pairing: gen; Namikiyo (+ Saiga) centric
warnings: talk about war in a historical setting (the Sengoku period in Japanese history); if that might be upsetting to you, please read with caution!
word count: 3,507
author’s note: This is an early birthday present for yomimashou! She fell for the new Namikiyo in the Samurai Mode saien, so I wanted to write a little something about him for her. ♥ Happy birthday, bff!
summary: Everything in Namikiyo’s life has always been devoted to Saiga-sama, all Saiga-sama, only Saiga-sama.
Namikiyo's first memories are of Saiga-sama. Of course there are other people, too, the nursemaid who feeds him and clothes him and and teaches him to read and write, the uncle who he rarely sees but who smiles at him kindly when they do cross paths, the various people of the Ina clan who come and go from the house and the yard. But all of his really lasting memories, the ones that stick in his mind and fill him with warmth and bravery to face his fears when he wakes in the night from bad dreams throughout his youth are of the person who clearly cares about him the most in the world, the man who comes to visit him every single day without fail, who reads him storybooks and plays games with him and does magic tricks for him despite the fact that, as he's been informed time and time again by his nursemaid when he whines about being lonely, Saiga-sama is a very busy and important samurai who has other things to be doing. Namikiyo knows that children are to be seen and not heard-- he's not a rowdy child by any means and he doesn't mind following the rules and doing what's asked of him, really-- but even still, Saiga-sama's daily visits make him feel important and loved and like he truly matters in the world, even just a little bit.
Because it's hard to feel important as a little kid who can't make much of a difference in the lives of the people around him, and it's even harder to exist without what he's gathered from the books he reads is a critical aspect in the lives of most children like him-- parents. There are few children his own age in their little village, but from what he can see from those around him once he gets old enough to start going to the local temple school, as well, all of his peers have parents, too, a mother and a father who at the very least care that they exist. It's not that Namikiyo feels insecure about it, exactly; he's never really wanted for anything, and from what he's heard from his school friends, home life is pretty much the same for them, too, without much attention from anyone but the people hired to take care of them, so it's not as if he's missing out big time. Still, he can't help but wonder why exactly it is that he doesn't have a mother or a father or, as he'd learned when he'd started school, another thing that all the other kids seemed to have: a last name.
He doesn't like to be a nuisance or waste any of his time with Saiga-sama on his trivial worries when they could be reading together or play-sword-fighting or any number of things that Namikiyo looks forward to from the moment Saiga-sama leaves one day until the moment he arrives the next, but finally, his curiosity gets the best of him, and so in a break between games, he sits down next to Saiga-sama and looks up at him and asks timidly if he can ask a question.
Saiga-sama laughs and ruffles his hair and tells him not to worry and that he can ask him anything at any time, and it's times like these that Namikiyo feels truly lucky to have Saiga-sama in his life. It's not that adults who are always formal with him and impose rules on him upset him, really, but there's something that feels so good about the way Saiga-sama treats him like a friend or a family member or something Namikiyo doesn't fully understand yet, something about the warmth in his eyes and his voice and his touch that makes Namikiyo feel as if he could do anything. And so, it's without hesitation or fear that he smiles up at Saiga-sama and asks, "Do I have parents?"
Saiga-sama's expression turns to one that Namikiyo can't read, and for a moment, he's afraid he's offended Saiga-sama. But then Saiga-sama's face returns to a smile, a softer and gentler one this time, and he puts an arm around Namikiyo's shoulders, pulling him a little closer in a way that completely sends any fears out of Namikiyo's mind.
"Sorry, kiddo... You don't. But... You have me, if that makes up for it at all?" Saiga-sama looks a little hesitant as he explains, but Namikiyo can't stop himself from responding perhaps a little too soon, a little too enthusiastically when to him, there's no comparison.
"I'd rather have Saiga-sama than all the parents in the world!" he replies in all his nine-year-old earnestness, but when Saiga-sama's face lights up in a grin again, this time because of him, Namikiyo thinks that, while maybe he's an orphan, he's the luckiest kid in his class.
Namikiyo knows that he wants to be Saiga-sama's lieutenant from the moment he learns what that means. He's grown up knowing that he's going to be a samurai, that he's going to fight for the Ina clan, because that's what boys of his class do, and because the Ina clan is in the middle of fighting for survival against the invading Hanyuu clan. His teachers at school make it out such that, while the Hanyuu have taken over more than half of what was originally Ina land, they have a good chance of being able to take it back and win the war so long as Namikiyo and his classmates are ready to put their lives on the line for their domain, and Namikiyo, a lifetime positive thinker, believes.
Putting his life on the line for his clan is neither here nor there, but Namikiyo knows that he'll put his life on the line for Saiga-sama, for Saiga-sama's cause, no matter what. While Namikiyo is only a twelve year old school kid, Saiga-sama is twenty-seven and rising in the ranks of their (admittedly small) army, along with Shisui-sama, who has become a part of Namikiyo's life as an attachment of Saiga-sama, the person Saiga-sama has chosen to have by his side. Namikiyo knows that soon, Saiga-sama and Shisui-sama will be generals, and then they'll need lieutenants, and while Namikiyo knows that he's too young just now, in the future, he wants to be the one to support Saiga-sama in whatever way he can.
After all, Namikiyo might be young, but he's not blind. He sees the way that going back to war after a long truce of sorts (Namikiyo heard "ten years" being tossed around a lot back when he was ten and the fighting started up again, but he's not particularly familiar with the details of things that happened before he was born) has worn Saiga-sama thin, and he worries when Saiga-sama is away at the battlefront for months on end only to come back pale and sallow and exhausted. He doesn't question the cause; after all, they're samurai and war is their way of life, especially when they're the ones defending themselves from the invasion of the neighboring domain, but he still hates what it does to Saiga-sama. He knows Shisui-sama is there for Saiga-sama on the battlefront, he sees the way Shisui-sama calmly supports and protects Saiga-sama even when they're home in brief and infrequent spurts, but Shisui-sama has his own responsibilities and his own duty to worry about, and can't devote one hundred percent of his attention to Saiga-sama at all times.
But Namikiyo can--wants too--will, once he's old enough, and so, thus determined, he continues his studies and his kendo training with zeal. But one day, on a now-rare visit home, Saiga-sama sits down with him, and puts a hand on his head in the way he's always done since Namikiyo was nothing but a baby, and looks into his eyes before saying, "You don't have to be a samurai, you know."
Namikiyo is confused; he really does have to be a samurai, as far as he knows, that's basically the only option right now, in this time of crisis, and moreover, he wants to be one. And so, he tilts his head a little, giving Saiga-sama what he hopes is a reassuring smile and assuring, "That's okay, of course I want to! I'm going to be Saiga-sama's lieutenant!"
He's said this to Saiga-sama before, and Saiga-sama has always seemed pleased and touched by Namikiyo's desire to support him, but Namikiyo is surprised when now, he only sighs, his lips drawn into a tight line on his face. He moves his hand to Namikiyo's shoulder, seemingly lost in thought for a moment, before replying, "Are you sure? War is dangerous and I don't want you jumping into it for my sake. The thing I want the most for you is to be safe and happy, whether you're working for me or not."
His tone and expression are surprisingly solemn, even for wartime, because despite how much he clearly struggles with the constant fighting, Saiga-sama has always put on a brave face for Namikiyo. And so now, despite the fact that maybe Namikiyo feels a little bit like he has to prove himself, mostly, Saiga-sama seems to be addressing him as an adult, respecting him and his ability to face reality and make decisions, and more than anything, that makes Namikiyo swell with a feeling he doesn't totally understand but thinks might be pride mingled with devotion.
And so, "I'm happiest when I can support Saiga-sama!" he proclaims, grinning at Saiga-sama and putting his own hand on Saiga-sama's shoulder in turn. "I've been practicing kendo and studying geography and history and war tactics, so you don't have to worry about me! I want to be a samurai, and I want to be Saiga-sama's lieutenant!"
And when Saiga-sama blinks at him for a moment before breaking into a grin as well and replying, "All right, then I'll count on you!" Namikiyo knows that he's making the right choice.
Namikiyo joins the military, becomes Saiga-sama's lieutenant, and finds out the truth all in one foul swoop. He thinks that Saiga-sama probably would have preferred things to have happened differently, but during desperate times, he supposes, anything goes. Namikiyo had gotten word from his classmates that due to the high losses they'd been facing in the past few years and the subsequent lack of manpower with which the Ina clan was currently struggling, all boys of the warrior class of age fifteen and above were to be drafted in the near future, and, being fifteen himself, was excited and nervous and equal parts. While the war was obviously awful considering how much it had taken a toll on Saiga-sama, Namikiyo knew that joining the fighting meant he was one step closer to being the one who could support Saiga-sama, and so he looked forward to accepting his duty.
But then a few days later, Saiga-sama comes home with an unreadable expression that melts into a tired smile when Namikiyo comes to greet him. Their uncle (for Namikiyo's uncle is Saiga-sama's uncle, too, but he's never heard Saiga-sama referred to as his cousin, something that confuses Namikiyo but which he doesn't spend too much time worrying about), who's far too old and frail to join the fighting, is out, but when Namikiyo tells Saiga-sama this, Saiga-sama only shakes his head and says he wants to talk to Namikiyo.
Namikiyo is half worried that Saiga-sama is going to try again to convince him not to go to war, but once they're situated in a sitting room with tea, Saiga-sama simply informs him, "I don't know if you've heard, but Shisui and I were made generals this morning."
Namikiyo hadn't heard, but he's not surprised; Saiga-sama and Shisui-sama are the strongest fighters of their age, and everyone knew it was only a matter of time until they moved in to the top of the ranks. Still, he's delighted that Saiga-sama's genius is being acknowledged, and so he smiles and replies, "Congratulations!"
Saiga-sama smiles in return, but from the way his lips curl up a little at the corner, the way they always had when Namikiyo was a child and Saiga-sama was about to reveal that he'd brought a present or a treat, Namikiyo has a feeling that he's not quite done what he has to say, and sure enough, when he continues, "So... How would you like to be my lieutenant...." Namikiyo thinks that maybe he's died and gone to heaven.
"Really??" he asks, unable to contain his excitement, grinning up widely at Saiga-sama. He’s worked hard to get where he is now in terms of skill and military knowledge, and he knows that Saiga-sama knows that, but still, the thought of being chosen straight away is more than he ever expected, and he’s practically bubbling over with joy as he waits for an answer, hoping that he’s not dreaming. Saiga-sama looks glad in return and nods as he ruffles Namikiyo’s hair, but after a moment, his expression returns to a serious one.
“Before you accept… I have something to tell you,” Saiga-sama says solemnly, and Namikiyo is surprised but not worried, presuming Saiga-sama will remind him how dangerous war is, or reiterate fears for Namikiyo’s safety. Namikiyo appreciates how much Saiga-sama cares for him and knows that he’s extremely lucky, as an orphan, to have had a caretaker and mentor as involved in his life as Saiga-sama always has been, but he’s already made up his mind, and he knows that nothing Saiga-sama says will change his mind. He’s finally gotten to a point in his life when he can repay Saiga-sama’s kindness and show the love and devotion for him that has built up inside Namikiyo over the past fifteen years, and he’s going to take it and show Saiga-sama that finally, Namikiyo can do something in return for him.
But Saiga-sama is uncharacteristically silent for a moment before going in a direction that Namikiyo couldn’t have anticipated: he licks his lips, hesitates another moment, and then comments, “Since you were a child… you’ve never had a last name, have you…?”
Namikiyo is a little surprised and more than a little confused; it’s just a fact of life by now that he has no last name; he never has, and considering what good care Saiga-sama has always taken of him, he’s never really felt strongly that he needed one. Being Saiga-sama’s ward and a member of the Ina clan is all the identity that he needs, and so he’s unsure why Saiga-sama is bringing up the issue now. But he nods, replying, “Because I have no parents…?” because Saiga-sama knows he knows, and he doesn’t really know what else to say.
But Saiga-sama seems to be bracing himself for something awful, and more than Saiga-sama’s words, the pained expression on his face makes Namikiyo nervous. He wants to ask what’s wrong, but before he finds the right words, he sees Saiga-sama take a deep breath before he answers, “…That’s because… they were killed… by me. And… your real name is… Hanyuu Namikiyo.”
The words ring in Namikiyo’s ears until they become sounds rather than any sort of language, and he struggles to grasp what Saiga-sama is telling him. But before he’s really able to connect all the dots in his brain, words are tumbling out of his mouth, and “H…Hanyuu…??” he’s gasping, because hearing the name of their sworn enemies up against his own name is too horrifying, too wrong, too surreal for him to be able to handle it.
Saiga-sama looks miserable as he nods, wringing his hands in front of him. “I’m sorry,” he says quietly, looking as if he’s the one whose life has just been flipped upside down, “…for hiding it from you this whole time…”
But nothing is really processing, nothing is really sinking into Namikiyo’s brain as the whole world suddenly begins to feel somehow both freezing cold and white hot at the same time. His head is swimming and the edges of his vision are blurry and his heart is pounding so fast that he feels faint, but still, all he can manage to do is gasp out, “I…. I’m a member of the Hanyuu clan…??”
Saiga-sama looks away from Namikiyo at this point, so Namikiyo can no longer see his face, but he continues solemnly, and somewhere in the midst of his internal turmoil, the one clear thought that permeates Namikiyo’s haze of confusion is that Saiga-sama so clearly hates himself for all of this, so clearly hates to see Namikiyo hurting. It makes something inside of him feel warm, but before he can acknowledge that feeling, on top of everything else threatening to totally overwhelm him, Saiga-sama continues.
“Your parents… were about to kill Shisui, and… I had no choice,” he explains quietly, still clearly unable to bring himself to meet Namikiyo’s eyes. “At that time, you were just a baby… and because it was me who killed your parents, of course I took responsibility for you, but…”
He trails off at this point, running his hands through his hair and looking more tormented than Namikiyo would have thought humanly possible for someone normally so confident. Slowly, the meaning of his words is sinking in— Saiga-sama had killed the enemy at a time when there was no other option, and then instead of leaving their child to die alone, he’d taken Namikiyo in— saved him. If anything, it only made Namikiyo admire Saiga-sama more, but before he can fully formulate that thought, much less find the words to express it, Saiga-sama turns back to him, and Namikiyo is shocked to see what look like the hints of tears in his eyes.
“It’s okay if you hate me!” he bursts, and Namikiyo slowly realizes that this is possibly the first time he’s ever seen Saiga-sama look afraid. “It’s okay— if you want to leave here, if you want to join the Hanyuu clan… This is my fault, and I’m prepared…” But as he trails off, the pained look in his eyes makes Namikiyo himself feel as if he’s going to cry, and he struggles to swallow back the lump in his throat as Saiga-sama continues, “But… no matter what… you always have and always will be family to me…”
And somehow, that’s what breaks through the haze confusion in Namikiyo’s mind, and before Saiga-sama can say anything else, he stands up, looking down at where Saiga-sama sits. Saiga-sama looks worried and opens his mouth as if to say something, but, rude as it may be, Namikiyo has too many feelings to bite his tongue, and “There’s no way I’d join the Hanyuu clan!” he practically shouts, startling both Saiga-sama and himself with his vehemence. Saiga-sama looks up at him wide-eyed, but now that Namikiyo has started letting his feelings out, he can’t stop, and he adds, “How could I even want to join a clan that have been trying to kill Shisui-sama and Saiga-sama… when you’ve been my family this whole time?!”
He’s breathing heavy and his heart is beating like crazy, but it takes him a moment to realize that he’s crying, and what’s worse, Saiga-sama is crying, too. “I— I mean—” he stutters, worried he was too forward, that he said something wrong, but Saiga-sama shakes his head and breathes, “Namikiyo—” and then suddenly, Saiga-sama’s arms are around him, and Namikiyo knows that everything is going to be okay.
Saiga-sama’s embrace is warm and familiar, and Namikiyo almost feels like he’s gone back in time ten years, like he’s just a child and Saiga-sama is as close to a parent, or perhaps a big brother, as he’d ever known. When he’d been scared, when he’d been lonely, Saiga-sama had always been there, and, he thinks, even though he’s an adult now, and even though he’s a Hanyuu, none of that has changed.
“Your name… ‘Namikiyo’… I’m the one who chose it,” Saiga-sama admits at length, moving away a little to look Namikiyo in the eyed. “So… if you don’t like it, you should choose something else.”
And Namikiyo could almost laugh, but instead, he simply beams up at Saiga-sama and replies, “I like it… and I want it because Saiga-sama gave it to me.”
Saiga-sama beams back for a moment, but his expression quickly changes back to his usual grin, and he nods, regarding Namikiyo for a moment before saying, “Well then… I’m looking forward to working with you, Hanyuu Namikiyo~”
And Namikiyo can’t help but grin as well as he nods and replies, “Yes, sir!” because everything in his life has always been devoted to Saiga-sama, all Saiga-sama, only Saiga-sama, and he’s looking forward to a future of the same.