June, 1878

Hiko's hut

Deep, tearing pain in his chest. 

'Hurts like a bitch...'

Eyelids pried themselves open. Steely eyes gazed blankly up. Eyelids blinked rapidly, trying to clear vision.

'This must be the afterlife. I wonder if I'll meet my master here. Wouldn't that be fun?'

Hiko opened his eyes fully and looked at the shelf full of vases he had made over to his right.

'Um, why does the afterlife look like my hut?'

Hiko attempted to sit up, but pain shot through his chest and bruised ribs, forcing him down again.

'Ow! Dammit! My chest shouldn't hurt if I'm dead...'

Hiko took a deep breath and sat up, more slowly this time, wincing with each painful breath he took. Once erect, he looked around, until his eyes fell on a small, redhaired man slumped over against the far wall, seemingly asleep. His hands came up and touched his chest, his eyes traveling down to the gaping wound.

'No wonder the afterlife looks like my hut. This is my hut! I'm still alive. But how?'

Hiko stopped and thought about it. When the Sakabatou had raked over his torso, something had felt a bit off about it. He would definitely investigate that in a moment. First thing was first though. Getting stiffly to his feet, Hiko retrieved some ointment and bandages to see to the huge wound across his chest. He then removed his shredded tunic and consigned it to the scrap heap for use as a rag.

The wound stung like a bitch as Hiko rinsed it out with (what else?) sake and then rubbed the ointment over it. This onerous task done, Hiko carefully wound the bandages around his torso, over and over, until the wound was completely covered. Finally, he donned another blue tunic.

Hiko went outside to the scene of yesterday's confrontation. Lying on the ground forgotten were the Sakabatou Shinuchi and his cape.

"I should chew that idiot out for just leaving his sword lying around outside like a toy," Hiko muttered as he knelt down and picked the neglected blade up.

He gave it a few swings and felt the blade rattle around in the hilt. He looked and saw that the stay pin was so far out, it was almost ready to drop out, which would let the blade drop out of its hilt.

"Kenshin, you moron, do I have to retrain you in proper sword maintenance as well?" Hiko muttered to himself as he picked up his cape and draped it back over his shoulders. Ah, that was more like...

Hiko returned to the hut to wake up the sleeping beauty.

'Since the gods have seen fit to let me survive the succession technique, they must still want me to torture, er teach, my pupil. So be it. Who am I to argue with the gods?' he thought as he approached the small, sleeping figure and lifted his booted foot...