Ever wonder what kind of a baka deshi Hiko might have been when he studied with his shishou? Read and find out about the prehistory of Yama no Genji, future thirteenth master of Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu. Just a note to all you Descent into Madness fans: there are no deep character insights in this story, just a bit of fun (I needed a break after writing that angsty epic!).

To all the Sony, Jump Comic, and other high-ranking executives who have the good taste to read this story: You own the rights, I don't, and we all should bow low to Watsuki Nobuhiro, who created the world of Rurouni Kenshin!

A Star is Born

By

Conspirator

Yama no Genji was bored. He had been set to work this afternoon shelling peas for dinner, which wouldn't have been so bad if he weren't shelling peas for twenty people. Scratch that—it would have been bad even if it were only for three people. What kind of world was it that required someone as handsome, intelligent, and gifted as himself to use his talent and energy to shell peas?

"Genji, no daydreaming—those peas aren't going to shell themselves, you know."

Grrr. 'The old biddy,' Genji thought darkly. He glared over the top of the bowl at the elderly nun in front of him, who just chuckled at his reaction. What kind of world was it that decreed that he had to be raised by a convent of Buddhist nuns in the first place? Peas started flying into the bowl with great force.

Actually, he knew he shouldn't really complain, for without the nuns, where would he be? He was the illegitimate son of a ronin and the daughter of a samurai. The dishonor to his mother was deemed to be so great that she was not allowed to keep him, so the nuns had taken him in. They were just tickled pink to have a baby to raise! That had been seventeen years ago.

And such a talented boy he had turned out to be! He had learned to read kanji by the time he was five, had a positively magical touch at growing vegetables, and had mastered the pottery wheel in record time. He had even started studying the writings of the Buddha and learned to meditate. The nuns were so thrilled with this boy that they never missed a chance to tell him how wonderful he was, and he had to agree—he truly was wonderful.

There was one aspect of him, however, that made the nuns unhappy—his burning desire to learn kenjutsu. "It is wrong to kill!" they had told him, and they forbade him from joining the local dojo. But that didn't stop him. He simply saved up the money he earned helping out the local farmers, bought himself a katana, and then secretly watched the kenjutsu classes through the dojo windows. The nuns thought he had taken to serious meditating, but in reality he was off in the woods practicing every move he saw. They wondered how meditation could lead to such large biceps on a young man, since that seemed to be the effect it had on young Genji. In the year or so since he had started disappearing for hours to 'meditate,' his arms had gone from puny to positively buff. Yes, they were quite proud of their boy.

Genji, for his part, was actually quite fond of all his mothers, but a seventeen-year-old boy can live only so long in the company of old women, and he had had it. He had been contemplating making a break, was looking for the right moment, but he never seemed to find it. Instead, he would find excuses to get away for hours at a time. So, when he finally finished shelling several bushels of peas, he told the nuns as usual that he needed to 'meditate' and then went directly to the local dojo to watch through the window. He was a tall fellow, but the narrow windows of the dojo were way up by the roof. As always, he perched himself on the rain barrel in order to look in, but for some reason, on this day the barrel gave way, and he fell to the ground with a crash.

"Hey, you—boy! What are you doing climbing up there?" yelled the clearly angry dojo master as he rounded the corner of the building to see what was going on.

Genji tried to gracefully pick himself up from the embarrassing position he was in. Flashing his most winning smile, he said, "Just trying to learn from the best swordsman in Japan."

The dojo master looked from Genji to Genji's katana to the window of the dojo as it dawned on him what was going on.

"You…!" the man sputtered. "You've been… spying! Spying on my school! How dare you, you arrogant…!" and before even finishing the sentence, the master unsheathed his katana and raced towards Genji.

In an instant, Genji was on his feet with sword drawn. As with everything else he had ever attempted, Genji had taken to kenjutsu like a duck to water, but he had never had the opportunity to spar, let alone fight, with anyone before. Now he found himself in a duel with not just another student, but with the master himself! Strangely, he found he could almost see in advance what his opponent was planning to do, and so he was able to counter nearly every move the master made. The noise of the fight, meanwhile, brought out the rest of the students, who watched as their master battled this unknown man. To their amazement, for every thrust of their master, Genji seemed to have a counter-thrust. For every feint and trick, Genji seemed to have the knack of avoiding a hit. Finally, after ten long minutes, the two ended up with swords at each other's throats—a stalemate.

"I don't know who you are," the master finally growled through clenched teeth, "but get the hell out of here before I kill you."

"Don't you mean before I kill you?" Genji growled back as a smirk began to form on his face.

The crowd suddenly erupted with shouts of "Get him! Kill him!"

Genji was no fool. He suddenly kicked his opponent in the crotch with all his might, then ran like the wind into the forest. As he ran, he couldn't help marveling at how well he had fought. 'My first battle, and the master himself couldn't beat me!' he congratulated himself. He decided then and there that he had discovered his destiny—he would become a ronin.

"Genji! What kind of meditation have you been doing!" asked one of nuns as the diseheveled and panting Genji ran through the gate of the convent. Never had the nuns seen their handsome son in such a state!

"Okasan," he panted, "I think it's time I struck out on my own. In fact, for your own good, I think I had better strike out on my own!" And with that, he grabbed his belongings and left.

Genji may have grown up in a convent, but he was well aware of what was going on in the world. Bandits, rogue soldiers, tax collectors—he knew that every village needed some kind of protection from such predators. And what about all those peasant revolts against the Shogun! Yes, the services of a swordsman were definitely in demand.

Surprisingly, however, no one seemed to want to hire him. He stopped by several villages and turned on the charm, but the village elders found all sorts of reasons not to hire him. "Costs too much," one had said. "We like paying taxes," another had claimed. What was with them, Gengi wondered—didn't they think he was up to the task? In truth, it wasn't that the village elders doubted his abilities—it was more that they feared for their wives and daughters. They had seen that gleam in Genji's eyes, and even worse, they had seen the gleam returned by their womenfolk, and that was after the span of only half and hour! No telling what would happen if they hired this rogue, they reasoned!

Genji, ever confident, just walked on, deciding that perhaps his destination should be Kyoto, the one place he could think of that might be deserving of his talents. As he sauntered down the trail leading from the last village to the main road, though, he heard the distinct sound steel clashing upon steel. He stopped and listened more closely. No doubt about it—a swordfight was going on somewhere not too far off the path. As he followed the sounds, he could make out the yells and cries of several men. He set off at a run through the trees to see what was going on. As he reached the clearing, he practically tripped over a man who was bleeding profusely from a sword wound near his heart—a farmer, it looked like. Up ahead, he saw another farmer trying desperately to swing an old sword at three attackers. The farmer was clearly no match for these men; he would be dead within seconds.

Genji took in the scene and felt a righteous indignation arise within him. How dare those men attack someone who was clearly incapable of fighting back! Without hesitation, he jumped between the farmer and the attackers, wielding his sword with all the skill he could muster. He swung at the attacker in the center, managing to land a good blow to the chest, then set his attention on the attacker to his right. It was then that the attacker to his left let out a loud whistle. Now ten men ran out from the forest into the clearing, yelling and brandishing their swords. 'Oh, shit,' Genji thought as he saw that he was now encircled and heavily outnumbered.

This being only his second battle ever, he had no clue what to do except to try to fend off any blows and escape. He managed to knock down some of the men through brute strength and his ability to sense what his attackers planned to do, but he knew that his chance of escaping with his life was not good. It was at that moment of realization that a blur of white hair and a flowing cape descended into the midst of the fight.

"Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu, Ryu Tsui Sen!" shouted a deep voice as three men dropped, all felled by a single mighty blow.

"Ryu Shou Sen!" the voice bellowed, as another four dropped.

"Ryu…!" but the rest of the men had fled.

Genji stood panting, jaw hanging open, as he stared at the figure in front of him. It was a middle-aged man of medium height, stockily built, with flowing white hair and an air of supreme authority.

"Who the hell are you?" Genji finally managed to ask.

The man snorted at Genji's rudeness. "I am known as Hiko Seijurou, twelfth in the line of illustrious masters of Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu. I accept you as my student."

"What?! Who says I want to be your student!"

"A master of Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu takes only one student in his lifetime," the man continued. "Never have I found the right candidate. You are the right one."

"Listen, Hiko Siko, or whatever your name is…."

"Hiko Seijurou, but from now on, you will call me 'Shishou,'" the man intoned.

"Listen, Hiko-san…."

WHACK!!

Genji suddenly found himself on the receiving end of the flat of the man's blade.

"You will address me as 'Shishou,'" the man repeated. "Only when you have mastered the ougi will you have the right to call me Hiko." And with that, he grabbed the astonished Genji by the nape of the neck and marched him back towards the trail.

"Who says I even need a teacher!" Genji sputtered as he was dragged along. "And what kind of a cockamamy name is Hiko Seijurou anyway?"

WHACK!!

"You will call me 'Shishou!'"

And so started the training of Yama no Genji, future thirteenth master of Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu.

Japanese Terms:

Baka deshi: stupid student.

Ronin: masterless, wandering swordsman.

Kanji: Chinese characters used in the Japanese language, as opposed to the phonetic hiragana.

Kenjutsu: the art of sword fighting.

Dojo: school of martial arts.

Katana: long sword.

Okasan: mother.

Shishou: master teacher.

Ougi: the succession technique.

Author's Note: Haven't you ever wondered what Hiko was like as a kid? Unfortunately, Watsuki-sama doesn't tell us anything about Hiko's background, let alone the name he was born with. All we know is that his name was Niitsu Kakunoshin sometime before the Kyoto Arc, but considering how often people changed their names back then (the real Katsura Kogoro, for instance, had three names in his lifetime), who knows if that was the name Hiko was born with! So, I made one up. Genji seemed appropriate--it's the name that was given in the Heian era to children of the emperor who, for various reasons, were made commoners. So, it's a royal commoner. Next chapter, Hiko the Twelfth gets to know his new student.

CoConspirator: Well this is a bit different from our last fic. For all of you who still haven't read Fireflies in the Grass, what are you waiting for?!! It will have taken on a whole new meaning by the time this fic is over!! Next Chapter: Hiko the Twelfth discovers what he's gotten himself into.