Jinchuu

Title: Jinchuu
Plot, or Lack Thereof: Tomoe exacts her ultimate revenge on Kenshin.
Reason for Banishment: Ran out of steam, and the premise has already been done in a better fashion.


In the beginning, I was so consumed with grief that I agreed with my co-conspirators’ plan at once. The one called the Single-Stroke Manslayer, who was rumored to be able to kill three people in one stroke, the murderer of my husband, must walk this world no longer.

And then I saw for myself what the Manslayer was capable of doing.

At that moment, when the man’s blood rained over me in warm, doubt struck my heart for the first time. Would the plan work against this—this monster?

He turned and caught sight of me.

Great, no turning back now. I just had to play along until I could know for sure whether I would succeed or not.

I relinquished my self-control and let the alcohol that washed through my veins overtake me. As I fell, the Manslayer ran up and caught me in his arms. He muttered something to himself that I couldn’t quite understand, but I was certain that he was debating over what to do with me. I felt my pulse quicken as I knew that these assassins didn’t hesitate to “silence” any potential witnesses. I nearly blew my cover when he picked me up, shifting his weight a bit as if he had never held a woman before, and began walking towards the place where he lived.

From that day on, I lived in his room, watching him whenever I could, and probing him for any possible weakness that I could exploit. The first one that I discovered, almost by accident, was that the Manslayer, despite his namesake, didn’t enjoy his grim job. The morning after he took me home, he told me that he was killing to bring in an era of peace, that he would never kill anyone unarmed. My immediate response was to ask him if that meant he would kill me if I had a sword; just as a predicted, he became flustered and stammered a bit, but could give me no answer.

Whenever I saw him, I took every moment that I could to plant doubts into his mind. I asked him whether he was certain what he was doing was right, if he was going to keep on killing, and if he realized that violence brought nothing more than more violence. He never said anything in his own defense; in fact, every time I got near him he would shrink away, as if he felt he would “stain” me with the blood he was always trying to wash off every time he was handed a black envelope. But just as the dead could not be brought back to life, no amount of water could erase the guilt that the Manslayer wore, and no measure of time could make me forget the happiness that he tore away from me.

The others helped as well, teasing the Manslayer to no end about how much time “Miss Tomoe” seemed to be spending around him. I neither admitted nor denied that I was his mistress, and everyone took my silence as the former. It threw the Manslayer off guard, not just because he was not accustomed to so much attention, but also because he could no longer spend long, contemplative hours purging himself of the images of death I knew he was seeing on a day to day basis.

 ***

The first time the idea sneaked into my head was just a passing thought, one which had seemed so terrible that I dismissed it right away. But as I continued to be by his side, it kept coming back to tease me. It constantly whispered in my ear, even when I busied myself with cleaning the massive inn where the Ishin Shishi was all staying.

“I would never kill you. Never, ever.”

That was what the Manslayer had told me the afternoon I walked in on him when he was sleeping and had tried to get near him. In the blink of an eye, he had reared up and placed his sword at my neck, ready to shower the room with my blood. At the last possible moment, when I was sure I was done for, he came to himself and pushed me out of the way.

And he apologized. I almost burst out laughing, but I maintained my expressionless mask. And in the back of my mind, I realized now that it was no longer enough to just kill this assassin; no, my revenge had to go much further. I wanted the Manslayer to be haunted for the rest of his life by what I did to him. And with this new bit of information in my mind, I began to formulate my own plans.

But as the days passed, I did nothing. I merely stayed at his side, a silent, unsmiling companion. the Manslayer became so used to my presence that he even started dozing off when I was in the room. Yet I did nothing.

And then fate threw the perfect opportunity my way.

The enemy discovered us, and the Ishin Shishi was forced to disperse and lay low. As a cover, Kogorou-san, the Manslayer’s employer, wanted us to masquerade as husband and wife. Of course, he got up and walked away before either of us could say a thing.

“If it’s possible,” the Manslayer began after Kogorou-san left, “I’d like to do it for real.”

The last piece of the puzzle fell into place. I knew then what to do; it was so simple I wondered why the others had never thought of it.

I looked back at the Manslayer, making certain that I showed no emotions. “It makes no difference to me either way.”

The Manslayer took my answer as acquiescence. “Till death do we part, then,” he murmured.

***

We began living together as a couple, but he did not dare to even touch me when we slept. As time passed, he began to open up, showing his emotions more. He smiled almost nonstop now, and found every little thing worth being happy about. When he wasn’t looking for medicine or selling it to the village nearby, he would play with the neighborhood children. They all took to calling him “big brother” and me “big sister” by natural extension. They tried to get me to play with them as well, but soon gave up when they realized that I would do nothing more than stand and watch.

 ***

The time was drawing near, but I wasn’t ready to leave. Not yet. There remained one more task for me to do, one last nail I needed drive into the coffin which I had erected around the one known as the Manslayer. I told him everything, except for the name of the beloved he had robbed from him. He would find that out soon enough, when he reads the diary I wrote for him. But first I had to leave in his mind no doubt that I loved him fully, as a wife would.

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