By: Chiki Yumeshisa
Disclaimer: I don't own Rurouni Kenshin…….all original ideas are mine to claim. No stealing please.
Women are lower than men. Servants are lower than women. But what if you're both? Kamiya Kaoru has valuable information, but no one will listen to her. She disguises herself as a man, but what happens when she starts falling in love with Himura Kenshin, her superior ? AU-K/K R/R pls. OOC!
AN: Hello everyone. I am back after a few months hiatus. After struggling with the past events many of you are aware of, I decided to write again, and concentrate on this story. This idea came to me a while ago, please give it a chance. The first chapter is rather…….bumpy. I'm just trying to gather my thoughts. Please bear with me.
I've edited and changed some things, so hopefully there won't be any mistakes. Please enjoy.
Warnings: This will be messy!!!! No flames please, as you have already been warned.
- Worth Something -
"Hurry up! Hurry up! Fall in line!"
Kaoru stumbled, the chains around her wrists digging in painfully. It didn't help that the slave master pulled on them, causing her to almost lose her footing. She grit her teeth against the sting, and struggled to keep pace with the rest of the line. She desperately did not want that whip to crack against her back again.
She had lost track of how many times she had been sold. It was really getting tiresome. She hated it the most when they looked at her like a piece of vegetable that went bad. The scrutinizing eyes were the worst part.
She had fallen into line with the aid of that cracking whip. The sun hadn't even risen yet, and she was forced on a two mile walk into the next town. She wondered tiredly who it was she would be sold to this time. She hoped fervently that she'd be chosen: Lord Shigekura was brutal and heartless. She had seen him hang two children just because they had stolen a loaf of bread from the kitchens.
His slave masters were just as bearing, waving their weapons around and testing them with a vicious taste.
It would be another long day, and she just hoped to get to their destination before the sun was really up in the sky. It was torture to walk under the heat. Reaching up to flick at her hair – a long ponytail that looked very similar to that of a horse's tail - she almost fell flat on her face when the slave master decided to yank her chain for fun.
Growling beneath her breath, Kaoru willed herself to stay calm. If she flew into a rage, she'd get a good beating. It had happened more than once, though one would think that after one beating, it would serve as enough of a deterrent. She took a deep breath and continued on, ignoring the strands that fell in front of her face, and the flies and mosquitoes that flew around her head.
Daikan was in desolate times. It had seen so much war, that it had been nicknamed "The Land of the Lost". Rumor told that the place had been cursed by the spirits of old. What the real story was, Kaoru had no idea. All she knew was, that the rich got richer, and the poor got poorer. She wondered if anything would ever change.
The destination was soon reached, and all the servants stood in a straight line by the dirt road.
By that time, the clothing that she wore stuck to the sheen of sweat that clung to her body. They were made of a rough sand-like material that all the slaves of Lord Shigekura kept. She tried not to think about how hot she felt. She could hardly bear the pain she could feel in her feet.
There was a band of people already there, milling about, shouting orders to each other. A few more slave traders came, with their servants in tow, until there were well over 100 slaves lined up.
Kaoru's heart sank: there was no way she'd be chosen out of all those people! Especially since the ones that were chosen were usually men who were strong and capable of working. Very few women were chosen, leaving her without much of a chance. She nervously looked at her feet, scuffing her toe in the dirt.
It looked like she'd end up working for Lord Shigekura again. And after such a tiring trip too!
Inspection had begun, but she didn't care: there was no hope anyway – there was no chance.
She was beginning to get tired as the hours wore on. She wanted to sit, but she couldn't. She just wished they'd hurry up.
Her breath caught in her throat when she saw two feet stop in front of hers. Slowly, she followed them upward. Fear and dread built up in the pit of her stomach, when she realized that the person in front of her was a soldier.
Rumor told that women were chosen by soldiers to be used, and toyed with. She had gotten enough of that already, and she didn't need any more of it.
The man's face was young, a grin spreading across it. His eyes glinted mischievously, as he looked her up and down. Kaoru shivered, feeling as if he could see right through her clothing. She brought her arms up to cover herself, when he grabbed at one. His chocolate brown eyes bore into her. "Hey, Kenshin! How's this one?" He called out.
In dismay, Kaoru managed to see a red headed man wave at the mention of his name. "Hurry up, Sanosuke! We don't have all day!"
Grunting in response, he pulled Kaoru out of line. "How much for this girl?!" He called.
Shigekura looked up from another soldier and frowned upon seeing which slave had been chosen. "I wasn't planning on selling her."
The man known as Sanosuke growled. "Then why the hell is she here for?" he asked. Half of Kaoru wanted him to return her to the line, and the other half wanted him to take her away. He kept a firm hand on her wrist though, and he said, "I'll offer a good sum for her."
Shigekura glanced at Kaoru, before asking, "How much?"
"How's 100 gold coins?"
She held her breath, waiting. She knew for a fact that Shigekura was fond of her, and might not give her away. He always told her that………disgusted, she waited for the answer. "She's worth much more than that."
Sanosuke shrugged. "Very well, since I haven't all day, I will pay you triple the amount I've already offered."
Kaoru could hardly believe her ears! Servants weren't even worth 100 silver coins, let alone gold ones – this lord seemed too eager. All of a sudden, she did not want anything at all to do with him. He probably had worst things in store for her than that of Shigekura.
Even Shigekura seemed a bit taken aback by the amount that had been offered, yet, as every man in the kingdoms of the East, he readily accepted such an amount.
Helplessly, Kaoru watched as Sanosuke began to take out a purse, and start pulling out the marks. He placed them in Shigekura's open palm and then roughly pulled Kaoru away from the line, as she stood dazed. She saw a couple of other slaves watching her, and those who had heard the exchange were eyeing her with wide eyes.
Despite her fright at what was to be done to her, she felt an odd sense of joy: she was worth something! She didn't know if she should feel sorry for those others who hadn't been chosen. She didn't know what to feel: this was far from the other times she had been sold.
He led her to a wagon, where a few other slaves were already sitting. He lent her a hand, and she stared at it, surprised. "Watch your step!" He said kindly, helping her up the wooden step.
Gingerly, Kaoru lifted herself into the wagon. She was confused by this lord's actions. She had no time to think about them though, as the redhead came running up to Sanosuke as he turned away from her.
"Are you finished here?" He asked, his face filled with irritation. He didn't like the duty he had been told to do that day.
"We're done." Sanosuke confirmed, tapping a fist to his heart in a small salute. "We got some good hands. And I handpicked a couple of girls for you." He thought to add. His voice was light with teasing.
Kenshin made a face. "Thanks, Sano, but…….."
"Come on, I was just jesting – in any case, you do need the distraction once in a while."
Kenshin pursed his lips. "You know I'm not in for that sort." He was saying. His eyes roamed the servants in the cart briefly. Kaoru couldn't help but look at him: he was the most gorgeous man she had ever laid eyes on.
He had long red hair, tied up in a simple ponytail at the base of his neck. His purple eyes were just stunning – she had never seen a shade like that before in her life. He was wearing what she had seen Sanosuke wearing: his blue cape blew in the sudden comforting wind, and the sun reflected off his armor that proudly displayed the Daikan crest. Cradled in the crook of his left arm was a helmet, which reflected that beautiful face. Her eyes fell on a cross-shaped scar on his left cheek, and found herself wondering what had happened to leave such a mark.
She quickly looked away when his eyes passed over her. It was wrong for her to look at someone who was in such a high class. She was a mere slave…….nothing more. Even so, she watched as he turned his back and stiffly walked past Sanosuke. "Let's get going. I don't want to late for the opening ceremony." He was saying. His voice sounded silky and smooth, just right, in her opinion, matching his figure.
His friend gave him a mock salute. "Yes, sir!" He said. The two of them disappeared into the mass of soldiers that were gathering together.
Her attention was caught by the others in the cart. Four men and another two women sat across from her. She met the eyes of another girl, who sat cross-legged, grinning. How she could grin at such a time baffled Kaoru. Was she happy she was being sold?
Perhaps it was her first time being traded – she looked young and didn't seem to be bothered by the way she was thrown back by a soldier as another slave was thrown into the cart. Instead, she scrambled to make room for the newcomer jumping to her feet. The newcomer seemed as miserable as everyone else. Kaoru, however, was past the point of feeling. They waited a few more moments, to see if anyone else would be added to their carts. No one was.
"Rest at last…." One of the women sighed.
A few affirmative murmurs answered her. It was true: there was hardly a time where they could rest. A moment to sit was always bliss.
"They're soldiers of the king – they have the crests!" Another was saying eagerly. "That means we're probably going to be working at the palace."
"Probably." A man answered with a snort. "We might get sold again to another lord for all we know."
The girl who grinned, shrugged. "I don't care, so long as I get a better master than Lord Ishiji." She pushed herself up against the side of the wagon and rested her arms over the ledge, throwing her head back and let out a soft sigh.
Kaoru said nothing to any of it, content to sit and listen. She didn't want any master – period. However, that wish wasn't going to be fulfilled.
Her throat felt dry, and the chains at her wrists chimed as they clicked against each other once the wagon started to move, pulled by two horses. They were two brown mares, strong and sleek, and they tossed their black manes proudly as they took off at a light trot.
The wagon rattled, in a dizzying fashion from left and right as the wheels bumped over crags and holes in the dirt road. Despite the fact that after a while, her back started to ache a bit because of the hardness of the wagon, Kaoru preferred this method of traveling over walking. Her feet were still sore, and she found herself exhausted. The way the wagon was moving was lulling her to sleep. Some of the other slaves had already done just that.
It was too hot to sleep though, and she wished they had been traveling a road that was overgrown with trees for a small bit of shelter from the sweltering glare of the sun. She felt a trickle of sweat slide down, past her collar, between her breasts.
She was jolted out of her thoughts when she heard a question asked. "What's your name?" It was the young girl who had been smiling. She was no longer smiling, but looked fatigued. She had green-blue eyes and long black hair that had been carefully pleated into a single braid that fell over her shoulders. Clothed in the dark blue material of the Ishiji House Slaves, she looked to be at the beginning of her womanhood. When she spoke, it was in hushed tones, most likely to avoid waking anyone.
Self consciously, Kaoru lifted her chains to settle by her feet. "Kamiya Kaoru, daughter of Kamiya Katori." She replied, after a while. She was not used to being spoken to, and was wary of the question.
The smile lit the child's face again. "I envy you. I have no family name." She mimicked Kaoru's actions, pulling her chains up to curl by her feet. Licking her upper lip, she continued, "One day, when I am freed, I will have one for sure." She pushed back her braid. "I am known as Misao. I never knew my parents so I have a rather cropped name."
Kaoru blinked. It seemed she had been mistaken: this girl had grown up a slave, unlike herself. She didn't have the heart to tell her that she might never get that family name she so longed for.
"You must be someone special; I heard that someone paid 300 gold coins for you." Misao continued, her cheeks flushing pink at the thought.
Kaoru blushed. "I'm not really….." She began. She was really confused by the eagerness of this girl. At the same time, she found it amusing. "I'm a slave, same as you." She said, almost apologetically.
Misao leaned back, against the wood, wiping sweat from her forehead with the back of a rough hand. She began to toy with the end of her braid, a look of shyness coming over her, as if she only just realized her straightforwardness. "Excuse me, I didn't mean to babble." She was blushing now, in embarrassment. "I was just so anxious about being sold into the King's services…."
Kaoru nodded, in agreement. She felt a pit of dread settle into her stomach at the mere thought of what lay ahead. She didn't want to think about who would be the one holding the end of her chains again. At that, her wrists began to throb in protest in their shackles. It had been a while since they had been changed.
Straightening her back, she said, "Don't be afraid, Misao. If anything, we'll look out for each other." It was the best she could do, to at least assuage the younger one's fears – no one had ever done that for her, as far as she could remember. She couldn't seem to convince herself though.
The smile from earlier lit Misao's face once more, and she nodded. "S-should I call you Kamiya?" She asked, almost timidly.
"That is not necessary. Kaoru's fine – family names are not important when you are a slave." Misao seemed to relax at that. It was true, however: the upperclassmen did not care to think about their slaves' names, and deemed them unimportant.
Their wagon came to a stop by mid day. The sun was unbearably hot, and Kaoru wished that she had fallen asleep along with the rest of the people if it meant getting away from reality.
She shot Misao a questioning look, and the girl merely shrugged back. They saw soldiers filing out of their carriages, talking amongst themselves excitedly. She managed to catch a glimpse of Kenshin's red hair coming their way.
She looked away as he came up to their wagon.. "Water and food." He was calling out to someone else. The driver soon climbed aboard the wagon they were in, and he began handing out the portions. It consisted of a loaf of bread, water, an apple, a few slices of salted pork and berries.
The bundle was thrust in her lap. She could hardly believe her eyes.
She couldn't remember the last time she had eaten so much. The salted pork held almost no gristle. The others were just as eager as they woke to such a meal.
They were left alone as they gobbled up their portions. She ate the pork, and bundled up the rest: she had a feeling she might need it later. It was delicious as expected, and when she was done, she wished she hadn't eaten it so quickly. She licked her fingers clean and glanced over at the soldiers. They were eating from the exact same portions.
She saw Kenshin sitting by himself, with Sanosuke by his side. The two were conversing together. Kenshin had a map rolled out onto a flack rock, and he was examining it carefully. A handful of soldiers joined him and they exchanged words and gestures.
What they were talking about, she had no clue. She didn't want to know. She found she couldn't ignore the twisting pull of dread in her stomach any longer. Despite what she had told Misao, she wanted to get away. Visions of being whipped, beaten and starved ran through her head. Of being pushed to the floor….
Tearing her eyes away from the men, she looked out over the field they had stopped in. The grass had grown tall, as no one had taken the shears to it. Beyond that, a little to the east, lay a thicket. Originally, the soldiers had planned to go through it, but had decided against it at the last moment, sticking to the main road where they might be safer.
The tall grass leaned to once side as a bout of air pressed against it, and then stood straight again, reaching their green fingers to the sky. She could lose herself in them, and no one would know…the thicket would not be entered....
She got up feeling as though she were in a daze, her hands pushing herself off the hard floor.
Misao looked up from her food, licking the crumbs of the bread off her fingers. "Kaoru? Where are you going?" She asked. The other slaves looked up from their portions too.
Kaoru never answered, tightening the band that held her hair up. She pulled at her chains, wrapping them around her waist so that they didn't dangle from her wrists. She made her way to the opposite side of the wagon.
She swung one leg over the wagon, her heart seeming to come up in her throat as she realized what she was doing. Checking the distance from the wagon to the floor, she held her breath.
If she didn't manage to get away, she'd be punished. But getting away meant freedom. She had never tried it before, and she didn't know the consequences, but it would be better having a slave master. She was sick of that type of life. Resolved, she gathered her courage and hopped off, landing on the soft grass.
The earth was hard and dry beneath her bare feet, warmed by the touch of the sun. There was no turning back, and she felt a pang of guilt for leaving Misao behind without so much of a single word. Pushing all thoughts away and focusing on her plan, she made a beeline to the thicket keeping crouched, hoping that the tall grass would hide her.
None of the soldiers seemed to be paying attention but she kept as low as possible anyway.
Little did she know that a pair of amber eyes were watching her.
She would not get far……….
He smirked – he would see to it………
TO BE CONTINUED……….
AN: O.o I dunno! What do you guys think? This story is one that I'm planning to continue if I get enough reviews. I really want to know what you guys think! If I do get reviews, I will try to update it as frequently as I did WHEN THE WORLD REVOLVES AROUND YOU. If not, I'll stop this all together.
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