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Velvet Rope

Chapter Text

“Say, have you heard about them?”

 

“Who?”

 

“The infamous Moon family.”

 

“Apparently, they are on the move again.”

 

“So who’s their next hunt?”

 

“I heard they are searching for someone with golden long hair.”

 

“Golden hair? Does that even exist in this world?”

 

“Yes, it does. I even caught a glimpse of it last night. It’s hard to not notice it in the dark.”

 

“For real?”

 

“Absolutely! Maybe I can get some reward for that information.”

 

“Ha. Don’t even bother. You think they’ll pay you for that prove less evidence?"

 

"You're right. I don't have any proof at all-."

 

"Care to tell me where you saw that?"

 

A dark figure, cloaked, loomed above the two figures, his face kept hidden.

 

 

"I'll make sure that your reward satisfies you."

 

 

 

Chapter Text

It was in the middle of the night when Zenitsu's sensitive ears caught knocking on their old wooden door.

"Jii-chan, there's someone at the door."

"Ignore them," was his grandfather's reply.

"But they're knocking very intensely. Like they are in some sort of danger. I'll go take a peek," Zenitsu insisted as he crawled to get up. However, he was immediately pulled down by his grandfather's rough hands. 

"No, you stay here. I'll go." Zenitsu wanted to retort but the glint in his grandfather's eyes says otherwise.

As his grandfather marched towards the door, Zenitsu cupped his hands over his ears and listened.

 

When Jigoro opened the door, he came face to face with a beautiful lady with silvery-white hair.

"How may I help you, miss?" his grandfather questioned.

"I'm here to look for a place to stay for the night. Could you please let me in?" the said female replied with a sickly sweet voice.

"I'm afraid that's not possible. You see, my wife has a severe illness and I strongly request you to go look for other suitable places to stay."

"That's too bad," the lady replied with a small frown that disappeared quickly, replaced with a small smile," but maybe I can offer your wife some help. After all, I am a doctor."

 

 

Zenitsu doesn't need to use his heightened sense of hearing to notice the lies in her words and he was sure his grandfather knows too. And again, he leaned against the wooden wall to hear their conversation.

 

"I apologize but it would be better if you avoid her. Who knows, you might get infected," his grandfather replied while he slowly but firmly closed the door. Instead, Zenitsu could hear the creaking as the woman's hands struggled to keep the door open.

 

"Then, I guess negotiations have ended," the lady silently said to herself, and with that, she broke the door open.

Jigoro quickly reacted like he expected this to happen. Swiftly, he flung a vase to her side of the head with enough force to make her fall on the ground. And enough time for him to take Zenitsu away from her.

 

Jigoro rushed to the bedroom to see Zenitsu sitting up on the bed, dumbfounded. He grabbed the golden-haired boy's wrist and covered themselves with a grey cloak from head to toe as they ran through the backdoor out into the forest. Jigoro glanced towards Zenitsu and he could see the fear in his eyes and the many questions that the boy wanted to ask him.

"I can hear their footsteps," Zenitsu whispered to his grandfather.

"Jii-chan, please tell me what is happening," and with this Zenitsu could feel the wetness on his cheeks as tears streamed down.

 

His grandfather didn't say anything, solely focused on running away. Somewhere where they couldn't reach them.

"Their footsteps are getting louder, Jii-chan! What are we going to do? We are going to be surrounded! And I am going to be taken away!" Zenitsu wailed as panic overcame him.

 

The grip on his hand tightened and Zenitsu somehow felt a slight bit reassured. 

"I, Kuwajima Jigoro, would never let you be taken, Zenitsu. Remember that."

Chapter Text

Zenitsu doesn't know how long he has been running since then. It could have been several hours already, considering the way that his hair is dripping with sweat and his breath short. He glanced at his grandfather.

His grandfather doesn't look too good either, but he was in a better situation than Zenitsu. He could see the sweat gathering at his bushy brows, that was narrowed. Frankly, Jii-chan doesn't seem to be struggling with all the running. Unlike him.

 

"Jii-chaaaan, let's stop. Aren't you tired already?"

"No," was his grandfather's gruff reply.

'As expected from a former general,' Zenitsu said to himself.

"Jii-chan, I can't feel my legs nor can I hear their footsteps anymore," Zenitsu whined.

 

His grandfather gave him a glance, hesitated, but finally stopped in his tracks.

"Fine. But we're only staying here for 10 minutes. Then we continue."

"What? Jii-chan, I'm tired," Zenitsu wailed as tears started streaming down again for the second time, "I don't think I can do this anymore."

"Listen here, Zenitsu," Jigoro grasped his shoulders as firmly as he can, "no matter what, you cannot be captured. Promise me that, Zenitsu."

"Ehh? But Jii-chan-"  

"Promise me that," Jigoro said, his voice becoming more silent and serious.

"Fine," Zenitsu answered after he noticed how desperate his grandfather sounds.


To Zenitsu, the only important person that he remembered was this old, small man named Kuwajima Jigoro. His time in the streets was not pleasurable at all and he had to struggle just to earn some bread crumbs. He thought this would be his daily suffering but his fate wasn't too kind.

He had always been the cowardly but careful person, always believing in the sounds he heard instead of the things he saw. After all, his heightened sense of hearing plays a great asset in his daily survival. But, one day, when he saw a freshly baked pie in the middle of the alley, he didn't hesitate to go grab it. Being the starving idiot, he ignored the two thunderous heartbeats nearby.

The moment he got close to the pie, he was immediately grabbed by the collar by a large hand and was shoved roughly into a bag. From the inside of the bag, he could hear two muffled voices as they talked and laughed. 

 

"I've been seeing this brat in this area for days already. He should learn better to keep that hair of his hidden. It's difficult to not notice the shimmering and shiny golden among all those dull black hair."

 

"Great catch you found there. Just imagine what riches we would get just by selling him."

"I bet he's going to be worth a lot. Not like those usual street rats."

"I heard there's this old man who buys kids just to torture them. They always ended up getting killed though."

"How scary," the other man laughed mockingly.

"You hear that blondie?" the stranger asked as he shook the leather bag roughly.

"You sure are helping us out real nice there. I'll give you thanks for that." 

 

As soon as the conversation settled down, he realized the inescapable situation he was in. Zenitsu could then feel the sting in the corner of his eyes as the first drops of tear began to roll down his cheek.

 

Was this the end of him? In the hands of some filthy old man? He didn't want to die? Not in this way at least. His age still hasn't reached double digits! He didn't want to die so soon! Not until he married a beautiful wife with some nice kids and a comfy little house! He still had so many things to do! Even if the sick old man would let him live he doubt that guy would make his life more pleasurable! It would be a living hell for him!

 

Panicking, Zenistu started to struggle with what little strength he had left from not eating for days. H tried wiggling, searched for any holes in the bag, searched himself if he would have some sharp tools to tear the bag but he could find nothing. Desperate to get out, he unconsciously let out soft whimpers enough to make the two kidnappers let out a thunderous roar of laughter.

 

"Oh look, he's finally trying."

"Don't worry. I don't think that the old man would kill you too soon. He'll probably keep you as an exotic pet or something," and with that, the booming laughter that hurt Zenitsu's ear was heard again. 

 

Zenitsu whimpered again as he thought of the despair that would fall on him. All because of his carelessness and his 'golden' hair. Although the leather bag muffled out the sounds from outside he could hear still hear properly. He could hear the footsteps of the two men as they started moving. Zenistu clasped his ears as he leaned towards the bag to hear well. He could pick up many sounds; from loud footsteps of people, the wheels of the carriages turning and vendors shouting out their best items. With that, he realized that they were in the street, to be precise, in the city. Just by knowing that, he thought his chances of survival had increased. Desperate to escape, he took in a large breath of air and screamed for help.

 

Not even a second after he had screamed, he felt a sharp sting on his shoulder blade. Looking down slowly, Zenitsu could see the first drop of blood as they trickled down his arm and stained his raggy clothes with red. Zenitsu let out a loud yelp after he noticed that he had been stabbed. Not too deep but enough for a child like him to suffer. Fortunately, the small pocket knife retreated, earning Zenitsu another yelp. 

 

"Try that again and you're going to regret it," the kidnapper spat out maliciously. 

"Hey now, don't damage the merchandise that much. What are you going to do if the price dropped because of that?"

"Meh, he'll be fine. It wasn't much anyway."

 

Of course, one of the men had stabbed him with a knife to shut him up. Of course, they wouldn't let their 'merchandise' escape. Of course, they had this planned out. And of course, there was no way a small brat like him could escape from them. 

 

With the pain searing through his shoulder and despair eating him slowly, Zenitsu felt completely hopeless. He couldn't escape nor could he fight back. He surely was good for nothing. All he could pray to the gods was for a miracle.

 

A miracle that somebody would save him from this. 

 

 

 

And his prayers were answered.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Zenitsu was starting to feel nauseous. The reason could be the lack of oxygen in the bag or the fact that he hasn't eaten for days or the despair that he was going to be sold off to some sick old geezer. Or maybe it was all of them. 

His eyelids were heavy with all of his silent sobbing and he was trying his best just to keep them open. He didn't know how long he had been thrown into the bag. Exhaustion swept over his tiny body and he was forced to fall into a deep slumber. And when he woke up, Zenitsu was sure that he would have to face whatever that is supposed to come his way. 


     

Ever since Zenistu was young, he could hear what other people were saying even when he slept. He slowly squeezed his eyes open, adjusting to the dull golden light. The first thing he saw was a wooden ceiling and instead of the rough leather bag he was trapped in, he was lying in a futon. The sounds he could hear were the knife hitting the wooden chop board, and through the open window, the rattling and rasping noises of cicadas with the chirpings of some birds. Zenitsu could also hear a very stable and monotonous heartbeat that was unrecognizable and he was sure that this was not any of the kidnappers. 

 

Wait. If they are not here, does that mean he was already sold off to someone? Without him even noticing!? 

 

He turned his head around to take in the surroundings. He was expecting some huge, luxurious mansion but it looked like a normal house. He was alone in a small room and there was nothing in the room, save for some lanterns. Curiously, he tried to get up from the futon, but he immediately felt a sharp sting from his shoulder and he unconsciously let out a soft groan. Upon realizing the sound he had made, he covered his mouth with both of his hands as Zenitsu realized that he had caught the attention of the unknown person in the other room. The low thudding of the knife hitting the wooden chop board stopped abruptly and the door slowly slid open to reveal a small, dainty, old man supported by a short wooden cane. 

 

"I see you're finally awake-"

 

"NOOOOOOOO! WHERE AM I!? WHAT ARE YOU?! AM I GOING TO DIE HERE?? YOU ARE DEFINATELY GOING TO KILL ME RIGHT? RIGHT?? AT LEAST MAKE IT A SHORT AND PAINLESS DEATH! OR BETTER PLEASE JUST LET ME GO! IM TOO YOUNG TO DIE! I STILL HAVE SO MUCH TO DO! I DONT WANT TO DI-"

 

A loud 'Thwack' rang above his head and Zenitsu suddenly shut up, holding his head and grimacing in pain.

 

"I see you have enough energy to shout this much. Boy, you have a large mouth," the elderly said as he lowered his cane from Zenitsu's head, "at least you're quiet now."

 

Zenitsu waited for the pain on his head to reside and he slowly looked up. 

 

The old man who had taken him in was rather short and looked like any other aged man except for the scar that ran along his cheek and one of his legs replaced by a wooden stick. These features were enough to intimidate anyone despite his short stature but after hearing his heartbeat, Zenitsu calmed down. The said man's heartbeat was one of the kindest he had heard so far. His slow but steady heartbeat somehow reassured Zenitsu and he somehow felt safe. Just by hearing his heartbeat, Zenitsu could conclude that his sound was unlike the sounds from the kidnappers and he meant no harm.

 

"You're not going to kill me right?" Zenitsu timidly asked, not sure how he would react if the answer was a yes. 

 

Instead, the old man snorted at his question, followed by a deep chuckle. "And why would you think that I would?"

 

"But you bought me from those two men, right? Surely you have some reasons.

 

"I'm not sure if the word 'bought' is correct."

 

"Eh?" Zenitsu was confused. "What do you mean?"

 

Instead, the old man said nothing and headed back outside, leaving the door open. From this opening, Zenitsu could see the other room that appears to be a kitchen. Upon smelling the aroma of the food set on a small table, his stomach grumbled loudly from his long-forgotten hunger. Embarrassing enough, it looks like his grumbling was heard and a soft but deep chuckle was heard from the other end of the room. 

 

"Come over here. You haven't eaten yet have you?"

 

At the sound of food, Zenitsu clumsily got up as he scuttled towards the kitchen. Zenitsu found him, sitting at a table as he sipped on some tea. The old man caught him looking and patted on a seat beside him, gesturing for Zenitsu to sit down. Zenitsu hesitantly sat down beside him and on the table was a bowl of rice with some miso soup. One could say it wasn't much but for the half-starved Zenitsu, it was the ultimate bliss. Unconsciously, his mouth started to water and he couldn't help but reach out. Immediately, his wavering hand was swiftly smacked by another hand and Zenistu let out an undignified yelp, surprised by the sudden pain. Beside him, he could see the aged

man's bushy eyebrows narrowed with an annoyed glare.

 

Was he not allowed to eat? Is this some kind of punishment where he is not allowed to eat with food right in front of him? 

 

"Use your chopsticks."

 

"Wha? Chopsticks?"Zenitsu looked around the table and there was indeed a pair of chopsticks that were left unnoticed. 

 

"But I don't know how to use them," Zenitsu responded, with a small pout, remembering his time in the street.

 

"Learn how to use them," the old man retorted back as he turned back and continued to quietly sip on his tea.

 

Zenitsuu was stunned.  Did he have any idea how hungry he was!? And he wants him to learn how to use chopsticks!? At this timing!? 

 

Zenitsu glared at the chopsticks, trying to figure out where and how to even start holding them. He remembered those people in restaurants where they held chopsticks so easily, and as clearly as he remembered, he tried to mimic them.  But failed. 

 

No matter how much he tried, they kept slipping out from his grasp, the food that was supposed to enter his mouth always end up spilling back into the bowl or on the table. And again and again, he tried but not a single bit of food made their way into his mouth. Zenitsu was starting to get frustrated, his stomach also grumbling. 

 

"I CANT DO THIS!" Zenitsu finally snapped as he slammed the chopsticks back on to the table, earning him a glance from the elder. "Please stop this torture and let me eat! Any more of this and I m going to die from starvation!"

 

"Bah! I won't accept a student of mine to eat like some ravaged beast!" the old man exclaimed as he finally put his cup down.

 

"Student? Me?"

 

"Yes, YOU! Who else do you think I'm talking to?"

 

At this point, Zenitsu was more shocked at the sudden change of mood. He had expected him to be somewhat calmed but now he could see the steam coming out from his head.

 

"You want me to be a student? To whom?" Zenitsu exclaimed back, his voice becoming shriller.

 

"To me of course, you dumb boy! Think of it as repayment for saving your life!"

 

"Ehhh? Why someone like me?! You don't even know me!"

 

"You think I would care about that? Now stop blabbering like a moron and pick up those chopsticks of yours!"

 

"We are still going to continue that???" Zenitsu whined, tears springing up again, "There's no way I can do something like that out of the blue! I can't do it!"

 

"Then are you going to give up?"

 

"E..Eh? N..no, not really," Zenitsu whispered back. 

 

"Good, now that's what I want to hear. Now go back to using those chopsticks. The food is getting cold."

 

Zenitsu completely forgot about the chopsticks that were sitting on the table innocently.

 

"I STILL HAVE TO DO THIS???" Zenitsu cried out, "YOU'RE A MONSTER!"

 

"CALL ME YOUR TEACHER YOU BRAT!" and Zenistu was hit on the head again. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

When Zenitsu opened his eyes, he could see his grandpa leaning against a tree, his hand placed on the hilt of the sword, ready to strike anytime. His face was crinkled with worries and his clothes, a little dirty. They have been running since then, stopping by some time and continuing again. It has already been two days and Zenitsu was tired. And he was sure his grandpa, was even more tired. No matter how mighty he might be in his early age, he was still aging, his strength disappearing little by little.  But, Zenitsu was still beaten to pulp every day by his grandpa.

 

"You're finally awake," his grandpa said, the worries on his face slowly but slightly vanishing, "Honestly, you slept like a corpse."

"I was tired," Zenitsu said but thought his grandpa would be more tired. "Jii-chan, have you slept yet?"

Jigoro got up slowly, brushing the dirt away from his clothes, turning his back to Zenitsu, "Of course."

From years of living with his grandpa, Zenitsu noticed a habit of his grandpa. Whenever he would lie, his grandpa would never face him, always turning his back on him, avoiding eye contact. 

"We should start moving now. We stayed here for too long. Since we are going into the city, you are going to need this. Here." And with that, Jigoro threw a grey cloak to Zenitsu which was clumsily caught.

"What's this for?"

"Your hair. Cover it. This will make it difficult for them to notice in the crowds."

Zenistu hummed in response, wondering where his grandpa had got it. 

     


Zenitsu had never liked the city. It reminded of his hellish time on the streets, and how he was kidnapped and almost sold off. Another reason why he  despises  the city was that it was just so freaking loud. Never a moment of peace, the sound of people and carriages blocking out every other sound. And there was no way, he could easily listen to the sound of other heartbeats, so he felt insecure, always putting his guard up. 

"Jii-chan, where are we going?," Zenitsu questioned, trying to block out the other noises to concentrate on the steady rhythmic heartbeat of his grandpa. His heartbeat has changed a lot lately. When Zenitsu first met his grandpa, his heartbeat was steady and monotonous but it would be filled with a sudden ping of sadness from time to time. Zenitsu has never gathered the courage to ask him directly about it, but he noticed it. He wasn't that dumb, after all. The room that Zenitsu was given shows signs that someone had lived there. There was an old wooden sword, along with a dark blue trench coat with small triangles on them, the same pattern as him, folded neatly in a closet. From what Zenitsu had eavesdropped from an old friend of his grandpa, he learned that his grandpa indeed had another student named 'Kaigaku' before him.  Was there a reason why he hasn't seen the mentioned Kaigaku yet? 

" ... itsu"

What was his relationship with grandpa and why is he nowhere to be seen? Did he leave? Or did something unfortunate happened to him? 

"Zenitsu"

Why haven't his grandpa told him about Kaigaku? Was there a reason to keep this hidden from him?

"ZENITSU!"

Zenitsu jumped from the sudden loud mention of his name. He faced his grandpa who was giving him a narrowed look, clearly annoyed.

"Boy, has your ears finally stopped working?"

"Jii-chan! Please don't shout into my ears. I'll definitely go deaf! DEFINATELY!"

"You fool! I've been calling out your name for several times already! Don't just go staring out into space and ignoring my calls!" his grandpa answered back along with a hit to the backs of Zenistu thighs, earning him a loud yelp at the sudden pain.

He takes everything back. By no way, was his grandfather exhausted.

"I've been telling you that we're here. Several times already," his grandpa continues ignoring Zenitsu as he rubbed the sore spot.

"Where?"

"An inn."

And behold, in front of them was a massive entrance hall, opening up into a long hallway, dimly lit with lanterns. Zenitsu gaped at the scene before him while his grandpa greeted someone with a long beard, probably the owner, who looks almost the same age as his grandpa. While his grandpa exchanged friendly gestures with the stranger, Zenistu looked around the inn in awe. He was sure that even if he worked to death he could never earn money to build a place like this. He was even more surprised that his grandpa knows him, and that they were speaking to each other on equal terms.  Maybe he should ask about his grandpa later.

"Here's where you would be staying," the owner said as he offered a luxurious room.

"You really didn't have to go too far, Sakanoshita-san. A normal room would be fine for the two of us," his grandfather chuckled.

"No, no, no, what are you saying Jigoro-san? This is the least I can offer after you saved my family's lives," the newly named Sakanoshita-san said as he smiled softly. "Now, please rest. You must be tired form that journey," and with that, he lightly pushed Zenitsu and his grandfather into the room and slide the door shut.

"Jii-chan, you saved their family's lives?" Zenistu questioned, awe glittering in his eyes.

"That was a long time ago. Now take this and go take a bath-"

"That's so cool! Just how strong were you back then? Say, tell me about those stories sometimes! You got to!"

"Shut up and just go take a bath. You stink!" his grandpa shouted as he flung the bathrobes to Zenitsu's face, successfully shutting him up. 

"Fine," Zenitsu pouted feeling dejected but he could still see the blush on his grandpa's cheeks and his ascending heartbeat didn't go unnoticed either.

Zenitsu hugged the bathrobes to his chest, feeling the softness of the fabric as he exited the room and headed to the hot spring. The butterflies in his stomach wiggled around, as he skipped through the hallway humming an unknown tune, excited to take a bath in this luxurious mansion after not taking it for days. As he approached the entrance of the hot spring, he suddenly stopped.

He heard something.

Amidst the sound of the water splashing in the hot spring, he picked up a heartbeat. He waited at the entrance, looking to and fro down the hallway, as he focused on his hearing to catch the heartbeat again.

There was definitely a heartbeat, followed by the shuffling of some light footsteps. But after looking around and listening intensely, the said heartbeat disappeared and the sound of the water splashing filled his ears once more. Brushing off the sound, he headed into the hot spring, his exhaustion at his peak. 

Not long after Zenitsu entered, a tall looming figure emerged from the shadows, his eyes following Zenitsu's every move. 

A golden, fractured Taijitu symbol hanging around his neck, gleaming in the dark and his devilish smile growing wider and wider.

 

"Found him."

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

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.