Matters of the Heart pt. 6 The Effects
She sat in her room, winding her damp hair into her shimada hairstyle. Weak hands let the brush slip through her fingers. Sighing, she continued winding her hair. Megumi yawned quietly. Why am I suddenly so tired? She asked herself. Eh… Probably just stayed up too late… Weakly, she stood, with her strength suddenly leaving her. Smoothing her slowly loosening, lavender kimono, she let out a quiet sigh and slid her door open making her way to the training hall. She struggled to pull it tighter on her frame. Am I losing weight? She wondered quietly. A small lacquered medicine box rested in her arms. She leaned against the door frame, sighing tiredly.
“MEGUMI-SAN LOOK OUT!” Okita cried, pushing her out of the way and crashing onto of her.
“Ah!” she cried grunting as she hit the hard wood.
As her medicine box flew, a screaming Tetsunosuke suddenly went flying through the door, landing in the grass below the veranda. He groaned with his bamboo sword rolling away. Okita turned back towards the dojo.
“Oi, Saitou-san!” Okita laughed. “Don’t you think you should probably go a little easier on Tetsu-kun?”
“Don’t you think you should avoid being in a compromising situation with our doctor?” the droopy eyed man retorted in his usual droopy tone.
Todou and the other captains chuckled. Megumi turned and stared at Okita's face above her. She blushed. He blushed and quickly got off her, laughing nervously. Blushing and standing, she smiled and walked over to Tetsunosuke, picking up her medicine box as she went.
“痛い… [Ow...]” he groaned sitting up slowly.
“大丈夫, [Are you ok] Tetsunosuke-kun?” she asked smiling.
“はい,” [Yea] he replied massaging his head. “I think Saitou and Okita got a little rough.”
Megumi turned and sent a playful glare towards Saitou and Okita. Okita laughed.
“ごめんね, [Sorry] Tetsunosuke-kun,” he chuckled.
“大丈夫だ! 大丈夫だ! [I'm fine! I'm fine!]” Tetsunosuke laughed, picking up his sword and storming into the dojo. “Who’s next?!”
Megumi smiled. The men laughed. Suddenly, she let out a loud and rough cough. Okita turned worriedly and discreetly pulled her aside.
“Are you all right?” he whispered taking her hand in his.
“Of course,” she replied quietly. “I'm just a bit tired. Probably just a cold.”
He smiled and nodded. He placed a small kiss on her lips and walked back into the training hall. She blushed smiling as she watched, popping her head through the door. She walked into the dojo and sat against a wall and continued watching as the men trained. Bamboo swords clacked, and screams resounded.
As Tetsunosuke cleaned up, picking up and putting away wooden and bamboo swords and spears, Okita dressed putting his hair in a high ponytail and slipping his swords in his obi. His kimono hung loose, leaving part of his pale muscular chest exposed. He walked out with a large smile on his face.
“Hey,” Nagakura whispered as he walked by the other Jokers tagging along. “Since when did
Okita wear his kimono like that and carry his swords?”
“Good question,” Todou added. “He's wearing his hair up too.”
“Heh,” Harada replied chuckling. “I bet that trip to Shimabara must've done wonders for him.”
“We finally made Okita into a man! We’re geniuses!” Nagakura exclaimed mentally patting himself on the back.
The Jokers chuckled and continued walking.
“Megumi-chan,” he smiled, sliding open her office door. “Are you busy?”
She looked up, hearing the sudden intrusion. She pulled a small powder-puff away from her neck and placed it back in a small lacquered box, filled with the pale white-ish, cream colored powder that matched her skin. She smiled, putting the box away and out of sight.
“いいえ,[no]” she replied, turning to him. “Actually, I was thinking of going into town. It's rare that I have a day off here, and the other oiran will survive without me. Would you like to come with me?”
Okita's smile grew. He nodded. Smiling, she stood and walked out both, making their way to town.
The market streets bustled with the chatter of merchants and buyers out to make use of the warm sunshine and warm spring weather. Small pink flurries of cherry blossoms fluttered through the sky as though it were snow. She walked, staring into the shops as they continued to make idle talk. Various shop owners stepped out onto the street watching the people pass by.
“お客様!” cried a vendor. “僕の店に入ってください！彼女が好きなことたくさんでございますよ！” [Sir come into the store! We have a lot of things that your girlfriend will like!]
Megumi looked up to him and laughed as she continued to walk ahead of him. Watching her continue to walk ahead, Okita slipped over.
“What do you have?” he asked with an eager, childish smile.
The store owner quickly showed him inside.
“And what were you looking for in particular, sir?” He asked. “We have a lot of fans, hairpins, combs, obijime, and obi-dome too…”
Okita looked around staring at bright colored cords, broaches, hairpins, and fans. The turned as something glistening in the sunlight caught his eye. He grinned.
“これを下さい！” [I'll take this one!] He chirped.
Confused, Megumi looked around and through the crowd. Eh… She thought with a slight frown. I’ve lost Okita-san! With a sigh, she leaned against a building, hoping he would start to pass by. She stared up into the slowly blossoming sakura trees, arching her eyebrow as she watched a tiny bright light wafting from the trees’ pink petals. Floating, the light made its way over to her flying on a stray petal in the wind. Curious, she reached her hand up to it letting gently fall into her palm. Her eyes went wide as she saw a small set of eyes looking up at her. The eyes leapt up into the air and hovered in front of her face. The figure wore a crown made of sakura pistils and a flowing pink and white kimono that fell on her as though it were a blossoming sakura.
“Are you hurting? Are you sick?” the light suddenly spoke. “I can make all of your pain go away. Would you like to come with me?”
Eyes wide, she tilted her head to the side and opened her mouth to speak.
“Ah! Megumi-san!” Okita called out, rushing up to her and interrupting her thoughts. “ごめんね！[Sorry!] I had to stop something for Saizou.”
“It’s all right, Okita,” she laughed, turning to him. “You should’ve told me, ne? I thought I lost you.”
He chuckled. As they started to walk off, she looked around for the tiny, bright light and watched as it suddenly disappeared. The others on the street continued about their way as though they had not seen it.
As she stared up into the trees, Megumi let out a quiet giggle, turning to the quietly babbling river. Okita held her hand.
“This year’s sakura are so pretty aren’t they?” she smiled.
“はい, [yes]” he replied looking down on her a slightly dazed look in his eyes.
“Though...” she began turning to him with a smile. “I have to wonder about the strange behavior that's come over you.”
“Strange behavior?” he questioned, confused. “What do you mean, Megumi-chan?”
“Yes,” she retorted with a smile. “You never leave your kimono open. Your hair is up, and you're carrying your swords. The Okita I'm used to would never do that.”
Okita stopped, with her words ringing in his ears. He looked down at his open kimono and his swords and ran a hand through his pulled back hair. He smiled, staring as she slowly started walking ahead.
“Well,” he began, rubbing the back of his head nervously. “I think it should be obvious...”
“Oh?” she called back to him back still turned. “It should?”
“Well,” he started again. “I should think it should be obvious to the woman who I'm making these changes for… Yamanami and Hijikata-san’s advice really helped a lot…”
She stopped. A blush crept on to her face. Slowly, she turned to him, still blushing.
“Ah… I… Okita…” she replied, with the words stumbling off her tongue. “Changes aren’t necessary you know… I like you as you are… Though, I’ll admit it is a good look for you as well…”
She lowered her head. Pieces of her black hair hid her face. Softly, he smiled, walking up to her. Gently, he turned her face up to meet his dark eyes. He continued smiling as he pulled out a small hair comb of pink cherry blossoms and dangling silver beads out of his kimono's sleeve.
“… O-Okita?” she questioned.
“For you,” he replied, quietly placing the pin gently in her pulled back hair.
He placed a small kiss on her forehead.
“To a cute girl, give a flowered hairpin… To a beautiful woman…” he whispered into her ear as her face grew hotter. “… I guess I really wasn’t getting anything for Saizou…”
He placed the comb in her hair and smiled.
“Ah… It's… uh… ah… Thank you…” she blushed, shyly lowering her head again looking out of the corners of her eyes.
Proudly, he smiled and looked in the direction of her stare.
“Ah! My favorite candy shop, Megumi-chan!” he quipped.
She grabbed his hand and started pulling him along.
“Come on!” he cried smiling. “Let's get some sweets and mochi, and we can have a small picnic!”
Megumi chuckled and nodded eagerly in agreement, running off with him.
Small paper wrappers and shiny foil squares littered the grass around them as Okita and Megumi sat, eating and watching the wind slowly blow a pink snow storm of cherry blossoms. She sighed tiredly, coughing.
“Are you all right?” Okita asked worriedly, wrapping one arm around her and pulling her to him. “You’ve been doing that all day, Megumi-chan…”
“I know,” she replied. “I probably just caught a cold. Don’t worry.”
Okita nodded as she rested her head tiredly on his shoulder. As a crow cawed above them and flew from the branches of the sakura tree, a sick feeling grew in his stomach. She's fine… He thought as he watched the crow fly to another tree. Its dark beady eyes menacingly stared down at him matching his gaze. It's just a cold… Nothing to worry about…
Protectively and as though he were clinging to her for his life, his arm wrapped around her enveloping her in a warm embrace. A hot, feverish forehead pressed against his chest. She's warm… She’s got a fever… He thought worriedly. Looking up to him as she watched his worried expression, she pulled away and placed his head in her lap. She pulled out his ponytail letting his black hair flare out in a gentle river. She smiled.
“You've got nothing to worry about,” she smiled. “It's only a cold and nothing more… I’m sure that crow will go away too.”
He nodded worriedly. Her small hands stroked his long black hair, running her fingers in the smooth, untangled mane. She smiled again.
“Thank you, Okita-kun,” she began.
He stared at her with a bewildered look.
“For what?” he asked a small smile alighting his face.
“I had fun today,” she replied leaning down and kissing his forehead. “… More fun than I've had in a long time…”
He sat up, staring deep into her brown eyes. Then, he pressed his lips to hers in a swift and sudden passionate movement.
The scent of pungent herbs filled the room as he grinded and mashed the herbs into a paste. He looked up spying a shadow and quickly put the unused herbs back into the package that Tetsunosuke and Tatsunosuke had retrieved.
“Hijikata-san!” Okita chirped as he walked up to the office door. “What are you doing?”
“What is it, Souji?” He questioned coldly.
“What are you hiding?” Okita grinned. “Is it a secret? Tell me, Hijikata-san!”
“They’re ingredients for a medicine of enervation,” He began, noticing Okita’s questioning look. “It cures coughing and stops fatigue I originally was a medicine peddler after all…”
“There’s no reason to hide that,” Okita laughed. “If anything, we’ll all be ok when everyone gets colds with you and Megumi around. You two can even exchange medicine recipes!”
Hijikata rolled his eyes.
As the night began to fall, Suma watched as Hana and Saya dressed in red and gold kimonos of smooth and shining silk. Hairpins shined and jingled in their hair. She sighed. Ai stared at her simple white nemaki.
“Akesato-san,” Ai began, tugging on Akesato's long kimono sleeve.
Akesato turned. Suma walked up to the other girl’s side.
“Can we go with you tonight?” Suma asked pouting. “We wanna see what you and Megumi-san do…”
Softly, the older oiran smiled as she caressed their small faces with her hands.
“Now girls,” she began kindly but sternly. “You know Megumi forbids you to tend to the guests. She's doing it for your own good.”
The girls pouted.
“Now,” she started again, standing from her mirror and leading the small girls to a small room with a futon and a dimly lit lantern. “Let’s get you both to bed. It's getting late.”
“Yes, Akesato-san,” they chimed, walking into the room and sliding the door shut.
“Ai-chan and Suma-chan are so lucky,” Hana said.
“Yes,” Akesato replied. “She works so hard… If you girls do that too, you can buy you're way out of this place too…”
Hana and Saya turned to her. They smiled.
“Maybe…” Hana grinned. “But we'd never get to see those handsome Shinsengumi boys ever again. And I need to make that spear man my husband first!”
Saya giggled. Akesato smiled.
“Well,” Hijikata began as he watched Okita sip from a cup. “What do you think of the Hijikata recipe for medicine of enervation?”
“It feels like it will really be effective,” He grinned as a skeptical look dawned on Hijikata’s face.
“Let me see that,” He retorted as he drank.
Hijikata’s expression grew sick. Okita laughed.
“You’re so honest, Hijikata-san!”Okita snickered behind his hand. “But they do say that medicine is good if it’s bitter on the tongue, ne?”
Then, a frantic solider came running up to the office.
With a tired Okita lying in her lap again, she continued stroking his hair as they watched the moon ascend above the trees and the rooftops of the city. She yawned. Okita stood.
“Let’s get you to bed,” he said, smiling. “It's late.”
She giggled, leaning back on her hands.
“大丈夫です,” [It's all right] she replied as Okita suddenly lifted her up in his arms with a smile. “You’re the one who should be getting to bed! You and the others have had a rather… strange evening, ne?”
Both of them laughing, Okita walked into her room placing her gently on her futon. Standing, Megumi smiled as she grabbed a white nemaki and stepped behind a paper changing screen. Lightly blushing, Okita turned away, waiting patiently for her return.
“Okita-kun,” she murmured, placing a hand on his shoulder making him turn. “Would you… Like to… Stay here… Tonight?”
His blush turned darker.
“H-hai,” he smiled. “I think I would like that very much.”
Megumi smiled, sliding into her futon. Okita slipped in beside her and pulled her close. She sighed tiredly wiping a light sheen of sweat of her brow. He stroked her long black hair and smiled softly. She looked up to him, smiling. He placed a kiss on her forehead.
“Oyasumi,” she whispered closing her eyes.
“Oyasumi,” he smiled softly as he fell asleep.
P.S. Crows can be an omen of death in Japan. Actually, anything black really can be associate
with it. :D