When I originally posted Amber Linings back in '03, I was a freshman in college. That was what feels like a lifetime ago (seven years is a lifetime for a writing style). Over a three year period, I ended up writing 13 chapters of the story. Going back and re-reading, it is very easy to mark the different stages of my writing within those chapters. At some point, I lost my drive to write on this story – mostly because I did go back and re-read after I had put it down for a period of time and I wasn't thrilled with my characterization of Kenshin and Kaoru's relationship. This Kenshin was always supposed to be a character study of how a darker, more Battousai version of the Rurouni would react to being a vampire who was encouraged to grow during the Bakumatsu instead of a human boy who had few resources to handle the horror.
But in order to write a story were a relationship was built between Battousai and Kaoru, both of them had to learn how to give – even if it was just with each other. Unfortunately, that didn't happen and the only way I could see the story playing out was if Kaoru broke. Obviously, I didn't like that. (Neither did Kenshin-in-my-head.) Battousai was always meant to have a edge of honor that he couldn't shake, no matter how hard he tried; was always meant to have a soft spot for Kaoru he couldn't help that would continue to grow with the influence of her gift on his instincts. So I had three options: try to finish the story the way it was (hate), abandon the story and just leave it (did not want) or take the time to go back and do the major rewrites that it required to make me happy. So that is what I have done. Chapters 1-6 obviously have the most taken out/re-written and changed because they were written so early in my writing career. The rest of the chapters did not require as much work but did require a thread of change that had to be reworked throughout the story. I am much, much happier with how this worked out and have hopes that this change will allow me to finish the story that I started a long, long time ago.
For those of you who love the story in its original form and are not happy with the changes, I have posted the original versions on .Moon. You can find the link in my profile. Just because I wasn't happy with it doesn't mean that someone else isn't and I didn't want to completely destroy those three years of work (seven, almost eight years of someone reading them) without posting it somewhere else that you could enjoy it. It won't be updated. Those 13 chapters will stay the way they are and I won't add the new chapters to that site because obviously, they won't pull together. But they are there for you should you wish to read them. =)
I will be posting the chapters as I finish the final edits. No promises on when an update will happen for the actual story, but once I have all 13 chapters up, that will be something I start working on. I haven't given up on it yet. Thank you so much for your patience.
Bored amber eyes scanned the thickening crowds milling about the marketplace. How like the humans in this new era to remain so blissfully unaware of the threats that moved so closely to them. They existed in their illusions of safety and daylight… when it would take no more than a flick of his wrist, a small application of strength and they would be gone; snuffed out like they had never existed.
Moving silently through market place, an amused smile curved his lips as some innate instinct had the crowd shifting to make room for him as he passed by. Some days it was amusing to uncloak his presence, to watch the fear flicker across their faces, to see them first take in his slight size, followed by his coloring – dark red hair, yellow eyes – and watch as their faces drain of all color. Battousai.
It had been so few years since he had made his mark in the human wars. Few enough years for the humans to remember his name and the edges of rumors… and just long enough for them to forget how dangerous he really was. Humans lived such short, inconsequential lives that a decade was just enough time for them to start believing again in the safety of their world.
But even as the scar on his face faded with did, so did the protections humans thought they had against his kind.
"… and that's why we only catch bits and pieces of rumors about where he is. Humans don't particularly pay much attention to anything just outside their senses you know. With the classes breaking down even further and so few interested in actual training, I doubt anyone is going to be able to track him in a few generations."
"Sano!" Kaoru scolded as she walked onto the porch. "What did I tell you about making those sorts of stories up? It's bad enough that I have to deal with the two of you. Keep this up and you're going to find yourself working as a storyteller to bring in some extra income."
Sano rubbed the back of his head, looking vaguely sheepish. "Sorry Jou-chan, but frankly, I wasn't storytelling. That's nothing but hard facts. Mostly."
Kaoru quirked an eyebrow, "Sano… I didn't take you as someone who believed in myths."
Yahiko snorted. "It's not a myth. Vampires don't make that type of shit up. Kami knows we've got enough damn horror stories in our clans without having to create proverbial monsters under the bed."
Kaoru stared at them as she settled on the porch, her brows tucked together. For most of her life she had been dealing with vampires and werewolves. Nightfall had long since ceased to be a welcome relief from daylight, but there were some things that she would have preferred to remain unaware of. This was certainly one of them.
Bracing her chin her palm, she frowned at her freeloaders. "So you're saying that Hitokiri Battousai – a human assassin – is one of yours. I thought vampires tried to avoid drawing attention to themselves."
Yahiko shook his head. "Not when you're him. You don't have to hide… there's no reason."
Sano nodded his head in agreement, the fish bone bobbing in the corner of his mouth. "I saw him once, back during the heaviest of the fighting. Darkest damn ki I've ever seen. It was like watching death move across the battlefield. I kept low and then got the hell out of there."
"He is real, that's all you need to know. Anything else might draw his attention."
Kaoru tucked her bottom lip between her teeth and considered the vampires in front of her. Three years ago she had met Yahiko by accident on the way back from training across town, running across a group of men who had cornered a young boy and had been threatening him with sharp pieces of wood. After knocking the antagonists around with her bokken, Kaoru found herself nearly tackled when that same little boy had bared fangs and lunged.
Luckily for her – and unfortunately for Yahiko – vampires have an aversion to wood and she had knocked him out with a clean blow to the head. Before she could figure out what to do with her problem, the tallest man Kaoru had ever seen had walked around the corner. He had taken one long look at the situation and then scooped Yahiko up, asking around the fishbone in his mouth if she had any bandages.
It had taken her a while to realize that the boy wasn't the only one sporting fangs. But by then Sano had introduced himself and explained that the boy was an orphan. Before she had time to assail either of them, he had given her a blood promise not to attack her. For some insane reason, she had decided to believe him and dragged them both home to the dojo. Years later she was still trying to figure out what had prompted that dangerous decision, but neither Yahiko nor Sano had ever really left.
After that she had been dragged – willingly and unwillingly – into enough disputes to have a pretty good handle on what the world was really like. Her life had been constantly threatened by vampires claiming her life forfeit because of her knowledge of their world. Somewhere she had started to teach Yahiko her style of swordplay. Having a vampire pupil and dealing with territorial issues with Sano had done a lot to hone her skills.
There had been complications. Being a vampire made training with bokken and shinai difficult for Yahiko until they had finally developed a pair of gloves to protect his hands and Kaoru was careful with her strikes. She only hit where cloth fell. Yahiko claimed that the close relation to wood would only benefit him over the long run, helping him build tolerance.
It had been three years of learning. Three years of taking what they said at face value and applying shadows to her own life. But this...
Himura the Battousai, the Hitokiri of the Bakumatsu… The terror that had been used to scare petulant children into bed was not only a man of great strength and power, but according to Yahiko and Sano, he was a fanged one as well. That was terrifying.
"But why would anyone from your world care about a simple dispute between humans?" Kaoru asked quietly.
"Blood," Yahiko said flatly. "As Hitokiri he had access to dozens of bodies. You know that we have to feed. For someone like him… holding off his hunger with human food would be unnecessary. During war…. He – well, any of our kind strong enough to hold it – had access to both life blood and death ki. Two very strong temptations. He would have used their abundance to build his power."
The idea of a vampire using death to make himself stronger was not a new one, but she stared at him in surprise anyway.
Sano ran a hand through his hair. "Vampires like that… use death as a stimulant. If you're strong enough to absorb it… you stop losing power. Unlike the rest of us who lose power in-between feeds, the nearly constant presence of blood and death ki would have bought him excessive power. He's a living, breathing nightmare now. He walks in daylight with no fear of retribution because no one can touch him."
Kaoru shivered, wrapping her arms around herself. "Oh. I hope I never, ever have to deal with anything like him, then. There is no way to kill him?"
"Who the hell would want to try it?" Yahiko snapped. His brows bunched together and he glared at her. "There is one way…"
"But it would be fucking stupid to try it!"
Sano looked surprised. "I had forgotten about that."
Kaoru looked from one to the other. "What?"
"Do you know anything?" Yahiko demanded in irritation. "Here I thought you were paying attention to our lectures!"
Kaoru glared at him, and fisted her hands on top of her thighs and growled his name in warning. "Ya-hi-ko!"
Yahiko glowered at her. "His life bond."
"His what?" Kaoru questioned, her brow knitting together in confusion.
"His mate." Sano clarified, looking embarrassed.
Kaoru blinked and then frowned at Yahiko and Sano. Neither of them had been willing to talk about what exactly went into a vampire choosing a mate. Instead she had gotten a muttered run around about gifts and ki and the permanence of it. There didn't seem to be a large number of female vampires… or at least, Kaoru hadn't ever met one. She knew that rarely a human was changed, but it was mostly considered a waste of power and that vampires avoided sharing their beds with humans. She did know that the few children who came of vampire and human relations had been largely responsible for the small groups of human families that hunted vampires.
She had, in fact, saved Yahiko from a group of inexperienced hunters who had caught him between feeds. By giving them a place to stay she kept them from living off the streets and out of the direct fire of those who hunted their kind. In return, they helped out around the dojo, kept the territory around her home free of those that might attack her and kept an eye out for the humans interested in taking over her school.
The most recent of those was a human named Gohei. Sano had beaten him and his goons into the ground early on in their friendship, but the man was persistent and had come back around several more times. With his latest assault Gohei had promised to not only take Kaoru's Dojo, but everything else as well.
She sighed, reaching for the Tofu basket. This was enough to think about for now. It was her turn to head into to town to buy groceries since Yahiko would be cooking dinner.
"Well, now that we have that cheerful talk out of the way, I'm going to do something useful. Like buy tofu. Sano, I trust the yard will be straightened up by the time I return?"
Sano shrugged and stood, hauling Yahiko up with him. "Sure Jou-chan."
Yahiko scowled. "How come we always have to clean the yard?"
Kaoru offered him her sweetest smile. "Because you are the two who always mess it up."
Both vampires waited until Kaoru had disappeared through the gate before sitting back down.
"I still think something is up with her, Sano." Yahiko muttered, absently observing the grass threading about the roots of an old Sakura tree on the far side of the yard. "There is something off in her ki."
Sano sighed. "She is mortal, Yahiko. We've gone over this. And it's impossible for a mortal to bear a gift, no matter what you think you feel. It takes vampire blood to do that, and there is nothing like that in her scent or taste."
Yahiko sighed. "I thought she was going to kill me for licking that scratch, but we had to make sure. Still..." He rubbed the side of his head in remembrance.
Sano smiled grimly. "You're right. We'll just have to watch and see what happens."
Glinting cobalt eyes, slightly flecked with violet, watched the humans walk down the streets. His lips curved lightly at the corners, pulling his lips back far enough to show just a glimmer of fang.
"Edo has changed."
His tone spoke of distaste. Tilting his head to one side, he studied the way the humans moved. Heavy footed and without any care of concern for what might be lurking in the shadows.
"All things change, Batts." An amused and cultured lilt murmured back. Tossing back her dark hair, she shrugged. Her dark eyes were weary though, as she turned to face him.
"Perhaps," he mused, dismissing her words as his eyes flickered over the crowd. "Some things are best left unchanged however. It would be such a pity for something to catch them unaware."
"Himura the Battousai has the tendency to catch everyone unaware," she responded, "But there is something here... something strong."
Battousai narrowed his gaze and was forced to agree with her assessment. Something was calling him to this city, this hellhole of mortals who lived such a short life span and ruined what little time they had with careless beliefs and ideals. Something was pulsing with power here and he was going to find it and claim it his.
"I am going to look around. Stay out of trouble."
The underlying threat was clear; if she ran into trouble while he was on his hunt, he would not help her. His time was better spent looking for whatever had called them here, for if it drew him then it would surely draw other forces as well. And he did not share.
Megumi nodded in silent agreement. She watched as he walked away, his form blending into the crowd, even with the stark contrast of his red hair and dark clothing. Ten years had changed him so very little. Some days, it was hard to remember when she had met Battousai. She had been a young, idealistic mortal who had strived to be a doctor – and she had paid the price for her compassion. She both cursed and blessed the evening she had found him, prone and unconscious, a cracked wooden beam a silent testimony to what had caused his injury.
Megumi had somehow dragged him to the clinic she worked at and treated his wounds. It wasn't until he had returned to consciousness that she had learned what sort of monster she had saved. A demon – contained and disguised within a delicate and finely wrought frame. He had attacked her and upon waking she had discovered that the pain in her neck had brought heightened senses, a stronger form and a set of fangs.
He had saved her life only because she had saved his. She was his to kill at any moment. Her choices were simple. Do as he told her or she would find out exactly why that simple wooden beam had almost killed him.
It wasn't all terrible. Her love medicine had somehow turned to raw power at her fingertips and she was able to heal with a mere thought instead of the intense labor as before. But there were horrors as well. Dark, terrible horrors that the man she followed lived in.
And yet… Megumi found that even now, she would not leave him.
Death clung to him like an ominous cloud - a gift, he called it, and yet there was a cold, awe inspiring rationalization to his madness, a sense of honor and he was sane. His mind was completely his own. He knew exactly what he did, delighted in it, and fed from it. Calculating madness was there, but no insanity tempered his vision. He saw everything with a stark clarity.
She feared him on many levels, but feared leaving his side more. There was nothing safer than being in the den of the beast, because the beast was supreme for miles around. The only true danger was the beast's teeth and the fact that he could turn on you any day.
Kaoru sighed to herself as she carefully made her way about the crowds. The marketplace was full of tension today. And she couldn't shake the feeling that she was being watched. Pressing her lips together, she forced herself to ignore it.
She had never gotten around to telling Yahiko or Sano about her past. She couldn't see that any good would ever come of it. They couldn't take on an entire city simply because she felt dread building in the pit of her stomach, warning her that something dangerous was approaching. Yet… she could feel it in the air. Something that hummed like muted voices in her ears…
Some things were better left in the past, after all. Her family was one of them. Most of the locals had never forgotten that her father had taken a woman of unknown origins as his wife. They didn't forget that she had disappeared not long after she had given him a child; and that that child had grown up to inherit the dojo. She was stubborn enough to ignore it and they were stubborn enough to never let her forget it; a single female living with two freeloaders. Her mother's daughter. Gohei's rambles and rumor spreading against her had only agitated the situation.
But today it felt worse. Like something had slithered into the air and stirred hidden anger and aggression. Previously dark glares and snotty comments had been sparked, somehow, into full-blown loathing. There was always some level of hostility. Kaoru had long learned how to avoid the venders who would ignore or overcharge her. She simply squared her backbone and tried again. But today… today it felt living.
And something bad was going to happen.
It came in the form of a young, dark eyed girl. Hands propped against her hips, she glared at her with something violent in her eyes. Kaoru braced herself, waiting for the rebuke that would leave her bruised in more ways than one. The words came as expected, the faintly mocking and deliberately cutting words… but it was the hands that caught her in the back that pushed her directly into the crush of the market that caught her off guard.
Stunned at the open aggression, she staggered straight into the street until she rammed into something that felt vaguely like a sturdy tree. Something hard wrapped around her waist, forcing the air from her diaphragm. A deep growl vibrated against her chest and her heart started pounding in her ears.
There might have been a crowd gathering behind her, but she sincerely doubted they lingered long. There had been an edge to that voice that sliced through the air like a blade. The arm around her waist abruptly released her and she was all but peeled away from the man's side.
Blue eyes met amber.
Kaoru froze at the darkness she saw looking back at her. Sano's description mingled with human myth and she suddenly couldn't find any air. His hair was the same color as blood and it fell smoothly around his shoulders from a high topknot. His eyes held hers, narrowed into slits as he studied her.
Then the world began to move around her again. The market had noise. The earth had vibrations. The redheaded man was gone. Reaching down with shaking arms she cradled the tofu bucket against her chest and started home. They would do without tonight. She kept her gaze downward and hidden as she frantically tried to place what had just happened.
Was Battousai really in Tokyo?
He watched her move away, noting absently the controlled set of her shoulders. He was more interested in the brightness that seemed to cling to her every move and flicker off her body in soft, gentle swirls. The very life around her seemed to resonate as she passed, as if it was trying to cling to anything she touched.
She was human. It was impossible for her to have a gift.
Dismissing her – blue, blue eyes – he headed back into the streets. It was irritating that someone so small had managed to crash into him, startling him enough that he had allowed his cloak to slip for a single moment so that mortal men could see him.
He would deal with the humans later. It was too easy to mark those who were foolish enough not to guard their ki. And later, when he needed to feed...
But for now, there were old friends in town to track down and a hunt to continue.
The only mark of his passage was the faint mingled scent of blood and ginger.
Sano frowned when he felt Kaoru approaching. Her ki held the subtle touch of depression but it was colored brightly with anger and frustration. And bewilderment.
"Kaoru?" Yahiko questioned, frowning when he saw the lack of groceries in her arms. Her mouth and the lines around her eyes were tense.
Sano was uneasy as he caught a lingering trace of foreign ki on her skin. Reaching over, he gently swathed her in his own and frowned when, instead of fading as it should have, it pulsed before quietly settling onto her skin, a thin, dark layer of power refusing to allow him contact with her ki.
"Jou-chan," Sano questioned, echoing the question Yahiko had asked, his tone worried.
Kaoru gave them a wavering smile, "just some excitement at the market."
Yahiko stared at the now dented tofu bucked.
"Did someone say something to you again?" Sano asked, cracking the knuckles that Kaoru had seen break through rock like it was rice paper.
"Sano," Kaoru said weakly, her eyes pleading to let it drop. She didn't want to lie to her friends, but she was very aware of what would happen if she gave them the answers they were looking for. Kaoru knew from experience he could tell who she had been in contact with during the day and he had no problem bashing human heads together.
She appreciated his big brother attitude, but he had to learn that she could defend her own honor.
"It was nothing to worry about." Kaoru told him, gently placing a hand on his wrist. "Please, let it go."
"You feel funny." Yahiko muttered. "Like you had contact with another Vampire I don't recognize."
Sano reached over and grasped her by the elbow. "Talk, Jou-chan."
Kaoru reached up and rubbed her temples. "I got shoved into someone today, that's all."
"What did the vampire look like?" Yahiko questioned. If there was a new vampire in town they needed to know. Best to give the newbie some warning that trying to eat Kaoru would bring down a heavy price on his head.
"He..." Kaoru's shoulders rounded with defeat. "He had red hair and yellow eyes."
"Please tell me you are just making fun of us because of our stories." Sano said finally, his eyes wide at the corners.
Kaoru shook her head.
"Oh shit." Yahiko breathed. "He hasn't been in these parts for years. I thought he was still out roaming the less populated areas!"
Sano groaned. "We all knew he'd eventually make his way back here. I was hoping Jou-chan here, would be old and decrepit by then."
Yahiko was too bothered by the news to rebuke his friend. "Damn."
Kaoru eyed the two men nervously. "What?"
Yahiko sighed. "There is a reason we've been keeping other vampires away from here."
Kaoru grabbed both of them by the ears and marched over to the porch, Yahiko and Sano yelping in pain, and shoved them both down on the steps. Propping her hands on her hips she gave them her most withering glare. "Talk."
"A woman who houses vampires, especially a human woman, will not go unnoticed by anyone here Kaoru." Sano started, rubbing idly at his ear. "He's going to know about you. About us."
Kaoru looked back and forth. "What does that mean?"
The feeling in the pit of her stomach was growing fast and Kaoru plopped down on the porch to ease her trembling legs.
"He will come here." Sano said tiredly. "And he will probably kill you."
Kaoru flinched and curled up to face the setting sun, wondering exactly what she had gotten herself into. "Why?"
Yahiko swallowed hard. "You know about us."
Kaoru swallowed. That wasn't new. She had dealt with vampires before who had tried to kill her for those very same reasons. "But if he is so powerful, why would he bother with me?"
"And us. Don't forget about us, 'cause we are the ones who told you." Sano muttered. "We can handle the little peons in this city when they try things but him…"
Kaoru's pensive gaze settled on the duo once more. "What do you mean he will kill you too?"
"We've told you about the… laws Kaoru," Yahiko reminded her. "And we're sort of trudging the edge of them by being here and letting you live. We haven't broken them, broken them… but we sort of bent them a little."
"Not only have we told you who we are, we have told you about our world. That's the part that can get us into trouble." Sano informed her, his voice pained.
"Maybe we shouldn't have told you." Yahiko whispered. "But...I, we, couldn't help it."
Kaoru knitted her brows together. Rising to her feet she began to pace the porch. "What do you mean?"
"You, Kaoru. Just… you. You have this way of looking at people and… fuck, it's hard to explain! It's just what it is, okay? And we didn't want to let that go."
"And now we may have gotten you killed."
Yahiko sighed. "I should make dinner."
Yahiko shrugged, looking defensive. "If he comes, he comes. It won't do us any good to worry about it, and besides, there are more important things for us to deal with in the meantime."
Kaoru blinked. "Such as?"
Sano suddenly looked really, really worried. "Oh shit. Oh shit."
"Gohei! That little…" he took a deep breath and clenched his fist until his knuckles turned white. He stood up and walked away from the porch, his frame tense.
"Gohei's been spreading rumors." Yahiko said quietly, his eyes almost too wide for his face.
A stone was sinking in the pit of her stomach. "What rumors?"
"That he is Hitokiri Battousai."
"And that he trained at this dojo." Sano said.
Kaoru sank onto the porch, her face pale.
If that didn't bring the real Battousai here, what would?
Battousai walked along the thinning streets of Tokyo, keeping his eyes open for anything interesting as he headed back to where he was supposed to meet Megumi. The hotel he had chosen as decent enough for now. He had rented three rooms to keep from being disturbed by loud neighbors. There were ways to shut them up but he didn't particularly care to expend that amount of energy.
Maybe it was time to start looking into a place here as well.
But not tonight. Tonight there were other reasons to be irritated. He fully expected humans to forget, but for his fellow vampires to do the same… his lips curled at the edges. It wouldn't be a mistake they would make twice. But what he wanted to know was the meaning behind the half-heard whispers that had seemed to follow him.
No one had died by his sword since his arrival in Tokyo. Yet, the low born filth seemed to believe that he had been killing off worthless humans for sport. While an amusing notion, it was not one he ever particularly indulged in. Humans were good for an easy meal, nothing more and nothing less. To slaughter them helplessly was as interesting as slaughter sheep. This was why he was meeting back up with Megumi, to see if she had gained any useful information.
Megumi looked up as he entered her expression pensive.
"What have you learned?"
"There are lots of rumors. But the most interesting has to do with you."
He lifted a brow, leaning his back against the door frame. "Oh?"
The darkness crowding in his eyes gave her tongue speed. "There is a human who is claiming to be Hitokiri Battousai."
Battousai looked unmoved. It wasn't the first imposter and it wouldn't the last.
"However… he is claiming that he belongs to a school of Kamiya Kasshin Ryu. It is apparently a sword that gives life instead of taking it." Megumi let her amusement show.
He looked bored. "Is there a point to this, Megumi?"
Megumi leaned forward. "Here is the best part - the Kamiya Dojo is just a few blocks from here and guess what is living there?"
He raised a brow in question.
"Two vampires and a human girl. And not only is this girl human, but she teaches the sword style herself and the 'Battousai' has sworn not only to kill her, but to 'reclaim' the school for himself."
Battousai narrowed his eyes and watched the sun sink below the tree line. "Then I think we need to go and pay a visit to this Dojo."
Megumi smiled, her eyes gleaming. "If you say so, Batts."
Kaoru sighed in relief as she stepped out of the furo. Full darkness was falling quickly but someone had been nice enough to leave a lantern on the porch. While neither of them had any trouble seeing in the dark, they had slowly fallen into the habit of remembering that she had limitations that they didn't.
For one, her stomach wasn't made of iron.
Yawning behind her hand, she forced herself not to think of the conversations from earlier. She couldn't solve anything and she refused to work herself into a state. Running her hands through her damp bangs, she moved as silently as she could through the dojo. Sliding her door open, she headed over to her little stand where she kept her comb. Before she could curl her fingers around the familiar brush, something prickled along the nerves of her neck. Twisting around, she froze at the sight that greeted her.
The man from the market stood in the half-lit shadows.
His eyes were a backlit gold, hidden by bangs of dark crimson and his hair was pulled into the same high tail that cascaded down his back and shoulders. Next to him stood the most beautiful woman Kaoru had ever seen, her hair a slick dark brown, framing cinnamon eyes that glittered with something sharp.
"Kamiya Kaoru?" His voice was liquid silk and shadows; his finely-wrought mouth curling into a malevolent taunt.
"Yes?" Kaoru hesitantly answered her voice unflinching even as her knees trembled.
"Good." The faint echo of an unsheathing blade rung in her ears as he blurred.
Yahiko frowned as he entered the Dojo's yard, his eyes widening at the burst of ki. He sent Sano a look of pure panic and received an answering expression.
"He's here." Sano hissed, his face going pallid, his lips bloodless in fright.
They moved as one, both knowing they were already too late, but hoping against logic that they could arrive... that they had enough time to save her. Yahiko prayed.