Thank you to BelleDayNight for allowing me to borrow an idea from her outstanding fiction, 'Crimson Tears'. If you have not read it, it is one of her best. I highly recommend it. God Bless, me Belle. You are a beloved and wonderful friend. Thank-you for being there. You are ever in my thoughts. KnT
This is nothing like 'Bad Kid' or 'Black Hawke'. All cannon pairings, no shifting of characters to off-beat rolls. Seiguro Hiko remains the Thirteenth Master of the Hiten Mitsurugi Ryuu, and Kenshin's sensai. Saitou Hajime is the leader of the fourth squad of the Shinsingumi and the Wolf of Mibu, the Battousai's arch nemesis. Sanosuke may or maynot appear (I have not decided), but Shinomori Aoshi will. His presence will be out of context–I offer this warning now, although his character will remain the same. Misao will also be here as well–in the same manner as she is in the manga, etc. Myojin Yahiko is also going to be used... but, although his character will remain feisty and 'obnoxious', he is not going to be what you expect.
This story takes place during the Bakumatsu in Kenshin's Battousai years. I have taken a wide liberty with Kaoru's placement in this story by putting her alive and at approximately the same age as the young hitokiri. Both are about sixteen or seventeen; adults by Japanese standards of the time (that is an important issue when it comes to marriage, sex, and public standing as an individual... both are considered well past the age of consent.). Kaoru still resides at the do-jo in Tokyo and it is post-the traumatic deaths of her parents, leaving her in charge of the school, where she is still a teacher of the Kamiya-Kassin Ryuu. There is no 'Tomoe' scenerio in this story. Kenshin will receive his 'cross' scar as a result of other painful issues.
This story is my version of what I think 'could have' happened if these two grief-stricken souls had crossed paths during a time of greatest upheaval and turmoil. It is a journey of pain, self-awareness–self-discovery, and ultimately forgiveness and love. But, as with all things in this life, no journey is ever as easy as it sounds...
WARNING: Strong Angst, Graphic--Violence and murder, Heavy philosophical and emotional content, Occasional Lime Content (Warnings at Chapter Headers–No NC-17 content–Strong M rating), OOC situations/profiles for story content, Strong Language (No NC-17 content–Strong M rating).
No review responses–Personal thanks to all my loyal and beloved reviewers/fans. God Bless to my second family. Every name will be posted in a broad, generous 'thank-you' at the end of every chapter. It is the best I can do and still abide by rules.
I am posting the first two chapters together. It just seemed the right thing to do. They were born together... they should be read together.
Disclaimer: I do not own Rurouni Kenshin or the RK Characters; nor do I receive any kind of monetary gains from this, or any of the stories I have written. This is strictly done for my own pleasure and that of the dear readers who honor me with their patronage.
Kanzen ne Tsuki
The Red Death and His Blue Angel
A flash of liquid steel.
A splash of brilliant red.
A cry, a sob, the chittering sound of a dying soul.
And then... nothing.
A white lily... dropped in a growing pool of blood.
A black rose...laid in a lifeless palm.
The quiet step of the Battousai.
A silent Mantra to the dead.
She woke, screaming, clawing at the bedclothes, a cold sweat trickling between her breasts and down her face. The ebony satin of her hair was matted to her tear wet cheeks and her eyes were wild; disoriented and confused. Sitting upright on the futon, she threw the covers off and struggled to her knees, panting and gasping for breath; her hands clutching the front of her pale pink yukata.
'He's killed again...' Her slim shoulders began to shake as sobs shook the smallness of her frame. 'I can't take this... I can't... Kami-sama... I...' She covered her face and cried, her sorrow and pain more than she could bear. It was the third night in a row she woke to visions of blood and flowers, but the torment had been haunting her for nigh on three years now. Almost since the beginning of the war.
Kaoru was afraid to go to sleep at night and usually only succumbed when fatigue carried her away. It was so long since she fell asleep to peaceful thoughts, she forgot what the sensation felt like.
As the horror passed, she grew quiet, pensive, wary. She shivered and wrapped her arms around herself, pulling her knees up to her chest. There was always a strong sense of His presence left behind after the dreams; a feeling that He sat beside her, waiting for her to acknowledge their connection and bid Him a good-night. In the last year it became almost tangible, and she raised her white face and scanned her room, searching for the specter she never found, but somehow always knew was there.
"You can leave now," she said, the words sounding hollow in the silence. "Go home... leave me alone... this is enough for one night. Please, leave." Something shifted, moved, and fluttered across the room, leaving a cold chill in its wake as it slithered between the cracks of the fusuma. Tiny bumps leaped out all over her skin as the cold drifted back to crawl around her, enveloping her in icy arms that felt like death. "Please, leave me alone." She whispered, dragging the blankets around her shoulders, snuggling deep into the warm folds like a kitten searching for a safe haven from a storm, but the cold stayed.
The presence was gone, but the cold stayed. It always did.
She realized who He was one afternoon a little over a year back, while walking through the fish markets she heard some men talking. Their voices were low, hushed and frightened and normally she would have hurried past, giving them their privacy, but something one of them said made her stop.
'It was the Red Death, I tell ya. That murdering demon's spawn is crawling all over Kyoto, killing anybody the Meji thinks is gettin' in their way. I know it was his sword that done the deed.'
'Shhhh, you baka! Are you insane? Don't be talkin' so loud. You don't know it was the Battousai's blade what killed that man... nobody does. Those bloody Imperialists got more than one manslayer, you know.'
'Hai, I do know. They found that cursed white lily in his blood, and a rose in his hand. Now you tell me it ain't the Red Death? You know as well as me that's his markers.'
'Kami... you sure about that? A rose AND a lily?'
'Hai, both. Just like all the others, and he cut the poor baka's head clean off just the same. Left it laying in the middle of some old lady's herb garden. Ruined the entire furrow–cursed it, you know. Can't heal people with herbs cursed in a dead man's blood...'
'A Buddhist Monk, you say?'
'Hai, rumors say he was smuggling for the Shinsingumi...'
'Don't know, but you can be sure of one thing now.'
'Battousai's soul sure to burn in hell forever now... he's murdered a holy man.'
She had stood, frozen to the ground, the memory of the monk's bloody demise vivid in her mind. Only, he hadn't been a monk. In reality he was Shinsengumi soldier disguised as a monk, but that hadn't eased his passing in the least. Even as he attempted to defend himself against the fury of the Battousai's blade, he never stood a chance at survival. The Red Death despatched him quite easily, leaving his marks behind before he left.
Of course, the Ishin allowed the people to believe the manslayer murdered an unarmed monk. It worked in their advantage. Kaoru went home and sat on her engowa, lost to the reality that she was bound in thought and spirit to the infamous Battousai. The Red Death of Kyoto.
The morning dawned bright; the sun rose high, turning the sky a bright blue. Birds filled the trees, and the cherry blossoms were beginning to show their colors. The courtyard at the dojo was full of flowerpots, seedling plants, new trees, and the garden even looked promising. Kaoru's hard work was showing and the number of paying students was gradually increasing.
She had five.
Two years earlier, her parents both died of illness, leaving her to keep the dojo running. It was difficult in these days of the Bakumatsu for a woman to be taken seriously as a Kendo Instructor, but Kaoru's father was a highly respected Sensai in Tokyo, and she used that to her advantage as much as possible. There were still people wanting to educate their children in the arts of defense and protection, and willing to pay for it. The Kamiya Kassin Ryuu was still considered to be one of the foremost styles in Japan, and since the Shinsengumi and the Inshin Shishi were everywhere these days, it was prudent to be able to protect ones self and ones family.
Kaoru stepped out of her room onto the dark-red wooden engowa, wearing a pale blue gi and white hakama. She stepped down and walked across the courtyard and stood looking at her garden. The vegetables would be ripening soon and she would be able to harvest some. Then she would be able to make her favorite miso soup, rice and carrots, and so many other things. She loved fresh vegetables. She smiled; it was hard to burn steamed food.
Breakfast for one was a simple matter; bread and tea. She was just finishing clean-up when her students started to arrive through the front gate.
"Ohayo, Takimo-chan." Kaoru greeted her first student. "It is a beautiful morning, ne?"
"Hai," the boy nodded, grinning into her beautiful face. "My Okaa says there will be lots of cherries this season. She is going to make wine..."
"That's nice," Kaoru wasn't really interested in hearing about Takimo's mother making wine. The woman sold it on the black market so her husband could buy katana's to sell to the Shinsengumi. That was supposed to keep them out of this park of Tokyo. So far it had, but Kaoru still didn't approve. It felt like aiding and abetting the enemy to her. Still, she wasn't all together certain 'who' the enemy was.
The Ishin Imperialist weren't much better.
Then there was Him. Her bloody hitokiri. Battousai. Kaoru shivered despite the warmth of the day. He was part of the Inshinshishi. An Imperialist; fighting for the Meji. She didn't know if that made him good or bad, but the dreams he sent her... the men he killed, the merciless of his sword; she didn't understand why he was attached her. What she did know was this: the very mention of his name inspired fear and panic. He was the Red Death, and he was part of her soul.
One by one her students arrived and within the hour, she was drilling them through their morning katas. It was monotonous, it was familiar, it was safe. It was something she understood and it kept her mind off the things she didn't want to think about. It kept her from thinking about Him.
slide swipe slide swipe slide swipe slide swipe
The white cleaning cloth slipped up and down the gleaming blade, removing the blood and remnants of bone and fat that clung to the shimmering steel. It was a mundane task, but it was familiar, it was habitual. It was something he understood. It kept his mind in the present; kept it away from the disturbing images of blood that lingered on the edges of his consciousness. It kept him focused and calm; it was safe.
He could think about Her when he did this. When he flipped the blade over and the light caught the blue steel, he could almost see the flash of her eyes reflected on the mirrored surface. He didn't know how he knew her eyes were blue, but he did. They were bluer than the sky; bluer than sapphires; they were blue like his gi. Dark and stormy. Full of pain. Pain he put there. He wondered what they would look like if she was happy. 'Beautiful...'
Her face was a mystery, but he knew if they ever met, he'd know her. Her eyes would give her away. They would be bottomless pools, and he would drown in them. He set his sword down and considered that. Drowning? Not a particularly difficult death, he thought, rubbing his chin. Silent, lonely... alone. It was a possibility should he survived the war and not perish by the sword. Hai, it was a possibility.
As an Ishin soldier, Sepukku was forbidden, so he was left with only so many options.
Wiping the flaming red hair out of his golden eyes, he stood and walked across the small room he called home, and opened a low cupboard. Retrieving a jug of sake' and a small cup, he returned to his tatami and sat down. He filled the cup and set the jug beside him. Taking a drink of the heavy alcohol, he closed his eyes and felt the burn as it slid down his throat and into his stomach. Somehow it always managed to remind him he was still alive... to some extent. Food never had the same effect. He could stare at a plate of sushi for hours and never eat a bite and feet the same as he did if he ate the entire thing. Food didn't matter. It never did. He ate because he had to.
It was an unwanted necessity... like breathing. Sometimes he wished he could stop doing both. If he could, he wouldn't have to kill anymore, and then the bloody memories would go away. But... if that happened, She would go away too. Perhaps, that was why he continued to eat... and breath. He couldn't let Her go.
It was a painful trade. Blood for Her, but it was one he was willing to make and for that he knew he was damned to the depths of Hell for all the Eternities.
He accepted that. For Her, he would accept that.
He picked up his sword and began polishing it again. His intuition told him he would have another mission soon. Not tonight, but soon. He needed to be ready. His golden eyes drifted across the room to the window and brushed over the potted plant growing there.
Black roses. His own creation. There would be another one in bloom within two days. That should be just enough time. He pulled the cloth over the edge of the blade one more time. It was perfect. It always was.
His footsteps were hurried, like a rat running through the sewer, looking for a way out before the water got too high. The breath rasped through his teeth in little panicked gasps as he darted a glance over his shoulder, scanning the shadows behind him for any sign of movement. The hairs on the back of his neck told him someone or something was there, but he couldn't see anything... still... He pulled the front of his suit coat together over his round stomach and tried to button the edges, but it didn't quite reach. He opted for crossing his arms over his chest and tucking his chin into the collar, trying to gather as much of his own body heat as he could, while hiding his identity. It was a pitiful attempt.
The faint scrapping of metal on cement sent him stumbling into the brick wall, gasping and trembling even as he spun around to face the emptiness of the street behind him. Little beads of sweat speckled his forehead and temples, some sliding down to fall off his chin and nose. He whimpered, his hands wiping at the moisture and then covering his face as his body shuddered. Never before had he felt such a terror, and for what? There was nothing there but the glimmer of the street lamps. Nothing...
"Coward," he berated himself savagely. "You're running from your own ass. What's the matter with you?"
"Perhaps you run from the ghost of your own guilt, Izura-san. Only a guilty man runs for fear on a starlit night..." the smooth, honey-sweet voice floated out of the darkness in front of him, and he whirled on unsteady feet, crying out in alarm. "I have been sent to ease you of that burden." The man froze and felt the warmth of his own urine slide down his legs as a youth of no more than sixteen or seventeen separated himself from the shadows, his dark blue gi black in the dim light, but the flaming red of his hair was unmistakable. Golden eyes promised him a quick death.
The youth became a blur, then there was a flash of silver, a spray of red, and the man crumpled, his head rolling into the gutter. Blood quickly pooled beneath the open arteries of his throat, and a fragile white lily fell to float elegantly on the growing pond.
"Could you not even attempt to die bravely, you pathetic Naitsuusha?" The youth carefully opened one of the dead man's palms and then, reaching inside his gi, produced a black rose to lay inside the limp fingers. "May your soul burn in the deepest Hell, Naitsuusha... perhaps I will see you there one day."
Once more, she sat up in her bed, screaming and sobbing. Tears streaked her face as she grabbed her head, pulling her hair, trying to make the vision stop; trying to make the blood stop. The sightless eyes of the man's head stared at her, the look of terrified surprise on his face forever frozen in her mind. It was too much, Kaoru stumbled from her futon and ran out of her room into the night. The frantic puffs of her breath creating little steam clouds in the cold.
"Stop it!" She sobbed, shaking her fists at the misty moon. "Stop this! I can't stand anymore! Do you hear me? I can't stand it!" She fell to her knees and curled into a ball around herself, crying, rocking back and forth, arms wrapped around her knees. "Please, stop..."
The voice drifted into her conscious mind and she jerked up, eyes wide and frightened. Had she really heard...
'I want... I... I can't...'
"Please," she whispered, feeling a strange coldness slide over her face; a cold she never felt before. Icy fingers smoothed over her skin, tracing the arching wing of her eyebrow with a tender, sweeping touch. "Please," she begged. "It hurts so much..."
'I... can't... it's the only way... the only way...'
"What? The only way what?" The fingers feathered over her lips and she shivered, finding herself leaning into the touch despite the freezing cold. "Tell me," she whimpered. "The only way for what?"
'For me to be with you... to feel you... to-to touch you...'
"Nooo..." she sobbed. "Kami-sama... no..." She lifted a trembling hand, laying it along the cold flesh of her cheek, feeling the mixture of her warmth and his frozen touch combine on her skin. "You can't..."
'Love you... my Angel... my Blue Angel...'
"B-battousai?" The cold started to dissipate and Kaoru reached for it, suddenly anxious and unwilling to let it leave. "Is this you?" she asked, desperate to know the truth, yet terrified to discover the answer. "Are you here?"
'Hai,' the cold came back and traced the moist path of her tears over one pale cheek, then touched her lips again. 'I am the Red Death... I am the lover of your soul... my Saiai-Angel... you are my reason to live... my beautiful, my precious, my Blue Angel.' As the icy fingers left her, a great emptiness filled her spirit, and Kaoru collapsed into herself, crying as if her world had just been torn to shreds and could never be repaired.
She was the soul mate of the Battousai.
Pain lanced through the core of her spiritual being as the hands of her heart felt the almost physical touch of her lover's kiss inside each palm. She wanted to die.
He sat gazing with dispassionate interest out his one window, his sword held securely against one shoulder. The view was second story and looked over a part of Kyoto that had not yet been touched by the war. The buildings were still intact and no fires burned, no strings of Ishin soldiers and their torches roamed the streets on their 'patrols' looking for 'criminals', and there weren't the endless cries and screams he heard when he stayed closer to the city center. It was quiet here. It was better. He didn't dream as much here. He could be calm. He could think about Her.
The connection with Her last night was intense. Stronger than any of the others and it disturbed him. He felt her tears, her pain, her fear; all of the terror and rejection in her soul, and it was directed at him. He was aware of her fear for him, but he was not aware of how strong it was until now, and with that understanding came a disturbing realization. His connection to her was driving her mad.
He also understood that he loved her. That was not known to him before. He hadn't known he was capable of loving anything, not until he'd reached across the ethereal plane and touched her soul. What magnificence that was, feeling the very essence of her being. Such light, such energy; She was the most pure thing he could remember ever being close to, and the need to protect her was stronger than his loyalty to the Ishin. But he didn't know how to protect Her. He didn't even know where She was, nor how to find her.
A deep feeling of despair settled inside his heart, and he crawled out of his window, climbing up onto the roof. There he sat gazing at the stars and the half moon, the phrase of poem running through his mind over and over.
The bluest sky is crystal clear,
and infinitely high
It was something one of his old sensai taught him as a means to find clarity when his thoughts became troubled. Tonight he let it slip through his consciousness, trying to find the means to bring peace to his beloved Blue Angel. How could he set her free without destroying himself in the process? She was his only link to sanity, and without her melded to his ki, he had no doubts he would lose what humanity he possessed to the madness of the hitokiri's bloodlusts. It was a selfish thought, but he knew he would never be able to give her up. She was all he had.
She was the lover of his soul.
She was his Sanctuary.
She was his Angel.
He bowed his head and asked Kami-sama to forgive him. He couldn't set her free. Not until the day he gave up his ghost to the next world. He prayed she would find it within her heart to forgive him as well. He wished he could cry, but his eyes were dry. Inside, his soul cried for him.
She woke for the second time that night, to the sounds of her own sobbing cries. No dreams, no nightmarish visions filled her mind, but her heart felt as though it were tearing itself to bloody shreds. Heartache, raw and unforgiving clenched around her emotions, wringing every last quivering ounce of pain from her possible, until her voice was no more than a raspy scratch in her throat.
It was His pain she felt. A pain so terrible she couldn't understand how he lived with it. How did he go forward into his life everyday with such agony burning in the hollows of his heart and soul? It ate at her most vital energies, draining the essence of her strength and light until she felt weak... empty... finished.
She struggled to her feet and stumbled, swaying back and forth across the room to a small table holding a pitcher of water, wash basin, and towels. Pouring a small portion of water into the basin, she dipped a cloth into it and tried to wipe her face with trembling hands. Reaching out to dip the cloth a second time, Kaoru froze, her eyes staring in shocked horror at the swirl of red leaching out into the water.
Her face was covered with blood; she was cleaning the residue of bloody tears from her ravaged cheeks. It was matted in her hair, caked in her eyelashes, and when she looked further, it stained her yukata and bed clothes.
As quick as she could, she gathered clean clothes and slipped out to the bath house, lit a fire to heat the water, and waited. When steam started to rise from the tub, she slipped out of her soiled yukata and climbed into the water. The heat immediately invaded her frozen muscles and aching bones, and she sighed, sliding down as far as she could.
The blood seeped away as she washed her hair and skin, and when she stepped out of the bath, the water was pink. Shivering with the added cold of being wet and nude, she hurried to dry off and redress, then she ran back to her room and stripped the bloody bedding off her futon. She found clean linens and quilts in the storage closet next to her room and remade her bed. By the time she was done, the sky was starting to turn pale pinks and lavenders. It was practically time to get up.
Kaoru went back to bed regardless. She felt as though she was awake more that night than she slept. Her students would just have to wait a little longer for their lessons today. She needed to get some sleep, or she would be no good to them at all.
As her eyes closed, the knowledge that she now harbored his pain inside of her soul weighed heavy on her heart. Compassion and sympathy were natural gifts she inherited from her mother... but did she have it within her to feel them for this... this man? She cried his tears for him. Tears of blood for a manslayer? She supposed it was fitting, after all, was his life not baptized in the blood of his victims?
She fell asleep trying to remember how gentle his icy touch on her lips had been. It was a much more pleasant thought than the one that woke her up.