Author: Rhyssa Fireheart
Pairings: Implied Oboro/OC
Characters: Oboro, Utsuro (mentioned), Naraku, OC
Disclaimer: Don’t own it, never will. Just like to play around with it in my mind.
One of his oldest memories (after being saved by Utsuro-sama) was of feather soft touches and barely there whispers. When he was first introduced to the other students of the Tenshouin Naruku school, he hadn’t noticed her at first. She stayed in the background and it was only when her name was said that he first felt a fleeting touch on his back and she appeared before him, bowing a greeting.
He was surprised to see a girl at the school; weren’t they going to be trained to be assassins? Why would a girl be there? Years later, if he bothered to think back, he would realize how naïve he’d been. Right then though, he did as his teacher told him and observed. She wasn’t exactly tiny, but then again, they were only kids. Her black hair was cut short and from what he could tell, she had dark eyes. Her skin was tanned, so probably taken from a rural village somewhere.
Even then, he noticed how quiet she was. Despite the seriousness of what they were to be trained for, the other students were noisy and acted like normal children should. She seemed wrapped in silence standing there, her voice low and barely heard over the other conversations.
He also noticed her studying him in return.
The first time they were together, the students of their class had all been taken to Yoshiwara together for “experience”. This was a final test before graduation and being sent out on missions against the Joi rebels. Not that the instructors had said that, but he knew they were being tested in some way. They’d all been given money and told what to do, but he didn’t really want to go out into the crowds and find a prostitute. He wandered through the rooms they’d been put in and found her standing on the balcony overlooking the city. She was silhouetted by reflected color as she watched the crowds down below.
“Aren’t you going out into the city?” he asked.
“There’s nothing for me out there.” He could hear the faint hint of bitterness in her words. Of the few women who’d started in their class, she was one of two remaining and the other may as well have been a man from the way she acted.
He stared at her back for several minutes before moving to wrap his arms around her. She stiffened at first but then with a sigh, relaxed back into his chest.
Afterwards, as they lay in a sweaty tangle of limbs, his head on her chest, he considered what had just happened between them. It had been a pleasurable release but now what? As he drifted off towards sleep, he felt her fingers gently combing through his hair and almost missed her voice speaking.
He woke up to pain and a feather touch on his cheek. Her voice was speaking nonsense words – it’s all right, you’re back at base, relax, I’m here – and he tried to stop the groan from escaping. If she was with him, then he’d gotten back but he couldn’t remember if he’d returned on his own or if he’d needed to be rescued. He remembered the sword slashing at him and his own breaking from the blow. He’d been fighting guards though, which meant his target had been taken out.
“Oboro, wake up. You need to wake up. The masters are waiting for your report.” Her fingers brushed over his hair, trying to get his attention and keep him from falling back into silence. “They’ve been waiting.”
She wrote his words down quickly and asked quiet questions to clarify events. Finally, she set aside the writing table and stood. She checked his bandages and set a pitcher and glass down beside him. He was already drifting off by the time she spoke.
“I’ll deliver this to the masters and return to you soon. Just rest for now.”
Over the years, they’d meet occasionally at the Naraku base. Missions came and went, comrades fought and died, but they remained. He planned to eventually lead the Naraku and continue following his master, but in the meantime, he was just another soldier to their cause.
The second time they were together, he realized why he’d chosen her the first time. When he found himself outside her room, hand raised to knock, the reason finally became clear. The door opened before him and she stood there, solemn and still. They stared at each other unspeaking before she stepped back, inviting him into her space.
He’d rarely been in her room, although she’d been in his plenty of times. Usually caring for his injuries and saying nothing of how quickly he healed compared to others. She almost never asked him questions, instead taking him as he was, living in the moment. Right now her look was direct, questioning, so in response he reached out to touch her cheek.
Over the years, he’d visited courtesans once or twice, but it was just for release. He never stayed and rarely spoke with them. With her though, he could stay through the night and sleep by her side. That night though, he woke up alone. The room was silent, almost oppressive with quiet. He found her sitting in the corner, arms wrapped around her knees.
“I know why you come to me, Oboro.”
He’d only realized why he’d come to her earlier that evening, how could she know?
“I’m safe. You believe… you hope… that I won’t betray you or anything you might let slip. You can’t trust courtesans, so you go to someone else like you. Someone who understands the risks and dangers. That’s the only reason why you came here tonight, isn’t it?” Her voice floated out of the darkness, sliding slender daggers into him, accusing without anger or passion, just a weary acceptance.
Perhaps he shouldn’t have been surprised that she did know.
When he was finally made master of the Naraku, she wasn’t there. She was on a mission and wasn’t scheduled to return for days still. After the last time they’d spoken, he wasn’t sure how she would react to the news. He needn’t have worried.
“Congratulations.” She wasn’t effusive in her praise but he could tell she was happy for him. Her eyes shone and she gave him a small smile. And that night, she came to him again. It was the first good night’s sleep he had since moving into these new rooms.
The mission to retrieve Tokugawa Sada Sada was supposed to just be a formality. The man had badly messed things up in Edo and the Tendoshu wanted him taken into custody for his own safety. He certainly never expected to run into someone from his past; someone from the Joi rebellion, someone he’d been unable to defeat back then.
The realization that he’d lost once again was galling. He’d seen what Shiroyasha was planning in time to adjust, but that didn’t stop the flaring pain caused by hitting the roof or getting stabbed by a piece of rotten wood.
Once more he woke to her feathery touches on his body. His broken bones had been set, bruises salved, wounds bandaged. She brushed the hair off his forehead, checking for fever at the same time. She smiled when he opened his eyes and reached to the side to get some water. He always woke from injuries thirsty.
“Oboro, what happened? I’ve never seen you so badly injured before.”
“Someone from my past, it doesn’t matter. I need to give my report; will you scribe for me?”
“Of course.” She brought the writing table over, setting out the ink and brushes with a sad sort of silence. He watched her as she wrote, the brush making a quiet shushing sound across the paper. She kept her head bowed, not looking up except to dip the brush into ink, the beads in her hair clicking softly.
His mind only partly occupied by the report, he thought about how she exemplified silence. Each member of the Naraku had a specialty, an area of expertise that they excelled in. Hers was being silent – movements, actions, assassinations – all were carried out without a sound. Naraku were supposed to be nondescript, supposed to blend into the background but somehow, she still had such an eye-catching hairstyle. At some point, she’d seen an alien with hair in dozens of braids and decided that was what she wanted as well. Each braid ended in a small bead (currently a mixture of white, black, and grey) and yet, the noise was barely noticeable when she moved. It made no sense but it was her.
She hadn’t asked questions to clarify events; she just wrote what he said. He finished speaking and waited as the final brushstrokes were laid down, sand applied to dry the ink before she handed it to him to review. When he finished reading and handed it back, she started to roll it up.
“I’m worried about you, about the tasks the Master is setting for you. What’s going on? We’re supposed to work for the Bakufu, but the Master is more worried about the Tendoshu. We’re not supposed to do their bidding!” He’d rarely heard her voice so loud and even then, it was still barely louder than normal.
“I’m doing what the Master needs me to do. That’s all you need to know.”
“But nothing. The Naraku follow the Master’s will, and that’s all you need to know.” His voice had rarely been so harsh, especially with her.
“I understand.” So quiet, so soft, so sad. And then, she laid the tied scroll on the mat before folding into a full bow, head pressed to floor. “Will there be anything else?” He could only stare in surprise, in pain. When the silence had dragged on too long, she took up the scroll and turned away, leaving him alone.
Aoi! Please don’t….
Once again, he woke in pain and once again, she was at his bedside. His eye was bandaged but this time that was the only injury other than some bruises. Worse was the injury to his pride dealt by those damn disciples of Shouyou who simply refused to properly die.
“Oboro, what is going on? Have the Naraku become just toys for the Tendoshu to order around? Since when do they give us... you… orders?”
“It’s what Utsuro-sama wants, and I follow him, that’s all you need to know. Why can’t you understand that?”
“I can’t understand because you won’t let me. You won’t let me, us, in to understand. We’re skilled assassins; we shouldn’t be thrown away on reckless fights that don’t benefit those we work for. Why can’t you see….”
“See what? I see us being used as we are meant to be. I see us doing the will of the heavens. I see us doing what needs to be done.”
“What needs to be done? We’re being killed off faster than we can train up new students. We’re being wiped out for the whims of a master who’s ascended to the heavens but still wants to keep his hand tight around our throats here on earth. Help me understand this!”
“The Naraku follow me and if I choose to listen to the Master, that’s my decision. What else is there to understand? I’ve sworn a blood vow to him because he saved me so I’ll serve him until the end.”
“And so you’ll drag the Naraku along with you just to fulfill a vow? At this rate, there will be no one left by the time all of… this… is over.”
“So be it. If you can’t understand why I’m doing this, then perhaps the Tenshouin Naraku aren’t for you.”
His statement fell into the sudden silence like a rock. She’d turned away at some point in their argument so all he saw was her back, tense and stiff. She stood still, wrapped in the quiet that was her hallmark, and he could feel the shock and denial coming off her in waves.
“So any who don’t agree, who oppose you, are to be tossed aside, is that it? Strip away the dissent until what is left are toys to be broken at his whim. The message from the heavens is to throw away our lives in fruitless battles.
I can’t accept or pretend understand that, Oboro. You won’t let me understand because you won’t explain. Saying you’ve given him a vow isn’t enough to pull the Naraku down with you. I’ve followed you for years. You, not him. I will never follow him.”
Perhaps you’re right. Perhaps the Naraku are no longer for me. Because now I’m not even sure I can follow you any longer.”
He shouldn’t have been surprised when she said it, but that statement – I’m not even sure I can follow you – hurt. It felt like someone had slipped a dagger between his ribs and then twisted when pulling it out. That she said it so quietly, so matter-of-factly, brought home the impact of what he’d said.
Before he could protest, she walked away from him, leaving his room to silence and pain.
He felt the feathery touches of her hands over his stomach, pulling aside the torn clothing to wrap bandages around the gaping wound. The sounds of battle faded away and he was enclosed in her silence. He heard fabric tearing as his left sleeve was cut away and his arm wrapped tightly. How had those damn Shinsengumi defeated him?
He woke up slowly, opening his eye to stare at the ceiling of his room on the ship. The shhshhshh of air circulating was the loudest thing he could hear. After finally deciding he was alone, he turned his head to see her sleeping in the chair by his bed.
She woke with a start, checking around the room before focusing on him. Her smile was fleeting as she stood up to hand him a glass of water.
“You need to rest; it’ll take time for your wounds to heal. The ship’s medic checked and your arm should be fine. You were lucky.”
“Lucky? How was I lucky?”
“According to the medic, the cut on your arm was deep, almost to the bone, but will heal completely. You won’t lose the use of it. He saw nothing unusual with the wound.”
He could hear the question in her voice but knew she’d never ask or speak about what she’d seen. She didn’t understand what the blood vow truly meant and there was no way for him to tell her, not after all these years. In the past, none of his injuries had been as extraordinary as getting his arm cut off.
“We’re heading back to base now. You’ll be able to recover there. That is the order of the Master.”
“That’s good.” He kept drifting off, his body demanding rest while he healed. As he surrendered to sleep, he felt the press of lips on his forehead, tasted wet salt against his mouth.
All members of the Tenshouin Naraku had been called together for the trip to the Harusame base. Before heading out, he went to her rooms. Her belongings were still there but the room felt empty, abandoned. He walked around, pausing to look at the objects sitting on top of the dresser.
A bowl half filled with colored beads was placed in the center, and he ran his fingers through them, listening to the soft clicks. One of the small beads fell over the edge, ticking as it hopped along the surface of the dresser. It landed on the floor mats near his foot and he bent over to pick it up. The dark blue bead rested in the palm of his left hand and he stared at it, thinking of the color of her eyes.
Closing his hand, he left her room to head to the ship. Utsuro-sama was waiting.