February 27, 1878

Kamiya Dojo

It was well past sunset. The night air bore a piercing coldness with it into every corner of the dojo that was not secured by a shut screen or warmed by a crackling brazier.

Clad in a thick sleeping yukata, Kamiya Kaoru tossed and turned in her futon, but sleep remained elusive. It wasn't the cold that kept her awake, but her thoughts about the man she was now sharing her home with. Two days ago, she had been saved from the Hiruma Brothers and their thugs by a tiny wisp of a swordsman named Himura Kenshin. The man whom she had initially thought of as just a weak, clumsy rurouni was in fact the legendary Hitokiri Battousai, a swordsman of such gruesome reputation, his name sent shivers down people's spines.

And now that same demon was sleeping in the room right next to hers! And yet for all that, Kaoru felt no fear. She had seen right away what a gentle and kind soul Kenshin was. The whole thing made her wonder, why was one who had had such an ominous reputation now such a polite and soft spoken man who didn't even carry a proper sword? Himura Kenshin was a walking enigma!

The sound of a match being struck and the kindling of a light in Kenshin's room next door caught her attention. Kaoru rolled over on her side and through the thin rice paper wall, she could see the silhouette of the rurouni's nude form standing between his andon and their shared wall. Kaoru's breath caught in her throat. He was gorgeous!

Not overly muscular, but at the same time not scrawny and weak; Kenshin was wiry. His muscles were lean and corded instead of bulgy as those of some warriors she had seen in the past were. Kaoru found her eyes riveted to Kenshin's lean grace in a way they never were to the gross musculature of men who might be considered more masculine. Kaoru's brow broke out in sweat as she saw the lithe form turn to the side, revealing its profile.

Kamiya Kaoru was no naive little girl. She had walked in on some of her father's students in the bath house when she was 12 and had received her education in male anatomy then and there. But she had never seen one so big! Even flaccid, its form jutted out proudly from the rest of the silhouette. Kaoru felt her mouth go dry as she stared.

'Turn around, close your eyes and go to sleep!' was her silent command to herself.

Instead, she sat still and watched as he bent down, touched his toes and shot back up again. Kaoru's breath caught in her throat at the vision of his spine bending, then straightening with fluid grace over and over again. Finished with the toe touches, Kenshin leaned as far to his left as he could, stretching his right arm over his head, reaching out to his left, stretching out those muscles. He remained thus for 30 seconds, then leaned out to the right, stretching his left arm over his head, again holding the pose for 30 seconds.

Kaoru felt a strange heat building in her core, which felt pleasant, yet made her feel uneasy.

She started when the form dropped to the floor and began doing rapid push-ups, the leanly muscled arms easily bearing his weight, his spine straight horizontal as he moved up and down.

'I have to stop watching this!' Kaoru chided herself.

She never looked away.

Kaoru watched as Kenshin suddenly shot to his feet and then began a series of intricate steps, dancing as silently as a prowler over the tatami mat from one side of the room to the other, his form perfect, his movements balletic. As a kendoist, Kaoru recognized what they were.

'If he were holding a sword, that would be a kenjutsu kata!' she thought.

Then, all motion stopped and the silhouette stood straight and as still as a statue. Kaoru watched in fascination as he stayed thus for what seemed like an eternity, not a muscle twitching.

Then the moment was broken by his movement as he turned and headed toward the andon, his shadow growing in size as it neared its light source. The whole rice paper wall was filled with the rurouni's exquisite outline. Quite the next moment, Kaoru saw the light go dark and lost sight of her boarder's silhouette. She realized the show was over and it was far past time for her to be asleep. Taking a deep breath, she lay down and pulled the covers over her head.

Sleep was a long time coming.