Mysterious Rurouni

By Mieren

Kenshin hummed softly, scrubbing a tub full of laundry as was typical for the ever-cheerful redhead.  It was early morning, the sun barely in the sky.  Naturally, this meant that Sano was due back any minute before passing out drunk on the dojo floor after a night out drinking.  Sure enough, he was just finishing with the garment he was washing when the wasted brunette staggered past him, almost making it inside before gracelessly losing consciousness on he ground.

Smiling ruefully, Kenshin flicked the worst of the sudsy water off of his hands and walked over to his friend.  He carefully pulled one of Sano's arms over his shoulder and struggled to stand up.  The younger man weighed substantially more than he did and it was no easy task to move him when he passed out, as he did almost every morning.  Grunting and puffing, he managed to get to his feet, glaring playfully at Sano's knees, which were dragging on the earth as a sad reminder of how painfully short he was.  Slowly but surely, he started for Sano's room.

He hadn't gone three steps when a shadow loomed over him.  Blinking wide violet eyes, he squinted against the early morning sun to make out the figure towering over him.  Recognizing the eternally escaping bangs and the fierce amber eyes, he smiled pleasantly.

"Good morning, Saito.  What brings you here so early?"

Saito grunted.  "That rooster-head has a stolen object in his possession.  I am here to reclaim it."

"S'not stolen," Sano slurred drunkenly.  "Won it."

"I'll remind you that gambling is also illegal," Saito responded stiffly.

"Sano," Kenshin reprimanded softly.  "Just give it to him."

"No.  S'mine."

Sighing at the wasted state his friend was in and at the irritated look building on Saito's face, Kenshin began digging around in Sano's jacket with one hand till his hand encountered something large and square.  Furrowing his brow, he pulled out an ancient leather-bound book and stared at the Chinese characters on the cover.

"Oy, Kenshin.  S'mine.  Give it back."

"Sano," Kenshin responded placatingly.  "You can't even read Chinese."

"But it's worth money," Sano groaned, raising bleary eyes towards the redhead and reaching weakly for the book.

"Of course it's worth money, ahou," Saito snapped.  "It's the property of a museum, which was robbed a week ago.  The owner gave us a list of what was stolen and this book was on it.  He wants it returned immediately."

"Here," Kenshin offered, holding out the book to Saito and ignoring Sano's vocal protests.

Saito reached for the book and clamped his hand around the proffered end.  The moment his fingers came into contact with the leather, a flash of light burst forth from the book.  Red light engulfed Kenshin as blue surrounded Saito, the merging colors bathing the area in a brilliant violet glow and temporarily blinding anyone who looked directly at the pulsing radiance.

Sano fell to the ground with a loud grunt of pain.  By the time he managed to get his alcohol-dimmed eyes to focus, both Kenshin and Saito were gone.  The only thing remaining was the leather-bound book, the Chinese characters glittering innocently in the early morning light.

Slowly, uncertainly, he approached the book and prodded it blearily.  Still unsure, he flipped the cover open and jerked his hand back to safety.  He knew he was drunk, but at the same time, he knew that this book was somehow responsible for the disappearance of the two strongest men he had ever met.  Squinting furiously, he forced his alcohol-clouded eyes to focus on the kanji that was slowly appearing down the first page.  Baffled by the unfamiliar symbols, he gingerly gathered the book into his hands and started searching for Kaoru.  Something told him that the unfolding text was important.

To Be Continued…

Little teaser here to see what you people think.  R&R appreciated/loved/needed.  The next section will be out soon.  ^_^