Love: A Rurouni Kenshin Fanfic
First draft of Unlikely Love, 6/2000..
Chapter 5: One Down
They were alone in the room. The clatter of dishes being washed, along with the encouragement needed to get the job done could be heard in a dull roar from the kitchen."What did you want to talk about, Himura," Enishi said finally. Kenshin looked down at the table and took a sip of tea. Enishi didn't rush him; he could see he was forming his sentences carefully in his mind."Misao-dono," He said softly.
"What about her?" Enishi asked in surprise."Actually, it's more about Aoshi," Kenshin corrected. He set his empty tea cup down and turned to face Enishi. "You should know this, he's very protective. He lost four of his best friends, almost killed another and I'm sure that he always fears for Misao's life. He is a man that walks on the edge, and I wouldn't want to be the one to push him over." He emphasised this last statement with a small glare.
"Why would he need to protect her?" Enishi asked languidly, reaching for a cup of sake he'd poured but didn't drink. He had picked up that habit from Otomi; no drinking in front of Iida. "She seems to do fine on her own to me.""She may be doing fine, but Aoshi needs to pay Misao-dono back a favor. She may not even know that he's paying her back.""What favor would that be?" Enishi raised his eyebrows in interest."She saved him from going insane," Kenshin said as easily as though she had found his lost watch. "She begged me to bring back her Aoshi-sama, the one that she and the rest of the Oniwabanshuu loved. I swore to her I would, and I did. Aoshi realized that he had been wrong and now his eyes are haunted with guilt."
"What does this have to do with me?""Do not anger Aoshi. Do not provoke Misao-dono. If you do the latter, Aoshi would get involved, and he is of equal skill as I am."Enishi simply raised his eyebrows in silent doubt. "I don't mean to belittle Shinomori's skills, but you're without peer.""If you thought I was mad when you threatened Kaoru-dono, that's nothing compared to what Aoshi would be like," Kenshin said softly with a hint of a smile.
The two swordsmen stared at each other across the gap of less than a meter and tried to find what the other really meant in any of their words of actions. "But I was just having a teasing conversation with her," Enishi said slowly. "We're around the same age, why shouldn't we tease each other a little? It's just natural.""Could your teasing be mistaken as flirting?" Kenshin asked with a totally different expression on his face.
"Well, sure," Enishi replied with a shrug."Wether or not they know it, Misao-dono and Aoshi are tied together by something that I can't explain. Ishin-denshi, perhaps." Kenshin's eyes were far away, thinking of something else. "Megumi-dono has had some run-ins with Aoshi when he wasn't himself, so to speak," He added with a smile, "and she's been downright flirtatios with me around Kaoru-dono. If only in the name of fun," He ammended quickly. Enishi raised a pale eyebrow. "Misao-dono has never really had a great relationship with her. It think the thing that stands in the way of their friendship is the fact that Megumi is flirtatious and has spent more than a lot of time around Aoshi.""So, they don't know why they feel it, but they feel jealous if somebody else comes close to the other," Enishi summed up. Kenshin nodded. "That's what that look meant..." He mused, recalling the fierce gleam in the man's eyes.
"That was a warning," Kenshin said sternly, "don't ignore it."Anger began to bubble up in Enishi. He wasn't the one being bossed around, he was the Boss! With a capital 'B' and don't you forget it! "Who died and made you general?" Enishi snapped tersly.Kenshin merely gave him a long look over the rim of his cup. By the time he had set it back down Enishi was feeling like bugs were marching up and down his arms. "I want this to go as smoothly as possible," Kenshin said firmly. "You may not have known this, but Saitoh and I are fighting a duel at this very minute. The first one to die admits that the other was stronger. Aoshi has promised me that, for now, he will not kill. But when it comes to Misao, I'm sure that promise could be broken rather easily. Sano and Megumi-dono may not know this, but they too are connected in the same feeling, if not the same way, as the two ninja."
"And you don't need to tell me how you feel about the Tanuki girl," Enishi added, his mood returned to normal."I just want you to know that I'm quite possibly the only thing holding this group together. If one of us is taken out by another, even harmed in a minor way, the whole rescue party will go up in smoke.""Understood," Enishi affermed with an over-polite salute. Kenshin smiled."This Otomi has been good for you."That threw Enishi for a trip. "Huh?"
"Your smile isn't as bitter, your eyes are more streams than ice, though the streams are cold," Kenshin added with a shrug. It took Enishi a moment to realize that Kenshin was making a joke. He twisted his mouth up on one side."What else is different?" Enishi asked."You've opened your heart to others again. Iida makes you happy and you make him happy. That's opening your heart to someone no matter how you try to hide it."Enishi thought about that for a minute. A full minute. 'Nee-san,' He finally asked, 'has Otomi really done that for me?''That and more,' She replied.'What more?''She's taught you how to love again Enishi.' He saw her smile, not just serene, but happy. Her features were lit up, turning her into a person that Enishi had seen only rairly. Her cheeks glowed and her eyes crinkled at the corners. Her posture was still dignified and solom, but you felt you could play with the person that was smiling.
'Nee-san!' Enishi gasped almost silently. 'Why- what do you mean?' If before he didn't quite grasp it, he was now watching it soar away into the blue sky like a red balloon.'Before you met her, you were afraid to love again. You had loved me and I had died,' She explained serenely.'I wish you didn't have to be so blunt,' Enishi muttered sullenly.'You were torn up about that and you hardened your heart. But when you met Otomi you found another kindred spirit; a person that had lost the people close to them and had hardened their heart. The only difference between the two of you is that Otomi was still partly alive. Because you saw the two of them as the two of us, you were eager to help them and protect them from a tradgedy that might have been similer to the one that we experienced. Doing that made you open your heart to Otomi.
'Now you're in love, Enishi,' Tomoe finished with a shining smile, 'and don't you dare try to deny it!'"Nee-san!" Enishi gasped invouluntarily. He hadn't realized he'd spoken out loud until Kenshin beside him stiffened and his pleasent face dropped to one of old pain that still lingered in his bones."Do you see her?" Kenshin asked hesitently. Enishi was about to scoff and insist that Kenshin was crazy, but he saw the needy expression in Kenshin's eyes."Yeah," Enishi muttered finally. Kenshin breathed out a great gust of breath slowly.
"What is she saying?""She's telling me about Otomi," Enishi explained briefly. Technically, it was true. Aah, omission. The savior of every guilty soul."And?"'Tell him, Enishi," Tomoe prompted.'But, why?' Her brother protested with a slight flush. 'I don't see why it would matter.''Just tell him, Enishi,' She insisted.He sighed hugely and hung his head with a rueful and slightly embarrassed smile. "Enishi?" Kenshin said softly. "Is something wrong?""She wants me to tell you somehting about Otomi," Enishi muttered. Kenshin was suddenly silent. "She wants me to tell you that I'm..." He paused briefly to gather his nerve, then said in a rush, "In love with her."
"I thought so," Kenshin murmured. Enishi snapped his head up to look him in the eye. "If you think about it, the next possible victems could be any one of the young women we know.""Like Kamiya?" Enishi said without thinking. 'Shit! Shit shit shit shit shit!! Open mouth, insert foot. Way to go!' He quickly swallowed the rest of his words.Kenshin nodded. "Or Misao-dono or Megumi-dono. Maybe even Tsubame-chan or Tae-dono. All of them are connected to us somehow. If they started with us, or you," He added with a nod to Enishi, "they could easily spread to others that we know.""Like a disease," Enishi mused to himself."Yes. A plauge that takes only women. Tell me, did Otomi have any talents? Like artistic skills or a scholarly lean to her life?"
"No, not at all!" Enishi said quickly and with utter conviction. "If anything she was more inclinded to turn her back on advanced learning. She knew how to read and write. She taught Iida and encouraged him to do what he wanted with his knowlage, but didn't do anything of the sort in her spare time."Kenshin pondered this silently for a while. Well, there goes our only possible lead, he thought with regret. All of the other women taken have been intellectuals. A thought suddenly occurred to him and he rose half-way to his feet.
"Enishi," he blurted suddenly, "was Otomi-dono ever very active?"