So this little ficlet struck me randomly and I felt the urge to write it despite the fact that it doesn't really fit into my current collection, mostly because I just really love Hiko and all of his self-satisfied glory. This is a sort-of companion piece to chapter 7 of "Adventures In Solitude", taking place the day before.

As a general reminder, I don't own RuroKen, nor do I own the song "A Question" by Bombadil.


"Excuse me

I

Have a question

That will make us

Awkward

So if you

Would like

An awkward situation, just say

'What is it, Stuart?'

Okay, here it goes"


An Intrepid Situation


Hiko can tell that she's uncomfortable, and he would be a liar if he said he didn't enjoy it.

For some reason beyond his divine comprehension, his moronic apprentice had shown up just before lunchtime with this girl in tow, blathering on about some desire to see him once more before they depart or something along those nonsensical lines. How the boy could still be so sentimental after being raised under his tutelage is beyond even Hiko's vast realm of understanding. But the master swordsman is nothing if not a most gracious host, so he allows them in to his house with minimal complaint under the strict requirement that his stupid pupil make himself useful during their stay. So while the boy is out gathering water, he takes the opportunity to study the girl that's caught his student's interest.

She's just a slip of a girl with unremarkable features and a chubby face, barely beyond the realm of a child. There is nothing enticing about her figure from what Hiko can make of it from beneath the bulk of her lilac kimono and he stifles a snort at the thought of his idiotic apprentice harboring a secret Lolita complex. He watches her shift awkwardly on the tatty cushion that she is kneeling on. Had Hiko not witnessed for himself this girl wielding a bokken with such ferocity, he would have easily dismissed her as nothing more than a pusillanimous teen.

His sable irises follow her self-conscious movements as she plays with the teacup in her small hands. She's nervous and Hiko can't really find it in himself to blame her; he supposes that to many his stoic splendor would be rather intimidating. But he can feel it in her ki that this is not the case, at least not entirely. She's not intimidated by the sheer fact that he is the sole living master to the Hiten Mitsurugi Ryū, but by the fact that he is someone that her rurouni holds in high regard. He takes a slow sip from his sake dish.

Because one of the few joys in his life is goading people, Hiko waits to voice his question until he sees the girl take a drink of her tea.

"So have you confessed to my stupid pupil yet or not?"

From the frantic choking and her subsequent coughing fit, Hiko finds it safe to say she hasn't yet. Her cheeks are scarlet, navy eyes frazzled when she meets his.

"Excuse me?" She splutters.

"I assume that's a no, then."

Her face is burning with mortification, a haughty scowl on her lips. "That's a bit of a bold question to ask."

"Coming to Kyoto was a bit of a bold move to make." Hiko says with nonchalance, and he decides that the sparks in her eyes are a pleasant transformation from her demure guise.

"Well I couldn't just stay in Tokyo." She rebuts.

"And why is that?" Hiko asks. "Surely you've recognized the trouble my stupid pupil seems to bring wherever he goes."

The girl makes a face and Hiko is reminded of his student as a young child trying his sake for the first time. "I admit life has been a little more…unpredictable since Kenshin has come around, but I can't imagine it going back to the way it was before he arrived." Her eyes shine with an inner fire that his question has undoubtedly prodded. "There's no way I would even want to."

"So his past does not bother you?" Hiko baits. "Do you simply disregard the fact that your rurouni's hand has slain dozens, perhaps even hundreds of men?"

"Of course I don't," She affirms haughtily, straightening up. Hiko takes a long, slow sip of his sake and waits for the rebuttal he can see waiting to lash from her tongue. "Kenshin has made it his life's goal to atone for his actions as a hitokiri during his service in the Bakumatsu. To simply pretend that none of that had happened is to disregard his suffering and his efforts since then entirely."

"So you acknowledge that you harbor a murderer?"

"I acknowledge that I harbor a man who has made mistakes." She repudiates, setting her teacup down beside her with a firm 'clink'. "Grave ones, yes, but they do not change the fact that Kenshin is a good man. Despite the mistakes he's made in the past, he's only ever done what he thought was best for others, and to this day he works his hardest to right the wrongs he's made. The only thing that bothers me about his past is the fact that he has been made to carry such heavy burdens in the first place."

Hiko regards her for a long moment, staring her down with a silent challenge that to her credit she readily accepts. When the girl does not back down, Hiko leans back with one approving nod and downs the rest of his wine.

"Fair enough," Is all he says.

The girl flushes in what Hiko can only assume is indignation, and he can't stop the smirk that splits his face. The young lady may not look like Amaterasu but she has moxie and in the swordsman's book, that counts for twice as much. For being so underwhelmed initially, Hiko is pleased to find that his pupil's taste in women isn't as abhorrent as his taste in alcohol is.

The boy returns to the hut with water-filled buckets not long after, sweating and dirty but still with that ever-present grin on his face, and Hiko notices how his pupil's attention is drawn straight to the girl like a flower is drawn to the sun. He fights the urge to roll his eyes, but he doesn't miss how the girl warms instantly at his idiot apprentice's return. It's as if her face undergoes a strange sort of alchemy as her smile stretches across her lips, and for the briefest moment Hiko would even venture to call her beautiful.

"Welcome back," She says to him, and all at once Hiko can see just why his stupid pupil is drawn to her in the way that the boy's features relax and the crease in his brow is smoothed away, as if with her simple words she has somehow managed to lift the weight from his shoulders. Hiko refills his saucer while his student makes himself comfortable on a seat beside her, and he twirls the glass between two calloused fingers as he wonders just how mean he should be now that the boy has joined them.

In the end, Hiko keeps the conversation short and polite with less of his biting rejoinders than usual if only for the girl's sake; he's riled her up enough for one day. He can tell from the stiff way she thanks him when they leave that she's still rather irate with him for his earlier callousness, and the fact that she has the gall to be cheeky with him makes Hiko smirk.

He decides that he rather likes the girl for all the trouble she's been, and therefore comes to the conclusion that as Kenshin's master, he cannot allow his stupid pupil to go ahead and ruin this for himself like he is oh so apt at doing. So Hiko sends them off with the instructions for Kenshin to return in the morning for tea 'because I said so, you idiot', and goes to tend to his kiln in peace with smug resolve and a warm cup of sake.


"Do-o-o-o-o-o

Do yo-o-ou

Dou you like

Do you like-like

Do you like-like me too?"


Japanese Vocabulary:

-Bokken: A type of wooden sword. Where Yahiko is often seen with a shinai (split bamboo sword), Kaoru is usually wielding a bokken.

-Rurouni: "Wanderer"

-Hitokiri: "Manslayer"; used as a title as well, ie. Hitokiri Battousai

-Bakumatsu: The final years of the Tokugawa Shogunate/Edo Period between 1853 and 1867

-Amaterasu: Shinto goddess of the sun and universe