rurouni kenshin was created by watsuki nobuhirou-sensei (C) shueisha JUMP, sony, fuji TV, anime works
notes: gomen nasai, gomen nasai!! it's been a long tim since i wrote another chapter! guess what, no flashbacks in this one! yes, we are far from over this is becoming a very long fanfic! please enjoy! JillM 3/24/02

Come What May
Chapter 11: "The Third Option"

"Yahiko," Kaoru uttered, staring at the spiky boy in front of her, "What's going on? Is something wrong?" He had suddenly stopped and drew his shinai. He looked serious too, like he might attack that man who was crossing their path. Kaoru, trying to understand the situation, took a good look at him. 'Who is this man? Why do I feel like... like I know him from somewhere?'

"Kaoru, stay back!" Yahiko warned in between his teeth, "Leave this to me! Don't go near that guy, okay!"

"What is this?" the man said, coming up to Yahiko. He lifted up his hand and the boy's eyes widened in fear. But it only came down and patted him on the head. "Such an energetic kid, but don't you know playing with swords is dangerous?"

"You..." Yahiko hissed, tightening his handle on the shinai, ready to attack, "This is just a game to you! You who have destroyed lives! As the number one student of Kamiya Kasshin Ryu, I...!"

But his words were swallowed as he was pushed out of the way. Yahiko landed face first into the dirt. His injuries reawakening, he shook with pain. "Gwah!" Looking up, he watched with a pounding heart as the man stepped closer to Kaoru. "NO! KAORU...! RUN!"

But Kaoru wasn't listening to him. "Yahiko! Are you okay?! Sir, why did you push him down! That's awfully rude!" Kaoru felt the shadow over her and looked up. "Ano..." she uttered, forgetting what she was yelling, "You... where do I know you from?"

"Ozawa," he replied, "My name is Ozawa Raiko."

"Gomen nasai... I do not remember you..."

"It won't matter," he replying latching a hand on her wrist. He flipped her hand over and placed a note inside. "You shall remember soon enough... for I am sure you cannot ever forget this."

"Nani?" Kaoru gasped, as the tight grip left her wrist. She looked down and saw that it had left a mark and that she was bleedy. "A-Ano!" But when she looked up, he was gone. 'This man... Ozawa Raiko...' she thought, clutching her wound as a gust of wind passed, 'Who is he...?'

* * * * * * * * * * * *
"KAORUU!!" Kenshin called, walking around the house. Sighing, he stopped and looked around the empty room. "Where did she go? She was just here a moment ago..." He looked down at the saddened child in his arm. "Don't worry, Kenji. I'm sure your mom is all right..."

But Kenshin didn't believe that - not in a time like this. 'Where the hell is she?!' he asked himself, as he frantically searched the area, 'There's that madman out trying to kill her, not to mention other various enemies who have a grudge on the dojo. It doesn't help that she doesn't remember that she has all these enemies, and that she should be more cautious!'

Kenshin's stressful movement had caught onto Kenji, who started to cry.

"Not now, Kenji, please!" he tried coaxing the kid, rocking him back and forth, "Look, your mom is being careless again and we have to find her right away. There is no time to be crying!"

But this only made the situation worse. Kenshin quickly got a hold of himself. 'Just because I messed up and can't find my wife doesn't mean I punish Kenji. I'm usually good with children too... But where could she be??'

Kenshin was so worried that he felt like crying too. He sat down on the step, holding the child, trying to hush him. It ached, not knowing if his other half was safe. He knew that he would be happy to see her when she came back, but also upset for the feeling she had left. He prepared himself not to get too upset when she did get back.

'Of course she's coming back...'

The sound of the gate made him jump. He turned and saw Sanosuke and Keisuke coming towards him, with Megumi trailing. "Oh... it's just you guys..." he mumbled.

"Ken-san, what's that supposed to mean??" Megumi snapped. She placed the wrapped bento onto the floor next to him and took a look around. "Ara? It seems too quiet around here, with the exception of Kenji crying. Where's Kaoru-chan?"

Kenshin gazed down at the weeping child and said with a coarse voice, "S-She's..."

"Tadaima~!" Kaoru's cheerful voice rang out. Everyone turned to see her come through the gate, with Yahiko hanging on her back. "Sorry for stepping out without saying anything. I wanted to get some tofu for us to eat, but this kid had an accident."

"Was not accident, Busu!" Yahiko snarled. At this, Kaoru just shrugged him off and he crumbled onto the ground. "ITEH!! YOU CRUEL WOMAN!!"

"Ara, ara... calm down!" Megumi said, rushing to check on the patient. "What are you doing up? Didn't I tell you to take it easy??"

"Kaoru..." Kenshin uttered, his eyes hiding in his long red hair, "I..."

She walked right up to him and bowed her head. "I'm truly sorry, Kenshin... I didn't mean to stay out so long... I meant for it to be a surprise. Please... forgive me for the trouble I caused."

How could Kenshin say no to this. Already his resistance had broken down and he was succumbing. 'She always has a way with me,' Kenshin sighed, going to smile and pat her on the shoulder. "Daijoubu de gozaru. Kenji and I missed you, but at least you came back."

"Of course I came back. Why wouldn't I??" she laughed.

"Sou ka..." Keisuke uttered, he and Sanosuke watching from the side while eating some of the food that Megumi brough. "That's how it is? Real couples forgive and forget just like that?"

"Heh, seems so." Sanosuke said in between munches, "You and that Shizuka lady are like that. But you still haven't made up after the last fight. Don't you think its time?"

"I don't know what you're talking about. Shizuka and I are not a couple."

"Please! Be a man and admit that you love your woman!"

"Shut up! What do you know!"

"More than you, baka yarou!"

Kenshin and Kaoru stopped to watch those two erupt into a fistfight. "Oro? What happened now?" Kenshin stammered, "They were normal a minute ago..."

"Should we try to break it up?" Kaoru asked, "Someone might get hurt."

Kenshin smiled; he liked how Kaoru would switch from her different roles - this time it was the 'sister' type. He knew that Kaoru really cared for both Sanosuke and Keisuke, but he believed in his heart that it was totally different from the way she cared for him.

"Ne, Kenshin..." Kaoru slowly reached out her arms, implying that she wanted to hold the baby. Kenshin nodded and helped her with Kenji. The two of them settled on the step, feeling a bit of security. However...

"Oi! Kaoru, aren't you going to tell him?" Yahiko hollered, pushing himself away from the mischievous doctor, "Or are you just going to sit there and pretend it didn't happen??"

"What happened?" Kenshin asked, feeling concerned, "Tell me what?"

"I don't think it's anything," Kaoru replied, "We were walking on the road and we met with this rude person, who knocked Yahiko down. He then gave me this note and left."

"A note de gozaru... Can I see??"

"Sure, of course." Kaoru said, handing it to him without any reluctance. "I don't understand what it means, so I didn't think it had any importance."

Kenshin squinted at the characters. "You can only pick the third option... Oro? What does this mean? Kaoru, who was this person?"

"He introduced himself as Ozawa Raiko..."

"NANI!?" Kenshin cried. At the mention of this name, Sanosuke and Keisuke both stopped fighting and stared towards them. Kenshin stood, a grave look on his face as he grabbed Kaoru by the shoulders, "W-Where did you see him! What else did he say to you!?"

"K-Kenshin...?!" Kaoru stammered, a little frightened by his reaction. His eyes were flickering yellow, "W-Why are you...?"

"Just answer the damn question!!" Kenshin, or rather, the Battousai, snapped. Just the thought of this man coming near her made him so angry he wanted to go on a bloody spree. 'That man... Ozawa... how dare he approach Kaoru - especially with her defenses low! I will defeat him this time! For good!'

But Kenshin realized what he had done. Kaoru, in shock of his reaction and his forcefulness, was now crying. She was now frightened of him. She then broke away from him and raced into the house.

"Kaoru..." Kenshin stammered. He felt a fist hammer him on the head. "ORO!"

Behind him, Keisuke let out a sigh. "Himura, you forget that Kaoru-chan is still trying to get comfortable around you. She doesn't know Battousai or about your mood swings."

"I know... I really screwed up this time. Look, I better go in there and explain this all to her, before I make another mistake." Kenshin said, ready to go. But he stopped and stared at the note in his hand. "Yet, what does this mean? What is the third option?"

Sanosuke nodded. "And what the hell was the first and second option??"

Yahiko replied, "Come to think of it, Ozawa told Kaoru that she should remember this... But I don't think he knows that she has memory loss."

"Maybe it's better Kaoru-chan doesn't remember," Megumi noted, "If she does, I feel something terrible is going to happen."

"Sou de gozaru..." Kenshin sighed. "I'm going to go talk to her. Please, wish me luck. I don't think she'll be happy to hear all that I have been hiding from her."

While the nervous swordsman steered closer to his fateful encounter, the others huddled together. "What do you suppose that third option is?"

"I know!" said a voice. All eyes turned to the gate. There, Shizuka stood with Tsubame at her side, "I remember what it was."

"Yoshi! Way to go, Shizuka!" Keisuke gasped, "Come on and tell us already!"

"T-That is... well..." Shizuka stammered. Her face flinched at the meaning of the words she remembered it was defined by. Slowly her mouth opened to say the words, but...

"KYAAAAAA!!!" Tsubame found herself binded by a strong arm, the other reaching for Shizuka. "YAHIKO!! HELP!!"

Yahiko leapt on his feet, kenki fired. "OZAWA!!! Let them go!!" he growled, ready to pounce him, "Dammit, I'm warning you!!"

"What's going on here?!" Kenshin cried, he and Kaoru stepping outside. He hadn't the time to say anything to her before all this commotion started. "Ozawa..." Kenshin hissed, his eyes flickering. "Damn you!"

"Shizuka-san! Tsubame-chan!" Kaoru cried, "W-What are you going to do with them?!"

"Kaoru-chan, don't worry about me!" Shizuka called out, "Please, whatever happens, don't let this monster near you! Don't let him win! Understand?!"

Ozawa silenced the woman out with a fist to her skull. "Shizuka-san!!" Kaoru cried as the woman fell unconscious, blood dripping down from her head. "Y-You...!"

Kenshin clasped her hand. He knew he couldn't let Kaoru get angry, to let her lose herself in emotion at a time like this - especially when he was already on edge. Kaoru felt the hold and started to calm herself down, trying to think more rationally. But she kept staring at that man, his eyes dancing with delight.

"You people know what I want..." Ozawa said, "I'll take these two to guarantee it. Please don't keep me waiting. You know where I'll be. But that is if you survive the test. Tomorrow, my friends will pay you a visit. If the dojo still stands and if you are still well enough to fight, I'll be waiting for your decision."

A carriage pulled up right outside and Ozawa leapt on, with the unconscious Shizuka and the screaming Tsubame. When it took off, Keisuke and Yahiko broke into a run, chasing down the speeding carriage.



The two of them couldn’t catch it and broke down panting in the road. “Oi,” Sanosuke said, having gone after them with more ease, “You two… Kenshin said we better prepare.”

The two nodded, very angry by what had happened. But there was nothing they could do, but abide by the plan.

* * * * * * * * * * * *
“And that’s everything…” Kenshin said, having explained to Kaoru what exactly was going on. She sat there, looking a bit stunned. Her eyes were large and couldn’t blink. Kenshin looked at her with worry, slowly reaching for her. “Kaoru-koishii, ore…”

She quickly pushed him away. “No… I… I can’t believe this… Any of this…! W-Why did you say such things? What is the meaning of this… BATTOUSAI??”

”Kaoru… Because I was the Battousai, you’re not going to hold that against me are you?”

“No, but why didn’t you tell me sooner? Why did you try to hide it from me?? Why did you hide all of this from me?!”

”Because…” he said, facing her. There was always one real reason: he wanted to protect her. If not protect her from the bad memories and the dark past, then it was to protect her from herself. “Kaoru, you don’t know how long it took you to get over this… You almost thought about killing yourself.”

”Why the hell would I do something stupid like that now!” she exclaimed, “I have the dojo to care for, I have a child… and I have you! Can’t you see!? I have every reason to be alive… I’m so lucky! Don’t you understand!? Whatever the situation, I can keep going because I know someone will be right there with me! I’m not alone!”

Kenshin couldn’t speak. Despite memory lost, Kaoru was still the same person. Yet, even so, he still underestimated her strength and wanted to protect her at all costs.

‘Because… I couldn’t bear losing her…’

“Kaoru…” he said, reaching for her again. This time she didn’t move but let him come. She did this so nervously because she still felt like he was almost a stranger, a person she had been living with but had been lying to her. “I’m sorry for not telling you right away. I’m sorry I cannot let you fight this one. You promised me, it would be my battle and my own. That’s why I left on that journey. Because you trusted me, and you believed in me.”

”But… why can’t I at least be present? Why can’t I stay by your side? Or even help get Shizuka-san and Tsubame-chan back? Why won’t you believe in me??”

”It’s different right now. You heard what Ozawa is capable of, but you still do not know. And I don’t want you to know, ever again.” He said, holding her close. He felt her breathing and heartbeat speed up. ‘I’ve held her many times, but right now it is new to her. I better be careful not to scare her.’

“Kenshin, I understand.” she replied, unable to move in his arms, “I-I’m sorry for getting upset.”

”Don’t be… I’d rather you be honest with me, even though I have not been lately. I will try from now on to be. But please, leave the fighting to us. Do not interfere.”

”I will try…”

”Promise me.”

Kaoru lifted her face to his. There were pleading in his lovely violet eyes. And something else… Kaoru noticed that he moving towards her, reaching for her lips.

“Aa!” Kaoru pushed away from him, blushing. “Dame desu! N-No, that’s too much!”

”Orororororo…” Kenshin was lying on the floor, having hit his head against the wall. Suddenly the door open. “Sano… don’t tell me…”

”Hehehe, that was fun to watch.” chuckled Sanosuke as he led everyone inside the room. “We’re ready for the briefing.”

”All right,” Kenshin said. He then turned to the doctor, “Could you take Kaoru into another room with Kenji. Please, Megumi-dono.”

”Hai hai,” Megumi sighed, taking Kaoru by the hand and carrying Kenji with the other, “I thought we were through with these old fashion conventions of leaving women and children out… hmp!”

As the door was closing, Kaoru looked towards Kenshin’s unremorseful face. She slowly gave up and went with Megumi.

* * * * * * * * * * *
‘Doesn’t he understand… No matter what happens… I will… stand by him…’

Kaoru paced back and forth in the moonlight. Kenji had fallen asleep with Megumi, the two of them curled up in the room. Kaoru wanted the fresh air and to clear her head.

‘After hearing what happened to my mother… what happened to me in these past couple years… I think I should be stronger. I think I should be more useful, than just standing around and waiting… I hate waiting!’

Kaoru kicked over a barrel and sat down on the step. She felt reminded of those days when her father would kick her outside when she was bad. On those nights, she was supposed to think about what she did wrong and start the next day more disciplined.

‘Tomorrow… those men will attack. And then, another battle will begin… for the lives of Shizuka-san, Tsubame-san… and that comrade of Kenshin’s… For our own lives… Does every day have to be full of fighting? Will there ever be a way for it to end…?’

Kaoru blinked her eyes. Those words had snapped something in her memory. Slowly her eyes widened at the words that kept repeating in her mind.

‘The third option… I… I know what it is…!’

Standing, she felt her hands shake. The third option, the option that was never taken… the reason why this battle still continues.

Kaoru moved towards the room she saw Kenshin go inside. She gently knocked on the door, but went inside soon after. She saw him sleeping on the futon without a blanket. He had a troubled face as he thought about the events that will have to take place.

‘The third option… it is the only way to stop this…’

She knelt by his side, slowly touching his face. Her fingertips met with his scar and caused him to shiver in his sleep. Kaoru took the blanket and tucked him in, watching him sleep. She started to feel sleepy herself.

‘Even though we are like strangers…’ she thought as she climbed into the futon and rested herself against him. ‘I feel like there is something binding me to you… I will put all my trust and hope into you… but… the third option is the only way to truly end the nightmare…’

Kenshin opened his eyes for a brief second to see Kaoru with him. He slowly smiled and went back to sleep. ‘Tomorrow, we shall see…’

onto ch.12
back to ch.10