A Rurouni Kenshin / Kasumi Gundan crossover story
by Elsa Bibat
A story set in "A Dance Set to the Music of Time" sequence.
Disclaimer: Rurouni Kenshin is owned by Nobuhiro Watsuki. Kasumi Gundan was conceived by the inestimable Mana-sensei from the Kurotokage ML. This is used without permission.
This disclaimer also applies to several intellectual properties referred to in the text. Please be guided accordingly.
The cigarette butt glowed briefly in the dark, before it was crushed by a shiny boot.
Saitoh Hajime, properly known to the world as Inspector Fujita Goro, smirked as he looked up the lighted front of the Aoiya. Golden eyes glowed as he put a hand on the hilt of his sword and entered the establishment.
"Irrashai— Oh, it's just you."
Omasu was obviously expecting him. Saito just smiled at her. You would think they'd have developed a little respect for him, but the look on her face was more like as if she was dealing with a flea-bitten street dog.
"The Okashira is waiting for you in the main hall."
He walked by her through the service entrance and sauntered to the main hall. He needed no guide, being familiar with the layout of the building from several visits, and other less-polite means.
They were waiting for him.
"A good night for a little business, eh, weasel girl?"
"Saitoh, I'm twenty years old. You really think that teasing me like we were children is going to do anything?"
Saitoh nodded with a smile. The girl's finally grown up. Aoshi sat on her left side, while Okina on her right. The fact that she didn't seem to be out of place between the two older men was another sign of Misao's maturity.
He drew his sheathed sword and held it in the traditional manner of setting it aside, hand close to the tsuba in a position that clearly showed he was no threat. The three persons before him showed almost no response, the arch of an eyebrow from Okina and the relaxing of Misao's shoulders being the only visible reactions on their part.
Saitoh sat down in a formal manner. He felt the stirrings of unease in the pit of his stomach. Hino and the others of the inner circle had entrusted him to do something tonight that he hadn't done in a long time.
This wasn't going to be easy. But, the Kasumi Gundan had recognized the dawn of a new age, and that meant new defenders for a Japan that had opened itself to the world. It was a bit late by a decade or so, but better late than never.
"You are troubled, Saitoh-san."
He flicked his eyes to Aoshi. Observant as ever, it seemed.
"That is correct, Shinomori." The stunned looks from Okina and Misao said it all. They had not expected such frankness from him, especially a confirmation of a weakness. Saitoh heaved a sigh of resignation. Time to toss the dice.
"I guess you're wondering why I requested a meeting."
Misao favored the former Shinsengumi captain with a slight smile. "The thought had occurred to us."
"I am here not as a representative of the government, but to represent a group of individuals that seek your membership in a small group."
Okina frowned. Saitoh wasn't surprised. His opening made him sound like a revolutionary idiot recruiting them into some conspiracy against the government. The recruitment and conspiracy part was correct — and the idiot part might even be on the mark, considering what he did for the Kasumi Gundan — but 'revolutionary' and 'against the government' was totally wrong.
"Do not worry, Okina. I'm not asking you to join something that would go up against the government. Actually, some of the individuals I mentioned are placed in the higher echelons of the current administration. To be more truthful, I'm recruiting you for something that we believe will benefit both the government and the country as a whole. Not to mention help your organization."
"And why do you think that?" They were testing the waters. The reports must be slightly true then, Saitoh thought to himself.
"My superiors in the organization have heard of your recent troubles. The Oniwanbashuu is not what it used to be."
Okina was fidgeting, along with Misao. Aoshi just gave him a level stare. They were obviously worried about a breach in their security.
"I can guarantee more than a recovery from your… little slump," Saitoh continued. "My organization would like to have the help of your information network and your other… useful assets."
The three before him looked at each other, carefully considering his words. Misao was the first one who spoke up.
"Maybe you should enlighten us as to whom you represent exactly." The tone of her voice clearly meant that the 'maybe' part of her question was just there to be polite. Saitoh smiled. Now this is the part where I make a fool out of myself, he thought to himself dryly.
"Enlightening you would take a bit of storytelling first."
Another arched eyebrow from Okina and a decidedly unpleasant look on Misao's face appeared as he reflexively pulled out his pack of cigarettes and lit up. He never could tell this story anymore without the artificial warmth of tobacco in his lungs.
"Tell me, do you believe in the old stories?"
"What old stories?" Misao was obviously puzzled by the question.
"The sort of old stories that have been told by our ancestors to their children. Especially the ones that are used to frighten them."
"Fairy tales." Aoshi snorted in disgust.
"More like legends. Myths that have some basis in truth. Truths that have a nasty habit of being all too real and deadly."
"Enough with the mysterious introductions! Either say it straight out, Saitoh, or leave!" Misao was getting impatient. Then she noted the white-gloved hand trembling a little. The former Shinsengumi captain noticed. A thin smile crossed his lips.
"My story makes me shiver as I talk about it, girl. I talk about myths and legends, because I have seen them walking. I have seen men eaten by monstrosities you wouldn't stomach the sight of. I have seen horrors flying high in the sky on moonless nights, wings trailing ice from a place beyond the stars. I have seen creatures from the deep — half-men, half-fish — take young women to their lairs. I have seen what our forebears called the oni. I have seen tengu. I have seen things that have no name… and I have fought them all. But for you to truly understand, I must begin with how I first got into this entire mess."
The vehemence in his voice silenced Misao and drew her two companions' attention. Saitoh took a long drag from his cigarette, drawing warmth from it in an attempt to fight the biting cold that was creeping into his limbs. Kyoto was warm enough, but he wasn't in Kyoto anymore as his gold-tinged eyes took a distant air.
"Over twenty years ago, during with my time with the Shinsengumi, I had to do a little favor for an old family friend. This little favor involved a little trip. At least, he called it a 'little trip'. It took me over almost all of Japan, hunting down a rather unpleasant individual…
Saitoh Hajime damned himself for a fool.
Going after his target in a middle of a cold winter night wasn't exactly one of the smartest things he could claim to have done in his life. He could still turn back to the inn and pick up the trail tomorrow.
But there was no way in hell that this fellow was going to take the cheap way out and die in the middle of a snowstorm. No way. The target was going to die. Die very painfully, if he had any say in it.
Saitoh had followed the trail of slaughter this man had left all over the country. Entire families butchered and defiled in ways that made his stomach churn just thinking about it. Considering that Saitoh wasn't exactly a newcomer to slaughter and death, this was saying something.
Aku Soku Zan. Saitoh smiled. Well, Evil wasn't just going to be destroyed tonight. It would be ground into mincemeat and be left for the mountain wolves to feast on.
Vengeance and a sense of justice can drive a man to do a lot of stupid things.
Which was the reason why he was trudging through probably two to three feet of snow, trying to track a man through the blinding white. But for some strange reason, he knew he was on the right track — that, if he kept on going, his prey would soon be in sight.
His concentration and focus on his prey was so total that it was almost a miracle that he survived the first attack. Only his finely honed sense of danger and lightning quick reflexes enabled him to evade his opponent when a nearby snow bank erupted and his quarry attacked him.
Leaping away just in time, he could see the ragged figure that he had been hunting for the past months. He looked like a demon out of myth, ragged clothes and unruly appearance giving him an aura of wildness that clung to him like dirt.
Wild eyes seemed to blaze from behind the tangled bangs as the madman before him regarded the Shinsengumi swordsman.
Saitoh narrowed his gaze and drew his katana. A fight in a snowstorm was no battleground a sane man would choose. Unfortunately, he wasn't fighting a sane man.
Steel met steel as Saitoh frantically blocked one of the madman's leaping attack. He almost got bisected when the man twirled like a tornado and followed up his initial blow.
Fast. The man was fast. He also had very bad breath as he breathed into the Shinsengumi captain's face across their clashing blades. Saito was close enough to see those mad, reddish eyes and the strong, sharp, white teeth of his opponent.
With a burst of strength, he disengaged from the madman, stumbling backwards a few steps. The blizzard intensified, but it didn't seem to worry his opponent, a fact the savage demonstrated by attacking mercilessly. The Mibu's Wolf gritted his teeth as he mentally kicked himself. His quarry was obviously used to fighting in snow. From the past months of trailing the damned man, he had noticed that a snowstorm had always seemed to be a signal for the man's rampages.
Now here he was, up on some damned mountain in the middle of a blizzard, trying to fight off someone who could ignore the blinding whiteness as if it were nothing.
Time for a strategic retreat, he thought sourly, as he took advantage of the mad man's powerful yet uncoordinated attacks and swiftly punched him in the face. It was enough to give him a breather and a chance for escape.
Stumbling through the snow, Saitoh was too deep into mentally kicking himself that he didn't notice the little girl until he almost trampled her.
Saitoh looked at the small figure before him and concluded that he was hallucinating. It was probably one of the most frightening sights of his life.
Dressed in an expensive white kimono tied with a red obi, the little girl before him was like an apparition. Her ghostly alabaster skin was set off by her long black hair, which reached the snow-covered ground. A white marten was perched on her shoulder.
Her appearance alone would not have frightened him. It was her eyes that did. Wide, beautiful eyes, black as midnight; yet a silver light seemed to swirl in those ageless orbs. Saitoh was so entranced that he did not notice that the snowstorm seemed to have stopped falling. For an area of ten feet around them, the storm was nonexistent.
Her voice shook him out of his reverie.
"You do not belong here." Her voice was as cold as the blizzard that was currently bypassing them.
Saitoh was speechless. Those terrible silver-black whirlpools looked at him, and he could see the oldness of them, the age of them. They told of the deepest sorrow and the deepest loathing.
They were old eyes, and they pierced him to the soul.
The silence between them was broken when the madman exploded into the small unnatural clearing. Saitoh dodged an attack by diving sideways. However, this left the child open to the savage's attack.
He never reached her.
For suddenly the world had stopped, turning a dark gray as the girl narrowed her eyes. Her albino marten's blood-red eyes winked with an unnatural light as it shifted its position around her neck.
"You also do not belong here." The girl declared as she examined the figure frozen in time. Her wide eyes narrowed perceptibly. Saitoh finally noticed that the white-clad girl had not once blinked since he had stumbled onto her.
"You are not totally human. Devourer of flesh. Drinker of blood. Wind-walker's spawn. I know how to deal with you."
Time unfroze. The demon clothed in human flesh resumed his trajectory.
Ice froze him centimeters away from his goal. The human shaped icicle fell to the snow before the girl's feet.
The child then looked up to the sky and Saitoh could see the unearthly glow of her eyes.
"False god. Here I rule. You have no power here. I am the mistress of these mountains. Leave."
The blizzard whipped around them as if in anger. The area of calm around them shrank a little. It seemed as if the snowstorm itself were raging against the unnatural force that maintained the barrier.
The little girl frowned and the Shinsengumi captain felt a prickly sensation run up his spine. He didn't know what happened, but he knew in his heart it wasn't good.
An unnatural screech howled out of the maelstrom. It was the sound of a wounded beast, but not of any beast that Saitoh knew. It was like the howl of a wolf at bay, mixed with a trapped bear's roar, along with an indefinable something that made his spine shiver once again.
Suddenly, the blizzard weakened, its strength flagging and, within moments, Saitoh Hajime could see the twinkling stars high above.
The child then looked at him. Silver light swirled within those dark orbs. In the dark night, the eyes seemed to burn in argent fury.
Then she and the block of ice were gone.
He would never forget those haunting eyes that seemed to be pools of silver and black for the rest of his life.
Saitoh took a long drag from his cigarette to fight the cold that seemed to permeate his skin.
The three people before him just stared at him, waiting for him to continue his story.
"That was one of the first times I encountered the things I'm asking you to help me with. The 'family friend' that sent me on the mission explained to me that the person I hunted wasn't exactly human. He was a gaki, a flesh-eating creature created by possession by an entity that is older than humanity. He knew of my skill, and thought I could have handled it by myself. And I would have, if I hadn't been too rash and too hungry for justice."
"The girl I encountered was another old thing. She's been the source of the tales of Yuki-onna, a woman who could control the very forces of blizzard and snow."
"After that, my friend told me the truth: that there are very old things out there. Things that lurk in the darkest shadows, things that threaten the existence of all that live."
"Now, the story may sound crazy, but it's true. That's why I'm here. A new age is dawning on Japan, Misao. A new age that brings with it a new bunch of monsters and horrors. Me and my superiors are fighting a war against them. And a war needs soldiers. The Bakumatsu and the upheavals that followed hit us hard, and we're lacking in troops."
"So this is what we're asking. Work for us in fighting these things, and you will have the full support of the government… at least, the part of the government that knows about us."
Saitoh finish his cigarette and flicked it outside. He watched as Misao and her two advisors thought it over. Aoshi and Okina believed him; that was obvious enough in the body language. Misao was on the brink, still undecided.
The silence was broken when Misao asked.
"What are you called?"
Saitoh smiled. Hook, line and sinker.
"We are the warriors who fight in the mist. We come and we go silently in protection of our country and our people.
"We are the Kasumi Gundan."
Author's notes: Kasumi Gundan is an original concept for the Kurotokage Delta Green Supplement, as conceived by Edward Lipsett, Mark Macfadden, Davide Mana and Dave Farnell. It's supposed to be a group of Japanese defenders against the occult. I kind of borrowed it and tweaked it a bit to fit in this universe. Kurotokage and Delta Green don't exist in this timeline, mostly because AEGIS is in charge of what they're supposed to be doing.
Anyway, as those in the know might have guessed, the Oniwanbashuu will form the core of Kasumi Gundan Meijigumi. Throw in some Juppongatana survivors, the Yukishiro family, and the Kasumi Gundan Tokugawa-gumi descendants, and mix well. Have one Saitoh Hajime as the chief… Mmm… really tasty. ^_^
Kasumi Gundan Taisho-gumi will be the pseudo-Teikokukagekidan, the Hagane Tenshi and other idiots, though I'm tempted to just write them as an alt-universe story. The Sakura Taisen world is just too cool to be written off as a crossover. Kasumi Gundan Showa-gumi will be some pretty nasty people both pre- and post-war, before they are integrated into AEGIS.
And yes, that is Yukino Hojo from Gatekeepers. ^_^
* DANCES SET TO THE MUSIC OF TIME *
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