From chapter 1:
When she opened the door, she thought for a moment that Seijuro must have been too exhausted to walk the night before, because it looked as if he'd dropped a bundle of rags on the floor. Then she realized she was looking at a pile of blankets made into a makeshift bed, wrapped around a small figure topped with a mass of brilliantly flame-colored hair. The boy. Seijuro had found him and had brought him home.
She put fingertips to her lips, trying to contain her joy so that she didn't say something and wake him. But the very act of opening the door and letting in the sunshine had done that. The boy stirred and moaned, turned over, opened one eye, and looked at her uncomprehendingly. Then he blinked, realizing he had company, and struggled out of the blankets and to his feet. The red hair wasn't the only unusual thing about his coloring, she saw. The eyes he was sleepily rubbing with one hand, as he impatiently pushed away the clinging blankets with the other, were a clear and beautiful lavender.
She was so surprised, she sat down there on the step. She'd been expecting a rough, sturdy peasant's boy, not this exquisitely delicate child with his heart-shaped face and eyes that studied her with such solemn sweetness as he bowed. He was so small that, even when she was sitting, he was barely taller than she. He couldn't be more than six years old, if that. How could Seijuro have just left him?
He tucked his chin and peered up at her through long lashes, respectfully waiting for her to speak first. She got her breath back somehow. "Hello. I'm Hikaru. What is your name?"
Still charmingly solemn, he informed her, "My name was Shinta, but it is now Kenshin, Hikaru-san."
She refrained from smiling at him and matched his gravity. "Why did you change it?"
"I didn't. Master Hiko did."
She should have known. But why would he do such a thing?
"Are you Master Hiko's wife?" he asked, hunching his shoulders a little.
She wondered what made him do that, as if he expected a blow. But she gave him her warmest smile. "No, just a good friend. And I'll be your friend, too, if you wish."
He considered it a moment. Then, making up his mind, he smiled at her, a clear and innocent smile which first lit the incredible eyes and then curved his mouth. "I'd like that, if Master Hiko permits."
"Master Hiko will permit anything I ask," she promised rashly. At that moment, had Kenshin wanted the moon, she would have plucked it from the sky and handed it to him. She had always loved children, but there was something special about this child that reached right into her heart.
His smile had faded, and his expression changed. She couldn't quite read it, but it worried her. "Why are you looking at me like that?"
He lowered his eyes at once. "I'm sorry, Hikaru-san. I didn't mean to be rude."
"No, it's all right, I'm not offended. But what's wrong?"
After a second, he said, "You remind me of my friends."
"Kasumi-san, Akane-san and Sakura-san."
Maybe he did have a home to which they could return him. "Where are they, these friends of yours?"
"They are dead now." He spoke it in a soft monotone of dulled acceptance.
The pity which flooded her was so strong it hurt, but she kept her voice even. "I am so sorry. They were with you when you were attacked?"
He nodded. "I tried to protect them, but I couldn't."
She struggled for words. Nothing in her life had ever prepared her for something like this. Finally she just said, "I'll be your friend now, Kenshin. And Master Hiko will protect you."
He looked up again, and she thought, No child should ever have to see what he's seen. She couldn't bear what was in his eyes. Instead, she opened her arms and reached for him, and when he came to her, she pulled him into her lap and held him, rocked him, wrapped herself around him as if she could somehow drive out the bad things with her own feelings. She wished he would cry, and give her a chance to soothe him, but he didn't. He simply held onto her neck as tightly as he could, and trembled in her arms. She laid her cheek against the soft bright hair and murmured meaningless words of comfort. Not even by Seijuro had her heart ever been so pierced.