I don't own Highlander, Rurouni Kenshin, or anything of importance save the love of my family, friends, and two fat cats.
This story popped into my head for unknown reasons, but the premise is that Kenshin is an Immortal, a la Highlander, and is in the San Francisco area on Dec. 7, 1941. Let me state that I am not of Asian heritage, I'm not over 50, and I've never been to San Francisco, so it would seem I'm flying in the face of the wind throughout this story. All I can say is I've read a lot and I hope to bring the storyline through in an interesting and entertaining manner even if I have to take a bit of artistic license with some of the facts. Despite all my research, I just can't know what it was really like, and I have no idea what the original authors may have wanted for the characters I use. Bear with me. I will do the best I can to keep the big, important things real. And if I have a major screw-up, let me know.
Here's where the spoiler warning comes in. If you haven't seen Highlander – End Game or Samurai X – Reflections (Seisouhen) OVA, you may want to skip this part and move on to the story, 'cause the cats are coming out of the bag. If you have seen them or don't care that you haven't, keep forging ahead.
I took only a couple things from Seisouhen, which is a beautiful film but very depressing and not what most of us want for the Kenshingumi. The first thing is that Yamagata-san asks Kenshin to aid the army in an advisory capacity in the Sino-Japanese War, occurring in China in the early 1890's. For my story purposes, this results in the first death, when Kenshin becomes an Immortal. The second thing I took is that his scar fades with that first death, as atonement is reached. I didn't have it fade away completely, though. It is part of what and who he is, and his reminder to never let go of himself again. It simply no longer dominates his features, and can be virtually unnoticeable in most situations. Some would say that conflicts with the Highlander canon - that scars before the first death remain and those afterwards heal completely unless it is an almost head-taking blow. Tough. My story, my rules! And I like the idea that Kenshin has reached atonement, knows that he has, and can move on. It doesn't change his basic nature, but it does allow him to find a balance in his life so that as the occasion demands, he is both silly rurouni and serious Battousai. So on to other Highlander canon I've screwed with…
Most FAQs for the Highlander series state that Immortals are found, not born and they are sterile from birth. The first seems to be a ridiculous premise – they had to have been born somewhere, some time, to some body. Babies really don't come from under the cabbages. I see the potential to be an Immortal as a (very) recessive gene that only takes dominance on occasion. Immortal-potential babies come in the normal way, but many become foundlings because of the times. Life can be tough, and given the ages of most of the Immortals we know and the conditions throughout the world, it was often downright brutal. In my world, Kenshin was not a foundling, but lost his family as Watsuki-san says. As to the sterile-from-birth thing, I offer this scene from Highlander-Endgame which occurs after he – already immortal – kills her, a potential immortal, because he wants them to always be together. She realizes what he's done and what she now is, and is none-too-happy about it.
Kate MacLeod: Stealing's wrong. Lying's wrong. Killing's wrong. What you did goes well beyond wrong.
Duncan MacLeod: Fine. I deserve that, but I want a chance to make it right.
Kate MacLeod: You want to make it right? Then give me back the ability to have children, to grow old with the man I love. How about anything that resembles a normal life? And you took it all away from me.
It may be that she only hopes this is the way it would have been, rather than reality according to the creators, but that's the premise I'm working under. So Kenshin and Kaoru had Kenji, and a couple more children (thanks to those authors who have created other kids – I've used your names for them because I liked them) and life went on…
And as an aside, this idea popped into my head before I read any of L.Mouse's excellent "Swordsmen universe" stories, so I'm not trying to compete or steal any thunder. What can I say except that great minds think alike?! If you haven't read them, go check 'em out. L.Mouse is obviously a much (much much) faster and more dedicated writer than me!
End of notes and time to get on with the story!
Changes – San Francisco, September 1941
"Niitsu-san! We are moving!" Hideo Takamatsu picked his way carefully down the neatly raked path of pebbles into the garden to where his gardener was pulling weeds. His wrinkled face wreathed in a broad smile, he continued: "My son bought nice big house; plenty of room for us. We move in and help with the children when they come to visit. Help with everything else, too. Movers come yesterday and pack whole house. We stay to say goodbye to friends, but we leave in morning."
The man who called himself Tom Niitsu stood up from the gladiola bed where a small pile of weeds lay with their roots exposed to the sun. He was a short man, not much over five feet tall, but the breadth of his shoulders and the ropy muscles that showed where the sleeves of his blue work shirt were rolled back indicated a life of fitness. He appeared to be maybe thirty and of diluted Japanese heritage, with delicate, almost girlish features and wide, lavender-colored eyes. He pulled a red bandana from the back pocket of his jeans to wipe across the sweat on his forehead, under short, shaggy dark brown hair that the sun highlighted in red.
"I knew you were thinking of joining him, but I didn't think it would be this soon. Your son's got six kids, right? So that's a pile of grandchildren to come visiting."
"Great-grandchildren, too," Hideo said proudly. "They are most fun. Spoil them." The old man's eyes crinkled in laughter.
"That is good for all of you, then, but I will be sorry not to see you anymore," he said, his voice a light, pleasant tenor. "Or to taste your wife's ohagi." He smiled and winked.
The old man laughed in return. "You see, we make you more Japanese, just like I said. Soon you go to Japan and find nice lady for wife like Takamatsu-san say."
"No, no! I'm American; I need an American wife." It had been a joke between the two men since they'd met ten years before, with the older man from Japan insisting that too many generations in America had ruined Tom's family and that it needed an infusion of good Japanese blood to make it better.
"Then why you no get one? You have good business, you not ugly – except those eyes. Too light. You not lazy…"
"I haven't met the right one yet," Tom cut in, still laughing. Having Takamatsu-san listing his virtues – or lack thereof – was not something he wanted to listen to. "So you and your wife will go live with your oldest son? What's his name again?"
"Hajime. We will live in Dallas now. Sun shine more than here, he say. No more San Francisco fog."
"Ah, you'll like that, then. Is Mrs. Takamatsu with you? I'd like to say goodbye." Tom set his work gloves on the bench under the arbor and wiped his hands on his jeans as the old man nodded and turned back up the path.
The house was fairly small; a bungalow style with a detached garage, both with cedar shake siding and a tile roof. Tom had never seen the inside. There was a stone patio off the back with a raised stone wall around it, and the yard sloped gently away; a swath of bright green, weedless grass, another low stone wall, and then the gardens. These were done in Japanese style, with a narrow, rock-bottomed stream that meandered through to a koi pond, the water kept circulating with a pump. A semi-circular bridge with high, rounded side beams arched over the stream to access the lower garden. Weeping cherries, willows, and bonsai shrubs dotted the space, partially hiding the bridge, a few strategically placed benches, and a pagoda, and bamboo towered near the pond. The rest of the space was taken up with beds of flowers and ground covers, some blooming, and some providing background. Another, higher stone wall bordered the sides and back of the garden. Beyond that was a stunning view of the city, the bay, and the ocean beyond.
"I tell owners they make deal with you; keep you working on gardens. Until they get new renters, you keep it up. Mow grass. Pull weeds. Make it nice for when they come," Takamatsu said as they shuffled towards the patio on the back of the house, Tom hovering in case the old man's balance was upset. Hideo was closer to eighty than seventy and while still pretty spry, he was slowly becoming more unsteady. Tom made a point of carefully raking the pebbles on the path every time he visited to ensure there were no holes or the tiniest bit of unevenness that might unbalance the old man. They could see Mrs. Takamatsu standing near the rock wall that surrounded the patio, gazing off across the city and the bay towards the Golden Gate. It was a rare clear day and the sight was well worth drinking in. She turned to them as they came up the steps, a tiny, wrinkled lady with her silver hair neatly pinned up in a bun and partially hidden under her hat, a green silk haori-style jacket over a creamy tailored blouse and dark green skirt. She always dressed in a mixture of Japanese and western style that showed grace and elegance. And she always smiled for Tom, hugging him despite his protests that he'd get her dirty.
"We will miss you, Tomio-san," she said, patting his cheek and pressing a small box into his hands. "Thank you for all your work on my garden. I didn't think anyone could keep it up to my standards, but you have surpassed my dreams."
"Thank you for teaching me so much," he said, accepting the gift and bowing, as was their custom.
"You already knew plenty, and you taught me some, too." She said much more, and embarrassed Tom acutely, before they climbed into their big Chrysler, and, with Hideo peering over the dashboard, drove slowly away. Tom peeked into the box and found it full of ohagi, which made him smile. He set it on the seat of his truck, the paint on the door proudly proclaiming "Niitsu Garden and Landscape Services", before returning to the garden and continuing to pull the invaders from the fertile ground they had found.