Disclaimer: I own nothing Ruroken. Sorry... I wishI did!

Author's note: This is for theFanfictionnet message board"42 days" fanfiction contest 3. An arguemnt between any two characters. This story also serves a second purpose for me. I promised my readers of "Out of Time" that my next Kenshin chapter story would be my Saito fiction. This is your teaser... a partial chapter of this upcoming story... Please read, enjoy and review!


A Wolf in Officer's clothing

They made a strange pair, alone in an office at the police station in Kyoto. Okubo Toshimichi, one of the three greatest revolutionaries of the Bakumatsu, and currently top Meiji government official, and Goro Fujita, once known as Saito Hajime, one of the wolves of Mibu who had fought to keep intact the previous government that Okubo and his allies had torn down.

The tall, lean wolf stood at the window, looking out at the clear blue sky. His normally pleasant mask had been dropped as soon as this man had entered the room. In place now was the deadly amber glare of one who had lived the revolution… one who still lived it, even ten years into Meiji. And his dark expression had only grown colder as he listened to Okubo's request. And his explanation.

Finally the older man grew quiet, waiting for Saito's response, knowing that Japan's future may very well ride on the actions of this man… and one other.

There was silence for a long moment before Saito finally turned his back to the light of the window. Very casually, he pulled a cigarette out of his pocket and lit it, putting it to his lips and slowly inhaling the smoke. He didn't offer one to Okubo. Finally Saito spoke. "So, let me get this straight," he said softly. "You want me to hunt down hitokiri Battousai, one of the Shinsengumi's greatest enemies, and see if he'll fight by my side against one of his old comrades who has gone crazy?"

The cold irony wasn't lost on Okubo who simply nodded and replied, "Yes."

The tall police officer leaned against the sill, taking another puff of his cigarette. "Because your people, more of his comrades, drove this Shishio Makoto to insanity."

"Yes."

Saito's amber eyes glittered. "What makes you think Battousai hasn't also gone mad?"

Okubo looked away, frustrated. It wasn't as though that thought hadn't crossed his mind. But if it were true… then Japan was lost… "He isn't slaughtering legions," Okubo finally said with some conviction. "If Battousai has gone mad with bloodlust, then Shishio Makoto is a minor problem in comparison."

"Fair enough," Saito responded, stepping up to the small, wooden desk. "But that isn't your only problem. What makes you think he's still Battousai? What if he's gotten soft? Or is being held in a prison somewhere? Or worse? He's an assassin. How easy do you think it was for him to give up the sword?"

Okubo scowled at the police spy before him. "Himura Battousai was not some random killer, if that's what you're trying to imply. He was a soldier fighting for our cause."

"We all fought for a cause back then," Saito replied. "The question is whether or not he fights for one now." He puffed his cigarette. Then, quirking his eyebrow, he asked, "What makes you think Battousai is still alive ten years into Meiji? More importantly…" The wolf leaned forward with a predatory gleam in his eyes… "what makes you think I won't kill him as soon as I find him?"

If Saito had intended to worry Okubo with that last comment, then he was sorely disappointed. The leader merely smiled coldly at the former unit leader of the Shinsengumi. "Aku soku zan."

Saito was stunned into momentary silence. "What did you say?"

"You heard me," the older man replied. "Aku soku zan. Slay evil immediately. The code of the Shinsengumi. You will not kill Battouai as long as he has not gone the way of Shishio, because it goes against your own code. And a wolf is always a wolf—unchanging—isn't that right Saito? Shishio must be destroyed, and we need the skills of Himura Battousai if we wish to succeed. You know it as well as I do."

"And if he has followed his successor's lead?"

Okubo bowed his head. "Then you will be charged with saving all of Japan alone… from both Shishio Makoto and Himura Battousai. I would not envy you your task then."

Saito fell silent. He turned his back on the old revolutionary, and smoked the remainder of his cigarette while looking out the window. Finally, he finished, flicking the last of it out onto the street, and immediately lit a new one. "If I were to accept," he said slowly, "how am I to know that you will not do to Battousai what you did to Shishio? A bullet to the head and a fiery grave? He must have his own store of secrets."

Anger flashed in Okubo's eyes, as he visibly struggled to keep his temper under control while dealing with this infuriating man. "Himura Battousai has more of our secrets than any others. But he was always a different case. Nothing he ever did was for himself. He fought only for the protection of others. Now that Meiji has been established, if he is still the Himura I remember, he will not risk shaking the government over some personal issue." He scowled. "Now you tell me, Saito. Why do you care?"
"Because enemy or no, Battousai was a hitokiri worth my respect, as well as the respect of many of my men. I will not demean that by feeding him to a pack of weak government dogs who are incapable of cleaning up their own messes."

Saito let that sink in before he glanced back at Okubo finally. "I will find Battousai for you. We will see what sort of a man he has become."

Okubo closed his eyes, his face showing relief, and stood, bowing to Saito. "Thank you."

Saito bowed his head briefly in reply, and turned away. The bearded man quietly left the room. Saito watched from his window as the official entered his carriage, and rode off. "It seems, Okubo Toshimichi, that I was wrong about you. I can't respect you for what you've done, but I can respect the man you are now." He took one final puff of his cigarette before flicking it out the window, and sliding it shut. "I only hope that in the end I can say the same about you, Himura Battousai. Himura… Kenshin…"