Disclaimer: Rurouni Kenshin was created by Watsuki Nobuhiro,
published by Shueisha in "Jump," and produced by Sony
Entertainment. All rights are theirs. I have no money to speak
of, so suing me will not make you rich.

AN: This story is set during episode 41 of the anime (when
Kenshin returns to see Hiko). The scene is short -- no more
than about 30 seconds to a minute, I think -- but it struck me
as being significant somehow... This is during the Kyoto arc,
by the way, but it doesn't spoil anything except this one scene.

--------------------------------------------------

Reunion

Underneath the thick green canopy of the forest I walk alone, and
each moment brings me one step closer to a man I have not seen for
fifteen years. The last time I walked these wooded paths I had been a
boy... full of idealistic dreams and desires. Now I hardly recognize my
surroundings.

Ahead the stark sunlight clearly illuminates the clearing, and I pause
at the tree line, reluctant to venture out into the light. The rounded kiln,
glowing red and orange with heat, is a new addition. Since when has my
master become a potter? Seated on a large log before the blaze, the man
carrying the red and white cloak of a hiten mitsurugi master seems oblivious
to myself and his surroundings. He is as unreadable as ever.

In every way, from the sight of his black ponytail falling over the collar
of the cloak to the proud squaring of his shoulders, this is the Seijuurou
Hiko I remember from my childhood -- childhood, if I'd ever really had
one. I'm not certain what I had expected to find after more than a decade
of absence. Had I thought that he might have grown old and soft over the
years? No, not my master, of course not.

So I linger at the tree line, trying to calm my mind, nudging the memories
aside with each breath -- in, out, in, out -- until my head clears and I stand
once again in the present, hidden within the cover of the dappled shadows.
And although my heart still races nervously within my chest, I can't afford to
indulge my uncertainty forever. Time is running out.

When I refocus my eyes on the clearing, he is still seated like a statue
before the fire. He is the same in every way that matters my mind
whispers, but I don't trust myself. I have to know for sure. The irregular
crackling of the flame masks my approach, and I concentrate on suppressing
all emotion as I carefully creep forward. Then, pausing directly behind him,
just one step away, I reach down and loosen my sword from its sheath.

He tenses at the snap, and the cloak ripples above well-toned muscles.
Yes, and his ki flares as strong as I remembered it, no, stronger. My mind
is satisfied; there's no need, but I complete the move anyway, drawing my
sword and slicing horizontally over the log -- connecting with nothing. He
lands lightly behind me, barely making a noise as his boots touch the dirt,
and he straightens, not even a hair out of place.

"Attacking a poor defenseless potter out of the blue from behind like
that, you're certainly a rude fellow, aren't you?" Somehow I'm relieved to
find that his attitude hasn't changed either. The cool arrogance, the
confidence, the superiority complex -- no, it is I who has changed, not he.

"The Seijuurou Hiko I know is no ordinary potter." Finally I pull my
gaze away from the dancing flames, looking slowly over my shoulder and
meeting his eyes once more. I remind myself to breathe, and my fear begins
dissolve into the more subtle feeling of relief. "It's been quite awhile...
Master."

And to my complete surprise, his eyes widen slightly, a fleeting
expression of amazement flashing across his features. "So it's you." How
many times had I wished I could have dislodged his unvarying attitude of
smug superiority? How many times had I tried to break through the
impenetrable calm without success? How ironic it is that fifteen years later,
I finally manage to do both.

"Yes, Master," Around us the forest is quiet, motionless, respectful,
and we stand together in silence, the reunion complete, "I've returned."

end of reunion

--------------------------------------------------

That's it, I'm afraid -- nothing more (although in the anime I am aware
that the scene cuts away and then comes back to Kenshin and Hiko
inside the later's little hut). As you may have guessed, I've been sitting
on a handful of shorter fics, but I just haven't been able to find the time
to complete them. So... hope you've enjoyed this little piece of mine.
Comments are, as always, appreciated.

Mir (11.09.01)
.