Author-chan's notes: Hey everyone! I'm out with a nice little one-shot. *rolls eyes* I know I should be working on "Like Father Like Son" and "A Clean Slate", but this idea just came to me. But since I'm not planing on making this an epic, I should be able to get back to my other fics soon.
Well, enough of my ranting. Enjoy the fic!
*Disclaimer:A-chan does not own Rurouni Kenshin. If I did I would be having a fun time braiding Kenshin's hair while begging Saito to teach me Gatotsu.
The five senses: sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste –each having a certain job to do to allow someone to understand the world around them. When one sense is lost, the others become enhanced to make up for it. A blind man will develop superior hearing, as will a deaf man's eyesight become so sharp as to pick up the tiniest details.
Sessha is not blind, nor is he deaf. This rurouni possesses excellent, almost superhuman, vision and hearing, useful for a swordsman. My sense of smell is quite impressive too, de gozaru. I can pick up the smell of blood, no matter how small, from nearly impossible distances.
One could say that all of sessha's senses are intact, including a sixth sense of ki reading abilities. However, sessha lacks one important sense, de gozaru.
There are those who would argue that this lack of taste does not seem to be a great lost, but for sessha it is. I had begun to lose my sense of taste during the Bakumastu, when sessha was a hitokiri. As sessha was given more assignments –more assassinations to complete –my sense of taste began to…change. I could no longer taste the simplistic wholeness of rice or the sweetness of sake. All sessha could taste in my mouth was blood. The blood of my victims stained not only my hands and my soul, but my food as well. For a year, everything that passed through my lips and down my throat had the coppery, metallic taste of freshly spilt blood. I never told anyone, not even my leader, Katsura. The other soldiers already thought I was a demon. If word got out that sessha tasted blood in the food, it would only have confirmed their suspicions. It had already confirmed mine. Hitokiri Battousai was a demon from hell in my eyes. Sessha was a demon.
Then something happened. Something miraculous, something surprising, something sessha would look back on with a broken heart.
When we met, something began to shift in my sense of taste. It was small first, the rice suddenly not being so metallic tasting, the water not being as thick as the life-filled liquid that pounded in men's veins. I didn't notice the change in the beginning. I suppose I didn't want to. To notice the change would mean that I was getting used to the taste of blood, making me into an even more terrible monster. But, sessha was not getting used to the taste of blood, de gozaru. Instead the bloody taste of my food was being replaced by a more gentle and sweet taste.
After tasting nothing but blood for the past year, Tomoe's perfume was a welcoming change. For a brief amount of time –six months –I toyed with the idea that maybe someone as stained as I could be forgiven. Wistful thinking became a softly glowing hope, which became a blinding dream. If the taste of blood was disappearing did that mean that I, Himura Kenshin, also known as Hitokiri Battousai, could be forgiven? Were my victims finally going to rest peacefully in the grave, de gozaru ka?
Of course not.
I suppose fate has a twisted sense of humor. Fate probably laughed at my life; a boy who became a killer in the effort to save lives. I was starting to gain hope and happiness that maybe there was a way out of the life of a hitokiri, but my dreams were dashed upon the rocks with Tomoe's tragic death in the once pristine snow.
Her death by my blood stained hands.
After Tomoe's death, my food began to stop tasting like white plums. Like before, the change wasn't something I noticed right away. The sweetness of the food began to slip away, just like Tomoe's life slipped away while I held her in my arms. It wasn't until after I had killed a group of Shinsengumi during my first night out as Katsura-san's bodyguard that I found out what the taste of my food was morphing into.
When I bit into my dinner that day, I was horrified at the coppery taste that filled my mouth. For the briefest of moments, sessha hoped that maybe I had just bitten my tongue by accident.
I remember how frantic I felt when I tasted the blood of my victims in my food again. What if the blood I tasted was Tomoe's? In my panic I began stuffing as many rice balls in my mouth as I could. Maybe, I hoped, maybe it's just my imagination. Maybe the next one won't taste like blood.
Instead of making the metallic taste go away, the bloody taste of my victuals only increased. And my hurried eating only drew attention to myself. One of Katsura-san's other bodyguards, one who had only joined our cause recently, meaning that he was not as afraid of me as the others, came over to my lonely spot in the corner.
"Oi, Himura-san," the other bodyguard hailed, sitting down nearby me, but not too close. Even if he didn't know that the short redhead in front of him was Hitokiri Battousai, he had still seen enough of my swordsman skills to respect me by giving me some room. I, on my part, tried to ignore him while I gulped down my bloody food.
"Hungry, eh?" the guard said jokingly, eyeing the onigiri I was swallowing, "I suppose all this work will do that to a man."
"I'm not hungry," I had said quietly as I bit into another rice ball. I was only half-paying attention to him. I suppose the shock of discovering blood in my food made me disoriented, even though I let none of my feelings show on my expressionless face.
"Oh?" the guard replied, a skeptical look on his face, "Then why are you eating so much?"
"It tastes like blood," I told him, not really paying attention to my words. I just wanted him to go away. It wasn't until I saw the paleness of my companion's face that I realized what I had said. Not knowing what else to do, I continued to eat, the cold mask of the hitokiri firmly in place. In moments, one of the guard's friends had grabbed him by the arm and pulled him away. Although I was not meant to hear their whispered conversation, my sharp ears forced me to listen to what they said.
"Baka!" the friend hissed to the guard, "What are you doing talking to Himura Battousai? Do you want to lose your head?"
"B-Battousai?" the guard had sputtered, the fear on his face doubling. So he had heard the legends of Kyoto's demonic assassin. Not that it mattered anymore.
I found out a few days later that the guard had requested a transfer and was relocated.
After the war, when sessha began traveling, the taste of the food did not change, de gozaru. Everything I ate as a rurouni tasted like the blood I had spilt as a hitokiri. The gory taste did not go away, even though I wanted it too. And people wonder why I am so thin. I hate to eat. But then something miraculous happened for the second time in my life.
She was different from Tomoe. In fact, sessha could safely say that they were near opposites, de gozaru. But despite the difference, or perhaps because of it, sessha began to fall in love with Kaoru-dono.
And I was terrified.
What if she died just like Tomoe did, in my arms, by my blade? Just because they were very different, Kaoru and Tomoe shared one common trait.
I loved them.
And to be loved by a murderer was a dangerous thing. There was no way I could rule out the possibility that Kaoru could die because of me. I ruled it best if I kept my distance from Kaoru, especially after Jin-e. Even if I did not wield the blade that would kill her, I would still be responsible because I had not protected her.
These two women also shared another thing in common. They made my food stop tasting like blood. But with Kaoru things did not all of a sudden start tasting like jasmine like Tomoe had caused all of my food to taste like plum blossoms. Instead, my food started to taste like emotion.
I could taste how the cook felt as he or she made each meal. Sadness was slightly bitter. Happiness had a light taste with a hint of sugar. Friendship was wholesome and fulfilling. Worry tasted sharp, like too much spice. Loathing (I normally tasted this in my own cooking, even though the others proclaimed my food was wonderful) tasted like rotten eggs and bitter herbs. After spending the past fourteen years tasting nothing in my mouth but blood, the wide variety of flavors caused happiness to run through me. In time, the loathing in my cooking gave way to the gentle taste of happiness with the help of a certain blue-eyed kendo teacher. Ever since arriving at the Kamiya dojo the taste of blood disappeared from my mouth. Except once.
When I left Kaoru-dono to go to Kyoto.
But then I went back to the dojo, and the blood taste went away. For a while things were fine. There were no great upheavals in our lives, and I was allowed to admire Kaoru-dono from the distance. Of course peace couldn't last forever. And then it happened.
Tomoe's little brother seemed to have sprung up out of the past, carrying with him the darkest memories locked with in my mind and my heart. Little did I know that he did next would wreck my life more terribly than when Tomoe died.
Thanks to Enishi, there was Kaoru with a bloody cruciform scar on her cheek and a sword pinning her to the wall.
My worse fears came true. Everything seemed to crumble away in front of my eyes. Hell on earth arrived with Kaoru's death. It seemed that Enishi got what he wanted.
Sessha was broken. Broken beyond the point of allowing the assassin in my mind to come free. Battousai was broken. The Rurouni was broken. Himura Kenshin was broken. The wretch that was left was nothing –not a demonic killer or a peaceful wanderer or even a human being.
I didn't eat after that. I already knew what everything would taste like now that Kaoru was dead.
Or to be more precise, everything would taste like Kaoru's blood. And…and I would rather starve. Maybe if I starved to death I would get to see them again, Tomoe and Kaoru. Would they hate me? I failed them –both of them. Would I be cast into hell far away from my loved ones? I suppose Shishio and Jin-e would enjoy having another chance in fighting me again. Not that it mattered anymore. Kaoru was dead and so was my reason for existence.
Then a miracle happened.
Kaoru, the woman I loved, was alive! She was alive, and I had to get her back from Enishi, Tomoe's brother. And get her back I did. Meanwhile, Enishi left with Tomoe's diary and his hope that his sister would smile for him again.
A few weeks later after Enishi left, Kaoru and I were in the dojo by ourselves. A rare moment of privacy that, for once, wasn't interrupted by the rest of the Kenshin-Gumi. Kaoru had tried her hand at cooking again, and the pair of us was sitting outside drinking tea and eating her sponge cake, a Western recipe Kaoru no doubt got from Tae-dono. Casually, I picked up a piece of the cake and bit into it.
And sessha nearly died.
Normally, Kaoru's cooking tasted of kindness, happiness, with a touch of worry and something else they I had never been able to identify. But this sponge cake tasted different from her normal cooking. It was as if that unidentifiable taste that had always been present in her cooking was intensified. The taste of the confection overwhelmed me. It made me so giddy with happiness, I wondered if this is what heaven tasted like. It was sweet and gentle and addicting and…indescribable. I could have eaten that sponge cake forever and still not have gotten enough. Instead, I paused and stared dumfounded at the dessert.
"Is there something wrong, Kenshin?" Kaoru asked, worry in her voice.
"No, everything is fine, Kaoru-dono," I told her, giving her one of my larger smiles. I bit into my piece of cake again, and almost fainted as the wonderful taste washed over me again. Is this what heaven is like? But then again, how would I know if I had spent most of my life in hell?
"Are you sure there isn't anything wrong?" Kaoru asked, noticing my near-collapse, "Did I mess up the food again?"
"No," I replied, shaking my head earnestly, "You did everything perfectly, de gozaru." I finished off my slice of sponge cake and reached for another. It was then that I finally figured out what emotion I was tasting.
Maybe a sinner such as sessha could be forgiven. Maybe things do turn out all right in the end. Sessha doesn't know for sure. I took another bite of my slice of heaven and smiled at the woman I loved. All I know now is that the ring hidden in my gi would look beautiful on Kaoru's hand.
~ Owari ~
Author-chan's notes: My first dark/romance one-shot fic. For once, there is absolutely no humor in this fic, a change for me.
A few wrap up notes. In the manga, it says that back when Kenshin was Battousai, all of his food tasted like blood. I also remember reading somewhere that when he met Tomoe, all of his food started tasting like her perfume, white plums. Anyway, I assumed that with her death, the blood taste in the food would come back. Also, in the manga, it never said that Kenshin didn't stop tasting blood, giving a reason why Kenshin is able to put up with Kaoru's cooking. I know in the manga, Kenshin does make a few jabs at Kaoru's cooking, but I'll just say that he just made those jibes on the taste of her cooking based on what Sanosuke and Yahiko told him.
Also, in the manga, when Kaoru "died" Kenshin really did refuse to eat (and do anything else for that matter). So I didn't make that part up. Anything he did eat was force fed to him, meaning he probably didn't have much time to think about the taste.
If I remember correctly, after the whole affair with Enishi, Kenshin and Aoshi have a talk over tea. During that time, Kaoru made them a sponge cake, so that's where I got the sponge cake idea from. Additionally, in the manga when Kenshin ate Kaoru's cake, he seemed to be overly complementary to it, which I decided to explore here.
Well, please R+R!