Author Notes: You know what I'm tired of? Stories of ordinary young women whose lives change when they meet a man. So I decided to turn the tables on that story line and came up with this little doohickey. Also, I'm not sure if I like this story or not. Either way, I do have a companion chapter to go along with it, but I don't plan to extend it beyond a two-shot. Tell me what you think!
Disclaimer: The Rurouni Kenshin world and all characters depicted are a creation of mangaka, Watsuki Nobuhiro.
Squinting through the microscope eyepiece for the umpteenth time today Kenshin could feel his eyes wearing on him. Making a quick observation of the slide, he jotted a short memo in his notebook. Stepping away from the counter-height black-top table, he brought his right hand up to pinch the bridge of his nose and scrunched his eyes shut.
Saying it had been a long week would have been an understatement. He had been aware when the past weekend had winded down that the coming week would be brutal, but he hadn't expected exhaustion to hit him so hard on Friday. The only relief he had was that the weekend was coming so he had all day to work on his dissertation and not deal with office hours or classes. There really were only so many times a person could try to calm a panicked undergraduate with their upcoming midterm exam.
Reaching for his coffee, he was grateful that he was in the observational lab today and was allowed to have the strong caffeinated drink with him. As a PhD student he was always a little more than stressed and wired, but he loved the field of biochemistry and was happy to take the downs along with the ups.
Kenshin glanced up at the clock by the door and was surprised to see how much later it was than he expected. He was supposed to meet Sano for drinks and he only had half an hour left before his friend would bust into the restricted lab to drag him out. Mentally calculating how much work he wanted to get through, he tried deciding what to leave for tomorrow.
His thoughts were interrupted when he heard an odd light scraping sound. He was alone in the lab and there were no instruments running, so the sound drew his attention immediately. Kenshin's eyes swept across the rooming looking for a culprit and found it when they landed on the window. The lab was surrounded on all sides and had no natural light aside from a small alcove that housed a tall narrow window with a short ledge. And perched on that ledge was a surprisingly large black bird scraping its beak against the glass.
As if it had been waiting for Kenshin's attention, it stopped its scraping and stared at him. Kenshin was nowhere near an expert on birds, but even he knew that this bird was much larger than usual. It was a svelte creature that at standing height would have probably reached his knees. Its black feathers shimmered like polished ebony and its eyes had a distinct tint to them that he couldn't quiet define. He stood mesmerized by the bird for a long moment, feeling unfamiliar warmth pulling from his spine toward it.
There was something about this black bird that seemed off. It was likely a crow or raven -he wasn't sure which- and he didn't feel uneasy. Usually the dark fowls that lined telephone lines and gathered around carcasses brought on an uncomfortable creepy sensation, but this one was different. If anything, he was drawn to the creature.
He had a mind to approach the window, but suddenly his cellphone went off. Glancing down at the number he saw that it was his friend Sano already starting his round of calls to get him out of the lab early.
"What's up?" Kenshin answered.
"What's up is that you better have your pocket protector loving ass packed up and ready to get our drinks on." Sano said from the other line. "Our meeting time is not when you clock out."
Kenshin rolled his eyes. "You're the one who's always late."
"Not this time. I've already started without you." He replied, and Kenshin could hear the grin in his friend's voice.
"You keep bugging the bartender and she's going to overcharge you for drinks." Kenshin shook his head.
"Nah, Megumi would never do that to me." He assured.
"Give me a few minutes. I'll finish what I'm working on now and head out." Kenshin replied as he glanced back toward the window. "I just need to-" And his words cut off at seeing the bird gone. He wasn't sure what he expected, but he hadn't expected it to leave while he had been distracted.
"Just need to what?" Sano asked and brought his friend's attention back.
"Oh, just, you know, lab stuff." He unskillfully clarified. "I'll see you in twenty minutes." Without much more of a greeting, they hung up their conversation and Kenshin went about finishing his work. All the while, his mind was filled with black feathers and talons.
When Kenshin reached the bar to meet up with Sano, he was still five minutes early. He was also able to catch the tail end of Sano being rejected by Megumi, yet again. His friend was nothing if not persistent, and from what he observed between the two, Kenshin got the feeling that Megumi would give in and agree to a first date within a month.
A few hours and a bad round of billiards later, Kenshin and Sano were making their way out of the bar. Sano was thoroughly drunk, while Kenshin was only slightly inebriated. Kenshin made it a point to stay a little more sober than Sano so that his friend didn't get himself into too much trouble. That was a trick he learned the hard way when they used to live together in the college dorms.
As Sano wavered a bit on his footing as they walked out of the bar, Kenshin kept a vigilant eye to make sure Sano didn't stumble into traffic. The streets were dark and busy with the Friday night crowds. The street light illuminated the way as they turned the corner to take their usual path and cut across the park. In the light of the second light within the park's path perched the large black bird on the back of a bench.
Kenshin stopped in his steps and locked eyes with it as it stared at him like it did that afternoon. Again, he suspected that the bird seemed to study him closer than a wild animal usually did.
"Holy shit!" Sano exclaimed, breaking the spell that Kenshin seemed to be under. "There's a giant crow glaring at us."
Raising a brow at his friend's over reaction, Kenshin corrected him. "I think it's a raven."
Keeping his eyes secured on the ominous bird, Sano frowned. "How the hell would you know?"
Kenshin shrugged. "I looked up the difference. "
"On the way over to meet you." Kenshin explained. "I was curious."
"Why of all days did you look today?" He questioned, a bit paranoid in his drunken state.
"Because I saw the same bird at the lab earlier."
"It was in the lab?" Sano sounded incredulous. "I thought you dealt with microbes."
"I do." Kenshin clarified. "It was at the window looking in."
Sano finally risked a glance to the other man. "You're not even remotely weirded out that there is a creepy ass bird stalking you?"
He considered the raven for a long moment and then answered. "I think it's kinda beautiful."
Sano sputtered in response. "Are you sick or something? Are you near your deathbed? Is that why it's following you?"
"Not that I'm aware of." He remained blasé of the topic. "It's not like it's attacking either of us. It's a pretty chill bird."
"Chill?" Sano was obviously still suspicious of the creature. "You're insane. How can you be so casual about being followed by the biggest crow I've ever seen."
"Raven." Kenshin corrected.
"Whatever!" He shouted, which seemed little to affect the bird. "It's weird. It's like an omen or something. Doesn't it mean bad luck? Aren't they usually associated with death and voodoo?"
Kenshin wondered about his friend's obsession with the bird and why they hadn't walked past and forgotten it by now. He also knew that the stream of questions was a trait exhibited by his friend when drunk. Kenshin sighed a bit tiredly. "I think most people think of Edgar Allen Poe."
"And that dude was super creepy!" Okay, so Sano obviously snuck a few drinks without Kenshin's knowledge because he was further along the intoxication scale than Kenshin had previously thought. Sano was being a more nonsensical than usual.
"Let's get you to your apartment." Kenshin calmly started walking ahead to pass the raven. "I think you're worrying too much about it."
"It's the size of bald eagle!" Sano whispered loudly as he skirted past the bench. "I would sleep with one eye open if I were you."
Kenshin laughed and shook his head. "It's not going to attack me."
Sano tugged his friend ahead to get farther away from the raven that continued to stare at them. "Do you even know what they call a group of crows?"
"I don't know," Kenshin feigned ignorance. "A gaggle?"
"No, a murder." Sano hissed out forebodingly. "A murder Kenshin!"
"Well, again, it's a raven." He corrected.
"It's probably the same thing! Or maybe even a massacre of ravens." Sano peered back at the bird and saw it still there. "Do you want to be massacred?"
Kenshin sighed and resolved to get Sano back to his apartment. Sano desperately needed a good night's sleep and some sobering up to do. "It's not an unkindness of ravens."
"What?" Sano slurred his words and sounded drunker than before, which shouldn't have been possible. Maybe he snuck in a final couple shots before leaving the bar that Kenshin didn't see.
"A group of ravens, it's called an unkindness." He said while glancing back and saw that the creature was gone.
For the next week, the appearances of the raven became more frequent. Kenshin saw the raven on light posts, edge of buildings, on mailboxes, and any other place a bird of its size could feasibly perch. Kenshin however was not bothered by the constant presence of the raven. He knew in his head that he should have been beyond irked, but his new bird-friend felt natural and normal. If anything, he seemed to look for the raven when he didn't immediately spot it when he stepped outside. Kenshin was especially surprised to not be perturbed when the raven started spending nights on his balcony. He even tried to set out some food for the animal, but it rejected the scraps and faced outward as if on guard.
Ever since the raven joined his life, Kenshin found himself spending more time outdoors. So his current position of sitting on a park bench while grading the undergraduate's midterms was not an unusual occurrence. It was the same park where he saw the raven for the second time on the way home from the bar, but this time it was still the afternoon and children were running about on the playground.
Kenshin stayed across and a bit away from the playing children -although he was distracted by them. It wasn't that they were particularly loud -which they were- but it was the raven's strange behavior. Even though he usually had the undivided attention of the avian, this time its interest seemed to be split between him and the children.
His eyes traveled from the bird to the playground and wondered what was engrossing the typically focused animal. Then again, he wasn't exactly fascinating so he wasn't quite sure why the raven followed him around either. He knew, somehow, that the raven wasn't simply there to watch him and keep him company. It was there waiting for something. Kenshin wasn't sure what it was waiting for, but the bird was patient and kept alert.
Kenshin marked the current paper with a D in red ink. He sighed as he moved on to the next one. He suspected that his students hadn't studied as much as they should have. He would no doubt hear pleas for pity after the students got their exams back. Even though he had offered an exam review session, only three students had come. Why he felt sympathy for the low scoring students was a mystery to him. He started mentally preparing bonus credit opportunities so they could make up their grades.
His thoughts were interrupted when he saw from the corner of his eye that the raven was moving. In all the times that he saw the bird, he had never seen it come or go. It seemed to always to anticipate his next move and sat perched waiting for him to arrive and disappeared when he wasn't looking.
The raven, that had been perched on a lamppost between him and children, expanded its deceivingly large wings. Kenshin openly stared as a spread of inky feathers stretched outward. It then flapped its powerful wings and lifted off the lamppost.
Kenshin momentarily wondered if this was the last he was going to see of the creature and that it was going to fly away, but he seemed mistaken as it stayed floating with its wings creating a upsweeping gust of wind. He seemed to be the only one noticing the enormous bird, and he wondered what was happening. The leaves on the trees nearby started to shake and the papers on his lap began to rustle. His eyes widened in realization that it was not a sudden strong gust of wind, but the result of the raven's wings.
How was this even possible? He glanced around the park and no one seemed to pay any attention to the bird he was so awed by. The wind was strong enough to lift a small child and that was exactly what it did. A little girl, probably no older than four, was at the top of the slide and waiting her turn when the raven forced its wings forward to cause a wave of air to rush toward her.
A sense of panic raced through Kenshin's veins as he saw the girl topple on her feet and teeter over the top of the slide. In a matter of seconds the girl would rush to the ground head-first and make impact. Being one of the older playgrounds in the city, the ground wasn't covered in soft woodchips nor rubber pellets. Instead, the ground was an unforgiving sheet of gravel -something local parents had been protesting about for years.
As the raven caused the girl to fall, it kept its watchful eyes on Kenshin. But now was not the moment to worry about giant birds and their suspicious motivations. With the instinct to save the girl, Kenshin was up on his feet and sprinting toward the slide. There should have been no way for him to reach her in time. He was a good length away, and although he had been the fastest runner on his high school track team, this distance in the time needed was impossible.
Or so it should have been. However from the moment that he saw the girl was in danger, time seemed to slow. Everything around him -even the raven- moved as if the air was viscous. His vision tunneled and his only focus was on getting to the girl on time.
When the girl fell into his arms securely and he fell back and landed on his backside, Kenshin wasn't quite sure what had happened.
The child cried in his arms. The anxious mother came rushing over and thanked him profusely. And Kenshin could do little but stand a bit dumbfounded. He was grateful that some sort of adrenaline rush had gone through him and he had caught the girl in time, but there was no logical explanation to anything that had just happened. And the raven was gone.
While he contemplated how he covered the distance from the bench to the child, Kenshin realized he felt inexplicably hot. The mother of the child even said so when she had shook his hand in thanks. Kenshin had quickly excused himself and gathered his abandoned papers and rushed home. All the while he felt feverish and delirious. Thankfully he was only a block away from his apartment because he spent the entire trip bracing himself against walls and anything else he could lean on.
He fumbled with his keys in his trembling hands as he attempted to unlock his front door. His keys fell with a loud clang twice before he finally fed it in and was able to get into his apartment. Seeing his reflection in mirror by the entrance, he could see that he looked like hell. His face was flushed red, which he noted looked ridiculous with his long red hair which was sweat-drenched along with his skin and clothes.
He quickly shucked his jacket off and left the papers on the kitchen counter. The heat was consuming him from the inside out and he could barely stay standing. He needed a cold bath now before his innards boiled. Kicking his shoe off somewhere in his living room, he stagger toward the bathroom.
"That's not going to help." A feminine voice suddenly cut through the quiet of the apartment.
Kenshin faltered in his step and fell against the back of his couch. There was no strength left in him and he could barely register who was in his apartment.
"I knew you would be green, but I don't think I wanted to believe it." The voice said sounding a bit annoyed.
Kenshin stared on dazed as his back slid against the couch and he was on the floor. He had still yet to identify the owner of the voice, and he could feel his consciousness slipping. His eyes remained open but he couldn't see what was going on. Then, he felt the delicate touch of feathers sweeping across his form. The scorching heat seeped out of him and he could feel his senses return to him.
"I'm a glorified babysitter." The voice grumbled and the sensation of the feathers left him.
His vision cleared along with his head. At first he only saw an outline but as his eyes focused, he saw the raven standing directly in front of him. Startled at seeing the bird, he backed up against the sofa in panic. It was one thing to see the raven at a distance, but a whole other matter to have it a hair's breadth away. It wasn't a far leap in deduction to realize that the feathers he felt earlier belonged to the bird in front of him, but who was the owner of the voice? And how had the raven entered his apartment?
Kenshin surveyed the room from his position on the ground and saw no one else present. The sliding doors leading to the balcony were closed and so was the window in the kitchen. Nothing was amiss or off about his home aside from the raven that continued to study him closely.
"Hello?" He called out tentatively to the rest of the house. Did the bird have some kind of owner?
The raven blinked its unusual colored eyes and let out a sigh. He furrowed his brows. Do birds sigh? "This is the heir to the Hiten Mitsurugi clan I heard so much about? Honestly, I expected a little bit more."
His eyes widened and he could feel his entire reality fall apart. A bird was talking. It wasn't some telepathic connection -although that might have been stranger- but the bird opened and closed its beak and spoke clearly and coherently. Its voice wasn't comically high like in the talking animal movies, but sounded like it belonged to a young woman.
"Y-you can talk." He stuttered out while staring.
"That's what you lead with? That I can talk? That's not exactly impressive, there are lots of birds that can talk. Parakeets, cockatoos, mockingbirds. I can keep going if you want." It spoke, or rather she spoke, quickly and clearly. "The fact that I can have a coherent thought that isn't about eating worms or nesting is the impressive part."
Kenshin blinked flabbergasted. What do you even say to a bird that argues with you? "You can talk." He repeated.
"Yes, I think we've covered that." She answered sounding a bit amused by his inability to saying anything else.
Kenshin visibly gaped. There was just too much to process to be fast on his feet in this situation. The five Ws and H seemed like a good place to start, but it didn't seem like enough. But then, his mind flashed back to the park and he narrowed his eyes at the raven. "You caused the girl to fall."
"I did." She answered without remorse. "I needed to test you. You're not as interesting to watch as you might think and I couldn't stand another week of your boring life. I needed to speed up the process."
"She could have gotten hurt!" He yelled and pulled himself up to stand as he felt the need to be on a higher plane than the creature.
The raven seemed surprised by his compassion for the child. It considered him for moment and then answered. "I would have saved her if you didn't do anything. I'm not cruel."
He wasn't sure if he was satisfied with the answer and considered the implications. "So you knew I could do that?"
"Not exactly." The raven seemed to say with what could have been interpreted as a shrug. "But I was hoping you would with your powers. And thankfully, you didn't disappoint."
"Powers? What are you talking about?" He was spiraling further into confusion.
"What, you momentarily become Flash Gordon and you think it was all adrenaline?" She scoffed.
He vehemently shook his head. "I think you've got the wrong guy. I just run really fast."
"Sure, and I'm a chicken." The raven was obviously losing her patience.
Kenshin turned away and went straight to the kitchen. Deftly grabbing a glass and a bottle of whiskey, he poured and downed a quick drink. He took in a steadying breath and turned around to see the bird now perched on the back of dining room chair.
"Oh my God, you're still there." He said, having hoped the fowl had been only a hallucination. "Kenshin Himura, you have officially gone insane."
"I'm not a figment of your imagination." She sniped as if it was a comment she frequently received.
His mind continued to rationalize the current situation. "It's the fever isn't it? I passed out and I'm hallucinating."
If he didn't know any better he could have sworn the raven rolled her eyes at him. "Are you going to be like this all the time?"
Kenshin ignored her question. "The fever, did you cause it?"
"No, you got a fever because you're an amateur." She mocked. "You're not used to drawing your magic."
"Magic?" He frowned. "You said powers before. Am I a superhero or a magician?"
"You're a wizard Harry." The raven said with a blatantly fake British accent.
"Was that... a Harry Potter reference?" He asked, not quite sure what to make of the bird.
"What? I can't like JK Rowling?" She sounded indignant.
"Shouldn't a magical messenger be more... old timey? More gravitas, less snarky and pop culture savvy?" He questioned.
"You're the first person to complain about not getting the stuffy old mentor." There was humor in her tone.
He wondered about the word mentor, but kept quiet on the topic. "So I'm a wizard." He half stated and half said in question.
"If you want." She said simply. "There are lots of names for what you are: wizard, witch, mage, sorcerer, idiot. Take your pick."
He frowned at the last name. "And you're... my trusty sidekick?"
The raven groaned. "As much as I hate it, kind of. I'm a familiar."
Kenshin turned the term over in his head and had no point of reference. Either this was a very elaborate dream or this really was happening, because he had never been one to know anything about the occult. "I don't know what that means."
"You know, witches and their black cats." She explained vaguely. "Well, you get me."
"I get a talking raven." He stated, still a bit baffled by the entire situation.
"I'm not a talking raven." She corrected, ruffled. "I'm a familiar who looks like a raven. Sure, the raven is the closest related bird, but that doesn't make me a raven."
Kenshin decided not to tell the bird that he constantly referred to her as 'the raven' in his head. There wasn't exactly any other point of reference for him after all. "So you've been following me around for a week to see if I do some magic?"
"I've been stalking you to see if I finally found the right guy." She explained, her tone more serious than before. "I've been looking for you for decades."
"Decades?" He parroted. "Why were you looking for me? Are you here to kill me now?"
"Don't be so melodramatic." She scolded. "A familiar isn't a hitman. I'm here because I have to be. The people of my clan has served the people of yours for millennia. I was promised to your charge when you were born."
The raven's word choice sounded stolen, as if they were borrowed from someone else. "Clan? Charge? This isn't the fifteenth century, and none of this is making sense."
"Look, it's simple." She began. "You are the sole heir to the Hiten Mitsurugi clan, and you were spirited away as baby. So I spent the better part of a quarter century looking for you."
"Exactly how old are you?"
She blatantly ignored his question. "You come from a long line of powerful sorcerers and the people of my clan has served yours faithfully for countless generations. My mother served your mother and my father served your uncle. And you have been stunting my growth."
"A familiar needs a mage. I can only grow so much on my own." She stated.
"When you say grow, are you talking about height?" He let his question trail.
"Don't be daft. My powers of course." She hoped off the chair back and onto the table. "I reached my power cap years ago, and I've been looking for you for years."
"So you're here to leach magic from me?" He started imagining himself as some kind of battery pack for the large bird.
"It's a symbiotic relationship." She argued. "A mage has a cap too... not that you're anywhere near yours."
"Wait, you don't want me to actually... do magic? Is that the word for it?" He asked.
"Well, yeah. What's the whole point of finding you then?" The raven tilted her head in confusion. "Are you telling me you don't want to train your powers? Isn't that every human kid's dream?"
"Kid, yes, but adult? I don't have any need for magic or powers." He argued and poured himself another drink. "I have a dissertation to write and a faculty position to secure afterwards."
The bird considered his words for a long moment. She seemed to study him carefully and Kenshin felt thoroughly naked in front of her. He was known for having an impenetrable poker face, but he knew that the raven saw through his placid façade. The warmth that tingled down his spine every time the raven appeared was searing now. Everything that she said was ludicrous -especially to his logical, pragmatic, and scientific mind- but he knew it all to be true. However, he wasn't ready for it to be true.
"There's no way for you to know this, but what you're planning for your life is incredibly short-sighted." The raven said with a disappoint lacing her voice.
"I'm hoping for tenure track." He offered, but knew that wasn't what she wanted to hear.
"You think I'm here so I can get you to learn some parlor tricks. You don't even know the undercurrent of war going on right under the human race's nose. Enormous hurricanes and typhoons, sink holes that swallow city blocks, global warming causing polar ice caps to melt and raise sea levels, the disappearance of bees... Do you honestly think that's all because humans sprayed one too many aerosol cans and drove their cars too often?" The somber and seriousness in her tone was far cry from the way she spoke up to now. "I've been fighting since I was a child... and I've lost more in this stupid war than you could possibly fathom. So excuse me if I don't care about your ambitions to be a tweed-clad professor teaching a room full of students who all prefer to be somewhere else. I want this war to be over and I need you to do that."
Kenshin soaked in the raven's words and gulped down a growing knot in his throat. This was not a lighthearted discovery that he had some kind of hidden magical ability. This was a call to arms that he wasn't sure if he was quite ready for. "I don't know what's expected of me."
She was pleased enough that it wasn't a denial on his part. "I want you to claim your birthright."
"You're the last remaining heir to your clan, if you don't learn the ways of your people it dies with your uncle." She reiterated. "We need you in the war."
He furrowed his brows. "How do I know you're on the good side?"
"Is there ever a good side in a war?" The bird mourned. "This is your people."
"I grew up in foster care. I don't have people." He answered. "And you're not winning any favors. So far all you did was endanger a child and yell at me."
"I'm not here to spare your feelings." She answered defensively and turned away. "Is that your answer then?"
He finished his second drink and slammed the glass down on the counter -nearly shattering it. He secretly felt small smug sense satisfaction when the bird seemed to start a bit at the noise. "Give me a night. You can stay here if you want."
She weighed his offer quickly. "You want to sleep on it?"
"It's just a lot to process. Also, it's six in the afternoon and I'm exhausted for some reason." He confessed.
"You drew more on your magic than ever, it's bound to wear you out." The crow seemed to settle itself on his kitchen table. "I absorbed your fever but I can't absorb your fatigue."
Kenshin whipped his gaze back to the bird. "You took my fever?"
"It's one of the perks of having a familiar." She remarked. "Imagine how learning to draw on your power would be if you had to recover every time on your own."
He nodded in understanding and turned away to head toward his bedroom. He momentarily stopped and glanced back. "How did you get in here?"
"The balcony doors." She answered and tilted her head at him, expecting another question.
A fast glance at the balcony doors assured him they were securely closed, but he figured that was probably the least remarkable things that happened today. Kenshin wondered why he trusted a magically inclined raven in his living room, but sleep was clawing at his eyes. Turning back to head to the cool comfort of his bed, he was stopped by the bird's question. "That's it? You're just going to go to bed now?"
He leaned on the door frame to his room and faced the raven. "I thought you were going to let me process all of this."
"But you're not going to ask for my name? You're not even remotely interested?" She queried. "You think I'm just 'the raven' or something?"
He wanted to deny it, she had caught him. "Sorry. Um, I'm Kenshin. What's your name?"
"It's going to take me a while to get used to calling you that." She quickly commented and moved on. "My name is Kaoru Kamiya."
"Kamiya? You have a last name?" He had half expected the raven to have a mythical or strange name. Instead, she had a perfectly normal human name.
"It's also part my clan name. Kamiya Kasshin clan." She clarified.
Kenshin actually expected to do very little sleeping when he got to bed. He had expected to toss and turn while thinking about what he was now writing off as a vivid trip from the fever melting his brain. However, instead of spending every minute in bed replaying what happened that day in the park and his apartment; Kenshin fell fast asleep.
When he woke up the next day at noon, he realized he had been too tired to bother changing out of his clothes. The fuzziness on his teeth told him that he never gotten around to brushing his teeth either. His phone showed various missed calls and text messages –all of which he slept through.
There were more important things to attend to, such as making sure there was actually no bird in his apartment and that he had been on an acid trip of some sort. Creeping toward the door he held his breath and peered out. From his vantage point he could see all of his living room and the majority of his kitchen. Seeing not a tail feather or beak in sight, Kenshin let out a sigh of relief. Despite the fact that he had been so far gone yesterday to imagine a talking raven, he was thankful. However, in the corner of his mind he was slightly disappointed to find out that the bird had been a hallucination.
Opening the door fully he extended his arms up and out to stretch his back. It was the weekend and he looked forward to working on his dissertation and maybe even grabbing a drink with Sano later.
"Glad to see you're feeling better." The familiar voice of the raven called out suddenly.
Kenshin froze in his trek to pour himself some cereal. He could feel the blood rushing from his face and knew that he had undoubtedly gone pale. Turning slowly, his eyes widened to see the raven basking in the sun while perched on the balcony railing. Somehow, the sliding doors had been opened wide and the breeze from the outside had taken the weighty air of the room out. Regardless, Kenshin felt a foreboding pit in his gut at seeing her.
"You're still here." He said sounding defeated.
"Well, I haven't been here the whole time." She confessed. "I knew you'd be asleep a while, but eighteen hours? That must be some kind of record."
Seeing coffee already brewed in the machine he wanted to question how it had gotten brewed, but thought better of it. He didn't need to hearing the mocking reprimand from the bird at his question if there was magic that brewed coffee and opened balcony doors.
Grabbing his favorite mug and helping himself to the mysteriously prepared coffee, he went to join the bird on the balcony. "For a second I thought you were a bad dream."
"Bad dream?" She sounded genuinely worried at the description.
Something within him had him amending his words. "No, not bad."
The raven watched him carefully as he leaned forward against the banister and sipped his coffee. There was a worrying set to his brow that she was getting used to seeing. "But not good."
He glanced at her momentarily. "Just a lot to process. I said I would sleep on it, and I actually slept right through any thinking I could possibly do."
"The next time you draw from your magic will be better." She promised.
"Next time?" He took a steadying drink of his coffee. "Do you plan on pushing children into imminent danger again?"
"Of course not. Now that I know I found the right person, I don't need to test you." She said. "You have no idea how many false leads I've dealt with over the years. I think I've stalked every redhead born in 1986 from here to the north shores."
Even though the raven acted and sounded young, Kenshin guessed that she beat him in age a few times over. "So what happens now? You send me off to Hogwarts?"
"If only. Imagine how much fun that would be." She said forlornly. "Magic isn't learned from schools, it's still done through an apprenticeship. And it's usually through your clan."
"So generation to generation? My real parents are going to teach me magic?" He asked, just now realizing that there was the potential of meeting his biological parents. Kenshin had always been a little more pragmatic than the orphans in the movies who had an inherent need to reconnect with their birth parents. Having grown up and graduated from foster care, he never quite understood the appeal or need for a family. The other children always seemed to desire a family, but Kenshin had always been a loner. And now, at the age of twenty-eight the need for parental guidance was all but gone. If anything, what drew him was the novelty of meeting his genetic contributors and less to about meeting his actual mother and father.
The raven grew quiet and then solemnly shook her head. "Your parents were strong mages and probably would have taught you, but they died in the war."
Kenshin wasn't sure how to take the news. It seemed like news that should have shattered his world and push him into a spiraling depression, but it didn't. Mourning for people he had never met just didn't seem like something he could comprehend. Instead of voicing his thoughts, he decided to keep quiet and wait for the raven to continue.
"The plan would be for you to eventually apprentice with your uncle in the other realm." She explained.
"Other realm?" He frowned and turned slightly to face her fully. "I can't leave my life here. I have friends, school, and responsibilities."
"You wouldn't leave. I would stay here with you and teach you the foundations. The moment you enter the other realm, it will get out that you were found alive. You need to know how to defend yourself first." There was a slight glimmer of hope in the bird's voice as she spoke. "So have you decided to claim your birthright?"
He was surprised by tinge of pleading in her voice. "I'm still not sure what that means, but I don't think training to control my powers or magic or whatever it is would be a bad idea. I don't want to accidently turn someone into a frog while I'm at the grocery store. Whether I join your war or not is something I'll decide when I know the facts better."
"I'll take it." She sounded relieved and pleased. "Your uncle gave me six months to teach you before taking you to the other realm. You can decide in six months what you want to do."
Kenshin mentally worried about his dissertation being due in four months and this training coinciding, but decided not to voice his concerns. He juggled a full load of classes and two part-time jobs during undergrad without losing too much sleep. This would be undoubtedly similar... right?
Or so he had thought.
He had anticipated being busy, yet he had reasoned that dealing with something like magical powers would be a welcome change to working hours on end in the lab. He expected it to be more of physical training, but he spent all of his time reading. The raven first gave him a very thick tome -that would have put War and Peace to shame for its length. It contained the fundamentals of magic and its history. Kenshin admittedly only understood half of what was in the book. When he finished it the raven had two dozen books ready for him to cross-reference with the first book. He was told to go through it again. At least this time, instead of a week, it took him five days -even with all the cross-references he had to search for.
Kenshin only once made the mistake of questioning all the booking learning. The raven was quick to chastise him. "I'm not trusting you with one of the most dangerous weapons in the world without having you study the manual backward and forward."
And so he was assigned another half dozen books. How he found time to get through the books were a mystery to him. However he couldn't deny that he found the subject fascinating -not that he would actually admit it out loud to the raven. Kenshin had never been the type to be interested in fantasy, but the books were less magic and more science than he expected. Magic seemed to be a balancing act of keeping different natural elements in check. The most farfetched thing about it was that there were people who were born with the innate ability to manipulate these elements.
There was one bit that he encountered in multiple books about the five elements of nature: fire, wind, water, earth, and sky. He wondered about the one hundred eighteen chemical elements on the periodic table, but that was probably just the biochemist in him. There was mention in the books that the majority of magic users were only able to mainly manipulate two of five elements. He likened it to how some kids were good at science and math, but terrible with language arts, history, and art. The more he read up on the elements, the more he wondered which his two elements were.
Yet, the greatest mystery for Kenshin was not the magic. Even though the topic was new to him, a part of his mind was able to logically process what the books were explaining. Instead, the raven was the true enigma. She was always there when he was in his apartment and outside when he left. But he had yet to see her fly and hadn't seen her spread her wings since the incident in the park. He mused maybe she was a flightless bird, but then how did she get in through the balcony?
The raven was usually straight with him and seemed approachable, yet there was almost nothing he knew about her. She belonged to the Kamiya Kasshin clan and was promised to him when he had been born. Did that mean that she was older him? And what did it mean to be promised? Was it some sort of archaic servitude system?
Yet, his main unanswered question was about the bird's sleep patterns. She never slept, or if she did, he never saw it. There had been a few nights where he woke up to get a glass of water from the kitchen and she had been awake each time. She seemed to stand guard on the balcony railing and stare out into the night. The first night that he had seen her out there, he was surprised by how much she caught his attention. Her sleek black feathers glistened like oil in the moonlight as she unflinchingly observed the night. He had no doubt that she knew he was there gawking at her, but she didn't turn to even spare him a glance. Although he still didn't know much about his powers, he could feel the strength radiate out of her at night. But in the day, when she was away from the apartment, she seemed to hide and blend into the environment seamlessly.
Kenshin always had considered himself to be a bit of a forgotten afterthought, so it was strange to be the most important person in the raven's life. It wasn't that the bird had an unhealthy amount of reverence for him. Actually, he suspected that she had very little reverence for him. However, the way she spoke indicated that her life had culminated to the moment when he was finally found. He felt a certain sense of shame for not realizing that there were people, and specifically the raven, searching for him. He had been blissfully unaware as he went through a typical life of an orphan.
So with the enigma that was the raven, he went through his life as normally as he could. With his dissertation deadline approaching faster than he wanted, his students getting antsy as the course he taught only got tougher, and the bird chasing him with books on the occult, Kenshin was running short on free time. There had been many a text message and frustrated call from his friend Sano about hanging out. It wasn't that Kenshin had been a notorious bar hopper or anything close to that, but as someone who went from bachelor's to master's to doctorate, he knew that unwinding was vital to his mental survival.
He tried on three occasions to sneak away, but the raven kept a closer eye than he gave it credit for. And so it was a month after first meeting the raven that he finally just asked for a night off.
She blinked at him like he was being ridiculous. He was prepared with a defense and how he needed to keep up a normal front, but she surprised him. "You're asking me if you can go hang out with your friend? You're an adult Kenshin, I'm sure you can manage without asking me for permission."
He sputtered a bit. "But you nearly bit my head off the last time I tried to leave."
She tilted her head trying to recall the incident. "You mean last weekend? You were trying to sneak off."
"Well, yeah. You're like a scary governess." He was well aware he sounded like a petulant child.
"Because you were trying to leave without me knowing. You might not know it, but it's not exactly safe out there." She lectured. "You can leave as much as you want, you're just going to do it under my watch."
He wanted to argue that he had never been in danger before her arrival, but figured that his empty victory was enough for the day.
When he finally made it to the bar to meet up with Sano, there was a surprise in store for him. Sano had managed to score a date with Megumi and was already rounding into their fourth date. Kenshin was disappointed to find out so much had happened during his exile. He had wanted to see the panicked look in Sano's face when Megumi finally did agree to the date. By the time Kenshin saw him, Sano was already in a groove and was comfortable around the beautiful bartender. Kenshin suspected that the rapid succession of texts from two and a half weeks ago was Sano's need for sane advice.
Even though he was disappointed to not see his friend's sheer panic, Kenshin was partly pleased that Sano was able to woo Megumi on his own well enough to make it past the first date. Kenshin was convinced that Megumi was a good match for Sano and would keep him check -which was a nice added insurance since Kenshin found himself busy as of late. What Kenshin liked most of the situation was that Megumi was no love-sick girl who followed Sano around, she was quick-witted and didn't take any of his nonsense.
When Kenshin left the bar after a drink and a good amount of conversation with Sano and his bartender girlfriend, he felt a sense of relaxation seeping into him. He had felt a need to accomplish so much while under the raven's watch. Even though she assigned him reading and study materials, she actually never pressed him to study faster or more efficiently. That was all on him. Kenshin felt an innate sense of obligation toward the raven and wasn't sure why. Maybe it had been the mention of the war and how she spent years training without him. Maybe he felt the sudden need to catch up to her abilities, but ultimately he just didn't want to disappoint her.
A certain sense of calm settled in his life with the presence of the raven. Sure, he was busier, but it wasn't that kind of calm. With the raven simply joining his life, he realized that there had been an emptiness he wasn't aware of. It was the most natural feeling to have the bird watch over him. Even though she was quick with her comments and seemed intent on putting him in his place on occasion, Kenshin was surprised by how well he got along with her.
Stepping back outside after cutting his night short at the bar, he was not surprised to see the raven perched on a streetlight. She acknowledged him with a faint nod and continued to keep watch. Kenshin let his eyes sweep through the dark and wondered what could possibly want to hurt him. There was actually very little that he could do and almost nothing he knew that would have been useful for anyone. Why would any predator hunt him down? And why was the raven so paranoid?
"That's it? Only an hour?" The raven asked when he made it back to his apartment.
Settling into his living room he glanced at the closed balcony doors and again wondered how the bird entered. "I don't need to be nursing a hangover in the morning."
She stared at him with her strangely colored eyes. "I think you're too responsible for your own good."
"Are you saying I should be more rebellious?" He was starting to think that the image he had of the strict bird was one he projected on it. She was turning out to be more laid back than he thought.
"I'm not saying you should drink yourself into an oblivion, but you can have a little more fun without worrying about a time table." She nodded to his constant companion, the laptop. "Your dissertation will be here when you get back, there's no need to rush your Friday night."
He frowned. "What about all the studying I have to do for you?"
"You're actually planning on doing some reading now?" She asked incredulously. "You need to learn to relax."
"You said there was a war." He answered indignantly.
"It's been going on for decades. Getting through a couple pages tonight isn't going to set us back by much." She assured. "Don't worry, I've been monitoring your progress and you're not falling behind. Actually, you're getting through the material faster than I expected."
Kenshin was surprised by the rare compliment and was ready to respond when there was a sudden heavy banging at his front door. Both he and the bird whipped their eyes toward the door, but her senses were on high alert. He had no illusions of being any sort of fighter and stayed behind the presence of the raven who placed herself between him and the door.
"Kenshin!" The familiar voice of Sano yelled out to him.
The raven visibly relaxed and turned to him. "He's going to disturb your neighbors."
"Kenshin! I know you're in there!" Sano continued to yell. "Open up!"
Kenshin wasn't exactly sure why his friend was there, but motioned the raven toward the balcony. She glanced between the balcony and Kenshin, and quickly shook her head. "I'm not leaving the apartment."
"You have to. How the hell am I going to explain you in the living room?" He whispered and tried to usher her out.
Not having his attempt at corralling her, she calmed trotted toward his bedroom. "If I need to hide, I'll be in your room. But I'm not leaving you unguarded."
Agreeing to the compromise, Kenshin shut the bedroom door and rushed toward the front door. Sano was being impatient and continued to slam his fist against the door, and Kenshin wondered if it would hold up as it rattled under his friend's strength.
Making sure there was nothing strange out in the open -say, the book on magic fundamentals- Kenshin opened the door to his impatient friend. "What are you doing here?"
Sano frowned at the question and pushed into the room. "You snuck out while I was in the bathroom."
Judging by his friend's tone, Kenshin knew Sano wasn't happy. But he still tried reasoning with him. "I paid your tab."
"What am I, a cheap date? You can't buy me off with a few drinks." Sano registered Kenshin's apartment and narrowed his eyes. "You rushed back here to be with your girlfriend, the laptop, because you're excited about spending the entire weekend with it. And you're not even going to watch porn on it like a normal guy. You're going to tinker with that thousand page dissertation until it kills you."
With the amount of juggling he had to do with his new life with the raven, Kenshin resented the comment. "I don't have a personal relationship with my laptop. I just want to finish my degree on time."
"Kenshin, Kenshin, Kenshin." Sano renounced. "I say this love, man. But you seriously need to get laid."
Ignoring the comment, Kenshin crossed his arms. "So you came here to drag me back to the bar?"
"It's the first time you've been out all month and you went running off after an hour." Sano's tone was obviously suspicious. "What are you hiding?"
Sano was never one to catch subtle clues or be very intuitive, so he was able to catch Kenshin by surprise with his comment. "Hiding?" The raven might see through his poker face, but he still had confidence that he could keep things from Sano.
"I guess it's more who are you hiding." Sano amended. "I heard you talking to someone in here."
"That was the TV." Kenshin easily reasoned.
"I wasn't born yesterday, there's someone here." He pressed on. "I heard a girl."
"Fine, I was talking on speaker phone." Kenshin admitted as if it were the truth.
"With who?" He was a dog with a bone.
There was only a small hesitation before Kenshin came up with an answer. "One of my students called about their paper."
Sano seemed ready to swallow that explanation, but shook his head. "No way. You teach undergrad, they're not working on a paper on a Friday night. You're the only one who does that."
Kenshin kicked himself mentally for not having a better excuse. He should have said he got a number from a girl at the bar, but that seemed a little too uncharacteristic of Kenshin for Sano to actually believe.
"There's a girl. If not here, then she was on speakerphone or whatever, but there's a girl." Sano smirked knowingly.
Kenshin rolled his eyes, and was secretly elated his friend was moving away from a possibility of a stowed away female in his apartment. Sano had enough gall in him to search out the nonexistent girl and stumble upon the raven in his room. And there was no way Kenshin had a logical explanation for the large avian creature.
"Why do you think there's a girl?" Kenshin asked.
Sano barked out a laugh. "Why else would you ditch plans with your friends for weeks on end and hole up in your apartment? You've obviously been having a sex-a-thon in this seedy joint."
Kenshin was going to argue on the contrary, but was interrupted by the voice of the raven. "A sex-a-thon? Is that what you tell your friends you're doing?"
Having had his back to the bedroom, Kenshin's eyes widened at hearing the raven. There were so many better ways to introduce a talking bird to his best friend. Before Kenshin could explain the giant raven who could string together coherent sentences, Sano shouted in exclamation. "I knew it!"
"I can explain." Kenshin raised his hands in panic. He had no idea how he was going to explain the raven, but there had be a logical false reasoning he could give. Right?
Sano let out a low appreciative. "No wonder he's been hiding you away."
The raven laughed, "Oh, I like you."
Kenshin was ready to shoot the raven a pointed look and turned toward her. Before he could say anything to stop the exchange between the raven and Sano, Kenshin's heart noticeably skipped a beat. The raven stood nowhere within his sights. Instead, there was a disarmingly attractive young woman of no older than twenty-five. She stood with her ankles crossed and leaned against his bedroom door frame in what looked like nothing but a men's oxford shirt. A shirt that he could have sworn he left on the edge of his bed and not on a good looking woman.
She was probably only about a hand's breadth shorter than him. Although svelte, the lines of her legs and arms betrayed quiet athleticism. Her skin was like alabaster -a welcome change to the girls who seemed to relish baking in the sun- and her long hair tumbled to her lower back like threads of obsidian. But the most startling feature about her were her unusually colored eyes; a color, Kenshin had only seen once before.
"Kaoru?" He gaped.
The woman raised a brow at him and stepped away from the frame. She ignored his baffled expression and extended her hand out to Sano. "Since Red seems to have forgotten his manners, I'll introduce myself. Hi, I'm Kaoru. I've heard a lot about you."
"Sano, and likewise." He took her offered handshake.
She laughed and spared a glimpse toward Kenshin. "Yeah right. He's been too ashamed to mention me."
"Okay, sorry, Kenshin hasn't talked about you, but in his defense I practically haven't seen him for month." Sano waggled his brows. "And now I see why."
Kenshin wanted to process what was going on and react to it. However, all he was only capable of staring at the woman.
"I guess I'll let you boys get back to your conversation. I just wanted to come out and introduce myself before you jump to weird conclusions." She smiled and walked toward Kenshin. When she reached him, she flashed him a conspiratorial glance that went unnoticed by Sano.
"I don't see why he didn't bring you out to the bar tonight." Sano scolded his friend.
"He offered, but I decided against it." She intimately took Kenshin's left hand and rested her head against his shoulder while looking at Sano. "Someone wore me out... If you catch my drift."
Kenshin was confused, but the lascivious look on Sano's face had his mind clear quickly. He blushed red at the connotation and the way Kaoru seemed to familiarly stroke the back of his hand.
"Well don't mind me. I'll get of your guys' hair and be on my way." Sano's smile split wide across his face. "Megumi is waiting back at the bar for me anyways."
Kaoru lifted her head and nodded. "I'll make sure to go next time. I could use a fun night out."
With farewell greetings exchanged, Sano was out the door. Kaoru remained in place next to Kenshin for only a second longer, and then pulled away. She made her way to the couch and plopped down and faced the stock still redhead.
"Way to play it smooth." She mocked. "You could have said something."
Kenshin could feel his shock thaw and he finally turned to her. "You... You're... Kaoru?"
"I'm sure there's a coherent thought somewhere still in there." She sighed and crossed her legs. "Yes, I'm the raven. And thanks for finally using my name. I was starting to get the impression that you forgot it."
Kenshin realized that somewhere between gawking at her and Sano's teasing comments, Kenshin had started referring to the raven as Kaoru in his head. He had known the name of the bird the whole time, but it was only when she showed herself to be a sentiment human being that he connected the name with the creature.
"Are you human?" He asked. "And is that my shirt?"
"Cutting right to the chase aren't we?" She said amused.
Kenshin braced himself against closest wall. "I mean, the books you gave me didn't have much on familiars but they were always mentioned in the form of animals." He studied her openly and tried to find any sign of a feather or a beak. When his eyes finally reached her eyes, she was shooting him an admonishing look. Kenshin tried to legitimize his blatant ogling. "Are you a raven shape shifting into a human or the other way around?"
Surprised appreciation crossed her features. "You're actually learning from what I gave you."
"So you're a shape shifter." He pressed on, trying not to stare at her exposed legs.
"Familiars are a kind of shape shifter." Kaoru confirmed.
At her indirect confirmation, he frowned. "So are you human or a bird?"
"God, what's with you and labels?" She pushed up from the couch and invaded his personal space. "What difference does it make? Are you going to treat me any different?"
Kenshin considered her question and wondered what the correct answer was. It was like the famous 'do I look fat?' question that men seemed to get on occasion. There was no correct way to answer it. On one hand, if he said he was unaffected at finding out she was a startlingly hot woman would have been a blatant lie. And the raven had been becoming a bit of an expert in detecting when he was lying. On the other hand, if he said that he was incredibly self-conscious now that he was dealing with a pretty girl... well, he couldn't imagine the raven he had grown to know to deal with that lightly.
Seeing the hesitation in his response, Kaoru sighed and relented. "This is my default setting, the raven is what I shift into. And I'm as human as you are."
If possible, Kenshin was even more aware of the half-naked woman in his apartment by her admission. However, he wasn't nervous enough to miss the caveat. "As I am? What do you mean? You keep saying 'human' like I'm not one."
She stepped back a bit at his question and shrugged. "Biologically we are, but our people call non-magic users 'human.'"
"Then wouldn't I be human?" He questioned. "I'm not using, I'm only studying."
Kaoru shook her head adamantly. "The heir to the Hiten Mitsurugi clan as human? Oh, you don't even know how far off the mark you are."
There were still so many questions he needed answered. All the studying he did only made him realize how much he didn't know. Kaoru played her cards close to the chest and revealed details in slow layers. He did, however, have to admit that the current revelation was the one he was struggling the most with.
Kenshin knew that every woman had a right to a certain amount of mystery, but Kaoru was abusing her right. Who was she really?
But there was another question at the tip of his tongue. "Why didn't you shape shift before?"
She looked at him thoughtfully and finally answered. "Because I didn't trust you."
"And you trust me now?" He could hear the doubt in his own words.
She turned away and wandered the apartment as if she had never been there, and in a sense it might have been her first time in her human form. "I trust you enough to show you my true form." Her fingers traced the back edge of a chair as she walked past it. "And this will work out better."
"What do you mean?"
"You've obviously been neglecting your social life and your friends are getting suspicious." She explained. "But if they think you have a new girlfriend, you're in the clear. You can be busy all you want."
He crossed his arms and frowned. "You don't mind being known as the bitchy over demanding girlfriend?"
She glanced over to him. "What difference is it to me? They're your friends, not mine."
He considered her for a long while and probably stared a little too much. "Are you going to stay in this form now?"
She shrugged. "Maybe, whatever is convenient."
Kenshin knew that even if Kaoru turned back into her raven form, his view of her was permanently shifted. It was one thing to be watched over by mystical bird and another for his bodyguard to be young woman. He also knew that he would undeniably be distracted by the leggy brunette walking about his apartment.
"Do you have a change of clothes? Or am I going to have to make an awkward trip out to the mall?" He asked and looked away when she caught him staring.
"I don't transform naked." She said as if his question were ridiculous.
He turned back to her and furrowed his brows. "Then why are you in my shirt?"
"Because I figured it would sell it to Sano better." She tugged on the shirt collar. "Coming out in my own clothes wouldn't have had him rushing out of here like he did."
"How do you figure?"
Kaoru tilted her head and laughed. "Because it looks like I'm ready for a roll around in the sack and I can't see Sano as a guy to cock-block his best friend."
Judging by the way she spoke to him, she obviously wasn't self-conscious in her human form. Kenshin, on the contrary, was all too aware of the difference. Even though he spent a month living with the raven and it knew his habits, he now felt a bit embarrassed by the unwashed dishes from breakfast and the messy piles of books and papers on his desk.
She seemed to stop at the desk and look at it for a bit longer than anything else. He was about to justify the mess, but decided against it. The raven had been there to see him busily working on his dissertation and studying the books on magic, so it seemed silly to try to justify himself to the girl.
When she reached for a lone rubber band from his desk, he realized why she had been staring. She wasn't judging his disarray, she was looking for something to tie up her hair. As she expertly gathered her thick hair up, Kenshin approached and stopped her. He tried ignoring the tingling sensation that skated across where his hand met hers. The sensation settle somewhere in the back of his neck, but that wasn't the topic at hand.
"You'll pull your hair out if you use that." He reached into his desk drawer and retrieved a spare hair tie.
"I guess you would know." Taking the offered item she eyed his long red hair while tying up her own mane. "I was surprised that you still kept it long."
"Still?" He repeated confused.
"You've always had long hair, right?" At his nod she tugged playfully at one of the locks of his fiery bangs. "You were born with an impressive head of hair. And your father also kept it long."
The fact that she remembered his infancy meant that Kaoru had more years on him than she looked. "How old are you?"
She smiled and shook her head. "Like I'm about to admit to that massive number."
Maybe it was because he was used to speaking to her as a bird and maybe it was because he didn't have a face to read before, but he found her face fascinating. She was undoubted beautiful, but there was an air of something ethereal about her.
Her eyes were blue, but not the kind you usually think of. Instead of the icy blue that some people had, hers were deep navy. It was the kind of blue that reminded him of the ocean where he couldn't see the floor. The unknown depths of the waters that seduced him to dive in venture to find the bottom. Kenshin concluded that hers were the eyes of a siren, whether she was aware of it or not.
"They're blue." He stated simply.
She looked at him confused. "What's blue?"
Kenshin allowed himself to stare for a moment longer, and then stepped back to give her personal space. "Your eyes. I couldn't tell when you were a bird next to the black, but I can tell now next to the white of your eyes."
Kaoru seemed surprised by his remark. She stared him, unsure of what to say for a solid minute before letting out a laugh. "You're just like your father. You say things that sound like it's a compliment, but really it's just a simple statement of fact."
He furrowed his brows. "They are blue, aren't they?"
She nodded. "Yes. Everyone in my clan as blue eyes."
"They're very pretty." He offered as consolidation.
She let out another chuckle. "Don't worry, no need to stroke my ego." Walking away she glanced out sliding balcony doors into the night. "I think tomorrow, we'll start your training."
"Tomorrow?" He questioned. "Wasn't I supposed to know everything about my powers before I tried using them?"
"I've scouted out a location where you won't be able to hurt anyone." She asserted. "And now that you've seen this form, I'll stay in it when you train. It'll be easier if something were to happen."
"You're more powerful in this form?" He asked surprised. When she previously spoke of trust, he assumed it had to do with how much stronger she was in the shape of the raven. "Then why didn't you want me to see you as a human? Weren't you more vulnerable as the bird?"
"You're not exactly a threat." She commented. "But I couldn't have you recognizing me on the street."
Per usual, her statements only confused him more. Whenever he asked for clarification, Kaoru was an expert at avoiding direct answers. He suspected it came from years of nimble evasion. Kenshin could only assume that if he were to follow her to the other realm in five months' time, he would spend years trying to figure her out.