Disclaimer: Himura Kenshin and all his friends (and various enemies) belong to Nobuhiro Watsuki, who was wise and kind enough to create such an enjoyable series. Other original characters invented in this fic belong to me. But I'm still not getting any money out of this, so please don't sue.
Future Interlude 2: Recollection
15th year of Meiji
Mid-Summer 1882 - Tokyo
"That...was Kenji...?" Kaoru sat in shock once again, alarming her companions--especially Kenshin, who was already rather worried and really had no idea what she was so surprised about.
"What're you talking about, busu?" Yahiko demanded. "Hush up and let Kenshin finish the story!"
"Maa, maa..." Kenshin soothed at the youth, mostly to keep him from upsetting Kaoru's currently-delicate temper. "Ah...Kaoru?"
Finally, her eyes focused on him again, large and blank and wondering. "The little boy...with the ball...was Kenji..."
"Oro?" Kenshin blinked in surprise a second time. "Kaoru, are you alright de gozaru ka?"
"I think I remember that," she whispered, her hands clenching pale in her lap, her voice a strange mixture of loss and joy. A shadow of a memory was given a form--and she was given proof from her own experience that the tale Kenshin told was utterly true.
"Remember what?" Yahiko asked quizzically.
"One of those silly little ordinary things you completely forget," she replied softly, "unless someone reminds you--then it comes back like it was yesterday... I could never remember his face, just the red hair--it was so pretty, I thought, and I'd never seen anything like it before...so I never really forgot it; it was on Otousan's business trip to Kyoto, the first one he took me along--how could I forget? And the ball, too, I remember the ball...he almost fell and I caught him..."
"Kaoru," Kenshin said slowly, his own eyes quite wide as well. "Are you saying...you saw...?"
"And you!" Kaoru gasped, looking up at him. "You...were right there...right there and I never even saw you..."
"'Course you didn't, busu," Yahiko scoffed. "He was a hitokiri back then, remember? You weren't supposed to just see him."
Under other circumstances, Kenshin would have fought back a laugh and reminded Yahiko that even the Hitokiri Battousai had taken walks through the market streets like any other fellow--especially considering the story he had just related to them, in which the younger Kenshin had been poking around in a toy store--but Kaoru's words had rendered his tongue nearly numb and frozen his mind with realization.
"The one Kenji was looking at," he breathed, awed, "like there was something odd he couldn't figure out. That little girl--that was you?"
Husband and wife stared at each other for long, breathless moments--while Yahiko looked on, nonplussed--before Kenshin set his forehead in his hands. His shoulders were shaking sporadically, and Kaoru immediately snapped out of her daze to reach out for him. She got her fingers clenched into his sleeve before she realized he was laughing--the strangest chuckle she'd ever heard from him.
"Kenshin...? What's wrong?" she queried, her own shock forgotten in the sudden overbearing concern that she'd somehow set him off again--tripped his guilt wire, or reminded him of something awful, or just broken that far-too-big, far-too-delicate heart of his. "Kenshin, you'd better talk to me right now...!"
"Masaka..." Between the out-of-place chuckles, he shook his head, still rubbing his forehead with an air of disbelief and near-dismay. "Ah...gomen, Kaoru--please, pay it no mind de gozaru..."
"Kenshin," she insisted, shaking him by the shoulder, the presence of her frown somehow much more reassuring than any gentle words--it meant that she was coming back to herself. "Mou!"
"Gomen, gomen--oro!" Kenshin caught her hands, finally managing to look up at her--somewhat--and fighting off a wry, near-embarassed grin. "I'm sorry, Kaoru, it's...you just..." He was still trying not to laugh. "You just made me feel very old."
She blinked for half a second before her pink-cheeked scowl returned. "Mou! Kenshin, I am not a little girl any more!"
"Aa, wakatta, wakatta!" he was quick to agree, before she could raise a fist--or a bokken, if she managed to get ahold of one. "You've quite grown up de gozaru. You can be very sure I know that."
"So...Kaoru saw Kenji back then, when she was a little kid," Yahiko pondered thoughtfully, crossing his arms. "And Kenshin saw Kaoru when she was a little kid, but she never saw Kenshin."
"And that's so unfair, too! Mou...!" Kaoru frowned again, almost a pout.
"Perhaps it was better that way," Kenshin spoke softly, his eyes turned inward. "Better that you did not see me or know me as I was then. I would never want to frighten you, Kaoru..."
"Kenshin..." She gazed at him, her grip on his arm loosening but never quite letting go. Then, her face set with resolve--the resolve not to choose fear, the resolve to reach out to him. "I know I've...been afraid sometimes in the past. Afraid of you, when I know I really shouldn't be..." She glanced down. "Hitokiri Battousai was an assassin, but...I know he was not cruel. I know you, Kenshin...and I remember. Kenji...didn't look frightened."
"I saw him," Kaoru repeated, fighting back the glimmer of tears in her eyes at the thought that her child, her baby, was truly lost to her in the past--even if only for a short time. "I saw him, and he looked...okay. Safe. I think he was happy..."
Kenshin caught his breath at the smile she gave him--a smile filled with both pain and hope, loss and relief; bright, to hide her tears and doubts. "Kaoru..."
Yahiko finally exploded, unable to contain his curiosity any longer. "Okay, so what happened next? What about that meeting your boss wanted you to attend? What happened with Kenji?"
The elder two blinked in surprise at the rude intrusion of reality, but managed to compose themselves; Kaoru hid her last misgivings behind a sly smile directed at her husband, nudging him almost forcefully.
"Yes, indeed," she prodded, "what did happen with Kenji? There's much more to tell, Kenshin."
"Ah--hai, hai..." Returning to his usual sheepish grin, the rurouni-turned-house-husband nodded in his silly way, a hand behind his head. "However," he continued apologetically, "I hope you've noticed it's getting rather late de gozaru. It's quite dark outside, and I haven't even heated up the stove. Perhaps we should see to the evening meal--and if there is no time left I could continue the tale tomorrow de gozaru."
"Dinner's a good idea," Yahiko admitted, rubbing his stomach--which seconded the motion with an audible growl.
"But I want to know what happened to Kenji!" Kaoru added, earning instant agreement from the young man. "I don't want to have to wait until breakfast!"
"Maa, maa...very well." Sighing, Kenshin gave in, rising to his feet. "I suppose I shall have to continue while we are eating dinner. If no one minds a slight delay while I prepare the food."
"Just hurry up already!" Kaoru demanded, fixing him with a firm blue-eyed glare.
"Aaah--hai!" Cowed, Kenshin scuttled for the kitchen to start cooking, anticipating a long night of storytelling ahead and the necessity of extra tea for his throat; he was going to be doing a lot of talking--more than he was used to, that was for certain. "Yare yare..."
She can be almost as bad as Kenji, he thought to himself with a knowing smile. That's probably why I fell for her so fast...
Author's Note: Hi y'all! I'm back for a bit. To anyone who's waiting eagerly for more of The White Dog, don't panic; I know chappie 32 is not in shape yet--I'm working on it. I am also spit-and-polishing the rest of the story for a sort of Grand Re-Opening hopefully very soon.
Not forgetting this story either. Anyway, in answer to a few questions people may have about translations--I can provide some of the more difficult ones, but it's also not too hard to locate one of the online Japanese/English dictionaries. (http : // dict . regex . info / cgi-bin / j-e / dict --just erase the spaces.) That should provide you with a basic lookup of almost any of the words. Here's some that might be a little harder to find (especially Kenji's local "nicknames"):
ki - spirit, energy, aura
chiburi - traditional sword action, snapping blood off the blade with one quick stroke before sheathing it.
aa - "yeah"
Touchan - I would hope most of you know this one--for those that don't, it's a kiddie way to say "Daddy."
ara - the proper exclamation that Kenshin's "Oro!" comes from--his is a sort of country-bumpkin corruption of it.
sou da na - "I guess so / isn't it so?"
sou ka - "is that so?"
sou desu - "indeed"
maa, maa - "easy now," "there there,"
ano - "say..." "well..." "err..."
nan da yo - gruff "whaddya want?" or "what the hell?"
un - "yeah" or "uh-huh"
daisukinai - "I hate you!"
ite/itai - "ow!"
hontou ni daisuki - "honest, I love you"
wakatta - "I understand."
wakarimashita - polite "I understand."
yawarakai - very soft
obiete - terrified, or having a nightmare
Youokoshi - shopkeepers' welcome in Kansai dialect
Ganguta - toymaker
asobo - "play!"--I doubt this is dictionary-correct, but I've heard it used by very young chibis in anime, so I borrowed.
busu - "ugly," "hag"--everyone in RK-dom should know this one!
chibi - noun: little one, kid, squirt; adjective: little, tiny, small, miniature
chicchai - tiny, little, wee
masaka - expression of disbelief
gaki - kid, brat
k'so/kuso - "shit," "damn"
yosh'/yoshi - "okay!" "good," "all right"
ryu - dragon
Chibi-kou - "Little Red"
Akage-chan - redhead-chan (I pray y'all know what "chan" is)