And now, the part you’ve all been waiting for….
*tag pulls aside a large velvet curtain* Presenting… Tokio!
[Edited for vocabulary Sunday May 28/06.]
Back to Chapter 4, Part 1.
1) Finally, we get to learn about the sub-plot that was first referenced in Chp. 3.3….
2) Just a reminder that anyone who provides constructive criticism will get credited as a gamma-reader…
Rurouni Kenshin is © Nobuhiro Watsuki. A lot of the dialogue – but definitely not all – in this chapter was taken from Acts 70-71 and 74-81 of the Rurouni Kenshin manga, written by the noble Watsuki-san, some of it modified slightly by bits from the anime, some of it modified by the requirements of the story. This story is fanfiction, and is not intended as infringement on that copyright.
CHAPTER FOUR: Okina – Oniwabanshū of Kyoto
Part 2: Plans in Tokyo
Saitō opened the gate to the small house he lived in here in Tokyo, and urged Eiji in with a firm hand on his shoulder. The boy – who had been, understandably enough, sullen and withdrawn for most of the two days it had taken for them to return to Tokyo with their prisoner – glared at him, but entered obediently. Saitō then closed the gate behind them; and he had just finished latching it shut when the door to the house opened and Tokio stepped out.
“You’re home earlier than expected,” she commented calmly, dark eyes studying both him and the boy. Saitō was pleased to see she was holding a menhari-gata in her right hand, ready to defend herself if there had proved to be an intruder; he didn’t think Shishio knew of his wife and son, but there was no sense in taking any chances, and Tokio had always been quite skilled with menhari-gata.
“We encountered something of a situation,” he replied evenly, and then pushed Eiji slightly forward. “This is Mishima Eiji – the brother of the agent I sent to Shingetsu.”
From the expression on his wife’s face, she was able to guess at what he preferred not to say just yet. “Welcome to our home, Eiji,” she said to him. “Why don’t you come in?” She moved out of the doorway, leaving it free for him to enter.
The boy hesitated for a moment, then offered her a quick bow, and walked slowly in.
“Where is Tsutomu?” Saitō asked then; he’d expected the toddler to be out of the door as soon as Tokio stepped away from it – his son had lately developed a habit of trying to get involved in everything that was happening, whether he should be or not.
His wife shook her head. “He’s having a nap.” Then she gave him a pointed look, and lowered her voice slightly. “Now, what happened, Hajime?” She only used that name when she knew things were serious.
Saitō gave her a quick summary of the events that had taken place in Shingetsu; enough of one that she was aware of the details of Eiji’s situation and the basics of the rest. “I still have to report in to Kawaji,” he finished. “He needs to be informed of what we managed to find out.”
Tokio frowned. “Will you be back here before you leave for Kyoto again?”
Remembering the conversation he’d overheard before he’d left for Shingetsu late Thursday afternoon, Saitō echoed his wife’s frown. “Yes,” he said firmly. “There are certain… issues we will need to discuss. Tonight,” he added.
She nodded in understanding, and then glanced back toward the house. “Well, then, I had better deal with Eiji. I will see you later.”
Saitō waited until she was back in the house before he opened the gate and left.
Almost five hours later, Saitō finally arrived back at the house. He’d spent nearly an hour wandering around the city, trying to get his anger under control after the meeting he’d been summoned to once he’d finished giving Kawaji his report on the events in Shingetsu. It hadn’t been easy; even if he’d been willing to do what Yamagata wanted him to – which he was not – he was fully aware that it wouldn’t work. And the consequences to everyone would be disastrous if he were even to try.
However, it was now quite late, and while his temper wasn’t quite as calm as he would have preferred, he was unlikely to lose control now if he returned home.
He opened the gate quietly, not wanting to wake Tokio or the children if they were asleep, and then blinked in surprise when he saw his wife sitting on the engawa, obviously waiting for him.
“This time, you’re home later than expected,” Tokio remarked dryly.
Saitō scowled in irritation. “That is one of the things we need to discuss,” he replied, sitting down next to her. “Where are the children?”
“Asleep, both of them, in Tsutomu’s room,” she said, smiling. “Tsutomu spent most of the evening trailing Eiji everywhere throughout the house and courtyard, and Eiji appeared to appreciate the company.”
“Good.” He’d been hoping something like that would happen. The responsibility of becoming a ‘big brother’ was likely to be exactly what Eiji needed.
“So, since they are both asleep, what is it you wanted to discuss?”
After a momentary pause, Saitō stood back up. “Inside,” he said firmly. “The topic is… best spoken of within walls.”
Tokio frowned, her concern clear, but obediently followed him into the house.
“Well?” she demanded, as soon as she had slid the door closed behind them.
“I had an… unexpected meeting, after I finished with the Superintendent-General,” Saitō said carefully, as he walked into the kitchen.
“With?” Tokio prompted him.
“The general of the army?” Tokio’s tone was startled. “Why did he want to talk to you, and about what?”
Saitō felt his expression tighten into a snarl. “Battōsai,” he replied.
Tokio didn’t say anything for a minute or two, instead busying herself with getting a bowl of rice and vegetables put together. Once it was ready, she handed it to him, and sat down at the table, waiting patiently. She knew he would continue when he was ready. Saitō began eating immediately, finding himself unexpectedly hungry – but then, the last food he’d eaten had been lunch, before he’d even arrived in the city.
When he’d finished about half the bowl, he looked back up at her. “When Ōkubo requested that I approach Battōsai about the situation with Shishio, it was understood that once Shishio was dealt with, Battōsai would be ignored.”
Tokio’s eyes narrowed in comprehension. “And General Yamagata has a different idea?” She paused for a moment, and then frowned. “Are they asking you to kill him?” she demanded.
“No,” Saitō said flatly. “Not precisely.”
“‘Not precisely’?” she repeated.
He shrugged, then shook his head, frowning. “I would rather not go into details that are likely to be unnecessary. If they do become necessary later on, I will tell you; but for now, the less you know, the safer you are.”
“I don’t know that I like the sound of this, Hajime,” Tokio said, her frown deepening. “And if I don’t need to know the details, then why are we discussing this in the first place?”
“Because I suspect that after Shishio is removed, Battōsai will have to disappear – and do it better than he did after Toba Fushimi,” Saitō replied, putting his bowl down on the table. Much better than he did then; likely he will either have to leave Japan entirely, or he will have to disguise himself with more than simply innocent looks and humble speech. “And if that happens, we may have to disappear as well.” He met her gaze, his expression somber. “I can – and will – start to make preparations, just in case; but you will need to prepare as well.”
Saitō glanced toward their son’s bedroom. “Aside from the reactions of the villagers, that was another reason I brought Eiji here. The only ones who know about him – other than Battōsai and the half-trained kunoichi he picked up – are the two police officers who served as escorts for Senkaku, and they are my men; they know better than to mention him to anyone. It will be easier to hide if we have two sons, rather than one. And if it turns out that we don’t have to leave, we can then adopt Eiji officially.”
If there was one thing about Tokio that Saitō respected above all else, even her lack of fear of his temper, it was her practicality. She didn’t get upset, or demand to know why he was willing to ruin their current lives for a man who had been his greatest enemy; she simply nodded in acknowledgement of the information he’d given her, and began thinking about the problem.
“Do you have any idea how long this matter with Shishio is likely to last?” she asked after several minutes of silence, during which Saitō took the opportunity to finish his meal.
“I’ll be leaving tomorrow morning, and should arrive in Kyoto within the week,” he replied immediately. “If Battōsai took my suggestion and rented horses, he and the girl should be there within three to four days. Once we’re both in Kyoto, I doubt it will take more than a week, or two at most, for things to be resolved.”
Tokio nodded slowly. “In that case, perhaps the best way to go about this would be to make it known that we are going to visit Morinosuke,” she suggested. “That way, if we do need to disappear, we can do it on the road; and if we don’t… well, it has been some time since we last saw him, and he hasn’t had the opportunity to meet his nephew yet.”
Saitō nodded in agreement. Morinosuke lived in Fukushima, and it was known that Tokio was quite close to her brother. No one would think anything of a planned visit to him. And he could work with that…. “Good.” He sighed. “Now all I have to worry about is how to convince Battōsai to leave those so-called ‘friends’ of his.”
“‘So-called friends’?” Tokio repeated, giving him a sceptical look. “What makes you call them that?”
“They don’t know him.” Saitō shrugged. “Of course, he hasn’t really let them know him, but that’s because they’d never accept who he really is.”
It was Tokio’s turn to sigh. “Are you absolutely certain, of that, Hajime? From what you’ve told me about Battōsai, he wouldn’t trust them as much as you’ve implied he does if that was the case.”
Saitō grimaced as he stood up from the table. “They accept the mask he presents to them, and the fact that he was a hitokiri during the Bakumatsu, and Battōsai seems to have decided that is enough for him.”
“But you disagree.”
Glancing over at his wife, Saitō saw that she was still sitting, and watching him with an expression of open curiosity on her face. She would never ask him directly, but indirectly….
“There are very few people I respect completely,” he stated after a minute or two of silence. “Battōsai is one of those few.” He frowned. “His ‘friends’ have no real respect for what he did during the Bakumatsu, and I don’t appreciate the fact that they don’t even try to understand who he really is. They see ‘Himura Kenshin’ as a friendly clown, despite his skill with a sword, and regard ‘Hitokiri Battōsai’ as a bloodthirsty demon. Neither is true.”
Then he took a deep breath and re-focused his attention on Tokio. “However, it remains none of my affair. All I need to worry about is persuading him that he’s going to have to leave.”
Tokio nodded slowly. “Hajime… what can you tell me about the situation?” she asked a moment later, finally standing up herself.
Saitō thought carefully about everything that he’d overheard, and what he’d been ordered to do. She definitely couldn’t be told everything – as he’d said, it was too dangerous – but if she was told the very basics….
“They want me to persuade Battōsai to do something.” He paused, then snorted in contempt. “As if anyone could persuade Battōsai of anything he doesn’t want to do…. But they think that’s the reason he’s gone after Shishio… because I persuaded him to do so.”
“No.” Saitō shook his head. “All I did was set up a situation where he was forced to listen to an explanation of the threat Shishio poses from Ōkubo. I may have given him more information, but I didn’t ‘persuade’ him of anything.
“Now, that is definitely all I can tell you. And since I have to leave early tomorrow morning, I believe it’s time we went to bed.”
menhari-gata: Folding tessen (iron fan) made from silk, very thin leather, or washi (a very strong Japanese paper) spread over a metal frame. (pg. 81, Taiho-Jutsu: Law and Order in the Age of the Samurai by Don Cunningham)
Tsutomu: Oldest son of Saitō and Tokio, born in 1876 (so around 2 years old at this point).
Takagi Morinosuke: Tokio’s younger brother. Information from Shinsengumi Headquarters suggests that Saitō counted him a friend.
Fukushima: The prefecture encompassing what used to be Aizu (where the Takagi family is from).
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.
[Edited Wed. August 16/06] Go to Chapter 4, Part 3: Arrival in Kyoto (Kenshin and Misao arrive in Kyoto, meet Okina, and figure out what to do about the broken sakabatō….)