This fan fiction is based on the Rurouni Kenshin manga. Rurouni Kenshin characters are the property of creator Nobohiro Watsuke, Shueisha, Shonen Jump, Sony Entertainment, and VIZ Comics. This is a non-profit work for entertainment purposes only. Permission was not obtained from the above parties.
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Under the Shadow: Chapter 1 - New Dawn

by Ayashi ::: 30.Jun.2003

I sighed.

Finally, it was over.

The orange colour of the new era’s flags merged with the pink of the sunset sky. Even the sunset could not compete with the glorious scene that was emerging everywhere. The sun itself was hiding behind the flags- as more and more of them were hung up to announce the dawn of the new era. The dark streets of Kyoto were lit up with the glow of orange; the fields in the countryside seemed, at last, peaceful.

Yet the silence that filled the air was deafening to the human ear. Like many, I watched the glowing flags in silence, reflecting on everything that had happened. I watched as people held each other’s hand, taking the comfort of each other’s company, thankful that they had survived to see the final sunset of the old era and the dawning of the new. Sorrow, as the people remembered the lives that were shed to achieve this moment. Grief, for those who did not support the final victory of the Ishin Shishi. Above all there was the uncertainty of what lies ahead. The chaos of war might have ceased, but everyone understood it was going to take more than a magnificent show of flags to restore the damage the upheaval had created.

Without looking, I gripped the hilt of my sword and paused, before pulling the blade out of its sheath for the last time. The cold metal shone dimly in the disappearing sunlight, the reflection of the orange glow highlighting its dangerous edge. Collecting every bit of energy left in me, I quietly discarded the sword in the damp soil. As I did this, a calming spring breeze caressed the land, and I allowed myself to be overcome by exhaustion that I had desperately tried to hide when I was still a hitokiri.

The breeze was my only companion, and it was comforting to hear its whisper. Yes, I thought, it was over. It was, at last, over.

I do not know how long I stood there in the breeze, staring numbly at the gleaming sword. The weariness I felt was nothing compared with the melancholy in my heart- I could not look at the sword without seeing the blood- the blood that I had shed. I had accomplished my goal- I reminded myself- the people would no longer suffer. Yet I was too tired, too consumed by personal grief, to feel any joy. I knew that even though I had helped in creating this new era, I would never be able to wipe clean the blood on my hands. I had vowed, that I should never shed another life after the peaceful era dawned. However, that being said, I needed to find a way to live my life and compensate what I had done, even though the debt may never be fully paid back. The weight of the load on my back had increased so much in the past few years I seriously considered turning myself upon my own sword. That thought was, however, doubtlessly selfish. It would be cowardice and an act of betrayal to the lives I carried on my back.

The price that I should pay for what I had done did not occur to me when I was so determine and wrapped up in helping create the new era. It was now too late to change anything, and I was unprepared to face the brutal consequences. Desperately, I wanted to escape, away from the dark years here in Kyoto.

Before that could be done, however, there were things I needed to do. Since it was inappropriate to use the sum I earned as a hitokiri for her grave, it meant that I was unable to get a proper resting-place for her. When I sat my thoughts upon this, I realized that Kyoto had created so much grief for her that it was inappropriate to be a peaceful resting-place for her anyway. Furthermore, I did not where her home was, even though if I had known I doubted I would have had the courage to face her family.

I decided that the only thing I could have done for her was to remember her in a place where she may not be disturbed, and hopefully rest in peace. Upon making that decision, after I was thrust with my sakabato to accompany my way, I hurriedly left Kyoto without saying goodbye to any of my comrades. There was no need- being the greatly feared hitokiri, I wasn’t popular with any of them. Besides, everyone would be busy settling disorder in order to reunited with their families as soon as possible. They needed not be reminded of a deadly assassin in their victory celebration. There was no need for a hitokiri anymore.

It took me several days to arrive. I couldn’t help but give a small smile as I realized nothing had change- the overgrown forest with sweet scent of wild flowers; the rustling of leaves; the sound of tickling water of a stream nearby…

"Kasumi-san. Sakura-san. Akane-san…"

I cupped my hand and bowed with respect. To this day, the kindness of these three women still touched me, and my gratefulness for what they had done for me could not be put in words.

"I’m sorry I haven’t visited for so long," I murmured as I cleared the weeds around the three tombstones, "I…"

I stopped. I held out the soft, purple shawl and stared blankly at it. My throat felt dry.

"I had failed to protect someone I loved again," I finally said with a croaked voice, "… Someone… very… important."

Words failed me. I did not utter another word as I carefully poured water over the three tombstones. The water looked almost glittery in the last rays of light. Although the sun was already setting, I took my time searching for a suitable piece of wood to construct what I had in mind… I stumbled across a few promising pieces, yet I did not find exactly what I wanted. Dimly lighted stars were starting to take their positions, ready to lit up the night sky… I inhaled the cool twilight air. The world out here in the mountainsides was certainly refreshing, after spending years in a city like Kyoto.

It was good to be back. As I noted this my foot bumped into something- I bent to find a lovely piece of chestnut coloured wood- I wasn’t familiar enough with trees’ names to identify what kind of wood it was, but it felt like I had found the right one. The moon was already out when I carried the piece to the clear landing. Not wanting to abandon what I was doing, I smoothed the wooden piece by the moonlight.

Each stroke to smooth the wood was still vivid in my mind. The purple shawl kept me warm as I worked in the icy darkness. Finally, probably well into the night, I completed the wooden cross by binding the two pieces together and erected it behind the three tombstones.

I stood back. And bowed.

With my head bent low, the resistance to stop the hot tears that had welled in eyes for so long was breaking down, until it completely disappeared, and the tears started flowing freely.

"… Gomen nasai…"

I found myself repeating those words, again and again.

This would be the last time that I weep, I told myself, as I spent the night in the safety of these souls. From tomorrow, I shall be strong… I shall leave this behind me, and I shall repay these people who had protected me with their lives by… By? My mind wandered. How should I repay them? In the darkness, I found no answer.

I wrapped the shawl closer around me. At that moment I felt like a lost child, and I quivered in the night.

How could I ever repay them?

I looked up at the faint outline of the wooden cross in the dark, and touched the cross-shaped scar on my left cheek. I drifted off in to sleep, with my hand over the wound.


How could I ever repay you, Tomoe?

This is my first RK fic! Hope it was ok >.< Did it seem really confusing? Please tell me what you think!
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