Chapter 84: Master and Student of the Sword
Copyright© 2011 by Murasame
Hiko: Well, now that you've had the gall to actually show your face here, what is it you want with me?
Kenshin (looking at the shelves around him): It seems that Niitsu Kakunoshin is a rising new name in the world of ceramics. Why pottery again?
Hiko: I didn't really care, pottery, whatever. It was just the easiest way to make a living without having to deal with a lot of people.
Kenshin: That's easy for you to say.
Hiko: Well, you know. My genius shows in whatever I do.
Kenshin (thinking): He's as conceited as ever...
Hiko: You didn't answer my question. You came to tell me something that's hard for you to say. (Kenshin looks surprised.) I was your master. I can read my foolish pupil like a book.
Kenshin: Then I'll say it straight out. (kneeling) The instruction of the Hiten Mitsurugi school that I left ten years ago--I ask it of you now!
Hiko: Absolutely not. You were the one who left ten years ago. (turning away) Why now after all this time.
(Kenshin catches hold of his mantle.)
Kenshin: Please ... I beg of you.
Hiko: ... Well, that's something. You look like you're at the end of your rope. All right. If you're asking, I'm listening.
Kaoru: It's getting dark.
Yahiko: We should hurry.
Misao: You're right ... According to Gramps' directions it's just a little farther.
(flashback, to the Aoiya earlier that afternoon.)
Misao: Himura's already gone?!
Okina: Who are these people?
Misao: Friends of Himura's. They came from Tokyo to see him.
Okina (to Kaoru): You know that Himura is fighting for the future of Japan and getting involved now with superficial feelings--
Misao: I already asked her that. Kaoru's serious! So hurry up and tell her where Himura is.
Kaoru (bowing): Please...
Okina: I see ... Well, please be careful.
Misao (flipping the pages of the letter): Himura went to see Niitsu Kakunoshin. Our sources say he's a rising potter deluged with orders. But actually, his hidden name is Hiko Seijuurou, a teacher of the Hiten Mitsurugi school. In other words, Kenshin's master.
Yahiko: Hidden name?
Kaoru: Well, it could mean a lot of things, but it's probably another name, kept secret.
Misao: In the case of the Hiten Mitsurugi school, Hiko Seijuurou is the name of the founder, passed down generation after generation. It's inherited by those who have completely mastered the style and will pass it on.
Yahiko: Hmm. (considering) Wait a minute! That means--
Misao: Exactly! When Himura left he hadn't completely mastered the school! There was a technique he didn't learn for some reason, and he's going to master it now!
Yahiko: And then he'll be even stronger than before! Wow, the guy's just not human!
Misao: He's a demon, a demon!
Kaoru (thinking): That's a terrible thing to say. Stronger, stronger ... it's only natural for a swordsman. But...
(Hiko pours himself a saucer of sake.)
Hiko: Hmm. So to put it simply, this man called Shishio Makoto is plotting to take over Japan. You, on the other hand, are slowly reverting to the Hitokiri Battousai. You want to defeat Shishio without becoming the Hitokiri--in other words, you need to be stronger than you are now. Well, you know what they say, he who runs after two hares won't catch either one.
Hiko: I'm sure I taught you this. A sword is a weapon. Kenjutsu is the art of killing. Whatever pretty words you use, this is its true nature. Your own foolish ideals, or today's harsh realities--whatever you're trying to protect, it's complete selfishness.
(A long pause.)
Hiko: What? Fifteen years ago you devoted yourself to the chaos of the Bakumatsu. That was your big mistake--
(flashback to when Kenshin was fourteen--)