A/N: Just to be clear, in case some of you did not catch the implied incest in Dark Tail (tale/tail, think of it as a play on words): Kenshin and Kaoru share the same father--while her mother was the previous serpent deity, his mother was human. Anyways, I think I might write another chapter for it since it does seem incomplete.
Due to the nature of this chapter, I had to change the rating--it's a little citrusy.
Disclaimer: I don't own Rurouni Kenshin
Flowers Blooming on the Battlefield
The warm fire cackled with glee as it voraciously consumed the dry wood in the small iron bowl; triumphant in chasing out the cold from the small tent. A heavy sigh was heard as an ink brush, still wet at the tip, dropped back into its place by the ink stone. Rough, callused hands picked up the painted paper which lay before him—the paper itself was thin and almost weightless but the image painted was heavy and completely overwhelming.
In the eyes of an artist, each brush stroke held passion and a fervent yearning—it spoke of an emotion that dared not be spoken nor felt. Dancing on that plain white paper, in a mixture of thin and bold strokes, at times harsh then gentle was a woman dressed in armor riding a dark horse; her sword held out in command and both posture and expression screamed unchallenged authority. Yet her eyes were as gentle as the rain in spring; such a pity that he could not capture the blueness of her eyes. The first time he saw her, he thought the Goddess of War had descended from the Heavens to command her earthly troops.
A finger unconsciously stroked the woman's river of hair, accidentally smearing it.
The ink was still wet.
Himura Kenshin stared at the ink stain on his finger tip then glanced back at the ruined painting. Was it she that stained him or was he that ruined her?
There it was again. That painful throbbing in his chest whenever he thought of her. His eyes hardened and burned brighter than the flames of the fire; the paper he held in his hands shook from the potent emotions that were gradually building up. Gritting his teeth, he tore up the painting as if it were an enemy and fed it to the fire, watching it burn with pleasure.
Taking in steady breaths, he willed himself to ignore the unnecessary; these inane human emotions.
Kenshin reached for another sheet of paper—he needed to write a brief report back to the Empire. It was then he noticed that his stash of paper had diminished to merely five sheets. Strange, considering that he started with at least 500 when he was sent out to this post. He glanced at the fire, the torn pieces were no more but his heart was still unsettled. He had hoped that as the pieces burned to ashes, so would those forbidden emotions, but it only served to feed and ignite that growing flame inside his chest.
Just how many times had he painted her only to burn it in the end?
"What are you doing to me?" he asked.
Only the cold wind answered him.
Suffocated, Kenshin pulled on his cloak and stepped out of his tent. Some of the men were gathering the snow that had fallen the night before into wooden buckets while others were searching for firewood. How much longer did they need to remain positioned there at the entrance of the valley? The war had gone on longer than expected and it showed in the men's weary faces and sluggish movements.
War was inevitable in this era of six kingdoms, every Lord wanted more power and control over the others. His Emperor wanted to unite the six kingdoms and bring about peace—but in order to do so he had to conquer the remaining five. The last to subdue was the Kingdom of Sacred Women—they were most unwilling to be governed by men. Yet Kenshin wondered if what they were doing was right.
Kingdom of Sacred Women had never bothered with the other kingdoms, they remained modest and kept to themselves. On the other hand, he was more worried for his Emperor. Though his Emperor may be a benevolent man, there was no guarantee that in the future he will remain the same. After all, absolute power corrupts absolutely.
To beget peace, war was indispensable. How ironic it was.
Abruptly, something cold and wet touched his nose.
It was snowing again.
Once more he thought of her and her long ebony hair, darker than the finest ink and pale skin that's as white and cold as snow. Kenshin wondered if her body would melt under the passionate heat of his fingertips. Those memories were slowly dissipating and he needed—wanted—another chance to re-acquaint himself with those sensations over and over again.
By now, his eyes were bristling intensely; if anyone glanced his way, they would definitely say that his eyes resembled a mountainous beast: wild and dangerous. Insane desire was swelling up inside—this was entirely her fault. Had she not flaunted her nakedness without shame by the lake that autumn afternoon and enchanted him throughout their battles, especially the more private ones where only the two of them were present, he would be as quiescent as the mighty Buddha.
These feelings were simply lust and nothing more. It was normal. He's a man and he has needs. Yes, it was perfectly normal.
Growling to his self, Kenshin decided it was best to take a quick dip at the hidden lake. The ice water should do him some good, not because he believed that she would be there.
… .. …
In this vast valley where only snow and empty trees could be seen for miles and miles, a young woman sat stiffly on a dark stallion, staring past the white horizon. She was motionless, as if frozen in time. The wind could not sway her; a sound could not avert her. A woman who was strong in her convictions could not be swayed so easily. Only her ebony hair and cloudy-coloured cloak swayed in the wind, like faded smoke against the snow backdrop.
She resembled an ink painting.
Kamiya Kaoru was a beautiful ink painting.
Regrettably, she hated ink paintings—they were cold and distant like a mystic dream that would eventually vanish. It simply was not real. Just a tempting illusion.
Perhaps that was the reason why she was so enchanted by that dangerous man. He was nothing like an ink painting. Bright and colourful like the autumn leaves, his scarlet red hair was one of a kind; each strand like silk threads. Sometimes she imagined using those strands of hair to embroider her name on a handkerchief and often found herself laughing at such ludicrous thoughts. She couldn't be nostalgic over him, absolutely not. She simply thought his hair was pretty and wanted a few strands. There's no profound meaning behind it. Not at all.
At first sight, she thought he was a demon that was summoned from the great fires of hell; his eyes the colour of melted gold was at once sinister and vindictive. He truly was the epitome of sublime—striking fear in the hearts of those that saw him. Every move he made was deliberate and precise—formidable and merciful. He made sure that those that came into contact with his blade died instantly. Could he not bear to witness his victims suffer or was he too vicious to hold back? No, he's not merciful at all. She met his blade many times, and had suffered far too much from countless wounds—many of which can't be seen.
What kind of spell did he curse her with?
Even in the bitter arctic of the valley, the skin underneath her thick clothes felt the scalding impressions of his eyes, mouth and hands. If she stripped in the middle of the snow, these strange sensations might extinguish.
Blue eyes stared out astutely, like a predator seeking out a prey. Directly in her line of sight was the enemy's camp—the red and yellow banner could not be mistaken. The large banner moved with the wind, its pointed tip whipping back and forth like the end of a snake. As if spellbound by its movements, she urged her stallion forward but pulled back when a sound of another trotting horse reached her ears. Whoever it was was only a mile away, but quickly moving in.
Hooves of a horse broke through the path of frost and silenced when it was near. Without turning back to acknowledge the newcomer, Kaoru asked, "What is it?"
"I was worried about you," replied the voice which belonged to a young woman she knew her whole life. "You've been out here for nearly two hours."
"Shura must have asked you to keep an eye on me," Kaoru commented as she turned to face the woman. "But I don't blame her, even I don't trust myself."
The woman sighed and glanced at the enemy's banner. "It has nothing to do with trust; we're just worried that you've been caught in the Devil's guiles." Grounding a glare she cautioned, "Please remember your position and his—he's the General of the opposing army—nothing good will come from your relationship with him."
Kaoru tensed from her words and roughly bit out, "I do not have a relationship with that man."
"Then what do you dub those late night rendezvous? I'm not blind Kaoru; do you know how many times I had to cover for you? If Shura found out, you'd be punished severely and stripped of your title."
Hearing that, Kaoru lowered her head in shame, drawing in deep breaths to placate her nerves. She should know better. But when she thought of the amber-eyed man, she knew that she regretted nothing.
"If only you two met in a different era—in a time where it's free to love whomever."
"No, Tae! You're wrong. It's not love! I'm the Commander of the Purple Robe Army—women of the Purple Robe Army do not love."
Who exactly was she trying to convince: Tae or herself? Tae sighed heavily as she watched Kaoru cover her face with her hands, as if realizing the reality of her actions for the first time. Understanding her Commander's troubling thoughts, she did not pursue the issue further. The wind was starting to get restless and the snow was falling in torrents. They needed to head back to camp.
"By the way, I heard that the enemy's camp is receiving quite a hefty convoy; it's due to arrive in the evening."
"Why are you telling me this?" asked Kaoru with a raised brow, impassive to the news. It had nothing to do with her.
Tae grinned and shrugged her shoulders in an aloof manner, "No reason. I just wanted you to know that the Empire sent a convoy of beautiful women to please their troops and boost their morale before the final battle."
Hearing that women were sent to please the men unsettled Kaoru. Not understanding why she was feeling irritated, she tugged on the reigns with much malice and steered her horse back to camp with Tae at her side. Her eyes were narrowed and her lips set to a livid scowl. Gritting her teeth, Kaoru cursed under her breath. "All men are lecherous pigs."
… .. …
Evening found Kenshin in his tent, sitting idly in his chair, and his head resting on his left knuckle. Tiny droplets fell from the tips of his damp red hair, unbound and not yet dry from his cold bath. An open book was held in his right hand but no words registered through his mind. His eyes were closed, seemingly asleep but he was fully awake. As a General, it had always been a habit to constantly be aware of one's surroundings, even in sleep.
Yet sleep was impossible from the rowdy merry making throughout the camp. Lively music and singing accompanied the troops in their drunken happiness, while beautiful women tended to their every desire. In their drunken state, it was much too easy for the enemy to attack. At that moment of blissfulness, all thoughts of war, bloodshed and the enemy were forgotten.
A light breeze swept into the tent, causing the flame of the candle to flicker. Someone had entered without permission. Kenshin did not bother to open his eyes; from the peaceful expression on his face, it looked like he was dreaming a beautiful dream and did not wish to be disturbed. The moment the person entered, he knew who it was. The intoxicating jasmine scent and the soft footfalls belonged to only one person: she finally came to see him.
"Speak," he commanded.
The intruder smirked and said, "General, you should come and join the others. It's still not too late to prepare the best woman for you."
Kenshin inwardly shuddered by the way he was addressed, it was beyond seductive. "No need to, there is already one in front of me." His eyelids slowly lifted to reveal a pair of amber eyes, dark with desire.
Lazily perusing his intruder's appearance, Kenshin stood up, casually threw the book over his shoulder and walked towards her with long evocative strides. He circled her like a lion appraising the lamb before attacking. An amused chuckle escaped him as he noted her outfit: a deep sea-green robe with golden patterns and burgundy coloured trousers—the official uniform of a palace eunuch. She even donned the customary braid and black hat. Her blue eyes sparked from his intense gaze; if his eyes were the sun, she would have melted completely.
"You must think very highly of me, Commander," his voice was rasp from repressing emotions. He stood behind her and lifted the hat off, tossing it to a dark corner as his fingers trailed down her long braid, tracing the patterned knots until it reached the cord that secured the braid and loosened it.
Kaoru held back a sigh as she felt his fingers stream around her waist, slowly pulling her flush against his broad chest. They were so close that she felt his warm breath on her neck and the ardent pounding of his heart against her back. She giggled lightly when his lips touched her ear. "Did you not know, General? I've always admired you."
By now, his fingers were entangled at the knot of her sash, unraveling it bit by bit. His chest rumbled with soft laughter, "From what I know, only the Emperor's concubines would dress like a eunuch to secretly seduce His Majesty, bypassing palace etiquette. Are you trying to compare me to the Emperor?"
"Or maybe I want your men to misunderstand that their Great General has weird preferences; that you desire someone who's neither man nor woman," said Kaoru as she grabbed one of his wandering hands.
"How cunning," he whispered as he kissed her neck.
The sash fell to the floor in a coil, allowing his hand to freely glide under the lapels of her robe, shifting through three layers of clothing before his fingertips grazed her bare flesh. She was utterly warm—soft and warm. Her breathing hitched when he squeezed her breast. Kenshin watched through half lidded eyes as Kaoru's cheeks tinged pink and the way she bit her lips to conceal sinful sounds. Gathering what's left of her sanity, Kaoru twisted around until they were face to face.
An impish smile gilded her face as she placed her palm flat against his chest sensually, putting some distance between them much to his chagrin. Not one to be daunted, his hands went to the small of her back and traveled low until they grasped her rear, causing her to tip toe closer. If not for her insistence to delay their intimacy, he would have tackled her to the ground and ravished her to the point of hysteria.
"Now, now, General, don't be so hasty," she cooed. Lifting one finger to ease the creases on his brow, she traced the lines of his face, dwindling on the indent of his lips. "I want you to enlighten me on something. Were you not satisfied with the women your Emperor sent you?"
A woman, no matter how strong, confident or independent, was always a woman—prone to jealousy. When he didn't answer her quick enough, her finger trailed to his Adam's apple and drew circles with her nail. She barely touched him but it sent him on edge.
Kenshin should be aggravated but he was oddly attracted to the way her stubborn chin tilted and the ominous eyes that stared back at him. He leaned in dangerously close so that their noses touched. "I only want you, Commander."
In two heartbeats, her mouth was on his, and her fingers wove into his hair—it was a violent and zealous kiss, almost tipping them over. Kaoru kissed him hungrily, as if she was deprived of food for months on end. She didn't care how her lungs seared for air or how tightly he held her against him. Only when he lifted her off the ground and her legs wrapped around his waist did she relented, breathing heavily for much needed air. Kenshin was no better, his eyes blazed with lust and lips swollen from the kiss.
Growling low in his throat, Kenshin carried her to his bed roll, wasting no time to strip them of their clothes. And just like their previous intimate encounters, there was no gentleness or tender affection. It was fierce and raw. Simply, this was an exploit to subdue the other as they tumble in the bedroll. If tongues were swords, they would have exchanged at least 100 stances.
Bare legs were caught in an erotic dance, stroking and kicking as they kissed feverishly. Their first intimate union by the lake was tame compared to this.
Kenshin was finally able to restrain Kaoru and had her writhing under him. Everywhere he touched burned, but it was a wonderful burning and she ached for more. His lips were teasing her breast while one hand massaged the other into painful ecstasy. But she wasn't about to yield, she clawed at his back despite knowing how it made him more aggressive; he bit her harshly once her nails dug into his skin—just the way she loved it.
The moment he seized her, her teeth clamped down on his shoulder and the deeper his thrusts, the deeper her teeth sunk into him. She reached out above her head, trying to gain hold of something strong and stable but his limbs wrapped around her like a vine, keeping her in place. He loved the way her breasts grazed against his chest by her rapid breathing; it was enticing as he showered her face with kisses. He loved the way she arched into him, mewling out pleas for more.
No, this was not love making, there was no love involved, definitely not. It was just sex: pure and fanatical sex.
Their voices were loud and heavy with passion but no one heard and even if they did, no one bothered.
Deep into the night, their barbarous sex gradually became amorous and tender. Kaoru curled against Kenshin, enjoying the way his fingers caressed her bare leg and whimpered softly. His warm breath tickled her from where his head lay comfortably on her bosom. Kenshin snuggled closer to her, sighing as she continued to stroke his hair. It was strange. Usually, they would part ways after their sexual activity, leaving no warmth or a semblance of love in their wake. Maybe it's because it's their last night or maybe they didn't want things to end; maybe there were feelings involved. Now, here they were, falling asleep in such a comfortable yet dangerous position.
In this state, it was much too easy to kill the other.
When Kenshin woke, she was already gone. All that's left behind were memories of last night, several marks on his body and an old dagger.
… .. …
The battle horn was blown and the commands were thrown.
Armored bodies were sliced through, decapitated and maimed in the heat of the battle. Bodies fell like fallen leaves. Roars of rage and cries of pain shattered the stillness of the valley; it was a symphony of death—dreadful and beautiful at once. Dark smoke rose into the air, as fire arrows were shot from north and south.
Was there no sympathy for the enemy?
Trapped in this pandemonium of death and bloodshed, all that the soldiers knew were to kill or be killed.
Charging forward into the sea of blood, Kaoru lost all sense of humanity. For the sake of her Kingdom, she must vanquish the enemy, no matter who it was that stood in her way. She had stripped away all weak emotions, her Kingdom and her Queen came before all else. That was what she pledged.
To defeat an army, one must first defeat the leader.
Only when the leader had fallen will the rest follow.
Kenshin slew through the hordes of fighting bodies, his bright amber eyes scanned through the chaos until his gaze narrowed in on Kaoru's bloody form. From the way his eyes glimmered and the blood splattered onto his face and armor, he appeared to be a blood lust demon. By the time he reached her, his blade was fully soaked in blood and ashes.
No words were said, as soon as their eyes met, they're swords moved, clashing violently. Orange and yellow sparks hissed and spewed each time blade met blade. They were ruthless and fought as if they've never met, as if they've never shared an intimate bond. Even as their swords slashed through armor and ripped through skin, not an ounce of mercy was shown. And yet, both thought how regretful it was to kill the other.
Piteous, that they didn't know each other's names. Only a face and a title was enough in the beginning—names meant attachment and they didn't want that; didn't need it at all. But now wasn't the same as before. Who knew when it changed?
Everything seemed to have faded away and there stood only him and her, dancing a dance of death—so sweet and so poignant. They moved so fluidly, like fine ink on parchment.
Kaoru briefly wondered if they resembled an ink painting, so lively and melancholic at the same time.
Weakness must have shown in her eyes or she hesitated for a split moment. Whatever it was was her demise. Exhaustion and great blood loss finally caught up with the final strike. Her sword dropped to the ground, her eyes rolled back and she felt her body fall—darkness was welcoming her but something pulled her back.
Kenshin felt strangely empty the moment his sword slashed her for one last time. He moved without thinking and caught her with his left arm, supporting her back as they slid to the ground. Without looking away from her face, he lifted his sword into the air with much force. That was enough to stop everything. He need not raise his voice and no one dared to move.
Watching the life flow out of her, Kenshin felt his vision blur and his eyes sting—it must be from the smoke. Everything was solemnly still. A long moment passed and they said nothing, only staring as if they could see for the first time. What could be said? I'm sorry? I love you? Those were all superficial and banal lines.
He would never say them.
She would never want to hear them.
Finally her lips moved, "The road to hell is very lonely, will you accompany me?"
Before he could answer, she stabbed him in the heart. Somehow, he expected that move, maybe even anticipated it and yet he took no action to prevent it.
He managed to laugh as she smiled up at him. How perplexing it was, that the dagger she had left him that night, which he carried around was the one to end his life. She had intended to kill him that night but could not bear to do it—a man like him deserved better than that. A warrior's place of death was on the battlefield, not the bed.
Kaoru sighed and closed her eyes when Kenshin held her closer to him. Her duty as a Commander and as a woman was complete. What regret could she have to die in this man's arms?
Pressing an affectionate kiss to her forehead, Kenshin followed her into oblivion. He had served his Empire for far too long, it was time for him to retire and find his solace.
In this gory vastness of the snowy valley, a battle ended; no side won and no side lost. Situated in the middle of it all were two figures, sleeping so contently as if they were in a field of wild flowers where the sun shone brightly.
Listening to the soundtrack of 'The Myth' while writing this made me tear up.
I apologize for such a tragic ending but I've been wanting to write this type of story for ages.