This is a very definite AU story. Kenshin is the only non original character appearing, but revolves around him and the relationship he has with a young girl named Saya. The story picks up around the same time the manga does, just with a completely different cast ^_^ I know these kinds of stories aren't very popular, but the idea for it just wouldn't go away. There are some spoilers for those who haven't seen Samurai X or read the Enishi story arc in the manga. And where did I get the manga? Ahem, one word… Argh. Anyway, enjoy!

To Protect

Prologue

The room was stuffy and hot in the summer heat. Outside, the flowers in the garden wilted and drooped, and the birds were too weak to sing anything more than the occasional half-hearted chirp.

Saya moved from bedroom, to the porch that connected to the garden. She looked up at the pale blue sky and smiled. The heat was making her hair limp, and she had it balled up in a crude bun on the back of her head. A pretty blue ribbon with purple flowers kept it secure, tied so that the two ends hung down to her neck and rustled when she turned her head. She idly swatted away the persistent lock of hair that always seemed to escape when she put her hair up and sighed happily. Something good was going to happen today, she could feel it.

"Saya," a short, middle aged man appeared at the door of her room. Saya turned and gave him a big smile. The man ambled into the room, a cane supporting the limp in his left leg. He stood beside her and placed an affectionate hand on her head.

"I see the heat hasn't dampened your spirit," he chuckled as she bounced to her feet and gave him a hug.

"How can I be sad? The heat is bringing me a present!" she laughed, going to her small chest of clothes at the end of her bed. She rummaged through and pulled out her best kimono and sash.

"What kind of present?" her uncle asked, not at all disturbed by the absurd sounding comment. Saya always seemed to know things that other people didn't. When her parents had entrusted her with him they had told him about her power.

"She will say strange things, almost like she knows what's going to happen. It won't happen often, but when it does, trust her feelings. In order for her true power to develop later, she'll need all of your support and love, Muriko."

They had left their only child in his care. She hadn't cried or protested, adapting to her new environment as if she had always been there. About a month after she'd come to live with him, though, he'd found her sobbing in the garden. When he'd asked her what was wrong she told him her parents had broken their promise. They'd promised they'd come back to see her again, but now they wouldn't. Two weeks later he received a message saying his brother and sister-in-law had fought and died for the sake of the new era as a part of a secret force of fighters. He'd questioned the courier, who had been part of what would later become the Meiji government, but he'd refused to clarify any more than that.

"I don't know," Saya's voice brought him out of his reverie, "All I know is that I will like it very much," she smiled at him, hugging the kimono to her chest. Then a shadow crossed her eyes, "Although," she continued, her voice losing its cheer, "it will also bring me some sorrow."

"Saya," Muriko moved forward to comfort her, wondering what this "present" could possibly be.

Saya smiled suddenly, the shadows banished from her face, "But I think I'll like it too much to care that there will be sorrow!"

With a smile, she ushered him out of the room so she could changed. A few minutes later she was skipping down the road to town, calling over her shoulder that she would be back in the evening. Muriko watched her go with a bemused smile. His niece was so puzzling, but one of the purest, kindest people he had ever met. He would look after her for as long as she would have him, and love her forever.

His smile became rueful as he realized how soon she might actually leave. It had been fourteen years since she'd come to stay with him already. In a couple of months that number would become fifteen. How long until she found a husband? Her beauty and kindness had already found several suitors at his door over the years, but she had gently refused them all. When he would ask her why she didn't like this boy or that one, she would always shrug with a smile and say, "I'm still waiting." Muriko sighed and shook his head. She could even "feel" how her love life would shape out.

With another sigh, he turned back to the house and his chores.

Please don't make fun of my names because I make up all of them in the vain hope that they sound at least vaguely Japanese. The name Saya, however, was inspired by one of my favorite books, which is translated from Japanese. I found it in junior high and long before I discovered anime, but looking back perhaps I can see where it all started from… ^_^;;