Title: THE LONE SAMURAI Prologue
Character(s)/Pairing(s): Tezuka/Fuji, slight Oshitari/Atobe, with little appearances of other characters.
Rating: PG-13

Warning(s): Lots of angst. Character's death(s). Little bits of tragedy and violence in the prologue, but it shouldn't be too traumatizing as I tried to keep them at minimum. But in the original tale, it has kind of a happy ending, so worry not. Also, some hyperlinks you can click for explanations if you wish, but they are not essential in the story itself, actually.

Summary: Actually based on The Little Match Girl. "To protect" is not an easy thing to do. Tezuka had learned about it the hard way.
Disclaimer: Any recognizable characters and settings aren't mine. Any flaws and inaccuracies in historical events, cultures and such, however, are all mine. If you would, disregard those errors, thank you.
A/N: Originally written for perfect tales in LJ, for chibikaoruchan. This fic is just too long, so I turn this into a multiparter, for the sake of, well, easy-reading too actually. I don't feel like dumping 10.000 words worth of angst in one go XD;; –shot-

But don't worry, this fic is finished so I'm able to update soon. Anyway I've fixed some typos and errors from the original version here.

Special thanks to my first readers, Tacuma and applentoast. And a lot of thanks to my dearest beta, Thallein, you're a savior.

P.S: I know not of Fuji's father's name, so I made it up. Oh, and feel free imagining Tezuka's glasses. I don't think they have oval-shaped, rimless glasses at that era.

Oh, and filling your playlist with angsty/melancholic songs might help the atmosphere while reading this :)


Intro: This fic was originally written for LJ, which I can put hyperlinks here and there, but since ffnet can't do that, I prefer to list down some Japanese terms that would appear in this fic with a short explanation (or link), rather than have you scroll down to the bottom each time you find a foreign term. These are actually not really essential to the story, though.

Some explanations for this chapter (remove the space for the link, okay?)

1. Shinsengumi: http: / en. wikipedia. org/ wiki/ Shinsengumi

2. Kenjutsu: Basically, Japanese swordsmanship

3. Ronin: Masterless samurai.

4. Hakama: http: / web. mit. edu/ jpnet/ kimono/ man-hakama. Html

5. Tanto blade: A dagger that usually Samurai brought with them aside of their katana. Tanto blade are also used in ceremonial harakiri/seppuku (killing oneself for honor, customary for Samurai).


--PROLOGUE--


As a child, Tezuka Kunimitsu blamed his inability to protect his very own family on his lack of power. Born of a respectable Samurai family in Kyoto which had pledged loyalty to the Tokugawa Shogunate, Kunimitsu witnessed the massacre of his family during a political attempt to overturn the said Shogunate.

Kunimitsu himself barely made his way out of the chaos, and this he owed to the help of his kenjutsu instructor, Fuji Yuusaku. Along with the death of his family, gone was Kunimitsu's smile. Since then, Kunimitsu started a new life with Fuji Yuusaku, together with his three children: Yumiko, Shuusuke—who gave him the nickname 'Mitsu' for his name was too long, and Yuuta. Fuji Yuusaku's wife had passed away when delivering Yuuta into this world. At the age of ten, Kunimitsu started his heavy sword-training together with the two sons of his master.

Two years later, Kunimitsu lost his adoptive sister to an illness that, at that time, had no cure. Yumiko had been 'mother' figure for not only Shuusuke and Yuuta, but also for Kunimitsu. Not only was Yumiko the one who helped her father raise her two brothers, she was also the person whom Yuusaku shared his problems. With the loss of his only daughter, Fuji Yuusaku could no longer smile, and, as if to ease the atmosphere, his eldest son, Fuji Shuusuke, started smiling non-stop.

In his attempt to not forget the painful memories of his daughter's death, Fuji Yuusaku began to train the boys more seriously. He had wanted to give all that he had to the three boys. Kunimitsu, being the serious boy that he was, with his determination to get stronger and stronger, never complained about the heavy training menu his master assigned them. The same went for Fuji Shuusuke, who, as his father had once called, a born genius; Fuji's lithe and frail figure did not prove to be a hindrance and the fair-haired boy excelled in his trainings.

His brother, however, was different. Fuji Yuuta was not without talent, nor was he not interested in the art of swordsmanship. However, Yuusaku's incessant, albeit unintentional, comparisons of Yuuta and his Syuusuke and sometimes, Yuuta and Kunimitsu had an effect on Yuuta.

The pressure piled up with each passing day, until one fine autumn's day, a thirteen-year-old Fuji Yuuta left the house. Bewildered and feeling guilty, Fuji Yuusaku immediately looked for his son, while telling Shuusuke and Kunimitsu to stay at home, just in case Yuuta decided to return. Kunimitsu knew better. His master just wanted to keep them safe because there were a lot of riots happening lately, but he said nothing.

At that time, Kunimitsu could see that behind the ever present smile, the honey-haired boy was blaming himself for the pressure his brother received, and no doubt, felt insecure about his brother feelings towards him. Not knowing what to do, Kunimitsu simply stayed beside the smaller boy as they waited for Fuji Yuusaku to come home.

The two Fujis they were waiting for, however, did not come back. Out of worry, Shuusuke insisted on going to search for his brother and father, and there was nothing Kunimitsu could do to stop the fair haired youth, so he relented and went with him. They ran until their legs hurt. Without any leads as to the whereabouts of the other Fujis, they searched aimlessly until they came upon a crowd of people gathered in the middle of the street. As if on cue, Shuusuke's eyes snapped open, and he immediately rushed through the crowd. Kunimitsu could only follow. About five meters ahead were a smaller group of people, laughing maniacally as they tortured two persons.

They were Yuuta and Yuusaku.

Uncaring of people's shouts of 'Don't go any closer, boy!', Shuusuke unsheathed his katana and charged forward with anger flashing in his beautiful eyes.

Almost automatically, Kunimitsu followed suit. They charged and slashed and thrust wildly. Nothing was on their minds but to eliminate those that would hurt their precious ones, and save the injured Yuuta and Yuusaku immediately.

Thugs though their opponents were, they were also samurais. They could fight, and they were strong. Worse was, they didn't have the ideals of fighting fair and square. One of the ronins immediately seized Shuusuke's hands to keep him from slashing madly, and another one gave a punch right in the lithe boy's stomach, making the brunette fall on his knees in pain.

Kunimitsu immediately ran to Shuusuke's side and stood protectively with his Katana raised in front of his chest. He had never really fought in a real battle before, and he immediately realized that in a real battle, theories were hard to apply, so he left the movement of his katana to his instinct. One thing he kept in mind was that he had to protect Shuusuke, no matter what.

Despite having excelled in his sword-training, Kunimitsu was inexperienced. Not to mention he was outnumbered. In no time, the enemies had him overwhelmed, and he stumbled backwards, right next to Shuusuke. One of the ronins was ready to slash both of them with his rusty katana, when Yuusaku suddenly rushed in front of the boys and gave his body to protect both of the young samurai.

And then there was blood.

Everything had happened so fast that Kunimitsu couldn't react. When Shuusuke hysterically tried to rush to his father, Yuusaku shouted for Kunimitsu to stop him, and it was then he gained control over his arms and enveloped Shuusuke's lithe body and restrain the smaller boy from injuring himself further.

Somehow, the sight in front of him seemed surreal to Kunimitsu. His brain refused to register the sight of his master, a group of ronins, and the blood. How he wished it was just a nightmare, but he knew better. The heart-wrenching sound of Shuusuke calling out to his father, the pain-filled scream that was heard from Fuji Yuusaku, and Yuuta's barely-moving body, were all unmistakable.

The dark haired youth could feel Shuusuke's strength waning for he had stopped struggling and could only mumble incoherently instead. Kunimitsu felt his legs finally give up, and he fell to his knees with Shuusuke still in his arms. Together, they could only witness the suffering of their dearest people.

And Kunimitsu hated that.

He tried standing up. He could feel his left hand shaking as he tried to hold his katana, but obviously, he couldn't just watch. He had to do something.

He had to protect.

With whatever strength left in him, Kunimitsu charged forward and tried attacking those irresponsible men who could only boast about their strength by torturing innocent people. Not long after, Shuusuke joined him. As if in a trance, both boys swung their katanas wildly, with their backs against each other.

Still, two against seven was a huge disadvantage. No matter how many times they dodged and deflected the swords, the attacks directed towards them seemed to be never ending. Kunimitsu barely evaded a pointed katana a few centimeters from his right cheek when he caught a glimpse of someone directing his sword towards Shuusuke.

Barely shouting the lithe boy's name, Kunimtsu could hear the sound of a sword stabbing a limb, and blood sputtered out.

Rushing to his left, Kunimitsu found Shuusuke had fallen to his knees… with Yuuta as his shield.

A commotion erupted as people announced the presence of Shinsengumi, the squad policing Kyoto at the moment. With their arrival, the seven criminals immediately diverted their attentions to the squad, and left their former preys on the street.

Kunimitsu could barely remember anything but the Shinsengumi taking care of those shameless, irresponsible ronins, and Fuji Yuusaku's last breath, not long after the arrival of Shinsengumi. The death had been fast. Yuusaku had barely delivered his last words about some hidden techniques that can be found in a scroll inside his room to the both of them, before he passed away.

Kunimitsu had felt numb. Had he just lost his 'second father'? His mind refused to process the information, but his heart knew better. Unconsciously, tears flowed from his eyes. He couldn't see Shuusuke's face and whatever expression of grief on the smaller boy's face was hidden behind the curtain of honey brown strands. Shuusuke called out to his father once again, but failed to get any response. Silently, the light haired youth stood up and walked several footsteps to the left, leaving a still bewildered Kunimitsu at his father's side.

Once he had come to his senses, Kunimitsu immediately rushed to where Shuusuke was, kneeling beside his badly injured brother.

Kunimitsu winced at the sight of the blood on Yuuta's stomach, where the sword had penetrated. The wounds looked severe, and the smell of blood overwhelmed his senses. His mind unceremoniously flashed back to the day when his own family had been slaughtered, and his left hand automatically clamped over his mouth. Kunimitsu felt like vomiting, but he held it back. This was not the time for that. Instantly, he knelt next to Fuji, whose face was filled with tears as he grabbed Yuuta's hand.

Yuuta tried to speak, but instead of words, blood sputtered from his mouth.

'Don't talk, Yuuta! We'll save you. Just… hang on, alright?' begged Shuusuke.

Yuuta coughed a few times, and shook his head. Weakly, he tried to return his brother's grip on his hand. In response, Shuusuke tightened his hold.

'Ani… ki…,' he started, and Shuusuke immediately hushed his brother. 'I don't… want to… die… yet…'

'No! Of course you won't, Yuuta! We'll save you, okay?'

There were a few coughs, some more bloods, and Yuuta spoke again, 'I think… my time has come…'

'NO!' was Shuusuke's immediate reply.

'I… don't hate… you… Aniki…' Yuuta said suddenly, 'I never did…'

A few seconds of silence, and the tears flowed heavily from Shuusuke's eyes. 'Don't, Yuuta… You're all I have left. Don't leave me…' Shuusuke pleaded; voice barely a notch above a whisper.

Kunimitsu kept silent as he watched the scene unfolding before his eyes. Not really knowing what to say or to do, he could only let his tears flow silently, conveying his inner grief. It was then Yuuta moved his gaze upwards, silently asking the oldest teen to come closer. Kunimitsu offered a hand for Yuuta to hold.

'You still have… Kunimitsu-nii… aniki…' said Yuuta, and he paused to catch his hitched breath before turning his eyes to Kunimitsu and said, 'Please… take care of… aniki…'

More coughing of blood and Kunimtsu squeezed his eyes shut before reopening them and, steadying his voice, he vowed, 'I will.'

A smile, closing eyelids… and gone was Fuji Yuuta, at the age of thirteen.

A cold autumn night breeze blew past, carrying the loud cry of a broken heart. The sound echoed through every corner of the town, wrenching the hearts of all who heard it.

Red and orange maple leaves fell from their branches, slowly descending to the blood-covered ground, creating ironically beautiful shades of red in the darkest of the night. In the midst of the redness, two young samurais could only grieve for the two dearest people that they lost in the bat of an eye.

They could barely remember how exactly they got home. Kunimitsu didn't even remember falling asleep; all he could recall was holding a living-corpse-like Shuusuke in his arms, fearing that he too, would be gone.

But he woke up to an empty space beside him, and Shuusuke was nowhere to be seen.

Dreading the worse, Kunimitsu immediately rose to search the house, uncaring for his ruffled hakama. In their training dojo, Shuusuke sat with what Kunimitsu recognized as a tanto blade placed in front of him. His eyes were closed but his ever-present smile was absent. Instead, Shuusuke's lips were pressed tightly together, as if in pain. Slowly, Shuusuke's eyelids fluttered open.

'Calm' was not really the word to describe the expression on the younger boy's face. 'Blank' would be more accurate.

A pair of pale hands slowly lifted the tanto blade, and unsheathed it from its cover. Kunimitsu scrambled to his feet as he dashed towards the younger boy. 'Stop it, Shuusuke! What do you think you're doing?!' he snapped and immediately grabbed the knife away, not caring that his palm was cut by the sharp edge of the knife.

Shuusuke glanced at him; his eyes reflected nothing. 'My family is calling to me…' he said with a blank smile that Kunimitsu wished he would never see again.

'No, they aren't! Get a grip on yourself!' Kunimtsu violently shook Shuusuke's shoulder, trying hard to snap Shuusuke out of his trance.

A hand was covering his, and Shuusuke calmly replied, 'but they are. I have to go meet them.'

Panic fluttered against Kunimitsu's chest. The thought of Shuusuke leaving him totally and utterly frightened him. His grip on those frail shoulders loosened, and he fell to his knees as he moved to pull the lithe body into a tight embrace.

'Please don't… Shuusuke, you're all I have left,' he pleaded. Tears were once again falling from his eyes as his heart ached from the potential loss of another precious one. He had enough of losing those he held dear; his real family when he was a child, and now the members of his 'second-family' were leaving one by one. He couldn't go on living if Shuusuke were to leave him too.

The words that escaped Kunimitsu's lips earlier seemed to have knocked some sense back into Shuusuke's head. Those words were an echo of the ones he had said to Yuuta last night.

You're all I have left.

Slowly, Shuusuke lifted both of his arms and returned Kunimitsu's embrace. The tears started to fall from his azure eyes as well.

'I'm sorry… you're right… I'm sorry, Mitsu… we only have each other now,' he said gently.

'Please… don't leave…' was all Kunimitsu could manage.

'I won't… I'll live, Kunimitsu… I'll live…' Shuusuke ran a hand over Kunimitsu's face, gently caressing his tear stained cheeks. 'We'll live through all this… together, we will…'

Deep in his heart, Kunimitsu once more regretted not being strong enough to protect his second family. If only he was strong enough, he would've been able to protect them, and none of this would have happened.

Not bothering to brush his tears away, Kunimitsu faced the only remaining 'Fuji', and he pledged his sword to protect the younger boy, no matter what. In return, Shuusuke too, pledged his sword for Kunimitsu.

With help from people around them, the two teenagers had managed to find jobs that afforded their daily needs, all the while studying and practicing the hidden secret techniques Fuji Yuusaku had left for them in the scroll he had mentioned before his last breath.

Kunimitsu recalled the reason Yuusaku had hid the techniques in the scroll. The techniques were dangerous, and one might get hurt in the mastering process. He had also written there, though, the correct way to practice such techniques with minimum damage. And so they devoted whatever spare time they had to sharpening their swordsmanship.

The scroll detailed which techniques could be mastered by Kunimitsu, and which would suit Shuusuke's sword style. And there were also techniques reserved for Yuuta. Both boys decided not to take what should be Yuuta's and only practiced to master what was left to them.

It was difficult training without an instructor to guide them. But their determination managed to overcome all hardships. They were both rivals and instructors to each other. There were times when one of them overdid the training—usually Kunimitsu—and earned a scolding from the other, but they both realized that they shouldn't do anything to risk their lives, for the promise they had made to each other.

That they will live together; for the sake of each other.

Within a year, they had perfected and mastered all the techniques left by their master. They had come to realize that to protect each other and those around them who had been kind to their cause, strength alone was not enough. They would need the so-called 'authority', too.

With that thought in mind, both teens went to Shinsengumi's headquarters, and excelled in all the tests put to them. At the age of 15, Tezuka Kunimitsu and Fuji Shuusuke had officially become members of the Shinsengumi.

-End of Prologue-

A/N: A detailed review would be very much loved, but any kind of reviews are very much welcomed, so review please?

If you want to kill me, though, please wait until I post the rest of the fic ne? Will try to update soon :D