A/N:3/27/04--this is the last chapter for 'The White Warrior and The Angel of Destruction'. If you are interested in the sequel, you can find it easier if you return to my authors page by clicking my penname url on this page "Kanzen ne Tsuki". Once on my authors page, scroll down to 'stories published' and click on 'Beloved of The White Flame'. This is the sequel. It has been in progress for several months, and has 16 chapters as of today. I hope you have enjoyed this story as much as I enjoyed writing it. The sequel is a little different. It is more focused on Kenji, but continues the storyline. Enjoy. Tsuki-san

Glossary: Tenshi=angel, Meito=Mate, Koishii=dear/darling, Saiai=beloved, Shin-yuu=friend,


Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu Tsui San=Dragon Hammer (Kenshin's Favorite)

Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu Sou San=Twin Dragon Flash-Striking first with the blade of the sword and then following up with a strike with the sheath.

HIten Mitsurugi Ryu Amakakareru Ryo no Hirameki=The Dragon Flash (Final Attack)

Chapter 19

Doom's Day

He shook his head trying to gain his bearings and equilibrium after being thrown so far by the two men who had knocked him over. Suddenly the tingling warning signals of an inborn second sense that he had always possessed, began shouting at him that a terrible danger was approaching him swiftly and would surely end his life if he did not move post. So, as his instincts and speed took control of his body, he crouched low and then threw himself backwards and upwards covering a tremendous distance in less time than it took for him to draw the breath he needed to summon his strength. Landing well out of reach, he touched down gracfully and silently as a butterfly and the deftness of the predator he was. Quickly his eyes raced across the scene before him and he absorbed the details in a heart beat.

Chaos had been born.

The pack of demons left in the room rushed forward screaming shrilly as they gathered around their Master preparing to defend him with their meager lives. Little scimitars swung wildly through the air as beady black eyes watched the Elemental Army closing in on them. Acuma's yellow eyes stared in shocked disbelief as he watched the four men circling in for an attack. The numbing power of their surging ki's was almost overpowering to him as the force of their combined energy flowed over the top of him like a giant wave crashing against a vulnerable shoreline.

"WHO ARE YOU?" Acuma demanded in a loud voice of the men who approached him so menacingly.

"Your worst nightmare, Horn-boy." Saitoh growled as he leapt over the heads of the screaming demons and landed in the middle of Acuma's wounded and bleeding back teeth bared and claws poised. "How does it feel to be on the receiving end you Sonofabitch!" And he sank his fangs deep into the ragged ruined flesh and began tearing and ripping. The devil man screamed in pain and rage dropping his scimitar as he frantically tried to reach the Wolf-man on his back with his right hand, but found him just out beyond his grasping fingers.

"HELP ME!" He screamed in futility as the other three men waded into his demon soldiers cutting them down like weeds in an otherwise barren field. They died quickly beneath the onslaught and Acuma could see that he was losing this battle. "NNAARRGGHHH!" He spun and whipped around in tight dizzying circles trying desperately to throw Saitoh off, but the Wolf-man only dug his claws deeper into the red flesh seemingly oblivious to the scorching heat and boiling blood that poured from the open wounds as he continued to tear at the devil-man's vulnerable neck and shoulders.

Slowly Kenshin began to realize as he knelt crouched on the cold marble, that his spirit-self was no longer in charge of his body, and that He was once again the Master of his own actions. This fact left him feeling a bit uneasy because it had been much easier letting his spirit-self take care of things. I guess it is time for me to take up my own sword and fill my own shoes and stop letting everyone do my work for me. Taking a deep breath, he filled his lungs with air, closed his gleaming golden eyes, and then let it out slowly as he counted to ten. Take your place, Himura Kenshin. It is time to be the Warrior you were meant to be. Stand up and take your place.

Himura Kenshin, The White Warrior sprang straight up into the air and disappeared from the place he had been crouched watching the scene in front of him, and let his God-like speed carry him through space and time into the middle of the bloody battlefield where his friends and family fought for the sanctity of mankind. He abruptly appeared right before Acuma's startled yellow-green eyes as he dropped out of the air screaming the Battousai's bone chilling battle cry katana in a two-handed hold over his head poised for a powerful downward stroke. As the furious Hitokiri descended with murderous purpose, Saitoh leapt free from the devil-man's body before the Battousai could land the devastating blow.

Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu Tsui San!

The mighty strength of the Dragon's hammer once again slammed into the devil mans body only this time it hit him fully in the chest slicing deeply into the thickness of the left pectoral muscle throwing him backwards with enough force to shatter the large stone Altar when his massive body crashed into it. As Acuma struggled to stand, Kenshin charged upon the wounded devil-man's position without waiting for a single moment to pass, sheathing his long blade as he ran.

Hiten Mitsurugi Sou Ryu San!

The long sword flashed with incredible speed and struck the devil-man levelly across the chest opening a second deep wound straight across the first breaking several ribs in the process as the audible sound of cracking bones was heard. As the huge beast staggered beneath the assault, Kenshins left hand whipped the wooden hilt free of his belt and smashed it with a sickening THUD against the side of the devil-men's malformed head.

Acuma reeled drunkenly beneath the rapid succession of attacks and felt consciousness trying to desert him. His powerful body dropped to its knees and his large yellow eyes blinked blankly then he sat back on his haunches unable to continue. The great bovine head dropped in exhaustion and defeat before the small red-haired Samurai.

An anguished cry of grief and denial cracked through the Throne Room and suddenly Kenshin was attacked by the Beast that was Elsbeth. She was all claw-tipped hands, and fangs as she pounced upon him.

"Damn you, Himura! Damn you! Damn Your soul into everlasting Hell! Look at what you have done to him! How could you? How?" Long spindly claws reached for and tried to scratch his face and gouge his eyes, but he captured her wrists and proceeded to struggle with her in a battle of strength and pure will. "I will kill you for this! I will! I am going to tear your fucking chest apart and eat you alive while you scream!" Kenshin was amazed at her strength and found himself expending a great deal of energy keeping her at bay. I have to keep her away from my eyes or she will blind me with my own blood. I must find a way to immobilize her... Kami...

Then, all at once, as if in answer to the plea of his Soul, the thing that was Elsbeth was seized from behind by two very strong and capable arms of an unknown and unseen assailant who was dwarfed behind her ungainly size. One arm wrapped around her neck while the other forced her head forward from the back farther tightening that deadly grip and immobilizing her at the same time. Within one shattering moment, Elsbeth's airway was completely cut off and left her fighting to breath. Chocking and gagging for even the smallest breath, her malevolent grip on Kenshin was released, and her frantic claw-hands locked onto those offending arms trying desperately to free herself, but the death grip could not be broken. The swirling orbs of liquid silver that were her eyes grew huge and bulbous as she struggled for even the smallest amount of air, but only the tiniest squeaks of terror could be heard croaking in her quivering throat as the muscles began to contract with the pain of over spent effort. Kenshin stared at the struggle with the unknown assailant behind Elsbeth with a sort of fascinated horror as she slowly ran out of air, strength, and consciousness. The brilliant shining silver of her eyes faded to a flat grey as they became lifeless and dull. Then she was dropping limply into a heap on the floor like a bag of old bones, and she did not move. Elsbeth was dead, and a winded but triumphant Kaoru looked into Kenshin's shocked face and nodded once just before she fell to her knees overcome by pain and weakness.

"Kaoru!" He cried and rushed to her side with wide frightened eyes. Strong gentle arms lifted her up so he could look into her face, and his worried golden eyes searched her pale face. "Are you all right?" His voice was hoarse with terror, and his fear for her life was screaming from his eyes and face. "Why did you do this? I told you to stay away. I told you to stay in a safe place. Why did you disobey me? Why Kaoru? Why? Why did you put yourself in so much danger after I told you what it meant to me for you to be safe? Why koishii? Why?" He pressed his forehead against her clammy cold one and wrapped his arms around her. "You and the baby are all that matter to me. I cannot lose you. I cannot. I cannot lose either one of you." As he buried his face in her hair, the entire world around him was suddenly forgotten.

Then that world exploded into the flashing horror of brilliant white lightning, deafening thunder, flying earth and white marble, and the screams of the terrified souls still alive in the devastated room.

The crackling explosion of the Demon's Finger crashed into the Throne Room and shattered more of the white marble floor throwing the deadly little spears in every direction. Several of the small demons found themselves victims of the flying projectiles as they were impaled to the walls and pillars screaming and spouting green goo. Kenshin instinctively leaned over and covered Kaoru as best as he could trying to protect her from the deadly missiles that whizzed passed them at alarming speeds. What demons were not murdered by the explosions were destroyed by the discerning lightening bolts themselves as they danced across the room seeking and finding each and every one of the terrified squealing little creatures until they were all gone. Then the horrible screaming of the two human men who were left from Elsbeth's four original disciple's were also identified and burned to nothing more than powdered ash.

Kaoru was screaming beneath Kenshin's shielding body, and he could feel her terror the same as his had been that night on the mountain. He could also hear the horrified screams of his comrades and he sent a fervent prayer to the Gods to watch over them and spare their lives through this unholy nightmare.

Then there was silence. A silence so still that even the coldness of the air seemed to die and cease to move. Kenshin tentatively raised his head and looked around at the incredible destruction of the once grand room, and then caught his breath before sucking in a gasp of astonished wonder. Kami-sama, the Tenshi.... Can it be?

Kaoru lifted her head and followed his line of vision, and her mouth opened in silent awe. Soujirou stood in the center of the pale moonlight that was now coming through the sky-light, his boyish face was turned towards the heavens with a look of pure joy covering the fine features, and his pale azure-blue eyes gleaming with the glittering light of the most brilliant stars. Over his head, gripped tightly in both hands, was his gleaming white long sword the point raised to the midnight blue sky. Oh beautiful Soujirou, what have you become? What are you my extraordinary Prince of Heaven? What are you?

Shards of electrical energy jumped and danced in, around, and through the fiercely white long bladed katana, and that same unusual frightening display of energy was passing through Soujirou's body and leaping across the ground all around him while he remained unharmed.

Soujirou had obtained complete control over the 'Hand of Fire' and had systematically eliminated their enemies, and now he stood in the glory of the Power of the "Hand" unharmed waiting. There was only one thing left to be done. Only one thing that must be completed before the Night would be over. That one thing was the defeated Acuma who still knelt on the floor, scimitar at his side, and his head bowed in humiliation.

Kenshin stood and approached the devil-mans side with a firm step full of purpose and authority, his katana firmly in hand. "It is time for you to leave now." He spoke in the low and deadly voice of the Battousai, and motioned toward the sky-light. "My son will hold the doorway open for you so you can enter safely. Please leave while you can. There is no other way." The razor sharp tip of the blade pressed menacingly against the unprotected and ravaged throat. "Surely you know this, since your Meito is dead there is no other way for you to return to your own world."

"YES, I AM AWARE, SAMURAI." The huge devil-man acquiesced, and climbed with extreme effort to his hooves and stood unsteadily, but still managed to face the man he would come to remember as The White Warrior. "YOU WERE A WORTHY OPPONENT, LITTLE HUMAN. PERHAPS ONE DAY WE WILL MEET AGAIN, BUT NEXT TIME I WILL BE PREPARED FOR YOU AND YOU WILL NOT WIN SO EASILY."

Kenshin narrowed his golden eyes at the devil-man and allowed the Battousai to speak once more. "I think not, Acuma. I do not suggest you ever come back to my world again. Not while I nor any of my kin live and still breath air. You will not be received quite as warmly the next time. Trust me, My Friend." The undertone of threat was mild but apparent, and Acuma reared back slightly, but inclining his head, picked up his scimitar turned to walk away toward Soujirou. Kenshin turned away as well to return to Kaoru's side believing everything was at an end, but...

A monstrous suffocating rush of Acuma's spirit-ki flooded over Kenshin from very close behind, and he felt all sense of time leave him as he locked eyes with his Beloved. It was too close. It was too fast. It was too late. There was no time.

"KENSHIN!! NOOOO!" Kaoru was screaming and lunging towards him her arms outstretched and her beautiful blue eyes blown wide open with horror as she watched the huge scimitar arching downward at an almost invisible speed in an inexorable path towards Kenshin's back. "NOOOO!" It was too fast. It was too close. It was too late. There was no time.

The world was moving in slow motion, and Kenshin knew there was no time for him to evade the death blow even with Hiten Miturugi's God-like speed. The time of his death was at hand and there was nothing that could stop it, and within his mind the thoughts began flying faster than time itself could follow. Golden eyes, filled with regret, were locked with the terror stricken deep blue of Kaoru's, and in that heartbeat of his life, he tried to communicate a lifetime of love and hope to her with a single look.

"I love you Kaoru. I will always love you. I am sorry, I thought there would be more time for us. Forgive me, My Aisai. Love our children for me, for both of us. Do not let them forget me, and I beg of you do not forget me, Kaoru. Do not let my face fade away from your memory. Tell our son about me, and remember you love me because I will be waiting for you, koishii. I will be waiting on the log beside the river, with the fireflies. You know the place. I will be waiting there for you. I will wait forever."

As his eyes closed a single tear slid down his cheek, and the heartbeat was over.


But the death blow never came. Kenshin was never struck to the ground dead beneath the impending arch of the descending scimitar. Instead, Kaoru's arms closed around him and they both fell, hitting the floor hard as she pulled him out of the way of the blade that never fell. At the same instant the huge room was saturated with a thick blinding bloody colored glow that oozed into every nook and corner to swallow and smother everything and everyone until not one thing remained uncovered, and with it came a thundering wall of incredible power that slammed into the devil-man like a locomotive running at full steam throwing him several dozen yards away from Kenshin.

All of this happened inside the same heartbeat it would have taken for Acuma to kill the red-haired Samurai.

"Get the fuck away from my Father, you ugly Bastard!" YAHIKO! Kenshin's mind reeled with the recognition of that furious growling voice as he lifted his dazed head off the floor. Yahiko! Oh God! My wildling son is standing between us and the Devil. What does all of this mean?

Acuma roared and charged the seething enraged man-child that was suddenly standing between him and his nemesis. The boy! This is Elsbeth's wild-boy! His right arm was pulled back for a mighty backhanded strike, but the powerful crushing blows of an unseen fist smashed into his wounded chest, throwing him backwards. Falling heavily to his knees, he choked and sputtered coughing black blood and vomit which he spat out onto the floor.

"Take your sorry filthy ass back to Hell where you belong, and leave me and my family alone, or I swear to God, I'll beat you into the bloody ground head first!" Yahiko's fists were clenched into tight balls at his sides, the knuckles white with rage. His whole body shook with the force of the emotions boiling through his soul, and the enormous energy of his ki was screaming around him like a furious animal waiting to be unleashed. "Don't fuck with me! I'd just as soon blow you up, as look at your stinking ugly face, so get the hell away from us, or I'll start getting serious. YOU GET ME, ASSHOLE?"

Kaoru rushed to Kenshin and he put a protective arm around her and pulled her back away from Yahiko. They were joined by Aoshi, Hiko, and Saitoh. Soujirou stood stone still in the center of the sky-light holding the immense power of the 'Hand of Fire' at bay, but his eyes were now trained on his younger brother, waiting.

Acuma had felt the fury and power of Kenshin's awesome Fire-ki and had been stunned by its strength, but this boy. This boy was an altogether different matter. This was not a trained or skilled warriors ki, but instead this was a ki born wild and untamed capable of anything the child wished it to do. It may not have the elegant smoothness of the Father's well honed energy signature, but it was infinitely more dangerous in its power because of its pure explosive nature and shear unpredictability. This boy could crack the world in half if he wanted to. Acuma felt the first shiver of fear he had ever known, and it disturbed him. He wiped blood off the corner of his mouth and stood up. His scimitar was too far away to do him any good, but he may be able to reach it if he circled the Brat. Maybe...

Yahiko intently watched the Devil start to move and lead off towards one side. Pale cherry-pink eyes narrowed as he tried to judge what it was attempting to, and they darted to his right noticing the large curved sword laying on the floor. A slow wicked smile curved his young lips, and the bloody glow in the room began to dissipate. 'I'm not that stupid, Asshole.'

Acuma thought he was almost home-free and he enjoyed an inner smile of sly self satisfaction. Children were so gullible, and even if this one possessed an astonishing gift, he seemed to be no exception. The scimitar was only a few feet away and the boy had not moved a muscle. He only had to take a few more short steps and it would be in his hand, and the boy would be a bloody pile of rags on the white marble floor. Gullible Brat.

But, unfortunately for him, it was Acuma that was being gullible. He did not notice the fading red light within the air, nor the wicked gleam dancing in the boys glowing reddish-pink eyes. With one great shove and malevolent snap of his mind, Yahiko sent the blood lust of his raging ki swarming all over the devil-man in one suffocating and all encompassing move, and it descended upon him like a crimson death shroud.

Acuma felt the pain in his head first, then it dropped to his chest, and finally settled in his gut. It felt to him like being crushed beneath a great and enormous weight, and the pressure was unbearable. The pain worsened and he doubled over groaning as something inside of him started squeezing harder and tighter until he felt a 'pop'. Then he was filled with a burning fire that devoured his insides like a hungry dragon. Throwing his great bovine head back, Acuma screamed an unnatural sound of intense agony and fell to his knees coughing and retching up huge clots and clumps of coagulated black vomit that steamed and burned on the floor. His heavily muscled arm wrapped around his middle and he bent over moaning piteously like a sick cow in the field. His useless left arm hung limply at his side dragging along the pale cold floor as he rocked back and forth in mindless agony.

Again and again the pain came, squeezing and tearing at the soft tissues until ,at last, something else 'popped' and the burning pain flared through his innards once more, and he convulsed vomiting up more blood sobbing in helpless agony as he collapsed.

"WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO ME...?" It was the groaning, moaning cry of the vanquished, and the large yellow eyes had turned a sickly milkish color. "I CANNOT STAND ANYMORE. STOP! STOP! I... THINK... I THINK YOU ARE KILLING ME. STOP!"

Yahiko just smiled a nasty evil twist of his lips for a moment, and then he spoke in a degrading and debasing tone. "So, you have had enough, have you, Mr. Devil? You are pathetic. What a major disappointment you turned out to be. I thought the Devil was supposed to be scarey, but you are nothing but a funny lookin' Bull-faced baka full of bullshit and hot air." Then he let his pale reddish-pink eyes narrow into gleaming slits of cold hatred, and the power began surging around him again. "But you know, I am really sick of you and that fucking creepy bitch that was working for you, and I have really had enough of this whole damned thing." He spit on the floor and his lips pulled back into a snarl. "I want to go home. I want to take my Otousan, my sensei, my Brother, my Sofu, and everybody else and get the hell out of this place and just... go... home... so... here is the deal." He dropped his chin and cast an ugly wild gaze into Acuma's nervous direction. "I... want... you... to... leave... now... so... why... don't ... you... just... fucking... LEAVE!" An enormous explosion of ki power blasted outward from the young man, and suddenly the room was colored an even deeper shade of red than before as the manifestation swept through the air and swallowed everything within its embrace. Tremendous surging shock waves of pure untamed spirit energy exploded violently through the air, much the same as they had that day inside the tunnel at the prison, and the fragile bodies of the people present were picked up and thrown violently aside as if they were nothing more than rag dolls.

When the incredible force of the blast hit Acuma, he was picked up like a dry useless husk and thrown with the force of a hundred tornado's towards the center of the sky-light where Soujirou stood, and when his massive body crashed to the ground, Soujirou gave a loud cry into the midnight blue sky.

"I am Seta Soujirou, 'The Sword of Heaven,' Hear me, and open the Holy Doorway of Heaven. There is one here that must be returned. One which does not belong in this world of human men. Hear me, and allow me to send him back to his own dimensional plane!" A brilliant bolt of pure white light shot down from the sky and touched the gleaming tip of his sword, and then Soujirou was engulfed within the glorious halo of Heaven's Doorway as the portal opened around him. "Be gone Evil Lord of the Underworld. Leave this most holy of places and return here no more. Be gone through Heaven's Doorway and find your way back into the Realm's of Hell, and then, for all that is pure and innocent, may the Doorway close behind you forever, and never be opened again." The gleaming white sword dropped with astonishing speed and struck Acuma on the head with the flat of the blade, and as he roared in pain, he fell to his side and rolled into a tight ball of instinctive protection. Then suddenly the great bovine beast was enveloped in a sphere of light that appeared to cover and surround him utterly. "Leave this place NOW." Soujirou's sword struck the pulsing white sphere and it exploded into a brilliant glittering shower of star bursts and flames. When the sparks and flames cleared, both the spere and the beast within were gone.

Kenshin stood next to Kaoru holding her up next to his side as they watched Yahiko and Soujirou rid the world of The King of Hell and Damnation and send him back to his own World. And just like that, it was over.

"Incredible." Kenshin whispered as he pulled Kaoru closer to him. "Did we see what we just saw?" He turned and pressed a tender kiss against her temple. "Did my beloved sons just vanquish the King of Hell and send him back to the Darkness in humiliation with his tail between his legs?" Beautiful deep blue-purple eyes gazed into her pale but relieved face, and he raised a hand to gently cup the curve of her cheek. " I love you." He whispered and pulled her against his heart. "It is finally over."

"KENSHIN!" Hiko's shouted alarm tore Kenshin's arms from Kaoru, and as he instinctively twisted around into a defensive crouch as his God-like speed turned him to face a very-much alive Elsbeth who was nearly upon him. Her long, thin bladed dagger was raised high over her head and pointed at his heart. The speed at which she was moving was unnaturally fast, and she blurred in front of Kenshin's eyes as she closed the distance between them in only seconds. Kenshin's hands reacted with skilled deliberateness as he reached for his long bladed katana grasping it in traditional battojutsu stance, and he took the step to meet her headlong rushing attack.

Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu Amakakeru Ryu no Hirameki!

The long bladed razor sharp katana was pulled from its sheath in faster than God-like speed as Kenshin stepped forward on his left foot, and met Elsbeth's blind charge with its deadly upward swinging cut. But instead of it catching her across the chest as it was meant to, the lighting fast blade passed through the flesh, blood vessels, and bones of her neck in the blink of an eye. Her head-long flight was stopped in a mid stride, and she stood with grey-green eyes opened wide in horrified astonishment and confusion. For an instant they blinked and a tear slipped free and ran down her pale cheek, and then her head, with its long beautiful cascade of long chestnut hair dropped to the white marble floor and rolled until it came to a stop at Aoshi's feet.

"I do not think she will be getting back up this time, shin-yuu. It would appear she's lost her head over the whole matter, and will not be able to face the shame of total annihilation." Aoshi's voice was dry and slightly sarcastic. "It would appear the old adage is true after all."

Everyone was staring at Aoshi as if he had grown two more heads. "What old adage is that Shinomori?" Saitoh moved up next to the tall thin Ninja and looked down at the severed head of the Witch.

"You know, absolute power corrupts absolutely. She never had a chance in hell over winning this fight against the four of us."

"Five." Kenshin walked over to him with a huge grin on his exhausted face, and reached up to put a firm hand on Aoshi's shoulder. "Aoshi, my brother. I do believe you are developing a sense of humor as well as a bad case of sarcasm." He burst out laughing when the taller stoic man gave him a huffy look of offense.

"I do not think you need to be insulting, Himura. After all, I did just risk my life for you."

"Yes, you did, shin-yuu. Yes you did, and for that I am eternally grateful, but the fact remains, you keep spouting spontaneous quips of sarcasm. Whether you realize it or not."

"And they are quite good, actually. If I do say so myself." Saitoh gave Aoshi a conspiratal look and then started to search his pockets for a cigarette. "I told you all. I knew he was alive in there. It was just a matter of time until something cracked that ice cold exterior. I just did not realize it was going to be a dead woman." A look of absolute worry and puzzlement crossed poor Aoshi's face.

"Have I really been doing that?" He turned away talking to himself and scratching his head. "Pherhaps Himura is right, but how could it be happening without my knowledge? I have never been spontaneous let alone humorous. Hmmmm."

"Do you think he's going to be Ok?" Kenshin was chuckling as he watched the tall man walk away muttering to himself in worried confusion.

" Of course he will." Hiko was shaking dirt off of his white cloak. "He just needs to get used to the fact that there is more to life than endless meditation and solitude." A knowing smile twitching at his thin lips. "What he needs is a sound rousting from that feisty little ninja girl back at the Aoiya. That alone could do him wonders."

"Chichioya!" Kenshin admonished him sharply but his own eyes were twinkling with merry agreement.

Hiko looked at Kenshin, his eyes filled with mock innocence. "What? What did I say?" The exaggerated shrug earned him a rather sharply, raised eyebrow, and a laughingly spoken reply.

"You never will change, will you?"

"It is true, there are things that do need to change in this world, but perhaps there are also things that should never change. Do you not agree... Aisoku?"

Kenshin's face turned serious and his eyes softened considerably as he met Hiko's twinkling emerald gaze. "Yes, Chichioya. I do agree."

"Ewwwww! Yuck! That is just nasty lookin'. What are you gonna do with all of this crap?"

Kenshin, Hiko, and Saitoh turned towards the disgusted voice and found that Yahiko and Soujirou had approached them and were now standing over Elsbeth's headless body. Both of them were wrinkling up their faces in distaste as they examined what was left of the woman and the growing puddle of blood on the white marble floor. "How you gonna explain this to whoever you gotta explain it too? I don't think you can say she had a bad accident with a cooking utensil."

The group of grown men looked around at each other trying very hard not to laugh at the sarcastic but very true remark.

"I think we should just leave her here. Let the world believe Lady Katsura disappeared. No one else need ever know what occurred here tonight, and with the Palace being closed to the public..." Saitoh's voice trailed off as he steadily met the look of a man he still did not like, but one he would rather call his friend than his enemy from now on.

"Hmmmm," Kenshin looked around the imense room taking in the magnitude of damage that had occurred during the supernatural battle they had all been engaged in, and nodded in quiet agreement. "You may have to be a bit more convincing with the Meigi about not letting ANYONE up here for a very long time."

"Why do you say that, Battousai? What difference does the government have to do with it?"

"Guards, Saitoh. They will want to replace their guards once they realize the ones who were here are dead. They cannot be allowed to do that. No one can see what is in here until it has had a chance to turn to dust or be claimed by the ivy vines."

"He is right, Saitoh." Hiko nodded. "You cannot take the chance some idiot will come sniffing around in here and then start asking questions."

"Quite right. I will have Izukia write something up about plague infested rats or something. That should keep everyone out of here for at least five or ten years don't you think?"

"Excellent idea, my friend. I have always said you had the most brilliant mind I knew, next to mine of course." Hiko draped his arm across Saitoh's thin shoulders. "Especially when it comes to making up bullshit for people to believe."

"Why, thank-you Hiko. Coming from you, that is truly a grand compliment."

"You think so?" Both men were smiling sarcastically at one another as the atmosphere around them began to tingle with the static of an up coming duel of insulting inuendo's.

"Of course, it has become widely known that you are the unreputed King of bullshit, so you would know a good story if you heard one. Thank-you for noticing."

"Not a problem, Saitoh. Do they not say, Great minds think alike?"

"Why, yes they do. What a coincidence." With a triumphant look on his face, Saitoh finally produced a cigarette out of his tattered coat, but then scowled when he did not have a match. Hiko burst out in loud rolling laughter as he walked away and bent over to pick up a smoldering piece of wood.

"Allow me, old Friend." He chuckled and lit the slim smoke and then threw the wood carelessly aside. "Let's get the hell out of here. Where's Aoshi? The way his mind is screwing around with itself right now, somebody had better go get that boy before he gets lost."

"We will find him, Sofu." Soujirou nodded solemnly to him Grand-Father. "Come, little brother. Let's go find Aoshi-sama. He did seem to be having some difficulties dealing with the changes in his thinking process." A soft giggle was heard, and everyone turned to look at the boyish face of the Tenkin.

Kenshin was more than relieved to find himself looking into the gentle blue-grey eyes of his son, Seta Soujirou. The strange perky, over happy personality of the Tenkin had once again receded into the far recesses of the young swordsman's mind, and the innocent open face of the boy Kenshin loved so dearly was once again where it belonged.

'He's back.' Kenshin's heart sang in joyous relief. 'They are both back. I still have them both. Thank-you Kami-sama. Thank-you for my sons.' He and the other two older men watched as Soujirou and Yahiko danced off into the grey darkness calling Aoshi's name.

"They'll find him." Hiko said. "Soujirou will bring him back to the Aoiya, you can trust him."

"I know, Chichioya. I am glad you believe that too."

"Well, he is your son, Kenshin. Of course I would trust him."

Kenshin shot surprised violet eyes in Hiko's direction, but the big man and Saitoh were already leaving with the thin policeman carrying the still sleeping Kuumi cradled tenderly against his chest.

"You shouldn't worry so much, Kenshin. They are both good boys." Hiko's voice chimed back through the chilled air, and then he stopped and paused for a moment and looked over his shoulder. "If you aren't sure you can handle that Little Lion after the baby comes... well, send him up to me for a while. I'll take a crack at him. One of us has got to teach him how to control that bloody whirlwind that lives inside of him before he blows us all to kingdom come."

Kenshin looked down at his hands and smiled a little ironically. The fact that they were all alive and safe WAS because of that bloody whirlwind inside of Yahiko, but he knew Hiko was right. The boy needed to learn to control it now before it got loose and hurt someone he cared about. He was of the age that it would just continue to grow in strength and intensity, and if it was not curbed and trained, then Yahiko could easily succomb to madness and become a servant of Evil.

"I will not let that happen." He spoke softly and clenched his hands into determined fists. "I will not lose either him or Soujirou to the darkness ever again."

"Kenshin?" The voice behind him was soft and terribly weak, but it was clear and lucid. "It is finally over, isn't it?"

He turned around and took a weak and trembling Kaoru into his arms cradling her against him. "Yes, koishii. It is finally over. Everything will be all right now. No more nightmares, no more dead children, no more witches, demons or devils. Just peace and our future."

"Our future.... that sounds so odd right now."

"Odd? Why do you say that, Saiai?" His lips tenderly grazed against her temple as he tucked her beneath his chin.

"I was prepared for there to be no future for us. I was prepared to be dead as long as you could kill that crazy bitch, stop all of this, and save the child... save all of the children. No matter what you did, she was going to kill me anyway, and I did not want my death to be for nothing. So I figured if I could distract her long enough for you to get close, or if I could make her mad enough to miss the time window..."

"Kaoru, I could not have lived with the memory of your death in this place. I fought for more than just the children in here tonight. I fought for you, Yahiko, Soujirou, Hiko, Aoshi, Misao, and even for Saitoh. I fought for all of our friends and family as well as the innocents of Japan and our God-given rights to live and to be happy, and it was the knowledge that I would be able to be with you and our unborn son when it was all over that kept me going." He gently picked her up into his strong arms and started to walk out of the room. "It was my love for you that kept me strong, Aisai."

The White Warrior and his Elemental Army walked into the pale pink of the early dawn morning. Each one was savoring his own feelings of relief, deep gratitude to Kami-sama and his comrades, and the humility of being able to watch another sunrise while still breathing the air of the living. As they emerged from the great gate onto the old dirt road, they stopped and stood together for a long moment.

Soujirou and Yahiko stood side by side with the ever pensive but now much more relaxed Aoshi. They had found him standing outside the Palace looking at the fading stars with a faraway look about him. As they had approached the tall thin ninja, he had looked at them with shining jade eyes and said, "I want to go back to the Aoiya and tell Misao I love her." Both younger men were surprised into silence and had stared at him with mouths gaping open. "Hiumura is right. Life is too short to keep everything buried inside. Love is meant to be shared, and the past means nothing to it if it is a real love." Soujirou and Yahiko had simply nodded and grinned at Aoshi.

He had finally learned life's most important lesson, although neither of them ever remembered Kenshin saying any of those things. Of course, neither of them were considering the unique information Aoshi had become privy too while he had shared minds with Kenshin. Those two men knew more about one another than any of the other members of their group, and that made them brothers in a very close and unique way.

Saitoh and Hiko were standing with Kenshin. Saitoh continued to cradle little Kuumi in his ams, holding her close to the warmth of his heart. There was an odd look on his now normal face. The usually narrow piercing features had grown almost soft and gentle as he gazed quietly into the small sleeping face of innocence. Hiko glanced at Kenshin and the two shared a meaningful look.

"Elsbeth killed her whole family, Saitoh. Why don't you and Tokio take her."

Saitoh shot Kenshin a startled look. "Take her? You mean keep her? As our own?"

"I think so too. The two of you never got the chance to have any children of your own, and you said it yourself that day. You wished you had not made Tokio wait to have a baby." Hiko reached out and touched the fine hair on Kuumi's little head where it rested comfortably against Saitoh's chest. "I think the two of you would make excellent parents, and, God knows, she needs someone strong to look out for her now and help her get through all of this."

Saitoh looked at the little angel in his arms once more, and felt a strange warmth start burning inside his heart. Could a man like himself find the softness within him to accept the responsibilities for one so small and helpless? One that would need so much of his heart? One that needed to be loved and held and nurtured? Was he capable of such feelings and actions?

He had been that kind of man once, long ago before he lost Tokio and his reasons for living, but now he had her back and his heart had begun to live again. Was there enough room in his pitifully emotion poor heart for one more? Saitoh felt a tender smile curve across his lips of its own will, and the warmth inside his heart grew into a flaming heat. Yes, he could find room within himself for this beautiful little angel. He bent his head down and pressed a gentle kiss upon the downy softness of Kummi's head.

It appeared Aoshi was not the only one who had learned life's most important lesson that night.

Kenshin smiled and hugged the sleeping body of his beloved closer to his own beating heart. Everything was going to be all right now. Everything was as it should be, and all was right within the world of the living.

"Let's go home." He said to his new family. "Let's all go home."

Far across the Ocean, in a large stone keep built of gray and white granite, a child was lying on the floor curled into a fetal ball screaming in hysterical terror and fury. Salty tears burned his huge dark blue eyes and stained the pale brown flesh of his face as they surged like twin raging rivers down his cheeks. He lay on his side trembling violently as pain and fear tore through his slim yet muscular body.

"Vengare' su asesinato. Todo los que son culpables en causar su muerte morira'. El Guerrero Blanco morira'. Yo lo vengare', Mi Madre." He cried in sorrow and confusion as he frantically rubbed at the burning pain around his slender throat. "Vengare' su asesinato, Mi Madre."

Spanish Translation: "I will avenge your murder. All of those who are guilty in causing your death will die. The White Warrior will die. I will avenge you, My Mother."


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Enjoy the Sequel... 'Beloved of The White Flame'.