Title: Pictures Painted Red
Fandom: Blade of the Immortal (Mugen no Jyuunin)
Pairing: Rin Asano / Kagehisa Anotsu
Disclaimer: Characters and situations created by Samura Hiroaki.
Spoilers: Up to tankoubon #18, after which it all sort of... goes astray :)
A/N: My set of 50 for lj's 1sentence-community. It's a story, or: tries to be one. Beta by the fabulous kennahijja, arigato, dear! Remaining mistakes are entirely my own.
"A cycle was set in motion, Kageyuki-chan, long before our time," Rin sighs, patting the dark head, "and it was bound to spin out of momentum."
"Don't touch the girl... assaulting children shows no class," Anotsu's cool voice still sneers in her nightmares - usually a second before her father's head comes off.
He's not tall but young and lean, the wiry sort, with narrow eyes and a hard mouth, and if you ask Rin, he's nothing but a common criminal with high-flying ideas steeped in blood.
Being the last scion of a renowned sword school is not a burden but an honour, a sacred duty, and the only reason to blush over Anotsu Kagehisa is anticipation - because she'll take him down, even if it's the last thing she does.
She cannot believe her family has done wrong; surely it was old Anotsu Saburo's fault - he carried a barbarian blade after all, proving himself unworthy of Mutenichi-ryu, but what if-
That fucking thing must weigh more than his entire torso but there's something infinitely graceful, almost... gentle in the way Anotsu cradles his axe against his collarbone.
"Itto sunawachi banto," he drawls, swinging the weapon wide, "'one sword gives rise to ten thousand swords', as my grandfather used to say; although I prefer 'whatever works'."
Sometimes, especially when she sees Anotsu cleave his opponents without breaking a sweat, Rin thinks Manji isn't making much of an effort with this "kill one thousand men" job of his; Anotsu in his place would have been redeemed twice over already.
Only three people know that the new king of the castle once was afraid of a pack of wild dogs - but as long as he lives, Anotsu-sama won't forget little Kagehisa's shame.
Her bodyguard drives her round the bends, what with his protectiveness and his "you aren't ready yet" and "try again" and "talk me to when you really want to learn" when all the while Itto-ryu is spreading like a cancer.
As soon as she sets out without Manji, everything becomes uncertain - pines and streams meld into a single, torturous blur; time vesicates like an old bean cake - so it takes for all her money to be stolen before Rin finally pays attention.
Waiting never has been one of Rin's strengths, so she picks up the hoe, works Sohachi's rice fields, helps at the inn, her eyes glued to the Kobotoke turnpike lest she miss Anotsu, but namu, after a month or two... she feels ready to stab him to death with a tea whisk should he ever show up.
It's actually the tiniest bit sickening and Rin doesn't know whether to retch or to giggle but she thinks it's fitting for the leader of Itto-ryu to slip the gate without honour, disguised as a woman, for doesn't his dojo just brim with the dregs of the Floating World?
Passing the Sekisho and having these... people... grope her is bad, but losing command of her bowels right after - now that's what Rin calls disgraceful.
Twigs and branches, jutting rock and lichen: there is not much to hold on to but the trail left by one Anotsu Kagehisa, and Rin gives a wicked grin because clearly, he's good, but not that good.
A wedge between the roots and the open sky, she moves her hand between her legs, telling herself it's Manji she needs, suspecting it could well be Anotsu she wants.
Infuriatingly, that Hisoka woman is regal like a heron, a vision with her head bent just so, fingers perpetually caught in a strand of hair, and the thought that Anotsu considers marrying her (to achieve his ends, just a means to an end, right) has Rin frothing in her hideout.
She gnaws her lip feeling guilty but with paper screens this thin it's way too easy to poke a little hole - and surprisingly, what grabs Rin's attention is not so much the bridegroom but the delicate arch of Hisoka's ankle as Anotsu enters her.
She hopes her parents' souls will come to rest once Anotsu's gone and Itto-ryu shattered, but the last time she dreamt of them, her mother cuffed her ear and told her to dust the tokonoma.
Pictures painted red / like Master Sori's finest / artistic licence indeed.
"Anotsu Kagehisa," she yells and immediately feels like a fool, "I've come to kill you," and sure enough, he merely looks... offended.
"You've been following me around for two years, had your belly slit just to pass the Sekisho and crossed Mount Hakusan on nothing but a handful of dried rice," Anotsu chuckles, eyeing her warily, "and you have the nerve to call me mad?"
He marvels how the filly has grown, gawky limbs untangled and poised, though it only takes a sentence like "I have done you great harm, child" to send the girl bawling.
"Seriously, girl, 'that was then, but this is now' is such a load of bullshit I won't even deign to comment, but since you're here and it can't be helped, give me a hand with those bandages... yes, that means now."
A frog at the pool / shadows and waterlillies / sway this way and that.
Rin remembers Hisoka drawing herself up, straight like a rod, reminding Anotsu about the duties of a Samurai wife, and his goodbye must have been the deepest bow Rin has ever seen.
Now that she's gone and "joined" Itto-ryu, Rin bristles when he tells her to hide from their attackers, but when a skull cap, a leg and some fingers whistle past, she simply sits back and starts chewing her wrist.
"Why certainly, young lady, your Flight of the Golden Wasps looks dainty and Ninjitsu but it's a reckless show-off, for a) you neglect your defences, b) you waste a small fortune in throwing knives every time, and c)... hey, mmmpfh... stop that!"
For the time being, they're safe in an abandoned temple, but every little creak and noise makes her twitch, so she crawls over to Anotsu and pleads and nuzzles him a bit until he opens his arms, which leads to Rin's temporary redefinition of the word 'safe'.
"Listen, O-Rin," he mutters feverishly, smelling of earth and dust and sweat while his breath ghosts over her breasts and her hips are jerking upward, "if you survive to marry and have children, don't allow them to follow in our footsteps-"
Judging from his rictus grin it must be painful to talk, so Rin has no idea why Anotsu feels called to snarl that she shouldn't be so naive because honestly, contaminated blades like the Shingyoto-ryu's are the oldest trick in the book.
Rin closes one eye and allows her bone-tired body deeper into the water because lugging a sick, seizing, and starving Anotsu around (currently out cold on a flat rock nearby) is work for grown men, not a slip of girl - even if she's a kenshi.
"Oh come on, 'Hisa-chan, a little bit of tetanus isn't going to kill you, is it, come get up, let's move on to- oh, wait, you're writing in my hand, what are you... 'never call me that name again'... well pardon the fuck out of me, Anotsu-dono."
Had anyone ever told her that one day she'd sing Anotsu to sleep, she'd have thrown a fit; now she waits until his breathing sounds less laboured, tucks him under, and runs off to the woods to smack herself instead.
Lost in the darkness / quivering with sudden light/ a single dew drop.
Fine, it's all perfectly normal and natural, and someone has to take care of the poor sod, if only to kill him properly later, but this ogling his bits... simply has to stop.
Rin is thoroughly disgusted with herself, because over time her view of Anotsu must have shifted from "man who murdered her father and condoned the rape of her mother" to "source of constant heat rash in her yukata".
When Manji finds her down by the lake, caught between Makie, a moribund Anotsu, and what few limbs remain of the Shingyoto-ryu, he feels like slapping Rin till she comes to her senses but settles for washing and putting her to bed.
After they've gone to hell and regrouped, Rin is torn over what upsets her most: Anotsu getting away, again, or his tangible relief in hanging on to Makie.
They say those who don't learn from history are condemned to repeat it, and maybe that's what Kagehisa meant to say - but he's one to talk, rebuilding Itto-ryu from scratch with eight men where there used to be hundreds.
Anotsu sweeps into his dojo like a hawk, hair streaming and eyes ablaze, declaring war against the powers that be, and it takes a sharp eye like Makie's to notice that he's still in pain.
That weird Ainu girl Doa worships the ground Anotsu walks on and yells "fuck the bakufu, fuck the Shogun, we're going underground", but since Manji has disappeared in the bowels of Edo Castle, Itto-ryu has slipped on the list of things that bother Rin.
"Piece of shit wanted to play god", Manji rasps later and probably means the bakufu's half gaijin doctor, though only when Rin peels off his rags and sees the angry red scars does she understand what he's been through.
Between healing, eating, and keeping the rain out, life returns to normality - until she runs into Anotsu who throws her a smug "well, if it isn't my nemesis", and whom (after a quick double take down the alley) she presses up against the wall.
On the way to Kaga and back they had been roughing it, sleeping clothed in ditches and hollows, so when he takes her to an inn, a good one, and curteously folds back the sheets for her, she feels naked for the very first time.
Anotsu must have left in the wee hours, and with his taste still on her tongue and his semen between her thighs, Rin has no drive to move at all.
"Careful, Rin," Manji of all people squeals, "you'll only harm yourself when you're this angry; I mean who the hell taught you Kiri-otoshi like that anywaayyargh-... fuck."
Manji slings a lazy arm low around her belly and smiles into her hair - for no matter where they go from here, she'll always be precious to him.
Like a stomach that stops growling after a long fast, her hunger for revenge is gone, although that only came to pass after she realised she was no better than Anotsu, and with child besides.
"See, I never believed you could do it," Kagehisa says with an exhausted smile, stepping around the spreading stains, "but I think you've just killed me."