I cannot believe the amazing response I got for "The Giant and a Lion Cub." I re-read that story several times and still wasn't satisfied with it, but thanks to everyone who reviewed it and supported it. This story will have many references to the former, since it's going to be a sequel of sorts, probably a couple more after this (if I do okay with this one). Once again, some things in the original RK time line have been shifted, but nothing too major. I haven't seen the new OAV's (I'm not sure I want to, I hear they're pretty sad), so those of you who know stuff about Kenji's character, sorry if he's out of character, I'm writing him as I see fit. I'm open to suggestions, constructive criticism, random banter, you name it, but I don't like rudeness. If you have something to say, say it with some tact, that's all I ask. As for the title of this story, I did some research online and came up with Sacred Sword as the meaning for Kenji's name, I thought that sounded pretty cool, I hope it's right (shrugs)….Oh, and there will be chapters of randomness, just like the last one so bear with me…LOL…I'll do my best to make it all fit together!
Disclaimer: I do not own the characters, never will, don't have any money…this is all for fun and to make people laugh
Sticky humidity swathed the city of Tokyo in a heavy blanket of wetness. Harsh rains had saturated the ground and combined with outrageously high temperatures to make living almost unbearable. The summer sun was relentless in its assault on the city and her inhabitants, but it held the only hope of drying up the moisture that collected and chasing away the thick, sticky humidity.
Most of the residents hid inside their homes or places of work, if they were lucky enough to have an occupation that allowed them such luxury. Many of the hard labor jobs and market places were called to a halt until the sweltering heat wave had passed. Too many people had suffered from heat stroke, six had died working in the fields, and food products wasted away within hours if left outside, so there was no point in opening the outdoor shops. Some folk simply left town in search of a cooler summer residence while those tied to Tokyo with out means of travel stayed inside or spent the hot afternoons next to the riverside, dousing themselves in the cool water.
The Kamiya dojo followed the way of the market places and labor jobs, shutting down all lessons and classes until the summer settled into a more bearable mode. It made things harder financially, but Kaoru and Yahiko did not want to risk the health and well being of their students. Two had already been sent to the clinic after passing out from dehydration, while another spent three days at Dr. Gensi's, practically comatose from heat stroke. Lessons could wait, the Kamiya Kasshin Style wasn't going anywhere and neither was the dojo.
Instead, the Himura family, along with all the extended members that lived in the Tokyo area, spent their free time along the riverbank. During one of his many walks, Kenshin discovered a secluded place several miles from the dojo. It was surrounded by many tall trees, long grasses, and lush vegetation. The heavy rains caused a back flow in the river and a small pool had formed adjacent to the main river flow. It was a perfect place to swim and lounge about, free of other people and safe from the harsh current of the river. It was the perfect little hideaway oasis. So, practically every afternoon, after all the chores were completed, the family would pack up blankets, towels, water and unspoilable foodstuffs, and hike to their special spot to beat the horrendous heat wave.
Kaoru sat on a blanket, her legs folded under her comfortably and her back resting against the cool bark of a large oak tree. She glanced at her husband, who lay bare-chested and bare-footed on his back in the cool grass, his eyes shut lazily against the hot afternoon air. How lucky it was to be a man at times like this, able to shed the constricting confinement of clothing and bare the flesh with out worry of being obscene. Kaoru picked at her own loose shirt and breezy hakama in mild annoyance. Though the clothing was far cooler than that of a kimono, it still was uncomfortable in the heavy humidity. It wasn't fair that she be forced to burden something as simple as a summer heat wave, while her men folk were allowed such freedom. Silently, she cursed whoever made up the rules of etiquette and properness. Men had nipples too for Kami-sama's sake! Why should they be allowed to bare theirs while women were forced to suffer by being bound, tucked and swathed in layer upon layer of fabric.
She glared at Kenshin's relaxed frame for a moment, wishing a sunburn on his manly hide, before realizing her folly. She almost giggled at her irritable attitude, knowing that her husband couldn't help being born a male, and if she were he, she would reap the benefits of it as well.
She softened her gaze, deciding she was glad he had been born what he was, and allowed her eyes to follow the lines of his slight frame from head to toe. It was difficult to believe he was thirty-six this June, when he didn't look a day over twenty-five. His hair was still a vibrant red, with out an inkling of gray to be seen. He had cut it shorter, much to Kaoru's dismay, but she didn't blame him. In this heat, his thick hair was nothing but a nuisance and besides, it would grow back. His face was void of wrinkles, save the slight crinkles around the corners of his eyes, and the scar on his cheek was fading more and more each year, though it would never fully go away. He remained slender, his muscles not losing their taughtness or definition. So many men his age developed love handles or large bellies, but Kenshin was void of any excess flab or skin. Even in his current position, Kaoru could see the slight concave of his belly and the sharp bones of his sternum, ribs, and hips. She stifled a giggle as her eyes focused on his knobby feet. They were large for his height, though not grossly huge, but just enough for an observant wife to tease about. His second toe was a tad longer than his big toe and both feet were uncannily bony. Kaoru often wondered how he managed to wander Japan for ten years on feet with hardly any padding and not manage to once become victim to a bone spur or corns.
Kenshin cracked an eye at his wife, feeling her eyes on him. A small smile played on his lips as he followed her gaze. He wiggled his toes playfully, happy to share a joke only they understood, and chuckled when she blushed at being caught in a daydream. She slapped him gently on the chest and reached into her bag to pull out a book.
Kenshin sighed and rolled over onto his stomach, smiling to himself. The heat was uncomfortable, but being surrounded by his family made him content. He enjoyed their quiet outings and actually regretted that the time would soon come for the normal routine to begin again. He crossed his arms and rested his chin on them, inhaling the sweet scent of the grass. He watched as Tsubame daintily swished her feet in the cool river water, her kimono pulled carefully up to her knees and a slight blush on her face. Yahiko hovered near, standing waist deep in the water, teasing her about getting dirty and behaving indecent. Sano lay upon a log, a long reed protruding from his lips, eyes shut in quiet reflection and lanky legs submerged in the river. Megumi was missing from the group today, busy at the clinic no doubt, and probably too tired to make the trip. She was several months shy of giving birth Sano's first child and walking in the heat made her miserable.
Kenshin sighed again and moved his head slightly so he could see his son. Kenji sat hunched over an anthill, a small stick in hand. He remained motionless, poking every now and then, his face set in serious concentration. The boy was rarely out of his father's sight, as Kenshin made it a point to keep a close eye him. The child had mellowed some as he grew, but he was highly curious and far to intelligent for his own good. Though full of good intentions, Kenji and trouble walked hand in hand most of the time.
Kenshin was aware that his son was approaching the age where he would take up the sword and begin to learn the ways of a swordsman. He was certain that his wife would already be teaching the boy, but Kenji's small size delayed any instruction. At the tender of age of six and a half, Kenji was far smaller than the rest of his peers at school, and was often mistaken for a child of three or four. It was only when, or if, he opened his mouth, that people caught on to his real age, and even then it was deceiving. If Kenji chose too, he could speak as well as a child of 9 or 10, but strangely, he rarely spoke at all and when he did, he kept his sentences short, brief, and to the point. This in no way meant he was an unaffectionate child or antisocial, his actions spoke a thousand words. A mere glance from Kenji was far more expressive that any spoken word.
Kenshin shut his eyes, the heat making his thoughts muddled and lazy, and slowly he dozed off in the dappled shade of his little oasis.
"Stop it Yahiko!"
The sharp shout caused Kenshin to jump and push himself up onto his forearms. He forced the bleariness of sleep from his eyes with a couple of blinks and focused on his small son.
Kenji stood several feet from the bank of the river, wiping his face with the back of his arm, his red hair soaked and matted to his head. His eyes blazed a dark violet and his mouth was set into an ugly grimace as he glared at his older brother who laughed heartily from the safety of the water.
"Come on shrimp! You have to learn to swim sometime!" Yahiko made as if to splash the tiny boy again and laughed harder when Kenji flinched.
Kenji didn't budge. There was no way he was going near the river's edge and nobody could convince him otherwise. Not even the trust he held in his father would force him to step foot into the water.
Though three years had passed since he'd almost drowned in the river near Hiko's house, he could recall the events as clearly as if it had happened yesterday. He remembered fishing on a rock when he slipped suddenly and fell into the swift river. The river swallowed him up almost immediately, throwing him about like a doll. He could almost feel the burn in his chest as water entered his lungs through his nose and mouth, choking off any air he tried to take in. He sank like a stone to the bottom, being pushed along by harsh currents, his head dragged along the bottom of the riverbed and smashed against the jagged rocks.
Hiko Seijuro, his father's master, had jumped in and fished him off the bottom of the river, but not before the two of them went over the towering falls and plunged more than hundred fifty feet. Luckily for them both, Hiko possessed the skills of Hiten Mitsurugi and was able to save them both from certain death against the rocks at the bottom of the waterfall. Surprisingly, neither was severely hurt. Hiko managed a nasty gouge along his shoulder, while Kenji suffered minor scrapes and bruises, with the exception of a wicked cut above his right brow. To this day, the scar was still visible, a puckered pink against his milk white skin.
Ever since that fateful day, Kenji was terrified of water. For a year, it took two people to bathe him in the bathhouse and to this day, he could barely stomach the tub. He only bathed out of necessity, and stopped his struggles when he realized how tired and worried it made his father. He had tried to overcome the fear, but if he got within ten feet any body of water, his little feet quit working, almost as if they sprouted roots. His entire body would freeze, he'd begin to tremble, and his stomach would become ill.
"Quit being a baby, Kenji chan!" Yahiko taunted again, splashing the boy again. Even at the mature age of nineteen, the Kamiya Kasshin master couldn't help but to harass his little red haired brother. It seemed fitting, since the boy had pulled numerous pranks on him in the past and now there was something to hold over his head.
Kenji yelped as the splash hit him full in the face.
"You better watch it Yahiko, that you should," Kenshin warned from the sidelines. He rarely intervened in the sibling squabbles. It was better to let the two of them work out their differences, and coming to Kenji's defense each time he was bullied would teach the child nothing. Though small, Kenji was fully capable of delivering a fitting retaliation upon Yahiko, whether it be now or later. Kenshin did not issue the warning because he intended to stop the fight, he did so as a reminder for Yahiko not to take his son to lightly.
Once again, Kenji wiped the water from his face, his eyes narrowing at his assailant. "Don't…" he warned, his words full of venom.
Yahiko laughed and sank up to his neck into the river, watching the younger boy carefully. "I know you want to bite me Kenji chan. Why don't you come in here and get me?"
Kenji glared at Yahiko from the bank, frustrated and slightly humiliated. He could not reach the young man from the bank, and his body wouldn't allow him to move any closer. Fear was something he didn't have much use for, and rarely found himself scared of anything. He had no control over this particular kind of fear, it was too deeply imbedded into his brain from him to overcome and he hated not being in control of his emotions. He could feel everyone watching him, waiting to see what he would do. Though burning with anger, Kenji took a deep breath and calmed himself, turning away from the riverbank and moving further away from the group. He would wait until a more fitting time to get back at his arrogant brother.
Kenshin raised a brow as he watched his son make a retreat further up the bank. He could feel his son's anger and frustration, but could only chuckle at what would come later. Kenji wasn't one to forget such hostilities easily, and Yahiko would pay dearly eventually. That was the beauty of his son, he was cunning beyond words, and the more time he had to master a plan, the worse off the receiver would be. Still, Kenshin was slightly troubled at the flare in his boy's ki, and he slowly rose from his prone position, dusting off his hakama and chest.
Kenji propped himself up under a sparse tree, ignoring the sun beating down on his small, bare shoulders. His chosen spot offered little shade, but it was as far away from Yahiko as he knew his father would let him travel. He tugged at the tie in his hair, pulling the shoulder length strands free roughly, and squeezing the moisture out of them. Absently, he picked up a stick and fiddled in the sand, drawing silly pictures of people with stick legs and large heads, a child's drawings to say the least, but vivid enough to illustrate the violence he felt to his older brother.
He did not bother to lift his head when he felt his father approach. He could sense him getting closer, along with the concern in his heart. He could read the older man like a book, always aware of the state of his emotions, and even feeling them himself at times. He need not even be in the same room as his father to understand what was in the man's heart or mind, the bond between them was nothing short of supernatural, and often gave the other's around them the jitters. Kenji had learned quickly that he could not hide anything from his father, not his feelings nor his body, so it was pointless to try to disguise himself or lie to the man.
"May I sit with you?" Kenshin asked in his soft, gentle voice.
"Hai," Kenji replied, keeping his crystalline eyes downcast and focused on his sand picture.
Kenshin smiled softly and settled himself next to his son. He withheld a chuckle as he observed his son's drawing. Two figures were drawn into the sand, one of them with outrageously spiky hair and large gaping mouth. The eyes were clearing bulging from the sockets, as what appeared to be a boken crashed down upon the head. The boken-wielding figure was smaller, with angry slit like eyes and fang like teeth. "That's an interesting picture you've drawn Kenji chan," Kenshin offered, holding back a laugh. Clearly, the spiky haired figure was none other than Yahiko being beaten by Kenji with one of the wooden swords back at the dojo.
Kenji tossed the stick into the grass and smeared the drawing with a small foot, scowling at his dirty feet. He knew his father was trying not to laugh at him, and it only made his mood even more foul.
Kenshin sighed and touched his son's knee, "I'm sorry, Kenji. I don't mean to mock you, my son. It's just that you and Yahiko remind me so much of the way your mother and he use to fight." Kenshin grinned, remembering all the times he was knocked to his feet by the pair as they chased each other through the dojo, screaming threats and names at one another. Kaoru was brutal if she caught him, and even if she didn't, her aim with projectiles was amazing. Motherhood mellowed her and she no longer chased her student when he called her names. Instead, she punished him with various tasks and chores, reveling in his disgruntled mutterings as he complied.
"Yahiko's not nice," Kenji muttered, picking at one of his toes, "He's mean to me."
Kenshin squeezed his son's knee in sympathy, "Aa, but he loves you Kenji chan. Brothers fight and squabble, that is a fact. It just makes the bonds grow stronger, that it does."
Kenji huffed at his father's words. If Yahiko loved him, he sure had a funny way of showing it. The young man never missed an opportunity to tease or harass him. He took his food at dinnertime, threw his toys over the dojo gate, hung him from the sword pegs in the training hall, and stole his towels out of the bathhouse. The list went on and on.
Kenshin could see the doubt in his son's face. "Trust me Kenji chan, I know for a fact how mean a big brother can be, but it doesn't mean they don't love you or worry about you."
"Huh?" Kenji peered up at his father suddenly, sensing a sort of sadness, mingled with a distant fondness, "How?"
Kenshin smiled and gathered Kenji into his arms, settling the boy onto his lap, despite the heat. He tilted his head back against the spindly tree and smiled at a memory so vague he could barely touch it anymore. He pulled the leg of his hakama up around his knee and pointed to a long scar, a pasty white with age, but clearly visible. Kenji just shrugged, his father had many scars, and some of them were a lot more horrifying than the one he pointed at now. This one was only about two hand lengths in size, running from the inside of the knee to mid thigh and about two fingers wide.
"I had brothers," his father finally stated, "Three of them."
Kenji made a small sound of surprise and turned to look up at his father's face. The man's eyes were clouded over in heavy thought, as the memory of a family long gone was still a tad painful. "Where are they," Kenji asked in a timid voice.
Kenshin blinked and looked down at his son's pale eyes, seeing the million questions the boy wanted to ask. "They moved on to the other world a long time ago Kenji chan."
Kenji didn't fully understand his father's meaning, thinking perhaps the brothers had moved out of the country of Japan and left his father here from some reason or another. He remained silent, hoping his father would continue his story. It was rare that the man would speak freely of his past, and Kenji was curious. What had his uncles been like? He couldn't help but to wonder.
Kenshin drifted off again, becoming distant and fingering the scar on his leg slightly. "Kazuo, Shigeo, and Yutaka," he finally said, saying each name with a gentle fondness he normally reserved for the people he held most dear to him. He was surprised he remembered their names so easily, some thirty years had passed since he last saw them, and he was so young when they had died, about his son's age to be exact. "They were all older than me. I was the baby of the family, like you Kenji chan. I didn't see Yutaka or Kazuo much. They were far older than I, I think in their early teen years, and working in the fields with our father. Shigeo and I were the youngest, too small for such hard work…."
Kenji settled into his father's lap, waiting anxiously for the story he knew would follow.
I would like to give thanks in advance to those people who offered idea's for the next story. I'm not going to name any names, it would give away too much of the plot, but most of them came from reviews from the previous story. I'm not going even guess how long this fic will be. I've discovered if I try to put a limit on my writings, things don't flow as well and a lot of stuff gets left out…sigh…so I hope I don't bore people with the ramblings and randomness, but sometimes petty things can be important when it comes to writing a story…maybe by giving flavor to the fic…I dunno….I did have to do some research for this fic, something I've never done before (I'm far too lazy), so if I'm wrong, blame the internet….LOL…but feel free to give me the correct information….I'm open to any emails as well, I don't bite! Well, not most of the time anyway…LOL Thanks for reading!