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White Tiger/Red Dragon by Ruth 3/3 - Not a rock, I'm just Ruth
All Me, no apologies
just_ruth
just_ruth
White Tiger/Red Dragon by Ruth 3/3
Done at last.

Title: White Tiger, Red Dragon
Author: Ruth
Series: Rurouni Kenshin/The Last Samurai.
Disclaimers: Rurouni Kenshin is the property of Watsuki Nobuhiro and any other corporations associated with either the manga or the anime. "The Last Samurai"is the property of Warner Bros, Edward Zwick, Tom Cruise and many other people. Characters and situations are being used without permission for entertainment purposes only, no profit is being made from said interpretations.
Rating: PG-13 (violence)
Pairing: none.
Warnings: AU, AT, violence
Archive: Dryer Space
Feedback: Anglofans@aol.com
Thanks to: Ginalin and Misanagi
Summary: Nathan Algren wants to return to Himeji village, but he'll never get there without help.
symbols: / =italics
************

Part 3

"Ahgehn, what are you /doing/?" Himura Kenshin looked around anxiously to make sure no one was observing the bizarre foreigner and himself. His charge was on all fours, laying his cheek against the steel rail of the train track.

"Old Injun trick," said Algren. "The rails vibrate when the train is near."

That was interesting, but Kenshin failed to see how that would help them get on the machine. The great metal monster went what seemed to be incredibly fast and he had no idea what Algren had meant when he said that they would "hop a ride."

"What is ‘Injun'?" he asked.

"People," Algren's eyes went sad. "People who the army said were in the way."

"Washita?" Kenshin asked, referring to the name of the place Algren said he went in his nightmare.

"Hai," said Algren. He stood up. There were ox carts belonging to farmers who had taken most of their produce in to the market. Some carts held a few vegetables that would be brought out later after the first batch sold. The animals grazed lazily in a rough circle, most of them still in their yokes.

Algren grinned. "We stop the train," he said. "I know how."

"We stop the train?" Kenshin's eyes widened.

It sounded simple enough, which is why Kenshin had serious doubts of its effectiveness. The train would be going slowly as it left the city, making a turn to reach the open fields where it could get up to its top speed.

Algren and Kenshin were prodding and coaxing the oxen on the tracks. The plan was that the oxen would stop the train and then Kenshin and Algren would slip on in the confusion.

"Come on, you are a good boy," Algren fed the oxen pair the "carrot" he had used to coax them on the tracks.

"Ahgehn, the farmer will not appreciate you feeding them that daikon. I am sure he will not," Kenshin looked down the tracks. Algren was right, the steel rail was vibrating.

"A ‘carrot' will not hurt big fellows like these," Algren slapped the ox on the neck. "We must hide now, son."

"Daikon is not cah-hot," Kenshin argued as he ducked out of sight behind a cart. /He called me ‘son'?/ he blinked in astonishment.
***********

"Please excuse me," the monk bowed to the young woman on the train. "May I join you?" He indicated the hard wooden bench next to her.

She bowed her head shyly. She wore a plain cotton kimono and her hair was tied back by a scarf. She carried a basket and looked like a country girl coming back from the market. The young man sat down next to her. His black robes, string of beads and shaved head marked him as a monk. He was tall, perhaps a little too thin, but with a wide, cheerful smile. He held a carefully wrapped bundle on his lap.

"Thank you for letting me share your seat," he said. "My name is Higurasi Kazenori."

"Sato," she said in a soft voice. "Sato Yuki. I am going to visit my grandparents, in the mountains," she looked at her sandals. "May I ask why you are traveling, Sir Monk?"

"I am taking the ashes of a fellow monk to the Engyoji shrine near where he was born," he looked out the window. "It is exciting, isn't it? Many days journey and we will be there by noon tomorrow."

The train left the station, lumbering slowly through the city of Tokyo. The engineer alternately frowned at the gauges, directed the stokers and leaned out of the cab to scream at passers-by to get away from the tracks. All was going well, he looked at the shiny watch given to him by the German engineer who had taught him to run the train and saw they were actually a little ahead of schedule. He squared his shoulders with pride, looked ahead to the countryside, let out a yelp and grabbed the brake lever. The train jerked and screeched to a halt.

The placidly grazing oxen raised their heads, looked at the train and returned to grazing or chewing their cud, unimpressed. The engineer blew the train whistle and shouted at the oxen. They looked up again, and again returned to their business.

The conductor came running from the passenger compartment to find out what was wrong. A lively argument ensued as to who was lowest in status. That person would have to go out and prod the oxen off the tracks. It came down to the three porters. The men unhappily started out to shoo the oxen. Some moved, some didn't.

One ox burped, then lifted his tail and deposited an enormous quantity of dung on the tracks.

The engineer was not about to take his train through the slippery mess and another, even louder argument ensued. The passengers came out to see what was happening. Somebody ran to the market to get the farmers that owned the oxen. Most of the neighborhood came to watch. The engineer looked at his shiny watch and saw the train was now running late. He sat down on the steps of the cab and wept with shame.

Another ox burped and lifted his tail. A female passenger noted the two men slipping into the last passenger car. Her eyes narrowed briefly.

"That," hissed Kenshin as he and Algren slipped into the train and claimed an empty seat nearest to the baggage car. "Is why you do not feed oxen daikon."

"I will remember, Himura-san," Algren sounded like he was about to laugh. He tilted back the straw hat he had stolen from another cart and folded his arms like he was sleeping.

The train blew its whistle and jerked forward.

"I wonder what Taka-san is doing now?" Algren asked to himself. Kenshin had no answer, and suspected Algren didn't really want one.
***********

Taka folded the cloth into a neat bundle and wrapped it with rice paper. She had worked for months on the length of silk. It had taken three weeks alone to set up the loom. It had been calming to her mind and her spirit to work at the cloth. She was a little sad that it was finished.

She carried it across the square and politely tapped on the door post of the house.

"Ah! Taka-san, I am so pleased you have come," Ujio Rei, wife of the great swordsman bowed to her guest. Taka bowed back and slipped off her sandals. "Will you have tea with us?"

"I would be honored, Rei-san," Taka entered. "I have a gift for Fujiko-san."

Rei nodded and called her daughter. Fujiko was as slender as birch tree, with long sable hair that glinted with blue lights. She carried in a pot of tea and bowed to both her guest and her mother. Taka gave her the package.

"I made this for you," she said. "There is enough for a kimono." She hesitated. "I had intended it for a wedding present."

They all sighed. Had things gone differently, Fujiko would have married Taka's nephew, Nobutada.

"It was destiny," said Rei. "In the spring, Isamu, Fujiko and I will go to my brother's house."

Taka nodded. Isamu was Rei's son, a little older than Higen, but not old enough to go to battle. Other women were discussing leaving the village; they knew their husbands and sons were not coming back. "I am sure you will be content," she murmured.

"I don't want to go!" Fujiko burst out.

"You will do as you are told," Rei said sharply.

//You will do as you are told! Would you rather I kill him to avenge your husband?// Taka remembered her brother's voice. If he had killed Algren when I asked, she thought bitterly, I would not feel so alone now. Instead he made me care for him until I came to care about him.

If he was alive, surely he would have come back.

"It is hard to leave your home," she said sympathetically, "but in your uncle's house, you may yet find new happiness."

She did not believe it, even as Taka would not have believed it when Hirotaro died and she was forced to care for the stranger who had killed him.

"Happiness can come very unexpectedly," she added.

Fujiko just shook her head.
*******

Honored Grandfather Niwa glared at the pillars of wood that carried the iron rails over his rice paddy. For hundreds of years, his ancestors had grown rice here to feed their families. His eldest son had tried to explain about this "railroad" thing the government wanted to build. They had showed him the money they had received. He spat on it.

It was outrageous! One did not sell the land of one's ancestors! The fat men in their odd looking suits had no right to presume they /owned/ Niwa's rice paddy and put up their oily, evil smelling pillars. This was the land of his family, where else would they grown the rice to feed his grandchildren? He hefted the ax he had brought on his shoulder.

His arms were still strong. He would show this "railroad" how little it was wanted. Planting his feet in the good marshy earth that should have been growing his rice, he swung at the pillar of wood. He quickly chopped through the first pillar. The structure creaked and groaned above his head. He attacked the second pillar as the rails above began to thrum with the approach of the train. The bridge groaned again. The second pillar snapped. A large second of track and ties crashed down on his head, killing him instantly.
*********

The scream of metal on metal startled everyone in the passenger car. A dreadful sound, like the smashing of stones coupled with the splintering of wood filled the air. The car jolted to a stop. Algren was on his feet and running down the aisle. "Train wreck!" he shouted over his shoulder.

The English words made no sense to Kenshin until Algren flung open the door at the end of the carriage. Ahead of them, the great locomotive sprawled on it's side in the rice paddy. Smoke billowed from the three cars half-submerged in the twisted mess of the bridge. The bolt that had held their car to the others had sheared away. Someone screamed.

"Come!" Algren shouted. "There are people alive!" He scrambled down to the first car and used his sword to smash the window. He reached down and pulled someone out. Other passengers ran to help. Kenshin tightened his sash and dove in alongside Algren. It was slow work and the fires started by the small charcoal heaters in the corner of the cars were moving fast. Trapped victims screamed and wailed.

Algren dragged a young woman from the second car. A shaven head priest helped boost her out. A thick cloud of smoke left him choking as he tried to reach inside once more.

"Ahgehn!" Kenshin shouted. "Ahgehn, stop! The fire is too great!"

The American ignored him. A gout of flame belched from the window he had helped the monk and the woman out of. It caught the edge of his haori. Algren was barely aware of Kenshin's shouting. A strong hand grabbed his arm. Algren turned and a fist crashed into his jaw, knocking him from the overturned car into the water of the paddy.
**********

Koyama Yuri, traveling under the name of Sato Yuki sat on the bank of the rice paddy and stared. The monk, soot smeared and disheveled said something to her, but she didn't hear it.

He had saved her. The man she had sought to kill had saved her life. She hadn't been trained for something like this to happen. She didn't know what to do.

"Yuki-san," Higurasi Kazenori repeated. "I am going on to Engyoji shrine. I must explain what has happened to the abbot and make atonement to the spirit of my fellow monk for failing to fulfill his last request. Would you do me the honor of accompanying me?"

"Yes," she said. Maybe by the time she reached the shrine she would know what to do.
********

Algren coughed and spluttered. He was soaked. He realized his haori was gone and his back hurt. The boy was squatting patiently next to him. Algren rubbed the side of his jaw.

"You hit hard," he said.

"You were on fire." The young man replied.

Algren sat up and looked at the blazing cars. "No," he groaned and put his face in his hands.

"You could not save them," Himura continued mercilessly. "You saved many, but they will never equal the number you could not save."

"You don't know," Algren shook his head. "You are too young."

"Ah, I understand," Himura sat down. He looked at the ground a moment. "I am older than you think. Ahgehn-san. Much older. Why do you think the Emperor sent me to get you to where you would be safe? When you trained the soldiers of the new army for Omura, did no one mention the Battousai?"

"I heard stories. They were to frighten children. Not real."

"They were real," said Himura to the pattern he traced on the ground between his feet. "I am Battousai. I killed many. Very many."

The boy raised his head and looked into Algren's eyes. He was no child. He had the same hopeless weariness Algren had seen all too often in the mirror. Someone who has killed and still hears the voices of the dead. "My wife, Ahgehn. She died. Not a good death."

"I'm sorry." Algren shook his head. "Himura-san, I am sorry."

Himura nodded. "I will see you to Himeji, Ahgehn-san. You have a place to go." He looked away, into the flames and through the flames to something beyond. "Sessha envies you."
*********

The next day, Himura "borrowed" another haori from someone's drying laundry and the two men set out along the mountain road. Kazenori rented a horse from someone in the small railroad town and he and Yuki left before the government troops came to investigate the train wreck.
*********

"Hello!" called Kazenori to the two travelers resting by the side of the path. "May we join you?"

The smaller of the pair, who seemed to be a boy with startling fox red hair jumped up and bowed. "This one would be most honored, master priest."

"Oh, no, I am only a monk." Kazenori led the horse off the path. The young woman on it's saddle said nothing. "I am accompanying this young lady to her village while on the way to my temple."

"Which village?" asked the taller, older man in an oddly accented voice.

"Himeji, near the Engyoji Shrine."

"Really," the red haired youth frowned. "We are also going there." He looked up at Sato Yuki for a long moment.

"Then perhaps luck is with us," said Kazenori brightly.

"Perhaps," said Sato Yuki. She stared back at the red haired man. /So, that is the Battousai./
*********

Just at dawn, Kazenori left the group to continue on to the temple. It was early the next morning that they reached the village. Taka was out tending her garden when she heard Higen's joyful cry. She straightened and saw the tall, weary figure coming up the path. It had been a long time since she had smiled.

Algren left the other two to run ahead and greet her.

"Well, Kunoichi," asked Kenshin quietly. "What do you intend here?"

"What do you mean?" she began, then stopped. "So, Battousai, you know?"

"It was not hard to guess," he said quietly.

"He killed my husband," Yuri looked at the big man bent to scoop up little Magojiro and hold him above his head while the little boy squealed with delight. "And he saved my life."

"And the life of your child," Kenshin added. "Yes, it is not hard for this one to see. Two lives for one."

"It is so," Yuri sighed. "It is Destiny, but I do not understand."

"Who can fathom Fate?" Kenshin shrugged. Algren came back and Kenshin handed him the reins of the horse.

"Himura-san, please stay." Algren offered.

Kenshin shook his head. "This one has much farther to go, Ahgehn-san. It will take much time before this one finds his way to a place like Ahgehn-san has."

"This one only hopes there will be someone waiting for him like Ahgehn-san has."

***********

/"As for the American captain, no one knows what became of him. . . . I like to think he found at last some small measure of the peace that we all seek and few of us ever find."/

-fin-

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Comments
lunarwolf2002 From: lunarwolf2002 Date: August 19th, 2004 11:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
Um..okay I went back and read the other two chapters and then read this..oh wow...I LOVE IT! &giggle*
inner_v0ice From: inner_v0ice Date: August 28th, 2004 09:38 am (UTC) (Link)
*grins* I love you. I love you very much, for you have crossed over the two fandoms that were destined to be crossed. *shakes head with a smile* Great job. Thank you for writing this. ^_^
just_ruth From: just_ruth Date: August 28th, 2004 06:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks, when I watched "the Last Samurai" in the theater I found myself picturing Kenshin and the plot bunny became a tiger. BTW, followed a link on your info page, thanks for maryrenaultfics! I happen to have a 2-in-1 edition of "the King Must Die" and "The Bull from the Sea."
inner_v0ice From: inner_v0ice Date: August 28th, 2004 10:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
All right! ^_^ Another fan of "The King Must Die"! I absolutely loved that book...didn't like "The Bull From The Sea" as much, though, and I never finished reading it. What do you think, should I try again?
As for maryrenaultfics, I was thrilled to find it too, but unfortunately it's sadly lacking in TKMD fics. I plan to rectify that situation someday, though. ^_^
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