With You, There is Only Spring
The urge to write a Hakuouki fanfiction, or any otome based fanfiction had never occurred to me until I played Susumu Yamazaki's route. I found that Yamazaki was the perfect vessel to tell the story I aimed to create around the theme of Cherry blossoms, and I am very happy with how this turned out!
Chizuru sat under cover of the weeping cherry blossom tree that stood in the backyard of their home. A flurry of blossoms cascades down as she watches Susumu napping with his head in her lap. She gently strokes his face, enjoying the comfortable silence that falls between them. He leans into her palm, a smile playing on his lips.
“Are you really napping?” she says.
“Mmm,” he smirks reaching for the hand caressing his face, “it’s hard to nap when someone’s so lovingly distracting me.”
Her hands stop. Susumu’s eyes flutter open and he turns to kiss her palm, “Don’t stop Chizuru. I’m just teasing.”
His eyes close again, and she resumes the gesture.
As a blossom falls onto Susumu’s handsome face, she remembers how much Spring means to her. A reminder of how fleeting and beautiful life is. How life is always filled with hope, loss, life and death. How spring’s significance encapsulates the love that’s rooted in her heart.
Over several years, they’d gone through hell and back and survived. Together. They’ve experienced a gamut of feelings and moments embedded in spring. Moments reflecting the stages of hanami. As Chizuru softly gazes at her husband, she recounts several of those moments of their life.
Susumu paused as they walked back to the Shinsengumi Headquarters. Unable to face Chizuru he averted his gaze to the ground. A small flurry of blossoms ride the chilled breeze passing between them.
Chizuru looked at him, confused.
Susumu finally mustered the courage to look at Chizuru; shy, apprehensive and anxious. His cheeks stained pink. "W-would...you like to stop by the odango cafe before we head back?"
Shock took hold, rendering her speechless. Her lack of response causes his blush to deepen and his gaze to look up and away from her.
"I-I mean, I'm not trying to hit on you, but...the commander suggested I treat you while we're out," he stumbled through his sentence.
Her shock transforms to excitement, "Yes! I'd love to."
As they sat in silence, he gazed out the window. A look of nostalgia overtaking his features.
Chizuru’s breath caught in her throat. I've never seen him look more handsome than this moment, she thinks. She watches as his lips curled upward in a small smile, taking a moment before he spoke.
"This time of year always makes me remember something..." he says pausing slightly,"....it was the first time you got to leave the compound."
Chizuru’s cheeks feel warm, "You...you remembered something like that?"
"Well, I have my reasons...but that day I was observing you..." he continued to regale her of the task he had been appointed as a member of 'The Watch'. Observing her from a distance, anticipating if she would tempt death by running away from the Shinsengumi.
He had remembered so fondly of her first taste of freedom, something that felt so long ago.
Chizuru wasn’t sure why he smiled that day with such fondness as he continued on with his story.
But, her heart had started to thaw unbeknownst to her due to the warmth of that smile, a seedling planted and sprouting in place of frost.
A steady fire was building in her soul; the petals around her heart slowly unfurling with each ray of sunlight that was Susumu permeating her being.
Stolen moments, knowing looks and glances. Hidden in plain sight from the watchful eyes of the captains of the Shinsengumi, they learned about one another. They learned each other’s strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes. They learned about their shared goal: to treat, to heal, to save with medicine.
Susumu teaches Chizuru his style of medicine in order to help those in need while he’s away. He makes her promise to take watch them while he’s gone; to promise to continue whether he returns or not.
The fire inside her flashes brilliantly, flames lapping against her ribs.
“I will take up your post, but only temporarily,” she says firmly. Susumu looks at her questioningly, “because you WILL return, and you WILL come back, because you will endure.”
He stares at her wide-eyed in awe at her fierce declaration. His face softens with a gentle smile.
“I promise. I’ll return.”
And return he did. The petals of Chizuru’s heart in full bloom; his return solidifying the foundation of their love.
Impending death looms over like a shadow, threatening to steal one’s breath at any second.
She’s transfixed at his side, eyes trained on the gentle rise and fall of Susumu’s chest. His breathing is shallow. She waits silently praying for his eyes to flutter open. Praying that the ‘Water of Life’ hadn’t stolen his life completely.
She replays the scene in her head: watching him steal the vial of scarlet liquid out of Hijikata’s hand after knocking him out cold. He looked at the vial, pain and determination on his face. By drinking the contents of this vial, he knew there would be no going back. Yet he’s determined to go through with it. Determined to forsake his humanity, determined to live in death for the sake of being the shadow of the Shinsengumi. Chizuru was frozen in her spot, she knew that look on his face, she’d seen it before.
The night the Demon’s invaded the compound; he had been her saving grace, protecting her from the invaders that would have loved nothing more than to steal her in the dead of night.
He had taken a major blow in protecting her. Taken aback by the frustration that exuded his body; she felt her blood run cold the moment the he uttered those words.
"I'm not strong enough...," he chokes out in a whisper as he covers her with his body.
But he is, he is strong, but the words die on Chizuru’s lips as she listens to his lamentations. She wants to embrace him, to tell him that he is enough, that he’s the strongest man she knows. But the moment is robbed as someone walks in dissolving the cloud of tension as Susumu bears his brave mask yet again.
Susumu had sworn to never pick up a sword. That’s what it means to be a member of ‘The Watch’, to become a shadow that watches from a distance undetected. Susumu believes in the Shinsengumi and their role. He’s willing to lay down his life for them. Chizuru knows how badly he wants to fight alongside the other captains. He’s fighting the war in a way only he can, and she wishes that he’d see he’s equally important.
As the Shinsengumi’s shadow, he moved in the cover of night's darkness and lurked in the shadows of the sun. Right now, their shadow is faltering, waning with each breath of air. He stole that vial with the sole purpose of saving Hijikata. He stole it to protect the Shinsengumi. He stole that vial believing it would give him the strength he lacked. He laid down his life, pushing himself to the darkest depths of the shadows.
Chizuru didn’t stop him, though she wanted to. But, Susumu was a man she admired, a man she had grown to love. Who was she to stand between him and what he felt was right. She knew it meant death, that it meant endless pain and suffering battling between humanity and the bloodlust that would threaten to take over. But she stood strong, supporting Susumu’s choice. She’ll support him no matter what; following him to the ends of the earth standing by his side.
The petals of Susumu’s life started to wither and fall. His humanity ruined. So, she waits with bated breath; mourning his humanity; praying he wakes up the same man.
They stood alone in the darkness that shrouded them inside the massive Shirakawa castle, finalizing their plan to corner Chizuru’s Father and put an end to his life before he could create more abominations that could overrun the country. The air was tense, heavy with apprehension and anxiety. Susumu spoke first.
“If we’re surrounded, I’m not sure I can resist using my Fury powers….”
Alarms went off in Chizuru’s mind, using his Fury powers meant extinguishing his life further; an inevitable death where his life turns to ash.
The memory of his declarations earlier that morning rush to the front of her mind. Susumu had awkwardly asked Chizuru for a favor. It was his clumsy way of asking to move their relationship forward. She agreed, because she didn’t want him to have any regrets. He took that statement into consideration, knowing, if he didn’t do it now, he’d regret it for the rest of his life. He timidly and indirectly asked her for a kiss, their first kiss following his confession.
“I won’t let you go, even if you tell me to. The thought of being away from you is one I cannot stand.”
Tilting Chizuru’s head up he leaned down, connecting their lips. The kiss was soft yet passionately sealing their fate.
“If my blood has the power to breathe life into you, then...I offer my body to you,” Chizuru promises.
The warmth of Susumu’s lips ghosted over her lips as she presently contemplated Susumu’s words.
“If possible, I would rather you didn’t activate your Fury form,” she finally says. This is it, this is the moment she answers his confession.
“Mind explaining why…?” he inquires.
“...I can’t stand the thought of living without you,” she breathes out, “long after this battle ends, long after this war ends. I want nothing more than to be with you. Don’t you see? You can’t let your life go to waste….because I need it too.”
Susumu leans forward, running his fingers along Chizuru’s face. His voice above a whisper he replies, “What right do I have to take such a thing away from you? I, too, want to spend my life with the woman I love. A heart can only hold so many memories, and I would rather hold ones of you rather than of a battlefield. I vow to not to use my Fury powers...so that we can continue building a life together.”
With their hearts set. They moved forward with their plan; defeating her Father with the help of Kazama. The death of Chizuru’s father marking the end of this chapter of their lives.
They made their way to the Shinsengumi camp. The decision they had come to was not easy for Susumu. He would be leaving this life behind, relinquishing the title of ‘Shadow’. His days in the ‘The Watch’ were over.
After expressing his intent to leave to those dear to him on camp, he made way to face with man Susumu had the utmost respect for and feared most.
“My days of taking life from the shadows are over. From now on, I wish to commit my life to saving lives beside the woman whom I love the most.”
Hijikata had accepted his declaration to leave. He would not get in between Susumu and his newfound dream. Hijikata wished them well sending themon their way.
Susumu and Chizuru made their way back to her childhood home in Edo. Setting everything back to its former glory. Susumu dedicated himself to studying, expanding his knowledge to become a doctor. He studied what Chizuru’s father left behind and whatever Dr. Matsumoto had to offer. Susumu became licensed and together they reopened Yukimura Clinic.
He looked to the future with a new dream. The dream of bringing joy to those around him, especially his wife. He was humbled by the position he held now, declaring that having the honor of someone entrusting their life to him has a new meaning than that of the battlefield.
Chizuru’s heart swelled with pride for the man standing before her.
Susumu’s humanity may have fallen away like fragile petals of the cherry tree, in the physical sense. Through the loss of his humanity, his spirit had fought, and his spirit had endured. His spirit’s re-birth signified the arrival of spring.
Chizuru sighed happily as she recounted how he was a shadow that became the light. How his path of sacrifice and loyalty led him to live a life of redemption used to save lives rather than to take.
Susumu’s life had come full circle.
Under the cherry blossom tree smiling fondly she leans down planting a loving kiss on her husbands lips to rouse him from his nap.
His eyes fluttered open as he yawned, “Is it time already, Chizuru?”
“Yes, Dr. Yamazaki; break is over. It’s time for us to re-open for the afternoon.”
He blushes at the formal name, “S-s-stop that. You know how shy I am about the title.”
“But that’s what you are, aren’t you? ...Dr. Yamazaki,” She giggles mischievously.
“Chizuru!” He turns away from her, the blush on his face turning a darker shade of pink; another reminder of why she loves spring.
Spring didn’t just bring beautiful blossoms that fell like snow. Spring was so much more than a season. It was her past, present and future. Spring didn’t just hold beautiful snapshots of her life. Spring means the world to Chizuru, because Susumu Yamazaki was the living breathing embodiment of spring.