Disclaimer: I do not own Rurouni Kenshin or the French lines in this story. See below for translations of the French lines and for credits.
le viol, le poison, le poignard, l'incendie (1)
She was twenty-two, young, cheerful, and the best spy they had.
The paper was cool in her hands, even as she struck a match and stoked a fire over the delicate penmanship of the words. It was a breezy spring in France (unusual for the nighttime), the bustling of cabs outside her apartment apparent through the open windows. She pitched the burning paper into the fireplace and watched as the inferno spread through her temporary home. Without looking back, without sparing a glance for the finely furnished rooms of her luxurious apartment, Misao Makimachi took a breath and leapt out her window. The shadows covered her small figure as she landed in a soft crouch, vibrant eyes glimmering in the darkness.
on to you. Do not stay behind. Burn this letter and any evidence you
have when you have finished reading."
It was a breezy night, and the wind carried her on as she sprinted through the alleyways of Versailles. She had a job to do.
II. N'ont pas encore brodé de leurs plaisants dessins (2)
Saitou Hajime (alias Fujita Goro) was used to staying up at odd hours in his uppity corner of the police department. The French were getting restless and even his old instincts told him that trouble was brewing in the seedy underbelly of Paris. He flicked the ash off his cigarette into the trashcan and grunted.
When he looked up, she was standing right in front of him.
"What the hell do you want?" He leaned back in his chair, groaning as the aches in his joints made known their protests and eyed the petite woman in front of him with distaste.
Her lips curved into an easy-going smile, eyes open and mocking, laughing. "You lost him, didn't you? You lost track of where he went and then he figured out where I was." She took out a slip of paper and slowly undid the red ribbon around it. He didn't miss the importance of the red ribbon. It was a sign, one of many that her organization had, and it meant that time was running out.
He swore viciously, threw the burnt out nicotine-infested stick in the trashcan at his feet and snatched the paper from her hands. She smirked, even though he knew that she wasn't actually feeling confident. This was the first time that anyone had ever managed to trace her to her hideout, and the first time that anyone had slipped past his radar. If he were a man of normal tendencies, he would've called the game up and quit. But Saitou wasn't normal and he certainly wasn't about to lose to Shinamori. Amber eyes narrowed as they took in the carefully written words, handwriting he recognized and loathed as much as he hated helping out one of her kind.
your men up as soon as you can. They're making their move tonight."
He looked up from the paper just in time to see her figure meld into the shadows. He snorted despite the gravity of the situation and reached for another cigarette. Ever so dramatic; she was embarrassingly predictable. He brought the lighter up to his mouth and flicked the switch on, watching as the smoke trailed in lazy circles through the air.
It was midnight; he still had time.
Two hours later, the alarms went off.
III. Le canevas banal de nos piteux destines (3)
He was not a patient man and did not stand for their foolish attempts at delaying his plans. It had been a mere inconvenience at first, being watched from all corners even as he watched them. The French police were incompetent fools, so he hadn't been worried. Money could buy a lot; it could buy power, fame, love, and loyalty. Apparently, money couldn't buy the Commissaire de police. He'd realized, after three months of being followed everywhere, that the new commander wasn't like any of the others he'd encountered so far. This one at least, was brutal, cunning, and quick as a fox. So it was that the annoyance had spread quickly to frustration and mild delays.
If it had stopped there, he would've dealt with it easily enough. Saitou Hajime was only one man, and all men could die. The assassination had been meticulously planned (an honor that he believed the man masquerading as Fujita Goro hadn't deserved). He'd planted some of his men in high positions, a risky maneuver, and had bided his time.
Those men were now lying six feet underground with a great smattering of bullets through their bodies and he had been nearly discovered.
He knew then that the famed L'association de Curateurs had taken a hand in his dealings and dispatched his men so swiftly. Now, four months later after Saitou's failed assassination, Shinamori Aoshi was ready to take matters into his own hands—literally. The blades hissed softly as they slid into their respective sheaths and ice blue eyes flicked to the corner, a hint of brutality in his tone. "Tonight, it ends."
Hannya looked back at him, a grotesque mask fashioned from ivory sitting placidly over old scars, and nodded slowly. "Your men are already positioned and Saitou has been spotted. There will be resistance, are you sure you want to go out there?"
A stiff nod was his response and as the door slid shut behind the both of them, the wind swept away the criminal mastermind's last words.
"He will die tonight and then there will be none left to oppose my rule. When dawn arrives, I will hold the world in my hands."
It was a breezy spring night and not a single person paid the two figures any mind as they melded softly, discreetly into the dark night.
IV. C'est que notre âme, hélas! n'est pas assez hardie. (4)
From the outside, the building didn't look special. It was worn at the edges and the concrete had been splashed with rebellious words from France's teenagers. A barely-there door creaked every so often with the wind and the hinges groaned continuously. The windows were shattered, the imprints of bullets still there among the glass shards as if they had been there only since yesterday. It smelled of despair and murder, of dying last words and conspiracy plans made by thugs who didn't know a life beyond the underworld.
The building was the safest place on Earth.
She slipped through the foliage of the trees and landed lightly on the roof, pale skin flashing by the dim light of the moon. Almost effortlessly, she turned and caught the tip of a poisoned dart, reversing the weapon and sending it back at the trees. There was a muffled curse and the sound of a body hitting the ground before other shadowy figures emerged from the cover of leaves and bare bark. "You barely missed hitting him." Omasu's tone was scolding, pretty brown eyes now slanted in a calculating and almost harsh expression.
Misao laughed softly and flexed her fingers. "You know I would never harm one of our own."
The other darkened figures chuckled amongst themselves, the tension in the atmosphere lessening rapidly.
"I trust you destroyed the note and delivered the message to Saitou as I asked, right?" The tone was warm and caring, hardly becoming of the most esteemed member of their small, but efficient spy network. Okina strode out through the creaky door and the squeaking hinges to flash a brief smile at her.
She nodded, leaping off the roof to kneel in front of him. "The bastard of a wolf knows what has to be done. Now, the question is, what will you have us do?"
"Nothing. Now, we wait."
Far away from the safety of France's last hope, the flames of war stirred, lighting streets and houses alike on fire. Far away, Saitou Hajime checked his watch, spat out his last cigarette (damn, he'd need to buy a new pack tomorrow) and ordered his men to fire at will. Far away, Aoshi Shinamori withdrew his twin blades and carved a new world.
Tonight, Versailles would burn.
(1) If rape
and poison, dagger and burning
(2) Have still not embroidered their pleasant designs
(3) On the banal canvas of our pitiable destinies,
(4) It's because our souls, alas, are not bold enough!
Author's Note: These wonderful and striking words were written in 1857 by Charles Baudelaire. The actual section of his five-part epic used in this story is from Les Fleurs du Mal (The Flowers of Evil). I apologize for any confusion this prologue may have caused you, but rest assured that the fog will clear in the following chapters. I am not a native French speaker and do not presume to have all the phrases written correctly, so please refrain from feeling offended if you spot an error. Please review or drop me a line if you feel like this chapter was worth your time and effort. Every comment counts and I will need all the encouragement I can get to finish what is looking more and more like an epic.