AN- With a week to go until I leave for basic training, I decided to post one last chapter. And it's on New Years eve, so I hope this brightens everyone's New Year considerably. So, I pray that you read, enjoy and review!
The next day a meeting took place in Desolation's one bar. Desolation was enough of a frontier town that if you knew where to look, you could find nearly anything. Finding someone to take revenge for you was easy, even if you went the distance to get someone particularly good.
Sano Sagall. Previously a bounty hunter, but once he came into Desolation, he stuck around and generally caused mayhem on and off. He had his own cell in the jail-house, which he fondly called his free hotel room. But still, he was strong, and knew what he was doing in a fight. "So...why should I do this?" he drawled, stretching out his legs as he slouched on the bar stool.
"I've put a bounty on his head. A full five hundred dollars if you bring him in dead or alive. I'd prefer him dead!"
Sano frowned at the squat man, whose sneer made him look even more like an ugly little ape than he normally did. "Listen, buddy, I always bring my bounties in alive. I'm not a killer, y'hear me?" He paused, searching the face of the man before him. "The money is clean, right?" The man flinched almost imperceptibly before nodding, and Sano had to fight the need to scowl. Damn liar. "I'm not interested."
"But what about my little brother?" the man snarled. "The bastard crippled him!"
"Does it look like I give a damn?" Sano sneered as he turned towards his drink, fully intent on ignoring the man.
"Wait! He's strong, and fast! He beat my brother on a draw, and my brother had his shotgun already on him." His voice dropped to a cruel hiss. "And he was a Union officer!"
Sano froze, mug of beer halfway to his lips. "Izzat so?" he drawled, eyes suddenly dark.
"Oh, I'm sure you've heard of him. Kenshin O'Donnell, manslayer of the Potomac!"
Sano gently set his mug down. "Mister, I don't like you, but you just got yourself a deal." The assassin of the Union Army would pay for what those bastards did to his brother's unit!
"So, where you get first name?"
Ken blinked as he sipped politely at the green tea that Miss Kaoru had provided him. He was more of a coffee man, but the drink wasn't all that bad. As he lowered the cup, he focused his attention on the young boy, Yahiko. "My mother's mother was from Japan, and my mother's father was an Irish trader. My mother wanted one of her children to bear a reminder of that heritage, and my father didn't mind. Most of the time I was simply known as Ken, so I admit it's a bit odd to hear my full name."
Yahiko looked confused, and muttered a soft word, and Ken felt like a fool. He knew the boy wasn't that good at English yet just by the way he talked. He was just about to try and explain again, but Miss Kaoru laughed and began to rapidly talk in Japanese, and the boy smiled and nodded. "Hi!"
Ken fidgeted. Was the boy an idiot? "Uhh...hi?"
Miss Kaoru giggled again. "No, not 'hello' Kenshin. Haaaii," she said, drawing out the word. "H-a-i. In Japanese, it means yes."
"I see. I feel like a fool, not knowing the language of my ancestors," he admitted, scratching the back of his neck.
She smiled. "Not fool. Baka. Kenshin-no-baka. Kenshin is a fool," she teased lightly, blushing prettily. He smiled, and was just about to reply, when something prickled against his consciousness. Sighing, he set down his cup.
"There is someone outside," he murmured as he stood up, grabbing his saber. His guns were in his room, and he hoped that he wouldn't need them. As he opened the door, his eyes narrowed. There stood a tall youth with what looked like a sharpened slab of iron on a long handle. "Good morning. How can I help you?" he asked, eyes narrowing.
"Yes, that is me."
"You have a bounty on your head, and I aim to collect."
Ken began to openly glare at the man. "What bounty do I have on my head?"
"You have a five hundred dollar bounty on your head for assaulting the Hiruma brothers. But really, that's not why I'm here. I'm here because you're Ken O'Donnell the Manslayer!"
Kaoru gasped behind him. "Nani? Hitokiri?"
"So? What of it?" he asked, voice deepening with anger. He was not proud of his past, and to have someone confront him because of it was putting him in a foul mood.
"I will make you, the strongest of the Union soldiers, pay for what happened to my brother!" he shouted, swinging his massive sword around to point at him.
Ken tensed, but then paused, took a deep breath, and relaxed his stance. "I have no interest in fighting you. If you fight me, no matter the outcome your brother will not return to you, nor will the darkness in your heart go away. I doubt your brother would like to see you like this, especially since you willingly took a job from criminals." Almost laughing at the shocked face of his opponent, he couldn't resist getting one barb in. "And anyway, I doubt you could beat me."
The man's eyes narrowed sharply. "Just for that, I challenge you to a duel! Men fear me, Sano the Fight Merchant! I haven't been defeated in a fight yet, and I doubt I'll lose fighting a man like you!"
Ken shrugged. "Fine, it's your loss. Let me go get my guns, we can resolve this by the riverside."
Sano shook his head, grinning fiercely. "You think I brought this slab of pig-iron here for show? No, we fight with swords!"
Ken froze, listening to the shocked gasps of the two behind him, but he smirked. "You sure you want to do that? I'm good at guns because I'm good at the sword...or didn't you hear the stories about me?"
"I think you're bluffing! Meet me at the river tomorrow at noon, and I'll crush you into the dust!" With those parting words, the tall young man turned and left, a cloud of anger hanging off his shoulders. As he disappeared around a handful of derelict buildings, Ken allowed a worried frown to slip over his face. He knew how to use the saber, but not in a way that would give him the best chance to win.
Starting slightly, he turned and smiled at Kaoru. "Yes, miss?"
A spark of annoyance flitted across her face so quickly he almost missed it, but the look of concern that followed was as easy to read as fresh tracks in the snow. "You seem worried," she murmured, soft accent more noticeable in her worry.
Scratching the back of his head, he nodded slightly sheepishly as they began walking back into the main house where they had been drinking their tea. "The sword I have can win this fight, but the chances aren't as good as I would like. I was actually trained in a style using a samurai sword..."
"Katana," Kaoru said almost absently as she frowned in concentration. Nibbling on her bottom lip, she looked back at him, her eyes thoughtful. Nodding slightly, she called out to Yahiko and rattled off in Japanese. Looking shocked and a little bit angry, he still bowed slightly, and ran off to a different part of the house.
"Kenshin, the thing I am about to present to you was specially made for my father in light of the ideals his sword style was known for. I was intending to save it for Yahiko, as I only use boken or shinai but I think you can use it this once, if it means the difference between life and death."
"Kenshin-san." Yahiko had returned, and was holding a long package reverently in his hands. "This mine, but I lend to you in time of need. This my father's, and very important."
Kenshin took the package as it was presented to him, and he opened the box only to find what had to be a sword in its own cloth wrapping. "Miss Kaoru, I can't-" he started, but she motioned him onwards, her eyes alighting with some hidden delight. Feeling a cold ball of dread form in his stomach, he undid the ties to the sword, and withdrew the sword and sheath, noting its weight. The sheath was made of iron, surprisingly. Firmly grasping the hilt and the sheath, he sent one last pleading look to Kaoru, but she again motioned him to continue. Mouth dry, he closed his eyes, and unsheathed the sword in one swift move. Taking a deep breath, he cracked open one eye, and both snapped open in shock. "But...how? Miss Kaoru! Your father...what were his ideals?"
"Kamiya Kasshin-ryu was made following the principles katsujin-ken, or swords that give life. Therefore a sword smith of renowned skill made that sword for my father, repaying him for something that my father did for him. It is a sakabatō."
Ken laughed, relief flooding over him. "You know me far too well, Miss Kaoru." He picked up and drew his saber, holding it next to the sakabatō. It was easy to see that the saber had a dulled blade. "I took an oath after the war to never kill again, and I've kept my word to this date. With the sakabatō I have a much greater chance to succeed. I hope you don't mind me using your practice yard...it's been far too long since I sufficiently practiced my family's style." When Kaoru nodded, he smiled his thanks and turned towards the door, his eyes steely with determination. This Sano character was going to get a surprise on the morrow!