Summary: AU: KK To save her beloved homeland, Kaoru agrees to an alliance that offers her to the powerful king Himura Kenshin, a man she finds herself loving and hating at the same time.
Disclaimer: I do not own Rurouni Kenshin.
Author's Note: It's Aya.Well, I started to write again. This story was hovering in my mind for quite sometime before I actually started to write it. And when I did, it just flowed out of me. I'm pretty impressed with myself for making this chapter six pages—yes, six pages—long. But I really hope that you guys enjoy it. There is a lot of information in this first chapter, so please let me know if you were confused with something. I will gladly clarify in the next chapter!
Please enjoy the first installment!
This Heart of Mine
I. And So It Begins
South, Kingdom of Taisho
The sun was just setting over the horizon as the bells from the temple rang throughout the kingdom. The city became quiet as all the people—commoners, vassals, merchants, the court, and royalty—bowed their heads for the final prayer of the day. The sky above the royal palace was a mixture of pastel colors, like an abstract painting. Soon, the darkness would come and the people of Taisho would rest their heads and wait for tomorrow.
Kamiya Kaoru smiled as she lifted her head and opened her eyes. There was complete silence around her. It was not unusual; she was in the library. But the stillness made her realize that she probably finished prayer a little too quickly. She sat in the quiet, her thoughts lingering.
It was only in Taisho where there could be silent prayer such as this everyday, where the army was only kept as a precaution, and where the peaceful religion of the Djinns kept serenity and harmony in the nation. It was only here, in Taisho, that the peace was kept. It seemed everywhere else was involved in a bloody war.
Kaoru stood and stretched with a yawn, smoothing out the wrinkles in her teal dress. Her ears noticed that the bustling of the palace had returned, and she knew that in a moment, one of her handmaidens would burst through the—
"Princess! Princess! Where are you?" a voice called.
"Tae, I'm in the library," Kaoru called back, heading towards the door. She pulled it open in time to see her maid, Tae, standing in the doorway.
"Princess! Where have you been? You skipped your piano lessons and also your math, literature and—" Tae said in a stern tone.
"I know I missed my lessons. But it was so lovely outside that I sat in garden for a few hours reading. So, I did learn something." Kaoru offered a sly smile to calm her irritated maid. Although Tae was a handmaiden, she acted like the mother Kaoru never had.
"I swear, if I could tell the thing the mischievous things you do instead of going to your lessons to your father, King Kosuke—"
"Father would just laugh and say that's just how I am!" Kaoru laughed. She looked at the annoyed face on Tae. "I'm not trying to be smug, Tae, must that's just how Father is, and you know it."
"Yes. It is true. Being the king's only daughter, he spoils you to no end," Tae agreed heavily.
Kaoru beamed. She was well aware that her father gave in to her every desire because she was loved dearly by him. But it was a double-edged sword. Because she was sheltered in many aspects of her life, she was not allowed to know of the affairs that occurred outside of Taisho walls.
"Oh, yes! Tae, has the conference with Yama kingdom ended yet?" Kaoru asked eagerly.
Tae raised a brow at the girl's sudden enthusiasm. "Yes, it ended just a few minutes ago, before dusk prayer. The king stayed behind to converse with the diplomats from Yama."
"But, Yahiko has left, right?"
"The young prince decided to head down to dinner. And you should start heading down for dinner too," Tae said, putting a hand on Kaoru's back to lead her out the door.
"This is perfect. I can ask Yahiko about the conference matters without the interference of Father!" Kaoru said joyfully. Since Father would never tell her the matters of the Taisho and other nations, she pestered her young brother, Yahiko, for information. Yahiko, who was heir to the throne, appeared at most important meetings to become well-educated in the matters of the state.
"Princess, you know that the king strictly forbids—"
"What Father doesn't know won't kill him. Right?" Kaoru said, a spring in her step.
"Princess, I must protest—" Tae began.
"Too late! I'm going down now!" Kaoru flashed Tae a grin before sprinting down the corridor.
Tae stared after the lively young girl with a slight smile. That girl had a mind of her own, and she could not be tamed. Kaoru was seventeen years old, but she acted like a child in so many ways. Perhaps that was part of her charm—everyone in the kingdom loved her and many suitors vied for her affections. Still, despite any troubles, she remained the beautiful, vivacious girl that Taisho people adored.
"P-Princess! Don't run down the halls! You know that isn't ladylike!" Tae exclaimed, picking up her skirts and chasing after the princess.
It was only after dinner, when Kaoru retired to her chambers, that she would attempt to pry information from her brother. She was resting on her bed, flipping through the pages of her lessons that she had (purposely) missed.
"Kaoru! Why are you calling for me?" a rough voice said, and a boy barged into her room without any introduction. If it was any other person, Kaoru would have been irritated. But because Yahiko had been doing these sorts of things since he could walk, Kaoru ignored it. Standing in the doorway was her younger brother, a boy of fourteen years. His black hair was unruly (as usual) and he looked annoyed at being called (though she has done it thousands of times). He walked over to her side and sat down on the bed.
Kaoru immediately threw aside her books and sat up. "I want you to tell me everything that happened in the meeting today." Her eyes sparkled with interest.
"No way!" Yahiko exclaimed, backing away. "Last time I did that, you opened your big mouth to Father, and I got scolded for telling you. I do not want to go through that situation again!"
"Father hardly scolded you! He scolded me for making you tell me!"
"Yeah, and then he turned on me and told me off for saying anything to you!"
The two crossed their arms and glared angrily at each other.
"My, my. You two definitely are siblings, aren't you?" Tae said, who had just returned after setting a bath for Kaoru.
"Hardly," Yahiko snorted. "Have you seen how ugly she is?"
Kaoru growled. "And have you seen how Yahiko acts when he's around that pretty little kitchen girl?"
Yahiko's eyes widened. "Oh, no."
"Oh, yes. If you don't want your cute little secret to be revealed, you'll tell me everything. Now."
It was Yahiko's turn to growl. "All right. I'll tell. But don't say anything to Father! Or I'll never tell you anything about the meetings again!"
"I promise, dear little brother," Kaoru said with fake solemnity, drawing a cross over her heart. She threw a wink at Tae, who smiled gently.
Yahiko rolled his eyes. "Okay. So you remember from last time, when I told you how a northern Kingdom of Yazawa is trying to conquer a lot of the nations? The king wants to expand his empire from the northern to southern border by hostile takeover?"
Kaoru nodded eagerly.
"Well, Yama came to us in order to form an alliance. If this new empire attempts to attack us, they'll help defend Taisho, and if they attack Yama—"
"We'll help defend Yama," Kaoru finished.
"Exactly. There was a lot of discussion whether or not we should agree," Yahiko explained gravely.
"Well, did we?" she prompted.
Yahiko scowled. "No. Father wants to keep the northern empire believing that we are peaceful, trying to avoid any type of bloodshed."
Kaoru breathed a sigh of relief. "Good. War would be terrible."
"If the northern empire wants to attack us, Father hopes to sort it out without any violence. So far, all of the other kingdoms were willing to fight to defend any type of takeover; they didn't want to reason," Yahiko told her.
"They should have tried reason. Lives could have been saved. I think Father made the right decision," Kaoru said with determination. She loved Taisho because of the peace the kingdom retained. The Djinn religion taught the people of Taisho to keep the peace, and that violence was the worst solution.
Kaoru looked at brother. He looked restless; a issue was upsetting him. She grabbed his shoulder. "Don't you agree with Father too, Yahiko?"
Yahiko shook his head. "Father should have made the treaty with Yama."
"Yahiko!" Kaoru exclaimed. "How can you say that?! If it can be resolved with peace, then—"
"You don't understand, Kaoru. The northern empire…they're monsters. They don't have a peaceful religion like us—I highly doubt they believe in a god. They are fierce in battle and the king has many followers. They conquered four kingdoms in just one week! I hardly doubt that they would listen to us if we attempted to work out a deal with them. What if they want Taisho lands? What will happen if they try to takeover Taisho?"
"Father will find away to keep us from a war."
Yahiko looked at his sister and sighed. There was no point in arguing with her. He knew that she didn't believe in any solution if it involved bloodshed. She was the essence of the Djinn religion that people of Taisho followed.
Yahiko fell back onto the pillows. If the northerners tried to start a war with Taisho, Yahiko doubted the city could hold. His father was being foolish. Yes, a peace treaty with the northerners would be better for the people of Taisho, but would that save Taisho's pride? And would the northerners accept a treaty from Taisho anyway?
Yahiko felt pressure beside him as Kaoru leaned against the bed frame, lost in thought.
He looked at Kaoru and remembered something he had heard at dinner tonight. "Well, you should say goodbye to Enishi tomorrow," Yahiko said indifferently.
Kaoru shot out of her reverie, turning to her brother. Fear was evident in her blue eyes. "What? Why?"
"He's leaving to speak with the Kingdom of Suna, to the east. They haven't been attacked yet. He wants to spread Father's words of reason," Yahiko clarified for his worried sister. Yukishiro Enishi was the son of the prominent Lord Yukishiro. The lord was a longtime friend the king. Enishi was a captain of the Taisho army and also stood to inherit his father's title. Enishi and Kaoru had grown up together and knew everything about each other.
Yahiko glanced at his sister's anxious face and rolled his eyes. Kaoru was fidgeting with worry. It was obvious that her worry went beyond that of a childhood friend.
"But is that safe? Maybe Suna is the next kingdom to be attacked!" Kaoru asked, panicked.
"Don't worry. Enishi is one of Father's favorite captains. So, he's smart. He won't get into any trouble, unless he asks for it." Yahiko smirked.
"Don't say something so ominous!" Kaoru exclaimed, throwing a pillow at her brother.
Yahiko laughed. "He'll be fine, Sis. Just remember not to be too lovey-dovey with each other before he leaves, okay? It grosses me out."
Kaoru's pretty face turned a shade of bright red. "Q-Quiet!" she stuttered. "Or I'll Enishi about your little crush and he'll torment you nonstop!"
"You already promised that you wouldn't!" Yahiko snapped.
"I lied!" Kaoru said brightly.
Before fight ensued, Tae stepped in. "Princess, it's time for your bath."
"Okay," Kaoru said cheerfully, hopping off the bed. She left Yahiko fuming on her bed, wondering if he would be there when she returned. Despite their arguments, Kaoru knew that they were very close, even if they didn't like to admit it.
Just as she was about to leave, she remembered a lingering question. "Yahiko?"
"Yeah?" he said, turning to her, still a little annoyed.
"What is his name?" Kaoru asked.
"Whose?" Yahiko answered.
"The man—the king who is leading the northern empire. What is his name?"
"Oh. Him." Yahiko scowled, disliking the thought of the man. "His name is Himura. Himura Kenshin."
North, Kingdom of Yazawa
Capital of Northern Empire
"Did you hear? Your forces from the takeover of Gin are returning. It was quite successful. There were hardly any casualties from both sides. They surrendered pretty quickly," a black-haired man said, standing on the veranda overlooking the Yawaza kingdom.
The man turned to look at the person on his left. It was another man—hair as red as fire and eyes as bright as gold. The other man carried a sword at his side, always ready and prepared for action. This man was strong, prideful, and willing to do anything he believed was right…
"Kenshin, are you listening to me?" the man asked, leaning against the balcony.
"Yes, Sano, I am," the man, Kenshin, replied softly. "Have Megumi and her assistants tend to the wounded from both sides, as usual."
"It's being done. The fox went down as soon as they arrived. Everyone has the routine down by now," Sano said with a grin.
Kenshin turned to his friend. "Hopefully, this routine will be over soon. There are only a few more kingdoms that resist us, and only a couple that we haven't even attempted to speak with."
"So, then which is our next target?" Sano inquired as Kenshin returned inside, and walked over to the table that had a map lying across it.
"Bloodshed is the result of every kingdom we try to takeover. If we can have the kingdom accept our ways would be the easiest. After all, we don't want to exhaust our armies so quickly. Which kingdom is the best for this to happen?" Kenshin wondered aloud.
"Probably a small one, with a weak or nonexistent army," Sano answered, looking over the map as well.
Kenshin let his eyes wander over the map, trying to decide on the best place to send his next set of troops. His gaze fixated on the kingdom located close to the southern border. He placed his finger on it.
"This is the next one," Kenshin said decisively.
Sano looked from his king to the map. "Taisho? You mean the peace loving country with the Djinn religion? The ones that pray everyday? Taisho?"
"Yes. They will be most compliant; they hate bloodshed. If we conquer them without any hostile takeover, it could set on example for the other kingdoms. No blood, no death. This could be a good solution," Kenshin explained.
The Kingdom of Taisho was the complete opposite of his nation Yazawa. Taisho believed in peace and serenity and remained neutral when it came to country-wide wars. But Yazawa knew that power was the best way to achieve peace…and some bloodshed was necessary. Under a united leader, there would be no more need for wars between kingdoms. This was Kenshin's belief.
"You're right. They would be easy to manipulate, but…Kenshin, that's what you said about the first three takeovers…and those were failures. Remember?" Sano said carefully.
Kenshin didn't respond to Sano's statement. Instead, he commanded the man next to him. "Tell Aoshi about my plans. Then, dispatch a messenger to Taisho and make sure he reaches there by tomorrow morning."
Sano saluted his king with a smirk. "Yes, my lord." He headed towards the door to inform the army general and let Taisho know of its imminent sentence of life or death.
Author's Note: I know, I know. A lot more Kaoru than Kenshin…but this chapter is pretty much a plot setter. Let me know what you think!