Peace, In Your Arms - Part 1
A Light of the Snow Red Village Side-Story
by Akai Kitsune ::: 24.Mar.2003
Don't tell me that it's morning
Can we keep the curtains drawn
I haven't given you fair warning
But our ship, she sails at dawn...
And it's true I must be going
But I swear I won't be long
There isn't that much ocean between Boston and St John's
I'm a rover, and I'm bound to sail away
I'm a rover, can you love me anyway?
And if some suitor comes approaching
Will you let him through your door
And what if I return half-broken
Will you still want me anymore?
Close your eyes and dream and tell me what you see
You can tell me what you want, just tell me that you'll wait for me
But, oh, don't tell me that it's morning
Can we keep the curtains drawn
I haven't given you fair warning
But our ship, she sails at dawn...
There was blood on
the night air. Blood of war.
Kenshin resisted the urge to cover his nose
against the stench, knowing it would be a futile show of weakness. Instead,
he let the knowledge of Tomoe's warmth and sweet plum scent waiting for
him back at the inn comfort him and hold him to his post.
'Just a few more hours... if all goes well, I can return to her...'
He could already feel her arms around him...
brushing back his hair, banishing the dark and the memories and...
His senses alerted him of another arrival,
and he reluctantly retreated from his illusions before he lost it completely.
Turning to the side, he saw the leaders of the Shishi had finished their
meeting and were ready to return to their own resting house. Katsura's
eyes bored into his, asking silently, and Kenshin nodded. 'Peaceful,'
he thought to himself. 'Easy, tonight.'
However, experience told him it was nothing
but false hopes. The Shinsengumi were growing more and more careful, and
they had begun to change their patrols regularly. It was impossible to
determine how safe or long the return trip would be. Shaking the last of
his daydream from his mind - he needed it clear and alert to do his job
properly - he moved ahead of the officials and began the journey through
the darkened alleys of Kyoto.
Tomoe lay awake on the
futon, staring blankly at the ceiling. Shifting uncomfortably, she sat
up, taking another glance at the window.
'I should be sleeping... there is
much work to be done tomorrow...'
'But... I can't help but worry...'
'He hasn't told me anything, but
I've heard rumours... the men of the inn have been speaking of the dangers
becoming greater each night... and the Shinsengumi...'
No one thought to close their mouths with
a woman in the room. No one suspected her of anything. They never had,
it seemed; even when she was plotting the Battousai's murder, no one had
questioned her presence.
'Now though... not anymore. Never again. I will never again think of killing him.'
'I... I love him. I could never...'
Thinking to where her former alliance and
loyalty lay, she almost smiled in irony. How strange, it was. For so long,
she had hoped for an end to the war... an end that triggered the destruction
of the Ishin Shishi revolution and traitors. Now... she worked dutifully
- sometimes contentedly - at a secret housing for the very officials her
father had cursed so often. Now, she was the loving and faithful wife of
the most well-known and feared Shishi hitokiri... the strongest of their
Ironic, yet somehow... fitting. And she could
not complain of her role. Not when doing all she could to aid the one she
loved filled her with such joy.
She stood, gracefully stepping towards the
sill, and cautiously looked out. The streets were empty, quiet as death
itself. Nothing moved, nothing stirred. A soft wind brushed against her
skin, and she shivered.
'It is cold, tonight...'
'The wind... it felt almost like... a brush of death against my skin...'
'Or... a sword...'
She touched her neck gingerly, almost hesitant.
The memory of her husband's blade against her throat so long ago, at that
very window, still came fresh when she thought of it.
But also clear and concise, almost as if he
was here, standing before her, was the shattered, broken terror in his
eyes as he barely managed to withdraw, his sword biting deep into his left
hand guard, barely able to stop the attack that would have killed her.
Just like he had killed her beloved fiancee only a few months before.
But... he had stopped. He had controlled the
vicious intent to take her life, knowing full well that it would destroy
the man he had fought and trained to become. Whether or not he was happy
with who he was, she was no longer sure.
Sometimes she could see it; the love, the
pure and utter joy when he was with her. When she touched him, when he
allowed himself to touch her... she felt a sliver of sweet excitement trail
her spine. She had long grown accustomed to his tender, almost fearfully
hesitant way of love, had come to expect it, look forward to it. There was a
strange gentleness hidden in his slight body, just as surely as the strength
that had brought him through the war. She admired that gentle
touch, loved him even more for the softening in his eyes at each glance
in her direction, knowing that it was she, and she alone who brought about
'Akira-san... he was always kind
and loving. Demo... Kenshin... I helped him become this... the man he is...
my husband... I...'
'We changed... we bound ourselves
together and allowed this love to change us...'
Turning her eyes to the night sky yet again,
Tomoe knelt beside the window to wait for her husband, to wait for the
arms of warmth and love to envelope her.
He had known what to
expect from the night; the others had learned long before. Night was for
demons, monsters... warriors like him.
Night was for battle in the shadows.
He had known.
And so, when he noticed the clear presence
of a small group of Shinsengumi ahead of them, no one, especially Kenshin
himself, was surprised.
called one of the Shishi guards from the back, pointing ahead. "There are
too many to fight. We don't have enough men to spare, and a battle would
result in both unnecessary casualties and lost time... nor can we afford
to put Katsura-san and the others in danger." his eyes narrowed at he watched
the enemy guards with deadly calculation. "Take the others through the
back passages to Kohagiya. Keep careful watch; there will be other guards."
"What are you going
to do?" the other man asked cautiously, as if he already knew.
Kenshin gave him a sideways glance, and merely
nodded. Adachi's eyes widened, but he said nothing.
As the guards drew closer, Kenshin lowered
his voice to a bare whisper. "Don't move until we're out of sight." Before
anyone could react, he disappeared into the shadows for a moment, then
rushed out of the alley, sword drawn and glinting in the moonlight.
"Nani? Kuso- aah!"
the enemies barely had time to react when his sword swung forward, bringing
down two of the men with ease. He paused only to allow them time to recognize
him; once they did, there would be no time to rest.
Turning, he flew out of the fray and down
a different road, carefully avoiding the path his comrades were to take.
If they followed his instructions, and were careful enough, they would
all survive the night. He heard the pounding footsteps of those following
him, and eased himself into a steady pace so as not to lose them until
he was ready.
He closed his eyes for a moment, letting the
instincts and memories of the night lead his feet, even as the image of
Tomoe awaiting his return gave him the strength and guided his heart to
last till morning came.
The chills brought her
back to consciousness, and Tomoe awoke realizing she had fallen asleep
at the windowsill. She frowned, guilty and heartsick from worry, and wondered
how she managed to fall asleep when she knew her husband was risking his
life - possibly in battle at that very moment - for her. She knew it was
for her that he now fought; knew it, and felt the saddening weight of that
knowledge on her heart. He loved her enough to stare into the eyes of death
day after day - and all she could do was clean house and wait for him at
Though even that, apparently, was too much
for her. Already her eyes were growing heavy, her limbs weary from the
day's work and the discomfort of her position. Rising, she returned to
the bed and pulled on a heavier hanten, letting the soft fabric settle
over her cold skin. So warm... but not enough, not by far. He was warmer...
always warmer when he held her. When she held him. She moved to the window
again, assuming her former position, and prayed that Kenshin was warm enough...
Fleeing into a side alley
and pressing his body against the wall, Kenshin watched the Shinsengumi
intently as they paused, unsure of where he had gone. Eight of them, now;
four, as they split up and went separate ways, some hurrying down the same
alley he had so carefully hidden himself in.
Four... it was enough. It would have to be
He attacked in silence, letting the wind takes
him through the steps of his swirling dance of death, the jaws of his sword
crushing the blood and bone and tissue beneath his uncanny strength. The
Mitsurugi dragon was in battle, and from a distance, it may have been beautiful.
'Perhaps,' he thought idly,
as the last man fell, his blood staining the ground, a deep gash in his
chest. 'But why should it be believed that death is beautiful? That
murder... is so glorious?'
'Beautiful... there are so many
other things far more worthy of that name...'
Wiping the blood from his katana and sheathing
it, he prepared himself to return to the inn. The others would already
have arrived; he had given them plenty of time, and the other guards had
followed the wrong path. It was almost over, he was nearly safe.
Safe... with her...
Much later, when he had time to consider the
occurrences of the night with a clearer mind, he honestly admitted to himself
that he didn't sense another presence until he turned the corner... and
was knocked flying by someone else's body slamming into him.
He was on his feet in an instant, sword half-drawn
to beat back the offender, cursing himself for not sensing it... but suddenly,
he froze, as the supposed attacker remained on his knees, deftly patting
the ground to get a grip on his surroundings. Small fingers closed on a
gnarled rod of old bamboo.
'A child,' Kenshin thought dazedly.
'What on earth-?'
"Gomen, gomen nasai..."
the boy was murmuring repeatedly, getting up unsteadily with the help of
his cane. "Please forgive me for bumping into you... you were so quiet
I didn't even realize you were there..."
Looking more carefully, Kenshin's eyes widened,
as he realized the boy couldn't see a thing.
'I've never seen an affliction like
that, and it's certainly not a wound. He must have been born with it...'
"Ano..." the child
stepped forward, obviously nervous. "Is anybody there?"
Against his better judgement, Kenshin moved
forward and steadied him. "Daijoubu, I'm here. Are you all right?"
The child started, as if the contact had been
totally unexpected, but he shook it off and smiled. "Ah - hai hai, oniisan,
I'm okay. Thank you."
Kenshin hesitated before continuing. "What
are you doing out in the streets at night? It's dangerous in Kyoto these
"I know..." the boy
responded guiltily, "But I'm looking for my father. He was working last
night and didn't come home. Kaasan wanted me to stay inside and wait, but
I couldn't, I'm so worried about him." he smiled again, this time with
pride. "The Shinsengumi are so brave and strong... and my father is an
invincible warrior. But sometimes he goes out and forgets to come back
for a few days. I thought that if I looked for him, I would find him somewhere."
Kenshin glanced back into the alley, eyes
remorseful, at the four bodies left behind; clothed in the bold colours
of blue and white... now stained dark red. Hoping desperately that the
boy's father hadn't been one of them, he knelt down. "What is your name?"
"Fumio," the boy supplied with ease,
surprisingly trusting for a resident of Kyoto in the midst of the Bakumatsu.
Kenshin just smiled, wistful. 'If only
it was that easy... if only a careless word to anyone wouldn't get you
killed...' "Kenshin... you can call me Kenshin." the boy nodded. "I'm
sure your father is fine, but you really shouldn't be out. Tell me where
you live; I'll take you home."
"Oh no, oniisan, you really don't have to do that. I can get home myself."
'Not when you're rushing through
the streets and slamming into paranoid, homesick hitokiri,' Kenshin
mused silently. 'I could have killed you.' "It's alright. I insist."
Finally, Fumio reluctantly supplied the directions
to his home. Carefully, Kenshin turned the boy around, urging him forward,
away from the dead swordsmen.
'I wish... I... I miss my home. I miss being home... with Tomoe...'
The sudden, hushed voices
she had heard from her room guided Tomoe through the inn, until she finally
reached the kitchen. Okami was already hard at work serving tea for the
men who had just arrived. Taking a quick glance at the group, recognizing
a few of them - Katsura Kogoro was there, along with that Adachi fellow
who was surprisingly loyal to his new squad leader, despite Kenshin's past
- but unable to find the only one she really cared about. When she sent
a fairly begging look in Katsura's direction, he stood and moved towards
her, patting her shoulder assuredly. "It's alright, Tomoe-san. He's made
himself a decoy again... he'll be back a bit later, as soon as he shakes
them off. He'll be fine."
Tomoe's eyes were drawn to the wooden floor,
and she bowed and excused herself before she lost her composure. Once arriving
in her room, she moved back to the window, hands reaching for the shutters
to ward away the cold.
'It's so chilled outside... he'll
want to warm up when he comes back. It's no good having a cold room waiting
'Or a cold wife...'
She sent one final glance out the window before
closing it, and let out a soft sigh. Decoy, again. Kami knows where such
ideas come from; leading the strongest warriors of the Shogunate around
the streets of Kyoto as if it were a simple game of chase between children.
He had always been brave... but this...
'He never wants me to worry... yet
he constantly goes out, night after night, and does something like this,
foolish and brave and noble and so admirable... my husband... why do you
'He will be cold, spending so long
in this night.'
She slid beneath the blankets, curling herself
close and holding back a shiver.
'He will be cold... so I will keep a place warm for him.'