Disclaimer: I don't own Ruroni Kenshin. I can't even spell it how do you freaks think I'm gonna own it?!
Foreword: I can't remember any of the names of the fighting styles, so I'm not putting them in here. Even if I could remember them, I can't spell them, so it doesn't really matter, now does it? In this fic I not only have an original character, but she is from a country that does not exist and remains nameless. And I swear my next fic – or maybe the one after that – WILL BE FUNNY! I hope. And please don't send me a virus or anything if I spell your favorite character's name wrong. 'Cause I can't spell, no matter what. Thank God for spell check!
Yahiko, Sano, Kenshin, and Kaoru were all walking down the street to the market when they heard a commotion in one of the shops. They rushed over to look and saw someone in a mask robbing the store. Yahiko reached for the wooden sword on his back so that he could go help the store owner, but Sano put a hand on his shoulder.
"Huh?" Yahiko asked. Sano pointed to a kid with his face covered by a cloak and a real sword on his back who was calmly walking up to the robber.
"I do not think that that is such a good idea." The kid told the robber.
The rather large robber turned around and asked, "So, what's a tiny pinprick like you gonna do about it?"
"If necessary, I will stop you." the kid kept his voice in a monotone and spoke with the ease of someone rightly confident of his skills.
"Oh yeah? You don't even come up to my chest, what can you do?" the robber was clearly annoyed now.
"I can do plenty." The kid informed the robber.
"You're getting on my nerves kid." The robber snapped and swung the large bag of money at the kid's head. He ducked and, crouching, kicked the man's feet out from under him. The kid then pulled the bag of money out of the man's hands and tossed it to the cashier.
"Thanks, kid." The cashier thanked.
"No need for thanks, just putting my skills to good use. I will be staying in town for a while if you need anymore help."
"There's no need of that, we have Kenshin Himura and the others at the dojo to help." The head police officer told the kid from the back of the crowd.
"The famous Kenshin Himura, the one once known as the Batosai?" the kid asked.
"Yes, why do you ask?" the officer worked his way through the crowd to stand near the kid, who decided to throw back his hood.
"He's a she!" Sano said rather loudly, pointing in surprise.
"Of course she is!" Kaoru smacked Sano over the head. They felt eyes on them and saw the kid politely staring at them.
"Why do you ask?" the officer reiterated.
"I once knew the Batosai. He most likely does not recognize me now, though. I would like to meet him again, soon. Is that him there?" The kid pointed to Kenshin. The officer nodded. "Thank you for your help." The girl nodded politely and weaved through the crowd, putting her hood back up.
Later that afternoon, Kenshin and the others were back in the dojo and a polite, quiet knock sounded at the door. Sano stood and went to open it and found the girl from the store standing there, her hood thrown back and a scar on her face vivid. Up close she was as tall as Sano.
"May I speak to Kenshin Himura?" she asked politely.
"One sec." Sano turned towards the inside of the dojo, "Hey Kenshin, you've got a visitor! It's the girl who stopped that robber earlier!" Kenshin came to the door, followed by Yahiko and Kaoru.
"Yes?" Kenshin politely asked.
"I believe I was once a pupil of yours, Sensei Himura." The girl told him and all three eavesdroppers, Kaoru, Yahiko, and Sano, fell back in surprise.
"I only ever had one student, and although she did call me Sensei Himura, I have heard that she died years back, that I have." Kenshin told her solemnly.
"I did not, Sensei Himura. I made some bad choices and decided to drop out of the public eye, like I hear you have, but I am still alive." She told him. Kaoru, Yahiko, and Sano were avidly listening.
"What is your name then?" Kenshin asked.
"I am Erno."
"I have not heard that name in years, but it is my student's. One more question, what did I always call Erno?"
"Do I have to answer this loud enough for your friends to hear?" she asked, blushing.
"Alright. You called me 'Little Sword Master.' Or sometimes 'Little Blade Master'." Erno looked very embarrassed. She glanced down at her feet and then up into Kenshin's now inviting face. He was smiling gently and Erno's face practically split in half with a grin.
"You don't have to be ashamed of your nickname, you earned it." Kenshin told her and led her into the dojo.
"I am ashamed of it because it reminds me of a much harsher nickname I earned." Erno glanced at her feet again.
"What was that?" Kenshin asked.
"Slayer." Erno whispered the name as if it were poison.
"Why was it only 'Slayer'?" Kenshin asked, worried.
"Because at that time you had become famous even in my country and they did not want to give anyone the same name as you." Erno explained.
"Oh. That is almost good to hear."
"Why?" Kaoru demanded. "This girl can't be too much older than Yahiko!"
"She and I both knew that I wanted to know if she earned it by killing women and children." Kenshin explained.
"She's still a child." Sano protested.
"No one who has gone through what I have can be considered a child." Erno told him softly.
"What is that?" Kenshin asked. Erno glanced nervously at the trio of eavesdroppers. "We can go in my room and talk." Kenshin assured her. They went in and Erno sat down while Kenshin warned his friends, "I don't want any of you listening. She's gone through a lot, that she has. In her eyes only someone who's been through much the same can ever understand. If she wants you to know, you will eventually." The three of them left dejectedly.
Kenshin turned to his former pupil and asked, "So, what did you mean?"
Erno took a deep breath and went on without hesitation. "After I left I went back to my country to help in the war. As you know I was only about eight at the time. The war lasted a year and I ended up killing more than any one person on either of the sides. That is sickening, the commanders kept count. And what is even more disturbing is that I killed hundreds more where the commanders could not see. I killed men as they pleaded for me to spare them. I killed them when they had their guard down, after they would literally dare me to take my best try. I even killed an entire regiment while they were still asleep. Still asleep!" Erno's voice broke and she began to cry silently. Kenshin embraced her tightly to his chest and cried with her. He recalled having doing much the same in the revolution.
When Erno finally looked up she continued, "My fame as a swordswoman grew and many challenged me. None were a match but one. He came to challenge me near the end of the war and he gave me this scar." She traced the scar; it went from her hairline above her left eye to across the righter most part of her right eyebrow to right above her right ear, a little nick was even missing from her ear. "After we won the war I decided to wander around and I even let my sword grow dull so that I would not be able to kill with it anymore. What really made me decide to change was when I met others like your friends here, except in my country. They taught me to read and write and all sorts of things, but the real lesson came from the twin toddlers. They were eager to learn and although their parents had died when they were young, they were wonderful children they did what their two guardians told them to and what I told them to and even what my friend Rin told them to. But I had to make it publicly known that I was leaving. To become a shadow. Several times people tried to kill them, and all were failed because either another or I saved them. The straw that broke the camel's back was when I was not fast enough to save one of the twins. He was killed and I could have stopped it, had I been fast enough. I remember holding him after he died, so young, so small. I hugged him and got covered in blood and cried hysterically and Rin tried to get me to let go, but I would not and when I finally did, I slept for a week. That was when I decided to leave. It was a year ago and I came to Japan in hopes that I may meet you again. Although I sincerely doubted it." When Erno finished she was staring at the floor.
Kenshin gently lifted her chin so that they were looking into each other's eyes, "I'm glad you found me, that I am."
After a few awkward minutes Erno asked, "What should I do with my sword. I see you still have one, but there is no way that a broad sword can be made safe."
"I could ask for a reverse blade sword like mine to be made for you." Kenshin suggested.
"You would do that? I have money to pay for it of course." Erno grinned at Kenshin, "Thank you, Sensei Himura." Erno unbuckled her sword belt and looked around as if wondering where to discard her sword. Kenshin held out his hand to see the sword and Erno handed it to him. He unsheathed it and found that it was dull and nicked, but otherwise in good condition.
"Follow me." he told her and stood to leave. She followed and he led her to the river. He handed her the sword and told her, "If you wish, cast it in." she glanced around and saw three pairs of suspicious eyes behind a tree.
"You three may come out to get a clear view of this." She told the eavesdroppers. They nervously came out from behind the tree and Kenshin shook his head. Erno turned to the river and threw the sword into the exact middle.
"Bravo, little missy." Sano congratulated.
"I thought you called me 'missy'." Kaoru told him indignantly.
"I do you're 'missy' and she's 'little missy'." Sano shrugged.
"At least I don't have a goofy nickname." Yahiko sounded relived.
"Are you sure about that, little Yahiko?" Kaoru asked.
"DON'T CALL ME LITTLE!" Yahiko yelled. Everyone but Erno and Yahiko laughed.
"What's wrong?" Kenshin asked Erno.
"I … don't like to get too attached to people. So if you don't mind, Sensei Himura, I would like to stay only for the reverse blade sword you said that you would try to get me. I will gladly pay for it, though. And also for room and board." Kaoru and Sano had stopped picking on Yahiko enough for them to hear the conversation. Kenshin looked unsure of what to do.
Finally, though, he asked Erno, "You still respect me as a teacher, correct?" Erno nodded and he continued, "Good. Then as your teacher I command you to remain here for at least until you get to know my friends. They're good people and you can't stay away from any human relationship forever. Time to start back on the road to making friends again." Erno looked surprised. She soon regained her composure and nodded.
As they walked back to the dojo Erno reminded Kenshin, "You have not introduced me to your friends."
"These are Yahiko, Sano, and Miss. Kaoru. Everyone this is Erno." Kenshin introduced. Erno nodded to each of them in turn as Kenshin added, "the others are visiting relatives, all except for Miss. Magumi."
The three adults started to talk and Yahiko asked Erno, "Can you really use a sword as well as Kenshin has made out you can?"
"I am not sure what you mean."
"He's gonna ask the blacksmith to make you your own reverse blade sword! You've gotta be good."
"I guess I am. I never really thought of it that way, not since after I left my own country." Erno shrugged.
Kenshin remarked over his shoulder, "It's not her skill, it's that she knows what to do with it."
"I still wanna see how good she is." Yahiko pouted.
The next morning when Erno woke up Kenshin had already left for the blacksmith and Yahiko was waiting outside the room Kaoru had let her have.
"Erno, I want to see your skill in a fight. Just for fun." Yahiko told her.
"No." she refused as she rubbed her eyes and started towards the kitchen.
"Yes." Yahiko protested.
"When Sensei Himura gets back and if he says that is all right, then maybe." Erno reasoned.
"Oh alright." Yahiko pouted. He and Erno walked into the kitchen and she asked, " Good morning Miss. Kaoru, what is that lovely smelling food?"
Kaoru didn't answer but instead remarked, "It really is nice that there's someone else around that has manners."
"I think she's just imitating Kenshin." Sano retorted.
"She was polite already." Kaoru argued. The two of them fought over it so roughly that Erno ended up scampering out of the kitchen and running right into Kenshin.
"I am so sorry, Sensei Himura." She told him.
"That's alright Erno. Why do you still call me that, anyway?"
"I grew up referring to you like that, it is hard to break a life long habit." Erno bit her lip, realizing that her words had a double meaning.
"What were you doing running away from the dojo like that?" Kenshin changed the subject.
"Sano and Miss. Kaoru were fighting." Erno told him.
"Over what?" Kenshin started walking towards the dojo, but away from the kitchen.
"Miss Kaoru remarked that she thinks that it is nice to have another person around with manners, after I referred to her as Miss. Kaoru. Sano thinks that I am just imitating you." Erno shrugged.
"What do you think, are you being polite, or imitating me?"
"A little of both. I want to be polite to your friends and you sound polite enough, giving the females a 'Miss.' Title, so I followed your example."
They walked a little ways when Erno spotted Yahiko. "Oh yes, Yahiko wants me to demonstrate my sword skills." She told Kenshin when Yahiko was within earshot.
"How?" Kenshin asked.
"In a sword battle with me!" Yahiko told them, tossing Erno a wooden sword.
"Should I?" she asked Kenshin.
"Go ahead. He needs to learn respect for women." Kaoru snapped from the doorway. Kenshin shrugged. Yahiko drew his sword and so did Erno. She waited for him to make the first move and when he did she spotted a weak point and used amazing sped to move in closer to Yahiko and disarmed him with a flick of her wrist. She stepped back and sheathed the wooden sword. She gave Yahiko a small bow and handed the wooden sword to Kaoru.
"How'd she get that good?" Yahiko asked.
"She was not nearly that good when we she left." Kenshin muttered, half to himself.
"Score one point for the women!" Kaoru cried blissfully.
"Erno wasn't even concentrating! How can she be so good?" Yahiko asked.
"I think she has a natural talent for swordsmanship." Sano shrugged.
"Where did she go?" Kenshin asked.
"Into the dojo somewhere. Why?" Kaoru asked. Kenshin didn't answer and instead went to look for Erno. She had been paying attention all right – but not to Yahiko, to something else. That made Kenshin very worried.
He found her near the entrance to the dojo, a cut on her arm and blood staining her tunic – she always wore a tunic and leggings so that she could have easier mobility. She had a note in her hand.
"What happened?" Kenshin asked worriedly.
"Someone came and tried an unusual technique on me, it didn't work and they snickered and gave this to me, telling me to give it to you. Then they turned to leave. But then they very quickly threw a ninja throwing star at me. I dodged enough that it didn't kill me, like I am sure they intended, but they did cut my arm. Any further away and they would have missed entirely. They referred to you as the Batosai." Erno told Kenshin with half her attention. The rest was concentrated on spotting any other intruders. She finally decided that there were none and handed the note in her hand to Kenshin. He opened it and read it.
I'm back, Batosai. This time my target will be more than just your woman. And also I have students who will be more than willing to help me.
Kenshin's hand shook as he read the note and he crumpled it up in hatred when he had read it several times.
"What's wrong, Sensei Himura?" she asked.
"An old enemy has come back." Kenshin told her. He turned and went inside the dojo. When he had left Erno fell on to her knees in pain and the realization of one fact, she couldn't feel or move her wounded arm.
Later that night Erno hid the extent of her injuries by not eating much and explaining it as her worry for Kenshin. The two of then had told Kaoru, Yahiko, and Sano what had happened. Except for Erno being injured. Kenshin seemed too preoccupied to notice her excluding it and that night Erno went to bed without having revealed her wound.
The next morning she awoke feverish and couldn't quite see straight. When she was late for breakfast Kenshin walked into her room and sat by her cot.
"They just told me that you didn't eat much last night. That doesn't sound like you at all, that is does not." Kenshin told her softly.
"I was worried about you. The note seemed to disturb you." Erno replied.
"Come, get out of bed and come eat breakfast with us." Kenshin told her, standing. She threw aside her blanket and stood, then almost immediately staggered to her knees, catching herself with her uninjured arm.
"Erno, are you alright?" Kenshin asked worriedly.
"I am fine, Sensei Himura." She assured him, her wounded arm held close to her body. Realization dawned on Kenshin.
"You never told them about your injury, did you?" he asked, helping her back to the bed.
"I am fine. It is only a tiny scratch." She didn't really answer him.
"Did you or didn't you tell them?" Kenshin asked, his voice rising slightly.
"I did not." Erno admitted.
"And I didn't notice. How stupid of me!" Kenshin turned and called to Kaoru, "Miss Kaoru, get Miss Magumi, I think Erno's been poisoned!"
"What, how?" Kaoru ran into the room.
"It seems that she was injured yesterday by that person and didn't tell anyone. I had known about it but was too stupid to remember." Kenshin had a hint of shame in his voice. He looked at Erno desperately, as if it were his fault that she got wounded. Kaoru left to get Magumi and Yahiko and Sano ran into the room.
"What happened?" Yahiko asked. Kenshin explained the situation.
When Magumi arrived she asked Erno, "Can you move your arm?" Erno shook her head. Magumi asked, "Can you feel it?" Again Erno shook her head. "For how long have you not been able to feel your arm?" Magumi asked, unpacking her supply bag.
"Yesterday, right after I got wounded." Erno managed to tell say right before she threw up.
"How long ago did she get wounded?" Magumi asked Kenshin.
"Almost twenty four hours ago." Kenshin's voice held anger and he left the room to cool off.
"What's the matter with Sir Ken?" Magumi asked, using her fond nickname for Kenshin.
"He thinks it is his fault. He always thinks it is his fault." Erno answered, wiping her mouth off with her sleeve. Magumi instructed Sano and Yahiko to go get her supplies and to always knock before coming in.
"Why?" Sano asked.
"Because this won't be pretty." Was all the answer Magumi would give.
While that was going on Kenshin stood outside of Erno's room and he, like Erno suggested, thought her getting poisoned was his fault.
Yahiko and Sano ran out of the room and closed the door, not noticing Kenshin. At one point when all of the supplies Magumi needed were in the room and all three of the males were outside, they heard a piercing scream. Kenshin stared for the door and it took both Sano and Yahiko to make sure he didn't just barge in.
"They could have her shirt off or something." Sano warned.
When Kenshin finally sat down he told them, "The bond between a master and student is something special. Especially when there is only one student. If I ever have children, I imagine how I love Erno is how I would love them. I just can't stand by and wait while she could be dying!" Kenshin pounded his fists into the floor. Suddenly the door opened and Magumi stepped out, wiping her hands on a cloth.
"Erno will be just fine." She assured Kenshin, "She's awake now, but she will be too weak to get out of bed for some time."
"Can I go in and talk?" Kenshin asked, standing.
"Of course." Magumi nodded. Kenshin rushed in to see Erno staring at the ceiling, looking a little bored and impatient. When she saw Kenshin out of the corner of her eye, though, she sat up and looked at him with a grin. He sat down next to her cot and asked, "Are you alright, when I heard that scream …"
"I am fine. For a moment, though, my arm was in immense pain." Erno assured him and then waved the arm that had been immobile only a few hours before. "Good as new. I am tired though."
"Well then I won't keep you up, go to sleep." He stood and walked out, followed by Kaoru. Magumi met him just outside Erno's room.
"She's very polite. Where'd you meet her?" She asked.
"Several years ago she was my one and only ever student." Kenshin replied.
Two days later Erno was still confined to bed and was dozing peacefully when a slight sound awoke her. She knew that the others were out shopping and it wasn't any of them. She quickly opened her eyes and looked around her room. She didn't see anything and closed her eyes again – her body relaxed, but her mind wide awake and alert. Suddenly she heard the noise again and her eyes popped open to see the same man who'd poisoned her several days prior sanding over her, a staff in his hand. Before she could react he hit her in the forehead, knocking her out.
When Kenshin and the others returned, Kenshin knew there was something wrong. He tightly gripped both his own sword and the one he'd just picked up for Erno. It took all of his patience not to go running to Erno's room and check on her, but he managed to walk calmly towards it. When he got there the door was ajar. He then abandoned all dignity and ran into the room to find the bed empty except for a note in what was definitely not Erno's handwriting. He read it, knowing the contents would not be good.
I have taken your pupil hostage and if you come to fight me I may free her. If not you will have to kill me for my pupils to reveal where she is hidden. I will be waiting at midnight tonight where we last fought and if you do not show up, I will kill the girl.
Kaoru read the note over his shoulder and softly asked, "What will you do?"
"I have to save Erno somehow. I will go, but only in hopes that he will have her there." Kenshin answered.
Erno slowly woke up to find herself in an abandoned warehouse. She moved her arms and legs to find them tied and felt a gag over her mouth. She suddenly remembered the man and struggled to get free.
"It is no use, girl." A chilling voice told her. "I will kill your master tonight and perhaps make you watch it. Although my specialty does not work on you there are other ways to make you still." He observed. She had gone still when the voice started to talk about Kenshin. The man went on, "No I will leave you here to wonder if the next person to open this door will be me or your master the Batosai." The man left and gave instructions to someone to watch the door and added his destination. Erno had spent long enough in Tokyo to know where it was and she began to plan her escape.
Kenshin had decided to take with him both his sword and Erno's, just in case. It was close to midnight and he was waiting at the spot. He could not see anyone anywhere except his friends behind him. They had insisted to come in case they were needed. Kenshin had refused to take them, but all of them knew what spot the note had meant and would have come anyway. The atmosphere tense, they waited.
Erno had been struggling with the ropes for many hours now and so far her only rewards were bleeding wrists. Finally the ropes on her wrists snapped and she untied her feet and the gag and set about to finding a way to knocking the guard unconscious. She noticed the ropes and lifted them. They were heavy and some of them had the ends weighed down with her blood. She tied a complicated knot in the end of one and decided that it would make a good weapon.
Then she waited till the guard had his back turned to her and the building and whirled the rope around her head and smacked it down hard on his head. The guard fell unconscious and Erno broke into a run to get to the spot where Kenshin would fight this unknown man. She glanced at the dark night sky, hoping that it was not too late.
At the moment that she was wondering that, Jine and his students showed up at the spot.
"I'm glad you came, Batosai." Jine told Kenshin.
"Where is the girl?" Kenshin asked, a frightening look in his eyes.
"Somewhere safe, I assure you." Jine taunted.
"If you have harmed one hair on her head …" At a look from Kenshin Sano trailed off, not finishing his threat.
"I want to fight the Batosai, and he alone." Jine bargained, "If he wins you get to know where the girl is. If he is defeated, I will kill all of you and the girl." He lunged at Kenshin, who blocked. There was a fierce light in Kenshin's eyes, but not that of the Batosai. He and Jine fought for some time, Jine wounding Kenshin may times and Kenshin barely scratching Jine.
Finally Jine knocked the reverse blade sword out of Kenshin's grasp and tripped him. Kenshin lay on the ground with Jine's blade tip against his throat. Jine pulled back his sword to kill Kenshin and thrust it downward but it never touched Kenshin. A thick rope wrapped itself around the sword, diverting it from its path and burying the point deep in the ground. Kenshin leaped up and grabbed the reverse blade sword and the rope unwound from around Jine's sword. Finally Erno seemed to appear out of nowhere next to Kenshin, a thick rope a blur as she spun it.
"Erno?" he asked, surprised.
"Yes, Sensei Himura?" she asked in return.
"The others have something I got for you at the market, it may help in this fight." Kenshin told her quietly. Erno nodded and seemed to disappear and reappear next to Sano. She let the rope slow down and stop its spinning as she said, "Sensei Himura told me that you have one of my possessions, I believe it is brand new." Sano handed her the reverse blade sword that Kenshin had gotten her and she put it on, dropped the rope, drew the sword, and used her amazing speed to run to Kenshin's side.
"Do you like it?" Kenshin asked under his breath as Jine's group of student's moved in towards them.
"It is wonderful. I will be glad to pay for it." Erno answered and pressed her back against Kenshin's back, a basic defensive maneuver.
"No need, think of it as a present, from master to pupil. Or from friend to friend." Kenshin told her.
"Wait!" Jine yelled at his students, who were just about to strike. "I will finish them both off!"
"I see he finally got his sword out of the ground." Sano muttered.
"I will fight you in my master's stead." Erno told Jine.
"You, a girl? And weakened by my poison? Ha, you would be no match for me!" Jine told her.
"Then why do you not accept?" Erno asked with a mocking grin. Jine charged at her and she easily blocked it. Again and again their swords met, Jine fighting harder and harder to get an advantage over Erno and Erno wasn't even sweating yet.
After a while Erno went on the offensive. She knocked the sword out of Jine's grip and hit him with the hilt of her sword at the base of his neck, knocking him out.
"Good job, little missy!" Sano exclaimed.
"Well done!" Kaoru clapped her hands together.
"Hooray for Erno!" Yahiko shouted.
"Don't celebrate yet, we still have Jine's students to deal with." Kenshin reminded them. He and Sano and Erno stood back to back with each other and fought Jine's students until all were unconscious or had run away.
"You have improved much, Erno, that you have." Kenshin told her.
"Thank you, Sensei Himura." She bowed to him and when she straightened he was inspecting the rope that she'd used as a weapon earlier.
"Why do the ends have so much dry blood?" he asked.
"I … um …" Erno pushed back the sleeves of her tunic to reveal her bloody wrists. "They had the rope tied tight around my wrists and when I escaped, this happened."
Kenshin worriedly inspected her wrists and told her, "Miss Magumi will have a fit when she finds out how active you've been, that she will."
"Actually, Kenshin, she'll blame it on you." Sano informed him. They started walking home.
"Why me?" Kenshin asked.
"Because you were the one who taught Erno however long ago you did and she'll say that Erno picked up bad habits from you." Kaoru told him.
When they got back everyone went back to bed. But Kenshin stayed up, thinking about how he had not heard his former pupil laugh once. Sure, she seemed happy enough, but her past seemed to haunt her worse than it had ever haunted Kenshin. And he wondered what had happened to make her act that way. Or even what was still happening.
* How'd you like it? I want reviews please! Criticism will be noted and most likely ignored. Self-contradicting, aren't I? Tell me if I should dive deeper into Erno's past than she'd like to, or should I just leave her past alone and have something odd happening in the present. Or both perhaps? Really, eventually I will make a humor story, eventually. Carpe Diem! *