Kaze no Stigma:Volume1 Epilogue
On an autumn afternoon with a clear sky, on a luxurious hospital bed of a single-patient ward, Genma is leisurely feeling sleepy.
Maybe because it has been such a long time since he last took a break, Genma lets his guard down. As he came to this realization, he noticed a presence standing beside his bed. Quickly hiding his startled frame of mind, he opens his eyes with a solemn expression.
The intruder bends his lips in a smile, as if to say, "You finally noticed?"
His grown-up son appears before his eyes. There is no sign of the inferiority that caused Kazuma to humor Genma's mood four years ago, and Kazuma calmly meets Genma's gaze.
“Kazuma, is it?”
A crisp, concise report, there is no better way to put it.
“Is that so? I apologize for the trouble we've caused.”
“Seriously. Reflect on it.”
Unbelievably, Genma does not mind his arrogant, disrespectful tone. He even feels comfortable with Kazuma's new calm, equivalent attitude.
“There's a chair over there, right?
Kazuma ignores his father's words. Walking to the window, he sits by the window frame, and slowly pulls out a cigarette.
“This hospital does not allow smoking.”
“...I know!” he replies, lighting the cigarette.
They are still a pair of father and son incapable of normal conversation.
The silence continues for a while. Kazuma stares at the scenery outside the window, while Genma focuses on the ceiling.
"Miyuki...do you resent her?”
Ending the silence, Genma speaks first. Kazuma places his eyes on his father, who stubbornly continues to stare at the ceiling.
This is not a condemnation. Kazuma replies as though it does not concern him, his interest apparently lies in Genma's reaction.
"No. Yesterday the Soushu came to visit. I asked about it then."
Given the hospital's visiting hours, that would have been before Ryuuya's defeat, or maybe even when they were still on the way there. Whether it was because he trusted them, or because they were no longer in Tokyo; at any rate, it was quite bold of him.
"I don't resent her. Recently, many parents don't love their children. Though she doesn't love me, I don't recall liking her either, so I guess we're the same."
He says this smoothly; the truth does not matter anymore anyway. "The woman who gave birth to me," that is what he thinks of Miyuki. Nothing more, nothing less.
"Is that so...In that case, allow me to ask. Given what you said, would you be willing to return home?"
"Oh? Pretty willful of you to ask that now, isn't it, oyaji?"
Kazuma feels disappointed. Genma should not be the kind of man to change his mind and hope to make up simply because his abandoned son is now very capable.
"I am not asking you to return as a jutsushi for the Kannagi. I hope that you will return as my son, and once more bear the Kannagi name. If you want, I am willing to kneel in apology. So come back."
Genma's eyes never move from the ceiling as he says this.
Kazuma's jaw drops, and his cigarette falls onto the floor. He subconsciously steps on it to extinguish the flame.
It is plain to see that this is far beyond his expectations. He is shocked - that unyielding father of his is actually willing to give in to such an extent.
To be quite honest, he is tempted. But...
“……I cannot do that.”
For Kazuma, this is the only possible answer.
"I don't hate you, Oyaji, nor that woman. Nevertheless, I can't do it. Four years ago I ran. I abandoned everything, including the me back then."
"If I was still the same little kid I was then, then maybe it would be fine, but not now. Things that I will not abandon and things that I must not abandon - there are too many now. I cannot simply start over again."
The one who made the decision to bear these things under the name of Kazuma Yagami, to walk this path no matter how red the road, is himself. To pretend they never happened cannot be done, to forget they happened cannot be done, because these things will never allow him to rely on the protection of others.
“That's how it is. Thank you for your good intentions,” he says easily, lighting up a new cigarette.
“Is that so?”
Unable to catch any sign of sorrow, Genma nods his head once, and silence visits them once more. Only, this time, it is a tranquil silence, rather than the uncomfortable silence from earlier.
Even if he does not wish to return to the Kannagi, Kazuma still calls Genma "Oyaji" as usual, acknowledging his presence. Despite what he may say, he has not completely let go of his past.
These kinds of feelings are conveyed not through words, a fact the two of them know very well.
It is not the one-sided relationship of a father protecting his son, but one of mutual respect - a relationship based on the pretext that they are equals.
Compared to relationships founded on affection and emotion, ones built on warmth, this type of relationship suits the two better.
“Then, I shall take my leave.”
After silently finishing his second cigarette, Kazuma stands.
“What're your plans?”
"Well, staying in Japan for the moment might not be too bad. After all, I had the pleasure of enjoying such an exciting development as soon as I got back."
“Is that so?”
A short response. As brazen as ever, an attitude he had become accustomed to. Nevertheless, it is human nature to desire to change others.
“Cya then! You're old already, so don't push yourself too hard.”
Leaving with this taunting remark, Kazuma disappears out the tenth story window.
“Hmph, that kid……”
Watching the curtains sway in the wind, Genma grumbles.
Originally, a reprimand might have been in mind, but the smile on his mouth brings an end to any such thoughts. Without realizing it, his tone mirrors that of Juugo's "this stubborn daughter."
A cold breeze blows in from the open window. Though it's comfortable for the moment, it's likely to get cold very soon.
"Opening the window, but not closing it. That idiot."
Still unable to stand on his own, Genma scolds Kazuma as he decides whether to endure the cold wind until he catches cold, or to give in and summon a nurse.
Looking up at his father's window, Kazuma reveals an impish smile.
"Try not to catch a cold, Oyaji."
With that, he turns his back to the hospital, and walks away without a destination in mind. This is how it's always been, and this is how it always will be.
(For the time being, why don't I look for somewhere to stay.)
The wind blows at the man's back. Meaningfully humming, he takes lively steps and slowly disappears.
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