A/n New story time. Bad idea, but I figured you would like something different to read for a while. I write this story to fight off writers block with the help of a favorite book. Review if you feel I should continue with this story.
Disclamer: I don't own Kenshin or the plot of Louise Allen
I give this chapter a PG-13 rating.
A low growl echoed off the empty streets. The three struggling figures paused and looked up the street. There was nothing but smoke. The men figured they had imagined it, but the geisha they held heard it too. Kaoru stopped fighting and squinted into the smoke, but she too saw nothing. She sagged in their grip as something in the burning shop across the street exploded. Small bits of burning wood and bamboo rained down on the dirt road.
Was the sound real? It was louder than her cries and the harsh laughter, threats and curses from the men. What kind of beast made that sound anyways? And what would it be doing in the middle of a large city? But Kaoru knew that anything was possible. Her city was being destroyed by rogue samurai. Savage barbarians. Thousands of them poured into the city, set it ablaze. Honorable men turned on each other to saves themselves. It was not so unbelievable that a beast would wander the deserted streets.
Out of the corner of her eyes, Kaoru spotted the crumpled body of a young girl. A maiko. A geisha in training. Kaoru had been in charge of teaching the ten year old. The brutal men pulled her from behind Kaoru and threw the maiko against the wall. She hit with such force, she fell and hadn't moved since.
"There's nothing there." Grunted one of the men. "Must be the fires." All around them sounds of weakened buildings groaned in the distance. The sound was ominous, almost as bad as the silence in the streets.
"The girl heard it too." The second one argued, he jerked Kaoru roughly by the arm to shake her out of her daze. "Didn't you, pretty little bitch?" his face was raked with scratches. They stood out angry and red, some even bled a little.
"Yes, yes I heard it." Kaoru said in her soft geisha voice. Shrinking down, trying to look as pathetic as she could. "A beast brought in by the savages no doubt, you should run, it might be dangerous."
How often had Kaoru walked by men like these? Citizens not rich enough to buy time from a pretty geisha. Never to live in the small fantasy she created. A wonderful hostess, a perfect woman. Not long ago Kaoru would have perhaps flirted with one of them with just a glance as she walked down the street. Now that their world was turned upside down and one of the pretty, elegant creatures had fallen right into their hands, free for the taking to fight off the terror of the danger.
But this icon of femininity had fought back. Scratching with her perfect manicured nails, hitting and kicking them in the shins and knees. She bit them when she could. The other girl, the young miako lay, most likely dead, and was no fun at all to them.
The larger man snorted. "A stray dog, nothing else." He sneered as he turned his attention back to the woman. He wrapped a large hand around the delicate column of her neck and held her still as he reached with his free hand to work away the folds of her priceless kimono.
Kaoru twisted, not allowing her fear to paralyze her, but the hand on her throat only squeezed tighter. A desperate cry escaped her as she felt the hot, rough flesh of his hand reach her bare skin and grasp one of her breasts.
"Kami." The second man's voice trembled as a second much louder and longer growl sounded. The smoke swirled and a large ginger colored wolf padded out not a dozen feet from them. It stopped and lowered its head to watch them. Kaoru gasped when she caught sight of the beast.
It had electric yellow-green eyes that gazed at them with such indifference, it was chilling. More so than if he glared at them in aggression. The animal growled again, one lip curled up to show a long, white fang. Then, out of nowhere, there came a sharp whistle, and the wolf stalked away, walking around them to stand behind them.
The men scrambled to turn around, dragging Kaoru with them. They watched the wolf prowl until it slowly vanished into the smoke.
"Damn thing is gone." The taller man said with false confidence. "Let's get away from these fires and find a place to enjoy ourselves." They turned; hauling Kaoru with them, but then froze. Kaoru gazed off into the smoke as it slowly parted around another figure. A man.
He stood there, in full samurai armor. He had no helmet, so his hair flowed freely. It was blood red, tied in a top knot and disappeared well past his shoulders. His armor was adorn with gold accents, but other than that, was plain. He had a short and long Katana strapped to his side. There was very little expression on his delicate, almost feminine face. He watched them just as the wolf had, with intense glowing eyes. He showed no emotion and wasn't threatening. But even Kaoru could feel his ki. It was wound tight, ready to spring into action.
Kaoru forced herself to think. Top knot, samurai armor and katana, he was one of the savage rouges attacking the city. But her current enemies were beside her, holding her. They were her own people. Did this man mean danger or safety? What should she do?
The men decided to move. They gripped Kaoru by both arms and half lifted her off her feet to drag her as they slowly backed away.
Kaoru made a decision.
She hung limp in their arms, forcing them to drag her dead weight.
"Drop her." one of the men said as if to a dog, obviously deciding that she was more trouble than she was worth.
Kaoru felt herself fall hard on her wooden sandals. In anger, she turned and struck one man with her fist. He saw her just in time to move away but she was still able to hit his ear. The man roared in pain and lashed out, hitting Kaoru across the face with a slap. The force sent the geisha stumbling against his larger friend. There was a grunt and Kaoru lost her support. Teetering, Kaoru looked to find the larger man sprawled on the ground, a small tanto sticking out of his neck. She looked up at the samurai. It didn't look like he moved a hair. The second man found his feet and fled. But he didn't get more than a dozen steps before the wolf leapt out of the smoke and stopped him. The man skidded on his heals and fell on his backside. He tried to scramble backwards away from the beast, but a deep growl warned him to hold still.
The samurai moved then, closing the distance between him and Kaoru. He paused at her side. "They do that to her?" he jerked his head in the direction of the girl on the ground. Kaoru fell to the dirt beside the girl and nodded. She touched the child's lightly painted face, she was already growing cold. Kaoru watched as the samurai silently moved forward. There was a soft sound of metal on metal as he drew his katana in one fluid motion. Kaoru turned away, and forced herself to look at her young charge. There was a whimper, then a sob that was cut short, followed by a thud.
Kaoru fumbled dumbly with the girl, searching for any signs of life. A pulse, a breath. But there was nothing. Fear made her mind numb. She was safe from the men, but what about the samurai that saved her? Was she safe from him?
"Is she dead?"
Kaoru turned her head slightly, only enough to see his feet as the samurai stop beside her. She watched him rip off a scrap of cloth from the man with the dagger in his throat and used it to clean the blood from his sword.
Kaoru felt her stomach turn and she looked back at the child. "She is. They threw her into the wall. She is just a tiny thing." She didn't even want to come with me to search for our geisha sisters. She would harm a thing. She was so frightened. The child was at piece now, no longer afraid. I couldn't protect her.
The samurai crouched down beside Kaoru. She immediately noticed that he was not as tall as most men, but his aura was overpowering. He smelled of sweat, blood, of metal and leather. Strange, alien things. He reached out and closed the child's startled dark eyes. His gentleness surprised Kaoru. He used the utmost care as he lifted her from the dirt street. Kaoru felt tears prickle the back of her eyes. I must not cry. Not in front of this man. An enemy, an inferior. She had been sent out on this fools errand by "Mother" the head of the geisha house. Mother stayed behind the high stone walls and oversaw the boxes of priceless kimonos, coins and other treasures hidden, buried under the stone step stones that dotted the garden in the center of the geisha house. Mother always knew what was most important. Finding new girls to train was not so hard. Starting a geisha house all over again was another matter.
Kaoru blinked out of her thoughts as the Samurai walked across the street to the burning building. What is this man thinking?! "Wait!" She cried out, lifting her kimono and rushing to catch up to him. She watched in horror as he navigated his way deeper into the burning building and set the girl on the burning grass mats.
"What are you doing?!" She shouted as he returned to the street. She tried to run past him. The man caught her and pushed her back with a flick of his arm. "That's no way to treat the dead, it's savage!"
"You want to leave her on the dirt where the bugs and dogs will pick at her?" he said in a cruel tone. He grabbed her by the wrist and half walked, half dragged her from the sight.
Kaoru glared up at him and was startled by his amber eyes. They swirled, almost as if alive, like the fire that burned behind him. As much as she hated the thought of her charge burning up in a shop, the idea of her left on the street to be food for animals and no doubt ran over by many carts and horses as people rushed to leave was unthinkable.
The red-head took her to an alleyway. Here the air was cool and Kaoru gulped in the air like a half drowned man. She turned and eyed the red fires. "The fire will spread." She worried for her Mother at the geisha house. She worried for her real mother and father and for her siblings. Were they all safe?
The samurai followed her gaze with a shrug. "But not this way, the wind pushes it to the edge of the city." He lifted his head, nostrils flared as if to catch a scent. He was a hunter aware of everything.
Kaoru realized he had let her go, but she gripped his forearm tightly. She wanted to let go and jump away, but she could not. There was a crack overhead and Kaoru looked up in time to see a chunk of smoldering wood fall. It would land on the samurai's head. Kaoru lunged forward and swung her hand over his head, knocking the wood away before it could hit. She sucked in her breath as she felt the sting from the burning wood.
The man looked amused. As if surprised a geisha girl could react so quickly. He took her palm and looked at the angry red marks. They were nothing. "The pain will only last a moment. Thank you." He let go of her hand. "What is your name?"
Kaoru sputtered for a moment. "I'm Manami." she paused, realizing she had given her geisha name. " I'm Kamiya Kaoru." She clasped her hands in front of her and made a smooth low bow that only came with years of training.
The man frowned slightly and he looked down at her. "Your father. Did he teach the Kamiya Kasshin style swordsmanship?"
"Yes." Kaoru straightened up with a smile. "You've heard of my father?" perhaps this man knew her father and would take pity on her and take her back to her parents home.
"You're father is in politics isn't he?" the Samurai asked.
Kaoru's smile slipped, but ever the graceful geisha, she fell right back into the mask. "I wouldn't know what my father does in his free time. I see very little of him. It is not for him to speak of such things to me."
"Quite." The man agreed, eyes narrowed. "I'm Himura Kenshin. Fourteenth generation of the Hiten Mitsurugi style. Also known as Hitokiri Battousai"
Kaoru had never heard of such a style, but it sounded imposing. "Thank you Himura Kenshin of the Hiten mi-mitsurugi." She stumbled over the unfamiliar words. "I would be grateful of you to escort me to the west end of the city, back to my geisha house. I know Mother will be very happy to have me back. She will not be ungrateful for your assistance."
The wolf padded down the alley from wherever it had been wandering and sat next to his master. His large pink tongue rolled out as he panted in the heat. Two pairs of odd colored eyes gazed at in what she swore was amusement.
"You would be grateful for my escort, Kaoru?" Kenshin's eyebrow shot up in surprise. Of course a pretty woman like her wasn't going to run off again to get caught by another group of hands.
"Kamiya Kaoru." She should know better than to correct such a man. But it was automatic for her to remind this inferior of what her rank was. Even though she was a geisha, she knew her father was of high rank.
Now Kenshin was obviously amused. His lips twitched upward.
"I'm sure they will reward you with coins. My family that is." And her betrothed. But that was a secret no one but her family knew about.
"I can have all the gold I want. And anything else I find of value within these walls." Kenshin gave her a rare smile. It was such a smile that Kaoru felt like she'd been kicked in the stomach. "Why else would we be here?"
"To have your leader speak with Takeda Kanryuu? I know there has been some sort of mix up. About land and supplies." Kaoru was grabbing at straws. She had only half heartedly listened to the men at the parties she hosted as they talked of politics. There had been a rumor amongst the men that while the samurai were keeping their end of the deal. The mayor Takeda thought their price was steep and figured he would pay them what he figured they deserved. Which Kaoru figured wasn't much at all
"We protect this city and surrounding area from hordes of enemies. We keep them from overrunning this land, even as they take over our own." Kenshin growled. "We help with crops and livestock. And what do we get in return? Nothing. Families are going to starve this winter. We were promised land, safety and food. He gives us lies instead." Kenshin hissed.
Kaoru watched the man as he seem to grow in size and tower over her. She felt bad for Kenshin and his people. As savage as they were, they were only trying to survive the treachery of the rich. Even now such papered men in silks were running, talking or buying their way out of danger. "Takeda is not here." Kaoru informed him. "He's on his way to Edo. I doubt you'll reach him there. That city is too strong, even for your kind." And it was over a week's worth of walking to reach it. "The food reserves here are running low." She added, not knowing why she felt compelled to inform him. He and his people pouring into the city would find gold, but not much to eat.
"We know this already." He said. "This is not the time for talking. Come!" he ordered as he turned on his heal and walked away.
Kaoru stood opened mouthed, gazing at Kenshin's back. The samurai armor hid most of is body. Yet Kaoru could see the man under the layers. Broad shoulders carried the heavy armor like it was a silk gi. His hands were delicate looking, yet deadly. One rested on the hilt of his Katana, the other relaxed at his side. Now Kaoru could see that his hair was indeed very long. Even in a top knot, it fell to his hips and brushed his backside. Kaoru hurried after him, lest she be left behind and alone.
"Will you take me to the west side?" she asked again as she hurried to keep up with him. Her kimono restricted her movement and she couldn't match his long strides.
"We might go there." Kenshin said.
Kaoru spotted a man peeking out at them through a window before slamming it shut. A pair of women, both with infants in their arms ran past them, they shrieked when they noticed Kenshin. Everywhere there was smoke. When they reached a large intersection of roads, they were congested with people, all with carts, mules and horses. They were all shouting and shoving to get moving. Kaoru had never seen such a sight. The whole city seemed to be crumbling down around her. It was frightening.
"What do you mean we may go there?" Kaoru demanded. She would go alone if she had to. Though, looking at all this chaos…she didn't want to be alone. The geisha grabbed his forearm and shook him when he didn't answer her right away. Kenshin turned and looked down at her. His eyes had lost their amber glow, now becoming a softer yellow; they lost their deadly chill as he smiled.
Kaoru felt the predator in him. A beast like his wolf pressing just under his skin. And she…she was the rabbit. She let him go and took a step back, her heart hammered from the heat in his eyes. He raked her body up and down with those eyes. Kaoru felt her heart slam to a stop. "No." Kaoru said instinctively. "No, you wouldn't"
"Wouldn't what?" The samurai paused. "Wouldn't ravage you, take you to a dark corner to have my way?" he smirked. "I don't approve of such a thing. You do not have to worry about that with me. Now let's go."
"Are you going to take me home?" She snapped, upset with herself for showing so much fear. "I want to go home." Kaoru pressed.
"What you want is no longer important. You are coming with me. We came to take what is owned to us. Food, gold and silver, horses and slaves." Kenshin said over his shoulder.
"But,…you want me as a hostage?" Kaoru felt renewed fear. Had she jumped from the pan only to land into the fire?
"No." he said simply obviously amused with her again. It annoyed Kaoru deeply, and she didn't know why. Some men poured out information like water from a jug. Getting information from Kenshin was like squeezing water from a rock.
"Our people are already holding a hostage. Takada's sister. That is all we need, hostages are hard work." And the last thing he needed was a hostage to constantly have to watch over.
Kaoru was shocked. Takada's sister was a kind lady who was far more caring and closer to the people than her brother was.
Kenshin turned so fast Kaoru nearly slammed into him. He gazed down at her like a stern father or teacher. "With me, you are now mine. I need a slave and you will do just fine."
"A slave? Me? Are you teasing me?" Please say he was jesting. But he was not smiling. No hint in his emotionless gaze. "No!" Kaoru cried when she realized he spoke the truth. She was like a little bird in a cage being brought up in the geisha house. She didn't know anything about being a slave, and defiantly didn't want to be a slave to murderous savages. She turned around; the chaotic streets that looked so terrifying were now her salvation. She picked up her kimono from around her feet and ran.
She didn't get more than a few feet away, a few dozen steps when there was a blur in front of her. The wolf. It stopped in front of her, blocking her way. "Nice wolf." Kaoru muttered softly in a gentle tone. "Good boy. Stay…sit?" the beast tipped his head to the side as he listened to her. Kaoru turned, seeing that Kenshin never moved, trusting his animal to bring her back. If Kaoru could just make it to an open door of one of the many abandoned homes….
But the wolf padded forward and wrapped its massive jaws around her small wrist. Just pressure, not biting. He wouldn't have crushed a flower with the way he held on to her, but he had the power to rip her hand from her arm if he wanted to. Kenshin whistled and there was a commotion in the crowd and a man on a horse pushed his way though the crowd with a second horse.
Not a man Kaoru realized, a boy, maybe fifteen years old. He had dark spiky hair, dark skin and eyes. He didn't wear any armor, only simple hakama pants, two katana swords and a gi.
"About time. I thought I would have to ride out and find you." The youth snapped down at Kenshin."
"Watch your tongue." Kenshin snapped back. "This is Kaoru. She is going to come with us. Let her ride behind you."
The boy turned in the saddle and gazed down at Kaoru with curious, dark eyes. "Finally, a slave? You promised to find one to cook for us. I'm tired of all the cooking. It is work only women should do."
Kaoru felt unaccustomed anger. She wanted to slap or push that boy right off the horse. "I'm not a slave, and I'm not going anywhere with you. I'm a Geisha."
"Don't argue." Kenshin said calmly as he walked up to her.
That infuriating man! "I'm not going. You'll just have to let your wolf attack me. Then I'll be useless to you." Kaoru tipped her head up.
"True." Kenshin said as he swept her up in his arms with ease and the wolf opened his jaws. "But then you wouldn't be any use as a geisha as well." He added as he plopped her down on the horse behind the boy. He pulled free one of the many leather ties that held his armor to his body and used it to lash her hands together "Do not forget you have her with you, Yahiko." He said as he tied the end of the leather belt to the boy's sword belt. "Or she'll land on you when you dismount." The males shared a moment of laughter. "Hold still, you." Kenshin added as Kaoru tried to slide off the other side of the horse. "Yahiko may be a boy but he is big and he will land on you. So sit still and hang on." Although, perhaps letting the boy fall on the delicate thing would be enough to earn her compliance for a while. For half a moment Kenshin thought about shoving the girl off the horse to show her he was right, but he immediately dismissed the idea.
With that, Kenshin mounted the second horse. A thin, ugly roan. "Come Yahiko." Kenshin said softly as he situated himself in his saddle. "Let's find some gold for ourselves."
Kaoru fumed silently when the horse suddenly lurched forward. Kaoru slipped. Gasping in fright she clung to the boy, gripping him by his sword belt. She hated this, but it was better than falling. The hard dirt ground would hurt when she landed, not to mention the boy would be dragged off to land on her and he was almost as big as she was.
The boy turned his head slightly to look at her out of the corner of one eye. "What was your name again? Are you a good cook?" Asked over his shoulder as he struggled to follow his master though the mass of people.
Kaoru cringed inwardly. Cook? Could she cook? She never cooked a day in her life. Simple everyday meals like rice, she could cook that. Anything more was beyond her ability. Perhaps the thought of a bad cook would convince them to let her go. "I'm Kamiya Kaoru and no I'm not a good cook. I don't even know how to cook. I'm a geisha, I have servants to do that." She snapped at the boy, hopping she was loud enough for Kenshin to hear her.
The boy coughed to hide his strangled laughter. "Well you better be a fast learner. Kamiya Kaoru. Kenshin has little patience and is not someone you want to be around if he is hungry." He paused for a moment. "It's good that we have you now. I don't have to kill chickens or fetch water or patch clothes, do laundry or help Kenshin scrub his back. You can do all this now." He said with an approving nod, turning his eyes back in front of him.
Scrub his back? Kaoru felt her checks burn. She turned to look at Kenshin as he rode in front of them. She seethed with anger. Pish, scrub his back. I'll scrub his back…with a knife.
Then it was as if Kenshin heard her thoughts. He turned in his saddle and starred at her with warning in his eyes.
Kaoru felt her resolve melt away and she shrunk down to hide behind the boy. This was real and it was scary. Kaoru was tough for a woman in her position in life. But she was not tough enough to stand up to a samurai like Kenshin. Her role as a delicate flower meant nothing to them. She was going to have to try very hard to survive with a man as clever and fearful and Kenshin Himura.
A/n again, review if I should continue with the story. Ideas are welcomed.