Author-chan's notes: Hey everyone! Thanks for all the reviews! Never again am I going to make you all try to guess who characters are…Never…But anyway, brownie points for everyone!
Like Father Like Son
(Chapter Thirty-five: Haunting)
Chizuru felt sick. Her father, the man she had been running from ever since her marriage to Kenji, was here in Tokyo. How did he find her?
And more importantly, how could she get away from him?
Her father, Raikoji Shurrai, was exactly as Chizuru remembered him. Gruff, commanding, and stubborn, the traits inherent in him had mapped themselves out on his face. While he was not a tall man (nonetheless, he was taller than any of the Himura family) he had a presence around him that commanded respect and fear despite his age. Even now Chizuru felt it, the stifling air that threatened to choke her with the laws and regulations of the Raikoji clan.
Besides Yamaguchi-san, the man history had named Saito Hajime, Chizuru could not remember any other person having left the family like she had. And Yamaguchi-san, unlike her, did not come from the main branch of the Raikoji family. In hindsight, Chizuru realized it was foolish of her to believe that she and her family would ever truly escape from the Raikoji clan.
"Chichi-ue," Chizuru said stiffly, "Perhaps we should continue this conversation, if you deem to call it that, elsewhere?"
"My thoughts exactly," Shurrai agreed, gesturing towards the exit of the clothing shop, "After you, daughter, grandson."
"Kaa-san?" Sasuke inquired, glancing over to his mother. She simply nodded grimly.
"My home is nearby," Shurrai commented as the trio left the bustling Tokyo marketplace.
"We will not be going there," Chizuru all but growled.
"Still so stubborn," Shurrai grumbled.
"I will not have you commanding my life any longer, Chichi-ue!" Chizuru hissed, "Not mine or that of my family's!"
"Did you not think we were worried, Chizuru?" Shurrai growled back, "Your mother, the rest of the family…"
Chizuru laughed harshly, a crow's sound, "Don't lie to me. No one cared that much about me…Whatever it was that the clan was engrossed with, it was important enough for you not to care about me as a daughter. I, like the rest of the clan, were prisoners. You were afraid of what we would speak of to those in the outside world!"
"Kaa-san!" Sasuke yelped in alarm, feeling even more out of the loop than ever.
"I had to get away," Chizuru murmured, not speaking to the men in front of her as she was speaking to herself, "There was a sense of wrongness there. I never belonged there, I belonged elsewhere. And now that I have finally found the place that I am meant to be, you try to take it away from me, Chichi-ue?"
"No one is to leave the clan," her father replied in those stiff formal tones, like ceremonial wood, "It is tradition."
"Then, tradition be damned!" Sasuke yelled for his mother.
Shurrai raised an eyebrow at his formerly quiet grandchild. Sasuke glared at him.
"Our family has never been traditional," Sasuke proclaimed proudly, staring the stranger who was his mother's father down, "There are none of the traditional customs or rules. Not everyone in our family is tied together in blood, but what ties us is even more precious. We are not bound by rules or tradition; we are bound by something much stronger than that! And, from what I see, you are trying to break that bond between Kaa-san and the rest of us."
There was silence then.
"…You must have quite the little family then, Chizuru," Shurrai said quietly.
"Yes," Chizuru nodded. Shurrai frowned.
"Well, are you going to introduce us?" Shurrai asked, raising an eyebrow. Chizuru blinked.
"Oro?" Sasuke looked questioningly at his mother.
"Oh, h-hai," Chizuru blushed, looking between her father and son, "Chichi-ue, this is my son, Sasuke. Sasuke, this is my father, Raikoji Shurrai."
"Hajimemashite," Sasuke bowed politely, all traces of former anger gone. Shurrai returned the bow.
Outside of Tokyo
Kenshin groaned as he reached for another handful of water to cool his overheated body. Some things never changed, and one of those things was the taskmaster nature of Hiko Seijuuro the Thirteenth. Luckily, the training was over for today, and, other than his exhaustion, there was no other outward sign that Kenshin was training, no bruises, cuts, etc. His family would never suspect a thing.
"Ready to go, anata?"
Kenshin blinked up at the smiling spectral face of his wife and nodded.
"Let sessha change first and give back the training sword to shishou, Kaoru-dono," Kenshin murmured, already digging through the bag he brought with him, "Then we can go, de gozaru."
"Hai," Kaoru nodded, sitting down to wait, "Do you want to go anywhere?"
"Well, you and Hiko finished early today," Kaoru rushed to explain, "I thought, maybe, we could take a walk by the river or…"
"A walk would be nice, Kaoru-dono," Kenshin smiled radiantly.
It was rare, Kenshin reflected, fifteen minutes later as the couple walked by the river, that he and Kaoru were able to simply be together. More often than not, there was always something that interrupted them, between hiding from Kenji and their other living friends and the mad stunts of the PBKB. Or perhaps it only felt that way.
Kenshin had to admit, going through the teen years was just as difficult as it was the first time (minus the whole Battousai part, of course). Kenshin found himself having a harder time keeping a lid on all of his emotions at times, just as he did in his first time being a teen. He was a little more moody as well as a little more reckless. He found himself much more possessive, even, no, especially when it came to Kaoru. For some reason this caused much hilarity among the PBKB who seemed to try to divert Kaoru's attention on purpose just to see the steam coming out of "Battou-chan's" ears.
Kenshin suspected that the only reason why he didn't turn completely into a moody teen and start biting off everyone's heads was because he knew what to expect. He also had a family this time around and solid friends (both living and dead) who helped him cope. Though one part of his mind did toy with the idea the reason why he didn't really blow his fluffy red top was because Saito was nowhere in sight.
At the moment, Kenshin and Kaoru looked exactly like a teenaged couple on their first date walking along the riverside. Or at least they would have, had Kaoru been visible to most human eyes. The redhead blushed, glancing over at his wife. She, like him, appeared to be in her teenaged years, regardless of their true age. But, unlike him, she didn't have to worry about puberty. At the moment, she was dressed in a dark blue kimono imprinted with white jasmines that Kenshin distinctly remembered buying for her when they were alive. Kenshin's blush darkened as he thought about how lovely his wife looked.
"It's a nice day, isn't it, Shinta?" Kaoru murmured, smiling softly.
"Hai," he nodded, paying closer attention to his wife's curvy form rather than the nature around them.
Hey, he was only fifteen.
…Well, in body at least.
"We should have a picnic," Kaoru continued, oblivious to the goofy expression on her husband's face as well as ignoring the fact that she couldn't eat.
"Alone, maybe, de gozaru ka?" Kenshin suggested hopefully. Kaoru laughed.
"Hai," Kaoru nodded, "But we n…"
Kaoru's voice suddenly trailed off.
"Kaoru-dono?" Kenshin murmured, suddenly very alert. There was something wrong. Something in the air…
"KYAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!" Kaoru cried out, shielding her face, as the air was suddenly filled with fluttering papers.
"KAORU!" Kenshin yelled, wincing slightly as some of the paper touched his arm. Growling slightly, Kenshin's arm darted out, quick as a snake, to snatch one of the sheets from the air.
His eyes widened with recognition. "Ofuda! Kaoru, get out of here!"
"I can't!" Kaoru replied, her voice filled with pain. Kenshin cursed, realizing there must be a binding spell in place.
Ofuda, warding papers, one of the few things in this world that could harm spirits. Unlike when he was in his nine-year-old body, Kenshin felt nothing more than mild discomfort around ofuda having been able to build up a tolerance over the years. Kaoru, on the other hand, had no such protection.
Pulling out his bokken, the only weapon he had as a Kamiya Kasshin practitioner, Kenshin used the wooden sword to sweep the papers away from Kaoru, frustrated he couldn't slice the sheets to bits with the metal practice sword he left with Hiko. Glancing over at his wife, Kenshin saw that her form had become more transparent, an indication that the wards were trying to banish her to the Spirit World.
Finally, the onslaught of ofuda ceased, the ink sheets fluttering to the ground.
"Daijoubu, de gozaru ka?" Kenshin asked Kaoru, his body still tense for another attack.
"D-Daijoubu," Kaoru answered shakily.
Both Kenshin and Kaoru whipped their heads to the left to see a newcomer standing a few feet away. The stranger was dressed in the traditional haori and hakama of a Shinto priest and appeared to be in his mid-thirties. Prayer beads hung from his left hand while a set of ofuda were clutched in his right.
"Exorcist," Kenshin hissed under his breath, his eyes fading into a steel blue. This was the first time he or Kaoru had come across one numbered among the greatest enemies of the dead.
"Young man," The priest began in a gentle tone as he came closer to the couple, "Please be on your way. You may not realize it, but you have interfered with an exorcism."
"Iie, I'm staying here," Kenshin replied coolly.
The priest raised an eyebrow. "Do you realize what you are doing? There is a spirit here that must be sent to the Afterlife. A spirit is much happier there than here in the world of the living."
"Hey, now wait a minute!" Kaoru growled, entering the conversation, "Who said I wanted to go? I still have things to do here. So leave me alone!"
"You heard her, sir," Kenshin said, using the barest amount of politeness, to the priest, "Please leave."
"You can hear spirits?" the priest gaped, utterly surprised, "A fellow spiritualist, siding with the dead? All spiritualists should know that the dead must be sent where they belong. They'll be happier there."
Kenshin and Kaoru resisted the urge to snort.
"Have you ever been to the Spirit World, sir?" Kenshin asked tightly, standing protectively close to Kaoru.
"Of course not."
"Well then, you have no idea how boring it is," Kaoru huffed. Kenshin nodded in agreement. Before Shinigami brought him back from the dead, Kenshin visited the Spirit World a few times. It was a very gray world with nothing remotely interesting other than a library and a log to sit on. It was no wonder that the PBKB spent so much time following Kenshin around.
"Don't be foolish!" the priest scoffed, "The Afterlife –"
"Is the most boring place in existence," Kaoru finished for him, "Now, please be on your way. Before you so rudely interrupted, my husband and I were in the middle of a conversation."
"Husband?" the priest blinked before his face turned hard, "I see."
"Oro?" Kenshin blinked in confusion. The priest's aura turned dark.
"You…" the priest whispered, a hint of a growl in his voice, "You possessed that young man, didn't you?"
"Leave this plane at once, foul demon!" the priest roared as the air was suddenly filled again with ofuda.
"Now wait!" Kaoru yelped.
The priest ignored her, "DIE!"
One minute later
"Mou!" Kaoru huffed, "Calm down, anata! I think he gets the point by now."
Kenshin grumbled before smacking the already bruised up priest on the head with his bokken for the fifth time.
"Scary…" the priest whimpered, staring up at his tormentor's golden eyes before fainting.
"Daijoubu, Kaoru-dono?" Kenshin asked, the Rurouni persona quickly wrapping around his form as soon as he was sure the priest was out cold.
"I'm fine," Kaoru sighed, "Really, Shinta, you didn't have to hit him so much. I'm pretty sure he now knows that he should stop harassing innocent ghosts."
"He hurt you," Kenshin replied stubbornly, not caring that he sounded like a pouting teen. Kaoru shook her head with a wistful smile.
"Your possessive instinct is getting the best of you again, isn't it?" Kaoru sighed, "Really, I can't wait until you turn twenty and gain back the rest of your sanity."
"Oro?" Kenshin blinked innocently, giving her his best innocent kitten in the rain impression. Kaoru laughed.
"Kenji rubbed off on you."
"Sessha is not quite sure it was Kenji," Kenshin teased, smiling lightly, "Perhaps sessha's lovely wife a hand or two in it…"
"Mou!" Kaoru huffed, swatting her husband's shoulder, "Shinta no baka!"
After that, their relaxing walk continued without a hitch.
"It appears you were correct, Kasa-san" Seta Seishiro murmured quietly as he watched Kenshin and Kaoru walk off from his hiding spot in the trees.
"I told you so," his partner, Kasa, growled, "That girl has always been Battousai's weakness. He would do anything for her."
"Hmm," Seishiro murmured noncommittally, "So it is official then?"
"Yare, yare," Seishiro sighed, "Enma-sama will be pleased. I suppose this means we have to go dig up those urns then…"
"Just don't get caught kid," Kasa grinned before fading to the shadows.
"Nani?.!" Seishiro protested, pouting like a child, "Don't tell me you are going to leave me with the all work!"
When Kasa didn't answer, Seishiro sighed, giving up. If the job wasn't bloody, Kasa left him to do it all. Giving barely a backwards glance at the unconscious exorcist, Seishiro let his form fade away, leaving nothing but a cawing crow to wing its way across the sky.
The Kamiya dojo
Chizuru and Shurrai sat across from each other as Sasuke prepared them tea. Shurrai had convinced his daughter that since she flat out refused to join him at his house, they would go to hers to talk things over. Even in the safety of her own home, Chizuru still felt the tension between her and her father. The only thing that brought her comfort was the fact that neither Kenji (who had gone out with the Shinomori family) nor Kenichi were at the dojo at the time. She already disliked the fact that Shurrai knew about Sasuke to use against her. If her ultra conservative father ever found out about her two redheaded relatives he would start ranting about demons.
"Humph," Shurrai snorted, looking around at his surroundings, "A dojo, Chizuru?"
"My husband is the owner and head instructor," Chizuru explained calmly, pride apparent in her voice, as Sasuke set out cups of tea in front of his predecessors. Chizuru smirked when Shurrai choked on his first sip of tea. Didn't he know, unless it was made by Kenichi, all tea in the Himura household was to be admired for its looks not its taste?
She hoped he got food poisoning.
"You could have done better than this, Chizuru," Shurrai huffed, shoving his tea aside, "If you had only listened to me and not run away. That was your problem: you never listened to your elders."
"I thought you were here to explain why you are looking for me, not lecture me!" Chizuru hissed, "I am not a child anymore, Chichi-ue! And I married out of the family; you have no control over me!"
"That's where you are wrong, Chizuru," Shurrai said, a hint of ice in his voice.
"Explain," Sasuke demanded as he took a set on his mother's right hand to give her support.
"Fair enough," Shurrai shrugged, "Tell me, children, what do you know of spirits?"
Outside the door, listening to the trio's conversation, a small group of PBKB gathered around a crack in the door unseen.
"Kami-sama!" Takumi hissed to the others, "Do you know who that is?.!"
"We're not stupid, Takumi-kun," Kiyosato whispered fearfully back, "We've all been dead for at least forty years."
"That's Raikoji Shurrai!" Kaito yelped, his ghostly face even paler than usual, "The infamous medium! He's banished at least one-hundred spirits in the last five years alone! He's a legend!"
"Not so loud, ahou!" Takumi growled, smacking Kaito's detached head, "Do you want him to hear us?"
"We are so dead, we are so dead, we are so dead," Kaito mumbled under his breath.
"You don't say…"
"Don't you think that Battousai-san should know about this?" Hideki the ninja pointed out calmly, "He is, in a way, related to Raikoji-san."
There was a long pregnant pause.
"How the hell can you be calm at a time like this?.!" Kaito yelled loudly.
"Who's there?.!" Shurrai roared, throwing open the fusuma to reveal the ghosts.
"Kaito, you moron, he heard us!"
"Scatter, scatter, scatter!"
"Stop right there!"
"Move, move, move!"
There was a flurry of spectral limbs, spirits diving through walls, and ofuda everywhere. Finally when the chaos died down, all the PBKB had escaped.
Chizuru burst into the hall, her face flushed, "Chichi-ue, what on earth is going…"
Her voice trailed off as she stared wide-eyed at the unconscious transparent man her father had caught with a rope of prayer beads.
"Kami-sama!" whispered Sasuke who had come up behind his mother.
"Do you see now, Chizuru?" Shurrai began softly, gesturing to the ghost he had caught, "This is our family business. We are spiritualists, the secret society that protects our country from unseen forces. Now do you realize why no one must leave the clan? We do not have enough people with the gift to fight these beings for anyone from the clan to leave us. You and your son need training. If it wasn't for the spells I put in place, you wouldn't be able to even see spirits without training."
"That's not true."
Chizuru and Shurrai looked at Sasuke, confusion stamped on their features.
"What's not true?"
"Not being able to see spirits without training," Sasuke answered, shrugging slightly, "I've been seeing them since I was nine. They were blurry, yes, and I couldn't hear their voices very well, but I could see them."
"Truly?" Shurrai whispered, looking excited. Sasuke nodded.
"Why didn't you tell your father or me sooner?" Chizuru asked, confused.
"I told Tou-san once, a long time ago," Sasuke shrugged, "He just seemed to get more worried, and I didn't want to worry him. So I never brought it back up."
"Amazing," Shurrai murmured, "So powerful at such an age…"
"Wait," Sasuke blinked, "What are you going to do with that spirit?"
"Banish it, of course," Shurrai answered, "Though, seeing that it is a cursed spirit, it will be extremely difficult."
"You shouldn't be so hasty!" Chizuru protested, "You shouldn't banish him! He hasn't done anything."
"It is here, isn't it?" Shurrai huffed gesturing to the knocked-out ghost.
"Kaa-san is right," Sasuke said stubbornly, "This spirit hasn't done anything wrong. Why should he be punished?"
"Spirits who roam the Land of the Living have already committed a crime against the natural order!" Shurrai hissed.
"Well, there must be a good reason for that!" Sasuke shot back, "No one does anything for no reason."
"You don't understand," Shurrai growled.
"Then educate me."
Chizuru shivered, unable to help but think that somehow Sasuke had sealed their fate.
Kaoru and Kenshin chatted cheerfully as they neared closer to the dojo, more relaxed now that they were away from the exorcist they had met earlier.
The couple looked up as they spotted Kiyosato rushing towards them. Kiyosato was rarely the most exuberant of the PBKB, so it was odd that he would be the so hasty to greet them.
"What's the matter?" Kaoru asked as her fellow spirit stopped in front of them.
"It's Chizuru-san," Kiyosato gasped out.
"Nani?" Kenshin asked, feeling a spike of protectiveness towards his mother/daughter-in-law, "What's wrong, de gozaru ka?"
"It's her father," Kiyosato struggled to explain, "He found her."
"Didn't Chizuru-chan run away from her family before she married Kenji?" Kaoru remembered.
"Hai," Kiyosato nodded, "For good reason. Her father is Raikoji Shurrai!"
"The spiritualist!" Kaoru gasped, recognizing the name instantly, "But he's so…"
"Precisely," Kiyosato nodded, "Already he's captured one of us PBKB."
"Who?" Kenshin growled, his hand reaching towards his bokken. His nerves had still not settled after that encounter with the exorcist earlier.
Author-chan's notes: FINALLY! This chapter was so hard to write… Everything was evil, evil, evil! Cries
I know this is a shameless plug, but please check out my new story "Skin and Bones". It's a bit of an experiment, so I'm nervous about how people will react to it.