Author's Notes: This is my first Rurouni Kenshin fic! It came out of a random thought of 'How would a storyteller tell RuroKen?'... which then changed to a completely different (and AU) storyline (/sweatdrops/)... which then became Kenshin telling the story... which then turned KxK... you get the picture! So anyway, here it is!
Note about the AU-ness of this: Megumi has been made Ayame and Suzume's mother, and there's a complete different story with Kenshin and Kaoru, their meeting, etc. Just thought I'd teel you, so you don't get totally confused...
BTW: I don't do fangirl Japanese... except for Kenshin calling Kaoru 'Kaoru-dono'. I left that because it's hard to translate, and Kenshin calling Kaoru 'Lady Kaoru' just didn't fit.
It was late afternoon, balmy and warm, beautiful summer weather.
"Uncle, uncle! Can you tell us a story? Please?" "Fairytale! Fairytale!" Two little girls, aged six and seven, scurried onto the veranda, where a redheaded man was peeling vegetables.
"Now, now, Ayame, Suzume. It's rude to ask for things without saying hello first!" Megumi followed along after her two daughters, smiling at their enthusiasm. They loved visiting their 'uncle', as they called Kenshin, even though he wasn't related to them.
"Hello, Uncle Ken!" they chorused, smiling angelically.
"And hello to you, also," replied Kenshin, smiling amusedly. "Do you want this one to tell you a story, that is?"
"Yes, yes, pleeease!" The two little girls bounced up and down, hanging onto their honorary 'uncle's hands. Luckily he had put down the knife when he saw them coming.
"Kenshin, do you mind if I go now?" asked Megumi.
"Yes, of course, Megumi. We did arrange for this earlier, that we did," said Kenshin. As their mother left, he returned his attention to the two children. "Well, sit down now, and this one will tell you the story of a Princess."
"Oooh, was she beautiful, Uncle Ken?" little Suzume asked, snuggling into Kenshin's side. Her sister imitated her, on Kenshin's other side.
Kenshin wiped his hands on a cloth, and hugged the little girls. "Yes, of course she was. Now, let us begin...' he said.
Once, not long ago, there was a Princess. She was beautiful, and so, many suitors came to court her. But she accepted none of them.
She was the most talented swordswoman the land had seen, and she refused to marry any man that could not beat her in combat. Because the suitors were all chivalrous men, they could not stand the thought of injuring a woman, and they would hold back in combat. This was their downfall, for the Princess, as this one has said, was very talented. She could easily best most men, even if they were not holding back.
There were still a few warriors who could best her. But of these warriors, there was only one who was unmarried. He was called Battousai, and he was the Princess' closest friend. He wielded a sakabato, a reverse-blade sword.
"Like yours, Uncle Ken?" asked Ayame. She reached for the sakabato that Kenshin had laid down when he began peeling vegetables.
"Yes, Ayame, it was a little like this sword, that it was," replied the redhead. He picked up the sword, sliding it out of its sheath a little way. Both little girls reached out for the shiny blade.
"No, do not touch. You might hurt yourselves, that you might. Just look for now," cautioned Kenshin, placing the sword down on the veranda again. The girls stared at the weapon, and cuddled back into the safety of Kenshin's arms.
"If Battousai could beat her in combat, why didn't she marry him?" asked Suzume.
"Well, Suzume, the Battousai could beat her, and was even in love with her, it is true. Even though he asked to marry him, she refused. No-one but the Princess knows why she refused," replied Kenshin. "Now, there was a warrior..."
Now, there was a warrior who had been a suitor of the Princess. He was called Gohei. He was furious that the Princess had beaten him in combat (for she had). He wanted revenge for what he saw as a humiliation, even though many good warriors had also been beaten by the Princess.
So, Gohei decided to have his revenge on the Princess by kidnapping her, and holding her for ransom. He knew that he could never capture her in combat, so he would have to resort to trickery.
He went to an old fortune-teller in the town where he lived, and asked: "What is an auspicious day for an ambitious plan?" The fortune-teller did not ask what the plan was, and simply consulted his charts and omens. "The correct day for an ambitious plan is the next day of the new Moon," he said. Gohei also asked for a sleeping potion, which the fortune-teller also gave to him.
So Gohei knew when the plan should be carried out. He hired a young woman to imitate a servant in the palace, and petitioned for an audience with the Shogun, the Princess' father, on that day.
Kaoru walked into the house, smiling. Her dojo finally had ten students. All her hard work had paid off. Kenshin would be pleased, she knew. Her best friend had never failed to support her when the dojo was in trouble, and he would be thrilled that it was finally having some success.
She heard the low murmur of his voice, and the high replies of his two little 'nieces'. He must be telling them a fairytale, she thought. They love his stories. She walked out on the veranda, and her guess was confirmed.
"Ah, Kaoru-dono, how are you?" asked Kenshin, as he noticed her.
"I'm well, thank you, Kenshin," she replied, then smiled down at the little girls. "Is this a good story?"
"Yes, Uncle Kenshin is good at stories!" "Fairytale, fairytale!" were the children's simultaneous replies.
"That sounds good." Kaoru sat down, arranging her kimono, and settled back to listen.
The day at last came when Gohei would have his revenge. He had planned very carefully, and knew he could not fail.
The servant girl Gohei had hired had laced the Princess' morning tea with the sleeping potion, so in the middle of her afternoon sword practice, she became very sleepy. She went to have a sleep under a cherry-blossom tree. As soon as she lay down, she fell asleep.
As soon as she was asleep, the servant girl signalled to Gohei, who was waiting in the courtyard. He picked her up, wrapped her in a blanket, and carried her to a waiting palanquin. No guards had seen the Princess' abduction, and the palanquin-carriers had been told that she was a relative of Gohei's.
And so, she was carried off to Gohei's house. He tied her up, and locked her in the family shrine, for that was the place that could be guarded most easily.
Soon, the alarm was raised at the palace, and hunters began the search for the Princess, but she was nowhere to be found. Then, a note was found under the cherry-blossom tree. It said that unless the ransom of one thousand ryo was left under the tree, the Princess would not be returned.
Kaoru gasped. She knew this story. It was her own. Her father, despite being a dojo master, had not been able to afford the ransom, so had asked for police searchers to look.
Kenshin, as Kaoru's best friend, had also gone looking for her. He had been lucky enough to overhear two of the carriage drivers discussing the girl that they had had to drive to Gohei's house, and how it was strange that she had been asleep.
The Shogun, the Princess' father, was worried, but his councillors advised him to send out the best warriors to look, before paying the ransom, as no death threat was in the note.
Battousai, infuriated by the kidnapping of the woman he loved, searched high and low. By chance, he stumbled on two of the palanquin-carriers talking. They were puzzled about the way that the girl they had been carrying had been asleep the whole time they were carrying her.
"Where did you carry her to?" Battousai asked them. "To the house of Gohei," they replied. He thanked them, and ran to Gohei's house. By the time he arrived, it was nearly night.
When he arrived, he climbed the wall, and sneaked into the house. He searched, careful not to be caught. Eventually he found the Princess locked in the family shrine. He untied her, and tried to wake her, but she could not be wakened, for the sleeping potion had been strong.
He picked up the Princess in his arms, and carefully carried her out of the house. Just as he reached the courtyard, Gohei walked out onto the veranda. Seeing Battousai with the Princess in his arms, he drew his sword, and charged.
Battousai could not run and fight at the same time, and he was burdened with the unconscious Princess. He dodged Gohei's strike, and ran over to a cherry-blossom tree. Placing the Princess down, he drew his sword just in time to block Gohei's next attack.
And so, the battle commenced. Apart from Gohei's first two strikes, he never attacked during that battle, for Battousai had both god-like speed and incredible skill. Gohei was easily beaten.
When Battousai had knocked out Gohei – for the sakabato cannot kill – he ran over to where the Princess was lying. He lifted her again, and carried her back to the palace.
Kaoru was puzzled at the reference to 'the woman he loved', but tried to ignore it. She uneasily remembered that Kenshin had proposed to her once. Could he have been – be – in love with me?
No! Kaoru banished the thought, and tried to think of something different.
She remembered how she had woken up halfway to the dojo. She was in a strong pair of arms, gently rocking with her carrier's steps. She looked up into his face.
"Ah, Kaoru-dono, you are awake at last. Are you feeling well?"
"Yes, but I'm still tired," replied Kaoru, enjoying the feeling of being carried. She snuggled in closer, and fell back to sleep.
Now, when Battousai reached the palace, the Shogun was so glad to have his daughter back that he immediately offered Battousai the position as the Captain of his household guard. Battousai refused, saying that he would far rather remain as he was, for if he became the Captain of the Shogun's guard, he would not have any time to spend with his friend, the Princess.
The Shogun smiled, and said "If that is how you wish it to be," for he admired such devotion to his daughter.
And so, they lived happily, the Princess, and her devoted friend, Battousai.
"And that is the end of the story, that it is," said Kenshin, smiling down at the two girls.
"I like that story, Uncle Ken, but why didn't the Princess marry Battousai? She should have," said Ayame, obviously confused.
"As this one said, Ayame, no-one knows why the Princess did not marry Battousai," replied Kenshin.
"That's a funny ending, Uncle Ken," said Suzume.
"Well, that is the way the story ends, that it is, Suzume," replied Kenshin, a shadow of sadness in his eyes.
"Can we play now, Uncle Ken?" Ayame jumped up. "I want to play tag!"
After the best part of three-quarters-of-an-hour's worth of tag and hopscotch, Megumi returned. The little girls ran to her, and after appropriate farewells and thanks, the family left.
Kenshin strolled back to the veranda, where Kaoru was sitting. He sat down next to her, and sighed. "They are so energetic, that they are."
"That was a nice story you told," replied Kaoru, smiling. "I think I know where it came from."
"Ah, yes, this one thought that they would enjoy it," said Kenshin, a little embarrassed. "It was the sort of fairytale they enjoy. They do not know this one as the Battousai, so they will not guess, that they won't."
"I could have told them why the Princess refused Battousai's offer of marriage," said Kaoru, looking into Kenshin's face. His eyes widened, but he remained silent. "It was because she was scared. She was afraid of losing her freedom, afraid that marriage would chain her to a house and children, afraid that she wouldn't be able to continue her dojo... afraid... afraid of love..."
"And is she still?" asked Kenshin, his voice quiet and gentle.
Kaoru ducked her head, and turned to sit looking out at the now-setting sun. She was avoiding his gaze, she knew. Suddenly she couldn't get the courage to even look at Kenshin, much less answer him.
"Kaoru-dono?" Kenshin's voice was somewhere between worried and desperate. Then it sharpened again. "Kaoru, answer me!"
Out of pure shock, Kaoru looked at him. He had never called her anything but 'Kaoru-dono'. And he never referred to himself as anything other than 'this one'.
As she looked at him now, she saw him again. The hand reaching for her. The body that she knew was chiselled and fit. The sword that was almost a physical part of him. The tousled, blazing hair. The cross-shaped scar on his cheek.
And finally, she looked into his eyes. The brilliant violet eyes. Those eyes, that were so often warm and caring. That she knew could turn red in blood-fury. Now they were filled with anguish and love and desperation.
"Yes, I am afraid... But... To love, is it painful...?"
"It should not be..."
Kenshin moved over to her, until their legs were touching. Then he took her face in his hand, and Kaoru closed her eyes as he leaned forward and placed a gentle kiss on her lips.
She could feel his lips on hers, moving slightly, warm and soft.
A shiver ran through her, and as he broke the kiss and moved away, she opened her eyes. She lifted her hand and touched her lips, amazed that something could feel so perfect.
Kenshin was smiling nervously, and she reached out and touched his cheek, running her fingers down the scar.
His smile deepened, full of warmth now, and he reached out and pulled her into his arms.
And Battousai married the Princess, and they lived happily ever after.
Author's Notes: Sorry if you found it a bit cheesy! I didn't know how to end it/sweatdrops/ So I went for the traditional 'happily ever after' ending... That's the way to finish a fairytale, right:)
Review! Please! Onegai!
(That's the only time I ever bring out my fangirl Japanese :) )