Disclamer: I do not own the rights to Naruto, Rurouni Kenshin, or any of their related characters the Character Himura Seijuro is an OC of my design. There now on with the show
-)::(- The Man who Wields the Sakabatou -)::(-
The border towns of fire country were not particularly impressive as a location to visit. Just a smattering of houses and shops on the few major roads out of the forests patrolled by the Shinobi of Konoha. Even so, the small town on the road leading towards waterfall and rock had become the site of a major problem, one that had the hidden village sending a team of Jonin to the backwater hamlet on the tale of a rouge swordsman mercenary from the last Shinobi War. The four elite warriors of the Leaf traveled as quickly as they could through the brush and trees, but with their particular allotment of members this cell was anything but Stealthy...
"HA! Rival Kakashi! It seems our race to the site of our mission is still on! Truly this shall be a PASSIONATE ADVENTURE!" Gai was, as always, not one for stealth if he got excited, and he was easily excited whenever the Hokage made the mistake of pairing He and Kakashi together. But then, this mission revolved around speed not stealth, so Gai's outburst mattered little in the logistical scheme of things. In the emotional balance of his teammates however, it was very much a hindrance.
"Gai! SHUT UP!" Inuzuka Tsume yelled from the lead position of the group, Kuromaru growling lightly in agreement. She and her canine partner had been assigned to this mission to track down this "swordsman" because of their clans' skill in tracking, not for her patience with the green clad Jonin behind her. Kakashi for his part, simply shook his head and focused on the distant lazy columns of smoke from the village chimneys he could see on the horizon. He had better things to do - in his opinion - than chase after a phantom from the last war. With a sigh he glanced to check on the teams final member, and its medic, Shizune. She was the only member of the team beside himself who was not - in Kakashi's own opinion - completely insane, and to his chagrin, she was also the least talkative it seemed. Considering the fact that she had been deployed near this swordsman's area of influence at the time of the war, he couldn't blame her, if it had been one of the ninjas of Rock he was certain he'd be just as tense. It was unfortunate that she had never actually seen the man, but at least she knew more than the rest of the group. Kakashi frowned, for Shizune this would be one hell of a mission, even if she didn't show it to the rest of them. After all he thought, to her, its not every day you go after a legend like the Kiritaki Batousai, still, if he had had his way, he'd be asleep at home right now.
It was nearly midday by the time the group had arrived at the small trading post at the Taki-Konoha border, and the team was currently at a local dango stand discussing their next move.
"Gai, Tsume, I think it would be best if you two and Kuromaru search the woods around the town, and Shizune and I will take the village itself," Kakashi calmly stated from behind his little orange book.
Tsume's reaction was... understandably sour, "What?! You can't be serious Kakashi! Why are you trying to pair me up with him?"
Gai for his part, objected as well, "RIVAL! Surely you do not intend to distance yourself from our grand competition? How will I be able to prove my FIRES OF YOUTH?"
Shizune rubbed the bridge of her nose as she listened to the debate, in truth she agreed with Kakashi, but at the moment she lacked the will to plunge herself into the argument. They were Jonin, not children after all, and she for one was going to act the part. Tuning out the three way argument next to her in the shop, she focused on the description she had all but memorized back when she was just a chunin and her father was still alive. 'Silver hair in a loose ponytail, a katana with a simple black saya, and a cross shaped tattoo on his cheek' It wasn't much to go on she realized, and she cursed her luck for not having ever seen the Batousai in battle. Glancing out the door of the dango stand she nearly fell out of her seat as she caught sight of a mop of silver hair pass out of view and down the road. She stopped herself from running straight after the unknown person with gray hair and turned towards Kakashi. "you three can finish this discussion, if you don't mind, id like to take in the layout of the town,"
Kakashi quickly stood and responded, "thats not a bad Idea, Gai, Tsume, we'll be right back"
As the two left the bar Shizune stole a glance to Kakashi "you tricked them."
He looked up from his book and smiled at her, his visible eye closing in mirth "Oh? I guess I did, imagine that."
Shizune sighed in defeat and scanned the crowd ahead for signs of a silver haired man other than the idiot beside her. She was rewarded with the sight of a man with silver hair, a black saya visible in the folds of his obi, conversing with a fruit stand owner as he examined the stall's apples. Shizune motioned to Kakashi, who nodded his recognition and the two moved closer to their possible target.
"Kakashi, I think thats him, the legendary Kiritaki Batousai" Shizune whispered.
With a second nod Kakashi moved in to apprehend the swordsman. The man himself however didn't seem to notice, or didn't care that he was being stalked by two Konoha Jonin and continued to talk to aged shopkeeper, "this one thanks you again for the hospitality Oji-san, that I do. These apples are quite..."
he didn't get farther in his statements as he jumped up to avoid being grabbed from behind by Kakashi, who stumbled forward in surprise. 'Shunshin? No there was no chakra signature. Its more like Gai's inhuman speed, but there isn't a crater or sign of disruption on the ground... whats going on?' the one eyed Jonin thought with a start, as he spun to follow the swordsman as he landed on top of a second fruit stand, which collapsed under his weight leaving the poor man in a heap on the ground.
"Oro..." the gray haired man groaned incoherently. Shizune looked crestfallen at this sudden ignoble situation their target was in, "This is the legendary Mist of the Waterfall? The swordsman who protected Takigakure during the second Shinobi war when she was still weakened from the first war?"
Kakashi looked less effected, the signs of rot on the support beams of the cart were quite clear to him, "Shizune, this man is skilled, the footwork I was using when i went to grab him is essentially the same stance I use for my Raikiri, and he dodged it without even turning to look at me."
he stooped down to look the man in the eye, "Oi, who are you?" "My name, is Himura Seijuro that it is" the silver haired samurai said as he looked up, "Why are you looking for the Kiritaki Batousai?"
Kakashi glared at him before responding. "A wealthy Merchant gave Konohagakure a request to stop a group of bandits lead by a man calling himself Kiritaki Batousai here in this area."
The old man from the Apple cart gave a somewhat indignant reply to that, "That Merchant, his name was Hebereke Mujina wasn't it? I figured it was only a matter of time before that greedy fool went this far."
Seijuro and the Konoha Jonin looked at the man in surprise, "Oji-san..." Seijuro muttered. The man smiled at them "I must sadly inform you good Shinobi of Konoha that you have been played for fools, please gather your other team-members and meet me at the mayor's house, you as well Himura-san. It seems we have much to discuss."
Several hours later saw the four Jonin and Seijuro at the mayor's house with the old apple salesman. "Oji-san what did you mean that the merchant had tricked Konoha?" The old man took a long drag from a clay pipe and began to tell the story of Hebereke Mujina...
"I am the mayor of this town here on the border, good shinobi, Himura-san... and as such I deal with many of the merchants who travel through here, most are grain peddlers and fruit merchants, but this road is also often the chosen path of Ore traders from rock and from countries outside of the the shinobi nations. For about four months now a group of bandits have been plaguing the trade caravans traveling around and through the town. It didn't matter whether it was a caravan of iron ore or one of freshly harvested rice, the bandits took ever last item of value. All the local merchants in town have fallen on hard times, all except Mujina. He's never been more than a local Sake merchant, but recently his funds have grown larger and larger, despite the fact that not one of his shipments has made it through."
Kakashi frowned, "wait, how can he be making a profit without goods to sell?" Tsume and Shizune both nodded in agreement.
"Yes Master Mayor, my Rival is correct how can he have such a Profit?" Gai voiced.
The old man frowned "Loose lips sink ships they say, Mujina's men have been partying at the bars in town, bragging about easy pay and Mujina's new hired help. One of his men even went into detail about Mujina gaining recent ties to a smuggling and black market dealer in Kumo. As far as I can guess, Mujina concocted the tale of Kiritaki leading the bandits to distance himself from them. Thus when he hired you, he assumed you'd kill his men, and he could slip away to start the whole scam again. Of course, their was one complication in this plan of his. I was in Taki during the war, I saw first hand how Kiritaki acted, this just does not ring true to the style of that man."
Seijuro gave a small smile at this which Kakashi noted, but ignored for the time being as he asked his next question of the elderly mayor, "So then, what was Kiritaki like?"
the silence that hung for the next few minutes as the old man sat before them pipe in hand was downright palpable. "Kenshin" at this utterance from the old man Seijuro's head jerked upwards quite suddenly to look at the elder intensely. Kakashi was the first respond verbally though. "ken shin? 'Heart of sword' thats the translation right?" The old man merely nodded "aye one with his blade was he, and it an embodiment of his ideals in turn. And that sword... I have never seen the like." the old man looked into the distance, his eyes glassy from visions of the past. "A sword that cannot kill, Sakabatou, the reversed blade sword."
Shizune gave voice to the thing the Konoha nin wanted answered next. "Reversed blade sword?"
To her surprise it was Seijuro who gave the answer "A Sakabatou is a katana who's edge is on its back side, so that the blunt of the sword strikes the foe when it is used normally, it is a design of sword made solely to turn batoujutsu and Iaido into non lethal techniques."
"quite an accurate description young man," the elderly man said with a knowing smile "Kiritaki would never plunder the weak or murder, thus I can declare this 'Batousai' you hunt a false one. Now what will you do?"
Gai and Kakashi shared a glance. Both had noticed the subtle actions between the old man and Seijuro, but now was not the time to pursue that. "YOSH! Even though our Batousai is false, we must still save the town from the vile darkness of the attacks! What say you, Rival Kakashi!"
"huh? My opinion Gai?" Kakashi pulled up his Hitai-ate and stared back at Gai with both his own eye and the one that was his living epitaph of Obito. "we hunt down this false false Swordsman and stop the bandits, then we take care of Mujina."
"Yeah!" was Tsume's reply, and Shizune merely nodded.
To their surprise Seijuro rose and with a nod to the old mayor he spoke, his voice and mannerism different from earlier, even as he did so, the faint waver of a dispelling henge revealed a large cross shaped tattoo across his cheek. "Then I will aid you as well, I have no attachment to the name Batousai, all the same, I cannot allow another to wear my title and sully my name. So Let us go and see this copycat bandit and be done with it."
Kakashi and Gai both gave the man a nod of agreement, Shizune looked both surprised and pleased with herself at the same time, she had been right after all! Tsume just looked stunned. After a few minutes more and some general instructions on how to find the bandit camp from the old mayor - whom they learned was named Houshi - the five warriors and one dog set out to find the false Batousai. As he watched them go Houshi bit down on one of his apples that he grew and sold as a hobby, smiling slightly to himself as he sent a silent farewell to his younger friend.
"So Seijuro, you've taken on the mantle of Rurouni again, It would seem fate has more in store for you yet. Maybe you'll find that apprentice you keep saying you want to take on, with you being the last of the Himura line, and unable to have children of your own, it seems your hope for the survival of Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu lies on whomever you take on as an heir... now, to deal with that fool Mujina, these old bones of mine can aid you at least in that old friend."