Disclaimer: In no way, shape or form do I own Rurouni Kenshin (except…for the mangas in my room…) or do I claim ownership of their stories (except…for the one you're reading right not…)

Disclaimer: In no way, shape or form do I own Rurouni Kenshin (except…for the mangas in my room…) or do I claim ownership of their stories (except…for the one you're reading right not…)

Yes! A new story! A finished story! Note the key word: finished…I can assure you that this story is completed in all its myriad forms. You'll never have to curse me for my bad updating again! You can even ask my beta reader (she's awesome!)

NOTE: My updates will now come on a strictly periodic basis. One chapter a month, on the first of the month. Period.

Historical note: I have messed with the timeline slightly. Kenshin is younger, Kaoru is the same age, as are Yahiko and Sano. The Bakumatsu was only five years ago.

Dedicated to my made-of-awesome beta-reader, the Kiyomi half of Banana Rum.

Posted: June 1, 2008

.:TheseDreams:.

.:chapter.one.intrusion:.

Song(s) to Listen to While Reading: "Black Roses Red" by Alana Grace; "Main Title" by: James Newton Howard (Peter Pan); "These Dreams" by Heart

"The White Rabbit put on his spectacles. 'Where shall I begin, Your Majesty?' he asked.

'Begin at the beginning,' the king said very gravely. 'and go on till you reach the end; then stop.'"

- Lewis Carroll, "Alice in Wonderland".

Kamiya Kaoru sighed and shook her head as she took a half burnt candle from the cabinet and lit it. As usual, Yahiko had forgotten to leave one out for her and there was no counting on Sano for anything other than fighting and eating food. Still, they were her only real friends in the world, ones who tolerated her faults, ones she could never bring herself to give up. No matter what they did, Kaoru loved them. Her fingers trembled as she disposed of the match and held the candle up behind one hand. She shivered violently as a cold wind came rushing through the dojo. Along with it came bad memories of darkness and of pain and of death.

But there really wasn't any reason to be thinking of those memories at a time like this. She shut the kitchen door firmly to prevent that wind from entering again, just to be safe.

In a nearby room she could hear Yahiko snoring loud enough to disturb the peaceful night. And since Sano was a surprisingly light sleeper, she didn't know how he could get a wink of sleep. Coming close to her own room, Kaoru's thoughts were brought to loneliness. Even with Sano and Yahiko living with her, she wished for something more. There was no one for her to stare at late at night. Or even to think about during the moon's temporary reign. As she thought longingly about laying down on her futon, pulling the blankets up and fading into sleep, she knew that it would be a long night. Thoughts of love would haunt her.

For as long as she could remember, Kaoru had always dreamed of a valiant samurai who feared no one, not even the Hitokiri Battousai, who was said to have demonic powers. He had a shinning katana and gleaming eyes; he would slay any monster terrorizing her. And then he would whisk her far away, to live high in the mountains where legend was abundant. There she would live with her loving samurai, watching over their children, and living life contentedly. But he had never come. Her samurai had never swept her off her feet, away from daily life.

When the Bakumatsu had drawn to a close and her father was found near to death in a devious forest a half year before the last battle, Kaoru had assumed full responsibility of the dojo her father had given half his life to. But that hadn't stopped her from still hoping for her samurai. After a year or so, when the only man to come her way had been Sano, a large portion of Kaoru's dreams had died, laying themselves down to sleep forever. After that, she had decided to keep her own counsel in many things. The men of her village were all too old, too young, or permanently crippled, body and soul. No one appealed to her, and her only desire seemed to be a simple life filled with friends.

The death of her father played a monumental role in that. He had been the driving force in her life. Since her mother had passed away when she was three, Kaoru was a natural tomboy. Her father had taught her to cook, which accounted for her serious lack of skills in that area. Her father had given her a gi and hakama instead of a kimono. He had taught her swordsmanship, not proper ladylike manners. Her father had been everything to her.

The fact that it had been said that her father had come out alive from a duel with the Hitokiri Battousai was nothing but a constant source of pride to Kaoru. Many people had scoffed at her father's non-killing ways over the years, determined to drag such ideals down. But Kamiya Koshijiro had been left by the Battousai in a forest alone to die, and it was proof enough of his strength that even that happened. Hours thereafter, lying in a rural doctor's clinic, Koshijiro had sent his daughter a very curious letter, delivered with his effects after his death.

He had been carrying with him a very recent picture of her, he wrote. During the fight, it had slipped out of his gi, where he always kept it.

'To my astonishment, my opponent halted. He stopped and bent down to pick up your picture Kaoru. I watched him stare at you curiously, for as he did so, he flicked the blood from his blade. After agonizing a few moments, Battousai stalked over to me. His gait was odd, smooth.

He stared at me, then folded your photograph and tucked it into my hand. My heart turned cold when he did this, for I was sure that his intention was to kill me then, when I was prone, but he obviously did not. All this man did was lean closer. He put his mouth to my ear and whispered, "My bride would not like it if I killed her father."

And then he vanished.'

That had occurred when Kaoru was fifteen, and supposedly the same age as the Hitokiri Battousai.

Only six hours after the fateful encounter, Koshijiro had been pronounced dead; killed off by a violent infection.

When the letter first arrived, Kaoru had been terrified that the assassin would come for her. At that time, she'd had no one to stay with her; the large dojo had been empty and echoing. Sano and Yahiko had not yet fallen into her life, and the neighbors had still been giving her space to mourn properly. All she had been able to think about was the way Battousai's katana would slice through her soft flesh after he'd taken his pleasure from her unwilling body. She had even seriously considered packing up and moving, consulted her few remaining friends about her plans. But in the end, the expenses would have proved too much had she decided to do so.

Now that she had turned nineteen, a better control on her emotions, and more security in her holdings, Kaoru had serious doubts that the revered and feared assassin would seek her out. Sano, once known as the infamous and unbeatable Zanza, had a lot to do with that security, as did her own improved skills in swordsmanship. And Yahiko was as good an ear as any Bakumatsu spy for rumors. She was safe.

Sliding her bedroom door open, Kaoru turned back with a softly uttered "Kuso." She had forgotten to put away the rice. Since it was either Yahiko or Sano who cooked the dubious meals, Kaoru was usually the one to clean up afterward. And she knew from experience that food left out at night would be gone by morning, with muddy raccoon tracks scattered about.

Her feet padded into the kitchen, thoroughly annoyed with the obstacle between her and her futon. There she felt the rush of wind again. This time it felt warm, caressing, and searching. She stopped, and turned to see that the door was open, the very door that she had closed before heading down the hall. Brow furrowed, Kaoru trotted over and looked about that end of the room. She didn't know of any wild animals capable of opening doors on their own.

So the only logical conclusion was that there was a human intruder lurking about.

She poked one hand outside towards the training yard and wiggled it, waiting for something to latch onto it. When something failed to happen, she stuck her head out, feeling incredibly foolish. There didn't seem to be anything out of the ordinary, although it was too dark for her to tell for sure. Kaoru squinted and squinted, but try as she might, nothing caught her attention; until her eye seized upon one hint of movement by the gate. Faint though it was, it was enough for her.

Kaoru jogged back down the hall, her heart pounding in a rapid beat against her chest. She'd only had one other break-in scare in her entire life. It had been only two weeks after her father's death and she had found no hard evidence of a trespasser, but it had scared her to the very marrow of her bones. Being a fifteen year old, alone in a large dojo, with no family to speak of, did not promote confidence after a break-in. She had sat awake late into the night for weeks afterward out of fear.

Reaching Sano's door, she threw it open. "Sano!"

He was awake within seconds, looking up at her from the comfort of his futon. "What is it Jou-chan?"

"I think I saw something outside when I went to put the rice away."

No other explanation was needed. Sano's face hardened as he stood up and he cracked his knuckles on the way to the kitchen. He was very serious when it came to protecting his "little sister". But when they got there, the kitchen door was closed. Shut firmly and looking like it had never been open. Sano turned to her. "Jou-chan, was this some kind of joke?"

"No!" Kaoru swore the door had been open.

"Jou-chan?" He gave her a questioning look, still not believing her.

Kaoru put her hands on his forearms. "Sano, I'm serious. It was open just a few minutes ago." She injected some of the real panic that she was holding back into her voice, because she could remember the feelings that had plagued her after the last break-in all too well. "I don't know why this is happening either."

He studied her face intently, then sighed. "Alright. If you really want me to, I'll go have a look around. But only after you tell me why this has you so rattled."

"Later Sano! They might still be out there!"

Since Sano couldn't refute her point, he headed out dutifully, ready to defend the dojo. While he was gone, Kaoru put away the rice she had originally come out for, spilling a good amount in the process. Cleaning it up took awhile, and when Sano didn't come in after all that, she began to worry that he actually had found an intruder. Luckily, Sano stomped back in just as Kaoru was wondering if she could wake Yahiko up through all his snores.

"Nothing out there Jou-chan. I checked everything myself." Sano folded his arms over his chest and looked down at the normally not-so-docile woman, silently demanding an explanation.

Kaoru wriggled under his scrutiny. "Did you check the bath house?"

"Yes."

"The storage shed?"

"Yes."

"The -."

"Kaoru, just tell me what has got you so damned worked up!" Sano demanded with no fear of waking up The Snorer.

Kaoru looked around the kitchen and started a pot of tea, talking as she did so. "When my father had just died, and I was fifteen, someone tried to break-in." When Sano made a distressed noise, she hurried on. "I never found any hard proof, so no one ever believed me, but I know someone was in this dojo. It just really shook me. Been one of my fears ever since."

"You know that with me and Yahiko here you're safe."

"Yes, I know. It's just one of those phobias. If it had happened during the day I would have gone out and checked myself, but something about the night really gives me chills." She shivered despite the hot, moist steam floating up from the water she was neglecting to heat.

Sano moved to stand by her, but didn't say anything for a long while. "I didn't think you feared anything for a long time. Guess I was wrong." He nodded goodnight, then left her alone with her thoughts again.

When a sandalwood scented breeze crawled into the room from under the door, she shivered, and looked down at the now useless pot of lukewarm water. Kaoru set it down and went back to her room, not bothering to put it away.

As she slipped under the thick covers only a minute later, Kaoru scoured her mind, trying to re-glimpse that flash of movement. She used her anxiety to purposefully keep herself awake, until a unique feeling fell over her, seeming to pour over her skin sensuously like honey. Her eyelids fluttered, her hand reached out to touch a specter of imagery, and she fell asleep.

Kaoru's eyes fluttered open in a world too beautiful and mystical to be real. There was a black sky above her and stars glittered like polished diamonds, punctuating the intenseness of the velvety sky around them. She could feel cold, hard ground pressing against her body from underneath, chilling what it could. A small rock was lodged painfully into the small of her back, jolting her to her feet.

Around her, the world was even more alluring, infinite in its wonder. Towering trees grew huge in front of her. Their branches were full and leafy, bowing in an erudite manner. Filmy spider webs, delicate as glass, hung like works of art. Strangely though, her eyes felt like they were looking through an almost sheer veil. Things were revealed to her, but not completely, their essence saved for another time, another day.

Stepping forward, Kaoru found that her limbs felt heavy like they had not only a moment ago. Her fingers were being pulled down by leaden weights, her legs filled with sand, her shoulders heavy with the weight of the world. Only her mind seemed unencumbered. But so opposite was the effect that it spun with the details of the Utopia around her, not allowing her to think or to reason clearly.

Kaoru slowly made her way toward the forest, terrified and also intrigued by its night-like atmosphere. As she walked, a mist crept up from all sides. It flowed up her body, twined around her ankles, encircled her fingertips. Daintily it dotted her braided hair with bits of dew, gilding the spider webs that lifted magically from her path. Something brushed against her leg, purposely spreading cold to her body.

As her head tilted toward the sky, she glimpsed the moon. A perfect circle, glowing in its glorious light. Almost as if on cue, the light filtered around her from in front, pulling her toward an unknown destination.

What was happening? Kaoru could feel her body being pulled forward, drawn towards the moon and its will. No matter how she resisted, the feeling continued to tug at her. It was terrifying, inescapable, everywhere.

As she drew closer to the center of the forest, the scene around her took a turn towards the bizarre. White hands began to reach out towards her, stretching out at her from all sides. Long, pale fingers were twisting and turning in their need to reach her. When they finally reached close enough to touch her, she was released.

The spell that had held her down so forcefully earlier was gone. Vanished so that she was free to run, and escape the grasping fingers drawing closer. Faster and faster she ran, trying repeatedly to veer off course, but unable to. Still the moon pulled her in one direction, and then another, this time forcing her to speed up. Where as before, she had been pulled back and dragged down, now she seemed to have been taken hold of by an errant wind, running faster then she ever had before.

Heart pounding, chest heaving, breath rushing. It was exhilarating. And yet there was an edge to that, an apprehension. She was moving too fast to ever hope to control her feet, and the faster she went, the more the chance there was that she would fall. Brought down by gravity till her palms slapped the dirt and her head knocked the earth.

And yet she did not fall. The thing that urged her on protected her. It kept her mortal body from crashing. Kaoru was sure that it was aware of her needs, of her unbalanced faults and talents. It was a living, breathing entity with a mind; keen, aware, sharp.

It was now a constant presence in the air around her, characterized by sharp flashes of red and gold; hard, vicious, but needy. Almost a presence in her mind and totally masculine. Demanding, determined that she travel at his pace, but cognizant of the fact that she did not have his abilities. Frustration tinted this entity, seemingly disappointed in its anxiousness to see her.

Suddenly, as if the magic had left her whole spirit, she fell.

The sickening anticipation of hitting the ground, the unhealthy pleasure of being able to stop running and feeling something solid, surrounded her. But it never came. All she felt for brief seconds was the joyous experience of flight.

And then her feet sadly touched the ground, and her eyes opened because with flight came not only the fear of falling but also the ecstasy of freedom. And with landing came the loss of both. Her eyes opened, and they opened wide, to see a man.

Though he stood many feet away from her, Kaoru could still see him clearly. His hand was stretched toward her, like he was the thing drawing her forward, welcoming her. His posture was dominant, his stance controlling. He was a samurai. His hair was red as blood. His eyes were pure gold.

And she woke up.

Author's Note - exhales huge breath Glad that's over. Now for the really hard part, YOUR review. It's not hard for you of course, just for me. The waiting game, you know.

Anyway, thanks for reading, I hope you had a fantastic time, and PLEASE read the beginning author's note about updates! All questions and comments can be done via review, or you may email me via the email address that's on my profile page.

Thank you.

Question: what type of music do you like the best?