AN- Y'know, I must be a dumbass to start this, but this plot has been bouncing around in my head for a while, so I must as well publish the first chapter. I'm going to be going to basic training for the Army in a short twenty-one days, so I doubt I'll get another chapter up until after I return sometime next summer. Depending on how popular this first chapter is will determine whether or not I will continue it, so if you like it, make sure to review, or I'll stop before I start.

Read, enjoy, and review!

CHAPTER ONE

DESOLATION

The sun was setting as the horse and rider crested the hill overlooking the sizable town sprawled in the dusty flats. The first thing that a casual observer would notice about the horse and rider was that the horse was meticulously cared for, with a well brushed coat and well cared for tack. The rider...well, the best word for it was that he was scruffy. Pale tan chaps covered his legs, and he had on what once must have been a handsome red cotton poncho, which now was faded to the point of nearly being pink. Underneath that was a threadbare but neatly tended for red-checkered shirt and a slightly too large brown hat was slung low over his eyes, shielding them from the sunset. The wide brimmed hat nearly covered all of the man's long red hair, all but a long tail and some uneven bangs was hidden from view.

The man was also a paradox. His face was composed of sharp lines and he had a strong jaw, but his mouth was gently smiling, and his light blue eyes twinkled at some hidden mirth, which greatly softened his countenance. He was small, almost scrawny (definitely no more than five foot five, most would agree) yet there was a sense of strength and hidden deadliness about him. Nonetheless, he certainly wasn't the strangest man to ride into Desolation, nor would he be the last strange character to grace its presence.

Many a pioneer in the territory of Arizona would take one look at this fellow and instantly pass him off as 'Injun bait' due to his size, but he had a lever-action rifle in a scabbard that was hanging off his horse's saddle for easy access, and hidden underneath his poncho was one of the new Colt Peacemakers. In fact, both the rifle and the pistol were 1873 Models, only three years old. They were supposed to be in the hands of soldiers, but if a man was wealthy enough and knew the right people, he could get some of the newest weapons to grace the West. Yet, this man looked neither wealthy, nor quite smart or classy enough to have the proper connections. He was ex-military, that was easy enough to see by the US Army saber that was slung to his hip, and his pants had yellow stripes running up the lengths of the legs. Maybe that was why he had the new guns.

Regardless of his armament or his disposition, the man was determined to make Desolation by nightfall. Clicking his tongue, he urged his tired horse forward. "Almost there, Rurouni. Tonight, you'll be sleeping in a nice, warm stable." If someone had been there to hear the encouragement, they would have noted that the man sounded surprisingly like a girl. In fact, if it weren't for a large cross-shaped scar on the stranger's left cheek, it would be easy to confuse him for a member of the fairer sex.

This was of no concern to the man, for he was only thinking of a having a nice meal and sleeping in a warm bed. Tomorrow he could make the necessary purchases, but for now he was hungry and tired. Just as he was passing through the outskirts of town, his nose caught the slight fragrance of blood, and he pulled Rurouni up short. Frowning, he remembered battle fields covered in gun smoke and blood, with wild bugle calls and shouted orders. Shaking his head slightly, he tilted his head slightly, listening in the still of the night. A faint sound of shattering wood sounded to his left, so he sighed and dismounted, leading Rurouni off the road and towards the disturbance.

Within minutes he was tying Rurouni to a small tree that stood outside of an enclosed courtyard, and there was a ruckus happening on the other side of the wall. Tilting his hat back, he looked up at the top of the wall, noticing its distinct architecture. Deciding to think about it later, he retrieved his rifle, and jumped up, almost magically reaching the top of the eight foot high wall. Steadying himself, he looked in on the disturbance. There was a crowd of men surrounding a young lady and a child, and there was another man tied off and thrown to the side. His mouth was bleeding, and his eyes sparked with anger. "You bastards, this done be against the law!" he shouted, and the man noticed the badge on his vest.

"Shut up, deputy!" one of the goons shouted. "This ain't any of yer business! This here is good land, and like hell some yellow children keep it when a white man could use it!"

The stranger's eyes flickered over the children in question, and noticed that they were armed with wooden sticks, and their eyes were determined and their mouths set in grim lines. Their foes were armed with pistols and shotguns. "You won't get away with this!" the girl shouted, an accent coloring her words. "My father built this house, I won't let you take it!" Her blue eyes fairly blazed with defiance and her hands tightened on her stick at her words.

"Shut yer yap, you little bitch!" the biggest of the thugs shouted, words slurred. "Too bad for you that you live so far out of town and around all these abandoned houses. The story will be that those damned injuns done come in here and raped themselves some innocent children," he laughed, voice growing more and more ugly. "Too bad that no one wants to help you little yellow bastards."

The man finally had enough. "I wouldn't be too sure of that," he called out, his voice hard as steel. The big one turned towards him, brandishing the shotgun he had been resting against his shoulder. Too slow! There was a roar as the thug pulled both triggers, and the top of the wall shattered as the pellets tore into the shingles. But the stranger had already leaped off the wall, and he hit the ground rolling. With a shout, he sprang up, his rifle swinging around.

OXOXOXOXO

Kamiya Kaoru had been shocked and angry when the mob had arrived, and could not understand how a man could have so much evil in his heart that he would be willing to kill two children for a parcel of land. When the deputy arrived, she had hoped for a moment that the crowd would leave, but that hope had died a horrible death when the largest assailant drove his gun into the deputy's mouth. She knew that the sheriff was out hunting bandits, so she had felt for the very first time in her life that she was without a doubt going to die. Still, her family was samurai, and she wouldn't go down without a fight. Luckily, she and Yahiko had been caught while they were practicing their katas, so they had their boken with them. Unfortunately, the wooden swords would be no match for the guns the thugs carried. Just as she got ready to attack, a voice rang out loud and clear from the courtyard's wall, and she jumped when the thug fired his gun. Thinking that the stranger had been killed, she didn't expect to see him reappear inside of the courtyard as he lifted his gun.

She took a step back, pulling Yahiko behind her when she saw the man's eyes change from a clear blue to a molten gold. "Youkai!" she hissed in fear. She watched as the demon began to fire impossibly fast, weapon a blur as he aimed at thug after thug. She could barely keep count; the weapon was so loud and he was shooting so very quickly! But after fifteen (or was it sixteen?) shots, all but one of the goons were on the ground, bleeding. Unfortunately, the one left was the large one. "Yer fast, aren'cha?" he laughed as he reloaded. "Well, that don' matter. Now I don't have to share the profit that I'll get from selling this land!" Dropping the second bullet into his shotgun, he snapped it shut, the sound ominously loud in the now silent courtyard. "Yer outta ammo...and outta TIME!" he shouted as he swung the gun up.

There were two loud shots, and the thug screamed as he dropped his gun, both hands bleeding heavily. The stranger held a smoking pistol in his hands. Kaoru gasped. She hadn't even seen him move! Holstering his pistol and picking up his rifle, he headed over to the deputy and stranger drew the sword at his side and cut him free. Murmuring something quietly to the man, he sheathed the sword, and turned towards her. "I'm sorry for the disturbance, miss. All of these men will be arrested, and hopefully this won't ever happen again." That's when she noticed that all the thugs were still alive. Shot, but still alive. With a bright smile he turned and lifted his hand to the door.

"Wait!"

At her shout, the stranger stopped and looked to her, curiosity flickering in his now blue eyes. "Yes, miss?"

"These people, they had friends...what if they try this again? You can stay here for as long as you want, and we can pay you! Onegai shimasu!" she blurted before clapping her hands over her mouth. In her desperation she had reverted to her native language.

"I wouldn't worry about that, Kamiya," the deputy said as he gently prodded at his jaw. "The sheriff should be getting back here within the next couple of days, and there ain't no damn bandit who'd want to try this when he's in town."

The stranger turned towards the door again. "If you...if you must go, could you at least tell me your name?" she asked, not understanding why she felt so sad that he wouldn't be staying. The stranger rested his hand against the door. She saw his shoulders slump, and she bit her lip as she turned and bowed her head. "I'm sorry for my rudeness. Please, continue on your way."

"My name is Kenshin O'Donnell. I suppose that if you do not mind my presence I can stay and protect you and your house."

Gasping, she looked back at him. He was smiling, his eyes twinkling. "No," she murmured. "I would not mind at all..."