A Job for Sanosuke
Epilogue – Sagara Sanosuke
By Shirou Shinjin.
Disclaimer: I have not, do not, and most likely will never own Rurouni Kenshin, or its characters. They belong to various evil corporations, and the wonderful Watsuki-sama. I'm just going to borrow them for a bit, k?
1884, the 17th year of Meiji.
"...and after that, we never saw him again! He disappeared into the mists of time... good riddance, I always said," Nori said, concluding his tale with a grand sweep of his arms.
Yoshiro shook his head as he balanced a plate of steaming food in his left hand. "Oh not this again. Would you give it a rest, grandpa? Stop bothering the customers with your inane fairy-tales."
"It is not a fairy tale! The Zanza was real!" Nori asserted, stamping his foot like a temperamental child.
"Just like that time you told me that if I put too much soy in the miso that it would become sentient and devour me while I slept?"
"Hey, I had to get it through that thick skull of yours somehow!"
"Look; I'm busy. I have customers to serve. I don't have time for your imaginary free loaders."
"There was nothing imaginary about the Zanza's tab! Behold!" With this, Nori pulled an ageing piece of paper from his sleeve. It looked like it had been folded and re-folded hundreds of times. Most likely because it had.
"Oh spare me..." Yoshiro groaned.
"I kept track of every last bill that demon accrued at this restaurant over the years! Look ye upon it and despair!" his grandfather exclaimed in his best theatrical voice.
"The only thing making me despair is that I'm going to have to put up with this until Thursday when father gets back." Just then, the shifting light drew Yoshiro's attention to the front door, where a new customer had just walked in. "Look, just stay away from the customers and don't scare anyone off like last time!"
"He was a tanuki, I tell you! It was trying to steal my pants!"
"Good God, why me?" he mumbled as he walked over to the reception area. Turning the corner, he got his first look at the man that had just walked in.
He was huge; incredibly tall, and built like an Ox. He had long, spiky brown hair, and a thin layer of stubble on his chin, and he wore a red bandanna around his forehead. For some reason, he felt like he should recognise this man, but couldn't work out from where.
Shrugging it off, he walked up to him. "Welcome, how can I help you today?"
"Hey, is the old geezer around here somewhere?"
"That crazy old man, Nori. Does he still run the place?"
Yoshiro shook his head, "no; my grandfather passed the business on to my father, although he isn't here right now, so I'm in charge. Grandfather's out the back, but perhaps I can help."
"Well, I still think I'd best speak with your grandpa." With that, he simply brushed past him into the restaurant. 'What an odd person,' he thought to himself.
Really, he should have expected his grandfather to act up. But he hadn't been prepared for the howl of terror that came from the old man when he laid eyes on his visitor. His screech sounded like fingernails being dragged across a blackboard as a wrinkled finger shook, pointing in a combination of fear and loathing at the tall man.
"You!" he screeched.
"Hey, nice to see you still remember me! How ya been doing, gramps?" Sano asked, giving him a wave of his hand.
"Get away from me you demon! I don't know why you're here, but I won't have you plaguing my grandson!"
"Oh good grief, please forgive my grandfather—he's getting senile in his old age... and more than a little insane," Yoshiro said, hoping to avoid further insulting the man.
"I'm not insane you ungrateful whelp! This..." he paused for dramatic effect, to convey just how horrible the situation was.
"This is embarrassing, that's what it is," Yoshiro interrupted.
"Quiet! This... is... THE ZANZA!" Nori finished, throwing his arms wide as if describing the one that got away.
Yoshiro was not impressed. "Oh would you cut that out! This 'Zanza' is just a figment of your imagination!"
"Correction: I was Zanza. I haven't answered to that name in years, gramps," Sano said, somewhat grumpily.
"See, he said it hims... I'm sorry, what?"
"I stopped being Zanza years ago. Changed names mostly because I changed my job..."
"Yeah, from being an underworld thug to eating us broke!"
"You mean... he was telling the truth!" Yohsiro exclaimed incredulously.
Sano scratched his neck. "Well, that kinda depends on what he's been saying..."
Nori took a deep breath, and dropped into his storytelling voice. "I told him the truth: that you were a demon, a fiend with an endless appetite; who can eat for hours on end, and still not be satiated. A man who can, single-handed, consume an establishment's entire stock of sake in one sitting.
"A man who has not once paid a bill in his life."
"Yeah, that's about right," Sano admitted a little sheepishly.
Yoshiro's jaw was hanging slack from his mouth. To find out after all these years that the Zanza was real... that meant his grandfather wasn't entirely mad, which wasn't a thought he liked. That's why he felt familiar: he'd had him described so many times it was a wonder he hadn't recognised him. Still, he'd always imagined him to be fatter, and contrary to what his grandfather had told him, he only had one visible head...
"Now, begone foul beast and molest not my poor defenceless grandson!"
"I thought the deal was that as long as I paid, you'd let me eat here."
Nori went deathly silent. He'd forgotten about that. "That..." he began, "is assuming you're capable of paying..."
"Oh, I should be able to cover it," Sano replied, a smug grin on his face.
"We'll see... Grandson!"
Nori's shout dragged Yoshiro back to the current situation. "Yes?"
"Go find... Sanosuke-san a table," Nori said, his distaste for the honorific obvious.
"Sanosuke-san? What happened to 'foul beast'?"
"Just do it!"
"Fine, fine..." Yoshiro mumbled as he led 'The Zanza' back into the restaurant.
"We'll see just how well-placed Tae-san's faith in you was, demon," Nori mumbled to himself as he followed them.
"That," Sano said, "was some very fine steak. I haven't had one that good since I left California," Sano said, patting his stomach contentedly.
"You've been to America?" Yoshiro asked, his interest piqued.
"I've been all over the place. America, Europe, Arabia, Mongolia... actually, just got back a few days ago."
"Yes, yes; no one cares," Nori interjected, barging into the conversation. "Now, how would you like to settle the bill, hmm? What do you say to that?"
"Actually, just put it on my tab..."
Nori practically exploded. "Aaah! I knew it! I knew this was going to happen! You see! You see, grandson? He is a remorseless demon!" With that, Nori began to pull a piece of paper from his sleeve.
"Oh great... not this again..."
"I kept track of every last bill that demon accrued at this restaurant over the years! And now I have to add something else to it!"
"I wouldn't bother, if I were you," Sano interrupted, waving his hand dismissively.
"Oh, and why is that beast?" Nori all but spat.
"Because, if you'd let me finish, you can put the meal on the tab..." Sano said before fishing around inside his pocket, picking something out, and dropping it onto the table. "...as well as that."
And there, on the table, sat a small gold ingot. Just... sitting there, like it had some kind of business being associated with someone whose name was used in the very definition of "destitute".
You could have heard a pin falling through the air at that moment. Nori just stared at it, as if Sano had just pulled a miniature horse from his pocket. His brain tried for several seconds to come to grips with the fact that not only was the Zanza putting money on his tab... he was paying it off in full... with a gold ingot.
A GOLD INGOT.
"It's fake. It has to be fake."
"Sorry to disappoint you, but it ain't. Pulled that sucker out of the ground myself. I take it that should be enough to cover what I owe you?"
Nori reached out and poked it experimentally with a finger. When it didn't explode or attempt to poke back, he picked it up. It sure looked like gold. He tried sniffing it, but since he didn't know what gold smelt like, it didn't help very much.
"Geeze; first Tae and now you. Is this going to happen every time I try to pay a tab off?"
By this stage, Nori was all but comatose, so it fell to Yoshiro to clean this up. "Uh, I don't actually know what's on that list of his, but I think this should be more than enough. Do you want us to send you the remainder, or..."
"Nah; keep the change. Consider it a tip. Or maybe interest." With that, Sano stood up, stretched, and made his way out the door, throwing a casual wave and a "Ja, ne!" over his shoulder as he left.
For quite some time, Nori just stood there, dumbfounded.
Then, he sighed, handed the gold bar to his grandson, and sat down heavily.
"Well," Yoshiro said to his grandfather, "I guess this fairy tale has a happy ending after all."
"Pity," he remarked to no-one in particular. "I always liked that story, too..."
"I guess this means you're going to have to stop telling everyone he was a demon."
"Are you joking?" Nori exclaimed, before giving his grandson a conspiratorial grin. "Why let facts get in the way of a good story?"
Just a man, who takes a very long time to pay his tab.
I've had the idea for this epilogue almost since I finished writing the prologue. It was largely inspired by SDB's The Last Battle of the Bakumatsu; if you haven't read it, go do so now, since the next paragraph contains a spoiler!
No, seriously. Go read it. Stop it; oh fine, you want me to ruin it for you? Suits me...
I always loved the scene where Sano pays his tab at the Akabeko off; and the idea struck me, "what about the other restaurants?" Hence why Sano just shows up out of nowhere, and drops a bar of gold on the table. Before anyone has a go at me; I realise that the California gold rush ended about thirty years prior to Sano showing up, but it's not inconceivable that he managed to find some anyway. And besides, I rather like the tie-in to The Last Battle of the Bakumatsu.
Also, I have basically guessed the year that Sano returns to Japan, based on the story in the Kenshin Kaden—in Meiji 16, and Sano was Mongolia, but planning to come back to Japan. Also, if I got the Gregorian year off, blame Wikipedia, not me.
Regarding the story thing: I said in the prologue that the Zanza was the catering equivalent of the Hitokiri Battousai. Much of what is said about Kenshin is either highly exaggerated, or out and out lies. Such is the way with legends; each generation tells the story a little differently.
In that way, Zanza becomes something of a myth: the next generation things the previous is off their nut—that they're making him up to scare them into good bookkeeping, or something. But then, just as Kenshin redeems himself by using his sword to protect life, so does Sano redeem himself by paying off his astronomical tab.
I dunno... I liked the idea.
So that's it. The end of A Job for Sanosuke. I hope you've enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it (at least when I was writing it as opposed to doing other, non-writing things). I want to say thank you to all the people who have reviewed and encouraged me to keep going with this, and the people who have stuck with the story.
If you enjoyed the story, why not spent a moment of your time to review and let me know. You know I'd do it for you...
Coming next (provided I don't change my mind): Drinking Buddies (after the AJfS omake...)!
Until next time,
22nd April, 2006
To Author-chan and SiriusFan13 for giving the chapters of AJfS the once-over, and their encouragement and support. Arigatou.