warning: crossover, spoiler
The young former assassin walked down through the forest on an obscure game trail, aware of his surroundings, but not really paying attention to them. It was just this state of inattention that caused him to trip.
"Ah!" he exclaimed, bracing himself to hit the ground. But the expected impact never came, and as the confused swordsman fell through dark/light empty space, he cried out, "Ororororororooooooo.........!!" Then, just as strangely, he was falling through the air. The analytical part of his mind noted three things - one, that the air was much too hot and dry for Nihon at any time of the year, two, that the ground was rushing up to him at an alarming rate, and three, that there were a large number of extremely odd looking people below him on that self-same ground.
Swiftly, he flipped around, pointing his feet to the ground. It wouldn't do much good at this speed, but it was better than landing head first. Keeping his left hand on his sakabatou, Kenshin held his right arm out for balance. No sooner than he had corrected his posture, than he was landing, left foot first, on the hard dry ground. The young swordsman wobbled slightly from the impact, but quickly regained his balance, only to find several hundred spears pointed right at him.
"Ano..." he said, putting out his best 'I'm-harmless-and-innocent' aura. He could tell that all the people pointing spears at him were skilled, experienced fighters, and, as good as he was, there was no way he could defeat them all, even if he was willing to kill them. One of the people - male, although it was tricky to tell, the way they were dressed, with black veils covering their faces - said something in a language Kenshin didn't recognise.
"I'm sorry, but I don't know what you're saying," Kenshin said sheepishly, shrugging his shoulders in the universal sign of 'I don't know'. The spear weilder made several more attempts to communicate something to Kenshin, and he was just as clueless as before. Then, after the fifth time, for some reason, a few of the words made sense. He cocked his head slightly to one side, and said, "I think I almost..." Suddenly, his skull felt like it was about to explode. He grasped it in pain, let out a silent gasp, and promptly passed out.
Rand stared suspiciously at the strange boy who had - literally - fallen out of the sky. Rhuarc had said that the boy hadn't understood a word they said. And they in turn hadn't understood a word that he had said. None of which bothered Rand that much, he was ta'veren, after all, and was beginning to get used to odd things happening around him. The thing that bothered him was the fact that the boy had fallen hundreds of feet out of the sky, and yet somehow managed to land on his feet, unharmed. No human being was capable of doing that, not without channeling, at any rate, but Rand would have sensed it if the boy had been channeling.
Rand held up the hand holding the boy's sword. It was an odd shape - the blade was curved, and single edged, like Tam's had been, but the hilt was oval, and wrapped in an odd pattern, with only a small, round guard on it. However, that wasn't really overly strange. It was the blade itself that was strange. At first glance, yes, it did look like one of those ancient One Power forged blades, but only at that. When you looked for more than a second, it was plain that this blade was far more out of the ordinary. The edges were reversed. Where the cutting edge should be, the blade was blunt, and it was sharpened on the back, where it should be blunt. How did anyone ever manage to forge a sword like this? And why would they?
"Nnn... Doko...?" the boy stirred on the pallet he had been placed on, and everyone in the tent instantly focused their attention on him, hands hovering near various weapons. One of the boy's eyes opened slowly, and then both of his eyes snapped open, and he jumped up, hand reaching for the sword that was no longer at his side. "Oro?" he said. His eyes widened comically. The boy glanced around rapidly, repeating the 'oro' again and again. Then his eyes lighted on the sword in Rand's hands.
"My sword!" he said with a slightly forlorn tone in his voice. Rand stared. Everyone in the room stared. The boy, looking just as shocked, raised a hand to his lips. "This language... isn't Nihongo..." he murmured. The boy glanced around again, his eyes narrowing slightly as his gaze passed over Lan and Rhuarc, and then stared.
In spite of his confusion, Kenshin stared. He couldn't help himself. He had never seen anyone else with red hair before, and now more than half the people in the room had red hair. While one half of his mind was methodically analysing the room and it's occupants, the other half was a confused mess.
"Oro?" he said again, quietly.
"Who are you?" the man holding Kenshin's sakabatou said suspiciously. Kenshin blinked, then narrowed his eyes.
"Kenshin. Himura Kenshin," he said. "Who are you? And..." he glanced around again. "What is this place? And how am I speaking your tongue?" After a moment he added, almost wistfully, "Can I have my sword back?"
"I am Rand al'Thor," the man with Kenshin's sword said. "The Dragon Reborn." The man said it as if Kenshin should recognise the title, but the young former assassin just gave out yet another confused look.
"I'm very sorry," he said after a moment. "But what is the Dragon Reborn?" A small woman, the first person he had seen so far who was shorter than him, pushed to the front of the group in front of him.
"Excuse me," she said, a focused expression on her face. "But did you just say 'what is the Dragon Reborn'?" Kenshin nodded. The lady gave him a deep, penetrating look, that said plain as day that she was analysing every aspect of the object of her scrutiny. There was something about her that made Kenshin very wary.
"If the lady does not mind my asking, what is your name?" Kenshin asked cautiously.
"Moiraine Aes Sedai," the lady replied. Kenshin wasn't sure, but part of that had sounded like a title. "You may address me as Aes Sedai." Kenshin nodded, but not to her. Then he thought of something.
"I'm not in Nihon anymore, am I Moiraine-san?" he asked sadly. Moiraine started slightly, and then shook her head.
"I have never heard of any place called 'Nihon'," the lady said.
"Sou ka," Kenshin said softly, casting his eyes down. "I suppose, in some manner, it is for the better..."
"What do you mean by that?" Rand said, before Moiraine could reply. The former Hitokiri shook his head.
"It's nothing," he replied, then paused. "No, it's not nothing," he corrected himself. "But you have no way of understanding."
"Why not?" Rand asked, voice noticable tinged with arrogance. Kenshin felt a surge of irritation, and decided to do something a little brash. Utilising the god-speed of Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu, he flashed over to the taller man, and, in the time it took for the room to gasp, had snatched his sword, and returned to his previous position. Sticking the sakabatou into his obi, he turned the narrow, cold eyes on the Hitokiri on Rand. He felt more than saw nearly everyone in the room take an involuntary step back. Greater than half of them had also drawn their weapons, and those that hadn't had their hands on them. Kenshin sighed, and allowed his eyes to return to the wide, more clear state that he was beginning to become accoustomed to.
"As I said, you have no way of understanding," he stated softly, and headed toward the doorflap of the tent. All of a sudden, he found his way blocked by a tall man swathed in a strange cloak that seemed to blend into it's surroundings. Kenshin had made note of him earlier as an obviously skilled warrior, and potential threat. He narrowed his eyes, and met the man's steady gaze with one just as implacable.
"And where do you think you're going?" the man asked in a flat voice
"I am leaving," Kenshin said in an equally flat voice. "I must continue my journey. Also, I have no wish to be a burden on your people." For a long moment, he continued to exchange stares with the man. Then, the other nodded in understanding, and stood aside, to let Kenshin pass. "Arigatou," Kenshin said as he walked past the man, and out of the tent.
It was Rand's turn to stare, as Lan confronted the red-haired boy, and then just let him pass. Why would he do that? Rand wondered.
"Lan," Moiraine began sternly. Lan shook his head.
"I've seen eyes like that before," he said. Rand opened his mouth to say something, but before he could, Lan said, "He's right, sheepherder. You have no way of understanding." The Warder paused. "Yet." Then he turned, and left the tent as well. Moiraine followed him.
"Lan," she said. "That... person is dangerous. You should not have let him just leave like that."
"I couldn't have stopped him," Lan said. Moiraine sniffed. "He has the eyes of one who has too much death." Lan paused. "Caused too much death." Moiraine had just opened her mouth to reply, when a shout came from outside the tent. Lan, along with Moiraine, Rand, and several others quickly went outside to what the commotion was. Outside, no more than a dozen feet from the tentflap, Kenshin was standing, surrounded by Far Dareis Mai.
Lan narrowed his eyes at the sight of Kenshin's stance. It wasn't like anything he had seen before. The boy had his legs spread widely, and his knees were bent deeply. His upper body was turned at an angle, with his left hand on the sheath of his sword, and the other hovering no more than an inch above the hilt.
"This prisoner was trying to escape," said one of the Maidens, not removing her eyes from the potential target in front of her.
"I was not escaping," Kenshin said, without shifting his position an inch. "I was merely leaving. I don't wish to trouble you with my presence." He paused for a minute, then turned one eye back to Lan. "You knew that I would not be able to leave, didn't you?" he asked. The Warder nodded. "What do you want?" Kenshin asked. Rand gestured.
"Come back into the tent," he said, reentering it himself. All those who had left when they heard the yell followed him. After a moment, Kenshin sighed, relaxed his stance, and did the same.
"What land are you from, that you have never heard of the Dragon Reborn?" Moiraine said after they were all seated again, and properly introduced. The red-headed boy sighed.
"I already told you," he said, with a hint of irritation in his voice. "Nihon. What land is this? I've never seen such desert..."
"The Aiel Waste," said Lan. "They call it the Three-fold Land."
"I've never heard of it."
"What about Cairhien? Or Tear? Or Andor?" Rand interjected. Kenshin shook his head. "How about Tar Valon?" he added after a short interval. Once again, Kenshin indicated a negative.
"I'm sorry, but I've never heard of any of those places," he said. Then he sighed. "I doubt that I will have heard of any of the places here... Just as I know you've never heard of Nihon, and doubt you've heard of Chuugoku, or Igirisu, or Amerika..." Rand and the others in the tent indicated that they had no knowledge of such lands.
At that moment, as if by chance, Kenshin's eyes rested on backs of Rand's hands, where were what seemed to be the heads of dragons. He blinked.
"Ano, excuse me, but are those dragons on the backs of your hands?" he said. The group looked at him, startled.
"I thought you said you didn't know what a dragon was," Rand said suspiciously. Kenshin leveled him his best 'do you take me for an idiot?' look.
"I said I didn't know what the 'Dragon Reborn' was. I never said I didn't know what a dragon is," he said. Lan and Moiraine exchanged a quick glance.
"Does the name 'Lews Therin Telamon' mean anything to you?" Moiraine asked. Kenshin shook his head.
"Are you even *from* this world?!" Rand burst out, in sudden irritation. Kenshin got a startled look on his face. His eyes got very big, and his mouth got very small. A very small 'oro' escaped his lips, and his shoulders slumped back.
"Another world..." he said softly. "Aa... I suppose it makes sense..." A distant and forlorn look replaced surprise on Kenshin's face. A rather uncomfortable silence dragged out for several minutes. "If I'm going to be stuck here, then would you please tell me what's going on?" Several people exchanged glances, and then Rand nodded, and began explaining.
Several hours later, after the situation was explained to Kenshin, another, more tense silence started. However, this one didn't draw out very long. Kenshin sighed, and stood up, his sakabatou making a soft clicking in it's saya, as he replaced it in his obi.
"If this 'Dark One' really is all you say," he began. When several people had nodded, he continued, "The I will help you." Rand looked at him, shock evident in his expression.
"Why?" he asked. Kenshin looked at Rand with hard eyes.
"My reasons are my own," he said. After a minute, Rand nodded. "Then, perhaps you could tell those women who tried to kill me that I'm on your side?" Kenshin asked with a slightly nervous look on his face. Momentarily startled by the incongruity of Kenshin's attitude, Rand suddenly let out a short burst of laughter.
"Sure, sure," he said, gesturing Kenshin to follow him back out the tent. As Kenshin passed Lan, he heard the other man say in a low voice,
"You know, we need all the help we can get."
Kenshin walked alongside Rand's horse, the blistering midday sun shining down on them. Much to the surprise of his new companions, he was well able to keep up to the fierce pace set by the Aiel, with no apparent effort.
"How are you able to keep up this pace?" Rand asked.
"I know I don't look it, but I am very strong," Kenshin said. "Remember, I fell out of the sky."
"Yes..." Rand replied. "I meant to ask you, how did you do that?" Kenshin shrugged.
"I didn't do anything. I was just walking through the forest, heading away from Kyoto, when I took a step, and just..." Kenshin paused, searching for a suitable term. "Fell through a hole that hadn't been there before, and found myself falling out of your sky," he finished. Rand thought about that for a minute.
He just fell through a hole... a hole in the Pattern? Asmodean might know, I'll have to ask him later. They traveled in silence for a while longer, then Kenshin slipped away, leaving Rand to his thoughts. The young red-head scanned the army of Aiel - because that's what it was - attempting to locate Lan. The Warder had indicated a desire to talk with Kenshin earlier, but there hadn't been any time.
His eyes swiftly spotted Lan, however, he was deep in a discussion with Moiraine-san. Giving a mental shrug, his eyes continued to pass over the the people. His eyes finally settled on a young man who wore a broad-brimmed hat, and carried a naginata.
That must be Rand's friend, Kenshin thought. He wasn't there yesterday, but Rand and Moiraine-san mentioned him several times. I think they said his name was 'Mat'. Thinking that it might be a good idea to introduce himself, Kenshin turned silghtly, and made his way over to where the other young man was riding.
"Hello," Kenshin said from beside Mat's horse. The young man practically jumped out of his saddle.
"Blood and ashes!! You startled me!" he said, giving Kenshin an odd look. "Hey, you're that guy who caused all that fuss yesterday, aren't you?" he asked. Kenshin nodded.
"Yes, I am," he said. "But don't worry, I don't channel," he continued with a smile. At least I don't *think* I do. Mat blushed slightly.
"You picked up on that, huh?" he asked, his voice slightly tinged by embarrassment. "Well, I'm Mat, Mat Cauthon," he continued, regaining his composure.
"Himura Kenshin," replied Kenshin. "I am pleased to meet you." He bowed slightly.
"Nice too meet you too," Mat said. "But you don't bow to me. I'm not a lord or anything." Kenshin smiled.
"It's just the custom where I come from," he said, laughing.
"Where *do* you come from, then?" Mat asked.
"A country called Nihon," Kenshin replied. "Probably in another world," he continued, when he saw Mat's look of nonrecognition at the name. "I don't know how I got here." Mat nodded. Strange things like this just seemed to keep on happening around Rand.
"I suppose you've gotten mixed up in this mess too now," Mat said. Kenshin nodded.
"Yes, it seems like I have." He shrugged. "There are worse things." Mat gave him a strange look. Worse things? Well, he supposed there were worse things, like being attacked by Trollocs and Darkfriends. Or having the interest of an Aes Sedai. Although given the way that Moiraine had been looking at the newcomer, he was in for some of that as well. Another thing occurred to him, and Mat unconsciously rubbed his neck.
"Yeah," Mat agreed. "There are worse things. Unfortunately, most of them seem to come about because of this mess." Kenshin shrugged, and absently scratched the still-new scar on his cheek. Mat wondered where he had gotten it; Kenshin couldn't have been any older than he was himself. The red-head smiled up at Mat.
"Not everything could be that bad, could it?" he asked. Mat thought about that for a minute, about everything that had happened to him so far because of his involvement with Rand. He shrugged.
"I suppose it hasn't been all bad, but I've still been through more bad than good," he said. "I guess that's what happens when your best friend is the Dragon Reborn."
"War is like that," Kenshin said. At that moment, he saw Lan look in his direction, and then start coming that way. "Perhaps we can talk some more later," he said to Mat. The young man nodded.
"Sure," he replied. Kenshin nodded, and then walked over to meet the Warder. Lan Mandragoran was a curious man, Kenshin thought. He reminded the former assasssin of himself in some ways, and of his old enemy, Saitou Hajime. There was a hard edge about him that spoke of a man who had been through hell and back, numerous times, and of his own will.
"I wanted to talk to you," the Warder said, falling into step beside Kenshin.
"Aa," Kenshin replied. "What about?" Lan looked down at the shorter man. He wondered what had made this swordsman so jaded at such a young age. Lan himself had been much the same, but he was a rather extraordinary case, even among Borderlanders. Perhaps it had something to do with the strange crossed scar on his left cheek. But he was wise enough to realise that a scar like that on a man so obviously skilled in swordplay most likely had a painful story behind it; he would leave it alone for now.
"For a beginning, where did you learn to fight?" he asked. Kenshin gave a small half-smile, tinged slightly with bitterness.
"I learned from a great swordmaster. His name is Hiko Seijuurou," he said. "My speed comes from our school. There is none better." A slight bit of arrgance and pride showed through the young man's typical humility. "What of you? I can see that you are a man of great skill," Kenshin continued.
"I too have studied with great swordmasters." Lan replied. "From the cradle, I was trained." Kenshin could hear the pain behind the Lan's flat tone. He knew didn't ask any more questions along that line; he had no wish to cause anymore suffering, even if it was only a memory, and none of his doing originally. They contined to speak; Lan learned a bit about the origin of Kenshin's special sword, and his vow to never again take a human life.
"That could be a liability here," he pointed out. "There are Darkfriends who are completely irredeemable, to say nothing of the Forsaken." Kenshin nodded.
"I know. I will wrestle with those demons when I come to them, and not before," he said, but he cntinued to consider Lan words in quiet for a while. He would not - *could* not - break his oath, and return to the ways of the Hitokiri, but if to do otherwise would save thousands of lives? Kenshin was not sure. He shook his head.
"You do not know, do you?" Lan asked him. Kenshin sighed.
"No, I do not. I honestly cannot know my actions until the moment it becomes necessary to do them," he said. "But my vow is important to me." The Warder nodded. He understood the importance of oaths, even the ones made only to the self. Perhaps especially those made to the self.
"None of us will ask you to break your oath," he said. "Not unless absolutely necessary." Kenshin acknowledged Lan's words, and was grateful for the fact that the Warder had been honest with him. He was aware of what the situation he was in might call for. He just did not want to think on it for too long, or too hard. He gave a wry smile.
"I suppose I just don't want to think about it," he said. Lan knew what he meant. Kenshin looked towards the horizon. The sun was starting to set, and it was getting darker out. The ever present heat began to ease off slightly.
"We'll be stopping to camp soon," Lan said. Kenshin nodded. He then asked Lan if the other could provide some more detail of what was going on. Lan agreed, and spent the remainder of the time before the stopped bringing Kenshin fully up to speed with the current situation.
That night, as he lay on the pallet that the Aiel had provided for him, Kenshin thought some more on his conversation with Lan. I wish it wasn't so, but I'm afraid that as this situation intensifies I might just end up breaking my oath. The thought was painful. I can tell this whole thing is only beginning. How much worse will it become, I wonder. He sat up, and pushed his hair out of his eyes. Just then, he wished for nothing so much as to be back in Nihon, wandering the familiar highways and trails through his beautiful homeland.
But this world was in such turmoil, and it's people were suffering. It was to help the ordinary people, to ease their suffering and end injustice that he had joined the Ishinshishi in the first place. And now, if what he had been told was true, his own home would also be in danger from the Dark One. 'If the Dark One breaks free in one world, he breaks free in them all.' I must not allow that to happen; it would make all the sacrifice, all the war and strife pointless. With a sigh, he lay back down. There's no question about what I must do though. I have to help them.
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