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Clearing Skies chapter 2: Legacy

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Clearing Skies chapter 2: Legacy

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Summary: Seventeen years after the conclusion of the manga, Sanosuke returns home to Tokyo, and finds a newcomer to the Kamiya Dojo he hadn't expected...

Clearing Skies
By Calger459
Chapter 2: Legacy

Conventions: //…// is thoughts, *…* is emphasis

Lots of conversation in this chapter; hints are dropped, questions posed and stubbornly not answered. Aren't I mean? Angts-ness abounds. Ahhh, feel the tension mount…

Disclaimer: Sanosuke, Kenshin and co. are copyright all the various rights holders in Japan and the USA including Nobuhiro Watsuki, Sony TV, and VIZ Communications. This story is for entertainment only and I’m definitely not making money from it, so there.

On with the fic!

~*~

It was taking forever for drinks to appear. Sano wondered what on earth the boy was actually *doing* in the kitchen. //Maybe he’s gonna poison my tea or something. He sure wouldn’t be the first to try. // He pondered that for a moment. //All right, I’ve been traveling in cutthroat countries for too long. //

Sano sighed and stretched out his legs under the low table, wincing at the popping sounds his joints made. //Damn, I’m sure not getting any younger. Being, uh…how old am I now? Thirty…six? Yeah. That sucks. // Leaning back on his elbows he craned his neck to look towards the kitchen. “Hey, you okay in there? Need help or anything?”

“I’m fine, thank you,” came the distant reply. Sano shrugged and resumed a sitting position, propping his chin on one hand. He glanced out the open shoji and saw that Kenshin’s vegetable garden was looking healthier than ever. It had nearly tripled in size since he’d last seen it and was lush with summer growth. Again, Sano felt puzzled. Everything here at the dojo seemed fine. It was by all appearances the home of a peaceful, happy family. Not rich certainly, but not at the edge of poverty, which had been where the dojo was seventeen years ago. //So why’s this kid so on edge all the time? Or maybe he’s just a brat. I can’t see Kenshin and Kaoru putting up with that sort of behavior though. Well, okay…maybe not Kaoru. //

The boy finally came in and set down a small tray with a teapot and two steaming cups of green tea. “We don’t have sake,” he said by way of explanation, seeing Sano’s slightly disappointed look.

The traveler shrugged. “Nah, it’s cool. So, I still don’t know your name.”

The boy looked startled, as if he’d only just realized that. “Uh…oh. Sorry.” With a sigh he scooted back on his knees and bowed slightly; just enough to be polite, Sano noticed. “Himura Kenji. It’s…nice to meet you.”

“You don’t have to lie, you know. I can tell you don’t like me, I’d just like to know why.” Sano met Kenji’s surprised gaze evenly, resting his chin on folded hands. “Granted, I shouldn’t have just barged in here without asking, but I guess it’s just force of habit, even after all this time. Still, that was no reason for you to pounce on me. So, out with it. Is this dojo under threat? Have people been after your dad recently?”

The look of utter shock on Kenji’s face spoke volumes. “Under…threat? Oh, no, I mean people don’t…that was a long time ago! Before I was born.” The boy’s expression darkened and he looked out at the garden. “Nothing happens around here, really. It’s not what you think.”

//Ah. So that’s it. // “So you’re just bored then; I get it.”

Kenji looked distinctly embarrassed at this. “Well, I…that is I mean…I’m…sorry. About earlier. I figure, people came here looking for fights in the past. Why not now? And you looked suspicious. No offense,” he said, casting Sano a slightly reproving look.

Sano just grinned. “Yeah, I’m a little scruffy. I’ll admit it. You can’t really blame me though, I did just get into town today.”

“From where?” Kenji asked curiously.

“Heh, where do you want me to start from? Okinawa or China?”

Now the boy’s eyes were wide. “You’ve been to China? Really?”

Sano laughed. “Hell yeah, I’ve been just about everywhere by now. Europe, Asia, America. Never got to Africa, but I hear that place is hotter n’ hell anyway. Even worse than here, if you can believe that.”

Kenji smiled slightly. “It’s hotter in Kyoto.”

“Is it? You been there a lot?”

The boy blinked, then glanced hastily away, as if he'd said something he shouldn't have. "Uh…a few times, yeah."

Sano frowned slightly. "What was that look for?"

"What look?"

"The one where you looked guilty as hell." Sano sat forward and peered intently at the boy. "You've got me curious now."

"It's nothing."

The boy's tone was firm, and Sano felt his curiosity rise. "Nothing?"

"Nothing. Forget I said anything."

A very awkward silence fell, broken only by the persistent, ringing whirr of the cicadas outside.

"What happened in Kyoto?"

Kenji shot him a sharp look. "What is it you want, anyway? I gave you tea, shouldn't you be going already?"

Sano only barely resisted a powerful urge to smack the brat senseless. "If you don’t mind, I've been gone a while and I'm feeling a bit out of touch. Since you're the only one around, I thought you could fill me in a bit."

"Why? I don't owe you anything."

"You owe me your life."

Kenji's lethal glare took Sano a bit by surprise. "If you think for a minute that I'm afraid of someone like *you*, you're an idiot."

Sano sat up and leveled the boy a hard stare of his own. "Watch your mouth, boy. You don't know a thing about me, or what I'm capable of."

"Same to you," the boy snarled. His posture was rigid as a statue, and the air around him nearly crackled with furious energy. "I'm not weak."

"I never said you were."

"But you were thinking it."

"Don't be ridiculous. That was hardly even a fight back there, it wasn't enough to tell any—" The boy had shot to his feet, his breathing rapid. Sano finished the word in a cautious whisper. "—thing."

"Shut up." Kenji said in a low, shockingly cold voice.

Sano was careful not to move. He searched the boy's face, wondering what on earth had set him off. //Oh yeah, he has Jou-chan's temper all right. // "What did I say? Sit down."

The boy growled quietly, and for a second Sano thought he was going to be attacked. The moment passed quickly though, and he could see the boy was struggling to control himself. After a moment, he slowly sat back down. They sat that way for several moments. Sano waited patiently. //Any moment now, he'll... // "Earlier," the boy said suddenly. Sano smiled inwardly. "One of the attacks I made…you predicted what I would do and avoided it. As if you'd seen it before."

Sano blinked. "I did?" Kenji looked at him. Sano could still feel the other's anger, but it was buried now under a thoughtful, calculating expression, one the former streetfighter found quite disconcerting. Seeing that kind of look on the boy's face reminded him sharply of Kenshin…and that this was his son he was dealing with now. While Kenshin may have seemed dumb when playing the rurouni, Sano had known better; that under that silly façade was a highly intelligent, strategic mind. If Kenji had even half that amount of brains… //He's looking for something from me. Information. The question is, why? //

"You did. Sanosuke-san, you fought my father, right?"

He raised an eyebrow. "What does that have to do with anything?"

"Did you, or didn't you?"

A thought occurred to him, and he quickly suppressed a wicked grin. //Well now, two can certainly play this game. // "Hold on a second, you refuse to tell *me* anything, but you expect me to dictate my life's story to *you*? That's not how it works, kid." Sano tossed back the rest of his tea in one gulp and put it back down on the tray. He looked at the boy expectantly. They stared at each other for a minute. "Hey, when someone's tea cup is empty, you're supposed to fill it."

"Do it yourself," the boy ground out, the very picture of stubbornness.

"Do it myself…or tell you what you want to know. Right?"

The boy's jaw clenched. Inside, Sano was nearly dancing with glee. //Ah, the battle of wits and wills. Always good clean fun. // "Look kid, I'm equal opportunity. I can always learn what you're not telling me, make fun of you later, and you learn nothing. If the years of traveling have taught me anything, it's patience. Let's scratch each other's backs." Sano gave him a significant look. "Tea."

With a grudging scowl, Kenji refilled the cup. Sano sipped at it slowly. "So, why does it matter if I fought with Kenshin or not?"

"Just answer the question," the boy nearly growled.

"Fine, we'll do this another way. *Who* told you I'd fought with Kenshin?"

This answer came readily. "Yahiko-san."

"I see." Sano grunted and swirled his tea in his cup, suddenly wishing very much that it was sake. //Or food. Damn it, I'm hungry. // "You know, he shouldn't be talking about things he really doesn't know about."

"He said he was there."

Sano sighed. "Yeah, for half of *one* of them. That hardly counts."

"So it's true, then." The boy sounded triumphant.

Sano glared, irritated despite himself. "And I'll ask you again, why the hell does it matter? That was ages ago."

"But you remember his moves…don’t you?" Kenji was giving him a strangely intent look.

Sano looked at him for a long moment. "Kenji, I'd really like to know what you're getting at here. I didn't come back to fight with your dad."

"So why did you come back?"

"Don't change the subject!" Sano surprised himself with how angry his tone was. //Damn it, I can't let this kid get to me. //

Kenji gave him a slightly surprised look, which quickly took on a mischievous glint. //Oh shit. // "Sagara-san, have I possibly touched a nerve?"

Sano gritted his teeth. "Okay, kid. Let's make a deal here. We answer each other's questions, up front, no dancing around the point."

"Too broad. You could ask anything that way."

"So what? You have things to hide?"

Kenji was grinning. "Do *you*?"

//I'm SO gonna whip this kid's butt. // "No way! Do we have a deal or what?"

Kenji was clearly considering it. He poured himself another cup of tea and sat back down across from Sano. "You're an interesting person, Sagara Sanosuke. I'll play your game. For now."

"Good. Now, from your questions it seems like you have a desire to kick your dad's butt in a duel. Yes or no?"

Kenji blinked. "Well…I, uh…no!"

"So you already have? Or do you think you're better than he is?"

Kenji frowned. "Sagara-san, it isn't like that."

"No?"

Kenji was silent, apparently struggling with himself, and Sano got the distinct impression that what he said next was*not* what he'd originally intended. "It's…good that you aren't here to fight him. You wouldn't get much of one."

"What do you mean? Are you saying he doesn't fight now?"

"I've never seen him fight," Kenji confessed quietly, his expression somber.

Sano frowned, slightly incredulous. "You've never seen the Hiten Misturugi for yourself?"

"No. So…what was it like?"

//He tried to copy the Ryu-Tsui-Sen earlier. And he knows I recognized it. So where did he learn it? From Yahiko? // "It's a bit of hard thing to describe in words, kid. Let's just say I've never seen its equal, in all the years I've traveled."

Kenji nodded slightly, as if that was exactly what he'd expected to hear. He looked up at the former streetfighter, a strangely regretful look on his face. "You are fortunate to have known the Mitsurugi, Sagara-san. I never will."

~*~

“Father, please!”

The cicadas whirred loudly in the silence that stretched across the tatami. Kenji felt his mother’s eyes on him, but he ignored her reproving gaze for the moment. All his attention was focused on his father, who knelt across from him with his head bowed, eyes hidden by fiery red bangs. After an eternity, Kenshin spoke. “You know why I can’t, Son.”

Kenji felt his pulse quicken in anger. “Yes, of course I know *why*!” he snarled furiously. “But you don’t understand! I *have* to learn it. The Kamiya Kasshin just isn’t enough.” He cast an apologetic glance at his mother, who returned it with one of sadness, an unusual emotion on her normally cheerful face. Kenji wrenched his eyes from the sight. “Not for me.”

“Kenji, the Mitsurugi caused me nothing but misery. I will not bring the same fate on others. But even more than that…my style does not belong in the Meiji. It’s time has passed.”

“How can you say that?” Kenji demanded. “You should know better than anyone how quickly peaceful times can change! Maybe the Mitsurugi brought you pain, but in the end it has saved a hundred times more lives than it’s taken!”

Kenshin looked up now, violet eyes hard and bright. “It’s too easy to misuse, Kenji. I’ve told you this before. You don’t know—“

“What, what it’s capable of? How much power it represents? I’m not naive, Father. I understand the risks. You hesitate because you think that I’ll make your mistakes, that I’ll become hitokiri or something even worse. Is that how little you think of me?”

Kenshin could only stare helplessly back at his son, too stunned even to respond. Kaoru’s voice cut in, dangerous and low with warning. “Apologize to your father immediately, Kenji! You have no right to be speaking to him that way!”

“He can tell me that himself!” Kenji returned harshly, earning a pained gasp from Kaoru. “Do you know how it makes me feel when you tell me you *won’t*, Father? Not that you *can’t*, but that you *refuse* because of the mistakes you made in *your* past?”

Kenji’s entire body shook with emotion, and he fought to keep Kenshin’s gaze, which was trying to move to anywhere except where his son was. “I know what you were,” Kenji said softly in measured tones, doing his best to control his temper as Yahiko had taught him. “I know what the Mitsurugi means to you. You used it to destroy, yes, and you did terrible things…I know that. But later, you tried to fix those mistakes as much as you could. You did your best to make things right. I…I respect that. I’ve *always* respected that.”

Kenji gathered himself, leaning forward and intently meeting Kenshin’s torn gaze. “Father, I may be your son but I’m not *you*. You can’t make my mistakes for me. You have no right to withhold this knowledge from me. You know I’m strong enough, and when you tell me ‘no’ that says to me…that says to me that you don’t trust me to make the right choice.” The silence in the room was deafening.

“Father, don’t you trust me?”

Kenshin stared at his son, dismay written across his face. “I…” he whispered.

“*Please!*” Kenji threw himself forward in a bow, his forehead nearly touching the tatami. “I ask this of you, Father, no I beg you! Teach me the Mitsurugi!”

“Kenji, I…this one…*can’t*. I’m sorry.”

Kenji’s vision blurred as he stared down at the grass weave of the tatami. In a sudden explosion of energy he slammed his fist into the mat and stood up, glaring down at Kenshin with open ugly rage, blue eyes nearly glowing in the dim light of the room. “Fine, then. I’ll go find someone who *will*. Excuse me,” he snarled, storming out of the room, straight past his mother who said his name desperately as he passed.

Kenji was beyond caring. Disappointment and anger coursed through him, tears of frustration blurring his vision. He knew what he had to do now, and he had to do it quickly before his lost his nerve, or one of his parents found theirs and tried to stop him.

~*~

Sano sat back and eyed the young man before him thoughtfully. “Well that’s quite a story, kid. So where did your little tantrum get you, huh?” He watched the boy's expression carefully. Truth be told, he was a bit surprised the kid had answered his questions so honestly. //This is obviously been on his mind for a while. //

Kenji sighed heavily and picked at woven border of the tatami mat. “I decided to go to Kyoto."

"Why Kyoto?"

Kenji glanced at him. "I figured that would be obvious."

"Well, yes, but I wanted to hear *you* say it. But anyway, I'm guessing things didn't go as planned."

"Not quite. Yahiko-san stopped me on the way out. He tried to talk me out of going.”

Sano sat up, genuinely taken aback. “*Yahiko* did?! Hard to believe, it was always his dream to learn the Mitsurugi.”

Surprise flickered through Kenji's eyes and he gave Sano an appraising look. "You…really know him, don't you?"

"Well yeah. Go on."

"Well...he said that’s why I shouldn’t go. Said I was being selfish, and power-hungry, and reckless…and that my father's refusal wasn’t a lack of trust in me. He said it was unfair to my father to ever believe such a thing. ”

Sano sighed. “Sounds to me like Kenshin was just being consistent, kid. He wouldn’t teach Yahiko either, no matter how much he begged him or tried to trick him into lessons. Your dad went through hell because of that style. Granted, it was mostly because of his own mistakes, but that’s why he believes it’s wrong to teach it to anyone else. The Mitsurugi can only *kill* to protect others, and he refuses to be a party to that anymore. Condoning killing, or passing on methods to murder, goes right against his vow. It’s pretty understandable. Don’t you think?”

Kenji shook his head, but Sano got the impression it wasn’t disagreement. “It’s just…it’s just that I’m not satisfied when I practice the Kasshin Ryu. I’m always restless and frustrated and, well, almost *bored*. I know I’m stronger than that, I *know* I could learn the Misturugi.”

Sano snorted. “Knowing he was strong got your dad into a shitload of trouble, kid. It’s stuff that he obviously *still* suffers from, if what you’ve told me so far is any indication. It’s been almost thirty years since the war ended, you realize that? He will never recover from his guilt, from the pain he caused others. If you learn the Mitsurugi you’ll want to use it. Maybe to protect yourself, maybe to protect others, but in the end without a sakabatou—or heck, maybe even with one—someone’s going to end up dead at the end of your blade. Are you prepared for that? You rushing blindly into power, thinking you’re responsible enough to use it, is exactly what he’s afraid of because that’s exactly what he did when he was your age.”

“Doesn’t matter anyway.” Kenji said bitterly, now refusing to meet Sano’s eyes. “Hiko-sama’s dying. I have no options left."

"You went to Kyoto anyway, huh?"

"I walked there."

"I can't imagine Kenshin was very happy about that."

Kenji nodded. “My father knew what I would do…somehow, he always knows. He was waiting for me in Kyoto when I finally arrived. He took me to see Hiko-sama. He showed me it was impossible.”

Sano sighed. “So I’m going to guess that’s why they’re in Kyoto now, huh? That sucks kid, it really does. Hard to believe old age could ever touch that guy; never did see him fight myself, but I figure anyone who trained Kenshin has to be pretty incredible. I notice he gets a ‘-sama’ from you. Sounds like you respect the guy. So why aren’t you there with them?”

Kenji looked out into the garden and didn’t answer. Sano took his silence at face value. //So that’s how it’s going to be, huh? Well the kid’s got pride I’ll give him that. Damn, I bet Kenshin’s upset about all this though. Hiko’s practically his father. Damn shame, really. // “Hey…you feel up to a drink?”

Startled, Kenji looked over at him. “We don’t have sake, I told you…”

“No, I mean *go out*. You look like you need a break from all this stress, kid. Don’t worry about the roof; it’ll still be here when you get back.”

“Hey, if you’re going to be taking my little brother drinking then I’d better come along. I am supposed to be keeping an eye on him after all.”

Sano stared up at the figure who'd appeared silently in the doorway. He hadn't even realized he was there, and Sano was impressed despite himself. //He's pretty good. I know that voice, too. // He grinned up at the young man standing above him. //Well, look’s like the Tokyo Samurai’s all grown up now. Guess I can’t call him a little brat anymore. // “Hey, you got taller.”

“And you look like you’ve been sleeping under bushes in the mountains. When the hell did you get here?" Yahiko leaned against the inside of the doorframe, crossing well-muscled arms over his chest. Sano took in his friend's features, amazed at the change that had come over the little boy he used to know. Tall and muscular, moving with the grace of a professional swordsman, Yahiko was barely recognizable as the amateur kendo student who'd always run in Kenshin's shadow. But one look from those intelligent brown eyes, and Sano knew exactly who he was looking at.

Sano smiled and swished his tea in his cup. “Got in a little bit ago. Kenji here’s been sharing his teenage angst with me.”

“Hey!”

Yahiko grinned. “Yeah, he can be a bit of a brat but he’s got a good head on his shoulders. Sometimes. I’m up for drinks after lessons today. You coming with us, Kenji?”

“I…uh…yeah, I guess.” The boy looked a little stunned.

Sano cocked his head to one side curiously. “What’s with him?”

“Oh nothing really, it’s just that ever since his little jaunt to Kyoto he’s been under house arrest, Kaoru’s orders.”

Both Sano and Kenji opened their mouths to protest. “Which I’m overriding, this day only,” Yahiko said pointedly. “This stays between us, got it? Otherwise Busu’ll have my hide.” He turned a serious look on Sano. “I don’t know what Kenji’s told you, but I’m sure it’s not even half of what’s been going on since you’ve been gone. I’ll fill you in later. Come on Kenji-kun, the students will be here in a half-hour.”

The boy sighed. “Coming, Yahiko-san.” He stood and passed by Sano with a brief nod.

The traveler watched the boy head for the dojo. Yahiko stayed in the doorway, watching Sano. After a moment, the traveler stood with a yawn. //Heh, guess I'm not used to talking so much. That kid's exhausting. // “Yahiko, I’m gonna head out for a while into town since you’re busy. I’ll meet you at the Akabeko later.”

The swordsman nodded. “Sure thing. And Sano…it’s good to see you again.”

Sano grinned and clapped the other man on the shoulder. Without another word he strode past him and headed for the gate. He sauntered out and was gone just as suddenly as he’d appeared that morning. Yahiko looked after him for a moment, expression unreadable, then followed his younger brother to the dojo.

TBC…

A/N: Hope you're enjoying the ride so far ^^ Sorry this chapter took so long, but get used to long delays. My school's really challenging, and it's hard to get time to write. But rest assured, I won't abandon this story. I'm having way too much fun writing it :D Next time: Kenji swings a sword a bit, and the boys get slightly drunk. So what *did* happen in Kyoto anyway? O tano shimi ni!
  • ^_^ Hello! I'm loving this story! Very intersting so far! This kind of plot has always intersted me and it's a GREAT start! Can't wait for more!
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