The Guardians

By: Wildfire Sky

A nice, new Rurouni Kenshin fanfic for all you fans out there!! I'm not going to say a lot right here, because, well, I just want to get started! However, you must do me one great honor...and that is review.

Disclaimer: Here we go...I don't own Rurouni Kenshin, so get off my friggin back.

The Guardians

Chapter One

The old man collapsed against the far wall, his entire body shaking in horror at the ghastly sight before him. All around, the mutilated bodies of his bodyguards lay strewn through out the room; some slumped against the walls, some lying on the floor, their unseeing eyes staring up at the ceiling, some draped across the table, mouths still open in shock.

He gathered his papers closer to him, the sheets vibrating against his thudding chest. He needed to get out of here...escape into the night and hide...but Kami knew what had happened to his would be assassin. The shadow had simply murdered everyone and then disappeared like a wisp of smoke, leaving no trace, not even the sound of footsteps.

Could he make it to the window maybe? Even if he did it was a three story drop to the paved streets below. Perhaps if he set some sort of signal...get the attention of the police to come and rescue him? No...the police have proved their uselessness on more than one occasion. That left him with only two choices.

Wait here and die...or try the door.

Slowly, nervously, his eyes darting in all directions, he stood, back pressed against the firm wall, reassurance that nothing was sneaking up behind him. The dim room seemed to be filled with moving shadows...images that would plague his mind. Cautiously stepping over the decapitated body of his step son, the old man inched his way to the door, eyes still sweeping the room.

Step. Glance. Step. Glance. Step. Pause. Breath. Step again.

An unending cycle of fear...a prison for his mind. He was nearly there, only a few more feet to go. He reached out a hand, searching for the comforting feel of the cold knob. His hand wrapped around it, the feel warm and slimy. Jerking his hand away, the old man brought it up to his face, grimacing at the sight of thick blood.

Then it moved. Only slightly, but it was enough to draw the old man's attention. His eyes jerked over to the billowing curtains. Weren't the windows closed before? Yes...yes they were, he remembered! The bodyguards had closed them the instant they'd heard the first screams. Closed them and locked them.

Now they were wide open, the curtains thrown back, letting the smooth moon rays. He would have been mesmerized by the beauty of the large, white orb sitting amongst thousands of stars. Maybe on a night when his life wasn't at stake. Maybe on a night when dead bodies seemed to come back to life.

The old man chocked back a cry of horror as one of the corpses, sitting hunched in a dark corner, suddenly sat straight up, his head flopping forward on a limp neck, blood drooling from his slack mouth. Fresh blood still gurgled from his cut throat, spilling over his jacket and onto his lap. Even with the wounds it continued to move, bouncing slightly as if something was trying to pull it up.

Still transfixed by the sight, the old man completely forgot about his previous mission: getting the hell out of there. It wasn't until the body began floating that he realized something was seriously wrong. Something or some one was holding it up...

Letting out a ragged scream, the old man ducked for cover as the corpse was hurled at him, blood and thicker things splattering around him as he fell to his knees, covering his balding head. Sobs racked his frail body at the sound of something hard and wet slapping to the floor beside him. Peeking out from between thin fingers, he found himself staring into the cold dead eyes of his bodyguard.

"Great Kami-sama!" he cried, jerking up and away.

"Oh trust me; he won't help a worthless worm like you."

The old man cringed; slowly letting his eyes drag up. The hooded figure stood before him, one narrow, red eye staring out from underneath his black cloak. The large cape flurried down from his broad shoulders, gathered around his chest like a protective shield, granting him to look of a phantom. Hunched over the man, the figure glared down at him, stepping closer.

"You have something that interests me, sensei...some papers I believe. Hand them over."

The old man backed away, "No! You can not have these! They're for the army and only them!"

The shadow froze, "Don't play around with me. You have no interest in taking those to the army." He chuckled, "I'm not an idiot. A dirty politician like you would only sell these to the highest bidder...that is something I cannot allow."

"What interest is it to you?" the old man snapped, gathering the papers closer to his body, "My business is my business, nothing to do with you, I swear it!"

The shadow hunched closer, shoving his face at the old man. The politician stared back at that one narrow red eye, the rest of his face nothing but a black hole covered in shroud.

"Give me the papers, old one, and perhaps I'll let you live." The shadow's eye narrowed to a slit, "Don't keep me waiting, old won't make this any easier."

The old man shook with fear, swallowing dryly, "I...I can not...and if I must die...then so be it."

The shadow sighed, pulling back, "Kami-sama, I hate it when they do this..."

The old man's scream was cut off, melting into a deep gurgle, his body pitching forward. Blood spilled from his mouth, streaming across the floor as his body spasmed. Kneeling down, the assassin quickly scooped up the papers, flipping through them quickly.

"Good. Everything's here." He bowed slightly at the fresh body, "Rest in peace, brave one. You were the first of many not to beg."

Kaoru squatted in front of the cooking fire, fanning the flames as she read the newspaper. Her face was tight with worry as she read the article unfolding in front of her aqua eyes.

Local Diplomat Murdered!

Sixth in a series of vicious, night attacks this month, local diplomat, Hirouni Tomoa, was found murdered inside his office at Internal Affairs in Tokyo this morning by the police. After receiving a missing person's inquiry by the deceased's wife, police immediately investigated.

It appears that the bodies of Hirouni-sama and his assignment of bodyguard have been inside his office for over a day, raising no suspicion as seeing that Hirouni-sama was expected to be away on vacation with his wife. Police are still investigating his, and the other's, strange murders.

Kaoru quickly set aside the paper, not wanting to read any further. Six murders in one month? What kind of monster would do such a thing? She shook her head, continuing to fan the flames to the fire, the smell of cooking fish rising to her nostrils.

It was strange. The only time something like this had happened was with Jin-e. Kaoru shivered at the brutal memory. Jin-e had forced Kenshin to become the Battousai...nearly forced him to kill again. Now there was another mad man roaming the streets of Tokyo, killing at will. Would Kenshin once again be forced to confront the assassin?

The sword-master glowered. Like hell he would.

The fanning slowly become more and more furious until the beating was loud and audible. Kaoru glared at the now burning fish, her eyes hard. If that police chief steps one foot inside this dojo demanding the Kenshin go off and fight...

The fish was on fire, the flames reflecting in Kaoru's eyes. Just let him try, Kaoru promised herself, Let him try and take Kenshin away...he'll be leaving with a broken arm, that was for certain!

She barely heard the dojo doors open or the footsteps approaching, nor did she hear the cough of surprise, too intent was she on her deadly thoughts.


And Kenshin would willingly go off and fight!

"Kaoru-dono? Um...are you..."

Oooh!! He always goes off and fights, never mind I might be worried about him!!

"Are you alright, Kaoru-dono? You seem a little..."

The fan now burst into flames.

"O-Oro!! Kaoru-dono! Your fan!"

She absent mindedly threw it away from her. Tears welling up in her eyes. Oh, Kenshin! Please don't fight again...I couldn't take it if you were hurt...but...if he even thinks about leaving again...nothing will stop me from making him regret it!!


Suddenly, her little bubble of space seemed to pop and everything came rushing back. She glanced up fixing on Kenshin's shocked face, his eyes wide, mouth open, hand stretched out. Her eyes narrowed and Kenshin visibly grimaced, dropping his hand.

"Gomen nasai, Kaoru-dono...I..."

Kaoru stood up stiffly, "The fish is done, Kenshin. Help yourself."

Kenshin's violet eyes dropped to the smoldering ashes, "Uh...h-hai...arigato, Kaoru-dono..."

She turned on her heel and stormed off in the training hall, back stiff and arms straight. Kenshin stared after her, confusion clearly written on his face. What had gotten into her? He was almost positive that he'd seen the flames of Hell burning in her eyes when she looked up at him. What had he done wrong this time?

"Oi, busu! I didn't do anything!"

"Get out of my room right now, Yahiko! Go!"

"You can't tell me what to...OW!! Alright I'm going!! You don't have to shove! Fine! Goodbye!"

Kenshin looked up as Yahiko stumbled out from around a corner, sticking his tongue at some unseen person...a person Kenshin was positive he knew and cared for. The young samurai shuffled along, kicking up dirt clods until he spotted Kenshin standing at he dojo entrance, a bucket of tofu in one hand and a sack in the other. He quickly came over, eyes bright with curiosity.

"Hey, Kenshin, whatcha got, huh? Are you cooking dinner, cuz busu burnt ours."

Kenshin smiled down at Yahiko, "I went into market, that I did, to buy some fresh tofu. Demo...I didn't realize Kaoru-dono was cooking." He felt his shoulders slump, "That might be why she's mad at me, that it is..."

Yahiko snorted, "Mad at you? Please! Busu's been acting nuts every since she started reading the newspaper."

"Something happened?"

"I thought you'd know, Kenshin," Yahiko said, eyeing the older man carefully, "I mean, I assumed the police chief would have talked to you by now."

Now Kenshin's interest was peaked. "Iie, he had not. Yahiko, you had best tell me what has happened, that you should."

Yahiko picked up Kaoru's discarded paper, handing to the old warrior, "There was another assassination, Kenshin, this time in Tokyo at the Internal Affairs office. Kaoru's probably scared that you're going to leave again."

Heaving a sigh, Kenshin folded the paper beneath his arm, "I must talk to Kaoru-dono, that I do. Excuse me, Yahiko." He placed the tofu bucket in Yahiko's arms, quickly walking by. The young boy turned, following him with his eyes at Kenshin mounted the steps to the hallway.

"Oi, Kenshin, are you going to cook dinner?"

Kenshin paused, flashing a smile over his shoulder, "Maybe we'll eat at the Akabeko tonight, that we will. We can invite Sanouske when he arrives."

Yahiko snorted, "That baka will only eat everything before we get a chance."

Kenshin never heard Yahiko's sarcastic response, concentrating instead on Kaoru and her pain. And I think I know what's causing it...

He paused outside her room, taking in a shaky breath before announcing his presence. There was a short paused before Kenshin heard the rustling of clothing and the soft padding of footsteps. The shoji door cracked open, Kaoru peering out from the other side. Her hard gaze softened at the sight of Kenshin, a tiny smile gracing her features. She quickly opened the shoji, stepping out to greet him.

"Yes, Kenshin? Is there something you need?"

Kenshin blinked in confusion. Hadn't...hadn't she been glaring at him only a moment before? He shook his head, dispelling the thought before flashing Kaoru a smile, "Aa, Kaoru-dono, I must talk to you, that I do. May I come in?"

Kaoru slowly nodded, stepping aside to allow Kenshin entrance. The ex-hitiori turned as he entered the room, speaking before Kaoru had a chance to question him.

"Kaoru-dono, I'm not going anywhere, that I'm not." He glanced down, "These assassinations are terrible, yes, however, causing you pain is much worse to me, that it is."

Kaoru closed her eyes, "Kenshin..."

"What I mean by that, Kaoru-dono, is that nothing will happen to me."

The young sword master started, forcing her eyes open. Kenshin stood there, staring at her, his lavender eyes hard, yet passionate. Yes, she could see the inevitability see the worry, and love, flowing through them. They both knew...

"I might have to go...Kaoru-dono." Kenshin looked away again, "With these assassinations coming closer to home, I won't have a choice if it means protecting you. So long as I live, nothing will ever happen to the people I care about, that it won't."

Kaoru slowly turned, raising a shaking hand to the shoji door, pushing it closed. Her hand remained there, eyes closed, tears threatening to spill. Gods, why? Why couldn't he simply refuse? Why could he stay here with everyone?

With everyone? Who are you kidding? You want him here with you, loving you like you love him. But, coming from a man who's very teaching was to protect the weak; you can't ask him to do something like that, can you?

Kenshin watched Kaoru's shaking form and knew she was crying. It hurt him to see her like this, crying once again because of his selfishness. Wasn't Kyoto enough, you baka?? Don't you think Shishio caused her enough pain and worry?

He slowly approached her, pressing up against her back and gathering him towards his warm body.

Kaoru stiffened at the feel of strong arms wrapping around her waist and pulling her back against his hard, warm form. Slowly she relaxed into his embrace, comforted at the feel of his untamable power, the strength that made him Kenshin. She leaned her head against his chest, smiling slightly as the ex-manslayer rested his chin top her own head.

"Kaoru..." he mumbled into her hair, "Kaoru, you understand right? This is something I must do, that it is. The moment I read the article, I knew that the police chief would be coming to ask for my help again, that I do..."

Kaoru chocked back a sob, " don't have to go...stay here....onegai..."

Kenshin sighed, his arms tightening, "Kaoru-dono...when he does'll be the first to know my decision, that you will."

"I'd rather be there in the same room."

Kenshin shook his head, "I'm sure that would endanger you even more, that it would. The less you know, the better."

Suddenly Kaoru jerked away, turning to set Kenshin with a hard glare, "I can't believe you, Kenshin! After all we've been through together, you still don't think I can hold my own?"

Kenshin grimaced, "Iie, Kaoru-dono...I know you can. Demo...assassins play a hard game, that they do, some are different...some will kill those who know too much...who might be a threat..."

Kaoru stiffened, "Kenshin, I'm perfectly capable..."

"Kaoru-dono!" Kenshin quickly cut her off, "I don't want you to get involved in this, that I don't. When the police chief comes, it would be best if you stayed away, that it would."

"This is my dojo, Kenshin..."

"I realize that, Kaoru-dono, that I do, demo, like I said this man might be dangerous. I don't want to lose you to him."

Kaoru nodded slowly in understanding, "Alright Kenshin, I'll stay out of your way if you want me too. However," she stared directly in his eyes, "If I ever feel that you need me, I'm going to do something. And there's nothing you can say that will change my mind, alright?"

Kenshin smiled and nodded, "Hai." Of course, he had no intention of things ever getting so bad; however, his definition of danger compared to hers had time and again come to odds against each other. It was important that he keep her away, at least until he could assess the situation.

Hirikio Tusume sat in a dimly lit corner of the Akebeko, slowly sipping sake from a cup, eyes closed as he enjoyed the burning flavor as it slid down his throat. Tusume considered himself a patient, understanding man, not one prone to burst of anger, however, at this time, he found himself drumming his fingers on the table top, struggling to sense the other man's ki.

Slowly reached for the sake bottle, chancing a glance around the nearly empty restaurant. That bastard still hadn't arrived yet! Tusume was truly beginning to become irritated. He curled his fingers...and hit nothing but air. Tusume blinked in surprise at the empty table before him, and then looked at his hand, eyes wide with shock.

Where the hell did my sake go??

"Looking for this?"

Tusume jerked back away from the table, distress evident on his face. The tall shadow crouched in a dark corner, waving the sake bottle temptingly. Tusume stared at him nervously before forcing a smile on his face. He leaned forward, adjusting his gym and smoothing back his black hair.

"You're late, my friend."

The shadow's red eye narrowed, "I run on my own time, Tusume-sama, no one else's. Besides, I've just come back from another assignment..."

"That politician."

"More of an annoyance than anything else." The shadow shifted slightly, "If what you want is as easy as he was, I may just decide to charge you double."

Tusume frowned, "Double? Because the mission's easier?"

The shadow nodded, "Of course! The more fun I have, the less it costs. Knocking off politicians and police officers is petty work; any street thug can do it with timing and patience. I'm usually called in because their extra security that a normal man wouldn't be able to break." The shadow picked up a cup and poured himself a drink. The cup disappeared into the shadow of his covered face, his smack the only evidence that the drink still existed. Setting down the bottle, the shadow gathered his cloak around him tighter.

"So what exactly is your bidding, Tusume-san? Another assassination...or perhaps sabotage?"

Tusume smiled again, "There's someone I want you to permanently put of my way...a rather big nuisance that even you might have trouble with."

The shadow snorted, "I seriously doubt it. Not even the Battousai is a challenge for me."

Tusume's grin only broadened. The shadow blinked, his red eye widening slightly. He finally moved from the corner, barely coming into the light as he studied the other man's face. They stared at each other for a moment before the shadow pulled back, crouching back into the dark. For a moment he was silent, unmoving, dissolving in to the black until only his eye could be seen.

"You're joking." The shadow finally mumbled, "You have to be joking."

Tusume shrugged, "I do few things and joking is one of them. You're correct in your assumptions, of course. And if you're not feeling up to the job, I'll find someone else. Battousai is an admiral opponent."

"He's more than just an opponent, Tusume-san...he's one of the best fighters in Japan." The shadow's red eye locked with Tusume's, "However, he's exactly the type of challenge I've been searching for. At last, I will finally be able to fight him...a legend of the sword."

"So you'll take the job?"

The assassin nodded, "I'll even do it for no charge. Such an opportunity only comes once...I will make it a good one." The shadow chuckled, "Demo...Tusume-san, you must tell me what grudge you have against the Battousai. Did he kill a loved one? Perhaps a friend or a former sensei?"

Tusume looked away, "My reasoning is of no concern to you..."

"It is now."

Tusume paused, glaring at the assassin. "If it is that crucial that you know, I'll give you a simple answer...Battousai has it coming. His death is one that he deserves and one that I'd rather hand out personally."

"Then why don't you?" the shadow smirked beneath his hood, "You seem perfectly capable of killing his through some sort of trickery."

Tusume twitched slightly, his eye developing a short tick, "I don't usually resort to using assassins and the such, however, you know as well as I do that the Battousai is someone you don't play with. Were I to try and face him, I would most assuredly die in the process."

"So you are scared of him."

"I'm terrified of the Battousai." Tusume shrugged, "And I have no shame of it. Many men who underestimated his strength and thought themselves the better fighter have walked away either in shackles or dead...I won't make the same mistake they have."

The shadow shifted slightly, "I must warn you, Tusume-san, this may take me longer than overnight. Battousai is not a fighter that you simply rush in and attack. It will take planning and observation...I must know his weaknesses and strengths...the things he treasures most."

Tusume reached into his gi, removing a folded bundle of papers. He silently slid them across the table towards the dark corner. "Everything I know, you know, my friend. This is his location and the names of the people he resides with."

The shadow jerked, "Resides with? Do you mean to tell me that the Battousai has calmed his fury? Has he taken on a wife...does he have a child? When did all of this develop?"

"Apparently, Battousai became a rurouni years ago, taking on a vow that he'd never kill again. But just because he's adopted that vow doesn't mean he won't fight. Too many men have fought him and become seriously injured...a few coming close to death." Tusume leaned across the table, eyes twinkling in the fire light, "However, there are rumors going about that his victims really do die...mostly in the hospital due to the extent of their injuries. Two died from brain from a rib piercing through his heart. The Battousai may spare their lives on the field, but he does eventually kill them."

The shadow nodded in understanding, "And does the Battousai know of these deaths?"

"Of course not," Tusume snorted, "The police have kept it under wraps. If the Battousai were to find out that his vow of mercy and non-killing is nothing more than a fool's dream, then there'd be no one they could turn to in a time of emergency. He'd put his sword away forever...if the news didn't destroy him mentally."

The shadow nodded again, "I see." He picked up the papers, the parchment disappearing into his cloak, "Then, Tusume-san, I will take your assignment and assassinate the the end of the week, he, and his friends, will be dead."

"And it won't be traced back to me...?"

The shadow stood, the cloak falling into place around him, "Don't you worry about that, Tusume-san...any evidence will lead to one of the local yakuza...for now, sleep well. I will send word when the Battousai is no more than a plot in a cemetery."

With a bow, the shadow disappeared like a mist, leaving no trace except for his empty sake cup. Tusume reached over, fingering the tiny bowl as he stared at the corner that the assassin had occupied. He finally allowed himself to shiver, tossing the bowl away from him. It was late. He needed to leave before any one became suspicious of the light emitting from the seemingly closes Akabeko.

Gathering his belonging, Tusume quickly sauntered out from his booth, opening the restaurant doors and retreating into the night.

End of chapter one!! Thanks for reading and make sure that you R&R...sniffle i do value your opinion...