Koiji: A Rurouni Kenshin Fanfic

Koiji: Love's Pathway

Chapter One: Yarikirenai

by Ashfae


Misao sat in the window, staring out at the rain and ignoring the occassional drops that hit her skin. Goosebumps were raised on the back of her neck, but she didn't move. Instead she looked up at the sky, which was filled with dark stormclouds and the occasional lightning flash.

Absolutely unbearable, she decided, scowling. It's been a year, and...nothing. I'm wasting my time.

She swung her legs back down to the ground, hopping off of the window ledge, then turned to close the shutters. The room was very dark, but Misao had good night vision, and didn't notice. She walked directly to her pallet and sprawled across it, staring up at the shadowed ceiling.

A year since I declared myself Okashira. A year since Aoshi-sama came back, and he hasn't said more than a handful of words to me, in all that time.

He could've at least taken the title back, too. What am I supposed to do with it?

We used to be friends. Sort of.

Misao bit her lip, remembering all too clearly how, as a child, she'd followed Aoshi around everywhere, how she'd coerced him into teaching her some of the basics of being an onmitsu. Even then he'd never said much, but he'd watched over her.

Now he won't even look at me. And doesn't say anything at all. That settles it: Makimachi Misao, you are an absolute idiot!

She sighed. I'm definitely wasting my time. But what should I be doing? I made myself Okashira, and I've been trying to act like one for the past year...I never really thought it'd be permanent. I was sure Okina would recover and take over, and then when Aoshi returned I thought he'd...hmph. That stupid, stupid, stupid man! Not even Himura could be so infuriating!

This situation is definitely unbearable. Something's got to be done. But what?

Misao pursed her lip, thinking.

What should I do now?

An idea came to her, and her eyes widened. Possibilities flickered through her mind, gradually forming themselves into a plan.

Misao sat up and lit a candle, then found her rarely used supply of paper and ink. After a few more minutes of considering, she began writing furiously.

Writing the letter took her only a few minutes; a request hastily scrawled in rough calligraphy, signed at the bottom with her name. She blew on the ink, hoping that would help it dry more quickly; now that she had a plan, she wanted to get started as soon as possible. There was nothing Misao hated more than sitting around waiting, without anything to do...she wanted to be busy.

As soon as the ink had tried, she rolled the letter carefully and found one of the little cylinders that all the Oniwabanshuu used for sending messages. She had to roll the letter more tightly before it would fit in the narrow tube, but managed to do it without crinkling the edges too much. It would do.

She left her room as quietly as she could manage, not wanting to explain to anyone else what she was up to just yet, and went outside.

The Oniwabanshuu were not limited to Kyoto; there were others in other cities. Even after they'd been officially disbanded (an order that Okina had pretty much ignored), the ties remained. As did the habit of keeping in touch and sharing information, just in case they were ever needed.

And the easiest way to keep in touch was by carrier pigeons.

They had a small shed built for the pigeons attached to the rear of the Aoiya; it was easy to get out there without being seen. The birds immediately started cooing loudly as soon as she entered, and Misao winced inwardly. Be quiet, you dumb birds!

Determined, she found a pigeon that she knew Okina used for sending messages to a friend of theirs in Tokyo. She managed to attach the cylinder to its foot, and brought it outside with her. She opened her hand, expecting it to fly off immediately.

It stood calmly on her palm, looking over its shoulder at her quizzically, as thought asking, You're expecting me to fly in this weather? As if to emphasize its point, lightning flashed in the sky.

Impatient Misao glared at it. Just get going.

The pigeon hopped a bit and flew off. Towards Tokyo.

Misao smiled to herself. Rain or no rain, it'd get her message there within two days. They were very well trained. And the person who got the message would be certain to pass it on to its proper recipient.

Now came the hard part: convincing Jiya.


*knock, knock*


Misao steeled herself, then slid open the door to Okina's study. "Jiya," she said quietly.

Okina looked up at her, a ready smile waiting. It faded as he caught the expression on her face. "Misao-chan, what's-"

She cut him off ruthlessly. "I'm leaving."

"WHAT?!" He leapt to his feet, spilling a cup of tea onto the floor.

She leaned in the doorway, unable to make herself look at him. "I've got to get out of here for a while, Jiya. I've been fooling myself. I'm not strong enough to be the leader of the Oniwabanshuu. You end up doing most of the work, even if I try my best. And..." her eyes filled with tears despite herself. "And...there's Aoshi-sama. He should be the okashira again. He's much, much more skilled than I am. And now that he's...um...back on track again, he can take care of things much better than I can. I'm just in his way. I'd appreciate it if you'd speak to him about that, when he gets back from his trip. He'll listen to you."

Okina stared at her carefully for a minute. "Is that all?" he asked finally, resuming his seat.

"No," she said quietly. "I'm a nuisance to him, Jiya. I realize that now. I thought I loved him, but now...I don't know. He doesn't speak to me, he barely ever even looks at me. I don't know him at all anymore. Maybe...maybe I never did." She closed her eyes. "All I ever do is trouble him," she whispered.


Misao opened her eyes, walked over, and calmly knelt before him. "Jiya, I just need some time away from here, to think. Not long ago I went on a journey to search for Aoshi-sama. Now, I need to find myself. Please."

A long moment of silence passed between them.

"Misao," he said finally. "You are mistaken about Aoshi. He is not prepared to lead the Oniwabanshuu once more, nor would they accept him easily. Your request that I ask him to take your place is denied."

Misao opened her mouth to protest, but Okina lifted a hand and continued. "I will watch over the Oniwabanshuu until you return. And please," he smiled at her, "make it soon. Whether you believe it or not, you are their leader now. You have all the loyalty and trust they have. And all of mine."

Misao threw herself at him and hugged him close. "Thank you, Jiya." Her voice trembled.

He held her tight. "Goodbye, my pretty little one. I know you'll take care and come back soon." He released her. "Where were you intending to go? Wandering around in the mountains again?"

"Maybe for a while. But, I thought it would be nice to head down to Tokyo and visit Kaoru-san and Himura and everyone. Kaoru-san sent me a letter a while ago telling me that I was welcome to visit whenever I wanted. I just sent her a note warning her that I was going to take her up on it."

"Good!" Okina smiled. "I'll worry about you less if you're with Himura. You're right, it would be nice to see them again. I wish I could come with you."

She shook her head. "Not this time, Jiya. I'll try and convince them to visit us sometime, too, but you know how Himura feels about Kyoto. It'll take some doing."

"Don't worry about it." He reached out and took her hand, squeezing it.

Misao nodded brightly. "Uhn!" She squeezed his hand in return, smiling. "Jiya...thank you, for understanding," she said almost shyly.

He released her hand. "I left home once too, Misao-chan. It happens to everyone eventually. When will you be going?"


Okina smiled, as though despite himself. "It's the middle of the night, Misao-chan, and it's raining. At least wait until morning."

She pouted. "Hmph."

"One night won't make much difference, Misao. You can leave early in the morning, without any fuss- for once." She grinned at him, knowing full well that he usually was the person making a fuss, and was holding himself back this once. "I'll say goodbye to everyone for you, and explain."

Her smile faded. "And...Aoshi-sama?" Aoshi had been away on business for over a week; he was not due back for several more days. Part of her wanted to wait, to tell him goodbye, to tell him...what?


Okina looked at her. "Do you have anything in particular you want me to tell him?"

Misao shook her head, slowly. What would I say?

"Then don't worry about it. I'll take care of Aoshi."

She nodded again, more soberly this time, and walked out of the room.

The next morning, she was gone.


Days later, Aoshi walked into the Aoiya- as calmly as though he had left only hours earlier, instead of two weeks. Okina had been watching for him, and managed to meet him at the foot of the stairs. Without preamble, Aoshi said, "I found what we were looking for. Is Misao here? She asked to see this as soon as it was found."

"Er, no. You can give it to me; she asked to take care of it. Was there much trouble?"

"No. I see things have been quiet here." Aoshi pulled several papers out of a hidden pocket in his trenchcoat and reached out to hand them to Okina.

"Mostly, yes. Misao's gone away for a while," Okina responded. Hearing that, the younger man froze for a moment, then completed his interrupted motion. Okina smiled inwardly as he took the packet of paper. So, you're not as unruffled as you seem. "She needed a break. The pressure of being Okashira has been weighing very heavily on her."

Slowly, Aoshi responded. "I can imagine." He stood silent for a minute. "Where did she go?"


Aoshi stood silent for a long while, apparently considering this. Okina stroked his beard thoughtfully as he watched his former student. I made a mistake when I suggested him as the leader of the Oniwabanshuu, years ago, he realized regretfully. He's a skilled fighter and a brilliant tactician, but he was too young. Younger even than Misao is now. He was so determined to do everything perfectly...he locked away all of his emotions, so that they wouldn't interfere with his decisions. He made it impossible for anyone to fault him or his youth. But now, he's paying the price for that, even if he's unaware. Or rather, Misao and I pay it for him.

I should never have let Misao take on this responsibility. I should never have let her declare herself leader. Maybe...maybe I should never have trained her as a ninja to begin with. She was right to leave.

"I see," Aoshi said finally, walking past Okina and up the first flight of stairs.

"Aoshi," Okina said in a quiet voice. The younger man turned slightly. "What are you planning?"

There was a pause. "Nothing," Aoshi said, and left.


Ten-year-old Aoshi waited with the rest of the Oniwabanshuu for someone to come and tell them what was going on. He frowned, bored and impatient with this interruption; he'd been in the middle of an interesting book, and wanted very much to get back to it. What did he care about babies, anyway? From what he remembered of his sister's birth, they were noisy, messy things...

He bit his lip, suddenly remembering his sister clearly. She'd been just a few years younger than him, and they'd looked very much alike, with sharp features and eyes that changed color with their moods. But where his eyes drifted between light grey and icy blue, hers had been the color of the ocean...a tempestuous shade of blue-green.

Until the day she'd died, murdered by the same pirates that had killed his parents, and the light in her eyes had faded to black...

Aoshi jumped slightly, startled, when Okina opened the door and grinned at all of them. "It's a girl!"

"Good!" one of the female Oniwabanshuu laughed. "Another one for our side! Let's see her!" One by one, everyone crowded into the small room, Aoshi reluctantly following behind.

Makimachi Kimiko rested quietly on a futon, holding the newborn in her arms with a look of satisfaction on her face. Her father- the current Okashira, and Aoshi's idol- stood next to her, smiling. He walked away to talk to Okina and the other men while all the female Oniwabanshuu oohed and aahed over the new baby.

Aoshi was wondering how on earth he could get out of the situation when Kimiko noticed him standing in the background. Her eyes twinkled. "Aoshi, come here and hold her for a minute. My arms are getting tired."

Aoshi scowled, but couldn't say no to his master's daughter. Grudgingly, he walked over and held out his arms for the baby. Kimiko handed the child to him carefully.

Aoshi looked down at the bundle in his arms with something very close to distaste. Then, the baby yawned and opened her eyes, and he saw with a shock that they were a bright, clear blue, like the ocean on a calm day...much like his sister's had been.

The baby wrinkled her nose at him, and slowly, a hint of a smile touched Aoshi's lips. The baby laughed in immediate response, waving her arms up at him. He held her a bit closer, almost unconsciously, and the smile grew.

"I think she likes you," Kimiko said, smiling herself as she watched them.

"I think...I like her," Aoshi said quietly, realizing that it was true. He glanced up at the mother. "What are you going to name her?"

"We hadn't decided yet. Do you have any ideas?"

"What about..." he swallowed hard over the lump that rose in his throat. "Misao?"

Kimiko pursed her lips for a moment, considering this. "Makimachi Misao," she said quietly, and smiled once more. "I like the sound of that."

"It was my sister's name," Aoshi said, staring deep into those small, bright eyes.

"Then we'll remember your sister with honor," Kimiko grinned. "Let me speak to my husband; I think he'll consent to it."

"Thank you," Aoshi whispered.

Baby Misao laughed again, in that gurgling way that babies have, and almost seemed to clap her hands with glee. Aoshi decided then and there that he'd do whatever it took to keep those eyes as lit up as they were now.


Aoshi shook off the memories of long ago. He stared at the floor for a few more minutes, contemplating.

Then he got to his feet, and picked up his trenchcoat from where it rested.

I hid a bad pun in there. The word "misao" can be written to mean honor or faith. Sorry; couldn't help myself. *gryn*

Yarikirenai: Unbearable. In case you weren't able to guess. ;)
Koiji: Love's pathway, or the road to love.
onmitsu: Ninja, roughly. (best approximation to what the Oniwabanshuu are/do that I've heard)
okashira: the leader of a smallish group of warriors