Author's Note Here's a whole new Fanfiction for those still interested in my works. I'm sorry for my other failed attempts, but I just didn't have enough inspiration and what I did have never flared back to life. So, after much encouragement from my online sisters, I have decided to give it another go. I hope you enjoy it.
Disclaimer I do not own Rurouni Kenshin in any way. I am merely using its characters for a few chapters.
Summary: She had seen it happen every year, yet never had she thought she would be the next to take the journey to the Ryuuguu to satisfy the hunger of the Ryuujin. And never had Kaoru thought she would have to keep on fulfilling the King's desire.
A Dragon's Love
By BattousaisGrrlChapter One
Hidden within the ever looming clouds in the sky was a palace, a palace that came to be known as the Ryuuguu, the Palace of the Dragon King. The ruler of the Ryuuguu held the title of Ryuujin, but on Earth he was known purely as Hitokiri Battousai, the slayer of a million men.
After the end of what came to be known as the Aka War, the Dragon King returned back to his palace in the Heavens and never again stepped foot on the blood stained ground the people of Earth called home.
However, his departure did not come without a price. For every year, a virgin from the Safaia Village, the parish that started the Bloody War, was sent to the gates of the Ryuuguu as a sacrifice and atonement for causing the deaths of so many innocent lives. On the same night, the bones of the virgin could be found scattered on the ground directly beneath where the Ryuuguu had been the night before.
Now, after five centuries of trading women in return for a world without the Battousai, the offerings have finally ceased with the entrance of a sapphire-eyed maiden.
Sitting stiffly on her white stallion, Kamiya Kaoru stared at her paling fingers as her grip on the reins tightened with each step her horse took. The farther her noble steed took her, the closer she was to fulfilling her destiny as the Ryuujin's yearly feast.
Clothed from head to toe in white garments, the last daughter of head of the Safaia Village rode behind her two guides in silence.
Once they had successfully left the forest and began following the path of the eroded road made by the passing of men and horses, the taller of the two dragons finally broke the stillness between them.
His voice rising in volume as he spoke to ensure that their offering heard him above the raging river to their right, "So, what's you're name, Missy?"
"Kaoru," answered the teenager quietly, certain that both dragons would be able to hear her reply.
Sighing, the prickly brown-haired creature raced a free hand through his hair while his other kept a hold on his horse. He didn't bother to conceal his annoyance at the ever present silence as they continued their journey towards the Ryuuguu.
"Look, I know that it's awkward being around dragons and all, especially when you're about to get eaten…uh I mean…." Started the dragon, but at his mistake, he began to uncomfortably fidget in his seat as the tension in the air thickened enough that it felt as if only the claws of a mighty dragon could break through it.
"I know what's going to happen; I've seen it happen to ten girls already and I've seen their bones scattered across the ground like rotten carrots," stated Kaoru, her confidence growing with each word she spoke. "But honestly, what do you expect me to say to you? I probably won't even be living long enough for what you say to become effective."
Frowning at her comment, the dragon protested, "Well that's all the more reason for you to want to pick up a conversation with us. At least then you know that you didn't waste the last few hours of your life sulking over something that can't be stopped! So what if our words don't mean a thing? At least you'll get to learn something before you die."
Slightly startled at the dragon's attempt to be optimistic, Kaoru shook her head before returning to staring at her hands. Her head shot back up when she saw a shadow cascade over her own. She forced herself not to edge away when she realized that the dragon was going to continue the rest of their ride beside her.
"If you don't want to start a conversation, then I will. To start off, I'm Sanosuke and the block of ice in front of us is Aoshi," said the dragon as he tried to get the Ryuujin's dinner to lighten up a bit before her unavoidable death.
At hearing his name spoken, the other dragon looked over his shoulder before facing the front once more.
"You see the sheath at his left hip, hidden by his trench coat?" started Sanosuke again. He didn't bother for an answer before he continued, "Inside are twin kodachis."
The dragon smirked when he saw a glitter of interest in the girl's eyes, silently glad that he was able to get a reaction from her.
"He's a swordsman then? What style does he use?" asked Kaoru as she kept her eyes on the swaying weapon for a few seconds before turning her head to the dragon for an answer.
"I'm guessing you know a bit of swordsmanship too, eh? Well I'm a fist fighter, so I don't really know much about swordsmanship. But to answer your other question, Aoshi uses Kodachi Nittou Ryuu," said Sano, amused that such a fragile looking creature would actually be so enthralled with such a death related thing. Then again, close-to-death experiences taught him that when people was on the urge of dying, they often revealed to others sides of them that even their friends and family never thought existed.
A few seconds of silence crept between them before Kaoru asked, "Why do you where the symbol for bad on your back?"
Raising a brow at the random question, Sano shrugged his shoulders.
"There has to be a reason why you wear it. I recognized you from last year and you wore it then as well, along with all the other times you came to take the offerings to the Ryuujin," recalled Kaoru, her eyes looking into his for an answer.
"You know, for a person who's about to get swallowed, you sure ask weird questions."
Glaring at the dragon, Kaoru forced her itching hands to stop from strangling him.
"I only meant that it was odd how you're asking all of these questions about us instead of going on and on about yourself," added Sano when he noticed the dark glint in the Kaoru's gaze.
Confused, Kaoru cocked her head to the side, asking him with her gesture to continue on with his explanation.
Sano answered as he forced his horse into a gallop, making Kaoru pick up the pace of her own stallion so she could hear his reasoning. "Most of the girls we bring back with us to the Ryuuguu, after I convince them to speak their mind, usually end up talking about themselves for the rest of the trip. You're the first one to not go on about how innocent and delicate you are and how you don't deserve to die. Some have even tried to persuade me to drop them off at the nearest village and act as if they had died on their way to the Ryuuguu. Now that I think about it, you're the first one who hasn't pleaded for your life, Missy."
The dragon's words placed a frown on the virgin's face as she thought about how pathetic those before her had been. It was supposed to be an honor to be one of the few that would help to repay the Village's debt.
"Innocence and delicacy plays no part in survival. It's the actions we take that determine our future," recited Kaoru, remembering the words of her father by heart.
"So what will your next action be then?" asked Sano curiously.
Eyes staring aimlessly about the land they were crossing, Kaoru shook her head.
"I don't know," was the honest and almost hopeless reply.
"You'd better hurry and think of one soon, because the Ryuuguu is descending," spoke the dragon that had been quiet the entire ride.
Bringing her mare to a halt, Kaoru stared up into the cloudless sky and shuddered as she felt the wind begin to howl and swirl around her.
"Look up ahead at the clearing," ordered Sano as he pointed to the Ryuuguu's next location with his head.
Kaoru did as told and felt her eyes widening as she witnessed what looked like a large cloud forming in the treeless region just a hundred meters from where they stood. Her eyes turned to saucers when slowly the cloud began to take shape into the most beautiful home she had ever seen or imagined.
"If you think the Ryuuguu is gorgeous now, wait until you get inside," said Sano with his trademark smirk before making his horse go into a run towards the palace.
Speechless and amazed, Kaoru followed after the two dragons to the infamous Ryuuguu where her destiny awaited.
The Palace of the Dragon King shined with a golden light that reflected off from the hundreds of gold covered rooftops of the palace and houses that surrounded the very home of the Ryuujin himself, which was built in the centre of the Ryuuguu.
Standing proud and strong around the entire Ryuuguu was one gigantic wall made of jewels and crystals that caught the eye of every human lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the palace in the sky.
Inside the Ryuuguu were gardens seemingly placed randomly between sections of the Ryuujin's palace, and even more were created near the homes of the dragons themselves.
Along the streets outside the Ryuujin's home, dragons and their pet dragons roamed freely about the Ryuuguu, allowing their human servants to do their bidding.
If not for the name given to the flourishing civilization in the sky, the Ryuuguu could have passed for an oriental-ancient city.
The feeling of the eyes of the residents of the Ryuuguu on her ever since she entered their home left Kaoru terribly uncomfortable as she rode quietly behind her escorts towards the enormous palace in the center of the Ryuuguu.
Those who had seen her walk through the gates and into their public marketplace stared at her openly after they had moved aside to allow her and her guards to guide their horses to the Ryuujin's palace.
Unable to help her self, and wanting to avoid eye contact, Kaoru focused her attention on the smaller dragons beside the dragons that were in human form. She watched amazed as a few of them began to spit out fireballs at one another or chase each other's tails. The way they were acting reminded her of a puppy she once had, and it was sort of cute, in an odd sort of way that is, that they were no bigger than a full grown Great Dane. However, their claws and sharp teeth made it obvious as to which species was more powerful.
"Here in Ryuuguu, none of us are allowed to transform into our dragon form so that we don't get confused with the real dragons that live here. The dragons you see are all pets of our people and the ones inside the palace are usually guards. Only a few pet dragons, those are much smaller than the guard dragons, are allowed to reside in Lord Battousai's home," explained Sano when he noticed Kaoru's confused gaze.
Turning to the dragon, Kaoru smiled at the older creature for his answer. She had always thought that all dragons were capable of turning into human look-alikes, but it seemed that she was proven wrong. There was just so much about the Dragon Civilization that she didn't know about and it pained her to know that she would never be able to. Dragons had always fascinated her and it was ironic that a dragon was going to be the one to kill her.
"It'll only take a second, so enjoy every second you have before then," advised Sanosuke.
Kaoru nodded and placed on her best smile as they made their way to the front gates of the Battousai's lair.
It wasn't until they were a few meters away that Sanosuke spoke up again, except this time in hushed tones, making Kaoru lean towards him to catch all of his words.
"Look, Missy. I personally don't want to see you gobbled up, so I'll let you in on a little secret," started Sano, looking up towards Aoshi warily before he continued. "We're going to release you in the Ryuujin's Treasure Room and I'm certain that Lord Battousai isn't going to be in there yet. He usually doesn't take his meals until close to dinner. So you have an hour or less to get out of there."
"What?" Kaoru asked incredulously as she moved back and stared at the dragon in disbelief.
"Keep your voice down! You're just going to have to trust me," begged Sano with his eyes as he forced his horse to slow down so he could give his message to the girl.
Not knowing what else to say, Kaoru nodded.
"There's a ruby inside the Treasure Room, a ruby the size of your fist. All you have to do is take that ruby and then rush off to the back of the room. By the time you get back there, you should come across a huge door. Place the ruby into a slot that looks exactly like it and the door will open.
"There's a ladder that leads down all the way to Earth, which is what Lord Battousai use to use to get down to Earth without getting noticed. Go down that ladder after taking the ruby and use the money you gain from selling the ruby to start a new life," said Sano seriously.
Still trying to register what is was that the dragon had told her, Kaoru led her horse slowly towards the entrance of the palace. It was only when she heard the sounds of the gates opening that she stopped going through the possibilities in her mind.
Slightly dazed at the thought of actually surviving, she gave a polite smile to Sano as he helped her down her mare and effortlessly blocked out the crowd that had gathered in a semi-circle behind them as they walked through the gates.
The moment that the metal bars closed behind her with a click, Kaoru closed her eyes and knew that her attempt to escape was pointless. She had given up before she even tried.
"Leaving will only bring dishonor to my family, to Father. I can't let another take my place and take the consequence that was meant for me. I will not burden another with my fate. Who knows what Battousai will do when he finds out his offering is missing? He'll surely go for the village and kill everyone with the excuse that they didn't hold their end of the bargain," thought Kaoru, shuddering at her own fabricated vision of the destruction of her village.
Squaring her shoulders, Kaoru walked with her head held high, determined to face her fears and bring honor to the Kamiya name. She was not going to let her father down, even if it meant her own life.
Walking through the main entrance of the Ryuujin's homes, Kaoru spent the rest of her time memorizing every crook and cranny of the palace to keep her mind off of what she had just recently been told. The more she thought about, the more she was certain that she would want to go through with it. So focusing her attention on her surroundings, Kaoru felt herself accepting her fate with each step she took.
While the three made their way to the Treasure Room, the youngest of the three found her self enchanted with the carvings in the walls as they walked through corridor after corridor. It wasn't until they stopped in front of a large golden door that Kaoru's eyes finally adjusted to the lack of light caused by the dying torches that hung on the walls.
Turning around, both Sanosuke and Aoshi bowed to her out of respect as they moved to leave her alone to let herself into the Treasure Room.
As the taller of the two brushed passed her, Kaoru faintly heard him say, "Good luck."
Quietly waiting for the echoing footsteps of her two escorts to vanish, Kaoru took in a deep breath when no other sound reached her ears. Hands planted on the door, Kaoru pushed with all of her might and nearly fell face forward into the room when she found out the hard way how easily the door actually opened.
Catching her balance before she fell, Kaoru whipped around and glared at the door for almost causing her to have an accident. The hair on her back rose as she heard the hard breathing of something behind her.
Slowly turning her head towards the noise, Kaoru took an unconscious step back when she found herself faced with a nose flaring and fire breathing, red dragon.