Author's Note #1: Some of the dialogue - but definitely not all - in this chapter was taken from Acts 82-85 (and more) of the Rurouni Kenshin manga, written by the noble Watsuki-san, some of it modified slightly by bits from the anime, some of it modified by the requirements of the story.
Author's Note #2: Just a reminder - for notes, go to (remove the spaces): www. t1goold. net/ RK/ NotesRK. html
Author's Note #3: Life has not been good to me over the past year, health-wise... but I've had so many people add Edge of the Blade to their favourites and story alerts lately that it seems to me only fair to put up another part as thanks. I'm still working on the rest of Chp. 5, so no guarantees when it will appear... but here's the start.
(Author's Note #4: I've learned how to put macrons over the letters (rather than the circumflex accent), so will be gradually going back and changing the rest of the parts as well.)
Disclaimer in Prologue (first page).
Thanks again to Vathara for her help in betaing.
CHAPTER FIVE: Hiko Seijūrō - Thirteenth Master of Hiten Mitsurugi-Ryū
Part 1: Leaving the Aoi-ya
Kenshin had been up for over an hour by the time Misao came looking for him, working on cleaning the sakabatō and replacing the hilt.
"So, what are we going to be doing today, Himura?" she asked, as she walked into the room.
Kenshin blinked and looked up at her. "Doing?" he questioned innocently.
Misao scowled at him, but before she could say anything, Okina joined them.
"Ah, there you are, Himura-kun. I've just got word back from the police on Chō," the onmitsu said, sitting down on one of the cushions facing Kenshin.
"Mmm...?" Kenshin murmured, as he put the cleaning cloth back into his kit and picked up the tsuba.
"They say that the man you mentioned, the one who's in charge of the Shishio affair, is due to arrive in Kyoto in about four days' time," Okina continued. "I was thinking about offering our services to the police for Chō's interrogation, so that it can be done earlier--"
"I doubt that will be necessary, Okina-san," Kenshin interrupted. "The man they're waiting for is... quite skilled. One way or another, I am quite certain that he will be able to obtain any information Chō has about Shishio." I do not want the Oniwabanshū involved any more than they have been already. I have a new sakabatō; it's time to leave before Shishio finds out about the Aoi-ya. It will just be a matter of arranging with Okina to get word to me once Hiko is found...
From the expression on Okina's face, Kenshin suspected he was trying to figure out who might be working with the police that Hitokiri Battōsai would have that much respect for. It would be interesting to know if the Oniwabanshū knew of Saitō's alias and current position... Not that he was going to ask, just in case they didn't. "Yes," he replied simply, making sure the tsuba was properly settled before picking up the hilt.
"So," Misao repeated impatiently, "what are we going to do today?"
Kenshin shrugged. "I do not know what you intend to do, Misao-san. I will be leaving the Aoi-ya."
Misao stared at him for a long moment, her expression thunderstruck; and then a look of utter fury crossed her face. "You're leaving Aoi-ya?!" she screeched.
Kenshin ignored the shout, focusing his attention on putting the hilt on to the sakabatō.
"Why? We've only just found the new sakabatō and got started!" Misao continued, still yelling.
If nothing else, her temper is a match to Kaoru's, Kenshin thought, wincing slightly at the continuing loud volume. If they ever meet, they will either get along remarkably well, or be the bitterest of enemies...
"Calm down, calm down," Okina said firmly, giving Misao a slight shake of his head. Turning back to Kenshin, he continued, "May we hear your reasons, Himura-kun?"
Kenshin concentrated on getting the hilt seated properly. If I tell them, they will continue to try to assist me. By ignoring them, I will hopefully be able to make them angry enough with me to let me go my own way.
"You can't tell us, huh?" Misao demanded furiously, shifting and drawing her arm back in preparation to punch him.
Yes, very definitely a match to Kaoru's temper... Kenshin put the sakabatō down, and reached for the wooden hammer.
"Why don't you stay out of this?" Okina suggested firmly to her, as Kenshin set the pin in place and tapped the peg he was using to hold it with the hammer.
"So, no desire to tell...?" the onmitsu asked then, when Kenshin's lack of response made it obvious he had no intentions of responding to Misao's demand. "Well, you have no need to speak your feelings. In the end, we are strangers.
"But," he continued, a hint of smugness entering his expression, "before you leave, you still must pay two yen and twenty-five sen for three days' lodging."
If he hadn't been trying to make them angry, Kenshin would have smiled at Okina's attempt. It sounded as though Misao had shared her impression that he was poor with the old man, and Okina either hadn't guessed different, or was hoping that Kenshin wanted to maintain that impression.
"Good one, Gramps!" Misao exclaimed.
"Aoi-ya is an inn," Okina pointed out sagely. "We can't afford to let strangers stay for free.
"Can't you tell us, Himura-kun?" he added, after a moment. "I can get over it, but she won't be able to."
At that, Kenshin looked back up at them. Misao had a pleading expression on her face, and Okina... the look in Okina's eyes suggested that he had figured it out - or the gist of it, at least.
Picking up the sakabatō, he slipped it into the saya Okina had given him last night, after Seikū's family had left, and then held it in front of him for a long moment, staring at it, before giving a sigh of partial resignation. He supposed he could at least explain that he didn't want them involved.
"If too much is revealed, you'll all become involved," he stated grimly. He could feel their eyes watching him, and knew his own eyes were flickering amber. "The point of leaving Tokyo alone was to avoid having anyone else caught up in it."
Pushing his irritation and concern away, he forced his eyes to return to blue before raising his head again. "This most recent incident involved Seikū's family," Kenshin continued, standing up. "If I were to stay, the same would happen to you."
"Pff!" Misao scoffed, also standing up. "That's nothing to worry about! I got martial arts training from Han'nya himself! I'm not a baby, like Iori!"
"Yes, you are," Kenshin said flatly. Even after the events of Shingetsu, and what happened to Seikū's family, she still doesn't realize just how serious this is. As she stared at him it utter disbelief, and rising anger, he continued, "To Shishio and his men, you and Iori are the same."
He strode over to the shoji leading to the hall outside, neither Okina nor Misao attempting to stop him. Okina hadn't yet stood up, and Misao still appeared stunned by what he'd just said. "No one else must be put in danger. From here on, I battle alone."
Except for Saitō - I doubt he'll even try to stay out of it - but he's already involved, and I know he can hold his own.
"I understand, Himura-kun," Okina said soberly, turning slightly to meet his gaze.
Yes, I had a feeling you would...
"We will respect your wishes."
"But--" Misao protested.
Kenshin and Okina both ignored her. "Once we learn more of Hiko Seijūrō, I'll inform you using a signal fire," the onmitsu continued. "It's an old method, but it works."
"Thank you," Kenshin replied, sliding the shoji open.
"Hey, Himura, why so distant all of a sudden?" Misao demanded abruptly. Kenshin stopped in the doorway, his back to them. "Is it because we know you're Hitokiri Battōsai?"
Kenshin's mouth tightened. Part of it, yes, he thought silently. Of course, Okina had known from the first; but not only was Okina onmitsu, he had lived through the chaos in Kyoto that was the Bakumatsu. Misao - like his friends back in Tokyo - hadn't. And despite the fact that he hadn't been as deeply hidden by the rurouni mask when he'd met Misao as he had before, Saitō's words about his friends kept echoing in his mind.
But most of it is as I have said - I do not want you involved.
"I'm not the type to care about people's pasts," Misao continued, and Kenshin stiffened at the unexpected echo of Kaoru's words all those months ago, after the first defeat of the Hiruma brothers. "Whoever you are, Himura, you're a good man! You wouldn't have insisted on leaving Senkaku and Chō alive if you weren't!"
Despite the fact that I knew full well that leaving them alive would be turning them over to Saitō's interrogation? But, almost in spite of himself, Kenshin chuckled at the way Misao was not only acting, but speaking so much like Kaoru.
"What's so funny?"
"Someone left behind in Tokyo said almost the exact same thing," Kenshin admitted. He looked back at Misao, eyes a warm blue. "To hear it here, in Kyoto--" Where I became the bloody legend... "--was... unexpected."
Once again Misao stared at him, this time in surprise, and Kenshin turned away a final time, determined not to let her delay him any longer. "I am sorry not to tell you more of Aoshi," he declared - knowing that would stop her even more firmly than her echo of Kaoru had him - and walked out, closing the shoji firmly behind him.
Giving a nod of farewell to Kuro and Okon as he passed the kitchen where they were preparing lunch, he walked out the door and started down the street, toward the edge of town. He'd decided it would be wiser not to stay within Kyoto; not until he was ready to confront Shishio, at least. He knew of a small, abandoned hut a short distance out of town; close enough that he would be able to see the smoke signal when Okina discovered Hiko's location, but far enough away that Shishio's agents in Kyoto shouldn't be able to find him.
He had only got a few steps away from Aoi-ya's main door when he heard Misao shout from overhead, "Hey, Himura!"
Kenshin winced, wishing she would stop yelling that name. Knowing now who he was, she really ought to know better...
"You told Eiji from Shingetsu village, 'Be happy'!" she continued shouting, despite the fact that he was still walking away, and hadn't looked up. "The same thing goes for you, too!"
Thank you for the kind thought, Misao.
"I won't let you get away with being miserable just because you couldn't ask for help!"
He winced again, not liking the sound of that. It suggested that she might just try to do something... well, stupid, actually. I'll just have to hope that Okina can keep her safe... I am not going to turn around.
"And don't you forget it! Idiot!"
Yes, I suspect that she and Kaoru would get along...
tsuba: The hilt guard of the sword.
Two yen, twenty-five sen: In this story Kenshin stays at Aoi-ya for three days, not ten; I've changed the "cost of lodging" appropriately, assuming Japan's currency system was decimal at the time.