Disclaimer: Ownership of Item A (the story and characters of Rurouni Kenshin) are owned by Party A (Nobuhiro Watsuki) and Party B (Sony) and are hereto not owned by Party C (rabid-fan Gochan) and others that fall under like category of Party C. Party C may write Item B (fanfiction) as long as Party C remembers that they are under not entitled to Item C (money).

Why did I sign this again?

*Swamp of lawyers clear their throats*

*nervously* Oh yeah. Right.



Important Notes: While my other fic "A Rurouni's Guide to Idiocy" is not complete, most people have given me the impression that I will not be linched for posting this next chapter before doing so. Therefore, here it is!

"Rurouni's Guide" will be finished! ...I just felt like posting this first. Okay, enjoy!


The Akabeko Crisis

Chapter One/Day One: Unexpected Customers


Chapter 1: Day One

It actually hadn't taken much to get Tae to go on a short weekend vacation. Just a little understanding, some gentle prodding, a dab of chloroform, and a coachman who was hired to not ask questions and drive non-stop until reaching Yokohama.

Good deed having been done for the day, everybody had gone home to enjoy the satisfaction of having done the world a service.

Normally this would have be a perfectly reasonable and well-deserved thing to do for any other person. Unfortunately, being the main characters they were, the idea of them relaxing so easily was quite laughable. But despite this universal logic, they were all genuinely surprised when Tsubame came running up to the dojo the next morning in a panicked fret over who would run the Akabeko in Tae's absence.

And that, dear friends, is exactly why Kaoru was pummeling Sanosuke.

…Oh wait, there were a few more details. Our beloved Kenshin-gumi naturally answered Tsubame's call for help and had stepped up to the challenge. Adorned in aprons and armed with serving trays, they had opened up the restaurant on schedule and were currently tackling the mid-morning crowd.

Well, Yahiko and Tsubame were anyway. Kaoru was too busy tackling Sano. Why, you ask? Well…

"SANO!" the kenjutsu master growled as she appeared to be trying to switch which arm went in which socket. "STOP EATING ALL THE ORDERS!!"

…The tanuki always had her reasons.

"Maa maa," Kenshin said, stepping out from the kitchen to pacify his friends. "Calm down you two. Your fighting isn't showing a good face to the customers. Kaoru-dono, you can give sessha a hand while Sanosuke sweeps the front."

Kaoru beamed happily, her anger at Sano gone in an instant. "You want me to help you with the cooking, Kenshin?" she asked incredulously.

General silence.

"…Kenshin?"

"Sanosuke, you can give sessha a hand while Kaoru-dono sweeps the-"

(*POW*)

"Orororororororoooo!!!!"

"You Jerk!!" Kaoru shouted after punching the redhead back into the kitchen where he landed amidst a clattering of pots and pans. However, at the sacrifice of the rurouni's consciousness, the young woman resigned herself to porch duty while Sano ended up doing the dishes as Tsubame covered for Kenshin.

First crisis of the day avoided, Yahiko looked at a clock to see that was only 10:58. This was the first sign that it was going to be a long day.

The second sign stepped in ten minutes later.

"Ohohohoho!!" it said.

----------

"Ohohohoho!!" it repeated, and yet didn't since it was only a minor yet badly done scene change that lapsed back to three seconds ago, hence there wasn't really any repeating.

"Me-Megumi-san!" Kaoru stammered as she turned from her sweeping to face the female doctor. "What are you doing here?"

"I'm here to do what normal people come to do at a restaurant. Eat, of course. I thought I would come catch an early lunch before the clinic really started getting busy. But I must say that it's a surprise to find all of you working shifts. Does this mean that Ken-san is here too?" she asked slyly, following up with a cool gaze and casual flick of hair. Megumi sometimes prided herself for being able to execute such dubious nonchalance with natural charisma. It was perfect for teasing a certain short-tempered tanuki girl.

"He's busy at the moment," Kaoru growled crossly, following up with a threatening glare and menacing grinding of teeth. Kaoru sometimes prided herself for being able to execute such forbidding intimidation with natural violence. It was perfect for vanquishing a certain unwanted vixen.

…That is, it would be perfect for vanquishing if it ever proved itself to work. Consequently however, as Megumi brushed her way past, Kaoru had to admit that she had envisioned the vanquishing to be going in the other direction.

"Well maybe I can go in and help 'relieve' him," Megumi smirked as she passed by. She was greeted through the door.

"Irasshaimase," Yahiko said automatically. He then blinked in reorganization and switched to, "Oh, it's you Megumi."

"Gee, the service is so warm today," she stated dryly. "Where's Ken-san, Yahiko?"

"I said he's busy!" Kaoru yelled, entering in behind the doctor.

The 10-year old scratched his head indifferently. "Well if by busy you mean 'out cold' then yeah, he's in the back."

"Oh my!" Megumi gasped. "Is he alright?"

"He'll be fine. His head just landed on a pan, that's all."

"Don't you mean a pan landed on his head?"

"No, his head was flyin' at it pretty fast."

Megumi didn't even break to blink. "Kaoru, right?"

"Who else?" he replied.

"Will you two stop picking on me?!" the Kamiya girl cried in anger. "Don't you have patients or anything you need to get back to Megumi-san?"

"I seem to have a patient in need of my care right here," she sniffed.

"What? Where-"

"Oh Keeeeeen-saaaaaaaaaan!" the lady doctor sang, walking over and entering into the kitchen area. "Megumi is here to make it all better!" is what she meant to say next, but it somehow ended up coming out as, "Ohohohohohohoho!!!" Complete with fox ears.

The reason for this sudden transition was easy to understand. …Once explained of course.

Sanosuke's right eyebrow twitched irritably (although not as dangerously as Tae's eye had). Darkly he growled, "If you say one word Kitsune…"

Since "Ohohohohoho!" wasn't an official word, she continued doing just that until her appendix threatened to burst. And anyone else would have to admit that seeing Sagara Sanosuke - renowned street-fighter, former gangster, and machismo supreme - up to his elbows in soapy dishwater and wearing a frilly white apron to boot (Tsubame insisted it was standard uniform), was a pretty funny sight. At least everyone but Sano thought so.

"Quit laughin' already!" the tall man finally screamed in annoyance. Megumi (unfortunately for Sano) took this as permission to speak.

"My," she smirked, lifting a hand to her jaw, "it seems that the Akabeko has really gone to the roosters and tanukis today!" Sano and Kaoru glared daggers at her while wishing they weren't so metaphorical. "Has your debt really accumulated so much that Tae-san has you working off your tab, Rooster Head? Goodness! To think that you're actually working! I think you should come in for a check-up. You must be ill! You've obviously become delirious!"

"You just want to get your hands on me, Fox," he shot back, smugly.

"Fortunately I have other more important patients to look after," she quipped in reply. "But Genzai-sensei should be able to take a look at you."

"If you two are done with the lover's quarrel," Yahiko muttered, only to be saved from their wrath by then saying, "Kenshin's over there in the corner still in need of some medical attention."

Not to mention some dignity. The doctor would never understand how the others thought that piling the unconscious rurouni in a boneless heap was supposed to improve his condition.

"Honestly," she tsked. "Don't you people have any idea how to handle the injured? You're supposed to treat them with tender-loving care." Grinning devilishly, she remarked, "Allow me to demonstrate…"

"Meguuuuumiiiiii," Kaoru hissed warningly. Fortunately Kenshin chose that moment to wake up.

"Orororo…"

Pulling the incoherent redhead onto her lap, Megumi purred, "Comfy Ken-san?"

Still incoherent, he continued, "Hai, sessha has a very soft bed de gozaru …"

…Or perhaps, unfortunately.

Blinking the last of his dizziness away, Kenshin blinked and met eyes with the lady doctor. "Megumi-dono?" A moment of silence followed. "You're not a bed," he brilliantly concluded.

In full agreement with that statement, Kaoru interjected with a few points of her own. …Spoken via broomstick. After a long and thorough follow-up, she ended with, "Kenshin no Baka!!!"

Yahiko watched as Kenshin was given another flying lesson through the back door while Megumi was left without a scratch despite how close she had been to the fury of the raccoon girl's swings. This feat gave credit to both Kaoru's skills as a swordsman and her strength as a brute.

"Honestly, Kaoru!" Megumi sniffed, her attention focused on the fuming kendoist rather than on the once-again-unconscious rurouni. "I can see why no one cares to try and court you. A man likes to live through the relationship, you know."

Kaoru began to steam out her ears. "Ha!" she retaliated. "Then how does that explain why you don't have any suitors?!"

"I'm too busy for plain, ordinary men," the doctor shot back coolly, flicking a long tress of raven hair over her shoulder. Holding a few ends up to her lips teasingly she added, "That's why I only make time for Ken-san."

"What?!" Kaoru cried, drowning out Sano and Yahiko's indignant, "Hey!"

"A man of such fine standard as Ken-san only deserves a lady of equal quality!" Megumi continued, a sly and giddy smile lighting her features almost childishly. "It's only fair that I, the only woman who matches such description, make myself available to him! Ohohoho!"

"What's that supposed to mean?!" the younger woman demanded, her temper-taut muscles threatening to snap her broom in two before using the less-pleasant half to give the female medic a hardy prescription of Vitamin C (for Concussion). As to which half was the less-pleasant half… Well, that depended on how creative Kaoru was feeling.

"Must I spell everything out for you?" Megumi sighed, not being a person who could be intimidated easily (or take a hint). "The simple fact of the matter is that Ken-san needs a woman who can take care of his every need. A violent, tanuki girl who can't make a simple riceball just isn't up to his standard."

A few very "creative" thoughts ran through Kaoru's mind. "My cooking is improving everyday!" she shot back.

"Yeah!" Yahiko defended. "She didn't burn the kitchen down like she did yesterday!"

"Not helping, Yahiko…" his instructor growled.

"I know," he curtly replied.

Before he could be sent out the door in a similar manner Kenshin took, Megumi continued, "It's no surprise Ken-san was doing all the cooking then. If it were left up to you, Kaoru, my clinic would be full of patients suffering from food poisoning."

"Oh yeah?! Well I'll show you!" Kaoru began to make a beeline for the kitchen, but the going was slow. Especially with Sano and Yahiko clinging to her ankles.

"Don't do it, Jou-chan!"

"Yeah, we still have so much to live for!"

"Will you too shut up and have a little faith in me?!"

"Faith?" Sano scoffed. "We're gonna need a clergy! Our bodies will have to be properly buried after--"

(*WHACK*)

After seeing Sano join Kenshin in the yard, Yahiko promptly let go. He didn't want to die just yet, seeing as to how he still had an important job to do. …Mainly warning other people about this catastrophe.

Kaoru turned to continue on her way but found Megumi blocking her with a held out hand. "Out of my way! I'll show you that I can too make a decent riceball."

"Like I said, Kaoru, I don't want my clinic overrun with cases of stomach pains. If anyone should be cooking in Ken-san's stead, it's me." Kaoru threw her a nasty look which made Megumi think twice. "…Alright, you're right. It's anyone else, just as long as they're not you."

"That's it, Megumi! I'll bet that I can make any dish better than you! Why, I even bet that I can make several dishes at a time better than you and uphold this restaurant!"

The doctor's eye glinted with amused apprehension. "A bet, huh. And what are you willing to wager?"

"Eh?" Kaoru blinked, then scrunched her eyebrows in thought. "Well… let's see… I'll help you out at the clinic if I lose and you help me around the dojo if I win."

The other woman raised a brow. "That's nice, Kaoru, but I'm a doctor that cares too much about my patients to agree to that."

"That was only if I lose!"

"How about something more interesting, like…"

"Not Kenshin!"

"Spoiled sport." Megumi switched her thoughts. "Alright, how about this. We'll do something similar to your idea, only the loser has to become the winner's personal servant for an entire week. In other words, the loser has to do anything the winner says."

Thinking only of all the wonderful labor she could have Megumi do for her, Kaoru quickly agreed. "Deal!"

"Alright then, we'll have the match tomorrow just before noon and carry it on through the lunch hour."

"Why not today? Scared you'll lose?" Kaoru sneered.

"Of course not. In fact, I'm not even sure what I'm going to have you do once I do win. Can't imagine what I'd entrust to a clumsy girl like you…"

"Megumi!"

"But I have too many appointments to fulfill such a duel today. I should be able to make room in my schedule for tomorrow however. So we'll have our little showdown then."

"Fine. I'll be more than ready for you," Kamiya said, clenching her fist before her in triumphant determination.

"This won't be like one of your sparring matches, Kaoru," Megumi warned, grinning with her own confidence. "I can assure you that I won't hold back."

"Neither will I," Kaoru evenly replied.

"That's what we're all afraid of," Yahiko interrupted.

Less than a minute later he was next to Sano and Kenshin, enjoying the summer sky through Swirly Vision ™.

"Jerks."

---------

The next day…


…hadn't come yet. It was still Day One out of Three for the Kenshin-gumi taking care of the Akabeko. Although some members would claim that an eternity had already crept by, the clock and calendar would argue otherwise. And as punishment for their complaining, the day would only get longer.

At least this is what Kenshin figured when Saitou stepped in through the door towards the evening approach.

It was a pleasant surprise. Just like finding out someone put thumbtacks in your shoes is a pleasant surprise. Kenshin showed Saitou just how pleasantly surprised he was.

"Hello Saitou. And what are you doing here in Tokyo this fine day?"

…Curse his habitual politeness. It got in the way of many a nifty action scene and made stress a whole lot harder to deal with.

"Humph," Saitou said instead of answering the question. "What is this? I walk into a nice-looking restaurant looking forward to a simple bowl of hot soba, and I find the place swarming with idiots." Hajime quickly surveyed the diner's empty booths. "Since there are no customers, I guess the idiots only apply to the staff."

"The manager of this restaurant is on vacation," Kenshin explained as tranquilly as a person with sudden violent urges could. "Sessha and the others have come to take care of it in her place until she returns."

"At the rate you're taking care of it now, it should be out of business just in time for her welcome home present."

"Er… It's been a slow day de gozaru," Kenshin answered, not particularly feeling any need to tell the policeman that ever since earlier that afternoon when Kaoru kicked everyone out of the kitchen to get some "practice" in before her showdown with Megumi, the others had seen it their personal duty to ward off any customers. Yahiko was supposed to currently be standing at the entrance, warning others to stay away from this place like it was the end of the world. (Oro, Saitou was right. The Akabeko would be out of business if they kept spreading publicity like that.) But if Yahiko was supposed to be keeping them away, that means either Saitou snuck in (highly unlikely), or Yahiko decided to make an exception (or an example).

Kenshin could deal with that.

"So what does a person have to do to get some service around here?" the imposing policeman inquired dryly. Snapping out of his thoughts, Kenshin led him to a booth (conveniently one that wasn't under his jurisdiction) where the man sat down. Kenshin took the seat opposite. Saitou got the hint. "I see you understand I'm not in town for a social visit."

"You're not exactly the type to drop by for tea."

"Humph," he smirked. "I'll get straight to the point then. …Right after I make an order of course. Exactly who's in charge here?"

"Anou… Sano," Kenshin called. "You're not servicing your tables."

"You mean we actually let a customer in?" the ex-gangster muttered as he walked over, rubbing the back of his head in disbelief. "Who in their right mind would--What the heck is HE doing here?!"

Saitou smirked at the sight. "Nice apron, Rooster Head."

"It's uniform," Sano seethed with loathing before whipping his anger around at the redhead. "Kenshin, how could you let this guy in?! …And why aren't you wearing an apron?!?!"

"Sessha is on break de gozaru. BesidesYahiko is the one watching the front," the rurouni informed him, nervously trying to wave off the man's increasing wrath. He did not help his own efforts when he then added, "Why don't you take Saitou's order now?"

"Take an order from him?! I'd rather die!"

Fingering his sword Saitou asked, "Is this were the customer service comes in?"

"Just try it you slanty-eyed psycho!"

"Maa maa!" Kenshin intervened, stopping things before they got cool… er, violent. "Saitou, I believe you said you came in for a bowl of soba, correct?"

"Yes. Plain and hot."

"Sano, please go order it up for him."

"But--"

"Sano."

The tall fighter held a look of dissatisfaction that could only be cured by a swift right hook to the cop's jaw. Well, that, or realizing exactly who would be making this meal for Saitou. Sano remembered the latter. "Coming right up," he said with pleasantly dark tones before walking towards the kitchen.

"Make it snappy, Rooster," Saitou shot. "I don't want to be here any longer than I have to."

Sano tensed for a moment before walking on. "Oh you'll be out of here sooner than you think," he mumbled, the smile in his face growing more sadistic. He disappeared into the kitchen.

Saitou turned back towards his company and immediately raised an eyebrow. "What's that sadistic grin on your face, Battousai?"

Kenshin fell back into his rurouni-front faster than you could say oro. …Which he did. "Gomen Saitou, sessha was just thinking of something."

"What kind of 'something'?"

"Ironic justice."

"What?"

"Er, so what's your business in Tokyo again?"

Saitou was the kind of person who could let a subject drop. Mind you however, he was not the kind to soon forget it. Nonetheless he moved on. "Just a small matter in Tokyo's Underground dealings that might have a connection with recent Kyoto events. Nothing to concern yourself over, really."

"Saitou, with all due respect, anything concerning you is something for me to be concerned over. Besides, it seems to me that you wish to ask my help. I don't believe you'd have made yourself so easily public otherwise."

"Huh," the man smirked, reaching into his jacket and producing a pack of cigarettes. "To tell you the truth I'm not sure I will need your help, but the officer in charge of the Tokyo division insisted you be informed that your assistance might be sought after in the future." He glanced up at the scarred swordsman. "Seems they've troubled you enough with last-minute notices in the past."

Kenshin chuckled. "Well, that's true. But sessha has never really minded helping out the police in some of their matters. By the way Saitou…" He reached over and plucked the unlit smoke from the cop's mouth. "This is the non-smoking section," he said with a slightly strained grin.

"Humph. Where's the smoking section then?"

"Outside. Shall I show you the way?"

"I'll wait for my soba, thanks," he responded, tucking the cig back into its pack.

As if on cue, Sano entered the serving area with one said bowl of steaming soba. He set it before Saitou who was staring at the fist-fighter's appearance.

"Since when was making a bowl of soba such a difficult task?" he asked, noting the ash streaks on Sano's clothes and face.

"Jo-chan's making tempura," Sano offered as an explanation.

Saitou raised an eyebrow while Kenshin merely reminded his friend where the fire bucket was.

Finding this unusual, Saitou also found that he really didn't want to know so he ignored it. Seasoning the noodles (which slipped around more so than any other noodles he had been served before), he broke open his chopsticks, dug out a mouthful, and lifted it to his lips.

Kenshin paused. Sano paused. This was because Saitou paused.

"Do you two mind?" he then asked, indicating to the lack of space he had to eat in due to the two other men leaning so far forward to watch him eat.

"Sorry," the both mumbled, settling back into a more comfortable distance yet unable to take their eyes off of the noodles, tantalizingly suspended mere centimeters away from the officer's mouth. Saitou eyed them suspiciously for a moment, then the noodles. They didn't seem to be doing anything spectacular (which came a slight surprise to Kaoru's friends), so he did what one naturally does with soba.

Saitou ate them.

He ate them all.

Kenshin and Sano watched in morbid fascination as Saitou Hajime devoured the entire bowl of noodle without so much as a gag, a choke, or a "Dear Kami what is this?!" When Mibu's wolf set the empty dish down on the table with a tap of finality, they were unsure if they should be screaming in horror or worshiping him like a god.

"I didn't know watching a man eat soba could be so fascinating," Saitou remarked as he stood (He can still stand?! Kenshin and Sano both thought) and collected his things. "I'll likely be in town for the next few weeks Battousai, but don't expect any favors from me while I'm here."

Kenshin numbly nodded and Sano mentioned something about the check.

"Don't expect me to pay for that," Hajime muttered as he left. "Worst soba I've ever had in my life. Almost as bad as the service." Something else was uttered before he exited out the door, but the distances cut it short. Kenshin was sure it was something about needing a long smoke however.

The restaurant was filled with a long pause of awe.

"…Are you sure Kaoru-dono cooked that?" Kenshin finally asked after it.

"Positive."

Kaoru suddenly poked her head out of the kitchen. "So, any compliments to the chef?" she asked cheerily.

"They're walking out of here upright," Sano told her. "If that ain't a compliment to your cooking I don't know what is."

Kenshin stayed wisely silent as Kaoru showed her "appreciation" for Sano's praise. Stealthily making his way over to the entrance, he made one of the most relieving announcements of his life. However, no one heard the sound of the sign being flipped.

CLOSED.

Kenshin had the sinking feeling that this would be the highlight of his day for the next two evenings.


End Chapter One/Day One.



NOTES THAT MIGHT HELP:

-Soba is a dish that Saitou apparently has a liking for, seeing as to how that's all he orders in the series (I think so anyway). While I'm not sure of it's ingrediants, I think its just noodles. Go fig.

-Contrary to what some fans think or have been told, Saitou is actually stationed in Kyoto. He only came to Tokyo for special investigations, and this time is no exception. (Hint hint hint!)

-Tanuki = a racoon-like creature of Japanese myth that has become Kaoru's animal counter-part



AND NOW, A WORD FROM YOUR AUTHORESS:

Er, I'm going to apologize to Megumi fans now. I originally didn't mean to make her come off so... Itchy with a captial B. I know she wouldn't act like this after the Jinchuu arc, let alone the Kyoto one, but I'm using that strange AU where none of the charactes have really developed despite all the events happening. Besides, I needed Kaoru angry enough to jump into the bet. Sorry! I will make it up to you in later stories!

Yes, Saitou is still human. It's not that much of an AU. So why isn't he effected? Well, you'll find out in a later chapter of this story.

A reminder that this is the first story in the first part of a series I will be calling "Patchwork." So not everything will be resolved in this story. Saitou's "business" will actually be covered in a later story, so you can actually put that out of mind for now.

As was said, I did't plan on posting this chapter until A Rurouni's Guide to Idiocy was done, but I had this finished and waiting and I just got impatient. I asked fans of "Rurouni's Guide" if it's be okay and the consensus was positive on the condition that I actually finish the other fic. I WILL. No doubt! Thanks for your continued support, minna!

"Rurouni's Guide" is actually nearing its end, and I will be able to wait until it is done before I finish and post this fic's next chapter. Sorry "Akabeko" fans, but I've made a pledge to others first and I must and will keep it.

Once again I have shamelessly plugged throughout all my notes A Rurouni's Guide to Idiocy. But the truth is, if you liked this, you'll probablly like that. Anyhoo, I'm shutting up now. Thanks again!