A/N: Well, now that I've managed to meander back into the RuroKen fandom full-force, I've decided to try my hand at a fanfic. As much as I adore the K/K canon pairing, I'm also an avid fan of B/K fics, and of Soujiro/Kaoru fics. The latter pairing has a small fan base here, however, and it is to this base that I wish to make a contribution. They're both fun characters to work with, and, as I never finished any of my old (terrible, I might add) fanfics, I think it's best to start up again with them. I hope you'll enjoy this and take the time to let me know what you think. (The title is still subject to change. I wanted to put this up and get some feedback, so I just threw something out there.)
Please refer to the end notes for a bit more information about the setting and some other details of this story.
Of Ocean-Blue Eyes
The shouts of street vendors died away as the burning red sun slipped below the horizon, letting dusk fall over the quaint little village. No one but hoodlums ventured out past dark, an unspoken safety measure that had come into play when several daimyo began a power struggle over the land.
Until only recently, before the death of the territory's ruling daimyo, the village had been lively and open, a colorful hub of agricultural trade. Because of this, the villagers had found it hard to close themselves off to traders and travelers, especially since such visitors provided the livelihood of nearly the entire population. However, with no ruling daimyo, their home was up for grabs, and many of the other lords were itching to snatch it up.
For a while, one of the daimyo's most trusted samurai, Kamiya Koshijiro, fought to maintain the flow of trade through the village and ward off the opposing daimyo; before long, however, he fell to an assassin's blade, leaving his only daughter to take up his duties and care for his dojo.
Now, nearly a year after his death, Koshijiro's daughter, Kamiya Kaoru, finds herself taking on a duty she'd long forgotten she was promised to.
Two raven-haired girls sat, feet tucked under their bottoms, on twin pink cushions, in a quiet dojo. They were the only inhabitants; all of the students and servants had long since departed. And so, quiet was usually a fitting description of the lonely structure.
"Your hair is so beautiful, Kaoru-chan," the girl with long, plaited hair said to the back of the other's head. "It's such a shame you'll have to cut it."
The one called Kaoru twisted around to look at her friend, a sad smile curving her full, pink lips. "Oh, it only gets in the way. Don't worry, Misao-chan, I'll have it back someday." She turned away again, trying to hide her own disappointment. It wouldn't do for her to worry over such trivial things, even when her only critic at the moment was her closest friend.
Misao sighed, taking up the thick, silky tresses in her dainty hands, a solemn look on her face. "At least you're letting me dress it up for the occasion. You never let me fix your hair."
The elder girl laughed softly. "Consider it my gift to you for being such a dear friend for so long," she said, folding her hands in her lap and sitting up straighter.
She immediately regretted the words as a heavy silence fell over them, and Misao set to work on the cascading ebon locks. She'd decided to pin up the long strands in an elaborate bun, easing in her friend's usual face-framing tendrils so they hung in loose loops near her ears. It was a relatively traditional style, and it took her several tries, as she didn't have much practice. Her own hair was always effortlessly twisted into a braid, and Kaoru, though beautiful, was a simple girl who preferred a high ponytail, the most efficient style for a shihandai.
Misao took her time with Kaoru's hair, knowing full well that this could be the last time she would ever see her dearest friend, and doing her best to savor the moment. It was difficult, though, with tears stinging her blue eyes and a lump forming in her throat.
Clearing said throat, she broke the silence. "How feminine must this Seta be for you to pass as his double, anyway?" she pondered, her usually smooth brow furrowed. "He must be pretty."
"Or maybe he has a tendency to dress as a woman?" Kaoru offered, expression serious.
Misao snorted in a rather unladylike fashion, rising to her feet and shuffling across the room to a small bag of her belongings. "Or perhaps he is a woman."
"I can assure you, he is neither pretty, nor a woman," a deep voice toned from behind them.
Kaoru turned around sharply, and Misao looked up from her bag, wide-eyed. In the doorway stood a tall, hulking man wearing a white bandana, charcoal smudged beneath his dark eyes. His hakama and gi were plain and white, though the sleeveless haori he wore over that was of deepest black.
He looked to the shihandai, questioning, "Kamiya Kaoru?"
Kaoru nodded, standing and giving him a curt bow, before gesturing toward Misao. "And this is Makimachi Misao, my friend."
"I am Anji," the man said. "I'm here to escort you. I assume you've prepared your belongings?"
"Yes, I'm ready to leave," Kaoru answered, wishing she'd missed the pained expression crossing Misao's face. She thought it would be best to leave quickly, to save them both from the harshness of goodbyes. Though, this was all happening rather abruptly.
Anji moved further into the room, and Misao inched toward Kaoru, an automatic protective maneuver.
He ignored what could have been an insulting move. "As you are to be the double of a man, you've no need for any kimono, other than the one you're wearing," Anji informed her. "You can remove such items from your bags if you've packed them. Suitable clothing will be provided for you and your servant."
Before Misao could protest that she was not a servant, though in actuality, she was, Kaoru lifted a hand and cut her off. "Misao-chan is to come with me?"
Anji shrugged his muscular shoulders. "If it would please you. You've the permission for it, but it is your choice. Our wish is for you to be comfortable, even whilst serving a duty."
A shriek of delight echoed through the room as Misao launched herself into Kaoru's arms, bright eyes overflowing with happy tears. Kaoru smiled broadly, unable to express her gratitude, though she doubted the man would even pay attention to her words; he had already begun moving out the door.
"Come," he said simply, "We must hurry back and begin your training."
Gently prying Misao from her person, Kaoru's bright cobalt eyes shone with joy as she picked up her bags. "Hurry, Misao-chan! Get your things together!"
Her friend scrambled to pick up her bag and stuff it with her belongings that had been strewn across the floor. "This is all I need," Misao replied, making her way toward Kaoru, not at all ashamed to have so little to her name.
Anji turned around to once again voice his desire to leave, but Misao spoke first. "Anji-san, you said clothes would be provided for both of us?"
He nodded slowly, not understanding why she was questioning this.
"I have clothing of my own. I understand the need for Kaoru-chan to dress in a more masculine manner, but why myself?"
Anji motioned for them to follow him to the inner courtyard as he answered her. "Your clothes undoubtedly bear the crest of this land's former daimyo, yes? That is why."
"Oh," Misao mumbled, flushing. "Right."
Kaoru smiled to herself before placing a gentle hand on Misao's shoulder as they came before a kago. Several men, dressed as servants—though of a seemingly higher class than her own had been—stood around the covered carriage, and bowed low as she approached.
Bowing in return, she and Misao introduced themselves and waited for Anji to turn to them.
"I'll be walking alongside your kago," he told them, pulling open the door and extending his arm in a gesture telling them to get in. "Should the need arise, I am more than capable of warding off bandits."
"Thank you, Anji-san," Kaoru said, giving him another curt bow and stepping into the carriage, Misao right behind her.
Closing the door behind them, Anji told them it would be a two-day's journey to his daimyo's estate, and that several of his lord's men would be arriving shortly to watch over her dojo. He waited for Kaoru's approval and disappeared behind the kago.
After settling themselves on the numerous cushions that had been made available to them, Kaoru and Misao grinned widely at each other, though Kaoru's held a hint of nervousness.
Misao knowingly patted her hand. "Kaoru-chan, just look at this as a learning experience! It's going to be a little tough, but I'll be there to help you." Suddenly, she seemed to remember something and hit a fist to her other palm. "I nearly forgot!"
Kaoru looked at her in mildly amused interest as Misao dug around in her leather bag. Smiling victoriously, her friend pulled a small box out and held it out to her.
"I was going to give this to you before you left, as an early birthday present—or a farewell gift, if you want to look at it that way. But I was so excited to be coming with you, I forgot to give it to you." She laughed, bouncing in her seat as Kaoru took the box from her palm.
The shihandai's eyes grew wide as she opened her gift, breathing out an awe-filled, "Oh, Misao…it's beautiful!"
Inside the box was an ivory hairpin, carved in the shape of a dragonfly, with a sapphire embedded in each eye socket. The gems had even been cut to resemble the many facets of a dragonfly eye, and the wings and tail were carved with careful detail. Two thin white cords wrapped around the upper part of the pin and dangled down, a blue glass bead at the end of each.
The energetic girl clapped her hands together, pleased with herself to have picked a gift to Kaoru's liking. She leaned forward, reaching out for the pin. "I'll put it in your hair!"
Gently taking the pin from the box, she slid it into the bun she had fashioned from Kaoru's hair, the beads clinking together before stilling.
Misao sat back and admired her handiwork and gift. "You look stunning, Kaoru-chan. Absolutely stunning."
Kaoru couldn't help but blush at the praise, before launching herself across the carriage and wrapping her friend in a rib-crushing hug. "Thank you so much, Misao-chan. Thank you, thank you, thank you…"
End Note (and sorry for so many, but they're rather important): I hope you enjoyed the first installment! I have the first several chapters typed up already, but updates will be once a week at best, to help me keep up with writing and school work. I really want to do a good job on this, and I don't want to end up abandoning it like my previous attempts.
A couple of things: I decided to set this story before the Restoration, as then I could use the term daimyo, which I am more familiar with. Also, to avoid going into all of the modern political and cultural aspects of the Meiji, I felt any time during the Tokugawa reign would do nicely. Don't worry, though; this story won't be all that political, because I don't plan on doing a ton of research. If you feel I'm taking too many liberties and changing things around, just let me know. 8]
"Kago" is the Japanese word for a sedan chair or palanquin, those little hut-like "carriages" that are carried by several men rather than pulled by horses. When I was searching for its use in Japan, I was pleasantly surprised to read that they were widely used during the Tokugawa period for transportation of nobles and those of the warrior class, due to restrictions on the availability of horses. Perfect.
Also, Kaoru's father is NOT the daimyo because I wanted to keep her as a samurai's daughter. Samurai were predominantly considered tools of the daimyo and shogun. Koshijiro is his real name. I don't know why people always make up a name for him. It's in volume five, and easy to find online.
Anyway, please take the time to let me know what you think! The next chapter will be up soon, and we'll finally see some Soujiro!