Disclaimer - Sadly, I don't own Rurouni Kenshin. It is the sole property of Nobuhiro Watsuki and the many companies who have purchased the rights.

Author's Note - Hi everyone. This is my first attempt at a full blown fic so please be gentle but I do love feedback. Also, please read with an open mind. I have pretty much thrown out the Kyoto arc as written by Nobuhiro Watsuki and created my own arc where Kaoru is the main character, I hope that doesn't discourage you from reading this. Also just to warn you, you will find some relationships different than what's in the manga and few other things have been changed to fit the storyline even if it doesn't necessarily fit the time it is set. Nothing drastic but I figured I should forewarn you.

This chapter has no mention of the Rurouni Kenshin characters but will instead set the stage for future chapters.

A/N June 6, 2011 - Hello all. Welcome to the revised version of Bloodline. For those of you who have read this story before you will find very little has been changed save the wording/grammer and the few additions that were added to make it more fleshed out in an attempt to bring it up to par with say... Forever Mine. It's not quite up to what I can do now but I was afraid I'd lose too much if I tried to do that. Also I wish to give my beta, MelyCat, a heartfelt THANK YOU! for getting this revision started. If it wasn't for her reread and tweaking I never would have gotten the gumption to go at it myself when she was done and fit everything to her wonderful additions.

So with all that said, on to the improved Bloodline, hope you like it.

Prologue – Beginnings

20 September 1600

A cool breeze wafted through the open window causing Akiko's golden hair to flutter gently across her face, several strands tickling her nose as they played across her pale features. Tucking the wayward locks behind her ear, she sat back from the low table as the twinges of pain gained strength across her protruding belly. Despite the ache she carefully dabbed the ink dry on the rice paper with a soft cloth before rolling it up into a narrow scroll. Tying the missive with one of her favorite hair ribbons, Akiko placed it in a small wooden box sitting open beside her. Gently closing the lid securely she ran her fingers lovingly across the name carved into the wood, hoping she would have the chance to see the one whose name was etched so deeply into the smooth surface.

"It's almost time for you to come, little one. I hope your life will not be as hard as mine." She whispered into the darkened room as single tear escaped her sapphire eyes.

Moving to the open window, Akiko leaned out, letting the wind dry the wetness from her cheeks as she inhaled the scent of decay that lingered lightly in the air. Thoughts of all that had happened since she had been cast out into this cruel world passed agonizingly through her mind as she gazed up at the full moon.

"All that I love has been taken from me," she said softly into the wind as she wrapped her arms protectively around her belly, "everything but you, little one. And I fear that I will not survive your birth, leaving you with no one to help you master what is within you." Another tear slid slowly down her cheek. "I hope what I have written will make it easier for you to handle what has been given to you, but please heed my warning or you will lose all that you hold dear...as I have. Your father lies dead on the battlefield at Sekigahara, the gift I had given him stolen by the ones who cast me out. I wish you could have met him, he was a good man whose only mistake was loving me. Had I not given him a second chance he would have died a long time ago and you would not be here." Soothing away her contractions gently with her palms, she whispered sadly, "All that has happened and will happen is because of my selfishness and now you, and all those who will come after you, will pay the price...I'm sorry, little one, but I couldn't give him up."

Tears began flowing steadily down her cheeks as the labor pains intensified; still the ache in her heart surpassed the torment wracking her body. Turning from the window she padded to the shoji door and slowly slid it open to summon the village miko who had been waiting outside.

"I think she is ready to come, Hisayo." Akiko said, gasping as a sharp contraction hit her.

"Hai, Akiko-sama, please lie down while I ready everything." The older woman answered, bustling off to collect all she needed for the imminent birth.

Hours later in the growing light of dawn that penetrated the room, a small wail filled the silence as a shimmering golden radiance enveloped all within.

"She's beautiful, Akiko-sama," Hisayo said, smiling as she handed the crying babe to the exhausted mother. Her dark eyes noticing the bright golden highlights in the baby's raven hair, shimmering in the weak morning glow.

Akiko cradled her daughter in her arms, hugging her close to her heart as she ran a finger down her soft skin. "I'm glad I got to see you, little one." She murmured with a loving smile on her pale, almost bloodless lips. Turning pain-filled eyes to Hisayo she asked, "Will you take care of her for me, my friend?"

As tears came to her eyes, Hisayo nodded. "As if she was one of my own. Do not worry, Akiko-sama, she will be loved and I will do all I can to help her."

Sighing with relief Akiko indicated the small wooden box still on the table with weak gesture. "Please, give her that to her when she is old enough, what is within will help her through the difficult times ahead of her. " She paused as she caught her uneven breath, her remaining strength rapidly dwindling. "Tell her to pass it on to her own daughter when the time comes, because what is within can never be forgotten or those of my line will be left powerless against those who would take their freedom."

Nodding as tears streamed down her face Hisayo asked, "What will you name her?"

"Aiko...her name is Aiko." Akiko whispered as her eyes slid closed, slipping quietly from the world leaving behind a legacy of pain and sacrifice that would one day threaten to destroy all a spirited young woman held dear.