|Out of Time
Author: SiriusFan13 PM
COMPLETE! During a trip to Kyoto with his friends, Himura Kenshin winds up in deep water... thirteen years in the past. How will Kenshin deal with the Revolution again? And how will his friends deal with Battousai, who has traded places with him? R&R!Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama - Kenshin & Battousai - Chapters: 31 - Words: 110,937 - Reviews: 1,265 - Favs: 982 - Follows: 187 - Updated: 03-03-08 - Published: 11-28-04 - Status: Complete - id: 2149801
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Out of Time
Chapter 27: The Tide Turns
The light of the half-risen moon was dim, obscured by the wispy clouds that were slowly gliding through the night sky. Even so, it was enough. Their blades gleamed in the dim light, and their eyes seemed to glow. The surrounding area was silent. No animals made a sound. Even the wind seemed to be holding its breath. The ki from these two was a more imposing force than had been felt here in over a decade. It was not natural, and even those who didn't understand, knew that they should keep out of the way.
The clouds shifted, and the moon suddenly shone down brightly on the two solitary figures. Two fragile beings carefully and fruitlessly disguised as a wolf and a demon.
Saito was frozen in the Gatotsu stance, staring down Battousai who stood ready to react at any moment. A faint smile twitched the wolf's lips. "Goodbye, Battousai."
The boy's expression didn't change as his narrowed eyes studied the man before him. Waiting to sense his coming move and properly react.
The wait wasn't long. Saito attacked.
Battousai drew his blade and blocked Saito's thrust easily. His own sword sliced through the air effortlessly, scraping against the other katana, and continuing on its path, cutting through material, and a little bit of skin.
They were back to back. Saito's expression hadn't changed, and he ignored the slow bleeding from his shoulder. It was a scratch. He wasn't going to lose his edge over a little blood.
Again, he turned to see the boy already in motion. Saito blocked, thrusted. His blade almost cut the boy. Almost made it past Battousai's unnaturally fast katana. He thrust again, as soon as the boy's blade grazed past him, cutting a little more material, a little more skin on the wolf's opposite shoulder.
Saito only managed to remove a few flame colored strands of the boy's hair. He gritted his teeth. This was ridiculous. Battousai was flitting around like a butterfly. Here.There.And the moment before the wolf could pounce, he was gone, in motion again. The wolf was ready to draw any blood now, just to make a hit.
His expression was serious. His eyes remained cold. He would win this. There was no option. The odds were against him, but he couldn't allow this child to live in Meiji. He was too dangerous at a time like this. Saito's eyes narrowed. And anyway, it was true that he wanted to face Battousai one last time, but not like this. He was finally forced to admit to himself the fact that it was the older man he wanted to face. He wanted to defeat the man who had lived through the changing era.
There would be no real point in defeating this boy, except to show that even at thirty-five, this wolf was still deadly. But that wasn't the point. It never had been. He needed to fight the older Battousai, because he needed to prove to himself that Meiji hadn't destroyed everyone he'd known. Needed to know that Battousai at least had remained the man from his memory.
Determination hardened his features. That was why he had to win now. Because if this boy didn't go home. If that man died in the past, Saito would never know.
And that was unacceptable.
The redhead stood a distance away, his katana sheathed, ready for a quick attack. His hand was already reaching across for the blade.
The wolf's eyes focused on the boy's sword arm. The slightly awkward angle at which it was held. And the very faint tremor of the hand that brushed the katana's hilt.
Perhaps there was a chance after all...
Kenshin sent one last wary look toward Shishio, but the hitokiri was easily holding his own against Usui. Kenshin knew how that would end. Shishio would not need his help. The redhead turned his focus back to his own target, third unit leader, Saito Hajime.
Kenshin's brow furrowed. "Where is your unit?"
His question almost seemed to take the wolf by surprise. He was unused to words before battle. Saito hesitated a moment, before replying softly, "They are elsewhere. This is between you and I. There was no reason to let them interfere." He slid his blade out of its sheath, and prepared to fight. "Shall we finish this?"
The redhead nodded shortly, preparing his own blade. At least this would be an honorable duel. However, it wasn't under the best of circumstances. He was injured badly. His sword arm felt weak and shaky. His grip firm, but not strong. Also, they were still a short distance away from the river, and Kenshin wasn't sure if the bridge itself would be necessary for the switch. Was there a way he could draw Saito in that direction...?
He wasn't able to think on it as Saito moved, forcing Kenshin to react. The redhead drew the sakabatou, managing to block the wolf's powerful attack. He allowed himself to stay in motion a bit longer than necessary, drawing them away from Shishio and Usui, and toward the bridges.
Saito struck again, andonce more Kenshin was on the defensive, blocking the blow, again retreating a short distance, moving them closer to the river, but never actually directing an attack toward his opponent.
The wolf scowled. "Are you afraid to attack me?" He snorted. "I knew you weren't the true Battousai. He wouldn't run. He'd fight and, if need be, die honorably."
He's right... Kenshin's grip tightened on his sheathed sakabatou. If I'm going to try to become Battousai again, even for this short time, I can't remain only on defensive. He swallowed hard, but now that he made his decision, his expression was firm. I have my sakabatou. I won't kill him. But if I don't attack, I may never go home...
This thought was enough to pull himself together. This time he met Saito's Gatotsu with a sideswipe of his own, grazing the unit leader's arm. Before Saito could properly react, Kenshin was in the air.
"Ryu Tsui Sen!"
The wolf had been expecting this, and leapt backwards, blade out and on the defensive. He barely missed being hit, and followed it up with his own left handed thrust. Kenshin turned out of the way, but not quickly enough. The wound on his side was shallow, and the redhead paid it no mind, attacking again.
Saito evaded. "You're slow." His own blade barely missed catching Kenshin in the chest. The redhead turned at the last second, receiving a deep, but less deadly wound to his side.
He stopped briefly, catching his breath and steadying himself. His breathing was ragged, and he felt a little dizzy from loss of blood. He hadn't realized the extent of his injuries until that moment. This was going to have to end soon.
Saito watched the redhead cautiously, prepared for anything.
They were near the bridge by now. So close that the swiftly moving river was clearly audible to both men, drowning out the distant sounds of Shishio and Usui's own fight.
The bridge was the last thing on the redhead's mind, however. The loss of blood was getting to him. Or perhaps it was seeing it around him in the snow. Memories were flooding back, distressing his mind and blinding him to the present. When he looked back up at Saito through his loose flame-colored hair, the wolf got a glimpse of amber in his opponent's eyes. The eyes of a hitokiri.
The wolf smiled. Now we're getting somewhere...
Kaoru and Sano raced through the streets, determined to find Battousai before he got himself killed. Worry reflected in their eyes for a boy they had never really known, but had both grown to care about.
Kaoru was breathing hard. She glanced at Sano who was only a short distance ahead of her. "Are you sure he'll be at the bridges?" she called without slowing down.
Sano nodded. "Trust me. If Saito was the one who gave him that message, then he's going to want to face Kenshin by the river."
"Is Saito trying to send him back?"
The fighter skidded to a stop so abruptly that Kaoru ran into him and almost dumped both of them onto the street. "What did you say?"
Kaoru shook her head, picking herself up and starting to move away. "We don't have time for this, Sano! We have to go."
He ignored her words, grabbing hold of her arm in a vice grip. "Jou-chan, what did you just say?" He stared at her incredulously. "Are you trying to tell me you know about him? You know what happened?"
He shook his head. "How?"
"He told me," she snapped, pulling from his grip. Her glare was fierce. "But that doesn't matter now. We need to get to him. He's already been hurt enough. I don't want to see him in more pain."
She looked up at him. Her eyes reflecting his own worry. "He's been through a lot, Sano. And as much as I want our Kenshin back, and everything put right, I'm not willing to risk him getting hurt any worse by Saito."
Sano hesitated, staring at the girl's fierce protective glare. "But what if this is his only way home? I mean... I don't like it either. I'd rather just dump Battousai in the river and see what happens, but what if this is it? We can protect him now... but they're probably gonna have to fight eventually."
Kaoru shook her head. "I can't let anyone hurt him, Sano. Don't you understand? If I stand back and let this happen to him, I might lose him forever, even if he does return."
Sanosuke just stared at her, confused. "You aren't making any sense..."
"You said it yourself. I need to let him know that I accept his past. All parts of his past. If I turn my back on him now just to get my rurouni back, then I don't deserve him." She stubbornly brushed frustrated tears away. "So, do what you want, Sanosuke, but I'm going to do what I can!" With those words she was running again.
Sano followed close after her, not quite sure what she was getting at. But it didn't matter. All that mattered now was making sure that his friend came out of this okay. It was his fault that Kenshin was in this mess. Sano sure as hell was going to get him out of it...
Just hang in there, Kenshin, he thought. Both of you... hang on. We're coming...
Ushiro sped through the shadows on his own hunt. He'd been searching everywhere for almost half an hour with no luck.
Where could that baka be?
It didn't help that Ushiro had never thought to ask Kenshin what had happened to bring him here. How he meant to go home. And it certainly didn't help that Ushiro didn't know how this older version of his friend would think...
Or did he? This older Kenshin wasn't all that different than the boy he knew, once you got past all of the masks and the hiding. Where would Battousai have gone? He stopped and thought for a moment. The boy was logical. He'd have headed straight for the place this had begun. Looked for clues there. So where...?
It struck Ushiro all at once and he was in motion again, running toward the edge of Kyoto. Kenshin had been missing for an entire day when he'd found Ushiro that night. He'd turned up again near the outskirts of the city during the fight with Okita and Saito. That had to have been when they'd switched...
He ran hard, knowing that even at his speed, he might not make it in time if Kenshin wound up against the Shinsengumi.
Sweat glistened on his skin, chilling him in the cool air. His legs ached. His wounds burned. But he was oblivious to all of that. His focus was centered on his friend.
After all you've been through, you deserve to live in peace. I'm not going to let you die. Not here... And definitely not now...
Battousai almost didn't see Saito's Gatotsu coming, the wolf was moving so quickly, despite his wounds. The boy's eyes managed to follow his movements. The angle was off slightly. Saito wasn't going for a death blow.
What was he doing?
Battousai readied himself to block the blow, when out of nowhere the older man changed his move, throwing the boy off. Battousai's eyes widened, as the wolf turned his thrust into a slash, cutting upward across the boy's body, the blade ending up slicing deeply into the wound already in his shoulder. Saito twisted the blade a little, enough to weaken the arm, but not quite far enough to cause permanent damage...
At least, Saito hoped not. With this boy, one could never tell...
His blade slid back out of Battousai's flesh, glistening red with his blood, as the wolf staggered backwards two or three steps, a deep wound in his own leg from the boy's rapid response to his attack. Blood flowed freely. Blocking the pain, he held one hand to the wound, critically watching the boy in front of him.
Battousai was wounded worse. He stood at the edge of the river, swaying slightly. He was breathing hard, his left hand clutching the torn skin of his shoulder. He was slumped forward slightly. His eyes wide.
He blinked once. Twice. Shook his head to clear his mind. And the edge was back in his eyes. He was ready. And nothing would stop him now.
Kenshin's movements were faster now, more sure. He hadn't completely let the hitokiri take over, but he could feel it close to the surface. If nothing else, Kenshin suspected that this was what was giving him the strength to fight again. He didn't know how long it would last, but he hoped he would only need to fight a few moments more. Just long enough to get onto the bridge. Just long enough to get home.
It has to work, he thought desperately, dodging the Gatotsu once again. It has to...
His blade silently sliced through the moonlight, causing great rifts of light when it gleamed. He managed a hit on Saito, directly across the chest. It briefly winded the third unit leader.
Kenshin hesitated, momentarily startled by the lack of blood, then horrified that he'd expected it. The redhead pulled back, trying to focus his mind again. I can't let myself slip that far...
He re-sheathed his sword, readying himself for another counter attack. His hand felt for the hilt, slipped over that of his sakabatou, and continued for the wakizashi. His fingers had just gripped it when he realized what he was doing, and let his hand drop, releasing the sword as though he'd been burned.
He barely managed to pull his mind from the brink again. But it was getting harder with each attack. He was walking the edge, unwilling to fall in.
His expression hardened. But how far would he have to go?
Saito had attacked again. Kenshin didn't notice until it was almost too late, barely pulling his sword up early enough to block a death blow. The river was right behind him now. His foot actually slid a little on the slippery bank.
That brief distraction was all it took. Saito thrust his blade forward while Kenshin was trying to regain his balance. The blow from his katana was forceful enough to make Kenshin lose his footing.
Before he could react, he'd fallen backwards into the river. The cold water covered his head, blinding him to the wolf above him. In his surprise, he gasped and inhaled water. Kenshin struggled to make it to the surface, but his weakened right arm wouldn't cooperate in the frigid water, and he only sank.
This was it.
It was over... and he'd lost...
It was Kenshin's last thought before everything went black.
The scream came out of nowhere.
Batttousai turned to see Kaoru running toward him. Sano was close behind. What are they doing here? The boy's heart skipped a beat. They're going to get themselves killed. I can't protect them like this. It's going to be just like Otsu!
She ignored Sano's desperate voice and kept running.
Saito hadn't turned at the sound of the boy's name. Kaoru's voice drawing Battousai's attention was all the distraction he needed. Without hesitation, he charged, ignoring the burning of his wounds. The aching muscles.
The boy turned a moment too late. His sword was only half raised when Saito caught him, throwing the wounded boy into the river. Just as he had done thirteen years ago.
Kaoru screamed. And it sounded as though Sano had shouted his name. But the water was over Battousai's head now, and he couldn't find the energy to pull himself out. The river was muffling everything, even as it numbed his limbs.
He felt himself sinking... Felt the cold water entering his throat.
I'm sorry... I won't see you again in Meiji after all...
Special news! "Out of Time" has officially been nominated for best drama in the RKRC (Rurouni Kenshin Reader's Choice Awards)! (Squeals!) I'm so excited! Thanks whoever nominated me! You can find the awards at www(dot)Meijitales(dot)com! Please check it out! There are so many great entries!
Hey! This month is my one-year anniversary of experiencing the Kenshin universe. I'm sure no one cares but me (winks), but I just realized it today. It was August last year that I first started buying the manga!
Heh... anyway, onto the reviewers... (more interesting than my pathetic anniversary, anyway! Hehe...)
lolo popoki: Thanks again for beta-ing and pointing out the oopsies! And you're darn right I'm gonna hold you to that... And it's coming up soon... hehe...
Nemesis Jedi: Thanks again for the reading suggestions. Oh, and in response to your question about "A Time for Every Purpose" in the haiku collection reviews, the filler story isn't titled yet, that's why I haven't listed much about it. Let's just say, it goes with Seisouhen, and involves Kenshin saying his final goodbyes post-mortem with a little help from Kenji...
Kanashii.Umi: To put pics on the homepage, you need to be signed up for Fanfiction(dot)net's special optional features... It costs like 5 dollars a month, and you get access to stuff like that. I'm glad you like the fiction. It always makes me happy to hear things like that! I have written a haiku about Katsu in the "Ruroken Haiku Collection," but nothing else... I may consider that, though. It'll be a ways down the line, however... I have a LOT on the back burner.
Musicsage: You weren't bothering me. And I agree with what you say... Battousai and Rurouni are the same people with different mindsets. That's all. I actually obsessed about that once, and wound up writing "The Mind of a Killer" because of it...
Lily of the Shadow: Yes, it's getting very near the end now. And thanks for the kana! But what does it say?
AnyaRei: Yes, Usui is the blind guy from the Juppengatana. The one whom Shishio blinded during bakumatsu...
sueb262: I'm glad you liked it. Thanks for the wonderful review! I was very flattered!
xdarkwingx: oh...! A new reviewer! Thanks for the review! I was really happy to hear that you liked the story, especially the characters whom I obsess over (I don't deny it!)
Mir: Glad to see you back! And I'm glad you had a safe trip!
Firalyn Tiatra: Yes, Usui is the blind guy. And I'm glad you're enjoying the fiction!
To all Reviewers: Thanks again for reading and reviewing. I'm sorry I can't respond to you all, but I hope you understand how much your reviews mean to me!
Thanks, and keep your eyes open for the next chapter!