Rurouni Kenshin Fan Fiction ❯ The Monk in the Cell ❯ One-Shot

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

A cocky grin suffused the youth's face. "It's been a long time, monk. You never write."

"I'm afforded few privileges. Rightfully so. This is penance", Anji replied. The boy was making a joke, of course. The fallen monk found no humor in any of it. Hard floors, iron bars, little space, just enough food to stay alive and bear the cold climate of Hokkaido. Only fitting for a sinner. Not for a soul like Sanosuke Sagara. "Why are you here?"

The grin faded. "I heard you asked for this. 25 years, in this block of ice? I had to come. You're my friend."

Anji was surprised. No one had called him friend in many years. He hadn't been a friend to anyone in many years.

Sagara continued. "You still cover your eyes with Tsubaki's ashes. Even now? I thought I'd opened those eyes of yours."

"Especially now. Now more than ever. You did open my eyes. My worst crime was to blame others for my failure. My precious little children, my little girl...died because of me. I took other lives with my hands, but theirs were stolen because of all I was, and all I lacked. They deserve to retain a mark on this world, even if that mark is on my unworthy shell. As for you, you don't deserve to be here. You should leave and never-"

Sagara kicked the bars, hard. "Shut up! I deserve to be here. I kicked your ass back into reality, and if my hands weren't still broken, I'd smash these bars and kick your ass again for telling me what I deserve! The truth is...the truth is, you're the closest thing to an older brother I've had, since Captain Sagara. You understood me, and you let me save you. Now you've locked yourself away, hundreds of miles from anyone. I guess I thought, I just...". He looked away.

Beneath considerable layers of muscle, Anji's stomach lurched. "What did you think, boy?"

"I thought maybe I could visit you sometimes, tell you how things are going with Kenshin, get your thoughts on it all, your guidance."

Guidance? Older brother? In other words, another orphan at the monk's doorstep, asking for help. A strong wave of self loathing swept Anji, topped off with mortal fear for Sagara. No. He couldn't. No one would ever die under his 'care' again. There was no antidote for the poison of Anji, only quarantine.
He briefly closed his eyes, and sighed. "Sagara. You saved me. You are a far better man than I am. I admire you for it, and it is also why you need to stay away."

"Look, I may hate boats and cold, but it's not that bad, you knucklehead. Give me more credit than that."

Anji felt a smile trying to sneak onto his lips. He'd almost forgotten how that felt. "I do, boy. More credit than you will ever know. I won't taint that with my presence."

Sagara looked positively annoyed. He gave the monk a flat, direct stare. "Yeah, well, funny you should mention that. I've always wanted to bring the salvation you love to others, but I've had to be reminded why a few times. If you're so bad, you wouldn't be the third person to ever remind me, after Captain Sagara and Kenshin. I took the symbol for 'bad' off my back. You've got it tattooed on yours. Get rid of it. Help me help others."

Anji clenched his left fist. He wasn't fit to help anyone. He was not a hero, not like Sagara. Still. He wanted to bring salvation to the world. Even if he had an unworthy figure motivating him, it was still motivation to do right, wasn't it? Sagara was so brash, quick tempered, and reckless. But he never lost his way, not to the degree Anji did. He had mastery over his own soul. To withhold support for such a man would be another sin on Anji's list of them, and it was long enough.

"So, what of it? You gonna help more than just those five kids, or keep brooding in silence?"

The smile won against Anji, barely. He felt his lips forced into a slight smirk. The Destroyer lost another battle. That vow was turning out very difficult to keep.
"If you insist on the path of rebuilding, Sagara, I cannot follow you. I also don't want you endangering that with my shadow. I am unworthy. But, perhaps...", Anji looked at the broken ehi in front of him. The avatar of his beloved children, who continued to protect him, even in death. It was fractured where Sagara had punched sense into him, but no less sacred.
"Perhaps my children, my Tsubaki, can make a difference with you. Their final resting place shouldn't be my cold prison. Sagara, their presence made all the difference in the world to me. They were, and are, my world. They pulled me from the brink, in life and in death. Living on through you, in the sun, rebuilding, would be a blessing they sorely deserve." Anji held it out.

Sagara's eyes widened, his mouth slightly open. He looked at the proffered gift, the core of Anji's soul. "I can't. They're your family. I can't take them away from you."

Anji looked at Sagara steadily, feeling the most clarity he'd felt in months. Since, well, the last time Sagara spoke to him. Repeated visits from the boy could indeed bring him a measure of happiness. Happiness he didn't deserve. He might forget how truly guilty he was, when it was paramount he always remember, and always pay.
"Please. Give my children what I couldn't."

The boy audibly swallowed, closed his mouth into a firm line, nodded. He reached a shaky, bandaged, hand out, fresh blood seeping into the bandages. He really had injured those hands quite thoroughly. He took the ehi from Anji, with a gentleness owed to both his injuries and the importance of the gift. Anji braced him with his free hand, careful not to press the bloodied bandages very hard.

"Are you sure they wouldn't still want your company?"

Anji smiled again, sadly, letting all of his guilt show on his face. He vaguely gestured at his eyes. "They are always with me. Now you have their spirit, and I still have the remnants of my failing them. As it should be. Much as it reminds me of my guilt, I selfishly find the ashes comforting. Some part of them will always be with me, keeping me company. It is the only privilege I value."


It had been just a few minutes since Sagara departed, but Anji's reflective mood stretched them into hours, internally. That boy. In another life, they would have certainly been brothers. That was not a far fetched thought. Maybe they would be, in a future reincarnation.

But before that, if Buddha was forgiving, he hoped to see Tsubaki and his children once more, as spirits. To tell them how sorry he was, infuse them with all of the love he possessed, finally be there at the right time, and beg their forgiveness. Their ashes were comforting. Having a physical part of his family attached to his being was a salve he likely didn't deserve, but he justified that with the fact their bodies persevered in the best place of honor he had. It was both selfish and an earned recognition.

He looked down at his hands. Sagara's blood was thick on them. He dipped his fingertips in his palms, tilted his head, and gingerly dabbed themunder his eyes.

He would always keep his family close. But, he would always pay for his failures. It was a high debt, one that 25 years in a cell couldn't fully repay. He would nonetheless pay with all he could give.