Chapter 1: Union

- Kisagi Household. Morning.-

A small house on a busy street was bustling with activity. While shoppers, merchants, foreigners and police personnel walked the streets outside this ordinary house, inside a feast was being cooked. Two servants was flurrying around, readying the food onto porcelain serving plates. The mother of the household had joined her own servants in cooking this succulent food known only to geishas. Shouts mixed with the frying of sweet meats and porcelain plates and cups clattered together as the dining table was being set for the dinner. For this household, this was a very big and important day. The mother's daughter, Kisagi Kiyoko, had recently become engaged to a strikingly handsome man by the name of Imagawa Akira. Kiyoko admitted she loved him very much, this Akira being the only beloved man in her life. Though her brother knew Kiyoko better, he said nothing.

Diru and the rest of the Kisagi family detested the Meiji Government. The Kisagi family had been a prominent ally to the Tokugawa Shogunate. Diru and Kiyoko's father died when Kiyoko was only ten and Diru fifteen. Eleven years into the Meiji Era, and only eleven years ago that the Boshin War decided the fate of the country of Japan. Their father was a reknown warrior who slaughtered Choshu and Satsuma warriors in the name of the Shogun. When a Satsuma and Choshu warrior challenged him, they bested Diru's father, revered as an elite swordsman for the Shogunate.The two disarmed him, humilated him and forced the man onto his knees in dishonor then took his own life, spilling from his throat the liquid of life. Diru could remember this same vivid description the messenger had to deliever to him in such dark melancholy and hesitance. Diru had to comfort his sister who cried for the longest time and then refused to speak for nearly a year. Ever since, Diru himself had deep resentment towards the Meiji Government and their tolerance of foreigners. Kiyoko shared the same sentiments and the two of them would remininsce about this particular subject and share tears while in one another's arms. The only wonderment Diru possessed in his intellectual mind was why Kiyoko would allow herself to be engaged to such a man who supported this vile government; the one she despised.

" Diru! Please go get your sister!"

Diru was awakened from his steep thoughts. Diru went upstairs and headed for his sister's room. The handsome brother walked the hallway and found his sister's room, the shoji door shut like usual. Lately, since the proposal, she had been so meek and so shy. Not that she wasn't after their father died, but more than usual. It only supported Diru's theory that she, in all truth, did not love this man Imagawa Akira. With the light rapping of his knuckles on the wooden posts, he roused Kiyoko's attention.

Kiyoko's head looked away from the reflection of herself in the mirror and to the shoji door. With a meek answer, she permissed the man to step in, knowing full well it was her brother. When Diru came upon the sight of his younger sister, his breath had been taken away. Never had he seen her look so gorgeous! Yet, minding the radiance of her lovely kimono, her face showed agonizing distress and sadness. The curves of her lips refused to even now fake happiness for her engagement. She was knelt before her mirror, pampered hands folded in her lap. Diru came and sat beside her, holding his sister's hands to comfort her fragile soul. He cast his sight to the side...remembering their life before meeting this Akira. Before, they were the lowest in the middle class. Though their father had been a swordsman, he was also a very wealthy merchant during the Bakumatsu. But now, it was far different. Their class was looked down upon and shunned by highr officials and nobility. It was a stroke of luck a Meiji governor would ever take interest in a simple middle class woman.

" Kiyoko, please don't be sad. Just tell the man you don't love him!"

" Dear brother...our family is poor now! If I married this man, he could not only provide for me, but for you and mother too! I...just let me say I truly love him, Diru. I shall grow to love him in time, I promise...and then our family can be safe and can be provided for. I do this not out of greed, I do this for our family's honor."

" Sis! Don't you ever think about yourself! Sometimes it's good to be selfish! For goodness sakes, you're marrying a Meiji governor! Last I checked, you hated their black, vile guts! They killed father!"

" (scowls) Do not think I have forgotten that! Diru...I am willing to look past that to help our family's namesake. He may be a greedy, pompous, black hearted snake, but if marrying him is what it takes to keep our family from being disgraced then of course I am going to do it!"

Diru's muscles became restless with exasperation. Diru didn't mind his sister being married if it was the man she truly loved and truly wanted to be with, but what she was doing now was pure foolishness. Their family had long since been loyal to the feudal way of things, and now with Kiyoko marrying this man, it was hypocrisy. She, a firm believer in the old ways, marrying a man who made it definite that the old ways would never return. With a defeated sigh, he refused to go into battle with his sister over this. It wasn't worth it; once she was set in her ways, it was hard to persuade her otherwise.

" Well, come downstairs. Mother wants you."

The brother and sister got up. Diru left her side and opened the shoji door to exit. Kiyoko followed shyly behind him, her head down and eyes on the floor. She stopped right before exiting the doorway. A fraction of light maimed one side of her from behind, the silhouette hiding the rest of her body. Those eyes were so sad despite the forced smile upon her soft lips. Diru put an arm around her and tickled her in the side, getting her to wail with laughter and smile for real. After accomplishing so, and cheerng her mood, the two headed downstairs where the hectic kitchen belched such wonderful smells of food and lamented hollers and orders.

-An hour later-

The whinnying of muscled, brown horses with glossy black manes made their way down a street pulling a large, Western carriage. Inside sat a strikingly handsome, young man of about late 20's. He wore a men's kimono of pitch black with white bordering. He was a very gentle spirited man and regardless of his age, a highly intelligent man. He'd recently cut his hair, nothing but short, spiky hair. Before, he had styled his long hair in a Samurai fashioned ponytail. Now, the black, shiny hair were only short spikes that stuck out every which way, typical for one as young as he. He wore a genuine smile, words incapable of describing the feeling one felt when this smile was presented to them. his light brown eyes shimmered in the sunlight as flecks of sheer gold did. Any woman could easily swoon towards such a handsome, golden eyed man as Imagawa Akira. Even so this man could have any woman he wished to have bedded with him, he only had space in his heart for one; for Kiyoko. He couldn't wish for a purer, more beautiful woman than Kisagi Kiyoko.

" Driver! Two blocks further down! It's the first two-story house on the right!"

Akira sat back, replacing his hands folded in his lap. Most government men were bleak, empathetic and at times, crude. Not Akira. Though he possessed such feelings, he countered them with his good nature, humor and ability to love from the bottom of his heart. He was the ideal man, a man everyone dreamed about. Yet, Kiyoko would never admit secretly she didn't love him. He'd been so kind and generous towards her and her family, totally disregarding who her father had been.

Kiyoko waited with her mother at the door to greet Akira once he arrived. Diru standed further away nearer to the kitchen. Mother took a glance down to her adorable daughter, catching the sad glimpse in her eyes. Truthfully, their mother respected Akira but didn't like him. The Kisagi family had always been loyal to the Tokugawa Shogunate. Kiyoko was extremely hateful of the Meiji government, and she should be. Those same men that are seated in that government, had killed her friends and her father. Yet, here she was pledging love to a man who worked as a Meiji governor! Mother knew Kiyoko's father would feel completely dishonored if he knew his daughter was marrying one of the enemy. But more Mother looked in her daughter's eyes, glimpsing the very core of her, she could see a falseness. As if she didn't want to marry this man, but was forcing herself to. Mother looked away and at the door with an absent mind. The woman had to admit that since Kiyoko had started this relationship with Akira, that he had given them free money to support them and help them out. He'd taken not just Kiyoko, but the whole Kisagi family under his wing. He demanded nothing in return for his boons. For that generosity, their Mother was thankful.

" Despite his affiliation, darling daughter, I do believe you've picked a genuinely good man. Maybe sometimes the politics of a man doesn't matter, but the truth of his heart."

Kiyoko looked sharply at her mother, startled she would say such a thing. What she said was completely true though. Kiyoko judged men by politics rather than the size of their heart. As long as they were pro-Meiji, they were nothing more than dirt or scum. Kiyoko had to admit that Akira was a truthful man. The only attribute she shunned about him was his support of the Meiji government. Besides that factor, there was nothing she could say she disliked about him. If only she could look past that whole political affiliation, then maybe, she could come to learn to love this man with a true, whole heart. the sound of horses' hooves beating the ground mercilessly approached their household. The rolling of the wooden wheels creaked and rumbled against the warm ground. The racket stopped, the twin horses whinnying as the driver pulled the bit into their mouths.

Akira stepped from the carriage onto the sidewalk. He brushed his outfit off, making sure there wasn't a crease or wrinkle in the clothing. the carriage door was shut and Akira made his way towards the door. Kiyoko's mother wasted no time to open the door and readily welcome Akira into the household. Akira stepped in and asaw his fiancee waiting for him in her most stunning kimono yet. The silk kimono shimmered with a backround of powder blue and medium blue stitching of flying cranes and vined flowers. The whole pattern had been outlined in golden stitching, and the obi made of gold fabric to match. Her hair had been done up and wound tightly around smooth blocks of wood, fastened together by sticks and hairpins. That docile filly stood there with a full smile and glistening eyes of pure sea.

" Darling, you look fantastic!"

Akira stepped in hurriedly and gathered Kiyoko into his arms like a hungry beast. As if the kimono was constricting enough, Akira's arms squeezed Kiyoko's fragile body to the point of being suffocated. Diru looked on with glaring eyes of icy blue, his arms folded tightly across his broad chest. He turned and left, using the side door to leave the household. He couldn't stand being there any longer while that good natured man with motives of a snake wrapped his arms around her like a python. It made his stomach churn his breakfast this way and that way. Outside, the street was busy with pedestrians and the occasional carriage. Diru made his way into the sea of people, camoflouging perfectly within them. Instead of letting his mind dwell on his sister's reluctant marriage, he wanted to see what his old pal Sanosuke was up to this weekend. Diru gave a half smirk knowing well he would either be found at the Kamiya dojo or some illegal gambling ring.

-Kamiya Dojo-

Yahiko was practicing with Kaoru as usual in the front courtyard of the dojo. Kenshin Himura looked on with a pleasant, relaxed smile under the dojo's awning. Sanosuke was sitting on the steps with a fishbone in between his teeth, nothing thinking much of anything. It was shaping up to be a slow weekend. There had been some mediocre fights that Kenshin and Sanosuke felt they had to stop, but besides that, no real threat, no real action was showing up this weekend. Sanosuke saw it as a bit of a blessing. He could hang out now and do what he did best: freeload off of Kaoru.

" Sano!"

Sanosuke's attention had turned to a man standing in the gateway into the dojo. A smile graced his lips and he could invest in hope that maybe this weekend wouldn't be so boring after all. Diru made his way on the path towards Sanosuke. Kaoru and Yahiko didn't stop to say hello, but only said it while practicing. Kenshin waved towards Diru, welcoming him. Diru waved back and took a seat next to Sanosuke. Diru was wearing his usual clothing of black pants and a white coat similiar to Sanosuke's. Diru wore no shirt under it, proud to show off his tanned, muscled chest.

" So Diru, what's been going on at the house? How's that sister of yours doin'?"

" She's doing okay. (leans back, elbows resting on the highest step) she's still trying to fool me into believing she loves that Akira. They're getting married next week it seems. I've given up. I don't believe she wants to marry him, but since she is so determined to, I'm going to let her."

" This one thinks she should reconsider..."

Sanosuke and Diru looked to Kenshin who smiled nervously with his goofy grin. Diru didn't like Kenshin much, knowing what he fought for, knowing what he was. Under that relaxed, goofy exterior, still stood strong the feirce eyed Battousai. That cross shaped scar was proof of his pain of his unforgetable past.

" Same, sister's not going to give it up. You couldn't tie her down and force her to say she won't marry him. I just don't see why someone would marry a person they don't truly love."

" Well, he's rich. (shrugs) I don't mean to be rude but maybe she is marrying him for the money to help out the family. After all, you said he was starting to help out financially after he and Kiyoko started dating."

Sanosuke was right about that and Kiyoko even admitted so. But Diru couldn't imagine doing that himself. Yet, he admired Kiyoko for it. She was marrying the enemy true enough, but she was sacrificing herself for the good of the family. Maybe that's the only thing she saw.