Kenshin generally thought of fishing as a solitary pursuit – not only as a means of providing food for the inhabitants of the Kamiya dojo, but as a time to relax and reflect. Therefore, it was with a small bit of trepidation that he found himself trudging down to the river one early afternoon in late summer – lunch basket in one hand, fishing pole in the other, and Sano striding beside him.
The night before, quite suddenly, Sano had announced, "Kenshin – we're gonna go fishing tomorrow."
Kenshin had looked at him, surprised. "But Sano, you never get up until noon."
"Yup. That's right. You bring lunch, the fishing poles and the bait. I'll bring sake." Sano nodded as if that settled the matter. And it had.
They found a grassy, sunny spot where they settled down. As soon as they baited their hooks, and threw their lines in the water, Sano, predictably, was ready to eat. He looked into the basket, stared, and pulled out a rooster-shaped onigiri.
Sano chuckled. "Jeez, Kenshin, this is kinda sweet. Did you make it just for me?"
Kenshin laughed, too. "Ayame-chan and Suzume-chan insisted on helping me make our lunch. And yes, Ayame-chan made that one for you. I think she's taken a liking to you, Sano."
Sano took a bite. "Aw, she's a sweet kid. But she's too young to be thinking about 'liking' anyone, 'specially an older guy like me."
Kenshin looked out at the water. When Kaoru-dono was Ayame-chan's age, I had already been married. Tomoe was already dead. I was the same age that Kaoru-dono is now.
Sano said, "Kenshin?" and nudged him.
Kenshin looked at him questioningly.
"Ah, nuthin'. For a minute you just looked – I dunno – like someone walked over your grave or somethin'. I dunno." He shrugged. "Want some sake?" Kenshin nodded, and Sano handed him the jug.
They ate and drank in silence for a few minutes, and then Sano said, "Kenshin? You ever think about what's out there?" He motioned down the river.
Kenshin tipped his head, puzzled. "You mean China? Or the islands?"
"No. I mean beyond that. Where the foreigners come from. The Netherlands. England. America." Sano's tongue tripped over the unfamiliar words. "You ever think about what those places might be like? You ever think you'd like to see 'em?"
Kenshin said quietly, "I've done enough wandering in my time, Sano. I'm quite content to stay here in Tokyo now."
Sano nodded. "Yeah, I get that, Kenshin. Jou-chan'd have a fit if you left again."
Kenshin looked at his friend and thought, Kaoru-dono would not be the only one I'd mind being parted from.
"Speaking of Kaoru-dono, we'd better catch some fish, Sano. We don't want her to scold us for coming home empty-handed."
As the afternoon wore on, the bucket of fish got fuller, the bottle of sake got emptier, the sun got warmer, and Kenshin got drowsier. Sano was dozing on the bank beside him. Kenshin must have nodded off for a moment. Suddenly, he felt an enormous pull on his line and a splash of water on his face. He came fully awake, expecting to see a giant fish on his line; instead, he saw a shirtless Sano, standing in the water directly in front of him with a huge grin on his face. "C'mon Kenshin! Come in the water! It's too hot to fish!"
"Now, Sano, I don't know …" Sano reached over and grabbed Kenshin's wrist, and pulled. "Wait! Orororo!" Kenshin came up sputtering, completely soaked. He looked at Sano, started to laugh, and splashed him back. A couple of young boys sitting further down the bank giggled and followed suit, splashing boisterously. Some older fishermen sitting farther up the bank tut-tutted, shook their heads, and gave Kenshin and Sano disapproving looks.
They crawled back onto the bank, and Kenshin said, "We'd better fish a bit longer, Sano, until we dry out. We most certainly will be scolded by Kaoru-dono if we come back dripping." He smiled at the younger man.
Sano said, "You fish. I'll nap." He stretched out on the bank in the warm afternoon sun.
As Kenshin watched his friend sleep, he remembered what Sano had said earlier; and he suddenly remembered something that he had said to Kaoru not too long ago: "One of these days, Kaoru-dono, I believe that Sano will leave us. Japan is too small to hold someone like him." Kenshin hoped that day wouldn't come too soon.
Rurouni Kenshin belongs to Watsuki Nobuhiro and SHUEISHA; English-language versions by AnimeWorks (anime) and Shonen Jump/VIZ (manga). This piece of fiction is in no way approved or endorsed by any of the copyright holders.
Comments, constructive criticism, and praise, however faint, are all greatly desired.