Rurouni Kenshin Fan Fiction ❯ Baka Deshi ❯ New Apprentice ( Chapter 2 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
As they climbed the mountain to Hiko's cabin, young Kenshin began to lag behind the large man. Hiko, with his back to the boy didn't even notice this until he heard a moan and a soft thud. Turning to look, he saw Kenshin lying prone, sprawled out on the ground. Rolling his eyes, he knelt down and shook the boy's shoulder.

"Kenshin! Wake up!" he said, a bit gruffer than he'd meant to.

No response.

"Kenshin!" he said again.

Still no response.

Hiko rolled the boy over to check if he was still breathing, which he was. Swearing mentally, Hiko picked the tiny redhead up in his arms and carried him the rest of the way to the cabin. When they got in, Hiko got out an unused spare futon and set the boy down on it,

Hiko opened Kenshin's gi a bit, revealing a frame that was far too thin and bony.

'No wonder he collapsed. This kid is skin and bones,' Hiko thought. 'I can't begin training him like this. I have to feed him and put some flesh on him first.'

Hiko went to the kitchen and got everything ready. The boy wasn't to the point of emaciation, so he could probably handle a bowl of miso soup alright. Soon Hiko had a pot of miso cooking. The room filled with the delicious scent.

Hiko heard the rustling of cloth behind him, turned and saw Kenshin sitting up on the futon, looking around with confusion in his violet eyes.

"So all it took was the scent of cooking soup to rouse you from your nap, I see. This is my cabin. You'll be living here from now on. I have a spare room in the back that I just use for storage. When you're a bit stronger, I'll have you clean it out and you can stay there," he said.

Hiko glanced at the boy and decided the first thing he needed was a good bath.

"Kenshin, how old are you?" asked Hiko.

"I think ten new years," answered Kenshin quietly. Honestly, he didn't know, as such things were trivial to peasants who had enough to do just trying to scratch out a living.

"Old enough to wash yourself. You positively wreak and I don't want my cabin smelling like blood and corpses," said Hiko, heading over to a shelf.

Hiko handed Kenshin some rice bran soap, a scrub brush and the smallest shirt he could find. With Kenshin following mutely behind him, Hiko pointed to the river flowing a few yards away from his house.

"Leave your clothes on the shore and wash yourself from head to toe. That's the smallest shirt I could find. It'll swim on you, but I expect just about anything will. I'll wash your clothes for you this one time and tomorrow we'll see about getting you some new clothes. The soup should be ready by the time you're finished," said Hiko.

Kenshin nodded, went down to the river bank, undid his ponytail, stripped and then headed out into the icy water, shivering from head to toe. Without looking at the boy, Hiko knelt down and picked up his filthy, ragged slave clothes and took them to his house. First thing tomorrow, that kid was getting some decent clothes made.

Kenshin waded out to his chest, dunked himself under the water, then lathered up the scrub brush with the rice bran soap. He worked quickly, his breath coming out in vapor streams in the cold evening air. Goose bumps rose on his skin, but he had to admit, it felt great to scour the crusted dirt, blood and filth off his skin.

Finished soaping and scrubbing, Kenshin dunked himself again and came up soap free. Without the dirt and blood on him, naturally pale skin and a beautiful, almost angelic face were revealed. Lathering his loose hair with the rice bran, Kenshin scrubbed it vigorously several times before dunking his ruddy head.

When he came up, hair as scarlet as blood was revealed having been freed from its long entrapment in dust and offal. With the pale skin, violet eyes and crimson hair, young Kenshin was truly a sight to behold. Shivering in the light of the dying sun, Kenshin emerged from the river, water dripping from his thin frame and long hair.

Using the towel, he quickly dried himself off and slipped into the shirt, the bottom of which came down past his ankles. He would have to be careful not to trip in it. The sleeves were so long, his hands didn't even stick out. Kenshin rolled the sleeves back and pulled his wet hair back into its low ponytail. Picking up the soap bar and scrub brush, he made his way back to the cabin before he caught a chill.

When Kenshin got back in, he saw his dripping wet clothes hanging on a line in front of the irori. Hiko looked up at the clean but bedraggled looking child and had to choke down a laugh. With his hair dripping and the long shirt trailing past his feet, Kenshin was a funny sight to behold.

"You look like something the cat dragged in," said Hiko with a smirk.

Just for a moment, Hiko thought he saw a glint of anger in Kenshin's violet eyes. It was so brief, he thought he could have imagined it, but it was definitely there.

"Well, enough chit-chat; soup's on," announced the magnificent swordmaster, gesturing for Kenshin to sit on the floor beside the irori to dry his hair off.

Hiko poured the miso into two equal bowls and set one before Kenshin. Kenshin didn't eat, but instead sat staring at it.

"What? You don't like miso soup?" asked Hiko, pausing his own meal.


"It's impolite to answer a question with silence, Kenshin," said Hiko. "Do you like miso soup?"

The boy nodded, looking down at the soup.

"Then eat it! That bowl is for you," said Hiko.

Only after Hiko had given this command did Kenshin pick up his chopsticks and begin going after the vegetables and meat that floated in the broth.

'Ah, I see. He thinks he needs to wait till I give him permission to eat. Typical of a slave I suppose,' Hiko thought sorrowfully.

"Kenshin," said Hiko.

The boy looked up wide-eyed from his soup with a bit of fish dangling from his mouth. Concealing his amusement, Hiko spoke.

"When I give you food, you're to eat it right away and not wait for me to tell you to, or I'll take your portion for myself. Understood?" said Hiko.

Kenshin nodded and quickly went back to eating. The last thing he wanted was to lose food.

'This is going to take a while. His soul is in far worse shape than his body,' Hiko thought as he returned to his own meal.

After they were finished, Hiko had Kenshin put his bowl in a wash basin to be washed the next day.

"Well, I don't know about you, but I'm going to turn in. I'd suggest you do the same so you can start putting some flesh on that scrawny body of yours," said Hiko with a smirk.

The brief flash of anger again. There was definitely a fighting spirit in the boy. It just had to be drawn forth. Hiko pointed to the futon he'd set Kenshin in earlier.

"That will be your futon from now on. Tomorrow, I'll show you around my land and what I'll expect of you," said Hiko before disappearing into his bed room.

After Hiko had gone, Kenshin laid down on the futon, snuggling into the warm blankets. The sun had set, leaving a starry sky outside. The fire in the irori and the clothes hanging from the line cast eerie shadows on the walls. Other than the sound of crackling wood and Hiko's prodigious snoring from behind the closed shouji, the cabin was silent as a grave yard. Kenshin was afraid to sleep. Last night, he had dreamed of the massacre and the three girls dying before his eyes. Tonight didn't promise to be any different, even if he was clean, full and in a warm bed.

Despite his misgivings, sleep over took the exhausted boy easily enough. It wasn't long however, till the nightmares started.

Shinta looked on in silent horror as his mother let out her last raspy breath. She lay beside her husband, who had died earlier in the day. Shinta's two older brothers had died earlier that week and had been cremated.

Suddenly, his mother's violet eyes opened wide and looked at him sadly.

"Shinta, you'll be all alone in the world. Sleep with Mommy and Daddy," she pleaded, reaching out toward him.

Shinta scrambled back against the wall, his tiny body quaking as his parents' bodies came to life, stood up and started advancing toward him.

"We miss you, Shinta," moaned his father.

Shinta's eyes filled with tears as he shrank from his parents' advancing forms. He felt hands on him.

His violet eyes opened and saw the scene shift. Now the slavers loomed over him. Shinta struggled but was helpless as hands touched him where they had no business to.

The scene changed again to the battlefield. Akane, Kasumi and Sakura died before Shinta as each girl was slashed and skewered through the heart with a sword. Their eyes flew open and like his parents, they called to him.

"Come with us, Shinta. We miss you," they called out mournfully.

The bandits advanced, lust in their eyes. Suddenly, there was the swing of a huge nihontou and the large man, Hiko appeared behind the bandits, cutting them down.

"Come with me if you want to live," said Hiko, holding out a hand.

Shinta took his hand and left the battle field and the mournful voices behind him.

Kenshin's body jerked as he came awake. Breathing heavily, his violet eyes looked about the room. Where was he?!! Then he remembered; he was in the cabin of the big swordsman, Hiko-san. The fire had died down to just a few embers and his clothes looked like they were nearly dry.

Kenshin looked out the window and saw that the sky was still dark, but gradually lightening in the east. There would be no getting back to sleep now. Might as well get up and get some work done around his new home.

Kenshin began to move and realized something was terribly wrong; his sheet was wet. Closing his eyes, he berated himself for being so childish. What would Shishou think of him when he found out about this?

Standing up, Kenshin stripped the covering off the futon, then folded the bed and put it away. Going over to the clothes line, he touched his gi and hakama and was relieved to see that they'd dried overnight. Stripping out of the way-too-large shirt, Kenshin quickly dressed in his own clothes, which although threadbare were familiar.

Grabbing the bucket he saw by the door, Kenshin headed out to the river, dipped the bucket in and filled it with fresh, cool water. Returning to the cabin, Kenshin dumped the water into the wash basin, grabbed the washboard, some more of the rice bran soap and turned to the offending bed sheet. Kenshin dipped the bed sheet into the water and began scrubbing it against the washboard with copious vigor.

Hiko was roused from his sleep by the sound of scrubbing and water splashing. Instantly, he was on his feet, Winter Moon in hand. How could he have not sensed the ki of someone breaking in?! Hiko slid his bed room door open and was surprised to find Kenshin knelt over the laundry basin, scrubbing away at his bed sheet.

"Kenshin, what are you doing?" barked Hiko, startling the little boy and causing him to turn around quickly and look up at him with fear-stricken eyes before quickly averting them to the floor.

"I wet the bed," he said softly to the giant towering ominously over him.

A trembling Kenshin kept his head bowed, expecting the blow to come any time.

'Oh great...' thought Hiko. Of all the deshis he could pick, he'd have to pick an emotionally traumatized slave with bed-wetting issues. This was going to take a lot of patience and a lot of sake.

"Kenshin, stop trembling like that. I'm not going to beat you for an accident," said Hiko.

Kenshin looked up at Hiko with moist violet eyes.

The boy's slavishness would definitely have to be overcome if he were ever to become a swordsman

"When you're finished washing the sheet, hang it up to dry and we'll have breakfast, then I'll show you around," said Hiko.
After a breakfast of rice and fish, behold shishou and deshi walking away from Hiko's cabin out to the training grounds. Kenshin's eyes took in everything. There were thick wooden posts and trees to be practiced on and a huge waterfall that fell into the river that he'd bathed in last night. What a beautiful sight to someone who had looked on so many unlovely things in his life.

"This is where you'll start training next week," said the haughty swordmaster. "Right now, we're going to the village and get some suitable training clothes for you."

Kenshin didn't respond, just kept staring at the waterfall.

"You like the waterfall?" asked Hiko.

Kenshin nodded.

"A bit young for that type of thing, don't you think?" said Hiko, a glimmer in his eye.*

"Oro?" Totally innocent violet eyes.

"Never mind," said Hiko. 'Kids...'

Kenshin walked up to the training posts and looked them over. They were sturdy and looked like they'd taken a lot of punishment from Hiko's nihontou. Kenshin looked up at Hiko with a question in his eyes, but stopped short of asking.

"If you have a question, ask," said Hiko.

"What happens if I break one of these posts?" asked Kenshin.

Hiko snorted.

"Then you'll go into the forest, cut down a tree and make a new one," said Hiko.

Kenshin opened his mouth to say he didn't know how.

"I'll teach you when the time comes," said Hiko. "Alright, come on. Time to get some clothes made for you."

Kenshin fell in behind his master and they headed out. Hiko led the way down the mountain, going at half his usual pace so Kenshin could keep up. Even with the slower pace, Kenshin was completely winded by the time they reached the village.

Hiko took Kenshin to a tailor's shop where he was greeted by a matronly-looking old woman with her hair pulled back in a bun held in place by long hair pins.

"Good morning. How may this humble woman serve the great samurai?" asked the seamstress, noting Hiko's nihontou and bowing low.

"This boy needs to be fitted for kenjutsu training clothes, three juban, three gi, three monpei and three sets of tabi," said Hiko.

"Ah. Right this way," said the seamstress. Hiko and Kenshin followed her inside, stepping out of their sandals as they went.

She led Kenshin and Hiko to the back and gestured for Kenshin to stand on a small pedestal. At her instructions, Kenshin held his arms out to his sides while she measured him vertically and horizontally.

"Alright. I'll have the clothes ready by week's end," said the seamstress.

"Very good. Kenshin!" called Hiko turning to leave.

Kenshin turned from admiring the pretty rolls of fabric and followed his master outside, stepping into his sandals and following Hiko back home.