To all the readers, this being my first fic, I realize that I need a lot of weathering to make my work acceptable. So I'd welcome everything from flames to threats to truthful comments as long as they are in reviews.
The time span is between the Kyoto Arc and the Jinchuu, for all extensive purposes Ep-65 onwards doesn't exist.
Disclaimer: Yes, I don't own Rk, wat you gonna do abt it?
Chapter 1: Demon
Kyoto: 1866. Just after sundown
Kyoto, demon city Kyoto. Where the sun's last rays would only shine on empty rooftops and blanched streets. As the shadows lengthened, light all but disappeared; the city's bestial protectors were loosened and the streets were taken by silent wolves. No man dared stand in their path. With bolted doors and shuttered windows they prayed to the darkness to be excluded from the grisly hunt. For the shadows held a predator that the wolves hunted in earnest, a demon and his bloody blade.
The moon was late in its ascent, and the shadows only deepened—the demon needed no further encouragement.
A few minutes trickled by, the first silvery rays of a full moon illuminated the dull white streets, one stained with crimson, reflecting the soaked blue haoris of an unfortunate pack that would never again howl at the moon.
Kyoto: 1879. Just before sundown
Shinomori calmly gazed over Kyoto. From his vantage at the balcony of the new Aoiya, he could see over countless rooftops and numerous streets in the dimming light. He caught onto a merchant not far away, visibly pleased with his day's work, displaying his knick-knacks mechanically to the people he passed by, as he was overtaken by a small child, excitedly pulling his mother onwards through the busy streets. The young woman, flushed with the exertion of keeping up, sent an apologetic smile towards the merchant, who nodded with a placating smile. The sun, a deep clotted orange, finally dipped beneath the mountains that bordered Kyoto, drawing out his age lines into sharp relief.
Aoshi quickly adjusted to the transient darkness, eyes unfocusing suddenly as he knit his brows—in the split second that followed there remained no trace of the tall, upright man or his long, flowing trench coat. A pale streak skimmed over the rooftops, towards the disturbance near the city center. Something had disrupted the Meiji peace.
The moon, bright and full, was outdone by the hundreds of lanterns that hung upon grapevines above the streets of the commercial district. Business people and consumers alike were massing around the embers of a large fire. The remnants of two very successful establishments lay charred as what appeared to be half of the Kyoto police force and some of the braver civilians put out the last of the fire. The tendrils of smoke that rose from the streets were offset with the horrified cries of the people who were by now attempting a rescue from the debris.
One long assessing glance at the collapsed beam and the charred foundations told the ninja it was useless: only a Demon could survive these flames. Warped cries sent ripples through the crowd, in sync with his thoughts, a new word, it spread across the crowds faster than the fire before had—Demon .
Treading the black liquid filth that was bogging the streets, Aoshi made his way slowly back towards the Aoiya. There was much to think about.
Suddenly, he stopped, as storm gray orbs snapped up to meet amber. Saito.
A small back step and a slight poising of the right arms followed as ex-Okashira took in the ex-Shinsengumi, with his arm hovering the spot upon the coat under which a kodachi rested. Aoshi sized up the man in blue. He noticed the slight sneer that passed Saito's lips before they curled into a benign and disturbing grin. The lids closed upon his Amber eyes as he touched his cap in salute and walked towards the late fire.
Forcing down baser instincts, Aoshi continued towards the Aoiya. He had not liked the wolf's fake smile or calculating brush of his katana.
It was a blessing that Misao was off to Tokyo, on a visit to her Kaoru-San and Himura, he had much to think of tonight.
On the other, shabbier side of Kyoto, a tall man with brightly colored clothing and flaxen, gravity-defying hair made his way into an inn. He had been staying here the past few days, but passing the archway never got any different. Owing perhaps to the compendium of blades all over him, he drew a few gasps from the crowd at the entrance hall, followed by silence as he passed onto the dark hallway beyond it. His room was at the end of this hallway, where few sounds reached to disturb him.
Chou had been the perfect undercover agent, blending into his cover by blatantly standing out. He had had a limited degree of success and was finally putting his bloody past in the shadows.
He entered his dark room, where a lone candle was burning out on the small, low table, barely illuminating the liquid wax beneath the wick. Pulling the shoji shut, he picked up the last remnants of the candle and moved towards the lamp. The light lingered over his neatly folded futon, which he had bundled aside in the morning, his baggage and a large, pale and bulbous pate, set with heavy lids and sharp catlike whiskers, on the wall behind where Chou stood. The familiar chuckle that ensued sent shivers down the cop's back. He stood frozen. The last of the flames flickered and blew out.