Chapter I: Our New Home
Disclaimer: I don't own the Rurouni Kenshin anime/manga/movie/game/whatever.
Hiko Seijuro XIII stared at the abandoned house with a neutral look on his face.
He and his newfound pupil had spent the past few weeks travelling across the countryside. After placing an order for a training sword with a swordsmith in the town near which he had met the boy, Hiko had resumed his wandering with his pupil in tow, teaching Kenshin basic skills like cooking, cleaning and haggling for goods along the way. At the same time he continued wielding his sword to protect the downtrodden, cutting down bandits, oppressive landlords and corrupt government officials alike.
But all that killing was having a negative effect on his pupil's mind, and the constant travelling and camping in the wilderness was taking its toll on his frail body. He wasn't ready for this kind of lifestyle.
Eventually Hiko came to the realisation that if he hoped to teach Kenshin the Hiten Mitsurugi and mould him into a master swordsman he would have to give up his wandering ways and find somewhere to settle down; an isolated place where he could train the boy in peace.
At the little village where they had stopped a few hours ago, he thought he had found such a place. The locals muttered terrified rumours of a haunted house just across the mountain that overlooked the village.
Apparently, a lonely old man had lived there. He kept mostly to himself, coming to the village only to sell things he gathered from the mountains and the forest on the other side: animal skins, herbs, honey and the like.
He had died not long ago, and since then some of the villagers who climbed the mountain to gather wood or hunt animals had claimed to have heard strange voices and seen apparitions resembling the old man, coming from the direction of his hut.
To Hiko, the location sounded perfect. A house in the middle of nowhere where they wouldn't be affected by the troubles of the outside world, yet there was a village not far away where they could get supplies.
"Come on, boy. Let's take a closer look." he said, turning to look at the child who was shivering behind him, grasping his hakama tightly in his little hand.
"B-but what about th-the ghost?"Of course. He still believes in ghosts.
"Don't be an idiot." Hiko snapped. "There is no such thing as ghosts."
"B-but the villagers-"
"The villagers were either drunk or hallucinating." Hiko was getting annoyed. How could he teach the boy to fight real enemies if he flinched from imaginary ones? "You know how it is with rumours and superstitions. It's likely that they just mistook the howling of the wind for screaming and daydreamed about seeing an old man."
He briskly walked towards the cottage. The boy could follow if he liked.
Well, cottage would be a generous way of putting it. It was just a ramshackle, one-room hut. The thatched roof had a few holes in it, and it needed some repairs if they were going to survive the winter, but apart from that it didn't look like it was going to collapse anytime soon.
Inside, they were surprised to find all the things they needed to live there. Tools, pots and pans, clothing and futons. There was even a sizeable jar of sake, sealed with wax. Hiko broke the seal, uncorked it and took a sip. The old man had good taste. It looked like the villagers had left everything intact out of respect for the former owner. Or out of fear of his spirit.
"Shishou," Hiko looked down to see the wide-eyed, innocent look in Kenshin's eyes. "Are we going to stay here?"
Hiko suppressed a smile. "Yes. From now on, at least until your training is over, this shall be our home."
From today, he was no longer a rurouni. Although this meant he would no longer be healing the sufferings of the world around him, he didn't particularly mind. In fact a part of him felt glad.
For seven years since he completed his training, Hiko had wandered the country as a free sword, righting wrongs with his blade and hoping to change the world for the better. But the sufferings of the outside world were perpetual,and things only grew worse with time. The Tokugawa Shogunate grew ever weaker with the arrival of the Black Ships. The samurai became greedy and arrogant and used their power to squabble among themselves and oppress the peasantry instead of maintaining order in the land. Degenerate ronin prowled the countryside as bandits and assasins. The only difference Hiko's sword made in the long run was to raise the body count, killing villains like flies only for more to rise and take their place.
Eventually Hiko came to the realisation that murder was the only art a swordsman could practice, and no ornamental words could change that. To try and change the world with murder was futile. All he could do was to continue killing evildoers and hope to retain his humanity by laying his victims to rest. Jaded by his experiences, he was slowly losing his purpose in life.
That was before he met Shinta-no, Kenshin, not Shinta. Sword-heart. That's what he named him. The boy was still young, still pure and noble of heart. He wanted the strength to protect the innocent from what he had suffered, and Hiko would help him gain that strength. In him, Hiko had found a new purpose.
Yes. I will train this boy here, so that one day he will take my place and uphold the principles of Hiten Mitsurugi-Ryū, and through him I will be redeemed.
Hakama: A Japanese lower body garment. Worn, among others, by practitioners of kendo/kenjutsu.
Shishou: A respectful term for addressing one's teacher. Equivalent to 'Master'.
Author's note: Although it's been done before, I had the idea of doing an origins fic for Kenshin because I had a different idea about certain aspects of his and Hiko's history than other writers.
1)I believe Hiko was still leading a wanderer's life before he met Shinta. Neither anime nor manga shows him having a home at that time. In fact he tells Shinta that he was lucky that Hiko happened to walk that particular path. And Hiko himself says in a monologue that all he could do was kill the villains that kept springing up everywhere, so he had not yet consigned himself to being a hermit. He only settled down after he met his apprentice.
2)Nearly all of fandom believes that the home Hiko lived in during the Kyoto arc is the same home he occupied when he was raising Kenshin. I believe they are both different places. Otherwise Kenshin wouldn't have needed to go through so much trouble to find out his whereabouts during the Kyoto arc, he would have recognised the place when he got there and Hiko wouldn't be living under the newly assumed name of Niitsu Kakunoshin(since anyone living nearby would already know his old name). Also, in the OVA and in a manga flashback, Hiko's home while training Kenshin appears to be surrounded by snowy mountains while in the anime he lives on a forested hill near Kyoto.
Another thing. The official translation for the word 'Kenshin' is 'Heart of Sword' but it can also be interpreted as 'sword-heart'. I prefer the latter translation because it does a better job of conveying that Kenshin has the heart of a swordsman, while 'Heart of Sword' seems to give the impression of him being hard-hearted.
PS: I'm writing this fic largely for my own satisfaction, but that doesn't mean I don't appreciate a review, good or bad. If you enjoyed this fic or felt that there was something lacking in it, please spend a moment to help me improve my writing.