Rurouni Kenshin copyright (C)Watsuki Nobuhiro/Jump Comics/Shueisha/Sony Pictures Entertainment/Fugi TV. Notice that the name "Khrysalis" does not appear. That is because I own nothing and I do all this for free. ^^
For those who are reading Brother of Dragons for the first time, or even just to refresh those who read it before and have forgotten in the years-long wait for its repost, a few notes on the story. I wrote this story sometime in 2002 or 2003. Feels like such a long time ago. But I published it for the first time in 2006. Sometime later that same year, I got an urge to take the story and rewrite it a bit differently.
Why? Well, for one thing, rereading it myself I could feel my own youth in the story. My style was different. Lighter, more halting. Looking back, I think I relied on coincidences too much, and I used the fairy-tale guide of symmetry. For example, when Kaoru saved Kenshin, Kenshin later saved Kaoru. When Kaoru pushed Kenshin away in her emotional turmoil, Kenshin did the same to her in his. When I described Kaoru trying to live among Kenshin's people and learn their ways and agonized about whether she truly belonged or not, Kenshin did the same when he tried to live among her people. Maybe there was nothing wrong with that, but I thought I would have liked to reorder things a little.
As it turned out, I might as well have left the story up as it was, because in the end it hasn't changed much. Not because I didn't work on it. I did. Quite a while has passed since I started rewriting it, and eventually it got jostled to the back burner while I worked on stories I hadn't finished telling yet. Still, I had made a lot of changes and a few extra chapters would have appeared in the mix.
Not to be, though. Last summer my old computer died a smoking death. A lot of tragic loses in that computer, not just my BoD revisions. I've actually cried for a few of those lost stories. Let this be a lesson: please back up your work!
I was quite lucky that I had a friend I had sent a doc with the original version, which she sent back to me (thank you again, S!). Briefly, I considered trying to recreate some of the new version, but… Truth is, I've lost interest. I want to work on stories I haven't already told, put my focus on Mindsifter and back into Sandalwood if I can. Another story I've left unfinished for far too long. I'd also like to sink my teeth into this story's sequel, Warlord of Cats.
I had liked the second version of BoD a little more, but…can't win them all, I guess. ^^;; I'd also better mention that this finished story is not entirely the original version. I thought about it briefly and decided to leave the altered second beginning and the extra chapter two that had not appeared in the original. I liked the scenes between Hiko and young Kenshin, and the earlier introductions of Nara and Miki.
Anyway, a few observations on the story. One of the points out of which the story grew was Hitokiri Battousai himself. Not the rurouni, but Battousai. In this story, I did one of my first evil little experiments on his personality. Manipulating his upbringing and altering his reasons and purposes, I manage to trim away the "hitokiri" part as well as the rurouni, leaving behind only the warrior. Since he was a soldier rather than an assassin, and his missions were to defend rather than to kill, the weight of lives that he took didn't drag his soul down as it does the canon Rurouni. In this sense, I felt he was lot more free. I was pleased with the way he turned out, and even with the small alterations of the person he became with the differences I introduced, I think he was still very much "Kenshin".
Kaoru had not turned out quite so well in my experiments with her. First problem was, I didn't know her quite as well when I wrote this story as I would later. I was close, but there were a few depths I didn't quite explore beforehand. For Kaoru, I wanted an extra measure of innocence, a sense of her being, as Kenshin observed "young for her years". I took away the dojo, the sword-art she taught, and the belief and drive in teaching it, and her sense of self--she was an orphan with no idea where she came from. She was placed in a harsh home with an unloving adoptive aunt and uncle who kept her as a slave rather than a daughter. She was downtrodden and kept isolated and made to be very, very aware of her helplessness and dependence.
Perhaps one could argue that this is how she would have turned out in these circumstances, but now, years after the story was written and I had gotten to know and understand Kaoru better, I feel like some of the fire of her soul, who she is in her heart of hearts, would have sprang forward in spite of being worked to the bone and repressed. In fact, in the early chapters that I rewrote, a discerning eye might see how I tried to rewrite her personality with new insight. I hope the small differences aren't too jarring when compared with the chapters that follow.
Also I want to remark on the absence of most of the rest of the RK cast. As I had written before in the original post, this story was meant to be about Kenshin and Kaoru. The others have such strong personalities with stories of their own, you see. I could have written in Sanosuke and Megumi maybe in place of original characters Nara and Miki, or had Megumi be the doctor who delivered Kenji, but that would have made the moments complicated, took the focus off the main couple, and even perhaps cheapened their appearances. Nara and Miki had important supporting roles, helping Kaoru and Kenshin through a difficult time, but when they weren't needed they were easily brushed away by events. I only needed the doctor for a moment's time, and then I needed him out of the way so that the focus was on the drama. It just wasn't enough, not to write them in just to have them in the story. It was different with ones such as Hiko or Kenji, because the both of them performed exactly the same roles as they had in the canon: Kenshin's mentor and son.
Many from the RK cast will be appearing in Warlord of Cats, though. I'm looking forward to exploring their lives in this universe.
The last thing I'll mention is the world this AU takes place in itself. Part of me relished the idea of Kenshin on a horse--something I never got to see in the canon, anime nor manga nor OVA. And almost never even in fanfiction or fanart. I love horses. I love Kenshin. Seemed only fitting to mix them together.
This process of logic led to the reasoning that, in all of his traveling Kenshin walked everywhere he went. No reason not to because, in spite of how great Japan is and how enduring the country's history and people and the might of its empire throughout time, the place is actually quite tiny. Not only tiny, but the land is long and narrow. It seemed that I could only easily force Kenshin onto a horse as part of his daily life if I made the land he lived on so massive, with so much land and untamed distance between towns and locations that traveling on horseback was commonplace and expected and simply a good deal wiser than traveling afoot.
On the same thought process, this idea brought to mind early American years, and thus the story began to flesh out when I incorporated the struggles between the American settlers (New People) and the American Indians (Drake People). As some have already seen and guessed. ;)
Still, I tried to keep a heavy Japanese flavor for both the world of the New People and the Drakes. To convey they weren't different races, but just sort of different nationalities. Kind of. Something like that.
Hope it worked even if I fudged a bit.
Anyway, I'm sorry for the incredibly huge wait. Bad judgment on my part. Whether you first read BoD back in 2006 or you're seeing it for the first time, I hope I've entertained you and served you well in this forever-finished-firmly-to-be-left-alone final version.
I'll try not to be all year about the next time I update…anything. ^^;;
Until next story…