ATTENTION: I have made one very minor change in the story. Kenshin is NOT Kaoru's childhood friend. It is Aoshi. I have made the changes in the story itself. Thank you very much and I apologize for the confusion.
Disclaimer: I do not own Rurouni Kenshin.
Flames of Passion
The room was dark. It was so terrifyingly dark.
The room was cold. It was so bitingly cold.
Not a speck of light flittered into the room. Not a tinge of sound could be heard. There was nothing in the cold, dark room.
Alone, huddled in a corner, sat a child. Thin, long arms circled her knees, bringing them closer to her chest as she whimpered quietly. She felt so cold. She felt so frightened. But she knew better. She knew better than to make a sound. She knew better than to alert anyone. If said anything, the punishment would be worse, much worse and she did not want that.
Outside, music and laughter filled the air. She could hear the chatter of the crowd that had come to her father's home. She could hear the laughter just outside the door. She wanted so badly to simply reach out, turn the knob and run out. She wanted to run to somewhere safe.
She wanted her mama.
But mama was never meant to know. She could not know. If she told mama, he would hurt her. Then, he would hurt mama. He told her that. He promised her, he would hurt mama, if she did not keep quiet. Despite the fear, despite the cold, she stayed silent.
She prayed the party would go on for long hours. She prayed he would not come. She prayed he would not punish her.
She had been good. She had done everything he told her to. She had not broken anything that day. She had stayed away from others. She had not gone to her mother.
Was it enough?
She did not know.
All she knew was that he loved punishing her.
The five year old girl wrapped her arms even tighter around her. Fear made her heart race and she buried her head in her arms. She wanted nothing more than to slip into bed, where it was warm but she was too terrified to do that.
What if he came?
Then, she heard it.
The sound if her knob turning and light spilled into the room. Standing at the door, a tall man looked in. She could not see his face. The shadow from the light blocked it. But she knew that face. She knew it well.
It was the face of evil.
She found herself pressing her tiny body closer to the wall.
Don't come nearer, she prayed fervently. Please don't come nearer.
He closed the door and shut the light out.
But not before he spotted her. Not before she saw the wicked grin twist on his lips.
Blue eyes widened.
"Come here, little princess. Daddy wants to have some fun," he said cheerfully, breaking the stillness and silence of the night.
She bit her lips and forced herself to stay still. He will leave. He has a party to attend to. He will leave.
"Don't make me angry, little princess. You have been so good today. Daddy only wants to reward you."
The singsong voice grated on her nerves.
She whimpered. His voice had that effect on her. Fear rose in her. Terror made her unable to move. She flinched at the sharp sound of his boots crossing the room before his fingers closed over her arm and yanked her roughly upwards. She nearly cried out but managed to bit her lips in time.
He got angrier if she made any sort of noise.
"How dare you ignore my orders, little princess? You know you have to be punished, don't you?" he growled as he threw her on her bed. This time she cried out and the music outside drowned her cry.
Please don't! Please stop! It hurts! Please!
He was on her in a matter of seconds. He stripped her clothes. Despite her protests, despite her pleas, he tore her clothes and touched her roughly. His hands were neither gentle nor passionate. It was painful and intrusive.
He bit. He licked. He tasted.
Then, he entered her, stilling her pained cries with violent kiss. He rode her furiously, bruising the tiny body beneath him, marking the pale skin he touched. Her tears fell but he did not care.
When he pulled back, she curled into a foetal position. She heard him straightening his clothes. Then, he turned and walked out, slinking back into the party as silently as he slipped out of it.
She cried. That was all she could do.
She cried and she prayed that someday, this would stop.
Kaoru's eyes flew open and her breath caught in her throat. For a moment, she felt disoriented. She did not know where she was or who she was with. Her lungs burned for air and her face was pale. She forced herself to take a few deep breaths and concentrate on the commotion around her.
She was in a magnificent chamber, a room she never had the privilege to occupy before this. Around her, the womenfolk were chatting happily, busily preparing for the oncoming celebration. Kaoru's stomach churned at the idea of the celebration.
She was getting married.
It was not right at all. This situation that she had somehow managed to land herself in was more trouble than she was worth but nothing she did could get her out of it. She did not want this. She was not supposed to be the bride. Her sister was.
And everyone knew it.
It was the only reason that for the first time in Khaheleb history, the bride was pretty much isolated from everyone else. No one wanted to talk to her or assure her. No one wanted to be near her if they could help it. She was branded a traitor and a schemer. She was the black sheep of the family as she stole her sister's fiancé.
Kaoru wanted to weep. She wanted to cry and beg them to let her go. But she had shed enough tears. She had faced enough coldness that she felt numb inside. Her only hope that nothing short of a miracle could safe her from this madness still clung by a thin thread.
The time for the ceremony edged closer.
With obvious reluctance, two handmaids escorted Kaoru to the bath. There, she was scrubbed and bathed and left to soak in scented water for half an hour. Kaoru remained silent throughout her bath as did the two women who helped her. No one said a word. They refrained from looking at her directly into her eyes. It made her sigh mentally. This situation was beyond control and soon, she was going to suffer this nearly every day.
Kaoru felt tired and exhausted. She felt as though one disaster stroke after another and she was powerless to stop them. Clear blue eyes closed to block the sight of the two women tending to her. Closed, she missed the obvious contempt in their gazes.
Clean, Kaoru rose from the bath and was wiped dry. She was then rubbed with an assortment of oils and scents. They had a calming effect on her. She nearly smiled and then caught herself. She did not want to increase the level of anger in the room by smiling.
Then, they dressed her.
For the first time in her life, Kaoru felt the softness and the sensuality of pure silk. The material flowed against her body as though it had been made for her. The white gown showed off most of her shoulders. The sleeves were long and covered her long arms. The gown dipped a little to highlight her breasts before clinching at her waist and flowing down to the ground. A long white cloak was pinned to her sleeves and it fell beautifully down to cover the ground.
Kaoru sat on a chair as the women worked around her. They applied a very light dose of colouring on her face instead of the usual thick ones. However, despite their intentions, the light colouring only gave her a more innocent and naive look. The beauty of a child. Her lips were decorated a light red. An older and more experience woman worked on her hair. She brushed and she tugged, almost too roughly for comfort but Kaoru remained silent. The woman made two tiny braids and pulled them to the back to form a sort of crown. As per the customs of the land, she placed the bride's favourite flower as a crown on her head.
It was an unusual choice but no one commented on it.
Cyssiries, a blood red flower with small petals and almost no scent, was the flower symbolising death.
When she stood, despite their contempt, the women could not help but admire the beauty standing before them. A beauty different from her sister.
She stood, tall and proud of herself. Long dark hair cascaded down her back like a dark waterfall. The contrast, so obvious, made her look like an enchanting goddess. Yet her eyes were empty and blank. Kaoru could feel nothing.
Even as she saw her image in the mirror, she could feel nothing.
Mama, where are you? Why are you letting them do this to me?
Tears are of no help. It was all too late.
The two sharp knock on the door startled her. She swallowed inaudibly.
It was time.
The women opened the door. Standing outside, dressed in Khaheleb's royal guard uniform, stood Aoshi, son of Shinomori, a tall handsome but stoic man. There was no expression in his eyes as he saw her. No words passed his lips. He looked at her and she looked at him. He nodded and turned, waiting for her.
Kaoru felt the burning tears and fought them. This was not the time to dwell on the past. This was no time for regrets.
She wanted to reach out, she wanted to touch the tall man but she refrained. There was no comfort offered there. She knew that now.
Taking a deep breath, she walked behind him followed by six women, dressed in red, flanking her sides.
There was music, there was laughter, and there was chatter.
Yet, as Kaoru, daughter of Kamiya, stood at the entrance of the temple, all died down. No smiles headed her way. No winks of teasing friends or assurance from loving family members.
There was no one.
Pain like no other filled her. This was not the marriage ceremony she envisioned her whole life. This was hell. She wanted to turn and run but she knew that was not the answer. He would find her and he would only drag her back. An agreement was made. A promise needs to be fulfilled.
The people around her stood in a circle. The high priest, robbed in dark purple stood in the centre. It was a large circle and the people were far from the centre. Yet Kaoru felt as though she was boxed into a tiny corner. All eyes were on her, none were friendly.
Not even the eyes of man she was to marry.
He stood in the centre, dressed in pure white. His blood red hair was tied high on his head. Messy bangs covered his eyes. A clear scar could be seen on his cheek.
He was the son of the Himura family. He was their heir. He was their pride and joy.
He was also her sister's lover and fiancé.
She had watched the way he stared at her sister. She knew the loved filled violets that romanced her sister.
Yet the eyes staring at her without even a smile were a dark ember.
Her nightmare hit her again and she felt powerless.
She felt fear.
Someone, stop this.
Silent cries went unheeded. Aoshi kept moving towards his master. Kaoru followed. The six women flanked her, keeping her in the middle before parting so she could walk out. Her heart clenched. Her steps slowed.
Yet she still moved.
As she passed by Aoshi, she had a crazy notion that he would reach out and pull her away from this madness but nothing happened.
She walked by him and stood before the priest.
On her right, her soon to be husband took his place.
Kenshin, son of Himura, reached out his hand. It hovered on air for a moment before Kaoru hesitantly placed hers on top of his. His larger and stronger hand simple crushed her more petite one in a firm grip.
She knew this was her punishment.
She had escaped one monster only to bind herself to another.
He will never forgive her.
She had taken the place of the woman he loved.
Kaoru knew, as she heard the priest start his ritual chants, that at that precise moment even Aoshi, her childhood crush and friend will never ever be abe to save her from this nightmare.
Kaoru would have given anything and everything to trade places with her sister.
As the priest droned on, she caught Kenshin's gaze. He was not looking at her. Instead, his eyes were focused on a woman standing behind the priest.
Dressed in a long robe, as per the custom of the women in Khaheleb, Tomoe, daughter of Yukishiro, stood tall and beautiful in her rich red gown. It highlighted her beauty and made her seems regal. She looked like a goddess in the midst of mere humans.
Kaoru could never measure up to her. She did not even have the confidence to try.
She felt Kenshin watching Tomoe. She felt his hand crushing hers in a punishing grip. Even that pain was nothing compared to the pain in Kaoru's heart. When she heard the priest recite the matrimonial vows, she literally felt the blood drain from her face.
It was really happening.
"Now, to bond these two souls in an everlasting bond of love and life, we pray, oh Dioni, that you will forever guide them. With this, we bind them by blood," the priest said as he lifted the ceremonial dagger.
Kaoru's heartbeat increased tremendously. She wanted to run away. She did not want this. Yet she knew, even if she put up a fuss, people will just hold her down and bind her to him.
Dioni, why is this happening to her?
She watched the red fluid from Kenshin's hand drip into the bowl. Then, numbly, she watched the priest slice her palm and the blood dripped into the bowl, mixing with Kenshin's.
The chants continued. The rituals continued.
She stayed numb. Her life was over.
People clapped monotonously when the priest declared them married. They were bonded. She was now officially the lady of their ruler. Kaoru felt like she was about to faint.
The crowd made way for the newly married couple to walk out of the temple. Kenshin still held Kaoru's hand firmly, not once letting it go. She did not know if it reassured her or frightened her. She only followed his lead. He led her outside.
In front of the temple stood a carriage. A familiar face, with spiky rooster like hair stood at the carriage door and opened it. Kaoru's throat constricted as she recognised Sanosuke, son of Sagara, the captain of the 3rd division army. He tried to smile at her, but it was obvious that it took much effort on his part.
Kenshin helped her up into the carriage and followed her. Sano closed the door and climbed up to the seat. Along with the other driver, they rode out to the main manor where the wedding feast was held. Even as they left, not a cheer could be heard. No one was happy.
Kaoru sat rigid in the confined space of the carriage. She did not say a word and neither did Kenshin. Instead, she thought he looked angry. Helplessly, she looked out of the window.
This marriage will go down in history as the saddest union ever, Kaoru mused as she tried to remember even a speck of her wedding. Even thought it was only a few minutes ago, nothing came to mind. Sighing mentally, she concentrated on something other than the man she called her husband.
She did not need to worry much. He was determined not to say a word too. When the carriage screeched to a halt at the main manor, Kaoru felt her heart stop. This was Kenshin's home. This was her home now. She just knew that life was going to be difficult for her here. His mother, after all, never approved of her.
Sano opened the door and Kenshin came out first. He then extended a hand to Kaoru and helped her down. She struggled within herself if she should say anything and finally manners won.
"Thank you, my Lord," she whispered softly.
He did not acknowledge her. Instead he offered his arm, in reluctant manners, and she took it. Biting her lips, she followed him in.
Syousuke, son of Himura and Aya, daughter of Ryuzaki stood at the entrance. They nodded at the couple. No well wishes were said. Instead of even looking at Kaoru, Aya kept her eyes on Kenshin and gestured to the manor. Kenshin waited until his parents started walking before following them to the main hall.
People had already gathered and the wedding feast was spread out. Kaoru did not look around. She concentrated on her feet and then on the empty table before her. People were laughing and talking loudly. Music flowed in the room. The smell of food was very overpowering.
Having ate nothing for nearly a day and a half, Kaoru felt absolutely famished. She wanted to eat and run away to bed. But that was not going to happen. So she waited patiently beside her husband. One by one, the guests walked forward and wished the couple well. They then bowed down and kissed Kenshin's and Kaoru's hands. It was the custom of the people to kiss the hands of their rulers. Not everyone was happy, of course. The idea of kissing the hand of the black sheep of the Yukishiro family was more of a disgrace, rather than a blessing. Kaoru knew this and only kept quiet.
What do this people know of her? She wondered as she watched them and mechanically raised her hands. What do they know of her? What do they know of her mother? They stand there and they judge. They looked at her based on the lies they have heard. What do they know?
Then, almost no one made a sound.
Tomoe walked over to the couple. Her eyes stayed on Kenshin's face, a warm and intimate look flashed behind it. She murmured soft wishes and then leaned down to kiss his hand. Kaoru saw the way Kenshin almost closed his eyes at the feel of her lips on the back of his palm. It made Kaoru's heart ache painfully but she said nothing and betrayed nothing. Her face remained blank.
Tomoe moved to her and her eyes caught Kaoru's . In there, Kaoru saw a world of hate and menace before Tomoe leaned down to kiss the air above her hand. Kaoru knew she felt glad that Tomoe did not kiss her properly. The idea of Tomoe kissing her hand was disturbing enough.
The feast proceeded peacefully after that. Kaoru concentrated in eating and she did not look at anyone. She did not want to see any more hostile glares at her. She did not want to hear any more painful comments about her. She wanted to bath and she wanted to sleep.
When the dances started, Kenshin did not ask her to dance and she tried hard not to care. He was making it obvious that she was unwanted.
A public snub.
Kaoru felt like laughing.
The whole day had gone from bad to worse. Nothing Kenshin did could hurt her anymore. She had shed her tears and she had cried her losses.
The last rite to perform was the blessings from the elders. There were three people Kaoru and Kenshin needed to get blessings from.
When Kenshin kissed his father's and mother's hands, they laid a hand on his head and gave him a tiny smile. Kaoru swallowed and leaned to kiss Syousuke's hand. The former ruler said nothing. When she looked up, he only nodded. Turning her bowed at Aya and leaned to kiss her hand.
Coldly, Aya looked at her son's bride.
"Make sure no part of you touches my skin."
Her voice might have been soft but those closest to them could hear here. Kaoru wanted to scream and yell and cry all at the same time but she decided on none. If she was going to face this kind of treatment for a long time, she had better get used to standing up for herself.
"You do not have to worry, my Lady," Kaoru said calmly as she leaned forward and kissed the air above Aya's hand. She straightened and looked directly at her mother-in-law's eyes. "I would not dream to do so."
Aya's lips tightened and she looked away. Kaoru only bowed once more and turned to face Hiko Seijuro, master of the hidden swordsmanship. He was a large man, tall and broad. He easily overshadowed Kaoru and most of the people there. He had nodded to Kenshin, his student and turned to Kaoru. Kaoru bowed and then leaned forward to place a light kiss on his hand.
Then, to her surprise and astonishment, he placed a gentle hand on her head. Tears burned at the back of her eyes and she blinked them furiously away. Even then, a single drop fell on his hand. Embarrassed, Kaoru looked up and bowed once more. Hiko's face had tightened but his eyes remained on her, gentle and kind. For the first time that day, someone acknowledged her. It was the most moving moment in Kaoru's life. She smiled shakily and watched as his eyes warmed.
A friend, she thought. She had a friend amidst all this havoc.
Yet the true challenge was after this.
She had faced the wedding and the feast. Now she had to face the wedding night.
Part of Kaoru hoped that Kenshin would be too in love with Tomoe to even think of consummating their marriage. She was too frightened at the prospect of sleeping with him.
She was taken away by the handmaids to get cleaned up. This time, they wanted her to wear a revealing night wear. Kaoru refused. She refused to wear the flimsy article of clothing and asked for something less revealing. The women looked at each other and shrugged. They took out a long sleeved night gown and helped her slip into it. Feeling relatively safer, she thanked them and walked into her sleeping chamber.
He watched her, amber eyes dark with unspoken feelings. He was surprised to see her dressed so conservatively. Did she not want to seduce him? He wondered at her silent approach.
Kaoru did not know whether she could sit at the bed or simply remain standing. No one had told her the rules behind closed doors. She knew, through observation that a woman must wait for her man to be seated before sitting behind him when guests arrive to talk. During dinner, men and women eat separately at different tables. But what about in the room?
Kaoru felt too worn out to care. She sat at the bed, a bit far from him and sighed at the feeling of the soft mattress. Since Kenshin said nothing, Kaoru remained silent as well.
"What are you expecting for tonight?" Kenshin said suddenly, breaking the silence. He turned to face Kaoru, watching her face closely.
Kaoru had no idea how to answer him. If she said she did not want him to touch her, would he comply or would he force himself on her? Not knowing where that road might lead her, she stayed silent.
Kenshin frowned. "This wedding was all your fault. You do remember the conditions of the union, don't you, woman?"
Kaoru flinched and nodded. The condition was extremely clear to her.
Kenshin stared at her. "A son."
"I know," Kaoru replied. She just wasn't ready to submit to him yet.
"It is unfortunate that that would be the means for me to touch you."
Kaoru swallowed the lump at her throat. She didn't want this and did not know how to approach this.
"My Lord, today has been a long and tiring day. As for the matter of a son, I am sure it is not urgent, as yet. Do we need to rush into it?" Kaoru asked softly, keeping her eyes on his.
Amber orbs flickered.
"No, we do not need to rush into it. But I want to lay down some ground rules before we appear in public after this."
"Very well. What are they?"
"You are not allowed under any circumstances to keep a lover until you have given me a son. The same rule does not apply to me. Is that clear?"
The blue eyed woman felt like laughing and laughing. Their marriage has barely started and he was already planning to sleep with someone else. Wonderful, just wonderful. On top of that, he was planning to allow her to do the same provided she gave him a son first. What a beautiful marriage it was.
"Always, before public, you remain courteous to me. Always. You can speak your mind when we are in the privacy of our chambers. Agreed?"
Kenshin frowned. He looked like he wanted to say something but closed his mouth.
"Go to bed, then."
Kaoru nodded and watched as he slipped under the covers and turned his back to her. She too slipped under the covers and turned to face the other side. This time the tears fell and she did not utter a sound. She allowed them to fall.
Crying silently, she fell asleep.
Alright, I know this seems absolutely depressing but well, this is how it starts. I hope you all enjoyed this story. It is something I have been thinking of for a while. Thank you all for reading this. I am also so sorry for the grammatical errors you will encounter. Sorry about that!
So read up and enjoy. Have a nice day!