Rurouni Kenshin is by Watsuki-sensei; all rights reserved Shueisha JUMP, Sony, Fuji TV, Anime Works
Fanfic notes: Minna-san, konbawa! The long week-end has ! Sigh! I hope you enjoy this chapter, a few clues, tempers rising, and more excessive cursing. Send over your comments, questions, and so forth. Jaa ne! Jill 2/20/1

Part 4 - "Pass You By"

It was in the middle of the night when Tsubame awoke by a cry of pain. She sat up and saw that Kaoru was gone from the camp, “K-Kaoru-san?! Where did she go!?” She pulled herself up and looked around the camp, the put out fire and the snoring two boys a good distance away. Again she heard the faint cry. “KAORU-SAN!?!”

”Oh…huh…wha…?” Yahiko and Sanosuke murmured, lifting their heads. They sleepily saw Tsubame running into the forest then struggled to get up, only to trip over each other. “OI! Out of my way!! TEME!!”

‘Kaoru-san?! Where did you go!? What’s going on!?’ Tsubame thought, running in the darkness, brief glimpses of moonlight hitting her. She finally came to a clearing, the sight of blood stopping her. “Kaoru-san…”

The woman was lying on the ground, the blanket tangled around her neck, one end tied to the branch above, red coming out of her mouth as she gasped, her eyes tightly clenched. “Da…me… Aaag!!… I… can’t … breath… d-dame…!” she feverishly uttered, pulling at the cloth.

“IYAAA!!” Tsubame screamed, kneeling to her, pulling at the tightly woven cloth, “Please hang on… I’m trying!!” Behind them, Sanosuke and Yahiko had arrived, just as shocked as she was, “Somebody… Someone help me!!! PLEASE!!!”

“OH!!” Yahiko acted fast and unleashed the sakabatou, swinging it to cut the blanket. Sanosuke went to work to loosening the cloth until Kaoru could feel air into her lungs again, while Tsubame sobbed into her hands off to the side. Yahiko angrily turned away from the tree and back towards Kaoru, “What the HELL were you doing, Kaoru?!!”

Sanosuke got up, “What’dya mean, Brat?! You think Jou-chan did this to herself?!”

”Damn right I do! That girl has been on edge since Kenshin walked out on her– she’s tried before and she’s doing it again!!” Yahiko snapped, looking back at the gasping Kaoru, “DAMMIT!! You scared the hell out of me – and look what you’re doing to Tsubame!! You selfish bitch – you don’t give a damn about anyone other than yourself… that’s why Kenshin left you! That’s why we’re in this f--king mess!! AARG!! You make so mad!!!”

Unable to take anymore, he lifted his hand to smack her, but he was stopped by Sanosuke grabbing onto his wrist. “That’s enough, Kid… she doesn’t need to hear from you.”

”I am NOT a kid! I’m thirteen years old, already an adult! And I sure as hell don’t need her anymore! I’ve learned all there is to know about Kasshin Ryu, she’s no longer my teacher! And I didn’t want to come in the first place – she dragged me on this hopeless journey just because she wants to share her misery! But we’re f--king going nowhere no thanks to her!”

“YAMERO!! YOU’RE STILL A LITTLE PUNK TO ME!!” Sanosuke punched him in the face and this started a fist brawl between him and Yahiko, the two of them beating endlessly on each other. Yahiko, though not as strong as Sanosuke, still gave it his all, not quitting for a moment. The senseless violence seemed to last forever.

“DAME!!” Tsubame cried, getting their attentions finally. She wiped the tears from her eyes and uttered, “Mou, stop it… it’s late and we shouldn’t fight each other… Could someone please help me with Kaoru-san…?”

Kaoru shook her head, pulling herself up, “Iie, I can handle it on my own…” she said quietly, stumbling a little. Tsubame quickly took her arm and supported her, the two of them wandering back to camp.

Sanosuke lifted his face. He sensed there was a presence in the woods, watching them. ‘How did Jou-chan been able to loop that blanket from down here to hang herself… could there be…’ But his thoughts were cut off by a fist coming to his face. The impact actually hurt, a tooth coming loose and falling out of his mouth. Holding the pearly white tooth, he glared at the passing teenager in front of him, “I ain’t over with you yet…”

”Aa… I hope not. Cross my path again, and I swear…” Yahiko picked up the sakabatou and started walking back to camp, “Just watch your back, Sanosuke.”

* * *
They were able to reach the next village by afternoon. In town there was a bar-slash-pharmacy with a hotel on top. Inside, they stopped for lunch, as Sanosuke and Kaoru questioned the owner.

“Aa, there was a man and woman here of that description.” he replied, “The man was asking about where he could find medicine that could cure mushroom poisons. I directed him to the mountain path to get me the needed medicinal herbs for me to make the anecdote…”

”Has he returned yet?” Sanosuke asked, putting aside his sake. The owner shook his head. “Yokkata!! Jou-chan did you hear?! He’ll be coming back here for sure!”

Kaoru was staring into her cup, “Ano, Mister… do you know why he needed the medicine? Was one of them sick?”

”Iya, they both looked very healthy to me… although the woman looked a bit tired. I assume she’s not used to the traveling, but the man was very kind and attentive towards her. They spent the night upstairs before leaving in the morning.”

”Sou desu ka.” she uttered, bowing her head, “Arigatou, Mister, for your all information. It’s helped a lot.”

She and Sanosuke then went back to the others, who were already eating. “Well?” Yahiko asked, his mouth full of food, “What now?”

”We stay here till Kenshin gets his ass back here.” Sanosuke said, slamming his fist into the palm of his hand, “Heh, I can’t wait to bash his damn skull in!! One ipatsu coming up!”

Tsubame didn’t know why she felt a little relief. “Kaoru-san, isn’t that good news?” She stopped for a second, reading the signs in her expression, “Ano, is something wrong??”

Kaoru was clutching the chair, her face very troubled, “I…I feel nauseous all of a sudden…” Sanosuke quickly caught hold of her waist and held her up as she almost fell over. She then pushed him away from her, covering her mouth and running outside.

Moments later, the men stood at the door as Tsubame stood near her as she threw up into a trash pile. Yahiko uttered, “Kaoru, what is happened to you? Your spirit, your mind… your body… all of it’s breaking down…”

”Aa, we’ve got to find that bastard fast. He’s the only one who can undo this.” Sanosuke snarled, turning back into the bar, urging Yahiko to follow him.

* * *
They sat in the bar and waited. Waited and waited, until it was dark out. Tsubame turned towards the clock on the wall. “Ano, I wonder when they’re coming…”

Yahiko rubbed his chin, “Are you sure they’re coming? Or are we just wasting our time?! Naa, what do you think Sanosuke??”

”Shut up, Brat!” Sanosuke muttered into his sake, “I don’t know when they’re getting here! Quit bothering me like every ten minutes!! Otherwise I’m gonna strangle you!!”

”OI! Say that again to my face, Asshole!!!”

Tsubame waved her hands at them frantically, “Maa, please don’t argue! It’s too late for this!” She looked around the somewhat deserted bar. There was a quartet of old men sitting at the counter, smoking. The owner, being the only bartender and not having much business, had fallen asleep.

She watched Kaoru from the corner of her eye. After what happened that afternoon, she hadn’t touched any food or barely said a word. She sat at the table, looking ready to cry. ‘What is happening to you… I can’t understand… why to you? Doushite?’ Tsubame then reached her hand over and covered hers, making Kaoru lift her head.

“Nee, Kaoru-san, should we go ask for the room to rest in? It’s already late in the evening…”

Yahiko threw down the payment for their food, “I heard the room upstairs is already occupied. We’re gonna have to find some other place to stay for the night.”

Sanosuke crossed his arms, “But aren’t we gonna stay put?! I mean Kenshin could show up any moment!!”

”Shut up! It’s late and we’re all tired! We’ve been sitting around doing nothing for five hours when we could’ve covered some road! By the looks of it, I don’t think he’s gonna show his ugly face after all!” Yahiko snarled, Sanosuke grabbing him by the collar, ready for another fight.

Tsubame intervened again, “I’d have to agree with Yahiko-kun. It doesn’t look like Kenshin-san is coming. And we’re not doing anything right now and everyone is tired. There might be another hotel in town. Let’s go look for it.”

She, Kaoru, and Yahiko finally got up. After a pause, Sanosuke went to follow them. As the four of them exited the bar, a carriage passed behind them. On the other side, Kenshin and the woman were arriving. They turned straight for the bar.

“So tired de gozaru…”

”Aa,” Kenshin agreed. He stopped and lifted his head, Kaoru’s fragrance hitting him. The sweet scent filled his senses and he wasn’t able to move for the moment. ‘Naze?’ he wondered, his eyes wide. But then the smell of cigarette smoke and sake drowned out the sweet smell, his reality being blotted out, ‘I was just imagining…’

“Maa, I’ll bring the herbs to the owner and…” The woman stopped, frowning, “Oh, he seems to be asleep. What do we do now?”

”We lost a lot of time getting up that mountain…” he replied, rubbing his chin, “It’s best we continue out tonight without stopping to make up the lost time. We can take short breaks and such de gozaru… daga, we have to reach our destination on time, de gozaru na?”

”Hai.” she said with a nod, “I hope I’m not slowing you down.”

”Iya,” he said with a smile, lifting a hand to her cheek, “Your face encourages sessha. Daijoubu – we will make it on time and sessha will figure out the anecdote de gozaru.”

She smiled slightly down at him, lowering his hand away, “Demo… I still feel… how you ended things with your friends… with your wife…”

Kenshin turned for the door, shaking his head, “Don’t talk about those people anymore de gozaru. It’s better sessha left them like that, never to see them again…”

He started to walk out the door, but the woman stopped, staring at the back of his head. After a pause, she finally called out in a somewhat upset voice, “SHINTA!”

Kenshin stopped and turned towards hers, “Oro?”

She grabbed him by the collar and shook him a little, “Stop being so insensitive! I just can’t believe you’ve stopped caring for all of them! Especially for your wife!”

He removed her hand from his blue gi and stared at the floor, “Sessha will forget about her soon. All sessha can do is forget and throw away the past… that way, she will finally forget about sessha.”

”Shinta…” she uttered, but he pulled her into a hug. The two of them remained in the doorway for a little bit in each other’s arms, before continuing down the road into darkness.

Back to Part 3
Onto Part 5