“If a samurai woman is not interested in a suitor, she snubs him,” Kenshin said carefully. “She lets his poems languish without reply, or answers them with ones clearly meant to show her lack of concern for him. She lets his skill, his manners, pass her by as a leaf in the stream. She ignores him. She walks away. Into the rain, often, to show everyone she does not care to have even his scent upon her clothing. If he is… unmannerly, then she might injure him, or even kill him, if there is need.” Knuckles whitened. “But she does not run.”
Her throat was paper-dry. “Why?”
“Because there is that within us which is of the youkai, Kaoru-dono. Not of the dark, not of the demon,” Kenshin added swiftly, as she stiffened, “but of the mononoke Hoshiko called to aid.”
“The animal spirits?” Kaoru shook her head. “I don’t understand.”
Kenshin let out a quiet sigh. “The first hanyou, the first children born of an akuma who chose life as a youkai, were of wolf blood. And since they were first, blessed by the gods and Hoshiko’s allies, that pattern has been set within all of us, no matter the kind of youkai we carry. Neko, usagi, kitsune – it matters not. The wolf spirit is a ghost over us all, and it influences our magic to bind us to others. And to bind others to us. We form packs, Kaoru-dono. Those of a samurai clan are bound to each other not only by blood and honor, but by the power within us all….”
Wolf-packs? What’s that got to do with anything? She gripped her bokken harder, wanting to deal out another lump-
Wait a minute.
This was Kenshin. Who could take down half a dozen yakuza without blinking. Who dodged Kerowyn as if it were child’s play.
Who somehow, weirdly, almost never dodged her.
Which means he… lets me hit him?
According to the Animal Mindspeakers teaching her survival classes, wolves had rurouni, too. Grown males and females who would strike out from their birth pack, looking for a territory to call their own. Who might join another wanderer to start a new pack, or find a pack that had lost members and offer submission to be accepted….
He lets me discipline him. He lives in my “den”. He makes sure the oldest member of my “pack”, Gensai, remembers to eat when he’s busy seeing patients. He – he pup-sits! And he brought me an orphan. Like a rurouni wolf would to the head female- Kaoru stiffened. “Are you saying that if I run, I invite you to chase me?”