Cutting Them Down
Kenshin meets Paul Bunyan. That's perfectly literally and calmly, not some crazy situation with a giant axe-wielding Himura, heaven forbid. Written like I'd say it if I was telling it to my brother.
Well, after Paul had done all the things you've heard he'd done – changing the course of rivers to move his logs, growing carrots too big even for him in the Fertile Country, taking his blue ox out of the snow – he was getting tired. Babe had gotten old and died. None of the logmen he was working with were like the ones he'd known before. And Paul with his big axe looked around, and he saw that the town where he'd been born was a city now, and that the empty lands where he'd gone furthest to cut trees were full of towns, and that to the west there wasn't more forest, just grass, and people were moving onto the grass, too. And he looked north and there were trees there. But he looked down around him at the people, and he told them he was going west to find more forests. And nobody was as sad as they made out to see him leave, because Paul with his big axe made people nervous.
Paul went until he ran out of land, and there by the ocean he looked around the land he was in and saw that there were some trees, so he swung his big axe and cut them down. He tied the trunks together into a raft with that rope he used to swing his axe on sometimes, when he wanted to cut down more trees than ever, and then he took the head off of his axe and dropped it in the ocean. He went on with his raft and his axe handle for a long time, until he ran out of water. When he did that, he left his raft behind and went on a ways, through mountains with trees on them, with nothing but his axe handle, and after he had walked for a long time he sat down by a lake, because Paul was tired.
And after Paul had been by that lake a while, he saw he was there with a little man. Paul had never seen a man so little, excepting the Manitou when he went north into an Indian place. But Paul wasn't curious, and he didn't ask the little man how he was so small. He could see the little man was tired, just like him. It would be wrong to bother him about how tall he was just like people did to Paul.
But after a while, Paul said, because it was funny to sit next to somebody beside a lake and not even know who they were, "What's your name?"
The little man stirred and looked up, and Paul wondered if he had even known Paul was there. "Himura," was what he said.
"Pleased to meet you." And then, a bit curiously, "where are you from?"
Paul waved a hand behind him. "Over the water. I dropped my blade in before I came across."
"Why?" asked the little man.
"I could cut down a hundred in one swing, and there just didn't seem to be space for me anymore."
The little man nodded. He seemed to understand. "I left my blades behind, too," he said. "I don't want to cut down any more."
Paul nodded. "We were running out. They don't need me now. So without Babe…."
"My ox. She was a good friend…"
"It's hard," the little man agreed.
"Time moves on without you."
"You just have to flow along with it."
"Or you can hide in the empty spaces where it hardly moves."
"That sounds easier," said Paul.
"But lonely," said Paul.
"And you can't help anyone," said the little man.
"They don't want you to, anyway."
And Paul sighed, and the little man sighed, staring across the lake, with the mist floating over it, and Paul knew that the little man would be moving on soon, but he…he thought he'd bide here a while. Here where the trees and the water were. And let time flow on around him.
This is set for Kenshin a little while after he wasn't Battousai anymore. For Paul…well…hard to say. He's supposed to live in the 19th century himself, but in many ways the 'logger' phenomenon hung on later than the swordsman one, into the 20th century. So given the vagueness of his 'biography,' he may have spent ten years crossing the ocean or actually gone back in time while doing so. If you ask how Paul Bunyan knows Japanese, you die.
Yes, Kenshin thought Paul meant cutting people, and Paul thought Kenshin meant cutting trees. The 'kiri' in 'hitokiri' is from kiru, 'cut,' so he's literally a 'man-cutter.' Please review. I'd appreciate it, since this one is kind of weird…
[Re-uploaded 4/11 to fix some typographical errors and replace a deleted divider.]