The Parting of the Ways

You can thank my english teacher for this update. We had to write a certain amount of pages in a given amount of time, and well, this was part of that finished product.

EDIT 12/23/08: I just wanted everyone to know that a majority of this chapter was written a really long time ago, so that's my excuse for any mistakes. Also, I actually had an epiphany regarding the future outcome of this story. Welcome back my precious story....

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Chapter Three: Twice Not Shy

This guy was like a ninja--he wore dark clothing, but it was his skills that gave him away. He didn't use kunai or shuriken, but his swordsmanship was that of an assassin. He had obviously done this before and it was also apparent that his target for tonight was none other than Kenshin.

The former manslayer had been lucky enough to have been wounded just above the heart, however, it was a deep wound and he was quickly losing blood and beginning to feel faint. Not only that, but after being injured, the blow had left his left arm completely lame. He cursed; without the use of one of his arms, he wouldn't be able to perform his skills to their fullest. With just his right arm, would he be able to protect Tomoe and his new-found friends at the Kamiya dojo?

He really had no time to be pessimistic--the assassin was rushing towards him, his weapon raised. Kenshin also lifted his sword, balancing its weight with his single arm. The ninja-like man thrust his sword forward, aiming for Kenshin's heart and the end of this battle, but the red-haired swordsman was already weakened and probably not fast enough to stop the oncoming assault. He shut his eyes, certain that this would be his final night. In fact, he was almost anticipating it, but after a few agonizing moments he realized that the fatal blow never came.

When he opened his eyes, the assassin was just mere feet away, his eyes wild and wide with what Kenshin guessed could only be surprise. Kenshin watched his eyes and saw that the masked man was staring past him. Quickly, he turned his head to see what had intrigued the man and, ignoring the new crick in his neck, noticed that the young dark-skinned pupil of the Kamiya dojo was standing on the deck, watching the fighters in awe.

"Yahiko!" Kenshin cried, remembering the child's name. "Get out of here!"

"Battousai...."

Kenshin whirled his head back around, again feeling the painful pop in his neck. The assassin had already lowered his weapon and had on a calmer look than before. Kenshin, still untrusting, kept his sword at the ready.

"I was sent here to kill you tonight and I had planned on doing so, but I try to make it my own personal mission not to kill in front of the innocent, namely children. Now, it seems there is a young boy among us, and although you have instructed him to leave us, there would seem to be no inclination of him doing. So, consider this your last bit of mercy from me, because next time, you will die."

With that, the ninja man leaped up from the ground and onto the fence that surrounded the dojo. The man turned and took another glance about the grounds before hopping off the fence and into lands unknown.

From all the blood he'd lost getting injured, and then from the small fight that resumed afterward, Kenshin could feel himself getting weaker with each passing second. Before he collapsed he turned to face the young swordsman-in-training and said, "I'm glad you didn't leave when I told you to."

And then his world went black.

- - -

His head was killing him and his body was as stiff as a board. Slowly, he opened his eyes, wincing as the morning sun stung his retinas. He remembered the wound on his shoulder, and with his right arm, he carefully reached across his chest, expecting to feel an open hole and some dry blood, and he was surprised when he felt the cloth bandages with his fingertips.

He sat up quickly, letting out a gasp when his muscles screamed in protest. He was back in his room at the dojo. Everything looked as it had the night before save for the thin sheet covering the sliding door that led out to the rest of the dojo. It was helping to block out some of the sunlight and for this he was thankful.

"You're finally awake."

Kenshin turned his head, the familiar neck pain almost something he was getting used to. Tomoe was sitting against the stacks of books Kaoru had brought in earlier upon request. Kenshin saw something else out of the corner of his eye, so he turned, slowly this time, to see Kaoru herself, slumped against the wall, sleeping.

"She was worried about you," Tomoe said, quieter this time. "The boy, Yahiko called us and said that you had been fighting. Kaoru-san got Megumi-dono to dress your shoulder."

"Was she here all night?"

"I think so; I woke up early this morning and she was still here, awake. I left to fetch you some water, and when I came back she was already asleep.

"So she was awake all last night...," Kenshin said supressing a smile.

"How are you feeling?" Tomoe asked, moving closer to her husband, and then situating herself on her knees behind him.

"My shoulder's better, but--" Kenshin reached across his chest, feeling the bandages. The movement had caused his sore muscles to ache and the pain made him flinch.

Seeing this, Tomoe began to knead the muscles in his back, being extra careful not to caress his left side as hard. She could feel how tense he really was, but just a few minutes into the massage and she could already feel him starting to relax.

"Thank you," Kenshin said, closing his eyes and heaving a sigh.

"Of course," Tomoe answered, kissing his neck. "We still need to get those medications. Your patients are waiting for us."

"We'll ask Megumi-dono tomorrow. I want to leave quickly before another assassin comes back. I don't want to be responsible if anyone were to get hurt."

"We'll leave as soon as we get your supplies," Tomoe whispered.

She was trailing her lips up and down Kenshin's neck, and he was allowing it. In fact, he welcomed it. He and Tomoe rarely acted this way, but this time he forgot his morals and grabbed her arm firmly, pulling her closer towards him.

"Thank you," he said again, running his fingers across her kimono sleeve.

Tomoe peeled back the his sleeve from his injured shoulder, allowing the cool air to tickle his flesh. She bent forward, kissing it tenderly and raising hair on the back of his neck. He kissed her, barely letting his lips brush across hers before pulling up his kimono, now slightly embarrassed.

"Kenshin?"

They both turned. It had been the young assistant master that had spoken. Like Tomoe had reported, the girl had clearly stayed up later than was necessary. Her eyes were nearly bloodshot and sunken, and they were heavily accented by the deep dark circles underneath.

"Kaoru-dono, good morning," Kenshin greeted her as Tomoe sat down respectfully next to her husband.

"'Morning. How's your shoulder?"

"Much better, thank you. If it weren't for you--"

"But I didn't really do anything," Kaoru said, blushing. "Megumi-dono was the one who cleaned and dressed your wound."

"Yes, and I am grateful, but were you not the one who summoned her here?"

"Yahiko was the one--"

"He's trying to thank you, so why won't you let him?" Tomoe asked, standing up to stretch. She had the faintest trace of a smile on her lips.

She hadn't said it to be mean, but it was true. Kaoru wasn't taking enough credit--she was being too modest.

"Please, Kaoru-dono," Kenshin started. "Do you think it would be all right if I were to warm-up with you and your students this morning?"

"Of course, if you're feeling up to it," Kaoru paused, thinking. "But I only have a private lesson scheduled with Yahiko; no one else will be there."

"That's fine," Kenshin answered grabbing his sword and using it as a crutch as he stood.

"I need to do some shopping in town," Tomoe said taking Kenshin's hand in hers. "Kaoru-san, do you need me to get anything for you?"

"Thanks, but Sanosuke's already going," Kaoru said, smiling. "Oh, but I forgot to give him a list of supplies Megumi-dono needed. Would you mind going after him and making sure he gets this?"

Kaoru reached inside her pocket and pulled out a loose sheet of paper. Tomoe reached for the paper, passing a quick glance back at Kenshin before turning to leave.

- - -

"Three-hundred one, three-hundred two, three-hundred three, three-hundred four..."

"Doesn't that hurt?" Kaoru asked, referring to Kenshin's last set of arm thrusts. She seemed to have to keep reminding him that he had gotten injured the night before.

"This pain is nothing, Kaoru-dono. When I first starting learning Hiten Mitsurugi-ryu, my master had me doing thousand katas, and that was after doing many other strengthening tasks beforehand."

Although that may have been true, Megumi had already scolded and rewrapped his shoulder around stroke 145 when it had starting bleeding profusely. He had been ordered not to train as hard in order to keep the wound from getting worse.

Kenshin had neglected Megumi's orders to restrain from working, but was now beginning to wish he hadn't for his arm was starting to bother him. He stopped after his three hundredth fifteenth stroke, leaning on his sword for support.

"Who was that guy who attacked you last night?" Yahiko asked as he parried another one of Kaoru's attacks. "Did you know him?"

"I'm afraid I didn't, although I don't think we will have to worry about him for now. I'm positive that he will wait a while before trying to attack again."

Kenshin winced as his shoulder began to throb. He left Kaoru and Yahiko to their practice and walked outside to grab a drink of water from the well.

His body was worse off than he thought; he step he took was extremely painful. When he reached the well, he reached down for the ladle and took a drink. As he was putting it back down, a kunai whipped past his head, sticking instantly to the well's pointed roof. There was a letter tied to the end of it.

He looked around, searching for whoever had thrown the kunai. He reached for the letter and read through it carefully.

Battousai, the kanji looked as if it had been written with the tip of a kunai dipped in blood. Kenshin swolled before continuing. We have the one who is most precious to you. What will you do to save her?

Kenshin cursed loudly, quickly turning back to warn Kaoru and Yahiko. Unfortuntely, he only made it a few steps before having to stop. He cried out, clutching his chest as it felt as though it and his arm were on fire. The pain was unbearable and after a few agonizing seconds, Kenshin could withstand it no more. He fell face-first into the dirt, unconscious, with the letter hidden tightly in his fist.

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EDIT 12/24/08: Okay, like I said, a majority of this chapter was written well before today (like, years ago), so I apologize for any misspelled words, poor grammar, etc. Also, sorry for the little "romantic" scene between Kenshin and Tomoe. I use quotations, but, well...it was kind of lame. Leave me alone; I was a naive little thing when I first wrote that. :-P