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May, 1859

Hiko's mountain

Master and student of Hiten Mitsurugi were walking through a field in the woodlands surrounding Hiko's mountain. Just now, Hiko realized that Kenshin was no longer right behind him. With an internal sigh of annoyance, the huge swordmaster turned around to reprimand his student for daydreaming yet again, only to find Kenshin kneeling at the side of the little trail, stroking a fuzzy brown rabbit.

Hiko's eyes widened. Although the animals of the area knew instinctively that he generally wouldn't harm them unless he was hunting for food, none of them had ever approached him, much less let him pet them. Kenshin's violet eyes were lit in a way Hiko had never seen before and his little face was so rapt that he looked more like a being descended from the heavens than an earthly boy.

Just for a moment, Hiko questioned his choice of students. Would someone like Kenshin have what it took to be a Mitsurugi master? Not that his stances or skills were lacking. In that department, Kenshin was learning at breakneck speed, needing only to see a stance once or twice before he understood its nature and was able to execute it masterfully within a month.

What Hiko was worried about was the spirit of his red-haired pupil. It was hard to reconcile this picture of innocence with the swordsman Kenshin would have to become one day. Kenshin hated to see even an animal suffering, but as a swordsman, he would witness and no doubt inflict death and suffering many times. Could a gentle spirit like Kenshin's withstand the rigors of the warrior's life?

Just then, Kenshin realized that his Master was watching him and quickly scrambled to his feet while the rabbit hopped slowly away. Master and student stared at each other for a moment, Hiko looking down at Kenshin with eyes full of thought, Kenshin looking up at Hiko with eyes full of questions.

Abruptly, Hiko turned his back on Kenshin and began walking again. Remembering himself, Kenshin redoubled his efforts to keep up.