Disclaimer: I don't own Rurouni Kenshin.

Notes: This is part of Shirakawa Yofune (my big project - see profile for more details), and takes place three years after Jinchuu. (Or, I should say, the failure of Jinchuu, and the "disappearance" of -- *coughs* NO comment.) Also, it's not really humor, but I suppose it's a bit amusing, so... XD

Hitomi's Lame Excuses (For not updating her other stuff...) : 1) Finals are coming up. 2) Hitomi has been working on original fiction. (No, really.) 3) Hitomi is a lazybutt. 4) Hitomi is LAZY. 5) Hitomi is VERY LAZY 6) Hitomi has, uhh, homework? 7) Hitomi's working on way too many projects at the same time? (Err...) 8) Hitomi is soooo uninspired... 9) Hitomi's muse is ignoring her pleas for help... 10) Hitomi is running out of LAME excuses...

Chinji: Unexpected Occurrence

~ The Thoroughly Infuriating Stranger ~

She was nineteen years old, and she was in love, and she knew the answers to all the questions in the world. Years later, when she looked back upon these days, she would laugh, amused by her own foolishness and her childish whims. But for the moment, she was young, and she was naïve, and without a care in the world. (Except, perhaps, for whether or not her dearest Aoshi-sama had smiled yet that day.)

It all began to change in the summer of her nineteenth year. It crept upon her suddenly, yet in such subtle, gradual amounts that she did not even notice until all had been said and done and she realized she was no longer quite the same, silly shallow little girl that she had been for so long. For she was the former okashira's most precious granddaughter (his only granddaughter), the darling baby of the infamous group of ninjas called the Oniwaban. As one of such a highly-organized fighting group, she had never been spoiled, exactly, the way the children of lords or rich merchants often were. But she had always been protected carefully by her ninja family from the real world - the world outside her own narrow little universe built on exaggerated, idealistic tales of shadows and intrigue and heroic warriors - in their desire to keep her innocence untainted, glowing like a ray of sunshine among the darkness.

And so it came to be that she turned nineteen, already of marriageable age, knowledgeable of five different kenpo styles, twenty-five different uses of kunai, fifty different poisons and the specific symptoms each caused, and twice as many was of preparing tea, yet was still convinced that babies came from storks. Or from the large hollow bamboo stalks that grew in various places around Kyoto. Either way.

But then, with a single, utterly unexpected occurrence, her whole little world tipped and turned completely upside down.

.

The sky was rosy with the gentle warm light of the rising sun, yet the breeze that blew past was still crisp and cool. A petite, somewhat strangely dressed girl sat atop a low stone wall, her dusty bare feet dangling in the air. Her long black braid swung back and forth as she whistled a pleasant tune to herself.

Misao (for that was her name, you see) was quite bored. Normally at this time she would have donned her formal bright red kimono, in order to perform the tea ceremony for her beloved Aoshi-sama. But Aoshi-sama was off on some random business trip to Tokyo, and wouldn't be back for two weeks, at least. She'd begged him to let her go with him, but he'd duly informed her that he was merely going to a formal meeting that would most likely bore the heck out of her. (Not that she was any better off here, now.) She'd even intended to sneak off and follow him the day he'd left, but Jiya had caught her, and made her stay.

"But why?" she had cried. "Don't tell me you guys aren't letting me go because it's actually a dangerous mission and you don't want to let me know about it - I can take care of myself! Besides, I'm the okashira now, aren't I? I should have a hand in these business things too, right?"

The old man had sighed, tugging at his short white beard. He never had been good at explaining these sorts of things. "That's precisely why you have to stay here, Misao-chan." She had opened her mouth instinctively to yell at him for calling him Misao-chan (She was nineteen, damn it!), but Jiya had silenced her with a wave of his hand. "You are Okashira, and therefore your place lies here in Kyoto, at our headquarters. You have responsibilities as the okashira, you know."

Misao had been furious. "Responsibilities? What responsibilities? All we do around here is cook and clean and serve the customers - It's so boooooring! It's not like you guys actually need me around! Why can't I just go with Aoshi-sama?" she whined angrily. When Jiya had not given her an answer, she had then proceeded to stalk away to her room, and had refused to speak to anyone since. She was nineteen, a woman, and yet they still treated her like a child. It made her thoroughly peeved.

But oh, kami-sama, she was soooooo booooooored.

Her initial resentment had by now cooled down to an unexplainable restlessness. She never had been able to stay that mad for long, anyway. But she was simply dying to do something. Anything. She was desperate. Without Aoshi-sama around she had absolutely no idea what to do to occupy her time.

And so when she noticed the strange white-haired man regarding her coolly from his seat in the dusty shade of the tree only a slight distance from her own perch, her curiosity, as well as her suspicion, perked up immediately.

"Watcha staring at, mister?" she demanded.

The man blinked once, then twice, startled by her voice. Misao noticed in the back of her mind that he was actually rather young, and muscular, despite his faded hair. But then he sneered at her lazily, and she lost that train of thought. "It's kinda hard for a man not to stare when a girl your age wears such revealing clothes, doncha think?" he drawled.

Misao flushed from both embarrassment and anger. She was wearing her dark onmitsu uniform, which was, admittedly, a bit revealing. (As if she had ever cared.) But still! How dare that asshole speak to her like that!

Clenching her fists, she jumped down nimbly the wall, ready to kick and punch the daylights out of the arrogant white-haired jerk. But somehow, by the time she glared over at the tree again, the strange man had already disappeared.

"What?!? That's not faaaaaaiiiiiir!" she wailed. "Coward!!"

After yelling and running around a bit more in search of the white-headed stranger, she finally gave up and turned in the direction of the Aoiya. It was already midmorning, and they were probably missing her anyway. As she scuffled back to the inn operated by her adoptive ninja family, she kicked up the dust on the road, creating little clouds of frustration in her wake.

Tsuzuku

This story will, among other things, explore the relationship between Aoshi and Misao in a realistic fashion that is both faithful and respectful to their characters as Watsuki-sensei has depicted them. (Or at least, try to.) Because I'm sick of OOC Aoshi and 2d Misao. And character stereotyping. I had this piece planned out in the Shirakawa Yofune timeline some time ago, but only tentatively. I was actually thinking of just skipping it, and anyways, I wasn't planning to start working on it just yet. I hadn't originally planned on emphasizing the Misao/Aoshi relationship in the story so much either, but after reading the end of Angrybee's m(_ _)m (I worship Angrybee!) utterly amazing "Sundial," I really had this urge to explore and develop their relationship in further depth. Yay for me.

Don't worry, I'm still working on "Kakusei". X_X *dies* As well as the screwy miniseries for "Fumimayou." *dies again*