Kaoru mopes all through the making of breakfast, and Yahiko whines about the fact that she’s cooking instead of Kenshin. He opts to offer a trade for washing dishes in return for a meal down at the Akebeko.
The comment catches Kamiya Sensei’s attention. “This man, he cooked for you?”
“Yes, Father. His name is Himura Kenshin, and he’s a pretty good cook. Much better than me.” She smiles ruefully before continuing, “He also cleaned, did the laundry, ran errands, and anything else the school needed. The only thing he wouldn’t do is teach. He left that to me. Because of his past, he won’t pass on his fighting style. You know, he’s made a vow to never kill again and he encourages everyone to embrace the idea of the sword that saves. I think that teaching is the one that made the most impact on him.”
“Is that so? What kind of a past could such a young man have? It’s not like he could have been in the Meiji Revolution with me or any of the minor skirmishes afterward.”
“Actually, he’s 31 and he did fight in it. But that’s his story to tell.”
Kamiya’s eyebrow shoots up, but he respects his daughter’s wish to let this Himura speak for himself. So, he mulls out loud, “Yet he serves here, instead of being served like most samurai would. Interesting. Kaoru, dear, consider that it looks very much as if he’s running from something. If he won’t kill again, why carry a sword?”
Trying not to be frustrated, she explains, “He’s faced his past, Father. Time and time again. His atonement is to protect those he cares for and help where he can. His sword is a reverse blade sword, so when he actually does fight - no one has to die. I’ve seen his legendary skills, Father. But he won’t use them for employment. He even turned down an offer from Yamagata-San himself!”
Blinking and stepping back, he tries to absorb the information his daughter has just shared and her admiration for the red head, scar-faced man he’d just kicked out. A memory from his time with the Ishin Shishi pops into his mind. “Oh dear God. It can’t be the Battousai...” Seeing Kaoru quickly busy herself with her work again, only makes him more suspicious and worried.
His unusually outward feelings wash over her in waves. So, Kaoru opts to change the subject. “How was teaching in Hokkaido? Is the new school well established now?”
After breakfast, the concerned friends start to trickle in one or two at a time. Megumi is the first, and pulls Kaoru aside before she can be introduced to Kamiya Sensei.
“Are you ok? Are you pregnant and need help? The bird-brain stopped by and told me about what happened,” she inquires and puts a supportive hand on Kaoru’s shoulder.
The sympathetic gesture and idea that her friend thinks she could be with child startles her momentarily. Megumi had been her rival after all. Recovering, she nods, “Of course not! I’m ok. But that means he didn’t go to Doctor Gensai’s?”
Megumi shakes her head, causing Kaoru to bite her lip in worry.
“Don’t do that dear, it’s not attractive,” Megumi scolds with her practical vanity. “May I speak to your father on Mr. Ken’s behalf?”
After Megumi’s testimony, Sano, Tae and Tsubame from the Akabeko, many of the villagers that Kenshin saved from the renegade police swordsmen, Sano’s teacher friend, and finally Saito all show up to vouch for Kenshin over the span of the day. Though, none of them know Kenshin’s whereabouts. Sano opts to stay to watch, if not for helping his friend, maybe for the sheer entertainment value.
Sano’s and Saito’s testimony make the most impact on Kamiya Sensei - because they fought on the opposite side from himself and Kenshin, yet they’re adimant about his character - despite having been the dreaded Battousai the Manslayer.
Saito is relaying Yamagata’s message as Kenshin comes around the corner. Seeing the dour policeman standing up for him, causes him to stumble in shock and give himself away. Just how fast did the rumor get around? Good grief! He reasons if even Yamagata heard about this - Miss Kaoru’s reputation must really be in jeopardy! His knees buckle and he hits the ground in a full on repentant head to the ground bow. “Kamiya-sama, Miss Kaoru I ... I don’t know what to say! I swear I haven’t said a word!”
Panting, Yahiko zips in with pride and winks at Sano, “I got word out to the last of them.”
Kaoru does a face palm. Kenshin’s fists clench. Kamiya’s eyes roll heavenward, but he verifies, “So Himura, you didn’t spend your time gathering your friends to speak for you?”
Mumbling into the dirt, Kenshin answers, “N... No, Sir. I went to be alone to deal with my last demon. The one that kept me from asking Miss Kaoru to marry me.”
Saito smirks as he bows, and passing by murmurs to Kenshin, “I didn’t even make this much of a fuss when my wife and I were discovered before we were married. How did you manage it? Everyone in town knows now.”
Kenshin groans and Saito laughs as he departs, “You’ll be fine. Just marry the girl already.”
When Kenshin is about to scrape up the nerve to look up, Doctor Gensai, Ayame and Suzume turn up. The girls squeal in delight at seeing Kenshin, but they’re astute enough to see something’s not quite right.
They gently poke him as he’s in his prone position. “Uncle Kenny, are you in trouble?” “Yeah, are you in twouble?”
He whispers, “I think so.”
“Is it big trouble?” “What did you do, Uncle Kenny?” They chime in at once.
“Yes. But I can’t say why,” it pains him to have to say it to these little girls that look up to him so much.
“Well...” the oldest sister offers the sage wisdom of children, “When you do somethin’ wrong you gotta apologize and make it right!” The younger chimes in agreeing, “Yeah! Apowogize, Uncle Kenny!”
There’s only one way through this, and they hit it spot on. Letting out a deep breath, he murmurs to the girls, “That I will.” Then raising his voice he follows through, “I’m sorry Kamiya-sama and Miss Kaoru, for messing everything up and waiting so long.”
Scrunching his eyes shut for a moment, he gathers his calm. It takes all his courage to lift his head and face Kaoru’s father, but the nod he receives gives him strength to get up, dust off, and go to ask for Kaoru’s hand.
“What kept you from marrying my daughter?” Kamiya questions, needing this one last tidbit, now that he knows most of this man’s character, and the fear that a violent killer would be the one marrying his daughter was quelled by his friends’ reports.
Automatically, the rurouni’s hand goes to one of the scars on his cheek. His voice is rough as he shares, “Loosing my first wife, then finding out that she had been the fiancé of one of the first men I killed in the revolution,” His hand traces the other scar as he remembers. “She had originally planned to help a group ambush me. But she’d fallen in love with me and put herself between me and the attackers when they blinded me. Loosing her was devastating. I wandered for 10 years after that, afraid to let anyone get close.” Coming back to the present he meets Kamiya’s gaze then Kaoru’s as he adds, “Miss Kaoru was the first one to believe in me. I think I fell for her that first day we met - when she attacked me out of nowhere, accusing me of being the Battousai as she tried to defend her family name. Her boldness and bravery really surprised me. But her kindness and insistence that the sword is a weapon to protect really affected me.” In a formal bow, he requests with hurried words before he loses his nerve, “Sir! Please, let me marry your daughter!”
“What do you think Kaoru?” Kamiya prods his daughter.
Dashing off the porch, Kaoru almost bowls Kenshin over in her exuberant hug. “Yes! A thousand times, yes!”
The rurouni buries his head in her shoulder and puts his arms around her in return. “Thank you, Kaoru and Kamiya-sama.”
“Well, I can see my help wasn’t needed after all!” Doctor Gensai exclaims and pats the couple on the back. The girls are so giddy they’re dancing around the couple babbling about “Uncle Kenny apowogized!” and “All better now!”
Two days later, the whole town shows up for the wedding.
After the ceremony, Sano asks Megumi, “So Fox-lady, you really went to stick up for them as a couple?”
“Um-hm,” she winks coquettishly.
“Does that mean you’ve given up on Kenshin?” he wheedles.
“Um-hm, Bird Brain, it does,” she repeats and wraps her arm around his.
“Does that mean...?” he pushes just a little further, afraid to really ask but staring down at her arm around his and liking the direction so far.
“Um-hm. And I see I have a lot to work on with you, ya’ big lug.”
Sanosuke wipes his hand over his face wondering what the heck he got himself into now. She better not try to ‘fix him’.