Standard Disclaimers Apply.
It was around noon when Kaoru and Soujirou made it back to the market streets of Tokyo, so they stopped at the Akebeko for a quick lunch of rice balls and tea. When their stomachs were satisfied, they left the restaurant and maneuvered their way through the crowds of shoppers to leave the market place.
Once they reached the quieter streets, they fell into a relaxed pace. Once again, Kaoru did most of the talking. This time she told Soujirou about her childhood. She told stories of all the trouble she would cause when she was younger, and how her father decided to train her in Kamiya Kasshin Ryuu when she was ten, as an attempt to teach her discipline. Soujirou gave her his full attention, eager to learn more about her life. He remembered what she had said earlier, about wanting to learn more about him. He decided that he wanted that as well. This was something completely new and unfamiliar, and he realized that he liked it. He could feel a bond forming between them, the more time they spent together. It was a very nice feeling.
She was completely opening herself to him, and he wanted to do the same for her. But he just couldn't bring himself to tell her. He wasn't ready to reveal his deepest and darkest secrets just yet. The true reason behind it being that he was scared. He was afraid of how she would react once she knew what he had been responsible for. That she would see him for the monster he once was. He just didn't want to risk it, after coming so close to having a real family. He knew that he was probably worrying for nothing. Kaoru was such an accepting person. She had welcomed two of the deadliest assassins into her home without question. But despite this, he couldn't help but worry.
"We're here!" Kaoru exclaimed, startling Soujirou from his thoughts. He looked around to see that Kaoru had led them to a cemetery. Soujirou had never really been to a cemetery before, so what greeted him when they entered the gates was completely unexpected. Naturally, to him a cemetery equated to death. He expected a dreary place, old and dilapidated, where the stench of death filled the air. What he saw in front of him though, was quite the opposite. The place was green and beautiful. White grave markers sat in perfect rows, some adorned with bright flowers. The air smelt clean. Sakura trees were strewn here and there, raining their petals on and around the gravestones. Soujirou realized that this place wasn't meant to mourn death, but to celebrate life.
He followed Kaoru as she headed towards the back of the plot and to the left, where under a sakura tree lay a grave marker like all the rest, though the name on this one Soujirou knew all to well. They were standing in front of the grave of Kamiya Koujirou. Kaoru knelt on the ground, motioning Soujirou to follow, and began pulling incense and flowers out of her bag. Soujirou watched quietly as she spoke. "Look who I brought to see you father." She whispered to the air.
"I come here twice every year." She told Soujirou. "On his birthday and the anniversary of his death. But neither of those days will come for months, and I really wanted to bring you here to meet him."
"Thank you for bringing me." Soujirou replied sincerely.
"I'm happy that you're here with me. Usually I come here alone, so it's nice to share it with someone." She said. "I'm sure father is very happy you're here as well."
Hesitantly, Soujirou reached out his hand and traced the characters that were carved on the stone with his fingers. He truly was happy that she had brought him there, but at the same time it hurt even more to see his father's grave. It seemed to taunt him, flaunting the fact that this was all he was ever going to have of his real father. No memories, just this cold white stone. He really knew nothing about him.
"When did he die?" Soujirou whispered.
"A little less than three years ago, in September of 1878." She answered. "At the time he was working as a member of the sword-bearing metropolitan police. Because of that, he was sent to the Southwest war" Kaoru kept her gaze on the gravestone, but Soujirou could see the tears forming in her eyes. "He hated the idea of killing, but he went anyway. It was something that he felt had to be done in order to bring about a peaceful new era. I was completely terrified and I begged him to stay. My mother died 6 years earlier, so he was the only family I had left. But he just smiled at me and promised to be back in time for the Obon festival, so that we could go visit Mother's grave together. He never did come back though. He died three days before the war ended."
"What...what was he like?" Soujirou asked, hoping he wasn't causing her too much pain by bringing up memories.
Kaoru hastily wiped at her eyes, and turned to him with a smile. "He was the kindest person that I've ever known. I know I'm a bit biased in saying that, but I think that anyone who knew him would say the same. He was a great father, gentle and caring. He always put others before him and fought hard to protect those that he loved. I see a lot of him in Kenshin, and I guess that's what attracted me to him at first. He just reminded me so much of Father." She stopped, a small smile still on her face. They sat in silence for a while, both lost in their own thoughts, but enjoying each other's company at the same time. Soujirou thought of Kaoru's description of their father. He wondered just who he would be today, if he had been raised by such a man. He didn't dwell on it long though, because what was done was done. There was no way to change the past. He decided that it was probably for the best. He survived this long, and he supposed that he was a stronger person for it.
"It's getting pretty dark." Kaoru observed suddenly. "Maybe we should head home." Soujirou nodded in agreement and helped her to her feet.
The minute they crossed the gates, Soujirou felt something odd. He tuned out everything, and focused on the air around him. One of the first things that Shishio ever taught him was the ability to sense ki. It was a tool to read an opponent's emotions and strength. He could feel Kaoru's familiar ki, calm and faint. He pushed that aside and concentrated a bit harder. He could feel it, just at the edge of his senses. A strong and agitated ki. What surprised him was that it was oddly familiar, but he couldn't place just how.
Soujirou moved closer to Kaoru, keeping his eyes forward and his pace constant.
"Kaoru." He said faintly.
She looked to him in question. "Yes?"
"I don't want to you to panic or anything. We're being followed."
"Just keep walking and act normal." Soujirou replied, briefly looking in her direction. Kaoru nodded in understanding and kept walking. Soujirou turned his attention back to the ki and could feel it getting closer. Without a word, he fell back directly behind Kaoru, and continued walking.
As they kept walking, their stalker kept getting closer and closer. Old instincts began to kick in, and Soujirou's body tensed as he waited for the perfect moment to attack. His sword hand unconsciously clenched at his side, and he wished that he had some kind of weapon.
"Are you seriously planning on attacking me?" Came a feminine voice from behind him.
Soujirou spun around, facing the person in shock.
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