Kaoru Kamiya stood behind the door that lead to her father's room. It was slightly ajar, and through the small opening, she watched as one of their servants diligently dabbed small amounts of perfume oil in the corners of the room. She inhaled deeply, allowing herself to be intoxicated with the scent.
'Jasmine. Mother's scent', she said to herself as she closed her eyes, envisioning the beautiful face of her departed mother. 'Mother, give me the strength to do this'.
Shortly, the servant left the room, bowing in reverence to her young mistress as she passed. Kaoru nodded in acknowledgement as she stepped into the room. "How was you meal, father?" she asked, kneeling down beside the futon and holding her father's hands.
"Very delicious, Kaoru," he replied, smiling at his beloved only daughter.
Kaoru watched her father with loving eyes as she observed his condition sadly.
Her father, once a powerful and strong daimyo, lay in his bed, helpless. He was once a mighty warrior who had fought bravely in many battles. Unfortunately, after his last encounter, he had been crippled.
Aritomo Yamagat raised his sandy hand, caressing his daughter's cheek tenderly and said, smiling weakly, "Do not look at me with such sad eyes, daughter. Is there something bothering you?"
Kaoru nodded as she laid her hands in her lap. Looking down to hide her anger, she began, "Shishio Makoto came to visit this morning."
Aritomo's face lit up when his best and most trusted retainer was mentioned. "Did he bring us good news? Has the shogun heard of our recent victory?" he asked eagerly as he struggled to sit up on the futon to be level with his daughter's eyes.
Kaoru shook her head violently and replied, "He came for other reasons, Father."
"Kaoru, tell me, is there something wrong?" He placed his hands on her arms, lightly shaking them.
"Shishio had rebelled."
"What?" he exclaimed, eyes widening in astonishment, "That can't be true! He had served us loyally for…"
"…too long," she finished. "Father, he wants more. He said that if it hadn't been for him, you would've been dead in your last fight -- that it was he who saved your life, and that without him, you would have lost your land anyway." Closing her eyes, she continued bitterly, "Father, he wants legitimate rights to our whole land."
"What? That is absurd!"
Kaoru took a deep breath as she started with her explanation, "He said that he deserves more than what you have give him and that, with you, crippled…" She paused for a moment to meet her father's enraged gaze. "… he doubted that you'd be able to be an effective daimyo. According to him, the land might fall or be usurped under your incapable power."
"Why that no-good rat! Traitor indeed! How dare he be so damned condescending!" he growled in utmost fury.
"Father, he is challenging you to a duel that would take place in six months! I told him that it is prohibited, but he won't listen to me."
"Kaoru, don't worry," he said, breathing slowly to restrain himself from yelling. "We shall put an end to this, and we will give him his rightful punishment."
"It is not that simple…"
"Go and gather the warriors. I wish to speak with them."
"I can't," she said, her face austere.
"Why?" Aritomo asked, pursing his lips as he expected the worst.
Kaoru sighed, but she managed to retain her calm façade. She couldn't show any panic, nor hatred. She needed to collect herself for the sake of her father. "Shishio has warned them not to intervene in this matter. I have already spoken with the head retainers, but they have proclaimed their support for Shishio."
"What is this, a mutiny?" he banged his fist on the tatami, eyes twitching in disbelief.
Kaoru sat closer to him, stroking his back to pacify him. "Father, please calm down."
"Calm down? What do you mean 'calm down'? Can't you see that I can't fight in this condition?" he snapped bitterly, not meeting her eyes.
"I know that," she replied. She knew that it would deeply hurt her father's pride for her to say those words, but she needed to tell him the truth. There was no point beating around the bush. So little time was left. Taking a deep breath, she continued, "I also know that you can't report this to the shogun because Shishio saved your life."
"A life for a life," he sighed. "If he challenges me to a duel, the most honorable thing for me to do is to accept. Call Shishio and tell him that I accept his challenge."
"No father! You can't! That would be suicide!" she exclaimed.
"Death had always been the honorable path of a warrior," he replied gravely.
"No!" she snapped more firmly. "I won't let you do this! I have everything figured out already."
Not listening to her protests, Aritomo placed his hand on hers and began, "Kaoru-chan, I am sorry for burdening you with this. I really am. I should have listened to your mother when she warned me about Makoto Shishio." Looking into her eyes, he continued, "When upheaval ensues, I want you to stay at the Takani's in Aizu."
Kaoru placed her free hand on top of his and announced, "I'm not going anywhere, Father. Please listen to me. I have a plan."
"No, Kaoru. Whatever it is—"
"I will go to Genzai-sensei's school to train and improve my skills in kenjutsu." Smiling proudly, she then declared, "And… as your daughter, I will fight for your place."
"Kaoru that is crazy!" He took his hands away from her as a sign of his disapproval as he shook his head violently.
"Shishio knew that you are unable to fight in your condition, and that is why he said that you can have anyone take your place, that is, if there is someone willing enough." Clenching her fists she said in a low tone, "Father, I am willing enough."
"Do you want to dishonor me!?" he demanded.
"The honor at stake here is not just yours, but our family's," she snapped back.
His expression remained firm as he stared at the wall.
Trying to reach inside her father, she cupped his hands. "Do you remember Hojo Masako? You were the one who taught me about her strength and will-power, right?" Closing her eyes, she said resolutely, "I am not going to dishonor myself and my mother's memory by letting you go and take the challenge when you are unable to fight in your fullest capabilities."
"Kaoru, I will not allow you to go!" he yelled, shoving her away.
At that, she stood up and headed to the door. She turned her head for the last time. "I am not asking your permission. I am merely informing you. My mind is set."
As she was about to walk away, her father chocked out, "Kaoru-chan, don't go…"
In an instant, Kaoru was at her father's side again. She knelt down beside him. Trying another strategy to convince the equally stubborn daimyo, she began, "Father, I am proud of the way you and mother raised me. "
Aritomo knew where their conversation was headed. He knew about Kaoru's infallible determination. He knew that he couldn't win this battle with his daughter. A battle he had lost before it has even begun. She had a point.
Pulling her into his embrace, he whispered, "I am too. Your mother was a smart, strong-willed, stubborn, and beautiful woman -- just like you. She didn't want to bring you up as a traditional woman restricted by the standards of the society, so we educated you, trained you in kenjutsu, taught you politics, and opened your eyes to the reality of our world."
"For that I am most thankful, Father. Allow me to use this intellect and skill you have taught me. Allow me to use it for us, to protect us. Father, I know that it will be hard for you to let me go but please, trust me. Trust that your years of patience with me have paid off. Trust that I won't disappoint you." For the first time in the duration of their talk, she pleaded.
"I will never be disappointed in you." He smiled. "Oh Kaoru, I am so proud of you. You are just like your mother, equal in beauty, wisdom and bravery."
"Thank you, Father." She pulled back, bowing down in gratitude. Her father nodded in acknowledgement as she stood up to leave.
"Kaoru-chan…" he called out just in time before she closed the door.
"Samurai training grounds are strictly for men only."
"I know that," she replied, eyes gleaming with mischief.
Aritomo smiled in utmost pride as he whispered, "I love you, Kaoru. Take care."
"I will and I'll be back."
I had always wanted to do a star-crossed lovers fic! ^__^ Anyhoo, as you may have noticed, this is a pre-Bakumatsu fic. I had done a modern setting, now I want to try something new… to move back in time to explore a different premise for the lovers.
Kenshin will appear on the next chapter! Special thanks to Mir for all her wonderful help! She had given me wonderful insights regarding Japanese culture that had greatly improved the plot of this fic.
This fic is not set in early feudal Japan but I wanted to give you a background where Kaoru's upbringing was based.
In the early feudal
period, samurai women were expected to be loyal and brave. In certain cases,
she is also expected take on the duty of revenge to protect their family
honor. Since her warrior husband was often absent, the samurai wife also
had to be responsible for the food and all the household supplies. She managed
the harvesting of crops, the servants,
and the financial business. She is in-charge of providing education and
instilling values to their children.
During war, women sometimes had to defend their homes that is why they were trained in weaponry. That time, women used daggers and naginata. Daggers were hidden in their sleeves or sashes and would throw with deadly aim when necessary. The naginata, on the other hand, is a long, curved sword.
Hojo Masa-ko is a strong-willed woman who took over the shogunate after her husband, the first shogun Yoritomo Minamoto, died in 1199. She is also known as "Mother Shogun," has been referred to as the founder of the shogunate.
Retainers are the ones who guard the daimyo's land and expand the land and power for him. They give their complete and unwavering loyalty to the feudal landowners and in return, they receive land and position.
bushi- name given to all the warriors who made up families with a warrior tradition
daimyo- a feudal lord who maintained a great number of samurai in their service.
shogun- this is title given by the emperor of that time to the richest and most powerful daimyo.Please leave me a review! Keep me inspired!!! Make me happy!