Rurouni Kenshin was created by Watsuki Nobuhiro; all rights reserved to Sony, Shueisha JUMP, & Anime Works. Jill is an absolute "Kenshin&Kaoru" fan, so rest assured! Haven't you all noticed just by looking around my site? No? Oh, well now you know! ^_^
First up: 9/28/00; revisions: 2/7/1

Part 10: "The Changing Seasons"

Kaoru was lying in bed, her pillow soaked with tears. Outside the autumn cold winds were howling and it was raining hard. Her surroundings barely meant anything to her. In her mind, the scene kept replaying over and over.

‘Please forget about me… Thank you for everything… I have to leave… Good-bye…’

All she could do was cry. “Ken…shin…”

* * *
“DAMN THAT KENSHIN!” Sanosuke yelled, “How could he just leave without me again!? I’m going to Kyoto to kick his ass!” It was the two mornings later and he was at the Akebeko, knocking over the tables.

Tae exclaimed, “S-Sanosuke! Please don’t destroy my restaurant! Take it outside, will you!”

Tsubame hid behind her tray and uttered, “Kowai…”

Megumi stood a distance away in deep thought. “I see, so Ken-san really left without telling anyone?”

Yahiko pointed out, “Actually, I heard that before he skipped town, he stopped by the apartment and said ‘goodbye’ to Kaoru.”

“Nani?” she said in surprise, “Where is the girl now?”

Tae uttered, “She called in sick yesterday. She sounded like someone with a broken spirit. She could barely speak on the phone. Maybe today, we could go check on her, to see if she’s all right.”

Tsubame nodded. “I really want to do that. But will we be able to cheer up Kaoru-san?”

“We have to, Tsubame-chan. It would be something that Kaoru-chan would do for any of us. Well as soon as the morning crew arrives, we all can go together.”

* * *
Kaoru had left her room. She sat on Kenshin’s couch, staring out the window, wearing an oversized white polo and sweat pants. Her face was tear-stained and her cheeks were pale. She hadn’t slept. She hadn’t eaten since that terrible dinner she cooked two days ago. Pain surged all over her body; she ached from head to toe. More importantly, it ached in her heart. ‘Kenshin…’

Her fuzzy vision saw the door open. Inside, she hoped that it was Kenshin, coming to hold her again, to take away the pain. But it wasn’t him. It was Tomoe. “Himura-san sent me to gather the rest of his things.” she explained, trying to make eye contact. But it was as if she was speaking to a corpse. Where had the life gone? Despite the lack of conversation, she continued to speak. “Well, it won’t take long. I will leave a note for the landlord to give away or donate the large furniture. Unless you would…”

The door suddenly opened. The movers had arrived and started to carry each of the boxes away. Kaoru didn’t seem to care. She continued to gaze out the window as if in a trance. Tomoe gathered up all the clothing from the drawers and put them in a suitcase. She then turned to look at the shirt Kaoru was wearing. It had been one of Kenshin’s old polos. Kaoru clutched at it, breathing in his scent. Tomoe nodded to herself.

“I suppose I will let you keep that. But that’s everything. I shall be going then.” She picked up the final suitcase full of clothes, and then went for the door. At the last moment, she turned back and stared at Kaoru. “Cherish your first love. Never forget him.” Kaoru didn’t even flinch. She just closed her eyes, curling up on the couch. “Gomenasai, Kaoru-kun…”

With that Tomoe went out into the hallway. Tae and the others had just come up the steps. They were very surprised to see her. Tsubame was the only one able to speak. “Ano… Tomoe-san… what are you doing here?”

“Just came to pick up Himura-san’s things.”

“Aa, sou ka. We’re here to see Kaoru-san.”

“You’ll find her in Himura-san’s apartment.”

“Arigatou, Tomoe-san.”

Megumi couldn’t take it any more. “What are you thanking her for? Although I admit she’s a more worthy adversary than that Raccoon Girl, she’s the one who brought Ken-san away from us!” She turned to the calm woman before her. “I don’t know what you said to him or what you said to that girl in there, but I absolutely won’t forgive you for it!”

“That is fine with me. Hate me all you like, but please understand, this is not about me. It’s about people’s lives and you know very well that Himura-san cannot allow unnecessary bloodshed. He will do all he can to help…”

“Even to the point of death.” Megumi finished her sentence, “We know that! Ken-san is much too kind for his own good. And you’re going to let him just go out there and be killed?”

A voice interrupted, “That’s enough, Megumi-san.” They all turned to see Kaoru standing in the doorway, looking as if she had slightly waken from her daze. She stared directly at Megumi and continued, “Kenshin had to leave. He won’t not be coming back to us, but this wasn’t Tomoe-san’s fault.”

“You’re right. It’s your fault, Raccoon-girl.”

“How is this my fault?”

“Yes, it’s your fault!” she snapped, “You were the one who could have talked him into staying, but you did nothing. Honestly, you are a useless person!”

“Dame, Megumi-san!” Tae begged. She looked over at Kaoru with worry. “Don’t say any more.”

Kaoru shook her head. “Iie, Megumi-san’s right. I admit I could have said something. But I… I was too afraid. Kenshin is gone and I couldn’t do anything. Minna, please forgive me... I’m really sorry.” Bursting into tears, she rushed into Kenshin’s apartment and closed the door.

Sanosuke muttered, “Nice going, Fox! We came here to cheer her up, not make things worse!”

Megumi frowned. “I was trying to…“

“F--k things up more than they already were! Kuso! What were you thinking!”

“You shut up, Tori Atama! You think I’m glad of what happened?! At least Ken-san said good-bye to her; she should be more grateful and quit being a cry-baby!”

“But don’t you realize? You’re more upset that he didn’t say good-bye to you; but she’s upset that he left at all.” Sanosuke’s reasoning had surprised Megumi. She was speechless.

Tomoe tried to use this distraction to make her escape, but Yahiko caught her before she reached the stairs. “Wait a minute, Lady! I want to know where is Kenshin now!”

“I am afraid I cannot tell you. It’s classified. Besides, Himura-san would not wish to see any of you there.”

Yahiko instantly forgot his manners. “Why the hell not!?”

“He asked me not to tell you. You see, all of you would only get in the way. Each one of you are his weaknesses and he cannot fight my brother if he has to worry about protecting others.

Sanosuke heard this and shoved Megumi aside. “Weakness?! F--ck that! I won’t let him get away with this shit! I’m going anyway no matter what that asshole Kenshin or what you say! I’m going to Kyoto!”

Tomoe simply replied, “Listen to me. It would hurt him if anything happen to any of you.” She turned to leave with the final suitcase. “Please someone explain that to Kaoru-kun.”

After Tomoe had gone, the five fell silent. What were they going to do? Kenshin was gone. Kaoru was falling apart. And they felt helpless. Outside, Tomoe turned back towards the apartment, clutching the suitcase, before entering the van parked outside. “Those people really care about Himura-san. They are almost like his family… But it is all for the better. Really it is. I hope they come to understand…”

* * *
Tomoe arrived back in Kyoto later that evening, walking into her house. It was rather large for someone living by themselves, but she had visitors staying. Looking into the parlor, she saw Kenshin sitting on the couch, looking like he was tired. “Okaeri nasai.” she said, placing the suitcase on the floor, “The rest of your stuff is in the hallway. Where did Saitou-san go?”

“He had to stop by the police station. We ran into your brother today.” he wearily rested his head in his hands, one of which were bandaged. He didn’t say any more.

Tomoe saw that the exhaustion in his voice only meant that things did not go well. “I’ll go make dinner.” she said, leaving to the kitchen. After cooking enough food for three, she brought it out to the table. Then the two sat at the table and ate silently. Kenshin didn’t eat a lot then retired to the room he was using. Tomoe started to clear the table when Saitou arrived. “What exactly happened today?”

Saitou sat down and lit a cigarette, looking for something to use as an ashtray. “We ran into your brother, but he wasn’t going to let us off easy. He sent a large man with a metal hand at us. Apparently, Battousai had cut off his real one couple years ago…”

Saitou flashbacked to the fight scene outside the police station, where her brother had came to ‘welcome Battousai’. The large man glared at Kenshin. “Battousai! You were the one who cut off my hand! You’re going to pay for it!”

Kenshin uttered, “I feel terrible about the past. Do as you like if it makes you feel better.” He ducked in time to miss the first blow but was caught as he was trying to get up. Trapped in the metal hand, Kenshin couldn’t move. “Aaarghh!”

“Damn.” Saitou muttered as he saw Kenshin struggling. He leapt up in the air and sliced at the giant man, who let out a scream and let Kenshin go. “Now to finish you off…” he uttered, going for the kill.

Kenshin got up and ran between them. “No, Saitou don’t… I don’t want anyone to die in front of me… “

“Shut up!” Saitou growled, trying to hit Kenshin away. Kenshin just grabbed the blade. “Bastard! What’s wrong with you!!” In the corner of his eye, he saw Yukishirou making his escape. “Shit!”

“We questioned the giant guy…” Saitou told Tomoe, “He said that your brother was planning on moving his base. We’re planning an assault. I’m hoping that Battousai would get it together by then…”

“I see.” she said, “Then Himura-san isn’t ready to face my brother yet?”

“I don’t think so.” Saitou muttered, shaking ash onto a plate, “The bastard could care less if his adversaries killed him. He has no regard for his own life… Completely useless.” Disgusted with this concept, Saitou went to go smoke at the window, leaving Tomoe to clear the table.

* * *
In Tokyo, Kaoru sat at the window in Kenshin’s apartment. Just sat, staring at the empty room. The heavy rain was streaming down the glass window and the trees were bare. She felt a cold shiver as she leaned her head against the glass. ‘I can’t go on like this…’ she thought, hugging her kneels, ‘Kenshin, how could I forget you? Even if you’re gone… even if all those moments we shared are gone… I still…’

Just then, she heard the wind chime outside. Tomoe hadn’t taken it with her. It still remained, hanging outside, swinging recklessly in the wind. She lifted her head, the chimes becoming louder… and louder. “MOU!” she uttered, opening the window and climbing out onto the fire escape. “That stupid wind chime! Kenshin, you said you’d cherish it forever. Forever!” She climbed onto the railing to try to reach it, “There’s no such thing as forever.” Her tears were mingling with the rain, “No such thing!”

Meanwhile, Megumi had entered the apartment. Shaking her umbrella, she looked around. “Hm? I thought for sure she’d be here. Oh, the window’s open…” She went over and closed it. “Well, I’ll go check her place then.” With that, she left, closing the door.

“EH?!” Kaoru saw that she was locked out. “HEY! Somebody!” She started banging on the window, her free hand holding onto the wind chime. “LET ME IN!”

Megumi opened the door. “Forgot my umbrella… there it is!” she said, going to pick it up. She then saw Kaoru at the window, frantic and soaking wet. “Oh my!”

After bringing her in and giving her dry clothes, Megumi made her hot tea. “Arigatou,” Kaoru uttered, with a sneeze. Her hair was wet and she was still shivering even though she had three blankets on.

“Really! What were you doing? You won’t be any good to anyone if you’re sick!” Megumi scolded, taking her temperature.

“I really am useless either way.” Kaoru sighed into her mug. Megumi looked her over. Although it seemed she seemed a bit healthier now that she had something in her system, Kaoru still wasn’t the same. “So what did you come here for, Megumi-san?”

“I came to laugh at the woman who was dumped by Ken-san. Hohoho!”

Despite her lack of energy, Kaoru willed herself to protest, “Shut up! You don’t know how I feel! You don’t know how it felt to hear him say ‘Good-bye’ to my face!”

Megumi simply replied, “You don’t know what it feels not to be told good-bye.”

Hearing this, Kaoru stopped. It was the first time she realized that she was the only one Kenshin said good-bye to. He hadn’t bothered with anyone else, but her. Only her. Kenshin’s words were ringing her ears. ‘I had to keep my promise to you… and also I had to see you one last time…’ The wind chime slipped through her fingers and fell on the floor.

Megumi crossed her arms. “You should think before you speak, Raccoon-girl. You really are a selfish girl who only thinks about herself. I don’t know what Ken-san ever saw in you.”

“I know,” Kaoru sniffled, kneeling down to stare at the cracked wind chime, carrying warm memories of a summer with Kenshin. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s true, a Raccoon girl like you is no replacement for Tomoe-san.” Megumi paused, and kneeled next to her, “But then again, she’s no replacement for you.” Kaoru lifted her head in surprise. Megumi put a hand on the side of her face. “If you give up now, it will be over. If you wait for him… someday surely…”

“Megumi-san…” she cried, “But w-what if he doesn’t…!”

“Who cares about the ‘what it’? If you don’t give it all you got, then every bit of hope is lost. He might reject you again; he might not. You’ll never know if you don’t try!” As soon as she had stopped talking, Kaoru lunged forward and hugged her. Megumi let out a sigh, “Really, you little girl, I’m getting very tried of your unconfident attitude.”

Kaoru didn’t seem to hear that last comment, but uttered into her shoulder, “Thank you Megumi-san…Arigato…”

* * *
Tomoe sat at her dresser, opening up her keepsake box. It was full of photographs… from the past. Closing her ruby eyes, she paused to remember last Saturday. She and Kenshin were walking back from the grocery store in Tokyo.

“So what would you like to have for dinner…” she was asking. She stopped to notice that Kenshin had stopped at a window. She walked over to see what he was looking at. They were in front of the Maekawa Self-Defense School.

Inside, Kaoru was teaching. Apparently, Yahiko and his partner had gotten into a quarrel and she was separating them. “Boys! Behave!” she scolded, holding them both by the back of their collars.

Tomoe watched Kenshin. He had a humored smile on his face; also a look of longing… and love. This girl might not have been his girlfriend, but Tomoe could tell she was important to him. It worried her that Kenshin hadn't said anything, that this girl was oblivious. “The two of you haven’t talked in a week?”

“Aa…” he sighed, turning away from the window. He started to walk off. “Sessha is going to run across the street to pick up a newspaper. Be right back de gozaru.”

After Kenshin had left, Tomoe slipped inside the school and watched from the lobby. Kaoru was lecturing the class. “Now tell me, what is important about taking this class?”

“To learn how to beat up people!” Yahiko chimed. She glared at him. “Ehehe, just kidding! The truth is 'to become strong enough to protect other people' … especially those I care about!” He blushed as he stared past her towards Tsubame.

Kaoru crossed her arms, half-satisfied by his answer. “Before you can think about protecting others, you forget your number one priority - protecting yourself. How could you possibly think about being there for those you care for, if you lose your life? Your life is as precious as everyone else’s; you are irreplaceable. Nothing good will come out of fighting to the death or sacrificing your life. It’ll only hurt those you leave behind. It’s a one-sided solution. That’s why we’re all going to learn not only how to protect others, but our selves, so we won’t worry our loved ones!”

The class all nodded their heads, feeling more inspired than before. Kaoru smiled cheerfully, then continued with the lesson. Tomoe saw that Kenshin was coming back, so she left.

‘Kaoru-kun’s thinking reminds me… she reminds me of…’

Tomoe looked at the photo clasped in her hands. Her mind drifted to a warm summer afternoon. Bathed in the sunlight, she and a man were sitting on the grass, eating sandwiches and iced tea for lunch.

“Tomoe-chan, you make me so happy!” the man cheerfully said, a smile bright on his face. Tomoe stared to the ground, not saying a word. The man couldn’t stand the silence. “I sometimes wonder what good I am to you. I don’t have a good income nor am I strong enough to protect you… but I’m doing my best. Still all I could ever do is make you upset or sad… I don’t know what I’m doing wrong…”

She clutched at the grass, unable to find words to match his. To find the smile to match his. Confused and frustrated, she lifted her face to his. “Kiyosato-kun…”

Even though there were tears in his eyes, he smiled still. “I know it sounds selfish, but I don’t think I want to be separated from you. I-I want to be with you… always!”

Tomoe sighed at the photo. “Akira… you were so filled of life. Demo… it’s because me… Gomen.” A tear splattered onto the photo, her own words echoing in her mind,

‘Cherish your first love. Never forget him…’

Back to Part 9
Onto Part 11