Shinsuke's mother used to make the sweet potatoes herself, in between her stories. But life is a story, and Shinsuke just wishes that the end didn't always involve someone dying.
I've only ever been able to watch 'A Risky Racket' maybe...twice, despite the fact that I've watched the series who knows how many times. Maybe it's because, like Fuu, my heart broke. This is...something. not quite laying Shinsuke to rest, but it's a start.
(I don't own Samurai Champloo)
His mother made the sweet potatoes herself. Shinsuke used to help her, when he was very little. They would hang the bunches she made on the rafters of their little house to dry, him on his tiptoes on a stool, and her, with her hands reaching gently up.
They would cover the entire ceiling and at night as the two of them lay there, waiting for sleep to come, the potatoes would look like stars maybe, or stories. His mother would tell him the stories in between her coughs, and Shinsuke always felt like he was eating history whenever he took a bite. For some reason, when they took them down, it was the saddest part.
He wasn't quite tall enough to reach the ceiling, even with the stool, and his mother would lift him up in her arms that looked so frail but really weren't so that he could hang up his bunches. It used to frustrate him so much that he would cry.
Don't worry Shinsuke, his mother would say, in between the sweet potatoes and the smell of them hanging, with the taste of salt in his mouth, soon you'll be tall enough to reach them. And when that time comes, you can lift me /up/.
The thing was, when that time came, Shinsuke no longer wanted to help her.
When he runs over the rooftops, it's almost like he's flying. He thinks like this because of the way that his feet fall with a clatter, and the way that the wind feels over his face, and the open expanse before him. Mostly though, it's probably the look on the girl's face in the window. She looks like she forgives him, and believes in him, and maybe he is flying, because the look on her face makes him feel like he always thought birds would feel.
When he was just a little brat he'd lie on the hills sometimes and watch the birds. They were so free, flying across the sky. Especially the hawks, chasing prey that didn't even know it was about to be caught.
This is it, he just has time to think, this is my future.
Then he hears he clatter of footsteps behind him, and shouting, and he knows that he's not a bird.
He was never a hawk. He never deserved to be one, no matter how she looked at him, like maybe he was someone that mattered. (he wasn't)
It's too bad though. Even if he didn't deserve it, she deserved to be paid back. (Even though the truth is, he just wants to see her again.)
Footsteps sound behind him, and Shinsuke realizes he's the prey.
This is the sound of Fuu's heart breaking. It's not an instant break. It's something that happens over a matter of time, about four or five hours. It starts the second that Shinsuke-kun's mother sees her, and ends the second that he swings himself through a broken window.
At the time though, she had no idea that that was what she was feeling. Her chest hurt, and there was something in her throat, and well...maybe one day, she would be ready to talk about it more.
Fuu wasn't an idiot. She knew what death was. She had seen enough of it. Hanging out with the idiot boys had her surrounded by corpses, and there was her mother...
She's not really ready to talk about that either.
There's not a lot she's willing to look back on, except that when she thinks back to the conversations with Shinsuke-kun's mother, with Shinsuke-kun, and remembers the orange-red light of the setting sun, she can feel an echo of what she felt that day, and she thinks, This is what it's like to have your heart break.
(Mugen will ask her later, if she loved the stupid pickpocket bastard. She will look at him and not have an answer, even though it's really a simple question. He'll see the expression in her eyes and drop the subject gruffly, even though he doesn't know why. Mugen's a simple kind of guy, and he won't understand.
Jin though, he'll look back at her like maybe he does.)
Right now, she's watching him run over the rooftops, and her heart is already broken. His back, to her, is not that of a man. It's of someone /doomed/.
Broken hearts make for stupid decisions. She would never have been happy just letting him go, and she'll cry a lot if she chases him, but Fuu hates stories that don't have endings, and she thinks she hates Shinsuke-kun, but she doesn't. She...she thinks that if she chases after him, she'll be able to say how she feels about him.
Fuu swings herself through the window after him.
There's a wall behind him, a cage. He's not about to be caged like this and he waves his dagger and he wants to fight, and he wants to be a man.
Then it's over, really before it's begun, but it was probably over when he was stopped on the street by a cute girl in a pink kimono, with an expression that was pretty complex in her eyes.
She'd probably be the type the cry for him. He isn't worth it though.
It hurts to die, which is probably the worst part because this is probably what his mother feels, everyday, and she's never complained about it. (/he/ wants to scream, though.)
And she's on the rooftop now, perched there, screaming something that is probably his name, or get up, or run away, but he can't quite hear her for some reason. She shouldn't have run after him. She should have just watched him go. It would have been his one cool exit, but now she's seen him covered in a pool of his own blood. He never got far enough to really fly.
It's funny. He can't forget about her now, but he wants her to remember him. It's just that, soon enough, she'll be the only one that will. And he can tell that it will hurt her, and the thing is, if he ever saw her again, he was planning on making her laugh or at least to take her out to dinner or something, but if it hurts her for the rest of her life, he'll settle for that.
He just...doesn't want to die for nothing.
She looks like a squirrel, perched there on the tree, and he wants to tell her to not to look like that. Squirrels are prey, and she should be a hawk or something.
He wants to tell her to tell his mother not to cry, but it's useless, because she'll cry no matter what. It would be a waste of last words.
He's still trying to think of something to say that would encompass everything he feels when he dies.
Shinsuke, his mother used to say, one day you'll be big enough to lift me up.
When he did it was just to change her bandages, or lift her into the tub. Whenever she dried sweet potatoes he would watch her from a corner, and hate her, and love her. She never asked him to help, even when he stopped. Her frail hands would lift up the bunches, and he would know that they really weren't strong.
At night there weren't so many bunches hanging as there used to, but sometimes he wasn't home at all, so he didn't really miss them.
When he was home, his mother would say into the darkness, what story would you like to hear? and sometimes Shinsuke would pretend not to hear and turn and face the wall with shame and pain in his heart.
And sometimes he would say back to her, tell me a story of the past.