Chapter 1: Kenshin - Himura Battousai

One hundred and forty years ago, in the whirlpool of Kyoto violence that began with Perry's landing in Japan, there was a warrior called Hitokiri Battousai. This man, who paved the way for the new Meiji era with these bloody battles, disappeared at the conclusion of the bloodshed. With the passage of time he became a legend, known simply as "the strongest."

And so our story begins, in Tokyo, in the year 1878--

(A man is walking through the streets of a small town at night. He is short, has long red hair in a ponytail, and carries a sword. He has a cross-shaped scar on his left cheek.)

Kaoru: Hitokiri Battousai!

(He looks behind him. A girl dressed in a hakama and carrying a bokutou is walking towards him.)

Kaoru: At long last I've found you. Your two months of bloodshed in the streets ends tonight. Prepare yourself!

Vagabond (eyes bugging out): Oro?

Kaoru: Don't play innocent with me! Who else would ignore the edict and walk around with a sword!!

(She swings. The vagabond leaps out of the way, crashing into a fence and collapsing in a heap.)

Kaoru: That didn't take long ... Hitokiri Battousai?

Vagabond: Vagabond (rubbing his head) I'm a vagabond, with no family or profession. A wandering swordsman. I just arrived in town. I don't know anything about bloodshed in the streets--

Kaoru: Well ... well how to you explain this sword at your waist? Swordsmen aren't allowed to wear real swords! (she draws the sword) What is this ... a reverse blade... ?

Reverse blade--a sword with the ordinary blade and flat edge reversed. Vagabond: Could this sword kill anyone?

Kaoru: ... It couldn't ... The nicks don't smell of blood, there's no clouds of tallow on the blade. Like it's never been used. You really are just...

Vagabond: Yes. A vagabond.

Kaoru: But why would you carry a sword you can't use--the police whistle! (she sets off running) This time for sure!

Vagabond (diving to catch his sword) Oro. (catches it). What do I do ... It looks like trouble in a place I don't know.

(A scene of carnage. A giant swordsman is massacring a group of policemen.)

Battousai: Weak! Weak! You're all too weak!

Policeman: He--he's just too strong. That strength ... it truly is the great Battousai!

Kaoru (leaping in front of him): Hold it right there, Battousai!! (they exchange blows. Kaoru leaps clear, skidding to a halt against a wall. She's taken a cut to the shoulder. He advances, trapping her against the wall.) Oh no...

(The vagabond snatches her up and carries her out of danger.)

Vagabond: You are reckless.

Kaoru: The vaga--

(He collapses into a small ball.)

Vagabond (in a pained voice): I must have dislocated my pelvis--

Kaoru: What on earth is wrong with you!

Battousai (viewing them all with disgust.): I am Battousai! Himura Battousai of the Kamiya Kasshin School! (as he leaves) The one they call Hitokiri Battousai!

Kaoru (ready to run after him) Wait!

Vagabond (holding her back by her ponytail): He waited long enough. (recovering from the rain of blows she just dealt him) Chasing a man too far when you're wounded is taking your life in your hands. He gave the name of his school, so you can track him down without all this haste--

Kaoru: Kamiya Kasshin is MY school!! He's been committing these atrocities in our name! Once I get my hands on him I'll--

Vagabond (pulling her back again) I said chasing him too far wouldn't help, didn't I? But let's leave before the police start asking too many questions.

(In the Kamiya dojo. The vagabond studies the wooden name tags of the people in the school, as a servant, Kiheh, tends Kaoru's wound.)

Vagabond: Adjutant master Kamiya Kaoru. And then--oro?

(Hers is the only name on the wall.)

Kaoru: We were a small school, but we had ten students, all training hard. But two months ago his street killings began. One by one the students left, fearing the name of Battousai. The townspeople won't have anything to do with the dojo. Even in the Meiji era the name of Battousai still commands fear. I don't know why Battousai would dirty the name of the Kamiya Kasshin School. If he really is Battousai. I haven't got the slightest idea, but if I can't stop him soon--

Vagabond: I understand, but you should stop keeping these night watches.

Kaoru: Huh?

Vagabond: That man is stronger than you by far.

Kaoru: WHAT?

Vagabond: It's an important part of a swordsman's nature to know your own and your opponent's strength. You understand what the outcome will be the next time you fight him? The prestige of your school isn't so important that you should wager your life to protect it. The Kamiya Kasshin School--

Kaoru: The Kamiya Kasshin School was brought into the Meiji era by my father, who survived the violence of the Bakumatsu. My father wasn't a killer. He fought single-mindedly for his motto, "the sword that protects life." But as a member of the sword-bearing Metropolitan police, he was sent to the Southwest war half a year ago. The place where he died was far from the ideal world he hoped for. This man who calls himself Hitokiri Battousai has already killed more than ten people. The name of the Kamiya Kasshin School, the school left to me by my father, is being degraded by a murderer. But I guess a vagabond wouldn't understand.

(a pause)

Vagabond (smiling): Well, whatever happens, you can't keep a night watch with your arm. The best thing for you to do now is to act with caution. If you can't even keep yourself alive, the ideal of "the sword that protects life" would be a joke. I'm sure your honored father wouldn't want his school protected at the cost of his daughter's life. (leaving the room) Excuse me.

Kiheh (finishing her bandage): It's all taken care of, Miss Kaoru.

Kaoru: Thank you, Kiheh.

Kiheh: Miss Kaoru, you mustn't let down your guard. After all, vagabond is just another word for failure. You're too kind to such people for your own good.

Kaoru: I know. I know...

(the next day. Kaoru and Kiheh are walking through town. A crowd has gathered.)

Kaoru: Have they caught somebody?

Police: Hey, stop that! Come quietly!

Vagabond: Oro.

Kaoru: The vagabond! (running forward) You're still in town?

Vagabond (from the ground): Oh, it's Miss Kaoru. I almost didn't recognize you in women's clothes--

Kaoru (turning her back): I don't have to help.

Vagabond: Oro ro...

Kaoru: Oh, for pete's sake. (to the policeman) What's he done?

Policeman: As you can see, he's broken the edict against wearing swords. (recognizing her) Hey, aren't you the one from Hitokiri Battousai's dojo--

Kaoru: That's a lie!!

Policeman: Are you defying government authority?

Kaoru: Government my foot! Quit trying to hide behind your uniform!

Kiheh (stepping forward): I'm sure we can settle this peaceably, without all this fuss... (he takes the policeman's hand in both of his. When he lets go, there is a folded bill in his hand.)

Police: Well, we'll let you off out of consideration for the old man. Next time it'll be different. (leaving) You watch your mouth, girl.

Kaoru (making a face): Jerk!

Vagabond: I suppose the police aren't exactly reliable these days, are they.

Kaoru: Hm?

Vagabond: Nothing.

Kaoru: But you were still here. What are you doing in town?

Vagabond: No ... nothing in particular. More importantly, has anything further developed in the case of the street killings?

Kaoru: Well ... I thought of someone who might be the killer There's a dojo called Kiheikan on the outskirts of the neighboring town.

Vagabond: Kiheikan?

Kaoru: Yes. Well, at least in used to be a dojo, but now it's more of a gambling hall, and about two months ago an ex-samurai took control of it. He's a large man, six shaku five sun (195 cm or 6'7'')

Vagabond: Oh ho.

Kaoru: Suspicious, isn't it? Especially since the attacks began two months ago. You don't meet a swordsman of that size every day. I don't have any proof, so I can't do anything yet, but I know I'm close... !

Kiheh: Miss Kaoru, there's still preparations to be made for dinner. Shall I...

Kaoru: Yes, please go ahead.

Vagabond: That's him from last night, isn't it?

Kaoru: Oh, Kiheh? He's my housekeeper. He came soon after my father died. I took care of him after finding him lying outside the dojo. He worries about a woman practicing kenjutsu. He thinks I should stop teaching, sell the dojo and live in peace.

Vagabond: But where did he come from?

Kaoru: I didn't ask, so I don't know.

Vagabond (shocked): You're pretty trusting.

Kaoru: Do you think so? It's all right. Everyone has one or two things about their past they don't want to talk about. Aren't you the same? Isn't that why you became a vagabond?

(He looks surprised for a minute, then he nods.)

Vagabond: Something like that.

Kaoru: A vagabond probably doesn't have much to spare for an inn, so will you stay at the house?

Vagabond: That's all right. I have a little business to take care of, so I'll see you later.

Kaoru: Um, about before--

Vagabond: It's already been forgotten. I'll see you.

Kaoru: W-wait a minute.

Vagabond: Is there something else?

Kaoru: Um, the other day ... you saved me and I didn't have a word of thanks--um ... I'm sorry.

Vagabond (feeling her forehead): Do you have a fever or something?

Kaoru (beating him up): Jeez, I'm trying to apologize!!

Vagabond: Oh, so you were. (he shakes his head)A vagabond doesn't worry about little things like that. You don't need to either. I'll see you later.

Kaoru (as they walk off in different directions): Oh, I forgot to ask about the reverse blade. Oh well. (thinking) I wonder what kind of business?

Vagabond (thinking): This Kiheikan is in the next town over ... no wonder I didn't find anything when I looked around here.

(That night, outside the Kiheikan)

Vagabond: Excuse me. Excuse me. Excuse me. Excuse me. Excuse me. Excuse me. Excuse--

(An angry man opens the door.)

Nishiwaki: All right, what do you want!

Vagabond: I'd like to see your leader--

Nishiwaki: Master Hiruma's out now. Come back later!

Vagabond: Oh ho, is he called Hiruma?

Nishiwaki: You came here and you didn't even know that, you little--

Vagabond: No, I was certain he was called the street killer Battousai. (quietly) It looks as though Miss Kaoru was right.

Another Guy (from behind him): What's the problem, Nishiwaki? Who's this shrimp?

Nishiwaki: He's just a rat. (Fighters have formed a ring around him.) He's finished.

(At the Kamiya dojo. Kaoru is reading, a cup of tea beside her. The cup suddenly cracks.) Kaoru: Uh-oh. The cup just cracked by itself...

Kiheh: Miss Kaoru.

(she jumps)

Kaoru: You startled me, Kiheh. What is it?

Kiheh: Actually, it's about the sale of the dojo. (holding up a deed of sale.)

Kaoru: I've said before that I don't intend to sell the dojo--

Kiheh: Actually, the papers are already being settled.

Kaoru: Kiheh?

Kiheh: I just need your seal.

(The Battousai swordsman and a group of other fighters appear in the door behind him.)

Kiheh: And then the property will be ours!

Kaoru (recognizing him): It's you!

Kiheh: The head of the Kiheikan, Hiruma Goheh. My younger brother.

(Kaoru snatches up a bokutou from the rack behind her.)

Kiheh: I really don't like this kind of thing. I'd rather do it legally, but you were close to discovering my brother's true identity. Playing the good-tempered old man to gain the trust of a woman living alone all went according to plan, but even though you turned out to be good-natured, you were stubborn about kenjutsu.

Kaoru: Kiheh.

Kiheh: So then I used my brother to stir up some trouble and dishonor the name of the school. The fame of Hitokiri Battousai was just what we needed. Although the presence of the legendary Hitokiri was unbelievable, stories of his incomparable strength have been told for years. Thanks to him, we have the events of the past two months. According to my calculations, the government policies of "culture and enlightenment" and "westernization" should have increased the land value by five or six times. A kenjutsu dojo is simply a waste of space.

Kaoru: Kiheh...

Goheh: My brother says your motto is "the sword that protects life"? Interesting. But here the only one to protect is yourself.

(Kaoru remains where she is, sword ready.)

Goheh: If you won't come to me, I'll go to you.

(She lunges forward. He blocks her stroke with his bare hand.)

Goheh: Like I thought ... a women who believes this crap can't fight.

(He slices downward. Kaoru blocks with her bokutou, which breaks in half. Goheh picks her up by the front of the shirt.)

Goheh: My goal is violence! My essence is killing! That's what kenjutsu is all about!

(Kiheh nicks her thumb with a small knife and presses it to the deed.)

Kiheh: That's it. The land is ours. The Kamiya Kasshin school is no more.

(Nishiwaki appears in the doorway.)

Goheh: Nishiwaki? What's wrong with you?

Nishiwaki: ... strong...

(He collapses, revealing the vagabond behind him.)

Kaoru: The ... the vagabond!

Vagabond: I'm sorry I'm late. I heard the whole story from him.

Goheh: You again. You're probably with the girl on this "sword that protects life" thing.

Vagabond: No. A sword is a weapon. Kenjutsu is the art of killing. Whatever pretty words you use to speak of it, this is its true nature. What Miss Kaoru says are the words of one who has never dirtied her hands. An idealistic joke.

Kaoru: You...

Vagabond: But, I like Miss Kaoru's idealism better than its true nature. If one can ask so much, I want the world to accept this joke as its true nature.

Goheh: Brother, you don't care if I kill him, do you?

Kiheh: No. He's in our way. Have your men kill him by inches.

Goheh (to his men): Go on!!

Kaoru: Run for it!!

Vagabond: I don't want to cause a lot of injuries unnecessarily. All those who don't like visiting the doctor should retreat now.

Fighters: There aren't going to be any injuries! Just one death!!

(The vagabond moves like a whirlwind through the group, taking down everyone in his way.)

Kiheh: He's taking out four or five with each stroke ... is ... is it sorcery?

Kaoru (thinking): No, it's not sorcery. It's speed!

Goheh (thinking): The speed of the sword, the speed of his body, the speed of reading his opponent's moves ... he's using them to bring down as many as he can with the least possible movements!!

(Every last fighter has been laid out on the floor.)

Vagabond: I forgot to say one thing. Hitokiri Battousai's style of fighting is not that of the Kamiya Kasshin School. It's an old style of kenjutsu which arose in the Sengoku era, designed to face many opponents at once. The name is Hiten Mitsurugi. And without the reverse blade, it is slaughter with deadly swiftness.

Kaoru: No ... so you're Hitokiri Battousai...

Goheh (flinging Kaoru down): Interesting! You were hiding your strength the other night!

Battousai: I'm not like you. I don't like violence. But now I regret that I did not destroy you that night.

Goheh: You've got guts, but that's just plain arrogant. (raising his sword) The world doesn't need two Battousais! The name should belong to me!!

(Battousai seems to disappear.)

Battousai: Up here.

(Goheh freezes in terror; Battousai deals him one blow from above, smashing him through the floor.)

Battousai: I have no fondness for the name of Battousai. But I will not pass it on to a man like you. (turning to Kiheh) You're the only one left. As the mastermind of this plot, your punishment should be more severe. The edge of the reverse blade. (flipping it around) Shall we try it?

(Kiheh faints. Battousai takes the deed from him and tears it up.)

Battousai: Like all tricksters, he seems to have a coward's nature. I'm sorry, Miss Kaoru. I didn't want to deceive or hide from you. It was just something I didn't want to talk about if I could. (opening the door) Excuse me.

Kaoru: wait ... wait ... WAIT ONE MINUTE!!

Battousai: Oro.

Kaoru: How am I supposed to run the school by myself?? Can't you help me for just a little!! I could care less about someone's past!

Battousai: Considering Kiheh, maybe you should care a little more.

Kaoru: Gosh darn it you're right.

Battousai: It's better that I go. You can finally clear away the disgrace from your school. If the real Battousai stays here, you'll lose everything.

Kaoru: I didn't say I wanted Battousai to stay! I want the vagabond-- (she stops herself.) Well, fine! If you have to leave then leave! But if you're leaving, at least tell me your name. Battousai was the name of the patriot, a long time ago. But, then, I guess you wouldn't want to tell me your real name--?

(A pause. He slides the door shut again.)

Kenshin: Kenshin. Himura Kenshin. That's my name now. I'm a little tired of traveling.

So the story begins-- Kenshin: A vagabond never knows where he's going or for how long. But if you don't mind that--

In the eleventh year of the Meiji era, in a town near Tokyo-- Kenshin: I'll stay with you a while.

The vagabond Himura Kenshin's visit-- Kaoru: Wait a minute ... If you fought at the Bakumatsu how old ARE you?

Kenshin: Oro?

Kaoru: Don't oro me! You don't look that old! You'd have to be at least 30!

Kenshin (counting on his fingers): Well, let's see, how old am I...

Kaoru: You have to count up your own age--!!

the Makings of the Characters --Himura Kenshin-- The original model was supposed to be the Hitokiri Kawakami Gensai, but now they're completely different... (oh well.) Kawakami Gensai, one of the four great Hitokiris of the Bakumatsu, could be mistaken for a girl at first glance, but his nature was the complete opposite of his appearance: he was a cold, calculating man said to be the most terrible of the four. He was famous for cutting down Kuma Shouzan in broad daylight with his unique, lightning-fast Furanui style of kenjutsu. Whether he was responsible for other assassinations is still a mystery. After the new era was brought in, his ideas about isolationism conflicted with that of the government's, and he was tried on false charges and executed in the fourth year of the Meiji era (1871). But after looking into it, I think the Hitokiri's inflexibility was not meaningless, but his honor for the comrades he fought and killed with and the enemies he killed. This thought led to the Kenshin character. From others in the Shinsengumi, I also took the selflessness of Okita Soushi of the Shinsengumi, and the mystery of Saitou Hajime. Other than this, I didn't have any particular design for the character. The hero of my debut story was a tall handsome man with black hair and armor, so I tried to draw the exact opposite and ended up with a girl (laughs). In desperation, I added a cross-shaped scar on his left cheek. However, that scar actually became a key point in the transformation of Battousai to Kenshin (or so it seems).

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