Chapter 19: A Girl from Aizu

Copyright© 2011 by Murasame

Kaoru: Yahiko!

(Kenshin and Hanya continue to stare each other down. Hanya holds up a hand.)

Hanya: Stop. I see to fight any further here for Takani Megumi is pointless. I myself want to collect these two and report back to the Okashira.

Kenshin: You were the ones who started this. We won't stop you from leaving. But the little one will stay here to give us the antidote for Yahiko. Hanya: I have no such duty to an enemy.

Kenshin (charging): Then we'll have to take it!

(Hanya drops into a fighting stance. He turns the sword aside with the back of his hand.)

Hanya: You have a calm expression, but your emotions run high.

(He punches Kenshin with the other fist, knocking him down.)

Hanya: As you shelter Takani Megumi, eventually we will fight again. This is just a postponement.

(He picks up his fallen comrades and leaps away.)

Sanosuke (thinking): That move ... he's completely different from that Hyottoko. That was kempo with the weight of experience...

Kaoru: Kenshin! Yahiko's--what do we do?

Sanosuke (to Kenshin): What do you think?

Kenshin: I only have experience dealing with sword wounds and broken bones, but if it's poison ... we could try sucking the poison out of the wound--

Kaoru: Right!

Megumi (pulling her back): Stop!

Kaoru: Do you want me to watch Yahiko die? Stay out of this!

Megumi: Fool! You won't do any good if you infect the wound! This is no work for amateurs. Stand back. (thinking) Unconscious with a slight fever ... seems to be in pain, pupils dilated. (aloud) The poison is jimsonweed! (to Kaoru) This is a dojo, you must have a doctor. I'll give you a prescription, you go get it from him. Ken-san, boil some water. I need that and a washcloth for the medicine. (to Sanosuke) You go buy as much ice as possible. Treating poison is a race against time! Hurry!

(Some time later. Yahiko is in bed; Kaoru and Sanosuke look on as the doctor finishes up.)

Doctor: This should do it. He'll be all right in three or four days.

Kaoru: I'm so glad, Yahiko. (hugging him. Yahiko moans in his sleep.)

Doctor: As long as he's not disturbed.

Sanosuke (slapping the doctor on the back): Thanks, old man, you're the greatest.

Doctor: No need to thank me. The one you should be thanking is the one who wrote this prescription. It's amazing. The ingredients and recipe for the antidote were perfect. The person who wrote this must have studied Western medicine at a university.

Sanosuke (darkly): Or they just knew a lot about poisons.

Doctor: Poison and medicine are two sides of the same coin. Jimsonweed is a powerful medicine when used properly. Also known as Korean morning-glory, it's the main ingredient in an anesthetic called mafussan created by the great doctor Hanaoka Seishuu in the middle of the Edo age. Whoever wrote this must have been a master who studied for a long time at the university. I'm sure of it.

Kaoru: I'm surprised ... And I thought she was just an ill-natured woman...

Doctor: Woman?

Kaoru: Yes...

Doctor: Not Takani Megumi... ?

Sanosuke: You know her!?

Doctor: Takani Megumi. She was an assistant to a doctor who was killed three years ago.

(Outside. Megumi takes a sorrowful look at the smashed dojo wall. Then she turns to go.)

Kenshin: Where are you going? (she jumps) It's dangerous for women to walk at night!

Megumi (recovering from the shock): This guy's bad for the heart... (aloud) How is the boy?

Kenshin: He's fine. Yahiko's a strong boy. Thank you for your help.

Megumi: There's no thanks necessary. Beshimi was aiming for me.

Kenshin: So, where are you going?

Megumi (thinking): You can't sidetrack this guy! (aloud) I'm leaving Tokyo for now. It looks like they're gone for now. If I leave, you should be fine.

Kenshin: Is there someone waiting for you at home in Aizu? (she is surprised) You can't get rid of the accent of the place you were born and raised even if you speak so flippantly. I know it because I fought with many warriors from Aizu in Kyoto, in the old days.

Megumi: You really are bad for the heart. All right. I'll end the silence.

Kenshin: Isn't it time we heard the truth?


Doctor: The Takanis were a famous family of doctors in Aizu (*now Fukushima prefecture) They were unusual because every generation went into medicine, and they allowed women and children to study as well. Above all, their belief in equality and treatment for all patients was widely known. Even in the Edo times of fierce discrimination, when as doctors they held high rank, they took any sick patients and devoted themselves to their treatment, no matter what their social status. The rigid system of preference for the samurai class was offensive to them; they believed that the true purpose of medicine was life. Megumi's father, Takani Ryuusei, believed this to the extreme. Upon hearing of Western medicine, he suddenly left to take the family to Nagasaki to study. You young people wouldn't know how much courage it took in those days to leave your province. So at the same time her family was returning to Aizu, through special permission, one of the decisive battles of the Boshin War, the Battle of Aizu, was beginning.

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