Standard disclaimers apply
Standard disclaimers apply
Kenji meets the inhabitants of the Aoiya, a chapter full of randomness, but oh well.
* * *
"Kaoru san! Himura san!" A high pitched voice echoed above the monotonous drone of the train station, drowning out the noise of people walking and talking. The group turned to see a short, boyish figure darting in and out between other patrons, shoving a few of them out of her way as she approached.
Kaoru smiled wide and deposited Kenji into Yahikoís arms, running to meet the girl who called her name, "Misao chan," she shouted gleefully, throwing her arms around her friend in happy reunion. The two women jumped up and down for a moment then began a boisterous chatter amongst one another.
"Iím so happy you guys made it!"
"Thank you for inviting us Misao chan!"
"How are things in Tokyo?"
"Howís the Aoiya?"
"Wow, I canít believe youíre here! Itís been so long!"
"You need to visit us!"
"I really like your hair Kaoru!"
The men folk, who finally caught up to the women, stood spell bound, looking back and forth between them as the random chatter continued. Though the conversation dumbfounded them, it was apparent that Misao and Kaoru understood each other perfectly, with out bothering to answer each otherís questions and comments. Kenji scrunched up his face and buried it into the collar of Yahikoís gi.
Yahiko patted the boy softly on the back, "I know Kenji chan, pretty scary huh?"
Kenji whimpered in response.
"OH MY GOSH!" Misao squealed, her attention drawn to the small form in Yahikoís arms, "Will you look at that!" With out thinking, she plucked Kenji from the boy samuraiís arms, holding him out at an arms length to get a better look at him. She laughed mightily, and spun the boy around, "No one can say heís not yours Himura, thatís for sure! Heís your spitting image!" She hugged the boy tightly to her, crushing his tiny body against her ninja outfit.
"Uh, Misao dono," Kenshin started wearily.
Kenjiís eyes were the size of teacups, his little mouth drawn into a startled circle on his tiny face. He had no idea who this strange woman was that tore him away from the arms of one of his trusted family members and threw him around like a doll. Her voice hurt his ears and her obnoxiously loud laughter frightened him.
A friendly child by nature, usually unafraid of strangers and use to people ogling him in the street for his exotic looks and unmatched cuteness, he often took admiration in good stride. This time, however, it was different. This strange woman went far enough to take him out of his brotherís arms, to touch him as if she knew him somehow, like she had the right to carry him away from his family members saftey.
His stunned shock lasted only a few seconds, before the confusion and fear gave way to panic and anger. His deeply imbedded fighting spirit surfaced, and his small mind told him to get this little woman away from him, to fend her off and return to the safety of his mothers arms. As Misao hugged him to her, cutting off the circulation to his small limbs, he took the opportunity to bite her as hard as he could on the shoulder. He crushed his jaws together until they hurt, hearing her scream in pain as he did so, and only let go once she let her grip release him.
Kenshin sprang forward to catch his son as he fell, grabbing the back of his little kimono just before he hit the ground. The boyís pale eyes darkened into a deep purple, his tiny body shaking in fear and anger as he hung from his fatherís grasp. "NO!NO!NO!NO!NO!NO!NO!NO!" His small voice echoed across the train station, drawing attention the scene that they created. A small group of people surrounded them, whispering amongst one another, watching to see what would happen next.
"Oh Misao!" Kaoru cried, her face strained in remorse, "Are you okay?"
Misao brushed away the tears of pain that welled in the corners of her eyes and pulled at the corner of her shirt, twisting her head to try to see the wound. A double set of teeth marks, perfect to a mold, imbedded deeply into her flesh, which was already becoming swollen and purple around the bite mark. She sucked in her breath, knowing that she would have a nasty bruise by the end of the day, but thankful the little lion hadnít broken the skin.
Yahiko doubled up on the ground, laughing so hard he had to clasp his stomach in pain. It was about time someone else was on the receiving end of one of Kenjiís ferocious bites, though the boy had never bitten him that hard before. He knew what was going to happen the minute the girl grabbed Kenji out of his arms, the boy would not stand for manhandling, especially not from a complete stranger. It did not surprise him in the least that instead of crying out like the small child he was, that Kenji chose to fight back. Crying didnít suit Kenji, he rarely cried about anything.
"Youíre such an idiot, weasel girl!" Yahiko laughed.
Karou smacked the boy across the back of his head, "Yahiko, itís not funny," she shouted, "Show some respect!"
Yahiko snorted, rubbing his skull and glaring at her, "She deserved it! Scaring poor Kenji like that!"
Kaoru balled up her fist, but didnít bash him like he expected her too. He was right in a sense, but it still didnít make her embarrassment at her sonís behavior go away. He acted like a wild animal, biting Misao so hard he nearly broke the skin. This was not the introduction she had planned for her friend and son, not at all.
Misao gave Yahiko a dirty look, but turned to where Kenshin was attempting to calm his traumatized son. "Yahiko CHAN is right Kaoru," she apologized, "I got so excited seeing him, I forgot he had no idea who I was. Iíd react the same way, I think." She glanced at her shoulder again, then gave Kenji an apologetic smile, hoping heíd accept her peace offering.
Kenji bared his teeth at her in response, then wrapped his fists so tightly into his fathers long, red hair that the man winced in pain.
"Kenji chan," Kenshin groaned, trying to untangle the small fingers from his hair, but failing miserably as the boy just grabbed for more hair, not wanting to be taken away from the safety of his father. "Kenji, itís okay," Kenshin tried again, "But it was not nice to bite Misao dono, that it wasnít." He sighed in defeat as the boy continued to scowl at the girl, ignoring his fatherís reassurance.
The group made their way to the Aoiya, stopping only once so Misao could buy a gift for Kenji, hoping to smooth the waters somehow. Luckily for her, he was easily persuaded when it came to sweets, and immediately found himself clutching the hem of her shorts, begging for more of the strange western treat she called chocolate. Karou protested giving him anything at all, afraid heíd see it as a reward for behaving like such a barbarian, but Misao insisted, accepting the entire fault for her rash actions.
By the time they made it to the Aoiya, Kenjiís round cheeks and short fingers were covered in the sticky substance.
"Kenji chan, donít rub your eyes," Kaoru warned, pulling a small hand away from the eye he was trying to scratch. He fussed at her for her interference, yanking his arm away. Karou sighed as she watched her son drag a messy hand across his brow, matting together the fine hairs of his eyebrow and lashes together in sticky clumps of brown. It was then that she noticed that the sweets had made it somehow into his ear and hair. She sighed at the mess that lay before her and looked at her husband, who smiled at his son, "Heís going to need a bath," she muttered, giving Kenshin a hard look.
Misao giggled at the worn look on Kaoruís face, but thankful she wasnít the one who would have to clean the child up, it was the privilege of an aunt to give things that would cause the parents suffering. Laughing, she reached for the door of the Aoiya, but was knocked back as it flew open with amazing force. She found herself crushed into a massive bear hug, her breathing cut off.
"Your back! Weíve missed you Misao!" Okina laughed merrily, hugging the girl harder.
Misao sputtered, gasping for breath, "I was only gone two hours, geez gramps!" She wrenched herself free of the vice like grip of the old man.
Yahiko raised his brows and leaded closer to Kenshin, "That old guy hasnít changed a bit," he whispered.
Okina straightened his kimono and turned to their guests, his arms held wide, "Welcome back my friends! Itís been quite sometime!" He smiled a goofy, lopsided smile as he gazed at each of them, his eyes finally resting on little Kenji. "Who do we have here?"
Misao tugged at his sleeve, lowering her voice, "Donít pick him up gramps, " she motioned to her injured shoulder, pulling down the collar so he could see the imprints of their first meeting.
Okina rolled his eyes and approached the little boy, who fisted a hand into his fatherís hakama.
"Who might you be?" he asked, smiling at the boy, "A mini Himura san indeed!"
Kenshin smiled and patted the boyís head, "This is my son, Himura Kenji."
Okina nodded, standing up, "Thatís for sure, except Iíd say youíre the cleaner of the two." Everyone laughed, except Kenji, who just stood there, his face, hair, and hands covered in chocolate, not certain what everyone thought was so funny.
"Misao gave him some sweets," Kaoru smiled, "Iím afraid he is in desperate need of a bath."
Okina grinned and patted Kenjiís head, "Children will be children. Why, Misao had to take at least three baths a day when she was his age!" The old manís eyes twinkled in mischief, "Now sheís down to about two a day, but we have hope that sheíll some day grow up and only need to bath once a day."
Everyone burst out laughing, except Misao, who clenched her fist in humiliation, "Thatís not funny old man!"
Evening closed rapidly on the Aoiya, the last traces of sunlight slowly fading behind the buildings that lined the streets of Kyoto. The sounds and smells of supper cooking wafted through the air of the Aoiya, causing hungry stomachs to growl and complain in anticipation. Kaoru chopped up vegetables with a sharp cutting knife, being strictly forbidden to actually participate in the cooking part of the dinner preparations. She didnít mind, contented to chat with Misao as she stirred a pot of stew in the corner.
Outside, Yahiko concentrated on some practice swings, while Kenshin engaged his son in a game of chase. Okina and the other members of the Oniwaban, minus Aoshi, sat on the porch, cheering little Kenji on as he desperately tried to capture his father. They all roared with laughter as Kenshin used his god like speed to vanish from his sonís view, only to turn up suddenly behind him, swatting him sharply on the behind.
Kaoru could hear the merry sounds and longed to become a part of it. She quickly finished her kitchen duties, chopping up all the vegetables with amazing speed and excusing herself politely. She walked softly down the hall, finding a quiet place just inside the door to watch the melee going on outside
Watching Kenshin play with children was one of her favorite past times, ever since he came to live at the dojo with her. She wasnít sure why, but maybe it had something to do with the fascination of how such a potentially dangerous man could become so enamored in silly childrenís games. She was convinced he actually enjoyed behaving like a wee child himself, never becoming embarrassed when caught in the midst of a childish game. Any other grown man would not be caught dead doing such ridiculous things, but Kenshin didnít care. He was completely content to chase balls, blow bubbles, draw in the sand, or run around on all fours, laughing and smiling like an idiot the entire time.
"Making up for lost time, perhaps," she thought to herself, knowing her husband had little recollection of his childhood before he was adopted by Hiko and taught to wield a sword.
Children were attracted to her husband, he told her once it was always like that, they followed him around, even as the Hitokiri Battousai, begging him to play with them. Even then he obliged them, though Kaoru found it hard to picture the younger, darker side of Kenshin behaving the way he did now with children, but she didnít doubt him in the least. He was the same man, an undying love of all things innocent and pure.
"They say children can see oneís true heart," she thought quietly, smiling to herself as she thought of the two little girls left back in Tokyo. Ayame and Suzume adopted Kenshin as their brother the minute he stepped foot into the dojo, following him around with unfaltering devotion and love. They engaged him games little girls played, and he never objected, laughing with them, caring for them as if they were his own. They never had any doubts about his character or motives, they understood him better than any of the adults he surrounded himself with.
The bond Kenshin shared with Kenji was very different though, she could see her husbandís chains fall free every time he held, touched, or laughed with his son. Kenji was the keeper of his fatherís newly found joy, while Kenshin was the protector. They were inseperable, tied to each other in more than just blood, but in soul and heart as well, and strangely enough, as young as Kenji was, he seemed to understand this. He was remarkably sensitive to his fatherís moods and needs, so much it made Kaoru envy the relationship they had to some extent. It sometimes seemed as if Kenji could feel his fatherís pains and regrets, and responded to him, offering the healing touch only he possessed. They needed each other, no, Kenshin needed Kenji, the roles reversed somehow.
She chuckled as Kenshin once again disappeared before Kenji, this time hiding out of sight from him, leaving the boy standing in the middle of the yard with a perplexed and frustrated look on his face. Little Kenji would not be so easily defeated, and he remained motionless, his features twisting into intense concentration. His large eyes darkened slightly, and he turned slowly, peering carefully into the shadows of the yard, looking at something only he seemed to be able to see. "You canít hide from him," she thought to herself as Kenji squealed and took off running into the shadows cast by the large gate of the back yard. She heard Kenshin laugh, and the startled gasps of the men on the porch. Kenshin immerged from the shadows, a tiny body attached to his leg, both laughing hysterically as they made their way back to the center of the yard.
"Iím not certain what surprises me more, the Battousai with a child, or the Battousai looking truly at peace with himself," a deep, yet monotone voice said from behind her.
Kaoru turned slightly, her eyes fixing on the tall, dark form of Aoshi. His face remained stoic, impossible to read as he continued to follow her familyís game play, trying to analyze and make sense of what he was actually seeing before him. She shrugged it off, having given up on trying to understand the man a long time ago. He was absolutely impossible read, but she knew she had nothing to fear from him. He was a good and honest man, a true ally in times of need.
"It does seem strange doesnít it," she answered quietly, "But he deserves the peace he now has, doesnít he?"
Aoshi answered her with a grunt and the two of them continued to watch as Kenshin fell to the ground, falling over the small form of Kenji attached to his leg. The boy pounced onto his stomach and proceeded to beat him relentlessly with a small twig. Kenshin put his arms up in front of his face, crying out in mock distress as the brittle stick tickled his wrists with each feather light hit. Kenji giggled maddeningly at his fatherís helplessness, bouncing up and down now on the man's stomach.
"He never did possess a hitokiri heart," Aoshi stated.
Kaoru nodded again in agreement. Her husband may have been the most feared hitokiri in Japan, but he was nothing more than a machine, a tool used during a time of war. His true heart was that of a gentle and compassionate man, but in order to complete his duties, he buried that part of him away. He could not hide his true self away for long though, the guilt and horror of his occupation became too much for his kind heart to bear. He branded himself a monster, untouchable and unhuman, doomed to wander the world and repent for his sins the rest of his life.
Healing was a slow process for Kenshin, the wheels of motion set into spin by Tomoe, his first wife and the woman who showed him a ray of light and hope inside his dark world. Destiny brought him to Kaoruís after ten years of wandering, and inside the gates of the dojo he learned to love again and be loved. The completion came with the birth of Kenji, Kenshinís life finally coming full circle and starting anew once again, but this time through the light inside his childís eyes.
Kaoru smiled as Kenji suddenly yawned big, discarding his brutal weapon and laying his head down upon his fatherís chest, both still lying in the dusty yard of the Aoiya. He was finished playing, too tired to move anymore, the events of the day finally catching up with his young body. Kenshin raised his head slightly to look at his son, smiling, he rubbed the boys back until his eyes closed into sleep.
Kaoru pushed herself away from the wall she was leaning on, turning slightly to Aoshi, "Children heal the heart Aoshi san," she stated, watching the blue eyes that still remained fixed upon child and father. She thought she could see a spark of something in them, maybe envy or regret, but she wasnít certain. She turned away from the man, leaving him with his own thoughts, and went to retrieve husband and child from the yard.