Summary: When a captured assassin escapes, he takes a hostage along as insurance. Now she has to lead him to safety or he will kill her. Will she be able to ever return? AU. BKK. "She was the girl he had watched from across the fence, he would know her anywhere."
Disclaimer: Kenshin doesn't belong to me.
Rating: T, rating may go up in later chapters for language and adult content.
The Dance of the Firefly
Chapter 1: Set Me Free
The rain had been pouring incessantly for the past three days. The water had nowhere to go so it clogged the streets, filling them up. The dirt and the mud of the village roads mixed with it and floated around the village. Children sat on the raised platforms circling their houses to watch as the water rushed first one way then another as the ground shifted underneath it. The wind also ran in, pushing the raindrops against their little faces.
They laughed with delight and surprise. The cold water tickled them and made them shiver. They held their noses and hid sneezes in their sleeves so that their mother wouldn't see them and stop the fun by making them go back inside.
In the house across the waterlogged street, a lone chicken sitting alone in the pen flapped its wings and jumped out of the coop. It scampered around in the rainwater, beating its wings and screeching loudly. The rain made it happy.
Unfortunately, its happiness didn't last very long. A firm hand picked it up from where it was wading and pretending to be a duck and put it back inside the coop, adjusting the lid securely so that the dance of freedom wouldn't be repeated again. The chicken soon made its displeasure apparent. The ensuing caucus from the coop drowned out the sound of the rain.
The girl ran back to the house. She made a sound of annoyance as she looked down at her clothes. She was drenched from the waist down because the yard was flooded and she'd had to run through the water. Her socks and slippers were completely wet. She held one end of her kimono and wrung it out. Flapping her arms up and down several times, she tried to shake the water out of her sleeves. She untied her hair and ran her fingers through it. It was dry at the scalp so she decided to let it hang for a while before tying it up again.
Silently she surveyed the damage done to the house by the rain. The roof was leaking in several places. The yard was a complete mess. The haystacks were lying about scattered all over the place, half drowned in the water. They were useless now. She sighed. The rain had spoilt everything. Things were bad enough without the freak rainstorms joining in to increase their troubles.
A woman's voice called out from within the house. "Kaoru! Come inside child. It's cold out there." The girl sighed again. She turned and went inside, sliding the door firmly in place behind her. A woman sat in the middle of the wooden platform, trying to coax a flame to burn. What had once been a beautiful face was now worn down with worry and sorrow yet for all this her narrow frame had a vast reserve of strength. She was not the girl's mother but was the only person in the house who showed her affection. Her name was Tae.
She looked up now as her stepdaughter came and sat down next to her. Kaoru gently blew on the glowing embers. Little flames begun to spout instantly. Tae put some dried leaves on top of them to give them fuel. Shortly a fire was burning, and a pot of everything edible inside the house was merrily mounted on the flames.
Tae turned her attention to Kaoru. "You're completely soaked, sweetie. Go, hurry up and change or you'll catch a cold. Then your father will be in a foul temper."
Kaoru nodded quietly and quickly changed out of her wet clothes. "I should not provoke him."
"That would be best. Don't worry; you can go visit Misao once I'm finished here. I'll tell him that you've left early for the garrison." She stirred a ladle inside the pot.
Kaoru firmly shook her head. "Don't do that. He'll come to ask for me at the fort, and then you'll be beat for lying as well as me."
Tae's hand stopped. The ladle hung limply inside the pot. She looked at her. "I wish I could take you away from all this. If I had the money, we could escape to my old home in the mountains." She looked down. Kaoru smiled, and hugged her.
"We would miss the village in the mountains. You are with me. I am happy Tae. It's enough." She hurriedly laid the wet garments on the other side of the fire. If her father found out that she had wet her normal clothes and had to wear the other, nicer kimono, he would be furious. But then, he became furious over everything she did. Koshijiro Kamiya didn't even need an excuse to yell at her. The fact that she was alive was more than enough for him. He hated her.
There was a reason why he volunteered that his only child; a young and beautiful girl would help with relief work at the garrison. The war with the rebels had begun five years ago, and still showed no signs of abating. Instead, with every day that passed, it was becoming even more violent, more furious and destructive. The rebels were beginning to penetrate even the countryside to shed blood. Everyday, farmers were becoming mute witnesses to intense sword fights, ending only with a roughly hacked corpse.
The shogun had set up a hospital within the garrison where men were treated for injuries and given treatment. It was a surrounding filled with death and disease. The doctor and soldiers at the garrison were shocked to see Kaoru appear day after day to help take care of the dying. They were thankful for the help yet they wondered at the family of the girl who let her come into this sickly quagmire day after day. But with every day that passed, Koshijiro's frustration increased. Because Kaoru would not fall ill, she contracted no disease, she didn't even die when the rebels ran through the village one night, killing and hacking anyone who was seen. There was a reason why he did all these things. He wanted her dead.
Everyday in his prayers, he wished for her death, yet the gods would not heed him. Instead, they gave the child health, compassion and beauty. Exasperated with her sunny smile and happiness despite his undisguised hatred of her, he decided to bring home the proverbial stepmother. Koshijiro met Tae when he had gone to pray at a larger shrine in another district. (Perhaps Buddha would hear his plea and kill his daughter if he prayed at bigger shrine?)
He was in such a hurry to unleash the evil stepmother on Kaoru that he failed to realize one very important thing. Tae was an extremely kind and soft hearted person. When she saw the treatment meted out to her stepdaughter by her own father, Tae's heart melted and she became a solid wall of support for Kaoru. That was the day he threw away his prayer beads. The inconceivable had happened. Buddha had given the devil another ally.
The next day he had gone and told the captain at the garrison that his daughter would be helping at the hospital and also in the garrison's fields. The backbreaking fieldwork and grueling care taking at the hospital would soon give her death. Then he would be free of her. Free of that child of sin.
There was a reason he made her walk alone back from the garrison to the village. There was a reason he didn't allow her to go to the fields with anyone else. There was a reason he wanted her to sit next to those who were at death's door. There was a reason for it all.
Kaoru was a love child. She was a child born of the love between her mother and the man she was in love with, a man who unfortunately died before he could marry her.
Her birth and the fact that she looked more and more like her mother every day was a constant reminder to Koshijiro of his failure to gain the affections of the woman who had once been engaged to his friend. It had been a slap on his face when she told him that she was with child and that it belonged to someone else. He had knocked her over but even with a blackened eye and cut lip, she was smiling. Smiling at his helplessness, and his defeat.
Kaoru had the same midnight blue hair, the same build, the smile that used to melt his knees but her eyes…two glittering orbs of sapphire blue belonged to her father, his friend. He was a man who had been drafted to fight in the shogun's wars because he had no means to pay his way out like Koshijiro.
Every day that Kaoru lived and prospered, a knife twisted viciously in Koshijiro's heart. And there was nothing he could do about it…. yet. But it takes only a small moment to change the course of a person's life and bring about untold upheaval. For Kaoru, that moment was near, very near.
The man who would wreak havoc on her life, her mind and her soul was waiting for her even now, as she quietly walked towards the garrison, her hands holding a small chest of herbs and homemade medicines and her eyes on the road.
But she was completely unaware of this.
The garrison was an old fort perched on the side of a hill just beyond the rice fields of Kanen village. Fields of rice that belonged to the garrison were contained within the walls of the fort. The office of the commander of the fort along with the blacksmith's forge, the armory, the hospital and the cells for the prisoners were located inside the fort.
The hospital and the prisoner cells were directly opposite to each other, but both looked out on to the fields. There was a fence of bamboos in front of the prison cells; the idea was to block the view. But the fence was old and gaps had appeared between the poles. If one put his eye next to a gap, it was easy to see what was going on in the field.
If the prisoner was an officer he was given basic treatment to keep him alive otherwise he would be dumped inside cell and never seen again. Every few days, if someone remembered, the prisoners were brought out of their cells in chains and let out in the fresh air. On most days, the guards forgot or they couldn't be bothered but today was not one of those days.
A small group of seven prisoners had been let out. They were taken outside their cells and the iron balls attached to their feet were chained to the fence. There was nowhere they could go without being killed. The men wore a look of desperation. They weren't even trying to look for ways to run away. Indifference to their existence and the deathly silence that greeted their screams of pain had robbed them of the revolutionary fire that used to burn in their eyes. Now all that remained was a gray calm, the hollow vacuum of a human being.
They all hung their heads as they sat on the ground bound to the chains as much as they were bound by them. These men had accepted defeat. They didn't want to look at the world outside. The sunlight, the fresh wind that swept across the rice fields, the laughter of children playing far away did not comfort them. Instead, the vision of normal life aggravated their loss and made them cringe. All they wanted now was to die.
All save one.
He sat apart from the prisoners, facing the bamboo fence. His body was slight, muscles coiled tautly around his bones; there wasn't even an inch of extra flesh on him. His blood-colored hair hung around his face in a messy tangle. He was crouching on the ground, perched upon his toes, trying to get as close to the gap in the fence as he could. He wasn't trying to escape. He was just trying to look outside.
A heavy gust of wind blew in. The fence rattled from the impact. The man closed his eyes and smiled, breathing the crisp air deeply. He held his breath for a few moments and then exhaled slowly. His body shivered. He had forgotten how deeply pleasurable even the simple act of breathing could be. He grinned and sat back against the fence.
A guard came and stood in front of him. He just sat staring at the guard's feet for some time. Finally, he lifted his gaze and looked up at him, his eyes still hidden behind his crimson mane. The guard moved away.
The prisoner turned towards the fence once again. He clutched the bamboo tightly and peered out. The rain had stopped. Colors looked sharper and more concentrated. He squinted; his eyes had forgotten the sight of the countryside after a heavy bout of rain. He wondered if he'd see her again. Would she be among the villagers who came to work the fields?
He smiled as he remembered her. She moved like a child did, half running half walking as she made her way to the garrison. She would often stop and breathe heavily while she worked. He wondered if they were working her too hard or whether the breathlessness was just because her breast bindings were too tight. His lips curled into a smile. The second option was more likely. She would hunch sometimes, as if she were willing her chest to disappear completely. He shook his head slightly. If only she knew….
He was feasting his eyes on the vibrant splashes of green that surrounded him when he saw ….her. He gripped the bamboo even more tightly. His pulse quickened. His knuckles turned white with the pressure he was putting on them. He pulled his breath in.
She was back. She had come again. Perhaps his eyes were playing tricks on him. Maybe it wasn't her, but someone else. No it was she. There was no mistaking it. It was her. He would know her anywhere. He closed his eyes.
She had saved him from going insane in that dark hole they called a cell. He had been saved from madness because he had seen her one day months ago. After that day, each time they brought him out, he would sit here and wait. Sooner or later, she would come. He could look at her and feel alive again.
His blood frantically rushed through his veins each time he looked at her. It was nothing but lust; sheer animalistic, obsessive desire for her but it had saved him. He had found the will to stay alive and stay sharp. If only for an empty promise to himself, that once he escaped from the fort he would find her. It kept him from giving up.
He opened his eyes and looked at her again. She was working in the field in front of the fence. Her midnight blue hair was tied up in a ponytail. She bent over; sickle in hand, slowly working around the vegetable patch. She carefully pulled out the weeds that had sprung up in the two days that she had been working on another field. She moved closer to the fence.
His eyes widened. She was so close. She bent, once again exposing the milky white skin of her neck and collarbone and wiped her forehead with the back of her hand. A small bead of sweat rolled down her cheek, it slid down her neck. The prisoner's breath hitched in his throat. He followed the bead of sweat with his eyes as it disappeared inside her kimono.
She straightened suddenly as someone called her. She waved her hand and nodded. As she turned to leave, she stretched her arms wide and hitched her shoulders back. He looked at her arms and wondered, not for the first time, what it would feel like to have them wrapped around his neck. The feel of her soft body pushed against his until there was no space left between.
The comfort of her soft, warm arms, her smooth skin slicked with sweat, the velvety feel of her inner thighs, the sharp gasp of surprise as he touched that sweetest spot, that bubble of hot poison that would explode deep inside him as he took her higher and higher. He shut his eyes and slowly exhaled. His knuckles were pulsing with tingles as blood slowly spread into his hands. He licked his lips.
He sat back against the fence once more. His fellow prisoners looked at him curiously. He grinned, then threw his head back and laughed. They looked at him in shock before exchanging nervous glances amongst themselves.
He wasn't likely to catch any sleep tonight.
This little idea wouldn't let go of me so I had to get it out of my system. Please review and tell me what you think so far. By the looks of things, this is going to become steamier. Read and review!!!