Six Million Dollar Sano
The afternoon was overcast, the day gray and dreary. Even so, Dr. Genzai's Tokyo clinic was uncustomarily silent, the little group gathered inside waiting anxiously for word that their friend would make it. Minutes dragged by into hours, before finally the shoji was moved aside to reveal the weary physician.
"His right hand and arm have been completely crushed - worse than in the fight with Shishio. Both legs and three ribs have been broken." Dr. Genzai shook his head sadly, "Sano was also struck in the head... I'm not sure how extensive the damage will prove when he awakes."
Silence greeted the old man's horrific diagnosis. Long minutes passed before Kaoru finally gathered the courage to ask the question on everyone's mind: "Will he recover?"
Dr. Genzai ran a weary hand over his brow, rubbed his tired eyes. "Ordinarily, no... but for Sanosuke..." he paused, looking around at the anxious faces, gathering courage from them, "for Sanosuke, there's another option." He turned to Megumi, serious with a purpose: "We can rebuild him, make him better than he was."
The Kenshin-gumi stood and stared at Dr. Genzai blankly. "You..." Megumi's voice faltered, and after taking a deep breath she tried again, "You can make him smarter?"
"You can make him stop free-loading?" Kaoru chimed in, eyes wide with amazement.
Tae, sitting with Tsubame-chan in the corner perked up as well. "You can make him pay his bill?!"
This was not at all the reaction Dr. Genzai had been expecting. "Ano... that's not really what I meant..."
The Kenshin-gumi weren't listening. "Can you make him stop calling me 'chan'?" Yahiko demanded.
"Can you make him stop complaining about Kaoru-dono's cooking?" Kenshin added.
"I agree with the sensei-onna," Saitoh commented, leaning against a support post out on the porch. He'd been the one to find Sano, badly beaten and left for dead on the edge of Rakuninmura. "I don't know what the idiot was doing down there, but if you made him smarter, maybe he'd stay out of trouble."
Kaoru, Megumi and Tae all nodded agreement, turning expectant faces to Dr. Genzai. "So?" Megumi prodded, when the older doctor's mouth had opened and shut several times without him saying anything. "Can you do it?"
He shook his head. "Um... no. You see, I just meant we could make him stronger..."
"Stronger?!" Kaoru protested, "He's already strong enough - have you seen the wholesale damage he's done to my dojo? To your clinic? Why in the world would you want to make him stronger?!"
"Now hold on here..."
"The tanuki-girl is right," Megumi interrupted, flipping her hair back over her shoulder. "Making him stronger won't help anybody. Improving his character would be a service to society."
"All of the local restaurant owners would be eternally grateful," Tae agreed, bowing politely.
As the rest of the Kenshin-gumi chimed in, Dr. Genzai finally lost his temper. "Just work with me here, all right?!? he demanded. "I can make him stronger - not smarter, not morally correct, just stronger! It's the Meiji era for pity's sake! That should be impressive enough!" Turning around he stomped back into his examining room, slamming the shoji shut behind him.
In the quiet that followed, Tsubame's low whisper was perfectly clear: "Kowaii..."
October 21, 1999