Author's note: I'm sure someone out there has already written something along these lines… but this is what my crazy brain imagined for the inevitable PMK/RK crossover. You'll be sure to roll your eyes at the second half of this chapter, but once we get it out of the way, the story will improve, I promise. Will be 6 chapters. Please review, even if you hate it!
Chapter 1: cousins or something
Saitou Hajime opened his eyes suddenly. There was a presence approaching the Shinsengumi headquarters… and ominous, heavy sense of sword ki. Saitou had never sensed anything like it, yet his expression remained unchanged. Silently he rose from his sitting position and realized that Hijikata's pageboy was about to pass by his doorway. Just as the little redhead came into view, Saitou stuck his face out into the hall.
Tetsu found himself nose-to-nose with the scary captain of the third squad, and he let out a strangled "urk!" of terror.
"Someone's at the gate," Saitou muttered. "Go and let him in."
"Uh… yes sir," Tetsu replied, spinning around and heading for the entrance. Halfway there, another door slid open- this time the one to captain Okita's room.
"It's amazing," Souji said softly, stepping outside. Tetsu looked up at him in surprise, but Souji was gazing beyond him in the direction of the gate. "Can't you sense it, Tetsukun?" Souji almost whispered. "Such powerful ki. Are you on your way to let him in?"
"I guess so," Tetsu said awkwardly, and Souji followed him out into the yard.
When they opened the gate there was no one there. Squinting into the darkness, however, they distinguished a figure striding towards them from about a hundred feet away. The closer it came, the more menacing it seemed. Tall and incredibly broad-shouldered, the man wore an almost preposterous white cape. There was an infinite measure of graceful strength in the way he moved—this was obviously a man of purpose. Souji stared at him with an almost dumbfounded expression.
"Okitasan?" Tetsu asked, worried. "Who is this guy?"
"I— don't know…" Souji breathed. "But there's something… familiar about him."
"I see you've anticipated my arrival," the tall stranger said in a gruff, rich voice. The was no mistaking the arrogance in his tone, and he was close enough now for Tetsu and Souji to see the self-satisfied smirk on his face. "I guess you're not quite as pitiful as I'd heard." With that, the visitor stepped through the gate. Tetsu looked him up and down, gawking. He'd never seen anyone with such huge shoulders. Then he noticed the round jug of sake held by a cord in the stranger's hand. The tall man looked at him and frowned.
"Well!" Tetsu said nervously, figuring that he might be screwing up his page duties again. "How kind of you to visit our humble headquarters. I'll go tell commander Kondou that you've arrived--"
"Forget Kondou. Where the hell's Toshi?"
Both Tetsu and Souji practically gasped. The tall man's proud expression shifted in annoyance as the two shinsengumi stared at him in shock.
"Ah- anyway," Tetsu plowed ahead, bowing apologetically. "You've brought a gift! How thoughtful. I'll just take it to--"
"Oh, this?" the stranger raised the jug of sake. "This is mine." Tetsu was stunned into silence, his mouth hanging open stupidly. "Well? Which one of you morons can take me to Toshi? Don't worry, if neither of you can, I'm sure I'll be able to find him on my own." He pushed his cape out of the way slightly so Tetsu and Souji could see the hilt of his sword. Tetsu gulped, more than a little unnerved.
"I'll take you," Souji said softly. "Please, follow me."
Naturally the strength of the visitor's sword ki had woken Hijikata from his sleep. He sat groggily in his room, fumbling to light his pipe with his eyes still closed. All too soon came the expected footsteps outside his room.
"Vice commander?" Souji's voice called quietly. "You have a visitor."
"Get out of my way," grumbled a deep, gruff voice.
Frowning, Hijikata raised the pipe to his lips as the door was thrown open. Upon seeing the hulking shadow in his doorway, the look of disdain that constituted Hijikata's usual expression intensified.
"What do you want?" Hijikata growled.
"A mutually beneficial solution to a problem," the massive shadow growled back.
"Is that so," Hijikata said scornfully. A moment passed in silence. "Souji." Hijikata said at last. "Will you please light some candles for us?"
With a look of puzzled, round-eyed innocence, Souji scrambled to accommodate the request. The broad-shouldered visitor sat down, his cape settling heavily on the floor around him. He almost unconsciously poured himself a small cup of sake and then held it up in Hijikata's direction. "You know," he said, pointing at Hijikata with the index finger of the hand that held the sake dish—"Smoking's a disgusting habit." Then he emptied the sake dish into his mouth in one gulp. Hijikata glowered at him, a thin line of smoke climbing from his pipe.
The room now brightened by two candle-lamps, Souji settled himself onto his heels. The visitor looked at him in disgust.
"Get lost," he growled. Souji blinked at the stranger innocently while Hijikata clenched his hands into fists.
"Nobody speaks to Souji that way," Hijikata said threateningly. Souji smiled at him, and then turned to study the stranger again, a solemn expression on his childlike face. "Whatever you have to say to me, Souji will hear it too," Hijikata continued.
"feh," the broad-shouldered man said in disgust, and poured himself another drink.
"Since when are you an alcoholic?" Hijikata asked.
"Since sake's the only thing that doesn't smell like blood," replied the stranger. Then he glanced at Souji again. "You're both killers the same as me, so I'm sure you understand the importance of having a… distraction, a sort of source of comfort… something to take your mind away from the ugliness of slaughter." He smiled almost cruelly.
Hijikata heaved a defeated sigh. "Souji," he said, "Regrettably, it seems I must introduce you to this relative of mine… we're cousins or something. What was that stupid name you're calling yourself these days?"
"Hiko," the visitor supplied. "Hiko will suffice."
"Whatever. Now… what's this 'problem' you came here to solve?"
"I'll get straight to the point," Hiko said. "I don't give a damn about the revolution you're trying to prevent, and I don't give a damn about preserving the shogunate either. But there's a certain hitokiri in the employ of a certain Katsura Kogoro that I would like you to capture—alive, if possible. He believes whole-heartedly in the revolution, but he's young, and strong. Too strong. There's no telling what he'll destroy if he continues down the path he's chosen."
"If you care so much about this young Ishin-shishi, go capture him yourself!" Hijikata declared. "I don't see why you have to involve us."
"What? I'm in the position to tell you the identity of the most dangerous assassin working for your enemies! You don't think your little club would benefit from capturing him?"
"From killing him, perhaps," Souji commented softly.
Hiko sneered at him. "I'd rather you kill him than allow him to continue what he's doing. I can't imagine the misery of his existence if he survives this mess."
"But you asked us to capture him," Hijikata noted. "That's interesting. Just who is he?"
"My student," Hiko said darkly.
"Hoh," Hijikata said. "I thought you weren't going to teach that hiten-mitsu nonsense."
"I changed my mind. He's an idiot and he's still got a lot to learn, but he knows enough to be dangerous, even to your little genius here." He nodded his head in Souji's direction but didn't take his eyes off Hijikata. "But surely," he continued, "if the Shinsengumi pooled its resources, you could find a way to stop him."
Souji laughed lightly. "Why, Hikosan, you make it sound like such a daunting task! Who is he, the hitokiri Battousai?"
"yes," Hiko said, calmly sipping his sake.
"What?" Souji cried, startled.
"Impossible," Hijikata growled. "That's a rumor. There is no Battousai. It's a story made up to scare new recruits."
"Ha," Hiko said, sneering. "Already legendary, is he? Sasuge ore no baka deshi."
"This is ludicrous. Even if your student is running about butchering people, I don't understand why you can't go fetch him yourself. He's your responsibility, isn't he?" Hijikata asked.
Hiko frowned. "The thing is, he got involved in this business against my wishes..."
"So ka," Souji spoke up, figuring it out right away. "A grateful student is easier to teach than a resentful one. If Hikosan were to forcibly pull him away from the path he's chosen, he'd resent it… but if he was captured by his enemies, and Hikosan rescued him…"
"Exactly." Hiko nodded. "I've put a lot of effort into training that idiot, and I don't want it to go to waste."
The cousins studied each other for a moment.
"Very well," Hijikata grumbled at last. "But only because getting rid of this hitokiri is in the best interests of the Shinsengumi."
"You'll make every effort to capture him alive?" Hiko asked. "Your word on this."
"Fine. You have my word. We'll try to capture him alive, but…"
"Like I said. If he cannot be captured, kill him. You'll be doing him a favor in that case."
Hijikata nodded. "Understood. So who is he? Who is this 'Battousai' I've heard so many exaggerated stories about?"
"He's the last person you'd expect," Hiko said. "About fourteen years old, maybe fifteen by now. He's an obnoxious brat- a small, scrawny sort of kid with crazy bright red hair and--"
"RED HAIR?" roared Hijikata, rising to his feet and turning towards the door, quivering once or twice in rage. "ICHIMURAAAA!"
Tetsu had just settled into the closet for the night when he heard the vice commander screaming for him. What had he done to provoke the demon now? Trembling, he pulled his blanket up to his chin. Suddenly the door to the closet was thrown open. Whimpering, Tetsu pulled the blankets over his head.
"What have you done this time?" a frantically worried voice hissed.
"Tatsunii!" Tetsu cried, peeking out from the blanket. His elder brother looked over his shoulder, teeth clenched.
"Hijikata's on his way!"
"Save me!" Tetsu squealed.
Looking as if he had a severe stomachache, Tatsu closed the closet door and spun around, pressing his back against it and holding out his arms to either side protectively. A split second later the demon-like vice commander appeared, breathing like an angry bull.
"Step aside!" he ordered.
Tatsu gulped. "Whatever he's done, sir, please accept my apol--" he was cut short as Hijikata knocked him out of the way with one blow of his huge fist. Tatsu crumpled to the floor in pain as Hijikata yanked open the closet and hauled Tetsu out by his hair.
Hijikata dragged the protesting child down the hall and threw him into the room at Hiko's feet.
Tetsu looked up fearfully with tears in his orangey-chestnut eyes.
"Hn? The boy from the gate," Hiko said, sipping his sake.
"Is this your hitokiri?" Hijikata snarled.
"No," Hiko said. "He's a little bigger than this kid. And you didn't let me finish my description. He's got purple eyes, and--"
"Souji," Hijikata interrupted. "Do we know any small, scrawny, obnoxious persons with red hair and purple eyes?"
Souji grimaced and blinked quickly. "Aa- Hijikatasan- you can't possibly suspect--"
Without letting him finish, Hijikata stomped back out into the hall.
"Ho ya?" Sano said, lowering his cards and turning to Shinpachi, whose purple eyes had grown wide in terror. "Hijikata sounds pissed."
"Shit shit shit!" Shinpachi squeaked in his obnoxious voice, card game forgotten. "Tetsu must've turned me in- that little fucker!" The sound of heavy footsteps in the hall grew louder and Shinpachi clutched Sano's jacket in terror. "He's gonna kill me!" the scrawny redhead squealed.
"Quick! Hide!" Sano said, shoving Shinpachi down onto his futon.
"What the--" Shinpachi said, but Sano pulled the heavy comforter up over Shinpachi's head and scrambled towards the door. He opened it and found himself face-to-face with the vice commander.
"Oh, Hijikatasan," Sano said, faking a yawn.
"Nagakura's not in his room," Hijikata grumbled.
"Oh, is that so? Well, uhh, maybe he's on a patrol or something." He tried to close the door to his room but Hijikata reached out and stopped the door with his hand.
"Eeeehg," Sano said nervously as Hijikata brushed past him into the room.
"Playing cards by yourself then?" the vice commander asked, kicking the cards across the floor.
"Ah- iyaah—that was a game from earlier-" Sano stuttered. Hijikata's eye twitched as he caught sight of the rumpled blanket on Sano's futon. He took three slow steps over to it, and then gave it a swift kick.
"Itai!" the lumpy blanket screeched. Enraged, Hijikata tore the blanket away from Shinpachi, who grinned up at him, terrified.
"What do you think you're doing?" Hijikata snarled.
"eee…" Shinpachi said, petrified.
"Ggh! Never mind!" Hijikata said, disgusted. "Get up!' Without giving him a chance to comply, the vice commander reached down and grabbed Shinpachi by the front of his yukata, dragging him out of the room.
"Shinpachi!" Sano cried, tears pouring down his cheeks. "Die bravely! Like a samurai!" He wiped his nose on his sleeve.
"Yaaaaaah!" Shinpachi hollered, kicking and struggling.
"Sayonara!" Sano called after him, bawling.
Hijikata tossed Shinpachi into the room exactly as he had done with Tetsu.
Grimacing, Shinpachi looked up at Hiko.
"Amazing," Hiko muttered, annoyed. "Another one. Just how many redheads are there in this country, anyway?"
"These are the only two I know of," Hijikata growled.
"Well, I'm afraid there's at least one more in this city," Hiko said. "I named him Kenshin, but he's using the name Himura now- Himura Battousai."
"Battousai?" Tetsu and Shinpachi screeched simultaneously.
"The smaller one's Ich- himura. Are you sure that's not him?" Hijikata asked.
"This runt?" Hiko grunted in disdain, glancing down at Tetsu. "He's got a half-baked revengeful streak. A brat like him couldn't learn mitsuryugi ryu any better than you could learn a sense of humor."
Souji smiled at that remark, and earned a reproachful glare from Hijikata.
"I beg your pardon," Shinpachi said, "But what the hell is going on?"
Hiko spoke up authoritatively. "Toshi has agreed to capture the hitokiri Battousai for me. Alive, if possible."
"Whaaaat!" Shinpachi exclaimed. "You mean that guy actually exists?"
"You're dismissed," Hijikata grunted. "You too, pageboy."
The two redheads scrambled from the room at top speed.
"Now tell me," Hijikata said, his eyes narrowed. "How to catch this runaway student of yours."