Stuff: It's fanfiction people. I obviously do not own any of the characters you recognize below. Also, please remember this: If you don't like it, there's this convenient little button called "Back". I advise you to use it with proper discretion. However, if you have constructive criticism to give (which, I clarify now, is not equivalent to a flame) feel free to doll it out to me! I love criticism!
For those not familiar with the manga: This is set in the very beginning of the series. Yahiko has just been taken in as Kaoru's student (for perhaps a week) when a former student of Kaoru's - Hira - stumbles to the dojo and begged her to protect him from a group of men that he falsely accused of starting a fight. When Kaoru realized the fact that her former student had lied to her, and that he was the one who started the fight due to drunkeness and arrogance, she told the attackers that she would take responsibility for her former student's actions. This was because, even though he was no longer her student, she blames herself for not having taught him better. The story starts at this confrontation. (Kenshin, at this moment, has been sent to the market to get a lot of groceries -sweatdrop-).
by Blue Jeans
How foolish she acts. How reckless she stands, trying to take on the responsibility of people whose actions were their own. Facing those men like that, she obviously believed that he hadn't the strength to fight, that he was like those fools that hid behind her like dogs after a whipping. Myojin Yahiko fumed silently at this dishonor that Kamiya Kaoru had put upon him. Angry at the way she protected him and the others, like his mother had once done when he had been a child. Angry that after all this time, he was still treated like the weak little boy that he had once been but had promised himself to never be again.
He had lived his life knowing shame though he did not always know its reason or its name. The man who had came to deliver the letter that day to his mother had looked at her lasciviously, though at the time he would not understand what that look entailed. He would remember the choking sound that woke him that night, the confusion he felt at his mother's tears. She wouldn't tell him why she was crying, but instead she held him and lied to him through the tears she couldn't stop, not even then, not even when she wanted to. "Oh, my darling son," she had said to him in a voice she would later use whenever his question bore her too much pain. "I just had a bad dream, that's all. See, the tears are drying up. You're a man already for taking care of your foolish mother so."
And he would be sent to bed, foolishly proud of himself in his ignorance or fall asleep in her arms, reassured by her false words. "I'll grow up to be just like Father then," he would whisper to her in the dark. She would hold her yukata sleeve to her face and nod, lying to him again if he asked her about it. "I'm just so proud of you, my Yahiko, already a man." Her eyes would sparkle just so in the night and her expression would made him believe her whole-heartedly. In reality, she was hiding her cries and her pain behind thinning clothes and thinning flesh. But she seemed happy. He wouldn't know how much his words grieved her or how much she loved him till the end for saying such things that he would not understand till older.
Times were hard, especially that winter. Other men would come to his house and each time his mother would look more and more perplexed and stressed and tired. Finally, one day he wouldn't let them enter. "Leave my mother alone!" he yelled at them, throwing a sandal at one of the two men that arrived at his door. They looked less then pleased at him and the bigger one moved to strike him harshly across the cheek since his sandal bounced off of one big shoulder.
"Don't," his mother cut in and covered his small, defiant form with her body. The blow struck her instead, much to Yahiko's dismay. He wanted to lash out then, but his mother just pressed his face to her chest and whispered for him to still, to be quiet, to leave this to her...
"Myojin-san," the shorter man said gravely though his eyes had a shifty glint in them. "We have been patient with you, understanding your loss. But you and your husband failed to pay us the debt you owe us. What is worse? You have been lagging on the interest! If you don't come up with it soon, you and your son won't have a roof to sleep under anymore, but trust me that will be the least of your problems if that time should come." The threat was less then subtle as unforgiving eyes scrutinized them.
His mother had held his head to her and nodded. "I'm sorry, sir. I will get you the money as soon as I can."
"Make sure you do," the man gave her a meaningful look. "And next time, make sure your guard-dog of a boy is chained up before we visit. I wouldn't want Yuu-san to slip his hand and accidentally kill the boy for barking too loudly, if you get my meaning."
His mother nodded with muted terror, clutching Yahiko more protectively than ever as they watched the two men go. When they were finally by themselves, Yahiko looked up angrily at his mother. "How can you let them treat you like that mother?" he demanded angrily. "Why, if Father was here he'd beat them all up!"
His mother was quiet but slowly she stepped away and bent down so that they were eye-to-eye. "I have to start work tomorrow to pay these debts claimed upon our name, Yahiko-chan," she told him with a smile, ruffling his hair. "I found a job in town, you see? It would mean I won't be here for you in the evenings, but it will bring us money. Tomorrow, I want you to catch some fish for dinner if you can, just the way your father taught you, hm? I know it's hard but your father's on an important mission and we don't know when he'll be back. So we'll just have to endure this for a little longer, okay, Yahiko-chan?"
He scrunched his face up angrily. "Can't I just tell them off if they come back?"
"No, Yahiko," she gently chided him though he could still see the lingering fear in his mother's eyes. He would come to hate this emotion soon, as it would haunt him for much of his life. "If you can't back up words with action, my son, it is better not to speak at all." His mother smoothed out the slight wrinkle in his gi and tucked it in more securely. "Life is about working hard and it's about being a good, kind hearted person. Being brave sometimes means you have to take things the way it is, but you must never lose heart, my darling. One day you will grow up to be a courageous and skillful young man that will make both your father and me, very proud. Until then, never promise things you cannot uphold and don't talk badly to those men."
"Yahiko," she chided him softly again, stopping his protests. "It's not polite and your father and I taught you better than that." Many years later, he would tell his teacher, Kamiya Kaoru, what a gentle woman his mother was, how she never raised her voice at him, but somehow was always able to make him listen. Kaoru had looked at him without laughter in her eyes, though he had expected her to tease him, at least a little to get back at him for all the times he called her a hag. But she had only smiled a bit ruefully, and instead said that they had that in common too, Kaoru remembered her mother to be very soft spoken as well.
At that time, he had only sighed dramatically before going back into their home, hearing words that he would not understand till he had nothing left to lose. "Fine," he rolled his eyes. "When will you be back?"
"In the morning," his mother answered hesitantly. "My work is only in the evenings."
That was how things started going down hill for Yahiko. Previous words of scorn about his father from the neighbors never reached his ears until his mother started to work late nights. The people he was used to seeing began to whisper when he was sighted, and many times when he wasn't (though he was in earshot of their judgmental scorn). He would hear them whisper that his father was a traitor to the country and that his mother turned out to be no better than a whore. He didn't understand it until one day a group of younger boys had taunted him, saying words they themselves did not fully understand, but that they had heard from the adults.
Enraged, he had fought them. After that he was in trouble a lot. He'd go home with bruises and sometimes his mother would see him limp up to her. There was a constant crease in between her brows, but Yahiko would shrug off her efforts to soothe him, angry at the town and her too for letting them say such things. She never yelled at him for being wild or fighting, though he knew it worried her immensely. Sometimes she would hear the comments the towns people made, and as time progressed they became bolder in saying it. In those times, Yahiko would find her stand a little straighter next to him, especially when he looked over to her with frustration in his gaze. "They're talking about us again, mother." He once gruffly pointed out when she refused to talk back.
"Does that make you ashamed, Yahiko?" his mother asked him softly with sadness in her eyes.
"No," he denied it fervently, though later he would question that answer he gave her many times over.
"Then there is no need to continue talking about it," his mother had smiled at him with that look in her eyes that told him she was sorry but that she was proud of him.
It wasn't long after that she became sick. The fragile beauty he had always associated with his mother began to fade then, giving her skin a yellowish hue that worried him to no end. During the earlier parts of her illness, she would sit out in the sun during the afternoons, listlessly staring out at the world if he did not approach her. Sometimes he feared that she would sprout wings then and there, and fly away, never to return. Those times scared him the most, and it made him sad and angry. Sad that his mother was so unhappy, no matter how hard she tried to hide it from him, and angry at himself for being so useless to help her out, angry at his father for not coming home. Before going to work, she would gather him in her arms and they would watch it set together. "It's my favorite time of day," she told him once when he returned home, dirty and ragged from the unforgiving world outside. She would smooth his hair and hold him near to her bosom, as if he was some weary samurai that had came back from battle. She would tell him that she was proud of him, her voice a whisper on his skin. "It tells me that we made it Yahiko. I get to hold you for another wonderful day." In those moments, even the world could not touch them, as they sat together beneath the darkening night. And then she would be gone, leaving a soft kiss on his forehead as she smoothed away his turmoil with a smile, promising to be home when he woke up in the morning.
She never broke that promise, not until the end.
He didn't see what she meant though, those words she always spoke of when the sun left the sky. The days were far from wonderful. His mother was coming home as ragged as him, and out of breath. She soon became consumed with an illness that left her weak and clumsy. When he insisted that she go see a doctor she would hold him and lie. "It's just the weather," she would say, or if that didn't work, she would claim it was because she just hadn't had time to eat that day. There was really never enough to eat, and when the seasons began to change, she became even worse for wear. One day he couldn't wake her for work at all. No matter how he called to her or shook her thinning shoulders, his mother would moan in protest and roll away, but her dark eyes wouldn't open at all. She finally did wake early the next morning, but she was groggy, disoriented and feverish. He ran to the doctor but by the time the man arrived at their home, she was moaning in pain and delirium, lying amongst the vomit that littered the floor of the room Yahiko shared with her. The discolored chunks stained their futon and the floor, and Yahiko froze at the sight of blood that was mixed with bile.
The doctor only wrinkled his nose slightly at the smell and when the examination was over, he told Yahiko that there was nothing he could do for his sick mother. "Too late," the man diagnosed, though later Yahiko would discover that it had more to do with the fact that he wouldn't be able to afford a treatment. The doctor then handed Yahiko the bill, but at the time Yahiko had no money to pay the exorbitant amount the doctor demanded. "I'll give you a week, child." The older man looked less then pleased and quite impatient. There was disgust in the brown, judging eyes. "I have bills to pay too, you know?"
"Is she dying, Doctor?" Yahiko asked fearfully as the man was leaving, for once, too scared to be prideful or angry at the treatment.
Looking back over his shoulder, the other didn't show an ounce of compassion or sympathy as the man opened the door to leave. "Look on the bright side," the doctor said, "at least you won't have to pay for medication too."
Yahiko was furious with the answer, but his mother stopped him with a weak tug on his sleeve and a whisper of his name. "Yahiko, you are the son of a samurai," she huffed with pain as the words slipped from her lips. "Live in honor of that knowledge." He held her hand and promised to be a good boy for her. He cleaned up what he could of the vomit, he cooked and cleaned the little room they lived in with what he could find. Then he prayed, he prayed to gods he didn't know and wondered about his father's whereabouts. Somehow, in his young mind, he still believed that if his father returned then everything would be okay again, and the struggle to survive would be over. He clung to the belief that it was not too late.
He did everything he could. He promised the gods that he would never ask for anything if they would spare his mother. He promised them his life, his hands, his services, anything that he had. "Let her live," he would whisper to the sun as he watched it set. The breeze blew through his hair before his mother gagging pulled him away from the outside world. For once he did not see the sun set completely as he ran inside to take care of the woman most important in his life.
In the end, his efforts were in vain.
The day was hot when it happened. The sun was high in the sky and the humidity made him carelessly discard his shirt, something his mother never approved of him doing. She had been shivering as sweat soaked the sheets and the bed of their small, one-roomed home, she was shivering till the very end. The hands that had taken care of him since he was a child loosened their grip in his own worried grasp and she just stopped... living. There were no parting words, no promises she extracted from him, no goodbyes. There was just an atmosphere of regret and sadness, of things that can never be. Her gaze was to the door even then, as if any moment now his father would return and everything would be alright again. As if, in that moment before the sun had set, she had found her wings and flew into the skies she loved to look at so much in the evenings. It was the first time Yahiko ever cried because of grief. It was the first time he had looked into the face of Death and saw its visage reflected on the person most important to him. It was as if all his hopes, in one single moment, dried up into ashes in his little chest.
He wondered if he had just held onto her hand just a little tighter, if he had tried to be a better son just a little bit more...
Things changed after that. He lost his home not a week after her death. They buried her in a nameless grave along with other peasants. He stood there, empty eyed and empty hearted. When he returned home, they told him it was no longer his to live in. The man, Yuu, was there, and had beaten him when he tried to enter anyway. He was still able to get away with a few pieces of his mother's life but it had cost him. He couldn't walk for two days and spent the next three begging in the streets of Tokyo, starving to death under the unrelenting sun. On the seventh day, he stole from a bump-nosed man to discover that he was the boss for a small time Yakuza group. They then beat his withered body for daring the task (opening a few old wounds in the process of creating new ones), and just before he thought he would die, the puss-looking boss offered him a job. In his pain, fear and hopelessness, he accepted. Hell could not have been worse than those days when he had no one, when he had caste aside his honor as his mother had once done to survive, though unlike her, he had no one to support but himself and no one to watch out for but himself.
In those days at the Yakuza, he had nothing and he was no one. The time passed as if he was a walking ghost that did what he was told so he could continue to walk the earth and breathe its air. He was no longer the noble son of a samurai but a ruffian orphan who was enslaved to criminals. He learned shame, and then he learned of his father's death. That was what his mother had kept from him all those days and all those nights. It was the reason for her despair. He read through the pages that held the stains of her tears, struggling with some words but understanding most of it. He was grateful that she had taught him to read in the afternoons before she would go to work. He remembered those times he had been so annoyed and impatient with her, wondering how he could not have cherished the little time she tried so hard to give to him. Despite everything, his mother had shielded him from the cruel world as best she could. Despite everything, she still wrote in her journal about the little warrior son she adored, about the dreams she had for him. She had still taught him to read, and in doing so, he was able to keep her memories closer to him.
It was her words that kept him going. It was what prompted his change when he met the funny speaking man named Kenshin and the tomboyish girl, Kaoru. It was around this time that Kaoru became his teacher. And it was why he was furious with her at this very moment.
There she was, standing before a group of ignoble men, protecting him the way his mother had once tried to do as well. He hated her for it, for unintentionally reminding him that he was weak, that he hadn't the skills to protect the little bit of happiness and security that was laid out before him now. This was his chance to become the man his mother believed was in him. This was his chance to be someone who Life could not defeat and the world could not trample on. This was his chance to be stronger than the man his father had tried to be, who didn't need to beg the gods to spare the ones he loved because he had the strength to protect them.
He would pick up that boken and learn to be as good as Himura Kenshin, so that no one need ever protect him again. He was Myojin Yahiko, and he wasn't about to let anyone treat him like a child ever again. "Don't make me laugh!" he fumed as he descended upon the leader that leered at Kaoru the way the tax-collector had leered at his mother. Eyes fierce and angry, he turned to his teacher while ignoring the ranting of the man he kicked. "I'm not just sitting here while you get hurt," he yelled at her. He was not afraid. He had promised himself that he would never be that child that could not take care of the person he held most dear. "Myojin Yahiko is nothing like those two losers," he proclaimed, angry that she would even dare to imply it.
Don't you dare protect me, he meant. I'm not a child and you're not my mother. But those words were too personal to say, and she wouldn't understand - or maybe, she would look at him and know his fears, which was worse. He wasn't someone that needed to be protected. Especially not when, for just a moment, Kamiya Kaoru had seemed too familiar, too much like the mother he had lost. This time the past was not going to repeat itself. This time, he was not going to lose everything because of his own weaknesses.
Yukata – A sleeping robe
Boken – A wooden, practice sword
-chan – term of endearment; used between close girlfriends or to children
-san – term of respect; equivalent to western Mr. or Ms.
names – are family name first and then name of individual. I am using the Asian way here, since they are Japanese people in a Japanese environment. This isn't an issue about being a purist. This is about being in context.
I love that brat of a kid, though this was not true when I watched the anime. The manga is AWESOME! I finally got my grubby hands on it and I ain't letting it go to nobody! BUWHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Most likely, there'll be more vignettes to come. Oh, so many sexy and complicated men in RK (some thoroughly messed up)! I am drooling just at the thought of getting in their pants-- HEAD! I meant head!