I do not own Rurouni Kenshin ;-)
Chapter 12: Subterfuge
Kaoru waited patiently until nightfall, filling her time by reading more about Caedes. The king or now queen had access to his/her own harem. It was quite commonly accepted for the ruler to have a favourite lover and were usually chosen from the higher levels of peerage. There also appeared to be confusion regarding Tomoe's past. She was not from a titled family. But she had close associations with one family within aristocracy who was closely connected (not by relation) to the royal seat.
This was getting too complicated. It had first appeared to look like Tomoe had wanted power and dominance; the first reason associated with such an ambition was the need for power and control. If she wasn't titled the only association she could have possibly hoped to have with a titled family was through marriage. The dots were slowly connecting in Kaoru's head, and the picture it created was not looking pretty.
Misao look at the same page for the fiftieth time before leaning back in her chair and staring at the ceiling.
Misao sighed in an overly dramatic fashion "I can't find anything of use."
"We'll find something."
"Since when did you become such an optimist?" she asked grumpily.
"Since all our lives depended on it."
"Way to put a dampener on the mood." She complained before she realising that they had one option at their disposal, even though it was a very risky one. "Why don't we approach them as we are?"
"I mean send someone with magic into their community and show our connection with them."
"They are prohibited from knowing that Misao."
"Yes but since all inhabitants on that island are accounted for and a new person will be recognised instantly – this is our only option." She pointed out.
"We would have to consult Kenshin, and the goddess. We would also need counsel from other rulers as well." She could almost hear him sighing – but Aoshi never sighed, yelled, whined or anything of that variety.
"I can't think of another way. Unless we sent over someone who was highly skilled in cover magic."
"I was hoping we wouldn't have to do that. They won't be able to sustain a disguise for that long, in fact they will probably have to draw on the kingdoms collective reserved power."
"But that's what fuels the separate dimension, segregating our world from theirs."
"Mmm." Aoshi appeared to be thinking about something.
"Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
"If you are, then we're going to have a hard time."
"Yes." He nodded solemnly. "I think you should handle it."
"Oh? Well I never thought, Aoshi mine, that you were afraid of him."
"I'm not. He's very…" Aoshi paused thoughtfully "lively." It was the only word he could think of that wasn't insulting.
Misao chuckled at the description. Kamatari was definitely a unique character.
"Kamatari?" Kenshin repeated.
He sat back in his chair thoughtfully.
"He is very good at illusion magic. In fact that being his forte, is why he loves fashion so much. He can make illusions a reality and vice versa." He stroked his chin in thought "I'm not sure how well he can transfer that ability to real imaging thought projection though."
"I was going to speak to him about it as soon as I'd gained your permission."
"Well, feel free – but I make no promises that he'll agree. Kamatari takes his fashion very seriously." he added dryly.
"Do you really think he'd pass up the chance to help the kingdom he loves so much?"
Kenshin shrugged. "I never think of Kamatari when selecting candidates for subterfuge. Even though he's actually quite skilled in combat."
Misao looked back at him in surprise "Really? I don't remember him ever fighting."
"Yes well, you're quite young compared to the rest of us." He pointed out.
"Yeah yeah." She waved her hand in what was a passable salute and sailed out Kenshins office door.
Misao was feeling good. Well, maybe better than before when they didn't really have a plan. Now they had direction, flow, and a whole bunch of good feelings. She spied Kamatari humming as he sorted through, what appeared to be a large trussing. Though Misao thought it looked very much like a giant purple mushroom.
"What brings the sword master to the high kings central wardrobe?" questioned Kamatari without turning his back.
"How'd you know it was me?"
"I saw you in the mirror darling," he drawled pointing out her reflection in the mirror to his left.
"Huh. What is that?" she had to ask.
"It's an woven silk underlay for my Queen when she returns." He preened and fluffed the fabric until it was floating over his hands softly. "Why? Were you after a dress mistress Misao?" he grinned.
"Uh no." she dragged out the 'no' just to make sure he knew she was serious. "I came because I have a request to make of you."
"Is it fashion related?" he asked excitedly.
"Ah, if you think about it…it could be construed as such. But in a more correct way, it's not really."
Kamatari cocked his head to the side and watched her shrewdly. Misao felt like fidgeting.
"Look, we need someone to do a bit of recon work for us. Someone with excellent projection technique – which you have and cover magic – which you also have."
"My my, scraping the bottom of the barrel aren't we?"
"Not really Kamatari. You're the best at what you do. And I'm not sending in some amateur. We both know that you're better at combat and magic than most soldiers in our army. Even the most skilled."
"Someone's been doing their homework."
"Well I wasn't just going to come in here with guns blazing was I?" Though that was what she had originally intended to do. "It's very important. I'll await your answer by nightfall." She nodded warily at him before exiting his pattern making room.
Now all she had to do was wait patiently; which in hindsight was not something she was very good at.
Kaoru paced her small room impatiently waiting for her husband to make his appearance. She had to ask him so many things – and she missed him. Already. She always though that clingy females were pathetic and she liked to think she wasn't but she missed Kenshin so much.
"Restless, love?" His voice came through the darkness soft and husky.
Kaoru stopped pacing and turned quickly to meet his glittering golden eyes.
"I was waiting." She whispered. He began to walk towards her but she stopped him with an upraised hand. "Stay there. If you come closer then we'll end up not talking and waste time."
"I've never thought of our mutual love making as a waste of time." He growled in dissatisfaction at having his seduction plan foiled. He'd actually bathed for this.
"Later, Kenshin. Right now we need to talk."
"Alright" he settled into a wooden chair and waited patiently. Kaoru on the other hand couldn't sit still and continued her restless pacing and sharp hand movements.
"I don't think Tomoe gained her seat just for power."
"Okay then. What other reason could she have?"
"She had close connections to a family close to the royal seat."
"She was related to the king?"
"No." Kaoru paused for effect "she was connected by an agreed marriage to someone within a family connected to the throne."
"Agreed arranged or agreed love?" Kenshin hit the nail on the head immediately.
"So she isn't just after power then. How did we miss this?" Kenshin murmured, a thousand thoughts running through his head.
"It was intimate family knowledge. Not commonly known." Kaoru sighed. "Something terrible must have happened to prevent her from marrying her love and throwing her into the line of power."
"You don't think she wants to be Queen for power and sufferance?"
"No. She's there for another reason. I think that reason lies in the story of her betrothed. It has to."
"Where is her betrothed anyway?" Kenshin couldn't believe he hadn't thought of that question before now. Hands on hips, Kaoru's lips thinned in a grim line "He's missing."
"Missing or dead?"
"Missing - presumed dead." she helpfully provided the useless information.
"I'll have Aoshi look into it."
"My Okashira – he's head of intelligence. You never met him because he was on a job during your time with me."
"Oh." They stared at each other.
"I missed you." She admitted shyly.
"You missed, I pined, my love."
"Pined? That bad was it?" she smiled as he pulled her into his arms.
"Every moment away from you is like having a knife thrust into my heart. Too much time away from you and I'll die." He whispered. Kaoru placed her small hand over his mouth.
"Don't speak of death. I don't want to hear those words pass your lips." They lay on her single bed holding each other, savouring the feel of strong arms shielding them from the outside world. "I miss sparring with you. I miss everyone at home." She admitted in a low voice.
"It will be over soon love." He stroked her hair soothingly.
"We both know that's a lie." She shifted until she was lying on her side facing him.
"I'm always with you, you know that."
"I know. But I still miss us, I miss this."
Kenshin smiled and placed a soft kiss on her forehead.
"I can't wait to take you home with me again." He sighed.
Aoshi didn't look up from his readings as he heard someone cautiously approaching his desk.
"Kamatari." His voice soft and low echoes lightly through the empty library.
"Shinomori. I heard you were back."
"I wanted to talk to you about Misao's proposal."
"What of it?"
"I'm not sure if this is something I will be able to successfully complete. How long has it been since our exams?
"About 700 years"
"Exactly. Last time I did any real time thought projection or imaging was back then."
"We know you still practise that technique with fashioning clothes though."
"It's just not the same." He sighed.
"Of all the things I expected to hear from you – it certainly wasn't this."
"Making clothes and altering peoples facial features are two different things."
Aoshi was sure that if Kamatari tried, he would be able to sufficiently fulfil the role expected of him. It had to be something else.
"You want someone to go with you, don't you?" Kamatari smiled hopefully. "Have you read the report Misao sent to you?" Kamatari nodded. "Then you also know that too many new people in a place that rarely allows visitors will seem out of place?"
"I can try and cover both of us…" he trailed of thoughtfully.
"No. That would require too much strength."
"What about allowing me to report back occasionally – instead of at the end of the mission."
"I'm not sure that will work either. In fact you will be the one to determine whether you can shimmer safely or not. Some of their inhabitants are very sensitive to magic – they may feel the hints of magical aftertaste. This may alert them and make them suspicious. This is part of your job."
"What does Kenshin think?"
"He agrees with Misao and believes that you are the best candidate for this task." Kamatari hummed in a non-committed manner.
"A lot is at stake here. We do not choose you lightly Kamatari."
"Alright." He agreed quietly. "I'll go."
Misao looked at the map Kaoru had sent back with Kenshin from his last venture to Dimidius. It showed all the kingdoms and Vetus Villa, in the corner separated by a vast quantity of sea from the rest of the land. Kamatari was going to have to find a secluded place to shimmer into, and that would be difficult since no one had set foot in the place. She scratched her head in frustration only to be interrupted by Kamatari as he strolled in wearing very staid clothing.
"I'm guessing by your attire that you've decided to go?"
"I couldn't exactly say no."
"I'm sorry Kam. If you feel like you're being forced then I'm sorry."
"Well I do love living here. And I love that I'm able to do whatever I want. Kenshin is a very liberal king so I can't really ask for more." Misao smiled at his vigour. "It's about time I gave back a bit of my appreciation." He wiped away a non-existent tear from his eye. To which Misao rolled her eyes and handed him an ordinary looking sack.
"You'll find everything you need in there. But you'd better look through it just in case there are some other things you might want to take with you."
He searched through the sack and found 2 sets of equally mundane clothes to change into, a water skin, a note book which already had writing in it, and random bits of metallic scrap.
"I don't think I'll be needing anything else." He shrugged.
"Okay – I'm not going to tell you what to do – I'll leave that to Aoshi!" she grinned. Kamatari turned to stroll away when Misao spoke again. "And Kamatari – Thank You"
"Your welcome Lady Misao."
"Call me Misao, Kam – I think after all the years we've known each other you're allowed to."
Kamatari grinned. Misao was never one to let proprietary stand in her way.
Give me the down low - even if you didn't like it.
I won't know if you don't review thumbs up