February, 1878

The morning after Kaoru invited Kenshin to stay at her dojo…

The crimson ponytail flying out behind him as the small swordsman moved with velocity almost too great for the human eye to comprehend. Large, threatening men being knocked around like Daruma dolls.

"The sword style of Hitokiri Battousai is not Kamiya Kasshin Ryu, but an ancient style from the Feudal Era that allows one to fight many: Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu! If not for this type of sword, it would be slaughter with deadly accuracy."

The small swordsman leaping into the air and slamming the giant bearded swordsman into the floor with a single hit on the shoulder.

CRASH!

Kaoru's eyes flew open at this sound, her heart hammering in her chest. She lay still, staring up at her ceiling. Then the sound came again.

BANG! BANG! BANG!

'OK! I know I'm not dreaming now!' she thought, throwing the blanket off herself and jumping to her feet, pausing only to don a hanten over her yukata, as it was freezing out.

Kaoru opened her shoji and looked around the courtyard, which was still in the crisp morning air, which was warmed not one iota by the pale ball of light that was just creeping over the eastern tree line.

BANG BANG BANG!

'If I didn't know any better, I'd say it was coming from the training hall! So...'

Kaoru set off purposefully toward the training hall. The closer she came to the building, the louder the banging became. When she stood right before the building, she distinctly heard it coming from inside. Kaoru grabbed the hikido's handle and slid it...

Inside the training hall, working by the light of an andon on his hands and knees, was the small rurouni, Himura Kenshin, deftly nailing new wooden planks into the hole that had been left by Hiruma Gohei's oversized body. As he was just going to nail the last plank into place, Kaoru guessed that he had been up all night, working on the floor.

"Good morning, Kaoru-dono," said the Rurouni, flashing a bright smile over his shoulder.

"Rur... Kenshin, have you been up all night doing this? The sun’s just risen!" Kaoru asked.

"This worthless one was up long before he was. Kaoru-dono's floor was damaged due to one's fight in the training hall. It needed to be attended to right away," explained Kenshin as he laid the final plank into its place.

"But that means you haven't slept!" protested Kaoru.

"One can make do with little sleep, Kaoru-dono," replied Kenshin as he began hammering.

BANG BANG BANG!

"Kenshin!" called Kaoru.

BANG BANG BANG!

"Kenshin!" a little louder.

BANG BANG BANG!

"KENSHIN!!!!!!!!" Kaoru finally bellowed at the top of her voice.

BANG!

THUD!

"OROOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!" this as the hammer slipped from the nail's head and struck Kenshin squarely on his left thumb.

Holding his throbbing thumb to his chest, Kenshin turned to face Kaoru, trying to keep the unlawful words that popped into his head from finding their way to his tongue.

"Did Kaoru-dono need something?" he asked as he smiled an oh-so-bright smile.

"Since you went to so much trouble on my account, the least I can do is make you breakfast," announced Kaoru as she jumped to her feet and headed for the hikido. "Just let me get changed!"

"That would be welcome," Kenshin admitted happily.


‘That should do it,’ Kenshin thought happily to himself as he finished pounding the last nail into place.

Standing up, he surveyed his handiwork. The floor looked pristine and one would never be able to tell that just hours before, the body of an oversized swordsman had been plunged through it by the diminutive rurouni.

‘I believe this is my best patching job ever,’ Kenshin declared, allowing himself a small moment of pride. ‘Let’s go see what Kaoru-dono made for breakfast.’

As Kenshin made his way through the chilly, sharp air, a very unusual aroma filled his nostrils, causing him to force the air from his nose.

'Is that supposed to be miso?' he wondered.

Kenshin slid the shoji open, to find the low table laid out for breakfast and a beaming Kaoru just setting down the serving tray, on which reposed two steaming bowls of miso and... black stuff that looked like it was supposed to have once been rice.

"You're just in time," the girl declared jubilantly as she deposited the breakfast in front of Kenshin and sat down across the table from him. "Eat up!"  

'This isn't going to end well for me,' Kenshin thought as he blinked rapidly to keep his eyes from watering as the sting of the aroma assaulted his olfactory sense.

"Thanks for the food," the two said in unison before picking up their chopsticks.

Kenshin dipped his chopsticks into the miso to fish out a cube of tofu, bit into it... and had to swallow the urge to spit it back into the bowl. Tears burned the corners of his eyes.

'I have never tasted sour tofu before,' he thought as he forced himself to chew.

"How is it?" asked Kaoru.

Kenshin looked up at the girl and saw her looking at him hopefully.

"It's a very unique and special taste, Kaoru-dono. This worthless one can honestly say he's never had miso that tastes quite like this before," Kenshin answered, smiling broadly at Kaoru. ‘Miso is such a simple recipe. This girl must never have been taught the culinary arts.’

"I'm glad you like it. I was a little unsure of the spices I used, but I guess it turned out fine," beamed Kaoru.  "Eat as much as you like. I'll be right back."

As soon as Kaoru had departed the room, Kenshin leaned over, slid the shoji open and poured the remaining soup and rice out into the snow, then promptly slid it shut. Presently, Kaoru returned.

"You're finished already?" she asked incredulously.  

"Kaoru-dono's food was so tasty, one couldn't pause eating, he couldn't," explained Kenshin with a cheesy smiled pasted onto his countenance.  

"Wolfing your food like that will give you dyspepsia," chided Kaoru.

“Thank you for the kind advice, Kaoru-dono. One will remember that,” Kenshin replied with a bright, beaming smile.

'Eating Kaoru-dono's food at all is what will give me dyspepsia,' Kenshin thought as he watched his host collect the eatingware.

~Owari~

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