Meiji 11, May 14 — Afternoon is the fifty-seventh chapter of the Rurouni Kenshin manga.
Takes place on the afternoon/night time of when Okubo was assassinated.
This act starts out with newspapers being sold everywhere telling the people of Japan that Lord Okubo has been assassinated by a group of rebels. Kaoru reads the headlines to everyone in the Kamiya dojo while Kenshin meets with politicians of the Meiji government, and discuss how Okubo's dream was for Japan to become a nation-state government, along with Saitō, who believes that Japan will now fall into anarchy.
Kenshin takes time for reflection on a bridge and realizes that Shishio has made the first move in his coup d'etat. He realizes that he must leave his friends behind in Tokyo since the danger is too high for this to be a group event. Sanosuke, Megumi, Kauro, and Yahiko have been waiting all day for Kenshin's return, and it is now night time. Everyone has to leave the dojo, due to an emergency surgery, and Yahiko eventually falls asleep. Kaoru is naturally worried and is waiting outside the dojo for Kenshin to return. Kenshin who had been presumably keeping his distance from the Kenshin-Gumi and waiting for everyone to leave, reveals himself in front of Kaoru, and only Kaoru.
Initially elated, Kaoru soon realizes that the situation is much more serious that she had anticipated based on the look in Kenshin's eyes. Kenshin asks where Yahiko is, but he is sleeping. Not wanting to beat around the bush, Kenshin tells Kaoru that Okubo was killed by one of Shishio's men, and that he must go to Kyoto. Kaoru, who is clearly shocked and upset, questions if Kenshin will kill again, and Kenshin is not sure. Kenshin states that Kaoru's kindness hospitality has helped ease his soul, and that he thought that he could leave his life as the Hitokiri behind him. He says that the inner manslayer is still alive in his heart, and that his fight with Saitō showed him this. Kaoru pleads with him saying that Kenshin always comes back to her as Kenshin during a fight, but Kenshin tells her that she is wrong, and that the fight with Saitō was different from the fight with Jin-e. Instead of fighting to protect Kaoru, he was fighting for the sake of fighting, which is too dangerous to have around, and that not even Kaoru could bring him back from that fight. Kenshin states that when he first met Kaoru he was happy for the first time in years since she did not care about his past and saw him for who he was a person and not what he could do as an assassin, like the government does. He explicitly states that he cannot put Kaoru in danger (Kenshin's approach in doing this makes much more sense after we learn his tragic story with Tomoe) and for this reason, he must leave for good! He embraces her tightly, and thanks her for how much she has done for him, and bids her a final farewell, saying he must wander again, expecting to never see her again. As the two share this tender moment, the fallen leaves from the trees begin to spiral around them in a vortex (fireflies in the Anime). Once he lets go the now in shock Kaoru begins to realize what she just lost, someone she actually loved (the common theme in this Manga seems to be "You don't realize how special somebody is until they are gone") and begins to sob hysterically over Kenshin's farewell, assuming he will either be killed in battle to save Japan, or he will become a wanderer again after the fight is through, and never return. The act ends with Kenshin walking into the foreboding darkness, alone, leaving Kaoru and his friends behind. End act 57.
- Himura Kenshin
- Kamiya Kaoru
- Myōjin Yahiko
- Sagara Sanosuke
- Sekihara Tae
- Takani Megumi
- Saitō Hajime
- Kawaji Toshiyoshi