He wipes off the sweat on Gintoki’s forehead and mutters, “Cold sweat can make you catch a cold, you know.” Gintoki merely scoffs and turns away from Katsura. He gazes upon the full moon that looks so unbelievably big and white when it is being stared from their small-looking building, as if the moon is made up of milk and nothing else.
“I want to touch it.” Gintoki says without any restraint in his voice. The words flow mindlessly and Katsura can’t help but wonder if Gintoki is still drunk from the booze he had drank a few hours ago.
Katsura stares at the other’s face and watches as his red, supposedly dead eyes reflect the moonlight, as if moonlight exists just to bring light in his eyes. Gintoki smiles, and Katsura thinks, maybe, just maybe, his eyes exist just to catch the lingering light that shines from the moon and claims ownership on it.
He knows it’s not true, because the light won’t be reflected on his eyes forever. It’ll be gone once the moon goes to the other side of the earth. He knows. But maybe, just maybe.
Katsura merely laughs. “You don’t have the money to do that. Do you know how much it takes to travel to another planet?”
Gintoki glares at him and retorts, “Moon is not a planet. Plus, just because I said I wanna touch it, doesn’t mean I will do it.”
He furrows his eyebrows, “Why not?”
“Cuz,” Gintoki throws himself on the futon, his eyes still gazing upon the moon as if he is being enchanted by the view. “Things are better to be viewed from far, far away.”
“What do you mean?”
“There are some things that are better to be admired from far away. Because once you see it closely, you’ll finally see the truth, and truth is frequently disappointing.”
“So, you’d rather look at merciful lies instead of the harsh truth.”
Gintoki doesn’t reply, because he knows it’s not a question. It’s a statement.
After a while, Gintoki looks at Katsura with his eyes, already hidden from the moonlight yet he still shines. He still hasn’t let go of the light. “Well, we’re talking about the moon, so it’s not that serious isn’t it?”
Katsura blinks a few times. “Huh.” He lies next to Gintoki and looks at the same thing he sees, the big bright moon that shines from the broken window that no longer gets to be fixed because it has been broken so many times, Takasugi told them that if they won’t take a good care of it, there’s no need for it to be fixed anymore. Let it stay broken like that forever.
Gintoki hums in response.
“I don’t care if you have that kind of mentality on things like the moon.” Katsura inhales, as if the next thing he’ll say is very important. Gintoki thinks it is.
“But if you ever think like that about life, prepare to be punched by me.” Oh, Gintoki is right.
Gintoki grins. “Don’t worry. I’ve seen far too many wicked things in life, there’s no point in avoiding it anymore.”
A soft snoring comes from the other futon. Gintoki scoffs, “Is it Tatsuma again?”
Katsura sits up and looks at the other side of the room and sees Takasugi sleeping while hugging his katana, with his mouth slightly open.
He lies back on his futon and smiles softly as he replies, “Yeah, it’s him.”
Everytime they feel like they have finally obtained peace, it slips away from their fingers as if their hands are too oily and filthy to touch something as pure as that. As he cuts down the enemies in front of him, Katsura thinks about nothing except survival and the unobtainable purity called peace.
As he watches their injured comrades carrying themselves into the building and getting their injuries treated, he thinks about all of them celebrating their victory once all of this is over. He thinks of everything going back to the way it used to. Sensei will beat them whenever they do something even remotely unmannered and Takasugi will get mad at Gintoki for being the one who caused the trouble in the first place, which of course, Gintoki would never admit.
He glances towards Gintoki and is neither surprised or disgusted to see him wipe off the blood on his cheeks using his sleeve, like the blood is an icing from a cake. Oh, right. They have never eaten cake before. Or at least, he is sure Gintoki has never. He hopes he will get to taste one someday once this war is over.
If it will be, that is.
Gintoki carries his sword as if it doesn’t weigh at all. As if it’s not something that has taken countless lives and will continue to do so until it rusts and can no longer be used. Gintoki kills people as if life only costs 300 yen, maybe even less. He is the spitting image of a demon.
Katsura knows he’s not. He knows Gintoki is not who he shows to the world as. This is just a mask, a demon mask that will never be taken off in a warzone because Gintoki knows it means he will die. His mask is his armour.
“Takasugi, you hurt your arm? What a loser! I won.” Gintoki grins in victory.
Takasugi glares at the grey haired man and spits, “It’s just a minor injury. What about you? You hurt your goddamn head, out of all things! And you’re already dumb to begin with, now your brain cells must’ve all dried up at this point.”
“That’s not minor, you got a large cut!” Gintoki retorts as he points at his injured arm. “And my head is fine, thank you. I can still do multiplications.” He exclaims proudly.
“Oh, really? I bet you only know the times table for 2 and 10.”
“Tet tet.” Gintoki does a poor imitation of a buzzer. “You’re wrong. I can do 5 as well.”
“Why do you look so proud?! Anyone can do those!” Katsura retorts, because that’s what a tsukkomi character is supposed to do. Wait, is he a tsukkomi character? He doesn’t even know anymore.
“Shut it, Zura! You should be on my side. I’ll give you 300 yen.”
“It’s Katsura, not Zura.” He folds his arms together. “Also, why is this even a competition? Are you guys not taking this war seriously?”
Sakamoto laughs cheerfully, as if he has seen everything that needs to be seen in this world. He has seen every wretched part of it and the blessed part of it as well and therefore, he is able to laugh. Katsura envies him.
Sakamoto sits down once he finishes laughing and says, “Zura, just let them do whatever they want. I doubt that they’ll even lose their head over a mere competition.”
Katsura massages his temple, cursing his luck for ending up with friends who won’t even call him with his actual name. “It’s Katsura, not Zura. And if this is how they’re gonna act then they might as well lose their heads, for crying out loud.”
“Well, don’t worry. I am taking this war very seriously.” Takasugi says it like he is describing the weather at the moment. “I don’t know about this perm haired though.”
Gintoki spits near Takasugi’s feet and growls, “I am too. Who do you think I am?”
“The Joke Of The Century.”
“I second that.” Katsura adds.
“I third that!” Sakamoto continues with a string of laughter.
Gintoki screams literally every curse word he knows towards Takasugi and then throws punches at Katsura and Sakamoto (which ends up hitting Sakamoto only because Katsura uses him as a shield).
“Why are you punching me?! I’m not the one who said that!”
“Well, you agreed!”
In the midst of the war, the small banter they have is like a gift from the gods. The fact that they’re still alive enough to act like this brings him happiness shaped as the ray of light shining through his windows called eyes, brightening his heart that is darkening every time he holds his sword with an intent to murder.
Gintoki’s eyes are clouded with an emotion, so dark and cold he doesn’t know how to describe it. Katsura can’t do anything. He does nothing. He only sits next to him under the starless sky, saying nothing in particular as if Gintoki’s silence are something that he needs to hear.
Or maybe it’s the way Gintoki’s shoulders seem tighter than usual, his facial features are calm but his eyes scream that he is the opposite of it. Katsura places his left hand onto Gintoki’s hand that is forming the fist at the moment and then feels it slowly becoming soft, as if he is holding an ice cube that is melting from his body heat.
Gintoki looks away from the sky and stares at him. Katsura stares back, words playing in his mind but he says none of it because he doesn’t know how to offer comfort to a human that has been called a demon his whole life. He doesn’t know how to calm the raging ocean behind his eyelids that makes him look like cold tears will flow out of his eyes anytime soon.
Nothing comes out.
Gintoki blinks a few times, saying nothing in return.
Katsura inhales deeply, and he thinks he is smelling the smell of grass. Has it always been there and he just realised it or what? Wait. What does he want to say? What is he supposed to say?
“You.. Do you want a hug?”
Katsura mentally panics as soon as he says it, which immediately stops when he sees Gintoki lean in, wrapping his arms around Katsura’s neck and nuzzles his face on his shoulder blade.
It takes just a swing of his sword for them to lose everything.
It takes just a scream and Takasugi’s rushed action for him to lose an eye.
Katsura remembers that his grandmother once told him that a home is not a place, but a person when he and his grandmother were then stripped of their home. However, being a child who couldn’t understand those kinds of stuff, he shoved it deep inside his brain and locked it in a box that had ‘Not That Important’ written in red marker at each side of it.
Now, he thinks he finally understands. He is losing his home once again.
They’re all losing home once again and all they can do is watch as his head falls helplessly to the ground.
The ties that bind them together have been severed and the sky has never looked so gloomy before.
He wonders what Gintoki saw when he stood at the edge of the cliff with a sword in his hand. Was he looking at their teacher in front of them, eyes unwavering in the slightest as he used the sword to behead the man in front of him?
Or did he close his eyes tightly, unable to see what kind of horrid image did beheading your own teacher - saviour’s head will show?
Did he see the exact image that Katsura did, but only clearer? He remembered hearing the sounds of crows cawing loudly as their wings flapped through the sky that looked as if it’ll cry at any moment, as if the crows were making fun of them. Could Gintoki hear it too? Or did he only hear the inescapable silence that pierced through all of their ears as soon as Shouyou’s head hit the ground?
All he knew is that when they finally got back from the warzone, Gintoki was the quietest among all of them.
Katsura can’t describe anything else. He can’t describe what happened after that or the way the war affected all of his friend’s behaviours and also his. Because it’s not his place to do it, and partly because talking about it will make it seem more real than it already is.
He is called the Runaway Koutarou, after all. Running away from reality is a piece of cake for him.
Katsura told a lie. They never went back from the warzone. It followed them back and became a part of them in the shape of recurring nightmares and excruciating memories that are embedded deep inside each of their brains, carving horrid marks on it as if they have been branded to remind them that the war is inescapable.
No one is spared. Not him. Not Gintoki. Not Takasugi. And no matter what the popular belief says, not even Tatsuma. Tatsuma talked about travelling to space, seeking comfort and warmth under the billions of stars and galaxies because he couldn’t do it here. Not on this blue planet that reminds him of war and misery.
Katsura told another lie, and that is the fact that he said he told only a lie. But he can’t say what other things he lied about because even he doesn’t know what is the truth and what is the lie. No one actually believes 100% of every little thing they say, after all.
“Did Takasugi tell you he’s leaving?”
A noise of bottle clanking. A deep sigh. “No.”
Gulps the last remaining of sake in the cup. “He could’ve told us the way Tatsuma did! Is he even okay?”
“Are any of us even okay in the first place.”
A loud noise of a bottle being slammed onto the table. “Okay, good point. Real question, what’re you going to do now?”
Silence for a few moments. “Gintoki, are you awake? ”
“Stop shaking me.”
“If you’re going to sleep, do it on the futon, for crying out loud.” Deep sigh. “Gintoki? Oi, Gintoki. Are you still there? I feel like I’m talking to a corpse.”
“Ugh, I’m gonna vomit.”
“Do it in the toilet.”
Faint noise of footsteps. Door is being slid open.
“What? I really-” Choking noise. “Have to vomit.”
“Don’t you ever disappear without telling me first, okay?”
Door slid shut.
Katsura wakes up the next morning only to find that no one is sleeping on the futon next to him. He doesn’t get up and tries to find the perm head because he knows that he’s no longer here. He never follows whatever he was told to do, after all.
Gintoki walks aimlessly on this planet called earth. Binded by the shackles called his past, he moves forward despite not knowing how to do it. What do people do after they killed their teacher and walked out of war, only to find that the peace is still so far away from their grasp? He doesn’t know how to forgive himself, and Takasugi certainly doesn’t look like he’s forgiving him at all.
He wonders what’ll Shouyou tell him to do, only to realise that he’s not here anymore.
No one is here anymore, so he finishes the yakult he bought with his spare money while looking at the sky, wondering if Tatsuma is floating somewhere out there.
Liquid starts coming out of his eyes. Maybe it’s just the yakult.
He can somehow imagine Katsura making a retort at his assumption, and he’ll tell the long haired man to shut up. Because he knows it’s not the yakult’s fault. He knows it all too well.
Time passes by normally Shouyou’s death, and it continues to proceed even when he’s all alone in the ruined building that can no longer be called home.
He once heard somewhere that the greatest comfort the world could give after a disaster occurs is that time will still move by itself even when something terrible happens. The clock still ticks, even when you feel like your whole life has ended. Time waits for no one. It doesn’t wait for your broken heart to fix itself perfectly before it starts to move again.
He doesn’t understand it, but he feels like he should wait.
Waiting is the hardest thing for him to do , because he has been doing it his whole life.
The previous part is referring to who? Don’t bother trying to figure it out.
There is no right or wrong answer at all, after all. No one knows. Not even Katsura, the supposedly main character for this fic. And certainly not the writer for this fic.
The better question would be “Why is there a part where it only refers to dialogues and sound effects?”, as if saying that if this is an anime, that part will be shown with a certain building image and you can only hear their voices and sound effects. Or you can also ask why I drank yakult.
Or better, “why is this questioning thing part is necessary?”
Oh, that’s a rather troublesome question. Come back another day, please. Gin-san’s stomach hurts so badly for some reason.
Gintoki doesn’t remember a lot of stuff that happened in the prison, or how long he was locked up inside it. All he remembers is the pain that was inflicted on him. Torture sessions being done over and over again, in hopes they’d be able to break his soul.
But the thing about suffering is that, once you’ve experienced the worst kind of pain possible, nothing else can ever break you because you have known the worst pain that a man can possibly ever experience.
Dragging his feet on the bed of snow as if he isn’t even freezing in the slightest, he tries to control the rhythm of his breathing as he rests his body on a tombstone whose name is made up of kanji that he finds hard to read. Is his head okay? Did he hurt his head or something? What’ll Takasugi say if he sees him like this?
He is dying. He knows he is. Although saying that he’s dying is an exaggeration, considering the fact that he has experienced pain that’s far more worse than this. But still, his entire body feels too numb and his breathing is frantic, as if his lungs are slowly freezing. Does he have frostbites? He isn’t sure. Not that knowing if he has frostbites will help him survive, considering he has nothing to warm up his body at the moment.
And his hunger is so agonizing, he feels like his insides are being slowly consumed by a black hole and then he’ll end up organ-less and meatless and then all he’s left with are his skin and a pair of eyeballs. Wait, are eyeballs organs? Doesn’t that mean it’ll get consumed by the black hole too? What’s black hole in the first place?
As he feels his consciousness slowly disappearing, all he can think of is that finally, he can go and die. Will this make his sins forgiven?
He opens his eyes and lets out a loud exhale. Oh yeah. He can’t die. He thinks of the executioner who risked his life into letting him get away. He thinks of the small child whose eyes are too innocent to even be making eye contact with him, yet she did it anyway and told him that she’ll give him a painless death.
He thinks of the corpse eating demon that wandered around the warzone for survival until a long haired man whose smile was too kind to be directed towards him and owned a pair of soft, understanding eyes that captivated the soul of the demon. He thinks of the long haired man whose head was taken off of its body from the same demon who he saved.
Oh yeah. His life is no longer his own. He can no longer decide whether he should die or not. He laughs at the cruel realisation and curses the gods.
“Hey,” He calls out an old woman who is paying a visit for the person that is buried on the tombstone he leans on. “Can I have some food, please?”
He makes a promise with the man whose name is written on the tombstone he leans on, because that’s all he can offer. And that’s all he does best in.
“What does a samurai suppose to do once they kill their own teacher?” is the first question that he asks Otose a few weeks after he starts living in her building.
Otose doesn’t say anything, eyes restlessly looking at the drunk man in front of him with a worried expression all over her face. Gintoki is too drunk to notice the look and pours more sake in his cup before drinking it all at once again.
“I wish there’s a manual book for those kinds of stuff.”
Otose takes a drag of her cigarette. “As if you’d follow it.” Gintoki lets out an exhausted laugh. “ I guess you’re right.”
Gintoki stands up and drags his feet lazily to the door. “See you later.”
“Gintoki, stay safe.” She says it like it’s a warning. ‘Don’t you dare do anything dangerous or I will never forgive you.’ Gintoki smiles to himself, wondering if Shouyou was like that too. His memory is blurry and vague, but he thinks there are certain similarities. The thought alone makes him fall asleep peacefully compared to the other nights.
Gintoki wonders how long it takes for him to finally stop waiting for his wounds to heal and watch as the stitches undo itself, exposing his flesh wounds under his hideous clothing called skin. He feels pain flowing all over the inside of his body like it’s a pot, and it’s slowly flowing out and he does nothing to stop it.
There is no point in trying anymore, because he knows salvation will never come and he doesn’t even deserve it. If something gets broken over and over again, you might as well let it stay broken forever.
For the first time ever, he thinks he finally understands the way Takasugi’s brain works.
It is an extremely normal encounter, in some ways. No one can tell that this encounter will change his whole life, not even him at the first glance. Shinpachi seems too normal to be hanging out with him, and far too pure as well. Thinking the four eyed boy will definitely leave someday, Gintoki doesn’t think of him too much.
Until a red headed yato appears. Until the time they spend together slowly increases outside work time as well. Until the bond they have slowly becomes stronger, forming steel-like threads that ties them together. Has he become a parent towards two teenagers? He feels like he was just a teenager rampaging in the war a few minutes ago.
A week after he finally reunites with Katsura, they go for a drink.
“Don’t you ever involve me with your terrorist crap again or I swear you’ll regret it.” Gintoki complains.
Katsura laughs as he pours a drink in a cup and hands it over to Gintoki. “It’s good to see you’re doing good.”
“Well,” Katsura smiles warmly as he stares at the reflection of light on his drink. “You seem better than when we were at war.”
“The war happened almost a decade ago already so..”
“Yeah, but it’s still nice to be reassured of your condition.”
Gintoki stays silent for a moment before he asks, “I can’t believe you’re still doing this terrorist thing.”
Katsura exclaims, “Well, I can’t believe you’ve stopped being a joui rebel and starts opening a weird ass business.”
“It’s cool, right? A job that does whatever you ask for as long as you have money.”
Katsura scoffs. “So in the end you only care about money?”
“Gimme a break, will ya? I’m tight on cash.” Gintoki scratches his head.
Katsura laughs again, except softer this time, and Gintoki thinks he is about to pass out this instant. “It’s good to see that you still haven’t changed.”
Gintoki takes a sip of his drink and then grins. “I can say the same thing about you too.”
Katsura fears change. He fears the day where his beloved country will slowly fall in the hands of amanto, making the place he treasures the most to become something completely different.
He swears that he is doing joui rebel activities because the bakufu is corrupted and he’s trying to recover his country in his own ways, which isn’t a complete lie. But there’s something else too. He refuses to believe that the death of his comrades during the war was for nothing.
So, seeing the man that once was feared as the Shiroyasha has now become a seemingly useless person to the society has made him feel an overwhelming emotion deep down inside and he doesn’t know how to describe it. He thought that Gintoki will at least have the same mindset as him, only to realise that he has his own bushido.
It still doesn’t get rid of the indescribable emotion, but seeing the silver haired man slowly gaining happiness brings a smile to his face.
“Not only I can’t save a country, I can’t even save a friend.”
Bone breaks. Wound reopens. Gintoki feels his jaw tightening and his muscles don’t feel like his own. It’s not your fault. Don’t bear everyone’s sins as if it’s all yours.
“Gintoki, don’t you ever change.” Katsura’s words flow effortlessly like it’s a stream of the river he once saw when he was travelling with Shouyou. He wonders if the river is still beautiful and crystal clear, though he doubts it.
Don’t you ever change. Don’t you ever leave me again. Don’t you ever change. Please.
Katsura bites his lower lips from saying anything further and turns to look at his former comrade — enemy. Their enemy. The enemy of the entire universe.
He feels like laughing at the horrible joke, but only blood comes out from his body. He thinks that’ll do.
Most people will think that Takasugi and Gintoki hate each other. They’re always fighting no matter what, and the fact that Takasugi has developed an interest in destroying the world has definitely made it worse. But Katsura knows there’s always something more than what’s showcased so freely under the undying sun and the brightening stars, and he’s sure that Tatsuma sees it too.
Gintoki keeps on talking about stopping Takasugi, never fails to mention what a dangerous man he’s become while maintaining a serious face full of hatred, but he knows there’s something else behind the hateful mask.
Katsura wants to call him out for it, but he decides to swallow his drink and agrees with the silver head’s statement instead. Because Katsura is aware that he himself is doing it too.
Loving Gintoki is hard. He attracts death wherever he goes and Katsura isn’t sure if it comes in a package with his tendency to get in trouble so easily. He wants to think it’s because of his job that involves doing whatever work that was offered as long as money is involved, but he knows that’s not the case.
Katsura traces the lower back of the person in front of him and spots a fading scar from being stabbed, accompanied with seemingly other obvious ones. “Did it hurt?” He whispers.
Gintoki’s laugh comes out too breathy, too light. “Of course it did. I was stabbed, after all.”
Katsura’s eyes trail off to the other’s collarbone. He stares at a place that has a mole for a moment before he leans in and leaves a soft kiss there. Gintoki shudders and whines, “Could’ve warned first.”
“Oh? Were you surprised?” Katsura asks while grinning.
“What no! Don’t you know a thing called consent?”
Katsura laughs and places both of his hands on Gintoki’s shoulders. “I want to leave bites on your body. Will you give me the permission to do it?”
Gintoki huffs a breath and stares on the ground for a moment before he opens his mouth and says, “Suit yourself.”
If Katsura sees a soft shade of blush on his face, he doesn’t mention it.
Katsura turns his body, back facing the wall so that he is facing Gintoki and then hums, practically telling him to continue whatever he’s trying to say.
“I’m sorry.” Gintoki’s eyes seem far too sad, too weak it sends a weird feeling to Katsura. Katsura opens his mouth to say something, but then Gintoki takes a sharp intake of breath and mutters, “I’m really, really sorry.”
Thousands of regret and guilt are always being shortened to just “I’m sorry”. Thousands of words are always being shortened to just “Please never change”. Thousands of emotions and desperation are always being reduced to mere “Don’t you ever disappear without telling me, okay?”
Humans rarely talk about the important stuff, or at least Gintoki never does. He is never good at it. All he can do is swing his sword and protect the people he holds dear with his entire body, his entire spirit. And Katsura wants to tell him it’s fine so badly. It’s fine to not push yourself too hard. It’s fine to just exist and be the person you are. It’s fine to just be a normal human being and live a normal life.
The problem is, Katsura isn’t good at talking about important stuff as well. Gintoki doesn’t know how to be normal, and Katsura certainly can’t teach him. They both are a wreck together.
He can’t say anything to the grey haired man lying next to him on his seemingly worn out futon, looking at him with eyes that seem as worn out as the futon yet he resembles the young kid Katsura first met more than a decade ago. So young, yet so cursed.
His words seem useless, so he does nothing but wrap Gintoki into a hug and hums a song. A song that barely exists in his mind, making it feel like nothing but a fleeting dream. But he still remembers the soft hand stroking his head as the song is being sung softly by his dearest late grandmother. He remembers the love and affection the song carried despite not remembering whether the plum tree near his house had ripen or not at that time or if the sky was crying the same way he did.
The emotion is deeply etched in his mind, so if it’s just a dream then what else can possibly be real?
How far do they have left from grasping the holy thing called peace? How far? No one knows.
Gintoki stands up, hands and legs trembling while struggling to pick up his sword that fell on the ground. He looks at the man in front of him as soon as he picks it up, eyes unwavering in the slightest. How can a person that he once survived war with have become their enemy? What happened over the past decade?
Takasugi resembles the ghost of his past when he charges forward and swings his sword at him with a killing intent. The words regarding the past he utters, the despair in his eye and the pain that’s hidden behind the bandages that cover his left eye that’ll never be lighted up with light ever again. He is Gintoki’s past that has come back to haunt him, telling him all the mistakes he has made will never be forgiven.
Gintoki scoffs as he stares at the man his previous comrade has become. As if I don’t know that already.
“Do you think there is a universe where Amanto isn’t a thing and there’s only living things on Earth?” Gintoki asks out of the blue. He stares at the crescent moon while standing in the middle of the road among the crowd. Katsura quickly holds his hand and drags him to the corner, where there are less people so that none of them will get separated.
“Where did the question come from?” Katsura raises one of his eyebrows. Gintoki hums for a moment before he mutters, “I’m just thinking. That’s all.”
“I’ve never even thought another universe besides this exists”. Katsura grips his hand firmly, but Gintoki’s hand feels so lifeless, so gentle against his. There is no reaction at all, despite it subtly twitching, possibly from the cold. Gintoki smiles, eyes never leaving the sight of the moon as he exclaims, “I used to think about it a lot. It seemed like a good dream. Waking up and finding myself in a room where I’m with you, sensei… Takasugi….”
Katsura stares at him and oh, he wishes he can turn back time because that’s not the kind of expression he wants to see on his face. “Gintoki-”
“This is a good life, isn’t it?” Gintoki’s smile widens and his eyes meet Katsura’s. “It… was bad. Then it became good when I met sensei and both of you. But then the bad thing happened. But the thing is that the bad part never stays even when it looks like it will.”
“Life is unpredictable.” Katsura gazes on the dirt that is stuck on his shoe insoles and tries to get rid of it by rubbing it on the concrete road he’s currently standing on. “But I guess it’s a good thing too. That’s what life is all about, after all.”
The dead should never come back, especially not as a whole different person. (Is he a person? Who is he? What is he?) The smile he holds and the kind eyes he shows for an instant makes Gintoki want to break down crying at that very moment. There’s so many questions he wants to ask. Too many to count.
“Your sword will never reach me.”
The grip on his sword loosens and he feels a numbness deep inside him. Somewhere he can’t reach. Somewhere he can’t treat. The old wounds deep inside him have reopened, blood spilling out all over inside his body and he is suffocating. He can’t focus on anything. Everything is a mess and all he can feel right now is the pain on his neck coming from the sword that the ghost of his past is holding right now.
Gintoki is scared of ghosts. He is scared that one day all of his dead comrades and enemies will come crawling out from the ground and tries to tear him apart, telling him how it’s all his fault that things end up the way they are. He thinks of it almost every moment, but he never actually thought Shouyou would come back.
And yet here he is, standing in front of him as a whole new person. Same smile, same face, same fighting style that always never fails to defeat him.
A distant thought in him suggests that maybe this kind of death is suitable for a demon like him.
The blade on his neck stops. He does not realise it, probably from thinking too much about other things.
Gintoki’s grip on his sword tightens, eyes focused once again.
Sometimes ignorance is bliss. The truth has plunged a thousand swords deep into his heart, but the injuries feel numb.
Sometimes you wonder what it would feel like to be a shounen protagonist, blessed with strong power that can rival the god of the sun. Your existence, practically something crucial to the flow of the world and can determine the outcome of everything.
You see someone on a documentary, for example : Albert Einstein, the man whose name is known by practically 7.8 billion human on this entire planet and will never be forgotten until at least everyone on this planet perish, either from global warming or asteroid impact that has killed all the goddamn mighty dinosaurs like they’re a bunch of cockroaches.
You wonder how it feels to be so relevant and influential, your name never really disappears even after centuries of your death date. Is it a cool thing? How does Albert Einstein feel, sitting on his throne in heaven, watching people on Earth still muttering his name whether in a Physics class or when a group of middle schoolers argue whether or not he is the one who discovered gravity by experiencing an apple falling on his head or is it Isaac Newton?
Gintoki wonders how it feels to be normal. Not associated with any nicknames that makes the rock inside him sink further whenever he hears someone refer to him with one of it. He wonders what’ll happen if he had been born in a normal condition, not having to wander on the battlefield, searching for food alongside the crows and seeing corpses on a daily basis. Not having known of the hellish place called war.
It does sound heavenly pleasing. Not having to meet his enemies and dead comrades in his nightmares, never failing to remind him again and again that no matter how heroic the world says he is, his sins can never be atoned. The life of his teacher will never have to be thrown away as a price for their survival. The war will probably never happen.
He wonders how it feels to be normal, not having to bear anything at all. Just living for the amount of time god has decided for him and then die the same way everyone does, alone and regretful.
Being a shounen protagonist sounds like fun and games until you start to actually be one. He wants to say this, but he knows both sides are just as awful in its own way. Gintoki can’t prove it being worse, and you can’t prove that being a normal human being, not having any special reasons at all to be born, is worse. You and him have never been on both sides of the coin, and therefore all the opinions are neither false or true.
It’s impossible to imagine a colour that you’ve never seen before, after all.
Still, a small part of him wants to be normal. And he can’t be blamed for it. Humans are bound to wish for things they don’t have no matter how many things they have been blessed with, after all.
Gintoki opens his eyes and squints at the blinding light that overpowers his vision all of a sudden. Rubbing his eyes as he tries to get used to the sudden brightness, he yawns loudly.
The sky is clear and the sun is shining obnoxiously as if it’s flaunting the heat and light it holds, warning the entire universe who is the superior one. Oh yeah, it’s August. He seems to have forgotten the track of time again. Did he have a long dream?
“Gintoki.” A familiar voice comes within his range. He turns around and smiles when he sees Katsura, barging into his house as if it’s his place as well. Oh right. It is. What the hell, is Gin-san okay?
“Gintoki. Oi.” Katsura sits beside his futon and places a hand onto his forehead, eyes showing a clear concern. “Are you okay?”
That’s what I was just thinking of! Are you a mind reader? Oh shit. He forgot to use his mouth.
“Hell, that’s what I wanna know.” Gintoki feels his throat hurting, and so he continues talking in a lower volume. “What’s happening? I feel like I had a really long dream.”
Katsura sighs and hands him a bowl of porridge. Damn, he didn’t realise he was holding onto it the entire time. “You suddenly fainted yesterday. The doctor said you were overworked.”
“Oh? That’s a rare occasion.” Gintoki grins weakly.
“Gin-san? Zura-san?” A small, meek voice comes from behind the closed door. The door opens, and a small boy, really small, peaks his head into the room as he gazes around the room, examining it. Katsura laughs and pats his lap. “Come here, Shinsuke.”
Gintoki arches one of his eyebrows as he stares at the familiar looking boy. “Shinsu- TAKASUGI?”
“Ahaha, he’s grown up so fast, right? It’s only been like what? 3 years? 4 years?”
Takasugi, the reincarnated version, he supposes, is sitting obediently on Katsura’s lap with a deep frown on his face. He grumbles, “I’m 7 years old. And stop treating me like a kid.”
Katsura’s laugh fills in the room. “But you are a kid.”
“No.” Takasugi stresses the vowel. “I was like what, 30? Around the time I died?”
“26, to be exact.” Katsura answers while patting his head. “Or is it 25…. Doesn’t matter, anyway. You’re still a kid.”
“He’s right.” Gintoki says with his mouth full with porridge. “Plus, you don’t remember anything from your previous life, right? So it definitely doesn’t count. Not that it’ll still count if you remember it, anyway.”
Takasugi glares at him and folds his arms together. “It does! Gin-san is just a jobless fool, Kagura-nee says so. That means you know nothing!”
“Hey hey, who do you think took care of that snotty brat for years huh? She wouldn’t still be living till now if I knew nothing.”
Gintoki feels a strange amount of pride welling up inside him when his argument has made Takasugi shut up, trying to think of what can he say that’d counter his statement. When the kid opens his mouth, Gintoki guesses that he is about to say something awful that he had heard from other people about him. He guessed wrong.
“Are you okay, Gin-san? Did you try to stop being a jobless fool and fail?”
His eyebrows twitch at the passive aggressive question. “Hey, kiddo… You need to learn how to be respectful towards older people.”
Katsura teases him, “He’s quite a good kid, you know. He’s only a brat around you.”
“Oh, really? So, technically I’m getting the special treatment.” Gintoki grins while pointing at Takasugi with his spoon and says, “Are you that fond of me, Shin-chan?”
Takasugi growls. “No! Where’d you even get that idea from?! Also, don’t call me that!” Sakamoto comes into the room, laughing loudly, the way he always does. “It’s good to know you’re doing better already, Kintoki.”
Gintoki sighs, putting back the spoon into the bowl and retorts, “For the millionth time, it’s Gintoki. Gin.”
Ignoring his complaint, Sakamoto sits beside Katsura and reaches a hand towards Takasugi and pat his head. Takasugi grumbles, but doesn’t push him away.
“Ahaha, Shinsuke did you grow taller?”
Takasugi pouts. Gintoki didn’t know that kid could pout. “You haven’t seen me for only 2 days. It’s impossible.” Sakamoto laughs loudly at his reply.
Sakamoto moves his hand away from the kid and mentions, “Oh yeah, by the way, we have to go back tonight.”
The pout disappears from his face and is replaced with a deep frown. He lashes out. “What?! We’ve only been here for one day!”
“Ahahaha… Uncle is really busy, you know…. Mutsu arranged another appointment with amanto on another planet.”
“But…. but….” He sniffs, and that makes Sakamoto starts panicking.
Sakamoto starts rambling, trying to calm the crying child. Gintoki ignores them, lies back on the futon and closes his eyes, trying to return to the long ass slumber he was previously in. He feels a damp cloth being placed on his forehead and so he opens his eyes, looking at the long haired man in front of him.
“Do I have a fever?”
“You did. A very horrible one.”
Gintoki lets out a long sigh, as if it will automatically get rid of the horrible headache he is having at the moment. “My head fucking hurts so bad and I think I just had a very long dream.”
Katsura blinks a few times, looking alert at the mention of dreams. “Is it a nightmare?”
Gintoki stares at the ceiling without saying anything, trying to think of a very simple way to explain it. A way to explain it without using the word Katsura had used. A bird lands on the edge of the window and he stares at it while muttering, “It’s something like that. I don’t know. Most of it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.”
“But…” Gintoki continues, “It was a pleasant dream.”