. I had moved during the night making sure to do it silently and spread my legs out in front of me as they were falling asleep. Misao had only moved to receive more warmth and comfort in my embrace as she had wrapped her arms around my waist holding me close to her. Her smaller body was engulfed by my larger one and was hidden inside the coat. She still rested against my chest with her head lying near my heart and her breathing quiet and regular. I looked down to see her face and even though she had been through a horrific ordeal the last few days she still slept peacefully, a cute smile tugging at her pink lips. The leaves in the tree above us glistened with water in the dull light and just then the wind blew strongly making the leaves drop all the water towards us. I shielded my body over Misao so she wouldn’t feel the cold of the raindrops. I stretched back to lean against the tree again and my hair now lay damp against my neck and face. The wind blew my long bangs around spraying droplets over Misao and myself and yet she still didn’t awaken from this. Minutes went by and I looked back down at Misao’s face to see she still had that cute smile on her lips.
"Misao are you ever going to wake up?"
I had asked her quietly while brushing my thumb over her exposed cheek.
"I am awake Aoshi-sama…"
Misao eyes opened to sort out mine and they widened when she noticed I have been drenched by the rain protecting her. I watch the emotions that run through those beautiful eyes and she hugs me tightly to her and buries her head under my chin. I have no idea what to say to her but am saved when she loosens her embrace and steps into the drizzle to walk back to the headstones. I felt disappointed when she left my embrace and stood as well and walked behind her and placed a hand on her shoulder.
"Misao, how did you know?"
"They came to me in memories. Do you remember when we had that fight Aoshi-sama? When you wanted to be left alone and you didn’t want my help. Something happened between us Aoshi-sama and that’s when it first began."
"You knew all this time that this was happening to you and you acted like nothing happened. Why didn’t you tell me?"
I had stated firmly at her. She tensed up and turned around and began talking to me with unshed tears glistening in her eyes.
"What the hell was I supposed to say huh? ‘Hey Aoshi-sama guess what I can see all of your memories.’ You’d think I went nuts."
I closed my eyes and sunk to the forest floor. I never wanted anyone to see anything inside my head and yet Misao had seen my memories. My eyes snapped open when Misao laid her hand on my cheek. She was kneeling in front of me and those eyes showed worry and concern for me. I bowed my head and began to speak softly to her.
"How much did you see Misao?"
"I-I…It was as though I was you and looking at the stones myself. I was standing in front of them and looking at them just like yesterday. Then my view suddenly changed and I was seeing it from another perspective. You were there standing at the grave stones speaking but I couldn’t hear what you had said. I just saw what you looked like and how much you were hurting. You…you were carrying their heads Aoshi-sama… Will you…will you let me see again Aoshi-sama?"
I couldn’t believe what she was asking me. Here Misao sat in front of me asking if she could see more of my nightmares. Didn’t she understand how much they effected her before and yet she still wanted to see. This was completely insane.
"Remember when we fought Aoshi-sama, I said ‘I may not know exactly what you are going through because I wasn’t there to see what happened, but I know what it is like to lose loved ones. I have felt pain as well Aoshi-sama.’ Don’t you understand? Yes, I have felt pain but not the pain you went through and are going through right now! This was supposed to happen, I know it. I was given this gift to know exactly what you went through so I could truly grasp what you have been through. Please Aoshi-sama let me understand more."
I still hadn’t looked up at Misao. She was right though. She has felt pain before especially when her parents died and when I left and took Hannya and the others with me. She also felt pain when she saw that I had turned to violence and nearly killed Okina. She had lost many loved ones and yet she still wanted to know my pain.
I had finally made my decision. I felt Misao’s hands left my head and brush my long bangs away from my eyes. One of her small hands cupped my cheek while her fingertips on her other hand brushed the skin along the side of my eye just like before.
"Let me see again…"
Her gaze had turned to mine and we both stared at each other for a matter of seconds. It was just like before. Her blue eyes starred straight through me yet again. I watched as she stumbled to her feet and began swaying around the place trying to find her footing. I quickly rose to steady her but she pushed me away angrily.
"Stay away! I have to do this by myself!"
My heart beat faster as I watched Misao helplessly. In those few seconds she got the rest of my nightmares and the memories of exactly how Hannya and the others died, me attacking Kenshin and also Okina. My breathing was ragged and my heart broke at the sight of Misao. She fell to the ground numerous times clutching her head or her heart but always found her footing again. Tears spilled from her closed eyes and sobs occasionally escaped her throat and lips. She had many scratches and grazes on her exposed limbs and yet she still yelled for me to keep away. Minutes passed and these events still continued and I finally snapped. This was enough, she needn’t see anymore. I walked towards her silently making sure she didn’t know I was coming. I was surprised when she turned around to face me and began yelling.
"Stop it Aoshi-sama! You’ve got to let them go!"
"Misao stop this right now!"
I had ordered her. She looked at me with those eyes, but they weren’t hers. They were exactly the same colour as mine and she finally stood still as the rain began to fall harder. She began to speak as though talking to someone in her mind but I could hear every word of it.
"What are you doing Kanryuu? No you wouldn’t dare! You can’t do this! They are my family, my friends! HANNYA, BESHIMI, HYOTOKKO, SHIJUKSHO, AOSHI-SAMA NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"
Misao began to scream and fell to the ground limply without another word. I wasn’t close enough to catch her but the grass was thick enough to break her fall. I ran towards her and turned her over and my eyes grew wide as blood began to pool on her ninja shirt and shorts. I noticed that a sharp rock lay in the thick grass. It was what Misao had fallen on. I placed my hand firmly over her wound and lifted her into my arms where she lay limply and ran to the nearest shelter I could find.
I could faintly see a small shed hidden in-between large trees and bushes and I recognise it as the one I hid in once or twice to keep clear of any enemies. The rain was getting heavier at the minute and time was not on my side. I entered the shed and placed Misao on the ground gently. I got the fire started as logs had been placed in the middle of the shed. I turned back to Misao and noticed her wound had begun to bleed again as I had taken my hand away. I opened the small pack I took from my room before I left to find Misao and began bowling some water. I had no choice but to undress Misao and take her out of her bloody clothes. I sighed in relief, as the wound wasn’t as bad as I thought it was. It still needed attention so I cleaned it up and wrapped Misao’s tie that used to hold her shirt closed around the wound and her stomach area. I had no time to see Misao’s body as I had placed my sleeping shirt over her and placed her near the fire. Hours passed by and the rain still fell outside. My coat had finally dried too and I had wrapped it securely around Misao and leaned against the far wall looking at the door. My body began to protest that I should rest but not when Misao was injured.
I finally made my decision that I should head back to the Aoiya and let Okon and Omasu look at Misao wound and then I could rest knowing she’d be alright. I looked over at Misao’s form and noticed she was moving restlessly. I stood up silently and sat near her placing my hand on her forehead to see if she was getting a fever. As soon as our skin had contact with each other she ceased her movements and fell into blissful sleep again as though she were only content in sleep when I was near her. Memories came flooding into my mind about Misao…
A small and chubby Misao-chan playing with Hannya and the others. Pulling pranks on them and Okina. Always laughing and always smiling. Misao-chan had never cried tears of sadness. Never was there a sad moment in her life, not until I left and the others went with me. I hadn’t seen her for 10 years. Was that a lifetime? When I saw her, those beautiful eyes were still there. She was still Misao-chan and yet a 16 year old woman. She faithfully kept me company for the next 2 years and now as I look down at her she is still as beautiful as ever. Would I ever tell her what she means to me? Somehow I think she knows in a way that I do deeply care for her and yet I confuse her more when I don’t speak to her or I just say what comes to me and not what is truly in my heart. As I stare at her sleeping form I could tell her the millions of thoughts that run around in my mind and yet they would all me meaningless as she would never have heard them.
I shake my head to stop my thoughts and that’s when I realise the moon is shining brightly in the night sky as the rain has finally ceased. Now is a good time to begin the journey home. I will not stop until we have made it safely into the Aoiya’s gates. I pick Misao up and placed her against my chest and walked out the door.
The morning had come and gone and Misao was still asleep. The full moon helped guide me back home. My body hurt tremendously from not resting and sleeping for about 5 days, as well as never letting Misao go.
I finally reached the gate in the early hours of the morning and silently walked upstairs to Misao’s room. I didn’t wish to wake anyone up at this ungodly hour. I placed her down on her bed and waited for Misao to wake up in the morning.
I ascended the stairs loudly, to Misao’s room and occasionally tripped, as again I had not slept. I wanted to make sure Misao was well before I rested. I walked into the room and smirked at the scene that Misao made in front of me. She had kicked her blankets off as they lay in a heap at the end of her futon at her feet. One of her hands lay on her wound while the other pointed straight out towards me and her mouth was wide open. She truly looked adorable. I sat beside her and traced my fingertips down her cheek lightly waking her from her slumber. Her eyes blinked open and sort out my face.
"Aoshi-sama I’m trying to sleep."
She had pouted cutely at me and yet a little annoyed that I had disturbed her. I smiled at how cute Misao was being at this very moment.
"I needed to make sure you were safe and your wound properly cared for. I wouldn’t have been able to rest knowing you weren’t taken care of first."
I had spoken softly and truthfully to her. She leaned on her elbows and looked at me sternly. I noticed that when she did this my shirt that she was wearing gapped open to give me a view of the top of her curved breasts. Misao began speaking to me seriously not even noticing what she was displaying me.
"Just how long have you been without rest Aoshi-sama?"
"About six days I think. Misao I-"
I could speak no further as Misao had placed her small fingers against my lips. She replaced them shortly after with her lips and pressed her moist lips to mine softly. They were so soft and warm against mine. I sat frozen stiff not replying to what she had started. She quickly pulled away and blushed lightly.
"You should get some rest Aoshi…sama…"
She had spoken this in a shy voice and turned over so her back was facing me. I silently stood and walked out the door and down the hall to my room. I entered my room and untied my shirt but still kept it on. I had a lot of things to figure out in my sleep and with that in mind I fell into a deep slumber.
I woke late in the morning and left my room to sit on the grass in the back garden and observed all the flowers in bloom. I had freshened up in the bathhouse relaxing my tired muscles and only emerged minutes ago to sit here and wait for Misao to find me. As if on queue…
"Aoshi-sama what are you doing up? You should be resting!"
I had heard Misao say behind me. I turned to see her walking towards me. My eyebrows raised as she still wore my black shirt that only just covered her up. Her hair fell around her in a big mess as she had obviously woken up moments ago and saw me sitting here alone. I turned back around to face the direction of the flowers. I turned my head when I felt the pressure of Misao’s hand on my shoulder and noticed she was going to kneel in the grass beside me. Her other hand held her wound as it still hurt and she finally descended slowly to the grass and let out a loud sigh. Silence fell between us and I wasn’t sure of what to say. Did I want to tell her my dreams? Do I want to tell her how I feel? I was snapped out of my thoughts when I heard Misao’s small voice beside me.
"Aoshi-sama I’ve got to know whether you have any feelings for me at all. I know you said you didn’t want me around and yet you cared for me ever since these visions began. I just want to know, are you ever going to open up to me?"
I turned my gaze to see Misao blushing prettily and yet she had not turned away from me. Do I have feelings for Misao? Yes I cared for her because I promised Okina I’d bring her home safely. I promised myself I’d protect her and never hurt her again. I have hurt her and yet she is still here showing me that she forgives and loves me anyway. She knows what has happened to our friends and she has felt my pain, but she still stays to protect me with her presence and those ocean-blue eyes.
"Do you want to know what I dreamt Misao?"
I asked her. She tilted her head and looked at me for a long time. Her lips curved in a smile and then a laugh bubbled up in her throat. I watched astonished as she now lay her head down in my lap making sure to lie on her uninjured side.
"You set them free…"
I was shocked at what she had stated. I was ready to ask her how she knew but then remembered what had occurred all this time. I had dreamt about her and the others and she knew all about it. I wasn’t angry that she could see my dreams. I really couldn’t stop it if I tried. I would always feel pain at not being able to save them but Misao was happy that I was finally coming back to her. I closed my eyes and bent down and brushed my lips lightly over Misao’s forehead.
"Thank you for not leaving me Misao."
I opened my eyes and chuckled, as Misao hadn’t even heard my confession as she had fallen asleep, her head resting in my lap and a small smile tugging her lips.
I stand watching Misao in the garden walking in the flowers. She hasn’t had any of my memories again but she now knows what I have been through. I begin to silently and slowly walk towards her. Her back is to me and she is humming a small tune. She has not noticed me yet, as her mind is half on whatever she is thinking about and the other half is picking flowers while placing some of them in her hair. As I walk towards her I remember what happened a couple of weeks ago.
Misao had shockingly confessed that she loved me. I had no idea what to say to this. I knew I loved her as well but I couldn’t get it out. My throat had blocked up at the moment she walked into the garden and confessed. She was wearing her bedclothes that fit her perfectly and her hair was blowing freely in the breeze. I stood to try and say something but she stopped me by hugging me around the waist and looked up at me telling me that she didn’t care if I couldn’t say that I loved her back. She had said that no matter what happened she was going to be here to protect me and give me comfort whenever I wanted or needed it. I chuckled quietly between us when she had stated that she was going to be with me whether I liked it or not. I smiled down at her and brushed my fingertips over her cheek. She lightly blushed and then quickly kissed me before I could react and ran upstairs to her room for the night.
I smiled as I could still feel her lips pressed on mine when she first kissed me all those weeks ago when I had woken her up. Before I knew what I was doing I had stepped in front of Misao who gasped at being surprised that I had appeared out of nowhere and wrapped her up in my embrace. I waited for her to stiffen but it never came. She placed her head against my chest and wrapped her small arms around my waist while still holding the flowers.
"What’s wrong Aoshi?"
I had asked her to stop calling me "Aoshi-sama", as I wanted us to be equals. I just wanted to be Aoshi Shinomori again. I brushed her cheek like I had done a couple of weeks ago and finally spoke what I felt I knew was true in my heart.
"I love you Misao…"
I was shocked at how easy it was to say to her as when I had said this Misao looked more beautiful then ever. She still blushed when I would touch her lovingly but that made me fill at ease, as I know my Misao will always be the same cheeky and yet beautiful genki ninja I helped raise. Her eyes glistened with tears of joy and her bright smile lit up her entire face. I couldn’t help but place my lips to hers and kiss her passionately. A small gasp escaped her put she never pulled away. Her arms snaked around my neck tightly making sure I was unable to leave her embrace. We finally separated to gather our breaths and Misao spoke and then blushed yet again at her confession.
"I love you too Aoshi…"
I finally gave her a real smile with my eyes as well as my lips and wrapped her up in my embrace once more. She returned the embrace furiously as well and spoke quietly into my ear so I could only hear this once and once only.
"I’ll take care of you and protect you Aoshi. You never have to be afraid of being left alone again."
"You too my Misao, you too…"
And there we stood in each other’s embraces finally finding comfort in each other. One more thought crossed my mind before I led Misao back into the Aoiya: Rest in peace my friends.