Disclaimer: Rurouni Kenshin, its characters, events, and locations belong to their respective copyright holders, and ISJ is making no money from the use of their copyrighted material. This fic is purely for personal entertainment purposes only and is not to be sold. This piece belongs to ISJ, so please do not take or use it without my permission. Reviews are wonderful. Constructive criticism is great. Flames are deposited into the Kamiya hibachi for Kenshin to fry fish with.
I don’t generally like AU fic. And I very much dislike the concept of *writing* AU fic. But “The Crafting” should probably be labeled as an AU fic. This is for the simple reason that this fic is based solely on my knowledge of the anime as of the very beginning of the Kyoto arc and I thus had (still have) no real idea how Kenshin actually got his sakabatou. As I understand it, my plot is absolutely nothing like the canon event. I truly apologize for the discrepancy to those of you who know better, but I hope you enjoy my fic nonetheless. Perhaps Kenshin had more than one reverse-blade sword in the years before he arrived at the Kamiya dojo?

Have fun anyway, kids. Battousai rules.

Quick note: *asterisks* around words denotes stress, like italics; //slashmarks\\ around words denotes thought. Confused yet? ^_^
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The Crafting

by ISJ ::: 16.Jun.2003

1870, Year Three of the Meiji Era



The rhythmic pounding of metal-on-metal was hypnotic when taken in tandem with the searing, shimmering heat of a forge. Waves of hot orange energy radiated away from the forge-master’s fire, lifting strands of the young man’s tangled red hair away from the cross-shaped scar glaring from his otherwise smooth left cheek. He watched the proceedings, arms folded across his chest, large eyes darting expertly over the length of glowing metal, up, down, and back again. The forge-master’s apprentice, his wiry ten-year-old body pumping the bellows with gusto, found himself fascinated by those strange eyes, which seemed as they flicked back and forth to be unable to decide whether they were violet or gold.

CLANG! C-CLANG! The hammer, which looked too heavy for the apprentice to even swing yet, arced and tapped and dashed sparks from the red-hot metal under the capable strength of the burly forge-master. His hair was plastered with sweat to his temples and to the faded fabric of his headband, and soot smeared his face. Calluses and rough old scars protected his thick hands from the worst of the flying embers.

And the silent young man just watched. No words were spoken in that blistering room; the forge-master and his whelp were both too inexplicably intimidated by the slight figure standing half-shadowed beside them to try to strike up conversation.

Besides, they had no right. The stranger wore the look and clothing of a warrior; the smiths were common laborers and likely of lower birth than their guest.

So the clanging continued on uninterrupted, the movement and sound mesmerizing to the onlooker.

The metal was deep red, now, its color dulling as it cooled. The eyes of the stranger shifted to a manic gold as the shockingly young face was bathed in crimson light. The warrior’s fingers twitched on his arm, the nails digging at the fabric. The clang-clang faded into the oblivion of memory as the sound changed to whining metallic clashes, not of hammer-on-anvil but of sword-on-sword. Cries of rage, of exertion, of anguished death replaced the steady inhalations and exhalations of the bellows. And the red of fire, of molten steel, became the flowing, soaking, staining red of spilled blood.

Sweat that was previously absent even in the sweltering heat now sprung out on the smooth forehead under the mane of red hair. The young warrior’s breath grew slightly ragged as he blinked, blinked again, and opened his now violet eyes to find himself back in the forge. His breath stilled, his eyes closed once more to compose himself...

And there, as if branded to the insides of his eyelids, were faces. A hundred faces, more, all frozen in the last expressions of terror or anger or agony that they would ever wear. Those faces screamed without throats, accused without tongues, demanded recompense, vindication, even as their blood flowed freely in his mind.

He could still *feel* that blood on his hands, taste it on his lips...a vile obscenity. He shuddered.

//I am doing all I can\\ he thought, trying futilely to drown out those dead voices. //I have taken a vow. I have thrown aside the sword and run away. What more do you ask of me?\\

Revenge, revenge! they cried. Atonement for your sins, and payment for our lives!


The voices were suddenly silenced, and for some terrifying reason the silence was more horribly guilty and accusing than the moans of the slain.


Why was the silence no comfort? All he had wanted was for the voices to still.


//Who is calling me ‘sir?’ I am nobody, and I deserve no such respect. Surely it is not one of the people I...\\

“Sir, it is complete.”

Reality snapped brutally back into focus as the warrior’s violet eyes flew open. The forge-master was standing there, a deeply puzzled and vaguely frightened look on his face and a long, gleaming slash of metal in his hand.

The young man was frozen for another second as he just stared at the glittering steel, and then his limbs were freed from their invisible bonds and he reached out his hands, palms-up to receive his new weapon.

//Not weapon...tool. To preserve peace by sparing lives, not taking them.\\

The still-warm, damp metal laid in his grip with perfect balance, the tip no lighter than the hilt, the middle no thicker than the base, the edge gleaming with razor-sharp glitter.

The wrong edge.

The red-haired swordsman hefted his new sakabatou, its reversed blade refracting the light strangely. It curved gently and tapered to a beautiful point that could impale an apple given the barest pressure. But the convex edge, the fighting edge, was thick and flat, and could do no more than bruise or break bones. It could not even draw blood.

Good. Very good. The forge-master had done his job well.

A sack of coins fetched a sturdy sheath besides the reverse-bladed sword, and the young swordsman was ashamed at his relief when he felt the familiar weight on his hip. His body had missed that burden since he had ridded himself of it some time ago.

Oh, well. If he had to have a sword (and long-ingrained habit demanded that he did), then at least he could trick himself by having a sword that could never kill.

The smith received his payment politely, all the while watching his latest customer. The sword suited him well, he decided, though why in the world a man as young as that would have need of a useless sword in the middle of a time of peace was something the forge-master could not begin to comprehend.

The red-haired samurai with his new sakabatou turned to leave the forge, when suddenly he halted. The smith stiffened unconsciously.

The young man looked back over his shoulder, his wide violet eyes tired but eager all at once. Surely he was little more than a boy, with that innocent face...but then, there was that ugly scar on his cheek. No child had a scar like that.

“Please,” the redhead’s voice was quiet and sincere. “If there ever is anything I can do for you, or your family, just tell me, and it will be done, it will.”

The smith went slack-jawed. Never in all his many years of business had a perfect stranger offered his services like that. There was surely ample reason to distrust such a promise of whim. But...there was something else about this swordsman. Maybe the young man wasn’t quite right in his head. He certainly did sound a little daft, repeating himself so.

But he also seemed trustworthy. And, mindless or not, that sort of character was enough of a recommendation to the smith.

“Thank you very much, kind sir,” the older man replied, bowing his thanks. He missed the flash of pain that crossed the swordsman’s face at being called ‘sir.’

When the smith straightened again, the swordsman was already walking out the door.

“Wait!” the forge-master called him back, suddenly realizing something. “I do not know your name, kind sir.”

The young man’s weary face softened with a small smile. He clutched his new sword with one hand and put the other behind his head in embarrassment.

“It is Himura. Kenshin Himura. I am a wanderer, that I am. But I may wander here again, you just never know!” And with that, Kenshin the wanderer slipped out the door and was swallowed up by the still night.

Well, that’s it. I had felt the need to do a Battousai/Kenshin character sketch when I wrote this, and, for all its problems, still kind of like it.

Reviews are cool ;)

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