Standard disclaimers apply.
~ Reverse / Rebirth ~
Chapter 2: Realizations.
"Kenshin… he… he is dead to me."
The words rang hollow in Enishi's ears. He could do nothing but gape at her; surely, she could not mean that. Kamiya Kaoru, a girl once devoted to the Battousai almost to the point of foolishness, could not have expunged the former hitokiri from her heart as easily as she wanted him to believe. Her reluctance in her statement was evident, and there was more that she was not telling him. Considering their previous relationship as captor and captive, Enishi could understand her reticence for details.
However, that would not satiate the desire for more information. He regained his composure, a small smirk crossing his features.
"'Dead to me', you say? I doubt that," Enishi drawled, contempt sliding into his tone as the thought of the red-haired samurai floated to the forefront of his consciousness. "I cannot believe someone so utterly enamored with a man could declare him dead in her heart. That's a pretty powerful statement for someone such as yourself."
Kaoru stiffened, heat rising to her face as her temper flared. "Excuse me? Who do you think you are? You know nothing of what has happened these past four years, and you'll continue to know nothing! How dare you come and believe you know who I am and what I've done! Time goes on, Enishi, whether you like it or not, and you're a damned fool if you think you can stop it!" At her last remark, Kaoru's hands immediately flew up to her mouth and she turned away from him, willing her anger to subside. She should not be arguing with him here in front of his sister's grave, especially when he was already emotionally compromised. Enishi's vulnerable expression when she had first startled him came to mind, and guilt consumed her.
Enishi's expression darkened as he pushed his glasses further up his nose. Kaoru had struck a nerve, and though he wanted to put her in her place, he knew that she was right. He could not allow his previous anger with Battousai to be taken out on this woman when it was no fault of hers. Enishi gritted his teeth and ran a hand through his hair, irritated that he had let his emotions get the better of him. An uncomfortable silence passed between the two, and Kaoru fidgeted, deciding to break the silence. She turned to him, ready to offer an apology.
"I …apologize, Kamiya," Enishi interrupted her, his words nearly inaudible as the wind picked up around the two. It was now Kaoru's turn to stare disbelievingly at him. Enishi's jaw clenched as he turned his head away from her, his expression now completely hidden from her sight. Kaoru tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, her eyes losing a bit of their fire as she watched him. He trembled almost imperceptibly, and she wondered if it was the chill wind or something else.
"I was… wrong… to say what I had, and…" Enishi trailed off, struggling to find the proper words. Regret was still a foreign feeling and distinctly uncomfortable for him, and to allow her to see so much of him was disquieting, to say the least. Kaoru felt the last traces of her ire ebb away as she realized he was being sincere. She sighed loudly and turned on her heel, her geta clattering noisily as she did. Enishi's head snapped up quickly.
"Well…" Kaoru said airily, trying to dispel the tension in the air between them, "I guess you're forgiven. Honestly, I thought you were going to kill me." She forced a laugh and stretched a little, trying to seem as carefree as possible for his sake. Enishi's eyes widened slightly as he gazed at her. He rose slowly and studied her carefully for a moment before speaking.
"I couldn't ever do that, Kamiya, as you are well aware," Enishi said quietly. Kaoru whirled around, the shock evident on her features, and he fought the urge to smirk at her expression. At least he was able to continually surprise her, and he secretly delighted in being able to make her jaw drop. Enishi felt in control of himself once more, and it became easier to breathe once she had accepted his attempt at an apology. Composure regained, he moved towards her, his expression guarded. "I cannot risk my sister's unhappiness for your death."
They stared at each other for a moment, gauging each other's reactions. Kaoru fought the creeping intimidation that instinctively overtook her senses; she had forgotten how tall he was. It quickly faded, however, when she realized that she detected no malice emanating from him. Kaoru suddenly smiled serenely, a soft hum of approval escaping her lips, and nodded her head. She turned to the gate and began to walk away, then paused in her stride. Enishi watched her back expectantly, waiting for her words.
"You were almost unrecognizable as the man you were four years ago. Just as I have changed, so have you and I'm glad it was for the better," Kaoru said finally, and left without looking back.
Enishi watched her leave, and inexplicable warmth grew in his chest. He touched the affected area curiously, gazing down at it in awe.
What was this feeling he was experiencing? Satisfaction? Happiness? It was alien to experience such feelings unrelated to bloodlust, and it made him uncertain. It was by no means an unpleasant sensation, but… What had she done to him? After being empty and broken for so long, was he truly capable of feeling such human emotions again?
Enishi looked up at the gate where Kaoru had left, coming to a determined conclusion. There was only one way to find out.
He was going to Tokyo.
The starry sky overhead was beautiful in contrast to the melancholy mood Kaoru found herself in. She arrived at the dojo and smiled with a trace of sadness. Running into Enishi at Tomoe's grave had brought back memories of the past, though not all were welcome. Kaoru exhaled wistfully as she unlocked the gate and stepped inside.
It was still so odd, coming home to a once lively place that was now almost depressing in its silence. Yahiko had left some time ago, having grown into a fine swordsman. He now travelled the country to spread the art of her father to other aspiring youths. Kamiya Kasshin-ryu would not die just yet, and with his budding reputation, it would seem that it would survive many generations to come. A swell of pride filled her then, a refreshing uplift from her dejected state.
"Tadaima," Kaoru murmured softly as she slipped off her sandals at the entrance to the dojo. She pulled out some tea leaves and a strainer, hoping the scent of jasmine would calm her nerves. She debated briefly on drinking peach, but last time that had happened, Megumi had chortled heartily over her failed attempt to make it. A slightly annoyed smile was alleviated by the fondness of the memory.
"You steeped it too long, silly girl! No wonder you don't like it. You have so far to go before you can become a lady," the older woman laughed, wiping tears from her eyes. Kaoru flicked a spoonful of the tea at her then, but Megumi danced out of the way nimbly, laughing all the while.
Megumi was now in Europe, studying Western medicine to further her medical skills. Rumors had spread far and wide of the beautiful lady doctor, and she was highly sought after for treatment. The last time Kaoru and Megumi had seen each other was around two months ago, when Megumi had returned to Tokyo for a conference. She was glowing with the vivacity of a schoolgirl as they had caught up, and they parted with the promise of another visit soon to come.
The water was boiling steadily, and as Kaoru poured a cup for herself, her mind wandered to Sanosuke. He too was off on worldly adventures, and his contact with her was irregular. Even so, she looked forward to the letters describing his travels; last she had heard he was in China and reveling in the gambling districts to be found there. She shook her head, smiling warmly as she thought of her favorite freeloader.
Kaoru's smile faded soon, however, once she thought of him. Suddenly, the aroma of the jasmine tea became too much and she wished she had made peach instead. She closed her eyes and twinkling lilac eyes slowly appeared. Kaoru shook her head, willing the image to go away. Flame-red tresses moved gracefully in her mind as he moved her out of harm's way. She began to tremble, and her arms immediately hugged her waist tightly in an effort to control her emotions.
She would not think of him.
"Kaoru-dono…" her mind whispered traitorously. Kaoru covered her ears, her eyes squeezed shut, as she tried to ignore the voice in her head.
She could not think of him.
Her breathing quickened as she choked back a sob. The smell of jasmine was overwhelming; it was his favorite scent for her, how could she have forgotten? Kaoru sank to her knees, fighting the urge to give in to her despair as her shaking became more pronounced, her breathing more erratic.
"No… no… no…" she began to beg desperately, pleading for her mind to cease its torture. Her chest ached horribly, and she was hiccupping softly. Images of the former hitokiri flooded her mind, his presence all around her and threatening to strangle her. Her tears could no longer be contained, and streamed freely down her cheeks.
She covered her face with her hands and wept.
Enishi sat below the window of the kitchen, a silent witness to her moment of weakness. He closed his eyes and listened to her agony, and it resonated within him. A sharp pain coursed through his heart; his fists clenched involuntarily as her sobs became louder. Enishi did not know what to do, and he suddenly felt as if he were intruding on a private affair.
Discomfited and perplexed, Enishi stayed where he was until he heard her footsteps retreat hurriedly into the back of the dojo, presumably to her room. Waiting until he was sure she was not around, he quietly slipped inside the kitchen, noting the barely touched tea on the counter. Enishi stared at the entrance to the heart of the dojo for a while, contemplating revealing his presence to her, but ultimately decided against it. He would seek her out another day.
However, his body apparently had other plans. Subconsciously, he allowed his feet to carry him along the path that Kaoru had taken to the back.
Enishi paused in the hallway once he neared what he assumed to be her room, listening for her movements. She was no longer crying; instead, it seemed that she had cried herself to sleep, and for that, he was grateful. He slowly made his way to the doorway of her bedroom, and looked down at her slumbering form.
Her body shuddered intermittently from the aftermath of her lament, and her hair was tousled from her flight. She was holding on to her pillow as if it was her lifeline, and her kimono was rumpled from tossing herself onto her futon. Enishi watched her cautiously, his expression sobering and his eyebrows furrowing. Judging from his interaction from her earlier that day, her bout of tears more than likely had to do with Battousai, he concluded.
As he thought, he was not as dead as Kaoru wanted him to believe.
Enishi pushed his glasses up his nose, turned on his heel, and left.
As he made his way to the end of the compound, he decided to leave through the dojo. It had been years since he had last stepped foot in one, and his mouth quirked upwards at the thought. Curiosity and nostalgia getting the better of him, Enishi opened the door to the training room and moved inside.
He hummed appreciatively at the size and well-worn floors, deciding that it was a busy and animated sparring ground at its peak of popularity. Above the door, he noticed the sign saying Kamiya Kasshin-ryu – The Sword That Gives Life and could not help but snort derisively. Swords took lives. Saved his own, maybe, but to give life? Unheard of. Enishi shook his head and turned to admire the rest of the room, closing in on a wall that held the names of her former and current students. A smirk came to mind as he read Myojin Yahiko's name; he remembered the brat well for his tenacity and unshakable loyalty to Kaoru during her island rescue.
Even as he observed the room, Enishi could not shake the feeling that there was something decidedly off about it. As a training room, it was well cared for, but lacking something that he couldn't quite put his finger on.
And then it hit him.
There were no swords in the dojo.
None as decoration, and not even so much as a stand for students to grab one from or rest one upon.
What the hell…?
What could have happened to bring about such a drastic change?
Author's Note: Whew. It's been an EXTREMELY long time since I've been able to work on this fic. I apologize to those who so long ago waited for me to update - it has been about two years, geez, where does the time go? - and if I've lost you, I understand. However, if you have come back, I assure you that I've got a lot planned for this story, and I'll be able to update it regularly since I've finally gotten over the hurdle that kept me from doing so before. I've been working on it bit by bit, and hopefully, old and new will be able to enjoy the ride that I started and earnestly hope to finish.
I want to thank the author deleria, whose story "Catharsis" motivated me to continue on with my project, and I intend to see this through to the end. Those of you who love Enishi x Kaoru and haven't read it yet should; it's amazing, and the standard by which I hold this work.
With that, I hope you enjoy the chapters to come, and I mean it this time.