Disclaimer: I don't own Rurouni Kenshin! So don't sue me.
blow, thou winter wind
Thou art not so unkind,
As man's ingratitude.
May You Never
Chapter Six: A New Old Idea
It had been a long tiresome night; so many royals, so much protocol, so many fake smiles that when the clock chimed twelve Kaoru excused herself with the simple excuse that her journey had made her weary, and after another twenty minutes of farewells Kaoru left the hall only to get lost amongst the halls of the palace until Troy caught up with her. He was smiling.
"Thought your memory was that precise, Princess." Too tired to correct him she waved him off.
"Sorry that I didn't wait for you." But her mind was else ware; it was back in the Throne Room where for the first time in all her life her breathe was stolen from her, and it was all because of him; the one she knew as Battousai.
Her feelings for him were strange. She didn't know how to handle such emotions, and was all the more confused by them...it couldn't be love; she had just met him. She had walked the rest of the way with him to the High King who sat idly on a prodigious chair of gold piled up on tasteful scarlet cushions. If it were anyone else upon that thrown Kaoru would have thought it tacky, but the High King had made it elegant. How? Kaoru didn't know.
He had simply examined her, smirked, shrugged his head and spoke gruffly as if he didn't care. "I hope you live up to your father's expectations." Kaoru had at that moment wanted to slap his arrogant face, but pushed the emotion back inside and looked around spotting a childhood memory.
Sano, Kaoru frowned, he was there; his face bitter and strained as he looked at her. Kaoru wanted to forever forget that face upon his handsome visage. From what she could remember Sano always had a goofy smile about his lips setting his eyes dancing, but his face then...Kaoru shook.
There had been many other royals as well. The kings, queens, princes, and princesses from that lands of Storlim, Drilic, Anteal and so on and so forth; they were all gathered to welcome her. All were there except...Misao, and Soujiro who she had heard from a noble were off across the ocean returning as they spoke.
But still beneath the curtain of polite society she felt unwanted by the lot. They gave her looks of pure distrust, but could she blame them? Never before had she shown her face at Royal Gala, or attended any summer garden parties that the ladies loved to throw.
To them she was nothing but an unknown. Some of the ignorant might have thought her a bastard child; which she wasn't, and if they did she wouldn't be angry at them for thinking she was. She instead would raise her hand for her father's honor; her father was faithful to her mother till she died, and still yet after the grave. Never had she heard or seen that man cast a lusty eye upon any woman.
Kaoru thought on; the Prince wasn't as she thought he would be. Instead of pure arrogance, and blood lust, he had been patient, honorable, and seemed to really care for his people, but behind those valuable qualities Kaoru sensed arrogance, an overbearing persona, and a strict discipline code. Kenshin was stoic also, barely smiling when he didn't have to, and walked with power surrounding him that Kaoru could feel pulsing around her.
"Beloved, you must remain strong."
Kaoru looked up next to Troy, "Sorry, did you say something?" Troy looked at her shaking his head then looking forward once more. Maybe she was getting delusional from her lack of sleep.
She had wanted to talk to Sano. Tell him sorry for never answering his letter when they were younger, but she never got the chance as he came up to her giving a stiff bow and walked off. Later she heard from Kenshin, who looked at her strangely as if he were giving her an unknown test, that Sano was engaged to Princess Megumi of Storlim.
Kaoru went numb, she had never heard of the engagement. Or at least that's what she told him. She wasn't surprised Sano didn't write; she never wrote him back before. Never would he know how many times she had needed his friendship...all of their friendship. Even little Tubsume hadn't really talked to her. She had grown up so much and was the picture of beauty, and a long time ago she remembered telling Sano just that.
Tubsume seemed to shy around by a young Prince named Yahiko from Chenel; he was as any hormone driver lad was: rash, arrogant, and prideful.
At last she reached the open aired corridor that harbored her chamber. "Princess, may your night be well." Troy bowed and left eyeing the two gauds standing by her door. Sighing she gladly pushed open the door and smiled at the sight she saw.
A sweet darkness filled the room, and there lying on a plump sofa laid little Ruth. Moon rays reflected off brown hair that spilled over a push pillow and a dark red throw blanket around her as she had quietly placed her thumb in her mouth. She looked like a cherub that sang and danced in Heaven. It touched Kaoru's heart, and she wished that she could stay her little sweet self forever.
Kaoru closed the wide door behind her gingerly and tipped toe to the closet located in the other room, and took off her clinging crimson dress replacing it with long flowing green pants and a simple white sleeveless tunic which was hid under a long robe of the same color.
She walked back to the sitting room, picking up the young child, and took her to the bedroom which held a marvelous balcony and view of the garden. Ruth's eyes fluttered open for a moment and closed again having Kaoru do the same as well, and Troy would be pleased to know that Kaoru did indeed have a good night.
Kenshin stood out on his balcony that faced the city. It had long stopped raining and he was left with just the calm after the storm, and usually the memories of bloodshed that came with it, but tonight those thoughts never came. Instead his mind focused on a girl with long raven hair and the purest of azure eyes.
"Kaoru." The name rolled off his tongue like a desert wine. He closed his eyes. He shouldn't be having these feelings for her, not after what he had been through.
Closing his eyes he grabbed the clear brown bottle of whiskey that stood on the railing on the balcony and gulped its contents down in a fluid motion. It was fire-water, and soothed his anxious emotions. Shaking his head he tired to stop thinking and focus on the burring liquid that he was drowning himself in. But why did he drink? He never got drunk.
Sighing he slid down the side of the railing until he was sitting on cold marble. She wasn't gorgeous. He knew that, and definitely was a virgin. She was quite different than the hunting royals of the lot whose only merit was in bed. She was different, original, and a natural beauty that didn't hid behind paint.
But...there was something more to that girl that kept him up thinking about her. He didn't have the chance to talk to her really, a brief word here and there, but from the stories that Sano had told him she was dutiful, and charitable; qualities which she had held up to. He had found out later what really happened before she came from Troy, and was astonished.
But still her smiles weren't true, he knew; he was good at reading peoples emotions, and when he stood next to her when she met Hiko he felt her frustration and smiled as she pulled it back instantly.
At least she can control herself, he thought, but he knew it was a lie. He wanted to know the person that had felt angered at Hiko, he wanted to know the girl Sano had talked about, and at the same time he wanted to know her for her; for whose she was now.
He hit the side of the stone cradling his head. 'Stop.' He told himself. These weak feeling were nothing. Women were only good for one thing and one thing only. If he had been any another man he would have dragged himself to bed to get rid of such thoughts, but for him sleep was not an option. When he sleep worst things took a hold on him, and he had no want to review past memories.
He stayed there until a beam of light reflected of the whiskey bottle. The sun was rising and with it came the smell of a new sea. Walking into his room he collapsed on his bed knowing that his chamber maid would soon be by in two hours to wake him. Two hours wouldn't give his unconsciousness enough time to play with his soul.
Kaoru woke to a sweet little voice pleading for her to wake. "Um...excuse me." The girl's voice dropped a couple of notches when memories of the night before came back in crashing waves. Her mom had died, the person who she loved despite what people said about her, the woman who loved and took care of her since she could remember. Tears sprang to her eyes.
"Where is mommy?" Kaoru's eyes opened at the sound of her voice, and immediately went to sooth her as she did the night before.
"Ruth its okay." Ruth cuddled against her, still unable to understand the idea that she was a princess. Choking wails bouncing off the walls while Kaoru explained to her that she was in a better place and would always be in her heart.
"You know Ruth I lost my mother too when I was younger." The brown haired girl looked up with wide eyes. Wiping her tears with a clean sleeve she quietly replied.
"Did you miss her?" It was an innocent question that Kaoru didn't want to utter so she nodded.
"We girls must be brave. Do you think your mom would want to have you cry all day about her?" Ruth shook her head as Kaoru wiped a finger under her chin.
"Mommy would want me to be brave." Kaoru hugged her, but Ruth remained in detached spirits for quite a while. Kaoru pleaded with God to have her turn out different for Ruth; never would she want Ruth to be like her. Ruth was entitled to have cheer in her life instead of the despair that she was accustomed to.
Kaoru shuffled around her new rooms, trying to find where everything of hers was. "Ruth I will be upstairs for a moment." Kaoru called gently walking up the winding stairs entering the library slash sitting room.
Her mouth gaped. It was an octagonal room and upon each wall were volumes and volumes of literature. She had always adored books; a trait from her mother. There was also a cozy dark brink fire place that made Kaoru feel as though she were back in a little village in Kadir resting amongst those who lived in homely wooden cabins that she had grown fond of.
Running her hands along the book she came upon many novels containing fairy tales and legends. Smiling she picked one off the shelf and walked down stairs where she saw Ruth standing on the balcony.
"Ruth, do you want to hear a story." Kaoru waved a book at her. A smile made its place on her face.
"Really you will." Ruth practically jumped. "I have never heard a story from a book before." This didn't surprise Kaoru; she had seen many like her in Kadir's wilderness.
It was still early in the morning, the sun was just above the sea line, and they twosome spent their time reading and talking until a knock came at the door.
Kaoru got up putting the book down. "Come in." Inside walked a young maid.
"I was sent to help you dress Princess. The King would like to see you." Kaoru smiled at the girl, but shook her head.
"I can dress myself, but if you wouldn't mind." Kaoru looked at Ruth. "Could you please, if it wouldn't be too much trouble, find some nice garments for my friend here?"
The maid at little startled bowed and left. "Where are you going...umm...Princess?" Kaoru bent down and pinched her cheek.
"Why don't you call me Kaoru, eh?" The little girl giggled. "And we're going to see the King." She became stiff.
Kaoru noticed her stillness and sighed. "Don't worry honey, I will be there."
"B-but what if I'm not wanted?" Kaoru face became troubled, and felt a deep remorse for the girl knowing what if felt like somewhat.
"Don't you worry about that." She smiled to coax the child.
In no time at all the twosome we're headed out of the room escorted by Troy once again. "Hello little one." Troy bent down to the girl and smiled.
"Hi." She blushed in adolescent wonder. Kaoru stood silently.
"I trust you night was well Majesty." He question holding out his arm to lead the way.
"Kaoru." She corrected. "It was well; thank you, and yours Sir Troy?" He smiled and explained that his night was well. He led her down unfamiliar halls until they were on the bottom floor in front of a light wooden door that stood as high as the ceiling. Windows expanded to the back on her showing off a different area that was vast plains and a forest in the back ground.
It was the plainer part of the garden where tea could be held, Troy explained, but Kaoru thought it must be some tea party. She guessed it was about thirty acres of wide grasses, spotted with flowers in different shapes and patterns. It was stunning.
Troy opened the door, and she walked inside. Before she even heard the voice she noticed the room. It was long and had vast windows on two sides of it showing the plains once again and others parts of the garden. It was also a beautiful dark like the rest of the castle. A long cherry wood table stretched along the room and iron cast lights hung down from the ceilings.
"Princess Kaoru, I may that you could grace us with your presence." A deep haughty voice spoke to her and she looked at Hiko who eyed the child. She noticed that they weren't the only people in the room.
There was a black almost blue haired girl sitting to the left of Hiko, and Kenshin sat to the right. There were also people who she had meet the night before: Princess Tomoe, Prince Aoshi and his sister Megumi, and last of all there was Sano looking at his glass.
Kenshin stood to greet her, as the rest of the men did.
"I suppose this is the child that you took." Hiko said implying to Ruth.
Kaoru stood with her back straight well aware that all eyes were on her. Kenshin came up next to her, smiled and led her right to where he sat.
Ruth, Kaoru could tell was nervous as anything, and she touched her shoulder. "Ruth this is your King." Ruth curtsied clumsily as Kaoru looked at everyone daring them to say anything.
Shura smiled. "What a darling child. May I?" Shura said holding out her hands. Kaoru looked at Ruth and nodded. "I can take her out to the gardens. How would you like that Ruth?" She nodded. "Father, may I be excused." Hiko waved her off, and she went smiling and chatting about everything.
Kenshin pulled out her chair and she sat gracefully. "Yes and her name is Ruth." Kaoru put in calmly, her voice all dutiful, almost as if she were in a conference.
Everyone in the room smiled, except Aoshi and Kenshin who just looked at her. Hiko smiled. He liked her already.
"Your father says you're quite the delegate." Hiko prodded. Kaoru mind was numb.
"My father never lies." Kaoru explained. Hiko nodded.
"You're not usually the one who expands on conversations." Megumi put in slyly. Kaoru smiled. "Not really." Sano turned away from her.
Hiko looked at Kaoru laying back while looking at his son who was drinking bitter liquid. "I think Megumi her domain is political debate, and not idle talk."
Kenshin looked at Kaoru. She was so beatiful."Your right Majesty."
"Call me Hiko." He commanded.
"Hiko." She corrected. Tomoe played with her food thinking about Kaoru; she seemed to have her head around her unlike usual ladies of the court. The atmosphere was tense, but as she looked at the girl she felt a serene peace about her.
Hiko smiling wickedly asked to everyone's surprise. "What are your ideas about the declining economic trades? The Nation of Cithaeron increased a tax on their goods, and its hurting ours lands. How do you think we can solve this?"
He leaned forward. It was the first time he ever asked a woman of her opinion since his wife had died, but he had to know if her father spoke the truth about this young princess.
"Hiko, I don't think we should be talking about this right now." Kenshin said evenly eyes Kaoru as he spoke; she sensed her tense a bit, but then relaxed. "The House of Affairs has been discussing this for months now and we still haven't come up with a solution."
"And what does that mean Kenshin?" Megumi put in glaring. Kenshin ignored her.
"I think Kaoru already has an answer." Sano spoke for the first time his eyes never leaving his old friend. "Could you please tell us Princess?"
Kaoru inwardly shivered. She never expected Sano of all people to speak to her in such a politely dismissal tone. Kenshin she noticed sent him a piercing look which Kaoru didn't understand. Was he trying to defend her? Sano's attack had been all too vicious. It would have been better if he would just say what he meant. Sighing, she knew she would have to converse with him later and make some type of amends; a conversation that she dreaded.
"Highness," Aoshi spoke calmly startling Kaoru a bit from her daze. "No doubt a non-importation is the only way to reduce the taxation." Kenshin shook his head.
"Yes, but at what price. We would hurt ourselves." His spoke like a true aristocrat; smart, and arrogant.
"Yes, but they would be hurt as well." Aoshi put in glaring back. Hiko smiled.
Kaoru never heard of this situation, she had been too involved in the transgressions of her own land, but she coughed. "I have never heard of this situation I'm sorry to say. I have been to preoccupied with my own land, but," She stopped and looked at everyone.
She had been well educated in trade and revenues, and her father always went to her. The answer was so easy, that she thought that they may have already thought it up and rebuked it, but she tired anyway. "I know non-importation isn't the answer." She looked towards Aoshi, all business and not another emotion. "If non-importation happens they will probably go off to another nation for goods, and that will hurt us more.
You must be well aware of the fact that Cithaeron relies heavily upon our exports of sea goods, tea, stone, and lumber, and we rely on them for precious stones, raw materials, tobacco, and cotton." Kenshin was going to interrupt if she put her hand up.
"What is need is a reduction in their services and increase in our shipping to them so that we may still get their goods but at a lesser cost, since the tax will won't be high, and at the same time triple our profits by exporting more to them."
"That would never work." Sano exclaimed getting up. "They would know and stop importing their goods."
Kaoru face never shifted during his blast, she sat quietly listening to his side as he rambled on. Hiko smiled widened. The girl was good, he would give her that, but they had already thought up that answer and knew it wouldn't work.
Kenshin stood in a haughty silence. Kaoru gave the same answer Lord of Tesalane introduced back a couple months ago in the Chamber of Government.
"Kaoru I have to agree with Sano. It has already been denied." Hiko's voice split the room. He stood and stretched about to take his leave, but he was stopped by Kaoru standing up quickly.
"Hiko, I don't believe it will fail." They thought she was nothing but a stupid woman and that thought angered her, so she ended up saying it with a little edge to her voice which she didn't like. He lifted an eyebrow at her clear stubbornness, amused no doubt.
"I have heard about enough of this conversation so make it quick." Kaoru clenched her jaw. Everyone's eyes were on her once again with wide mouths dying to her what she would say.
"You may or may not have known about this but Cithaeron has done this before to Kadir about a year ago." Hiko's eyes narrowed. "You never heard of it probably because it was defused so quickly by this idea that I have presented to you."
Kenshin stood and walked around, Sano sat idle, and Aoshi was a usual in a pensive mood, but Megumi and Tomoe had similar smiles on their faces.
"She is very intelligent isn't she Tomoe?" Megumi leaned to her friend whispering in a hushed voice. Tomoe nodded, "She is impressive."
Hiko laughed suddenly, "Well it looks like I have to present a case to the House." Wavering her off he added, "Kenshin I'm sure you will make the appropriate actions." Kenshin nodded, and Hiko was gone.
"Who came up with that idea?" Kenshin came to stand in front of Kaoru; his steady violet eyes piercing hers. She swallowed. Something about this man who stood in front of her made her want to fall, made her feel as though his opinions were never to be question and to answer when ever he asked.
"It...it was mine." Her soft answer floated through the room. Kenshin raised a brow turned around and went back to his seat.
She had thought of it; she had come up with a solution to this problem long before it ever occurred to the whole nation. He wanted to smile; she was intelligent. She wasn't like other ladies of the court who knew how to sow and dress fashionably. He looked at her again and smirking; she wasn't in fashion wearing a simple, conservative gown of pure white that barely showed any skin except for her lavish neck and collar bone
She was engaged in another tête-à-tête with Megumi having Aoshi assert his ideas once in a while as well as Tomoe. The only person who dared not talk to her was Sano.
Sano looked at him a smirk goofily, getting up and exiting the room; Megumi and Kaoru looked at him as he went. Kenshin frowned. Why was Sano acting like that towards Kaoru; a person not a day before he spoke so highly of.
With knowing what he was doing he strode towards Kaoru. She was so striking to man such as himself. "Excuse me Princess but may you honor me with a walk in the garden?"
And for once she truly did smile.
A/N: Hey sorry people for a short chapter that was mostly about nothing. I'm still trying to fit the enemy some where in here, maybe I will make their presence soon. If ya'll are like super brilliant you will find out who it is by context clues, if not then ya'll are probably like me and just like to read and find out what happens at the end. Smiles
Okay well, if you guys have any ideas about what bad can happen just give a shout out and maybe I can fit some in. Oh yeah, people wanna see Kaoru fight...hmmm...I know I'm going to have her fight, but I don't know when. I'm still thinking it over.
Thank you, thank you all so much for reviewing it really does inspire me to continue; so thanks.
Please RR and thanks again!
Don't You Just Hate Me,