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"White Tiger, Red Dragon" (The Last Samurai/Rurouni Kenshin) Chapter 1 - Not a rock, I'm just Ruth
All Me, no apologies
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just_ruth
"White Tiger, Red Dragon" (The Last Samurai/Rurouni Kenshin) Chapter 1
before it goes to "SE_Updates"

Title: White Tiger, Red Dragon 1/3
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
Summary: Nathan Algren wants to return to Himeji village, but he'll never get out of Tokyo without help.
Thanks to Gina Lin and Misanagi for betas
symbols: / =italics
************
Part 1

/The tiger's eyes are like my own
But he comes from across a deep and troubled sea. . .
incomplete poem by Katsumoto/

Showa Tenno Mutsuhito, who reigned under the name Meiji, retreated from his audience hall into his private chambers. He was all of fifteen years old with the weight of a country on his shoulders. He carried his former teacher's sword wrapped in gold-embroidered purple silk. He put it down before the small shrine he kept in his chambers and bowed deeply to it. He had trusted the Genro, the Council he sought guidance from and whose advice was leading his beloved Nihon into the Twentieth Century. Omura, one of the leading voices, had betrayed him. He had been convinced his former teacher was an enemy, when Katsumoto had only sought to teach his pupil one last lesson.

"Please forgive me for not understanding, my teacher," he whispered. "You are correct. We must not forget who we are as we join these other countries." Katsumoto, his beloved sword instructor and refused to give up his swords and his ways, yet his rebellion was different from all the others that had troubled the young Emperor's reign. There, men were fighting to retain their status and power. Katsumoto and five hundred of his samurai had fought a great battle against the "modern" army. They died bravely, true to the warrior virtues that Katsumoto did not want his Emperor to erase from the Earth.

It was the outsider, Algren, who had fought with Katsumoto to the end and brought the Emperor his sword. Meiji was haunted by the man's eyes; so full of weariness and pain. Because the Emperor was only fifteen years old, he began to cry. When he had finished, he wiped his face and sent for his chamberlain.

"Send for Hitokiri Battousai," he said.

The Chamberlain looked alarmed. "Your Majesty, are you certain. . . ?"

"Send for him!" He unwrapped the silk from the long blade. "Forgive me again, my teacher." He bowed to the blade. "I must borrow a token from you."

It was sometimes irksome that he was seldom permitted to look one of his subjects in the face. The man who bowed before him was perhaps in his early twenties. He was shorter than the Emperor, with a mop of startling red hair. He wore traditional hakima and haori instead of the frequently confining modern uniform the Emperor had to wear. Some rumors had it that his mother was a kitsune, a fox spirit, but the Emperor had been taught that was just superstition; other rumors said his parents were outsiders, which sounded plausible. He had never seen the Battousai kill, but the swordsman was not called "the Red Dragon" for nothing. It was whispered he was truer to the ideals of the original revolution than even Takamori Saigo and just as disappointed in the results.

/But who else can I trust?/ thought the unhappy young Emperor.

"Hitokiri Himura Battousai-san," he finally said. "Please accept my apologies for asking you here so abruptly."

"This one is always at the Emperor's call," said Himura calmly. "How may I serve His Majesty?"

"One man survived the rebellion of Katsumoto-sensei," said the Emperor. "His name is Nathan Algren. Former Councilor Omura may try to harm him before he is sent into exile."

"He is the outsider?" Himura sat up on his knees. His face looked so much younger than his age. It would have been beautiful except for the ugly X-shaped scar that marred his left cheek. The upright was a darker red than the cross-piece, a newer mark.

/His eyes are blue!/ thought the Emperor wonderingly. /How terribly attractive he is./

At the same time, he could not help but notice that those blue eyes held the same weariness and pain he had seen in Nathan Algren's.

"Y-yes," the Emperor rubbed his hands together. "The outsider. He is – he is a good man, a worthy man. We want him to get away from Tokyo. It does not matter where he goes, so long as he is safe from Omura and his friends. Will you do this?"

"Hai," Himura bowed deeply. "This one is honored by His Majesty's trust."

"In case he does not believe you," the Emperor fumbled a moment and brought out the gilded sword guard from Katsumoto's blade. It resembled two tigers chasing each other in an endless circle. "Give him this."

"Hai," Himura bowed one more time. "It shall be done."
**********

"Ah," Simon Graham sighed as he leaned back into the warm water of the bath. "I think I shall miss bathing like this the most when I leave this country. I've seen enough of this "glorious opening of Japan." I've telegraphed in my resignation to London and I'll be leaving on the first boat for England."

With a grunt, the American joined him. His frown was as dark as his shaggy hair. His lean torso was marked with numerous pink scars and black stitches. The newer wounds turned an angry red from the warm water. The attendants moved quietly around the great tub, the silk of their kimonos the only sound whispering in the stillness.

"What now, Algren?" Graham couldn't help but ask.

"I'm going back," said Algren.

"Where?"

"To Nobutada's village," Algren stared away into space. Himeji, high on the slopes of Mount Shosho, where the Katsumoto clan had ruled for unfathomable centuries. He had seen the autumn rains, the winter snows and the cherry trees blossoming in the courtyard of the Engyoji Temple and Monastery.

"Back to the mountains? Why?" Graham blinked.

"Because back there I've got something worth living for," Algren's voice was dead serious. Graham just stared at him. Fine, let the Englishman stare, anyone but Katsumoto and his samurai would think he had lost his mind. If he didn't go back to Himeji, he would only crawl inside a bottle again. That was no way to honor the dead. Katsumoto, Ujio and "Bob" deserved better than that. It was no way to fulfill his obligations to the living. Taka-san deserved better than that. Her sons deserved better than that.

And, just maybe, /he/ deserved better than that.

Graham pulled at his lower lip. "Captain," he said in a low voice. "I'm not sure that will be possible. Omura is certainly blaming you for his loss of status and property. He's quite an influence on the Emperor's Council even stripped of his power. It's likely he wants you dead."

"If that is my destiny," Algren shrugged. He started to settle back in the water, but stopped. He felt rather than heard the sound of a footstep that was not one of the bath attendants. Something in the placement of it.

"Graham,"he said softly. "Get out of the tub. I think we're about to have visitors."

The Englishman scrambled out, hastily belting his robe around him. Algren moved more slowly, with less splashing. He knotted his silk robe carefully, making sure it would not trip or tangle his legs. He took one of the drying towels and wrapped it about his arm as a makeshift shield.

"Get out," he whispered to Graham. "Like you're going to the privy. Don't look back." He turned and gave a faint ironic smile. "Make sure you mention me in your book."

Graham fled. Algren waited. He moved slowly to his right, circling the tub. He could see the doorway and the outer wall. The paper partitions that separated the rooms could also be a way for an attack. /Where will it come from?/

/"Too many mind,"said Nobutada, after a brutal kendo session at the hands of Ujio Hiroyuki, Katsumoto's second in command. "Mind sword, mind people watch, mind enemy, too many mind./

He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. He stopped thinking about where the attack would come from and what form it would take. He only waited. He was ready when the man in black came through the paper panel. He caught the man's arm and without thinking, twisted the sword from his hand and stabbed him with it. The ninja fell backwards into the bathtub.

Two figures crashed into the room from the outer hallway. One wore the complete black outfit of the ninja. Algren did a double take; the second figure was no more than a boy with red hair and blue eyes. The ninja's head cracked into the wooden tub and the boy bounced to his feet, to block the thrust Algren aimed at him.

Backing away, Algren braced himself. He'd seen boys as young as this one learning the art of kendo in the village. By the brutal scar on his face, this boy had learned his swordsmanship the hard way. The boy slid his sword back into its sheathe and held up his hands.

"Sessha is not here to attack you, Ahgehn-san," said the youth. Like most Japanese, he garbled the "l" and "r" sounds of Nathan's last name.

One of the bath attendants screamed.

"I will explain later!" he pulled from the floating corpse the sheathe to the ninja's short sword and offered it to Algren. "Quickly!"

Algren stuck the short sword in his belt. The red-haired teen grabbed his elbow and dragged him out into the small, carefully tended garden of the bathhouse. "Up!" he pushed him towards the fence. Algren jumped, grabbed and scrambled over. The boy jumped after him.

A low whistle sounded. Another answered, clearly signals.

"Them boys ain't whistlin' Dixie," Algren joked dryly in English. The boy gave him a blank look. Algren shrugged.

They ran through narrow alleys and jumped fences. At one point, Algren felt sure he was going to lose part of his bathrobe if not his backside to a large curly-tailed dog. The youth alternately led the way or dropped behind to guard his back.

They stopped, panting after scaling yet another fence into an enclosed courtyard. Algren frowned at the sign hanging by the door, but could only pick out a few characters.

"What is that?" Algren asked in Japanese.

"Kamiya Kasshin-ryu Dojo," the boy read to him.

The words meant nothing to Algren. "Does it have pants?" he asked dryly.

The youth gave him a startled look. "Sessha is most sorry for such inconvenience, Ahgehn-san," he bowed quickly. "Yes, you are right. Pants you need, that is so, and better sandals as well," he paused. "Sessha will see what he can do."

He knocked lightly on the panel of the door. There was a startled commotion from inside the house.

"Kaoru, stay where you are!" barked a man's voice. The panel slid open. A frowning man in a night robe carrying a wooden sword looked at the two.

"Many thousand pardons, Kamiya Koshijiro-dono," the boy bowed twice. "This one is afraid he must steal some of your laundry."

"You are old Hiko's pupil?" the man frowned. "And who is this?"

"Please accept this one's apologies, but the less Koshijiro-dono knows, the better he will be."

Koshijiro-san huffed in annoyance, but came back with a serviceable pair of hakima; slightly too short and patched, as well as a comfortable haori and sandals. As he used the sash from the bathhouse robe to secure his outfit and hold his sword, Algren felt more like himself than he had for days.

The young man was thanking the master of the house. Algren bowed respectfully.

"Is the pupil of my old comrade in trouble?" asked Koshijiro.

"Again, Koshijiro-dono, the less you know, the better it will be."

Koshijiro tapped his bokken on the palm of his hand, then slid the door shut. "Follow me."

He led them quietly out the gate and down another series of alleys. He knocked on a door. An old man with wispy grey hair and a drooping mustache looked out. "Koshijiro-san! Why are you here so late? Is someone ill?"

"No, no, Genzai-sensei," Koshijiro leaned forward and whispered in the old man's ear. Genzai nodded and silently beckoned Algren and the boy to follow him. He led them to a small shed in back of his house. The roof and walls were lined with fragrant bundles of drying herbs. He spoke quietly to the boy, who bowed deeply. Algren also bowed.

"We can rest here for awhile, Ahgehn-san," said the boy, unrolling reed mats for the floor.

Nathan gave a great sigh as he lay down. Odd that this should feel so comfortable compared to the hotel's feather beds. "This is good," Algren searched his memory for the correct words. "I am very grateful, Sessha."

"Sessha?" the youth looked surprised.

Algren felt his face warming, obviously he'd made some gaffe, but he wasn't sure where. "Sessha is your name?"

The boy started laughing. "No, no, Ahgehn-san! Sessha is not my name. Sessha is only for politeness. . ." he paused.

"I'm sorry, I'm very sorry," Algren knew he was blushing. "What is your name?"

There was a brief silence. "I have been called many things, Ahgehn-san, but for now. Sessha is called Himura. Yes, my name is Himura."

tbc
*********
Notes:

(1) Himeji village and the Engyoji Monastery on Mount Shosho are actual locations where "the Last Samurai" was filmed.

(2) In the short story that Watsuki submitted to sell Kenshin to Shonen Jump magazine, he gave Kaoru's father the name Koshijiro. It is never mentioned in the "official" manga, to my knowledge. (Viz Comics Rurouni Kenshin #3)

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Comments
miko_no_da From: miko_no_da Date: May 19th, 2004 05:36 am (UTC) (Link)
*clings* More? Please? Pretty please? *bats eyes*
liadan_m From: liadan_m Date: May 20th, 2004 07:41 am (UTC) (Link)
More! More!

*gets on knees and begs*
paxnirvana From: paxnirvana Date: May 20th, 2004 01:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
Surfed here because toxictatto pimped you. ^_^ Very glad I did. A highly enjoyable read with deft handling of Kenshin and his speach. I'll be back for more... *grin*
paxnirvana From: paxnirvana Date: May 20th, 2004 01:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
*facepalms* It would just help if I could spell in LJ links especially... ^^; Sorry, Jan!
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