Hi! All characters belong to Shonen Jump and creator Nobuhiro Watsuki. Those three Sekihoutai members you don't recognize belong to me. I am not making any money off of this. The Sekihoutai was a military group that really existed.

The Mysterious Sword wielding Monk

Part One

By Maria Cline

The trees swayed in the wind as Sanosuke wandered down the path. His stomach growled as he looked around. "Stupid rabbit." He muttered. He was hunting with Katsu for some food for the Sekihoutai when he saw a rabbit and chased him. Now, he is lost, hungry, and feeling like an idiot.

Suddenly, he smelled something cooking. The delicious aroma meant that someone was close by and he didn't know anyone close by. "Captain!" He screamed as he ran through the brush and saw a lone man stirring a pot on a campfire. He was short with a tan bandana on his head, a white bandage on his left cheek and wearing brown shirt with white pants.

He looked up at him and smiled slightly. "Hello."

"Hi." Sanosuke drooled at the smell. He was so hungry and yet he can't just ask for food from this stranger.

"Are you hungry?" The man asked politely. "Do not worry, I can share with you."

The boy grinned as he came up and sat next to him. "Thank you so much! I'm hungry." The man reached into his sack and got out a coconut shaped bowl and poured some stew.

"What are you doing here alone?" The man asked softly. "Did you lose your parents?"

"Well... I was hunting with my best friend Katsu for the Sekihoutai and..." He blushed in embarrassment, "I got lost chasing a stupid rabbit."

The man smiled as he patted him on the head. "That is okay, when I was your age, I got lost myself. My master wouldn't let me forget about that for many years. So, you were with the Sekihoutai right?"

"Uh huh! I just joined them but they're great. We represent the government and make sure that everyone's equal in this new era!" Sanosuke gushed.

The man smiled again as his hands trembled. "That is good. Ah, forgive me, what is your name?"

"I'm Sanosuke! What's yours?"

The man paused as he looked down. Finally, he answered, "You can call me 'Shinta'. After we eat, we will put out the fire and look for your friends. They are no doubt worried about you. Do you know where they are?"

Sanosuke snorted. "If I know where they are, I wouldn't be lost."

"Of course."

*****

Kenshin couldn't help but admire the boy as they ate. This boy was bright, bold, and has this optimism that oozes off of him. It was reassuring to see someone so innocent despite the fact that he was working for the government.

He watched the boy scarf down the food at a hurried pace. "You really are hungry, aren't you?"

"Hmmm hmmm." Sanosuke nodded as he wiped his mouth on his sleeve.

Kenshin was nervous about helping this boy go back to his friends. Despite the fact that he shaved his head, covered his scar, and wields a harmless looking reverse-blade sword, he still runs a risk of being recognized by someone he served with. Still, he would not forgive himself if he just let a little boy run around lost. After their stomachs are full, Kenshin washed the dishes and extinguished the fire.

"Sanosuke-chan, do you remember anything about your campsite?" He asked politely.

Sanosuke glared at him. "Don't call me chan! I'm nine years old! I'm a big boy!"

Kenshin was stunned. By the looks of him, Sanosuke looked twelve. It was obvious that unlike the vertically challenged warrior, Sanosuke is destined to be tall. "A big boy who had gotten lost." Kenshin reminded.

The boy pouted and muttered, "Whatever."

*****

Sanosuke tapped his food impatiently. He and Shinta were supposed to be searching for his camp and this weird man was just kneeling on the ground. "What are you doing?"

"Looking for your camp, Sano-chan." Shinta replied as he picked up a twig. "Hmmm..."

"By looking on the ground? The camp is really big!"

The taller man sighed and explained, "We cannot just wander around aimlessly. The woods are full of clues to what you want to look for. You just have to learn how to see it."

The boy crossed his arms skeptically. There was something odd about Shinta he could not explain. It could be the fact that he was bald like a monk and yet is carrying around a sword. As far as he knew, monks don't carry swords but he wasn't an expert on monks or religion.

The man got up holding a broken branch. "You are in luck, Sano-chan; the camp is not far away. It is this way." He started to walk away. Sanosuke, stunned at the monk's behavior, ran after him.

They walked a couple of miles and came upon a familiar set of tents. "Sanosuke!" Katsu screamed as he ran up.

"Katsu!" Sanosuke gushed as he came up and hugged him. "I thought I lost you!"

Katsu got out his rifle and hit the boy on the head. "You idiot! How could you still get lost?"

Sanosuke sniffed as he held his head. "I don't know. I just did."

The slightly smaller boy looked up at Shinta. "Who's he?"

"He's Shinta; he found me and brought me back here." Sanosuke explained, "Shinta-san, this is Katsu, my best friend."

Katsu glared at Shinta and whispered, "You brought a stranger here? Are you nuts?! He could be one of the enemies!"

"No he's not! He's a monk." Sanosuke said confidently as he pointed to Shinta's bald head.

Katsu sweatdropped and pointed to Shinta's sword. "Monks do not carry swords."

"They don't? But, he's bald! All monks are bald!" Sanosuke argued.

"Actually, I never said I was a monk." Shinta added on helpfully as he came up.

Sanosuke fell over in disbelief. "You're not a monk?"

"Not really. I am not that pure." Shinta got up and bowed. "I must leave you now. Good luck on your mission." He turned around to walk away only to meet face to blade with a sword.

"You will not be going anywhere." Bonsani said as he pointed the sword at him. "Please give me your sword."

"He wasn't hurting me!" Sanosuke screamed. He didn't want Shinta to get hurt. This mysterious man who looked like a swordfighting monk didn't do anything to harm him. In fact, he may have saved his life.

"Do not worry, Sano-chan. The truth will be known." Shinta said as he got out his sword and sheath and in one smooth gesture held them out hilt first to show that he meant no harm.

"Thank you." Bonsani said as he accepted the sword, "Forgive me but we had to make sure that you do not pose a threat to our organization. You cannot be too careful these days."

Sanosuke gritted his teeth and get ready to yell again when he felt a familiar hand on his shoulder. Shinta was just staring at Bonsani and nodded in consent. The boy was confused, anyone else would be yelling right now in anger or rage but Shinta was calm almost apologetic.

"That is true and I do understand. I hope that you do return the sword, it means a great deal to me." Shinta said in a soft voice.

"We will speak to Captain Sagara about this." Bonsani said as he looked at the sword briefly.

Sanosuke watched helplessly as Bonsani took Shinta by the arm and led him to the tents. "Please don't let anything bad happen to Shinta." Sanosuke prayed.

*****

Kenshin couldn't help but feel nervous. He was alone, unarmed, and in the middle of an army camp supported by the government. It wasn't like he was in any real danger. Even alone, he can still escape if he need to. It wasn't like he was afraid of the government, after all most of his comrades are now part of the government. Still, he didn't want to be found. The last thing he wanted was to get caught up in politics again.

"You must be Shinta." A man said as he came up. He was tall with brown hair wearing a western style bright uniform. For some reason, he and Sanosuke looked similar. "I am Sagara Souzou, Captain of the Sekihoutai. Thank you for finding Sanosuke for us, he is a good kid but has this habit of getting into trouble." The man was warm and his words rang of truth.

Kenshin smiled slightly. "It was nothing. Sanosuke was close to the campsite and he had just wandered in. I merely pointed him in the right direction. I do not wish to cause you or your group any harm. I am merely a wanderer who do not with to cause any inconvenience."

Captain Sagara stared at him and nodded. "Yes, I see. Well, we are still thankful for your assistance. Would you like to stay with us for a while? There are many rebels around here and you can be a great help to us."

Kenshin nervously felt his left side. Memories of the war bore fresh in his mind. "I do not wish to kill for you." Bonsani and Captain Sagara looked at him in shock. Kenshin mentally slapped himself on the head. **Idiot! They didn't ask you to do that!**

"No, it's nothing like that." Captain Sagara said as he shook his head. "You can fight with us if you wish or help out around the camp; mending wounds, cooking, cleaning... stuff like that. If you wish to leave, you may leave but we do need your help."

Kenshin sighed as he thought about the idea of working with a government group again. The risks of being found out are high and he had worked so hard for the new government to be established. Like before, back when he was a naïve fourteen-year-old he cannot refuse the chance to help. "I will not fight for you. I will help out in any other way I can."

"Good." Captain Sagara got out Kenshin's sword and handed it to him. "Here is your sword back."

*****

Sanosuke paced back and forth as Katsu watched. "Oh come on, the captain won't hurt Shinta if he isn't a spy." Katsu commented as Sanosuke started to make a hole in the ground from his pacing.

"But what if he is? Shinta is a really nice guy and he wouldn't betray us." Sanosuke's eyes watered up. "I don't want him to get hurt because of me."

Katsu glared at his friend. "You idiot, Captain Sagara won't let that happen. He's real smart and so if Shinta's a good guy, he will tell."

"And he is a good guy so he's staying with us for a while." Captain Sagara announced as he, Shinta, and Bonsani came up. Shinta have his sword at his side looking pretty happy.

"Really?!" Sanosuke gushed, "All right!"

Captain Sagara muttered, "Sano really liked Shinta."

The boy paused in his celebrations and hugged Captain Sagara. He didn't want the captain to think that he liked Shinta more than his father figure. "Not as much as you."

Captain Sagara chuckled as he patted Sanosuke on the head. The endearment was heartwarming but a little embarrassing. "Not in front of the men, Sano-chan." He whispered.

Shinta tilted his head and said, "There is no reason why a son cannot show love to his father."

Sanosuke and Captain Sagara stared at him and Sanosuke said, "Silly! Captain Sagara's not my father! My dad's a farmer!"

Shinta laughed as he rubbed his head. "Forgive me, I sensed a deep connection between you and... there was a resemblance between you."

Sanosuke grinned at the bald man's mistake. There had always been a unique bond between the two. Many times, his friends joked that Captain Sagara could be Sanosuke's long lost father. "That's okay."

"Okay, Sanosuke, can you please show Shinta our base and help him get set up?" Captain Sagara asked.

"Captain Sagara, are you sure we should be doing this?" Bonsani asked as he pulled his superior to the side. "We don't know a thing about this man. He could be a spy. He could be a thief. For all we know he could be the Hitokri Battousai himself."

Shinta tensed up as he stopped. Sanosuke was confused at his expression. Ever since he had met him, Shinta was smiling and very kind now he had this weird look in his eyes that can't be understood. Was this man afraid of the Battousai? He was the strongest fighter besides Captain Sagara. "Shinta?"

Captain Sagara glared at Bonsani. "You idiot, the Battousai is on our side. If you wish to fight you must know the difference between friends and foes."

"I'm sorry." Bonsani said as he bowed.

Shinta relaxed and smiled at the boy again. "I am fine. Show me your camp, Sano-chan."

*****

Kenshin felt at ease as he knelt behind the bucket cleaning uniforms. It had been several hours since he found Sanosuke and ended up supporting the Sekihoutai. While they had connections to the government, they rarely contacted them and relied on messengers. The Sekihoutai were a band of farmers and peasants who were not trained in the art of fighting like the Chousu Ishin Shishi's samurai that he had to deal with. They were simpler in many ways, not brought up with the status of the elite. That made them kinder, less arrogant, and more determined for a Japan without classes and where everyone can have a last name. Being a son of a farmer himself, he was more at ease with them. He can understand them on a more personal level than he could ever with his old group. Despite the fact that he was a sword carrying samurai who was responsible for the dawn of the new era, deep down he will always be Shinta, the farm boy.

"Hey, Shinta!"

Kenshin looked up at the now familiar boy. Sanosuke had been hanging around him like a little brother he never had. He was bold, bright, and has an endless energy about him that made him just go everywhere. "Sano-chan, would you like to join me?"

Sanosuke looked at the laundry and shook his head. "No way, that's girl's work. Why do you do that thing? No one wants to do the laundry."

Kenshin had rung the cloth in his hands. It was strange, even for him to do 'women's' work. When he was living with his sensei, he had to do the laundry, even during the cold winters when he had to break ice just to get water. Even when he was with his wife, Tomoe, she did the laundry. However, when he started wandering, he had taken to a special likeness toward laundry. With laundry, he can clean instead of soil. Besides, it was one of the ways he could earn money while he was wandering. "Because it is dirty and you need clean clothes if you want to make people respect you." Kenshin replied softly.

"Oh." Sanosuke seemed to accept the answer and sat beside him. "Why do you carry a sword if you never use it?"

Kenshin bowed his head down as he put the cloth onto the line. "I just do."

"Will you ever fight with it?"

Kenshin stared at the cloth in front of him. He had fought many times with his sword but not once killed. Fighting made him long to switch the blade and break his vow. "I hope not."

*****

Sanosuke couldn't help but feel strange. Shinta had been here for several hours and he was still a mystery to him. He was bald and yet is not a monk. He carries around a sword but he never uses it. No one can fully understand what kind of work he used to do before. Several of his older comrades challenged him to fight but he refuses. It was against the samurai's code of honor to refuse a challenge so he cannot be a samurai.

"What are you?" Sanosuke asked finally.

Shinta turned his head and smiled. "I am just a simple wanderer."

The boy fell over.

"Forget it, kid." Coshi said as he came up. "He's a strange guy; one of those types that just love to confuse people."

Shinta look at Coshi and said innocently, "I do not know why you are so interested in learning about me. I'm not that interesting. I am just a simple wanderer doing chores for a group of people."

"A mysterious wanderer." Coshi added.

"Do you have a fighting style?" Captain Sagara asked as he came up. "I know that you do not wish to fight with us but if we get attacked, I just want to make sure that you can defend yourself."

"I can defend myself." Shinta smiled slightly as he stared at the man.

"Prove it to us." Coshi challenged as he got out his sword and swung at him.

"I do not wish to fight." Shinta insisted as he dodged the blow.

"We're not asking you." Coshi swung again and missed.

Sanosuke and the others watched as Shinta ran around with Coshi swinging and yelling insults at him.

"Idiot!" *swung* "Shrimp!" *swung* "Baldy!" *swing swung* Coshi slashed at Shinta only to get his sword stuck in a tree.

"Name calling isn't very nice." Shinta shook his finger at the man.

Coshi growled as he pulled his sword out. "Come on! Take me seriously! Fight me!"

"No thank you!" Shinta did a back flip and landed on a log. Sanosuke was awed by the man's agility. How can anyone move with grace and speed? He looked up at Captain Sagara who was watching intensely the entire time.

"That's enough!" Captain Sagara boomed as he held out his hand.

Shinta breathed a deep sigh of relief as he bowed. "Thank you, Captain Sagara; I do not know how much longer I could hold that."

"That is fine. You have proven to be able to defend yourself." Captain Sagara looked at Shinta's sword still sheathed the entire time. "It is getting late, why don't we get some rest? We have a long day tomorrow."

"Of course." Shinta bowed as he walked away.

"Sir!" Coshi growled as he glared at Captain Sagara, "He was getting ready to fight back. I can feel it."

"And that is why I had to call it off." The man said as he watched Shinta walked away, "Shinta dodged every single attack calmly without fear. He knew that you were not intending to kill him." **He knew what you were going to do before you do it. If he had gotten 'serious' with you, you may not be standing here right now.** He added mentally.

*****

Kenshin dropped next to a tree in the woods. The little 'demonstration' was taxing on his body. It wasn't the simple dodging that made it exhausting or the insults. It was the pressure of fighting the urge to not fight back, to keep his sword in his sheath. Despite the fact that it was a reverse-blade sword and could not do the damage a regular katana would do, he still cannot trust himself to use it freely. He was taught that a skilled assassin can use anything as a weapon of death. The reverse-blade sword could still kill if he desires it. The urge to just take the easy route of just killing him was still overwhelming.

He sat up against the tree and propped his sword onto his shoulder like he normally did. It was a habit that he cannot and would not break for a while. It was still dangerous times and he cannot afford to be taken off guard.

He closed his eyes and tried to sleep. Maybe if he was lucky, he can sleep for two hours.

To Be Continued...

Author's Notes: Okay, I bet that you are wondering about Kenshin's and Sanosuke's characterizations. It was hard for me to do Kenshin since I didn't know what his mindset was in that time period. So, I decided that Kenshin would be doing everything he could to bury the Battousai instincts when he started wandering, including shaving his infamous hair and covering his scar. Besides, it's easier for him to act more 'rurouni' around cute little kids like Sanosuke. However, this Kenshin will not oro or say 'that it is'.

Sanosuke is much easier. I figured him to be a bright and very idealistic boy before the betrayal. So, he's more like the Sanosuke in the series except much cuter.