“People see what they expect to see, Herald-Captain,” the hitokiri answered simply. “Especially if one has the skill to blur one’s ki. As I do.”
“In the middle of a fight?” Kerowyn gave him a skeptical glance.
“Of course in the middle of a fight!” the young samurai by Himura burst out, glaring right back. “Che’! What good’s a Gift if you have to stop fighting to use it?”
“Yahiko-kun,” Himura murmured.
“Oh, come on!” Yahiko exclaimed in their own tongue. “Why do you let her talk to you that way? She’s-”
“An honorable warrior, in service to the ruler of this land, where the emperor rules not,” Kenshin answered in the same manner. “It is not important.”
“Not important?!? Maybe if you were just some rurouni, it wouldn’t be important. But you’re-” Yahiko reddened.
Himura stilled. “Were you… surprised?”
“Kinda.” Mussed hair ducked. “But I guess… it makes more sense now why you’re as good as you are.” Brown eyes stared up, full of pain. “You can’t do this, Kenshin! Not to them! You just can’t!”
“What on earth is the boy saying?” Lady Donrevy’s elderly grumble rang across the Council tables.
“It would appear to be a matter of honor, my lady,” Talia noted. “Patience.”
Genteel of her, Yamagata thought darkly. He wasn’t sure where she’d learned it – likely that Imperial mage with his language-spells – but he knew Talia and Selenay both had a fair understanding of their native tongue.
“When his people’s lives are in peril, even a prince’s honor must kneel.” Himura smiled at the boy, eyes distant with sorrow. “How much more mine, the poor, tattered honor of a masterless sword?”
“But you’re not-!”
“Yahiko.” Red hair shook slightly. “Go to your sensei.”
With a strangled sob, the boy flung himself at Kamiya.
Yamagata blessed his foresight in putting on gloves. They kept his nails from drawing blood as his fists clenched.
Talia blinked, hiding a wince. Her ki rippled with pain.
And I hope you choke on it, Yamagata thought grimly, careful to keep the thought behind his shields. Feel our pain, Empath. Feel the shame you force us to. The dishonor. To speak of that which we do not speak of, save among kin and tested battle-allies. To force a samurai to explain himself to merchants and artisans-!
Himura stood alone now, drawing all the dishonor on himself.