Hi. I've decided to not break tradition and say that. Anyway, now this is another something from the imagination of me.
This will eventually become a loose series, a VERY loose series, as more ideas come to mind of my perception on what could have happened during the ten years Kenshin wandered. And the series, well, it's more like a group of fics. Not really a series but something like it. You know what I mean?
Anyway, anything added in this series will be called Gentile Wanderings, as you can see. They will mainly be one-shots or short stories of random happenings. They won't be in any particular order. This one happens to be not too long after he disappeared after the last battle he participated in.
I hope in the somewhat near future more ideas will come to mind. As for right now, please enjoy my first addition to the Gentile Wanderings cluster thing! Yeah…that's kinda funny sounding.
Japanese Glossary: Wakizashi- short sword. Jodan- rice field. Iie- no. Nii-chan- brother. Arigato- thank you. Futon- a bed. Fusuma- sliding screen. Gomen nasai- something like 'excuse me' or 'pardon me'. Hai- yes. Yakuza- the Japanese mafia, during this time I think they were just graduated gangs but don't quote me on that. Shoji- paper sliding door. Bento- actually all I know is that it's food (lol). Ne- like saying' right?' at the end of a sentence. Sumimasen- excuse me. Otou-san- father. Furou- village elder. Sake- rice wine. Shishou- master, a more respectful way then sensei. Doahou- total idiot or fuck-wit, depends on how it's said. Chikushoume- son of a bitch.
Disclaimer: I do not own Rurouni Kenshin. And if you would now excuse me as I go hide in a corner and cry…
Gentile Wanderings: The Will and the Way
It felt strange, walking in broad daylight. There where no bottomless shadows to slip through, a liquid merely flowing against the backdrop of buildings with a slim moon to leave dim lighting lying everywhere else.
At his side hung a single sword that he fingered absently, suddenly missing the second hilt of the wakizashi. This he fiercely pushed aside. There was no need for that anymore. He made an oath and the war was over, finally.
Without thought, he searched the ki of those around him for an imposing threat but the only thing he felt was irritation at being ripped off without realizing until the person was miles from the last town. That was no death threat.
Things were very different.
He stopped by a jodan and watched a few men working in the shallow water, the long blood red hair flowing from his scalp blowing in small wisps in the light breeze. A number of the men ceased in their duties to observe the samurai standing solemnly at the edge of their field, wary of the reason one such as him was so far from any important city and hoping to Kami he wasn't going to use that katana at his waist for anything he desired.
With a sigh, he moved on, not seeing anything amiss here either. His wanderings began scarcely a week ago and nothing has come to his attention of aiding where he is needed. He had acquired a few yen in exchange for a small job someone had kindly, but timidly, asked of him.
Not exactly his type of work…but that is behind him now. Helping an elderly lady carry rice in place of her sick son was what he did now. No matter how odd it was. To him or anyone else who had known him.
The sudden shriek, he felt the shift in one's ki before it was heard, and immediately he dropped into a Battoujutsu stance in the direction of the yell but what he saw was not an ambush by the Shinsengumi but a very young girl quite upset over having the toy she had been playing with taken away by who seemed like a brother and his friend.
Slowly easing the tense and ready muscles, he approached the threesome making all the racket.
"Give it back Jiyuu!"
"Iie!" He laughed as she jumped for it but he stood a head taller and kept it from her small reach easily. "Jump for it!"
"I am but I can't get it! Stop being so mean, nii-chan!"
"Nuh-uh!" Jiyuu sneered and tossed the toy to his friend only to have a hand from nowhere catch it in midair. They followed the appendage to a man short in stature with hard blue eyes and flaming hair haloed around his head but they did not fear him. Instead they stared in shock as he bent before the little girl and handed the top to her.
At first she was a bit unsure but when the man made absolutely no movement she gladly snatched the toy away with a grin with the two front teeth missing.
"Arigatou!" She said and skipped away leaving the two boys with the swordsman.
He stood then and glanced at the two boys who stood a bit straighter. Something caught his eye and he saw the mother holding the girl as she stared at him, glanced at the weapon at his side then whipped her fearful gaze back to his face.
"Go on, now." He spoke softly as he inclined his head in a small bow and turned to continue on his way, the mother's ki filling with relief that her son had not been harmed.
It pained him that she would think he would hurt an innocent child. That he did not need added onto the blood of others that stained his hands.
He exited the village quickly for its smallness in size. It looked like another night in the woods under the stars.
He didn't sleep that much that night. His body needed time to readjust itself from the habit of resting mostly during the day and prowling the streets of Kyoto at the rise of the moon. He found himself moving swifter in the familiarity the shadows gave him but sleep tugged at his eyelids halfway through the darken hours of the early morning. Even an ex-hitokiri needed his rest. To bad he did not get a sufficient amount in the soft blazing fire he stared at for an hour or two, even the rest that beckoned him was not enough force to get his restless mind to shut down for a while.
He didn't like the tired feeling trailing him as he kept down the road. Being vulnerable never did settle right with him.
And being in an unfamiliar state of mind made him rather jumpy, nearly slicing a bird in the air as its sudden flight startled him.
He chuckled on the outside as he sheathed the reversed weapon but sighed with disgust in the turmoil within.
The road lead him from the forest soon afterward and another small village that lay at the base of a hill in the distance. That is what he would strive to reach before the sun sets. The thought of bunking in an inn did not sound to far-fetched at the moment. Maybe this time he can convince himself to sleep in the futon instead of against the wall, sword held close against his chin, ready to be drawn in seconds notice.
He was not in a war anymore. Hitokiri Battousai no longer exists as far as he himself is concerned.
The sluggish speed of his feet carried him much slower than he would have liked. Maybe he wished for a sudden ambush by…anybody at the moment. Anything for the rush of the fight, adrenaline pounding so hard through his veins the sound could be heard in his ears. That would wake him from this lethargic state of mind, no doubt.
But, who in their right mind would attack a wandering samurai other than a fellow swordsman? And he hardly thought there would be any of those close to here.
Needless to say, he arrived at his destination much later than he wanted.
Not to mention the fact he never felt their ki until they were practically upon his head.
Almost a second to late, he whirled, unsheathing the sakabatou with god-like speed and the man fell under the blow of his blade. Unconsciously, he expected to see the blood spray from the crumpling body and almost missed the lack of the crimson liquid.
He berated himself as he tuned to face the rest of the men but found no one there.
Stone blue eyes the only part of his solid body moving, he scanned for the others ki and found them fleeing. In terror he could not tell.
With one look and a quick debate on what to do with the unconscious man before him, he turned and swiftly reached the village in no time. Covering the short distance with this rush had him wishing the fools had attacked earlier.
Unfortunately, with the sun already been set for a while now, there was not a soul to be found on the streets. So much for the possibility of a warm meal and bed.
Another shuffling sound to his right and the elderly man standing in his doorway with the fusuma open saw the redheaded boy with a hand on the hilt of his katana in a wide stance low to the ground. The old man sniffed and blinked.
"What are you doing out so late, boy?" He asked gruffly.
"Forgive me." The young man bowed, relaxing his stance. "I was merely passing through and was hoping to find some board that I could find cheaply. But it would seem everyone is already asleep. Gomen nasai for the intrusion on your rest." He bowed again and tuned to leave but stopped at the snort from the elder man.
"Forget it." He waved a hand and moved outside. "You're a samurai." He motioned to the sword in his sash.
"Hai. I encountered some men on the far outskirts of town who attempted an assault on me. Do you know of these men?"
The man scowled. "Yeah. We've been having trouble with some bandits lately. We believe them to be involved with the yakuza since we've never seen them around here before. They're persistent to take the village we guess. Just taking their sweet time in doing it though." He crossed his arms. "Do you have any injuries?"
He watched the young man blink before answering. "Iie. I took one down. He won't be rising for a while."
"I'd expect not! A samurai did him in! He was a fool for attacking you like that!"
He flinched inside at the older man's words. He spoke as if the man were dead.
What frightened him the most was the fact he thought, if only for a second, that he had killed yet another.
"Anyway, you can stay here for the night, young man." He yawned as he moved aside for him to enter but the youth still stood in the street.
"I couldn't bother you and your family any more than I already have."
"Don't worry about it." He waved it away. "Like you haven't bothered me enough. Come, come! I happen to have an extra room with your name on it."
To the man's beckoning, he hesitantly entered the small building, removing his shoes at the door. "If you want, I could pay you now," He began but again, the man waved his statement away.
"Naw. That won't be necessary."
"I said no, boy, and I mean it." He slid the shoji open to reveal a room with a futon rolled up in the corner. It was small but he wouldn't be staying long. It's not like he needed a big room anyway. Not an unworthy one as himself. As the man explained where things were in the hut-like home, he blinked. 'Unworthy one? Where did…?'
"Well!" The man interrupted his thoughts and thawing blue eyes found the wrinkling face of his host. "Don't worry about family cause there is none."
"Oh. Forgive me for earlier-" He almost bowed but that hand wave…
"Never mind about it. Now, I usually like to know the name of the person who's sleeping under my roof."
For a second the only answer he got was a blank stare. He could tell, even in the dark where eyes were not easily seen, this young man has quite a story to tell. No one in his life who was so young has he seen eyes quite like this.
"Himura." He said. He almost slipped and said Battousai. That would have ended very badly. "You may call me Himura."
He realized that is all he was getting out of him but there's no harm in trying. "Himura? Would that be all? Never heard of someone with only one name."
"I'm just kidding, Himura-san. I'm just a crazy old man and I respect your privacy. By the way, I'm known as Furukawa."
"Arigatou, Furukawa-san, for your hospitality." Himura bowed. "And the –san isn't necessary."
Furukawa was about to say something to that but Himura looked as tired as he felt and Furukawa noticed right away without having to look at the boy.
"Well, Himura. Why must one so young keep an old fart like me up so late? Young people! I'll never understand them!"
Himura watched the older man walk away, a small smirk playing at his lips but never reaching his eyes at the man's tactics. He may be at least twenty years older than him but the way he carried himself spoke of one thing. He was a swordsman much like him once.
Himura's eyes dulled. No. Furukawa-san was an honorable swordsman, not a sword with only the soul purpose to kill. Murder.
He shook his head slowly and closed the shoji silently behind him.
The futon was left untouched as he rested his back against the wall and found an uncomfortable sleep.
Sleep filled with nightmares.
Nightmares of death.
Rains of blood.
Himura woke with a start, swearing to have the metallic taste of blood on his tongue. He smacked his lips together to rid himself of the vile flavor and the night before came to mind.
Somehow his comfortable position changed into a neck breaking lean that strained his stiff spine and the muscles of his shoulders and neck spazed and tightened painfully.
He groaned. Just what he needed.
Himura found the light scent of breakfast wafting down the hallway leading to the kitchen, his stomach gurgling and mouth watering. Was he really this hungry? Perhaps after a good meal he could buy a few bento for the road so that he doesn't starve himself.
He expected Furukawa to be eating at the table when he followed the enticing smell to the warm pot but the man was nowhere to be seen. The food forgotten, Himura shifted throughout the small hut in search for him and soon saw him outside with his bowl of miso soup, sitting contently under a young sakura tree.
"Ah! Himura!" Furukawa called loudly. The attention his boisterous voice would surely bring unnerved Himura for a moment. There was no one close by. Furukawa's hut sat at the very edge of the village and the bustlings of the people could be heard from behind the house. "I was wondering when you'd wake. Come, come! Get your food and join me for an excellent breakfast while basking in the beauty of life!" He bellowed and waved a hand to show the countryside before them.
Himura could do nothing but follow the man's request and found himself watching the early morning, bowl of miso in one hand, sitting next to someone as he ate. He'd never really sat beside anyone when it came to eating. He was never the social type and breaking the habits of then have repeatedly proved to be very persistent now. At least the calm quite settled his uneasiness somewhat.
"So how is it?" And the calm is now gone. Himura forcefully beat down the irritation and tired not to withdraw himself from the other man and keep some emotion in his usual stoic gaze. Old habits die very, very hard.
"The miso. How is it?"
Himura looked into the bowl. He had been eating but not really tasting so he took another bite, chewing slowly before swallowing. "Good. Very good actually."
"Good!" Furukawa bellowed. "I'll teach you how to make it!"
"That won't be necessary-"
"Of course it is! It's always good to know how to make a decent meal for yourself! Besides," He said jokingly. "You should know just in case your wife couldn't cook a good meal to save her life!" Furukawa jabbed Himura with an elbow, laughing loud and long.
Himura's lip twitched upward a bit, a flicker of enjoyment in his eyes. "I hardly think so, Furukawa-san. I'd be shocked out of the seat I sat in if a woman could not cook better than me."
The man shrugged, wiping at his eyes. "You never know, Himura. You never know. So, I'm going to show you! Later today! Maybe lunch! I'm sure you'll get the hang of it soon. You look like a fast learner."
When the boy fell silent, Furukawa stared at him from the corner of his eye. He was so withdrawn; now that he was in the light it was plain to see. Someone did not need to ability to read ki to see it. Something had caused him to distance himself from the rest of the world and at a very young age. Himura reminded him of himself in so many ways.
He wanted to help the boy find his way but knew coming right out like that would do nothing but make the walls become bigger and stronger. He was a patient man. Himura would ask for aid only if he thought he needed it, even if it was clear changes were what the young samurai strived for.
Yes. Not so different from himself at that age.
The only problem was, Himura looked far deeper down the wrong road than he was. Furukawa wondered if the wisdom that saved him would be enough to help this young man now.
"I thank you for the hospitality, Furukawa-san but I believe I've overstayed my welcome-"
The hand waved. "Nonsense! Himura, I've invited you to stay in my humble home for as long as you like! And, when word gets around that you took care of one of those damned bandits, I'm sure the people will be asking you for your help. That is what you want, ne?"
"Hai, but-" His eyes narrowed. How could a man he hardly knows know what he wanted to wander for? There was more to this man, this aged warrior, than meets the eye, that's for sure.
"Good! Now, I've got a few errands to run. You do whatever you want but be back for lunch or I'll never forgive you, Himura! The first guest in my house for years and he runs out on my cooking lessons! Now, how would that look?!" Furukawa's thundering laughter stayed with him long after he took his dish inside. He must have taken a back door because when Himura cleaned his own bowl out, the man was gone.
'Never forgive…' Rang in his head as his hands washed the dish mechanically. 'Can I find forgiveness?'
He sighed. When he began this journey that is what he had hoped to find. Some way to atone for the sins he committed as Hitokiri Battousai. The vow to the slain women who protected him as a child that he would live and the vow to…Tomoe, to never slay another soul after the revolution were the only things driving him to reach that point. But it will be harder than he thought.
Vows were just words. What he needed was action to prove those words to be true. But to find a way…that is what he wanted to find.
How is one to change so much in such a short time?
That was ridiculous, he knew. But there was one thing that tugged at the back of his mind; the killer inside being locked away always threw the one doubt back into his thoughts.
Would he be able to accomplish it?
The market was, of course small and more like the village courtyard in the center of everything. Crops and meat where sold here, cloth sold there, and all sorts of things people thought they had to have.
Himura got various glances at first, many might have though him to be in consort with the yakuza lurking at the edge of the village but after about an hour of roaming about people began to either bow, nod, and most at least smiled.
This confused him greatly. Why would they be acting so friendly with the legendary Demon of Kyoto? Maybe they didn't know it was the redhead with the cross-shaped scar donning his left cheek. But surely even a village as remote as this one had heard of the Hitokiri Battousai.
Maybe they did know but…didn't care.
Himura snorted softly. No. That's why he must move on before too long.
"Sumimasen, Himura-san." A young woman asked him as his eyes widened considerably. She smiled at his surprise. "Furukawa-san told me you are a samurai, ne?" He nodded dumbly. News spread fast in this place. "My Otou-san, the furou, would like to speak with you. If you would follow me, please."
Himura nodded again and noticed immediately the people gathering; even those owning shops came from behind their counters to watch. There was no getting out anytime soon now.
He glanced at the girl beside him, a bit embarrassed and refusing to look at him. It didn't bother him a bit. She was very pretty but he hadn't the slightest clue…
"Here we are, Himura-san." She bowed and turned to enter the house from a different entrance or perhaps go to the garden he saw behind it.
The furou's house was large compared to the others and an elderly man stood speaking with Furukawa until the former noticed him approaching.
"Himura! There you are! I told you things travel quickly in this little village, ne?" Furukawa said in his loud voice.
He said nothing in return, merely bowing lower to the oldest man standing there as the elder bowed as well, looking a good number of years older than Furukawa. "Himura-san. I'm glad you made it. If you please, I would like to have a word with you."
This was the second time the Battousai was waved into an unfamiliar home by a stranger that did not know him. Did not know his past. Himura didn't know whether to be thankful or to turn and run.
The three of them settled around a low table and the elder's daughter came and offered sake to the men. Furukawa and the elder easily thanked her but Himura said nothing for a moment, just staring into her light brown eyes before muttering a soft arigatou.
"Well, Himura. Is it alright to just call you Himura?" The furou asked after a sip of the steaming liquid.
"You may call me what you wish." Truthfully, he wasn't all too sure about the suffix to his name. No one has ever added anything to the end of his name before and it came as somewhat of a relief to have it dropped. Always, it was just Battousai. Like he wasn't human therefore he didn't need any honorary.
As much as he wanted to believe in his humanity, a part of him worried he forever would be the demon so many had hailed him as.
"Alright then Himura. You already know Furukawa. And since we are obviously on a family name basis, you may call me Houjihira."
"Very well, Houjihira-san." Himura bowed.
"You see, we are all very familiar with everyone in the village. One reason, we are very small. Not on any of the maps." When the young samurai did not say anything the elder continued. "There is a reason I have asked you here, Himura. Daigo has told me that you killed one of the bandits last night."
Himura stiffened. He saw himself at the age of fourteen standing before Katsura-san as he was asked to kill for him. Become a hitokiri. Manslayer. "Iie. The man was not dead." He said softly, not looking at either man. "I do not kill."
Houjihira's brow furrowed while Furukawa leaned back to observe the boy's actions at those words. "You do not kill? Are you a samurai, Himura? What is that katana hanging at your waist then?"
"This is not a katana, Houjihira-san. This is a sakabatou." Himura slide the sword from its sheath.
"I see." Houjihira rubbed his chin. "We found the man lying in the outskirts of the village. He had a nasty bruise across his chest. I didn't think it was you since the man was not dead. But, you obviously have the deadliness of a warrior and so I will still ask for your help."
Himura's cool eyes found the elders and the man nearly wheeled in shock at the hard, blank stare he received. This boy was no ordinary samurai. He was silent, waiting for him to continue.
"We would be thankful if you could disband this troublesome group. Do what you wish with them but we've had enough of this."
Himura slid his gaze to Furukawa. "Why not asked the samurai of the village to dispatch these men?" Furukawa's eyebrow shot upward but said nothing, only watched as Himura battled himself behind the walls.
"W-well, you see, Daigo is much older than you and hasn't touched the hilt of a katana in many years."
"I see." Himura took a sip of the cooling rice wine. "I will see what I can do, Houjihira-san."
"That's my boy! Good! Now, no one knows of there whereabouts as of yet. We sent a couple men weeks ago but they never came back. They come into the village only once a week though and only takes things such as food and cloth. We don't know what they're up to."
The old man continued to speak but Himura did not listen. He took sip after sip of the cold sake, still on his first cup where as the other two had already had three or four.
It was happening again. The more he thought about the men the more the drink tasted and smelled of blood. It was something he shouldn't really worry about. What he had was not a sword to kill anyone. Reversed blade. Sakabatou.
But all it took was one flip of the blade and…
Now the taste of sake was lost and blood washed down his throat before he abruptly stood, halting Houjihira in his explaining of the trade route that was lost to the thieves. "Forgive me, Houjihira-san but I must be going." Himura bowed again. "I will see to these men for you."
Furukawa watched the young samurai walk away, deep in thought.
"He's a strange one, ne?" Houjihira downed his fifth helping of sake. "I hope he gets the job done."
"Oh, he will." Daigo nodded slowly. "Just give the poor lad some time. He'll get the job done."
It took all the discipline he could muster to not run for the edge of town, back to Furukawa's hut and remain in the small room loaned to him. It angered him that he was having such a hard time to not elude from the situation at hand.
Battousai wouldn't run. Battousai would eradicate the troublesome men the moment the moon rose high in the sky.
But it was not Battousai who was given this task.
It was Himura. Himura…
He still refused to use the name his shishou gave him at the age of eight. He couldn't carry a name such as that.
Himura can't kill.
He faltered in his step slightly. Can't? Was that all? It makes it sound like the act is a restriction that maybe he could get away with every now and then.
Himura won't kill. It's not allowed.
He sighed. This was going to take a while.
"Himura-san?" A familiar voice spoke off to his right. Houjihira's daughter stood in front of a counter, a thing of soy sauce held tightly in both hands.
"It's you." Himura said, scaring himself at how much that did not sound like him.
"Wakana." She bowed. "Houjihira Wakana."
He nodded. "Let me carry that for you." He motioned to the soy and she thanked him as he placed the wood comfortably on his neck. "Is there anything else you need?"
"Well, we do need rice and miso but that would be to much for you to carry. We can come back for them if you don't mind returning."
"That would be fine. I don't have anything else to do."
Wakana smiled. "I couldn't help but overhear you're conversation with Otou-san. Will you rid us of the bandits? And without properly disposing of them?"
"I'll find a way. There's no need to worry over me."
She blushed. "We take good care of guests in the village, Himura-san. Not many people come through here so everyone will be at least a bit concerned for your welfare. Although you seem to be able to take care of yourself."
"Hai." He nodded as the house he had just left came into view. "That much is true." He frowned when she giggled. "Nani? What did I say?"
"Nothing, Himura-san. I found your arrogance amusing, is all."
The man had better not be rubbing off on him, even though he hadn't seen him in five years. Maybe it was a sign that it was time for a visit.
Himura snorted. Yeah right.
"You can leave it there, Himura-san." Wakana said. "Someone will come and get it."
He followed the same route twice more, speaking with the black-haired girl almost friendly-like. He tried. Really. After the rice was in it's proper place, lunch had come around and he had to decline her offer to stay. He had promised after all…
Furukawa stood smirking in his doorway when Himura walked up. He frowned.
"Nani? What is so funny?"
Daigo's smiled broadened. "Have a nice time with Wakana-san? She's a nice girl, ne?"
"I suppose so."
"You suppose so?" He echoed, tossing a funny look over his shoulder as Himura followed him to the back where a low fire blazed with a black pot sitting close by, waiting to be used. "Are you blind, Himura?"
Eyebrows rising, Himura answered. "Last time I checked, my eyesight was perfectly fine."
"Sure. You seemed to not notice the interest she has for you." Furukawa's brows jumped up and down teasingly.
Thinking back to the conversations, Himura had to agree with the man's insight.
The man jabbed him in the side again. "So, what do you think? Is she good enough for a samurai, boy?" Furukawa felt a sudden dreadful chill in the warm air, a strong and suffocating ki swirling angrily about him. He found himself under a molten stare of flaming amber and he was taken aback at its fierceness. "Hey now! I'm not looking for a fight, Himura! Forgive an aging man for trespassing on dangerous territory."
That seemed to filter something into his head and his eyes blinked back to their normal coloration. Himura refused to look at him as he showed how to make the miso they had eaten that morning.
"And that's that!" Furukawa bellowed as Himura stood still as a statue, the way he stayed through the whole lesson. "Now, tomorrow morning you'll make breakfast for the old man, ne?"
"I don't think I will be here tomorrow, Furukawa-san."
"And why is that? You agreed to help Houjihira did you not?" Daigo flicked a peek from the corner of his eye.
"Hai and it will be done tonight. Afterward, I will be on my way again."
"So soon? What if you get injured?"
"I'll manage myself. That won't be a hindrance. If I sustain injuries."
Himura was a slick one, but Furukawa wasn't letting him off the hook so easily. "Something troubles you, Himura." He received no answer. "Would you care to share you're thoughts with a fellow swordsman?"
"What ails me is no one else's problems and they should not be made to carry my burdens."
Furukawa blinked as he stirred the contents in the pot. Himura was just something else. "One should not be made to carry a burden as heavy as this one seems by themselves, you know. It's easier when things are spoken about to someone willing to listen. It's better on your health."
"Do you not find that true? Even a hitokiri needs some of the weight lifted."
He looked to see wide blue eyes staring in shock. "How did you know?"
"Himura, you remind me of myself at around your age when I first became involved in slaying men. Yes, I was close to being hitokiri but I wasn't able to handle it so I was relived of my duty and placed elsewhere. Of course we were not in battles as we have seen lately but I've been in my share of fights."
Himura shook his head. "I-I had no idea."
"Like I said, I wasn't in the work very long. I have a small amount of knowledge at what you've been through for all the years since your first mission. You began at a very tender age, didn't you?"
"I'd rather not-"
"Of course. Forgive me." Furukawa removed the pot and retrieved two bowls and the two ate in silence, the older man respecting the younger one's need for silence.
Himura was surprised to say the least that Furukawa-san saw through all that he was trying to hide. At least the man didn't seem to know exactly which hitokiri he was. "How did you know?" He voiced his earlier question.
Furukawa swallowed before answering. "You are no ordinary samurai, boy. That and the fact I had seen men with eyes similar to yours plenty of times. Eyes that soon became thirsty for the sight of blood, with noses desiring the scent of it. Men with nothing left but the pleasure of the feel of one's life ending at the edge of their blade. But, you're very different from those men, Himura. You don't want to live every waking moment of the rest of your life spilling the blood of others, do you?"
He shook his head. "I left Kyoto to fulfill a vow made to…someone I lost. Someone I killed that never should have died. And now that the war is over, the need of the hitokiri is over. This is the reason I will never kill again. The reason for the sakabatou that replaced the bloodied katana. But the part of me, the merciless demon I hold inside, is always trying to find a way to resurface and consume me. I need to find a way to stop that from happening. If I cannot even find the way to not slaughter someone…I fear that is something I can never cease doing."
Furukawa nodded. "Why should you still worry of the sword is a reversed blade?"
"All it takes is a flip of the blade."
"Right, right. Reversed. Age is not being so kind to me." Furukawa thought for a moment. "So you became a wanderer, huh? Vagabond? Rurouni?" He laughed at the word.
"Rurouni?" Himura wracked his brain but never remembered ever knowing of the word. "Did you just make that up?"
"I believe I did. Kind of funny, don't you think? Rurouni Himura!" He laughed again then seriously stated. "Maybe the best way to rid yourself of the fear is to just go on ahead and give it a shot."
"Maybe?! I think it's a damn good idea! In fact, I'll come with you to find these thieves when the moon is high in the night sky. I do love looking at the stars."
"And if we come across some of them, what will you do? You have not touched a katana in years."
"True but there are plenty of sticks around to keep the skills from getting rusty! Why do you think an old fart like me still has some mass, huh? Cooking all day?"
Himura smiled and this time, it did reach his eyes as they shone with a glimmer of hope in their purplish depths.
When night came, Himura and Furukawa readied themselves to search out the bandits, the unease running through Himura's veins. What if he slipped? What if this one chance was ruined it his incapability of fighting without bloodshed?
"If you focus only on the negative, then guess what you're going to get."
Himura glanced at the man with his back to him as he stretched stiff joints loose.
"Just remember that and the one who made you take this vow in the first place."
He nodded even though he couldn't be seen as he adjusted the tie at the top of his head, making sure it would not become loose during a fight and gripped the sakabatou's hilt as if to reassure himself there was no aura of death around it. He pulled it free from the metal sheath a few inches just to make sure.
He would not kill again. Not even by accident.
A large number of ki he was not familiar with that resided in the village came into his sense and he signaled Daigo but the man had noticed too, just a bit later than him. Old age…
It would seem there was no need to go looking. The men were right at their doorstep.
Himura disappeared into the shadows instantly as the first few came into view, the navy gi blending perfectly with the moonlights tricks with the scenery shadows. He wasn't even seen as he moved into position across the road leading to the village.
Furukawa remained in semi-clear sight, wanting to catch their attention but if he didn't, as in, if the men where completely stupid, then that would be no problem at all. He held a concerned look in his eye though not for the nearing idiots but at the predatory gleam in Himura's harden and ambering eyes as he slipped from sight in no time at all. 'Just remember, Himura and you'll be fine.'
"Ok," One of the men stumbling on the pathway said in a voice a little to loud for one about to sneak into a village and ravage the place again. Still, this was accomplished before and they never had any resistance beforehand. "Just get what we normally come for and we're gone. That guy that attacked us the other night is probably still close by so no going into houses this time!"
"What if he's still in the village?"
"Why would he be?" Someone else hissed loudly. "He's samurai!"
"So, you doahou! What would him being a samurai have anything to do with staying in a village?!"
"Shut the hell up, you chikushoume!"
"Both of you shut up and look! It's the old samurai!" Furukawa smirked as he raised the katana shaped piece of wood he had carved.
"What's he gonna do?"
"Is that a stick he's holding?"
"That baka thinks he can defeat us with a damn piece of wood! Kill him!"
They began advancing when a pained scream erupted from the back of the group. They all turned to see one of their own lying unconscious on the ground. He was checked for blood but they found none, only broken ribs and a broken arm.
"What the hell?!"
They had never seen Himura move.
"The old man did it! See?! That wasn't done by a katana!"
A gust of wind passing through the group and four more men fell to the ground.
"It has to be him!"
"But he hasn't moved! I've never seen him even move!"
They were in a panic now, a few claiming to have seen something fly by, leaving a streak of amber where it passed and in its wake is where the men dropped.
"He's a demon! Get outta here!"
"Run! Or he'll kill us all with a wood sword!"
Furukawa pulled himself from the stance he was in and laughed at the retreating forms. "It was a good thing you thought of something in case they decided to try this night to thieve from us."
"I do believe they won't be coming back, Furukawa-san." Himura said, suddenly beside him. "You scared them very badly."
"Hai. It's good to know I've still got some fight left in me." He joked. "You did good and not a soul was taken. See? That wasn't so hard."
"That was hardly a real battle, Furukawa-san. Just a bunch of morons trying to act tough."
Furukawa bent over a man, limbs splayed and he whistled. "Damn. Even with a sakabatou you do some pretty good damage. What should we do with them?"
Himura bent over to help a man waking and clutching his busted ribcage to his feet. "Take them to the doctor and have them helped." It felt strange aiding someone whom had been an enemy just seconds before but as the man moaned and shuffled forward he remembered something that he had said once before.
In the end, they're all just people.
Suddenly, the man forced a strangled cry from his lips and slumped, Himura now supporting a completely limp body of a lifeless man in his arm. He gasped as the warm liquid spilled from the open throat onto his hand and down his side. He dropped him as if he were scorched by the touch. Horrified, he stared at the trembling fingers dripping with blood.
"Himura?" Furukawa placed the man he held on the ground and stood to see the youth's eyes flashing in the dim light falling from the moon, a dark liquid streaming down his raised hand held before his face. "Himura?!"
Surely he had not just lost the boy.
Himura was to distraught to sense the coming danger until Furukawa yelled as something passed through his arm and thudded into the sakura tree diagonal to where he stood. A kunai protruded from the bark.
"Furukawa-san!" Himura saw the man on the ground, a hand clutching his upper arm. Again, the smell filled his nose.
"Well, well." A baritone chuckled from the shadows. Himura dropped into the Battoujutsu and waited. "It would seem I've finally caught up with you, Battousai. You're a difficult one to track, I'll give you that."
Himura did not move, his stoic eyes scanned as well as the search for the man's ki for his whereabouts. But he was very elusive.
"You're finished, Battousai. This pathetic vow is your downfall. I will kill you."
The shadows parted for the form of a man, katana in hand, charging for him, coming from the right. Himura waited, all thoughts thrown from his mind except for the battle at hand. As the charging man passed a fallen bandit, he swung the katana and the head flew from the force of the blow.
Blood boiling and now deep amber crystals shining in the dim light, Himura did not wait for the man to reach him. Silent, as soon as his feet moved, he disappeared only to reappear in front of the man, leaping forward with a double-handed slash for the neck in the Ryushousen but the attack was blocked and he immediately reverted the strike to the Ryutsuishousen and adding a downward stab while still airborne. The second hit was parried as well.
Once Himura landed, the man spun swiftly to catch him off guard but he was already gone and standing behind him once again.
The Doryusen blew the man off his balance as the wind and pieces of earth blew up from the force of the blade guided by Himura's hands. But the weaker attack proved to be null as the shinobi gathered his feet under him again and avoided the assault, running up from the left to Himura waiting in Battoujutsu stance for him to come.
But the ninja curved his attack way from him and in his place flew multiple kunai. Himura had no choice but to leap from his spot and swing the sword to parry some of the projectiles. The shinobi was then there as Himura became airborne again and swung the katana. Himura knew his sword was not ready to be thrown in front of this attack and grabbed the sheath, barely making the metals clash and spark as he pushed himself away, gaining distance for the second he need to readjust for another assault.
His mind was attempting to process something other than the fight. Something important he needed desperately to remember as he saw his opportunity to finish this.
Amber eyes narrowing further, the blade in his grip was flipped.
This time when the ninja get close enough, Himura made it like he was to try the first attack to the neck again and when he readied himself to block it, the samurai was gone.
Himura was above the ninja and it took a split second for him to realize that. But it was a second to late.
The Ryutsuisen was performed and Himura drove his opponent to the ground with the force of his double-handed strike.
The fight was over.
Furukawa dared not move as Himura remained in his crouched landing position, fearing the worst. He saw the deadlier end of the blade was bared when the attack began but could not tell of the end results other than the shinobi lying on the ground unmoving.
Himura then stood, holding the sakabatou up before his eyes and turned to Daigo, a bittersweet smile on his face.
The top of the blade shimmered in the soft moonlight, not a darken stream flowing across the deadly metal. The blade he held was reversed, the proper usage of the weapon.
Furukawa released the breath he didn't realize he was holding.
When the shinobi groaned in agony, Himura's smile grew. "He's not dead."
"Iie." Furukawa said, clapping the young man on the back. "See? Action was the best way to prove that you had a chance at succeeding."
The smile was wiped from Himura's face as more groans came from the men scattered about in the dirt. "These men need to get to the doctor. And so do you, Furukawa-san."
That…hand wave…again. "I'll be fine. This is nothing but a scratch that's very irritating. Come, come. We should hurry so you can-"
"Get some rest to make sure and fix breakfast tomorrow." Himura finished with a smile that most defiantly was shinning in his eyes that oddly took a more purple hue than blue. Furukawa shook his head and laughed. It was probably just the lighting. "Sure. Breakfast. And you'd better not ruin my recipe either, boy."
"Well?" Himura asked as Furukawa chewed excruciatingly slow, a devilish look on his face as he swallowed.
"Damn! I think it's better than when I cook it! You should give me the recipe!"
They both shared a laugh, Himura actually laughing a bit louder than he ever had in the longest time.
The night before had been hectic when the whole village woke to thank him after the men were delivered to the doctor to be fixed up. He didn't know what they did with them afterward and he didn't bother to ask either. He thought he was better off not knowing if they had plans for executing them or what. He found himself hoping it was not the former.
What Himura appreciated the most however was that Furukawa never asked about nor mentioned him being identified as Battousai.
"But I'm still sure it would never beat a woman's cooking, Furukawa-san. I don't care what you have to say about me finding a wife who can't cook. That's just ridiculous."
"I wouldn't say things like that. You never do know what could happen in the future." He glared at the patching the doctor forced him to wear that was overkill in how much the cut actually needed but there was no arguing with the doc and he finally had given in. Grudgingly.
"Hai. I guess you're right."
When breakfast was finished and the dishes clean and put away, Himura stood facing the open road with Furukawa coming up with a full cloth sack.
"Oi. Here's some things you'll need on your way, Himura. Bento and other foodstuffs. Water. You know."
"Arigatou, Furukawa-san." He wrapped it around him so it tied across his chest, one corner laying on his shoulder and the other coming up from under the opposite arm.
"Any idea where to next? Osaka? Edo? Or is it Tokyo now?"
"Somewhere, Furukawa-san." He faced the man and bowed low. "I want to thank you for what you had helped me with. I don't think I could thank you enough."
As predicted, Furukawa waved the statement away. "I believe you would have done the same thing if you were the old man with cricks and rusty joints and I were the fresh young man who likes to keep the old, crickity man awake at night."
Himura chuckled. "I insist on giving you some payment for your hospitality and wisdom but there will be a discount for all the dumb wisecracks, of course."
Furukawa's eyebrows rose as Himura tried to hand him some yen and, at his persistence, accepted half of what was offered. "Oh! We've got a wise guy on our hands now! Well, I'm glad to be rid of you then! Go on! Git!"
Himura bowed again after thanking him for the umpteenth time that morning and walked from his small yard onto the road and whatever lies ahead of him. He turned a blue gaze hinted with purple to the old man and smiled. "And the name's Kenshin. Himura Kenshin."
"Well, good-bye Kenshin and good luck." Furukawa watched him as he became smaller and smaller in the distance and laughed. He is well on his way. "Wanderer Himura Kenshin. Vagabond Kenshin."
When he was no longer in sight, Daigo walked back to his hut and snorted playfully, tossing a look out towards the young man.
I just had to put those things foreshadowing Kaoru in here. I found it rather funny.
Well, thank you for reading and I hope you return whenever another story is added in the series. I expect things in the beginning years to be a bit darker than the ones closer to Kenshin arriving in Tokyo and being attacked by a girl with a bokken. Lol!
Reviews are welcome anytime! Arigatou, minna-san! Until the next story!