Disclaimer: Rurouni Kenshin is the property of Nobuhiro Watsuki. The Wheel of Time is the property of Robert Jordan.
The Dragon Reborn
Chapter 5: Into the Wild
TDR in a nutshell:
Prologue: Hiko and Enishi clashed. Hiko went mad, killed his own family and died.
Ch 1: A few thousands years later…
K&K are introduced. Tomoe and Aoshi arrived at Akita. Kenshin met someone from his forgotten past.
Ch 2: Sano appeared briefly here. K&K, Tomoe and Aoshi had a talk.
Ch 3: Uproar in Akita upon hearing that Kenshin can channel. Kamiya dojo lost its disciples. The townspeople confronted Kaoru while Kenshin was away.
Ch 4: The Akitans sentenced Kaoru to death. As a Darkfriend, the punishment was to be burned alive. Kenshin came just in time to prevent her from getting severe wounds. He channeled and hurt some townspeople and Takeshi unintentionally. Tomoe came and revealed herself as an Aes Sedai. She agreed to Heal the injured parties if they promised to leave Kenshin and Kaoru unharmed. Afterwards, they're having a talk at the dojo when the Akitans showed up at the gate.
His lament was interrupted by the sound of Aoshi's kodachi being drawn out of its sheath.
Tomoe felt her Warder's annoyance. "What is it, Aoshi?"
"It's the townspeople again." Aoshi replied shortly. "They're outside the gate."
The darkness still enveloped the sky when Tomoe and Aoshi came out of the dojo to meet the crowd. The Aes Sedai had told Kenshin to watch over Kaoru while they handled the Akitans.
"Maeda-san, I didn't expect to see you here." Her voice was anything but friendly as she gazed coldly at Maeda Tetsuya, the Aes Sedai serenity never once leaving her demeanor. Behind Tetsuya was the townspeople, though less in number than earlier in the clearing. Their faces were grim as they swarmed the front yard of Kamiya dojo. Unruffled by it all, Tomoe said calmly, "What business brought you here?"
Tetsuya hesitated for a moment. Picking his words carefully, he drew a deep breath and finally said, "Yukishiro Sedai, why are you protecting those Darkfriends?" His eyes darted around the dojo, looking for any sign of Kenshin or Kaoru. "I just don't understand… Aes Sedai are supposed to be the archenemies of Darkfriends, aren't they?"
It seemed impossible for Tomoe's gaze on the tall man to turn any colder, but it did. "And what are you implying by that, Maeda-san?"
"No, no, please do not misunderstand me!" Then Tetsuya added hastily and meekly, "I didn't mean to offend you, Yukishiro Sedai…"
"What I do is none of your concern. You do not just stick your nose into what an Aes Sedai is doing. Besides, dealing with male channelers is Aes Sedai business. But let me tell you this…" Her cold gaze left Tetsuya – the man sighed visibly then – and fell at the crowd. Many of them backed away unconsciously. "Just because a man can channel doesn't make him a Darkfriend."
"But he killed Hideki-san's brother!" Someone from the crowd shouted. "And he was just a little boy back then!"
"He did. It is a fact that can't be denied." She nodded in agreement. "But did Hideki-san tell you everything about it? Did he tell you what his fellow villagers did to Himura-san when he was a child?"
The bewildered crowd fell silent. Tetsuya hesitated at first, but in the end it was him who answered Tomoe's question. "Takeshi said that Himura hurt other children – his friends – with his channeling when they were playing together. Those children were half alive when the villagers found them. Himura's parents claimed to know nothing about it, but of course they did!" Anger was evident in his voice as Tetsuya snorted in disgust. Gone was the initial indecision. "The whole family was sentenced to death as every Darkfriend should be. Somehow Himura managed to kill Takeshi's brother by channeling and ran away. As of how he got here, I have no idea…"
"Then did Hideki-san tell you that those children were trying to drown Himura-san in the river?" Her voice was sharp as she went on, "Oh, they were not playing at all; I can assure you that. It was then that he accidentally channeled and hurt his so-called friends…" A moment later she added softly, "I didn't think Hideki-san told you that…"
Low murmurs buzzed around Tetsuya's ears. The townspeople were well aware that an Aes Sedai wasn't capable of lying. So what Tomoe had just said had to be the truth. Several people sympathized with Kenshin, and some others felt guilty for their prejudice toward him, though some still held contempt though.
Tetsuya shook his head and said, "But you can't deny the fact that he's dangerous, Yukishiro Sedai. Every man who can channel is!"
"Maeda-san, do I need to remind you that you promised not to harm Himura-san and Kamiya-san? Besides, dealing with male channelers "
At that, Tetsuya and the townspeople knew not to reply, because they had indeed promised. In the end, it was Aoshi's grave voice that forced them to leave the Kamiya Dojo. "What are you waiting for? You heard the Aes Sedai."
One by one the villagers left the dojo. "Yukishiro Sedai, I mean no disrespect, but Akita wants nothing to do with Aes Sedai. Especially Aes Sedai who protects a male channeler…"
"You do not need to worry." Tomoe answered the man, her face remained impassive as ever during the whole exchange. "We won't be staying long…"
Tetsuya cast one last look at Tomoe and Aoshi before he disappeared from their view.
When Tomoe finally returned to Kaoru's room, the girl was already awake. She sat on her futon, her hands rubbing her sleepy eyes. "How are you feeling, Kamiya-san?"
Kaoru blinked at Tomoe, as if wondering what the woman was doing in her house at such an ungodly hour. Something made her answer the Aes Sedai, though. "I'm fine. Just a little bit… drained. But I'm okay."
"Good." Tomoe nodded curtly. She put her hand on Kaoru's temple for a moment. Satisfied with her condition, the Aes Sedai said, "You two, pack your things quickly. Take only what is necessary. We'll leave before the sunrise. Aoshi is taking care of your horses as we speak." Kaoru was going to utter a protest, but the Aes Sedai beat her to it. "Save your questions for later, Kamiya-san. We don't have much time."
Normally Kaoru would've put up a fight, but apparently she hadn't gained 100% of her consciousness, because she only nodded slowly as the Aes Sedai left the room.
A hand on her shoulder jolted her out of her reverie. "Kaoru-dono, I'll be back in a minute." Kenshin gave her a reassuring glance before he went after Tomoe and closed the door behind him.
He found her outside the house, standing beside Aldieb, her white mare. Her slim fingers were stroking its mane gently. "Yukishiro Sedai, please leave Kaoru-dono out of this!" She regarded Kenshin with a neutral look as he continued, "I will go with you, but please let Kaoru-dono stay! She---"
"Honestly, Himura-san, do you think she will still have place among the townspeople?" Tomoe cut him off sharply. "Do you really think that she will have her life back if you go? She almost died by the hands of her own folk, in case you forgot…"
"But it was---"
"I will hear no more of it. She's coming with us. She won't let you go alone anyway." Her tone left no room for arguments. "Besides, I have my own reasons…"
Kaoru hadn't budged from her futon when Kenshin finally showed up. "Kenshin!" Her eyebrows soon furrowed into a frown as she noticed Kenshin's brooding mood. Unfortunately for him, Kaoru was back to her old self then. "What's going on? Why did Yukishiro-san tell us to leave? And I had this strangest dream about being accused as a Darkfriend, among other things." Her eyes fell on the two swords in Kenshin's hand, deepening her frown. "Those are father's swords, aren't they? Why did you---"
Kenshin put up a hand to forestall her. "Kaoru-dono, please just do as Yukishiro Sedai asked. We---"
"What did you just say??!!" Kaoru exclaimed incredulously. "She's an Aes Sedai???!!! Kenshin, you must be joking, right?"
"No, I'm not." He sighed tiredly, his heart was burdened. I'm sorry that I can't spare you this, Kaoru-dono…
"And why do we have to leave anyway?" Kaoru hadn't realized yet that she hadn't been dreaming at all. "Does she think she can make us leave just because she's an Aes Sedai? Does she, Kenshin?" Her eyes found his, and what she saw there alarmed her.
Kenshin gazed sadly at her. "Our place isn't here anymore. Yukishiro Sedai was right…"
"What was she right about? Kenshin, you're making me nerv---" Her eyes widened in horror as realization struck her. "Does it… Oh, Light…" She gulped. "Does it have something to do with my dreams…? Please don't tell me that it was real!"
"I would if I could tell you otherwise, but then I'd be lying…"
"But why?!" She broke down as the memories of a few hours ago were coming back to her. Tears began to moisten her eyes and wet her cheek. "What did we do wrong, Kenshin?" The swords clattered to the floor, and a moment later she found herself being enveloped in a pair of strong arms.
"Ssh… you did nothing wrong. Don't cry… You're safe now… I'm here…"
Soon her sob quieted, replaced by anger. "We are not Darkfriends! It must be those stupid rumors!"
"I'm sorry…" Kenshin whispered softly at her ears.
"But it's not your fault! You're not a Darkfriend. You didn't kill anybody! It was all a lie!"
Something in Kenshin's voice triggered an alarm in Kaoru's head. "Kenshin, are you okay?"
He forced a smile on his face as he let her go and headed to the door. "Just pack your things, okay? I promise I'll explain everything. Just not now…" Then his eyes fell on the swords on the floor. He stared at them for a while and finally added, "Oh, and one more thing. You might as well take this sword with you." He picked up one of the two swords lying on the floor and threw it to Kaoru which she caught expertly, if only out of reflex. "That one suits you better. It is a bit lighter than mine. Koshijirou-san always wanted you to have it."
Kaoru drew the sword out of its sheath and stared at its glinting blade. Her face was reflected on it. She remembered those two swords. Kamiya Koshijirou had been a soldier before he came to Akita. Seeing no need for swords in times of peace, he had kept both of them hidden in the dojo. Only Kenshin and she knew about the whereabouts of those swords. But why the sword?
Kenshin must have read her thoughts, because then he said, "Shinomori-san said we might need it." With that he closed the paper door and left her alone with her own thoughts.
Kaoru-dono, I have loved you for as long as I can remember. But my very existence endangers you… The lad was weeping silently. Unshed tears glistened in his violet eyes. Because of me you almost died… and I can't bear the thought of losing you… There's no way I'll let you know about my feelings toward you. A bitter smile appeared on his lips. Sano will be very angry… but it is better this way…
The sun was yet to show up from behind the mountain when the party of four was finally out of town. The ride out of Akita went by uneventfully. Tomoe led the party with Aoshi by her side. Behind them was Kaoru on a red-brown sturdy stallion named Fireheart while Kenshin was in the rear.
"Where are we going, Yukishiro Sedai?" Kaoru's voice broke the almost peaceful silence. Tomoe had told them to make as little noise as possible, but now that they were out of town, Kaoru figured that it would be safe to talk.
Tomoe didn't bother to turn around as she replied, "We're going to Tokyo."
If only Kaoru had glanced at Kenshin, she would've seen him stiffened at the mention of Tokyo. "Tokyo? Isn't it where the White Tower is?"
"Yes, it is." A moment later the older woman added, "And Kamiya-san, just 'Tomoe' will do. The last thing I need in our journey is people fussing over an Aes Sedai…"
"If you say so, Tomoe Sed---, Tomoe-san." Kaoru shrugged. "And just 'Kaoru' will also do as well. Why are we leaving anyway? We didn't do anything wrong, did we?"
The Aes Sedai turned her head around and looked at Kenshin. "I think it's up to Himura-san there to tell you that, isn't it?"
Kaoru saw his shoulder slumped dejectedly. "Kenshin?" She asked tentatively.
"Not now, Kaoru-dono. Later…" Kenshin's violet eyes spoke of tiredness as he spoke. Gone was the usual warmth and cheerfulness. It only served to frightened Kaoru more. She wondered just how bad the situation was…
As they entered the thick forest that separated Akita from the outside world, Aoshi assumed the rear position of the party. Occasionally he went ahead of them to scout the area.
Hours passed and it was almost midday. "We'll stop here for a while." Tomoe suddenly announced as she saw a river not far from them. She dismounted and led her mare to the river ahead of them. The others followed suit. "I will have Aoshi checking the area ahead of us, then we'll be leaving. In the meantime, rest and eat." The Aes Sedai took two packs of rice balls out of her saddle bag and tossed one to Kenshin. Then she went to Aoshi who was still mounted on his black stallion.
"Kenshin…?" Kaoru watched him as he sat by the river. His right hand still held the rein of Wind – his dark brown gelding – while it satisfied its thirst.
"Come sit with me." Kenshin patted the empty space beside him with his other hand. He didn't look at her at all. "I don't even know where to begin…"
There was a considerable period of silence until Kaoru finally said, "What happened last night?" She tried to recall the bits of memories from the night before. "I remember being tied to a pole. I saw them igniting the fire on my feet." She shuddered at the thought of it. "After that, it was vague… Your face was the last thing I remember. But your eyes were golden then…"
"I came home last night to find the house already wrecked." Kenshin finally spoke. "Dragon Fangs were carved everywhere. Then I panicked… I went looking for you, hoping that I wouldn't be late." He closed his eyes for a moment. Pain and sadness were obvious in his face as he continued, "When I arrived at the top of the hill, I saw them igniting the fire on your feet… It was then that all those memories from the past came back to me." He kept his gaze steady at the river as he smiled bitterly. "It is the answer I've been looking for. Now I wish I never found out… Remember the dreams I told you about? It did happen in the past. My parents were executed in the same way you would've been last night…"
"Oh Kenshin…" Kaoru felt tears stinging at her eyes as she placed her hand on his shoulder, giving it a light squeeze. "I'm so sorry…"
"Seeing you there struggling uselessly, it was if I saw my parents. For a while I did, in my mind's eye, at least. I was rooted to the ground, until I heard you screaming. Then something in me snapped…" He took a deep breath and finally told her the truth. "I channeled… I didn't even realize what I was doing. All I knew was that I had to keep you safe…"
Kaoru was speechless as Kenshin related the events from the night before. So what they said is true after all. Kenshin is a male channelere… A thousand of thoughts swarmed through her mind. People say that male channelers are dangerous. People say that all male channelers will eventually go mad because of the taint in saidin… People say that when it happens male channelers will destroy everything around them… Will he hurt me too if he… No! Kenshin, insane? Light, please don't make me lose him like that! But he is a male channeler, and male channelers are dangerous…
"I hurt them…" Kenshin's weak voice brought her attention back to him. "I hurt our friends so badly that they would've died if Tomoe-san hadn't Healed them. And I did kill Hideki-san's brother." He buried his face in his palms. "I am a murderer…" I do not deserve you…
Look at him… Kaoru's heart ached for him. It pained him a lot because he did what he didn't want to do. And he keeps blaming himself… But then again, it is so Kenshin, isn't it? He did it to protect me… He is still the Kenshin I know, no matter how much people try to tell me otherwise... In that moment, her mind was set. What of her heart? Her heart had always known its haven, and it was not about to change anytime soon. I don't know what the future has in store for us. Male channelers are dangerous, so they told me. The townspeople might have forsaken him just because he can channel, but… "Kenshin?"
He didn't dare to meet her eyes, afraid of what he would find there. She will hate me… "Yes, Kaoru-dono…"
"Kenshin, look at me." The girl grabbed his shoulder gently and forced him to look at her in the eye. "If you think that I will hate you just because you can channel, then you've judged me wrongly. If you think that I will think of you less just because you hurt our fellow villagers, you are seriously mistaken. By the way, they are not that innocent, you know? They wanted to kill me… Kenshin, you are my friend! And that's all that matters to me…"
"But I did kill Hideki-san's brother." He pointed the fact out to her. "I can channel, and that alone makes me a dangerous man to be around with. Light only knows if I ever lose control when you're around and---"
A finger on his lips silenced him immediately. "I don't want to hear about it again, okay?" Kaoru let go off her hold on Kenshin and stared at the river. "I don't care about people's past; you of all people should know that." Then in a much softer voice, almost like a whisper, she added, "All I care about is you… You're all I've got left, Kenshin. I thought I told you that. If you ever leave me…"
She felt a hand on top of hers. A faint blush crept upon her cheek as she slowly turned her head aside and found Kenshin's eyes gazing tenderly at her.
If there was any doubt about Kaoru's feelings toward him, it was as good as gone. In those deep blue pools Kenshin could see all the love she felt for him. He couldn't have been surer. But there were shadows hanging over them. I promised myself that I wouldn't let her know my feelings. It's for her own good, he reasoned with himself. I'm too dangerous. Suddenly there was another voice in his head that scolded him. Doesn't that choice belong to her? Let me tell you what, it's not for you to decide, you idiot! The inner battle inside him went on for a moment, until he finally came to a decision.Squeezing her hand gently, he cleared his throat, and his voice was no more than a whisper when he said, "Kaoru-dono, I---"
"Ahem…" Tomoe cleared her throat, her eyes sparkled with something akin to a playful glint at the sight of Kenshin and Kaoru's joined hands. It went unnoticed by those two though, as they were too busy hiding their embarrassment either by scratching his head in Kenshin's case or by muttering nonsense such as 'What great weather we have today!' in Kaoru's case. "I didn't mean to interrupt, but we have to go now. And be quick." Her face went impassive again, and after nodding curtly she was off to attend her own mount.
Whatever it was Kenshin was going to say, the moment was forever lost. He let out a sigh and stood up immediately. Kaoru wouldn't be brushed off so easily though. "Kenshin, what were you going to say right before Tomoe-san came?"
He didn't answer. It's an omen… I can't tell her… Instead, he extended his right hand to help her stand, while the other hand dusted his clothes. Mustering the best smile he could manage, he said, "No, it was nothing. Come, we must go…"
Kaoru seemed rather taken aback, but she chose not to press the matter. Taking his extended hand, she stood up as well and straightened her travel dress. "Yeah, we'd better get going…" Insisting on it would be of little use, she realized. Kenshin's stubbornness could rival hers if need be. It didn't prevent her from feeling a bit disappointed though. She didn't look back as she spurred Fireheart to go after Tomoe.
Had she looked back, she would've seen Kenshin's eyes. Those violet eyes held so many unspoken feelings, feelings he did not know whether he would ever dare to let her know for he feared for her safety. A pang of sadness and regret stabbed his heart as he watched Kaoru's retreating back. It is better this way… Caressing Wind's dark mane gently, he said to his horse, "Come on, boy. We've got a race to run." He kicked its side, and the stallion began to run.
Tomoe set a harder pace this time. If the horses had been trotting before, they were galloping now. The Warder was once again in the rear; all his senses were on full alert. His eyes darted to the trees and the depth of the forest, searching for any sign of Trollocs or Myrddraal.
Earlier that day when the other three were taking a rest, Tomoe had sent him to scout the area. He had found a fresh trail of Trollocs then. The Aes Sedai hadn't wanted to make the two youngsters worry, so Aoshi had agreed to keep it between them. It seemed that the Dark One had found out about Kenshin as well and from the looks of it, he had sent his troops to go after them. It only served to fuel the growing feeling of uneasiness Aoshi had been getting for the past half an hour. Suddenly he caught a flicker of movement on his left. He was about to shout a warning to his companions, but Kenshin beat him to it.
"Kaoru-dono, on your right!!!!"
Aoshi cursed under his breath.
- End of Chapter 5: Into the Wild -
- Map op Japan: web-jpn . org /kidsweb/japan/map/jregi.html
- other RK characters such as Misao, Sano, Megumi, Yahiko etc will make appearance soon. I intend to introduce the characters in the first part of the story. I hope that by then, the non-WOT readers will have been at least a bit familiar with WOT-things.
- JML, thanks for the information regarding the memory thing. Glad that it's not a nonsense after all… ;-)
- thanks to everyone who reads (and reviews) this story. This lowly author can't express enough gratitude for your support. Till the next chapter!
Glossary is (partly) quoted from (www . angelfire . com /ca7/ewot/index.html) en Wheel of Time.
 Aes Sedai:
Wielders of the One Power. They are human with ability to do things beyond the capability of ordinary human like Healing, manipulating the weather, creating fireball etc.
(verb) To control the flow of the One Power.
(noun) The act of controlling the flow of the One Power.
 Dark One:
The head bad guy. His real name is actually Shishio Makoto, but it is said that calling his true name (naming the Dark One) will bring his attention. That's why people use metaphor to name him.
Those who follow the Dark One and believe they will gain great power and rewards when he is freed from his prison.
 Dragon Fang:
A sign carved on the door of those who are suspected to be a Darkfriend.
The name given to Aes Sedai who went over to the Dark One in return for the promise of immortality.
Myrddraal are the spawn of Trollocs and the taint of evil is even stronger in them. They are man-sized and are pasty white. They have no eyes, yet they see like eagles. They have powers that stem from the Dark One. They are no match for an Aes Sedai, but they can best most warriors. The look of a Fade inspires fear in men.
 One Power:
Comes from the True Source, the driving force of Creation. The male half of the True Source, saidin, and the female half, saidar, work against each other and with each other to provide the force that turns the Wheel of Time. The True Source cannot be used up just as a river cannot be used up by a mill wheel.
The male half of the True Source tainted by the Dark One.
Soldiers for the Shadow. They are huge, maybe eight feet tall. They have the body of a man and the head and feet of an animal such as a bear, bird, wolf or goat. They are very strong, but they are too stupid, lazy and cowardly to be good soldiers. Trollocs see well in the dark, but bright light blinds them. Some can track by scent or sound, but they are lazy and easily give up. They kill for the pleasure of killing.
A warrior bonded to an Aes Sedai. It is (usually) done with the consent of the person. The bonding is a thing of the One Power: by it he gains such gifts as quick healing, the ability to go long periods without food, water or rest, and the ability to sense the taint of the Dark One at a distance. He in turn protects the Aes Sedai from physical dangers. So long as a Warder lives, the Aes Sedai to whom he is bonded knows he is alive however far away he is, and when he dies she will know the moment and manner of his death. Aes Sedai and her Warder can read each other's feelings. The most Aes Sedai have only one Warder bonded to her at a time. Some have none, and some others believe that an Aes Sedai may bond as many as she wishes.
 White Tower:
Center of power for the Aes Sedai. It is where Aes Sedai live. Located at Tokyo