An old man took a fatherly interest in Kenshin as he lay in despair in
Rakuninmura. Was it just coincidence that brought the two together? MAJOR
SPOILER WARNING: This story is based on the manga and OAV versions of the
Tomoe story, and on the manga version of the Jinchuu arc. It begins in
early October 1868.
Disclaimer: All hail Watsuki-sama--he (and all the media conglomerates) own
the RK characters. I won't make a dime off this.
It was a beautiful day in Edo--cool and crisp, the fall leaves brilliant in
their display of color-the kind of day that made you truly appreciate being
alive. It could have been hot, muggy, and gloomy, though, as far as
Yukishiro Takuo was concerned. For the past four years, life for him had
just been an undifferentiated cycle of waking, eating, working, sleeping.
Seasons probably did come and go, but he didn't notice, didn't care. He had
had a family once--a loving wife, a beautiful and devoted daughter, and a
son who, well, perhaps the less said the better, but a son nonetheless. His
wife had died giving birth to that son, but his daughter, Tomoe, had taken
to caring for this baby like a true mother, and little Enishi looked up to
her like a mother. Come to think of it, only Tomoe seemed to have the
ability to handle the child, who seemed to have an angry, violent streak in
That warm home life had disappeared quite suddenly four years ago.
The Bakumatsu had come to their doorstep when Tomoe's fiancé Kiyosato, her
childhood sweetheart, was killed in Kyoto by the Hitokiri Battousai. Tomoe,
always so quiet and secretive, then left without warning, leaving only a
note saying that she was going to Kyoto to avenge her fiance's murder.
Enishi, never an easy child, became even more difficult as his anger over
Tomoe's departure grew; he took off for Kyoto not long afterward to find
Takuo's world was shattered. Yes, he still had his job with the Bakufu
government, just as his father had before him, and his father's father
before him. Truth be told, he hated the job and hated the system that had
decreed that he must follow in his father's footsteps into that job. It had
only been his family that had made his life bearable, and now that was
gone, ripped away by the revolution that had quickly devoured all of Japan.
Then he had heard the rumor, that Tomoe had been killed by that same
Hitokiri Battousai. As for Enishi, no one knew if the child was alive or
It had been too much to bear. Not caring if he lived or died, he wandered
the city until he came to Rakuninmura, the place for lost souls. They
called him Oibore there--"old fool"--a name he thought was fairly apt and
the name he now used all the time. It was this place that became his refuge
until he finally felt strong enough to enter the world again. He couldn't
bear the thought of returning to his drudge of a job--teaching was more to
his liking--and so he had become a sort of wandering teacher. It didn't pay
much, but it brought some warmth to his heart to work with the young
students. The pain of loss, however, never went away.
"Another day, just like the rest," he sighed that autumn morning as he
picked at his meager breakfast of soup and rice. He could remember happier
days, when his table would have been surrounded by smiling little faces and
A knock at the door broke his reverie. The nature of the knocker, however,
broke his composure--it was a soldier wearing the crest of the Chousu clan.
The country was still in a state of chaos, that was true, but the Shogunate
had already fallen after the recent battle of Toba Fushimi. What could the
Ishin Shishi possibly want with a former low-level Bakufu functionary like
himself? He found himself shaking like a leaf.
"You are Yukishiro Takuo?" the soldier inquired. "My lord, Katsura Kogoro,
wishes to meet with you. He's in the carriage outside. May he come in?"
Katsura Kogoro? Head of the Chousu clan and leader of the Ishin Shishi?
Here? To say that he was astonished would have been an understatement.
"I... I... Have I done something to offend the Ishin Shishi? Have I
done something wrong?" sputtered Oibore. "I assure you that... "
"Yukishiro-san," the soldier cut in, "it's nothing like that. My lord has
come to pay his respects and only wishes to have a private talk."
Oibore was dumbstruck--pay his respects? to me?---but he managed to nod his
assent. Moments later, Katsura Kogoro himself stood in his doorway.
"Katsura-sama," Oibore managed to say as he bowed low, despite a wave of
butterflies in his stomach. "I'm sure I don't deserve the honor of your
visit--I am just a traveling teacher--but welcome to my small home. I have
nothing to offer you, though, except some tea and rice..."
"Please, Yukishiro-san, don't put yourself out on my account," the Chousu
leader said gently. "It's a personal matter I have come about. I bring you
news of your daughter, Yukishiro Tomoe. Or perhaps I should say Himura
Tomoe." He paused, then said, "Your daughter died three years ago trying to
save the man she loved."
"My daughter? Himura Tomoe?" Oibore's mind was racing a mile a minute. "I
don't understand. She disappeared four years ago in Kyoto. Her fiance was
killed by that monster, Hitokiri Battousai, and I heard he killed her, too.
And.Himura? Who's that? I don't understand!"
"The Battousai, that 'monster,' as you call him, has a name. It's Himura--
"Himura Kenshin? My daughter...she married the assassin?" The
incomprehension and astonishment were clearly written on the old man's
Katsura smiled sadly, shaking his head in affirmation. "The reason I've
come to tell you all this is because I was the one who created what Himura
Kenshin became. I discovered Himura five years ago among Takasugi
Shinsaku's army, the Kiheitai. He was just a boy--only 14--but already he
had skills with a sword that surpassed any man, including myself. The
Chousu needed a shadow assassin. It was as if the gods themselves had
delivered to us a gift that went beyond our wildest dreams. The boy told me
he wanted to wield his sword to help bring an era of peace and justice to
the people he saw suffering all around him, but I know he didn't realize
what we were asking of him. Takasugi warned me that asking a 14-year-old to
do the work of an assassin would destroy his soul, but I was selfish. I saw
our victory in that boy--nothing else seemed to matter.
"Over the months, though, I could see that Takasugi was right. The light
that used to shine in the boy's eyes slowly faded. He was shy to begin
with, but the other men avoided him because of what he was, leaving him
even more alone. Where I once saw idealism and hope, I now saw despair and
hopelessness. And yet, he never once flinched at the work he had pledged to
He stopped to let the obviously mystified Oibore digest this information,
before continuing on.
"Your daughter, Tomoe, did come to Kyoto, and she did find the Battousai.
It was an evening, and he was under attack by a Bakufu hitokiri. He told me
it was a hard-won fight, and when it was over, he saw your daughter, who
had witnessed everything. He had always been told to kill any witnesses,
but she was not a soldier. And she had fainted, from too much sake or from
the gore of what she saw we don't know. At any rate, Himura picked her up
in his arms and carried her back to the inn that served as our
Oibore's eyes widened as thoughts of what likely happened next raced
through his mind; the thoughts were not pleasant.
"He asked our innkeeper to look after Tomoe," Katsura continued, sensing
Oibore's fears, "and she did, not only that night, but also afterwards by
giving her a job as a waitress. For Kenshin's part, he always remained
totally honorable in his relations with Tomoe.
"As for your daughter, she discovered for herself that the 'monster' who
had killed her fiance was no monster, but only a boy, now all of 15 years
old. She and I had a long talk after she had been at the inn for some
weeks. She told me of his despair, that all he saw for himself was death in
the near future. She told me how, every time he would receive instructions
for an assassination, a little piece of his soul seemed to die. She told me
how he would come back after every job and wash his hands over and over,
trying to wash the blood from his soul. She told us of his genuine
astonishment at her small acts of kindness--covering him with a blanket
when he was napping, cleaning his room, waiting for his return at night. No
one had ever done that for him before in his entire life, she said. None of
us knew that at some point she had contacted the Bakufu forces, offering to
help kill the Hitokiri Battousai in revenge. What I do know is that
whatever hate may have been in her heart, it melted, and slowly her
kindnesses toward Himura brought him back from the edge of despair.
"Then the Ikedaya affair happened--a vital group of Ishin Shishi were slain
by the Shinsengumi--and we all had to scatter and hide. I sent Himura to a
farm in Otsu and suggested that Tomoe go with him so they could pretend to
be a married couple. They were to live there until it was safe to return to
Kyoto. It was during those few months that they truly fell in love and
truly became married.
"But they were betrayed. There was a spy among the Chousu who told the
Shogun's troops where to find them. When Tomoe learned of the plan, she
left the farm to try to stop them. When Himura learned what was happening,
he took off after her to bring her back. This was part of the enemy's plan,
however, and Himura was attacked three separate times on his way. He won
each fight, but he was severely wounded by the time he finally reached the
leader himself. Still, he tried to defeat his adversary. When Tomoe saw
what was happening and that Himura would be killed, she ran out to try to
save him. She lunged between the two men, trying to kill the soldier with
her tanto. But Himura had already started a last, desperate swing of his
sword. He couldn't stop it in time. It hit Tomoe before going on to kill
his enemy. She died in Himura's arms."
He stopped his story as he saw tears starting to form in Oibore's eyes.
When the old man had calmed, he continued.
"I visited the farmhouse as soon as I heard the terrible news. He told me
that Tomoe had brought him the only happiness he had ever known, that she
had shown him what life should really be like, and that he had promised her
that once the war was over, he would never kill again. Yukishiro-san, your
daughter not only loved this man, but she also saved him twice--she saved
his life and she saved his soul."
Oibore could no longer hold back his tears. Emotions that he had kept
tightly bound for four years now came flowing out in huge waves. Katsura
rose and, much to Oibore's surprise, went to the kitchen to boil water and
make some tea. When it was ready, he gently offered some to the weeping
"Yukishiro-san," Katsura continued, "now you can understand why I
myself have come to tell you this. It was my creation of the hitokiri that
nearly destroyed a boy's soul. It was my creation of the hitokiri that
shattered your family's happiness not just once, but twice. It is a burden
that I will have to bear to the end of my days. Now I come to beg your
Oibore didn't know what to say. He was overwhelmed by conflicting
emotions--happiness that his daughter had finally found contentment and
love, overwhelming sadness at the tragedy that had befallen her and her
chosen one, and puzzlement at the cruel twist of fate that decreed that her
love should be the same man who had killed her fiance.
"Katsura-sama, you have been so kind to tell me this," he finally
said, in a voice laden with grief. "None of us is without something we wish
to atone for. How can I deny you forgiveness? At least now I know for sure
what happened to my daughter..." And with that, he began to cry once again.
After regaining his composure, he said, "Himura, then, is my son-in-law,
the man my daughter loved. Where is he now, so I can meet him and thank him
for giving her happiness?"
"I don't know," Katsura replied truthfully. "After our victory at
Toba Fushimi last January, he knew that the Shogunate had been defeated, so
he asked for his release from service, which I gave. But he didn't say
where he was going. Nobody knows where he is--he's disappeared."
Oibore's disappointment with this news was written clearly on his
"Yukishiro-san," Katsura said, "There is a diary..."
"A diary?" Oibore was suddenly quiet.
"After the tragedy in Otsu, I helped Himura arrange for Tomoe's
burial at a monastery in Kyoto. Tomoe had kept a diary all those months.
Himura left it in the care of the monks, with instructions to keep it safe
"Does it say anything about my son, Enishi? He followed Tomoe to
Kyoto, and I've never heard from him again."
"I don't know about that," Katsura responded, "but I remember Himura
telling me that Tomoe's little brother once came to visit them-a surprise,
I think, because no one was supposed to know where they were living. He
said Tomoe told the boy to return to you in Edo."
"A diary!" For the first time, Oibore felt a light turn on in his
heart. "Where can I find this monastery? Oh, Katsura-sama, you have given
me my first ray of happiness in four years!"
Katsura quickly wrote down the directions and a letter of
introduction for the monks, then handed it to the old man. "Thank you,
Yukishiro-san, for allowing me to unburden myself to you. I wish you peace
and happiness in this new Meiji era."
"No, I should be thanking you," responded Oibore, smiling for the
first time since he couldn't remember when. "You've given me a way to be
near my daughter, who was the light of my life. It's a priceless gift for
which I can never repay you."
As soon as Katsura had left, Oibore began making plans to leave Edo.
He doubted he would return-his daughter was in Kyoto, and that was where he
now wanted to be. His decision to become a wandering teacher turned out to
have been a good one, he realized, for it made a move such as this all the
more possible. 'No lack of students in need of a teacher in Kyoto, I
expect,' he thought to himself. By week's end, he was on the Tokaido Road,
heading for Kyoto.
Author's Note: For all you history buffs out there, Edo's name was not
changed to Tokyo until late October 1868; this chapter takes place in early
October 1868. If you're interested in RK-related Japanese history, check
I tend to follow the manga more than the OAV (Maigo-chan deserves major
honors for the translations!); there are some differences in the timeline
between the two. And, yes, I made up a first name for Tomoe's father--
Watsuki-sama didn't give him one.
From Co-Conspirator: Wow! That was pretty spiffy, ne? If you thought so
too, then let us know! If you didn't like it, get consoling and read it
again! ^_^ I'm kidding, even if you thought it wasn't too great, let us
know, but be warned that flames will only be used to make s'mores. Keep an
eye out for the next chapter, it will be out before you know it!!
Bakamatsu: The civil war between the pro- and anti-Shogun factions
Bakufu: Shogunate government
Chousu Clan: One of the two major anti-Shogun clans in the civil war
Ishin Shishi: Nickname for anti-Shogun factions
Tanto: a short dagger