Prelude to the Impending Fight, The Shadow of The Wolf Draws Near! is the 28th episode of Rurouni Kenshin.
Within the recesses of his heart, the dark past echoes again to Kenshin in his sleep. As the nightly storm brings him back to a cold night in the city of Kyoto nearly a decade ago, when the streets ran red with blood and the air pervaded thickly with fighting spirit, his soul which yearns for peace cannot discern nor pin down what these flashbacks truly mean. However, these visions are not wrong. A premonition of things to come, the major figure around whom these dreams revolve has eyed his prey from the shadows of Tokyo's streets since his arrival, and is ready to ruthlessly strike. The man known as the Wolf of Mibu, now again seeks out Himura Battosai!
Late hour of the Rooster, 6:50 PM, August 20, 1864. Into the evening at an inn in Kyoto, members of the Isshin Shishi relay of the coming of important military leaders from Choshu and Satsuma into the Imperial Capitol. Knowing well of what this means for their cause, their planning of returning power to the Emperor by guerrilla tactics however is cut short by a sting operation lead by Shinsengumi squadrons under 1st in command Okita Souji and 3rd in command Saito Hajime, and are in turn cut down by their blades under martial law of Aku Soku Zan.
Into the night, civil skirmish and unrest increases greatly throughout Kyoto by the Imperialist forces. At its peak, the Imperial Palace is under full alert by Shogunate forces and the Takatsukasa Residence is torched as a diversionary tactic by radical Imperialists.
Within the streets of Kyoto, two retreating Imperialists attempt an escape to home base. With one of them wounded, their pace is slow and is only made more dangerous with heavy patrols within the vicinity by the Shinsengumi, and with their worsening luck, they are spotted by a company. Now with their backs against the wall, however, within the shadows utters an order to fall back: Hitokiri Battosai has arrived. Against tensions high and oncoming, Himura immediately makes short work of the patrol before him.
Having finished that scuffle, the true fight has only begun, as before him now stands Okita and Saito. Greeting Himura with a friendly return to the battlefield, Okita finishes his welcoming with the artistic signal of crushing a lotus to commence an ultimate duel, but Saito intervenes for his ally, knowing that his health has not been well as of that day. Drawing out his blade and making it known to Himura that he shall be the bane of the infamous Hikokiri Battosai, Saito immediately charges and clashes swords against him. With their collision immediately rebounding them back, Saito however places his right foot in front, aligns his sword horizontal with his left hand, and places it in between the fingers of his right hand to keep its tip straight. Lunging ahead again with his sword in place against Himura, Himura realizes it only moments too late: He now faces against Saito's signature attack, the Gatotsu.
As lightning blasts through the skies and thunder roars into the distance, Kenshin wakes up in the dead of night during the wild storm raging outside. Having experienced again the days of the Kinmon Incident during his sleep, Kenshin dismisses these dreams as but another flashback as a veteran of the Bakumatsu. Still, he feels, deep down, something restless in his soul stirs.
Into the late morning, Kenshin enjoys another peaceful day of everyday life with the Kamiya Kasshin Dojo. As he does the laundry and plays with Suzume and Ayame, something vastly dark distracts him, and to everyone's perspective, Kenshin daydreams idly by, especially to Ayame and Suzume's jovial annoyance. With Gensai-sensei returning to check up on his granddaughters, he relays the news of how the delivery of a new child was a complete success, and everyone is invited to a celebratory lunch at the Akabeko for the auspicious occasion.
Walking down the cherry blossom filled road alongside the town moat, Kenshin still cannot shake off the flashbacks and return of the past. Noticing Kenshin has stalled far behind the group, Kaoru comes to see if he is okay, and Himura explains himself. Reminiscing of the passionate past, he recounts of how the Shinsengumi were some of his greatest enemies to face in the Bakumatsu, and of how no matter how many battles they had fought, all came to draws and without definite decisive victory. Knowing well that with every meeting comes parting, the ten long years post Japan's last civil war also has Kenshin recant compassionately of how in the face of their side of the conflict as its losing half, of how the proud many of the Shogunate's best have passed on, and of his respect in that though they were enemies, all were just as human as him in that they fought for the future of the country and the ideals they would found it on. With Kaoru listening on and noting to Kenshin that he hasn't brought up the past this much up until now, Kenshin questions internally whether these calls of the past mean something or not. Dismissing it as empty worries, Kenshin decides to go on with his day and catch up with the Kaoru and the gang.Sagara Sanosuke makes a late entrance to the Kamiya Dojo, hoping to score a free lunch. Lamenting the possible fact that they are at the Akabeko, a traveling door to door pharmacist from the western municipality of Tama, Goro Fujita, introduces himself and comes to the Kamiya Dojo to sell Ishida Sanyaku medicinal powder. Sanosuke politely declines and tells the man that the owners are out and he is keeping watch, but he cannot help but be suspicious, and points out the blisters and calluses on his hand from holding a sword. With the pharmacist shedding his facade by calling out Sanosuke by name and pulls out a sword from behind his back, Fujita makes it known that he has come to leave a gift for the Battōsai. Realizing the threat at hand, Sanosuke instead has the man challenge him to a fight instead.
Out in the Kamiya Dojo's open yard, Sanosuke begins by throwing a mighty punch to Fujita's face, but Fujita is entirely unfazed. Making it known that his punches are nothing to what hell that was the Bakumatsu, Fujita charges forward with an extremely fast thrust and grievously impales Sanosuke's right shoulder. Sending Sanosuke straight into the Dojo's walls and into the training hall, Fujita is unimpressed with the opponent and sword in front of him having broken as the result of the attack. Mr. Fujita then prepares to make his departure, but Sanosuke calls him out and demands that he finish things between them. Unimpressed and slightly annoyed, Fujita recommends that Sanosuke best not push the situation further, but is forced to subdue a wounded and persistent Sano by further worsening his wound by jamming the broken blade deeper in and slams him into the ground unconscious.
After the celebration, the walk home sees Kenshin, Yahiko and Kaoru depart Gensai-sensei and the kids. Though with slights of worry, with Kaoru and Yahiko having saw that Kenshin barely ate anything at the restaurant and as if he is lost in his own world, Kaoru hopes that he is well, with Megumi arriving in tow. Tagging along with the gang to romance with Kenshin, Megumi notices Kenshin not looking well and offers to give him an examination, to which he politely declines. With him still feeling something is greatly amiss with his past persistently hounding him, Kenshin tries to keep along with his day and again passes off his intuitions as false worries. When they make their arrival back home, the smell of blood and a gaping hole in the wall does not bode well, and Kenshin finds Sano's unconscious body inside the training hall.
Somewhere later at night in the heart of the city, Mr. Fujita and a Mr. Shibumi are seen in a ryokan discussing various matters, particularly of that Shibumi's role as the employer of Udō Jin-e and the instigator of the Kurogasa Incidents. Revealing himself to be none other than the third squad leader and one of the only prominent living members of Shinsengumi into the Meiji, Saitō Hajime, he relays his job and progress to assassinate Himura under the orders of Shibumi.
At the Kamiya Dojo, Megumi is aided with Yahiko and Kaoru to an emergency operation on the wounded Sano. In the main hall of the dojo, Kenshin analyzes the destruction of the dojo and the various remnants left behind. With a thrusting attack of such power having sent Sano crashing through the dojo walls and the medicine cabinet left behind marked with a particular symbol, Kenshin can only surmise that the attack was the result of Saitō, and leaves off with a conclusion of doubt and hope that he is able to fend off his old foe, one more time, as he is in the present.
As Saitō makes his way home, he anticipates and only hopes that his foe is ready for the bloodshed and chaos that is about make its way into the peaceful Meiji once more... and that his wandering pacifism will give way to awake the Hitokiri within once again!
- In the anime, Kenshin begins to have his flashbacks in the middle of the night, before being woken by a thunderstorm, and discusses his reemerging memories to Kaoru along the walk to the Akabeko the following day. In the manga, Kenshin is woken up from a nap whilst accompanying Kaoru and Yahiko to a dojo visit, before mentioning of his flashbacks on the way home.
- The period of absence from the Kamiya Dojo in the Manga was shown to be merely a long distance walk from the training appointment. In the anime, it was a celebration at the Akabeko of Oguni Gensai's successful delivery of a childbirth.
- Takani Megumi is shown to accompany Kenshin, Kaoru, and Yahiko at different times; she is shown to join them in the manga during their walk home, and shown in the anime to join them after their meal at the Akabeko.