Tales of the Mitsurugi Dragon: Shadow of Shadows

By: Hitokiri Gentatsu

A/N: Gomen for the long delay in this story but my writing time has been several hampered by massive training where I work and work on Sakabatou/Zanbatou, which is a Rurouni Kenshin site a friend and I run. Anyway here's chapter nine. Enjoy! H.G.

Chapter Nine: Mount Hiei: The First Time

"At heart I like sword arts but I don't like killing people"
The wind rushed passed as he ran, making a whistling sound in his ears. But Battousai neither heard nor felt its coolness in his mad, headlong rush to escape the image that were flooding his head after killing the mad hitokiri in the grove. Finally, unable to run any longer, he stood panting and trembling in another clearing near the edge of the forest, his breathing sounding harsh and irregular to his ears.

Suddenly, he fell to his knees, his legs too tired to support his weight any longer. The blade of his katana sunk into the soft earth, and unconsiously he lean his weight against it, trying to still his breathing and to quell the fear in his heart that his soul was lost. His eyes darted around the clearing seeking something but he wasn't sure what, until his eyes finally came to rest on the hilt of the katana he was leaning against.

A low moan escaped him and he jerked his hand away from the hilt as if he'd been burned by it. Battousai moved away from the sword, which remained upright, that was still stained with the blood of the man he had killed. Battousai closed his eyes, trying to shut out the image of the man's mad eyes but he could not. It was as if the image was forever burned into his mind's eye, etched there like some demented dream. But this was no dream.

He moaned again and stood up, running forward again, his eyes still closed. He moved through the last of the screening trees, never realising how close to the edge of the forest he had been. He could feel the sun on his face and he shied away from it, as if it too burned him. He felt a cold wind wrap itself around him and he shivered in the sudden chill. Once more his legs gave out from under him and he opened his eyes in shock. He now icy blue eyes took in the vision before him with disbelief and a little trepidation.

The ground before him was covered in a layer of white flowers that looked almost like snow. They looked so pure and, not wanting his tainted presence to ruin their purity, Battousai began to step back from them.

"There is no need to fear, Shinta. You are welcome here," a soft voice called to him.

"Okasan?" he said, looking around frantically for the source of the familiar voice.

There was nothing. To all appearences he was alone. He bowed his head, his thoughts a confused jumble that swirled incoherantly in his head.

"You seem troubled Shinta. Why?" The voice spoke again but this time Kenshin did not look for its source.

"My life," he said softly, his voice barely above a whisper and his now violet eyes full of tears. "I have done nothing honorable with it."

"Why did you chose to wield a sword?" the voice asked calmly, taking Kenshin completely offguard.

"To protect the lives of the innocent who cannot protect themselves," he answered without hestitation.

"And it was for that reason you came to Kyoto, even against your shisho's wishes."

Kenshin nodded, not trusting his voice to speak and his eyes shut tightly against the memories of things he had seen and done while a hitokiri.

"But all the killing...brings no change...the only change is within me." Battousai opened his amber eyes, tears running down his face. "I'm colder and more cruel then I was before. Please...I don't want to become like that man we killed...I...we want to be free of this life."

Battousai pulled his wakazashi from its sheath, for a moment looking at the silvered blade before positioning it toward himself.

"No, Shinta! Remember your life is not your own. You have to live for all those who died."

"Sakura-san?" The wakazashi fell from his limp hand, clattering to the ground. "But look at what I have become. I'm just a hitokiri."

"No, inside you are still the same boy we knew."

He shook his head, hearing the screams of his victims and the never-ending scream of his own soul.

"Shinta, listen. Your true self has only been hidden away for a time. You must find him again or you will never escape the bloodshed."

"You don't understand, there is no escaping it for me." Battousai's eyes shifted from amber to cold blue.

"Just rest for now, Shinta."

Battousai felt his eyes drop closed and for a moment he fought to remain concious. It was a losing prospect and the overwrought hitokiri decended into slumber.


The sun was high in the sky and its warmth on his face and skim woke him out of a deep and sound sleep. For a moment Kenshin blinked in confusion, wondering where he was. Then panic seized his heart and he reached for the katana that was no longer at his side. He looked around carefully, his eyes narrowed in concentration, but he sensed nobody nearby, at least no one Battousai would classify as a threat.

Slowly his heart stopped its rapid beating and his harsh breathing returned to normal. He stood up and looked around him, seeking something half remembered from his dream of the previous day. The white flowers that had seemed so prevelent in his dream where merely scattered though the clearing and a small path meandered its way up the hill.

Kenshin's eyes followed the it winding trail though the mountainside. In the distance he could make out the tori gate of a shrine.

"A shrine here?" he thought to himself as he found his legs had taken over and that he was now walking up the path.

He encounted no one, except small animals during his walk and felt no hostile ki or indeed any ki at all that would indicate the presence of others. After a few moment walk, he shut down the senses he normally used in battle and tried to take in the peaceful surroundings without the cold, calculating portion of his brain interfering. Battousai warned him of the danger of this action in a time of war but for once Kenshin ignored him.

Something about the area was stirring memories inside him, memories of his more peaceful past. There seemed to be something familiar about it, though he was positive he had never set foot along this path before. A faint memory stired, so faint that Kenshin was not sure of its contents. A woman's voice floated in his mind and the deeper rumble of a man's voice answered it. He shook his head to clear it of the voices and looked around again.

He was at the shrine, whose six arches gleamed redly in the sun's light. He appeared to be alone with only the animals and birds to keep him company in his enforced solitude. He sat down under a tree and closed his eyes, letting the songs of birds wash over him, seeking the peace that those birds represented and that he craved to return to without realising he did so.

But even in such quiet and peaceful surroundings, Kenshin could find no solace. Behind his closed eyes he saw again the faces of all those he had killed and his ears still heard their dying words. He could hear his own cold voice utter the word 'Tenchuu' and he could smell the blood that dripped from his katana and stained the streets around him crimson. His body shuddered as the image of the man in the bamboo grove came to the fore and he felt Battousai wail inside him, wanting to be released. Tears fell from his closed eyes and he once more fell into an exhausted slumber.


Several weeks passed without any word from Katsura or Iizuka and every day would find Kenshin near the shrine at Mount Hiei, trying to find his true self again before he slipped forever into the murderous ways of a hitokiri. Sometimes he would be gone for days at a time but he was always careful to tell the innkeep where he went on the off chance that he was needed.

Slowly his mind became a bit more balanced and calm in his peaceful surroundings and he was able to hold the bloodlust of Battousai in check but the killer's cold, murderous voice was still present, whispering in the back of his mind like a cold wind. Kenshin knew it was too late to completely free himself from the rage of the hitokiri but he thought the could at least control it now, instead of it controling him.

His first test came two nights later. He'd been a month without an assignment when Iizuka appeared at the base of Mount Hiei at dusk, a smirk on his face and a black envelope in hand. At the sight of it, Kenshin could feel his heart beating faster inside him and he heard a cold voice in his head rejoicing at the thought of the bloody rain that would fall this night.

"I have come with orders from Katsura-san. You are to return to duty tonight." Iizuka's eyes narrowed, a strange glint coming to them. "I hope you have not let your skills diminish during this passed month."

Kenshin's eyes narrowed and an amber glint came to them. "I have not."

The cold voice of Hitokiri Battousai washed over Iizuka and he surpressed a shiver. He handed the hitokiri the black envelope without betraying his fear or his concern that Battousai might see through his little ruse. Battousai took the envelope, placing it in his sleeve without looking at it and began to walk back toward Kyoto. He stopped for a moment and cast a look over his shoulder at Iizuka, his visible eyes seeming to glow for an instant.

"It will be done," he said softly as a breeze came up suddenly, whipping his blood red hair wildly around his face.

Battousai disappeared into the darkening night and Iizuka shivered in the sudden chill air. He smiled. Soon this farce would be over. The trap had been set and Battousai could do nothing but fall into it. He would be dead before morning and Iizuka would be a rich man.