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* Aiko finds Kagemaru while the others are busy getting food and decorations ready for the party, which they are not allowed to help with
<Kagemaru> Hey Aichan
<Aiko> hey *smiles*
<Kagemaru> not allowed in there either?
<Aiko> nope, silly family
<Kagemaru> uh huh
<Aiko> but I did manage to sneak out my gift for you
<Kagemaru> oh, really now?
<Aiko> so what do you say, want to celebrate a little early?
<Kagemaru> hmm... that would make us out to be pretty impatient, wouldn't it...? yes
* Aiko grins
<Aiko> you know what they say, the eldest are always in a hurry to grow up
<Kagemaru> Yep
<Kagemaru> Amida-kun is too, I think
<Aiko> he's just enamored of you
<Aiko> he talks about you constantly
<Kagemaru> I'm such a hero, ne?
<Aiko> to him you are, yes
<Kagemaru> oh dear oh dear
<Aiko> and dad, too, but since he's here every day it's easier to rave about you
<Kagemaru> I pity the little guy already
* Aiko chuckles
<Aiko> he can be a very serious kid
<Kagemaru> He sure can
* Kagemaru pulls Aiko into a hug. "So, Aichan... did I ever tell you how very very much I... want that present now?"
* Kagemaru is being silly
* Aiko giggles and hugs back
<Aiko> just for that I'm going to make you give me my present first
<Kagemaru> oh you are, huh?
<Aiko> that's right
<Kagemaru> and how're you going to do that?
<Aiko> well... if there's one thing I've learned about the men in this family it's that they can't stand to see a woman cry
<Kagemaru> oh no, you don't
* Aiko scrunches her face up and her lip starts to tremble
<Kagemaru> no, Aichan, no
<Kagemaru> stop that
<Kagemaru> You're getting your present, stop it
* Aiko laughs and hugs him again
<Kagemaru> You're such an evil girl
* Kagemaru hugs her back
<Aiko> I have to be in this family *winks*
<Kagemaru> Uh huh, you do
<Aiko> so... gimme!
<Kagemaru> Then again, you can't stand me crying either, but I'm too old to cry nowadays, so... darn it
* Kagemaru looks through his sash... has lots of pockets in it, gee, I wonder who he gets that from?
* Aiko watches him search and sits down on a rock
* Kagemaru gets out a package, finally... it's tightly, if not all that beautifully wrapped... hands it to Aiko. "Here you go, my sweet... just for you."
* Aiko squeals and takes it, shaking it and then testing the weight in her hands, just to drive him crazy
* Kagemaru got her a nicer writing box than the one she had when he went away
* Aiko smells it and holds it up to the light to examine the wrapped package, as if this will reveal what's inside... did get some ability to move slowly from her mother
<Aiko> hmm
<Aiko> thank you, Maruppe, I will treasure it
* Aiko still hasn't opened it
* Kagemaru also got her a pretty bracelet, it's inside the box
<Kagemaru> You're welcome, my dearest sister.
* Kagemaru attempts the patient houshi look.
<Aiko> it's just such a nice wrapping, I think I'll leave it on there
<Kagemaru> Alright.
<Aiko> I mean, I always wanted a rectangular paper-covered object
<Kagemaru> If you don't want to see what I worked so hard to get you... the gift I spent countless hours thinking about, wanting to get just the right thing for my sister...
* Kagemaru looks slightly hurt, wipes away a fake tear
* Aiko laughs and then hugs him
<Aiko> ohh, not fair
* Kagemaru hugs back
<Aiko> ok, I guess I have to open it then *sighsigh*
<Kagemaru> You started it, sis
* Kagemaru grins
* Aiko unwraps it gleefully
<Aiko> ohhh! it's so pretty Maruppe, and it will hold all my brushes!
* Aiko hugs again, tighter this time
* Kagemaru hugs back
<Kagemaru> I was hoping you wouldn't have gotten a prettier box yet
<Kagemaru> because you said you wanted one, last time I was here
<Aiko> no, I'm still using the old one
* Aiko grins
<Kagemaru> good *grins back*
<Aiko> look at the carving, oh it's so pretty
* Aiko feels the smooth grain of the polished wood
<Kagemaru> I thought it'd suit you... then again, you were always a woman of exquisite taste
<Aiko> I love it ^_^
* Aiko twirls around happily
<Kagemaru> there's more... open it
<Aiko> what? oh no, I only got you one thing!
* Kagemaru grins. "the next thing was pretty cheap, shush"
* Kagemaru might've aquired it the, uh, family way
* Aiko gives him a "you shouldn't have" look, and opens the box
<Aiko> ooohh... Maruppe, this wasn't cheap...
* Aiko picks the bracelet up and admires it
<Kagemaru> uh huh, it was
<Kagemaru> for you *grins*
<Aiko> but... it looks really elaborate
* Aiko traces the inset jade and cinnabar
<Kagemaru> I got it off a wandering peddler... dunno why he sold it so cheaply, but I did pray over it, just in case
* Kagemaru is lying, but is good at it
<Aiko> wow, that was so lucky
* Aiko grins and puts it on, admiring her wrist
<Aiko> maybe he didn't know how valuable it is... was it dirty or something?
* Aiko can be a little naive
<Kagemaru> a bit, I suppose
* Kagemaru grins and kisses her cheek
<Aiko> hmm, well, even if it's fake, it's really lovely
<Kagemaru> Happy birthday, neechan
* Aiko hugs him and kisses his cheek in return
<Aiko> thank you
<Aiko> I feel bad now, I didn't get you anything this nice
<Kagemaru> it's ok, I have to make up for having you have to wait three weeks to celebrate your birthday, after all, right?
<Aiko> heh, yeah... I guess so
<Aiko> promise you'll at least pretend to like it?
<Kagemaru> I promise you I'll love it, even if you just got me a broken cartwheel, oh lovely sister of mine *nods solemny*
<Kagemaru> and I will get straps to carry it with me on all my travels, so that I can always keep the gift you picked for me close to me
<Aiko> you won't have to use straps, it's small
* Aiko chuckles and pulls out a soft cloth pouch... the fabric looks a little worn, but the stitching is clearly new and carefully done
<Kagemaru> oh, ok
<Aiko> I made it, out of the blanket you used to carry around
<Kagemaru> oooh, my old blanket?
<Aiko> yeah... I found it a few months ago when I was helping clean out some of the trunks
* Kagemaru hugs her tightly
* Aiko hugs back
<Aiko> but there's a little more to it... look inside
<Kagemaru> I missed blankey
<Kagemaru> oh, there is?
* Aiko has put in locks of everyone's hair
* Aiko labelled them, too
* Kagemaru takes it and does that little teasing-thing she did, then opens it
<Kagemaru> oooh... it's all your hairs!
<Aiko> heh, it's silly, I know
<Aiko> but I got the idea from dad
<Aiko> you know he still carries his mother's hair around, after all this time
<Kagemaru> no, no... it's perfect... I can always keep a piece of you with me...
* Kagemaru nods
<Aiko> I thought, with as much traveling as you do...
<Aiko> well, I know how much we miss you
<Kagemaru> and I do miss you too
<Aiko> like I said, it's nothing all that nice...
<Kagemaru> it is, Aichan, it is
* Aiko smiles at him
<Aiko> you mean it?
<Kagemaru> it means so much to me, you wouldn't believe it
* Kagemaru hugs her again
* Aiko hugs back, long and tightly
<Kagemaru> I love you, neechan
<Aiko> I love you, too
<Kagemaru> and I'm so happy I got to be your brother...
<Aiko> so am I... I know it's wrong, but I feel closer to you than to either of my real siblings
<Aiko> you're my true brother, the brother of my heart and soul
* Kagemaru nods slowly
<Kagemaru> and you're my sister... always my sister, Aichan...
* Aiko feels silly, but is crying, loves her brother so much
* Kagemaru strokes her back softly, is getting pretty teary eyed too
<Kagemaru> are you crying, Aichan?
<Aiko> no *sniff* not really
<Aiko> maybe a little
<Kagemaru> silly *tries to blink away own tears*
<Aiko> I just hate it when you leave and I'm so happy you're here
<Aiko> are you sure none of the brothers are looking for a wife? then I could go with you
<Kagemaru> none of the ones I could stand having you married to...
* Aiko sniffs again
<Aiko> are they that bad?
<Kagemaru> more like boring
<Aiko> boring might be ok if I got to see you all the time
<Kagemaru> dreadfully boring, though
* Aiko laughs softly through her tears and wipes her eyes
<Aiko> ok, ok, I don't think I could handle dreadfully boring
* Kagemaru helps her wipe tears from her cheeks. "I'll come back... you know I will."
<Aiko> yeah *sniffs again* you always do
<Kagemaru> See?
<Kagemaru> I promise I'll come back, always, Aichan
<Aiko> but some day I won't be here anymore
<Aiko> will you visit me when I get married too?
<Kagemaru> Of course
* Aiko smiles
<Aiko> I'm so glad
<Kagemaru> I will glare something awfully at your husband, though
* Aiko giggles
<Kagemaru> silly person, coming to steal my Aichan away
<Kagemaru> but I'll trust your judgement, neechan
<Aiko> thank you ^_^
<Kagemaru> it's probably better than mine
<Aiko> pshht
<Aiko> maybe so, I was born into this family and you choose to stick around *winks*
<Kagemaru> Mhm, see?
<Aiko> definitely something seriously wrong with you
<Kagemaru> Yup
<Aiko> voluntarily putting up with all this silliness
<Kagemaru> Come, let's take a walk... I don't think they'll be done anytime within the next few minutes, at least
* Aiko looks over at the house and nods
<Kagemaru> But it's good silliness, Aichan...
<Aiko> yeah, I know
<Aiko> I make fun, but I know how lucky we are
<Aiko> I mean, no other girls I know can read or write
<Kagemaru> see?
<Kagemaru> and you better teach your kids to, once you have them
<Aiko> of course I will
<Kagemaru> good, good
<Aiko> and you must do the same
* Kagemaru chuckles. "If I have children, I will..."
<Aiko> oh, I think you will
<Aiko> you'll find some pretty girl who captures your heart away
<Aiko> and you'll discover you don't want to wander anymore
<Aiko> just like dad
* Kagemaru smiles slightly
<Kagemaru> that'd be nice
<Aiko> speaking of which, what did he say to you earlier?
<Kagemaru> oh, just, you know, man to man talk
<Kagemaru> asking me just what I'd done
<Kagemaru> and telling me how to behave
<Kagemaru> and... stuff
<Aiko> did he give you any pointers? *winks*
<Kagemaru> a few, heh
* Aiko laughs
<Aiko> gods, he's hopeless
<Kagemaru> yeah
<Kagemaru> he was kinda stuck on how to start, though
<Kagemaru> I wonder if he'll let mom have the talk with you
<Aiko> hmmm
<Aiko> well... I mean, it's not like I don't know what she thinks about things
<Kagemaru> yeah...
<Aiko> she's said so many times how lucky she was to save herself for the man she loved... she's not very subtle at hinting
<Aiko> and to be honest, I'm not very tempted by the boys around here
* Kagemaru kisses her cheek
<Aiko> they're all either obsessed with fighting or related to me... or way too young or way too old
<Kagemaru> heh, yeah
<Kagemaru> we'll have to find someone better for you
<Aiko> and I think I'd die if I married a farmer
<Kagemaru> hmmm... a merchant'd be good, I think
<Kagemaru> he'd travel a bit, so you'd get to move around, see more of the world...
<Aiko> oh... yeah, the merchant has a pretty cute son, actually, the one who comes by every few months
<Kagemaru> and he'd be wealthy enough to take care of all your expensive habits *winks*
<Aiko> hey, you're the one plying me with expensive gifts
<Kagemaru> oh yeah, that's right
<Aiko> all I need is a man who can keep me in rice, clothes, and ink
<Kagemaru> oh, yeah, he needs to be open-minded enough to let you keep writing, too
<Aiko> well, I'm certainly not going to stop for any man
<Kagemaru> and any man who even tries to hit my Aichan is going to get it where it really hurts
<Kagemaru> and he'd have to be smart enough that you wouldn't get bored...
<Kagemaru> though I doubt we could find a guy quite smart enough for you
<Aiko> don't worry, Saku-chan and dad have both already promised to castrate anyone who hurts me... and kindness can make up for smart if he's willing to listen
<Kagemaru> but at least he should be a bit above the "well, gosh Aiko, yoo're sooo purrdy"-level
<Aiko> wow, Maruppe, you really need to work on your pick up lines
<Kagemaru> then again, you don't want a sweet talker
* Aiko laughs and grabs his hand
<Aiko> don't worry about me, niichan, I'll figure it out
<Kagemaru> you better
<Aiko> 16... I feel so old
<Kagemaru> me too
<Aiko> like just the other day Hana-chan was in diapers
<Kagemaru> yeah
<Kagemaru> ...remember when we first changed them?
<Kagemaru> 'cause mother was so sleepy?
<Aiko> eww, yes
<Aiko> gods we made a mess
<Kagemaru> yeah, heh
<Aiko> and trying to keep Ami-chan out of it... eww
<Kagemaru> and she still wouldn't get mad at us... gods, I felt so bad over it
<Aiko> well, she hardly ever got mad, really
<Kagemaru> yeah...
<Aiko> just if we did something really really dangerous
* Kagemaru nods
<Aiko> like the time I tried to sit on you underwater
<Kagemaru> heh, yeah
<Kagemaru> you dangerous person
<Aiko> I was five!
<Kagemaru> I still have nightmares of it, some times *winks at her*
<Aiko> awww, my poor Maruppe, tortured by memories of my abuse
<Kagemaru> Yeah, you should pity the poor, defenseless guy I was back then
<Aiko> you were pretty scrawny
<Kagemaru> Mhm
<Kagemaru> and I got sick so often... gods
<Aiko> I remember watching you and dad practicing martial arts outside and thinking your arms looked like sticks
<Kagemaru> hey, you did too, sometimes...
<Aiko> sometimes
<Kagemaru> I know you know how to throw me, at least
<Aiko> that's right, watch out for me, I'm a regular killer
* Kagemaru chuckles
<Aiko> how'd you get so tall all of a sudden anyway?
<Aiko> you were always shorter than me before
<Kagemaru> well... I guess it might be because I'm a teenaged boy or something...
<Aiko> must be
<Aiko> I don't think I'm going to get much taller than this... I'm already taller than mom
<Kagemaru> yeah
<Kagemaru> I guess whoever my real mother was, she was taller than mother...
<Aiko> maybe not, Amida's pretty tall already... you must have had at least one tallish parent, though
<Kagemaru> yeah
* Aiko looks out over the river and sighs
<Aiko> tell me... is it better out there? outside this tiny little village?
<Kagemaru> I don't know, really
<Kagemaru> sometimes I think it is
<Kagemaru> but I miss this life when I'm gone, too
<Aiko> I suppose we always want what we don't have
<Kagemaru> yeah, something like that
<Aiko> it's not that I'm unhappy here
<Aiko> and I get scared of leaving, because this is all I've ever known
<Aiko> but... something just makes me want to get out, you know?
* Kagemaru nods
<Kagemaru> maybe I could take you with me on some travel... maybe not a long one, but... a shorter one, at least?
<Aiko> you think you could?
<Kagemaru> I think so... I mean, it's not like they can decide everything for me at the monastary... and mother and father know you want to get out more... and I can be responsible... if it's important...
<Aiko> hehe, that sounds very convincing
<Aiko> it would be nice, though
<Kagemaru> well... father in particular... he knows the urge to get out, you know he does...
<Aiko> he gets it too...
<Kagemaru> yeah...
<Aiko> but he rarely even goes on missions for the shrine anymore
<Kagemaru> so he'll understand if you want to travel a bit... and a trip for just a week or two... it would let you see quite a bit, without taking you too far from home...
* Aiko smiles and nods
<Aiko> let's ask tonight after the celebration
<Kagemaru> Alright
* Kagemaru grins at her
<Kagemaru> We already did travel far longer than Amida and Hana-chan...
<Aiko> yeah, but it was so long ago we can't even remember, which is totally unfair
<Kagemaru> yeah...
<Kagemaru> I can imagine the sea, though...
<Aiko> me too... when I close my eyes
<Kagemaru> Yeah... *grins slightly*
<Kagemaru> an endless body of water... and the smell...
<Aiko> yeah... and sand... it's almost there, you know
<Kagemaru> yeah...
<Aiko> I don't suppose they'd let us go that far
<Kagemaru> no, probably not...
<Kagemaru> it's a two year trip...
<Aiko> well, to that part of the sea it is
<Kagemaru> oh, yeah, heh
<Aiko> I've seen maps, though, it would only take a month or so if you went straight there
* Kagemaru nods
<Kagemaru> True...
<Aiko> even so, I don't think we could get away for that long
<Kagemaru> maybe they still wouldn't allow us to, though... I don't know... probably not, but... it could be worth asking...
<Aiko> yeah...
<Aiko> it can't hurt, right?
* Kagemaru looks back. "We should probably start heading back..."
<Kagemaru> nope, don't think so
* Aiko nods
<Aiko> yay, ok, so right after the celebration we'll get mom and dad alone and ask them
* Aiko turns around with Kagemaru and starts heading back
<Kagemaru> Alright
<Aiko> is something wrong?
<Kagemaru> No, I'm just thinking, I guess
<Aiko> do you want to talk about it?
<Kagemaru> heh, it's not important
<Aiko> oh, I'm sure it is, you're important to me
<Aiko> but if you don't want to talk about it, that's ok too
<Kagemaru> I was thinking about the future... I have absolutely no idea how I'll end up...
<Aiko> do any of us?
<Kagemaru> I guess not, heh
<Aiko> I mean, I can't really imagine being married and having kids
<Aiko> but I know I probably will
* Kagemaru nods slowly
<Kagemaru> but, see... I know you're the kind of person who will probably end up like that... I mean, ten years from now... I can see you being a sweet little mother, married to some merchant guy and all... *squeezes her hand*
* Aiko squeezes back
<Kagemaru> and Amida'll be a houshi, and probably end up like father... falling for some cute girl and have a dozen kids...
<Kagemaru> and Hana... Hana'll stay home, and marry someone here, and have children, and take care of the teahouse, I guess...
<Kagemaru> or something like that...
<Aiko> you don't think you'll be like Amida and dad?
<Aiko> I think you will
<Aiko> I think you'll fall in love and be a great dad
<Kagemaru> I don't know... *sighs*
<Aiko> well I do
<Kagemaru> I like kids, sure... I think I can handle being a dad... but... I don't know...
<Aiko> I know the kind of man you're capable of being
<Aiko> I've seen your kindness and you don't have to tell me that sometimes it's not your first instinct
<Kagemaru> it's not, though
<Aiko> but you don't go with the mean, you always choose kindness
<Kagemaru> just because I'm afraid... *sighs*
<Aiko> afraid?
<Kagemaru> if I didn't keep that instinct down, yeah...
* Aiko hugs him
<Aiko> you're a good person
* Kagemaru hugs back
<Aiko> you choose to be good and so you are
<Aiko> that's what's important
<Aiko> no matter why, and I think it's because you love us, not because you're afraid
<Aiko> you love us and you know we love you
<Kagemaru> maybe...
* Aiko mock gasps
<Aiko> are you trying to tell me you've been lying to me all this time you cad?
<Kagemaru> No, no... *chuckles*
* Aiko grins
<Aiko> thought not
<Kagemaru> I'm sorry, I'm too deep in thought right now...
<Aiko> well, just don't get broody and moody right before it's time to have fun
<Aiko> I'd hate to have to sit on you underwater again to prove a point
<Kagemaru> Alright, alright
<Aiko> good *grins at him*
<Kagemaru> Do you think there's one soulmate for everybody, Aichan?
<Aiko> I think so, look at mom and dad
<Kagemaru> Yeah, that was what I was thinking, heh
<Aiko> I mean, honestly, can you imagine them ever getting together as different as they are?
<Kagemaru> No, heh
<Aiko> but I can't imagine them with anyone else, either
* Kagemaru shakes his head
<Aiko> so you see?
<Aiko> had to be fate
<Kagemaru> Yeah... do you think everybody has that kind of bond with someone, though?
<Aiko> I don't know....
<Aiko> I think everyone has that chance
<Aiko> but I don't know that everyone finds it
<Aiko> at least not in every lifetime
<Kagemaru> yeah...
<Kagemaru> what if that person is dead before you find them?
<Aiko> I don't know, Maruppe, maybe dad knows... he's more knowledgable about stuff like that
<Kagemaru> I guess...
<Aiko> I still think we get the chance... maybe I'm just too optimistic
<Kagemaru> Yeah...
<Kagemaru> and if I never find a soul-mate to marry, at least I have you, ne?
<Aiko> heh, yeah
<Aiko> but I'm not kissing you, that would just be icky
<Kagemaru> yeah, eww
<Kagemaru> 'sides, I can find other girls to kiss
<Aiko> oh, I'm sure you can Mr. I'm too sexy to shave my head
<Kagemaru> you know you love my hair, Aichan
<Kagemaru> and I keep it shorter than dad does
<Aiko> true
<Aiko> on both counts *winks*
* Kagemaru grins at her. "Would I lie to you?"
<Aiko> hmmm
<Kagemaru> Rhetorically speaking.
<Aiko> good thing you added that
<Kagemaru> Which means I don't really want a reply. *winks*
<Aiko> can't imagine why not since you already know the answer
<Kagemaru> Psht
<Kagemaru> Maybe I want to believe that my twin still has some good beliefs concerning me
<Aiko> many wonderful beliefs, and I may not be as tricky as you and dad are, but I'm not exactly mom either
* Kagemaru grins at her
<Kagemaru> if you say so
<Aiko> I do
* Aiko looks at the house and sees Hana standing outside impatiently "I think we're wanted..."
<Kagemaru> heh, seems like it
* Kagemaru and Aiko were just returning from their walk
* Hanaai is standing outside, trying to find them
* Hanaai was sent out to bring them in, see
<Aiko> if we run away now, they'll never find us
* Hanaai spots them and waves
<Kagemaru> Probably not, no...
<Aiko> she saw us, it's all over
<Kagemaru> oh, yeah... darn
<Kagemaru> I guess we'll just have to meet with our doom, then
* Hanaai runs over to them
* Aiko picks her up
<Hanaai> We've finished preparing stuff now, so you're allowed inside again, says mommy
* Hanaai hugs Aiko
<Aiko> gods, you're way too heavy for this
<Hanaai> am not!
<Aiko> are too, but it's ok
<Hanaai> Daddy says I'm as light as a pretty little flower
<Aiko> yeah, well, daddy says a lot of things
<Aiko> also, he can lift big rocks with one hand and I can't
<Hanaai> uh huh
<Hanaai> Daddy's real strong
<Hanaai> Maruppe's too, I think
<Aiko> well, let's see
<Aiko> catch
* Kagemaru grins at her. "You think so, huh, little flower?"
* Aiko tosses her over
* Kagemaru catches her
<Aiko> not bad
* Kagemaru swings her around a bit before settling her on his hip
* Hanaai laughs and gives Kagemaru a hug too
<Hanaai> You don't think I'm heavy, right, Maruppe?
<Kagemaru> No, no my little flower, far from it
<Hanaai> Good
<Kagemaru> then again, you're pretty short
<Kagemaru> pretty and short... I guess you take after mother alot
<Hanaai> Maaaaybe...
<Aiko> psht, now you've got him saying it too
* Hanaai grins at Aiko
<Kagemaru> Aww, Aichan, you're pretty too
<Aiko> yeah, yeah
<Aiko> I'm plain and you know it
<Kagemaru> nuh uh
<Kagemaru> Your eyes are light like a beacon, helping the weary traveller remember to return
* Aiko rolls said eyes, but smiles
<Aiko> you're hopeless
<Hanaai> I think you're pretty, Aichan
<Aiko> thank you, Hana-chan
<Hanaai> Really!
* Amida sticks his head out the door
<Amida> hurry up the food's getting cold
* Kagemaru puts down Hana
<Kagemaru> Alright, alright, we're coming in
<Amida> good
* Hanaai runs in ahead of the others
* Amida ducks back inside
<Aiko> patience isn't a strong suit in this family is it?
<Kagemaru> Hmmm... probably not, no
<Kagemaru> Come on, let's go in
* Aiko nods and heads inside with her brother
* Gyoshoku and the rest are standing around the table when they come in and start clapping for them
* Kagemaru blushes just a bit... it's the... heat from entering the house from outside... yes
* Aiko blushes too, and squeezes his hand
<Gyoshoku> happy birthday, kids
* Kagemaru squeezes back
<Hanaai> happy birthday!
* Hanaai grins widely at them
<Amida> yeah, happy birthday, come and open your presents already
<Kumiko> Amida-kun, try to relax a little, will you?
<Kumiko> Happy birthday, Maruppe, Aichan *smiles at them*
<Amida> sorry, it's just so exciting
* Amida runs out and hugs Kagemaru around the middle
* Kagemaru hugs back. "I'm glad you think so, little brother."
* Amida then hugs Aiko, and grins at them both "I made you such neat stuff!"
<Kagemaru> You did, huh?
<Aiko> I can't wait
<Kagemaru> Me neither
<Gyoshoku> well, you have to because your mother's gift is first, and that's this wonderful food she made
<Gyoshoku> so come and sit and eat
* Aiko walks over and hugs Kumiko "it looks great, mom, thanks"
* Kagemaru follows Aiko
<Kagemaru> Yes, truly delicious, mother
* Kumiko hugs them both back
<Kumiko> Happy birthday, my children
* Aiko sits and is soon followed by her little brother, who is anxious to keep things moving along
* Kagemaru sits as well, next to Aiko
* Hanaai helps Kumiko serve... that is, Kumiko does the actual serving, and Hana hands the plates back and forth
* Gyoshoku helps by staying out of the way and not breaking anything
* Kumiko is grateful for his help
<Amida> dad and I hung the lanterns, Maruppe
<Kagemaru> I could've guessed
<Kagemaru> Mother is amazing in many ways, but you have to be tall to hang lanterns like that
<Amida> well, I did it, dad just lifted me
<Amida> and I got to pick which ones went where
<Kagemaru> and you've shown an amazing talant at it, Amida-kun
* Amida grins
<Amida> it balances, look
* Kagemaru nods solemny. "I guess you'll have to give up your career as a houshi and become a lantern-up-hanger instead"
* Amida frowns
* Amida looks at Gyo "is that a real job?"
* Kagemaru chuckles
<Gyoshoku> no, he's teasing you
<Amida> oh...*smiles*
<Amida> it didn't seem like it would be a very good job
<Gyoshoku> no, I imagine it would get very boring after a while
<Kagemaru> what, you've got something against the wonderful prospect of hanging up lanterns for the rest of your days?
<Amida> I think I'd rather be a houshi....
<Kagemaru> Aw, ok
<Kagemaru> being a houshi is pretty ok too
<Amida> but you could still change your mind, Maruppe
<Kagemaru> Oh, I could, could I?
<Amida> mhm, I bet you could get a job doing anything you wanted
<Amida> even... kissing girls!
* Gyoshoku starts laughing and can't stop
* Kagemaru laughs as well
<Aiko> Amida!
* Amida is happy to have made them laugh
* Kagemaru tries to stop laughing, spots Gyo, and is unable to
* Gyoshoku is holding his sides and shaking
<Amida> what, that's not a job?
* Gyoshoku laughs harder
<Aiko> no, it's not, now hush
<Amida> you're not mom, stop bossing me around
<Kagemaru> oh gods... Aichan... help, I can't breath.... *laughs*
* Aiko huffs and then chuckles a little herself at Kagemaru
<Aiko> calm down, Maruppe
* Kagemaru takes a deep breath, trying to calm down
* Gyoshoku does as well
* Kumiko pats Gyo's shoulder lightly
<Gyoshoku> Amida...hahahaha....Ami....hahaha.....Amida, that's not...*breaks into laughter again*
* Kagemaru starts laughing as well, leans against Aiko
* Gyoshoku looks at Kumiko a little helplessly
<Kagemaru> Aichan... make me... stop... *laughs*
<Aiko> you two are pitiful
<Aiko> what do you want me to do, slap you?
* Kumiko puts her arm around Gyo. "Calm down, Gyo..."
<Kagemaru> Yeeeess... anything...
* Gyoshoku laughs into her shoulder and eventually calms down
* Gyoshoku takes a deep breath
<Hanaai> Daddy, take a longer breath before tellin' Amida anything
<Hanaai> 'cause otherwise you might start laughing anyway again
* Aiko sticks her tongue out at Kagemaru and then yanks on his hair
<Kagemaru> owowow
<Aiko> you said anything
* Kagemaru is still grinning insanely, but also grimacing in pain
<Kagemaru> I have such a cruel sister
* Gyoshoku takes a few more breaths before trying to say anything else
* Amida looks at all the chaos he caused, a little bewhildered
<Amida> did I say something that wrong?
<Gyoshoku> no... well... sort of... but, it's ok, son
* Kagemaru grins widely
<Gyoshoku> I just think Maruppe would like that job a little too much for his own good
<Amida> but you said we're supposed to like what we do
<Kagemaru> You told me that it is always good to get satisfaction in your work, father
<Gyoshoku> oh gods
* Gyoshoku starts laughing again
* Kumiko actually pinches him a bit this time
* Kumiko has grown violent over the years!
<Gyoshoku> owow
* Kumiko smiles at him. "Calm down, Gyo..."
* Aiko looks to Kumiko "Mother, tell Amida, Dad's completely hopeless"
<Amida> he is not
* Gyoshoku looks a little hopeless right now, actually, is holding his side and taking deep breaths and also holding his leg where he was pinched
* Kumiko smiles at Amida. "It's a bit complicated, Amida-kun... but... I think you'll understand it better when you get a little older."
* Kumiko places one hand on top of Gyo's
* Kagemaru is just breathing here... yes.. making sure he doesn't break into laughter and such
* Amida frowns a little thoughtfully, but nods
* Gyoshoku sighs, tears in his eyes
<Kumiko> If you have more questions, I'll try to answer them, but I'm not sure I can answer them all very well
<Gyoshoku> not now, please, or I might die from lack of breath
<Aiko> you're so embarrassing, dad
* Kagemaru is doing a breathing exercise they taught him at the monastary.. finally trusts himself to open his eyes again
<Kagemaru> and I'm not, Aichan?
<Aiko> well, it's a little better when you're not married with a bunch of kids and acting this way
<Kagemaru> Heh, true
* Hanaai pats Gyo's hand. "I don't think you're embarrassing, daddy"
* Gyoshoku wipes his eyes and smiles at Aiko "sorry, dear, I'll try to act my age and thank you Hana-chan, but your sister's right, I'm a blight on any family" *winks*
* Hanaai shakes her head
<Hanaai> nuh uh, you're not
* Aiko sighs in a deeply teenaged persecuted way
<Aiko> you'll know what I go through some day, Hana-chan
* Gyoshoku decides to actually start eating
<Hanaai> I will?
<Aiko> hai, because one day you will be a woman surrounded by...perverts
* Gyoshoku chokes a little on his food but manages to swallow
* Hanaai looks thoughtful, then looks up to Gyo
<Hanaai> what's a pervert, daddy?
* Gyoshoku closes his eyes and wills himself not to break into laughter again
* Gyoshoku keeps it together, barely
<Gyoshoku> care to field this one, Kumiko?
<Kumiko> It's a man who likes women a little too much, Hana-chan
<Amida> I thought it was something else, cause I heard that guy in the village say Uncles Dai and Kai were perverts cause they were both married to the same woman... or something
<Aiko> oh, they're perverts too
<Kumiko> well... it could mean something like that too... uhm... *looks to Gyo helplessly*
<Gyoshoku> ok, ok...we'll put it this way
<Gyoshoku> some people *looks to Aiko pointedly* like to judge other people because of who or how they love other people... and if they disapprove they can call them a pervert
<Hanaai> Oh... ok
<Gyoshoku> I think the world would be very boring without the so-called perverts, but that's likely because I've been accused of being one on more than one occassion and I'm a little biased on the matter
<Hanaai> I won't call you a pervert ever
* Aiko turns bright red and gets up from the table
<Aiko> excuse me
* Aiko runs to her shared bedroom and closes the door behind her
* Aiko is a moody teenaged girl
<Amida> she's so weird
* Kagemaru gets up as well. "Excuse me too..."
* Kagemaru walks over there, opens the door slightly and knocks. "*whispered* can I come in, Aichan?"
* Gyoshoku looks at him and nods, sorry he caused Aiko to be so upset
* Aiko is crying on her futon
<Aiko> 'kay *sobs*
* Kagemaru sees that and enters, closing the door behind him and sitting down next to her
<Aiko> they all hate me
<Kagemaru> no, they don't
<Kagemaru> it's a difficult time, I think, for both of us
* Aiko tries to calm down
<Kagemaru> we love our family, but want to break free of it at the same time
<Kagemaru> create our own life
* Aiko nods into the futon
<Kagemaru> I'm already well on my way to doing so... what with living at the monastary and all...
<Aiko> I don't really think you're a pervert... or dad, not really
<Kagemaru> I know, Aichan, I know...
<Aiko> but... it's not exactly normal... is it?
<Kagemaru> what is?
<Aiko> how much he just says what he wants to, it's embarrassing
<Kagemaru> I guess not...
<Kagemaru> I guess I'm just distanced enough by now not to take offense...
<Gyoshoku> maybe I should apologise...
<Aiko> I'm not offended
<Aiko> I'm just... I don't know
* Aiko finally looks up at Kagemaru
<Kagemaru> and I think father said that because he didn't think you'd take offense
<Aiko> I thought it was funny, too... I'm as bad as he is
<Kagemaru> because he knows... as well as you and I do, that you only call us perverts out of fun
<Aiko> no one's going to marry a girl like me
<Kagemaru> Yes, they are
<Kagemaru> they're all going to be crazy for you
<Kagemaru> a fun girl like you
<Aiko> not if they really know what I think
* Kagemaru pulls her up into a hug
* Aiko hugs back
<Kagemaru> but, see, when you call us perverts, we don't mind
<Kagemaru> and you know we don't mind
<Kagemaru> and we know you know it
<Aiko> I shouldn't have said it in front of Amida and Hana-chan
<Kagemaru> It's ok, Aichan
<Aiko> I just get so mad sometimes, cause you can laugh... and I can't
<Kagemaru> but you want to laugh?
<Aiko> girls don't laugh at dirty jokes... it's not ladylike
<Kagemaru> if you want to laugh, then laugh, sister dearest
<Aiko> but...
<Kagemaru> you've got so much time left to be a proper lady later
<Kagemaru> I don't want my Aichan to be sad because she feels she has to act a certain way
<Aiko> I have too much of Dad in me to ever really be a lady, Maruppe... I guess I just don't want anyone to know
* Kagemaru kisses the top of her head
<Kagemaru> we're your family, right?
<Aiko> right
<Kagemaru> do you mind your family finding out that you actually are your father's daughter?
<Aiko> I guess not, heh
<Kagemaru> so don't worry about it, at least not here at home
<Kagemaru> when you're out with other people, then you can think about how you act
* Aiko nods and pulls out of the hug
<Kagemaru> but here at home... just be you
<Aiko> thanks, Maruppe
* Kagemaru smiles at her
* Aiko wipes her eyes
<Kagemaru> any time, Aichan
* Aiko smiles back
<Aiko> now I have to go back in there, I ruined the whole celebration
<Kagemaru> yeah, you did, you silly little bugger... made me leave my food and everything... by now, Amida-kun has probably eaten it all in silent hero-worship
* Aiko laughs
<Aiko> I bet there's plenty more
<Kagemaru> mhm, probably
<Kagemaru> you know how mother gets
<Aiko> yeah
* Aiko gets up and sighs
<Aiko> you're the best
<Kagemaru> I know, I know
* Kagemaru gets up as well
<Kagemaru> and I'm oh so very humble, too
<Aiko> clearly
* Aiko runs her hand through her hair and goes back out into the main room
* Kagemaru follows her
* Aiko takes her seat again and looks around the table "I'm sorry... I just got a little... I'm sorry"
* Kagemaru sits down next to her
* Amida mumbles around a mouthful of food "'sok"
* Hanaai nods
<Hanaai> 's long as you don't get sad :)
<Kumiko> yeah... it's alright, sweetie
* Gyoshoku smiles at Aiko and pats her hand "I'm just glad you're ok"
* Aiko smiles at everyone, a little embarrassed still, and goes back to eating
* Kumiko eats slowly, as usual
* Amida eats a lot, as usual
* Hanaai eats slowly too... and does the playing with her chopsticks thing her mother does too...
* Hanaai takes after Kumiko in so many ways
* Kagemaru eats normally
* Aiko does as well
* Kagemaru is pretty amused by the other members of the family, and their manners of eating, though
* Gyoshoku has never analysed his eating style
* Gyoshoku taps his bowl with his chopsticks when the eating is finally over
<Gyoshoku> alright, it's time for presents
* Kagemaru grins slightly
* Aiko does as well
* Hanaai nods enthusiastically
* Amida looks up excitedly, rice stuck to his cheek
<Amida> yay!
* Hanaai sees the rice on Amida's cheek and smiles
* Hanaai reaches over and picks it away for him
* Amida looks at it and then laughs
<Amida> thanks, Hana-chan
<Hanaai> No problem, Ami-chan *smiles at him*
<Gyoshoku> just for that I think Hanaai should go first
<Hanaai> Ooh, me?
<Gyoshoku> yes, you, little one
<Hanaai> Oh... ok
* Hanaai gets up and runs over to where she put her gifts for them, then brings them over to the twins
* Gyoshoku helps Kumiko clear the table so there's room on it for presents
<Hanaai> 's nothing much special, but... *blushes and hands them over*
* Aiko takes hers and smiles at Hana
<Aiko> of course it's special, it's from my sister
* Kagemaru takes his as well, and nods
<Kagemaru> Yeah, it is... thank you, Hana-chan
* Hanaai hugs them both
<Hanaai> Happy birthday, Aichan
<Hanaai> Happy birthday, Maruppe
* Aiko hugs back and then opens her gift and reads the poem inside
* Hanaai watches her nervously
<Aiko> awww, it's very sweet, Hana-chan, thank you
<Aiko> I love you, too
* Hanaai smiles at her
* Kagemaru opens his as well and reads his poem in turn
<Kagemaru> I think we have a poet amongst us... and I love you too, Hana-chan *smiles at her*
* Hanaai smiles back at him too
<Amida> is it my turn?!
<Hanaai> 'kay...
* Hanaai looks to Gyo
* Gyoshoku chuckles and nods
<Amida> yay!
* Amida goes and gets his presents and hands them to Aiko and Kagemaru
* Hanaai walks back to Kumiko and crawls up in her lap
* Kagemaru takes his present, grinning at Amida. "Thank you, Amida-kun."
* Gyoshoku pats her head
* Amida grins back
<Amida> you're welcome, hurry up and open it
* Kagemaru shakes it slowly
* Kagemaru eyes the packaging
* Amida bites his lip nervously
* Kagemaru turns it around a bit, then smiles at Amida
* Aiko laughs and watches Kagemaru
<Kagemaru> Thank you, dear brother, I will treasure it forever
<Amida> OPEN IT!
* Kagemaru laughs and opens it
<Kagemaru> oooh, it's a house
<Amida> it's -our- house
<Kagemaru> so it is *grins*
<Amida> it's so you don't forget us
* Aiko opens her gift, which is a nicely carved ring made of wood
<Aiko> oh, Ami-kun, thank you, it's so pretty
* Aiko puts it on
<Kagemaru> I will never forget you, Amida, you should have more trust in me *grins slightly at him*
<Kagemaru> but thank you
* Amida grins at both of them and then bows and goes and sits down again
<Gyoshoku> well, I guess that's it for the presents... let's start cleaning up
<Hanaai> What?
* Amida blinks at his father
<Hanaai> You said you had presents too
<Gyoshoku> oh, that's right, I almost forgot
<Gyoshoku> thank you for reminding me, Hana-chan *winks*
<Kagemaru> Yeah, right
* Kagemaru chuckles
* Aiko rolls her eyes and chuckles as well
<Aiko> you're so silly, dad
<Hanaai> You're welcome!
<Gyoshoku> alright, I guess this means I have to get up
<Hanaai> Yep
* Gyoshoku goes into his bedroom and brings out his gifts for the twins
<Gyoshoku> now, I don't have many treasures, apart from my family, so I can only pass on to you some things that were passed on to me
* Kagemaru blinks
* Gyoshoku hands Aiko her gift and waits for her to open it
* Aiko takes it
* Kagemaru watches Aiko's present carefully
<Aiko> oh, it's heavy
* Aiko unwraps it and blinks at it "A teapot..it's so pretty."
<Gyoshoku> that belonged to my mother, and your mother carried it all the way back from her kingdom when you were a very small child
<Gyoshoku> we agreed then to give it to you
* Kumiko smiles at Aiko
<Aiko> ...oh... wow...
<Aiko> I don't know what to say... it's... it's so special
* Aiko blinks back tears and looks between her parents
<Aiko> th...thank you
* Gyoshoku just smiles at her, warmly
<Kumiko> It's only fair that you get it... *smiles*
<Gyoshoku> it's always been yours, but now you're old enough to take care of it
* Kumiko nods
* Kagemaru whispers to Aiko. "So now you get to make me tea when I come around, instead of having mother do it."
* Aiko sticks her tongue out at him
<Gyoshoku> now, for you, Kagemaru... *hands him a small package with an intricately carved prayer wheel inside*
* Kagemaru takes the package, slowly unwraping it
<Kagemaru> it's... wow... it's so beautiful... *stares at it*
* Gyoshoku smiles at him and nods "one of the few things I have that once belonged to my father"
<Kagemaru> and... you're giving it to me... wow... *swallows*
<Gyoshoku> I'm very proud of you
<Kagemaru> thank you, father...
* Gyoshoku nods at him, smiling
<Gyoshoku> I trust you've paid enough attention to know what it is
<Kagemaru> It's a prayer wheel, heh
<Gyoshoku> see, I knew there was a reason to be proud
<Gyoshoku> you've stuck with the training and learned a lot
<Gyoshoku> and I know my father's work will continue in you
* Kagemaru blushes slightly
* Aiko smiles at Kagemaru and pats his arm
<Kagemaru> Sometimes I think I just learn from osmosis, but... thank you
* Amida looks over Kagemaru's shoulder at it
<Amida> it's so cool
* Kagemaru grins
<Kagemaru> oh, yeah, I got you something too, Amida
<Kagemaru> and Hana-chan
<Amida> you did?
* Kagemaru nods
* Hanaai gets out of Kumiko's lap and walks over to the twins again
* Gyoshoku sits back down beside Kumiko and takes her hand
* Kumiko takes his hand in turn and smiles at him
<Kagemaru> Hold on... hmmm... hmmm....
* Kagemaru looks through his sash until he finds the two scrolls, tries to remember which one is which, and then hands one to Amida and one to Hana
* Amida takes his scroll and looks at it
* Hanaai takes her scroll too
* Hanaai unrolls it
<Hanaai> oooh... it's a story!
* Amida reads down a little ways
<Amida> this is so neat, Maruppe, thank you
* Kagemaru grins
* Amida hugs him
<Kagemaru> You're welcome
* Kagemaru hugs back
* Hanaai hugs him too
<Hanaai> Thank you, Maruppe
<Hanaai> you're the best
<Aiko> he knows
* Kagemaru nods
<Kagemaru> You're both welcome
<Kagemaru> I figured the two of you'd like something to read, heh
<Amida> yeah, it's great
* Kagemaru looks over to Gyo for approval
<Amida> this will take ages to read *is thrilled about it*
* Gyoshoku smiles and nods at him
* Kagemaru grins and ruffles Amida's hair
<Kagemaru> well, then you'll have something to do for ages, I guess
* Hanaai nods. "and the story seems really neat... daddy, can I read a bit of it tonight?"
* Amida just nods, already reading it
<Gyoshoku> of course, Hana-chan
<Hanaai> after the celebration, I mean
<Hanaai> or... something... yeah
* Hanaai grins slightly and looks over Amida's shoulder
* Amida is still reading, looks up when he feels her breathing on his neck
* Hanaai smiles at him
<Hanaai> your scroll looks interesting
<Hanaai> but not as fun as mine ^_^;
<Amida> it's fun for me
<Amida> but I wanna hear your story, too
* Hanaai nods
<Hanaai> we can read to eachother?
<Hanaai> or borrow eachother's scroll... or something
* Amida grins and nods back, rolling his scroll back up
<Amida> I'd like that
<Hanaai> me too
* Kumiko is so proud of her children and how good they are at sharing
<Amida> thanks again, Maruppe
<Amida> this is really cool
* Kagemaru grins at him
<Kagemaru> you're welcome
* Kagemaru stores his presents away into his sash
* Aiko gets up and takes hers to her trunk in her room
* Aiko puts her new bracelet and writing box away as well, doesn't want to ruin nice things
* Kumiko squeezes Gyo's hand
* Amida is so anxious to start reading his new scroll
* Gyoshoku squeezes back
* Hanaai wants to hear it too
<Amida> can I be excused to go read?
<Hanaai> and me?
* Gyoshoku laughs softly
<Gyoshoku> yes, but don't strain your eyes
<Amida> I won't!
<Amida> come on, Hana-chan
<Hanaai> Ok!
* Hanaai goes with Amida
* Amida and Hana go to a well lit place to read/listen
* Aiko comes back out into the main room
* Aiko looks at Kagemaru
* Aiko then looks at her parents
* Kagemaru looks back
<Aiko> we had something we wanted to ask you
<Gyoshoku> oh?
<Aiko> yes, something we were hoping to do, that you'd allow
* Kagemaru nods
<Gyoshoku> hmmm...well, I'd be happy to hear your question, but first, I need to talk to your brother alone, Aichan
<Aiko> oh *frowns*
<Aiko> well, I guess this can wait...
<Kagemaru> It'll be ok, ne, neechan?
* Aiko nods
<Aiko> yeah, it's fine
* Aiko breathes a sigh of relief, didn't really want to ask anyway, was nervous and is glad for the reprieve
<Gyoshoku> we'll all sit down together after the talk, ok?
* Aiko nods
* Kagemaru nods as well
<Aiko> ok, that's fair
* Kumiko agrees
<Aiko> I guess mom and I will work on the dishes, then
<Gyoshoku> I can help with the dishes later, it's your birthday celebration
<Aiko> I don't mind *smiles*
* Kumiko smiles at Aiko. "You don't have to, Aichan..."
<Aiko> I want to, come on
* Aiko takes dirty dishes from the table to the washing basin
* Kumiko does as well
* Kumiko and Aiko go off to dish
<Kagemaru> So... just you and me, then, father...
<Gyoshoku> yes, you and me....
<Gyoshoku> I think it would be best if we were somewhere else, though
<Gyoshoku> mind taking another little walk?
<Kagemaru> Not at all
* Gyoshoku nods and gets to his feet
* Kagemaru does as well
* Gyoshoku heads to the door and opens it for them, waiting for Kagemaru to exit before doing so himself and closing the door behind him
* Gyoshoku takes a deep breath once they're outside
<Kagemaru> So, what is it now? You already talked to me about my future, so is this about my sordid past, or what? *grins slightly at him*
<Gyoshoku> heh *rubs the back of his neck*
<Gyoshoku> let's just walk for a little while, ok?
<Kagemaru> Oh... alright
* Kagemaru falls silent
* Gyoshoku smiles back at him and sets a medium pace toward the river
* Kagemaru walks with him
* Gyoshoku is going over things in his mind, trying to figure out the best way to say what he has to say
* Gyoshoku and Kagemaru walk along the river until they come to a place with large rocks
<Gyoshoku> let's sit
* Kagemaru sits, watching the river, then looking at Gyo
* Gyoshoku takes a couple of deep breaths and then looks at Kagemaru
* Kagemaru looks back
<Gyoshoku> there is no good way to talk to you about some things
* Gyoshoku sits on a rock facing him and folds his hands together
<Gyoshoku> I have to tell you some things about your parents
<Kagemaru> Alright...
* Kagemaru nods slowly
<Gyoshoku> it's time... past time that you knew...
<Gyoshoku> but, to be honest, I was never sure how to talk to you about it
<Gyoshoku> I'm not even sure now that it's the right thing to do
<Gyoshoku> but I have to believe it's at least not wrong to tell someone the truth
<Kagemaru> Oh... ok... *nods slowly again*
<Gyoshoku> you know that you're younger than Aiko by about a month, but we always celebrate your birthdays together because we raised you together
<Kagemaru> yeah... I know
<Gyoshoku> we've loved both of you... so much
<Kagemaru> I know... *looks down*
<Gyoshoku> I love you just like a son, because... you are my son, Kagemaru...
* Kagemaru looks up again
<Gyoshoku> yes
<Kagemaru> you don't mean that rhetorically or theoretically, do you
<Gyoshoku> no
<Gyoshoku> I mean... you are my son
* Kagemaru runs a hand through his hair, sighing
<Kagemaru> but... she... Kumiko... is not my mother... how did you get her to take me in?
<Kagemaru> Does she know?
<Gyoshoku> she knows, of course she knows
<Kagemaru> gods... well... I guess I... kinda guessed that... in a way
<Gyoshoku> I want you to know it's not because I was ashamed of you that it's been hidden
<Kagemaru> but I didn't want to think about it... *sighs*
<Gyoshoku> it's for Kumiko's sake
<Gyoshoku> not that it's much of a secret, you look so much like me...
<Kagemaru> Yeah... *grins wryly*
<Gyoshoku> but, for her sake, we never speak of it... not to others
* Kagemaru nods again
<Gyoshoku> now... about your mother
<Kagemaru> yeah...
<Gyoshoku> she died right after you were born
* Kagemaru nods slowly.
<Gyoshoku> but she was going to die anyway... she chose to give birth to you alone, which speeded her demise
<Kagemaru> she was... sentenced to death?
* Gyoshoku nods
<Kagemaru> I guess... she lived long enough to name me?
<Gyoshoku> heh, yes
<Gyoshoku> and long enough for me to find you
<Gyoshoku> she spent her last energy calling me with her aura
* Kagemaru nods slowly, taking a deep breath
<Kagemaru> gods... was she really a criminal?
* Gyoshoku sighs
<Gyoshoku> have you ever wondered why I have the scars on my chest, son?
<Kagemaru> yeah, I have...
<Gyoshoku> it's because of her
<Kagemaru> I mean, I figured... it could be 'cause of youkai...
<Kagemaru> oh...
<Kagemaru> but that's purifying ones...
<Gyoshoku> yes
<Kagemaru> I don't understand... *sighs*
<Gyoshoku> her gift, and she was very gifted, was controlling minds
<Kagemaru> oh... gods...
<Kagemaru> what was her name?
<Gyoshoku> you've heard it before, though you didn't know
<Gyoshoku> her name was Kurousagi
* Kagemaru closes his eyes, clenching his fists tightly together
<Kagemaru> that... kuromiko?
<Gyoshoku> that one, yes
<Gyoshoku> I met her for the first time right after she took part in decimating my monastary, though I didn't know it at the time
<Gyoshoku> she was young, so young, younger than you are now
<Gyoshoku> I couldn't believe any evil of her
<Kagemaru> gods...
<Kagemaru> I've heard rumours about her... in the village... always...
* Gyoshoku sighs
<Kagemaru> she... gods... she killed all those people... she did...
<Gyoshoku> I've tried to shield you as well as I can
<Kagemaru> and now you're telling me I'm HER son?
<Gyoshoku> Maruppe...
<Kagemaru> I don't believe it
<Gyoshoku> it's not... no one holds you responsible for what she did
<Gyoshoku> choices she made, it's... they made sense to her
<Kagemaru> they fucking better won't...
<Gyoshoku> no... please try to calm down
* Kagemaru gets up and starts pacing back and forth
<Kagemaru> how do you know? how do you KNOW she did all that?
<Gyoshoku> she admitted it to me
<Gyoshoku> she took joy in playing with me, it was... I still don't know
<Kagemaru> maybe she was just misguided... maybe she was forced to take the blame on her... how do you KNOW?
<Gyoshoku> I know, son
<Gyoshoku> I know because of what she did to me, what she did to Kumiko
<Gyoshoku> what she tried to make me do and what she succeeded in making me do
<Kagemaru> did you know when sleeping with her, then?
<Kagemaru> did you know she was evil when fathering me?
* Gyoshoku sighs
<Gyoshoku> please sit down
<Gyoshoku> I want to explain
* Kagemaru sits down, still clenching his fists
<Gyoshoku> first of all, I don't know that she was really evil... she was young and desperate and I know she loved you
<Gyoshoku> I know she did evil things
<Gyoshoku> and I know she seemed to enjoy doing them
<Kagemaru> she loved me? can you know that either? can you know anything?!
<Gyoshoku> I can only believe what she said
<Gyoshoku> like I said when I first met her, I didn't know what she was, she claimed to be the sister of one of my brother monks
<Gyoshoku> she was scared and very pretty, and I was in grief and a great deal of pain....
<Gyoshoku> I know now that she was manipulating me, but I still chose to do what I did with her... this was before I was together with Kumiko
<Kagemaru> so you slept with the first girl you saw, which was her... fine
<Kagemaru> but that's not it.. the monastary... everything...
<Kagemaru> if I had been concieved then, I would've been born before Aiko
<Gyoshoku> you're right, of course
<Gyoshoku> that's not it
<Gyoshoku> there's a lot more and I'm not going to tell you all of it because I can see how upset you're getting
<Kagemaru> I must've been concieved after you got together with her... mo-- Kumiko.
<Gyoshoku> yes...
<Kagemaru> So, still hadn't quit your womanizing ways, or what?
* Gyoshoku sighs again
<Gyoshoku> when I married Kumiko... even before... I promised never to chase another woman
<Gyoshoku> and I kept my promise
<Kagemaru> so she came onto you? great...
<Gyoshoku> she didn't come onto me, son... she tricked me
<Kagemaru> even better
<Gyoshoku> she... my defences were gone... she made me think she was Kumiko
<Gyoshoku> that's why I have the scars
<Kagemaru> the child of deception and trickery, that's me
<Gyoshoku> no
<Kagemaru> this is just fucking great
<Gyoshoku> no, that's not it at all
<Gyoshoku> I love you, so much
<Kagemaru> and I wasn't concieved then?
<Kagemaru> my mother didn't make you think she was your wife in order to have you father me?
<Gyoshoku> it's not that black and white
<Kagemaru> YES IT IS
<Gyoshoku> no, it's not
* Kagemaru is sixteen years old, the world is pretty black and white to him.
<Gyoshoku> I have never regretted for one day that you are my son
<Gyoshoku> I have only been sad that you didn't have the mother you deserved
<Gyoshoku> yes, she lied, she tricked me, she nearly fucking destroyed my marriage because she did a fabulous timing job as well
<Gyoshoku> but none of that is your fault
<Gyoshoku> and yes, I was angry at her, hell, I'm still a little angry at her
<Gyoshoku> but I watched her die, and I heard how she spoke to you, and she did love you
<Gyoshoku> you are her redemption
* Kagemaru is getting pretty teary-eyed... doesn't want to be sad, tries to stay angry instead
<Kagemaru> so I don't have anything to look up to for my real mother
<Kagemaru> apart from the fact that she gave birth to me
<Gyoshoku> Kumiko is your mother... she's the one who fed you, raised you
<Kagemaru> SHE IS NOT MY MOTHER
<Kagemaru> I don't HAVE a mother
* Gyoshoku closes his eyes and looks down
<Gyoshoku> I'm sorry, son
<Kagemaru> I killed my mother, just by being born! She died giving birth to me!
<Gyoshoku> this is a terrible burden, and I see now I should not have told you
<Kagemaru> Fuck... what were you going to do, then, keep it secret?
<Kagemaru> Let me keep hearing people compare me to you for the rest of my life and not knowing?
<Gyoshoku> I wanted to claim you, I wanted the world to know
<Gyoshoku> who wouldn't be proud of such a son
<Gyoshoku> but I couldn't, no one would believe me, given my reputation... no one would believe I hadn't just dishonoured Kumiko
<Kagemaru> and they don't know?
<Gyoshoku> I'm sure they've guessed
<Kagemaru> they don't compare me to you and think it in silence?
<Gyoshoku> I don't know what people think
<Kagemaru> you don't think if you had told people right away, they'd have been more likely to believe you, given they knew of my real mother?
<Gyoshoku> maybe I wanted to shield her too, a little
<Gyoshoku> maybe it was easier to let them think badly of me
<Gyoshoku> I did care for your mother, I wanted to help her
<Kagemaru> fucking much that helped
<Gyoshoku> I did what I thought was best
<Gyoshoku> I'm just a human being
<Kagemaru> so I had to grow up thinking I was another orphan you took in because you're so nice, always afraid... do you know how afraid I've been of getting abandoned? Always trying to please you... always trying to be good, even when my first instinct is the opposite... fuck
* Kagemaru wipes his eyes angrily
<Gyoshoku> you've done so well, become a man to be proud of
<Gyoshoku> what's wrong with that?
* Kagemaru shakes his head silently
<Kagemaru> how can anyone be proud of me, knowing my heritage?
<Gyoshoku> I am
<Gyoshoku> I have instincts, too
* Kagemaru shakes his head again
<Gyoshoku> and I would never abandon you, my real son or not
<Gyoshoku> and neither would Kumiko
<Kagemaru> no... I know now.... but... gods...
<Gyoshoku> you have every right to be upset
<Gyoshoku> but you grew up surrounded by people who loved you
<Kagemaru> why was she giving birth to me alone?
<Kagemaru> why wasn't she in jail?
<Gyoshoku> she escaped... she ran away
<Kagemaru> how?
<Gyoshoku> it was my fault... like so many other things
<Gyoshoku> I was trying to be kind
<Gyoshoku> I would take her for walks... and she found weaknesses... she was so smart
<Kagemaru> fucking much good that did
<Gyoshoku> I brought her brushes and ink and paper, she used them, wove a spell, created a duplicate... it was ingenious
<Kagemaru> being smart isn't necessarily good... it just gives you more time to think
<Kagemaru> gods...
<Kagemaru> wasn't there something to stop her from using her powers?
<Gyoshoku> yes, but only the ones that were evil
<Kagemaru> fuck... she was smart
<Gyoshoku> there's nothing inherently wrong with creating a duplicate
<Kagemaru> I know
<Gyoshoku> so she escaped
<Kagemaru> so, why was she running away? did she really think she could escape all tracking teams?
<Gyoshoku> she just wanted to be free long enough to have you, I think...
<Gyoshoku> hide you, or... I don't know... but it doesn't matter because I found you, both of you
<Kagemaru> that doesn't make sense
* Gyoshoku doesn't want to say she wanted to kill him
<Kagemaru> long enough to have me? who was going to stop her in jail?
<Kagemaru> and hide me... what good was that going to do?
<Gyoshoku> I don't know
<Kagemaru> ...she was going to kill me, wasn't she?
<Kagemaru> WASN'T SHE?
<Gyoshoku> I don't know, son... maybe
<Kagemaru> you don't know, huh?
<Kagemaru> why're you lying?
<Gyoshoku> that's what I do, I'm a liar
<Kagemaru> yeah, I fucking know
<Gyoshoku> ok, fine
<Gyoshoku> she wanted to kill you, is that what you wanted to hear?
<Gyoshoku> but she changed her mind
<Kagemaru> great... great... thanks
<Gyoshoku> once she held you and saw you, don't you get it
<Gyoshoku> you were the only thing in this whole damn world she loved
<Kagemaru> and then she died
* Gyoshoku swallows and looks away, nodding
<Kagemaru> she was going to kill me, because she hated the thought of having me... or she wanted to get back at you, or whatever reason... and then she decided that she couldn't, because she loved me... so what good does that do, huh?
<Kagemaru> she just died anyway!
<Gyoshoku> try not to be angry at her... she was so young
<Kagemaru> yeah... younger than I am now... and she died
<Kagemaru> so, she didn't do anything good for this world, huh?
<Gyoshoku> she had you
<Kagemaru> yeah, great deal of good that is
<Gyoshoku> it -is-
<Gyoshoku> you have the capacity to do so much good
<Gyoshoku> more than I ever did
<Kagemaru> and she didn't? she didn't have the -capacity-?
<Gyoshoku> of course she did
<Gyoshoku> but you're more gifted than she was
<Gyoshoku> and certainly more gifted than I ever was
<Kagemaru> so I can do even more horrible stuff
<Kagemaru> yeah, that's great
<Gyoshoku> no, you've been raised with love
<Gyoshoku> you don't have to be anything... you're not ruled by your parents' deeds
<Kagemaru> yeah, right
<Gyoshoku> what do you want me to say?
<Gyoshoku> that I was wrong to sleep with her, ok, I'll say that... it was wrong of me to sleep with her when I met her... it caused all of this, all of this pain
<Gyoshoku> and I killed her, not you
<Gyoshoku> I'm the one who got her pregnant, I'm the one who caught her and had her jailed and I'm the one whose foolishness allowed her to escape
<Gyoshoku> it's all me, it's always been me
* Kagemaru gets up again
<Kagemaru> maybe it is your fault
<Kagemaru> fuck... I don't know
<Kagemaru> it's not a fair world
<Gyoshoku> no, it's not
<Kagemaru> she was younger than I am now, dammit
<Gyoshoku> you have her eyes
<Kagemaru> fuck... fuck... fuck
<Gyoshoku> yeah, I thought that would help, too. but it rarely did
<Kagemaru> DAMN YOU
<Kagemaru> This isn't the time to make stupid jokes!
* Gyoshoku sighs
<Gyoshoku> you have a chance at life, son
<Gyoshoku> you had parents who loved you, which is more than I ever knew
<Gyoshoku> you have talent and skills beyond the dreams of most men
<Kagemaru> great much my mother's love helped me
<Gyoshoku> I meant Kumiko
<Kagemaru> wouldn't it have been better if she hadn't loved me? if she had just killed me right away?
<Gyoshoku> no, NO!
<Gyoshoku> don't say that
<Gyoshoku> it wouldn't be better
<Kagemaru> why not?
<Kagemaru> then you wouldn't have to lie for sixteen years
<Gyoshoku> I never lied about loving you
<Gyoshoku> Kumiko loves you... Aiko, Amida and Hanaai adore you
<Gyoshoku> even Saku
<Kagemaru> but they think I'm just adopted... all but you who were there then
<Kagemaru> if they knew... fuck
<Gyoshoku> do you think they'd love you any less?
<Gyoshoku> do you really think so little of your siblings?
<Kagemaru> ...no
<Kagemaru> I don't know
* Kagemaru holds his head
<Kagemaru> but you've lied to them all... always
<Kagemaru> you've lied to everybody about me
* Gyoshoku hangs his head
<Kagemaru> I guess it was Kumiko who gave me my nickname to start with?
<Gyoshoku> that's right
<Kagemaru> Trying to remove the shadow my mother set on me...
<Gyoshoku> when I brought you home
<Gyoshoku> she... she told me she couldn't turn my son away
<Kagemaru> whoo... great
<Gyoshoku> don't discount her gift
<Gyoshoku> she is the most giving... *tears up*
<Gyoshoku> gods, don't you ever discount what she did for you
<Kagemaru> I know... but don't you think she got hurt by it?
<Kagemaru> seeing me all these years, knowing who I am?
<Gyoshoku> she thinks of you as her son
<Kagemaru> you said that incident almost tore up your marriage, for gods' sake
<Gyoshoku> but it didn't
<Gyoshoku> talk to her, ask her
<Gyoshoku> she'll tell you, she has no regrets
* Kagemaru shakes his head
<Gyoshoku> yes, it hurt her, but again, that's not your doing
<Kagemaru> but... the point is, everybody would've been more happy if I hadn't come into the world in the first place...
<Kagemaru> my mother... maybe she could've escaped for real... made herself a new, less evil life somewere... how do you know she wouldn't?
<Gyoshoku> I don't
<Kagemaru> and you'd have had Aiko, and Amida and Hanaai
<Kagemaru> maybe Himura, too... what if it was my life or his, who'd you have chosen?
<Gyoshoku> how dare you ask me a question like that? I could never chose between my children
<Kagemaru> you couldn't chose between the firstborn son with your beloved wife and the child of deception with the kuromiko?
* Gyoshoku shakes his head
<Gyoshoku> it's not like that
<Gyoshoku> when you love a child, it's not because of who their parents are
<Gyoshoku> maybe you won't understand until you have children
<Kagemaru> but I know... you try, but you do love her children more *wipes his eyes angrily again*
<Kagemaru> because they remind you of her
<Kagemaru> and I don't
<Kagemaru> when you look at me, you see my mother's eyes looking back at you
<Gyoshoku> I'm sorry you think that
<Gyoshoku> there was a lot to admire in your mother
<Gyoshoku> she was strong and clever... funny... brilliant and creative
<Kagemaru> not to forget, her ability to trick, decieve and lie to people
* Gyoshoku pulls out the papers she left behind
<Gyoshoku> it was her way to cope
<Gyoshoku> read for yourself
<Gyoshoku> she wrote these in jail
* Gyoshoku holds them out to him
* Kagemaru snatches the papers out of Gyo's hand
<Gyoshoku> I've always tried to be a good father to you, to all of my children
<Gyoshoku> I know I've failed, so many times
* Kagemaru stares down at the papers blindly
* Kagemaru shakes his head and blinks, trying to concentrate enough to read
<Gyoshoku> read them later, son
* Gyoshoku puts his hand on Kagemaru's arm
* Kagemaru pulls away
* Gyoshoku drops his hand
<Gyoshoku> as you wish, then
<Kagemaru> why didn't you foster me away?
<Gyoshoku> once I held you, I couldn't give you up
<Gyoshoku> and Kumiko...
<Gyoshoku> she wanted to keep you
<Gyoshoku> for me, for you, I don't know why
<Kagemaru> and you don't think it'd have been better to foster me away?
<Kagemaru> send me away to some place where people wouldn't keep comparing me to you?
<Kagemaru> where their whispers wouldn't reach you, where your wife wouldn't keep getting hurt by seeing me?
<Gyoshoku> she loves you
<Gyoshoku> it was her decision
<Gyoshoku> and the whispers... there are always whispers about me, it's my curse
<Gyoshoku> I was born to be a shame on everyone who cares for me
<Kagemaru> people make decisions they regret, surely you know that?
<Gyoshoku> you ask her if she regrets it, then
<Gyoshoku> think about the meal she made for you tonight
<Gyoshoku> think about the pride in her eyes when she looks at you, about the hundreds of scrapes she kissed the pain away from
* Kagemaru shakes his head
<Kagemaru> fine, she doesn't hate me
<Gyoshoku> the opposite
<Gyoshoku> she loves you
<Kagemaru> does it do her any good?
<Kagemaru> my mother loved me, you say
<Kagemaru> and she died just after declaring it
<Gyoshoku> are you saying you think that love is worthless?
<Kagemaru> I don't know... I have no fucking idea
<Kagemaru> maybe it is
<Kagemaru> what good does it do?
<Gyoshoku> it's everything...
<Gyoshoku> it's the only meaning this life holds
<Kagemaru> is it, now?
<Gyoshoku> the only one I've found
<Kagemaru> fuck... great
<Gyoshoku> I know this is a lot to take in
<Gyoshoku> you need some time to think
<Kagemaru> I'm leaving
<Gyoshoku> what?
<Kagemaru> I'm going
<Gyoshoku> going where?
* Kagemaru gets up
<Kagemaru> I don't know
<Kagemaru> away
* Gyoshoku gets up as well
<Gyoshoku> at least think about it
<Gyoshoku> sleep on it
<Kagemaru> anywhere but here
<Kagemaru> no
<Gyoshoku> Maruppe, please
* Kagemaru turns around and starts heading back to the house
* Gyoshoku follows
<Gyoshoku> running away from this won't make it go away
<Kagemaru> maybe I just don't want to stay among the people who'd lie to me for my whole life
<Gyoshoku> we did that to protect you
<Kagemaru> great
<Gyoshoku> Maruppe, stop
<Kagemaru> MY NAME IS KAGEMARU
<Gyoshoku> think a little bit
<Kagemaru> and she was RIGHT to name me that!
<Kagemaru> there has always been a shadow on me, hasn't it?
* Gyoshoku shakes his head
<Gyoshoku> no... no, please
* Kagemaru keeps walking
<Gyoshoku> just sleep on it one night
<Kagemaru> I don't want to stay here another night
<Gyoshoku> at least tell me what your plans are
<Kagemaru> why should I?
<Gyoshoku> because I'm asking you to
<Gyoshoku> because I care
<Gyoshoku> son, please... please don't leave angry... I'm begging you, for your own sake
<Kagemaru> fine, oh caring person... I'm going to walk. On the road.
<Kagemaru> Until I find something more interesting to do.
<Gyoshoku> but you won't hurt yourself?
<Kagemaru> Fuck, no
<Kagemaru> if you wanted me dead, you had your chance 16 years ago
<Gyoshoku> I don't want you dead
<Kagemaru> whoo, let's fucking celebrate
<Gyoshoku> I love you
<Kagemaru> NO YOU DON'T
* Gyoshoku stops following
<Gyoshoku> I do
<Kagemaru> You love your wife... and your real children
<Gyoshoku> and you
<Kagemaru> no
<Kagemaru> you like... you like the person I've tried to be
<Kagemaru> maybe even love
<Gyoshoku> <how can he not know?>
<Kagemaru> but that's not the full me!
<Kagemaru> I'm more than that!
<Gyoshoku> I do love you, son
* Kagemaru wipes his eyes and keeps going
<Gyoshoku> I love all of you
* Gyoshoku can't follow any more, is devestated by the fact that Kagemaru doesn't believe him
* Kagemaru stomps off in direction of the house
* Aiko is inside doing dishes with her mother
* Gyoshoku watches his son stomp off and then sits down under the tree he's standing beside and just stares out across the river
* Kagemaru heads into the house and into the children's room to get his stuff
* Aiko turns at the noise
* Aiko follows him into the room
<Aiko> Maruppe, you're back!
<Aiko> where's dad?
* Kagemaru pulls out his bag and pushes his stuff into it
<Kagemaru> why should I know?
<Aiko> um... because he was with you?
<Aiko> what's wrong?
<Kagemaru> outside somewhere, gimme a break
* Aiko blinks at him
<Aiko> Maruppe?
* Kagemaru looks up at her
<Kagemaru> You know, I do have a proper name
<Kagemaru> it seems people forget that
* Aiko blinks more
<Aiko> al...alright
* Kagemaru looks back down at his bag
<Aiko> what's wrong with you?
<Kagemaru> wrong with me? who says anything's wrong with me?
<Aiko> the way you're acting
<Aiko> why are you so mad?
* Kagemaru stands up, shouldering his bag. "That... -sister-... is none of your goddamn business."
* Aiko can feel tears starting to slide down her cheeks
<Aiko> what?
* Kagemaru closes his eyes, doesn't want to see her cry, can't stand watching her cry... in particular not when already being upset himself
<Kagemaru> can't you just leave me alone?
* Aiko sniffs
<Aiko> no, no I can't
* Aiko grabs his bag
<Kagemaru> WHY THE HELL NOT?
<Aiko> b-because... you're my brother... and I love you
* Kagemaru spins half around, pulling the bag from her grip
<Kagemaru> you all fucking love me, right?
* Aiko yelps a bit, he pulled her fingernail off at the quick
* Aiko sticks her finger in her mouth and nods
<Kagemaru> yeah... yeah... right
<Kagemaru> I'm going
<Aiko> no... NO
<Aiko> don't go, Maruppe, please... what's wrong, just tell me what's wrong
* Aiko is crying in earnest now
<Kagemaru> why the hell should I? why can't you figure something on your own, for once?
* Aiko throws her arms around him, trying to hug him and keep him there
* Kagemaru pushes her away
<Kagemaru> go to your parents if you need comfort
<Aiko> no... no please... please don't go
<Kagemaru> at least you have parents
<Aiko> so do you *sobbing*
<Kagemaru> at least YOUR damn life isn't a lie
<Kagemaru> NO I DON'T
* Kagemaru starts walking, wants to get away
* Aiko can't answer, she's crying too hard
* Aiko follows
* Kagemaru wipes his eyes angrily again
<Aiko> d-d-d-don't g-g-go
<Kagemaru> Can't you just LEAVE ME ALONE already?!
<Kagemaru> This place is going to suffocate me if I stay!
<Kagemaru> Do you want me dead?
* Aiko shakes her head, trying to control her sobs
<Kagemaru> Maybe that's really it, maybe that was the plan all along!
<Kagemaru> To kill poor lil' Maruppe as slowly as possible
* Aiko tries to hug him again
<Kagemaru> FUCK OFF
<Kagemaru> Go hug your real brother
* Aiko hugs herself instead, sobbing uncontrollably
* Aiko won't stop him if he wants to go that much, but doesn't understand... at all
* Kagemaru starts walking again
* Aiko lets him go, weeping as quietly as she can
* Kagemaru walks quickly, though his vision seems a bit unfocused...
* Kagemaru wipes his eyes silently, doesn't want to cry, doesn't want to cry ever... wants to stay mad at the world, because that's an easier way to cope.
* Amida has heard a lot of shouting and stares at Kagemaru as he stalks back through the house... but he's too scared to say anything
* Kagemaru doesn't see him, can barely concentrate on getting away
* Aiko follows Kagemaru helplessly through the house and to the door, watching him as long as she can
* Kagemaru wanders off... trying to keep himself from crying and only half-way succeeding
* Hanaai joins Aiko at the door
* Hanaai hugs Aiko, because she feels Aiko needs a big hug about now
* Aiko does, hugs her sister tightly
<Hanaai> Where'd Maruppe go, Aichan? Why'd he make you cry?
* Aiko just shakes her head, she's still crying too hard to answer
* Hanaai just keeps hugging, then
* Amida joins them at the door as well, very confused and scared... also worried about where his dad is
* Hanaai pulls Amida into the hug... they all need to hug right now.
* Aiko retreats back into her room, rebuffing her siblings and her mother and crying on her futon
* Kumiko comforts her children as well as she can
First part
Second part
Fourth part
Fifth part
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