Disclaimer:Again, copyright to Rurouni Kenshin and all its characters belong to Nobuhiro Watsuki. I can only be content with writing about them as I acknowledge his brilliance.
Author's Note:My deepest gratitude to Punk Manueverability for letting me use the concept. Please visit http://home.teleport.com/~punkmanueverability/index.html to see what I mean.
She seemed deceptively simple, her wide-eyed innocence blinking up at us as we took each other in. Maybe it wasn't exactly love at first sight, but in the end, it was hard to deny just how special she became to us.
She blossomed under our words. We took the awkward tomboy, dressed her in fine kimonos, bathed her in jasmine, for the simple pleasure of watching her charm her way through a red-haired rurouni's thoughts.
She wasn't perfect. It didn't matter.
We called her busu and waited for the fireworks to explode. We taught her how to drink sake and giggled at the escapades she got herself into. We sent her all over Japan to see how far she would run away. We gave her different lives – student, singer, actress, virgin, whore, gangster, wife, mother.
But she never left his side.
In the peaceful evenings, she came to us, asking for more things she could do. We gave her more students to train. We gave her a kitchen and forced her to cook. We gave her a washcloth and asked her to patch her friends up. We gave her a son that kept her up the whole night.
Slowly, steadily, she grew up before our eyes. It took us years, but sometimes it feels like only yesterday when our tanuki ran around the dojo screaming her head off and waving her bokken in the air. She still does it up to this day, but we can only shake our heads in affection and amusement. We have grown too used to her to want it any other way.
And even after all this time, the bokken is still there. Whether it is wielded by a child eager to please her father, or a teacher determined to teach her pupils a lesson, or a young woman fighting for her life, it will always remain within her reach. She is a stubborn one, our Jou-chan.
We made her vulnerable because we wanted to see how Our Kenshins would protect her. We made her strong because deep down, we knew she could handle anything we threw across her path.
We saw her through wars and weddings. We saw her through battles and breakups. We saw her through her first kiss, her first love, her first childbirth. We could not – would not – go away.
When we made Our Kenshins stammer and dawdle his way, she took matters into her own hands and kissed him. Together, we fell in love.
Sometimes we even made her fall in love with other men. We wanted to give her the peace that she deserved, the passion that should have long been reciprocated. But in the end, the choice was hers and hers alone, and we all knew she had made that decision on that fateful night she met him on the street.
She taught us how to love without waiting for anything in return. When we asked her what she wanted, she said she didn't want anything more than what he could give.
She had a maturity about her that belied her age. We loved her even more.
She didn't need us. She would have managed without our meddling and our complicated scenarios.
But we needed her. We didn't even know it. She stuck with us through our mood swings, held us back when we got too crazy. She waited days, years, lifetimes.
Still she smiled and said, "Welcome home."
She was a stubborn one, Our Kaoru. And yes, we wouldn't want it any other way.