This is my first fanfic, but not my first fiction. I just never let anybody read them. Anyway, my teenage son got me hooked on the Kenshin series and now I am a hopeless fanatic. I can't help it. I am even going out and buying the series CD's. (That is bad for somebody's Mom J ). I really don't know where this idea came from, I just sat down one day and started to type and it has just been coming out ever since. I have nearly 19 fully chapters. In short, it is almost finished. If I get decent reviews, I'll post some more of it. My son likes it, but maybe he's biased. You know how kids are. I have been out of the school loop for a long time, so forgive me if my grammar is 'a little off'. Old people can not be expected to remember everything. J That's what I have my kids for. J

Standard disclaimers. I do not own Ruroni Kenshin. I just wanted to borrow the characters for a little bit of fun, so please do not sue me. You can't get blood out of a turnip anyway. Besides, I could never come up with anything as great as Kenshin and Kaoru on my own anyway.

 

So Much Blood

So much blood. So much death. So much needless violence.

'Who could have done this? Who would want to do such a horrible thing as this to so many innocents and why? Why? It is senseless… Mindless… Heartless… Evil.'

Humura Kenshin, former Hitokiri Battousai of the Meiji Government looked about him in horrified shock and grief. Bodies upon bodies lay upon the ground and hung out of broken windows lining the streets of what had once been the peaceful village of Gonzai.

Where only a few short days ago he had walked these same streets and passed these same people as they bustled about with their daily lives and the process of living and raising their families now they all lay dead and rotting in the afternoon Sun. Men, women, the old, the young. But what bothered him the most was all of the children. All of the children had been slaughtered the same as the others. He found many next to their mothers still clinging to their kimonos while others had been cut down as they tried to run away, but the results were the same. Each and every soul of Gonsai was dead. Viciously and brutally murdered by some unknown group of men with many swords. Samurai with katana long swords could do this kind of damage. Kenshin knew that from his days as Hitokiri during the Bakumatsa and his dealings with the Shinsengumi, but he had never heard of any of them banding together to butcher entire villages since the end of the war. This did not even look like the work of bandits, because as far as he could tell, nothing had been taken.

Vender goods remained untouched within their stores, foods and meats lay spoiling in their crates beneath the heat of the Sun, not even the monies seemed to have been removed from the tightly bound leather bags stashed behind each vending stall.

This appeared to simply mindless murder and mayhem without purpose or reason. But why? Why this village? Why these people? Kenshin had known them to be simple farmers and hill people who lived at the base of the Taki Mountain Range. They grew their own wheat and carrots. There were a few tomatoes and peas as well, but rice was very scarce and once a month a group of the men had to travel over 50 miles to Kyoto to purchase the staple for the entire Village. There was a fast moving stream near the village that poured down from the high reaches of the mountain. Within its cold clear depths swam an abundance of yellow and orange perch. This was the main stay of the villages food supply. It was also their main source of trade income and the means to obtain the much needed rice.

The simplicity of these poor peoples lives only added to Kenshin's confusion as to why they would be the victims of such a terrible act of violence.

As he picked his way through the fallen and the huddled bodies of the dead, Kenshin began to notice something else odd about the scene around him. A feeling was beginning to worm its way into his being. A feeling of impending dread began to fill his heart. Beads of cold sweat started to slide down his spine and he shivered despite the warmth of the Sun. He felt uneasy and anxious. There was a darkness and wrongness here. A sense of oppression and utter despair that weighed heavy on his soul and his heart.

"This is all wrong…" He whispered to himself. His eyes swept across the carnage and up to the sky. The Sun seemed to dim and grow hazy before him as if it too felt the wrongness of the moods and feelings that hung in the air. Multiple ki's clung like death shrouds above the bodies so thick Kenshin could almost see them now. Wavering shadows of translucent gray mist with hollow eyes and gapping mouths seemed to be appearing everywhere. Floating here and there and multiplying by the moment until there seemed to be hundred of them. Amber eyes widened with anxiety and angry fear as his hand snaked to the hilt of his sakobato pulling it part way from its heavy wooden sheath. He had seen something like these shadows before. Somewhere in the back of his mind terrible visions of blood and violence were threatening to break to the surface of his reality, but he fiercely beat them back behind the wall of stone where he had buried them. "Not now… not yet. I have to get to Kyoto first, to Saitoh, then they can come back out, but not before. Please, do not let them come back out before I get back to Kyoto. Please…"

Slowly Kenshin began to make his way out of the village with a new and terrifying understanding. It was shrouded in much more than just the wrongness of irrational murder.

"Protect me, Kami-sama…" He breathed quiet as the breeze blowing gently through the dust as he stepped carefully over each body until he reached the outer edges of the village. "Protect me from those things that walk the Earth unseen by the eyes of men to devour the souls of the living. Help me…"

*************

"Are there any signs of the Battousai yet?" Hajime Saitoh, formerly of the Shinsengumi, and now know as Fujita Gorou, Captain of the branch of the Meiji Police in Kyoto spoke harshly from his office to his young Sargent, Izukia. "Is there any news of him at all?"

"Ahh, no Sir. We have had no news whatsoever since Himura-san left a little over two months ago, but I am certain he will return soon. He has always returned from the missions you have sent him on in the past, and I see not reason why he should not return this time." Izukia had developed a great respect for the Battousai since the defeat of Shishio Makato and his Juppen Gatana one year ago. Now the highly skilled red-haired Samurai occasionally worked for the Captain and the Meiji Police as a spy of sorts.

Because of his no threatening demeanor and short stature, Himura-san could easily blend in with practically any circumstance and any group of peoples. That was as long as he covered that damn cross scar on his face. It seemed that everyone in all of Japan knew about the Battousai's scar, but no one knew anything about Himura Kenshin. Nor did they know that Himura-san had a face that was pretty enough he could almost pass for a young boy, or even a girl especially with all of that thick long red hair as well. Sergeant Izukia and several of the other Officers had thought to jest with the swordsman about that observation, but quickly changed their minds when his amber eyes rooted them to their spots and his sakobato began to slide free of its sheath. That had ended the jesting with the usually amethyst eyed red-haired even tempered swordsman. But it did not change the fact that those very attributes were what made him the perfect undercover operative. They were also the same attributes that had allowed him to remain a successful hitokiri for such a long time as well.

"YOU see not reason…" Saitoh's voice was heavy with sarcasm as he rose from his desk and walked out to his Sergeant. "YOU see no reason…" He repeated as the younger man faced him with wide eyed anxiety. "Since when do you have any idea what is going on here, Izukia? When did you grow a brain in that idiot head of yours?" A puff of cigarette smoke blown directly into Izukia's face caused him to cough sharply.

"B-b-bb-but Sir…" He stammered on to be cut of abruptly by his superior.

"Be quiet, Izukia. You only make yourself sound more foolish than you already are." Saitoh moved and leaned a hip negligently against Izukia's desk and continued to smoke the thin cigarette. "You do not know what sort of mission I sent Battousai on this time. It is nothing like any of the others before."

"What do you mean, Sir? What sort of mission was it? Where did he go?"

"I sent him to the Taki Mountains."

"The Taki Mountains?" Izukia's voice was heavy with confusion. His dark brows knitted together in thought as he tried to remember if he had heard anything of any importance about the Taki Mountain Range area of late, but it did not register as familiar to him. Looking at the stern face of his Captain, he asked. "What is in the Taki Mountains Sir, that you would send Hirmua-san there?" Silence followed his question while Saitoh finished his cigarette. As he dropped the butt on the floor, his heavy black booted foot stepped on it crushing the glowing ember to ash.

"I have been following rumors in the area for several months, Izukia."

"Rumors Sir? What sort of Rumors?"

"Rumors about children's bodies being found in the forests torn to shreds. Some found with arms or legs missing. But all of them have had one thing in common once closely examined."

"What is that, Sir?" Izukia swallowed hard as a lump of nausea rose in his throat.

"Each has had his or her chest ripped open and their heart removed."

"Izukia grabbed for his trash barrel and vomited heavily into it. Saitoh watched dispassionately as the younger man emptied the contents of his stomach into the small barrel while he lit another cigarette. "I thought you had more balls than that, Izukia. You disappoint me."

"They are just children, Sir." He chocked and coughed as he wiped his mouth on a white handkerchief he produced from a coat pocket. "Who in the name of Buddha's eyes would do such a thing to a child?" He continued to cough into the scrap of cloth, his eyes tearing.

"Succuba, demons, witches, maybe even the Devil himself. That is what I sent the Battasoui to discover. There has been rumored to have been over fifteen children found in the last six or seven months alone. No one will say how long this has been going, but I think it has been some length of time. There are several remote villages and towns involved, and the rumors are becoming more and more frequent. Something evil is afoot, and I mean to find out what it is."

Izukia's eyes were wide in horrified disbelief. "Witches, demons… Sir, that is insane! There are no such things in this world. I-it is impossible. There is another explanation for these rumors. You must know there has to be."

Saitoh's thin eyebrow rose sardonically at the fear his Sergeant displayed. 'Fucking coward.' He sneered to himself then said. "Believe what you will, Izukia, but the potential fact of multiple murders remains, whomever may be responsible. That is a reality even you cannot dispute." A puff of cigarette smoke filled the air clouding the image of Saitoh's face temporarily. "There could be an insane and perverse being living and killing at will unchallenged in the Taki Mountains, and his favorite prey is the very young and innocent, or we could be looking at something far worse than any of us have dared to perceive in our rational minds before." Another puff of smoke and a pause, then Saitoh's pale yellow eyes narrowed to a mere slit causing him to resemble even more the Wolf he was often called. When he spoke again, his voice was low and harsh like steel grating on granite.

"Whether human or demon, man or beast, I will not allow this animal to continue his bloody ways unchecked. I need to know what the Battousai has found out." A frown creased his thin stern features. "Unless he has fallen prey as well." Saitoh heaved a great sigh crushing the second cigarette beneath the heel of his boot. "Dammit!" He swore. 'I never thought I would ever with that fucking man were alive. I never did.'

*************

"One.. Two.. Three.. Four…. And repeat." Kamiya Kaoru called out the count to the Khinatsu Kata and carefully watched each of her eight students perform the intricate motions and movement with their wooden shinai. Her cobalt blue gaze stopped to rest on one student in particular. Yahiko. A slow motherly smile curved her soft full lips. He had just turned twelve, and he was growing so much taller now. Her forehead wrinkled in retrospect. Had it really be two years since she started teaching him? Two years since Kenshin had come into their lives? Could it really have been that long? Kaoru wondered how the time had passed so quickly, but it was true. The Kenshin-gumi had been thriving for two full years. One year since the demise of the lunatic Shishio and his Juppen Gatana.

"Kenshin…" His name fell from her lips in a tender whisper. Her life had changed so much since he had stumbled into it that long ago day when she had challenged him on the street believing him to the false Battousai murdering people in her Father's name. Now she looked on him as one of her most valued friends and companions. He was an important part of her family just like Yahiko, Sano, and all of the others. What a strange way to find a family. Among a river of strangers. She chuckled softly thinking of the menagerie of lost souls that made up the Kenshin-gumi, but that did not matter to her. She knew she would not have it any other way.

Her mind began to drift as thoughts of the red-haired swordsman began to consume her mind. Gentle amethyst eyes twinkled before followed by a warm smile that always made her heart skip a beat or two when it was directed at her. A tangle of long, thick deep red hair floated through her minds eye tickling her cheeks and nose leaving behind the lingering scents of ginger and musk that were uniquely Kenshin.

"I miss you." She said to no one in particular then shook herself back to reality and refocused on her practicing students.

Yahiko's sharp eyes had not missed his sensei's faraway look a moment ago. A scowl crossed his young sharp features. 'She is thinking about Kenshin again.' He thought. 'He has been gone a long time this time, and I think she is getting worried.' He frowned thinking. 'I guess I am too. I wonder where he could be and what is taking so long this time.' Large light brown eyes looked intently at his teacher as she counted off the movements of the kata for the younger students. 'He better hurry up and come home soon. I do not think I can handle her getting all weird again like she did when he left for Kyoto before.' He sighed and swung his shinai swiftly and sharply changing his stance and lifting it in a deadly upper stroke that would strike his opponent from beneath. "Hiiiiyaaa!!" And then he spun around dropping the shinai for a finishing downward blow of great force.

"Excellent, Yahiko! Excellent!" Kaoru shouted and praise to her prize student as she watched him execute a perfect multi stroke attack sequence. "You improve more everyday. Kenshin will be so proud of you when he returns. Just wait and see. I know he will." She was grinning at him and clapping her hands with obvious approval. Yahiko felt a sense of self pride swell in his chest. To have Kenshin be proud of him would be the greatest praise he could ever get. It was the one thing he wanted the most.

"You better be all right, Kenshin, and you better hurry up and come home soon. You have been gone too long. Way too long." Yahiko's brown eyes shifted to the dojo door and he walked outside to look up into the hazy afternoon sky. "You have never been gone this long before. If anything has happened to you… Damn Saitoh and his stupid missions! I will kill him myself if anything happens to you. I swear it. I will kill that bastard Shinsengumi Wolf if he takes you away fro us!" Then his strong young hands tightened painfully around the hilt of his shinai in mock promise of his muttered threat.

************

He ran until he thought the pain in his lungs would cause them to burst into a cloud of bloody mist. Legs that quivered with the massive physical exertion he had placed on them suddenly threatened to collapse beneath his weight as he staggered to a halt and fell to his knees. His head hung low to the ground and he had to put his hands out to hold himself up as he gulped air in harsh ragged breaths through a throat that felt too small and too dry to function.

Had he felt what he thought he had? Had he really seen what could not be? Could it be true? This blasphemy he was thinking? The terror he had felt in his heart caused by the evil ki's he had sensed in Gonzai told him it was true, but his rational mind kept trying to deny it. But could he deny it? He was not sure he could. Not after everything his eyes had already seen. What had he seen? He still was not sure. The visions and memories were getting jumbled up in his mind with memories of the Revolution, memories of the Battousai, and memories of his long forgotten childhood. He had been through a psychedelic nightmare of horrors in the last three weeks of this seven week journey into Hell, and his ability to distinguish between his own memories and the visions of what he had witnessed in the forests of the Taki had become compromised by his own guilt and pain.

Somehow he had managed to brining his screaming soul under control enough to realize he had to get back to Kyoto, back to Saitoh. He had to tell Saitoh that their worst suspicions were not only true, but they were much, much worse than either of them could have ever imagined. The Death that stalked the Taki Mountains was unlike anything either of them had faced in the days of the Bakumatsu when blood was spilled as easily as water from a broken pitcher. This was not just murder. This was Evil in its most terrifying form. It went beyond all known reality and known form of crime.



This was Monstrous.

This was Hell at its purest interpretation.

And for the first time in his life, Kenshin was truly afraid.

He rested for several minutes until he could breath naturally again, then struggled to his feet. Looking about him, he surveyed where his mad long flight had carried him. The position of the Sun told him he was at least going in the right direction. There was little in the way of cover in the vicinity except some scattered boulders and a few scrubby elm trees. He would have make due with what was available to him here because he knew he would not be covering any more distance that day. He was fatigued to the very core of his being. He could go no farther.

In a few moments Kenshin located a fairly substantial stand of trees that was backed by several large boulders. He was satisfied the site would provide him shelter from the night winds as well as cover from the remaining sunlight and any possible rain that might fall.

After gathering dried grasses and shrubs, he cleared a small area beneath the trees, and started a fire. As the blaze slowly grew, he added small twigs and branches he had gathered. Once certain the fire was burning well, he gathered more dried grasses as well as fresh grasses and fashioned himself a bed some little way from the warmth. Then he proceeded to go through his pack and find something to eat.

After satisfying his basic needs, Kenshin lay down on his make shift grass bed and watched the Sun begin to set on the distant horizon. A chill from a cool breeze wafted through the grove of trees and sifted through the silky strands of his long red hair. Individual pieces lifted and floated in the air like fiery snakes dancing about his face. He watched the spectacle for several minutes until he felt his eyelids growing heavy with fatigue and sleep.

"To sleep and dream…" He said to the fire. "May the arms of Buddha protect me from the unseen feet that race across the plains hunting the blood of living and the innocent." And he drifted off to sleep.

************

Shinta was only seven years old, but he was still being worked as a slave. Everyday he worked for the Master at whatever task was given him, and in return, the Master fed and clothed him and took care of him. He had been with the Master for nearly a year now. Ever since his family had died.

His Mother, Father, and three older brothers had all died of Cholera the year before, and he had been sold to the slave Master by their Land Owner to pay the taxes on his Father's land. It was not such a bad life. At least he was not alone at night with the ghosts anymore.

At firsts he had hidden in the corners of the small house where he had lived with his family trying to get away from the ghosts, but they had always found him anyway. First it was his older brothers trying to talk to him; trying to pull him across the barrier to where they were. Chasing him, following him, they would seek him out in whatever small space he managed to squeeze himself into. He could never get away. Shinta had cried and cried and begged them to leave him alone, but they kept coming back night after night. Then his Father had died.

Seeing his Father's ghost had been terrible for the small boy. His Father had been a frightening man in life and Shinta had feared him terribly. Tall, broad of shoulder with long dark hair and eyes. "You are a weak boy, Shinta." He would say as he dragged the boy into the rice fields day after day and threw him to the ground. "But I will make you strong….strong like your brothers. The work will make you strong." Then his Father's fierce face would bare down on his youngest son and he would sneer in a menacing voice. "Or it will kill you. You decide which it is to be." Then he would leave Shinta to work until well after dark. His Mother would protest, but his Father would never bend his will. "The boy must grow strength in his body, Dharma, or he will perish in this harsh world because of his small size." Shinta knew his Father was trying to do what was best for him, he did not understand why it had to be so difficult all off the time, or why his Father had to be so cold and unfeeling towards him. 'Why doesn't my Father love me?'

Shinta was sad when his Father died, but all he could really think about was not having to work in the rice fields until last at night anymore, nor did he have to be afraid of his Father's brusque coldness towards him either, but Shinta was not prepared for his Father's ghost when it came. It came and hovered in the center of the room mocking the boy with its ghoulish frowns and scowls, and whenever Shinta tried to approach his failing mother, the ghost angry visage would drive him away preventing him from even the simplest of contacts.

Finally Shinta's Mother, too, passed away from the terrible disease and her ghost joined the others of his family, and she tried desperately to protect him just she had while she had been alive. She would chase the others away and shield him from his Father's angry glares no longer giving in to his fierce demands. Her beautiful face was forever imprinted upon his mind. Glorious hair like the fires of the great volcano's billowed about her angelic face. Her eyes glowed with the light of a thousand lavender crystalline lights. She had been the only person who truly loved him in his life, and he had worshiped her and loved her with all his heart and soul. His tiny heart had shattered into a million billion fragments when she died. She had forced him to stay away from the illness so he would not get sick along with everyone else. So in the end, he was the only one to survive.

He had buried the bodies of his family one by one as they died. The day he buried his beloved Mother he packed what belongings he had and walked away from the house and into the Village. Mother had told him to go the Village Daimyos who owned their land. She said he would take care of Shinta once he was all alone.

But the Daimyos did not take Shinta in as his Mother had believed he would, instead he sold the little boy to a passing Slave Trader.

"This pays you Father's debt to me on the land, Boy. I owe you nothing, and you are nothing to me but the filthy brat of a filthy peasant. I am glad to be rid of you. Now get out of my sight and do not be thinking you can ever come back here and call this your home again. You are nothing but a stupid slave now which is more than you deserve." He spat in Shinta's face and walked away.

The Slave Master was not as cruel as his Father. He never made Shinta work past dark, and he never called him weak or threatened that he might die because of it. Shinta often felt guilty because he liked the Master much better than he had ever liked his Father. He even liked working for the Master, and he would try his very best to do as much as he could everyday so the Master would find him valuable.

The weather was just starting to turn cold and the slave train was passing within traveling distance of Kyoto City. The Master and his wife had been talking about going there and looking for long-term work in a restaurant, or a bowery, or even the monstrous rice fields of the Tokugawa. It all sounded like a great adventure to Shinta, and his excitement mounted as they neared the crossroads.

Evening had just fallen upon the train and they had pulled off the road to camp for the night. The sounds of cooking and night settling could be heard up and down the length of the wooden carts. Soft talk and laughter mingled with the mundane sounds of living, and no one paid any attention to the group of seven men armed with long bladed katana's that approached them from the growing darkness.

It all happened so fast, no one seemed to know what was going on. Screams of hysteria and fear rushed through the camp as the men pulled their katana's and began attacking the unarmed people, killing them quickly and mercilessly. So quickly it seemed nearly everyone was dead. The bloody bodies lay in tangled heaps strewn across the ground and across each other. Only four remained alive. The small boy, and three women who had been bought only the day before.

The women were begging pitifully for the boys life to be spared as one by one the bandits murdered each of them until only the boy remained.

He looked so small kneeling in the middle of the carnage of the dead who had been his living companions only short moments before. Huge round amethyst eyes, dry of tears, could only stare in shock and stunned disbelief. Dead again. His family….dead again. He could hear someone talking to him.. Someone was telling him that he would be better off dead like the others than trying to make it on his own, so it was a favor they were doing him by killing him. Maybe they were right. Maybe being dead was better. How many families can one small boy lose to death? Shinta stared into the face of one of the women and waited for death to come and get him too, but it did not come.

Behind him he heard the men screaming. It was strange to hear THEM scream.

The screaming was sudden, and then it stopped. Shinta waited. A man walked up to him. He was tall. Tall as a mountain, with hair black as the night, and eyes green as emerald jewels. He was wiping blood off the blade of a magnificent long blade katana. He was a Samurai. A real Samurai.

The man was Seijurou Hiko, 14th Master of the Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu. He became Shinta's Master and taught him swordsmanship, and took him into his home and raised him as well.

"Master…" Kenshin breathed in his sleep. Hiko-san had changed Shinta's name to Kenshin because he felt Shinta was to weak a name for a swordsman. Hiko-san had been Kenshin's teacher, mentor, and parent. He had also been the bane of Kenshin's soul because no matter how hard he struggled, no matter how hard he pushed himself, he remained forever the stupid apprentice.

"Why could you not ever be proud of me, Master? Why?" The sleeping man's voice cracked with emotion as a fourteen year old swordsman's eyes and heart tried to reach the stern man. "Why could you not ever love me? You are the only Father I ever really had." Heavy salty tears slid from beneath his closed eyelids and were lost inside his thick red hair. "I loved you… I still love you… My Father."

Suddenly the scene around Kenshin began to change. The familiar cliff where Hiko hand taught him faded away and a great dense forest of evergreen trees was growing around him. He felt an intense shiver of apprehension curl around his heart as the stars disappeared above the heavy canopy. It seemed even the light of the Moon could not penetrate through. The sounds of crickets chirping and the rustling of small creatures could be heard all around him, but he could see nothing through the wall of trees.

Then in the far distance he saw a small yellow ball of light. It glowed brightly even though it was only a tiny pinpoint. An unknown fear began to congeal in his belly. He knew this light meant something, but he could not remember what; however, he was certain it was something terrible.

Kenshin struggled through the brush trying to find a place to hide. The need to be hidden coursed through him to the point the thought he might break down if he did not find refuge from the vision of the light soon. At last he was kneeling behind a large broken stump that allowed him to peer over and see without being seen. The glowing light was coming closer and growing larger, and with it came strange out of place sounds. Kenshin realized to his dismay that he was trembling.

Strange high pitched cries that sounded like wounded beasts or frightened children rose up into the night and grew louder and more disturbing the closer the light came. They wailed and whined wavering in the dark like wraiths searching for a place to rest in peace but finding none.

More and more lights started to appear around the first until there seemed to be hundreds of them, and walking amidst them were cloaked and hooded figures. Kenshin could not see how many there were, but it seemed to him there must be hundreds of them as well. As they drew closer, the evil feeling that surrounded them began to penetrate the forest until it fell in a shroud of impending doom over him smothering him like a too warm blanket.

"Noooo….." He pleaded to no avail as the oppressive ki descended upon him and consumed him. He had felt this before. He remembered now, but he still could not remember why.

The hooded figures dressed in pale gray cloaks passed him by unnoticed as he crouched behind the large stump. The seemed to float above the ground on a gray-green mist that stank of death and decay. Kenshin covered his mouth to stifle a gagging cough as the air turned foul and putrid in the wake of their passage.

The cries had become almost deafening now in their intensity sounding like the high shrill screaming of dying cats as their bodies parts are systematically torn off. But try as he might, Kenshin could not see a creature or person responsible for the cacophony. He would just have to wait to find out.

The hooded figures with their lights began to form a large circle in a clearing below him. There was a large flat white stone in the center. His whole being recoiled violently from this sight. He did not want to remember this, but the vision continued on unchecked. He watched as a small white bundle was lain upon the stone. One of the figures moved towards it and stood at the top of the stone. It raised its arms high into the air as if reaching for the stars. In one hand it held a long thin bladed dagger that glinted in the glowing yellow light. The other hand was empty. Then this figure began to chant.

Further horror gripped Kenshin as it began chanting in the accented cultured voice of an educated woman.

The world began spinning around him and everything seemed to be moving at an alarmingly fast speed forward. He saw the woman and four men surround the large stone and unwrap the small bundle to reveal a tiny naked child who was bound hand and foot with rope. He could not hear the words being spoken, but the voice was high and shrill with insanity.

Then in frozen horror and disbelief, Kenshin watched as the woman removed her hood….

'NO!!" His mind screamed as recognition flashed through his shocked brain. 'No! IT CANNOT BE!!' And then the words his mind had tried so hard to forget spilled forth from her beautiful full lipped red mouth like vomitus slag.

"ACUMA!!! ACUMA!!! ACUMA!!! GREAT KING OF HELL AND DAMNATION; KING OF CHAOS AND THE UNDERWORLD; LORD OF DARKNESS AND ALL THAT IS POWERFUL IN THIS WORLD. HEAR ME THIS UNHOLY NIGHT. ACCEPT THIS OFFERING OF PUREST BLOOD AS I SPILL IT WITHOUT MERCY, WITHOUT CAUSE, WITHOUT SHAME. ACCEPT THE BLOOD OF THE INNOCENT MY GREAT KING.

WE ARE YOUR LOYAL SERVANTS. WE ALL SEEK TO JOIN WITH THY MAGNIFICENT PRESENCE. COME TO US, WE BESEECH THEE. COME TO US! ACUMA! ACUMA! ACUMA!

And the child had died. Died screaming in an agony of pain and terror that had torn Kenshin's soul to shreds along with her tiny body as the thin bladed dagger had plunged into her soft flesh again and again and again. He had hidden his eyes against bent knees unable to watch as tears and hysterical sobs consumed him. The screams stopped quickly, but the sounds of slashing and ripping flesh seemed to go on for and eternity until suddenly there was a great and horrible crackling laugh that rose up to shake the canopy of the trees. He carefully looked up but then doubled over retching violently onto the ground unable to bare the sight he had seen.

The stone where the child had lain was now a bloody butchers block. The body of the child was so hideously mutilated that it was difficult to tell that it had been a child at all. Both legs had been severed and lain on either side of the stone. The arms were stretched out over the top of them. But the worst thing was the body itself. It was torn open from throat to belly, all the ribs were broken and pulled back from the chest cavity leaving a huge gaping hole. It was quite easy to see that the child's heart was gone, torn or cut free. The woman held it high in her left hand with blood running in thick rivulets down her arm and the dripping onto the front of her pale gray cloak.

All of the other hooded figures were starting to dance around the clearing in some sort of a frenzy now, coming up to the bloody stone to dip their hands into the blood of the dead child. The Blood of The Innocent. They were licking it off their fingers, wiping it on their faces and each other, throwing off their cloaks to wipe it on their naked bodies. Some were even falling to the ground to engage in wicked and evil couplings turned violent by the blood.

It was vile.

It was debauchery.

It was blasphemy.

That was when the thundering and lightening began. Tremendous bolts of blinding white energy began crashing to the ground in thunderous explosions that shook the ground and the mighty trees. The already frenzied people began screaming in hysterical terror and trying to run away where ever they could, but the lightening refused to let them leave. One after another they were struck down and burned to mere ashes by the awesome flashes of white. Each one like a great burning finger with a mind and will of its own. Kenshin stayed huddled behind his tree stump not daring to move even one little bit lest he be caught by one of the natural assassins as well.

When the flashing lightening finally stopped, only the woman and the four men remained. Not one of the other disciples could be seen or found. They were all gone. Burned to dust by the fury and power of The Demon's Finger's.

"It cannot be…. It cannot be…. It cannot be…. Kami-sama protect me." Kenshin prayed fervently as he huddled shaking behind his tree stump. He had never been a very religious man in his life. As the Battousai he had never had much use for the Gods of Buddha or religion, but as he knelt here on the side of this mountain in the dead of the fateful night, he felt the need to pray for the very first time. The need for a power greater than his own, and that was when Himura Kenshin started to pray.

The night had become still. Still as death itself. Not one sound penetrated the canopy. No crickets chirped now, no small creatures rustled in the low brush. There was not even a breath of a breeze. Kenshin's breathing was short and shallow. His face was pale and wet with tears, and his flesh trembled on the bone though he did not feel cold. He suddenly felt very much like a rabbit being hunted by an eagle, and he dared not move a muscle. Something was coming. Something…. Something very wrong, something terrible, and he was afraid. Truly afraid.

Then there was a magnificent flash of lightening far brighter and more intense than any of the others. It seemed to light up the whole world in a brilliance that forced Kenshin to cover his eyes and cry out in pain. It was accompanied by an explosion of tremendous proportions. The ground beneath him shook and heaved with movement and he could hear trees crashing into one another as they feel unable to withstand the rumbling force. Great cracking and shattering noises split the air as huge fissures opened in the earth and started swallowing the massive trees, boulders, and mountains of dirt whole. The entire world seemed to be destroying itself beneath his very feet. Kenshin screamed and curled into a ball as tight as he could trying to protect himself. 'I am going to die.' He though. "Kaoru-dono…." His heart cried. "I love you! I have always loved you! ' And as the ground lurched and heaved, Kenshin heard a great and terrible voice roaring above the sounds of destruction.

"I AM HERE! COME TO ME, MY BELOVED AND LET US ONCE MORE JOIN TOGETHER THIS GLORIOUS NIGHT."

With supreme effort Kenshin grasped the broken stump and pulled himself to his knees and looked below into what was left of the clearing. What he saw there caused his heart to stop beating, the breath in his lungs to freeze, and his mind screamed in hysterical denial just before it snapped. He began screaming and screaming though the sound was swallowed up by the roaring of the creature below him. No one heard him. No one. But he continued to scream as the horror and terror swept through his rational mind blinding him to all things logical and real, and as the primitive instinct to hide and survive began to take over his consciousness, he started screaming the name of the only one who could help him.

"Master!!! Maassterr!! Hiko-san!! Father!! Hiko!!! Father!! FATTHHER!! FATHER!! FAAAATTTHHHEERRRR!!!! Then Kenshin fell into the black pit of oblivion.