Disclaimer: All the Detective School Q, Rurouni Kenshin and Peacemaker Kurogane characters belong to their respective creators. Slight OOC-ness expected
AU. This is my first time doing a crossover involving 3 manga series. The timeline is set during the late Bakumatsu. Some 21st century DDS characters will be appearing in period roles. I will be introducing some of my own characters from my PMK and RK fanfics, including old favourites like feisty Aunt Umeko and the sharp-tongued morgue keeper Kitsu-dono. For the purpose of this story, there will be some tweaking of history. So history-buffs and purists, you have been warned.
Kyoto, 1867, late evening
"How's working at the Dan household, Ryu?" The youth froze in the middle of stuffing a piece of firewood into the flames. "Tell him everything is under control, Kerberos," Amakusa Ryu chucked the wood and whispered hastily as the ninja leapt down from the roof. "You have not been reporting back recently, Ryu," the ninja accused.
"Because there is nothing to report," Ryu retorted. "Besides Dan-sensei coming down with a cold and Nanami-san losing to a kid at shogi. So scat." Irked, Ryu flung a piece of wood in Kerberos' direction. Kerberos dodged it skilfully.
"You didn't report regarding the newcomer."
"You mean Renjo Kyu? He's just some kid from Edo calling on Dan-sensei, son of a friend or something. Chances are, he'll be out joining the army soon," Ryu growled as he stoked the fire. Dan-sensei would need his bathwater warm and Ryu was running out of time to heat up the bath. Dan-sensei's an honourable man and Ryu felt bad about his deceit. Dan's kind to all his servants, including Ryu. Little did he suspect Ryu was working as a spy for the Meiousei ninja clan. Yet, Ryu had to obey his grandfather, the leader of the clan.
"Ah, Renjo. That name sounds familiar… Ah, yes, Dan's former right hand man. A point example in the dangers of walking about this city at night," Kerberos smirked. "I trust our old invalid has no visitors recently?"
"If he did I was not aware of it," Ryu whispered. Kerberos suddenly tensed, drew his kodachi and seized Ryu roughly round the neck threateningly. "We're not the only ones watching Dan's residence, so hush," he whispered hastily.
"Harassing servant boys? I never thought you lot would stoop so low." A few shurikens whizzed through the air and hit the bathhouse wall next to Kerberos. The ninja loosened his grip and Ryu broke free, acting the part of a terrified servant. He scooted away to the safety of the woodpile, thankful for the interruption.
"Ah, you must be Meiousei's agent," the other ninja emerged from the shadows of the gingko tree. He was older than Kerberos. Kerberos watched him cautiously. "Oniwabansu. Judging by your stiff joints, you must be Okina. What brings you to Kyoto?" Kerberos dodged a few more shuriken and somersaulted onto the roof. His opponent joined him.
"Why? The pretty girls of course. Has Meiousei resorted to harassing servant boys for information?" Okina spat. Among the ninja, the Meiousei were thought of as opportunists with no loyalty whatsoever. "That little incident involving the Makimachi household was your dirty work wasn't it?"
"Regrettable but necessary. All's fair in war, old timer," Kerberos shrugged. He should have guessed the Oniwabanshu would have figured things out quickly, especially after a consultation with Dan.
"Fair? Putting up some dim-witted servant girl to murder because your bunch is too lily-livered to do your own killing? Bring it on you coward!" Okina drew his tonfa.
"Well, you'll be singing a different tune if Makimachi lived long enough to deliver his end of the bargain to you," Kerberos held his sword ready. He could not use hypnosis against a master ninja who was probably well-versed in the technique. Steel clashed on wood as they fought.
Ryu watched from the darkness behind the storehouse. Whistles sounded and the thundering of feet broke the silence. The silhouettes of the two fighters against the moon have been spotted by the watch. Hastily, the ninjas fled into the darkness. The watch pounded hard against the gate of Dan's residence. "Open up! Open up before we smash in…"
"Coming!" Ryu ran over, but Kyu beat him to it. "Hey, Kintaro-san! Whoa!" Kyu greeted the first patrolman who bustled in and knocked both boys to the ground. "They're gone," Kintaro exclaimed in surprise as he glanced about at the roofs.
"Have you been hitting the Sake Shack before patrol, Toyama?" A battle-scarred senior watchman reprimanded. "No, Hougou-senpai. I swear!" Toyama Kintaro protested. The commotion had roused the attention of the entire household. Nanami was running out barefoot from his room. Katagiri Shino the housekeeper and Yukihira, Dan's niece, followed still in their kitchen aprons. Katagiri held a lantern aloft. The master of the house was probably sitting propped up in that odd Western-style chair in his room, wondering what was going on. Ryu glanced at Kyu and wondered how long he had been outside in the compound.
"Shinsengumi First Patrol! Stop you rebels!" Before the watchmen could recover, a group of a dozen men were charging towards them, swords drawn. The more timid of the watchmen started to retreat at the sight of the infamous wolves of Mibu.
"Oh merciful Buddha!" Kintaro cursed. Nanami dashed forward to seize Kyu and Ryu, pulling them a safe distance from the impeding medley. They couldn't close the gate, not with half the night watch standing frozen on their threshold. Yukihira screamed. Katagiri cautiously pressed herself against the wall of the building, conveniently within easy reach of a wood-axe.
Hougou stood his ground, clutching his weapon, a jutte, the pronged staff used by the Edo era policemen. The leader of the pack, a short redhead, obviously took the retreat as an admission of guilt. He charged. Hougou immediately stepped in, using his jutte to deflect the deadly blade as it fell. The blade skirted close enough to draw a thin line of blood from Hougou's exposed forearm.
"Captain, this is a misunderstanding! We're the night watch…" he tried to explain.
"Pah! A likely story!" The redhead spat as they grappled. Surprisingly, the other members of the Shinsengumi patrol held back. A murmur of confusion was passing through them. "Shinpachi, stand down immediately!" A gruff voice ordered. The captain stepped back. The Shinsengumi ranks parted to allow a tall dark samurai to pass. Leaning on the samurai's arm was a slight figure wearing a cloak with the hood pulled up. The figure was coughing slightly.
"Vice-chief Hijikata," Nagakura Shinpachi, de facto captain of the First Patrol, hurriedly sheathed his blade. "We saw a man, likely wounded… acting suspiciously… so we gave chase…" Hijikata held up a hand to stop Nagakura.
"Our work is done here," Hijikata said curtly. "Men, back to barracks!" In silence, the Wolves of Mibu stalked off. "Thank heavens," Hougou gave a brief prayer of thanks that he and his unit had emerged from the encounter with little bloodshed. "Baka Miburou," Kintaro cursed under his breath. Hougou ripped a makeshift bandage from his sleeve and tied it round his wound. Since the damned Shinsengumi set up camp in the city, life had become hazardous for the police, more from getting killed by their fellow so-called protectors of Kyoto rather than from outlaws, rebels or fires put together.
"What is the commotion?" Dan's voice called out. The invalid was sitting in that odd Western-style chair Nanami built for him, pushed by a red-haired youth Ryu was certain he had not seen enter the compound. The teen had a plaster on one cheek and a sword in his belt. He was probably a samurai. "Dan-sensei, everything is under control. Just a little misunderstanding…" Nanami said reassuringly. He turned to the watch. "As you could see, kind sir, the intruders have left the compound. You may search if you wish…"
Instead, Hougou gave an order for his men to leave. "See you tomorrow, Kintaro-san!" Kyu waved cheerfully to Kintaro. "Yeah, see you round," a shaky Kintaro returned the wave before hastily following his comrades out.
"Himura-san, sorry to trouble you. Perhaps we should continue our conversation inside. Would you mind if my assistant joined us?" Dan said to the redhead youth.
"Not at all, if he can be trusted…" Himura's eyes scanned the household. "Can I help, Dan-sensei?" Kyu asked eagerly. "No, bed, now!" Nanami ordered. "Aw," Kyu sighed in disappointment. He so wanted to help Dan-sensei, just like his father did. "You too, Ryu. There is no place for you boys in sensei's work yet," Nanami added.
Ryu bowed and took Kyu by the arm. "Good night, Dan-sensei. Nanami-sensei. Dan-sensei's bath is ready. If you need me to reheat the bath…"
"It will not be necessary. I wouldn't be taking a bath tonight… perhaps you boys could use one," Dan replied when he saw their torn and dusty clothes.
Miburou – Wolves of Mibu, a reference to the Shinsengumi. The Bakumatsu was a time of widespread turmoil in Japan. The Shinsengumi is a paramilitary outfit active in Kyoto region during this period. They are pro-Shogunate. However, they did not always get along with the other pro-Shogunate fractions. In that era, killing your enemies as a samurai is socially acceptable and probably expected as a duty.
Jutte – pronged staff-like weapon used by law enforcement of the period, about 18 inches in length. Only the samurai class were allowed by law to carry swords or katana.
Tonfa – Okina's weapon of choice is a set of paired sticks, which can be used to strike or stab an opponent. Ninjas might carry shorter swords known as kodachi on their missions. The star-shaped dart or shuriken is another ninja favourite, and is often dipped in poison beforehand for maximum effect. I made the Meiousei a ninja clan. Kerberos probably makes a good ninja. Any complaints about Ryu being a humble servant instead of a prince?
In Tokugawa Japan, Fifteen was considered adult for boys. So at 14, Ryu and Kyu are almost grownup but not quite yet.