Kambei wasn’t one to use the word love so freely, but the word slipped off the tip of his tongue when he first fought the samurai in the red coat.
He wasn’t sure why he said it. He brushed it off as trying to distract the man, but he knew it was foolish to not admit even in the midst of the battle there was something there. He was enamored by the way Kyuzo gracefully moved. With the feel of the blonde’s blade just against his throat, and the weight of his own sword in his own hand doing the same to the other he couldn’t help but say it.
“I’m in love.”
There was a period at the end. He’s sure everyone knew that. Kyuzo appeared to understand that quite well with the way his red eyes widened at the admittance. Kambei had of course used that opportunity to escape the one to one hold they had on each other, but he couldn’t just let those words hang heavy in the air so he said the next words as smooth as he could muster.
“With your skill that is..”
It was lame. Kambei knew very well what a cheap cop out it was, but it must have done its job well because the look of slight confusion that the other samurai wore melted back into the cool indifference he wore so well.
He was one to know when he was dealing with someone with more skill and power, and it had quickly become apparent that was the case between the two. Kyuzo was a well disguised bomb. Despite being short and slimmer than Kambei, he had easily cornered him and arguably won the fight. It was almost beautiful to see the man easily cut through the metal pipes he had started chucking at the man in a last ditch effort, but sadly he couldn’t just sit back and watch the samurai move so gracefully.
Kambei had asked the other to stop the fight out of breath with a smile on his face. Kyuzo didn’t look amused at first, his lip twitching as if he was disappointed. But, the man had smirked deviously, making a show out of inching towards Kambei and raising his sword, only to put away his swords and walk away.
“I don’t feel like doing this anymore.”, Kyuzo had said like a child when he got bored with a toy. “Let’s do this some other time.”
Kambei had watched Kyuzo walk away almost regrettably. Despite the samurai almost easily killing him, he didn’t want to see the other walk away.
“I want him.”, He said as he watched the other walk away until he couldn’t be seen. He put a hand over the small cut that Kyuzo’s sword had left on his neck knowing that a similar cut was on the other. Maybe he had meant those words more than just wanting Kyuzo to join their mission. Maybe not.
It was nothing short of a miracle that Kyuzo decided to later join their mission, and a miracle that Kambei took well. Maybe he should be a little concerned that the only reason the blonde decided to join their misfit gang of samurais was only so he could have a rematch with Kambei after, but that didn’t matter to Kambei. He was almost excited to have that dance with Kyuzo again even if he would most certainly lose.
But for now, he had to put off the lingering desire for that rematch. He had promised Kiara and the rest of the farmers his help, and he couldn’t make use of that promise dead. So he made do with watching the samurai from afar.
Kyuzo was unsurprisingly not one to mingle with the rest. He would often announce he was going to take watch when no one asked of him and would sit apart from the rest when they would stop to take a break. The rest of them would make quiet jokes about it, not daring to be heard by the blonde samurai of course.
Kikuchiyo would make comments about how Kyuzo must be shy which would earn him a collective shut ups or shushes from the rest due to his inability to keep his voice down. But if Kyuzo ever heard the comments made about him he didn’t say. He didn’t say much in general.
At first it didn’t bother Kambei. He knew from their brief battle alone that Kyuzo must be one who keeps to himself. But it still didn’t stop his persistent urge to want to know more about the other.
He was the only one who tried to break through the other’s wall. Due to his threatening nature the others would try to keep their interactions brief. Sometimes Katsushiro would ask him questions due to his annoyingly curious nature and admiration for greater samurais which would often earn him one word responses or just a glare that would scare him off. Kambei couldn’t find himself to be very scared of the skilled samurai though. Kyuzo couldn’t kill him until they had their rematch after all.
Which is why he started taking the opportunity to talk to him besides things other than their attack plans. He would ask about Kyuzo’s life before, and how he came to be a samurai. Kyuzo always seemed unamused by the questions and would often give Kambei a glare that would have had the others backing away, but Kambei would just grace the look with a smile. It was almost adorable in an odd way how the usually graceful and powerful samurai would seem at a loss for words at simple conversation. It was also concerning to say the least.
Eventually, Kyuzo’s one worded answers grew longer. Kyuzo would keep a straight face as he nonchalantly made a comment about how he was trained since the day he was born. How he saw his first battle at the age of twelve and has won every battle since. He said it as if it was something to be shrugged off but Kambei had frowned at the admittance. It was no wonder why the man didn’t know a thing about how to talk to people or basic customs. The man was so convinced he was a weapon that he forgot he was even human.
Kambei wanted nothing more than to shake these thoughts out of the samurai. It was becoming painfully clear how little Kyuzo cared in regard to his own life as they went along their journey. While in the midst of fighting, Kambei would notice that despite Kyuzo's appearingly graceful and successful attacks, the man was quite reckless. It irked him to no end how many risks Kyuzo would take in the midst of battle. Kambei wasn't sure why the blonde did it. He knows Kyuzo doesn't particularly care about showing off, so it didn't make sense.
"Why are you so reckless in battle?", Kambei had asked after they defeated a few bandits. Kyuzo looked over, his face blank.
"I'm not.", He simply said. "I beat all my enemies successfully."
"You don't fight carefully..You may have come out unscathed but, you should be more careful.", Kambei had said, which earned a slight curve downward on the corners of Kyuzo's lips.
“You doubt my abilities.”, He said and Kambei almost laughed.
“Not at all. I’m just a friend concerned for another friend.”, Kambei said which caused the other samurai to blink.
“Friend?..I don’t recall agreeing to that.”, Kyuzo said. He look..annoyed.
“It’s not something you exactly agree to.”, Kambei said as a joke but Kyuzo gives an “Ah..” as a response which makes Kambei have the horrible realization that Kyuzo must have never had a friend before.
“I’ll take watch.”, The blonde predictably said as he put both of his swords back in their place and walked away.
It didn’t take much for the others to catch wind of what Kambei was doing. They saw their leader talking to Kyuzo, which led to them slowly and cautiously trying to do the same. It was amusing for Kambei to watch as the others would talk to Kyuzo as if he’ll bite their head off if they say the wrong thing or move too close, but despite the threats and looks Kyuzo would give, no casualties occurred.
Katsushiro would ask more of his damn questions about being a samurai, Kikuchiyo would try and make up grand tales about himself to try and seem tough around Kyuzo, and Heihachi would try and crack jokes that would not land at all with Kyuzo.
Kambei almost felt bad for how terribly Kyuzo was taking this newfound attention from the rest of the samurais. He would ignore Katsushiro, threaten Kikuchiyo when he went into his personal space, and poor Heihachi would almost get the sharp end of one of his twin swords when the blonde wouldn’t understand one of the jokes made to him. But it was very amusing the way Kyuzo would glance over at Kambei as if he was asking for a silent plea for help despite the blank look on his face. Sometimes Kambei would go over and shoo one of the samurai away from Kyuzo with a made up task, but mostly he would go over and entertain the conversation further much to Kyuzo’s annoyance.
He was glad the others were slowly starting to become less wary around Kyuzo. It would do no good for them to not trust Kyuzo when he was arguably one of the better, if not the best, player on their team. And Kambei would admit that he liked the thought of Kyuzo gaining more friends.
But maybe Kambei had been mistaken about it. After a while of the others and Kambei tying to become closer, he started to move further away from them than ever. He would move away when Kambei was about to come close to talk to him, and he would take watch almost every night despite the dark lines under his eyes. It made Kambei concerned he has somehow pushed the other away further with his attempts to know him better.
He wasn’t going to give up easily though. So one night while Kyuzo stubbornly insisted he stay on watch, Kambei followed him out of sight as the other climbed atop a tree and sat on its branch.
“What do you want?”, Kyuzo asked indifferently. Kambei wasn’t really surprised the other knew he was there. He didn’t intend to sneak up on him either way.
“Something is troubling you.”, Kambei said as he went closer to the tree. He could see the blonde man sitting with his back against the tree, his red eyes glinted from the light of the barely setting sun. Kyuzo’s eyebrows furrowed.’
“I am not injured.”, He said.
“I know, that’s not what I meant.”, Kambei said. He shook his head and started climbing the tree.
“Hey-”, Kyuzo said, but Kambei continued his climb until he reached the branch the lone swordsman sat on. He sits next to him which causes Kyuzo to blink and narrow his eyes a bit.
“What do you want?”, He asks as he looks away.
“I want to know what’s bothering you..You’re avoiding me.”, Kambei decides to get it over with.
“I am not.”, Kyuzo says. He looks back at Kambei. His messy hair was in his eyes and Kambei smiled a bit and brushed it to the side which caused Kyuzo to flinch and almost fall off the branch.
“What are you-”, he said as he reached for his swords without really grasping for the handles. It was an empty threat which caused the taller samurai to laugh a bit.
“Are you going to tell me why you’re avoiding me?”, Kambei asked again. Kyuzo huffed
“I don’t like you.”, He said which caused Kambei’s chest to pinch up a bit. Kyuzo continues. “You make me feel..weird.”
Kambei blinked, the feeling in his chest leaving as soon as it came.. “Weird?..”
Kyuzo looks to the side, not offering any explanation. His face was blank, but Kambei could see the slight twitch of his eyebrows. He seemed frustrated.
“How come?”, He ventured.
“You’re supposed to just be someone I kill.”, Kyuzo said which causes Kambei to almost laugh. Could it really be that…?
“And I’m not?”, Kambei said with a smile he just can’t help. Kyuzo seemed even more annoyed by that answer.
“Unfortunately.”, He said as he looked anywhere but Kambei’s eyes.
“Well..I could say the same about you Kyuzo. I enjoy your company..”, He said which caused Kyuzo to swallow.
“Ah..”, He said. He stays silent, but Kambei doesn’t mind. He has a feeling things between the two were going to be different from now on.