Um...hi. I'm new to this manga (and manga in general). I've done a little research on the Meiji Era to make sure the story is somewhat decent, but please let me know if anything is incorrect. Thanks!

Disclaimer: I do not own Rurouni Kenshin.

Spring's beauty seemed to have touched everything. Cherry blossoms bloomed, their flowers even more wonderful than the people of Tokyo remembered them to be the year before. Birdsong echoed in the countryside and in the villages. Peace reigned in the 18th year of the Meiji...

"Hey, Kenshin."

They grow so fast, thought the former swordsman wistfully. The spiky-haired, hot-tempered boy Kenshin met all those years ago was now turning seventeen. He was a master of Kamiya Kasshin Ryu, running his own dojo in the next town, but at least the hair and temper hadn't changed. Poor Kenshin wouldn't have recognized him without it.

"Good evening, Yahiko. What business do you have with this one?" Himura Kenshin straightened from the garden, noticing the teenager's agitation. At his feet, Himura Kenji grabbed onto Kenshin's clothing and waved with his free hand.

Myoujin Yahiko shrugged, eyeing the toddler that was now bent on chewing his father's clothes to pieces. "When are you sending this guy to me?"

"He is only three years old, Yahiko. Give him and his mother a little time. Kenji, if you are hungry, go inside." Kenshin shooed his son into the house, and his slight smile disappeared. "Now, what has you so bothered?"

Again, Yahiko shrugged. "I'm not bothered. and Tsubame...we've decided to get married."

Kenshin's eyebrows flew up. He thought for a while, but as Yahiko literally started twitching with impatience to hear his thoughts, he spoke. "I am not surprised. But you don't think it's a little early?"

"What do you mean?"

"Yahiko, you are young. You have the world to see. There is plenty of time to settle down later."

The younger man frowned. "Who said Tsubame would hold me back from that? It's not like this is some spur-of-the-moment decision. I'm happy here. I've got a dojo with fifteen students, I live in a great town, and now I'll have a family." Kenshin wondered exactly how long this last reason had been on Yahiko's mind. "And if I do decide to go see the world, it'd do Tsubame good to get out there too. And to remind me not to end up like Sano and forget to come back home."

"Yes, he does tend to do that. But he's a fugitive from the law, so we'll excuse him. I'm very proud of you, Yahiko. You are a great and mindful swordsman, and you have found your own peace...something I had just started to look for at your age." Kenshin's smile returned. "Congratulations. I have no doubt of your happiness, and for some years, Kaoru-dono has not either. Yutaroh will be angry."

Yahiko smirked. The teen was much calmer now that his pent-up excitement had been freed. "That's not my problem. Thanks, Kenshin."

"You're welcome. And if you ever need help on how avoid your wife's anger, you are always welcome here. I've had much practice."

Yahiko's laugh first warned Kenshin that something was wrong. "Doesn't seem like it. Hey, Kaoru."

Oh no. Kenshin turned to face Himura Kaoru uneasily.

"You've had practice?! What's that supposed to mean?! I never get angry!"

"Look! It's a baby!" Kenji prodded the month-old infant, who promptly began to wail. Kaoru hurriedly picked up her son, who had clapped his hands over his ears. "I don't like it!"

"Shh, Harumi," Tsubame urged to her child. "He was only playing!"

Yahiko placed his hands on Tsubame's shoulders. "Why don't you put her to sleep? She must be tired, and we're all going to sleep soon anyway." His wife nodded.

"Perhaps you should do the same for Kenji, Kaoru-dono," Kenshin said softly. His eyes met Kaoru's, and she silently pleaded with him not to ruin the joy of the newborn's first visit with his news, but it had to be done.

Yahiko sat on a tatami, taking the cup of tea Kaoru offered before leading Kenji away. He was much more content than the last time Kenshin had seen him, almost one and a half months ago. "So how are you, Kenshin? Sorry I haven't been able to visit, we've been so busy with Harumi and everything. She upchucks on at least three students every day, but they're all--"

"I'm sorry to interrupt, Yahiko, but I have pressing news from Aoshi."

"You still talk to that guy?"

"He is the keeper of the Aoiya, and all information ends up there at one time or another."

"Oh...there isn't another guy looking to pick a fight with you, is there? Is it Saitou? That old--"

"Saitou was found dead."

Yahiko's eyes bugged out of his head. "What? It always seemed to me like that guy would live you. Was he sick?"

"He was killed. Stabbed with a katana."

At this, the younger swordsman jumped up. "By who? He was almost as good as you were, Kenshin, there can't be anyone in the country who could take him on!"

"Aoshi is not sure. He promised to send me anything interesting if he could. But I'm worried, as you are, that it was not one any petty enemy of Saitou's that did this. Someone much more powerful, like the men and women we faced several years ago, is at work here. I'm only telling you to warn you; you are well-known, and should you be prepared."

"Do you think it's Enishi? Or...not Shishio, right? Are you sure he died and didn't make some crazy escape?"

"Shishio is no longer part of this world. I saw him burst into flame in front of my eyes. Enishi..." Kenshin glanced behind him, where Kaoru was hopefully still attempting to put Kenji to bed. "He could not. He was broken."

"Maybe he got fixed," Yahiko muttered. "Thanks for the warning, though. I'll let Tsubame know."

Kenshin followed him to the guest room Yahiko always stayed at in his overnight visits. Gurgling from Harumi and Tsubame's soft lullabies could be heard even through the walls, it was so silent. Kenshin opened up the door, smiling at the pretty picture inside. Tsubame hadn't noticed their entrance, and was staring out the window, rocking Harumi back and forth to her quiet song. The moonlight diffused over the two of them, giving an even more innocent appearance to the already angelic pair.

"You're very lucky to have them, Yahiko," Kenshin whispered.

"I know." Yahiko's answer was almost mechanical. He stared in reverence, walked towards them, wrapped his arms around his wife and child and hugged them as if he'd never let go.

Kenshin, not one to interrupt, closed the door. Yahiko had a family, a wish that he'd apparently carried for longer than Kenshin had ever realized. If anyone dared to destroy that by hurting one of them as the mysterious swordsman had done to Saitou...Kenshin's hand immediately reached for his sword, but fell when he remembered it was no longer there.

But if not this one...who will protect them?

End Prologue