At that time
If I ran…
If I held on…
Something would have changed,
As always, they began when the air was drunk with the sun's warmth… just when it felt too right, too much like…
And he wasn't sure if the humming and buzzing were from the beings outside on the streets, or from the great big mayfly-laden bushes behind the house.
Where he used to slide the shoji doors ever so slightly, to let some sunbeams be his blanket while he dozed inside, usually against Sensei's lap…or maybe it's just the sofa cushion. He couldn't be bothered to move the magazine off his face anyways.
And there was nothing in the world that would make him move out of that state…
of heart wrenching nostalgia…
Faced with these swaying thoughts,
I just gaze at them and say nothing.
He let himself be consumed by his own daydream. Not that it was a daydream anymore. He could actually hear Sensei's pen scratches against the paper, pausing every now and then. He could almost see, in his mind's eye, his teacher raising the end of the pen to his lips (but not biting it, like Zura during his exams!). Maybe it helps him think? He should try that.
Shouyou Sensei smells like summer sun, and like a lazy lap-cat he wished he could forever snuggle against him. But Sensei would get up too soon, and Gintoki would have to go do his share of chores, or study, or do some other bothersome task.
Speaking of bothersome, he heard Bakasugi coming. That wail can only belong to him anyways. Hehehe, he's crying…
"Ah, what's this?"
Sensei gently lifted up Gintoki's head, so he could get up to see the commotion outside. Annoying! Grr..
Gintoki slumped back down on the mat, refusing to get up. As he opened his eyes, Sensei slid open the shoji, so Gintoki was momentarily blinded by the light pouring into the room…
The light surrounding sensei, like some holy angel. He looked backed momentarily and smiled at the grumpy little child.
Just words are never enough
and the meaning behind holding that hand
is left behind.
"Come on, just a little further…don't cry now!"
"I'm NOT CRYING!" bawled Takasugi.
"Kotaru, Shinsuke, what's the matter? Why are you coming in from the back?" asked Shouyou.
Gintoki rubbed his eyes, and yawned widely, catching a glimpse of the two boys. Takasugi was wearing a scowl and torn clothes. Baka, how rich does he think we are, anyways?
"Sensei, there were these dogs… and then they chased us, and they had teeth, and so we ran, and Shinsuke fell down," puffed Kotaru.
"Then that was quite a run," smiled Shouyou. "Let's see that now, Shinsuke." He made to take Takasugi's arm.
"Klutz. You probably tripped over your own feet," said Gintoki, now sitting up.
"Did not!" Takasugi snatched back his arm. "And it doesn't hurt…so bad." He winced.
"Gintoki…"said Shouyou in a disapproving tone. "Please go bring the medicine box."
"Hey, he prolly annoyed the dogs himself, or something," said Gintoki, as he bought the box and set it next to his Sensei. "Right Kotaru?"
"He was throwing stones…'cuz you know, they were…" said Kotaru shuffling his feet. He looked from Gintoki to Takasugi, and quietened down, diplomatically.
"I threw stones after they turned rabid, idiot," Takasugi winced again as Shouyou wiped his wound clean. "Anyways I wasn't crying… strong men don't cry."
"Hahaha, you're very strong yourself, you know," cooed Shouyou. Takasugi's eyes were welling up, but his face was screwed up, not allowing the tears to run. Shouyou Sensei dipped a rag in the bottle of ointment, and patted the bruise. The skin was badly sloughed off, exposing the soft pink dermis underneath.
"But you know, as you get older there will be times when you do want to cry, but can't." said Sensei softly. There was something wistful in his voice, in his expression. The boys looked up at their teacher; and now Gintoki's eyes were watering under his closed eyelids, as the image of his Sensei's face flashed into his memory…into his heart like a knife.
Now the memories watch me before they glow,
no longer needing to speak any withered words.
"Right now, you children can absorb everything you come across. Show what you've gained in your actions. Laugh when you're having fun. Rejoice when you're happy and…" Sensei slid a hand to Takasugi's cheek.
"Cry when you're sad." He thumbed away the silver streak off his face, catching it before it fell.
"Don't force yourself to suppress your feelings…If you can do that, I'm sure in your times of hardship, someone will come to help you."
"Come on now, Shinsuke-kun, Kotaru-kun," he patted their heads, as if reminding them of their names. They startled, as if awoken from some dream. If he never called us, maybe we would have forgotten our own names, actually. He had that kind of effect.
"Time for your chores. Just tidy up the study and the classroom. You all ran away so fast after class today, was my lesson that bad?" Sensei asked cordially.
"Oh, no Sensei," cried Kotaru. "Sakamoto said that if we went to the river at noon then we could see this fish monster thing because the sun would shine off its scales and it'd be easier to see…"
Shouyou Sensei laughed.
"Sen-sei, my samisen broke, you know the string, it went 'ting'," moaned Takasugi, trying to divert the attention back on himself.
"You're always breaking things, Bakasugi," said Gintoki, as he stuck out his tongue at him.
"You too, O-jii-san," said Sensei. "You get to run to the store to get him a new string. And catch Sakamoto while you're at it. Be back before the sun sets or the ghosts will get you."
"Nah! There's no ghost here!" Now it was Gintoki's turn to wail. Somehow, when an adult tells you something as implausible as ghosts exist, the idea just seems worse. He ran to the little jeweled box on Sensei's table and took out some money, and some then more.
Candy time! He grinned like a fox.
The box was always open to them, and always had some amount of money for them to use. They always accounted for the money they took; Sensei never actually had to check.
Except for that one time…
He was fairly new in the house then, maybe it was a few days after Sensei had found him eating off corpses, not eating corpses! Bah, people.
Gintoki didn't understand this man, with his straight long hair, and his gentle, articulate sentences, who scrubbed his face clean from grime and attacked his hair with combs. It hurt, in an odd way, to be cared for like that. Gintoki didn't remember being cared for like that. All he remembered was running away or snarling at things. Or being snarled at. But not being given clean clothes and a hot meal.
"So? Will you stay with us and learn how to fight, for others?" Sensei had asked, finally.
Gintoki didn't answer; he was too busy slurping down soup. He licked the bowl clean, and some soup got on his chin and nose. Sensei leaned forward and wiped it away. "Okay, then, no problem. Stay as long as you wish." He smiled again. He was always smiling. Weirdo.
So Gintoki stayed, without realizing that he had stayed. Each passing day seemed to bring something more unusual for him, such as:
- annoying brats his size who didn't know his name. Sensei called them, "Your friends, Gintoki."
- pieces of paper strung together, on which Sensei would coax him to scribble things every day.
- lessons, which were Sensei's words on those pieces of papers in the form of scribbles.
- sticks to eat with. Really. He always thought hands were enough.
One fine day a kid with hair as permed as his own dragged him to the market. Gintoki really didn't pay much attention to anything; he never had any money to buy anything anyways. He was squatting slumped against the side of a stall, idly watching Sakamoto buy groceries.
Gintoki was fidgeting. The summer heat was not good for his complexion. Physics was a lie- black might absorb heat, but white bounced it around, intensified it, then shot it back into his skull. Having curly hair didn't help with the heat problem either.
"Done yet?" he asked, irritated.
"Ahahaha, Kintoki! Say aaaa!"
"Wha-" and like that Sakamoto thrust the candy into his mouth. Sakamoto would have not existed today if he had thrust something other than candy.
Gintoki's first experience with sugar would be something akin to a nuclear explosion in his head, but of a good kind. All he'd eaten were cold and bitter (things on the ground), or dry and salted (things on dead soldiers), or just plain home food (things on his dinner table nowadays.) But the sugary goodness of candy was never experienced by his taste buds, till now. He declared it a life-changing moment.
After that Gintoki was always happy to accompany anybody for grocery shopping. The kids always bought some kind of sweet at the end of the day and always shared with him. Except for Bakasugi, but Gintoki took his share by force anyways.
Now that day was a Tuesday, market day, candy day! "Who's going to the market this week, Sensei?" asked Gintoki, skipping into Sensei's room.
"Nobody, Gin-chan, we're stocked." Gintoki's heart stopped for a bit. Wait wait wait, I need money today!
"Ahaha, you sure? You don't want anything?" pressed Gintoki.
"No, Gin-chan, thank you for asking." Shouyou was writing something, and looked busy. Gintoki looked around for inspiration.
"Bought a stack last week."
"We have chickens, Gin."
Flour? Miso? Tea ? ? He was falling deeper into his pit of despair with every word. Swords? Pandas? Hair dye? Sandal straps? "You must want something!"
"We have everything, Gintoki."
"Sure?" he squeaked.
"Positive. Go play outside O-jii-san, stop worrying about the house." He turned to look at him, and smiled, and Gin noticed that he put down his pen. That meant he really didn't want to be disturbed.
Gintoki went out and sat on the front porch, wondering if he should drown the chickens in the lake. Then we'd need chickens, maybe even eggs and it hit him there was a better idea.
Shouyou got up from his table. He was replying to a letter from a friend. The state of things was bad...very bad…he got up, to gather his wits, senses, or whatever he could to figure out a way…
As he left the room, the shoji door to the backyard slid open, and quick as a flash, Gintoki ran in and opened the money box on sensei's table. He grabbed whatever got into his fist, whirled out, slammed the doors...and ran. The doors bounced open slightly, due to the hurried impact...
Shouyou came back in a moment later, and noticed the thin ray of sunlight on the floor. Didn't I close the door completely? Then he noticed the open money box.
Maybe this is God's punishment for eating candy bought with stolen money… or maybe God doesn't exist, and I just ate too much.
Gintoki clutched his stomach, and felt ill. He had spent all the money on sweets. And ate them on the spot, one after the other. Even the shopkeeper, as he watched Gintoki devour his treasure, warned him that he will get sick. But candy wasn't the only thing twisting his belly with pain.
What if he gets angry? What if he throws me out? What if he asks me to return the money?
But all these guys buy candy too…
But they never eat it at home! Maybe because Sensei forbids sweets or something! Maybe it's against his bushido! That's why! Now I'll be in bigger shit!
I should go back…I feel ill.
Yeah, sure, he'll care for a thief like me…
Guilt was a very corrosive feeling-he could feel it piercing his stomach, to clutch at his heart.
I want to go home… tears splashed down on ground as he thought of that last word.
Today, too, this star spins me around.
I cling tightly so I won't be flung off
He never admitted it to himself, until now. He never understood the weight of the word too, until now.
Now he understood the real distress behind the wail of children lost in busy streets.
Home was good food; home was a warm place to sleep; home had nice people who didn't give you dirty looks; at home you didn't need to hold up a sword to protect yourself; home was- home was-
He gasped for breath, and now the cold air was scratching his throat. Running at full speed while crying at full volume was a hard thing to do. As if adding to his luck, the silver clouds started rumbling; it was going to rain.
St-st-stupid Shouyou sensei with his stupid hugs and CARE and I can live alone, I don't need care and bushido and- and what- I've lived alone before, who cares if I stole his money he won't scare me, I'll go away before he realizes and he can't hurt me, I don't need to go back, I was fine before, I DON'T CARE!
He screamed. As young as he was, even he realized that he was dealing with a bigger matter than petty thievery.
I don't have a home, and I don't need one. But his heart still screamed in despair.
all what I've held onto is your small hand.
I grasp them tightly, pretending to protect them.
The door slid open and a very grim and slopping wet Gintoki, complete with puffy eyes walked into Shouyou's room.
"Gintoki! What happened? Why are you wet?" cried Shouyou. Actually he wasn't bothered so much about Gin being wet; Gin looked as though he saw someone get murdered.
"I stole your money," said Gin, stony faced.
"I stole your money to buy candy." His voice was breaking. "I'm leaving now, and I just came to tell you so you don't go blaming someone else for it, okay?"
"I'll get back your money, and I'll never come back after that-"
"I'm sorry and all, and I won't steal from you again.I'm gonna take my stuff and go." Gin turned to leave the room- and was stopped by a firm grip on his shoulder. He braced himself for the slap on his face.
It didn't come. Shouryu sensei pulled him back and clasped him in his arms, wet Gintoki and all.
"You should just say sorry, and promise to tell me next time you need money," he said. "Was that the reason for all this? You felt guilty, huh?"
"…yes?" sniffed Gin. Damnit, stupid nose water!
"But its alright, you told the truth. You're brave, o-jii-san!"Sensei laughed.
"The money was always there for you all to use, anytime you want. Just don't go overspending it, you need to leave some for others, right?" He ran his fingers though Gin's wet hair, smoothing it out.
Gintoki was sobbing violently against his Sensei's chest. Maybe it was out happiness for being accepted, maybe it was out of fear – fear that this feeling, this warmth may be lost
Now the memories watch me before they glow
as I hold onto only that trembling hand
Now Gintoki cried like he cried then. His senses seemed to conspire against him-they wanted him to suffer every detail. He could hear him softly calling out his name, and could smell the light perfume he wore. He could even feel the sweat trickling down his neck like the rainwater did that night, so many years ago. He clutched his Sensei's hakama tighter. But the cushion wasn't Shouyou Sensei, and it won't hug him back and tell him to change his clothes. And he had committed a bigger crime than stealing money; and there was no Sensei to comfort him.
All of the mystics and existents will make you bring upon.
You'll never notice but you're always going to come back for more.
Now it'll turn into a nightmare thought Gintoki, as he watched the walls of his teacher's room catch fire for the hundredth time. Sensei's lips were moving, but he couldn't catch the words. Suddenly he pushed Gin away and the burning wooden beam fell again on Shouyou instead, yet he told Gin to run.
Gintoki knew this was just his memory, it was just a dream.
Things wouldn't change no matter what he did in his dream. He stood there watching in horror-any minute now his body would turn away to run-
Oh how he wished he could turn back around and kick the burning wood off Sensei's back. Or pull him out. Or just stand and join him in his funeral pyre.
He willed his body to move; every fiber of his being was withering to do something, except run away. What use was all of his strength and might and willpower of a samurai, if he couldn't even stand still for a moment?
He looked at his Sensei's face for the last time.
Look at me before the memories start to glow.
Yes, the hands that were shaking
"Gin-chan, you okay?"
Gintoki opened his eyes to Kagura's big blue ones. She actually looked concerned.
"Nothing, you sukombu eating monster, you woke me up!" he snarled, perfectly on beat.
"Nya-a, I was just sitting here watching TV when you started shivering-" replied Kagura in confusion.
"I'm cold, that's why, genius, now go get Gin-chan a blanket. And turn down that volume!" Gintoki reshuffled himself to get cozy.
"You loser, it's summer! How can you be cold? And the volume's on level 5!" Kagura threw the remote at him, as she got up to get something to eat.
The remote plunked against his head and fell on the floor. Gintoki picked it up, and started channel surfing.
He didn't want to sleep again.