The Newest Recruit
Politics makes strange bedfellows indeed, and desperate times call for desperate measures.

Chief of Field Operations Sasaki strode heavily down the hall, ripples of fury preceding him; serving girls and kitchen hands alike scattered to clear his path. As he neared the meeting room, the murmur of voices from within grew louder and more distinct. He rattled aside the heavy wooden sliding door and the room fell instantly silent; only quick thinking on her part prevented the last of the tea girls from being flattened by his abrupt entry.

Stalking down the center of the room to the front, he turned on his heel and faced them, feet apart and fists on hips, sweeping his assembled army with a ferocious gaze. Not a few struggled to suppress a chilling shudder. Addressing lieutenants and soldiers alike, he fairly bellowed, "How has it come to this pass? Why am I still harassed by this infernal assassin? Have I no one capable of ridding me of this thorn in my flesh?"

More to release pent-up frustration than anything else, he paced once the width of the room, hands clenched behind his back, steps clipped and fierce. The gathering might have been a collection of beautifully crafted statues for all its signs of life; discretion was, after all, the better part of valor. At the center of the room again, he sharply resumed his previous stance: "Atsushi!"

Smartly, the man bowed his forehead to his hands forming a triangle on the floor in front of his knees. "Yes, Sasaki-san!" He knew better than to remain in that position for long: he was being called on to report, and he sprang stiffly back to upright seiza.

"Have you discovered his lodgings?"

Tiny beads of sweat popped out on Atsushi's upper lip, but he hadn't been Sasaki's right-hand man for two years for nothing: his voice remained steady and, in spite of his failure, he answered immediately, courageously. "No, we have not, my general. I apologize for my failure. Please punish me as you see fit."

Sasaki fairly growled, "If I didn't need your experience so much, you can be assured I would make an example of you this very night!"

Controlling his breathing with effort, he called on his strategist. "Katsumi-san, you sent a message to me earlier today."

"Yes, Sasaki-san. I believe I have an interesting proposal for you."

Sasaki sank into seiza with the grace of a toned and disciplined body. He closed his eyes and sighed once, deeply and slowly. Relaxing and adjusting his posture, he opened his eyes and turned them to Katsumi, his gaze directing the man to continue.

Smoothly, and with the confidence of one who has never soiled his hands with action, Katsumi continued, "As you know, we have long tried to find a way to get close to the Battousai, to place an agent near him, to gain his trust and entrap him. I believe I have found someone not only willing but motivated, driven even, to destroy him, and uniquely able to accomplish this. May I?"

Sasaki nodded sharply, and Katsumi rose and crossed to the shoji concealing a small inner room. He slid it open. The previous silence of the room was nothing to the shocked stillness that descended on it as all eyes turned toward the white-clad figure kneeling demurely in the opening.

"Sasaki-san, please allow me to introduce Yukishiro Tomoe."

Review responses: LadyRhyiyana: I certainly never expected anyone to pick up on THAT obscure link:) And, no, Sasaki-san would NOT have that moment of regret later, would he? Glad you like this one; it doesn't have a lot of emotional impact, but it was a scene that popped into my head. Peacebunnie: Glad you liked it. I looked all through the OVA, but I don't think this guy's name appeared anywhere, so I just made one up. If anyone knows it, please let me know and I'll change it. omasuoniwabanshi: "sheep wandering into a wolf pack"—great analogy! One thing I do love about this series is how nobody ever really knows what they are getting into: not Hiko when he takes in Kenshin, not Kenshin when he lends his soul to the revolution, not Tomoe when she allies herself with the Tokugawa, not Sasaki when he decides to face Kenshin himself in the forest, not those who plotted to kill Shishio, not even Kaoru when she goes out hunting for the Battousai smearing her family's name! We all do suffer the consequences of our very best planned and thought-out actions, don't we? A lilmatchgirl: AU? o.O Oh, dear… Except for the fact that this is a scene that does not appear in the OVA, I intended it to be completely canon! Oh, well, at least you seemed to enjoy it, so there is at least that:) lolo popoki: I'm so glad the "magic" worked for you—I do think detail makes a difference for the reader. If, that is, you can get it in there without "focusing" on it, if you know what I mean. SiriusFan13:
(slaps forehead) Oh, please stop with the "crappy" thing—you are one of the reasons I kept coming back to this site! I love it that you felt the "anxiety and rush"—I'm so much more comfortable with "slow and introspective", so it's great that this worked for you! I hadn't thought that the "last tea girl" was Tomoe—I had the image of her being smuggled in and hidden away for revelation at the appropriate moment as a sort of "surprise secret weapon". But it might have been to her advantage to spend a bit of time "invisibly present", sizing everything up… another idea that I didn't have until after creating the story! Shirou Shinjin: Oh, don't worry about the small number of reviews—while I fairly feed off reviews, I've come to accept that most people don't bother, and my writing doesn't appeal to that wide a range anyway. I like your take on her state of mind as she sat, alone and in that dark little room, awaiting her future and fate.