Rurouni Kenshin Fan Fiction ❯ The White Rabbit ❯ Winter Wonderland ( Chapter 1 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
January 1884
Kamiya Dojo

Kenshin and Kenji were as alike as father and son could be. Both were small in stature and delicate in build. They had the same high cheekbones, the same long red hair pulled back in a pony tail and the same love of swordsmanship. The only major difference between them was the color of their eyes. Kenshin's were a deep violet, while Kenji had inherited his sky-blue eyes from his mother.

Winter had once again descended on Tokyo. The snow kept falling and falling. Already there was half a foot of it on the ground. Kenshin had no great love of the season in and of itself, but did love to frolic in the snow with Kaoru, and now that he was really getting big enough to, with Kenji. Kenshin decided to take his son out with him to give Kaoru a day to herself, as Kenji could be quite a handful. Kaoru looked out the window at the falling snow and was dubious.

"What if you get caught in a blizzard?" she asked in her worried-wife tone.

"Don't worry about that. Don't forget, I survived ten winters with no roof over my head," said Kenshin good naturedly.

"Well promise you won't stay out too late and that if the weather changes, you'll come back," said Kaoru.

"We'll be home in time for dinner. It's a promise," said Kenshin, kissing his wife on the forehead.

"I'll have dinner and hot tea ready for both of you when you get back," said Kaoru. "And thanks for giving me a day to myself."

"You can thank me in bed tonight," said Kenshin with a wink.

"Hentai," hissed Kaoru.

Kenshin was helping his five-year-old son put on his haori and scarf. As with most children his age, Kenji wanted to do it himself, but got frustrated with tying the obi. When he was about to yell in frustration, Kenshin gently slid his hands over his son's.

"Here, let me show you," he said in the very quiet voice that he only used with his little boy.

Kenshin guided Kenji's hands through the motions of tying the knot and then tying the two ends into a bow. Kenji smiled up at his dad. To the little boy, it seemed like Daddy knew everything. Kenshin smiled at Kenji, and then moving with his godlike speed, scooped the youngster up and held him upside-down, face to face.

"Hah hah! Daddy's upside-down!" squealed Kenji gleefully.

"Oh I am? I can't go outside upside-down or I'll get snow in my face," said Kenshin. Quickly he flipped Kenji over. "Am I still upside-down?" he asked solemnly.

"No. You're OK now, Daddy," said Kenji, still laughing.

"Thank you koshishi," said Kenshin as he lifted Kenji onto his shoulders. Gripping the little boy's legs so he wouldn't slip off, he started out the door.

Kenshin and Kenji stepped out of the back gate and into the forest that was behind the dojo. Kenji squealed with delight at the softly falling snow, his voice the only sound in an otherwise silent world. Kenshin walked with swift and sure steps, never once losing his footing on the treacherous ground. Kenji locked his fingers in his father's warm auburn mane, having never been quite broken of his babyish habit of yanking Daddy's red locks.

Kenshin smiled at the tugging. This time two years ago, Kenji had had a dislike of him that no one understood. Whenever Kenshin would approach Kaoru, Kenji would scowl at him till his face was pinched like a nutcracker. He would scream and try to wriggle out of Kenshin's arms when Kenshin tried to hold him. And whenever Daddy was knelt over the washtub doing the laundry, Kenji would come up silently behind him and yank as hard as he could on his dad's ponytail, almost tempting Kenshin to cut it off. He would've if he hadn't been afraid Kaoru would beat him black and blue for such a transgression.

Over the past year, with patience and persistence, Kenshin had been able to win Kenji over. Kenshin spent as much time as he could with his little guy, playing with him, reading to him and helping him swing his tiny shinai around. Kenji came to see that Daddy was a fun man to be around and wasn't trying to take Mother away from him. Kenji began helping Daddy with the gardening and laundry to the best of his ability. After a year of this, no father and son could be closer.

"Daddy, where does snow come from?" Kenji asked presently.

"Snow is what rain turns into when it gets very cold in the sky," answered Kenshin.

"Snow is water?" asked Kenji.

"Yes," said Kenshin.

"Can I drink it?" asked Kenji.

"If you like," answered Kenshin with a smile.

"Put me down. I wanna drink the snow," said Kenji.

Kenshin lifted Kenji off his shoulders and set him down in the snow. Kenji picked up a handful of the white stuff, ignoring the cold, and put it on his tongue. Evidently he liked it, because he sailed into it.

"Oi, Kenji. Leave some of it on the ground," said Kenshin firmly. "Let's walk some more."

Daddy and son walked on in silence for a long while, going deeper into the countryside. Kenji walked behind Kenshin and tried to step in his footprints, which wasn't easy because he was so small. Kenji overstepped and fell facedown in the snow. Kenshin paused and looked over his shoulder, observing his son. Instantly, Kenji stood up, dusted himself off and continued onward, unfazed. Kenshin started forward again, a smile on his face.

Kenji was walking under a large maple tree when some snow slipped off a branch that was just over him and landed with a plop on the boy's ruddy head. Kenji looked up at the offending branch and shook the snow off with a scowl. That stuff was cold and startled him! Then he looked at his dad who was still walking ahead and got an idea. Kenji wanted to startle Daddy the way the tree branch had startled him.

After gathering up as much snow as his little arms could carry, Kenji hurried to catch up with his father. As soon as he was in range, Kenji lobbed a lopsided snowball at Kenshin, hitting him square in the back.

"Oro!" went Kenshin as he turned to face his little boy, who was staring at him with that impish little smile of his, blue eyes shining with mischief.

A smirk spread across Kenshin's face. Quick as a cat, he dug his hands into the snow and lobbed it back at Kenji, hitting the lad on the chest. Kenji squealed with delight and did the same thing back to his father. Soon they were engaged in a madcap game of snow-flinging, the forest ringing with their laughter.

Kenji was dodging another of Kenshin's snowballs when a movement in the corner of his right eye caught his attention. Kenji turned and saw a white rabbit hopping over the snow. If the rabbit hadn't been moving, he wouldn't have noticed it. Forgetting the game, Kenji started chasing the white rabbit.

"Kenji!" called Kenshin, not wanting the boy to get out of his sight.

Kenji was too wrapped up in chasing the rabbit to hear Daddy calling him. The white rabbit dodged in and out of the bushes and around the trees. Kenji who had inherited his father's speed and grace followed it, though he wasn't able to catch it.

Kenji disappeared around some large trees and out of Daddy's sight, causing him to panic. Kenshin summoned his godlike speed, which wasn't as easy for him to do at 34 as it had been at 15, and charged after his boy.

Kenji saw the white rabbit jump high into the air and then land on its side in the snow. It was no longer moving. Kenji approached the still rabbit slowly, or would've if he hadn't been scooped up into his father's arms just then.

"Put me down, Daddy. I wanna see the white rabbit," said Kenji squirming a bit in Kenshin's tight grip.

"Kenji, you must never leave my side like that again without telling me first. That frightened me badly," said Kenshin, almost in a whisper.

Kenji stopped squirming. He'd frightened Daddy? How was such a thing possible? Daddy feared nothing.

"I frightened you?" asked the toddler, blue eyes as large as saucers.

"Yes. I was very frightened because I couldn't see you," said Kenshin, gazing solemnly into his son's eyes.

"I'm sorry, Daddy," said Kenji quietly, wrapping his arms around his father's neck.

"That's alright son. I know you won't do it again," whispered Kenshin, returning his son's hug.

"Daddy, look at the white rabbit. It was hopping and then it just jumped in the air, and now it doesn't move. Why won't it move?" said Kenji pulling back from the hug and pointing to the rabbit lying in the snow.

Kenshin set his son down and knelt to inspect the rabbit. The white rabbit was unquestionably dead. In all likelihood, it had died of malnutrition due to the harsh weather. Kenshin sighed. Kenji couldn't be protected from the realities of life forever.

"I'm sorry, koshishi. The white rabbit isn't moving anymore because it died," said Kenshin in a very soft voice.

Kenji's blue eyes widened. "Died? What does that mean?" asked the little boy.

"When something dies, it no longer has life in its body. When the rabbit was alive, it was able to see, hear, feel and hop. Now its life is gone. It can't see, hear or feel anymore. It will never hop again. Everything that has life will eventually lose it and die," said Kenshin.

"Even us?" whispered Kenji.

"Yes. Even us," said Kenshin. "We're born, we grow up, we live our lives and then we die."

Kenji looked again at the still form in the snow. Why? Why did something that was alive have to die? It didn't seem fair.

"That's not fair," he said, looking into Daddy's eyes.

"Life is not always fair, son," said Kenshin, glancing absently up at the sky.