While visiting Hakone with his new wife, Kenshin is reuinited with an old friend.


May 20, 1879

Hakone

As the train made its way east to Hakone. Kamiya, no make that Himura Kaoru, looked over at Kenshin, who was sitting next to her and flashed him a quick smile before once again setting her eyes on the blue waters of Tokyo Bay and the many vessels that made their voyages to and from the docks.

At long last, they were man and wife. Kaoru had dreamed of this time almost since Kenshin had first wandered into her life 11 months earlier. Before he had been at the dojo a month, she had been infatuated with him. She knew of his bloody past as Battousai, but didn't mind it. Everyone had things in their pasts that were unpleasant. 

She had been frightened of Battousai when she had seen Kenshin revert during his fight with Jinei and later on Saitou, not because because she thought he would hurt her or the others, but because she knew that if Kenshin were to take even one more life, it would shatter him and she would lose the man she loved forever. Whether he was Battousai or Rurouni, Kenshin knew who his friends were and wouldn't turn against them. But her heart had raced and her body trembled whenever she would see those flat, pinned eyes because they made her wonder if she would lose her darling Rurouni to the coldness and bloodlust of the killer he had once been. 

Now that fear was past. Learning Hiten Mitsurugi's secret moves and gaining the will to live, then going through living death in Rakuninmura had changed Kenshin. His soul, previously cloven in two, was finally whole. There was now neither Battousai nor Rurouni; there was only Kenshin. The man on whose shoulder her head rested retained some aspects of both mindsets. He had all of Battousai's fearsome protectiveness and passion offset by the Rurouni's kindness, gentleness and patience.


At long last, the train began to slow down, putting on its brakes as it prepared to pull into the station. When it finally came to a stop, it let out its steam, giving off a loud hissing sound. All the passengers stood up, collected their luggage and made their way to the exits.

Kenshin and Kaoru stood up, Kenshin quickly collecting both their bags before Kaoru could move to do so herself. After walking down the steps from the train, Kenshin’s eyes scanned the crowded station until he found several carriages waiting for people to hire them for rides into town.

‘Why not?’ he thought happily.

“This way, Kaoru,” the rurouni instructed as he started walking toward the carriages.

‘A carriage ride? I feel just like a princess in those Western books I’ve read!’ Kaoru thought in excitement.

“Take us into town, please,” Kenshin instructed the driver as their packs were stowed.

Kenshin and Kaoru entered the carriage, finding a bench on either end of the carriage’s interior. Both sat on the rear bench. With a flick of the reins, they were off.

They made their way toward town, then toward the streets with the inns, one of which would hopefully have vacancy. As they went along, Kaoru felt Kenshin’s weight resting against her, lightly at first, but then more and more heavily. Finally, she glanced at the rurouni, whose head now rested against her shoulder, his body sagging completely against hers, seeming to have been lulled to sleep by the motion of the carriage.

‘Aw…’ Kaoru thought as she tenderly stroked a few stray red strands.

Soon enough, they came upon an inn called the Resudaya, where there were two women outside, hands raised to their mouths, calling out to passersby.

“Stay the night at the Resudaya! Cheap, cheap rates!”

“Driver, stop here please!” Kaoru called.

After the carriage was stopped, the driver took the couple’s luggage into the inn while Kaoru guided the redhead inside.

“One room, please?” she asked the lady behind the desk.

The okami looked at the pair and smiled.

“Well, that poor boy is dead on his feet. You two must’ve had a fun wedding night,” she said with a wink.

“Get your mind out of the gutter!” spat Kaoru, even as her cheeks burned crimson.

“Now, now, dearie. I was just in fun,” smiled the old lady. “What name will you be registering under?”

“Himura,” answered Kaoru, drawing herself up proudly as she spoke her married name.

The old lady led the young couple upstairs and down a narrow hall to the fifth room, where she slid the fusuma open and led them in.

“Hold him for a moment while I unfold a futon,” she instructed.

Kaoru held the groggy redhead steady while the landlady retrieved a futon from the closet and deftly unfolded it. She then helped Kaoru to lower Kenshin into its soft folds.

“I’ll go bring your luggage and some rice balls,” said the okami.

“Thank you so much,” said Kaoru.

Kaoru sat with the rurouni, stroking his glossy, tumbled locks as he breathed to the rhythmic pattern of sleep.

“Mmph…”

That muzzy sound was what caused Kaoru to look over to the futon just in time to see Kenshin’s face scrunch up before a yawn broke out on his features as he stretched out.

‘Aw…’

Kaoru moved over to the bedside so her face would be the first thing Kenshin saw upon awakening. Kenshin’s eyes scrunched up for a second before finally opening, revealing dark violets, which looked up at her without focus.

“Mmm… Kaoru?” he questioned, still seemingly half asleep.

“Right here,” Kaoru responded with a reassuring smile.

At this, Kenshin wormed his right hand out from under the blanket, seeking her out. Kaoru immediately caught his hand between hers and gave a reassuring squeeze.

Kenshin blinked and looked about the room with more clarity as wakefulness returned to his brain.

“Where are we and why am I lying in a futon?” he asked as he gazed around the room.

“We’re at the Resudaya,” Kaoru answered.

“You booked us into an inn?” Kenshin asked incredulously.

“I can do some things on my own, Kenshin,” Kaoru replied, a bit acerbically.

“Of course you can, dearest,” Kenshin answered quickly to avoid a braining. “But why am I in a futon?”

“Because you fell asleep in the carriage and wouldn’t wake up no matter how much I prodded you,” answered Kaoru.


Soon it was the hour of the rooster. A famished Kenshin and Kaoru walked down the hallway toward the dining area for dinner. Just then, Kenshin heard a somewhat familiar voice right behind him.

"I'd know that red hair anywhere," the voice said.

"Orooo?" the rurouni yelped. 

He and Kaoru turned around to be greeted by the sight of a pretty young woman standing behind them, smiling. She had long black hair, sharp blue eyes and a round face. She obviously recognized Kenshin. Kenshin's eyes widened as her face came instantly to his memory. 

"Ch... Chizuru-dono?" he stammered.

"I wasn't sure I'd ever see you again, Rurouni. Fancy meeting you here of all places," said Raikouji Chizuru, smiling at Kenshin.

"Indeed! How have you and your grandfather been?" asked Kenshin, returning the smile.

"I've been OK. I wish I could say the same about Grandpa. He suffered a stroke a year ago. The right side of his body is paralyzed. The doctor told us to move down here for the hot springs. They've been helping him. He's starting to regain some use of his right arm," said Chizuru.

"I'm sorry to hear that your grandfather is unwell," said Kenshin softly.

"It's OK. He's still really tough and has no trouble getting his will across. He's mellowed a lot in the last year," said Chizuru.

During the conversation, Kaoru stared first at Kenshin, then at the girl whom he undoubtedly knew. Kaoru had never had cause to question her husband's fidelity, but the familiar manner with which he spoke to this girl piqued her possessiveness.

"Kenshin, who is this girl?" queried Kaoru, trying to keep the venom from her voice..

"'Sword Heart'? That's a good name for you," said Chizuru.

"Many people have said that," replied Kenshin with scrunched up eyes and wide smile.

"Kenshin, don't make me send to Tokyo for a bokken," said Kaoru, vein popping. 

This set Kenshin's brain in motion.

"My apologies for being rude. Raikouji Chizuru-dono, this is my wife, Himura Kaoru," said Kenshin, nodding to his wife. "Kaoru, this is Chizuru-dono. I met her when I was passing through Niigata two years ago."

Kaoru frowned. She knew there was more to the story than her darling rurouni was letting on.

"Oh, quit being so humble, Himura Kenshin," said Chizuru, not in the least put off. "He didn't just meet me. He fought a whole gang of ex-samurai called the Kaiten Party after they kidnapped me and held me hostage. He is just too humble for his own good."

This was directed to Kaoru, who not knowing what else to do, nodded in agreement.

"Oroooo," groaned Kenshin.

"So you're married now? I'm happy for you," said Chizuru.

"Thank you. What about you?" returned Kenshin.

"Nothing yet. I've had suitors come and go. But it seems like they all want my estate and not me," said Chizuru.

"That's too bad," said Kenshin.

"I'm used to it," shrugged Chizuru. "So since you're married, does that mean you're no longer wandering?" 

Kenshin nodded. 

"I live in Tokyo now," he said quietly.

"What brings you to Hakone?" asked Chizuru.

"We're here for the hot springs," said Kaoru before Kenshin could answer.

"Hey! This is perfect! You two can eat dinner in our suite! I'm sure Grandpa would like to see you again, Kenshin," said Chizuru.

"Oh, Chizuru-dono, I can't impose on you and your grandfather," said Kenshin, holding up his hands in polite denial.

"Nope. You're eating with us," said Chizuru. "I won't take 'no' for an answer."

"Thank you, Chizuru-san," said Kaoru. "That's most kind of you."

"Just call me Chizuru. I don't like all the formality," said Chizuru good-naturedly.

The two women started walking together and talking.

"Alright, and you can call me Kaoru," said Kaoru, her jealousy instantly relegated to the past upon finding out that this young woman was something of a kindred spirit.. 

Kaoru stopped and looked back at Kenshin, who was standing stock still with a stupid look on his face.

"Hurry up Kenshin! We don't have all day!" she bellowed.

"Yes, ma'am," said Kenshin as his brain set his legs in motion.

"He hasn't changed much, that's for sure," said Chizuru. "Anyway, let me tell you all about when I met him. It was so exciting..."

"Oroooo...." groaned Kenshin, who hated when people told stories about him, even good ones.

With slumping shoulders and burning cheeks, the little rurouni followed the two women to the Raikoujis' suite.


As they headed to the Raikoujis' suite, Chizuru told Kaoru all about Kenshin's less than stellar meeting with her grandfather Muneiwa, and about how he had rescued her from the Kaiten Party with his magnificent swordsmanship.

"I never saw swordsmanship like it! He seemed to be flying. He acted like a goofball when we first met, but when it counted, he really was great," she said happily.

Kaoru looked over her shoulder at Kenshin, who blushed crimson and looked down. He was so cute!

"How did you meet him?" asked Chizuru.

Kaoru told Chizuru about the Hiruma brothers who were trying to steal the dojo from her a year ago, being careful to leave out the stuff about Hitokiri Battousai to avoid making Kenshin more uncomfortable than he already was.

"He's so amazing. You're a lucky woman, Kaoru," said Chizuru.

"I feel blessed," agreed Kaoru.

"Ah, here we are," said Chizuru as they came to the door of their suite.


Raikouji Muneiwa sat in his wheelchair. The right side of his body had been paralyzed a year ago, but he was slowly regaining the use of his right arm. He had enough strength and coordination to wheel himself about and feed himself, but not enough to walk yet.

Just then he heard the sound of the door opening and of three voices talking. Who else was there? He wheeled himself to the main room. When Muneiwa reached the room, his eyes scanned the three standing in front of him. They bugged out of his head when they fell on the red-headed man with the sword. It was the Rurouni!

"Guess who I bumped into, Grandpa? Remember the rurouni who saved me? He has a name. This is Himura Kenshin and his wife, Kaoru," said Chizuru, motioning to both of them. 

Kenshin and Kaoru bowed as she introduced them.

Muneiwa motioned his granddaughter to his side and whispered in her ear. Chizuru smiled and nodded. She straightened up and looked at Kenshin.

"Grandpa says 'Welcome'," said Chizuru.

Kenshin smiled and bowed. 

"It's an honor to see you again, Raikouji-san," he said quietly.


Dinner was a lively affair. Kaoru and Chizuru did the lion's share of the talking while Kenshin and Muneiwa ate quietly. Kaoru steered the conversation away from Kenshin because she didn't want to embarrass him any more than he'd already been, even though he was adorable when he turned red. Kenshin and Muneiwa exchanged glances as the two women prattled on. Where did females get all that energy, both men wondered.

After dinner, it was time to hit the hotsprings! The men and women broke into two groups and headed to their genders' respective hotspring. After washing off, Kenshin helped Muneiwa into the water, then got in himself, moving slowly due to the water’s heat. Muneiwa leaned over to whisper to Kenshin.

"That wife of yours is quite beautiful and lively. Consider yourself a very fortunate man, Himura-san," he said.

Kenshin smiled.

"I do," he said softly.

Just then Kenshin looked around and realized he wasn't as fortunate as he might have been; he'd forgotten a towel for himself.

"Excuse me, Raikouji-san. I'll be right back," said Kenshin, standing up carefully to avoid splashing the water too much.

Muneiwa nodded in response.

A naked Kenshin went to look for a towel. He stepped around a large rock, revealing Kaoru and Chizuru in their hotspring, both naked. Kenshin's face turned as red as his hair and he got quite the nosebleed.

"YOU PERVERT!!!" roared Chizuru, picking up a stone and lobbing it at Kenshin's head.

BOK!

Kenshin fell over on his back, eyes turning to swirls.

"Orooooooorooooroooooooooooo," he moaned.

Forgetting all about the towel, Kenshin dragged himself to his feet and retreated back to his and Muneiwa's hotspring, leaving behind the sounds of Chizuru's fuming and Kaoru's giggling. 

Muneiwa looked up at Kenshin curiously as the redhead lowered himself into the water. He leaned in and whispered in Kenshin's ear.

"Accidentally went to the women's hotspring, huh?" he asked with a wink.

Kenshin nodded as he rubbed the rising bump. He would have quite the headache in the morning.


The next morning...

Kenshin and Kaoru met Chizuru and Muneiwa to say their farewells. The day at the hotsprings had been fun, but Kaoru was in a hurry to return to Tokyo and rescue her dojo from Yahiko's tender mercies.

"Good-bye, Chi-chan. It was very nice to meet you and your grandfather," said the kendo instructor with a bow.

"Thank you, Kaoru-chan. You be sure and write to me now," said Chizuru, returning the bow.

"I absolutely will," promised Kaoru.

Chizuru turned to Kenshin, who was still nursing a slight headache from yesterday's unfortunate incident.

"Sorry about your head, Kenshin. My temper gets the better of me sometimes," she said in a subdued voice with a bow from the waist.

"It's already forgotten, Chizuru-dono," said Kenshin happily. "I wish you and your grandfather all the best."

"Thank you so much, Kenshin," said Chizuru.

Kenshin and Muneiwa exchanged nods.

Kenshin and Kaoru boarded the train, sat down and watched as the waving Chizuru and Muneiwa seemed to get smaller and smaller as the train pulled out of the station and sped up down the tracks, carrying them home.

~Owari~

Bliss

Ginger and Jasmine