Kaoru Kamiya sat outside the office waiting for the appointment. She kept tapping her finger on the small coffee table in front of her in an attempt to calm herself. The magazines that were put at her disposal had been ignored. She tried to read an article as soon as she entered the small waiting room but she found that her mind was elsewhere, she couldn't concentrate. She had been waiting for so long for this opportunity and now she was just minutes away from this important meeting. Finally the old woman that sat behind the large mahogany desk looked at her from behind her thick glasses and said that she could go in. She rose from her seat, straightened her skirt and walk into the office.
An old man was seating behind a large wooden desk looking at some papers. When he heard the noise at the door he raised his eyes and found Kaoru standing shyly at the doorway. He immediately got up to greet her, extending his hand in a polite gesture.
"Good afternoon Miss Kamiya," said the man with a warm smile on his face. "My name is Shido Tanaka, please take a seat."
"Nice to meet you," replied Kaoru as she released the man's hand and sat on one of the green leather chairs that were in front of the desk.
The man sat again on his chair; he searched for some papers in his desk and then looked at Kaoru who sat quietly in front of him. "We read your scrip," he said, "and we like the concept. We think your idea can be successfully developed into an anime series. A historical drama developed in the Meiji Era, we don't see much of that."
Kaoru nodded and suppressed the impulse that told her to start dancing for joy right in the middle of the office. Instead she found a calm voice and answered, "I've always been interested in that part of our history, those were fascinating times."
"Yes, they are," answered the man. He took his eyes away from her for a moment and took a deep breath before continuing, "The only problem is that we feel that even if the ideas and images that you present are quite appealing, there is something missing."
"Missing?" asked Kaoru in a small voice.
"Yes Miss Kamiya, the script you wrote feels… distant. We feel that the viewer can not relate to the characters."
"Which characters?" asked Kaoru feeling very disappointed with herself.
"All of them," replied the man sincerely. He took another deep breath and looked at the papers in his hands. "We like the girls, Suzume and Ayame, but we don't see them as strong characters. They would be good as secondary characters, maybe make them younger? You can do the same with… Yutaro. All the girls do is sit around in an abandoned Dojo and Yutaro goes around fighting burglars with a bokken. To tell you the truth this isn't very attractive. You need stronger characters to make this work."
"Oh," said Kaoru lamely, unable to say anything else.
"Don't feel bad about this Miss Kamiya, we are still excited about the project, we just think it needs some work."
"So you want me to rewrite the script?"
"We trust you Miss Kamiya, you've been in the industry for a very long time and you are a great voice actress. We know this is your first script and we want to help you." The man sat silent for a moment and then continued, "There is a young artist who just started working with us. He is very talented and also interested in this project. Maybe you should meet with him." The man took a business card from the table and handed it to her. "We can talk again in a week, after you work a little on the characters."
"I'll see you in a week then," she said as she got up and extended her hand in a goodbye gesture. She thanked the man for his time and exited the room. As soon as she got into the elevator she let her emotions take over and took a hit at the elevator wall. Good thing that she was used to hitting walls.
'I guess I'll go talk to this guy,' she thought as she looked at the card in her hand. 'It can't hurt.'
It had been a couple of hours since the meeting and Kaoru was sitting in a small and discreet restaurant having lunch.
"Do you want more coffee?" a voice asked from above and Kaoru was awaken from her thoughts. She looked up from the notes that sat on the table, that she wasn't reading, and fixed her eyes on the cheerful looking girl in front of her. "Yes, please," she said still looking at the waitress, she looked familiar somehow.
Said waitress poured her another cup of coffee but instead of leaving to attend other costumers, she just stood there looking at Kaoru. "Hm," she said after a while. "You may think I'm crazy, and you wouldn't be the first, but you look very familiar, have we met before?"
Kaoru looked at the girl. Maybe she did know her from somewhere. Her bright green eyes and long black hair kept in a braid, made Kaoru think of someone, but whom?
"I really don't think so," answer Kaoru after a while. "But you do look familiar."
"Are you from Kyoto?" replied the waitress, "I'm from there, I just moved to Tokyo a few weeks ago."
"Kyoto?" asked Kaoru thinking hard and coming up empty.
"Yes, me and my stoic, quiet and stunning boyfriend came here together a month ago. He was offered a job as an image consultant, I don't know very well what that is but he sure makes good money and he always looks good. You see, I just couldn't let him come here all by himself and it is not like I was doing something in Kyoto anyway. I'm studying journalism so I just ask them to transfer me to a university in Tokyo and here I am! I got to stay with Aoshi, that's my boyfriend's name, and continue with school. This is just a part time job, extra cash is always welcome."
Kaoru didn't know exactly how she and Misao, for that was the waitress name, started talking but by the time she took a look at her watch it was already five o'clock. Maybe it was the outgoing personality of the girl, or the fact that Kaoru felt so comfortable talking to her, but she had spent a very pleasant afternoon discussing her life with someone who a few hours before was a complete stranger. When Kaoru left the restaurant in a hurry, Misao and she had already become good friends. Misao was eager to introduce her new friend to her boyfriend, she kept bragging about him and even though Kaoru smiled, she couldn't help but want the same thing for herself. They traded phone numbers and promised to talk soon.
By the time Kaoru arrived at her apartment she was very tired. It had been a long day and all she wanted was a hot bath and a warm bed. Sadly she knew that that wasn't possible, her obnoxious little brother would be waiting for her. She was right, she only had time to open the front door and peak inside before an energetic eleven year old came to greet her. She knew that deep down her brother cared for her but she also knew that he hadn't rushed to the door to greet her, no, he was hungry and the little rodent couldn't boil an egg. She stopped her line of thought there; she wasn't good at cooking either. Maybe they'll order take out.
Kaoru ordered Chinese food and tried to relax on the sofa as Yahiko, her brother, killed every ninja he faced in that loud PS2 game. 'Yes, just another normal evening at home.'
Another morning brought another day. Yahiko had already left for school and Kaoru was busy arguing with herself about the possibility of getting out of bed before noon. Finally her responsible side won the battle and she walked sleepily to the bath, hoping that some hot water would help her in the, seemingly impossible, task of opening her eyes.
One hour later a semi-awake Kaoru stepped to the street in front of the building and waited for a cab. She had the firm propose to meet that artist today no matter what.
A cab stopped in front of her and she quickly got inside. A tall man with messy brown hair and a weird bandana thing sat behind the wheal.
"Where to, Jo-chan?" he asked.
Kaoru opened her eyes at the familiarity of the name. She fixed her eyes on the man who was looking at her through the mirror. No one had ever called her that but somehow she couldn't imagine that cab driver calling her anything else. Why was she pondering about that cab driver, was a question, with apparently, no possible answer.
"Downtown," she answered finally, "Thirteen and twelve." The man nodded to her and stepped on the gas pedal.
"Aren't we going a little too fast?" she asked after her heart began beating at a normal speed again and she regained her ability to speak.
"No worries, I always drive like this." Kaoru had no doubt about it. "We'll be there in no time, Jo-chan. So, what's your name?"
"Kaoru," she answered him.
"My name is Sanosuke," said the driver as he nearly avoided collision for the hundredth time. "Nice to meet you. So what do you do?"
"I'm a voice actress."
"Wow, that's a good job! I have a good friend who is in the anime business too. He draws the characters." He stopped talking to think about something for a moment. "You know what? He actually works at the building you are going to. My girlfriend also works there, I met her one day I was visiting Kenshin; she almost threw me out of the building because I didn't have a pass. That woman is crazy, watch out for her."
Kaoru nodded and then asked, "So what's your friend's name?"
"I've never heard of him," replied Kaoru truthfully.
"He's new in the business; he is working in his first big project."
The cab stopped in front of a tall building. "Well, here we are," said Sanosuke. "If you do see Kenshin tell him Sano said hello."
"I'll do it," said Kaoru with a smile, she already liked the strange cab driver. "How much do I owe you?"
"Nah, it's on the house, or the cab or whatever. Here," he said handing her a card, "call me whenever you want and I'll give you a lift."
That could be considered a very strange and suspicious thing to do but Kaoru didn't feel that there was anything remotely threatening about the cab driver. She thanked Sanosuke as she exited the cab and went into the building.
She arrived at the reception where an old lady greeted her. "Good morning, how can I help you?"
"Hello, I'm here to see…" Kaoru blushed a little; she didn't know who she was there to see. She hadn't look at the card Mr. Tanaka had given her, once. She opened her purse and searched for the card. She found it, smiled back to the receptionist and read the name as she spoke. "I'm here to see Mr. Kenshin Himura?" The receptionist looked at Kaoru as if she had gone mad. Was that a question she was expected to answer?
Kaoru ignored the receptionist as she thought about her cab ride and read again the name on her card. "What are the odds?" she said out loud.
"Miss?" asked the receptionist, now sure that there was something wrong with the woman in front of her.
"Sorry," said Kaoru realizing that she was acting very strangely. "Where can I find Mr., Himura?"
"Third floor," answered the old woman still looking at Kaoru suspiciously.
Kaoru thanked her and went to the elevator. She reached the third floor and she found herself standing in front of a desk and looking at a beautiful woman who was busy applying lipstick to herself. "Can I help you?" the woman asked when she noticed Kaoru.
"Yes, I'm looking for Mr. Kenshin Himura."
"Ken-san?" asked the woman as she looked at Kaoru from head to toe. "Ken-san has a visitor? Interesting. Wait a moment."
The woman took up the phone at her desk, dialed a number and soon she was talking to someone at the other end of the line. ""Ken-san, there is a… girl waiting to see you." Pause. "I don't know!" Pause. "What was your name?" she asked Kaoru.
"Kaoru Kamiya," repeated the woman at the phone. Pause. "I don't know, ask her yourself! See you at lunch, Ken-san, don't forget you have a lunch date with me and that rooster head boyfriend of mine." The woman hanged out not caring if the person at the other end of the line was done speaking or not.
"Go on, it's the last door down the hall," she said to Kaoru.
Kaoru nodded and walked the way the woman at the desk had pointed. She arrived at the door and was about to knock on it when the door flew open. She was petrified looking at the impossibly beautiful violet eyes of the man in front of her. Those violet eyes, he looked so familiar. She blinked at him for a few moments and after she decided she had made an enough fool out of herself she tried to open her mouth and communicate to the man before her.
"Ano, eh, hi, I'm… I'm Kaoru Kamiya," she managed to say as she awkwardly extended her hand.
The silent man took the offered hand with a firm grasp. They looked at each other for a moment before they started to speak at the same time, neither understanding what the other was trying to say. The both stopped speaking and turned their eyes elsewhere.
'Why do I feel so uncomfortable?' Kaoru thought 'I don't even know this guy! Ok, take a deep breath and try this again. Initiating a conversation with someone shouldn't be this difficult!'
"So, Miss Kamiya, what can I do for you?"
Kaoru forced herself to look into the beautiful eyes of the man in front of her and even managed to give him a smile. "Please call me Kaoru," she said and then they both went into his office. She stood frozen for a moment and then he glanced back at her, smiling brightly. 'Where have I seen that before?' she asked herself. That had to be the most charming gesture she had ever seen.
The office was a very nice and organized place. There was a big drawing table with a chair in front of it and to the left there was a couch and a small coffee table.
"Please sit down, Miss Kaoru" said Kenshin gesturing to the couch. She did as she was told.
"Would you like some coffee, Miss Kaoru?" he asked as he walked to a table she hadn't notice before and poured two cups of coffee from a coffee jug. He handed her one and put the other one on the table while he dragged the chair from the drawing table and sat in front of her.
"So, what do you want to talk to me about, Miss Kaoru?"
She smiled at him, "Please stop calling me Miss, it feels weird, Kaoru is just fine." He nodded but she could tell that that wasn't going to be an easy task for him.
"I came to see you because I want to talk to you about your work," said Kaoru still smiling brightly at him.
"I just started drawing the first scenes," said Kenshin. "I have some sketches of the main characters but I'm afraid I haven't advance that much yet."
"Well, I'm kind of stuck too; I need some help with the plot. Mr. Tanaka says it needs stronger characters. You are aware that I'm the one writing the story, aren't you?"
"Yes, and I'll be glad to help you anyway I can."
She smiled at him, she could already think of new and better characters, something in her mind made her recall the hidden situations that had first inspired her to create that historical drama, her buried memories of a past life.
Kenshin Himura was just what she needed for the story and for her life.
A couple of months latter, a group of people sat in front of a TV screen waiting for a show to start.
"Kenshin, if my character isn't cool I will never give you a free ride again."
"Don't talk to me about it, Sano," said the red headed man. "Kaoru is the writer, I just do the drawing."
"I know that but you are the one who decided to draw him just like me!"
"Well, it fitted the profile," replied Kenshin shuddering.
"I agree with Kenshin," said Megumi finding the situation very amusing. "From what I've seen he is just like you, a no good gambler, vagabond and lazy ass. Kaoru-chan told me the nickname for the character and I think it fits just fine. Tori Atama, I even think I'll start calling you that."
"Oh shut up, kitsune!" said Sanosuke. "I'll be the one to laugh harder when we get a chance to see your character on the screen."
"I'm completely misinterpreted," replied Megumi. "The tanuki girl hates me because Ken-san thinks I'm prettier."
"My so called character is nothing like me," continued Megumi ignoring Kenshin completely.
"At least you show up in the first ten episodes," said Misao as she drank some coke. "It will be like a month before I show up!"
Aoshi remained silent but put his hand on top of Misao's. She smiled at him and then turned her eyes back to the screen, "I hate advertisements," she said. "I wish it will start soon."
"Yeah, I can't wait to see my character," said Yahiko. "I hope busu did a good job with it."
"I did," said Kaoru as she arrived from the kitchen with a big bowl of chips in her hands. She put it on the table and sat on Kenshin's lap just as the show started.
Everyone looked at the TV with expectation as the first notes of a pop song filled the room.
"Aoshi, there you are!" screamed Misao as the image of her cartoon boyfriend briefly filled the screen. "You look so hot with that cape and a sword!"
Aoshi nodded and then said with an even voice, "I'm with the bad guys."
"Don't worry," said Kaoru. "If you remember, that will change eventually."
They watched in silence for a few moments before a voice interrupted, "Kenshin, what are you supposed to be doing on a boat?" asked Sano scratching his head.
"I don't know," replied Kenshin. "I thought it went well with the song."
"Jo-chan, you look hot there!" said Sano as Kaoru's image appeared. He ignored the death glare Kenshin was giving him and continued talking. "Hey, there's me!" he said. "Wow, thanks Kenshin, you captured my good looks and strong self completely."
Megumi sighed but decided to ignore her boyfriend's comments for the moment.
"Would you please shut up!" said Yahiko exasperated. "I'm trying to watch the… hey look at me! Why didn't I get a chance to display my skills like the rest of you?"
"Shut up kid!" said Misao, "At least you are in the introduction."
"Wow, Kenshin, that fight scene was definitely cooler than the boat," said Sano and everyone nodded.
The song came to an end and then the words "Rurouni Kenshin" appeared in bright red in the center of the screen.
"A little self absorbed, aren't we?" asked Aoshi looking straight at Kenshin.
"Don't look at me," said the red headed man. "I didn't pick the name, Kaoru did."
"So, tanuki-chan, did you feel threatened by my beauty and decide not to put me in the introduction?"
"It wasn't like that, Megumi," said Kaoru, "you will appear soon enough and have plenty of screen time, don't worry about that."
"Shut up," said Misao, "I want to listen."
After a few final notes a map filled the screen and Kaoru's voice was heard through the TV speakers. "One hundred and forty years ago, near the end of the Bakumatsu, the samurai known as Hitokiri Battousai went to Kyoto. Battousai turned the tide for the people of Japan, leading them into the new Meiji era."
"Kenshin, you look hot too," said Misao quickly.
"But," Kaoru's voice continued on the TV, "near the end of the conflict he vanished… No one saw or heard of him again, he became a legend to the people of Japan."
By the time the name of the episode appeared on the screen, Kenshin had his arms around Kaoru and soon their lips met in a chaste kiss.
"So," asked Kaoru after a while, "you do realize that this isn't fiction, that we recreated our lives." Kenshin hugged her tighter and nodded.
"Do you think I looked better back then?" asked Kenshin as his animated self tripped on some barrels and fell to the floor with his eyes spinning.
"Oh no," replied Kaoru, "I think you look better in black than you did in magenta."
As the show continued Kaoru looked at her new but actually very old friends. It was a blessing being able to sit with them again and remember the past with a smile on their faces.