The nightmares had finally lessened - his deshi was adjusting to his new routine, coming to trust that he wouldn't be harmed.

Well, nothing beyond training injuries, anyway.

It was good to see his spirit showing, after all he had endured; Hiko had worried the boy wouldn't recover. He almost never spoke, true, but he'd become very expressive in other ways.

Quizzical tilts of the head, energetic nods, bright smiles. Strongly disapproving expressions when he thought the meal was spiced just fine and should not be altered. Really, these shows of emotion were a good thing.

But if the kid didn't stop trying to shoo him away from the cooking pot, he was going to be thrown in the river, waving spoon and all.

The door creaked as it opened, revealing a shop full of neat shelves. Fabric, tools, medicine, food: the small building looked full to bursting! Kenshin's eyes shot back and forth as he followed his Shishou in, trying to see everything.

A chuckle, and he looked to the back corner.

An older woman was coming from the back - her kimono was very pretty, but not new, and her dark gray hair was pinned in a bun.

"A new friend, Seijuro? And you so remiss as to wait to introduce him."

Shishou raised an eyebrow.

"Forgive our lateness, then." Kenshin was pulled forward. "This is my deshi, Himura Kenshin. Kenshin, this is Inoue Kiku, the proprietress of this establishment."

Kenshin blinked, confused, and his Shishou turned to him, raising an eyebrow again. Kenshin quickly bowed. When he stood up, Inoue-san was looking at him.

"You're a fluffy little thing, aren't you," she said. Kenshin stepped back.

"He had a run in with a tree branch on the way," Shishou said, sounding grouchy. Inoue-san raised a hand that almost covered her smile.

"So I see."

Then his Shishou and Inoue-san were talking, so Kenshin went to look at the shelves. There were lots of different jars, and he looked at them closely. Then he looked at the rice - there was so much of it! And then the fabrics; so many bright colors, and some even had pictures.

"You fond of bright colors, then?"

Kenshin jumped. He hadn't heard Inoue-san come over.

"Wait right there - I just can't let you leave still looking like that." And Inoue-san disappeared into her back room. Shishou seemed grumpy again.

Inoue-san came back, holding a piece of fabric that looked like it had been torn from something else. She smoothed down Kenshin's hair, and tied it back with the pretty fabric.

"There. Now you're decent. Seijuro, feel free to bring your fluff back anytime. But for now, get out."

And she shooed them out the door.

On the way home, Shishou kept muttering; something about 'little girls' and 'hair bows' and 'he looks enough like one, already.'

Once upon a time, these mini-fics had a summary, and re-reading it kinda makes me sad I didn't have more ideas - [Short story collection] Hiko. Kenshin. On growing and training and the makings of a Hiten Mitsurugi swordsman. Heaven help them both, they're gonna need it.