Just a Knife
a fanfic by Chelsea Deanne
It started with lunch at the Akabeko. Kenshin was seated with Megumi and Kaoru on either side of him, with Sano, Yahiko, Ayame-chan and Suzumi-chan filling the rest of the table.
No, that wasn't true. It started the day before, when Yahiko had successfully trounced a few street thugs. Since then he had been calling himself the 'Tokyo Samurai' and bragging constantly. But it was when he called himself a master of Kamiya Kasshin Ryu that Kaoru's limited amount of patience had finally run out.
She had insisted on having a lesson, then and there, in the middle of the restaurant. At Kaoru's request, Tsubame had obediently fetched a knife from the kitchen.
Kaoru took the blade from the young girl and casually displayed it in the palm of her hand.
"Tell me what this is." She asked seriously. A startled hush fell over the table. She had effectively grabbed everyone's attention, even if they were probably questioning her sanity at the moment.
"It's a knife, Jou-chan."
"Correct." Kaoru seemed to completely ignore the sarcasm evident in Sano's voice as she continued. "And how does it work?"
"Tsubame?" The girl quailed at being singled out.
"You... I... um... press the sharp side into... into what you want to cut..." she stammered out.
"Correct. You press the sharp side into what you want to cut." Kaoru smiled at the girl, who blushed and predictably hid her face behind her ever-present tea tray.
"Now, Yahiko, the main question." Kaoru stared intently at her young student, who didn't seem to be taking this seriously. In fact, he looked like this was just some sort of joke. 'I'll fix that' Kaoru thought as she continued. "This is also a test. Fail, and tomorrow you start retraining from the beginning."
Yahiko's cocky indifference was instantly replaced with a certain fearful nervousness.
"The knife I'm holding, is it good or bad?"
The table was once again silent.
"Perhaps I should elaborate." Kaoru shifted her grip on the knife so the sharp edge of the blade was towards the table, gripping the handle in a casual manner.
"Suppose someone were to take this knife, and use it to prepare vegetables for dinner." She turned to Ayame-chan and Suzumi-chan. "Would that be good or bad?"
Sano bit his tongue, and managed not to mention Kaoru's lack of talent when it came to cooking. He could tell from her tone of voice that any snide comments would NOT go over well.
"That's right, it would be a good thing wouldn't it." Kaoru smiled at the little girls, who beamed at getting it right. Yahiko's expression had become one of complete puzzlement. The answer seemed so obvious…
"But what about this." Kaoru pinched the tip of the blade between her thumb and forefinger, holding it in front of her in the same manner as someone would hold a dead rat by its tail. Her expression certainly seemed to indicate that its very presence disgusted her.
"Suppose someone were to take this same blade, and use it to slit someone's throat."
Kenshin flinched internally.
"Bad, bad." Ayame-chan and Suzumi-chan whispered, wide-eyed.
"Really, Kaoru." Megumi chided, waving her hand in a dismissive manner. "You can't possibly make a comparison between a human life and carrots." She turned to Kenshin. "Ken-san, shall I pour you some more sake? This conversation isn't very interesting."
Kaoru's anger instantly bristled. She once again gripped the knife by the handle, but instead of miming dinner preparation, she pointed it directly at Megumi. The young doctor had just insulted her, insulted her father's teaching, undermined her authority over Yahiko, and was currently flirting with Kenshin. A dangerous combination.
"All right, Megumi, since you don't seem to like my previous examples, you've just become my new one." Sano looked on as she continued, thinking Megumi would probably have been better off following his example and holding her tongue.
"You use knives in your clinic to perform operations, saving lives." Kaoru stated, pointing the tip at the young doctor.
Kaoru then turned the knife around, lightly pressing the tip to her chest.
"But you did have another use for a blade, did you not?"
Megumi paled, nearly dropping the sake bottle.
Ayame-chan and Suzumi-chan, not understanding the reference, were silent.
"Now, Yahiko, I'll ask you one more time." Kaoru shifted her grip again, so the knife was once again balancing in the palm of her hand. She faced the boy. "Is this knife good or bad?"
The boy looked at the knife, puzzled. He finally decided that silence wouldn't be accepted, and muttered a reply. "Jeez, Kaoru, it's just a stupid knife..."
"Yatta!" She shouted excitedly. "Yatta! I knew you could do it!"
Yahiko fell over in surprise, quite a feat considering he was already sitting down. 'That couldn't have possibly been the answer!' he told himself 'No way in HELL could that have been the answer!' The others were in similar states of shock.
Kaoru noticed their confusion, all the while pretending not to. She began to examine the blade in her hands, slowly turning it over and over. She waited a few moments before continuing.
"You're absolutely right, Yahiko, it is just a knife." Her voice was had taken a much calmer, matter-of-fact tone. "Nothing more than a bit of metal stuck to a scrap of wood. People may decorate it, polish it, alter its appearance in a thousand ways, but the essentials remain unchanged." Kaoru returned the blade to its original position, lying flat on her palm.
"It's an inanimate object, and thus can never be good or evil. It may take many forms, from kitchen knife to katana, but these merely reflect their intended use, not whether the blade itself is good or evil." She paused, tilting her head slightly. "The other side to this is that the type of blade a person is wielding does not always give us a representation of his or her intentions. We are presented only with a stereotype, an expectation which may or may not be the truth."
Kaoru noticed Yahiko seemed, if anything, more confused than before. A more practical example was needed before she lost him completely.
"If Jin-eh were to pick up a paring knife, would that necessarily mean he's intending to prepare dinner?"
Understanding flashed across her pupil's face, and he grinned slightly at the mental image of Jin-eh cooking.
"Still, the basic action of pressing the sharp side into what you want to cut remains in every type of blade."
Kaoru began slowly tracing her lips with the tip of the blade, giving everything she'd said a chance to sink in. She could almost see Yahiko's thoughts as he tried to sort everything out in his head. Her words must be having some effect on everyone, as the entire table was uncharacteristically silent. She noted with satisfaction that the adjoining tables had quieted down as well, eavesdropping on her lesson.
Kenshin was frozen.
Part of his mind was absorbing every word Kaoru was saying, etching it permanently in his mind for future reference.
The other part was fixated on the knife pressing against her lips, silently willing it not to pierce her skin. He had the sudden urge to take it from her, to fling it away so it couldn't harm her.
"The same thing can be said for techniques." Kaoru finally continued, lowering the point of the blade to her chin and tapping it thoughtfully.
"After all, when you think about it, the technique itself is just another tool. Like this blade, only intangible. And also like this blade, a single technique can be used in more than one way. It becomes a thing, inanimate, neither good nor bad. Possibly both at the same time." She lay the knife gently on the table and folded her hands in her lap.
Yahiko once again looked puzzled, but then to a lesser extent so did Sano. Megumi, though still upset about having her past become one of Kaoru's examples, was silent.
Ayame-chan and Suzumi-chan were beginning to tune out of the conversation, as most of it was over their heads. They were quietly nibbling on their dinner once again.
Tsubame had barely blinked the whole time, for all intents and purposes becoming one with the woodwork.
Kenshin, meanwhile, had run into a dilemma. The knife was the object of the conversation, and it was on the table. That's where he should be looking, where it was probably safest to be looking, but he couldn't seem to tear his gaze away from Kaoru.
"Kamiya Kasshin Ryu is designed to embrace the value, the goodness inherent in something. Or someone for that matter. Once found it can be polished, honed, given a new and better purpose. Like protecting those you care about with an object many people would say has no redeeming virtues." She turned to her student.
"The techniques I teach you are designed to enforce these principles, not replace them. Remember that next time you go spouting off."
Yahiko was stunned. He had never thought about Kamiya Kasshin Ryu in that manner before, how the phrase 'a sword is meant to protect' could be so simple and yet... not simple at all. He never thought it could mean so much.
He gulped, but obediently met Kaoru's gaze.
"You once said that a sword was meant to kill, that I was a dreamer for using Budo for something besides that. Am I correct?"
The Rurouni nodded meekly.
Kaoru took up the knife once more, this time reaching over and resting the tip on Kenshin's lower lip. It felt like cold fire, as if he were being judged. He feared he would be found lacking.
"But is that really true? If a sword is only meant for killing, why did you trade in your katana for a sakaba? Surely the katana would be more efficient."
A few startled gasps were heard.
"But when you picked up the sakaba, you didn't intend to use it in the same manner as you did your katana. As you reversed the blade you also reversed your actions. It's the same with Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu. You've taken the ultimate assassination technique, and found a way to use it to protect others from harm."
To the girls, he couldn't be described any other way.
Kaoru smiled at Kenshin, removing the blade from his lip and touching it to hers. For a while he simply stared at her in shock.
He suddenly realized he had passed, and took a slow, deep breath. He felt... well, he wasn't quite sure how he felt at the moment. But it wasn't bad.
Kaoru returned the knife to Tsubame, thereby signaling the end of the lesson.
The table remained quiet for a few more, long moments. Once again, Sano was the one to break the silence.
"Kuso... Jou-chan. I don't think I'll ever be able to look at a knife the same way again."
"That, Sano, was precisely the point."
Well, for a first try I'm rather proud of what came out. I was worried that it would turn out too weird, as during the time I was writing it my friends and I were trying to make sense of the End of Evangellion Movies. And anyone who has seen them knows what I mean. If anyone is planning on watching them, I reccomend removing all sharp objects from the room. But I've been getting positive reviews, and did well on my midterms, so I guess my mind survived.