WARNING: Rated R, for just about everything! This one not really for anything much.

Author's note: Last chapter! Last chapter! (Dances around in a circle.) I can't believe I reached the end! Ack, short chapter too. Actually, I had an idea or two for another couple of chapters in here, but I just couldn't get them to sound good so here we end! This is a la epilogue. Thank you all very much for reading, and I hope you enjoyed the story.

Response to Reviewers! (Part One):

Anaki: I agree, there aren't enough Hiko and Kenshin fics out there. (Go write some, people!) Thanks for your praise, and welcome to the end! (you hopped on board right at the conclusion.)

Roushi: You could be in kindegarten and reding my fic and I probably wouldn't care so long you didn't get me into trouble. (In fact, I'd be impressed by your ability to read, too.) Really, I don't have anything against junior-high people! You go on and be a rebel, and thank you for your review!

Vesca: A hole in the shoulder.... it's better than saying your dog ate it, yeah. Thanks for reviewing, as always! (Heh heh.)

Oryo: Another new reviewer right at the end! Wow, I can't believe you read practically the whole thing in one sitting, your attention span amazes me. (Bows.) Thanks very much for your in-depth reviews, I am immensely happy if in your eyes I managed to keep it IC, realistic and plausible. Thank you for taking the time to review!

Kyanos: It's a good thing you don't comment on the end, because it is so predictable you just might join the ranks of Chiruken and MsJadey and Crazy Girl Person for predicting endings. Well, as for now, here is the epilogue to this story, I had lots of ideas for more but I'm not sure if I have the capacity to put them on paper at the moment so I decided better to end here. Try not to go crazy at your family because of my fics, I would feel terrible.

Wanling the Great: I have ideas for it, believe it or not, so I just might bring out a sequel if enough people ask for one.

Emz: Eeek, it kind of is the end, sorry! (Gives you a spare F5 key seeing as you've worn out the current one). Thanks very much for all of your great reviews! I can always rely on Emz!

NightRain: Yes, you were pretty close to the point of what drove Hiko to drinking more, though I do like to leave some things open to reader interpretation seeing as it's an interactive text and all.... I do not know why people confuse age with maturity, and for that matter I think people can be unbelievably mature in some ways yet very childlike in others. Thank you very much for your review!

Hiko-and-Kenshin: I like that philosophy. Enjoy your holiday, and thanks for your review!

That's everyone! But now.....

Response to Reviews (Part Two): I would just like to say a general thank- you to all my reviewers, in particular: Crazy Girl Person and Vesca (for making it through two Kenshin fics with me now), Emz (for being the most consistent reviewer -every chapter since number 2! The only person to do so! - as well as the quickest to press the review button), Hiko-and-Kenshin (for getting off to a confusing start), MsJadey (for writing the longest and most-in-depth reviews I've ever seen! Great work!), Chiruken (also for faithful reviewing along with eerie ability to predict my line of thought), and all of the other less- consistent (but still immensely welcome) or late-arriving reviewers who graced my story with a review (Sakura Alex, Roushi, NightRain, Kyanos, Mint, Halo, Unseen Watcher, TPQ, Alandrem, Eanide, Anaki, Oryo, Wanling the Great, Kaoru-Misao, Kasamihottie, Kelsey, LinaNverse, Kai, Sailor Gotland, LadyAnime, Clarus, Syngen Sygumi, Ayumi Ikari, Serene, Ketani, and Koorinoen, and if there's anyone I've forgotten I'm sorry and I still thank you!). Thanks for reading everyone!

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Routine

Epilogue - After So Many Predictable Days

By Sinnatious

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It was amazing, really, how soon one routine was replaced by another and forgotten, until it was merely as though it had been a dream, or a figment of imagination. It did, however, make some things easier to ignore over the passage of time, despite the frequent reminders that still plauged master and student. Thus, things moved on, somehow.

It had been several months at least since Hiko's own sort of confession; Winter had come and gone, as had Spring, and Summer too was now giving way to Autumn. It had been a curious couple of months - for quite some time, their hut still reeked of sake, but the scent was beginning to fade, even though it gave Kenshin nightmares from time to time. Hiko, in another lifetime and another situation, probably would have found some amusement in it, but some topics still remained far too sensitive to be spoken of. They had further discussions on one or two occasions, usually in the middle of the night where any such conversation could be quickly put back into that same set of the surreal, but all was secondary to training now. All that Hiko allowed to himself in his life now was the day-to-day training of Kenshin, flinging insults periodically at his baka deshi, and for a change of pace maybe doing some pottery. The past few weeks it had been getting tougher, though - certain facets of Kenshin's teenager rebelliousness seemed to be finally kicking in at last, after taking a long hiatus.

Like how he insisted on going to town, now, refusing to being limited to the small reality that was their mountain. Really, Hiko didn't object to that, but he did object to his baka deshi coming back to their mountain and spouting about the suffering of the people and how they should do something to help. Even though the words had a familiar ring to it that somehow disturbed him, Hiko Seijuuro had tried that path plenty of times before, and knew with conviction that any such action, however noble, would be foolish and likely ultimately wasted. The sword of Hiten Mitsuryugi could not belong to any power. Whilst at heart, the boy's ideals were sound, he didn't yet understand how to apply them, and his insistence was becoming almost irritating.

It was just a teenager thing, Hiko thought to himself as he gritted his teeth. Really, teenagers were worse than women and children put together. Thank the Kami that Kenshin was far from an ordinary teenager, but sometimes he was convinced that just made it worse. All the rest of the time, Kenshin acted like his always did, dutifully going about his chores and training in the comfort of mostly silence. However, it seemed emptier now, than it had before. Was it just his imagination? Was he becoming paranoid about any changes in his baka deshi? Yet even he himself sometimes felt these days as though a part of him was missing, though he refused to admit to it consciously. Could his baka deshi be thinking that too? Sometimes, when the youth thought his master wasn't paying attention, he would catch his baka deshi staring into space, looking depressed.

It was understandable. However at this point in time, with Kenshin being potentionally mere months away from learning the final secret of the Hiten Mitsuryugi Ryu, there was nothing the teacher could really do about it. All that mattered now, was finishing the boy's training, and from there..... well, that would be up to Kenshin after that, he supposed. Still, it was odd, he seemed so young that Hiko had trouble even imagining him as the Successor yet.

It was all of this, and much, much more that made this particular argument on this particular day so much the more frustrating.

Hiko knew it had been coming. His baka deshi still maintained the ability to surprise him, but one didn't have to be a master of the Hiten Mitsuryugi Ryu to be able to predict this. Kenshin, frustrated by his master's reluctance to get involved, was ready to strike out on his own. They'd been arguing about it for the past hour.

"But Shishou!"

"Has nothing I've been saying sunk through your thick skull? Why are you so insistent? You should just concentrate on finishing your training, baka," Hiko replied, trying to stay patient but even he knew his voice was gaining an edge. Kenshin almost flinched as he heard it, but when Hiko knew that when his baka deshi set his mind to a task, courage - the swordmaster preferred to label it as recklessness - was never a problem.

"I can't wait around any longer! How long will that take? I'll help, then I'll finish my training!"

"If you're even left alive," Hiko muttered. Louder, he continued, "Fine then. Leave! See if I care. And don't bother coming back!" He turned and began walking away.

"Shishou!" Kenshin called after him. "Please listen!"

"Why bother listening to someone who won't listen to you?" Hiko replied, still walking away. In a way, he was somewhat - relieved? - that his baka deshi was doing this. Why, though? Was he sending his ignorant baka deshi in to the situation instead of going himself? That was foolish - he knew with convinction already what was going to happen. Still.... was he actually happy to have being granted this respite? If Kenshin truly followed through with his plans to join the rebellion, Hiko didn't doubt it would be at least a couple of years before he would see the youth again, until he inevitably would decide to return and complete his training - and thus succeed him. And Hiko Seijuuro, as strong as he claimed to be, knew that he didn't feel quite ready to die just yet. Perhaps one could even say it was a blessing in disguise.

Yet - all these maybes, it was more irritating that arguing with his stubborn baka deshi himself! - as much as he was torn, he still felt as though he should be putting up a greater fight to stop his baka deshi from leaving like this. He couldn't help but feel as though he was leaving the most important person in his life to the wolves.

Kenshin winced as his master continued to walk away from him. He had known that they would probably part on bad terms, but somehow, after everything they'd been through, he just couldn't leave it there. An idea suddenly coming to him, he smiled faintly, before calling out, "Shishou!"

Hiko turned around again, irritated. What could it be this time? If he didn't know better, the boy WANTED him to stop him. If he stayed much longer, he just might change his mind. "Get out of here already!" Even if he didn't mean the words, they were the words that had to be said.

The red-head bowed slightly, in a sign of gratitude, then looked up at him, calling across the distance, "I just wanted to give you a word of advice in return for all the advice you have tried to give me, Shishou!"

Like he needed some foolish youth's advice. Unable to resist biting the bait, though, he replied, "And what advice does a baka like you have for the 13th Successor of the Hiten Mitsuryugi Ryu?"

"I was meaning to take care of it before I left, but perhaps you'd better be the one to burn away the wasp's nest on the side of the hut before you get stung, Shishou! It might save you having to use the final attack!"

Hiko paused, staring at the red-head. How did he-?

Kenshin bowed again, then turned and began to slowly walk away from the hut and his master. An brief smile tugged imperceptibly at the edges of the swordmaster's mouth, even as he watched his apprentice leave him behind. After a moment, he whispered to himself, "I suppose that question will have to remain until you come back then, baka deshi."

He'd wait. In the meantime, though....

Hiko entered the strangely empty hut with a heavy heart. There was one thing he didn't have to worry about anymore, at least. Seating himself down at the table, Hiko opened his stashed jug of sake, bought only a week or so prior, and took a brief sip. He'd missed it for the past few months. After so long, it tasted sweet again.