October, 1859


Those were the three sounds heard most often at Hiko and Kenshin's waterfall, followed by the sputtering and coughing of the young boy as he emerged from the river, water dripping off his ruddy hair and clothes, making him look more like a bedraggled puppy than a swordsman in training.

Large, expressive eyes dancing with annoyance and indignation, Kenshin gripped his wakizashi and glared at the source of his ire, his oversized Master, Hiko Seijuro XIII.

"Alright, dummy! Attack me again with all your speed!" Hiko called to the boy, holding his nihontou at the ready.

'You don't have to tell me twice,' thought Kenshin as he held his wakizashi in front of him, looking for any open point he could attack.

Hiko smirked at the narrowed eyes and set jaw of his little pupil.

'He's small and weak now, but he'll get stronger. No one can get better at swordsmanship without the desire to be stronger as well. This boy wants nothing more than to increase his abilities. Either his heart is pure, or he is simply a fool,' Hiko thought to himself.

Realizing that there were no open points to be attacked, Kenshin sighed inwardly and charged forward with all the speed and power his delicate frame could muster.


CLANG! Their blades made contact and slid together just for a second.

WOOSH! Hiko's huge, powerful body easily repelled Kenshin's flimsy attack and sent him flying through the air like a ragdoll.

SPLASH! Again, Kenshin's body made communication with the river.

Hiko bent down and picked up the sake jug from the rock just behind him and took a swig, waiting for the boy to emerge from the water. Ah, there he was.

"C'mon, stupid! The sun won't stay in the sky all day!" Hiko called to the bedraggled boy.

After thoroughly debasing the boy and wearing him out, Hiko declared a break in training. Since it was a warm Indian Summer day in October, they would eat their midday dinner near the base of the waterfall. Kenshin retrieved the dishes and chopsticks while Hiko boiled some rice. Soon, the two were eating in companionable silence.

Kenshin looked at his huge Master as he ate. He was frustrated that no matter how strongly he attacked, Hiko just batted him away like a mosquito. They had been doing these spars for two months now and he had yet to land a blow. Was the Master that powerful, or was he just that weak? He knew he was only a beginner, but still, shouldn't he have landed a blow by now?

With a sigh, Kenshin turned to look at where they trained. His eyes traveled up the waterfall, up, up, up all the way to the top. The precipice seemed to ascend into infinity. What was it like up there?

"What are you thinking about?" came Hiko's deep voice behind him.

"The waterfall is pretty," said Kenshin dreamily.

"It supplies water for drinking and bathing. I wouldn't have built my hut here if this waterfall hadn't been here," was the Master's practical remark.

"Have you ever been to the top?" asked Kenshin.

"Of the waterfall?" asked Hiko.

The boy nodded.

"Of course not. Why would I climb all the way up there when I have everything I need right here?" Hiko answered.

"Just to see what it looks like," answered Kenshin in a dreamy tone of voice. "I bet you can see forever up there."

"Get your head out of the clouds and back to earth, little idiot," reprimanded Hiko, seeing that the boy was getting day-dreamy again. "I don't want you going anywhere near that mountain. As feather-brained as you are, you'd be liable to fall over the cliff if you went up there."

"Master! I wouldn't!" protested Kenshin, snapping his gaze sharply back to his Master from looking at the waterfall.

"The hell you wouldn't," sneered Hiko. "When I think the time is right and that you can be trusted to keep your mind on your surroundings, I'll take you up there myself. Until then, you stay away from that mountain."

Each word in the last sentence was said with force behind it to pound it into the little dummy's thick skull. Kenshin lowered his gaze to his zori clad feet and sighed in defeat.

"Yes, Master," he said softly.

"Alright," said Hiko, getting back to his feet and sliding his nihontou into his belt. "Let's get back to the water and continue your beatdow... training."

"Oro?" went Kenshin.

'Did he say "beatdown?"'

"Don't just stand there gaping, dummy. We're burning daylight," said Hiko, already heading to the base of the waterfall.

With yet another sigh, Kenshin stood up, slid his wakizashi into his belt and followed his Master for the rest of his beatdown... workout.