I absolutely promise the latest chapter of Make Me will be out soon... but this idea was too good to pass up. >.> Forgive me...
Disclaimer: I used Wikipedia for information on Battojutsu, elements from The Historian among which is the map and the words on it (altered slightly to fit in with the story) but the rest is concocted up by my own twisted imagination. ;P Rurouni Kenshin, in spite of my longs letters to Santa Claus and other supreme beings of supernaturals, does not belong to me. XP
The map had hung up on our wall ever since I had been a little girl; my father, a rather warm and curious man had always kept it in pristine condition, claiming he aired it often, although I never saw it leave the wall. It was slightly faded and yellowed with age, but the fine lines showing the land well enough - a land I had lived in all my life. A land that I was currently in, even if it was a tiny piece of it: Japan.
I was seventeen when I first stumbled across the information hidden. Please listen, and the tale itself will show you the way, just as it led me.
It probably has sentimental value, I told myself. Its only saving grace, I added grumpily in my mind - it's hardly anything special! Why he kept it, I'll never know… It looks like it'll crumble to dust if I touch it.
I couldn't help myself though; I lifted a hand and my fingertip made contact with it. To my surprise, it had kept well, because of father, doubtless, and it didn't fall apart in the way I feared even when I dared to (sacrilege!) lift it slightly by the end from the wall.
Did you feel that?
My thumb, which held the corner of the map, pressed against something else that was not just paper. The texture was familiar, and I slowly bent the dry paper upwards to look at what my thumb was against: a square of fabric.
Father. Did you…?
I pried the fabric off the back of the map using careful fingertips and nails, then brought it into the light for inspection.
I recognized it as a fighting technique, but beyond that, the word with its dark, plain kanji scribed neatly on the back of the fabric meant little to me. Nonplussed, I stared at the word for a while, as if I did so long enough the meaning would take shape and shift clearly into an answer.
Kaoru, look at this logically. Battōjutsu. What does it mean?
Swiftly. Draw and strike. Cut.
The last thought made me tremble slightly. Father… Kamiya Kasshin Ryu does not follow this Battōjutsu. What are you trying to say?
I tried the other corners. There were no other squares of fabric, no other clues that could help me. Frustrated, I took the whole map and laid it down on it's back and searched. Nothing.
It was only when I ran my thumb absent-mindedly along the edge that I felt a slight parting of the paper. Two sheets pressed together made up the map, and if I could lift the second back layer away.
When I did so, the writing on the back of the paper chilled me.
A large spot of black marked… something, and around it, the words were written.
He who slays. Awake him with his name.
My finger came to rest on the black dot. My stomach dropped as I prayed; I turned over the paper to see the black spot rest on the map in exactly the same place where the dojo - my father's home and mine - was.
I dropped the map.
It's not the dojo, it's not, it's not. It could be anywhere around here. Japan is large, the place where the black spot marked could be even a whole village away. Maybe a dojo there.
Despite my reasoning though, I felt cold all over. Call it an instinct, if you will, but somewhere in the pit of my stomach and the soles of my feet, I felt it.
I would not have found that piece of fabric if I was wrong. I would not have seen Battōjutsu, nor the map.
Why would father have it?
I felt my heart clench. Kamiya Kasshin Ryu, swords that give life, was the opposite of Battōjutsu. Swiftness. Draw and strike. Cut.
Father would not have made Kamiya Kasshin Ryu and then turn to Battōjutsu. Did he see Battōjutsu, and then form Kamiya Kasshin Ryu?
The questions did not leave me, hunting my brain for answers with a viciousness and a hunger that refused rest. It was at moments like these I wanted him most; many claimed Kamiya Kasshin Ryu foolish - swords were unable to give life, after all, they said. But I had nodded politely at them, and then carried on with my practise. Doubt sometimes penetrated me, but father had always reassured me, until I had finally believed him with all my heart and had adopted Kamiya Kasshin Ryu as my own. There was no doubt anymore.
It had taken a simple piece of fabric and a map to shake me.
Somewhat shamed, I wondered if he had bought the map and simply had not known the fabric had been there. It was a large possibility.
But I knew I was floundering in these hypothetical situations to avoid what I did not want to think about: the writing on the back.
He who slays.
Awake him with his name.
I wanted to desperately forget that I had ever seen that map, and the words. I wanted not to know what Battōjutsu meant, and carry on happily in my ignorance, in my every day life.
As I pushed back the cover on my futon, a thread of uneasiness quivered in me. I stilled it, and laid down, closing my eyes, hoping for the unconsciousness that would relieve me of thoughts of the map.
I received no such thing.
I really was racoon girl that morning. Sleep had come to me, but not in the pleasant darkness that offered rest. Instead, my dream found me wandering into father's room - it was untouched from when he had been alive, since I could not bring myself to change it after his death - and sifting through sheets and sheets of writing. The words were the same, repeated by the neat script over and over again, filling several pages. I would read Batto---- and the rest of the word would be blurred, the kanji unreadable.
Racoon girl, with her dark eye bags. I couldn't even summon enough energy to wield my bokken a few times - instead, I found my thoughts drawn back to the blurred half of the word my dream showed.
The next night, the word had lengthened. Battou---. I grew edgy now, knowing the word had something to do with the Battojutsu, the map, and… he who slays.
It seemed to be some kind of unnatural force - my mind did not know the word, yet it summoned the letters steadily as the nights passed. It was frightening, knowing I could not stop it, nor hurry the word up - I almost wanted to now, to get it over and done with, the have whatever repercussion happen and for me to stop being so agitatedly wound up. Yahiko, my only student, had noticed the dark rings underneath the eyes. I had replied with a snappy retort that he could do another hundred swings; maybe he could control his curiosity as well as his sword swing one day.
I sat down, in my dream, searching for the final missing character. No, it was not this sheet, nor this one - I received this sheet with its new (now old) character yesterday. I grew more anxious as I hunted, a vast difference to the first night where I had almost perused lazily. And then, as if by magic, the last character was suddenly there, completing the word, fitting as if it had always been there.
I tried the word out, the syllables sharp and biting. I licked my lips and spoke again. And in the dream, the scene clouded over until I couldn't see anything clearly but the sheets, and the stillness of the air was frightening. My voice, dry, roughened the word and I could hear myself repeating it over and over again inside my head - it seemed to reverberate, until I couldn't think of anything else at all. I caught flashes - visions? - of a person (a man), the angles of my view terribly confusing and swift, branding my mind with them, no matter how fast they came and went.
Dark, auburn strands of hair against a blue gi.
A golden eye framed with long dark lashes.
A strong hand that rested comfortably on a sword hilt, familiar with the action.
A hard line of the mouth.
No. Not Battousai.
I'm sorry. I don't kn-
No, I -
Wake up, Wide-Eyes.
It felt as if I had gone without air for several minutes; my lungs burned and my mouth felt dryer than ever. The sight of my father's bedroom swam before my eyes, clouded again, and then cleared. The sensations attacked me: the feel of dry paper, many, many sheets beneath my fingertips that were scattered on the floor, the floorboards underneath me, warmed by my body, my shock at finding myself not in my futon I had laid myself down on, the sound of my raspy breathing, in the effort to force air into my lungs and free the words choking my throat now -
"Ken-shin." It was almost a physical effort to pronounce the words, but they came, ragged, formed by my mouth. "Not - not Battousai. Himura Kenshin."
The stillness in the air that was the same as in my dream (dream?) descended almost instantly, and I was made aware of two things: one, the words I had spoken was a name (ohgodohgodohgod) and two, my back was facing the doorway. My bokken was not at hand, and I felt almost naked without it. My hand twitched, and I forced it into a fist, steeling myself to turn around and not make myself so vulnerable -
It came so suddenly, there was no time to react.
The solid weight of hands on my shoulders. The slow puff of exhaled air that touched my face. The telling auburn hair the hung down, falling softly onto my shoulder and spilling down past it. I could see it out of the corner of my eye. The feel of roughened skin against my cheek, warm and almost gentle as it pressed against me.
I felt compelled to speak. "Battou-- Kenshin."
"Aa." The sound of his voice, liquid and low rippled through me. I closed my eyes.
He who slays. Awake him with his name.
I shivered, and he must have felt it, because he drew me closer against him and enfolded me with his arms until he had me in an almost embrace.
My voice trembled slightly. "What do you want?"
"I think," his tone was slow and lazy, deliberating over the words. "I think I should be the one to ask you that, Wide-Eyes. For you were the one who woke me up."