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Velvet Rope

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Moments later after his adopted grandson left for the bath, Jigoro decided that he might as well take a bath after a long journey. He took his bathrobes and headed outside, his thoughts still wandering. They need to head out as soon as possible. There was a chance that if they stay at a place for too long, they would get caught. 

...But what should he do? After seeing Zenitsu so lively right now, he doesn't want to leave so soon. As his guardian, he wants to give Zenitsu a little break from all of this misery. He wants to see Zenitsu happy with not a single care about anything. He wants to live long enough to see the future that Zenitsu would talk about every time. 

Jigoro unconsciously let out a small chuckle at himself but upon realizing it, he shook it off. He remembered what Sakanoshita-san had said to him before. 

"You've changed, Jigoro-san."

"Of course I have. It has been 30 years already."

Sakanoshita-san let out a small chuckle. "I'm not talking about your appearance. I'm talking about your aura now. Compared to that time when you were still a general, you had this tough demeanor and it was a hurdle for anyone to talk to you. But now...it's like you have become softer." 

Jigoro hummed in response. 

"Ah. I didn't mean that you have become weaker or anything of that sort. I just meant that you..um well how do I say this? You've changed. But in a good way. Does this have anything to do with the kid behind you, Jigoro-san?"

Jigoro looked back to Zenitsu who was in awe with the interior decoration, too busy to hear his conversation with Sakanoshita-san.

"....I guess."

"People tend to change when they meet a person they care about," Sakanoshita-san continued. "I also used to be a very scary person but... after meeting my wife and my own family, I feel like I've changed completely. I believe the same goes for you, Jigoro-san."

Jigoro had said nothing back then but after some thinking, he guessed Sakanoshita-san was right. He has a soft spot for Zenitsu. It can't be helped after living with him for almost 7 years already and raising him like his own grandson that he never had. 

Before he let his thoughts wander off, a loud noise interrupted him. Jigoro suddenly turned around to the source of the noise which appears to be another luxurious room. 

"PLEASE STOP IT!" From that voice alone, he noticed that it belonged to Saknoshita-san and he immediately dropped his bathrobes and grab his sword which he had hidden behind his back. He ran towards the room where Sakanoshita-san's shout was heard and he listened through it.

"I really have no idea what you're talking about! I haven't seen him before at our inn! I really haven't!" Sakanoshita-san pleaded to an unknown figure.

"Are you trying to play dumb with us, owner? Our boss had said that he had seen a person with golden hair and everything he said is right. It's difficult to not notice a customer with golden hair in your inn, am I right?"

Upon hearing the mention of the golden hair, Jigoro turned pale. It hasn't even been an hour since they arrived and they had already found them out?! Not to mention, their boss is also here. The person who is looking for Zenitsu.  

Jigoro's eyebrows narrowed, sweat trickling down from his forehead. He really needs to get Zenitsu out of here fast. He had also heard that his boss had already spotted him. Are they after Zenitsu already? If so, he needs to hurry and-

"This is a place restricted to normal customers, you know." A gruff voice behind him said, interrupting Jigoro out of his thoughts. Jigoro turned his head around, simultaneously hiding his sword again.

Better not to get into a fight. Escaping here with Zenitsu is top priority.

"Oh my, pardon me. It seems I have gotten the wrong room. I am returning now so could you please move?," Jigoro said cooly as he smiled trying to hide his sword behind his back.

Unfortunately, that didn't go unnoticed and the man suddenly tried to attack Jigoro. Expecting that to happen, Jigoro dodged and he landed a fist right into the man's chest, the man tumbling backward. However, Jigoro was not finished as he delivered another kick to the side of his head, the man falling towards the ground with blood pooling around his head. Jigoro made sure not to kill the man but left him unconscious but, the man stood up. 

"Oh my. What's this..? This is the first time that this move hasn't work on somebody. I'm guessing you used to be a fighter as well."

The man lunged forward with a shout and Jigoro had to finally take out his sword as he slashed the man square on his chest. The slash was not deep enough to kill him but it was enough to leave a serious wound and the man fell over the ground with a loud thud. 

Before Jigoro had time to relax, the door slid open and someone jumped out.

A loud 'CLANG' rang out the hallway, as Jigoro blocked a sickle thrown to him with his sword. The force on the sickle was heavy and just from this, Jigoro could determine that the owner of the sickle was an extremely talented fighter and he would have difficulties trying to fight him off.

"I'm surprised you blocked it. You ain't just like any other old man around, are you?"

Jigoro turned around to face the owner of the sickle. The man was unusually tall, his long, muscular arms hanging beside his abnormally slender waist, his pelvis jutting out in a weird angle. His face was unlike any other human with dark splotches on his face, his smile twisted in an evil grin and his beady eyes staring down at Jigoro.

"The name's Gyutaro and you must be that old man who knocked out my sister before. You know it hurts me too when my sister gets hurt. Normally, I would have killed you on a spot for bullying my dear little sister, but....my boss's orders always go first," Gyutaro said as he readied his sickle. "I'm guessing you have connections with that golden boy. Say, if you tell me where he is now, maybe I could spare your life. My boss would be very pleased with you too. He could offer you a hundred-no a thousand gold coins! How about that?"

"I will have to decline that offer. I have no intention to offer Zenitsu to people like you," Jigoro answered back, grabbing the hilt of his sword again, ready to attack anytime. Before he could take off to deliver a blow towards his enemy, a sharp pain stung through his side and he looked behind to see the cause of it. 

A knife, tainted with red, slowly retreated from his side through the shoji door, that Jigoro was leaning against. Jigoro quickly jumped away from the door, just as the door slowly slid open revealing a face that he was familiar with. 

It was someone who he had nurtured and raised. Someone who he had cared so deeply. Someone who had strayed from the right path. Someone who had betrayed him. It was his former student, Kaigaku. 

  

"Sensei. What a surprise to see you here," Kaigaku hissed, his smirk never leaving his face. "Weren't you the one who taught me to be aware of my own surroundings at all times? Now, look at how the tables have turned, Sensei."

His former student stood tall before him, the once grumpy and short kid was no more. Instead replaced by tall stature, his muscles looking more toned than when Jigoro had trained him. He wore a long dark blue trench coat, his sword hidden beneath and his turquoise eyes seemed to lose its shine, replaced by a dull blue. However, his appearance was not the only thing that has changed. His aura has changed drastically. Just from looking at him, Jigoro could sense pure evil radiating off from him. He couldn't even bear to imagine the evil deeds that Kaigaku had committed during the few years that he had left him. 

Jigoro grabbed his side, trying to clog the blood which was dripping down as he bit his inner cheek trying to endure the pain that enveloped his entire side. 

After noticing the silence from his former teacher, Kaigaku took a step forwards in which Jigoro took a step backward in return. The smirk on Kaigaku's face growing larger and larger with each step he took towards Jigoro. The atmosphere within the two was tense, with both of them staring down at each other, both expecting each other to attack first. No matter how Jigoro had been strong in the past, one could clearly see he was at a disadvantage, with him being wounded and cornered by two enemies. Not to mention that he still has no idea if Zenitsu was safe or not. He planned to pull out a quick attack on Kaigaku, enough to slow him down and rush pass the other enemy, find Zenitsu, and escape this inn as soon as possible. With everything planned out, Jigoro slowly began to take his sword out, taking a deep breath and planting his feet in the ground, readying his stance. Just before he could attack, a voice stopped him from his tracks. A voice that made him immediately freeze up.

 

"Jii-chan?" Jigoro knew who it was without even looking up. His pain immediately disappeared, replaced by the fear creeping into his body. His mouth suddenly turned dry, his eyes widening at the sight before him.

It was Zenitsu. Zenitsu had fear written onto his face, as he stared at the new people cornering his grandpa, and his eyes slowly widening as he saw the steady stream of blood dripping from his grandpa's side. 

"Get running Zenitsu!" Jigroro shouted, snapping Zenitsu away from his fear, the boy a little startled by the loud voice but began running, the sickle holder immediately on the chase.

Jigoro, too worried about Zenitsu's safety, barely blocked the sword that Kaigaku swung. It was undoubtedly heavier than when he used to block his attacks years ago when Kaigaku was still training under him. 

"So you knew him," Kaigaku began, pressing onto his attack, a large grin on his face. "I'm guessing you took in another brat from the streets and made him your discipline again. You sure don't learn your lesson, Sensei," he hissed.

"Zenitsu isn't like you, Kaigaku," Jigoro managed to growl out, the pain in his side becoming slightly unbearable. 

"You're right. He  can't  be like me. Since he's under your training, he can  never  be like me!" 

"Just what have you become, Kaigaku?" Jigoro asked, the pain in his side, disappearing once more and a pang of guilt sweep across him.  Where had he gone wrong?

"After being given more power by  that  person, I have become something that you could never imagine!" Kaigaku shouted unleashing blow after blow in which Jigoro kept dodging or blocking them.

Jigoro looked at the scene before him. Kaigaku attacking him at a relentless pace, bloodlust glowing in his eyes and pure hatred brewing out of him. He can't imagine just how much Kaigaku got his hands tainted with blood.  All of this was his fault. Kaigaku's change of mind was also his fault. He had failed as the teacher of Kaigaku. He had failed in leading Kaigaku on the right path. He had failed as his guardian. And the least he could do was to end Kaigaku's life. 

Jigoro readied his stance, preparing for the fatal attack and blasted off with a whistle, penetrating through Kaigaku's defenses and going straight for the neck. 

Before he could feel the sword slicing through his former discipline's neck, he stopped. The memories came flooding by. The day when he had taken in Kaigaku from the streets. The face Kaigaku had made when he was given a clean set of clothes. The time when they would spar together and those peaceful times when they would sit down together and eat their meals. And the day when Kaigaku had left without saying anything. 

' ' People tend to change when they meet a person they care about,'  Sakanoshita-san's voice rang in his ear.

'Ah. I guess I really had become softer,' Jigoro thought to himself as he slowly retreated his sword back from Kaigaku's neck.

"JII-CHAN BEHIND YOU!" his thoughts were cut off by Zenitsu's warning as he barely dodged a sickle flying towards him, but still earning himself a deep cut on the side of his face. 

He looked at the path that the sickle had come, his eyes landing on the previous man that he had seen, his hand holding a sickle and his other hand tugging Zenitsu's hands behind his back, limiting his movements. 

Zenitsu's eyes were as wide as a platter and teary-eyed, still trying to struggle from the man's grip but failing. 

"Zenitsu," Jigoro whispered realization dawning into him. Zenitsu continued to worm his way in the man's grip and suddenly tensed up, as a sickle was brought up to his neck close enough, to draw blood. Zenitsu hissed at the pain, glancing at the sickle below him, tears threatening to fall from his eyes. At the sight before him, the grip of his sword in Jigoro's hands weakened. 

"Zenitsu," Jigoro whispered again, staggering towards him, worry painted on his face. 

Zenitsu looked up, his eyes widening more and tears finally dropping, an unformed shout stuck in his throat. 

Jigoro never got to hear what he was saying. He felt a burning pain, in his chest as he looked down to see a sword impaled on his right chest. 

He was too late to dodge Kaigaku's sword.

He felt something bubble up from his throat and something warm dripped from his mouth, falling onto the ground and staining the carpet beneath him red. His vision blurred, his eyes still fixated on Zenitsu screaming at something. He saw Zenitsu struggling desperately away from his grips, his tears freely streaming down his face. Jigoro knew he was crying, shouting. But all he could hear where muffled voices as his body stopped working and he fell on the blood-stained carpet with a thud. 

He was too late.

He wanted to say something to Zenitsu before he go. He  had  to He struggled to keep his eyes open, tried to open his mouth to utter his last words. Gripped at the carpet beneath him with his last words, as he slowly whispered out his words. 

"I'm sorry." And with that Kuwajima Jigoro closed his eyes, never opening them again.