Stories from the world of Between the Devil and the Deep and Letter of Marque
A Rurouni Kenshin AU fanfic by Gemini.
Rated PG-13 for Misao's unbridled lust. ;P
This Rurouni Kenshin franchise is owned and operated by Earl
Tim "Shonen" Jump and "Sony" Jones. There are also a few silent partners I can't recall.
Misao tugged uncomfortably at her ill-fitting dress. It had been the only thing in the poor box at church that was still wearable, but it was loose in the wrong places and tight in others. Misao could not even imagine the shape of the woman who had worn it. The bodice sagged depressingly at the bust and refused to stay up, sliding down her arms at the most inopportune moments. She was glad for the old, musty cloak she had unearthed in the attic, because not only did it keep her from being indecent, it also effectively hid her identity with its oversized hood. She pulled it tighter around herself and peered out into the world she had infiltrated.
The wharves and the seedy area that surrounded them had long held a fascination for her, ever since she was a child and had peeked out at the place from behind the curtains of her family's carriage as it rumbled quickly through on the way to her father's offices in a slightly better part of town. It was just as she had remembered it: filthy, smelly and filled with the absolute dregs of humanity. The characters of the sensational novels she regularly read wandered the streets in flesh and blood. She actually saw a pirate with an eye patch and nearly swooned. How she loved this place!
people here were cutthroats and thieves, but at least they were
honest about it, unlike the people in her social circle, who hid
their viciousness behind polite conversation and fake smiles.
Many of them were at her home at that moment, victims of one of her mother's society teas. Her parents were so wrapped up in their own importance, they hadn't noticed or cared that she was missing.
She had counted on that. She engineered her escape with great guile, slipping her governess enough of a particular herb to make the evil-tempered woman terribly ill for the evening, and issuing a command to all the household servants not to disturb their ladyship. She had locked her door and escaped out the window, clambering down the sturdy rose trellises that lined the heavy brick walls with the skill and grace she had learned from her martial arts master, the slightly perverted elderly man who was supposed to be teaching her the ancient art of calligraphy and watercolors, but who had decided it was more fun to teach her how to kick and punch. Misao had manipulated one of her fellow students, a young man named Kuro who had a desperate crush on her, to take her in a wagon to the docks and wait for her. He was hidden several blocks away in an old abandoned barn, nervously awaiting her return and good graces.
But for now, she wandered around the streets, taking in the sights, committing it all to memory so she could entertain herself later with the details when her arrogant tutor was droning on about a lady's place or when her grim-faced governess decided she needed yet another lecture on the proper way for a lady to act.
She was so caught up in observing a haggard and well-worn prostitute solicit business that she narrowly avoided running into two drunken sailors. She dodged them and ended up in front of a dirty set of windows, fronting what looked like a pub. She grinned. A pub! A place filled with the worst sort, according to her novels. She absolutely had to see it. The door moaned a warning as she pushed it open and she almost gagged at the smell of unwashed bodies, rotting food and old beer. No one paid her much attention as she waded through the drunken piles of people up to the rickety wooden bar. She slapped her hand on the counter, getting the barkeeper's attention, just countless story characters had done. "A beer, please." She said, lowering the timbre of her voice so that she didn't sound quite so much like a rich teenage girl out having a lark.
The barkeeper frowned down at her. "Money first. Two bits."
She nodded and fumbled in her small purse for the coins. As she did, she realized with dawning horror that she had no idea how much two bits actually was. Nervously, she pulled out a shiny silver coin and laid it on the bar. She knew it was probably more than two bits, but she didn't want to ask the barkeeper any questions. "Keep, uh, the change." She said, hating the way her voice wobbled.
The barkeeper raised an eyebrow at her supposed extravagance and quickly slipped the coin into his apron. He disappeared for a moment but returned with a streaky mug filled with what she assumed was beer, which he slapped down in front of her, not seeming to care much when a good portion of the liquid slopped down the sides and onto the bar.
Gingerly, Misao raised the mug to her lips and took a swig. She managed not to spit it up or gag, but she was certain that it was the worst tasting stuff she had ever had, even worse than her cook's herbal remedies or the cod liver oil her governess sometimes forced on her.
"When in Rome, Misao, when in Rome." She muttered to herself as she took another mouthful. Not drinking it might attract people's attention.
"Two beers, and a shot of whisky, barkeeper, and make the whisky a little less watery this time." A man's deep and rather attractive voice caught her attention as she tried to nurse her beer. She turned, looked at the speaker and nearly spit out her drink again. The man standing next to her had to be the most gorgeous man she had ever seen. He looked like the dashing hero in one of her romance novels, the ones she wasn't supposed to read and had to hide in increasingly creative places in her bedroom where her maid or her governess couldn't find them.
This man was tall with inky black hair that was just long enough to brush his broad shoulders. He was wearing a simple linen shirt that was open at the collar, exposing an enticing bit of his throat (Misao had a thing for Adam's apples) and the sleeves were rolled up enough for her to see strong forearms. She looked down at his hands and felt a shiver run down her spine. He had large, capable hands, his long, elegant fingers were ink-stained, she noticed. Her gaze drifted downward. He had a gun and a sword hanging at his deliciously narrow waist and she had no doubt he knew how to use them. She couldn't figure out a way to get a look at his behind without being obvious, but she was certain that it was as nice as the rest of him.
As though he could feel her eyes appraising him, the man turned his head and glanced over at her, revealing rather attractive blue-gray eyes. She receded further into the shadows of her hood, hoping he couldn't see her blush. Before he could study her any further, the barkeeper returned and set down the requested drinks, with noticeably more restraint than he had used with Misao's.
"Sorry about the whisky, sir. It won't happen again." The barkeeper was nervous, which made Misao wonder if this hunk was someone important.
The man merely nodded and placed some coins on the bar.
"Oi, Aoshi! What the hell is taking you so long? I'm still sober!" A loud and rude voice called through the bar, catching the man's attention. He rolled his eyes and gathered up the drinks, not dignifying the caller with a response. He disappeared into the crush of humanity around them before she could get a good look at his behind to confirm her suspicions.
His name was Aoshi. A goofy smile played on her lips as she whispered the name. A gorgeous name for a gorgeous man. And a dangerous one if he was hanging out in this dive, and armed, she thought, feeling a tingle of excitement. He was probably a highwayman or maybe even a pirate, an idea that filled her with glee. A pirate like in her last romance novel! And here she was, a gentleman's daughter, off limits to him. They were like two ships crossing in the night, she decided, star-crossed lovers whose all encompassing love would burn bright, but brief. Oh, she thought happily, how terribly romantic!
She would have stayed at that bar, daydreaming until she started gathering dust if a rough hand hadn't grabbed her arm and jerked her out of her revelry. She dropped her lukewarm mug of beer, making a dismayed sound when it hit the ground and spilled its smelly contents all over the hem of her purloined dress and her boots.
"Ye were mighty generous with the barkeep, chum. Why don't ye be generous with me?" A voice nowhere near as pleasing as Aoshi's with breath as foul as manure growled at her. She looked up into a face that resembled a rotted apple, a fat rotted apple, all wrinkled flesh and a sunken mouth.
"Let me go." She said angrily, jerking her arm from his grip.
Another man appeared, this one resembling a weasel, she decided. He was thin and greasy with beady little black eyes. "Ye shouldn't be flashin' coin around here if ye ain't gonna share it, mate." He said in an oddly high-pitched voice.
The fat-rotted apple man grabbed her again and gave her a good shake. "Give up yer coin or I'll cut ye!" he snarled, his free hand fumbling in his pockets for what she hoped was a knife.
She swallowed her fear and gave the man a good hard kick in the shins, which set him howling in pain. He let go of her arm to grab his leg, but his friend the Weasel reached over and smacked her hard in the head.
She was too busy counting the stars in her vision to notice at first that her hood had slipped down, revealing her face.
"Oi, that's no mate, that there's a lass! And not a bad lookin' one, neither." The Weasel said with a sudden wicked gleam in his eyes.
"Well, the bitch is going to pay for kicking me, she is! And when she's done apologizin' to me on her back, she can start apologizin' to you on her knees for bein' so rude." Fat-rotted apple man said viciously, a grin on his face that made Misao nauseous.
"I think you two are the ones being rude." All three of them swung around to look at who had addressed them.
Misao gaped at the sight of a fellow woman, a heavily armed but pretty woman perhaps only a few years older than herself. "I think you should apologize to the lady for being rude and then I think you should leave."
The weasel snorted. "Skirts shouldn't think. They should just lay back and take what's comin' to them."
The woman raised an eyebrow at this, but otherwise didn't seem ruffled.
Misao, on the other hand, was livid. "How dare you! A woman shouldn't have to be subservient to a man just because he says so, you cretin!"
"Wha you just say? Sub what?" Fat rotted-apple man scratched his head and frowned. "Ye makin' fun of us?"
"I am. You two uncouth morons don't even have the right to address me, let alone touch me! And your views on women are positively barbaric! I'm surprised you can walk upright without dragging your knuckles on the ground, you filthy pigs!" Misao put her hands on her hips and scowled at them, forgetting in her anger where she was and with whom she was talking to.
Now even the other woman looked surprised.
"I dunno what ye just said, but I don' like it!" Fat-rotted apple man pulled a hand back to slap Misao, only to be surprised to find it in her grip. She had caught his hand.
"I said you don't have the right to touch me, asshole!" She snarled, letting go of his hand long enough to punch him right in the face.
It was about then that all hell broke loose. Any excuse for a fight was honored at this particular bar and with Misao's punch, everyone jumped into the fray.
The other woman punched and kicked her way to Misao's side, a grin on her face. "That's quite a right hook you have." She said as she ducked to avoid a rickety chair that sailed over her head and crashed into the wall behind them, splintering into a million pieces.
"I've been taking martial arts classes for a year and a half now." Misao proudly informed her as she intercepted a broken beer bottle and deftly twisted it out of the hand of the man who wielded it before knocking him back into the pile of fighting bodies.
"My name's Kaoru. What's yours?"
"Misao. Are you a pirate?"
"Yep. Captain of my own ship, the Kami Kaze." Kaoru gave the weasel man a very hard kick in the groin, sending him to his knees, his mouth open in shock, but no sound coming out.
"A pirate captain that's a woman? That is so amazing!" Impressed, Misao turned to study Kaoru in more detail, but had to stop in order to defend herself against yet another idiot male.
"Oi! Kaoru! Why is it that whenever we have shore leave, you start a fight! Can't I ever drink a beer in peace?" The man who had called out to Aoshi earlier, a tall, muscular young man with unruly brown hair threw two people out of his way, sending them crashing into a table that promptly collapsed.
"It's not my fault this time Sano! I swear!" Kaoru grinned up at him. "It was hers." She pointed at Misao, who had lost her cloak somewhere in the melee and was now trying to fight and keep her dress on at the same time.
"Another one of your causes, Captain?" Aoshi had somehow materialized at Sano's side and he didn't look very pleased.
Misao turned to see Aoshi and realized that he had just addressed Kaoru as 'captain', which meant that he was a pirate and that he served under her new-found friend.
She was so absorbed in her realization that she left herself open to attack. Fat-rotted apple man had recovered somewhat and he had Misao in his sights. Before she could react, he punched her hard in the stomach, sending the breath whooshing right out of her. She stumbled back and almost lost her balance, but a strong hand at her elbow kept her upright.
She wheezed painfully and looked up at her savior only to discover that it was her dream pirate man, Aoshi. At that moment, two things happened: Fat-rotted apple man geared up for a second attack and Misao forgot to hold her dress up. She didn't understand why Aoshi was looking at her so strangely and blushing slightly until she looked down and realized that she was flashing him. She turned bright red in horror and swung around, only to find herself in the path of the fat-rotted apple man, who leered at her.
She lost her temper. She had been mad before, but now she was in pain, humiliated and mad, a lethal combination. As the fat man barreled towards her, Aoshi moved to push her out of the way, but she ignored him, gathered up her dress, her dignity and her strength and gave the fat man a kick so powerful that he went flying backwards and crashed through the dirty windows onto the street outside.
"Take that you perverted bastard!" She yelled after him, shaking her fist at what was left of the window.
"Sano, Aoshi, let's get out of here!" Kaoru yelled. She looked back at Aoshi and nodded her head towards Misao, who was still shrieking insults at the window. With a martyred sigh, Aoshi picked up Misao, threw her over his shoulder and followed his captain and ship mate out the door.
She was so surprised that she didn't even have the mind to yell at him for hauling her over his shoulder like a sack of rice. When she finally recovered from her shock, she discovered that she didn't exactly mind being thrown over the shoulder of a dead sexy pirate, especially when her position allowed her to finally solve the mystery as to whether or not he had a nice bottom. He did. Mystery solved.
They ran for several minutes before ducking into a conveniently dark and foreboding alleyway. Misao was quite disappointed to be set perfunctorily on her feet again; she had rather enjoyed the ride. And sadly, Aoshi's hands didn't linger, he set her down and immediately dropped them from her waist. Misao almost scowled. Her pirate seemed to be a gentleman. And gentlemen pirates were not in the habit of ravishing innocent maidens.
"Sano, Aoshi, meet Misao." Kaoru gestured towards the disheveled debutante who waved merrily, so happy about meeting honest-to-God pirates that she momentarily forgot her pique at not being ravished by Aoshi.
Sano grunted a greeting and Aoshi merely tilted his head in acknowledgement.
"Why the hell did you start that fight, brat?" Sano asked crankily. "I only got to drink two beers before all hell broke loose."
Misao put her hands on her hips and scowled at him. "First of all, I am not a brat. Secondly, it wasn't my fault. Those guys were hoping to molest me."
"Molest you?" Sano scratched his head and stared at her.
Kaoru leaned against the alley wall and grinned. "You're not from around here, are you Misao?"
"Wh…what makes you think that? Of course I'm from around here…I…" Misao stuttered, searching her brain for some sort of reasonable story.
Kaoru snorted. "No you're not. Guessing from your vocabulary and your footwear, I'd say you were a gentleman's daughter."
Misao looked down at her shoes and cursed. She was wearing her hand-tooled fine leather boots because they were comfortable and she figured the long skirt would hide them. There hadn't been any shoes in the poor box at church.
"So, is Misao really your name?" Sano asked, still looking a bit puzzled.
"Of course." Misao sniffed, her pride wounded. She had tried so hard to play the street urchin, but she hadn't fooled anyone.
"Misao what?" Aoshi asked, breaking his silence.
She hadn't intended on giving the pirates her family name, but it was Aoshi who had asked. "Makimachi." She replied almost absently, her eyes on the tall dark haired man.
Kaoru whistled. "Makimachi, eh? Of Makimachi Trading Company?"
"You're not going to ransom me, are you? My father would kill me if he found out I was down here!" Misao paled noticeably, her green eyes going wide.
Kaoru laughed again. "Don't worry, Misao. I won't ransom you and I won't tell anyone you've been slumming. I'm not that kind of pirate."
Misao breathed a sigh of relief and slumped against a nearby wall. "Thank goodness. I can barely escape now as it is. If he thought I was up to anything, I would become a prisoner." She paused and eyed Kaoru thoughtfully. "What kind of pirate are you then? I didn't know there were different kinds."
"There aren't, really. I just…" Kaoru tapped a finger on her chin as she tried to come up with a way to explain.
"Have a conscience." Aoshi finished for her quietly.
Kaoru brightened. "Exactly! Me and my crew…we're pirates with a conscience! We don't ransom people and we don't kidnap. Or rape or pillage."
Misao frowned. "Then how can you be pirates?"
"We know all the pirate shanties." Aoshi said reasonably.
Misao almost nodded in understanding, but a gasp from the other two pirates stopped her.
Kaoru and Sano stared at Aoshi, their mouths open in shock.
"Aoshi…did you…did you just make a JOKE?" Kaoru put a hand over her heart and swooned into a startled but quickly reacting Sano, who caught her.
Aoshi scowled. "I can make a joke." He said irritably.
"I guess you could, man, but you never have." Sano said, pushing Kaoru roughly to her feet.
"How many whiskies did you drink?" Kaoru moved to check his forehead for a temperature.
Aoshi swatted her hand away and scowled.
Misao watched the interplay with a grin. "You guys are strange, but I'm glad I met you."
Sano snorted. "You're the strange one, brat. Shouldn't you be at home, embroidering something?"
"Embroidery is boring." Misao said dismissively. "Sitting around doing nothing all and acting like a stupid lady is boring, too. I want to have some fun in my life before I get sold off to the richest bachelor my parents can find and get stuck having babies and being polite all the damn time."
Kaoru smiled sympathetically. "Even with money, it's not easy, is it?"
"No, it's not. I'm not a person, I'm a possession to be traded or sold." Misao felt the familiar anger and frustration welling up inside her. "All my parents care about is money and they see me as a way to get more."
The group was silent, no one sure how exactly to respond to that.
"Miss Misao! There you are! I've been looking everywhere for you! Do you know what time it is? What if you get caught?" Kuro ran up to the group, breathing hard, his face red and sweaty. "I have to get you back home!" He paused at the mouth of the alley, taking in Misao's company with a startled expression, but since she didn't seem to be in danger or upset, he wisely decided not to provoke anything.
Misao looked at Kuro's earnest face and sighed. "I know." She turned to her newfound friends. "Thanks for helping me today. I didn't really need it, but I appreciate it."
Sano snorted again. Misao was beginning to wonder if he was part horse.
As she turned to leave, Kaoru caught her arm. "Hey, Misao, we usually dock once every couple of months around here for supplies and such. Next time we're in the area, I'll send you a note. Maybe you can escape for a while to visit us."
Misao couldn't fight the grin that stretched across her face. "Maybe I can. Do you know where to find me?"
"I have my ways." Kaoru said mysteriously and dropped the young woman's arm with a wink.
Misao laughed and slapped Kuro on the back. "Come on, Kuro, let's go." She waved at her friends one last time before disappearing down the street with her escort.
"Another one of your causes, captain?" Aoshi asked again, slight irritation obvious in his tone.
"Oh shut up, Aoshi! She was interesting." Kaoru tossed her navigator a speculative look. "And besides, I think she liked you."
Dull red crept up Aoshi's neck and colored his face. "Don't be stupid." He replied stiffly.
Sano and Kaoru elbowed each other, each wearing a matching wicked expression. "Aoooshi has a girlfriend!" they crowed.
"You two are like children. I don't know how either of you commands any respect." Aoshi muttered, turning his back on them and marching down the street towards the docks. His shoulders were set with tension and his hands were balled into fists at his side.
"Lord, he's fun to tease, eh, Sano?" Kaoru asked with a giggle.
"Hey, Captain," Sano asked in a surprisingly serious voice, making Kaoru turn to him with her eyebrows raised. "Do you think we'll really ever see that Misao brat again?"
"I would count on it, Sano." Kaoru said with a laugh. "Now come on, I know a short cut and if we hurry, we can beat Aoshi to the ship and tell everyone about his new girlfriend." She grabbed Sano's arm and dragged him out of the alley and down towards her beloved ship, mischief on her mind.
A/N: Misao's story was just too hard to resist. I hope she doesn't come off as too much of an airhead in this story. It's not that she's stupid, she's just sheltered. And she reads too much smut.
Her calligraphy/martial arts tutor? Jiya. Tee hee.
I'm still working on the story of the mutiny and Kaoru. I lost a huge chunk of it somewhere and got mad, so I started working on Megumi's story, which takes place directly after the mutiny. I'll get it up here, eventually. Oh well. Enjoy!