Oneshot. Mugen's POV. Mugen's reaction to Fuu's feelings about her father.
Disclaimer: Don't own Samurai Champloo. I'm not that genius.
Continuity: Just insert this little one-shot vignette anywhere in the middle of the anime before Mugen and Jin find out that the Sunflower Samurai is who he is.
A/N: I wrote this as a little exercise to get me back into the minds of the Samurai Champloo characters so that I can finally finish my story "Inseparable" that has been on hiatus for way too long now.
This is all from Mugen's POV.
It's the beat that I notice first, the rat-a-tat-tat of her foot on the wooden floorboards. I turn my head and squint open an eye to stare at the hem of Fuu's pink kimono dancing with her ankle as she taps. A growled exhale of air leaves my lungs. Damn girl is gonna drive me mad.
She turns her head, suddenly startled, fingers clasping the frame of the window she is looking out of. The sheen of moonlight clothes her profile and turns her skin to porcelain. There's that innocent little-girl look on her face that I hate so much and it disgusts me that she can gaze at me with those brown eyes of malleable clay. Don't test me, girl. I'll twist you, and I'll smile doin' it. I want to rid that feebleness from her expression. "Brat, you're noisy even when you're being quiet." The words are a snarl, edges sharpened by years of staring up at Ryuukyuu guards through blood-tinted sweat as the blunt handle of a sword crashes into my ribs again and again and again-
She has the nerve to look even meeker as she says it, biting her lip and dropping her eyes to her now-still feet. I want to get up off of my pad on the floor and slap her, but then I'm gonna have to live with her whining, so I close my eyes again and try to pretend I'm sleeping like I know Jin is doing in the other corner of the room. But then there's the sound of her sighing and the lilt of a tune that she's humming under her breath. It's a song she sings when she thinks no one is listening, or maybe she sings it when she's too dazed to realize that melody is coming out with the exhale of her breath.
Eyes opening again, I roll onto my side, take off my shoe, and throw it at her. It lands square on her ass and she whirls around like tornado, anger finally tightening her features and fire-hardening that soft-clay look in her eyes. A smile slips onto my lips as I settle back onto the ground.
She's raging beside me and it makes me want to laugh. "What's your problem?" she says.
Oh, so many ways to answer that. My problem is that there's no brothel out here in the middle of nowhere and I'm stuck in this shack with Chestless and Stoic. "Can't help it." I let the words fall over my lips lazily. "Such a big target."
"You insensitive idiot. I'll show you a big target!"
A moment later, my shoe comes careening toward my mouth. I catch it in my hand without flinching, tossing it back into the air and lifting my foot so it lands where it belongs. "Shuut uuup," I grumble. "So loud."
She huffs, and I turn my head to look at her, the expression on her face smoldering as she gazes back out at the countryside. What's she see out there? Ain't nothing but manure-fertilized fields and a damn plague of insects. Something like a year seems to pass and she still hasn't moved. I'm not tired-never was-and I'm bored as hell. I wonder why we even decided to stop at this abandoned cottage for the night. Nobody is sleeping anyway. She starts humming again.
She looks at me, confused. The anger is gone, probably completely forgotten. "What's what?"
I wave my hand vaguely in the air. "That... thing... you keep singin'."
Her lips form a small circle and her eyelashes curtain her eyes. "Oh..." Little-girl Fuu has returned. "I think it was a song my father used to sing."
"Your father sounds like a pansy."
Lightning flashes in her eyes and then fades, little fists clenching at her sides. I think she's going to yell at me again and I'm waiting for it, ready with a careless comment and a nonchalant smirk, but she doesn't. Her lips even open to let out an insult, but they close before the high-pitched words can escape. Shoulders dropping and fingers spreading free, she says, "Yeah, he was."
She looks away, eyes going to the corner of the room where the granite statue also occasionally referred to as Jin is sitting straight-backed against the wall, his eyes closed and expression blank. They travel back to her feet. Her toes are wriggling against the edges of her shoes, pressing up and down. "You know, it's funny. I hate him so much but sometimes I still wonder if he loved me."
She's so stupid, too stupid to even realize how little sense her words make. I wonder how it's possible for her to be this young. I know I never was. I roll my thoughts off my tongue, "That's stupid. Why do you care?"
"Because he's my father!" Her tone is exasperated.
I'm confused. Reaching a lazy hand upward, I scratch my head. "But I thought you hate him."
She's staring at me like I'm stupid and it makes me angry because I'm getting the feeling that she just doesn't see it. Standing there with her skin that is china-white in the moonlight and her lips that are smooth and untouched and her child's cheeks that can still blush, she doesn't know what's out there in those manure fields. She's using this word that she just doesn't understand and I see her suddenly realize this, eyebrows lowering and expression softening around eyes that haven't ever really seen hate.
Hate is the white-hot bite of a blade through my flesh. Hate is the bared teeth and twisted smile on my lips as I slip my blade into the flesh of another. Hate is the way people look at me on the streets when they notice my tattooed wrists and it's the way I look at them back.
"I don't know," she finally says. "I just know that all I want to do is see him again so I can punch him for leaving."
I grunt. How can a person be so backwards? I reach my hands toward the patched ceiling, stretching tired arms. "If it were me, I'd want to see him again so I could kill him." I glance at her in time to see her horrified expression, flicking my gaze there quickly so I can be in time catch it. Her eyes go wide and her mouth drops open.
"Mugen..." she says.
Yeah Babe, that's my name.
She doesn't seem to know what else to say. I shrug, cracking my upraised knuckles. "Ain't hate then. You're just a whiny, wimpy kid."
Fuu's face contorts into something I can't identify, but it's somehow invigorating to get such a reaction out of her. She hesitates for a moment, muscles tense but frozen in her encasement of indecision. I'm ready in case she decides to throw something at me again, but she doesn't. Instead, she calls me an idiot with a couple of expletives thrown in there that I've never heard her use before. So, baby Fuu has learned something from me after all. I smile darkly and she stomps out of the room, out to wander in her manure fields. When she slams the door it sounds like the whole shack is going to collapse, and for a few tense moments of unhealthy vibration, I'm almost sure it will.
"You enjoyed that, didn't you."
I turn to the voice. Statue-Jin is human after all! He's giving me an inquisitive look through those idiot glasses. I stare at him a moment and I know he understands what Fuu can't.
"Maybe," I say.
Jin lets out a short puff of air. "She's just a kid, you know."
"Sooner she learns, the better off she'll be. She's gonna get us killed with that innocence crap of hers. Remember that painter that thought she was beautiful? How did she even believe that? She don't even have a chest to paint."
Jin shrugs, a movement that barely shifts his shoulders. "Isn't that why she hired us?"
"Because she don't have a chest?"
"To protect her innocence."
I scoff. "Philosophical crap."
"I'm not the one trying to train her with tough love."
"Tough love my ass." I roll my eyes. Damn four-eyed freak.
I scowl at him and I'm sure he's smiling under that placid expression. My dark eyes rove across his face, brows lowered in a glare. "I'm only here to kill you," I say, "not to teach some starry-eyed kid how to grow up."
It's a good lie. It's kept us going for months now and I'm satisfied with it. I roll onto my back again, letting my hands fall to my sides. Fuu is probably sitting against a tree somewhere, knees pulled to her chest, looking up at the stars and wondering what her life means. It's a waste of time. Life don't mean anything but surviving. I fold my arms under my head, catching a slivered look at the sky through the window. A cloud has covered the moon.
And into the silence, I say, "Yeah Jin, I enjoyed that."