It was so quiet at first. Kaoru opened her eyes and tried to adjust them to the light in the room. It was a moment later that she realized that it was actually sunlight. She brought an arm up to her eyes to rub away the last bit of sleep from eyes. She winced as the bandage on her arm shifted against the stitches.
Slowly she brought her arm down and her eyes caught movement on the TV screen at the end of her bed. There was a news report, the camera panning against the pandemonium that was once the carnival of Venice. The news anchor was speaking but Kaoru couldn't understand Italian.
Suddenly there was a stretcher with a body bag on it, followed shortly by another one. Two pictures suddenly flashed on the screen, pictures of Shishio and Yumi, obviously in reference to the dead bodies.
So the Juppongatana hierarchy had fallen apart. But did that mean that their plan had failed as well?
The news anchor reappeared and the scene shift to a US Military official. He started to speak in English, Italian subtitles on the bottom.
"We have confirmed that a Italian cellular satellite was destroyed earlier this morning when one of our navigation satellites fell out of orbit and collided with it. The satellite burned up later on re-entry."
The scene shifted away and Kaoru's brow furrowed. They hadn't mentioned anything about the virus. And Kaoru had a feeling, they never would.
She turned away from the TV and went to look out her window. But something caught her eye instead. Sprawled in the chair next to her was a very silent Kenshin, the only noise the steady breathing as he slept peaceful. Kaoru smiled and reached out a hand placing it over his.
A moment later, she was fast asleep.
The virus died in the underwater lab it had been created in and soon afterwards, the Juppongatana met the same fate. The remaining officers were charged with a wide array of criminal offenses and served out sentences in several jail houses across the country. Seta Soujirou was sentenced to life without parole but somehow, it didn't seem to phase him. He settled into a quite life of reading, most physical tasks beyond his ability now that he only had one hand remaining.
The Hiten organization also began to disintegrate. The elusive Wolf and his mate disappeared from Japan. People wondered about their location but most in the Las Vegas industry knew who was behind the huge Oriental themed hotel that was being built on the Strip. Those close to the two themselves knew it was less about making money then it was recreating a small part of Japan so that the couple's newborn son would not forget his heritage.
The leader of the Hiten was more elusive then his lieutenants. There were rumors of his death for many months following the incident in Venice. But no one has been able to confirm those.
As for the small band of heroes that ended the greatest threat to humanity, they were basking in the glow of obscurity. No longer threatened by the Juppongatana, they found themselves returning to their lives but finding that they could never be the same. And no matter how strong their bonds had been, it was time to move on.
The sun broke over the calm waters of Sydney harbor. Kaoru spared it a glance as she retrieved the mail from its box. It had been several months since she moved here and while the splendor of it still fascinated her she had more pressing matters on her mind. Flipping through the normal junk mail and bills, she let out an excited squeal as her fingers wrapped around manila envelope.
With an excited turned, she bounded up the numerous stairs until she reached the courtyard of the dojo. Pausing for a moment, she looked to the right to make sure that the kitchen was empty. Ahead was the sleeping area so that meant there was only one place left.
Heading towards the left, she heard the wooden cracks and knew that she would find him there. Peeking in, she couldn't help but smile. There he was, surrounded by a group of children attempting to teach them basic kendo. Swishing over in his black hakama, he fixed the grip of one of them and asked them to repeat the head strike.
Kenshin's eyes went swirly and he pitched backwards, muttering a string of Oro's. Kaoru suppressed a giggle as the horrified student dropped her shinai and rushed over to see if he was alright. He jumped up suddenly, frightening her and send the rest of the class in a mock attack against him.
He managed to escape the pile just in time to catch Kaoru's eye. She waved the envelope and he nodded at her. With a small smile, she walked back towards the kitchen and set a pot of water to boil. A few minutes later, she heard the children leaving and a moment afterwards, he walked in and accepted the cup of tea.
"Did you open it yet?" he asked.
She frowned. "No, of course not." He took a seat next to her and waited as she tore open the seal. A cascade of photos fell onto the table. As she collected them, Kenshin picked up the letter and read it out loud.
"Hi guys," he started. "The photos just came back and we figured these were ones you'd be interested in. Tahiti was great, by the way. Thanks so much for kodachi and kunais. We're going to put them in the new house as soon as we move in. Which should be sooner then later 'cause no matter how much I like Yahiko, I'll be glad when we're out of Aoshi's apartment and he has it to himself. He says hello and that's it, of course. Anyway, enjoy the pictures. Call sometime!"
Kaoru smiled and help up the photos as Kenshin put down the letter. He smiled as he caught the first one. It was Misao in a traditional wedding kimono with Aoshi at her side. Kaoru stood next to them in her own kimono. Okina was on the other side. The temple ceremony had been small but there were seven pictures of it.
The scene shifted to a downtown hotel. Misao climbed out of the limo in a Western white dress with Aoshi close behind in a tux. They walked into the reception hall and were greeted with roars from the people there, mostly coworkers from the JIA. There was a picture of Kaoru in her party dress sitting next to an immaculately dressed Kenshin, followed soon after of one with him next to the table in a heap from tripping on the chair.
Looking on from nearby, Sano was laughing at his friend's misfortune while Megumi buried her head in her hand. The next picture focused on them, Sano in a dapper suit and arm around Megumi's waist and resting on her swollen belly.
Then there were pictures of the cake cutting, Misao gently feeding a piece to Aoshi and Aoshi dabbing a bit of it on her nose. Then it was on to the bouquet toss. One picture was of Tsubame getting dragged out to the middle while Yahiko blushed on the side. The bouquet was thrown up in the air and a few pictures detailed the scramble for it. Finally it was a photo of Kaoru holding it triumphantly over her head.
Then it came time for the garter toss. Of course the photo of Aoshi grabbing it wasn't present. He had the stone cold look of impending doom when the photographer tried to move in. So the first picture was of him holding it in his hand. The next was of Kenshin glaring at the rest of the men with slightly golden eyes. And finally it was of him holding it with a slight smile.
Finally, there were a couple of pictures of Aoshi and Misao taking off in their car, trailing soda cans behind them. A few of the group out at a bar celebrating afterwards. Kenshin and Kaoru looking slightly red-faced. Sano singing on top of a pool table. A picture of Megumi's horrified look which later turned out to be because her water broke. Sano looking down from the pool table and fainting on the spot. And the last two pictures were in the hospital of the newest addition to the Sagara family.
Kaoru sighed and took a few, tacking them onto the refrigerator next to a dozen other pictures of their nephew. She stood for a moment and looked at them.
"I think that kid is going to hate cameras before he turns three," Kaoru said shaking her head.
"You can't blame Sano," Kenshin shrugged. "He just wants to capture every moment."
Kaoru rolled her eyes. "Yes, the street-hardened bully has turned into a complete mush ball over his son." She looked at the photo of the baby in a police uniform for his first Halloween in Kyoto.
"Ah, kids do that to you."
"The same kids that take you down with a single head strike?" she asked with a playful smile.
"I wasn't ready for it," Kenshin replied with an indignant look.
There was a knocking at the door and Kenshin stood up, motioning for her to remain seated while he went to answer it. He pulled it open and came face to face with the last person he thought he would see.
"Who is it?" Kaoru called from the kitchen.
"No one," Kenshin called back. "Just a salesman."
"Okay!" Smoke began to filter out of the kitchen. "Ummm…"
"I'll go get dinner," he said, closing the door behind him and looking up at the tall figure there.
"What do you want?" he asked Saitou as they stood there.
"Just to walk with you to get food," Saitou replied.
Kenshin frowned but started walking. They made it halfway to the market before Kenshin spoke up again.
"So walking is the only thing you wanted to do?"
"Well, that and deliver a message," Saitou replied. "About Hiko."
Kenshin's face never wavered but his eyes betrayed him. Saitou only waited a moment before continuing.
"He died last week," Saitou said. "From the effect of the poison."
Kenshin stopped in his tracks causing Saitou to follow suit. He watched the red head as his eyes clamped shut and he dug his fingers into his hands.
Saitou frowned. "He wanted me to tell you," he began before trailing off. "That he was sorry." Kenshin blinked and looked up. "When he took you in, you were young and didn't know better. If it had been someone else to find you…"
"No," Kenshin said firmly. "I'm glad it was him. No matter what happened in the past, he gave me the chance to be where I am now. And I can't imagine wanting to be anyplace else."
Saitou nodded. "Then you should enjoy the other part of the message." Kenshin eyed him with confusion. "Since you were the closest thing he had to an heir, he left most of his estate to you." Saitou handed him a document. "There should be enough to start expanding that Kendo school. And enough so you can finally stop beating around the bush and buy that girl a ring."
Saitou walked away, raising a hand as he did. "Stop by and visit us in Vegas. Tokio wants to see you."
He lit a cigarette and turned down the street, pausing at the corner until he saw Kenshin turn around and run back to the dojo. With a sigh, he turned to the shadows.
"So was that really necessary?" he asked the darkness.
There was movement and Hiko emerged. "It's better this way. No more police trying to track me down, no more rivals trying to assassinate me. A yakuza can't retire, he can only die."
"So now that you're 'dead'," Saitou asked. "What are you going to do now?"
Hiko looked up at the sky. "I didn't give him the country house outside of Kyoto. I think I'll go there and take up a new hobby. Maybe pottery."
Saitou choked a bit. "Sure. Pottery."
And they turned and walked away together, into the street of Sydney and disappeared among the crowds.
Author's note : All good things must come to an end. Thanks for reading the stories and I hope you enjoyed them ^_^