So, story number two is in progress! Um, sorry about the bad summary, I'm not too good at those. Funny how this came about, I'm in an absolutely rotten mood and decided delving into Kenshin would help things considerably. Anyway, Disclaimers: I still don't own Kenshin, but if I did . . . I'll let you imagine the rest. Onward now, to chapter 1!
Arabesque from the Past
"Aaaaahhhh!" Yahiko gave a wide yawn and stretched, blinking the early morning sun from his eyes. Strange, that he'd woken up so early without any prodding. It must have had something to do with the colder days heralding the start of winter because usually Yahiko would sleep until nine. Yahiko could tell from the way that the light was slanting into the room that it was hardly past seven. "Ah, I'm awake now, may as well get up," Yahiko thought to himself, shivering as pulled on his loose clothing. Kaoru probably wasn't even up yet. She usually got up around eight. Which meant if he was the only one awake when she did wake up, she'd want to know why he hadn't cooked breakfast, cleaned the dojo . . .
Yahiko made a face. Maybe he should just go back to bed. Then he heard a noise from outside, water sloshing in a bucket. Yahiko sighed with relief. Good, Kenshin was up and working. He had nothing to worry about.
Yahiko folded his futon and tiptoed past Kaoru's room. Maybe if he helped, Kenshin would finish his chores early and–Yahiko held his breath–maybe he would even agree to instruct Yahiko on his sword technique. It wasn't from lack of trying that Yahiko hadn't succeeded in getting Kenshin to show him anything. The mild-tempered rurouni had firmly stated that he wasn't teaching Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu to anyone, and that was final. It didn't matter how much Yahiko whined and begged, Kenshin had stood by his word.
"Idiot, thinks I can't manage it or something?" Yahiko muttered from the corner of his mouth as he walked outside. As a samurai, Yahiko felt it was his duty to learn as much about the Art as he could, and that meant learning the best, which was, in his mind, Mitsurugi Ryu. And the best person to teach that besides Kenshin's shishou, who Yahiko considered awe-inspiring but a little too stuck up, was Kenshin himself.
Yahiko had to cover a snicker as Kenshin walked past him carrying two buckets of water. Something about the legendary swordsman performing such a humble task was downright amusing. Almost as funny as Kenshin doing the daily laundry.
Kenshin glanced Yahiko's way and gave his usual slightly goofy smile. "Ohayou, Yahiko," He said, continuing on his way to the fire which had a pot of something bubbling over it.
Yahiko licked his lips. "Mm, what's that Kenshin?" He hopped off the porch and trotted over to peer into the pot. It smelled great.
"Just something I threw together with what we had left." Kenshin put a finger to his chin. "Hm, but I think I'm still missing something . . ." He smacked a fist into his palm. "I told Kaoru-dono I would get more rice! She said we were almost out last night."
Yahiko held his hands up as Kenshin made to leave. "No problem Kenshin, I'll get it." He volunteered.
"I'd appreciate that," Kenshin said. He blinked when Yahiko just stood there and looked at him. "Oro?"
"I need some money to buy it," Yahiko explained.
Kenshin gave an uncomfortable smile. He was rather low on cash. "Ah, so you do." He reached into his gi, trying not to think about what a pittance he contributed for the food and lodging Kaoru so kindly afforded him.
"Uh, Kenshin," Yahiko began as Kenshin handed him several ryo, "Do you think when I get back and you're finished with all that you could show me some moves?" He looked hopefully at Kenshin.
"Yahiko, you know that I'm not teaching anyone Mitsurugi Ryu, even you," Kenshin said with a smile. Damn, Yahiko thought. He'd even tried wording it different that time. Kenshin was up to him though it seemed. Although the rurouni was smiling, his tone was unyielding.
"Yeah, I know, I just thought that maybe, ya know-" Yahiko shrugged, at a loss for words. "Anyway. Guess I'll go get that rice." He started to the gate, then turned back as an idea popped into his head. "Kenshin, what about-"
"You can just put the rice in the kitchen when you get back," Kenshin smiled as if he knew that had been Yahiko's question, and Yahiko turned and scowled, sentence left unfinished.
Kenshin watched him leave, face turning serious. Yahiko was a good student, and Kenshin hated to disappoint him every time he asked about learning Mitsurugi Ryu. It wasn't that Kenshin thought Yahiko couldn't pick up the style quickly, he had no doubts about the boy's talent. He just hesitated to teach anyone a style that could so easily lead one down the wrong path in life. Kenshin lowered his head as he stirred the simmering soup. He should know. Obviously, Hiko Seijurou had. He'd known what Kenshin was like, knew his weakness when it came to seeing people being mistreated. Hiko had tried to dissuade his "baka deshi" from making a mistake he'd regret his whole life but Kenshin had made it anyway, naively joining the Ishin Shishi, prepared to give his life for a new era.
Yes, if Kenshin's past was anything to go by, Kasshin Ryu was a better style for anyone to learn, especially a kind boy like Yahiko. The new era that Kenshin had once fought so hard for as a hitokiri needed swords now for protection, not killing. Satisfied that his sentiments on teaching were correct, Kenshin went back to cooking breakfast. Fifteen minutes later he noticed the childlike energetic ki behind him, followed by a softer but still just as energetic ki.
"Ken-niisan!" The two little girls spoke in unison. "Ohayou!"
Kenshin turned and smiled. "Ohayou, Suzume-chan, Ayame-chan." He looked up as the softer ki stopped in front of him. "Ohayou Kaoru-dono."
"Ohayou Kenshin," Kaoru replied happily, bending over the bubbling pot. "Wow, that smells good, what is it?"
"Something shishou taught me," Kenshin replied as he banked the fire.
"He really did teach you everything didn't he?" Kaoru asked, half rhetorically.
"Aah." Kenshin gave his soup a taste test and nodded approvingly.
"Kenshin, where's Yahiko?" Kaoru asked, after instructing Suzume and Ayume to go get bowls and chopsticks. "He wasn't there when I went to wake him up." She frowned slightly. "He better not be trying to get out of his lesson today."
Kenshin passed the ladle to her as Kaoru looked at the meal hungrily. "Yahiko offered to get the rice this morning," Kenshin explained. "He's been gone about twenty minutes, he should be back any time now."
"Yahiko offered to get rice?" Kaoru echoed. "Hm, what got into him? Did he try and beg you for something or what?"
Kenshin laughed. "As a matter of fact, he did ask if I would teach him a little, but," Kenshin hurried on as Kaoru's frown got deeper at the thought of someone else instructing her student, "I declined."
"Oh. That's right, you said no one would learn Mitsurugi Ryu from you," Kaoru remembered. She looked towards the gate as it crashed open.
"I'm back!" Yahiko called loudly, bucket of rice swinging from his shinai. "Oi busu, you're up early for once." Yahiko cackled as he went to place the rice in the kitchen.
"Kaoru's fists clenched. "I see you decided to start taking on at least the responsibility of a six year old!" She growled back, tossing one of Kenshin's cooking supplies at Yahiko's disappearing head while Kenshin watched in horrified silence as his daikon flew off. A muffled 'itai' could be heard, and then Yahiko stuck his head out from behind the wall, brandishing the large white radish.
"Oh yeah?! Well I don't see you volunteering to cook too often!" He tossed the daikon back at Kaoru. Kenshin leaped in front of her and grabbed it, sighing with relief. "Our last one too."
Kaoru looked at him in shock. "'Our last one?!' Kenshin, I thought you told me yesterday-!"
Kenshin gave a sheepish grin as he held his hands up. "Sumanai, I forgot. Don't worry, I'll go get something to eat for lunch." He quickly turned back to his pot. "I think it's ready now."
Yahiko leapt in the air. "Haha! Great, I'm starved!"
Kaoru placed a hand on his forehead as he rushed forward. "The rice?"
"What about it?" Yahiko growled. "Beat it, I'm hungry!"
"Then go put the rice up!" Kaoru yelled, smacking him towards the house with her shinai.
"Itee! Child abuser!" Yahiko shouted as he lugged the bucket into the kitchen.
"Hmph!" Kaoru's face brightened as Suzume and Ayume came out carrying bowls and chopsticks. "Ready to eat you two?" She asked.
"Hai!" They shouted, sitting down and holding their bowls towards Kenshin. "Ittadakimasu!"
Kaoru looked towards the gate as Kenshin served everyone. "I bet Sanosuke'll be here any minute," She said. "He always seems to know when you're cooking." Kaoru frowned. Sanosuke was hardly ever there when she cooked, and he almost lived at the dojo.
"Probably," Kenshin replied, taking a large bite of rice. Yahiko came up a second later and 'accidentally' bumped Kaoru.
"Oops, sorry," He snickered, grabbing a bowl and piling it with rice before ladling in Kenshin's soup. "Mmm, this is great Kenshin!" Yahiko said enthusiastically. "How come you don't just cook every meal? Everyone would be grateful."
Kaoru raised her fist. "Look you-"
At that moment the gate crashed open again. If the neighborhood hadn't been awake from Yahiko's shouts earlier, they certainly were now.
"Sano-niisan!" Ayume waved as the ex-gangster walked into the yard.
"Ohayou, Sano," Kenshin greeted.
"Oi, Jou-chan, Kenshin, what's up?" Sanosuke sauntered over to the little group eating breakfast and plopped down between Yahiko and Kenshin. "Ah, Kenshin cooked did he?" Sano asked, noticing that everyone was wolfing down their food with gusto. "Guess I'll have some then."
Yahiko glanced up. "Yeah, and don't even think about taking my share, you pig."
"Oh, Yahiko-chan, think you can tell me what to do?" Sano taunted, picking up a spare bowl.
"It's not CHAN, chicken-head!!" Yahiko shouted, dropping his bowl to the ground to jump on Sano's head and chew it furiously.
"Oi! Get off, you street-fighting mutt!"
"You're one to talk!" Yahiko said through a mouthful of hair.
Kenshin reached for seconds, not feeling guilty one bit that he was taking advantage of Sano and Yahiko's fight. Usually the two had gobbled everything down before anyone had a chance to finish their first serving of food.
"More please!" Suzume held her bowl out with a smile as Kenshin picked up the ladle.
"Hai, hai," Kenshin said amiably. "Here you go."
"Quick, Kenshin, give me some more too!" Kaoru said. Kenshin wasn't the only one who realized this was his chance. "Umm, I'm actually going to be full today!" Kaoru sighed. "What a great feeling!"
As if sensing their food was fast disappearing, Sano and Yahiko stopped their brawl. "Hey, you're taking all the food busu!" Yahiko yelled, scooping his bowl up which had two bites left in it, and a meager two at that.
Kaoru's eyes flashed. "Well since it's MY food to take . . .!" She said menacingly. Yahiko didn't heed her warning.
"I live here too you know! And I think a growing boy needs more food than an overweight girl like you!" Yahiko stuck his tongue out.
"YAHIKO!!!" Kaoru began, rising. She froze in the midst of her rage as the gate opened for the third time that morning. Now who was it? Surely not Megumi-san? Kaoru and the rest of the Kenshin-gumi looked towards the gate, blinking.
"Kawaji-dono!" Kenshin exclaimed as the person entering bowed low.
"I'm sorry, please excuse me!" The Chief of police said as he raised his head. "But I have an urgent message for you Himura-dono!"
Kenshin nodded as Sano muttered something to Yahiko about everyone always wanting to talk to Kenshin. "Please come in."
"I'll make some tea." Kaoru offered, heading towards the house and beckoning to Suzume and Ayame.
"No, don't bother, today is going to be busy-" Kawaji shook his head and continued. "Himura-dono, you've heard of the talk that another revolution is going to take place?"
"I've heard many people talking, although it doesn't sound like anything serious will come of it," Kenshin said.
"Yes, you know how people are." Kawaji agreed. "Still, we've had our hands full with so many small renegade groups opposing the government, declaring that they're going to start the Bright Revolution. They're calling themselves Heaven's Judges. Anyway, although the talk was serious the police seemed to have everything under control. However, last night there was a murder. I think–everyone at the department thinks–your help is needed to get to the bottom of this."
"A murder he says." Sano muttered to Yahiko. "Like that's anything new." Yahiko grunted in agreement. All the talk about government didn't interest him and saying so, he left to see if Kaoru would give him a lesson.
"I don't see how that concerns me," Kenshin said as Yahiko trotted towards the house. "I would do what I could if I saw the murderer but I'm not a policeman."
"Why can't your officers take care of a simple murder by themselves?" Sano broke in, sensing Kawaji was leaving a crucial detail out of his explanation. "Has the police department gotten so downhill they can't even manage to arrest a single murderer without Kenshin's help?"
Kawaji whirled, snapping at Sano. "You don't understand! Himura would be an invaluable asset in bringing the murderer to justice!" Kawaji turned back to Kenshin, tone turning pleading. "Himura, you have to assist us!"
Kenshin gave a confused 'oro' as Sano stood and towered over Kawaji threateningly.
"Why don't you help us understand then?" He suggested none too nicely. "Why's Kenshin so important to all a' this?"
"Of course, I'm sorry, I just got flustered-" Kawaji rubbed his brow. "The murder last night . . . the victim was found with this lying on his shirt, Himura-dono." Kawaji held a slip of paper out to Kenshin, who reached for it with–trepidation was it? Sano noticed the slight pause before Kenshin took the paper, and wondered.
Kenshin's eyes scanned the brief note written in kanji, and when he looked back at Kawaji, his expression was set. "I will do all I can to help Kawaji-dono," Kenshin said. "Just tell me what you need me to do. By the way, do you mind if I keep this?" He indicated the paper.
"Well . . . it's our only clue really . . ." Kawaji said with hesitation. "But if you need it, by all means, keep it." He stood and bowed low. "I'm deeply grateful, Himura-dono, I don't know what we would have done if–but never mind, most importantly, you have agreed to aid us."
Sano stared from one to the other in disbelief, mouth open. What the hell? One minute Kenshin was placidly saying a murder was none of his business and the next he'd offered all of his services to Kawaji! "Oi, Kenshin, what's going on?" Sano didn't receive a response. Kawaji and Kenshin were deep into conversation.
"I realize this will probably bring back memories best left forgotten," Kawaji said, "but I hate to think about what would happen if another Bakumatsu was started. Japan just can't afford that at this time."
"I understand," Kenshin said. "I assume you want me to tell you who it is that wrote this?" He held up the letter.
"I was hoping you could," Kawaji said with relief. "We have our suspicions of course but nothing is definite."
Kenshin looked down at the kanji again with unseeing eyes, nightmarish memories of Kyoto and the Revolution flooding his mind. Ten years ago . . . he had been the one delivering these messages, a deadly ghost for the Ishin Shishi. Only his notes hadn't been left in ink.
"Ishin Shishi," Kenshin said finally. He stood and turned towards the dojo without another word, letting the note drop from his hands.
"Many thanks, Himura-dono," Kawaji said to Kenshin's retreating form. He gave another bow and hastily made his retreat, apologizing to Kaoru for interrupting breakfast as she came out of the house.
Sano watched the two men go, then looked at the note lying face down on the ground. What had been important enough to make Kenshin get so somber? He picked the note up as Kaoru walked over to him, looking back at the house where Kenshin had disappeared.
"What's wrong with Kenshin?" She asked as Sano read the two boldly written kanji.
"Tenchuu," He said aloud. Divine Retribution.
"Huh?" Kaoru looked at him.
"It's what they fought for in the Revolution," Sano explained. "I don't know why it's such a big deal, Kawaji said they were just extremists." He and Kaoru looked towards the house, and Kaoru voiced their thoughts aloud.
"Kenshin's got some explaining to do."
So, quick notes on the Japanese . . . I try not to use Japanese too much, as this is written in English. I realize there is a huge controversy on the whole 'de gozaru' issue, and I do use that on occasion as I think it helps put across Kenshin's attitude in certain circumstances. However, sometimes I feel the story flows better with the Japanese, and some words (chan, dono, etc.) just can't be translated into English well. Hence, you will see a sparse sprinkling of Japanese throughout, sorry for any inconvenience. And in case you're not familiar with Japanese, here's a little glossary for you, feel free to let me know if I leave anything out. 8 )
aah - yeah (guy speech, Kenshin uses this a lot)
baka deshi - stupid apprentice/pupil/student
busu - ugly
hai - yes/I agree
itai - ouch
ittadakimasu - I'm eating now, thanks for the food
ohayou - good morning
oi - hey
oro - if you don't know this . . . you should. It's Kenshin's trademark exclamation
sumanai - sorry
Ba-ba-bum-! Okay, fire away. I almost hesitate to post something else after such nice reviews for my one shot. Thanks to everyone who signed! Once again, comments/criticisms/unabashed worship is welcome (lol). Chapter length good? Too short/long? Oh, I looked into the Japanese currency during the Meiji and apparently there were a lot of changes being made, so for all you Japanese history buffs, if I screwed up on saying ryo instead of yen, or something, please tell me!! "Ja" for now