free is the man

The day after the battle of Toba-Fushimi, the patriots were still celebrating. They had laughed and drank throughout the night, carrying on to the next day. The leaders, Kogoro Katsura among them, closed up in a room away from the hubbub and sipped tea together, discussing plans for the future. All wore small smiles at some point, satisfied with their victory. Quiet contained joy, versus the ruckus downstairs.

Himura Kenshin sat alone in the tavern, taking a well-earned rest. His mind, unfortunately, would not be at peace (not for a long time).

I had thought… at this day of the new era… you would be with me.

The image of a face appeared before his eyes.

You understood… you knew I would kill again. And I promised you that after this day, my sword would be used to help others…with you by my side…

He picked up his saké cup, raised it to the woman who should have been sitting across from him. The woman who would have been his support; the woman who he would have spent the rest of his life with.

"For you, Tomoe."

It was only to very faint surprise, that as he drank the saké, he could smell white plums.

And strangely, the saké was sweet. It was his smile that was bitter.