Matters of the Heart Character Reflections: Okita Souji
In the cool early morning, Hijikata glared down at his page as demonic eyes followed his every movement. The bamboo sword flew through the air, stopping at a precise angle with every swing. Then, Okita’s swing slipped from his rhythm. Hijikata’s bamboo sword went flying, striking him hard in the back. Okita fell to the ground.
“Wrong!” He bellowed. “Again!”
Teary eyed and sniffling, Okita stood and took another swing.
“Like this?” he asked cautiously.
“Better,” Hijikata began with a sneer. “Now do it 200 times, and if you mess up, you have to start over.”
Okita’s eyes grew wide.
“200 times more?” He whined as Hijikata continued to glare.
“Do you want a 100 spankings instead?” the demon in the room questioned coldly with a disdaining glare.
Okita started swinging as his complaints grew silent.
Peering into the dojo as he walked by, Kondo stopped and smiled.
“Okita-kun” He called out. “It’s a nice day, why don’t you go and play with the children at the temple?”
195… Okita’s mind counted as he swung.
“I have,” he panted tiredly. “Four… Three… Two…”
“150 more to go,” Hijikata interjected before Okita could finish his sentence.
A cool gray smoke trail wafted from his pipe. Okita’s eyes began to tear as he started his swings over. Glaring coldly, Hijikata walked over and slapped him hard with the bokken several times.
“Stop being weak, boy!” He bellowed again. “Toughen up!”
Kondo walked away sighing. Okita turned and kowtowed a Hijikata’s feet.
“Sorry! Sorry! Sorry!” He cried.
Hijikata snorted a puff of smoke from his nostrils.
“Get to work,” he curtly commanded as Okita tiredly stood and began his swinging.
Hijikata’s dark eyes looked around cautiously down the alleyway as he and his patrols wandered around in the cool late night. Okita looked around curiously, staring up into the dark windows in the buildings. Then, with a sudden rumble of stray crates and a cry, the Choushu samurai rushed toward them. Hijikata and the other men rushed forward, quickly clashing swords. The men fell around Okita making his eyes grow wide. Quickly, he rushed to Hijikata’s side.
Hijikata clashed swords with a samurai. They pushed against one another, glaring as the wild demons in their eyes glinted in the moonlight. As the other man suddenly pushed Hijikata away, Okita rushed over. Hijikata stumbled to the ground. The other samurai kicked his sword away. Shaking, Okita leapt barely blocking the man’s sword with his shaking hands. Glowing, demonic eyes stared down at him.
“What's a little boy like you doing out on a night like this? You wanna die?” He questioned as he grinned, flashing fang like teeth in the moonlight.
Defensively, Okita swung at the man, still shaking.
“Aw… Is the little boy gonna piss his pants?” the demon asked again as he swung his sword maniacally.
On unsteady feet, Okita attempted to keep up with the demon’s swings. Hijikata rushed up and tackled the demon away pulling out the wakazashi attached to the demon’s obi. With a few fancy swings, the wakazashi flew from Hijikata’s hands. The Choushu samurai rushed in again. Hijikata glared.
“Hijikata-san!” Okita screamed as he took off.
His white haori fluttered in the night air as he leapt for the rebellious samurai. His silver blade sliced through his flesh as though Okita had cut through water. As the blood and gore went flying, Okita’s eyes flew open as he bathed in the blood. He stood, frozen. Hijikata walked over.
“Souji…” He began still stern. “Are you all right?”
He sneered lightly at Okita’s pale and frightened look.
“Oi! Wake up!” he commanded, shaking him roughly.
Okita looked around as shivers ran through his body.
“I… I’m fine, Hijikata-san…” He shuddered as Hijikata gave a cold, grim nod.
“Good,” He began turning away, his cool aura seeming resonating in the night. “Then you'll get used to this just fine then… You did well… Let’s go back…”
As Hijikata and the other men started off, Okita turned back. Dead demon eyes glared up at him. He started off in a daze. In his head, the dark claws of sin scratched at his conscious.
Smiling, Ayumu poured the warm water over his head and ran a wash cloth over his body. Red stained water pooled around them. Okita’s dark hair covered his eyes. No expression twisted his lips.
“You know…”She started breaking the tense silence. “You can cry if you want…”
“Cry?” he questioned, blinking. “Why would I cry?”
“Okita…” Ayumu began as she stared strangely at him. “You just killed a man tonight… Aren’t you…A bit… Sad?”
She wrapped her arms around him, pulling him close to her toweled form. Okita made no move to reject her. His eyes grew dark.
“Not really,” He began. “I couldn’t let him kill Hijikata-san… We both would’ve died if I hadn’t…”
“Do you not feel bad about that?” she asked worriedly quietly asking herself where the little boy she had known had gone. “That man’s blood will be on your hands… As will everyone else’s you kill…”
Suddenly, wide and curious eyes stared up at her.
“… Is it better to be sad? And weak?” He asked.
“It’s ok to be sad and weak every once in a while… It's certainly better to feel…” she replied, surprised.
Okita paused as small white teeth bit his lower lip. In his mind, the man’s demon eyes were glaring.
“It's sad that he's dead… But…” He trailed off as the look flashed in his mind.
Ayumu tilted her head.
“What is it…? Okita…?” she questioned worriedly as Okita’s face grew shadowed with his dark bangs hiding his eyes.
“Have you ever seen the eyes of a demon…?” He questioned emotionlessly.
She lowered her eyes, stroking his hair.
“Very rarely…” she whispered.
“Then maybe you can understand… It hurts… But it doesn't make me sad…” He still continued without emotion.
“Okita… Then what does it make you feel like?” She continued.
“Like… Like he had to die… And if it were to all happen again… It would likely happen the same way…” Okita’s eyes grew dark once more as he answered.
Ayumu tilted her head with worry. A small smile grew on his face at the thought. His eyes shined with bloodlust.
“Then… If another situation would come up… You would…” She trailed off frowning.
“I’ll kill,” He replied with a dark grin.
He looked up to her as his expression returned to that of a child. He gave her a cheerful look.
“Let’s not worry about it… How was your day, Ayumu-san?” He smiled.
In her nemaki, she stormed off to Hijikata’s room and slammed the door open. Annoyed, Hijikata shot her a glare.
“I hope you’re proud of yourself, Hijikata!” She sneered. “You’ve just destroyed that little boy! How could you make him go out on a night like this with your patrol?!”
“He’s becoming a man,” he coldly replied. “He’ll be fine.”
“He’s only nine!” She fumed with white knuckled fists. “He needs fun and games and friends!”
“He needs to train more,” He retorted curtly.
“Hijikata!” She cried, stamping her foot. “That boy needs no training when he says he’d kill again with a smile! And he’s got that demon look in his eyes… You’ll see what I mean, Hijikata. You’ll see…”
~*2 Years Later*~
Okita stared at an invisible opponent as he swung his sword. Idly, Hijikata sat against the wall. He watched as the soon to be the best swordsman evolved before him. The wheels in his head turned annoyingly grinding at his thoughts. He stared at the darkly determined look in Okita’s eyes. Ayumu’s words rang in his head. You’ll see what I mean, Hijikata. You’ll see… He turned away with a sigh.
“Oi, Okita!” He called out. “You’re done here… Go to the temple and play.”
“It’s all right, Hijikata-san!” he called back, still swinging with his eyes glowing wildly. “I’ve got to do this. Besides, playing is for children as you always said is it not? I’ll play when I’m finally a captain!”
Then, Kondo walked by with a small parcel in his hands.
“Ah, Okita!” he grinned offering and opening the package. “Come take a break and eat! I have some of your favorite candy!”
“No thanks, Kondo-san!” Okita panted. “I have to do 300 more swings!”
Still swinging, Okita turned to him with his dark look on his face and smiled. Worriedly, Kondo nodded and looked in Hijikata’s direction. The other man turned away and lowered his eyes. Hijikata’s shoulders rose and slumped with a quiet, unheard sigh.
~*A Few Months Before Present*~
Okita resisted gagging on his food. He forced the blood tasting miso soup past his throat. He set down the soup bowl and watched as the others gorged on Ayumu’s food. Ayumu walked over.
“It tastes like blood doesn’t it?” she whispered as she began to take away his tray of half eaten food.
Turning away, Okita nodded letting out a quiet, sad sigh. His stomach rumbled with hunger.
“Gouchisousama,” he greeted her standing and heading for the door.
Carrying Saizou in his arms, he started out for town pasting on an empty but convincing smile. As he walked out, he suddenly fell. He rubbed his backside and looked at the object he had knocked over. A young girl sat on the ground rubbing her backside as she winced.
“Ah! Sumimasen!” He cried out rushing to his feet. “Are you all right?”
The young girl looked up to him. Inwardly, a smile grew. Saizou squealed, annoyed. He ignored his cry.
“I hope you’re not hurt,” Okita smiled offering his hand to her.
She took his hand and pulled herself to her feet, dusting off her dark blue kimono, embroidered with large pink peonies on the sleeves and at the bottom half. Okita noticed her long fingers felt as though they were silk wrapping around his rough, calloused hand. Unknowingly, his fingers wrapped around enjoying the feel of her silken hand.
“Um…” she began. “I saw this flyer… Is there anyone I can speak with?”
“Sure!” He chirped pulling her along. “I’ll take you to Hijikata-san’s office!”
He trotted with her hand still in his. The other men started to peer from the offices and the dojo.
A whistle flew in the wind as various men peeked from their rooms and from the training halls.
“Wow! Okita! Since when did you start dating!” one teased.
Okita blushed. Nagakura whistled again.
“Anou…” he began as he slowly dropped her hand. “Sumimasen… My name’s Okita Souji…”
She nodded as bright red as her lips from the awkward attention.
“I’m Megumi…” She replied sheepishly.
Their walk to the office grew quiet. Through the corner of his eyes, he looked to her noting the smile plastered on a set of red lips and the soft, unspoken sadness in her eyes. Curiously, he tilted his head. Okita smiled. Blushing, he looked away. Kawaii na~… He thought. Saizou’s nose twitched as he tried to sniff the woman. He turned his eyes forward as he slowed at the sight of the commanders’ office. He slid the door open.
“Gomen kudasai, Hijikata-san, Kondo-san, and Yamanami-san!” Okita smiled. “But we have a potential new recruit here.”
“Ah! Very good, Okita!” Kondo called out. “Send him in!”
Okita laughed. Nervously, Megumi looked in.
“It’s not exactly a ‘him,’ Kondo-san,” Okita replied as he slid open the door.
Okita grinned at the commanders’ surprised looks. Yamanami cleared his throat and walked over.
“I’m sorry, miss,” Yamanami smiled. “But we’ve no need for a maid. We’ve already got a cook as well.”
“Uh…” she began. “I’m not here for a maid or cook’s position… I’m here for a doctor’s position…”
The three commanders shot each other confused looks. Then, Kondo laughed.
“Well, then sit down, Miss…” Kondo trailed off.
“Megumi,” she finished for him as she knelt.
“Souji,” Hijikata started curtly. “Send for tea…”
“Hai!” Souji nodded as he trotted off. “Tetsu-kun! Prepare four cups of tea, ne! Hijikata-san and the others are trying to see if they want the new doctor to join.”
“Doctor?” Tetsunosuke questioned, curiously arching an eyebrow as he stopped his sweeping. “Hai… Coming…”
A few moments later, Tetsunosuke screamed from tea burns.
As she floated by, Okita walked past, turning curiously back at her then continued to rush to the commanders’ office.
“Hijikata-san!” He quipped excitedly. “Are we keeping her? She seems so nice!”
“Yes we are, Souji,” Hijikata sighed slightly annoyed. “But I’m sending Susumu to run out and check up a few things on her. I have a feeling she’s hiding something.”
“But why, Hijikata-ssaann!” He whined. “She’s nice and kind! And she’s pretty!”
Okita began to blush at the latter of his statement and covered his mouth, shyly laughing. Hijikata shot another warning glare. Yamanami smiled.
“Don’t get any ideas, Okita. Relationships are ground for seppuku, not to mention…” he warned. “There’s a story that a medical family went under about twelve years ago thanks to a bad investment. The rumor is that they sold their daughter off to some oiran house in the city. She should be about Megumi’s age by now. And her family name was Souma… Susumu.”
Okita watched Susumu stepped from the shadows.
“You know what to do,” Hijikata said.
Susumu slipped out the door to follow her. Okita pouted.
Okita sat in his room looking out into the cool sunlit late February day as he petted his pig. Sadness shined in his eyes. The demon’s claws raked through his mind as his victims’ face haunted him. A destructive current flowed through his veins.
“Oh, Saizou,” He sighed. “I wish it weren’t so hard to be happy at times… You know?”
His pig snorted in response. Oh… What would you know, Saizou? He thought, hugging his pig. You’re a pig, and you can’t even talk…You have no idea what it’s like to put on a healthy and happy face when you’re not really healthy or happy… He looked down at his hands. Illusionary blood gushed from his fingers and welled up from his palm. In his eyes, the scene from many years before replayed in an endless loop. The dead, demon eyes continued to glare up at him. He let out a harsh cough. His seemingly blood stained hands covered his mouth. Slimy phlegm covered his hands. He sighed as he slumped his shoulders. Reaching for a handkerchief, Okita quickly wiped the imaginary blood and the slimy mucus from his hands. He wiped his face on his sleeves as though trying to clean away the blood on his skin.
“I wonder if there’s anyone else out in the world that feels this way…” he wondered aloud to himself. “Ne, Saizou?”
“Gomen kudasai!” her cheery voice called out as she walked down toward his room. “I heard coughing… Are you all right?”
Smiling, Megumi peered in from just outside of his door. Okita plastered his smile on his face.
“Ah, Megumi-san!” He chirped, laughing. “大丈夫ですよ！風邪を引いたんでしょう！[It's ok! I probably just caught a cold!]Probably, because the seasons are in the middle of changing, ne?”
She stood still outside his door, still smiling.
“Well, I’ll have to go to town to get a few herbs for you,” She smiled, turning away to look for the kitchen. “But first I highly suggest that you eat. You look awfully thin for someone of your age. After all, I have make sure all you boys are healthy now that I’m working here.”
“Welcome to the Shinsengumi!” he cried as he watched her leave.
His stomach grumbled loudly as he leaned back on his hands. A small frown weighed on his lips.
“She shouldn’t even try…” He began, depressed. “It’s only going to taste like blood anyway…”
After a long while, she returned carrying a tray filled with warm food in her hands. She knelt before him and set the tray within his reach. Hesitantly, Okita stared at the food. I better do it to be nice… He thought with a small smile as he picked up his chopsticks.
“I couldn’t find the cook, but I noticed that some of the food in the kitchen was still a bit warm,” she said. “I hope you don’t mind.”
“いいえ[no],” he smiled taking a bite of the fish and forcing it down his throat. “I’m sure you’ll be able to meet Ayumu later, ne?”
She nodded. With a sigh, she turned away.
“You know…” she conversed. “It’s surprising to see how many people here are so happy…”
Okita tilted his head in thought.
“Well, I don’t see why we shouldn’t be,” he fake laughed, sipping at the miso soup.
“Well,” she replied with a smile with her face still turned away. “I guess I’m just not familiar with the inner workings of his group ha-ha, but… If I were out scaring and killing people all day, I’d find it hard to be happy…”
He remained silent suddenly struck by her words.
“Perhaps,” she continued. “For some, it’s a façade so that they don’t have to always think about the wrongdoings that sickens the mind and the body…”
Slowly, Okita set down his bowl of rice and stared at her form, silhouetted by the sunlight. The dark thoughts and the demon clamoring in his mind slowly grew quiet. A peace settled in his conscious. Thoughts of Shimabara ran through Megumi’s mind.
“It must be so hard to put on a smiling and brave face after such awful incidents, ne?” She turned to him with a smile. “But you do it to show you’re not weak or because there’s something you know you have to do it for, you know?”
Then, she laughed.
“But what do I know?” she rhetorically asked. “I’m just a simple woman in a world full of men… But I think I’ll take my leave and let you enjoy your meal… Thank you for the warm welcome…”
Speechless, Okita watched as she slid a foot forward and stood as though she were a tall, growing willow. She turned and slowly walked out of his room, floating as though she were a lotus on a lake. Dropping his chopsticks and rolling Saizou off his lap, he scrambled to the door and looked out turning his head in both directions looking for her. His heart pounded in his ears. As she disappeared around he corner, Okita let out another sigh and turned to his glaring and oinking pet.
“Sorry, Saizou,” as he sat back in front of his tray. “She just… Caught me off guard that’s all…”
She understands… Okita thought as he lifted a piece of fish to his mouth. He stared at Ayumu’s leftovers noticing the absence of the metallic taste of blood. She understands…A vision flashed before his eyes.In his mind, he saw a small window opening and the sun rushing into the darkness. A warm, calm wind gently blew away the cobwebs and the dark thoughts. On his face grew a serene smile.