Disclaimer: I do not own Rurouni Kenshin characters or plot.
A/N: Warning – I stink at writing romance. I should know better, but somehow the romance came creeping through this chapter. So be prepared for an incredibly sappy ending. Those of you with saccharine allergies, beware!
Two little boys sat on the floor on the faded tatami mats covering the Takagi family's living room. The living room also doubled as the bedroom, and Tokio was rushing around throwing her last minute packing into a cloth bag, which she intended to bundle up and take with her to her new home.
The boys, Okan and Kimura, watched wide-eyed as their neighbor and favorite baby sitter rushed around like a chicken with its head cut off.
"Where is that comb? I know I used it this morning. Oh!" Tokio spied the errant comb sitting innocently on top of a chest. "There it is!" She grasped it and tossed it into the bag and then, hands on her hips, she glared around the room as if daring any of her property to get away from her.
Nodding firmly, she smiled at the two boys, kissed them both quickly on the forehead and rushed out muttering. "I hope everything I sent on ahead got there alright."
The room was oddly empty-seeming once she'd left, like the silent calm following a hurricane.
Kimura rubbed his face where Tokio had kissed him and glanced up at his older brother. "She didn't say goodbye," he said dazedly.
Okan cleared his throat gruffly. "Sure she did. She kissed us didn't she?" He touched his forehead gently and glared at Kimura.
The little boy's brow furrowed. "Do you think she'll miss us?"
"Of course. Tokio won't forget us. She'll remember to come back and visit us." The older boy said the words with forced certainty.
"I know she'll come back to visit. She'll have to." Kimura smiled broadly.
A tone in the younger child's voice caught his brother's attention. He put his hands on his hips and glared at Kimura. "What do you mean, she'll 'have to'?" he asked.
Kimura grinned. "I gave her a going-away present. I stuck it in her bag when she wasn't looking, so she'll have to come back to say 'thank you'!"
Okan's eyes grew large with trepidation. "Kimura," he began in a deceptively calm voice. "What did you put in her bag?"
The little boy grinned. "The piglet, of course!"
Tokio and her grandfather arrived at the Shinto shrine, after passing under the three wood torii gates leading to its entrance. The torii were set at intervals along the path leading to the shrine with its steeply pitched thatch roof towering above its cedar walls. Usually Tokio would have stopped to look at the three freestanding doorpost-like structures, but today she was too excited.
The keeper of the shrine welcomed them and led Tokio to a small room off to the side to allow her to get ready.
Reverently, Tokio undid one of two bundles she'd brought from home, and took out the large paper envelope containing her wedding kimono. It was ice blue. Little pink and red cherry blossoms branches with small birds perched here and there were embroidered into the fabric. Tokio liked sewing, and had enjoyed plotting out how much space to allot to each branch. She'd barely managed to finish the kimono in time, what with the other sewing projects she'd had to complete before she could move out of grandfather's house in good conscience.
Smiling happily, she removed the kimono from its paper container and put her shoulders through the sleeves. Looping the tie around her waist, she adjusted the length and let the excess fabric fall over the tie, then reached for her other ties and sashes that would comprise her obi, the broad band that tied around her waist. It was difficult, but she managed to create a presentable knot in back.
Her hair was already arranged, swept up off her forehead and secured by a decorated comb. She'd done that at home, but now it was time for her bridal hat, made out of crisp white fabric.
Kneeling down over the second bundle she'd brought with her, Tokio undid the knot which held the bag's handles together and pulled the mouth of the bag open, then let out a shriek that could have shattered glass.
Nestled in the concave portion of her hat where her head was supposed to go lay a sleeping piglet, surrounded by little muddy piglet footprints where he'd evidently trotted about the hat before finding a comfy spot to lie down.
The smell of muddy pig wafted up from the bag. Tokio whimpered, and lifted the sleepy pig out, holding it in one hand and her smelly, dirty-on-the-inside hat in the other. What more could go wrong?
Saitoh heard Tokio cry out and rushed to the doorway of the room where she was getting ready.
His gaze swept the small enclosed area in a heartbeat, searching for threats, and finding none.
There was only Tokio, his bride, holding a slightly misshapen hat in one hand and in the other…
She quickly dropped her other hand into the bag at her feet, rose and stepped in front of it. Hmm. Must have been some arcane female article of clothing she was embarrassed to let him see. Her face was pink with blushes and she stared at him wide-eyed with surprise.
"Saitoh-san, what are you doing here?" she asked, holding the hat in both hands in front of her, like a shield.
"You screamed." Didn't she know that whenever she was in trouble he'd be there? This marriage business could end up being a little more complicated than he'd thought. He and Tokio would have to get to know one another, or rather she'd have to learn to trust him. Their first meeting hadn't exactly been auspicious. He'd caught her breaking into Shinsengumi Headquarters and had scared her so badly that she'd fainted.
"Oh," she said softly, and glanced down at her hat.
"That. I just found out that some, er, animal got into my hat at home and now it's ruined." She sniffed and stared at the offending article. "I wanted to look perfect for you."
Saitoh had an overwhelming urge to gatotsu the hat for making his Tokio unhappy, but he forced it down and stepped forward, taking it gently from her hand, and examining it.
"The dirt is dry," he told her, and brushed it off the fabric and onto the floor. "No one will see the inside. You can still wear it." There. Problem solved. Maybe being a husband wasn't so hard after all.
"It…smells." Tokio said sadly.
An idea came to Saitoh. He'd meant to save it for later, but being flexible was part of being a good Shinsengumi officer. Handing the hat back to Tokio, he reached into his kimono sleeve and brought out the small, paper wrapped bottle he'd bought at the perfume shop.
"Here. Use this." He said gruffly, and handed it to her.
"What is it?" she asked, eyebrows quirked upward.
"Perfume." came his terse reply.
Her eyes lighted up like clouds bathed in the glow of a particularly sensational sunset. "How did you know I'd need this?"
Saitoh allowed himself a smirk. "I'm to be your husband, Tokio. I'll always know what you need."
And so, in a cloud of cherry blossom scent, Tokio and Saitoh were married. The ceremony passed in a blur. They exchanged the three times three sips of sake from the nuptial cups, and offered the twigs of sakaki to the gods in the shrine's main sanctuary, then thanked the Shinto priest and proceeded with Tokio's grandfather to the inn where the rest of the Shinsengumi officers awaited them.
The inn was gaily decorated with lighted paper lanterns on the outside and candles in colored paper cones on the inside. In the main dining room an older woman who looked so like the innkeeper that she couldn't be anyone other than his mother, sat in the corner playing a moon guitar. A boy sat with her accompanying her with a flute.
Two rows of short, footed, black lacquer trays faced each other up and down both sides of the room. Shinsengumi personnel in civilian clothes sat at them and laughingly exchanged jokes and good-natured barbs. At the head of the two rows, near the far wall was a shorter row of empty trays.
Tokio blushed and clutched her bag, the one containing the sleeping piglet, closer to her as she realized the seats of honor were reserved for the wedding party. She sat down at a tray at the end of the short row, with Saitoh and her grandfather on her right, and placed the bag down by the tray on her left, praying that the pig remained asleep. Smiling widely at Okita, who sat at the head of the long row of trays that ended near her tray, she pushed the bag partway under the concealing lacquer square.
By the sound of hilarity ringing through the room, Tokio figured that the Shinsengumi had already opened a bottle of sake before they arrived, but now that the guests of honor were there, it was time to eat.
The beautiful girl Tokio had seen in the inn's backyard entered the dining hall and ladled rice into bowls on the trays as the two kitchen maids served grilled fish, noodles, and assorted vegetable dishes.
Tokio glanced around the room. These were her husband's comrades. She recognized Okita, sitting nearest to her at the head of the row of trays to her left, and Kondo and Hijikata, sitting near her grandfather at the head of the row of trays on her right, but nearly everyone else was a stranger to her.
Then she caught Saitoh's eye and smiled shyly. What did it matter if she didn't know most of them? They were here because they were Saitoh's friends, and she was his wife. That meant that they were her friends too.
The cook entered the room carrying a tray, which he brought to the head table and presented to Saitoh with a flourish. "Roast pig, Edo style sir, for your wedding day," he intoned.
There was a squeal, and a little pink bundle of energy whipped out from under Tokio's tray and attacked the cook's ankles.
Tokio froze. It was the piglet.
The cook cursed roundly, causing several of the more inebriated Shinsengumi members to nod approvingly at his creative word combinations.
Scowling, the man stopped swearing long enough to set the tray down and turn an evil eye on the small pig attempting to bite his ankles.
Nearly snapping her chopsticks, Tokio clenched her fist and leaned forward in distress. This was all her fault! The pig was doomed. She never should have tried to hide him from Saitoh, and now after all her hard work, the pig was about to be captured. She couldn't let that happen, but if she tried to stop the cook she'd have to explain that she'd stolen the piglet in the first place. If Saitoh discovered she was a thief he'd never forgive her.
Tokio watched, helpless, as the cook reached out towards the pig, eyes narrowed, and said, "I don't know how you've hidden from me for so long, but it's the pickle pot for you, you little escape artist."
Saitoh was more amused than shocked by the cook's language, but Tokio was a gently brought up young lady. He glanced at her to see her reaction, and was surprised to see that she was leaning forward, mouth parted and eyes worried.
She was looking at the pig, which was, if Saitoh wasn't mistaken, growling like a dog and attempting to bite the cook.
When the cook reached for the pig, Tokio dropped her chopsticks and cried out, "No wait! That's not your pig! It's….it's…."
"Mine!" Okita's boyish voice called out as he leaned over his own lacquer tray and snatched the pig to his chest, just as the cook's fingers were about to close over the little pink animal.
As Saitoh watched, Okita shoved the piglet into the neckline of his gi and turned a smiling face to the cook. "It's my pet pig," he told the older man, blithely ignoring the cook's consternation. The pig glanced up at Okita with what could only be described as piggy astonishment, and grunted.
The man glared at Okita, glared at Tokio, started to glare at Saitoh, paused mid-glare, thought better of it, turned around and stomped out of the room leaving the tray on the floor.
"Hey, it's Edo style pork!" hollered Shinpachi and reached sideways over his tray, nearly falling into Hijikata's lap, to snag it. "Tokio, you've got to come over here and get some of this!" he yelled over the din.
She glanced at Saitoh, and he nodded to her to go. That idiot Shinpachi wouldn't shut up until he'd shared his favorite dish with everyone, but at least he wasn't too drunk to remember that this was a wedding celebration, and that Saitoh's bride should be given every courtesy. He watched his wife rise gracefully to her feet and walk over behind Kondo and Hijikata to where Shinpachi was extolling the virtues of Edo cooking styles.
That was when Saitoh remembered Okita telling him about his visit to the inn a few weeks ago, and how fascinated Tokio had been when the pig gave birth. Everything clicked into place.
He leaned to his left and growled, sotto voice, at Okita, "I'll thank you to let me rescue my own wife from now on."
Okita grinned. "Gladly!" he laughed. "But I don't think having you decapitate the cook would have added much to the festivities. Just consider this a wedding gift."
He grinned widely and turned to Harada Sanosuke who was seated on his left and asking in drunken curiosity when Okita had procured himself a pet pig.
Tokio returned with a bowl full of roast pig and set it as far away from herself as she could at the edge of her tray. She drew her hand back from the bowl, looked at him timidly, and swallowed.
He stared back, making sure that his face was impassive. It wouldn't do to laugh at her. Women tended to react badly when you laughed at them, so he kept his expression even.
"I'm sorry, Saitoh-san. I can explain," she began.
"There's no need." Saitoh was particularly proud of the way he kept his voice steady, without a trace of laughter in it, though he was nearly shaking with it inside.
"You're not terribly angry, are you?" Her question ended on a high, quavering note.
Saitoh blinked, astonished. She'd rescued a baby pig, proving she was tenderhearted as well as quick-witted. Tokio was truly a good woman, and an intelligent one, yet she thought that he'd be angry.
He flashed back to his thoughts before the wedding, and realized that marriage was indeed a difficult job. Tokio honestly didn't realize what a wonderful girl she was. She really didn't know. He'd have to convince her. If it took the rest of his life, he would prove to her that she was the most precious, cherished, worthy bride on the face of the earth.
Squaring his shoulders, he opened his mouth to speak when all of a sudden a man appeared in the doorway of the dining room.
Saitoh recognized him immediately, and glared. It was that fool of an informant he'd met with at the noodle bar. The man glanced around the room and saw Saitoh, catching his eye deliberately.
Sighing inwardly, he changed the words he was about to say and leaned over to whisper in Tokio's ear, "I'll be back in a minute." Then he got up and walked unobtrusively around Shinpachi's side of the row of trays and joined the spy, stalking past him into the darkened corridor outside.
The spy stared up at him, wide-eyed with what looked liked astonished admiration. "They told me at Shinsengumi Headquarters that you were here. How did you know?"
"Know what?" asked Saitoh impatiently. When Yamazaki Susumu finally returned from Aizu, Saitoh fully intended to give him a piece of his mind about letting spies crash wedding parties.
"That this is an Ishin Shishi Inn." The spy said blankly.
The corridor whirled for an instant while Saitoh assimilated the information. In that second, he knew what he had to do.
"Of course I did. It's why I decided to have the party here. However, since you're here, you might as well be of some use to me. Go to the back gate of the inn. I intend to flush out the main ringleader."
"Do you want me to capture him?" asked the informant, eyes gleaming in the half-light spilling out into the corridor from the noisy dining hall.
"No!" Saitoh answered sharply. "That would defeat the purpose of my plan. I want you to follow whoever leaves by the back exit. Don't let him see you, but follow him however far he goes, even if it's to the end of Japan. Once he arrives, note who he talks to, and where he stays, then report back to Shinsengumi Headquarters, but don't leave until you find out as much as you can about everyone he talks to. If you return without enough information, you'll answer to Yamazaki's boss, Hijikata."
Throughout the instructions, the spy's posture grew straighter and straighter until his backbone was like an iron spike and he was standing at attention. "Yes, sir, Saitoh-san. I will not fail you." The spy looked both ways down the corridor, and slunk off towards the inn's front entrance.
Saitoh watched him go with a smirk. Yamazaki's spies really were stupid. He'd bought the story hook, line, and sinker.
Now for part two of his plan. Saitoh glanced longingly back at the bright lights and noisy din coming from the room where his bride and his friends waited for him, then turned his back and strode determinedly down the corridor, to find a back way into the kitchen.
A scent of white plum blossoms and a ghostly white form appeared at the end of the corridor. It was one of the serving girls, carrying a jug of sake.
"Good evening sir," she said politely as she came close.
He stopped, and in doing so, blocked her passage. Tilting her head, she looked up at him calmly, a hint of a question in her posture.
"Do you work here?" he asked.
"No sir. My mistress sent me over to help out. She heard that there was a wedding celebration tonight." The girl's voice was calm, measured. She probably hadn't realized that the wedding guests were all Shinsengumi officers. Even if she had, there was something almost frozen about the girl, as though it would take a lot to faze her.
"Is there a way to the kitchen through here?"
"Yes." She nodded and pointed back the way she'd come. "It's just down there. Is there anything else?"
"No. You can go," he told her, and continued down the corridor. Skin that pale wasn't healthy, Saitoh reflected absently. His grandmother always said that those who looked pale as death were destined for an early one. Shaking off the memory, he narrowed his eyes as the sound of a furious, whispered conversation from the kitchen began to get more and more clear as he approached.
"Are you crazy? What do you think you were doing, trying to get them angry over a pig? They're the Shinsengumi!" The innkeeper hissed furiously just as Saitoh gained the doorway to the kitchen.
The innkeeper and cook, who were standing in the middle of the kitchen leaning toward each other with angry expressions, jumped back from each other like lovers in a goodnight kiss caught by their parents. Two pairs of guilty eyes stared, astonished, at Saitoh.
"It's my wedding day." Saitoh informed them in a low, dangerous voice. "I would really dislike having to kill anyone on my wedding day."
The innkeeper gulped audibly and clutched his kimono fabric in his hands.
The cook, an ugly man, began to babble. "I've only worked her for a month. I don't know anything about anything."
Saitoh realized that Okita was right when he'd told Saitoh that he thought the cook had a Northern accent. Saitoh realized that the cook had to be from Hokkaido, the far island off the tip of Japan's main island.
Okita, who loved to tell stories, had regaled Saitoh with the tale of the Visit To The Inn in great detail, even going so far as to laugh at the cook from the North who derided Kyoto's country folk for distrusting Edo cooking methods, yet believed so firmly in his own Northern superstitions that he refused to slaughter a pregnant pig for fear of bad luck. One thing Okita hadn't told him was that Tokio had taken one of the piglets. For all his status as a Shinsengumi captain, Okita was still just a mischievous boy at heart.
Saitoh realized that the cook was still babbling, and the innkeeper was trying to surreptitiously kick him in the shins to shut him up. Saitoh smiled. He knew a far more effective way to quiet the annoying man.
He let his smile widen mirthlessly and his eyes narrow to feral slits. The cook stopped mid-word. Saitoh smirked inside. That particular expression did it every time.
"You have one chance to live. I'll give you five minutes to pack your belongings and go back to Hokkaido."
The cook stared, mouth agape. "How did you know I came from…?" He trailed off when he noticed Saitoh's unnerving smile had disappeared and an even more unnerving cold glare masked his features.
"Go now and live, or stay and die, but do not say another word."
The cook wisely turned and fled.
"What about me?" the innkeeper squeaked in a very high, frightened, voice. "Can I go too?"
Saitoh turned his glare on the fussy little man. "No. You stay and finish serving the party. I expect excellent service. By tomorrow at this time, the inn will be empty and you will be gone. Is that clear?"
The innkeeper nodded so vehemently that Saitoh was surprised his head didn't fall off. By the time the informant got back from following the cook on a wild goose chase, the inn would merely be an old Ishin Shishi hideout, no longer used and no longer important. Saitoh could only hope that no one would connect his wedding reception to the name of an inn in a spy's report months from now. If Yamazaki or Hijikata ever asked why he'd sent the spy to Hokkaido, he could always say the spy must have misunderstood his instructions. It was no secret that Saitoh harbored nothing but contempt for the inept way Yamazaki ran his spy ring.
Saitoh hoped for the spy's sake that he'd brought cash with him. Unless Saitoh was mistaken, the cook was about to take off like a bat fleeing the demon realm for Hokkaido, and Saitoh didn't think the spy would have much time to pick up any spare cash for traveling expenses. Hmm. Perhaps the journey would teach him to use some initiative. He'd have to or he'd starve. Either way Saitoh would have rid the Shinsengumi's ranks of an inept spy or brought back a more effective operative.
Saitoh gave the innkeeper a last glare, then wheeled about and returned to his wedding reception. Three quarters of the way down the corridor he found his bride standing in the light from the doorway, talking to the girl who smelled of plum blossoms.
His eyes were now fully accustomed to the corridor's gloom and he saw the girl's back stiffen slightly as he approached.
"My best wishes for your life together," the girl said to Tokio before she bowed and walked serenely past Saitoh, her ghostlike shape disappearing down the corridor.
Tokio's smile, a response to the girl's words, began to fade slightly when Saitoh came to a stop in front of her. He saw that she was holding something in her hands. It was cloth. He only hoped it wasn't concealing something.
"Is that the pig?" he asked, resigning himself to a life with a pet pig if she said yes.
"This?" she glanced down at the cloth. "No, no it's not the pig." Tokio gave a little laugh as she smoothed the cloth in her hands. "Okita's adopted the pig. He's named it Saizou. This is for you." She looked back up at him and held out the cloth.
He took it and unfolded it. It was a grey rectangle made of sturdy material, with two long cords dangling from a flap at the top. On the flap were two small embroidered circles.
"It's a sword bag. It's to protect your sword when you're not using it."
She laughed again nervously. "I've decided not to attack any more trees." She stopped a moment, collected herself, and stared up at him earnestly. "I trust you to protect me with your sword, so it only seemed fair that I give you something to protect it."
Saitoh's breath caught in his throat. If he had searched the length and breadth of Japan he could not have found a better mate. He ran his thumb over the embroidery and tilted the fabric towards the light from the doorway.
Noticing him looking at it, Tokio stepped in closer and pointed at the two circles. "They're wolves." She told him softly. "Okita told me they sometimes call the Shinsengumi the Wolves of Mibu. He said you kind of liked the nickname. I'm sorry I only had time to sew two."
Her simple words just about undid him. He cleared his throat, unable to find the right words to tell her how perfect the gift was, and how little she had to apologize. There were other ways to show his appreciation, but it wouldn't do to grab his wife and ravish her in an inn corridor to show her exactly how much this gift meant to him.
"You're not still angry at me about the pig, are you?" she asked in a small voice.
He realized he'd been staring at the two little wolves she'd sewn on the sword bag. Two little wolves of Mibu. For starting a family, two seemed like a very good number. Saitoh allowed an amused, possessive smile to play across his lips as he looked at Tokio. "Do I look like I'm angry, wife?" he asked softly, pitching his voice low, not with the promise of danger, but of something else entirely.
She tilted her head and stared up at him wonderingly. "No, you don't look angry at all. You look…oh!" she ended faintly and blushed as he allowed his true feelings to show on his face.
He could spend the rest of his life watching Tokio, but right now with her eyes soft with love and longing, and her cheeks pink, he didn't think she could ever be more adorable than she was at this moment.
Pulling his wife into his arms, he gave in to the temptation to kiss her breathless. Somewhere in the course of the kiss, her hat fell off and the scent of cherry blossoms wafted up until it seemed almost as if they were kissing in the spring in one of those clouds of falling petals that floated down whenever the wind blew, and scented the air all around. No matter what the future held for the Shinsengumi or for Japan, Saitoh knew he would always have the memory of the scent of cherry blossoms, a scent that would always be uniquely Tokio.
A/N: I give in! The pig is indeed Saizou from Peacemaker Kurogane, though the Okita portrayed here is wholly Watsuki's Okita from Rurouni Kenshin. I hope everyone enjoyed the sequel to "In The Wolves' Den" because this is it! No more sequels! I refuse to follow Tokio and Saitoh on their honeymoon! It was hard enough writing the rather tame mushy stuff in this one!
Note to Reviewers:
Green Eyed Floozy – Thanks for the review, and I'm glad you laughed at my silly story!
Senaca – No problem on the update, and I hope you liked the ending!
Lady Water – Sorry for the confusion over your name (I'm easily confused). I think your ffdotnet name is really pretty. My pen-name is just too dang long, due to confusion over email address vs. pen name when I set up my ffdotnet account! Hope you liked the wedding.
The Otaku Kitty – You're welcome for the story and I WANT PLUSHIES TOO! Do they make an Okita one?
Ayumu in Blue – You're right about cherry blossoms being sad! They were the symbol of the samurai because they fell off the cherry tree so easily and died. Samurai were supposed to be willing to give their lives for their daimyo as effortlessly as a cherry blossom falling off the tree. I guess you had to be really committed to dying for your daimyo for seppuku to work. Thanks for all your nice reviews!
Child of Draco – Thanks for calling my story "Kawaii" and for reading/reviewing it!
Cezy Angel – I had fun writing Saitoh as the possessive sort. He is, after all, a 'wolf of Mibu' and wolves mate for life, so I figured he'd be growly and protectionistic towards his bride to be.
Sai Orlianna – I'm glad you enjoyed chapter two, and I hope you like the ending as well.
Jecir – Hope you liked the wedding! There was some silliness, but I tried to make it at least slightly believable. Thanks for your reviews!
Trinity – Thanks for the favorable review! I'll have to check out "Hajime and Tokio," it sounds really good. As for the pre-wedding mushy stuff, sorry it was puzzling. Actually, in the Western world kissing was considered shocking before an engagement, but in Japan courtship rituals were…ah…different. I was shocked to discover that in ancient times courtship rituals included the Muko-iri or nightly visits by the prospective bridegroom to the bride, and marriage only occurred after the parents officially accepted him as their son in law, or the bride to be got pregnant! Pre-marital fooling around wasn't exactly unheard of, as girls were often sold by their families into brothels to become prostitutes for a certain period of time, then returned to the village to be married off to whoever their father wanted. Marriage was more for political or financial reasons than love, and divorce was ridiculously easy – the husband wrote a three line letter and sent the wife back to her parents. Remarriage was common. The real Saitoh wed the daughter of an Aizu Daimyo, and he may not have even met her before the wedding! As for Watsuki's Saitoh, he may be a cold fish to everyone else, but I figured that with a wife he trusted he'd be able to unbend a little. And even in the anime series, he might have appeared cold, yet he refrained from killing Sanosuke, and rescued Eiji (the little boy from the village) so he does have a compassionate, protective side as well.
Wyrd – I hope this chapter answered your questions about the pig! Saitoh later proves he's a better spy when he joins the police force in the anime series. To answer your question, the superstitions are all made up. I couldn't find a good source for Japanese superstitions! Your welcome for the review for your story, and I hope you update again soon!
Fearna – You noticed! Yes, the mention of plum blossom scent was indeed a reference to Tokio. I always wondered why in the OAV "Trust and Betrayal" Saito even noticed the scent of Plum Blossoms when Kenshin and Tokio retreated from the Ikedaya fiasco, so I figured I'd introduce him to it in my story.
Misaoshiru – You inherited a love of puns from your dad? I inherited the talkative gene from mine! Have you ever cooked anything besides soup with miso paste? I'm starting to use it as a marinade for fish, and it's come out great so far.
Potato-sensei – I couldn't help but admire your comments on Tokio and Saito. I've seen successful marriages with both – husband and wives with things in common, and husbands and wives who are complete opposites. As for how my Tokio and Saitoh's marriage pans out, I'll let you decide!
Conspirator – Yep, I've had lots of fun coming up with Saitoh-esque comments. I hope you liked the ones in this chapter too.
Larie-chan – Thanks for the two muses! I can use the inspiration. Speaking of inspiration, I got the idea for a blind perfume saleswoman when I realized that normal shopkeepers would be too terrified of the Shinsengumi to be able to speak coherently, so I came up with one who couldn't see the uniform. Plus, you don't have to see to mix perfume, so it would be a perfect job for a blind person. Glad you liked the kiss – I tried to be clever instead of graphic about it when I described it. I'm horrible at writing romance, but I'd die of embarrassment if I ever tried to write a lemon, so you'll never get anything too graphic in my stories.
BakaBokken – I had to laugh when you told me someone accused you of plagiarism because you posted your story on another website! You think they'd have noticed that both stories had the same author! I'm glad the tree-bashing incident amused you! I had lots of fun writing it. I hope this chapter was satisfying. I'm a sucker for romance too, but not that good at writing it.
Lolo popoki – Soba noodles are great! I figured Saitoh would know how to cook them, and being Saitoh, consider himself the best qualified person for teaching Tokio how to cook them.
Miburo kid – I love the Okita from Watsuki's Rurouni Kenshin series, but I must admit I have a soft spot for the pig from Peacemaker Kurogane, so I included him, thanks to suggestions from reviewers like you. I hope you liked my take on how Okita got his pig!