A speculation on what Kenshin's thoughts might have been during a scene in Episode 77, ^_^

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Gentle Heart

Akai Kitsune


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"Sensei, Sutezo is being a bully-!"

I didn't pay him much attention at first; it was unusual of course, a child running towards the man who was well known in the town as Hitokiri Battousai, but the child himself was no one special. A crybaby, Sano called him, quick to break into tears and quick to strike out at those who tried to hurt him.

Then, he was given a name.

The world stopped.

Shinta.

A name I hadn't heard for a very long time; a name I had almost forgotten, until a meeting with my master in Kyoto reminded me of those days, nineteen years ago. A name that brought memories to my mind, memories of a childhood very different than the one that suddenly appeared before me.

As I watched him that day, helping my strange impersonator take care of the children flocking around his dojo, I felt something I wished I could force out of my mind: the sharp, wretched feeling of jealousy. Our lives had begun in a very similar way - families gone, killed by famine and war, left to fend for ourselves in a cruel, changing world.

The slavers found me.

Battousai found him.

I thought to myself then, shamefully - for I had regretted many things in my life, but never really the things I could not change - of how different things might have been if I had the chance to live in such a bright, hopeful situation. A family, even one as strange as this, to replace the one I lost. Someone to take care of me, to comfort my fears, to protect me from those who would hurt me. Someone to smile at me before I went to sleep and tell me to have a good night, that I would see them in the morning, that everything was right in the world even when it wasn't.

Because to a child who is fed, dressed, and loved, everything is right.

Even in war. Even in famine. Even with people dying all around you -

But everything wasn't right.

I didn't have that, then.

What would be different?

What would change?

I can barely remember my family. I was young when they died; too young to truly register what was happening to me. All I knew was that the world was shattering, falling to pieces around me one by one. A broken heart. A broken dream.

What sort of world do we live in where a child must wonder if he is cursed, that he is alive when everyone he loves is dead?

Shinta...

A girl's name, my father once quipped, his eyes playfully chiding. The name of a gentle-hearted person, my mother countered, favouring me with a smile.

Too delicate, shishou murmured, shaking his head in disapproval.

Everyone I love is dead.

I didn't cry that day. I don't know why, but I could not. When three girls were slaughtered right on front of my eyes, sacrificing their lives for me...

Everyone I love is gone.

I couldn't cry.

Everyone.

A gentle heart would have cried, wouldn't it?

Dead.

So I let Shinta die.

"Too delicate,", he said. And so I was.

Everyone I love is dead.

I didn't cry.

Yet on the night of my rescue, I could do nothing more than sob in the bed I was given in my master's house on the mountain.

I let myself cry when Shinta died.

The gentle-hearted person whom my mother loved, whom my father teased, eyes glowing with unspoken joy.

He died.




"He's a little crybaby," Sano said, a half-hearted scowl on his face. Sano was always scowling for some reason or other. Sometimes I wanted to tell him how much better things looked when you smiled, but such things never went right with him. He was too sensitive, and took my words the wrong way - though he would hit me if I said that as well...

"He's a strange one," he continued, shaking his head. "He sneaks around and cuffs the bigger ones when they're not lookin', then runs off crying to our Battousai friend when he gets himself into trouble."

"A child seeking attention," I murmured in response, not really knowing why. Sano watched me as I watched the boy, dashing off to his sensei once again. I could hear his tears, even from that distance.

"Sensei-!"

"Oi Shinta, what's the trouble now?"

My eyes softened, tucking my hands into my gi. "I think I can understand him, a little."

"Kenshin?"

I smiled at my friend, feigning innocence as Sano raised an eyebrow at me. "Well now, shall we go to the market to buy the supplies that 'Battousai' requested?"

I turned away, ignoring Sano's confused objections. The children were safe - they were safer with a false Battousai than they ever would be with the real thing. This Battousai had a gentle heart, one that would cry for their loss.

One day. I knew them for one day.

Isn't that enough?

Everyone I love is dead.

Maybe... maybe I should speak with the child before we leave this place,
I thought to myself, heading for the dojo gate where the name plate is hung, proudly announcing the name - my name - in bold kanji.

Just to tell him... just so he knows... how safe he is, with such a gentle heart, one who cries at the thought of loss.

And to tell him never to let go of his gentle heart, no matter what people might say.


Remember that.

A gentle heart never dies.


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I turned an episode I hate into a fanfic. Satisfied? :P

Seriously, though. I first thought of this when I saw Episode 77 which, in case you hadn't figured it out, was the second "false Battousai" episode. (The first technically being Gohei...) There is indeed a child among Ogawa's students named Shinta, and I often wondered what Kenshin might have thought about all this. True, he didn't show much in the TV series, but you never know what those writers are thinking, so maybe it never came to mind, ^_^;; (besides the fact that deep inner-angsting wouldn't really fit in a silly filler script...)

It didn't turn out exactly as planned, but nothing I write ever does, so I left it. There wasn't much planning involved for this one anyway. It was also inspired by a thread at the TFME Forum...

Akai Kitsune
Written November 2003