"I hope it doesn't rain today," Keiko said.
"But the rain is nice, okaasan," Akitsugu said. "It's kirei. [=pretty/clean.]" And though the words were from a child, his voice had the controlled tone of maturity. And those golden eyes looked back at her with a flame of intensity.
"Well, I wouldn't want to get ill!" she added, helping him put on his little haori jacket.
"We won't be gone for long," Yukio said.
"Don't worry about things here. I will keep the house and the children [Ayame and Shosei] in good order," Keiko promised, though she truly did not wish to see them go. But of course Yukio could not read the reluctance in her face. His hazy grey eyes blinked at her but could not make out her countenance.
"Well, then, Aki-kun," he said, extending a hand to his young son.
"Ittekimasu!" they sang in unison.
"Itterashyai!" Keiko returned.
She stood on the step and watched them as they passed from view, suddenly feeling very alone. It was often that Yukio was away on excursions with his students, but he always left Akitsugu at home to help tend to the younger children. Now they were off together, leaving her to tend to the home on her own. Not that she could not handle this responsibility; but she felt strange to be left to her own powers.
"Hai!" she rushed off to the sound of Shosei's cry, and outside a thin rain began to fall.
Yukio and Akitsugu walked slowly nearer and nearer to the shrine which was their destination. Neither was speaking. the rain bounced off Yukio's hat but they sank into his son's hair and yukata. it was a warm rain, though and it was therefore not unplesant.
Suddenly, Yukio turned to his son and asked: "Akitsugu, what do you see?"
Akitsugu peered up into his father's greyed eyes and responded:"Where, O-tou-san-sensei?"
"Oh, everywhere. Just describe it to me."
Akitsugu scanned the landscape around him. They were on a path through small undergrowth and trees, but mainly his gaze was drawn to the puddles on the road...he had been watching them the whole walk, as he was careful not to sink into a large one.
"Well, there are some small bushes and things here off the side of the road, and some trees also. there is a lot of water...a lot of puddles. I have seen a few birds but-"
"What color is the world right now?"
"Color? But it is many colors..?" Akitsugu responded, confused.
"If you had to delegate a color to this place, to this moment, to the feeling inside you right now - what would it be?" his father asked.
Akitsugu pondered this. Yukio waited patiently for a response, in no need to rush him. In fact, that was his point.
"Grey..." he finally managed.
"The sky is grey and it is falling on the world with its grey mist. Then, I feel calm and well, I feel like thinking and it reminds me of the greyness of the outside."
"I color this moment as white," the father said in return.
"White as a blank slate upon which to write our own thoughts and feelings. The rain washed the world and cleanses it and purifies it to be white."
"Oh," Akitsugu replied, feeling slightly at a loss.
"But-" yukio said quickly. "You are just as right as I am."
"But your answer was smarter than mine," Akitsugu protested.
"No, you described the color you see. I described what I see. We all see differently. Just as we are all different. There is no right or wrong answer to a question like that."
"soo desu nee.."
"Soo yo. Now, we must get moving again before night falls," Yukio said with an encouraging smile.
"Your eyes - do they hurt often? You often wear bandages over them even though you say you can see some from them; but.."
Yukio was taken back by the question. "I.."
"Father! Those people - they are coming back, aren't they?! Why don't you send your students to fight them? Ojisan told me what has been happening!"
Yukio did not know how to counter this. "Akitsugu-"
"I would do it! But I can't... I can't do anything.. I am only a child, but I wish I were older and strong enough to do something.."
And Akitsugu started crying.
"Akitsugu," Yukio said, kneeling down next to him. "Right now you are doing everything you can. You are a student. You are learning the powers of your mind and of wisdom. You are my best student. You are already a scholar and before long you will be looked up to by all the students in the land!"
"But that is not now, O-tou-sama! And what if we are all killed now and I was unable to fight back because I am a child?!"
"Akitsugu!" Yukio said sternly. Akitsugu chocked down his crying.
"Akitsugu, look at me!"
Akitsugu hushed and looked at him. His father's round blind eyes held him in a gaze, and it was both frigtening and reassuring.
"Akitsugu, we can only do as much as to make life worth the living while we are here. When the time is declared by God we will pass away, but not before or after that. And sometimes we have to endure with a little bit of pressure. there are some things in this life that we cannot change - but we cannot sit around and worry about them or we will have made nothing of life. All you need to do now is to keep to your good habits: study hard, work diligently, and cultivate your mind. Don't ferel helpless when you have that power! God will see to what we lack! Do you hear me?"
"I do. I know all that, but...I still feel like I should be doing something else..I feel like something is missing. I feel guilty!!"
"Guilty? There's no need for guilt."
Yukio embraced his son, but Akitsugu just stood still, sniffling.
"What color is it? that sense of guilt?" Yukio asked.
"It's...the black of a vibrant red. It is cutting but it is dark," Akitsugu said angrily.
"Indeed...," Yukio replied softly, completely in tune with it. I am his father and yet he is worried about protecting me. This is not the way things should be.
--not but a few years later--
"Akitsugu, I am sorry."
"Iie. [=No.] Wakarimashita. [I understand.]"
Yukio sat on his ankles in his white kimono and Akitsugu, just entering his teens, faced him with a level expression. Outside, the enemies were buzzing like a locust swarm, all bent on the honor of the kill. All soon to be dissapointed of it.
"Speak nothing of your family name to anyone; they only want me, but don't let them take the rest of you - somehow you must..you must ride free of this storm," Yukio ordered.
"Hai, O-tou-sama," Akitsugu bowed, though his placid voice hid his thirst for revenge.
"Then,..." Yukio faltered. "Then, farewell, Akitsugu."
The doors gave into the sword weilding men, but it was already too late. Inside they faced the fallen figure of their hunt - but blocking them was a young man with flaming eyes and his father's blade.
"Back! Back from him and defile his name no longer! Or I will cut you down with his own sword edge!" And there was a power in his glare: wild and deep.
The head assulter sheathed his sword and announced: "Here we come but the deed is done. There is nothing more to do now that both parents and school are gone. As for you, boy, you'd best follow that teacher's example and spare yourself the trouble."
With that, they left.
And Akitsugu remained motionless, eyes burning their backs and promising it would not be the last time they would meet.