Shoulder Angels




Disclaimer: I don't really own any of the RK characters… I don't really want to own them either. Umm, the rest are mine, but I don't particularly feel attached so… yeah. Disclaimer, right: RK me no ownie.

Forewarning: Kaoru's not dead, sorry. Three reasons (four actually: My fic, my rules. That's the best reason there is!) 1. Kicking off because of some stupid disease is a crappy, crappy way to die and I was very disappointed that Kenshin went out that way coughcrap!hack 2. I need her for part of the plot alive and umm… maybe not well 3. Fyyrrose takes WAY too much pleasure in the thought of her buying the farm and that simply won't do, not at all, giving J what she wants. Also, I like Kenshin better than Shinta… so yeah, you know what I'll call our beloved fragmented-persona rurouni.

I suppose I also need to add that Battousai is his own person. See the capital B? Same premise as Drifter.

"Normal talk"

'Caged person's "spoken" words'

-The person in charge of the bodies "spoken" words-


That was it? I was dead. Well, that was crummy… not that I didn't realize and accept it long before my death. I was kind of hoping there would be more fireworks involved, or maybe the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.

Instead I abruptly found myself staring at a pair of gnarled, twisted black iron gates. Skulls of all shapes and sizes were impaled on the top spikes, and various other bones littered the ground. The air was dead and lifeless.

So this was Hell. I didn't see any fire. Where's the fire and brimstone? Actually, it was almost bitterly cold. The stale air seemed to hang with the heavy smell of decay and rotting flesh. Even though the bones had none to keep them warm.

"You!" A voice boomed. Well, it might have if the air would tolerate such misbehavior. Instead it was more like a squeak. Did I mention I hate rats? Turning slowly I looked at Hoji mildly. Death hadn't improved the man any I must say.

"Uh… me? This unworthy one… is sick of saying that. If I'm in Hell already why bother?" I grumbled. Could we hurry this up?

The man smirked, ooo, he was so oily! What did he do, dip his head in a vat of grease? He straightened his already straight clothing and smirked some more.

"No so fast Battousai."






"Fine," He growled, displeased that I had finally gotten enough spine to speak up. Well, why not? There was nothing more to atone for! Although it was kind of a jip, landing down here. I didn't do all that atoning for the fun of it! Being beaten into a pulp numerous times, not to mention the mental torture was hardly what I can great fun. To top it off I got that stupid disease!

'It is a perfect way for a stupid wanderer to die in my humble opinion. Although, it makes me wonder about your… activities.' That voice, it's the one that never left me even through all those years. Meet my alter ego. He goes by Battousai.

-Too bad no one ask your opinion, and hasn't in years.-

'But I give it in the hopes that someday my words of wisdom would get through your thick skull.'

Hoji coughed violently and I looked up. Reflex took over, "Are you all right?"

"Insolent fool, I've been trying to get your attention!" He cleared his throat. He should see a doctor about that congestion. Were there doctors in Hell? Wait, if I came down here then would Miss Megumi also? No, she hadn't done anything near as terrible as I.

'You keep telling yourself that. The truth of the fact is, all of your friends are saturated in sin, one way or another. You just kicked off first.'

-Thank you Mister Positive.- No, I can't make light of such a matter. It terrified me that any of them could land down here. To the marrow of my bones. I deserved to be down here, but I couldn't bear it if they were forced to join me.

'Get off your martyr trip already! They are responsible for their own choices. If they land in Hell all I have to say is the more the merrier!'

"Would you pay attention?" Hoji shrieked in frustration. I gave him a peaceful, wanderer smile, which only pissed him off more. Hehe, never liked the man.

I brushed past him, might as well get this over with. But when I pushed at the cold, iron gates they screamed in protest and flung me back. I did a fantastic butt-skid, being dead takes some getting used to, I didn't have all my reflexes.

Hoji ground his teeth and slicked back his already smooth hair. His beady eyes were locked on me, daring me to ignore him again. Well, he had my attention. So talk you bearer of bad news. Can I shoot the messenger?

"Lord Shishio will not permit you to enter the confines of Hell."

"What?" Did I hear that right? Lord Shishio won't let me into Hell? What, was I not good enough for him or something? Wait… why was he controlling the gates?

Apparently, staring dumbly waiting for an answer isn't very prompting. Hoji pursed his lips and glared with hooded eyes. What was he waiting for? Send me on a flight up to Heaven right?

'Don't sound so gleeful. I bet it's boring up there. All fluffy and totally serene. Let's convince the crispy critter to let us stay down here.' Battousai wheedled. A tempting offer, really. That was sarcasm. Yes, sarcasm. I'm cranky and dead, I think I'm entitled to a little sarcasm, got a problem with that? 'Down boy. If you're going to be so stressed you might as well let me take the helm.'

Stressed? Stressed! I had plenty of reason to go off the deep end here!

"So you are not welcome."

Yeah, got that already. Give me a sign.

Before I could ask him to do something useful a beautiful light trickled down. A warm breeze brought the scent of fresh plum blossoms and a winged figure landed gracefully on the bones, as if they didn't bother her in the slightest. I suppose they wouldn't actually. Not after… not after…

"Tomoe…" I whispered to the angel, for I had no doubt that's what she had become.

I'd love to say that becoming an angel had made her even more beautiful…

'What are you talking about? She's perfection itself.'

-Do I sense a bit of blind admiration and love here?-

'You shut up. Your woman is down on Earth in misery over your dead body. You're in no position to be poking fun at my situation.'

That sobered me up. I wasn't really poking fun. I loved Tomoe also, although most certainly not in the same way Battousai did. He, however, had none of the same compulsions. He really seemed to have it out for my Kaoru.

"Husband," She said serenely, her pale face as serious as ever. The white she wore was stunning while her dark hair looked like ink flowing across her shoulders.

'Hey, are you looking at my woman funny? Because I must tell you I don't tolerate gawkers.' Is this urge I feel what Kaoru felt every time she smashed me over the head? It was like a slow bubbling of annoyance and anger that yearned for some head trauma?

She hesitated, that was bad. I'd never seen her pause in the middle of a speech, no matter how delicate. So not a good thing.

"The elders in Heaven have decreed in a trial of judgment that you may not enter." She announced this in the same voice that she had always called for dinner in. Although her face was composed I could see hurt and fear lingering behind her eyes. For me.

"So where does that leave me?" I ask, fearing the answer. If I couldn't go to Hell nor Heaven, what was left?

"Purgatory." Hoji snorted, "That's the only option."

"Surely another decision can be reached."

"No way woman."

'Watch it rat-man.'

"I will speak with Lord Shishio." He made a vague waving motion at her and said with disgust, "You confer with your people. We will meet in half a day to decide what to do with him."

Before she could reply he disappeared in a puff of sinister looking smoke.

'Neat trick.' Battousai commented.

Before I could reprimand him Tomoe gave a vague smile, unfurled her wings, and disappeared upwards. Damn.

'She'll be back.' Battousai said faithfully. It never ceased to amaze me how devoted he was. Most people only saw the edge of a blade when he was in charge, well, Tomoe was no special exception. Yet few lived through it. Wait, she didn't. This isn't coming out right! What I'm trying to say is he's a total romantic with her. Or not. The relationship was hardly normal, but it had seemed to suit them well on Earth.

-What about Kiyosato?-

He considered this for a long, silent moment and I almost thought I had given him something to chew on when he replied confidently, 'She's a better person than I am. If you can love both her and your Kaoru, even if it's to different degrees, then I think she could do the same. Probably better. You're not that balanced, you know?'

Did I ever.

'So what should we do? Play count the skulls.' He asked idly, pacing his prison. I suppose since I had become ill he really hadn't had one. I hadn't had the energy to erect one, but amazingly he was on his best behavior. It was disconcerting. It was wrong. Something was going to snap and soon.

I really didn't want to count gory trophies or linger around the gates of Hell. Who knew when someone like Saitoh would come hurdling down intending to actually enter. Or maybe another old enemy, I seem to have a lot of them. Get rid of one and three more spring up.

'Fine, spoil sport.' He huffed and started counting to himself. I wouldn't say he was mentally unbalanced exactly, but some of the things were so childish, they made me wonder.

There wasn't anything much to do except sit and wait. It almost made me consider taking a page out of Aoshi's book and meditating. Almost. Instead I sat considering my options and calming my shot nerves. I'm really not like this you know. Not normally. Not so cynical, skeptical, and generally bad tempered… oh wait, I just described Saitoh. Seriously though, I'm usually very accommodating and good-natured.

When the gates of Hell creaked open and Hoji strutted out I had this sinking feeling in my gut. He looked far too pleased about whatever Shishio had said. When Tomoe arrived a few seconds later she didn't look pleased at all. I'm taking it that my appeal did not go over well up there.

The two conferred and when I tried to edge up to hear their conversation Hoji tossed what looked like balled up black lightning at me. This time I had gotten my "dead-legs" and dodged easily.

When they broke apart from their meeting Hoji looked far less pleased. His pinched features radiated displeasure in fact. Which cheered me up immensely.

"You have been granted a task Battousai. In order to be accepted into Heaven," He rolled his eyes at this. I take it Heaven was never high on his aspiring goals. "You must complete this task within the time limit given and without breaking the rules. If you fail then you're down in Hell. A visit, which I assure you, that will be far from pleasant since you thwarted Lord Shishio's plans in the living."

"Terms and conditions?" I asked, very confused. Were they making bets on this? I bet they were. Betting pools on whether Kenshin will bomb his task or if he'll earn his fluffy little wings.

Tomoe probably decided it might be easier if she gave me the bad news, break it gently you know. Too bad it didn't work and didn't keep me from completely flipping out.

"You will be reborn on Earth as an animal of some sort. You have that lifetime to complete your task."

"What kind of animal?"

Hoji grimaced and Tomoe looked amused. I take it this was luck of the draw and for all I knew I'd come back as a turtle. Need for speed.

"It has already been decided, but we are not privy to such classified information." Tomoe explained and Hoji, a bit peeved about her not-quite slur on how much his beloved Lord trusted him, nodded.

'Ask what the other rules are!' Battousai hissed at me. I nodded in agreement, "What are the other restrictions?"

Hoji put on a grandstand voice. Man, talk about some pomp and pride. "You are required to do fifty good deeds. Twenty-five must be done anonymously, however. You must do a deed for five of your friends and family." That's not so bad, "And five for your enemies in life." Ouch, define enemies, because I have lots of them.

"Anything else?"

Tomoe gave a smile, "Hoji and I will be dispatched, once your body is old enough, to judge and mediate fairly."


Hoji gave her a look, "Don't be so patronizing. Even devils have honor."

"Yes, however, you may play by different rules and have different definitions of honor. I will ensure that a general view is enforced."

"Aren't you biased?" Hoji shot back.

"Aren't you?"

That shut him up.

A/N: I actually started writing this way back (at least three months ago) and by posting I am hoping it will provide some motivation to go further. Hint: reviews are motivaton.