[the now] silver moon
Sometimes, in order to depart for the future, we must return to the beginning.
The moon is unusually bright tonight, perhaps it’s because it’s almost the moon-viewing festival, Tsukimi, which has coming surprisingly early this year. Normally the passing of the seasons don’t mean anything when you’re aboard an airship that seems to be constantly chasing the sun, but this year is different. This year, he manages to wrangle a weekend free just for the three of them, to spend what Mirza likes to call ‘quality family time’—though it’s a bit of an ironic statement, given that the Indian has not been back to his homeland in years, not even to introduce the family he himself has started.
‘I was pretty much disowned the day I headed off for DOGOO, so what’s the point?’ He’d slurred, the two of them sharing a much-needed drink late one evening in the A. Logan’s lounge. ‘Plus, ’s not like Jess and I are even married. Now, if I wasn’t already considered such a bastard, just imagine what they’ll think when they find out I’ve got a child out of wedlock.’
‘You know…you could always just actually get married.’ It’s none of his business to tell Mirza what to do, ’cause hell knows if the Indian will even actually listen, but it’s late and it just seems too cruel to not say anything at all.
‘Aaah…well Adam, gotta say, I’m not like you. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it–hell, you know Jess and I’ve been cheering for you an’ Sio since day one–but it’s just…’ and here the Indian trails off, actually reflecting on his life for once.
He doesn’t say anything, only pours another glass for both of them, only to realize the gin’s all gone and his glass is only half full. Damn.
‘…Make no mistake, I love her and my son–that goes without saying. But something like marriage…I’ve come to realize, it’s not for me. And I think Jess agrees with that.’
‘Hn. Hate t’ say it, but I can’t argue wit’ that…cheers, mate.’ Their glasses clink and he downs the shot, ignoring the burn and instead focusing on the fire that comes after.
This year, they demand to visit Japan; England is fun and all, but when they’re in Japan, they feel closer to her. It’s not that he doesn’t enjoy being there as well—on the contrary, experiencing her childhood helps soothe him a little—but he won’t deny that familial relationships are more strained now; his in-laws even more distant than when he’d first met them, already wary of his status as a gaijin going out with their one and only daughter. But he has learned that being an adult–no, a parent, means sometimes you must do things even if you don’t want to.
“Tou-san!! Mite mite,” the five-year old twirls around clumsily, showing off her brand-new yukata that is a little too large, cherry blossoms scattered all over the sleeves.
“That’s beautiful love,” he smiles and ruffles her hair, before she runs off again and pesters her brother to share his dango, even though she’s already had two sticks. As formal and detached as they act towards him–only for the sake of the fact that he’s still Sio’s husband and Japanese formality dictates politeness above all else–when it comes to their grandchildren, no expenses are spared, ever.
The air is cooler now; thank goodness the rainy season had just ended before they arrived, although the humidity is still higher than he would prefer it. Though he always feels a little awkward wearing traditional Japanese clothing, he puts on the steel-grey yukata that he’s given when they arrive this morning, after the older woman insists that it will be cooler.
That, and Sio had told him at his first Tsukimi that she thought he looked surprisingly good in Japanese clothes. Although it was more than likely because she’d consumed a staggering amount of sake by then (and so had he, if his fuzzy memory was correct), it seemed that now, more than ever, it was those little things that mattered the most.
‘Whoooaaa, I jus’ totally realized, you’re like, super hot.’ She hiccups, face deeply flushed and yukata loosened though she doesn’t seem to really care.
He nearly chokes on his next cup. Boyfriend or not, such brazen declarations from her were still something that he is not used to. ‘…Uh, thanks. I think…’ His own cheeks are quite pink at this point, actually he isn’t sure why he was still drinking this sake anyway, since it isn’t like there is anyone left to impress.
She shakes her head, wobbling over to the open porch on unsteady legs before flopping into his lap, despite his protest. ‘Nuuo, nonono, you dun understand–I mean, really, like, at first I kinda thought you were an ass–’cause you know, you were all ‘argh, listen to me brat’–’ he smothers a laugh into his sleeve, ‘but then I saw you changing and I was like whooaaa, nice ass.’
‘An’ here I thought you weren’t a high school girl voyeur…’ he teases, setting down his empty cup. ‘Someone’s got quite a dirty mind, eh?’ He tilts her rosy lips up towards his and spontaneously kisses her, lips ever so warm and soft.
‘…I’m not a peeper…I’m just telling the truth…’ she pouts, mumbling against his lips between repeated kisses that are getting more and more heated. ‘I think you shouldn’t be–!’ A sudden squeal from the girl as his teeth nips her, right along the creamy curve of her neck.
‘I-I, st-stop that Adam, you’re always doing…this…ah…’ Her fingers bury themselves in his hair, the yukata nearly slipping from her shoulders.
‘Doing? You’re one to talk, y’know.’ Somehow she is already straddling his lap, her legs pressed tightly against his waist, all the while rocking unconsciously in an uneven motion. ‘I think we shoul–mmnn, Jesus Sio–retire for, the night–o-oy, I mean it squirt, get a hold of yerself!’
‘Why wait? Who says it can’t be right now?’ And suddenly she becomes the seductress, just a touch of Nobunagun peeking out from the alcohol’s effect. ‘My parents are heavy sleepers, and all I see, is the moon…’ Her voice, eyes, everything about her is absolutely mesmerizing when she’s bathed in the moon’s pale hues, especially when she sheds the top half of her robe and firmly pushes him onto his back.
It doesn’t matter that they were too drunk and tired afterwards to even journey back into their rooms and instead they fell asleep on a wrinkled pile of robes; and though the morning after is still one of the most embarrassing moments in his life–needless to say her parents had not been pleased discovering the two of them the next day–looking back, it is also one of his best memories.
“Ah, Asao-chan, hisashiburi!” The door opens and the two children run towards the newcomer, shrieking with delight as their ‘aunt’ presents them with even more presents, including a decorative sash for each to go with their yukatas. For this particular year, they decide to see Kaoru as well, for it has been quite a while, and she is just as devoted to his children as any of them.
He hears the Japanese woman greet his in-laws with friendly tones, and it isn’t long before her footsteps trail closer until he knows she is standing right next to him.
“Asao-san…hisashiburi.” It has been a while, indeed. How is it that out of all the people close to Sio, she was the only one who did not express any sort of anger or resentment towards him, he’ll never know. Instead, she is the only one who just accepts it, acknowledges it for what it is and then continues to steadfastly believe in him, even when he doesn’t believe in himself.
“Oh, I almost forgot–here, I thought you and the children might like some chestnuts to take back with you,” and she gives him a little bag that is impeccably tied with a ribbon. He accepts it with a nod, and makes a mental note to save some for the others on his platoon as well. “May I sit?”
“You don’t have t’ be so formal, y’know.” She shrugs and takes a seat, her long black hair put into an elegant bun that perfectly accompanies her lavender-blue yukata. Everything about her is perfect and beautiful: her manners, the grace with which she carriers herself, even her personality–conservative, kind, and understanding. That’s not even mentioning her appearance–classic Japanese beauty at its best with her jet-black hair, large eyes, and the perfect hourglass figure.
Ironically, it is that perfection that prevents him from being attracted in any way, shape or form to her. But he comes to understand just why Sio was so infatuated with her since the beginning, and just how much this girl treasures her in return. For despite her looks and mannerisms, either of which would be enough to set many a tongue aboard the A. Logan wagging, she only cares about her friends, and in that love there is an unshakable trust that still holds to this day.
“…There hasn’t been a change, has there.” She delicately pours two cups of sake, and though he’s had about enough for the night, he accepts anyway.
“…No. Not yet…” Just before he’d left, Vidocq had left a short message saying they’d managed to shave something off, though the results were rather negligible–five years, at most. He smirks wryly into his cup–yeah, five years, that would be a big help.
“Iya, just…” Should he even bother telling her? Five years may not be a lot in the long run, but it’s still something. “…It’s hard to know…whether or not, you’re doing the right thing. Whether or not it’s worth…holding on to memories that, maybe are better left to be forgotten.”
Her delicate features furrow, and for a moment he wonders if he’s being too bitter. “…Jack-san. Perhaps it’s not my place to say this, but…I don’t think you’re the type of man who will just give up so easily, just because it’s hard.” She turns her attention fully towards him, eyes set in a determined gaze. “When I first saw you, after you saved the hospital, I told Sio, that you two were the strongest people I’d ever met. And I know I’m right, because otherwise I wouldn’t be here right now, being called Auntie Kaoru and thinking about the day where I’ll see Sio again, and tell her how beautiful and lovely her children have become.”
“…You really believe it, don’t you?” Guilt creeps into his veins, ashamed that this woman, who doesn’t even get to see his kids like he does every day, still believes more strongly than he, her own husband, does at times.
“Of course. And I know you do as well; even when you say you don’t.”
“…Can’t believe I’m sayin’ this, but I actually envy you…to still have hope, in spite of such odds…”
“You flatter me, Jack-san, but I think, I should be the one who envies you,” he raises an eyebrow, and she turns away, slightly embarrassed. “No, in fact, when you first…told me what happened, my first thought was that I should’ve never let Sio go; that if only I hadn’t let her join DOGOO, then she’d still be with me. But you, you…continued to persevere forward, still continue to fight, to raise two children all by yourself, all because you refuse to accept the fact that Sio is gone forever. So really, it’s because of your faith that I’m able to maintain my own.”
The sake cup is half empty before he is able to figure out how to respond to that. “Tch…I’d say it’s probably closer to pure stubbornness rather than anythin’ else…” Though inwardly he is glad, to know that even as someone as crappy as him can inspire such hope in others.
She lets an amused giggle. “Well, certainly Sio did mention your stubbornness a number of times. Including the first time she celebrated Tsukimi with you, right here.” He turns a bright red, even more so than the sake’s effect, much to Asao’s amusement. “She insisted you were too tired to carry her back.”
“Hah, like hell I was–she was the one who didn’t wanna budge.”
Just then, his daughter shuffles over on her too-long yukata, tugging at Asao and insisting that she can’t get the obi on by herself, can Auntie help? With a nod, she excuses herself and the two of them go off in front of the mirror, and just as he thinks he can finally have some time to himself, his son sits himself down right in the empty space.
“Tou-san, can I try some sake?”
“No, you’re not old enough and ’sides, I already gave you a taste.”
“Aww…” The boy kicks his feet, but doesn’t make any more requests. “Hey, the moon’s the same color as your hair–silver! Why do you have silver hair, tou-san? I thought only old people like grandpa an’ grandmum have grey hair.” He peers closer. “Are you old?”
“Oy–I may be your father, but I’m not that old!” He’s not even anywhere close to forty yet; no matter which way you interpreted that, certainly it would not be considered ‘old’. “It’s an, uh, genetic thing. Though, I didn’t always have it, actually…”
“Yeh. When I was your age I actually had brown hair like you, too.”
“What happened to it?”
A certain e-gene happened, that was what. “Uh, it changed…after I joined DOGOO. Apparently e-genes can do that.”
“Ooohh. That’s actually kinda cool.” They both stare at the moon for a few more minutes, before the silence breaks once again. “Hey, do you think Mummy can come with us next year?”
“…I don’t know. Probably not.”
“Oh.” Somehow he remains unfazed by the coldness of reality. “Well, what about the year after that?”
“…Hey, listen to me, I–”
“–I know, it’s unlikely, just like I’ll probably never see Mummy again. That’s what you’re going to say, right?” Suddenly his tone becomes so serious, it was like his son was someone else for a moment. “But I don’t think that’s true at all. I think–no I know, that one day, no matter how long I have to wait, all four of us can enjoy Tsukimi. Because you aren’t giving up…right, tou-san?”
For the second time in one night he is completely at a loss on what to say. First Asao-san, and now his own son…the sheer amount of faith they have in this barely-conceivable plan, their unrelenting hope…all because he promised that day to never stop hoping, to never give up no matter how insurmountable it seemed. “Yeh…no, you’re right. I’m not givin’ up; none of us are giving up. So one day, it will be all of us here, together…”
[That’s right, because you are important to me, too…]
“S-Sio?!” It’s just a whisper, but he swears she is right next to him, or at least was, the very air crackling with a kind of feeling he hasn’t felt in a long time.
“Tou-san? What’re you looking at?” Two faces staring back at him, equally as confused as he is. Smiling, he shakes his head and gestures for the two of them to sit, which they do–or rather, one claims his lap and the other has to settle for being draped against his shoulders instead.
“Nee, when Mummy gets better, we should tell her about everything that’s happened!”
A warmth, like an ember that will slowly but surely grow with time, fanning throughout his body until at last he feels certain, that there is no doubt, she will return to them one day. It is the emotion they call ‘hope’, intangible yet indispensable, more powerful than any weapon or technology.
“Well, if you really wish to tell her everything, then we’ve got go back–
–to the beginning.”