Rating: T, for blood, violence, and future adult implications.
Pairings: None in this chapter
Summary: How would things have been different, if Himura Kenshin had been born a girl? Genderbender AU, going from the beginning of the series to the end…
Chapter summary: Kenshii gets in more trouble about her sword and meets an old friend from the Bakumatsu, Kaoru learns a bit more about why Kenshii is a rurouni and Enishi goes to visit his sister…
Disclaimer: I don't own Rurouni Kenshin. It belongs to Nobuhiro Watsuki, Shounen Jump, etc.
A week after the Hiruma brothers have gone and the violence of the false Battousai has been put to an end, Adjutant Master of Kamiya Kasshin Ryu Kamiya Kaoru has rushed about recalling her students to revive her school…
"Not a single one!" Kaoru said, fuming. "Not a single one has come back, the cowards! This is unbelievable!"
From where she was doing the laundry, Kenshii looked up, eyes wide and gentle. "It's because we live in an age of culture and enlightenment," she said, folding the now clean sheet. "Once things change, it's hard to go back."
All of a sudden, Kaoru was in her face. "Speaking of unbelievable, what about your age? 28? It's a lie, a trick! Apologize and tell me the truth!"
Kenshii backed away slowly, eyes wide. "Would you prefer 30?"
Kaoru shook her head, deadpan. "Not good enough."
"Don't be so picky, stick girl." Enishi jumped down from where he'd been lounging on the roof of the engawa.
"Don't call me stick girl!" Kaoru shouted at him.
"Don't pick on Kenshii!" he shouted back. "Just because she's too nice and puts up with your mood swings…"
Kaoru stuck her tongue out at him, before brightening and turning to Kenshii, proving Enishi's point.
"Oh, that reminds me - today I'm going to the market, will you two come with me? I need to buy more than usual, so I'll need more hands…"
Kenshii smiled brightly. "We'd love to Kaoru- dono."
"Speak for yourself." Enishi snorted. "I have something to do today."
Kaoru nodded. She didn't want that rude man around in any case – how could Kenshii stand him? If they weren't related and they weren't married…
Oh well. There were some things that would just have to remain mysteries.
"I'll see you at the front gate in five minutes, okay?" she said to Kenshii, who nodded and waved her away.
After Kaoru was gone, there was silence for a moment, before Kenshii spoke.
"You were born in Edo - I mean Tokyo, weren't you Eni-chan."
"Yeah - and stop calling me that."
Though usually this would cause Kenshii to start teasing, her expression was serious. "Are you going to visit her?"
Enishi tensed. "…yes."
"I'll see you soon then." Kenshii nodded, and then went to go meet Kaoru, leaving Enishi alone.
As she walked through the streets of Tokyo slowly, feet encumbered by her white, red and black kimono, Kaoru was pondering her new visitor.
You wouldn't think she'd been the Hitokiri Battousai to look at her.
She thought, watching as Kenshii bumped into a man and apologised sweetly.
After the Bakumatsu, all the old Ishin Shishi patriots lay down their swords and took positions in the new government. If she wanted honour or money or power she could have it without even asking, so why…?
Kaoru was shaken out of her thoughts by Kenshii turning towards her with a sweet smile. "Is there something you wanted to ask me?" she asked. "You have a question in your eyes."
Kaoru hesitated, before remembering her words last time she'd been at the market. We all have things in our past that we don't want to talk about…
She twitched. "Not at all," she shouted, "it's your sword - you can't just walk around with a sword these days!"
Kenshii waved her hands in an effort to calm Kaoru down.
"But just two years ago, lots of people wore them." She said. "Look, its not bothering anybody." She gestured around her, and true enough, no one seemed to care at all that a woman was walking around with a sword strapped to her back.
"But what are you going to do when the police find it, like last time?" Kaoru snapped, "They won't care that it's a Sakabatou."
Kenshii shrugged, still smiling. "If it happens it happens," she said pragmatically, causing Kaoru to huff in exasperation, before she smiled cunningly. "Well then," Kaoru said with false cheerfulness, "let's start with the shopping." Her eyes gleamed, and for a moment Kenshii was reminded of the tales of mischievous shape-shifting tanuki spirits. "You can get the soy sauce, miso, and salt." Kaoru finished.
"Oro!" Kenshii exclaimed. "All the heavy things!"
"Don't complain!" Kaoru sang out happily, before waving Kenshii into the shop.
As Kaoru turned to get the things she needed, a coach rolled up behind her with a clatter of wheels on cobblestones.
"Excuse me, miss," came a deep voice. "I'm a little lost – could you possibly direct me to the police station?" The older man was wearing a cape made of fine cloth, and had a bushy black walrus moustache.
"Oh, yes…" Kaoru turned and pointed up the road, "you just turn right at the large street ahead."
"Thank you." The man nodded, before calling up to his driver. "Let's hurry."
As the carriage rattled away, Kaoru blew a strand of hair out of her eyes thoughtfully. "That startled me. I wonder where he's from; I haven't seen him before…"
Suddenly, she brightened. "Oh well, back to shopping."
Inside the carriage, the man, lit a cigar and blew a strand of smoke into the air. Are you really in this town? He thought. Are you really here…Himura Battousai?
As rowdy noises echoed around the market square, Kaoru looked up from where she was inspecting a daikon.
"What's this commotion?" She asked a workman who was passing by. "What's going on?"
The workman turned to look at her as he answered. "The police caught someone. One of the people who were breaking the sword banning act a few days ago - the pretty girl with red hair."
The daikon broke.
Enishi nodded in thanks to the flower merchant as he studied the bundle of flowers in his hands.
I don't get it nee-chan…what's so good about irises? Other flowers are prettier, why don't I get you those?
A gentle look from deep black eyes, a soft smile curling pale lips up, and the soft scent of white plums…
I like irises best, because they're like me – they look most beautiful in the rain.
Enishi stretched as a ray of sunlight broke through the clouds. He hoped nee-chan would like the flowers.
Meanwhile, in the marketplace, Kenshii was backed up against a wall – literally.
"You can't run away!" cried a policeman.
Kenshii raised a hand to scratch her head, taking in the situation. There were half a dozen police officers around her in a semicircle, carrying long poles and hemming her in with her back to a wall.
"That's true, you're very persistent."
"I suppose there's nothing to be done - I'll go peace-"
"Out of the way!"
"-fully…" She blinked.
The people at the back of the crowd were being roughly shoved forward by a gang in…uniforms?
"Sword-bearing police coming through!"
Sword-bearing police – the policemen permitted to wear swords. An elite group, selected from among the best for their ability at Kenjutsu.
Kenshii watched silently as the group came forward – whilst most of the men were roughly shoving people to the sides, one man was simply walking forward, eyes narrow and set on the scene before him.
Tentatively reaching out with her senses, her eyes narrowed at what they were telling her - the man stank of blood lust, like a miasma of rotten sewage around him.
This man didn't want to see justice done; he just wanted to see blood.
As the man stopped in the area his men had cleared, one of the policemen who had Kenshii surrounded stepped forward, nervously saluting.
"Cap-captain Ujiki!" stuttered the policeman.
Without even looking at him, the newly dubbed Captain Ujiki answered. "Good work. We'll take it from here. Return to headquarters."
Sweating, the policeman answered. "B-But she hasn't shown any sign of drawing her sword, and she just agreed to go peacefully…"
Realising his superiors eyes were on him for the first time, the poor policeman sweated even more, but gamely struggled to continue on.
"…so we shouldn't need any help to bring her in…"
The policeman was interrupted by the hilt of the captain's sword crashing into his nose, crushing the cartilage and sending the policeman reeling back to the ground as blood splattered out of his nose.
Kenshii's eyes narrowed.
"Are you trying to give me advice?" Captain Ujiki said, ignoring the pain of the man on the ground before him. "If I say get out of here, get out of here."
His eyes landed on Kenshii. Though her face was smooth and expressionless, inside a part of her was worried. This man was insane, and you could never quite anticipate what someone insane would do – you could make a good guess, but there was always the possibility of failure, and failure was not acceptable.
"What's this?" Ujiki questioned mockingly. "Looks like a nice girl…"
Suddenly he drew his sword, so swift it was practically a blur, and the gathered crowd gasped as a woman covered her eyes.
Kenshii didn't move, not even paying attention to the sword that was currently only an inch or two from the end of her nose.
Captain Ujiki's eyes got even crazier, if that was possible, the irises contracted around the small dots of his pupils. "Why don't you draw your sword?" he asked, voice deceptively calm. "You must be pretty confident in your abilities to be wearing a sword in Tokyo."
Kenshii raised a hand and delicately used two fingers to push the sword down, away from her face.
"Why would I draw my sword recklessly?" she asked, voice emotionless. "I have no reason to show off."
"Humph." Ujiki smirked, drawing his sword back and resting it on his shoulder, before his eyes flashed and he swung.
Eyes wide from where she was watching, having just managed to arrive, Kaoru barely stifled the cry that wanted to burst out of her throat - she'd grown up around swords, and the first thing she'd learned was that they were dangerous, she didn't want to distract Kenshii at a crucial moment and get her injured.
Kenshii's expression didn't change as the captain's sword came towards her neck – and cut through the tie holding back her hair.
Ujiki smirked as long red locks settled over her kimono, and now there was a difference in his expression. It was still dark, still full of bloodlust, but now there was another kind of lust. "Next thing I cut will be your kimono." He said softly. "Draw your sword."
"Can you…really be the police…?" Kenshii questioned softly, her eyes narrow and a cold, hard blue.
"That's right!" crowed Ujiki, smug as he rested his sword on his shoulder. "Permitted to wear swords, licensed to kill, the sword-bearing police!"
Kaoru watched, eyes tormented.
I don't understand. She thought, flashing back to Kenshii beating Gohei and his thugs. She can beat him, I know she can - why won't she draw her sword?
The crowd had had enough. "This is tyranny!" yelled one. "Don't push it cop!" shouted another. "Leave her alone, you perverts!"
Ujiki smirked, turning so the crowd wasn't at his back. "Jeering from the crowd." He purred, sickly smirking. "You must be pretty brave…"
He turned to his men. "Arrest them! All of them." They drew their swords, excitement showing in their expressions - but Ujiki wasn't finished. "If any resist..." His eyes narrowed as his smirk stretched into a grin, "…kill them."
Panicked the crowd fled, Kaoru hemmed in by the press of bodies and unable to help. The police chased after them, grinning wider with every panicked scream –
"Don't touch them!" Came an enraged voice. The crowd froze, and Kaoru shivered at the sheer anger radiating from the small, red headed figure dressed in black. "Don't touch a single one of them – if you want an opponent, I'm here."
Ujiki looked at narrow amber eyes – and smiled.
"I feel like someone just walked over my grave." He murmured, before turning back to the figure before him.
"It's nice to see you again nee-chan. I missed you." He sighed. "I think you'd like Kenshii though. Yes, she was the Hitokiri Battousai, and the one who killed Akira-san, but…well, it's complicated. She took me in when I had no-one, even though I was a real brat then…"
"I remember you always looked so strained whenever I had a temper tantrum…"
The smile faded. "I'm sorry nee-chan. Maybe, if I hadn't been so selfish, if I had paid more attention to the look in your eyes, you wouldn't…be gone." He closed his eyes and bowed his head.
"She reminds me of you, you know." He said so softly that he could barely hear himself. "I didn't realise it at first, when I hated her for taking away your happiness, for making you sad, for making you-" he stopped, choking on his words, and then continued.
"She has trouble showing her emotions like you, or at least she did – she's gotten better at it, these past ten years. And she feels so deeply, just like you…"
"I'm sorry nee-chan." He said, his voice soft.
He bowed his head. "I'm sorry I couldn't protect you…but I won't make that mistake with Kenshii. I will protect her, like I couldn't protect you…"
His voice softened. "…from yourself…"
Leaning forward he gently placed his fingertips on the stone before him. "Nee-chan…"
"I see, so the rumours of Battousai being here were because of an imposter."
Inside the commissioner's office, two men sat talking. One of the men, who had a big walrus moustache, an expensive uniform, and a cigar in his mouth spoke to the other, a smaller man with round glasses.
"I was so busy settling the matters that rose up from the Seinan war that I haven't been able to get here before now, and I had to rush. I'm sure if I'd had time to think about it and read the reports, I'd have realised…Battousai wasn't that large, and there was no mention of the hair or the scar…"
He suddenly chuckled. "Then again, I've been looking in the entirely wrong direction. He always was sneakily clever, was Kogorou…" the moustached man said reminiscently.
The other man raised his eyebrows. "Katsura Kogorou?"
"Right – he was Battousai's main commander. And he kept a secret…if he hadn't left a letter, no-one would have known, but he wanted Battousai to receive the rewards she deserved – and so do I."
The man with the glasses froze, mouth open. "Sh-she!" he stuttered.
Eyes gleaming, Yamagata Aritomo smiled. "Yes, that was roughly my reaction too."
Suddenly turning serious, he stumped out his cigar. "Himura was never the type of person to show off her strength. She killed yes – she killed many, but it was for the new era, never her own gain."
He raised his eyes, setting them on Uramura's. "Himura saved many Ishin Shishi lives with her sword - including mine. Without Himura Battousai, the revolution would not have been successful. I will find her, and grant her the rewards she deserves – I had planned to give her a job in the emperor's military, but now that I know her gender…"
Uramura blinked. "Ah, yes, that would be rather hard to hide, wouldn't it? It's been a decade since the Bakumatsu, so even if she were young enough then to pass for a boy, she wouldn't be able to now."
Yamagata nodded. "Ah. Himura could act as an advisor, teach, or simply take a position high up in the government, and when she retires or marries, she would receive monetary compensation for all her work." He sighed. "But first I need to find her…"
Clearing his throat, Uramura ventured a comment. "About the false Battousai…the culprits were found beaten in front of the station – beaten so badly they weren't even secured as none of them could move enough to be a threat."
Yamagata blinked. "Do you know who did it?" he asked.
Uramura pushed his glasses up his nose nervously. "It's probably just talk but…they claim it was the 'real one'. The real Battousai."
Eyes wide, Yamagata gaped slightly. "What..."
Just then, the door burst open, revealing a panting young man in a police uniform. "It's terrible chief!"
Spluttering, Uramura rose. "Idiot! There's a guest here! Can't you knock?"
The young policeman snapped into a salute. "I apologize sir! But it's the sword-bearing police…"
Uramura frowned. "Ujiki! He's at it again I suppose!"
"Sword-bearing police?" Yamagata asked. "I haven't heard that name."
"It's a group of swordsmen. They were formed to deal with the fake Battousai problem, but even after he's in jail they're still hanging around – and though they were formed by orders from Tokyo, their captain and most of the men are from Satsuma."
Yamagata frowned as he realised what that meant. "I see, they can be arrogant, as Satsuma are the ones in charge of the police, as we Choushu are in charge of the army."
As Yamagata began to gather up his travelling coat and hat Uramura turned to the young officer. "What did they do this time?" he questioned, resigned.
The officer swallowed. "A-actually, they're still fighting – and it's only one person."
Uramura gaped. "What!" he shouted. "That's ridiculous! They're some of the finest swordsmen in the country! I can't believe it!"
"But it's true!"
"Who is it?" Uramura asked frantically. "Who is the swordsman!"
The officer hesitated. "W-we don't know…but it's not a swordsman…"
His voice got softer as though he couldn't believe what he was saying. "It's a woman."
"Yes – dressed all in black, with red hair, and she moves faster then the eye can see…"
Yamagata's eyes got wider. Could it be…?
"Oh – and she has a scar on her left cheek, in the shape of a cross!"
Himura Battousai! I've found you at last!
As Yamagata rushed from the carriage, his eyes widened as he saw Himura Kenshii land from a jump, followed by the last standing members of the sword corps falling to the ground, crying from the pain of broken bones and crushed ligaments.
Amber eyes stared into the maddened eyes of Captain Ujiki.
"And then there was one…"
Somehow the fact that the words were spoken in such a sweet voice made them even more terrifying. Ujiki sweated as he raised his sword into the guard position.
Kenshii felt his ki out again, and frowned inwardly, though her face didn't move from its frozen expression. The man in front of her truly was mad, and though normally she would try to convince him to stop terrifying the townspeople, she doubted he would actually use the chance she would give him.
She nodded to herself as she decided – the policemen from before had seemed reasonable, and brave to stand up to Ujiki. She would get rid of this rabid dog that dared to call itself a swordsman, and then allow herself to be arrested for violating the sword banning act.
Her eyes narrowed at Ujiki, as he raised his sword so it was shoulder height and parallel to his head. She recognised the stance.
"Come." She said softly, and he charged.
In the crowd Kaoru's eyes widened. That stance…it's the 'ni-no-tachi irazu' style of Jigen Ryu – the best school in Satsuma!
"Stop Ujiki!" Uramura cried out. "That woman is -"
"Your captain Ujiki is a fool." Yamagata said simply. Uramura turned to him. "But that stance! Ujiki is a master of Jigen Ryu! That's one of the strongest sword styles in Japan!"
Yamagata looked at him, before turning back to Ujiki and Kenshii. "One of." He said softly. "Yes, the Jigen Ryu is certainly unique and very strong, but…"
Ujiki finished his charge and swept his sword down - onto air.
From above Kenshii narrowed her eyes and calculated. She didn't want to kill the dog, only make sure he would never use a sword again, so she had to make sure she didn't break his back.
"…Against Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu it is nothing."
As she landed, sheathing her sword, Ujiki fell to the floor. Most of the people hadn't even seen her swing.
For a moment, everything was silent, as if the world itself was afraid of breaking the moment, and disturbing the tableau of the red-haired woman, ragged black sleaves blowing slightly from the wind of her movement, bangs shadowing her eyes.
Then – the sound of geta clattering on cobblestone as Kaoru ran up to her house guest.
"Kenshii! Are you alright?" As Kenshii turned towards Kaoru, she held her breath – then let it out in a huff of relief as she saw that not only was Kenshii unharmed, her eyes were violet again.
Kenshii smiled softly, her eyes closing. "Ah, I'm alright Kaoru-dono. Thank you for asking." She bowed slightly in thanks.
As if Kaoru had broken a spell, all of a sudden the crowd rushed Kenshii, crying out in congratulations.
"Well, done! That showed them! Come have a drink with us!" As the crowd crushed them Kaoru yelped and Kenshii oro-ed.
"Himura!" Kenshii turned and her eyes widened as she saw the two men. "I've finally found you." Yamagata continued. 'I've been looking for ten years…"
"Yamagata-san." Kenshii said softly as she squirmed her way free of the crowd. "You've grown a moustache."
Yamagata walked over to them as policemen started pushing the crowd away and gathering up the sword corps.
Kaoru stared at the man she recognised from the carriage – the one who had asked her for directions to the police station.
Yamagata-san, Kenshii had called him.
Could he be Yamagata Aritomo, General of the Army?
One of the greatest of the Ishin Shishi…
"Himura," said Yamagata, holding out his hand, "come, the carriage is waiting."
Kenshii tilted her head curiously. "Carriage?"
"Of course!" Yamagata exclaimed. "Many from our former unit have been waiting for you to return! It is time you received the rewards you have so justly earned!"
"Rewards?" Kenshii questioned, tense. She didn't think Yamagata-san would kill her, but she'd been wrong before…
"The payment you left before receiving, the honour due to a patriot as great as you, and the position in our government that is rightly yours." Yamagata explained.
Relaxing slightly, Kenshii tilted her head. "Honour, money, power…you really think I fought for any of those?" she said softly.
"Of course not!" Yamagata said, affronted. "You fought for a new era where all could live in peace! But you left before you could be rewarded!"
"Look around you Yamagata-san." Kenshii said, gesturing around at the marketplace. "Look at the children playing, and the sun shining, at the shops full of food. Look at the people who walk freely, heads held high. This is all the reward I desire. And besides…"
She smiled bitterly. "I don't feel the slightest longing for the glorious work of the hitokiri."
"What!" Yamagata stepped forward, face red. "If you are talking about the assassinations, don't worry about them! They were simply part of the great work of the Ishin Shishi!"
Kenshii raised an eyebrow, face expressionless. "Running up behind someone in the rain and killing them and their bodyguards before they could even scream was part of the great work of the Ishin Shishi?" You could barely hear the sarcasm. "There is a reason Hitokiri Battousai is considered a demon Yamagata-san – I have no interest in waking that demon from its sleep."
Yamagata was flustered. "Yes, some hated the hitokiri, but those people-"
"Are suppressed by government authority?" Kenshii's voice whipped out like a lash, sending Yamagata back a step, eyes wide.
She softened slightly, nodding towards where Ujiki was being carried off, his eyes rolled up to show the whites. "To think like that leads to conceit and arrogance, just like it did to the sword corps." Her voice got softer. "…just like it did the shogunate…"
She looked Yamagata in the eye. "We once fought together for an ideal with our swords. It wasn't for power or for glory, but to create a peaceful world where people could live without fear. And, if you should forget about that, then what did we fight the revolution for?"
Yamagata was silent. Kenshii turned to go. "If we forget what we fought for, then we are not revolutionaries – just usurpers."
"But Himura!" Yamagata called. Kenshii and Kaoru turned to face him. "The times have changed! It is the Meiji era, and there is an edict against wearing swords! The samurai have been abolished – it's not like the Bakumatsu!" He stepped forward, desperate to make her see. "In this world, in this era, without government power one sword can do nothing!"
Smiling, Kenshii placed her hand on Kaoru's shoulder, causing her to look down in surprise. "But with one sword, I can protect the people around me." Kaoru glanced up at her, eyes wide and a soft blush on her cheek. Kenshii …
"As long as I have this one sword, I can protect the happiness of those in my sight, one by one. That is enough."
Yamagata's eyes widened, as Kenshii took her hand down and turned to go. "I'm still the same as the old days Yamagata-san, except that the Hitokiri is now the rurouni. Good day."
Watching the two women walk away, Yamagata was surprised by the soft voice from behind him. "Commissioner…"
He turned to face Uramura, suddenly looking very tired and very old.
"Judging by the townspeople's actions, I think it is obvious who is at fault here." He said.
Uramura nodded. "Of course."
Pushing his glasses up his nose, Uramura smiled. "As her sword represents no danger in this matter, I think we can close our eyes."
With a small smile on his face, Uramura looked at where the two women were leaving. "Because of the fake Hitokiri Battousai," he said "I imagined someone more dangerous."
"But now I see…the real one is different."
Kaoru tilted her head back, letting the wind ruffle her ponytail. The sun was setting, and she could already tell it was going to be a lovely night.
She looked at Kenshii as she walked ahead, red hair streaming down the back of her yukata. I think… I'm beginning to understand now – why Kenshii became a rurouni, but…
…there's still one more mystery…
Kenshii smiled. "You still have a question in your eyes." She said softly.
Kaoru hesitated. She really wanted to know… but would Kenshii get upset?
She looked over to wear Kenshii was smiling at her, looking incredibly patient.
"Why do you put up with him?" she burst out. She hesitated, but then continued on, eager to ask her question before she lost her nerve. "He's so irritating! And arrogant! And mean, and sarcastic, and-"
Kenshii interrupted. "Tell me Kaoru-dono – what is the first rule of sword care?"
Kaoru blinked, but answered. "Always clean your sword." She answered.
"Ah." Kenshii nodded. "And the second?"
"Always sheathe your sword."
Kenshii smiled at her. "Do you know why that is?"
Kaoru nodded. "Sheathing the sword prevents it from being exposed to water that could rust it or could make the steel more brittle and easier to break."
"Very true – but that is not all a sheathe does. A sheathe protects a sword form the elements, yes – but it also protects it from itself."
"Yes. When the sword is sheathed, it prevented form slashing wildly, and getting soaked in blood that causes deterioration and rust."
Kaoru hesitated. She got the feeling that they were talking about more then swords right now, but she didn't quite understand what Kenshii was getting at.
"What does this have to do with you and Enishi?" she asked.
"It's quite simple," Kenshii smiled, "Hitokiri Battousai was a drawn sword, soaked with blood – Enishi is my sheathe."
Kaoru blinked, feeling strangely ashamed. The sheer feeling in those four words…Enishi is my sheathe…
Kenshii started to walk again, huffing as she swiped a lock of hair out of her face. She needed to get another hair tie…
Kaoru looked as Kenshii fussed at her hair, and then smiled.
Still smiling, Kaoru grabbed the end of her ribbon – a blue one this time, the colour of the morning sky – and pulled it off. Her hair settled along her back like a river of ink.
Kenshii's eyes widened in shock as she felt cool hands lifting her hair, pulling it back from where it had been falling in her face.
"Kaoru-dono?" she questioned "What are you doing?"
"That nasty policeman broke your hair tie, and it looked like it was getting in your way."
Kenshii turned wide eyes on her, before feeling behind her head and pulling the ribbon to where she could see it.