Ties of Loyalty

By The Unseen Watcher

Disclaimer. Rurouni Kenshin does not belong to me. It belongs to Nobuhiro Watsuki and various others. I'm not getting any profit out of this. Please don't sue. All I have are old socks. Do you Really want them? Oh by the way. In this story I make up a definition for Shishou. It's just to support my story, DON'T take it seriously!

I got a request for my chapter stories. Be warned, I truly stink at updating.

German

"Translated Japanese"

#English#

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Seijurou Hiko stepped out of his favorite sake shop. It was on the outskirts of Kyoto, allowing him to get his supplies without having to encounter too many people.

"Thank you for doing business with me, Kakunoshin-san. You're my most loyal customer!" Called out the shop's owner, a plain but honest older man Hiko had gotten to know from his many years of patronage of the place.

Hiko raised one hand in an idle wave over his shoulder. The other hand held the rope attached to his new sake jug. "Always a pleasure, Hashimoto- san." He called back. "You keep stocking good sake and I'll keep buying it."

"Works for me!" Laughed the merchant. He had long grown used to Hiko's casual attitude. It wasn't often that you met a man with a presence such as his and are still able to be at ease with him. But then, Kakunoshin-san seemed a mass of contradictions. A potter by appearances, a deadly swordsman in truth. Hashimoto-san had learned that early on when someone had tried to rob his store at the same time Hiko decided to stop by. The stunned looks on the bullies' faces as they were taken out like so much garbage was a memory that still brought a grin to his weathered face.

Hashimoto-san frowned slightly, surveying his store. He hoped his most valued customer would like the sake. A new deliveryman had brought it this time, one he didn't know. No telling what some inexperienced fool would do to the taste of the drink if they were too clumsy handling it.

**

Hiko strode purposefully up the path home. There was little to do nowadays besides pottery, practice, and enjoying sake, but that didn't make it unimportant. He had long ago lost his taste for running around every which way in search of adventure. In his experience, enough of it found you all by itself.

He enjoyed his time away from civilization and its troubles. All those untrained auras and their swirling emotions were enough to give a man a migraine. Give him the calm presence of trees and animals any day.

Speaking of which, he abruptly felt a presence at the edge of his awareness. He showed no sign of his immediate alertness in his posture or pace, though he allowed his eyes to narrow slightly. Then the feeling was gone and he mentally shrugged. Could have been a wanderer or even someone out on a walk. Well, as long as they left him alone he didn't care.

Hiko frowned slightly. This wasn't the first time in recent days that he had felt others nearby. The woods seemed to be swarming with people lately.

**

The watcher put down the spyglass, eyes thoughtful. So that was him. He looked impressive, he'd give him that, but he shouldn't be too much trouble.

The trees now obscured the target from view. It was time to report back anyway.

Smirking confidently, he climbed down from his treetop station.

**

Later that night Hiko sat in his cottage, slowly sipping his new sake. Hmmm. There was a strange after-taste to it. It would have been undetectable to anyone who was not a true connoisseur of the drink. He'd have to have a talk with Hashimoto-san about it. Still, it was odd. In all this time, his old acquaintance had never failed to stock the best.

Gently swirling the liquid, he took another sip. It wasn't bad, really. Finishing the cup, he added more from the jug.

**

In the shadows of the trees, dark shapes moved forward. The glint of metal off gun barrels and the clink of bared steel was almost inaudible. Stealthily, the circle slowly converged on the clearing where the cottage stood.

**

Hiko blinked. Everything seemed slightly fuzzier than normal. It couldn't be the sake. It didn't affect him all that much anymore, and even then, he'd have to drink a lot whole more than he had to feel this disoriented. It seemed herder to focus his thoughts than normal at the moment.

He felt leaden and weighed down, the walls pressing in on him. Deciding that he just needed some fresh air, he stood, swaying slightly as the sudden movement sent blood rushing from his head. Hiko frowned. His control had wavered slightly, something that was unacceptable by his standards. Walking carefully, he pushed aside the cloth he'd put up in place of the door he'd never bothered to replace and took a steadying breath of the night air.

A whisper of sound and a slight movement out of the corner of his eye was all that saved him. Reacting with reflexes honed by decades of use, he ducked under the sword-thrust and grabbed the hilt of his Shirazaya Nihontou, all in one movement. The shadow went down with a gurgling scream, but Hiko was already well beyond his position.

He hadn't bothered to hold back. Attackers in the night deserved no mercy.

After several steps, he staggered slightly, his vision darkening more than the night allowed. He felt the beginnings of genuine alarm start to creep in. What was wrong with him? Had the sake . . .?

Hiko scowled, a low growl sounding in his throat. To be challenged in an honorable fight was one thing, but only the lowest level of scum would mess with a man's sake.

Looking up, he found himself surrounded by dark shapes. He hadn't even heard them creep up. His senses were so clouded by whatever they'd drugged him with that he couldn't even focus beyond his own body. This was not good.

Two of them charged, swords flashing. He took care of them swiftly, noting angrily the minute sloppiness in his usually perfect swings.

It was getting worse. His vision had started to blur and double, but there was no way he was going to allow these cowardly dogs to get the better of him. Concentrating, he flung himself into the fight, moving on instinct where sight and hearing failed.

He was doing well when his mind registered the roar of falling water. His eyes narrowed as he went into a ready stance, the blade resting on the back of his left hand while he held the hilt in his right.

He'd been so out of it that he hadn't realized that he was being led around by the nose, straight to the cliff edge overlooking the waterfall. The irritation he felt for being treated like some rank amateur would gladly be taken out on them.

It was then that he noticed he was alone, and then heard the gunshot.

****

Himura Kenshin bolted upright on his futon, his sleeping yukata soaked in sweat.  Panting, his eyes were wide, the pupils contracted as he looked wildly around at the familiar darkness of his room. He sat there for a few minutes, getting his breathing back under control and trying to figure out what had awakened him.  His senses confirmed that all was well in the compound.  Everyone else was lost in peaceful slumber.

Brushing damp red bangs impatiently away from his face, Kenshin concentrated on the feeling of intangible dread that threatened to choke him. Something was wrong; he felt it in his bones.

Shifting on his futon, he reached out for his Sakabatou, looking down in surprise when his arm didn't immediately move to follow his mental command. He discovered the limb wrapped tightly across his ribs, the palm of his hand pressing down on his left side, as if over a wound.

Troubled by fears he couldn't name, Kenshin got up and headed out of his room to check out the perimeter of the Dojo.

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I love connections, don't you? Well, if you're wondering my logic goes like this. Hiten Mitsurugi is a powerful sword art that uses ki a lot. As master and student, some type of spiritual connection was bound to develop. And lastly, there has never been two Hiten Mitsurugi masters living at one time, so the connection could only have been strengthened when Kenshin learned the final technique. Weak logic, but hey it's FICTION, not science.