See 1st chapter for disclaimer
Side Story 3: Memories of Manslayers
It is well past sunset as I sit within this empty building known as the Kamiya Kasshin Dojo. The teacher, the student, and the manslayer have long since left me to dwell in this darkness. Although I try to sleep, I do not which to see what my unconscious mind may give me.
Tomoe, the woman whom I consider a mother, her memory haunts my mind and I see her face when I close my eyes. Her body laying dead across the ground in a thousand different ways fills my imagination. Back during the revolution I had always assumed her killed by the Shogunate, and hoped she had just gone off somewhere to hide, that she was still alive out there somewhere. But the piece of paper inside of my pack that certifies her death tells me otherwise.
Murdered. That was what it said under the cause of death.
I had always thought her killed by the old government as a traitor for harboring us. But now I can only wonder what happened that day in Otsu. Was it quick? Painful? What were the reasons behind it? If I had been there, would things have been different?
Yes, that question haunts me the most.
If instead of chasing after my way home, could I have prevented her death all those years ago?
As selfish as it seems to ease my guilt, I pray the answer is no.
-The Man Who Slays While Drawing His Sword-
"So, I see you decided t come too."
I simply nod at my friend's comment, not wanting to attract any attention. Below us there stands Yahiko, with his back to the wall and facing odds of five to one. Seeing that, a dark memory from my own past seemed to surface of when I had been much in the exact same situation.
It was fifteen years ago, when the streets of Kyoto were overrun with the blood of men while the rivers ran red and the skyline blazed a golden red. Not a day went by in that city without the death of men on both sides.
The particular night this even brought to mind for some reason was when I had been staying near the back of a meeting hall, waiting for the clan to conclude its business while I acted as guard. However something had gone wrong. No even before it was halfway over a Shinsen-Gumi patrol came upon me and attacked while another approached the building while I was busy.
By the time my battle was over the Imperialists had either run away or been slaughtered, although I did manage to catch up with two; and their pursuers. The four that attacked me at first were killed easily enough, it was the other two I had my eyes on: Soshito Okita and Hajime Saito. Both of whom I had fought in the past, and all fights had never truly been concluded. Okita had been off that night, slightly ill, so Saito had been my opponent.
The sound of bamboo meeting flesh brings me back to reality, and I sigh. As I look on the scene below I can remember the screaming faces of the men from that night when I killed them. A moment later my mask of concentration has been firmly put back in place upon my face to cover the sorrow and guilt.
My eyes once again on the action below I see that the thugs have decided to get serious and pulled out real blades from the hilt of their wooden swords. Well, this is the reason that I came here. Seeing Sanosuke stand up next to me, I prepare of unleash my swordsman spirit, when I feel another warrior's presence suddenly unveil itself.
The ki is dark, cold, and seems to drip with as much blood as my own, blood that can never be washed away. It is the aura of the manslayer, and a familiar one.
Out of both shock and curiosity I lower myself back down to hide, and watch what comes.
Standing on the corner of the alleyway as I watch my apprentice in what was about to become a life or death struggle with the Tsubame girl he met at the restaurant, my blood runs cold all of a sudden. Although I am not as skilled as some of the other fighters that I call friends, I still know when there is danger coming, especially when it lets itself known.
Almost afraid for my life, I turn around to see what is behind me, to find a simple police swordsman coming closer. But the man is far from simple. Unlike the usual swordsmen, he wields a katana, now drawn with the sheath nowhere in sight. However it is his eyes that hold my attention, two gleaming eyes that seem to glow golden in the moonlight.
Only once before have I seen eyes like that…
"You don't really get it do you?" Jinei asked as he sat beside Kaoru while smoking a cigarette. "Fifteen years ago there wasn't a man alive who did not fear the Battousai. Entire companies of soldiers would shake in fear from his gaze, and just the utterance of his name would make a man's blood run cold as if he was a small child hearing a ghost story. He slew men by the dozens without suffering a single wound, and was considered a demon given flesh. THAT is the Battousai that I wish to battle. By taking you I shall make him angry, his blood will boil with rage, and the Hitokiri Battousai will be reborn into this world."
It was then that a sound from across the field made the madman and his hostage look up to see a red-haired man with a cross shaped scar on his left cheek come into view. "All hail the master of murder," the murderer said while getting to his feet with a sadistic smile.
The following battle had been the first time I had seen the real Kenshin, the one he hid under that face of ever-present fake smiles. He was cold, calculating, uncaring, the perfect killing machine. There was no hesitation in his strikes, no holding back, and no regard for any other thing other than victory.
I prayed that I would never have to see the face he showed me that night again, those same eyes of cold and endless death. Yet here and now another man walks by me, wearing the same face.
I can only stand here, and be afraid.
As I walk into the alleyway I remind myself why I'm here in this stupid situation once again. It is no because of a favor to Saotome, or the fact that it will help further the Secretary of the Interior's plans. I stand here the same law that I have upheld since before this government that I now serve had even taken root. That alone is why I fight against Shishio, as well as any other man I've ever crossed swords with.
Following procedures I demand they surrender themselves to me. Surprisingly four of them actually do, the leader refuses and so I kill him.
Then of course the usual routine follows while I am putting the cuffs on the four burglars who are still living. Although I know if the Battousai is here then he has indeed seen me by now, it matters little. Such a thing can easily be worked around, and if he puts up his guard to protect his friends prematurely it will only allow me to see just that many more holes in his defenses.
I talk with the woman from the street for a few moments, not mentioning the tip off about the robbery and just telling her and the boy I was passing by on my way home for a late shift when I heard some noise. Obviously trying to hide something that has to be the little girl's involvement in this, they just chalk it up to a lucky break.
Assuring them I will send someone to clean up the body after taking statements, I turn towards the station and leave the girls to their taunting of the boy; my mind intent on more important things.