Yay, first Kenshin story! I can't really explain what it's about, but all the traditional couples are here; KxK, AxM, SxM, and maybe a little Y/T too. Those two are so cute! *sighs romantically*
Disclaimers: Well, DUH it doesn't belong to me. If it did, I wouldn't be writing this, I'd be animating it!
Rated PG, PG-13, whatever. A little swearing, violence, supernatural stuff I guess…
Enjoy, and review!
Dreaming of Revenge
100 years ago. Mid-August. Edo.
The short woman, middle aged and dressed in a plain gray kimono, crossed the exquisite gardens in her estate, the bright colors of the flowers a sharp contrast to her icy cold expression and clothing. She reached her room, silently drawing the door closed behind her. She knelt by her desk, and took out her ink, beginning to write a letter on a scroll.
When she was done, she left, leaving the door wide open. She was never returning there.
A maid directed her to her son, the direct descendant to the Itsuka Clan. He was studying, but rose and bowed when he saw his mother.
"Okaasan." The young boy smiled. "I was just studying about-"
"Tara-san, I want you to have this." She gave her son the scroll. "Don't read it now, but keep it for all your generations. And follow the directions exactly."
"Are you alright?" The boy asked worriedly. Usually her mother was so happy.
"Daijobu, Tara." She gave a tired smile. "Just remember to never let anyone have any cause to be vengeful against you. It's very important."
"Alright..." Tara was confused, but nodded agreement anyway.
"Good boy," she ruffled her small son's hair. "Now you keep well." She walked away.
Never to be seen again.
15th year in the Meiji period, late-July.
Kenshin woke with a start. It was still dark, but he could see the sheets twisted away from him. A nightmare. He wiped his face with his palm, feeling the moisture. It was so vivid, so real it was like he could touch-
From beside him, Kaoru rolled over and looked up at him. "Kenshin, you're shaking." She said bluntly. "You're not sick are you? It's not cold or anything..."
Kenshin smiled. "No, I'm alright. Just... just a dream." He lay back down, re-arranging the sheets. Kaoru curled up against him.
"A dream? Just go back to sleep, I'll protect you." She added with a grin.
Kenshin relaxed, placing an arm around his wife. They had married last year, and were living in the dojo with Yahiko. He was still amazing at how the young boy had shot up in the last year. Kenshin gave it a few months before the boy outgrew him. He was also considering training Yahiko in the Hiten Mitsurugi style, with good results. After having the year of practice with the Kamiya Kasshyn style, Yahiko knew the difference between fighting to kill, and fighting for a reason. The only downfall was that although his appearence had matured, his personality was still similar. Him and Sanosuke, who still came by constantly, went at it all the time. Kenshin sighed, and glanced down at Kaoru, who had fallen asleep again in his arms.
Sanosuke strolled through the market place, grinning broadly. Things were looking up; he'd just paid off his bill at the Akebeko, much to Tae's amazement. 'Of course, now I'm broke...'he added silently. But the look on her face was worth it. 'I should've used the money to teach Jo-chan to cook.' He smirked, pausing to look at some fish. Then: "Zanza!" A voice screamed. Sano whirled in shock, and the marketplace halted.
It was a young woman, holding a meat cleaver. She advanced menacingly on the dumb-struck Sano. "I swore I would have my revenge!"
"But I've never even seen you before!" Sano retorted, not worried for his safety, but he'd never been more confused in his life. The young woman's features were twisted in rage, but Sano couldn't find a hint of recognition from sight.
She struck, swiping the cleaver at his head. He dodged easily, but she followed the movement, moving her knife with deadly accuracy.
Sano leapt back, glancing at the rip in his jacket. 'There's no way this farm girl could be so fast! What's wrong with her?!"
Then, the girl stopped, blinked, and put the knife back in her bag, walking on. Sano, and the rest of the market, just stared as she walked away.
"O...kay, that was weird." He scratched his head. "Maybe it's the heat or something." He turned back to the fish. The shopkeeper looked at him curiously. "Did you know that girl?" he asked in a hushed whisper.
Sano shrugged. "Never seen her in my life." He said, and moved on. He could sense eyes on his back, and ignored them.
'Kami, people had better not be doin' this all day.' He grumbled to himself.
"No, no. Your left hand is much too high. Move it down a little," Kaoru instructed. The boy, her newest trainee, shifted his grip slightly.
Kenshin and Yahiko watched, Kenshin doing washing while Yahiko doing sword swings with his bokken.
"I had the weirdest dream last night." Yahiko said, stopping his wings and facing Kenshin thoughtfully. "People were chasing me, evil people. They really reminded me of the Ten Swords."
"What a strange coincidence, that it is Yahiko," Kenshin nodded. "I too had a strange dream. But dreams are only dreams."
"YAHIKO! WHO SAID YOU WERE FINISHED, HUH?" Kaoru yelled angrily.
"Shut up ugly!" Yahiko retorted. "I was only talking to Kenshin."
Kaoru's eye began to twitch. "You can stop when I SAY YOU'VE FINISHED!"
"ALL RIGHT!" Yahiko yelled back, beginning his swings again, this time much quicker and angrier.
Kenshin chuckled quietly, turning back to his washing. However, his mood quickly turned introspective. The monotonous movement of the clothes under his hands helped him concentrate and think. 'Two strange dreams? That's curious. And Yahiko said people were chasing him. The same as mine, except I recognised the enemy.'
It was only a coincidence, he reassured himself. The result of the months with no violence and terror.
With that thought, he smiled and wrung out his hakama.
After encountering two more crazed people out for his blood, Sano, quite on edge, finally made it to his original destination. He wanted to see Dr Genzai about a sore tooth, but now he could ask about why people were out to get him.
He strolled into the surgery. It was empty, to Sano's relief. "Hey, Genzai-sensei? You here? I want to ask you about-"
"No, he's out on a house call." A cool female voice interrupted. The voice added itself to a beautiful owner; Takani Megumi, who entered from the back room.
"Well Fox, I guess you'll have to do." Sano said with a smirk.
"What's your problem, rooster?" Megumi replied with a sigh. "No, you can't have any food or money, and I have a lot of work to do."
"Whoa, take it easy!" Sano held up his arms placatingly. "I just want someone to check out this tooth!"
"What, did someone punch you?" Megumi inquired silkily.
"Quite down rooster. Come on." Megumi led him to a patient bed. Sano reclined back in it with a contented smile.
"Don't fall asleep on me here." She warned. "So open your mouth."
"Why Megumi!" Sano exclaimed, grinning slyly. "I never knew!"
"I'm holding a scalpel here Sanosuke, don't make me use it..." Megumi smiled while he opened his mouth without further protest.
After several moments of investigation, Sano finally attempted to talk. "Eh 'ox, at's 'e pwoblem?"
Megumi laughed quietly. "What was that rooster-head? Couldn't quite understand. Perhaps you should try closing your mouth first."
Sano did so with a scowl. "So what's the problem?"
"It's nothing serious." Megumi rolled her eyes. "Since when are you a pain wimp?"
"Since never." Sano retorted. "I just wanted to check if it was okay."
"Well, it's fine. Put some ice on it if it gets worse, which it shouldn't if you don't hurt yourself again..."
"NO ONE PUNCHED ME!" Sano yelled.
"Alright, I heard you," Megumi retorted. "No need to inform the entire neighborhood."
"Yeah, right fox." Sano swung himself off the bed. "Look, there's this other problem as well."
"Oh?" Megumi arched a thin eyebrow.
"Well, three times today people have been out for my blood. Out calling me 'Zanza' and trying to hack me to pieces."
"Yes? What does that have to do with me?"
"Look, just let me finish. But halfway through some complicated attack with a meat cleaver or something, they just forget what they're doing, and walk on as if nothing ever happened!"
Megumi looked curious. "Are you sure it's not your head that needs checking?"
"I'm serious fox, believe me here."
He looked so...serious and almost desperate that Megumi wanted to believe him. "Alright. But I don't know what's going on, so why would you ask?"
"Well, you or Genzai might've seen some crazy people walk in and out of here recently."
Megumi shook her head. "Not really. Some people have been in for severe anxiety because of terrible dreams they've had, but no one with split personality, if that's what you mean."
"Yeah-I don't even know what I mean." Sano sighed. "It's just plain weird, these people coming out and trying to kill me."
"Not different to usual, then?" Megumi asked with a sly smile.
"Ha ha fox." Sano grumbled. "I'll go ask Kenshin, I guess."
"Try not to get attacked on the way there rooster," Megumi gave her trademark laugh, walking back into the back room.
Sano scowled, storming out of the surgery. 'Damn that girl makes me furious!'
Kaoru glared at Yahiko, daring him to complain about her cooking. Kenshin gave a little smile, while Sano started laughing, eating the rice without complaint for a change.
"Uh, actually," Yahiko said. "You're cookin-"
"What was that Yahiko?" Kaoru said, her voice low and dangerous.
"I was going to say that you're cooking is actually better tonight, if you hadn't interrupted me!" Yahiko scowled. "Geez ugly, let me finish a sentence!"
"I'll let the 'ugly' slide, because you said my rice was better, but only this time." She retorted with a smile.
"Hey, looks like I won't haveta arrange cooking lessons for you after all!" Sano beamed.
Kenshin sweat dropped. "I don't think that's..."
"Yeah, like you could afford to buy anyone anything!" Yahiko sneered.
"Hey! As a matter of fact I paid my tab at the Akebeko today!" Sano yelled. But he hadn't expected the three astonished faces that stared at him in shock.
"..What?" he demanded. Even Kenshin looked shocked.
"You actually paid?" Yahiko crowed. "That's a miracle! No wonder Tsubame-chan looked so surprised this afternoon."
"So, it's Tsubame-chan, is it?" Sano replied, grinning broadly. "Aww, our little Yahiko-chan is all grown up!" he exclaimed dramatically.
"DON'T CALL ME CHAN!"
Kenshin 'oro'ed with a sigh. Kaoru ignored the heated fight occuring at the table, and said, "Kenshin, do you want to go for a walk tonight? The sky should be beautiful, and the moon is full."
"Of course Kaoru-chan," Kenshin replied slyly. And was promptly hit with Kaoru's bowl. "Oro..."
"Hey! Yahiko-chan, tell Kaoru-chan to settle down over there." Sano smirked, then ducked when the same bowl was hurled at his head. "Whoa! Take it easy!"
Kenshin smiled at the typical behavior, which seemed to come with every meal. "I'll clean up." He said, rising smoothly.
"No, Sanosuke will be, he's the lazy one around here!" Kaoru snapped, tugging her husband out the door.
"Awww man! Jo-chan!"
"You're right. The sky is beautiful tonight."
Kaoru only smiled, arm linked in Kenshin's. The walked down the silent streets, seeing the lights on in the houses on either side of them.
"Well, Battousai, you're still alive. Fancy that..."
"Izuka?" Kenshin blinked. He recognised the voice. In shock. Izuka was dead.
The keeper of the voice stepped towards them, and Kenshin saw that it was not his old friend who had betrayed him. The man, still a boy almost, was holding his sword like an expert, and Kenshin drew his Sakabatou in confusion.
"Our plan failed last time to kill you, but now we shall have our revenge!" the boy with Izuka's voice charged.
"Kenshin!" Kaoru cried. "What is going on!"
Kenshin managed to give her a confused glance before dodging the boy. Slipping behind him, he knocked the boy flat on the ground.
"Who are you?" Kenshin demanded. Seeing a child with the voice of his old friend was unnerving, to say the least.
"Ugh...where am I?"
"You just attacked my husband!" Kaoru exclaimed. "And you don't even know here you are?"
"No, I was asleep, woke up here..." the boy passed out.
Kenshin looked at her seriously. "We should get him home."
"But we don't know where he lives. He doesn't seem to remember anything!"
He lifted the boy quickly over his shoulder. "Then maybe Megumi-dono will keep him in the surgery until he wakes up."
"Of course." Kaoru said, as they walked to the surgery. "This really wasn't how I expected our little walk to go, you know."
"Oh well, I will make it up to you."
"Oh really?" Kaoru smiled.
Megumi was closing up when the couple reached the surgery.
"Ken-san! Kaoru-san, it's late! Oh, who's that boy?" she asked, opening the doors again.
"We found him trying to attack Kenshin, and now he's forgotten everything!" Kaoru said.
"That's strange. Sano came in here earlier saying the exact same thing had happened to him." Megumi took the boy and placed him on a hospital bed.
"Sano never said anything." Kenshin said.
"I wonder why?" Kaoru shrugged, lapsing off into thought. "Megumi-san, can you look after this boy? We aren't sure if he's alright or not."
"That's fine. I'll let you know if anything happens, alright?"
"Arigatou Megumi-dono." Kenshin bowed, taking Kaoru's arm as they walked away.
"Oh Kenshin, I forgot to ask you before. Who's Izuka?" Kaoru asked curiously.
Kenshin stared straight ahead. "When I worked for the T...clan, Izuka was my field chief. And my friend."
"Why does he want revenge on you?"
"Well, it may be that when Katsura killed him, he thought it was me. He betrayed us." Kenshin said flatly. "I don't know his motives for wishing revenge upon me."
"Oh Kenshin," Kaoru sighed and leaned her head against his shoulder. "Let's go home."
Sanosuke was gone by the time they returned, so they went to bed.
And again the dreams.
Kenshin woke once more, but, unwilling to worry his Kaoru, lay awake for the rest of the night.
He was out washing clothes with Ayame and Suzume when the rest of the dojo began to wake up.
Yahiko and Kaoru were arguing over something again...breakfast, Kenshin assumed, when Sanosuke turned up, grumpy and tired looking.
"Hey, Kenshin, please don't tell me Jo-chan's cooking again today." He collasped on the porch stairs.
"I HEARD THAT!" Came from the kitchen.
"You look tired this morning Sanosuke." Kenshin observed. "Had a bad night?" he patted Ayame on the head, leaving a soapy trail. The two girls dissolved into giggles.
"Just these nasty dreams bout people out to get me." Sano shrugged. "Nothin serious." He grinned. "Not bad like those ones where Tae chases me..." he shuddered, closing his eyes.
"It seems that these dreams are a recurring theme."
Sano looked up shrewdly at his friend. "Meaning?"
"I too, have been having these strange dreams. And people attacking me."
"Did Megumi tell you that?" Sano scowled. "Wait, you had crazy people attacking you too?"
Kenshin nodded, wringing out a gi before hanging it out. Suzume and Ayame began scooping in the barrel while he was away. Their hands came away full of soap suds, and they giggled cheerfully.
"Holy shit! Somethin's going down in Tokyo."
Kaoru appeared from the doorway. "Kenshin, are we going to see if that boy's alright?" She smiled gently at the regular sight of the two young girls soaping up Kenshin's hair while he washed.
Sano looked suspiciously at her. "You didn't attack the poor boy, did you?"
Kaoru growled, her eyes narrowed. "WHAT?!"
"It's just that I don't think that the people are acting on their own accord." Sano defended himself.
"So the chicken-head can think for himself, can he?" came a cool voice from the gateway. Everyone turned.
Misao gave a huge yawn, not bothering to cover her mouth. She took the cup of tea a giggling Omasu handed her, and sat down at the nearest chair.
"My my, Misao-chan, up before lunchtime." Okon smiled as she walked by into the restaurant.
"Ha ha..." Misao grumbled. "The sun's barely up, so don't start."
"Oh, here is Aoshi-sama's tea. Is that why you're up so early?" Omasu teased, and Misao blushed.
"No it's not, but I may as well take it." She grumbled.
"Alright, here you go." Omasu handed her the tray.
Misao smiled as she walked over to the temple. It was a somewhat bittersweet smile, however. Her Aoshi-sama was back with the Oniwanbanshuu, sure, but he was so...sad. Still feeling unworthy and pretty darn annoying in Misao's opinion. But slowly, surely, under her subtly ministrations, the shell had begun to crack. No break, no where near, she thought with a grin, but...it was progress.
"Aoshi-sama, here's your tea." She sang, walking into the temple.
The tall man glanced around at her. Misao, as she did everyday, melted at the sight of her handsome Aoshi-sama. "Good morning Misao." He replied cooly.
She set the tea down gently, kneeling on the other side. "Shall I pour it for you?" she asked with a cheeky grin.
"You may," Aoshi replied, head inclined. He had to admit, and he almost smiled while Misao's head was bent, that he enjoyed these little talks. As well as her company. But he wasn't about to say that.
"Then, here you are, good Aoshi-sama." Misao handed him the cup with a grandious flourish.
"Be careful you don't spill any on yourself." Aoshi warned.
"I know that!" she retorted, then beamed at the sight of his lips twitching.
They both drank in silence for a few moments, enjoying the bright sunny day, and, privately, each others' company. Well, not so privately for Misao. Finally, she leapt up. "Now Aoshi-sama, don't forget to come in today. I think Jiya wants a word about something."
Aoshi just looked at her impassively.
"Well, bye then!" Misao skipped out the door and down the stairs. He heard her call to a friend she saw, then curse as she fell over a tree branch. He sipped his tea. 'That's my Misao.'
Okina was in his room, reading and re-reading a scroll, when Aoshi silently entered.
"Ahh, Aoshi, I needed to speak with you. I trust Misao-chan told you that already?"
"Good. I recently received a letter from one of our informants in Tokyo..." he handed Aoshi the scroll, who read it silently.
Finally, Okina said, "I can't think of any explanation for people taking dead people's memories like that."
"Perhaps you should find a priest." Aoshi supplied impassively.
Okina raised an eyebrow. "Right, Aoshi. I want you to go to Tokyo, find some information about where this strange-evil thing is coming from."
"Why me?" Aoshi seemed already resigned to his fate.
"Well, you and Misao, anyway." Okina amended his order. "Leave today, if you can. This sort of thing will only get worse."
"If it will only get worse, why must Misao go along?" Aoshi demanded.
"I am as loath to send her as you, but if you go, she will only follow." Okina sighed. "You can see she's going crazy here doing nothing."
Aoshi sighed silently in return. "...Fine."
Okina stood. "Excellent! Take the scroll, Misao-chan will want to read it for herself."
Aoshi bowed, leaving. He found Misao in the living room, lieing on the floor with her eyes closed.
"A word?" he said in greeting.
Surprised, she leapt off the floor. "Hey! You shouldn't sneak around like that in your own home!" she scowled, her cheeks bright red.
"What were you doing?" he asked casually, sitting on a couch.
"Uh...nothing! Just daydreaming!" Misao, if possible, went even more red. Aoshi sighed. He knew about Misao's 'feelings' for him, and now knew he couldn't just pass them off as a childhood crush. But he didn't know himself how to react, to feel...worthy of such feelings.
Anyway, now was not the time to think of such things. They had work to do.
"Hey, now you're daydreaming." Misao chided, now sitting on a cushion. "You were looking for me, right?"
"Yes. We're to go to Tokyo." He handed her the scroll from the informant.
Misao read it aloud. "Blah blah...something serious is occurring in Tokyo. People's dreams have been tarnished...what? The vengeful thoughts of the dead being incarnated in human beings? Wait, Aoshi-sama, how can that be?"
"And these people are running around attacking people? That's terrible!"
"Himura Battousai may be on the receiving end as well, just like many citizens in Tokyo."
"Himura... yeah, I bet a lot of dead people are vengeful towards him. And Sanosuke, and hell! Everyone who has ever caused another man's death!"
"You see the gravity of the situation?"
"Hell yes! When do we leave?" Misao leapt up, eager and excited, yet mortally afraid for her friends.
"Today. Get ready."
A few hours later, they were on the road, walking in silence to Tokyo. The day had warmed up considerably, no clouds in the sky, even the birds were muted.
Misao sighed. "Man, it's hot!"
Aoshi glanced at her briefly, and walked on.
"I shouldn't have expected sympathy from you." She huffed.
"Alright. I'm very sympathetic for you." Aoshi deadpanned. "Will that do?"
"If it wasn't sarcastic, it would've been very nice."
Aoshi inwardly sighed. Well, that was true. And, if he acted truly sympathetic, maybe Misao would be quiet, and they could enjoy the peace again.
"I'm sorry." He said, trying to sound sincere. He was sorry, he didn't like to get Misao angry, or upset, or anything where she wasn't smiling and happy. "If you're hot, we could take a break."
Misao eyed him, half suspicious. "We haven't been gone that long. Are you trying to make me be quiet?"
Aoshi blinked. She'd figured him out, he hadn't noticed how much sharper she'd become over the years. So that meant he couldn't avoid telling the truth. "Yes, I am."
As she started in anger, he added, "I'm not trying to insult you, I just would rather enjoy the peace of the walk than you complaining."
"Fine, fine..." Misao sulked for show, but soon gave up. 'Aoshi wants to enjoy the peace, does he? Well, I can do that just as well, hmph!'
So she glanced up, around, into the trees, looking for clouds. It was nice, quiet, and she did admit, peaceful. There were a lot of things to see when you just opened your eyes. Birds, especially. Seeing a bright red and green one high up in the foliage, she nudged Aoshi.
His blue eyes gazed at her, accusing.
"What's that bird?" she asked, pointing. "I've never seen it before."
Aoshi looked, and Misao had the distinct impression that he was impressed. "I'm not sure. It's quite lovely."
"It doesn't have a call." She turned, watching it from behind until they walked out of sight.
Misao sighed. "Are we nearly there?"
"Genzai-sensei? Megumi-san?" Kaoru called in the empty surgery. "Ohayou? Anyone home?"
"Yes, I'm here Kaoru-san." Megumi called from the back. "The boy went home, he remembered nothing from the incident last night."
"There's been another case of this possession thing." Megumi appeared, looking neat and clean as always. She went over to the sink, washing her hands as she spoke. "This time people got hurt, so I'm staying here in case more anxiety sufferers turn up."
"That's terrible!" Kaoru exclaimed, her hands fiddling with her obi worriedly. "What do you mean by 'anxiety sufferers'? People having...dreams and stuff?"
"How did you know that?" Megumi questioned. "People have been turning up for days now, suffering from terrible nightmares." She looked confused. "It's very strange, I have never experienced this sort of mental illness so widely spread."
"Well, Kenshin has been...and Yahiko too!" Kaoru suddenly cried. "I can't help but feel that these two strange occurrences are connected!" she looked so lost, so worried, that Megumi guided her to a chair.
"I'll get you some tea." Megumi promised, and went to heat the water. Over her shoulder, she added, "Why didn't you bring Ken-san along?"
"Oh! Saitoh-san turned up..." Kaoru smiled in memory...
Sano leapt to his feet, eyes narrowed and fists clenched. "What the hell are YOU doing here?" he snarled. Ayame and Suzume looked at him fearfully. Kenshin gently pointed them in the direction of the dojo. They both ran off.
them, strolling into the yard, amber eyes coolly surveying the scene. He noted Kenshin doing the washing as if
nothing had changed, and said, "Battousai, a word?"
Kenshin didn't look in the least bit surprised. "We can speak here." He said simply.
Saitoh gave him a mocking smile. "As you wish." He took out a cigarette, lighting up. He blew the smoke in a thin stream towards Sano, who stiffened in outrage.
"You selfish bastard! Cut that out, a guy has to breathe ya know!"
"Sano, calm down." Kenshin said. "Saitoh, please."
"Have you been attacked lately?" Saitoh questioned coolly. "By people who have no idea of their identities?"
"What a funny coincidence people'd want to attack you." Sano grumbled sarcastically, sprawling on the porch again.
"I'd like you to attack me, so I'd have an excuse to kill you." Saitoh countered.
"Actually Saitoh-san," Kaoru said from the doorway. She walked outside, carefully treading on Sano's hand on the way out.
"Kenshin was attacked last night by this young boy. I was about to visit him in Megumi-san's surgery." She looked at Kenshin. "Yahiko's in the training room, and then he's going to the Akebeko."
She bowed lightly to Saitoh before walking out into the empty street.
"I've been attacked by these crazy kids too." Sano grumbled, holding his flattened hand and scowling. "And then they just forget what they're doing and walk away."
"A wonder you haven't been killed," Saitoh drawled.
"Is this a problem for you also Saitoh?" Kenshin asked smoothly, preventing Sano from starting a fight.
"Aa." Saitoh shrugged. "Three people injured yesterday by people they claim were impersonated by their former enemies seeking revenge."
"Three?" Sano echoed incredulously. "And that's only only in Tokyo, right?"
"There's no news from any other city, moron. It seems that the problem is restricted to Tokyo only. For now."
"Don't sound so pleased." Sano muttered.
"Got something to say rooster-head?"
"Why did you come to us?" Kenshin asked, avoiding another potential battle.
"I thought you might be...interested."
"Are you working on this case?"
Saitoh just looked at Kenshin impassively.
"And you're asking for our help?" Sano asked. "You've got to be kidding!"
"I don't recall asking for your help, moron." Saitoh replied smoothly. "But Chief of Police Urakawa (I think...) wishes you to aid the investigation if you discover any information." He looked less than pleased at the prospect of anyone else helping him do his work. "Which would be impossible if the rooster is there."
"What do you mean by that, exactly?" Sano retorted, rising to the taunt.
"Thank you Saitoh, I'll keep that in mind." Kenshin said firmly, abolishing yet another heated argument before it began.
Saitoh nodded, leaving silently just as he came in.
Sano relaxed when he was gone, leaning back against the wall. "Bastard. Well, at least we're not the only ones people are chasing after."
"I wonder who is behind all this," Kenshin mused, absent-mindedly going back to washing clothes. "Or maybe it is our imaginations running overtime."
"Yeah, right Kenshin." Sano laughed dryly. "Half the cities imaginations running wild, thinking their enemies are out to get them."
Kenshin was silent for a time, and they could only hear the splashing of the water, and the strikings of Yahiko's bokken against the training dummy.
"I just realized something." Sano exclaimed.
"August 13th. That's in just a few weeks."
"Aa." Kenshin knew that Sano was getting at something; he just wasn't quite sure what it was.
"Bon." Sano shook his head in disbelief. "You know, the festival of the dead."
Kaoru took the tea gratefully, cradling the porcelain cup in her hands. "Domo arigatou Megumi-san. I've been under a lot of stress with this lately."
"I can imagine. The three of them with the same problems, it must be very difficult for you." Megumi sympathized, sipping her own cup of tea. "When Sano was telling me about his experiences yesterday, I thought he was crazy. He got all offended, even for him." She added with a smile.
"Oh really?" Kaoru said, giggling. "Poor Sano."
Suddenly, a man lurched into the surgery, clutching his head.
Megumi rushed over him. "What's the matter?" she guiding him to a hospital bed.
Kaoru silently left, not wanting to get in Megumi's way. 'That must be another person suffering from these terrible dreams. The poor people, they must be scared to death to think that their old enemies are coming back from the dead. I would be.' She shivered in the warm sun. 'It's cold, even though the sun is warm.' She mentally hit herself, snapping herself out over her sudden irrational fear. 'I shouldn't be trying to make myself scared.' She chided. 'And anyway, no one has need of vengeance towards me anyway.' With that comforting though, Kaoru straightened her kimono, held her head upright, and marched home.
Yahiko and Sano were there, waiting for her.
"Hey, jo-chan, where's lunch?" Sano demanded as soon as she entered the house.
"Why don't you make it for yourself?" she snapped back, her good mood slipping as she slid out of her geta. She walked into the kitchen, the two boys following. "And don't follow me!"
"Aww c'mon ugly, we're STARVING!" Yahiko protested.
"Look at us, abused by Saitoh, and not even a rice ball..." Sano said with a puppy dog voice.
Kenshin was at the table, and stood when the three arrived. "There you are." He smiled. "Is the boy alright?"
"He's fine, he went home." She smiled at Kenshin, then glared at Sano. "I wish you'd go home."
"I'm starving!" Yahiko yelled.
"Feed yourself you little brat!" Kaoru began to heat the water.
"Yeah, look at how hard Jo-chan has to work for you." Sano scolded Yahiko, clipping him over the ear.
"Hey, you were complaining more than me!" Yahiko snapped, ready to charge.
"Maa maa..." Kenshin interupted. "Let Kaoru cook, domo."
"Yeah, c'mon brat, let's go outside." Sano shoved the little kid out.
"What was that for?" Yahiko demanded, sulking.
"Hey, lighten up!" Sano said freely, leaning against the wall casually. "You didn't have to deal with Saitoh today."
"No, but I could hear you getting all worked up when he insulted you." Yahiko smirked. "So I guess nothing's changed."
"Hey!" Sano sweat dropped, cuffing the kid over the ear.
There were shortly sounds of a scuffle from the front porch
The moon had risen by the time Aoshi and Misao arrived in Tokyo. The streets were deserted, lights on in homes. Misao shivered. "It's so cold here!" she exclaimed.
"So, let's go to Kaoru's! We should stay there, because Kenshin will surely have some info for us, right?"
"Right." Aoshi nodded again, letting Misao lead the way.
They walked in silence again; but it was a strained silence, hollow and ungodly. Aoshi was on guard, for reasons he couldn't quite define, and Misao kept looking around her furtively, looking for something out of the ordinary coming to swallow her into the night.
Clouds spread, dark and hanging low, obscuring the moon and sending the streets into shadow.
Then Misao found what she was looking for. Or so she thought, for when she glanced again there was nothing.
She gave a whimper and huddled close to Aoshi.
"What is it?" he murmured.
She pointed silently. A flicker of pale against the darkest of shadow, then darkness.
"Did you see that?" she whispered.
Aoshi looked again. Nothing.
"There's nothing there, Misao." He reassured her. And himself. He couldn't figure out why, but he was feeling pretty spooked.
They walked on.
Until Misao spotted something again.
She even felt it this time. Cold, like ice. Darkness, like evil personified. She stopped still, overcome by fear.
Aoshi slowly drew a kodachi. He saw this time, darker than shadow, moving slowly towards them. It was cold.
Was that a voice, or just the howling winds? But it was such a calm day, he thought. But winds often come up at night. He reasoned further. So what was this sense of death which came with it?
It definitely was not the wind. Dark shadows twisted in front of them, changing shape, forming shape...
Misao broke and ran.
Aoshi, left on his own, shouted, "Misao!"
But she had been swallowed up the shadows.
They were real. Were they?
Aoshi cursed, picking up his pace, keeping an eye on the strange darkness. It didn't seem to be getting any closer, for now. And he was hardly about to go up and say hi. He wished he had a lantern.
Kenshin and Kaoru were sitting on the porch, relaxing comfortably.
"The nights have been so beautiful lately," Kaoru sighed happily.
"That they have." Kenshin replied, smiling fondly. The cicadas by the gate fence was the only sound, other than hurried footsteps...
Misao ran around the corner, collapsing on the ground when she saw the two of them.
They both jumped up, and hurried over.
"Misao-chan! What's the matter?" Kaoru cried, kneeling besides her friend.
Kenshin looked puzzled. "And what are you doing in Tokyo, Misao-dono?"
Slowly, she caught her breath, on hands and knees in the grass. She stood, and her expression was still one of fear. "There are ghosts! Ghosts!"
"Don't be silly, there's no such thing." Kaoru said firmly, but over the last few nights, she wasn't so sure. Kenshin frowned, obviously thinking along the same thoughts.
"There was too!" Misao retorted hotly, anger overcoming her fears. "If you were there you woulda..."
"Would have what?" Kenshin asked curiously.
"Uh oh, I just forgot I left Aoshi-sama out there with the ghosts!" she went into a panic. Kaoru patted her on the back, guiding the slim girl on her feet.
"Aoshi is in Tokyo too? Are you here on business then?" Kenshin looked, if possible, even more confused. Kaoru was trying to drag Misao inside, with minimal results.
"Hey, Kaoru stop it! I'm okay, I'm just worried about Aoshi-sama out with the ghosts!"
Kaoru rolled her eyes.
"Anyways Himura, Okina sent us here because of these people being attacked by possessed people or something. I can't remember the rest... Hey? Have you heard anything about it?"
"Yes, when Aoshi arrives I'll tell you what's been happening in Tokyo over the last few days." Kenshin promised.
"You can stay here, of course." Kaoru beamed, suddenly throwing her arms around her friend. "Oh, it's so good to see you! It's been ages!"
Misao grinned. "Yeah I know! There's so much to talk about!"
Kenshin walked to the gate, letting the women catch up. He glanced curiously, almost warily up and down the dark streets. If it was winter, mist would be swirling along the road. He was somewhat grateful that it was not. But he didn't see any ghosts, spirits, or even a threatening presence. Could Misao be hallucinating? No, Kenshin corrected himself. Misao was headstrong and cheerful, intensly loyal, but not insane. He smiled at the thought.
He finally saw Aoshi walking briskly up the road, looking almost, Kenshin noticed, on edge. He looked behind, around him, but couldn't see anything.
"Aoshi." He greeted cheerfully. "Misao-dono arrived just earlier."
Aoshi nodded at him. "Good evening." He continued past him. "It's nice to see the light."
Kenshin frowned at the odd statement, but shrugged, walking into the dojo.
The women turned at their approach.
"Ahh gods I'm so sorry Aoshi-sama!" Misao wailed, hurling herself over to him and clutching the lapels of his trenchcoat. She shook them furiously, continuing, "I didn't mean to leave you with the ghost but I just had to-"
"Fear is irrational." Aoshi reminded softly, patting the upset girl on the back.
Kenshin and Kaoru looked on them fondly. "I'll go prepare some rooms, alright?" Kaoru smiled. Misao turned around awkwardly, while Aoshi gave a slight shrug.
"Thanks Kaoru-san!" she looked relieved. "Hey, let's all go inside!" she ran into the dojo after Kaoru. Aoshi remained, looking out into the street. Kenshin silently joined him.
"Is what Misao-dono is saying true?" he finally asked. Aoshi didn't look at him.
"There was something." He eventually admitted. "If was real or supernatural, I'm not sure." He paused. "You may want to keep inside at night from now on. Whatever it is out there, it grows."
Kenshin didn't ask for elaboration. "I suppose you've come to investigate these strange attacks, right?"
Aoshi nodded. "Yes, we had a message from our informants here."
They began to slowly walk inside. Aoshi was silent, Kenshin thoughtful.
Kaoru, Misao and Yahiko were eating rice and tofu at the low table when they arrived.
"Oh, it's Shinomori." Yahiko grumbled, dry, but without the usual bite. "I shoulda figured, since wherever Aoshi goes, Weasel girl's sure to follow."
"Whatdya mean by that?!" Misao screeched. Aoshi and Kenshin kneeled at the table and began to eat while Yahiko and Misao argued.
Kaoru and Kenshin quietly explained the goings-on in Tokyo.
Aoshi was surprised to hear that Saitoh asked for their help.
"It wasn't actually asking." Kenshin closed his eyes with a sweat drop and a smile. "The Chief wanted our input. Saitoh didn't look pleased at all."
"Since when is that unusual?" Misao demanded, glaring at Yahiko, who glared back.
"I would like to talk to Saitoh." Aoshi said. "We are on the same case after all."
Misao pouted. "Aww, do we have to?"
"I would also like to get to the bottom of this." Kenshin said. He was worried, and unsure, and he disliked those feelings greatly. "I would come with you."
"Oh! You must be tired from your journey!" Kaoru stood, "Get some rest, and you can visit Saitoh-san tommorow."
"Yeah." Misao yawned. "It is...safe here, right?" she asked after a moment, brushing off her outfit nervously.
Kenshin smiled. "Of course. Sleep well Misao-dono, Aoshi."
They bowed, Misao talking quietly as they walked off.
Kaoru smiled sympathetically after them. "Poor Misao."
Kenshin nodded, rising from his cushion. "Let's go to bed." He said with a smile.
"Yahiko, do the cleaning, you don't do enough work around here already." Kaoru said on the way out, from over Kenshin's shoulder.
Yahiko just stared at them incredulously. "Damn them...make me do the cleaning while they just go to sleep..." he stood, stacking bowls with a clatter.
TBC, but only if people like it.
And if you like it, TELL ME!!