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MBAME Entry #6: Transformations (BKIroha, PG13) 
15th-Jun-2007 11:01 am
edward vi is love!
Your username: senbongenma
Title of the work: Transformations Beyond a Butterfly's Dreams
Rating: PG13 for action
Genre(s): Angst, drama, action, adventure, romance*, fluff
Character(s): Akidzuki, Kakunojo, Sensei, OCs, historical people...
Summary: Akidzuki's voyage to the Western world not only shows him new cultures, ideas and beliefs - but also helps him to understand himself better. As he interacts with foreigners and their 'foreign' ways, memories are dredged up. Some he welcomes, some he wishes he could avoid. When he arrives back home, realizes that there is only one important truth for him.


Historical people mentioned or referenced:

Zhuang-zhi: philosopher around the 4th century BCE.
Thomas (and Emma) Hardy: famous British writer.
Wagner: famous opera composer etc.
Otto Von Bismarck: famous German leader
Queen Victoria: longest reigning British Queen.
Wilfred Owen: WW1 British poet who condemned war.
Horace: Greek poet who praised war.

-Transformations Beyond A Butterfly's Dreams-


Once Chuang Cho dreamt he was a butterfly, a butterfly flitting and fluttering around, happy with himself and doing as he pleased. He didn't know he was Chuang Cho. Suddenly he woke up, and there he was, solid and unmistakable Chuang Cho. But he didn't know if he was Chuang Cho who dreamt he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he was Chuang Cho. Between Chuang Cho and a butterfly there must be some distinction! This is called the Transformation of Things.
Zhuang-zhi. Chapter 2.

Weep [Not]



He who dreams of drinking wine may weep when the morning comes

He who dreams of weeping may in the morning go off to hunt


-


He opened his eyes and blinked hazily, for some reason, expecting to see...

See what? He groaned to himself, propping himself up on his elbows and rubbing his bleary eyes.

Kakunojo...

Akidzuki snorted softly to himself. Already it had been three months and he was dreaming of her.

Baka! He chided himself. This is your chance to see what Ryouma-sama saw! Although... right now.

The young man stretched, sat up, swung his legs over the edge of his small cot and sighed. Looking around the cramped quarters of the small cabin, Akidzuki scratched his head and yawned. Already the edges of the horizon were a light pink - any moment now the first mate would be calling them up. Shuffling into his uncomfortable sailor uniform, Akidzuki sighed.

What did you see, I wonder...

Ryouma-sama?


"We're almost there, sonny," grinned his chirpy roommate from above.

"Ehhh..."

"You unnerstand? In a coupla weeks we'll be in sight of the Suez Canal!"

"Suez Canal?" blinked Akizuki.

"You heard. You seen it - naw! What am I askin'? Course you've not! But it's a sight for sore eyes.
Just finished, y'know... It'll be my first time seein' the canal - not ol' Egypt though..."

"Egypt?"

"Egypt. A really old country. With pyramids and camels and loud buggers and voluptuous women in black, yeah..."

Akidzuki mulled over the strange words.

English was never my strong suit...

"You've been there?" the young man asked.

"Sure. But this time we've got a nice stop over in Alexandria - and before you know it - CIVILIZATION!!!"

"Civilization..."

Akizuki bent down to tie up the laces of his shoes.

Civilization... huh? Sensei... is this what you saw?

He could still hear the playwright's smooth voice -

To make Japan the greatest nation on earth....

-


Three weeks later, Akidzuki carefully found his land legs on the sagging docks of Alexandria. The air was hot - hotter than even Japan - just standing there, he could feel the heat pressing down.

Like that India... except no elephants... just...

He looked around at the trash, the filthy streets, the grubby vendors yelling, the silent women carrying pots, clothing, food baskets on top of their heads. Wild dogs ran in the streets - little children were running around as well... It looked chaotic. Turning away from the fly-covered slabs of meat, the heady sweet sticky smells of warm fruit and the fermenting smell of hot goat cheese, Akidzuki dove into the heavy crowds, wondering what to do for the four days he was stuck in the large city.

I thought that Tokyo was busy and run down... Akidzuki's neck hurt just from his head turning from left to right. It's so big here... and...

It kinda made him feel depressed.

"Pyramid! Pyramid! A trip to zee anshunt toombs of King Tut!!! Only for 10 dinar! On camel! 10 dinar trip to zee Pyramids!!! Pyramids!!!"

Akidzuki blinked, remembering the conversation he'd had with his roommate.

Pyramids, huh? Perhaps... I've certainly saved up enough.

Handing over the money, awkwardly climbing on to the back of a especially baleful camel, Akidzuki clung hard to the coarse hair, praying that he wouldn't die in a shameful manner - certainly not before seeing the pyramids

Or Kakunojo.

He blushed at the thought of the feisty actress.

She said she'd waaaiiiit-

Akidzuki's thoughts ended abruptly with a jerk as the camel rose smoothly and followed the camel master. Behind the young Japanese foreigner, a line of Europeans followed - loud and cheerful.

"Blimey! Lookit - them - whatchacallits -"

"Hush dear! That's not nice! Arabs they are..."

"Weird is wot they are - all dressed up funny like - and these beasts - camels, huh?"

"Dear..."

"Camels are a common transportation," a snotty voice said from the back of the line. "Not only can they go long distances without drinking, but they can reach quite amazing speeds and their meat and milk can also provide sustenance for travelers."

"Gor! Guess the professor knows what he's talkin' bout, eh?"

"Dear..."

-


By the end of the small trip to the pyramids, Akidzuki wanted to die. Not only because of the squabbling behind - between the Professor and some factory worker on vacation - but the heat seemed too unbearable. That and the endless sand stretched out before them....

It's so different, Ryouma-sama... who'd have thought that the world is so huge. And different? Well... I was always told that there are different lands with different wonders - but these...

"These are zee toombs of ze Pharoahs - anshunt kings of Egypt."

"Tombs?" Akidzuki whispered, eyes trying to gauge the height of the stone triangle.

"Made looong ago... by many, many slaves... inside were treasures for zee king dat died..."

"They believed," the Professor extrapolated haughtily. "That they would take their treasures with them to the afterlife. So even some retainers died with them - mummified of course - with cats and other things."

"Mummified?" asked the sweet housewife with horror.

"They would drain the body of all its liquids and bind it up and put it in special caskets. It's beautiful. You should see it ma'am - they've got a couple in London..."

The woman turned green.

Akidzuki's camel, following the guide, found a resting spot near a small pond with some surrounding trees. Finishing up the last of his water, the sweating ex-Eternal Assassin stumbled in after enthusiastic Arab guide. Inside the pyramid - it was cool, dark and almost...

It was beautiful.

Along the walls were pictures and fancy writing that brought ecstatic oohs and aahs from the group and more explanations from the Professors.

Akidzuki didn't even want to try saying 'hieroglyphic" out loud. The tomb didn't have any of its treasures in it anymore - but according to the guide, everything had been made out of gold and special wood. There was a museum in Alexandria that had some of it on display. Akidzuki decided to go there next.

Emerging from the cool dark, he sighed, feeling even more ignorant, small and alone than ever. Smacking himself on the forehead, Akidzuki shook his head.

Idiot. This is what you're here for. To see the world - to explore the possibilities... to understand your place. So that when you go back - when you embrace Kakunojo - when you find that home in her arms, you will also know who you are. And what I should now do...

"That was amazing," the Professor said suddenly. "It makes me feel... No, it's euphoric to stand here with so much history under our feet!!!!"

Akidzuki blinked.

"I feel so close to the past in places like these!"

Akidzuki shivered.

The past...
The Head...

Some thing's are best left unremembered... but...


Kakunojo's face flashed into his vision.

Some things are best to look forward to...

"This world..." Akidzuki said slowly and carefully, trying to find the right words. "Came to being at the same time, yes?"

The Professor's eyes widened at the boy's accent.

"You -"

"So... does not everything have an ancient past? Even your home?"

"Y-yes... but..."

Akidzuki smiled.

Even we have history, and because we have a history, we have a future, as well. It is evidence we have lived, died and that others have gone before and have gone after us... right, Ryouma? Right, Kakunojo? This is no time to weep for what is done - but to bravely search for what is possible.

Watch me, Sensei... your butterfly dream has transformed into something even more beautiful...


Dream


While he is dreaming, he does not know it is a dream

And in his dream, he may even try to interpret a dream

Only after he wakes, does he know it was a dream


The clang of metal meeting metal - the clash of katana filled the air. It was euphoric, bringing blood to the head, vitality to the veins - and Akidzuki remembered the joy of battle.

I feel alive again... This is where I belong -

Shifting his grip on the familiar worn hilt, Akidzuki twisted his wrists down, pushing his opponent away. He looked up and froze.

It was Sensei.

Ibaragi Soutetsu - master playwright.

Master playwright –

But if so - why was HE on stage?


Beneath their booted feet, the floorboards creaked and Akidzuki stepped back, his sword wavering with uncertainty. Under the lights, the crowd seemed faceless - all that mattered was the playwright's katana before him, the longer scabbard now turned hilt.

Before him, the long-haired, dark-eyed writer smiled wryly, shifting his grip on the long blade, twirling it expertly. He lunged forward -

Akdizuki swung around, parrying his skilled opponent's blade, thinking furiously.

His weapon is long range...

This isn't –

This isn't right.


"Akidzuki-kun," the older man's voice cut into this puzzled opponent's thoughts. "Why so hesitant? With that sword, you cannot defeat me -"

Akidzuki shook his head, gritted his feet and lunged forward, dipping low and then sideways, barely grazing his cheek against Soutetsu's swinging blade. A little blood trickled down his cheek, but he ignored it - once again finding that close-range weakness -

This isn't right - but it is what I have to do.

Forgive me, Sensei.

Isn't this -


He was so uncomfortably close -

The long hair swirled around - a shield and a curtain - all he could see was a wry smile on the playwright's lips. Anticipation. As Akidzuki's body automatically followed through on it's thrust and upward swing, Sensei's sword slid past his shoulder. Small strands of dark chestnut wafted down, the steel skin slid against soft skin. Soutetsu jerked his head away.

Isn't this –

What I need -

What you -


Crimson red against the pale white skin flowed. Down the playwright's forehead.

No.

Over his chest, back, pooling around his head, shoulders and upper torso - staining the starched white color, the neat tie –

No.

Deja vu -

That was... all dissolving into nothing but butterflies...

We did it under the bright sky in the cold snowy winter of Hokkaido -

Hakodate - that place of death... Hijikata-sama. Ibaragi-san...


Akidzuki gritted his teeth and thrust his sword forward even faster - stronger - fueled by that knowledge of doom.

They marched with only one belief, and that was victory. A desire for honorable death.

And they who led them - Enomoto-sama, Ibaragi-sensei...

For you –

Just as you -

What you -


Slipping past Soutetsu' outer guard, Akidzuki's blade found the heart and pierced it.
But the man was already dead.

"Thank you," Soutetsu said softly. "For -"

Applause drowned out his voice. Akidzuki jerked back, dropping his sword.

No.

He didn't need to hear this again.

Thank you for freeing me of that destiny... I saw in you HIM.

Who did he see? He saw Sakamoto-sama. Sakamoto's vision of Japan and the world as a place of promise... And destiny disappearing into so many butterflies - into thin air...


Kneeling at Sensei's side, Akidzuki grapsed the man's hand, trying to will more speech. Trying to will a better reason -

For you –

Just as you wanted –

What you desired -

Okita-sama. Hijikata-sama. Ibaragi-san...

May you find some peace - let me be strong enough to - carry on your dreams...


Akidzuki closed his eyes in silent prayer.


Awake


And someday there will be a great awakening, when we know that this is all a great dream

Yet the stupid believe they are awake, busily and brightly assuming they understand things, calling this man ruler, that one herdsman - how dense!


When Akidzuki awoke, he sighed, blinked slowly and the hoisted himself up on his elbows. Above him, dark rafters stained with smoke and rainwater combined with the cracked window, the dusty floor and the sagging four-poster bed to make the run-down inn even more depressing. It had been recommended for its good food and cheapness.

Cheapness for sure, Akidzuki thought sourly, wondering if his back was ever going to be the same again. As for the food....

Downstairs, several of the inn's guests were already awake, digging into large platters of yellow, brown and red. Akidzuki's serving, when it came, looked just the same. Eggs, he knew - and had learned to identify toast, butter and bacon. Kidney beans were another matter. He poked his spoon at the mess and sighed.

Good food, huh...

"They say she's gonna be in town, y'see?" An American shoulder slurped down some egg and followed it by a burning, black mug of coffee. "Ya ever see t'lady?"

"Th'lady?" Blinked his British fellow sailor. "Yer meanin' 'er Majisty?"

"Yeah. Th'lady in mournin' - right?"

"Damn, y'aveta speak of 'em w'respeck!"

"I's excited is all!"

"Her Majisty Queen Victorya."

"Hm. Thas the one! She's comin' here, right?"

"Just for a small trip, gentleman," the innkeeper broke in, setting a platter before the British sailor. "Fresh air in Dover does wonders - even for the sick at heart..."

Akidzuki picked at the kidney beans for several more minutes before moving on to the scrambled eggs, bacon and toast. The eggs were amazingly light and fluffy. The bread toasted to perfection.

Butter...

Eying the butter bowl on the next table over, Akidzuki rose.

"Excuse me," he said carefully.

"Sure thing, mate," the Brit said cheerfully, handing over the butter and a rather crumby knife. "'elp yoursel'"

"Arig - Thank you," Akidzuki nodded and bowed, ever so slightly - catching himself rather late.

"You foreign or sumfin?" asked another morose sailor. "Y'LOOK foreign."

Akidzuki drew back, uncertain.

"Yer right there, Charlie..." the innkeeper nodded. "This is... A-kid-uki. All the way from that Asian island... Edo? No..."

"Whatever," sniffed Charlie. "Sounds fishy t'me. Ye seen t' Queen yet, sonny?"

"No."

"Nor me," put in the American. "I'm rarin' t'see her. She's covered in gold!"

The innkeeper snorted.

Akidzuki withdrew to his table amid a raging discussion over what monarchs REALLY wore while on tour. It was amusing for the young man - to see that even here in the great outer world, the rich and the poor still struggled alongside each other.

Ignorance, intelligence, rich, poor... it's the same everywhere...

"Y' got Queens like that over there, sonny?" asked Charlie.

"No," Akidzuki shook his head. "There is only -"

"The emperor," the innkeeper nodded. "I read it in the newspaper."

"Re-ally?" The American asked. "Wow."

"Robby... most anshunt countrees 'ave som' sort o' monarkee, ri'?" The Brit sailor turned to Charlie and the Innkeeper, scratching his greying head thoughtfully. "They jus' live different, ri'?"

Charlie sniffed.

"Different is right."

The innkeeper chuckled.

"Hmmmm... I'm sure Akiduki would tell you some interesting things."

Akidzuki blinked, thinking hard and long. Trying to remember that one far away glimpse of the Emperor - standing by Sakamoto...

So long ago... The pomp - the pageantry... He seemed so far away. But now the war has ended, the Shinsengumi obliterated... Hakodate and the Kingdom of Ezo finally recaptured... Japan will never be the same again, just as Sakamoto predicted. There is no going back, only forward...

A week later, watching the Queen of England and her Minister pass by in a carriage, Akidzuki watched with a critical eye. There was very little pomp or pageantry. She was in mourning, they said, for her dead husband.

It explains her black clothes, he mused. I guess... even the monarchs understand the meaning of loss.

I wonder how the Emperor felt... to watch tradition run through his hands like sand. Disappear into mere butterflies - making room for hope. The hope to make a better world and a stronger country...


Next to him, two couples were chattering.

"- and they say Bismarck is on the move... the bastard..."

"That's... bad for buisness, hm."

"I understand why, in a way - people who have long been crushed underfoot are rising. The world is turning upside down... but... will anything really change is the question."

Hugh, a tall lank man, chuckled.

"Thank God for Her Majesty! Without someone so level-headed at the helm - and the Prime Minister... God knows where we'd be now. In Bedlam, no doubt... what with the way this world is changing..."

"Gregory! Emma, Thomas... You must forgive my hot-headed husband," sighed Hugh's wife.

"Lizzy, there is no problem," laughed Emma, shifting her small purse from one hand to the other. "I understand - Thomas is quite bad as well. Look at them! Like naughty children."

"Politics..." Lizzy sighed. "But you know, Gregory is right - the world is changing."

Her eyes flickered over Akidzuki.

"Everyone -"

"People are coming here from all over -" She smiled. "America is getting stronger and more diverse, I hear, everyday. Even Canada has become a dominion!"

"It's exciting isn't it?" Lizzy's voice faded as they moved away, arms linked closely. "Hugh says that this is our great chance. We're going to take it."

"Seems like the young ladies are optimistic about opportunities," Thomas remarked with a sigh.

"And why not, Thomas? Cheer up, old fellow, not everything is doom and gloom. You writers are always sighing over melodramas," Hugh turned away.

Akidzuki watched the men trail after the chattering women.

Taking the chance, huh. Opportunities for all...

The black carriage was fading into the distance, some people following the procession with interest. Some with adoration. Some with curiousity. Some with scorn.]

Bismarck. Queen Victoria. Thomas. Emma. Clara. Hugh. Kakunojo. Sakamoto-sama. We are all part of this race. It's exciting to think about what this future holds.


Swindle

"My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory
The old Lie: Dulce et Decorum Est
Pro patria mori."
- Wilfred Owen


Confucius and you are both dreaming!

And when I say you are dreaming, I am dreaming too

Words like these will be labelled the Supreme Swindle


Years later, when he was an old man, Akidzuki wondered. He wondered especially as he watched the young ones march off to war, laughing and singing.

Do they not know what it meant?

"It's Germany," Kakunojo sighed, shuffling slowly in with a small tray of tea and biscuits. "Again?"

"Hm." He turned stiffly, and watched her set it down - and pour it out with shaking hands. "It reminds me of old times. Zagashira. Genma... Sensei... Hijikata-sama. Okita-sama..."

"Makes me feel old," she sighed.

"You ARE old!" He laughed at his ancient wife. "You're getting near 60, aren't you?"

"What does that make you?" the ex-actress cackled with glee at her husband's stunned face.

"You're no spring duck either!"

"It's 'spring chicken'..."

"Hmph... you know what I mean!"

There was a thoughtful moment, filled only the faraway sounds of boots on the dusty road, a bird trilling on a nearby tree branch - and the soft pok of the bamboo spout in the garden. The ex-samurai sipped his tea and, from his comfortable seat on the porch, watched the young men pass by the front gates of the small house. He knew alot of them - many of them were as old as his sons. Most of them were as young as his grandchildren. He could see young Gen-kun, the grandchild of Genma - and beside him, his own grandchild - Ryo.

All going off to an honorable death –

All going off on what they saw as an glorious adventure...

But -


"It brings back memories -"

-


"You're looking for a job?" asked the German innkeeper thoughtfully. "There's not much to offer in this small town - but if you go south you might get something. Just leave on the main road."
Akidzuki nodded with a small bow.
"Thank you."

In one week, with four free rides, the young man walked into a town called Beyreuth, rather hungry, tired and wet from the constant rain.

A bath, a bed and then a job... preferably in that order... Akidzuki sighed. If I can afford it.... German currency is almost as confusing as the British...

Sure enough, the young Japanese found a small inn with a cheap room. Inquiries the next morning led him to a theatre site. It was a mass of confusion, workers running around - supervisors glaring at maps morosely in the drizzle and blueprints. Eyes narrowed, they measured the rather short Akidzuki up and down, and then snorted.

"Just run errands," they said. "Carry stuff... We'll see what you can do. Sailing, eh? Well then... Follow Hans here, he'll tell you what to do."

Akidzuki was given a hammer, an apron full of nails and the direction to start nailing some of the frame.

Tired and aching that night, Akidzuki the newest member to the German crew, flopped down on his bed with a soft moan.

Who knew that building a theatre was so hard?

Closing his eyes he remembered the happiness of the Yuyama Troupe as they banded together to build their simple, canvas outdoor tents. Ebisu and Kakashi had spent quite some time out in the harbour stringing together candles - supervising some of the firemen to help lash the boats together for a new pier. As per Sensei's careful instructions.

Kakunojo had just shook her head, murmuring that it was Sensei's best idea yet. Akidzuki had looked on with misgiving - and wistfulness.

My life was only focussed on one thing... He mused wisely in retrospect. So I missed out on all that camaraderie. When I get back - I wonder if it will be the same? Will she still be traveling? Or will Kakunojo find a spot to rest?

-


"It's for the famous composer Wagner," explained Hans one day at lunchtime.

"Vagner?" asked Akidzuki carefully.

"He's coming here - to stay, they say. To set up a theatre suited best for his operas."

"Operas?" Akidzuki echoed, feeling rather stupid.

"Operas. You probably have never heard of them before. People sing in them. Stories in song. Very boring."

"You've seen one."

"My missus and I went to see one. I fell asleep," the gigantic Hun grinned. "But she liked it well enough."

"Hm... so it's a play with singing?"

"More singing than play."

"I see."

Akidzuki couldn't really visualize it, but he fell silent at the memory of Kakunojo in her costume, looking faraway and suave under the makeup. The men catcalling her as she extended a stockinged leg, her kimono tastefully arranged to attract - Her fan, fluttering down to hide her smile, but still revealing her twinkling eyes...

Is she really waiting for me?

"You have to see his stuff to understand what I mean," Hans was rambling on, disregarding his spaced out partner. "He's the genius of all opera. No. Of all German music! He is what this country needs to remember what we all stand for. We are a proud country, with a great tradition, honorable and one day, we'll be the greatest on this earth."

Akidzuki nodded affably.

"Hm."

"In his operas, they say that there is a call to another world order - a chance for us to grasp what we desire."

And yet you fell asleep, Akidzuki chuckled softly to himself.

"Hans is right," the Head Supervisor sat down beside the two men, opening up his lunch basket. "When you hear Wagner, you don't just see a myth - you see tradition and beauty in battle, honor in the fight for one's country and ideals. Great stuff. I'm honored to work for such a great man."

"See, Ruegen knows what he's talking about, right?"

"Indeed. In fact," the tall skinny German turned to smile down at Akidzuki (who was eyeing his sausage with a curious look). "If you hang around, he'll be here in two weeks time! You'll see the great man himself! He's going to be at the Margrave's Opera House for a small special concert. They say that even the Prince will be there! The Prince and Wagner! Beyreuth is blessed!"

"Yes!" Han wolfed down his remaining sandwich. "That's something we've been looking forward to for the past few months. Have you seen the Prince, Akid-zukee?"

"The Prince?" blinked the young Japanese.

"Otto von Bismarck."

"Hm. No. But he sounds familiar. He must be famous!"

"Ha! That's the Prince for you! Known to even the foreigners!"

"Wagner. Bismarck," murmured Akidzuki. "Such great people here..."

"Yes... and you know, both the same," Reugen confided in the young worker. "Both are going to lead us - to freedom."

Two weeks later, Akidzuki left town - at the same time that Bismarck entered. Watching the commanding old gentleman pass by on a sedate, proud, high-stepping horse, Akidzuki couldn't help but be reminded of Katsu-sensei and Sakomoto-sensei... and the stories he had heard from Okita-sama of the Shinsengumi in the old days. People who had lived and breathed for that thrill of battle. Who had fought and died to hold onto tradition -

No.

Not so glorious really...

They fought because they had something to protect -

And they couldn't live without the sword in their hands...

And so they died...


He thought of the proud, beaked nose of Wagner, his hair styled back artistically, his long fingers guiding the opera to its triumphant conclusion on the opening night.

Is this the story you want us to remember, Wagner-san?

The dead only know the truth...


-


"Dulce et decorum est..." Akidzuki said softly to himself, his lax fingers on the book's open page.
Kakunojo, glanced down at the unfamiliar English letters - and then away.

"It is part of a famous poem from an ancient Greek poet," Akidzuki explained, in response to the unspoken question. "I don't know this old language, but according to the translation, the sentence means... 'It is good and proper to die for one's country'."

"I see." Kakunojo's hands clenched. "But I worry for Ryo. He's so excitable - he never knows when to stop."

"Genma is there with him. He'll be a good stabilizing force. Besides, there is not much action expected. Tsingtao will not be a bloody battlefield... from the looks of it, the conquest will be easy. Ryo will come back fulfilled and confident. I'm sure."

"You never know -"

"No. I know. It is always uncertain. And the battlefield is always in flux. Anything can happen -"

Hijikata reeling away from Kanna - a bullet in his spine -

Goodbye, Okita.


"This war in Europe does not look so good," the old man continued on, his voice almost overpowered by the creaking trees. "It will destroy many for nothing - but that eternal illusion of power..."

"And it won't be beautiful," sighed his wife, shifting a flower to a more artistic position on the porch.

A blue butterfly rose up gracefully. Akidzuki's failing eyes focussed on the delicate blue fading now into the sky - as those million dreams had done so long ago.

"It never is. Horace-san lied. I hope someone tells them this..."

A silence.

"You never wrote a play about them."

"About who?" asked Kakunojo, gathering up the tea things.

"About Ebisu, Genma, Hijikata-sama - all those others... Our story."

Kakunojo rose slowly and sighed.

"Our story was written already. Clearly. Starkly. Real as the day - with no hesitation. With all that truth you speak of. Let the curtain stay down at the end of Sensei's play."


Meaning


Yet, after ten thousand generations, a great sage may appear who will know their meaning, and it will still be as though he appeared with astonishing speed

Akidzuki never pretended to understand everything. Since he had been young, he had been told he was 'The One'. It sounded grand - and scary at the same time. The full weight of the truth not yet settling on his shoulders like the heavy burden it became. A glorious destiny for ignorant youth...

But as the years passed by, The One wondered about the 'why' behind it all. Watching people die, holding his hands - watching his dear mentor and guide fall before his eyes - blood spurting from his chest -

No.

So many people had died.


Akdizuki saw them pass on - and then, one day, almost too suddenly, it ended. And in the cup of relief, there were large portions of regret and grief.

All he could think was "It's over...".

"It's over - and what do I do?"

"See the world, Akidzuki-kun," he could hear Sakamoto's chuckle. "It'll do you good. Expand your horizons -"

It'll help you understand Japan - and yourself better... What you truly need and want...

The unasked question rang in his mind even now, as he looked over the wind-swept ocean, his brown hair blowing into his eyes.

How can I help others if I don't know even myself?

Now that the journey was over, Akidzuki thought he understood. Listening to the sailor's talk, the people chattering - enjoying the uplifting music, visiting ancient places, fingering old histories he could never imagine... Watching men go to war for tarnished ideals -

Akidzuki thought he understood.

Perhaps.

Maybe.

Maybe not....


The horn blared cheerfully - the passengers cheered as one passenger ship passed by the other, close enough to clearly see the other passengers waving their arms exitedly.

"We're all in this together," Akidzuki murmured to himself.

Two months later, a blur appeared on the edge of the horizon. All the sailors and weary, sea-sick passengers rushed to the fore of ship, leaning out as far as they could go to catch a glimpse of their destination. A ragged 'hurrah!' rose up. Akidzuki couldn't help but smile.

At last.

-


It was summer in Japan. The sun shone down cheerily through a clear blue sky, as Akidzuki made his way carefully through the mixed crowd of Japanese and foreigners. His brown hair, tanned skin and dark blue-green eyes made him feel odder than usual.

No man for no land... Not able to be a part of anything...

Just himself.

It made him nervous.

-


Three days later, still dressed in his casual western suit, feeling more like Ibaragi-sensei than ever, Akidzuki treaded the familiar paths of the Japanese capital. Many faces were different, the stores had changed - but the air of excitement, chaos and tension was the same. As if a puppet, Akidzuki's feet led him on a familiar path to a now brightly painted theatre house.

It had changed for the better.

Bright banners flapped in the wind - bold red letters on a yellow background proclaiming the exciting continuation to the recently successful play put on by the famous Yuyama Troupe. He knew by the time of his pocket watch that the Troup would most likely be in the middle of rehearsal.

If nothing has changed....

Opening the side door unobstrusively, Akidzuki slipped in unnoticed, feeling like a thief. Somewhere to the back, voices cattered - new and old mingled in excitement over the new play.

"How about this?"

"Amazing!"

"Wonderful!"

"That'll cost too much, Genma -"

"But the ladies will LOVE it!"

"I don't think we should forget our other customers."

"The Chief's right."

"Chief's always right!"

"Always right! Always right! Stupid Genma!!!"

He drew closer - the voices getting louder.

"How about this then?"

"No. That won't work - look here..."

"Benimaru. Don't."

"Don't touch that! No! Oh -"

CRASH!

"Benimaru!!! What did I say?"

"Apologize!"

"AHHHHH!!!!! It's all over me! BEENNIIMMARRRUUU!!! I'm going to KILL YOU!!!"

"Genma, calm down. It's only flour. I'm sure you can find something else to wear for Kotoha tonight. Besides... pink does NOT suit you."

Everyone laughed.

Akidzuki's heart jumped.

Kakunojo clapped her hands.

"Everyone to their positions!"

"But what about Mabou?"

"Well..."

"We can't do much without him!"

"Didn't you find ANYONE in the auditions good enough, Chief?"

"Nope," Kakunojo sighed. "Incompetents, all of them. some looked good. Some acted well. Some had the right sword technique... but none had it all together..."

"Who would?" Zagashira grumbled.

Kakashi grunted.

"Acting?" Genma blinked. "Mabou doesn't hardly say anything!!!"

"Just get a swordsman," put in another unfamiliar voice. "Any will do. Really."

Akidzuki stepped into the room.

A floorboard creaked under his feet.

Everyone whipped around and stared.

"I heard a swordsman was needed," he muttered lamely, scratching his head with a nervous chuckle. "Since I laid mine down, it has gotten rusty - but will it do?"

"Akidzuki-kun!" gasped Kakunojo, tears in her eyes.

She ran forward, arms open.

They embraced tightly.

"You've come back," she sniffed, her breath tickled in his ear.

"As I promised," he kissed her softly on the cheek, drawing back to look her over. To take stock of change.

She looked the same - her brown hair neatly tucked away under a dark wig in a fancy hairstyle. Her kimono artfully placed just so - the color of the silk bringing out the color of her eyes. And over it, sakura blossoms and purple-blue butterflies. It took his breath away.

His gaze dropping to her feet, shifted over to his booted ones. And suddenly, he felt self-conscious behind the tie.

What do I look like to her?

Their eyes met. Love shone back at him and Akidzuki thought he finally understood. What the world couldn't offer - the place he needed to be - who he was - where he was to be...

Sakamoto-sama, I went to see a larger world - to understand our - my place on this earth. What we fight for, hope for, compromise for -

It's not a butterfly's dream, Sensei, after all - it's right here -


He smiled down at her again, finding her hands in his and squeezed them tight.

"I'm home."

-End-



* I almost didn't post this, since romance doesn't really belong in a genfic (not in large doses, anyway). However, I decided that while the romance does hold a large part of the story's attention, more is given to more general themes. So it stays, but I thought I should warn any readers who (like me) aren't big fans of romance. ^^;;

And senbongenma, I'm sorry for taking so long to post this! I had to mess with the spacing so that it was formatted the same way as the others, and that took a while since it was so long. (Which is not at all a criticism, by the way!) ^^; Thanks so much for your patience!
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