Chapter 5: You what with who?
After the laundry was done, Kaoru, who was afraid of going into the house if it meant being by herself with Tokio and Saitoh, politely excused herself and went off to find Kenshin.
"That laundry took a long time, even with Kaoru-dono helping. I guess with 4 extra people living here with us, it's to be expected. *Sigh*...Time to start dinner, I guess." Tokio looked around for her husband. "Hajime? What did you want for dinner tonight?"
"If you don't know, then I'll have to leave you," said Saitoh, smirking in a corner.
Tokio put on a mock scowl. "Sometimes, I don't know why I married you, Hajime."
Saitoh just smirked again. "I'm going out. I'll be back soon, though." And that was that.
Tokio just sighed... "Yare yare..."
* * *
Half an hour later, Tokio was busy as ever cooking for herself and 5 other people. Or, since her husband only wanted kake soba (again), it was more like cooking for 4. It wasn't so bad, though. Tokio was good at whatever she did, and cooking was no exception. She was about to add some seasoning to the broth when a lavender coloured ribbon dropped in front of her face.
Surprised, she took a step back, and ran into...Saitoh.
"Hajime! You're the only one in the world who can sneak up on me like that and-" she stopped mid sentence and looked at what was in her husband's hand. Her hand reached out to stroke the fabric. "Oh my God. This is...this is..." she trailed off.
"What? Do you not like it? You were admiring it the last time we went to the market and that was four months ago. Did your mind change?"
"No! No! It's just...I didn't buy it then because it was a little extravagantly priced and - Oh, thank you, Hajime!" she paused here. "It's for me, right?"
"Yes yes, of course, Tokio. Here. Let me."
Tokio turned around to let her husband put the ribbon in her hair. This turned out to be a mistake as Saitoh proceeded to put it on wrong.
"Hajime, I can feel it, you know. You're making it look awful! Stop that! Hey! Put in on right!"
When Tokio turned around, Saitoh couldn't help but laugh. And he did. (No, really, he *really* did laugh!)
* * *
"Oro? Ah! Kaoru-dono!" Kenshin turned to smile at Kaoru.
"There you are! I've found you! Were you on your way back to Saitoh's house?"
"Aa. I was getting a little worried about you there by yourself."
Kaoru blushed. "Well, I...I was fine, really..."
"OY! Jo-chan! Kenshin! Time for dinner already! Let's head back!" their rooster-headed friend called from afar.
"I can't wait to taste some more of Tokio's cooking!" mouth watering, and eyes all teary, Yahiko led the pack.
The group grew silent along the path back to the house. Each member was thinking of what was going to happen that night. What sort of truth lay behind the lives of the two people named Saitoh Hajime and Saitoh Tokio?
Sanosuke had pictures of Tokio beating up Saitoh in his head. Yahiko pictured them as fighting together through the Bakumatsu. Kaoru was trying, rather unsuccessfully, to imagine Saitoh being romantic to his wife, and Kenshin was rather blank. Being deep in thought, none of them noticed the house looming up closer and closer. And none of them were prepared for what they heard next.
It was quite an unfamiliar sound, yet familiar at the same time.
"Is that...Saitoh?!" asked Sano, wide-eyed.
Kaoru went even more wide-eyed. "More than that...Is he...laughing?"
Kenshin slid the door open.
* * *
Saitoh stood in front of his wife, laughing intensely. Tokio, on the other hand was not laughing, and had a scowl on her face.
"Hajime! I told you! Take it off!" she tried to get her hands around the knot, but it was too tight. "I can't get the knot off! Hajime! Stop laughing and help me!"
"Alright, alright." Saitoh stopped laughing and stood there smiling (YES PPL! HE IS SMILING! MIRACLE!) at his wife. "Come here." Deftly, Saitoh undid the knot, and this time, he loosely braided her hair, and using the lavender ribbon, tied it at the end.
"You always like my hair like this."
"It was like that the night we met. I like it."
It was then that Yahiko snickered.
Saitoh looked over at the Kenshin gumi (who were now huddled around the door like kids around an ice cream truck that was giving away free ice cream on a really really hot day) and merely said, "What *are* you staring at?"
"Y-you just did Tokio-dono's hair!" Kenshin pointed at Tokio.
"You got her a gift!" whined Kaoru jealously.
"Hee hee...Saitoh knows how to do girly hair..." snickered Yahiko.
"No comment," trailed an astounded Sano.
"Hmph." Saitoh's face turned back to normal (quite expressionless). He pushed his way through the wide-eyed, open-mouthed group and went outside.
* * *
"Ah, minna, you're home early! Hehe..." Aiya... how embarrassing! Tokio scratched the back of her head. "Well! Ha ha. I had better finish this!" And with that, Saitoh Tokio zoomed around finishing up that night's dinner.
Still not getting over the shock, the group walked over and sat down to dinner like a bunch of zombies. It took Tokio's voice to snap them out of it.
"You can start the story where you want, Tokio," said Saitoh, busy, as was usual during dinnertime with the amount of kake soba in his bowl.
"Well, I guess I'll start from the beginning."
The Kenshin gumi proceeded to listen to Tokio's story while at the same time chowing down on the wonderful dinner she had cooked.
* * *
"It was raining and I was 5 years old. My family was traveling to the town that lay just west of our farmhouse to sell our vegetables. We were ambushed. Thieves, bandits, whatever you may call them; they ransacked our convoy of what little we had. My parents were smart. Instead of fighting or yelling for them to stop, they just took me and ran for cover. When they had finished, we came out of hiding to inspect the damage. They had obliterated everything. I looked to my mother for words of comfort, but none came. My father couldn't say anything, either. We had lost everything. For without the money from the selling of our vegetables, we really had nothing. The winter was coming, and we needed new clothes. Wordlessly, we started on the way back home.
"The thieves, though, came back for us. Why, I'll never know. But I will never forget how my parents sacrificed their lives for me. I thought it was to be in vain as well, for if they could not fight, then how was a small child like me going to stand a chance? But when the gleam of the sword that was stabbed through my mother's lifeless body hit my eyes, something came over me. I was only 5, I know. I shouldn't have even had the strength to pull the sword out and lift it. But I did pull it out. I did lift it. And when the lightning flashed, the two men who had committed the crime of taking away any future I had left, were dead.
"To this day, I'm not sure how I killed them. But as the blood ran down the sword, it suddenly became too heavy for me. I stumbled forwards with my hands still on it. I was scared. I was so afraid of what I had done. I buried the sword. Then I ran. I didn't even stay to bury my parents.
"For 8 years, I lived like a wanderer. Scrounging food here and there, and staying in the shadows. I don't need to go into the details of those 8 years. They don't pertain much to the story.
"It was when I was 13 that something again happened that would change my life. It was the start of the Bakumatsu, and I had unfortunately chosen a bad hiding spot that one evening. Either I rustled a leaf, or snapped a twig. But whatever the reason, a troop of the Shinsengumi found me.
" 'Just a girl. Leave her," they said. But one of the group decided he'd kill me for fun. Against the order of their leader to withdraw and leave, he pulled out his sword and lunged for me. And just as it was 8 years before, it happened again. But this time, it was almost in slow motion from my point of view. I saw his sword coming. I knew where it was aimed and what he was going to do. So, I just moved. When I did, it was still in slow motion, and I saw him slowly move past me. Without thinking, I reached out, and grabbed his sword. After that, time switched gears, and everything moved lightning fast, I didn't even have time to think about what I was doing. When I looked down...he was dead.
"The leader wasn't angry or anything. In fact, he just smirked. That was my first meeting with Saitoh Hajime. He asked me since I killed that man, if I wanted to take his place. I may only be a child, but he said that my skill was enough to overcome that fact. Of course I readily agreed. You see, taking that man's place meant shelter, and food! But. There was a condition. 'You look too much like a girl,' Hajime said. 'What's your name?' I told him. 'Jinai Tokio.' 'Tokio? Very well. From now on, you will be known as Jinai Takahiro. Is this acceptable?' What could I say? I agreed.
"Fast forward a few weeks, and I was a full fledged member of the Shinsengumi. Because of my skill, though, they had appointed me as a hitokiri. You'll notice I'm leaving out a lot here, but for the sake of forward movement, this is necessary. There was only one other hitokiri, and his name was Harada Koji-"
At the mention of his name, the group all eyed each other wearily. Wasn't that the guy who they were supposed to up against now?
Tokio continued, "Like me, he was proficient with the usage of the sword. Also like me, once he had seen an attack, he could duplicate it without any problem. It was he who explained to me exactly what my skill was. It was he who told me how to hone it even more, so I could become an even more efficient killer.
"On the night of my first assignment as an official hitokiri for the Shinsengumi, I went back to where my parents had died. I found the spot where I had buried that sword. When I unburied it, what I saw shocked me. It was no ordinary katana that I had used to kill those thieves. It was a masamune."
"A masamune?! That sword is 6 ft in length, sometimes more!" exclaimed Kenshin. (Hee hee...I LOVE Sephiroth from FF VII, along with that gosh-darnit-long masamune...)
"Yes. Which is exactly why I was surprised. Those years ago, when I had picked it up, it didn't even seem heavy. But it would have taken a miracle for a child to pick up that sword. Even now, I don't understand what happened that night. I probably never will.
"So. I took the sword, and with that same sword that killed both my parents and their killers, I took the life of my first victim. It wasn't hard, I found. I snicker at that now. I was only 13! But the sword was bloody, and the man who lay at my feet was dead.
"When I found my way back to headquarters, Okita Soushi was there. He offered to be my friend. I was surprised, but he was also young, and so I found him easy to get along with. Skipping details once more, we became fast friends. And that's where Saitoh Hajime really started to play a greater role in my life. For wherever Okita was, there was Saitoh Hajime. Over that first year I was with the Shinsengumi, something totally unexpected happened to me.
"I fell in love." With that, Tokio sighed.
The Kenshin gumi looked blankly at each other. *blink blink* Tokio looked at them, exasperated.
Well. There it is. Tokio's story. Very brief as I don't want this to turn into an epic about her life. Hee hee.I thought it would be funny if the Kenshin gumi just kind of stared at each other when Tokio mentions falling in love. Haha. They didn't understand what she meant. "Huh? Fall in love? With who? Who was there to fall in love with? You were an assassin for Christ's sake!" Then: *BOOM!* the revelation. Then the: "Oh..." Haha.