And now, for the first part of Chapter 1 of Rurouni Battōsai…. (Sorry, Merula, but it was delayed by going out for my sister’s birthday brunch….)
If you haven’t read the revised version of the prologue, please read it now, as there are changes that affect details in Chp. 1 and onwards.
1) This chapter is – for the most part – a re-telling of Acts 48-53 of the manga, with some additions to make it fit in with the RuroBatt concept. I will be posting it in parts, because it’s long – 20 pages single-spaced, 12pt font in Word….
2) Again, this is still just a draft, and I need comments! *tag gets Aspen and Mitzy to look cute and adorable, raising the ‘cute-li’l-puddy-tat-eyes’ power to three….*
3) Rurouni Battōsai is simply the working title. I need suggestions for a better title (*tag shoots a glare at the red and black Plot Bunnies who are staring at her with amber-gold eyes. “Don’t say it!”* Sorry – they’ve been bugging me for something…). The ever-wonderful Vathara has given me two suggestions, “Concealed Blades” and “Vow’s Edge”, so I’m tempted to ask for votes….
Rurouni Kenshin is © Nobuhiro Watsuki. A lot of the dialogue in this chapter was taken from Acts 48-53 of the Rurouni Kenshin manga, written by the noble Watsuki-san, some of it modified slightly by bits from the anime. This story is fanfiction, and is not intended as infringement on that copyright.
CHAPTER ONE: Saitō Hajime – Mibu’s Wolf
Part 1: An Interrogation
The man known at present as Lieutenant Fujita Gorō, currently seconded to the Tokyo police by the order of Superintendent-General Kawaji Toshiyoshi, leaned back against the wall and blew a cloud of smoke from his cigarette into the face of the man seated on the wooden bench across from him. Uramura’s men had been questioning him for hours concerning how he had acquired his injuries – and from whom – and had found out nothing; he was too frightened to speak to them.
Fujita had no need to question him about that. He knew precisely who had injured Isurugi Raijūta, and he had an excellent idea as to how and why it had been done. He required different information from the defeated swordsman; but he had to wait until Uramura’s men left before he went after it.
Ostensibly, he was here in Tokyo as a member of the police sword corps, as an exchange officer from the Kyoto police – which was why he had been called in to help deal with the interrogation of Isurugi. Chief of Tokyo Police Uramura was the only one who knew of his assignment to discover the identity of the person who had employed the hitokiri Udō Jin-e; but even he was unaware that the investigation into the ‘Kurogasa Incident’, as it was known, was only Lt. Fujita’s secondary assignment – which was the way Fujita preferred it. The fewer who knew a secret, after all, the easier it was to keep.
However, that did mean that he could not afford to have his own questions for Isurugi overheard, much less get back to Uramura. The involvement of Hitokiri Battōsai in the Kurogasa incident was only peripheral to the investigation of who had hired Udō; so as far as Uramura knew, there should be no reason for Lt. Fujita to inquire any further into Battōsai’s presence and actions. Not to mention the fact that he would undoubtedly be curious as to how Fujita could know it had been Battōsai who had defeated Isurugi so thoroughly that the man’s spirit was utterly broken.
It was that last matter that had been puzzling him for the past four hours, ever since Isurugi Raijūta had been brought in, after supposedly having been found by a certain Tsukayama Yuzaemon (the father of Tsukayama Yutarō, who had spent most of the afternoon at the Ogura Clinic being treated for a disabling injury to his right arm, according to one of Fujita’s spies). Over the past three weeks, since he’d arrived here, Fujita Gorō had assembled a detailed picture of Battōsai’s actions over the last few months, as well as put together all the rumours he, Kawaji and Ōkubo had heard over the past ten years of a wandering red-haired swordsman who refused to kill – and that assembled information did not fit properly with what Battōsai had done to Isurugi. He had physically crippled Udō Jin-e; even with his right arm wounded (his spy had reported that as well), it would have been simple enough for him to do the same to Isurugi.
Instead, Battōsai had chosen to break him mentally. Fujita had a reasonably good idea of how he had done that – the amber gaze of the ‘demon of Kyoto’ had been too hard for many to deal with even in the middle of the Bakumatsu and the bloodiest war Kyoto had ever known; it must have been even harder to face in the middle of Meiji – especially by someone who, as far as Fujita had been able to determine, had no idea of who he was truly facing. Nonetheless, the question remained: why had Battōsai chosen that? It was something he would have expected from the hitokiri he’d faced ten years ago in Kyoto, not from the wandering ‘rurouni’ Battōsai now claimed to be.
So, is he beginning to revert back to the hitokiri, after ten years of wandering? Or is there more going on underneath the surface?
Ōkubo and Kawaji – all of Japan, in fact – needed the hitokiri; that was why they’d sent him, of all their agents, to evaluate the situation here. Both Fujita and Ōkubo knew that if anyone could force the rurouni Himura Kenshin to revert to Battōsai, it would be him – particularly if he ended up having to threaten or injure one of the rurouni’s friends. That would be almost guaranteed to bring him back to the Bakumatsu, when they had faced each other as the Hitokiri Battōsai and Captain Saitō Hajime of the Shinsengumi Third Unit. But if there is something more going on….
He felt a wolfish smile cross his face – one that was slightly at odds with the more easygoing persona of Fujita Gorō, but not entirely out of character; and then let it widen as the officer who had been handling the past hour of unsuccessful questioning gave up and nodded to him. “You can have him now, Lieutenant Fujita,” the officer said, gesturing for his assistants to leave. “And I wish you better luck with him than I have had.”
“Thank you,” he replied, and waited until they were all out of the room and had closed the door behind them. Then he turned back to Isurugi Raijūta, and let the mask of Fujita Gorō drop entirely. “Let’s start,” Saitō Hajime said, his smile turning deadly, “with the details of how you met Himura Kenshin.”
Chief Uramura was waiting for him when he left the interrogation room two hours later. “Were you able to obtain any information from him, Lieutenant Fujita?” he inquired.
Saitō casually lit another cigarette and brought it to his lips. “He still doesn’t appear inclined to talk, but I suspect he may have had an encounter with bandits,” he replied calmly.
Uramura frowned. “Bandits?” he repeated sceptically.
Saitō smiled coolly. “He isn’t seriously injured. And from what I’ve heard of him during the course of my investigations into the local yakuza, it would not surprise me if they were hirelings of his who were dissatisfied with something he did – which would explain why he does not care to tell us what happened. He is not a brave man.”
Uramura didn’t appear to be all that certain, but he wasn’t about to challenge Superintendent-General Kawaji’s agent, particularly when it might involve the investigation he had been sent here to conduct. “Then do you have any suggestions as to what we ought to do with him now?”
“In this case he was the injured party,” Saitō pointed out. “We may as well let him go.”
Judging by the expression on Uramura’s face, he’d just reinforced the impression that Isurugi Raijūta was somehow involved in his investigation into Udō Jin-e – which was exactly what Saitō wanted. He didn’t need to have Uramura asking Isurugi any additional questions about what had happened – or about what he had asked.
“An interesting suggestion. I suppose we might as well.” Uramura sighed and eyed the door distastefully. “Now you should go home, Lieutenant,” he added. “It’s quite late.”
Saitō took another draw on his cigarette before nodding and starting away.
As he walked out of the station, Saitō’s thoughts went back to his questioning of Isurugi.
To truly know and understand a swordsman, the best source of information was their opponents – either questioning them, or becoming an opponent oneself. Saitō had been Hitokiri Battōsai’s opponent, but he was not yet ready to become the opponent of the rurouni Himura Kenshin; which left him with the only option being to question others.
He couldn’t question Udō Jin-e, as the hitokiri was dead; the okashira Shinomori Aoshi had vanished, although Saitō did have people keeping an eye out for him – Shinomori was skilled enough to be potentially useful; Takeda Kanryū was insane; Sakaki Toma was in prison in Kyoto, and thus currently unavailable; the Hiruma brothers were useless, as well as having been sent to Osaka to face charges there; and Sagara Sanosuke was one of those who had gathered around Himura. Which meant that Isurugi had been his only option for obtaining information from one who had faced Himura Kenshin over a sword since he had arrived in Tokyo.
Unfortunately, Isurugi was a moron, as well as remarkably unobservant for one trained to the sword, and hadn’t known much – he hadn’t even realized that Himura was Battōsai; but even morons could be useful at times. The answers Saitō had managed to obtain from him – while not enough to provide any definite conclusions – were sufficient to determine that there was something unusual going on with Battōsai.
Saitō took one last draw of his cigarette before crushing it underfoot. I’ve left the observation of Battōsai to my men long enough. I’ve almost found the first link in the chain between Udō Jin-e and Shishio; another week or two should be long enough for me to make contact. And if I manage to work things out well enough…. Shishio must already know that Battōsai is here, which makes it likely he will want him taken care of. The cold smile that crossed his face was part of what had kept him the epithet of ‘Miburō’, even after the Shinsengumi were gone. Yes, that will work out well.
For reviews, feel more than free to comment here, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Any type of reviews save flames are welcome (flames will be put out by the sand-kicking Plot Bunnies); constructive criticism is more than encouraged.
You may expect the next part of Chp. 1 to be out by Tuesday. Going to bed now….
[Edited Wed. Feb. 02/05] Go to Chapter 1, Part 2 (Dreams of Blood).
[Minor edit Thurs. May 18/06.]