Disclaimers: I wish I'm Viz, but I ain't; RK is not mine and will never be (sob) Author's note: This is my first stupid fanfic and English's my second language so please don't sue me or hurt me or hit me with anything hard!
Ch1 To face your past
Memories are always sweet, aren't they.
Kenshin looked down on the clear blue stream, violet eyes misted as he recalled the peaceful time he'd spent here.
That was twenty years ago, but even now it seemed so clear...
" You kicked me into that waterfall, didn't you." Kenshin said aloud, narrowing his eyes as he turned around to face his master. The memory, though decades ago, still brought a wave of humiliation over him. Hiko smirked, raising the cup to his lips.
" Aa...did I, now?" the swordsmaster replied slowly, eyeing his baka deishi with obvious amusement as a light shade of pink worked its way to his pale cheeks, "now that you've mentioned it, I do remember something like this...you were messing away with that Do Ryu Sen and then suddenly you tripped over and fell into the water. Tis not my fault if I got a baka deishi who doesn't even know how to walk properly."
"Kuso," the former hitokiri shot him a Battousai death glare, turning to stare at the flowing stream again. It was no use. Turning Battousai wouldn't wipe that arrogant grin off his shishou's face, and he couldn't throttle the man if he wanted to twist facts...he'd be flattened long before that. Maybe staying with his shishou for the winter was a mistake after all. Cursing Hiko silently under his breath, he continued brooding before the stream. Yes...it nearly took the hell out of him to endure Hiko's training, but all the while he was thankful. Hiko had been a good shishou, a replacement for the father lost to him. He smiled a little as old memories glided slowly through his mind.
Kenshin stood still as the tall man sneaked up behind him, swiftly and effortlessly as a shadow would have been. He tensed slightly; sensing the familiar ki right at his back. "Trying to kick me in again?" he gracefully dodged to one side, aiming a playfully reproving glance backwards, "I'm not a child anymore, as you might remem..." the samurai stopped short as he bumped into something...no, someone hard and solid. He could hear the surprised cry of the "someone" along with his own.
"What the...I should have sensed his ki...how did he get to my back without me and shishou noticing?" In his confusion he did what a samurai would do in this situation: attack first, ask questions later. Unsheathing his sakabatou in an arc of silver he brought it down right on the person he'd bumped into a fraction of a second earlier. He blinked in shock as another arc of light struck up to meet his own. This guy, a samurai? How interesting...
Sword clashed against the other's, Kenshin stared into his opponent's face. He took in the first sight, blinked furiously, and focused his violet gaze again.
No...I must be dreaming...perhaps too much sake.... it's an illusion...the rurouni thought feverishly, while a part of his brain shouted furiously that he did NOT have any sake that day, nor was there anything wrong with his sharp eyes. Everything's just about crazy, yeah right. What the hell did he think he was seeing? He blinked a few more times. The cold, amber gaze before him did not vanish. He was staring into the eyes of...
" BATTOUSAI!" the redheaded samurai managed to choke out as he realized just whom he was fighting against.
Utterly confused, Battousai detached his katana from his opponent's sakabatou and leaped backwards, His high ponytail fluttering over his midnight blue gi as he surveyed the man before him. Nani? This man, with flaming red hair tied to the nape of his neck and a ridiculous pink gi... he looked exactly like...like him. Now what was this madness here? One moment he was in his room spinning his top, and then he ended up in...Well, this place does look familiar. He cast his eyes about nervously, desperately rearranging his thoughts. There's a strangely familiar ki around here too.
How ridiculous. He hated being confused. Confusion during a mission meant instant death, and though the manslayer couldn't care less about dying he wouldn't waste his stupid life that way.
Battling the mess of confusion spinning around his head, Battousai forced his mind back to the precise, methodical hitokiri mode. Maybe...just maybe, I've got a twin brother that I haven't heard of till now and he's standing before me, he mused, arranging matters neatly in his young mind. Well done, Himura. It all made sense! He turned his golden eyes back to the warm violet, suppressed excitement flitting through them as it had never before. I have a relative on this earth. It was a great shock but, in the same time, pleasant. Someone that would share the life with him ...
His heart plummeted as he looked into the purple shade of his companion's eyes. He was thinking along the same lines as well. Has he realized the fact as well?
It was then the boy hitokiri thought of another dark possibility that would have ruined the situation.
HE knew I am the Battousai. Would he, then, despise me of what I have done? Would he understand my ideals, or would he object to it the way Shishou did? Well, in a way, Shishou was right. I chose the wrong path and now I am trapped for god-knows-how-long.
It suddenly occurred to him how much he missed his shishou. Shaking his head slightly, Battousai tried a polite smile. It came out pretty peculiar. He couldn't even remember the last time he'd smiled.
Fine then, it didn't matter.
"May I have your name?" he asked, frantic to drop the icy tone of his much- hated job. The last thing he needed was either to provoke or scare the samurai before him and have him gone without being able to ask anything out of him. He waited with baited breath as the fellow redhead ran his hand through his long mane nervously.
Kenshin was struck absolutely dumb. There he was, staring at a younger replica of himself, yet a painful reminder of his past...
Hitokiri Battousai. There he stood before him- dark blue uniform of the Ishin shishi. Blood red hair swept into a topknot. Even the amber eyes glinting in the sunlight, though softened considerably in the current moment.
He glanced sideways. Hiko was still with him, staring at the stranger with something akin to shock. But that shock was somehow mild. The insanity of this had caught his arrogant shishou off his guard, for sure; however he was able to remain unmoved - the man wasn't the 13th master of the Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu for nothing.
So he wasn't dreaming. Quickly he jumped to the same conclusion as the man before him- this was some twin brother lost to him when he was Shinta, never mentioned by tousan or kaasan. This was the only possible solution that came to his mind.
The rurouni inhaled deeply. His master's presence had a calming effect on him. He ran a hand through his hair, just in time to catch the absurd question voiced by his younger counterpart.
"May I have your name?" Along with a strained smile.
Interesting question. "It's...it's Kenshin. Himura Kenshin." He returned the smile, all the while doubting whether his assumption was right. There was something about the ki of this man that made him highly uneasy. Was it the way it was too similar to mine, except it's definitely colder? Kenshin shook the thought away vigorously, concentrating his gaze on the other redhead's face...
And cringed as the samurai stepped back, horror and disbelief mixed on his face.
"Wh...what's the problem?"
Battousai tightened his grip around the hilt of his beloved sword. It wasn't his character to be emotional, but the answer from the rurouni had shattered any and every assumption that he had in his head. He was supposed to be the Himura Kenshin, though little people had referred to him as that. What was this man trying to do, forging his own name in front of him?
"Liar." The hitokiri hissed to what he formerly believed to be a brother he was going to have. An imposter? Yah right. No! If he were an imposter he'd have turned on his heels and ran. Or drawn his sword and fight. Either way, it'd be more logical than what this guy was doing, introducing himself with his name. Impossible.
Kuso. Was logic ever of any use?
"You are lying. Because I am Himura Kenshin." The redheaded hitokiri said, emphasizing every syllable, "also known as Hitokiri Battousai, as you've mentioned."
It was Kenshin's turn to grip his hands tightly over the saya of his sakabatou. His thoughts went exactly the way Battousai's did. So, this samurai, this other "me", is gonna raise up another "False Battousai incident", his mind informed him, then added a slight alter to the message.
Or put it this way. He is indeed your brother and he doesn't know it and someone's been using him to cause you trouble.
Nodding slightly to his conclusion, he stepped forward calmly. The very move seemed to have rung off the hitokiri's danger alarm, for he narrowed his amber eyes and began re-sizing him immediately.
"No point arguing over that name. See...if you're Himura Kenshin then you should know Shishou. Sessha is sure he'll give you a plain idea just who is the real Himura Kenshin, aka Himura Battousai." His voice wavered over that name. The rurouni gestured towards Hiko, who had his brows furrowed deeply. Hiko inclined his head slightly in reply.
"Shi...shou?" Battousai jerked his head, abruptly noticing his presence. Hiko had shielded his ki well, making it seemed like a faint aura far away. Meeting the well-known dark eyes, he lowered his gaze, suddenly becoming very interested in the hem of his hakama. Hiko didn't say anything; actually he had no idea what was going on.
It wasn't as if he would show it. But one thing he was sure: he'd taken only one baka deishi in his life, and both redhead before him appeared to be using the Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu.
It didn't make sense.
"Shishou...are you still angry with me?" Battousai inquired softly, amber eyes fading into purple at the sight of his master, "you were right. I've become a mass murderer and there is no way out. I'm stuck with the Ishin shishi, being their most effective hitokiri. I...I'm..." he stared hard into the ground, afraid to meet the cold, frustrated glare of his former master. He wasn't in time to see Kenshin's horrified expression, nor Hiko's genuinely disturbed features as both of them finally caught up with what had happened.
At the time when Battousai had gathered up enough courage to look up, he saw Kenshin and Hiko staring blankly across each other. Hiko had arched his brows so high that they were in danger of disappearing behind his dark bangs; Kenshin's expression was one of a hundred emotions mixed together, totally unreadable.
"Could you name this era for sessha, de gozaru. " Kenshin's tone was sort of tired.
It was a while before Battousai finally got what he meant. He snorted a bit.
"Bakumatsu. What do you expect it to be?"
Kenshin felt torn between being sick and confused.
He's me, the fifteen-year-old Hitokiri Battousai that had been the fear of Kyoto. It sounded funny though; of all the times he'd fought the hitokiri in his mind and nightmares he'd never thought he would see him so concretely in real life.
And all the fuss about a missing brother or something...
Hiko glanced to and fro between the two samurai, disbelief visible in his eyes. "He's you. Right, Kenshin?" For once in his whole life he'd referred him as Kenshin. What a miracle.
"Hai, he's Battousai during the Bakumatsu," Kenshin rubbed his eyes exhaustedly. He really didn't know what to do with his shadow self.
Battousai was hopelessly flustered. Everything was far beyond his understanding and he had a feeling that things weren't going the way it should.
"Shishou? What...who is this man?" he mustered the strength to ask.
Hiko's mouth was set in a grim line. "For details you should ask him. There's only one thing I can tell you: you're both Himura Kenshin aka Hitokiri Battousai...you are his past and he's your future."
"Sessha don't know how you get here, but sessha believe sessha is the 29- year-old you and it's the 11th year of the Meiji era." The rurouni explained patiently, watching his clone self steadily. With the hue of his eyes returned to violet Battousai really looked like his little brother. He had a sudden impulse to stroke his hair affectionately.
"Huh?" Battousai repeated, not at all understanding, "you mean I've got through fourteen years and skipped the whole Bakumatsu into this...this Meiji era?"
"Right." Kenshin said smiling, "no war here, and you're – or rather I'm – a carefree rurouni wandering the countries."
"Great! So I'm out of that hitokiri mess." Battousai's eyes were alight. He grew silent for a moment, suddenly overcame with an idea. "Is it alright for me to stay here?" he asked respectfully as if consulting his older brother. Kenshin smiled sadly.
"Sessha is afraid you can't. If you don't return to the Ishin shishi they will lose, there'll be no Meiji government and no me as well." It was indeed hard to push himself back to the hitokiri madness. He –this boy with the high ponytail at his back – would have to go through what he'd went through again. Gone mad with grieve over the blood he'd shed...losing Tomoe...wandering for ten harsh years...no, he couldn't do it. And on top of all...
He had no idea how to revert him back to the Bakumatsu anyway.
Battousai bit his lower lip at the reply.
"You can't do that to me. I'm also you, right? You can't send me back to that hell of murder! I...look here, the new era was established as you and I wanted. So what's wrong that I stay here with you?" his eyes flashed angrily, hand on his katana once more.
"Maa...maa," Kenshin eyed the assassin calmly, indifferent to his menacing advance, "I don't want to do that, but think..." he placed one hand gently on the hitokiri's shoulder, his voice filled with compassion, "it's because you brought forth this era that sessha is able to stand here talking to you. If you don't return to the Ishin shishi, think what'll happen to them...to Katsura-san...to history. I'll no longer be here. And so will you, if you stay. This world will be ruined."
"Katsura-san..." Battousai hesitated for a moment. What he wants all long is my skill in wielding the sword. Let another Battousai work for him, now that I've accomplished what I started, he thought darkly.
"How can you be sure that the Meiji government won't be set up without me? Maybe it'll go well on its own without Hitokiri Battousai." Battousai snapped at his older self, challenging his logic.
"Sessha knows...because people here still called me Battousai. Everyone knows Hitokiri Battousai vanished after the Battle of Toba-Fushimi. That year- sessha was eighteen." Kenshin retorted, a sad smile pulling at his lips, "you can't get out of there before this battle, Himura." He knew he hated people calling him Battousai; so he decided to address his shadow self as "Himura". It sounded sort of strange though, calling somebody else with his own name.
Battousai knew he had his point. The rurouni seemed to have better logic than he did and he was momentarily speechless. There was no way he was going back. He'd never liked killing and now that he'd gotten out of it he couldn't bring himself back to the maze that haunted his soul. Nightmares. Blood on his hands. Never, if he could help it. He had returned to his shishou and nothing else seemed to matter.
"There is still a chance," he said, smirking a trifle, "that I can stay here without altering history. And anyway, none of us know here how to bring me back to the Bakumatsu. I'm stuck here, ain't I. I'm not going anywhere." He tossed his high ponytail triumphantly.
Sly little bastard, Kenshin thought irritably, before remembering that this boy was also him.
"If you aren't going Sessha is going to Kuzu-Ryu-Sen you back there." The rurouni told the hitokiri tartly. The latter snorted scornfully.
"Even if you're my future self you're not gonna Kuzu...huh? What's Kuzu-Ryu- Sen?" he asked with childish curiosity.
Gleefully, Kenshin spotted his advantage over his younger self. "Aha, Sessha forgot you don't know the succession technique, do you?"
"Don't tell me you do. Shishou's gonna kick me...you in the butt before you can even ask for it." The hitokiri stole a glance at Hiko, who then gave him a fairly nasty look.
"Sessha is sorry, but that's the case."
"Nani! Shishou, it's not fair! Why would you teach him that? I thought..." he briefly recalled the last words Hiko'd thrown him the year before...no, in this case fifteen years before.
"Just leave and do whatever you want to do! I don't care about such an idiot like you anymore. " With that Hiko had stomped away, leaving him standing there near the waterfall.
The same waterfall splashing over there. Some things never change.
Hiko gave him a hint of a smug grin, staring at this other "baka deishi" with something close to affection. "I had no choice. You here went poking his nose into some Meiji government business, stupid as usual."
Both Battousai and Kenshin glowered at the comment. Battousai muttered something about a shishou with an unchangeably arrogant character.
"Can I have the technique too shishou?" Battousai asked, attention diverted off the subject.
Hiko flinched internally at the thought of one more blow being dealt over his chest, this time with a real katana while Kenshin watched amusedly. "Absolutely not." Came his gruff reply.
Scowling, Battousai bumped his older self. "Hey, teach me it."
"Then I'm gonna run down to Kyoto and tell everyone that Battousai is back." The hitokiri smiled evilly, eyes clouded in a thin mist of amber.
Kenshin still had the sense to sweatdrop. "Well, the truth is, you'll learn it in your future anyway, so there's no point in...er...you know what sessha means."
Battousai didn't have the mood to investigate the past-and-future issue. "Well, forget it for the time being. So what am I going to do here? You see...it's not my time. And stop staring at me like that, you're stuck with me now."
The rurouni blinked. "Oro? How should sessha know."
"You're hopeless." Hiko shook his head at the wanderer, then turned to the hitokiri briskly.
"You want to go down to Kyoto for a walk? It's a lot different from it was fifteen years ago."
The hitokiri nodded. Hiko turned to Kenshin. "Oi, baka deishi, take 'yourself' down for a walk." It was a command more than anything.
Kenshin was not quite happy with this, but knew better than to spend the day arguing with his clone self. He raised his eyes to Hiko, this time serious.
"Shishou, it's a bad idea. I'm quite a scene with my hair and sword and cross scar without a twin self walking beside me."
Twin Battousai. Enough to scare the hell out of anybody.
"Just a short one." Hiko said, bending down to retrieve the sake bottle long forgotten, "now go and stop bothering me."
"I'll bring you some sake." Battousai said sweetly as he started walking downhill. Kenshin just rolled his eyes at this.
Battousai looked around with mild interest as the cold breeze tugged at his hair and sleeves, ignoring the people who kept throwing odd sort of looks on the pair of them. The city had been uncharacteristically peaceful this day, a contrast to the one he was in a few hours ago. There was no trace of fighting, bloodstains and human gore that wouldn't keep off the streets at the times of revolution.
Corpses, of course, were out of the question.
Kenshin kept close to his clone self, unsure why he should be so uneasy with someone who was really himself. "If we happen to run into someone we know, remember that you're Himura Kentai, Himura Kenshin's younger brother."
Battousai sharply detached his gaze from a food stall. "Why don't you be Himura Kentai, Himura Kenshin's older brother while I be myself?"
Kenshin raised his brows, imagining himself to be smacking Battousai upside the head with his sakabatou. "Because...the trademark of Hitokiri Battousai is a cross scar across his face, my friend. And you'll find that some people in this era is more comfortable with me as Battousai." Though not myself, he added as an afterthought.
Battousai knitted his brows and ran a hand across his single scar. "Whatever. Aren't you going to show me around the city?" Kenshin nodded casually, suddenly noting that it was queer for him – when he was Battousai – to show such amount of emotional changes on his face.
Maybe he's being truthful with me- that is himself, of all people. The hitokiri was a few steps in front, taking in the city around him once again. I wonder if he' s met Tomoe already, Kenshin wondered wistfully. Probably not.
"Hey Kentai, wait up!" Kenshin deliberately called out.
He thought he heard a small "kuso" coming from the younger man.
Saitou Hajime was not in the best of his moods. He had been listening to a ridiculously long, boring yet important report that very morning, threatened a particularly stubborn suspect with death like he had millions of time in the Bakumatsu; and now he'd an extremely annoying investigation at hand. Kyoto wasn't such an interesting place to be in, especially when he had a job at hand.
Worse still, he was sent to ask for someone's favour – a certain stupid, over-idealistic man with hair like flame and a rurouni smile plastered on his face. He scowled at the prospect of having to ask for that idiot's favour. Sure, Battousai was an interesting opponent and he'd love to have a last fight with him again. But he really couldn't stand the former hitokiri at normal times; he almost had a fit the first time he saw the Battousai doing the laundry.
Battousai's womanly enough without doing womanly things like the laundry, he decided.
The wolf snapped his mind off the thoughts as a distant figure silently walked towards him, a streak of reddish hair flying behind him. Too far to make out the features, but then how many people had red hair like that? Well well well...speak of the devil...
He stopped, pulling a cigarette from his pocket while the figure continued to move with smooth, liquid-like motion. Saitou noticed that he was subconsciously sticking to the shadows of the street. He held a humourless smile. A hitokiri is a hitokiri after all.
The man went on his way, slipping past the flow of people like a mere shadow. Saitou tensed, amber gaze fixed on the forthcoming assassin. Is that Battousai's ki? Yes, it did seem familiar to him, but then...since when had his ki gone so piercingly cold?
Saitou was long since familiarized with Kenshin's ki, which was a far cry from that he possessed when he was a hitokiri. The assassin had somehow managed to drop the steely, dangerous sense from it, and the new ki – if described in colour – was a warm rich purple while the old one was, like his eyes, an impassive, cold sort of dark amber.
The former Shisengumi felt unease growing at his mind. Changing his mind, he decided to walk up to the rurouni instead of standing here waiting for him. With quick long strides he walked towards him, all the while battling down the instinct to grip the hilt of his katana.
The distance between them shortened, and one close look at the former hitokiri had confirmed his worry.
Himura Battousai just stood there, high ponytail fluttering in the wind. Saitou took one swift look at the high-tied ponytail, the daishou attached to his obi, then at the Ishin shishi uniform he was currently wearing. He gazed into the amber eyes and all was clear.
Battousai had either came to his sense finally or had totally lost it.
"Battousai." He greeted the former hitokiri, unspoken questions in his voice. Battousai censored him with his amber gaze, seemingly surprised by what he saw.
"Saitou Hajime." He returned emotionlessly, "don't suppose to see you so soon."
Saitou was tired of his over-polite manner before, but now the lack of manner in this man seemed more irritating. He blew a ring of smoke right into his face.
"I was just thinking of sending for you but now you're here so that's fine." He returned coolly, "Isn't it a bit out-to-date to wear the Ishin uniform, huh?" A smirk split across his face.
Unluckily, Battousai didn't see the point. "You want to finish the business don't you? And ah...I've never dream of you being a cop in this era. Aren't you supposed to stick to the Mibu wolves, huh?" He promptly sank into a battoujutsu stance. "You're gonna pay for the five men you took down yesterday."
The wolf was rather taken aback, mostly by the un-rurouni-like acidic words and Battousai's eagerness to resume their last battle. And when on earth did he take down five men?
He decided that Battousai had lost it for good.
Saitou unsheathed his own sword and sank into a Gatotsu stance. "So you've chosen hitokiri then. Nice choice. Strange time to do so, though." Battousai didn't revert back to the hitokiri even when he fought Shishio Makoto. Strange timing, really, should he go Battousai when nothing out of ordinary had happened.
The two men stood, transfixed in their stances on the very street of Kyoto.
Then without warning, both charged forward quickly, swords meeting each other like two strokes of lightening. Face inches from each other, Saitou and Battousai glared mercilessly at each other. Saitou's eyes widened as he spotted the mark on his opponent's left cheek – a single scar, not a cross one. He remembered a time when he had only a single scar, but it was fourteen years ago, when Battousai was still a feared assassin. What the hell...
Battousai leaped backwards, then launched into the air for the next attack.
"Ryu Tsui Sen!"
"Baka...I've seen this attack before." Saitou said, flipping his blade for a counter-air attack.
If Battousai was surprised about this, he didn't show it on his face. Composedly he twisted sideward, changing the move into a horizontal swipe instead.
Saitou snickered. The reaction was as he had assumed. "You're done for, Battousai." He abruptly drew back his sword, bringing it out again in an elegant curve.
Battousai's yellowish orbs widened in disbelieve as the blade shot swiftly towards his chest.
"Saitou, Stop! What the hell are you..." Saitou saw a blur of purple shoot between him and Battousai, accompanied by a flash of steel. It was far too late to stop his attack now. Horrified, the Mibu wolf felt his blade bit against another. But the impact of Zeroshiki was disastrous. The other man was thrown backwards like a bullet, while a large gash on his chest blossomed with blood.
Battousai caught the man before he fell to the ground. "Ken-Kenshin!?" he exclaimed quite unnaturally, though it could be explained away with the fact that he was, in fact, stunned.
Saitou stared down at the man bleeding profusely, held upright by whom he had formerly assumed to be Battousai. "Bat-Battousai!?"
Kenshin locked his violet gaze on him. "Saitou...wh-what the hell were you...were you trying to do...?" he rasped through laboured breath. Battousai had a roll of bandage out of his sleeve and was trying to attend to Kenshin's injury.
Saitou looked from the youngster with the topknot to the injured one with a ponytail. God...they were truly identical, from the unique red hair to the pale, pointed face. Only the uninjured one seemed a little younger, his eyes slightly bigger in proportion to his face.
"Leave him be, you'll just make him worse." Saitou knelt beside Kenshin, trying to pry Battousai's hand off his wound. He glanced at Battousai with the corner of his eye, and saw the show of frantic in his eyes, now a warm purple matching those of the man in his grasp.
"Call them over, and say Fujita Goro would like to see them URGENT." The former Shisengumi instructed Battousai, spotting two policemen patrolling two streets ahead.
Battousai was gone in god-like speed.
Saitou stared after him for a few moments.
"You have a lot of explaining to do, Battousai." He settled the rurouni on the ground, sounding serious.
"He's my brother, Himura Kentai." Kenshin closed his eyes, trying to avoid eye-contact with the extremely sensitive Shisengumi captain. His lying skill was less than admirable, but he had to try anyway, "next time, ask before you attack, Saitou."
"He definitely looks more Battousai than you do. As all I know, the real Battousai has run into the middle of an attack like a poor fool." Saitou gritted his teeth. He had a faint feeling Battousai wasn't telling the truth. Or the whole of the truth.
"There won't be much left of my brother if sessha doesn't." Kenshin said sharply, pressing a hand to stop the continuous blood flow.
The Mibu Wolf scowled, irritated by the whole absurd situation. Was his ability in reading ken-ki really that bad? A ki between two people – even brothers and twins, is very different from each other. So why had he mistaken the person so easily?
Because you have always known the aura. The aura of Battousai, the deadly aura of death and blood. Fourteen years haven't dulled your senses. And those amber eyes of a demon...a voice whispered in his ears. He shut that voice away. It wasn't possible. Unless...
"Hey, really. Are you Battousai or not?" Saitou flinched at his own stupid question.
"Maybe not, sessha's not sure." Kenshin was apparently amused.
"Shut up Battousai. Next time you drag the kid out, make sure he doesn't wear an Ishin uniform. And tell him not to dye his eyes yellow. With the sword style and the clothing and those eyes, it's hard not to think him as you. "
He put out the cigarette on the floor, adding as an afterthought, "I must admit he's quite good. You taught him the Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu?"
Kenshin's mind spun for an answer. "Er...no, my shishou did." He smiled as he watched Saitou turned away, suddenly humiliated by what he'd just done. That boy was somewhere half his age and he was using his secret technique on him. It wasn't a pleasant thing for anyone to see, let alone his lifelong rival. And let alone the victim was the lifelong rival's younger brother.
The rurouni was almost glad that Saitou didn't plague him with more questions. One or two more questions, and he'd surely be damned speechless. Lucky he didn't say anything about the Ishin uniform, either. It's deadly hard to explain why his brother had laid his hands on such specific clothing, and chose to wear it out on this particular day.
Saitou turned his back on him, watching Battousai babbling with his two inferiors in the distance. He stared bemusedly at his navy blue uniform, thinking quietly. This Himura Kentai was sort of creepy, he must admit. The lanky policeman knew precisely that Battousai wasn't telling the truth. Heck, he'd just check upon this boy himself.
Battousai was more than frustrated. He'd never thought that explaining matters was that difficult, but it turned out that the two nutcase standing in front of him was having much trouble in comprehending what he'd just said. It suddenly struck him how sorely uncommunicative he was.
Well, what d'you expect anyway? Never thought that being a hitokiri would need something such as communication. The most effective way of communication was through his sword, no doubt about that.
He bit down the thought of threatening the two idiots with his sword. Anger welled up inside him. Don't they know someone's life was at risk because of their own stupidity? The hitokiri knew the blow had hit Kenshin hard. His older self wouldn't die, he knew; but it wasn't pleasant at all with him lying like that on the street, all the while dripping blood.
Hey, since when had he begun caring for himself? He'd never thought he care about lives anymore.
He shoved the sarcastic thought away, opening his mouth to speak again.
"Can't you see, a man's wounded over there, and Fujita Goro asked you both to go to him."
The two patrolling officers watched fearfully as the teenager made his speech, his young face betraying no emotion as he went on. There were a pair of swords tied to his obi, but the boy didn't seem to be aware of that.
"Fujita-san will call on us if he wanted us." One replied cautiously, thinking that it was some trap that the young swordsman was luring them into. This guy is nuts, he thought. "And by the way, sir, you'll have to follow us to the police station, if you please."
"For what?" Battousai was having trouble containing his anger. His eyes glinted an eerie lavender and a golden light zipped through them.
This unnerved the policemen more. They took a step back in unison, pathetically out of wits. Their intention of saying "for carrying illegal swords around" was temporarily forgotten.
Battousai couldn't take this anymore. Grabbing each of them by their collars, he dragged the bewildered policemen across the street.
Kenshin's violet orbs widened alarmingly as he saw Battousai approaching him with his superhuman speed, two men dangling off his hands as if mere packages. "Ba...Kentai, don't do that! It's no Bakumatsu here!" he immediately regretted those words after they left his mouth.
Saitou's brows jumped a bit as he registered the former hitokiri's word. Battousai skidded to a halt in front of him, apparently unconcerned. "Only way they'll follow me, that is. They're a pair of brainless idiots, too." He said gruffly.
Choosing to ignore the crude insult to his inferiors, Saitou approached the two men, who were lying face down on the floor. "No time for arguments. Send me a carriage." The policemen cringed at his threatening amber eyes, then ran off in the opposite direction. Life had been bizarre enough without an impassively violent flame-haired boy and a gut-wrenchingly terrifying superior.
Battousai noted the dark puddle of blood seeping under the rurouni. He gently placed a hand on his forehead, disturbed that it was covered in sweat.
"You all right, niichan?"
Kenshin smiled weakly, both at his tenderness and at the word "niichan". He's really taken me as his brother now; he thought, it's glad to know that the rurouni soul still lived deep inside him. The pain was threatening to engulf him in darkness, but looking through Battousai's cold mask into his inner childish concern he decided he would hold on, lest the boy could be utterly confused.
"Aa...sessha is fine, de gozaru yo." He wasn't pleased to find bitter remorse in his younger counterpart's eyes. The hitokiri knew he was merely bluffing; he was as much Kenshin as the rurouni was. Sighing inwardly, the rurouni beckoned him to lean closer.
"There is nothing wrong for your wanting to fight him," he whispered, each phrase punctuated by his shallow breath, "you know him as the Captain of the Third Shisengumi Troop and instincts told you to cut him down, he was a threat to peace. Do not blame yourself for that. Though you should have noticed he's now a cop and nothing more." He smirked the smallest of smirks, then resumed his talking.
"I don't know how you could get back, but as all I know you could have stuck here forever. Remember that you're also me, that I'll help you to suit to this world. That's a promise. Yes, Kenshin?" he looked up hopefully at the younger hitokiri. His words had helped. Battousai was looking less miserable, less confused that he'd ended up in a wrong world and the only person that could help him through was seriously harmed – because of him. Yes, he was nothing less than overjoyed to leave the Bakumatsu; but the real meaning of having to adapt to a new world dawned on him hard – Saitou had somehow wrecked his balance of mind without knowing.
"Don't talk like that, you aren't dying." Battousai glimpsed over at Saitou, who seemingly was paying no attention to their conversation whatsoever. Battousai knew better than that; Saitou was probably hanging on to their every word. It was useless anyway. Both the rurouni and hitokiri were fully aware of his presence, making sure he couldn't hear a single word.
"Carriage's here." Battousai told Kenshin reassuringly as an awkward silence filled the street. With a nod from Saitou, he carried Kenshin over and laid him inside the carriage.
"Thank you, sensei," Kenshin grinned his rurouni grin as the doctor finished bandaging his chest, now cleaned and stitched neatly. It was clear the wound would pose no immediate danger to Kenshin.
"Aa...no thanks, Himura-san. You'd better be careful with that wound, too. Make sure you don't get up till you're perfectly well." The doctor glanced skeptically at the young samurai, as though daring him to say "no". Kenshin flinched internally. He was just thinking about subtracting one day or two off the week the sensei had ordered him in bed.
Seeing Kenshin's comical expression, the sensei laughed. "Samurai have a unfortunate habit of running around too soon after they're injured." He tilted his head upwards, "that's what I've learnt from the Bakumatsu."
"True." Battousai muttered behind him, receiving a searching gaze from Saitou. He quickly looked away.
"I expect you to be up and about in two or three days, Battousai," Saitou said in a matter-of-fact tone. Battousai had to rein himself from responding to that name. "In the meanwhile, I have some business to discuss with you." He tried to sound natural, but both Himuras had spotted the tightness of his lips, and with a look from each other, both burst out laughing. They both knew the former Shisengumi had a favour to ask, and the way he presented it was downright amusing.
"What's so funny?" Saitou demanded calmly, though he truly wanted to strangle the pair of them for humiliating him.
"Nothing de gozaru." Kenshin said hastily. Laughing was obviously painful for him.
Battousai was not so kind. "When you chased me around in those dark alleys, you won't think you'll be asking me for a favour do you...?" With a dangerous warning glare from his older self, Battousai stopped in mid-sentence.
"No one's asking your favour, Kentai-san." Saitou said pointedly, "as for chasing you around in dark alleys..." he closed his eyes briefly, recalling the chaotic days when he'd been hunting for Battousai's blood almost every night, "I do remember chasing a certain redheaded murderer called Battousai around." He scanned through the face of the younger Himura, and was disappointed that he had once again slipped the cold mask onto his face.
There was certain tenseness in the air that no one dared to break. I'll save this for later, Saitou thought.
"As I was saying, I...okay, I need your help Battousai." He admitted tightly, though utterly pissed off by that.
Kenshin refrained himself from laughing this time. "What do you want?"
"There are over twenty murders, no...assassinations in these past month, and the victims are mostly minor Meiji officers. The government is trying to hush it all up, but...well, the people are bound to know it some day." Saitou said, calmly puffing on his cigarette.
"Assassinations?" Kenshin demanded softly.
"Yes, assassinations. And what's most interesting is..." the wolf continued, narrowing his eyes, "the murderers claimed to be finishing the noble work of Hitokiri Battousai – delivering 'Heavenly Justice' to certain corrupted officials. They called themselves vanguards of justice."
"What? They are abusing my name." Kenshin replied, turning earnest at the discussion of businesses. Battousai stayed mercifully quiet, much to the relief of his older counterpart.
"They act under your name," said Saitou, "now those government officials are thinking you came back for revenge with a horde of those guys."
"That's funny," said Kenshin darkly, "first they send me out to flatten Shishio, then after I do so they blacklist me as a danger to their lives."
"We both know these politicians are senseless fools who think about nothing except for their own petty lives." Saitou agreed, tipping his cigarette on a dish thoughtfully, "but we the police don't think so. You're a nutcase, but certainly not nutty enough to run around town chopping up those pig-headed politicians. You'll just destroy the Meiji era you've worked hard to build up."
Kenshin gave him a Battousai glare, which only amused the former Shisengumi captain even more. Ignoring the clear cut insult, the former hitokiri returned neutrally, "So, what do you want from me then?"
Saitou gave a disdainful snort. "Know what, the Meiji government wants you to negotiate with them. Say, they must be some former Ishin members hero- worshipping you, so if you have a cheerful chat with them, they'll lay back and stop assassinating people. Not my idea though."
Kenshin groaned while Battousai mirrored Saitou's move and snorted. "Is the government that naïve? Well, I don't recall anyone who'd hero-worship me. When I was a hitokiri my own comrades used to dodge me in the corridors. Cursing me and stuff."
Battousai nodded in agreement. And stopped himself in the middle of a half- nod. It was only a couple of hours ago when the patriots had been dodging him in the corridor. Conversations would stop as he entered a room. Whenever he locked eyes with someone – allies included – all he could sense was fear. Hatred. A mixture of both.
That was news for Saitou. "Oh? I thought they used to love you. You have cut down more men than all of them added together."
Kenshin laughed humorlessly. "You should know, Saitou. They used to think...well, they used to think I was somewhat...unstable."
"Well, you are." Saitou said flatly.
Kenshin threw his hands into the air with disgust.
"Can't you ever talk business without insulting someone?"
"Maa...maa...the infamous Battousai can't take a joke can he?" the Mibu wolf waved his words away casually, satisfied with his sudden outburst. Maybe the former hitokiri had a thread of temper in him after all. He cleared his throat once. "Back to business. So, they want you to negotiate with some of those troublemakers. But then..."his eyes gleamed, "you can just as well kick their ass as far as the government is concerned."
"I see..." said Kenshin slowly as he digested the new information, "in other words they don't really want me to negotiate. They actually want me to slice them all up...without involving the government officials themselves, right?"
Saitou's quirked a brow. "That's about right."
Battousai felt his temper brewing. "And this is the so-called peaceful era that I...my brother created? Assassinations, massacres, things like that, again and again and again. What make this era different from the Bakumatsu huh? They..."
"Kentai." Kenshin pleaded, "please."
Battousai saw the alarmed glow in his older counterpart's face and grunted. "This is just not fair." No, he thought, I will not let my older self kill again. If anyone should have blood on his hands then let it be me.
His musings were cut short by a shrewd comment by Saitou.
"You fought in the Bakumatsu with Battousai didn't you?"
Battousai winced inwardly. The man was certainly too sensitive to be fooled.
"Well...I did." He admitted. I fought by the name of Battousai, he added silently in his head.
Saitou's lips twitched up into a wolfish grin as he sensed the younger Himura's reluctance to accept that.
"That sort of explains why Battousai seemed to be everywhere at once in the Bakumatsu, said the wolf, nodding absently. "Actually there were two Battousai running around all the while."
Uh-oh. Kenshin and Battousai realized that Saitou had got it the wrong way.
"It's not like that," protested Battousai, slightly baffled. "I'm fifteen this year. I couldn't have fought in the Revolution when I was five!"
"Fifteen, ne? Your brother here is only a couple of years younger than me and he's looking exactly like he was when I fought him in the battle of Toba-Fushimi. I won't be really surprised if your real age is over twenty,"
Battousai was speechless as Kenshin sweatdropped. The way Saitou could put two and two together was sorta...hard to describe. But then it'll make it easier for Battousai to hang around without Saitou suspecting him as anyone else.
Kenshin gave an oh-well-he's-nuts-no-point-arguing-with-the-guy sigh and leaned back against the hard pillow. It was long since they'd left the mountain. It was deadpan sure he couldn't climb it in his state; someone's got to tell shishou lest he'll think we've fallen into a ditch, he thought.
"So," said Saitou, snapping back into business again, "The decision's yours to be made. Though I don't really think negotiation will help."
Kenshin tapped his fingers on the blanket. "I'll try negotiating first, if possible. Fighting can wait."
"I'm going with you," Battousai offered.
"Oh no you don't. You can't kill in the Meiji Era, so you can just snap out of your killing cycle. Or you may get a sakabatou or something before you go." He hastily added as Battousai's eyes sparkled with anger.
"As you wish." The words were hissed out. Battousai wasn't enthusiastic to drop his katana or his wakizashi.
"Cool it kid." Saitou told the half-snarling hitokiri placidly, "you can kill, no problem. The government granted us the permission to kill in this issue."
"Okay, you two sort this out. I am going out now. Talk about it later." The ex-Shisengumi gave a shrug before disappearing in the doorway.
Kenshin and Battousai regarded each other with raised brows.
"You're not killing. This is only a minor matter."
"At least lemme go with you. I won't hurt them. I promise."
"...remember, you promised."
Satisfied with the answer, Kenshin snapped his eyelids shut and lowered
himself into the futon. "Kenshin?"
"You seemed more like yourself today. I mean, you didn't go berserk about the assassination stuff. And guess what," Kenshin opened an eye, "you're more like Shinta today."
Shinta. A name of innocent memories.
Battousai smiled wryly. He took something out from inside his gi.
"Actually, I am very happy today. I woke up in the morning thinking that I'm doomed to this job. But it never came."
Kenshin looked at the object. It was a black envelope. He knew exactly what it meant. "Who do you have to kill this time?"
Battousai looked down on the wooden tiles of the floor furiously. "Katsura- san...he personally demanded me to kill him. Hiroshiya...just because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time..."
Kenshin nodded sadly at the mention of his friend. "You know, I killed him."
"I have no choice. You of all people should know...if Katsura-san labeled a person traitor, you're to kill him and not to make a damn about it."
Battousai sank sullenly along the wall. "Right. A hitokiri shouldn't give a damn about anything...anything at all." He fell silent for what seemed an eternity. Then his anger returned threefold. "I'm NOT going back to the Bakumatsu. No, no and not EVER!"
"Quiet! Saitou might still be around."
And outside the door Saitou Hajime frowned slightly at the absurd conversation.
Hiko Seijiro glared down at his sake. He could see his worried dark eyes reflected in it. He gave the drink a little shake. His image in the cup wavered as he did so.
The normally gruff swordsmaster let his gaze drift to the horizon, now glowing a faint shade of crimson as dusk claimed its arrival. "Damned baka deishi...where have the two of them gone to...it's nearly night and they still haven't returned." He knew that both deishi of his were hopeless trouble magnets, especially the younger one. But they were sure safe with each other around. Anyone who'd want to pick a fight on the pair on them would have been losing his mind.
He sighed half-exasperatedly. Though he might not want to admit it, the man had spent half his life thinking about the well being of his all-too- idealistic baka deishi. Now that things were finally settled for Kenshin, he found himself drowned in nostalgia and old memories.
He wasn't young anymore.
"He was a pain in the neck, yes; but I'm proud of him and all that matters...he is the son I never had." He shifted his mantle.
"That idiot, I thought he would inherit the Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu the day I took him in. And now...rebellious little brat. "
"Hiko-san, here's your sake."
"Thank you, Kaiyo-dono. Are you closing the shop now?"
"...you never close the shop that early before."
"Ah, Hiko-san. Time has changed. It's dangerous at night. Assassins, samurai, ninjas, Ishinshishi, Shisengumi...they roam the streets after nightfall. You don't want to run into Hitokiri Battousai when you go home at night!" Kaiyo laughed nervously.
Hiko sighed. His baka deishi must be one of those roaming the streets at night.
"Hitokiri Battousai?" he asked casually, not really paying attention.
"Yes Sir, Hitokiri Battousai is the most feared assassin in Kyoto. He works for the Ishin, if I'm not mistaken. They say he has amber eyes like a demon and flaming red hair. Someone says that he's pretty young, though." Said Kaiyo, a trifle surprised that he hadn't heard the news.
That snapped Hiko out of his thoughts. "WHAT?"
Kaiyo took a step back, frightened at the sudden reaction. Hiko inhaled deeply, readjusting his grip on the jar of sake.
"I'm sorry, Kaiyo-dono...I think I'd better be going."
"Oh," Kaiyo replied, still shocked, "er...Hiko-san?" Hiko turned back patiently.
"Why isn't Kenshin coming today?" she asked, blushing a bit.
Oh shit. He forgot the girl had a crush on his baka deishi.
"He er...I sent him to get some wood, yeah." Hiko lied almost fluently. "You aren't in a hurry to see him, ne?"
"No!" Kaiyo blushed even redder, then ran off back into the shop.
"Hitokiri Battousai...damned baka deishi, I'll kill you if I ever see you again."
Of course at the end he hadn't managed to really kill his baka deishi. He was angry, yes; but when he came back he almost felt relieved. That he hadn't died being a hitokiri. That he was still living though his soul was half-dead. He shook his head. Maybe he's really getting old now, wasting his time thinking about faded days.
The sun gave its last strand of red over the ground. In the distance a boy calmly approached Hiko, silhouetted against the fading light.
"Baka, what took you so long?" Hiko shot at the youngster. Battousai frowned.
"Kenshin's hurt. He told me to bring the news here...lest you'll think we've fallen down a ditch." Battousai said directly, with a smile that did not touch his eyes.
"Hurt? How come. I thought I only told the two of you to take a walk, not to engage into a fight. And..."
"My fault really. I ran into an old Shisengumi Captain, and we dueled. Seems that he's much better than he was ten years ago. Kenshin took his most fierce attack for me ..."
"I see. You haven't got his memory after all." Hiko pensively looked into his cup again. "Come over, Kenshin."
Wondering what he might want, Battousai sat beside him with the hitokiri's alertness. "Yes, shishou?"
Hiko stared straight into his eyes. Strangely for him, Battousai's eyes were much relatively easier to penetrate into. He too hid his emotions well; but the Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu enabled Hiko to read any opponent's thoughts, including the hitokiri boy in front of him. With one exception...the baka deishi he currently had, down there in the town of Kyoto. Ten years of wandering had trained Kenshin to hide any emotions away into the deep violet that made up his eyes.
"Remember I told you...for you it's only a year ago...that someday you'll taste sake? That by that time we'll drink it together? The time has come." He reached into his mantle and produced another cup. "Drink with me, baka deishi."
Battousai took the cup, eyes shining with sudden emotion. "Drink it...together...?"
Hiko shook his head slightly, as if reading his thoughts. "One year might not be enough, but nineteen years is enough for one to forgive and forget. You're an idiot from the beginning, as I should have known."
Battousai smiled bitterly. "I guess you're right, shishou. I made it rain blood. But nothing has changed...nothing indeed, 'cept for my soul.'' He stared hard at the tiny stream of sake being poured into his cup. "I've tried it. It tastes bitter."
Hiko was surprised at the somehow bold confession of his baka deishi. While the rurouni wouldn't have breathed a word about his sufferings and problems the hitokiri seemed more open to share them.
He's a child, after all.
"You planning to stay here forever?"
"Probably; if Kenshin would allow me. It might be better to be a rurouni like him."
"Took you long enough to figure that out, baka."
Battousai felt the cool liquid sliding down his throat. "But in that way...I am still luckier than Kenshin. He is sorrowed. I can feel it." He cocked his head. "We're technically the same person."
"Nothing you can do 'bout that. He will continue to bear this memory throughout his life. The only thing I can do...is to distract him from it."
"But...why? Why does he seem so sad? What will happen to me later on?" Battousai tucked a strand of his red hair behind his ear.
"You don't have to know that. From now on, live a life of your own. Got me?"
Both master and student remained silent, absorbed in their own thoughts; until an assortment of voices came piercing through the night air.
"Oi, Kenshin? Hiko-san?"
"You don't need to shout busu, they're not deaf – ''
"Pay some respect to your shishou, you ungrateful little brat!"
''Hey Jou-chan, aren't you going to drag Kenshin out here or what? So stop fighting and hurry up." Came Sagara Sanosuke's deep, amused voice.
Battousai blinked in confusion while Hiko narrowed his eyes in annoyance.
"It's those crazy friends of yours coming. You'd better get outta here before they see you baka deishi."
"Just get moving."
It was just a moment after Battousai had perched himself on a particularly thick tree branch that the trio appeared out of the forest.
What're you lot doing here." Hiko demanded coolly.
Arrogant bastard as always, thought the ex-fighter-for-hire as he threw a jar of sake right into his lap.
"Present." Sano grunted. "Where's Kenshin?"
"Sent him down Kyoto." Hiko said smoothly without a single 'thank you'. That was half true.
"Why, Hiko-san?" Kaoru demanded, apparently concerned that her rurouni would run off doing something dangerous on his own. Again.
"Not your business, Kamiya-dono." Hiko replied nonchalantly. "You can't leave him alone for a single moment can you?"
Kaoru considered seriously of smacking him with her bokken but thought better of it. She knew she wouldn't enjoy being Ryu-Tsui-Sen-ed back to Tokyo.
"He isn't up to anything is he?" she narrowed her ocean blue eyes at the swordsman, who simply ignored her, staring off into space.
"That idiot had better not be dumping me behind again, or I'll really Futae no Kiwami him to China." Sano piped up, punching a nearby tree to emphasize his point.
Battousai watched with interest as the three youngsters passed right under him. So they're my future friends, he mused. The girl with the indigo ribbon was real cute. Maybe she'll be my girlfriend. And that boy with spiky hair looks – and acts – completely like a juvenile delinquent. Well, maybe not juvenile anymore...
Crash! Battousai barely had time to register the source of the disaster as the tree he perched on sudden went down with the speed of a charging bull. Instinctively he shot out of the tree, expecting a full attack.
All he got was three person gaping openmouthed at his sudden entrance.