Thank you for all the reviews so far, it makes my heart happy :) For those of you interested in background on the Korean-Japanese history during this time, I have put some information at the bottom of the chapter..
Once again, I do not own bridal mask or Kenshin, though I wish I did.
Chapter 4: New Enemies Appear
As if in a fog, the door slams as Kenshin plops down on the floor of his room, ignoring the looks of Hiko and Akane. Kao-dono, closing his lids and taking a deep breath, his vision is filled with scared blue eyes. I... images of himself striking hard with his baton against her delicate shoulder, I... FWAP, the sound of the whip echoes in his ears, I... his mind can't even say the words, as if he can erase what he did. "Isn't that what you do with weapons? Use them to protect the people you love?" her small voice full of hurt, even in his mind.
Head hanging low, Kenshin props his katana next to him, "don't worry Kao-dono. I won't let anything happen to you. I will protect you." Soft tears roll down his cheeks, she's alive, even though he knows there is no chance of forgiveness, not after what he's done... The fact that she's alive is enough. A lump forms in his throat, battousai... can I sacrifice her to catch battousai? Kenshin's eyes snap open, "she's just one girl," nodding, "just one girl..."
Somewhere in Japan...
"I understand father," slim fingers grasp the phone in her palm.
"I will put the fate of Japan's expansion in your hands." The gruff voice on the other end of the line is confident in her abilities. "Once battousai is taken care of, it will be easy to convert those rats in Kyeong Seong." A pause.
The woman nods, "hai, they will all sing the song of the empire."
"Don't fail me." Hanging up the phone, the woman looks to the towering man standing next to her. His hair a white mess on his head with perfectly round spectacles in front of his eyes.
"Enishi," her voice is smooth, "get the car ready, we leave for Kyeong Seong within the hour." The man nods, leaving the black haired beauty alone in the hotel. How long has it been? Kyeong Seong...
"That Jap bastard has gone too far this time!" Yahiko's voice pipes up in the center of the group with a young girl, Tsubame, at his side. All the members gathered around Kaoru after returning from the inn, concerned for her safety.
"He's right Jou-chan, you're lucky that teacher was staying late at school that day." Sano counters, "otherwise..."
"Yeah!" Another voice joins in.
"I think they're right, I think it's time to do something about our friend the officer." Okita turns to Aoshi who simply nods.
"It's time we took care of Mr. Himura." Their leader's voice is grave, receiving nods from the rest of the group as well as Kaoru.
Dr. Hiroshi's Residence...
"I'm so glad you could meet me doctor," countess Han smiles to the older man. Coming closer, she traces a slim finger along the short man's collar, gaining a nervous gulp from the physician.
"Of-of course countess. Anything for you," leaning closer, he closes his eyes expecting their lips to touch.
"I have the package here," the countess cups his cheeks, "I trust it should be enough."
"I don't care what the cost, take care of the count first. He hasn't been able to sleep since battousai showed up. Having indigestion, constipation, high blood pressure..." The doctor nods. "Oh," the woman squeals with delight, "you are the best doctor, always caring about your patients." She smiles, leaving the man alone with a briefcase full of won.
Chong Ro Police Station...
"Hoji," Superintendant Makoto's raspy voice approaches his oldest son, "meet me in my office."
After arriving, "have you come up with any leads in the battousai case?"
Nodding a negative, the awkward looking man states, "no father, I stopped working on it once Saitou handed the case to that Joseon bastard."
"Tsk, he should never have been allowed to work for the imperial police." A pause, "I don't care who Hajime assigned, from now on, I want you working on it." Hoji is thrilled with the news.
Nodding enthusiastically, "yes father, I will kill battousai by any means necessary."
"And one more thing," Shishio says gaining a quizzical look from his son, "kill Himura too. I don't care if he's an officer or not... We don't need him poking his nose where it doesn't belong, do you understand?"
Slightly unsure, Hoji asks, "how can we kill the bastard? We can't have it traced back to us or the police."
"I don't care how it's done, pay some criminal if you have to."
Nodding slightly, "I understand."
As Hoji returns to the main area of the police station, a young girl approaches him, she can't be much more than thirteen years old. "Um, excuse me sir..." Her voice is tentative as she talks to the skinny man.
"What is it?" He asks, his voice harsh.
"It's about Leuitenant Himura." Her voice is small with her short brown bob floating around her cheeks.
"I was hoping there would be..." she pauses, "a reward for the information."
After receiving the nod of affirmation, "I heard that some people are going to try to kill the leuitenant."
The slight grin is automatic forming on Hoji's lips. "Don't you care? One of your police officers might get killed!" Tsubame's voice is concerned.
"Right. When and where is this supposed to be happening?"
"I'm not sure exactly, but in the next day or so."
Nodding, "thank you for the information." Hoji hands the girl a wad of money from his wallet. If not tonight, then... Himura will die soon enough. His grin is wicked watching the young girl leave the police station.
Later that Night at the Akabeko Club...
Women's voices singing in the background echo through the club as Kenshin shares a drink with his long time friend. Dressed in his finest charcoal suit and burgundy button down, Kenshin looks good, but Seta can tell something is bothering him. After a few moments, the officer asks, "how did things work out with you and that woman? I'm sorry if I ruined anything between you two."
"Don't worry about it." Seta smiles.
"Who was she?" Kenshin asks even though all he can think about is the look on Kaoru's face, full of hatred, aimed towards himself.
"Remember how I told you about that girl I met when I was a boy? Amy?" Kenshin nods absentmindedly, "I found her, that was the girl."
No matter how hard he tries, he can't seem to focus on what his friend is talking about, a dark sadness overshadowing his features, "Sou-kun," a pause.
"What would you do if the one girl you have been longing for... hoping secretly that death would come quickly, just so you can meet again... if that girl was your first love..." What are you talking about Kenshin? Seta thinks to himself. "If she was the one girl that you have to kill... to catch battousai... would you be able to?" Soujiro doesn't really know how to respond, are you talking about Amy?
Not waiting for a response, Kenshin's voice becomes hardened, "I'm still going to kill her. If it's to lure battousai... I can rip some little bitch to shreds and grind her bones to spread on every mountain, along the entire length and breath of this land if I need to!" His eyes fill with liquid as he feels the hard fist of his friend connecting with his jaw.
"Have you gone crazy?!" Seta leaves the officer laying in a heap on the floor, a mixture of Kenshin's hysterical laughter and crying echoing throughout the club.
It isn't until much later when Kenshin finally leaves the Akabeko, half in a daze, his shoes clicking along the pavement, ringing in his ears. CLICK, the sound of the gun's safety taking longer than usual to register in the officer's tired mind.
Halting immediately, Kenshin feels the cold metal pressed against the back of his head. Ah yes, please, just do it. He can't help the thoughts as he closes his eyes, ready to finally have relief from all the stresses of his life.
Hearing a thud, Kenshin's violet orbs clear as he turns around to see a man dressed all in black, face covered by a black mask as well, lying on the ground beside him. Confused for a moment, Kenshin sees something white fluttering in the distance.
"Battousai!" Kenshin chases the man, blinded by fury, catching him surprisingly fast. Drawing his blade, battousai counters as if Kenshin is just a fly in the wind, easily parrying his strikes.
"Who are you?!" Kenshin screams in anger. His strikes are sloppy as he thinks of all the trouble this masked man has caused him. Shinta... it's me... With a quick blow, battousai knocks the sword from Kenshin's hand, aiming his katana at the officer's throat.
"Just do it you bastard!" Kenshin screams as he sees the man dressed in black awaken in his periphery. Battousai hesitates, hearing the man behind him draw a knife from a sheath. It happens in an instant, without hesitation, battousai turns, shielding Kenshin from what would have been a blade in the heart. Joseon's hero winces as he pulls the blade from his bicep, and with blinding speed, rushes over to knock the man out with the hilt of his own blade.
Kenshin can't help the shock written all over his face while pulling out his pistol. "Stop!" Battousai turns to the younger man, "you... just then..." the officer struggles with the words. Walking closer towards battousai, gun aimed at his chest, "why did you save me?! Tell me!" He pulls the safety, "Who are you?!"
Before Kenshin can get an answer, or shoot, whichever was to come first, his world goes black as he can feel something hard hitting the back of his head, knocking him unconscious onto the ground.
"Come," a man approaches battousai, high ponytail flowing through the air while helping the larger man to his feet. Both men run quickly from the scene just as Kenshin regains consciousness.
Chong Ro Police Station...
Throwing the man roughly into a holding cell, Kenshin locks the door with a clang, and rushes from the police station. Mind too fogged to even care to interrogate the man in black as to why he tried to kill him. In honesty, Kenshin's not really surprised someone would try to commit such an act, especially since everyone in Joseon hates him. It was only a matter of time before someone got the courage to make an attempt.
He has more pressing things on his mind, such as, why would he save me?
Hoji watches from a distance as Kenshin brings the man he hired into the station. With sweat forming on his brow, he sneaks into the holding area after making sure the officer has left the building.
"I was just about to shoot, but the bastard was saved by battousai."
"What did you say?" Hoji asks. Saved by battousai? Are they working together? This is unexpected...
In a Small Cottage Hidden Away in the Outskirts of Town...
"Maybe we should just tell him everything." The man with the ponytail suggests while looking at the walls covered with newspaper clippings. Various political figures adorn the walls like wallpaper. The count and countess Han, Dr. Hiroshi, the President of Kyeong Seong bank, Makoto Shishio, etc... each of their pictures attached to corresponding clippings of their great contributions to the Japanese empire.
With wooden mask, and sword to the side, "I've thought about it..." battousai states as he applies salve to his wounded arm, and wraps it with cloth bandages, "but he will probably just have me arrested. He's not ready to know the truth."
After a few moments, "do you remember why we started this to begin with?" Battousai asks, receiving a nod from his comrade, "those traitors must pay with their lives for betraying their country... For forcing you into hiding. I want to leave him out of it if possible, I have to take care of it myself."
After a pause, "one more thing," battousai adds, "if things should not go as planned, and something should happen to me. Tell the boy everything. Even if things end badly, never hate him. Blood is thicker than anything else in this crazy world. Understand?" The other man nods affirmative.
Driving home from the police station, Keshin tries to make sense of all that has happened. Why would the bastard save me? Who would save a demon that works for the Japs? Who... Kenshin finds his foot pushing harder on the gas peddle, racing towards his home, who except for family...
Racing into the house, Kenshin sees Hiko in his wheel chair carrying soiled clothes to a wash basin outside. A flash of red and white goes by as Hiko passes his son. "Hey old man, wait!" Kenshin is furious, gaining an amused look from Hiko.
Raising an eyebrow, "old man? When did my baka son become so bold."
"Just show me your arm." Hiko raises an arm, and continues towards the wash area.
"Lift your sleeve."
"Excuse me? I don't have to show you anything."
"Just do it damn it, I have to know the truth! Is it you?!" Kenshin grabs Hiko's sleeve gaining a death glare from his father.
Looking down at the clothes in his father's hands, Kenshin notices blood staining white. "Why do you have blood on your clothes?"
"It's none of your business." Hiko states, "now if you'll excuse me, I have some laundry to do."
Grabbing again for Hiko's sleeve, Kenshin accidentally knocks the wheel chair over with the force, leaving his father to fall nearly face first onto the ground. "Kenshin! Stop it!" Akane screams as she rushes out to help Hiko back up. Seeing her struggle, Kenshin helps as well nearly using all his strength to lift the heavy older man. It comes out as a mumble, "I'm sorry father."
"Don't you know what your father goes through every day at the market Kenshin? The people of Joseon use him as a punching bag, that's why he has to wash his clothes each night." Akane is near tears. Not only because of the daily beatings, but because Hiko lets them do it. He doesn't even try to fight back anymore.
Shocked, Kenshin asks, "why didn't you tell me? Who has been beating you? I will take care of them father."
Holding up a hand, "don't Kenshin, just don't." Shoving the two away, "just leave me alone," Hiko rolls himself to the wash basin, leaving Akane and Kenshin behind.
Regardless of the sleepless night, it seems to go by quickly for Kenshin. "Baka," Hiko rolls by the room, stopping at the door, "your mother made breakfast." With a slight nod from his son, Kenshin heads to the dining area for some rice, soup, and pickled vegetables. After saying his thank yous, dressed in a navy blue suit with salmon pin stripes, and pale blue button down, Kenshin decides to walk to the police station today.
It's only a few minutes into his walk when he feels a boy bump into his side. "Hey!" Kenshin screams, realizing that the boy has stollen his metal baton. He chases the young man into the Joseon Market, but loses him in the crowd surrounding some performers dancing in the center of town. With the circus members wearing colorful traditional Korean hambok, each face covered by a mask of some sort, the spectators in the market cheer at the welcome relief from their every day stresses.
Running into the middle of the performance, Kenshin looks around for the boy. After a minute, he turns to leave, but senses someone coming at him from behind. Moving to the side easily, the person misses with their exposed dagger, blending in with the rest of the group.
Another masked figure attacks, but Kenshin blocks without fail, knocking the person to the ground. Pulling out his gun, Kenshin points it at the fallen member, but he winces with he feels a rock hit his wrist, causing the weapon to fall to the ground. It seems like he's surrounded by at least ten men, going at almost the same speed Kenshin is capable of. But, he realizes immediately that it is just one man, and finds him right away, knocking him out of his spinning frenzy.
The officer picks the gun up from the ground while a performer ducks down in the distance, using himself as a prop. Kenshin looks around again for anymore attacks, noticing just in time as someone leaps from the bent figure, dagger aimed at the lieutenant's head.
It all happens in slow motion with the person flying towards him, and Kenshin's finger pressing on the trigger. Screaming from the bystanders in the crowd is lost to him as the person falls to the ground with a thump, knife sliding from their hand. No! Kenshin looks quickly, face paling as he picks up the familiar dagger from the ground.
Rushing to the performer's side, and gathering them in his arms to sit pressed against his abdomen, he takes off the person's mask. His heart pounds in his aching chest as he sees Kaoru's face beneath him, blood spilling from the wound in her torso. Kao-dono.
Hugging her for a moment, Kenshin picks the fallen woman up in his arms while putting gentle pressure on the wound. His breathing is uneven as he tries to rise, but stops short when he hears the whizzing of gunshots flying by his head. Kneeling back down, he looks up towards an open window a few stories above.
Shit, Hoji thinks as the officer looks in his direction, but he ducks down just in time to avoid the oncoming bullets from the officer. Forgetting about the attack, Kenshin once again lifts Kaoru up. Hoji doesn't want to miss this opportunity and aims once again at the leuitenant's head.
Right when he is about to fire, a small blade embeds itself into his hand, causing him to squeal like a pig in pain. Looking at the rooftop across from his building, he is shocked to see the eyes of a demon staring back at him. Even though the man is wearing all white, and covers his face with what might be considered comical in other circumstances, Hoji can feel the gulp in his throat, ba-ba-battousai... He changes trajectory on his pistol towards the masked man, but battousai is too fast, taking off in the opposite direction. Sitting with back against the wall, he's lucky he just relieved himself, otherwise there might be a puddle dripping down the side of his pants.
Kenshin runs as fast as his legs can carry him to the nearest cab. "Hurry!" Desperation oozes from his voice. "Take me to the Japanese International Hospital!" He screams as he places Kaoru beside him in the back of the cab, Kao-dono, please don't die... please just stay alive. He can see Kaoru's face beginning to pale from blood loss, and quickly applies pressure again to her wound, blood pooling around his slim fingers. "Faster! Can't you go any faster!"
It seems like a life time goes by before they finally reach the hospital, but in reality it has only been a few minutes. Throwing all the money in his wallet to the driver, he races into the hospital with Kaoru hanging limp in his arms, lids opening and closing slightly. Please don't die... Please, Kenshin begs to, he doesn't even know who, God maybe.
Finding an empty bed in the hall, he places her down gently. Seeing a doctor dressed in white walk by, he rushes over, "a girl's been shot, tend to her right now!" The man looks over, but starts walking away when he realizes that it's a girl from Joseon.
Kenshin doesn't have time to play around and races in front of the doctor. He pulls out his pistol, aiming it between the man's eyes. "She is... vital to the battousai case. I need her alive!" Kenshin screams, and the man simply states, not scared of the officer one bit, "we need special permission from the medical director to look at Korean patients."
Frustrated, Kenshin growls, "where is he?!" And the doctor points to a suite down the hall.
"The countess tells me that you are having some constipation?" Dr. Hiroshi asks after removing the blood pressure cuff. The count nods as the doctor examines his rear. "Yes, it seems you are a bit backed up."
"Oh doctor, can you help him? He hasn't been able to eat or sleep since battousai appeared." The countess's sweet voice tickling his ear from beside his head. Flustered, the doctor takes out some medicine. "Have him take this three times a day, and that should help with the lack of sleep and constipation."
With naked rear still in the air, the count gasps as the door to the exam room bursts open. Not giving the man any attention, Kenshin approaches the doctor. "What's the meaning of this?!" Dr. Hiroshi asks, "I am in the middle of an important examination."
Glancing at the naked ass before him, Kenshin hurrries, "a woman's been shot, but your doctors refuse to treat her because she's Korean."
"And how is this my concern?"
"She is," a pause, "vital to the battousai case! If she dies," another pause, "there is no way we can catch the bastard!"
"Is that true?" The voices of the count and countess chime in.
"Treat her doctor, immediately!" The count states, "if it means catching battousai. You have to save her to use as bait."
Because he can't really say no to descendents to the Joseon royal family, the doctor rolls his eyes while handing the countess the tonic to help her husband, and leaves the room with Kenshin trailing behind. "Do the surgery immediately," Kenshin orders, and the doctor turns around abruptly, "don't you think for a minute that I am doing this for you. If they weren't in the room, I would have no problem leaving that girl to die, drowning in her own blood. Do you understand?" Normally, Kenshin would have lashed out at the man, but he doesn't care, as long as Kaoru gets taken care of.
Rushing back to the table he left Kaoru on, the officer's face goes nearly white. He can hardly see the girl's shallow breathing under her matted clothes. Looking more like a porcelain doll than a living human being, Kenshin's throat is dry as the doctor runs over, barking orders to the various other doctors and nurses walking casually around as if the woman doesn't exist.
Everything happens so fast as he sees Kaoru being whisked away into another room with the words "operation" written above. Pacing for what seems like forever before Dr. Hiroshi exits the room, blood staining his gloves. "Doctor," Kenshin grabs the man by the sleeve, not caring about the look of disgust from the medical director. "Will she survive?"
After a moment, the doctor nods, "of course, I was the one to perform the surgery." Dr. Hiroshi walks away, leaving the officer thanking God that Kaoru will live. The doctor doesn't fail to see the look of relief on the officer's face as he walks to his office.
Yahiko and Misao don't really know why, but they race to the elementary school after seeing Kaoru get shot. Bursting into the teacher's room, Seta rises from his desk, putting lesson plans aside. "What is it? What's wrong?" He asks.
"Hurry," Misao is breathless. "Kaoru has been shot! Hurry, please!"
After finding out where she is, Soujiro hops in his car, rushing towards the Japanese International Hospital. Amy...
Well that's it for now. Oh yeah, don't hate Tsubame, you will find out later about her situation, and how Kaoru escaped being killed when they were younger, and where the rest of his family was at the time. I hope you all enjoy, reviews are greatly appreciated. Also, here's information about that time period if anyone wants to read. Happy reading everyone! ^_^x
A Little History:
During this time in history, Japan was occupying Korea in hopes to use Korea as a way to conquer the rest of Asia and China (because Korea borders China). Freedom fighters within the Korean people would be captured by the Japanese and tortured in chambers much like the one Kaoru was in earlier in the story. They used various methods such as water torture, the nail box, a stand up box that they would put prisoners in so they didn't have enough room to bend their legs completely to sit properly or lay down, etc... There is a museum on the border of north and South Korea displaying the various tortures used during this time.
The Japanese didn't only torture the Koreans, but they forced hundreds of thousands of women to be "comfort women" for the Japanese military during the war. Obviously the term "comfort women" was used to hide the fact that they were used as sex slaves. They forced even young girls for these horrendous acts, many times disguising the fact by pretending to recruit women as nurses etc. Even now, those women who are still alive from that time receive reparations from Japan for having to endure being sold as sex slaves.
Not only that, but they forced thousands of young Korean men to serve more like bullet shields in the Japanese military. Many people were forced to act the way Kenshin does in the beginning of the story to protect their families, and to put food on the table during this time. And in order to increase Japanese patriotism, they forced many to change their Korean names to Japanese. There was an uprising amongst the Korean people at this time, forming a peaceful protest, but this was squashed by the Japanese, killing thousands of protesters.
Not all the Japanese were bad guys though, some police officers helped the Korean prisoners etc.
The occupation ended with the completion of WWII and the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. North Korea became communist, and South Korea became democratic, but not really because that's what the Korean people wanted. Many young people were forced to choose which side to go to, splitting up families, and many who have family living in North Korea haven't been able to see them since the war ended.
Oh yeah, also, hambok is the what the Korean traditional style of clothing is called. It's kind of difficult to describe, so feel free to look up pictures if you want (you can just google the word "hambok" and click on images), or just use your imagination.
Well, there's your little tidbit of history. This is all info I have acquired over time (I am half Korean myself), so as to the accuracy, some things might be off like with dates and stuff, so feel free to look it up if you want :) But, like I mentioned earlier, I am not going to be super accurate with history in this story just incase something mentioned is wrong. So, even though it is based during that time, it is still a fictional story. Also, just because I am writing this story doesn't mean I don't like Japanese people or anything like that, I just love the plot of this story. It just happens that the bad guys are Japanese. I just love learning about Korean and Japanese history ^_^x
I hope it's not too confusing. I know that Kenshin is Korean in this story, but I still want him to be like in the manga, so he still uses "dono" insead of a Korean word. And, Misao calls Kaoru Kaoru-chan even though it's Japanese. I wanted the characters to still hold true to themselves.