BETWEEN LOVE AND HATE

A/N: Hi! This story is a little A/U. Well, not really, it's still strongly based with the manga, but I've changed some stuff. Anyway, this first chapter is just sort of a prologue, it happens during the Bakumatsu and Kaoru's father is on the side of the Tokagawa, making him one of Kenshin's enemy. Kenshin doesn't meet Tomoe, and there's a different story about his cross-shaped scar.
I don't know much about Japanese history, so I'll be happy to accept corrections and suggestions from all of you! Please review!
Disclaimer: Let's see… someone else own RK… so I guess that means I don't own it! That's too bad…

::: NEVER FORGIVE, NEVER FORGET:::

"B-but Otousan!!!" the 6-yr old Kaoru complained when her father forcefully shoved her inside a small room hidden by folding screen.
"Shhh… it will be alright my angel, someday, you'll understand…" her father soothed gently. Kaoru began to sob when she heard the anguish cries coming closer that ever. Her father's eyes widened in horror, and with one last loving look at his beloved daughter; he gave her a soft kiss on the forehead.
"Are we playing hide-and-seek Otousan?" Kaoru asked hopefully. Somewhere in the back of her young mind, she knew the haunted cries of men and the smell of blood were not part of a game anymore.
Her father only smoothed her hair lovingly.
"No love… now, Otousan has to go. Remember, just live… just live…"
"BUT OTOUSAN!!!" Kaoru screamed, but her voice was muffled as her father slammed the wooden door and barred it securely.
"Father!!! I want to go with you! Don't leave me here! I want to go with you!" she banged her fists against wooden hidden door until her arms went numb.
"It would be easier for both of us if you would just let me kill you without any struggle. I promise you it won't be painful."
Kaoru stopped her futile efforts when she heard the voice… it was young, but cold - so cold.
"You imperialists think you're the only ones who are right! We too fight for our own ideals! And I shall uphold those ideals with my honor even if it means my own death!"
"Father…" Kaoru whispered when she recognized her father's voice.
"Very well then, you leave me no choice," the young voice said without a trace of emotion.
"Die Battousai!!!" her father's fierce battle cry shook the thick wooden walls. Kaoru sagged against the locked door. She had never heard her father sound so intense… and desperate.
And then there was silence… only the haunting clank and hiss of sword swings remained. Kaoru could only close her eyes and pray.
"You'll win father… I know you will…" she thought. She might not fully understand why her father was fighting, but in her heart, she believed in him.
Hiss. Clank. Grunt. Thud.
Kaoru's eyes flung open when she heard the soft thud on the wooden floor. She might be young… too young, but she knew one of the fighters had fallen, and there's no way her father could be beaten! She started to smile, but that same cold voice spoke again.
"I told you not to struggle, it would have been quicker. But I shall hand it to you, you've managed to land one scratch on me."
"No…" Kaoru whispered, desperately shaking her head.
"NOOOOOOOO!!!" she shouted louder, banging the door once again with her small fists.
The young girl gasped when she heard light footsteps heading towards the hidden door. She backed away just in time before the door was cut in two.
And what she saw was something that would forever be engraved in her heart. A young boy stood before her, his crimson hair pulled back into a tight ponytail. His amber eyes glowed with coldness that sent shivers down Kaoru's little form. The sword he held left a trail of blood seeping through the wooden floor.
In her innocence, Kaoru knew this man had done something terrible to her father. Without second thoughts, she pushed the young man out of the way and ran into the other room where her father's body lay lifeless amidst a pool of blood.
"Otousan…" Kaoru sobbed, kneeling beside her father. She couldn't even say goodbye, for the Battousai had given him instant death.
The young man stared as the girl sobbed. Warm liquid flowed from the cut on his left cheek, it was the cut the girl's father had given him. He wiped the blood with his sleeve, but more blood only continued to flow.
"I won't forgive you!"
The Battousai jerked his head towards the girl. Something in his heart froze seeing the hatred and anguish that burned in her blue-black eyes. Kiling women and children was something a cold-hearted Battousai still couldn't bring himself to do.
Ignoring the young girl, he turned his back and started walking away.
"I said I won't forgive you!!!" the girl shouted once more.
"I understand," the Battousai answered back, there was no coldness in his voice now, only emptiness.
"I-I won't forgive… forget…" the girl sobbed. Something in that voice made the Battousai briefly close in eyes in his own anguish and grief, grief over lost childhood, over lost innocence, but he had taken his own path. This girl didn't have a choice at all.
Without turning back, the Battousai silently whispered. "I'm sorry…"
The Battousai continued walking.
"I SAID I WON'T FORGIVE YOU!!!" the girl's fierce battle cry echoed through the deathly silence of the night.
The Battousai turned around just in time to see the raised sword aiming for his neck, but he had been too lost in his own turmoil that it was too late to completely dodge the attack. The tip of the sword brushed against his left cheek, over the wound the same sword had given him earlier.
"Never forgive… never forget…" the young girl chanted, swinging the sword desperately at him. The Battousai couldn't help but admire the girl's spirit.
"I'm sorry," he whispered again before bringing the hilt of his own sword against the girls stomach.
The young girl bawled over and collapsed into his bloody arms.
"So young and innocent," the Battousai observed, running a hand along the unconscious girl's cheek. He noticed the thick dark lashes that fanned on her creamy young cheeks, and her ebony hair neatly tied with a blue ribbon.
Holding the girl securely on his chest, he carried her over bloody corpses of men, men he had slain with his own hands.
"No… I don't expect you to forgive me… not at all," he said against the cold wind as he carried the small body against him into the dark of the night.



:::::Ohagi Inn:::::

"Mr. Himura! Katsura-sama had been looking for you," Okami, his landlady approached him, ignoring his bloodstained clothes and hands.
The Battousai only nodded.
Okami gasped when she noticed the small bundle the young Battousai held tightly against his chest.
"A young girl!" the woman exclaimed, peering over the bloody sheets the unconscious girl was wrapped.
Kenshin handed the girl to his landlady.
"Take care of her, if you don't, you'll answer to me," he said and walked off.
"N-nani?" the woman said startled.
"You heard me," came the Battousai's final answer before he turned towards his room. Inside, he washed the blood that clung on his hands.
Moments later, he heard a soft but forceful knock on his door. In an instant, the Battousai was up, sword ready in hand.
"It's me, Katsura," came a strong voice.
Kenshin sheathed his sword back and resumed his seat beside the window.
"I have an important request to make," the man called Katsura began.
Kenshin didn't answer but continued staring at the dark sky from his window.
Katsura's eyes held back his regret and sorrow for destroying this boy's soul, but it was too late to turn back now.
"I've trained another man to handle the assassinations from now on. His origins are unknown, but his skills are on par with yours. His name is Shishio Makoto."
"I see…" Kenshin replied. "So I am being fired."
"No, you must continue to wield your sword for us. I know it's cruel of me to ask you, but there is no one else I can think of. Tomorrow, we leave for battle, your first battle outside darkness."
Kenshin continued to stare in the dark sky. Katsura stood by the doorway, waiting for his reply.
Without taking his eyes off from the shining stars, Kenshin finally nodded.
Katsura walked out of the room gratefully.
Later that night, Kenshin silently opened the door that led to the room where the young girl had been kept. He found her sleeping in a worn out futon, amidst a few other women crammed in the narrow space. Her face and clothes had been cleaned. Her dark hair a deep contrast to the white sheets. Her eyes were closed, but under the serene moonlight, Kenshin could see traces of dried tears on her cheeks.
The Battousai watched her even breathing in silence and brushed a stray strand of ebony hair away from her closed eyes. With one last look at the girl sleeping so peacefully, he bent over and picked up the blue ribbon lying on the side of her futon.
"We shall meet again," he whispered, tucking the blue ribbon under his sleeve.
He walked out of the door, but before he could close it, the girl's whimper followed him.
"N-never forgive… never forget…" the girl mumbled on her sleep.
The Battousai fingered the wounds on his left cheek before silently closing the door.
Come morning, he was gone.


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A/n. Ok, there's the first chapter. I don't know if you like it or not, but either way, I'd appreciate reviews please. Also, can you spare time and check out my other fic, "Fall of the Battousai"? It's nothing serious… but if you have time, then please…
-- ja!
~~spawnie