Author's Note: Have you figured out whom Akimo's savior was in the last chapter? If you have, I applaud you; without actually using his name, I wanted you all to know who that was… but if you're still in the dark, this will be the chapter that reveals his identity and sets up for the rest of the story! From this point on, there will be more of the canon characters!
Also, I would like to send a special 'thanks' to AgatHatsumomo for leaving a kind review full of encouragement. So, it is for you, Hatsumomo, that this chapter is respectfully dedicated.
The Great Disappointment
There had been the expected amount of hustle and bustle once the kind man had returned Akimo to her sister's residence. The servants had rushed around for a while, searching for Akimira, perhaps, and the rain continued to pour around the two shivering figures in the doorway; but eventually they were let inside and led to a room where they were able to warm themselves in front of the fire. The man, while being handsome in his own right, seemed to have caught the young woman's attention for other reasons. There was warmth, despite her soaked kimono and aching ankle, that she could feel radiating from him and into her. It left her mind feeling hazy and her senses unable to focus on anything but the sensation of her head against the pillow behind her on a piece of Akimira's western-style furniture.
Akimo had completely missed her sister's entrance into the room. She hadn't seen the knowing glance that had passed from the older woman to the kind man, situated on his knees beside whatever manner of cushioned chair that he'd so gently set Akimo's slender figure on. And she most certainly hadn't heard more than a few murmurs of the conversation that passed between the two.
"…it is just a small sprain…but the fever…"
"…certainly…everything is fine now."
"…let me know of her condition…"
"…of course…stay for tea?"
"Thank you, thank you."
"…send your husband my regards…"
The last thing the poor girl could remember was feeling a strong hand brush away a few strands of hair from her face and it was the last bit of warmth and electricity that she could feel before drifting into a fitful sleep. Her dreams were littered with the memory of the unkind American soldier with his yellow hair and her heart would race while her palms sweat until the handsome figure of the man who had rescued her earlier that day would save her from the imaginary danger.
She recovered from the fever and her illness quickly, spending not more than three afternoons tucked safely into her own futon. Even despite her mother's worries over the swollen ankle, Akimo was back on her feet and alive with the beauty of spring. There was something about the season that brought her to life, made her refuse to give into any unnecessary illness, because she wanted to be outside, in front of the garden pond, walking among the blooming lilies.
If there was any change in the girl at all after the frightful ordeal, she seemed more reflective if anything else. It seemed as though the experience had been sobering and Akimo had lost a slight bit of her sense of childish security; but she still smiled her brilliant smile and dreamed of the man who had saved her quite often. He was becoming a bit of an obsession and, even as her wedding date drew nearer, Akimo couldn't help but feel as though her heart were betraying her.
Hadn't that man saved her from a rather gruesome fate? She'd read so many of those romantic novels that had belonged to Akira before she ran away with her own American soldier that Akimo almost believed she was wishing her life could turn out something more like the lives of those characters in the books. The man was always supposed to save the woman and then he would wrap her in his arms and carry her away into the sunset where they could live out their own version of happily ever after and until death do us part. Didn't she deserve a man who would love her and fight to keep her safe? Yet, here she was, not more than a week away from her wedding
to Heihachi Mishima, a man who had showered her in gifts but had shown no interest getting to know her, and Akimo had never been so unsure of anything in her life.
"Do cheer up, darling," her mother reminded, tying the obi around her waist a bit more tightly than Akimo might have liked. She was silent as she made the expert motions of tying the elaborate garment around her daughter. It seemed to take an eternity to dress Akimo in the white garment, but Mrs. Numoya seemed no more distressed by the concentration she needed to complete her task than the sad look on her daughter's face. She placed her hands on Akimo's shoulders and turned her around so that she could see herself in the mirror, "You look absolutely lovely and, with a bit more time dedicated to preparation, I'm sure the shiromaku will fit better."
Staring at her reflection in the mirror, Akimo did feel her lips begin to turn upwards just slightly. She was wearing her wedding kimono, a lovely white garment that had taken near the entirety of that morning to dress herself in. But she looked wonderful and, for a brief moment, she wondered what her mysterious savior might have thought of her, so dressed up and beautiful, on their wedding day. Quickly, Akimo buried her thoughts and instead tried to picture what Heihachi Mishima would look like in his montsuki kimono. It was true that she'd never actually seen the man she would be marrying but that wasn't the part of this arrangement that distressed her most. She was in love with the man who had rescued her.
When her mother placed a hand on Akimo's shoulder, the girl's eyes refocused and she was snapped back into reality, "No, mother. It is perfect."
And she tried to offer her a stunning smile. It fell just short of the thousand watt version that she was normally able to muster. But if her mother had noticed, she'd chosen not to say anything; instead she cleared her throat and began to remove the garments from her daughter. Undressing from a wedding kimono was a far easier task than putting it on in the first place. The time that had been required to make sure it was perfect was spent folding each piece neatly and carefully so that it would be perfect for her wedding day.
Before the two women were quite done with what they were doing, a lady-servant opened the door and bowed deeply to them. Her breath was slightly labored, suggesting that she'd hurried to meet them, "Lady and daughter Numoya! There is a visitor downstairs for Lady Akimo. I-it's Heihachi Mishima!"
Blinking dumbly at the statement, Mrs. Numoya dismissed the servant and turned back to her daughter, whose head was turned slightly as she studied her mother. The older woman tugged the remainder of the wedding kimono from her daughter's slender form without a word and quickly shoved her towards the trunk where she kept her finer kimono. The silence between the two women was eating away at Akimo's sanity and it was all the girl to do to bring herself to think of something to say to her mother. She was acting so strangely.
"You knew he was coming, mother," it wasn't a question or even an accusation. The words were calm, perhaps she'd been trying to hide her curiosity under a mature tone, and Akimo began to dig through her kimono until she selected one of her favorites. It was white silk with pale green and yellow designs woven throughout and only in certain places and there were blue cranes every now and again. Akimo slid the garment over her shoulders before her mother had even had a chance to respond.
With her hands already busy tying a coral obi around her daughter's waist, Mrs. Numoya smiled despite herself. It wasn't until she'd knotted the bow in the back and pinned all of the loose edges that she spoke, "Of course, darling. He's been wishing to pay you a visit since he heard of the accident. Such a kind man is Heihachi Mishima!"
Even before Akimo could formulate her new thoughts into verbalized questions, her mother was already hurrying her towards the hallway. It wasn't that Akimo was excited, exactly, that made her walk as quickly as she was. In fact, there was a sense of dread that hung over her like a storm cloud she just couldn't lose, even when she would step into the occasional beam of sunlight flowing through the windows from outside. Akimo was curious, just as any in her position would have been, but mostly, seeing her husband for the first time would allow her the ability to forget about her savior in all of the fantasies and replace him with the real figure of her husband.
Taking a deep breath and making sure to straighten herself to the strict form of 'presentability' her father demanded, Akimo smoothed down the lines of her kimono, ran a few fingers absently through her dark hair, and pinched her cheeks to add a lovely rosy hue to them.
The man was in the main sitting room with her father; Akimo could hear their voices trailing down the hallway. But they were muffled echoing just slightly enough that it prevented Akimo from really making out the specific tones of each man's voice; recognition became impossible. The man of interest's back was turned towards her when she'd crossed the threshold of the doorway and, even as she bowed to enter, she couldn't determine what she had noticed more, his expensive-looking western-style suit or the broad line of his shoulders beneath it.
When she looked up again, her eyes were met with familiar chocolate brown orbs that were as friendly as she could have ever known before. And the face was familiar, identical to one she had been dreaming about, with a strong jaw line, deep set eyes, and high cheek bones. His hair, a dark raven color that was more deep than midnight itself, was spiked away from his head, coming to near a point in the back.
Akimo had recognized him almost instantly.
She hadn't been expecting her heart to beat so furiously that it was as though the muscle might leave her chest. She hadn't planned on needing to stifle butterflies from flying around her stomach. Akimo hadn't expected him; but it would have been so far beyond a lie to say that she wasn't pleased by what she saw.
"Good Afternoon, Miss Akimo," he greeted her politely, taking her hand in his own and kissing the top gently.
Akimo's knees almost gave out.
"Oh!" she exclaimed, covering her mouth with her hand to stifle a gasp. "T-thank you, Mr. Mishima…for saving me the other day."
His eyes met hers and her stomach did a turn at the speed of an Olympic swimmer.
"I'm glad to find you feeling better," he leaned forward, making to pour her a glass of the tea that had been brought for her. As he handed her the steaming glass, he added, "You had me rather worried."
Her heart sank like lead.
Akimo's face reddened and she suddenly felt uncharacteristically small; like a child who had done something wrong. Her eyes scanned the table in front of her as her hands rested against the warm glass surface of the teacup, "I offer you my most sincere apologies, Mr. Mishima. I never meant to cause you any worry."
"Oh, cheer up!" he smiled as he said it but it wasn't until he gently brought a hand to her cheek to lead her gaze up to his that she noticed the gesture. Turning so that he could see her better, he spoke again, "How about one of those pretty smiles instead?"
And Akimo did smile. It was a beautiful smile. The first of many more; because Akimo had found him, the same man who had saved her from the soldier, her samurai knight, her hero.
For the rest of the afternoon, it was as though the smile never left Akimo's face.