Rurouni Kenshin Fan Fiction ❯ Baka Deshi ❯ Saving a Soul ( Chapter 1 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
Aki (present-day Hiroshima)

The tiny redheaded boy was held back from fighting by the three girls in front of him. Violet eyes watched in horror as they were skewered and slashed one by one. Horrified by all the carnage, the small boy turned his back on the scene and imagined that he was in his village with his parents and brothers.

Suddenly, there were sounds of yelping and struggling. The boy heard voices from up ahead.

"What are you?!"

"There's no point in naming myself to dead men."

A black and white blur cut through the bandits, sending them all crashing to the ground, blood gushing from their twitching bodies. The blur stopped, revealing a huge swordsman with long black hair pulled back in a low ponytail, sharply chiseled features and a huge billowing white cape with red trim.

The giant turned and looked down at the little boy sitting with his back to the scene.

"You were an unlucky child. The shogunate's laws have been lax since the black ships arrived two years ago. More and more ronin prowl this area as bandits," said the giant swordsman in a booming, but not unkind voice.

The little boy didn't respond or even turn to look at the giant, who flicked the blood from his nihontou, wiped it off and sheathed it.

"Some fate brought me here and I've taken revenge for you."


"But the dead will not be brought back by mourning or hatred. Such things happen every day, everywhere in today's Japan. You should be thankful that you survived," he continued.

Still no response. Was this child dumb or in shock? The swordsman couldn't guess one above the other. Still he was but a child, and the giant felt the unusual stirrings of compassion in his heart.

"If you go to the village at the foot of the mountain and tell them your story, you will be cared for," he said before turning his back and leaving the red haired boy.
The little redhead sat for hours after the giant swordsman left. Neither his mind nor his body could move. The air he breathed was thick with the stench of blood and decay. The screams of the dying echoed in his ears. The sun moved toward the horizon and was just slipping under by the time he found the will to stand.

There would be little sleep for the waif tonight. He had work to do.
The giant swordsman, Hiko Seijuro XIII was his name, continued on his way, stopping and killing or beating off more bandits and thieves before finally reaching his mountain top home. Hiko shut his door firmly before removing his white cape, revealing a heavily muscled body.

Hiko whipped out a jug of sake and poured it into a saucer. As he drank, he found that strangely, his thoughts were travelling back to the scene of the carnage that morning. Images of the little boy with the startling red hair popped into his mind and wouldn't leave even when he tried to banish them.

The child had been so small, fear and grief rolling off his ki in waves. Hiko had seen his share of carnage before, but never had he seen a child sit so still and so silent; most children screamed or cried. What was it about this child that was so different?
The next evening...

Try as he might, Hiko couldn't get the image of the little boy sitting in mute misery among the squalor of the corpses out of his mind. When he found himself dreaming about the child, he realized he would have to go to the village and see if the kid was alright if he were ever to have any peace again.

Hiko went to the village under the presumption of buying sake from the old man he'd bought it from for the past 15 years. This man knew all the goings on in the village and would be able to tell Hiko if the red-haired boy had in fact gone there.

Hiko arrived at the house and pounded on the door frame. Fudoro, the sake vender peered out the barred window. Upon seeing who it was, he grabbed a jug of his finest sake and slid his fusuma open.

"Greetings, Hiko-san," he said.

"Greetings. Would you happen to know if a small boy with red hair showed up in the village in the last day?" Hiko ventured.

"Not that I've seen," said Fudoro.

"He's not here?" Hiko was taken aback. He thought for sure the boy would go to the village. Who would want to stay in a field full of corpses?

"Nope. No kid, no stray cat. Nobody's come this way for a week," said the sake vender.

Not knowing what else to say, Hiko paid for the sake and left. His feet took him back to the scene of the massacre. As he walked, he pondered the boy's fate and the state of Japan.

'Suicide in despair? It's certainly common enough these days. Even when I wield my sword according to Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu's philosophy, often I can't save a soul. I kill and kill, and still the villains, like maggots, spring from Japan's rotting corpse. There will be more and more of these acts, and all I can do is bury the victims.'

Hiko was lifted from his gloom by the sight that revealed itself to him in the field. Instead of a battlefield of rotting corpses, the place had been transformed into a makeshift graveyard full of crosses. In the middle of the field, before three rocks, stood the red haired boy.

Hiko walked out onto the field and stood behind the boy who again did not turn to look at him. The child was filthy, hands bloody and raw from having dug holes and moved the corpses of grown men into them, then burying them. What sort of child was this?

"Not only for your parents, but the bandits too?" Hiko asked.

For the first time, the child spoke.

"They were slavers, not parents. My parents died of cholera last year," he said in a soft voice. "Bandits or slavers, once they're dead, they're just bodies."

"Still, you made graves for them?" asked Hiko, unable to believe what he was witnessing.

Hiko's eyes traveled to the three stone graves.

"What are these three stone graves?" he asked.

"Kasumi-san, Akane-san and Sakura-san," explained the boy. "All three were taken from their parents by force as payment for debts. I only knew them for a day, but I was the only boy here and an orphan. So I thought, even if it costs my life, I have to protect them. But I couldn't find the right stones to make nice graves for them like I wanted. I looked for flowers to offer, but couldn't even find one."

Stepping up beside the child, Hiko uncorked his sake jug and poured it upon the three stone graves. Finally, the little boy looked up at him with huge, soft violet eyes that were far too old for such a young child.

"Man or woman, to move to the next world without knowing the taste of good sake is a crime. A good sake is the least I can do," said Hiko in an unusually low voice as he continued to pour.

There was no doubt about it. This boy was the one!

"What's your name, boy?" Hiko asked as he corked the jug.

"Shinta," said the little boy softly.

Hiko's stomach quailed. No way in Hell would he have an apprentice with a name like that!

"A child's name, unfitting for a swordsman. From now on your name will be Kenshin. I shall also give you my most precious knowledge," said Hiko.

Without another word, Hiko began to move away from the grave yard toward his home. It was getting late and he was hungry. Whether Shinta, or Kenshin, followed was up to him.

Not a moment later, Hiko heard the sound of soft footsteps behind him and smiled to himself. The boy was awfully small to learn a sword style like Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu, but he had a maturity of spirit and strength in his heart that would give him power where his physical strength would fail him. Hiko knew he had chosen well.