AN- This is my first attempt at writing a fanfic of Kenshin/Tomoe. I really like this pairing. I am inspired to write this story as I believe Tomoe is too clever and too kind to die. :P Hope you like it.
Kenshin struck a match and lighted the paper lantern before placing it into the river. It was late and the Obon festival was coming to an end. As he watched the lantern he lighted float down the river, he smiled softly as he remembered the person whom he loved.
"I am surprised you are lighting a latern, Kenshin," said Sanosuke as he stood beside the rurounin with crossed arms, gazing at the many paper lanterns that floated down the river.
"This person is dear to me," answerd Kenshin with his eyes closed. In his mind, he could see her beautiful black eyes and her raven hair. She was a mesmerising beauty yet she did not smile. Kenshin sighed inaudibly and looked up at his friend, "What about you?"
"I left my family many years ago," answered Sanosuke with a snort.
Kenshin shrugged his shoulder and glanced back at the river. His eyes widened as he spotted a person among the crowd. She was wearing a plain white kimono and kneeled down to place a lighted lantern in the river. What attracted her to him was not her elegance and beauty but the resemblance of her. Kami, she looked like her. He stood up abruptly and pushed his way through the crowd on the bank of the river to reach for the woman. He ignored the voice of his friend shouting his name and kept his eyes on the woman. However, when he took his eyes off for a few seconds to apologize to the people blocking his way, she was no longer standing on the river bank.
Was it just his imagination? He mused.
"What is it?" asked Sanosuke curiously when he caught up with the ruronin.
"It is nothing."replied Kenshin curtly while his eyes wandered around the crowd as if searching for someone.
"Let's head back. There will be a firework display," suggested Sanosuke.
Silently, they walked back to the carnival, the rest of the group were playing games and enjoying the treats. It is the obon festival, it was said the spirits of ancestors revisit the household altars. He wondered if she would visit him in his dream that night. They looked up at the sound of the fireworks. The fireworks were colourful and beautiful but like her, they will fade away eventually.
Are you looking at the fireworks too?
A scent lured him and he stood rooted to the ground. Hakubaikou. He dared not take a deep breath. He dared not look at the person who walked past him. However, the urge to clarify matters was too much to bear. He took a glance at the person from the corner of his eyes. It was the same woman he had seen at the river. She was clothed in a plain white yukata, with a black obi wrapped around her waist. Her hair was untied and flowed down her back smoothly.He must be seeing things. She was not supposed to be here. Spirit or not, he needed to make sure. He needed to know if it was really her. He needed to see her again.
"Tomoe!" he cried and grabbed hold of the woman's hand.
The woman turned and looked at him with her jet black eyes. Her eyes bored into his and he knew straight away she could only be her.
His wife. His Tomoe.
"Keep your hands off my sister," said the man beside the woman he sought as he slapped Kenshin's hand away and pulled his sister to his side.
"Enishi," said Kenshin as he recognized the younger man. He was much taller, around his height, his voice lower and he carried two swords on his waist.
Enishi glared at him, "How do you know my name?" He gazed at Kenshin. Red hair, crossed shape scar. "What a surprise to see you again, Battousai," Enishi greeted coldly.
Sanosuke was puzzled by the exchange between the two men. True, many knew about the assassin Hitokiri Battousai but very few the past identity of Kenshin.
"Who are they, Kenshin?" Sanosuke asked as he stared at the strangers, whom Kenshin recognized.
Kenshin turned his head to answer his friend but paused as he heard the soft silky voice that haunt him in his sleep.
"Enishi, let's go home."
It is her voice.
"Yes, sister," said Enishi as he glared at the red hair man one last time before turning away and held on to his sister's hand.
Wait! Kenshin wanted to cry out but his voice was stuck in his throat and his feet were too stubborn to move. He watched them walked away. He wished that she would turn back and look at him, for just one more second, for just one more glance. However, she only walked away gracefully, leaving only the faint smell of hakubaikou.
"Hey! Kenshin. Who are they?" asked Sanosuke as he hit his friend's head non-too gently.
"Sanosuke, I need your help," said Kenshin as he rubbed his head but did not took his eyes off the two figures.
"Alright. But you owe us an explanation," nodded Sanosuke in understanding.
"Thank you," Kenshin replied gratefully and watched Sanosuke disappeared among the crowd.
"Kenshin! Where is Sanosuke?" asked Kaoru when Kenshin spotted them at the carnival.
"Karou dono," greeted Kenshin. "Sanosuke has some errands to run. And this one is going back to the dojo."
"I see. So soon?"
"Yes, I feel tired."
"You are not sick, are you?" asked Megumi who looked at Kenshin worriedly.
"No, just tired," he replied and headed back to the dojo.
He needed to get out of the noisy street. He needed time to clear his mind.
He thought he had lost her on that day. He had returned to her grave after Shishio's death. Was it a ghost? Was it an apparition or a spirit? He shook off the ideas for he could still feel her warmth in his hand. When he caught her delicate hand, it was warm and he could feel the pulse of life. Sanosuke had seen her. Enishi was beside her.
She was real.
I'm sorry, anata. I hope, someday, you will forgive me. Farewell
Those were her last words she written in the diary.
How could she be still alive? If she is indeed alive, why didn't she look for him? Why didn't she tell him? Suddenly, his feet sank into white snow. He gasped and looked around him, it was snowing. Puzzled, he continued walking when he spotted the woman he sought. Her dark eyes fixed on his as tears glistened in those eyes and blood dripped down her shoulder, tearing her apart. As he stared at her eyes, he saw the reflection of skeletons and dead. Lifelessness.
"You... remarkably made it rain blood." She whispered without emotion.
"Tomoe!" cried Kenshin as he woke up started and sweating profusely.
It was just a dream. He wiped his forehead and laid his back on the pillar of the dojo, his eyes gazing at the sky. It was already morning. He must have fallen asleep outside his room for he had woken up from sleep with the same dream the previous night. He could do nothing to drive away these dreams. He could only wait for Sanosuke to return.
"Kenshin, I found the information you want," Sanosuke informed him the moment he arrived back to the dojo.
The group sat down on corridor and listened curiously to what information Sanosuke had brought back. "I followed those two and asked around the neighbourhoood. Apparently, they served under the Shougunate before the war. The family name is Yukishiro. The master of the household, Toshiro was once a retainer of the Shougunate, a low rank samurai. After the war, they moved and resided in a mansion in the town, earning a living by setting up a business, or rather a school. Toshiro's wife died long ago and he now lived with his daughter, Tomoe and his son Enishi."
There was a pause.
And Kenshin was the first to break the silent. "Then it is true."
"Kenshin, what is going on?" asked Kaoru who was confused with the information.
"That's right. You do owe us an explanation," said Sanosuke.
"I guess it is time to tell you. There is a reason why I came to Edo. I am looking for someone and yesterday, at the festival, I found him."
"You mean the child I followed?" Sanosuke probed.
"Yes, he is my brother, to be more accurate, Yukishiro Enishi is my brother in law and the woman with him at the festival is Yukishiro Tomoe, my wife."
He stood in the shadow watching the family. He knew it was wrong and rude to spy on people. Yet, he could not help but stay hidden from their view. He had observed them for two days. He learnt that Yukishiro Toshiro was a tutor who educated commoners in rudimentary reading, writing, abacus skills in a Terakoya. Tomoe was hired as a tutor to teach the children in a mansion and in her free time would help out her father in the Terakoya. Enishi was a disciple in the Ryotoken dojo and helped out at a woodcraft shop.
"See you later, sister," called Enishi as he left the house with two swords with him. Kenshin noted he must be going to the Ryotoken dojo to practice kenjutsu. He remembered Tomoe mentioned her father was not good in swordmanship while Enishi seemed eager to learn kenjutsu. He had not checked out on the Ryotoken dojo but he vaguely remember the name of the school.
"Take care," said Tomoe as she stood by the door, smiling. She was really charming her smile was captivating. He wished he were the one she was smiling at. Her elegance and wit continued to capture his heart. He made up his mind. He could not let her go.
A moment later, there was a light tap on the door. Thinking that her brother must have forgotten something, she opened the door without hesitation. She gasped when she saw the man was not her brother but-
"Ken…shin," uttered Tomoe. Her hands shook involuntarily under her sleeve and she could feel her heartbeat quickened. How could she be so careless? She ought not to open the door so easily.
"I am sorry to disturb you, Tomoe. But we need to talk," said Kenshin as he peered into her eyes.
Tomoe looked into his eyes and silently gripped on her kimono. She had already pushed aside their meeting at the Obon festival a few days ago, as she was certain they would not meet again. She hoped it was just an illusion, a dream.
"Tomoe, my child. Who are you are talking to?" called Toshiro as he came out to the corridor with his stack of books neatly tied in a cloth.
"A guest, father," replied Tomoe.
"Oh, is he a parent of your student?" said Toshiro as he looked at Kenshin curiously. He had not seen this man before.
"No. He is an old friend."
"Let him in then," said Toshiro as he smiled gently to Kenshin who returned his smile.
She knew there was no way but to listen to her father. Regaining her composure, she lowered her eyes and replied, "Come in."
"I am Yukishiro Toshiro. Nice to meet you," the old man bowed gently as he sat across the table.
"I am Himura Kenshin. It is my pleasure to meet you, Yukishiro dono," replied Kenshin with a respectable bow.
At the mention of the name, Toshiro frowned and wondered why the name sounded so familiar. He looked closely at the young man across him. His hair was red and there was a crossed scar on his cheek. Toshiro eyes widened in realization. This man was his daughter's husband.
"You are Himura Kenshin? The Himura Kenshin who married my daughter?" exclaimed Toshiro as he placed a hand across his heart to keep himself from ventilating.
"Yes," Kenshin nodded and hid his anxiety. He knew he would need to meet Tomoe's father. He was prepared for it. Yet he was still unsure of how Toshiro would react.
Toshiro was overwhelmed by the presence of this young man. On one hand, he felt surprised and angered at Kenshin. On the other hand, he felt relieved and overjoyed. Toshiro was confused with the wealth of emotions in his mind. At the sound of her daughter placing the tea set on the table, Toshiro snapped out of his thought.
"Please excuse me but I am running late for my lesson, Himura kun," Toshiro said he stood up and went over the corridor to wear his sandals. "Tomoe, I am leaving the house now."
"Father." Tomoe stood up to help her father walk out of the door.
"It is alright, stay here. I am able to handle this myself. You must have a lot to talk about with Himura kun." Toshiro said with a soft smile and left shortly.
"Have some tea, I know you like it warm," she said as she handed him a teacup.
"Thank you," said Kenshin as he lifted the cup to his lips and welcomed the taste of the bittersweet green tea. "How is it that you are still alive?" he asked and looked at her intensely.
Tomoe kneeled down across him and began to pour tea for herself. "Does it matter?" she asked softly, staring back into his eyes.
"Yes. This one needs to know the truth."
"It is already in the past."
"Tomoe, this one needs to understand."
"Where should I start?"
"From the beginning when you knew this one was the one who killed Kiyosato Akira," said Kenshin as he swallowed the tension down his throat.
Tomoe nodded and took a slip of the tea before speaking, "After news of Kiyosato's death, I left Edo and met Tatsumi. He told me the Ishin Shishi hitokiri was in Kyoto and I will know you by your hair. So I went to Kyoto and waited for news. One day, Tatsumi informed me that they found the Hitokiri in an inn, he asked if I would work with them by getting close to you and finding your weakness. I agreed and went to the inn and immediately recognized that you must be the hitokiri. You are nothing like I imagined. I used to picture a grown man whose body was lined with scars of battle. Yet, you were just a child at that time."
"Hn, I read your dairy."
She looked at him, "Yes, the diary. I forgot to bring it with me."
"So you do know after all. It seems I can stop my explanation," said Tomoe as she crossed her hands on her lap.
"No, I want to know what happened at the forest on that day."
"When Enishi came to Otsu, I was angered that Tatsumi involved my brother in the plot. Enishi is the only son of the Yukishiro family. So I sent him back to Edo. Tatsumi and his gang were cowards. From the start, I already knew they wanted to make me your weakness. It was my intention to seek vengeance on behalf of Kiyosato but I never intend to kill you. On that morning, I rise early to meet them to tell them about your weakness. I lied and they held me as a hostage. As predicted in their plan, you came and fought them. When you were fighting with Tatsumi, I knew your senses were dull. That was according to the plan I overheard. However, no one knew that my father paid a man known as Kanzomen handsomely to make a doll of me using dark arts. The doll came in handy as a shield against Tatsumi's attack."
"A shield. The Tomoe that I killed with my hands," said Kenshin softly as he absorbed the information. Her supposedly last moment was all his imagination.
"It is not I. I mentioned before, your senses were dull and you were wounded badly. It was my father's idea. My father may not be a good swordman or artist but he always protects his family. During your fight, I exchanged my clothes in the cottage with the doll and took Enishi with me. Father was already waiting for us in the mountain."
"You planned it all along," Kenshin whispered as he felt his heart became heavy.
"Yes, I am sorry," Tomoe, admitted without any hesitation. "But I did it for father and Enishi."
"Why? Why did you not let Tatsumi kill me?"
"I never seek your death. I hold no more grudges against you, Kenshin."
"Why didn't you tell me? All these years, I thought I lost you forever?" He did not know how he should feel. He had wandered around Japan in search for answers. He resolved not to kill when the new era came. He wanted to atone for his sins. However the fact that she was alive did not lighten the guilt and burden he carried. Not even a pint.
"It is for the best."
"No, it isn't. This one promised to protect your happiness," replied Kenshin vehemently. He could not forget about his promise. He knew if she stayed with him, she could help him find his answers. She was the only one that truly understood him. She was his only hope.
"Kenshin, from the start, the marriage was for show. We will annul the marriage," said Tomoe lightly.
Kenshin stared at her with widened eyes as he felt those words stabbed his heart. He could not believe what she suggested. She could not mean it. He did not want to be alone anymore. Not when she was still alive. Not when she was with him. Not when he still loved her.
"No, it is not for show. This one will keep his promise till the end." He was not letting her go again. Never. He clasped her hand as he moved closer to her.
"What do you propose to do Kenshin?" asked Tomoe quietly, her voice was as cool as he remembered.
"Stay with me, we can go back to the days in Otsu. We can live together. That is what we promised each other, to be together, to start a family after the war."
"Would it be better that way? Perhaps we all need to move on," Tomoe said in her usual quiet way with a sad smile.
Kenshin was at a loss of words. He felt a painful mixture of frustration and sadness inside him. Why could she not understand that he needs her? Why could she not accept his proposal?
The chimes of the bell in the clock rang three times. It was time for her to go to the mansion.
"Now would you excuse me, I need to prepare for my lessons," said Tomoe as she eyed him then his hand which was still holding on to hers.
He withdrew his hand reluctantly and watched her kept the tea set.
"You may take your leave, Kenshin," said Tomoe as she looked back at him, holding the tea set.
Kenshin shook his head and said fervently and filled with resolution. "This one is going to stay by your side, Tomoe, until death do us part."
Hope you enjoy.