Nope, I don't own Rurouni Kenshin or any of its characters and I could never hope to. Kenshin belongs to Nobuhiro Watsuki and a bunch of other people who are not related to me in any way. Even if I stood on a mountaintop and proclaimed to the Heavens that the entire series was my brainchild and I owned everything relating to it, that would not make it true. And would any of you believe me anyway?
For the purpose of this fic, there will be a major historical inaccuracy. You'll figure out what it is shortly, if you haven't already.^-^ If you're fine with that, go ahead. Comments are welcome, as are any criticisms. But be nice to sessha. If you think this story is bad, by all means say so, but you better tell me why you think that way. Please don't simply type "UR stupid!" and run away, all right? If you DO like it, though, so much the better, ne?
That's What it's all About
Okita Soushi surveyed the group of men standing
in a circle in front of him. Most of them looked to be no more than fourteen
or fifteen and several were holding their swords as if they'd never held
one before. Which wasn't true, Okita knew. New recruits that they were,
they had already been through two weeks of training by Saitou Hajime, Captain
of the third Squad of the Shinsengumi.
Obviously, the training had not gone well.
"I can't tell if they're unskilled or just plain stupid," Saitou had confessed one night when both men had gone to the local tavern for a drink. "I can tell them what to do, show them the movements a hundred times, and they continue to make the same mistakes. After two weeks, they're still no more adept than when they started."
"That's no good," Okita stated the obvious as he took a healthy swallow of his sake. "We need as many men as we can get right now, with this war going on, but if they can't even use a sword properly, they're more of a hindrance than a help."
"You've been starting them out with the basics, haven't you?" Okita asked.
"Of course. I went over how to hold the sword. I taught them some simple stances. Worked with them on form."
"Hmmm. I wonder," Okita mused, "If maybe you aren't getting basic enough."
"What are you talking about? How basic am I supposed to be with these idiots?"
"How about if I borrow them tomorrow and I'll see if I can make the numbskulls understand what it's all about?"
Saitou raised an eyebrow. "Are you saying you can do a better job than me?"
Okita laughed. "Of course not, Saitou-san. But maybe a change of teacher will be just what they need. Besides, I've sort of got an idea to try on them."
"Oh, really?" The other man asked skeptically.
"Well, it's not like anything you've done so far has worked," Okita said with a teasing grin.
Saitou fixed Okita with a glare, but didn't comment on that. "All right," he shrugged instead. "Try them out tomorrow, I don't care. But don't be surprised if nothing gets through to them."
Back in the present, Okita glanced once more
at the men --boys-- in the circle looking at him expectantly. He
suddenly felt a lot less confident than he had been the other day.
He cleared his throat to signify that he was going to start. "All right," he said to the group, who were already hanging on his every word. Well, at least they seem eager to learn. "I'm aware that you all have been having…difficulty learning to fight with the sword. So today I'm going to teach you the most basic principle of swordsmanship."
"Saitou-san already went over the basics," one of the smaller and more fragile-looking boys spoke up. "But it was still really confusing."
"Yeah, I didn't get it at all," another man agreed. The rest of the group nodded.
"Well, Saitou-san does tend to make things seem more difficult than they really are," Okita said with a smile. "But don't worry. I'm going to start you off nice and simple. How's that sound?"
The boys nodded their approval.
"Okay," Okita took a deep breath, praying this would work. "Fighting with the sword," he announced solemnly, "Is just like doing the Hokey-Pokey."
He was met by half a dozen blank looks.
"Ano…isn't that the childrens' game?" One man asked hesitantly.
Okita felt himself redden slightly. "Well…yes."
"I'm confused already," the small one said.
"It's simple," Okita assured the boy. "Watch me, I'll show you."
With that, he stepped to the side, revealing a straw dummy wearing an old gi and hakama.
Several of the boys groaned at this. Apparently they'd had bad experiences with Saitou and dummies. Most likely experiences that had ended in Saitou's comparing the boys' intelligence to that of said dummies, if Okita knew Saitou.
"You men won't be using dummies," Okita quickly assured the group. "It's just easier to demonstrate with one."
There was a collective sigh of relief throughout the group.
"All right." Okita positioned himself in front of the straw man. "You put your sword arm in…" he thrust the weapon forward, impaling the poor dummy through his straw gut. "You put your sword arm out…" he yanked his sword free. "You put your sword arm in…" This time he brought the sword just slightly in front of him. "And you shake it all about." He shook the sword, flinging all of the sawdust "blood" off of the blade. "You sheathe your weapon and you turn yourself around." he pulled a sharp one-eighty and dusted off his hands in a satisfactory manner before turning back to face the group. "And that," he announced, "Is what it's all about. Are there any questions?"
The group stared at him, seemingly at a complete loss for what to say. Finally the little one spoke up. "Ano. What do we do after we turn ourselves around?"
Okita grinned. "You run."
"Here, I'll do it one more time." Okita proceeded to repeat the movements.
What the hell is he doing? Saitou wasn't sure what to make
of the scene before him. He'd stopped by on his way to work with his own
squad to see how Okita was coming along and he'd found the man performing
what seemed suspiciously to be an odd version of… the Hokey-Pokey. And
from the look of things, the trainees were obviously as confused as Saitou
Saitou shook his head . So this was his plan? If his drilling hadn't worked, this ridiculous game of Okita's was even less likely.
"I guess it's going to be back to square one tomorrow," Saitou muttered resignedly to himself as he walked off. He should have known it wouldn't be this easy.
* * *
The next night found the two men at the tavern
once again. Okita was grinning smugly while Saitou poured them both shots
"I don't know what in the name of Buddha you did to them," Saitou said, "But whatever it was, it worked."
It was true. When Saitou had reclaimed the newbies that morning, he'd found a completely different crew than before. Suddenly they were ready to learn, and they were able to pick up Saitou's instructions on only the second or third try. It was as if they truly understood what they were doing for the first time.
Okita shrugged, grinning away. "I told you, Saitou-san. You have to start at the bottom before you can work your way to the top. I just got as simple as possible and used something they could understand."
"Well, I'm impressed. Maybe you should handle all the new recruits from now on."
Okita paled slightly. "I don't think so. Maybe I can teach you how to do it and you can pass it on yourself."
"Not a chance in hell."