DISCLAIMER: Rurouni Kenshin characters (c) Watsuki Nobuhiro, Shueisha, Sony Entertainment and whatnots. I am borrowing characters, not making any money out of this and not worthed suing. I'm a poor student interested in writing stories to make others happy... so...

THIS FIC IS NOT YAOI! NO NO NO NO NO NO NO.

Tada kaze no sasu basho e
[Even if I'm going to where the winds point me to]
Tatta hitori de arui de yukou
[Even if I'm going this way alone]

Mishiranu honto no boku ni
[To see and know the real person I am]
Doko kade aeru no nara
[Where would we meet if we are meeting again?]
Journey by Seta Soujirou (Hidaka Noriko)
Translation by

Chronicles of a Rurouni
FINALE
Part 10: Where and when will we meet again?


Lightning tore the skies apart, and just like a scene that happened so many years ago, Soujirou stared, with petrified eyes as Saitou raised his gleaming blade even higher and stared down at the boy.

Was it that hard to find himself?

Was it that hard to seek to live?

Was it that hard to ask for forgiveness?

Was it that hard to live for redemption... ?

Soujirou blinked his tears away, and did what he would have done anyway.

He smiled.

And Saitou brought the blade down.

A horrifying peal of thunder later, accompanied with a supreme blast of white lightning drowned out Kenshin's shouts to Saitou, and he could do nothing but stare on, for he was on the opposite side of the crevass and was not fast enough to reach Saitou before he brought the blade down. The rest of the Kenshingumi gapped, numb with the sheer madness of a supposed 'righteous' policeman's actions. They craned their necks to catch what was really going on, and what greeted them was another surprise.

Kenshin narrowed his eyes, and made a decision.

Saitou slammed the sword blade first into the soil on the riverbank, and promptly removed his sheath to lower it into the crevass. When it reached Soujirou's side, all the boy could do was to blink and blink and blink, unsure of what all this was for. Soujirou looked up at Saitou, who was close to falling over the cliff edge he was leaning against for an answer.

"Grab the sheath, I'll pull you up!"

A split second of hesitant later, Soujirou reached out for the sheath.

But before he could even reach it, the rock he was clinging onto crumbled into a thousand small fragments and withdrew their support for him.

Over at the opposite bank, Megumi held a hand to her mouth and Kaoru was close to muffling a scream. Sanosuke and Yahiko both leaned even more forward in hope that some miracle would happen.

While Soujirou closed his eyes and decided that life had been good so far and there was nothing...

... he felt a jerk.

And looked up.

"... Himura-san... ??"

"Kenshin?!?" Kaoru let out her built-up fears, when she saw that the red-headed rurouni had dived into the crevass to grab Soujirou. She could feel her lips trembling, and she knew it wasn't because of the cold winds that night.

Sano and Yahiko on the other hand, were practically dancing around each other going "All right!" and "YES!". Megumi simply removed her hands from her mouth, but still looked tensed enough to burst.

Kenshin's hand coiled around Saitou's sword sheath even tighter, as the other hand tried to prevent Soujirou from slipping into the choppy waves underneathe them (That's right, people, our favourite red-head rurouni has just leapt across a deep chasm approximately 20 metres apart. Do not ask me how he does it. Go and read up your RK Manga 8). He supported both his legs on the side of the cliff to lessen the added weight Saitou now had to bear, but if they didn't get onto horizontal land very soon, it wouldn't matter how many legs he supported on the cliffside...

"... Himura-san... ??" Kenshin heard Soujirou's awkward tone. He was not in the mood for it right now, but he smiled at the little boy all the same.

"Yes?" He tried not to sound too sarcastic.

Soujirou kept very silent.

"Nothing..." He finally spoke after a while. "I..."

"If you ladies down there are done chit-chatting, I'd like to inform you two that you guys are getting to be very VERY heavy. Are you coming up or not?!" An irritated Saitou finally spoke from his crouched position.

"Of course!" Kenshin quickly answered, less his arch-enemy decide to just finish their 'unfinished battle' there and then. He then turned his attention to Soujirou. "Soujirou, climb up on my hand and try to reach the ground. Afterwards you can help our friendly neighbourhood policeman Saitou pull me up."

Soujirou looked down at the waters for a while.

They seemed so inviting.

He was so tired.

"I'm counting to three. If your baby doesn't start moving, Battousai, I'm going to turn you all into fish food!"

"ORO?!"

"One!"

"Soujirou!!"

Chitsuru and Murasaki... and everyone else... all waiting for him down there weren't they?

What sense did it make to return to land?

What was there to look forward to?

"Two!"

"Saitou... !! Soujirou!!"

"Soujirou!"

"Sou-chan!"

"Oi, Soujirou! You scared numb?!"

"SOUJIROU!"

Actually, there /was/ something to look forward to... Soujirou decided as he slowly listened to the voices of Himura-san's family. He looked up at Himura-san, looked way past Himura-san, and finally at land, where...

... Where...

They were all waiting for him.

Murasaki was right.

If nobody wanted him, why was Himura-san giving his all to try to rescue him from this predicament?

Nobody awaited for him in death.

Only in life did people wait.

So why was he still in this semi-zombie state?

Soujirou closed his eyes and started to move a little.

"Three!" Saitou prepared to let go of the sheath, but not before he noticed that the little boy Soujirou was gone. "Hm? Where did that little lad go to?"

A cheeky face appeared by Saitou's side.

"Here, Saitou-san."

Saitou almost jumped out of his skin.

"Hello." Soujirou smiled and greeted. "Ara! Don't let go, Saitou-san, or Himura-san'll really become fish chow tomorrow!" Soujirou panicked and decided to take over the sheath from a seemingly shocked Saitou.

But Saitou regained his composure as quickly as he lost it. He watched as the little rurouni attempted to pull the other rurouni out of the crevass.

And he actually smiled.

He stood up and removed his sword from the ground, snatching his sheath from an unaware Kenshin who had just made it up onto decent ground and with one quick turn walked away into the night. Soujirou watched the man in his mannerism, slowly being engulfed by the distant dark, and softened his eyes to wonder about alot of things.

But his prime concern was someone else, really.

"Himura-san, are you all right?" He asked the out of breath Kenshin. The one being addressed nodded his head once, shook his head twice and nodded his head again.

Soujirou watched the red-headed rurouni, intrigued and with admiration. The rain continued to rain, although it was getting softer and softer now, and Soujirou knew for sure that this time, his tears were really tears, and not something he would mix with the rain.

"Why?"

Kenshin snapped his head up to look at Soujirou. "Huh?"

"Himura-san, was I worthed all that?" Soujirou continued to hide his countenance from view.

"Oro? Worthed what?" Kenshin scratched his head, unable to fully comprehend the light behind Soujirou's words. He sat up, crossed legged to watch the younger one, noticing that his shoulders were trembling.

Soujirou lifted his eyes to face Kenshin.

"Worthed all that trouble of risking your life to save me?"

Kenshin started.

Soujirou was really crying. And smiling... and crying...

Something in Kenshin just cried along with the little boy, as he moved closer and held him in an embrace.

"Just so that you won't do it again, Soujirou." Kenshin pat the younger one on his back. "Just so that you won't do it again..."

Almost obligingly, the rain ceased to come down.

And the night continued to be ask silent and peaceful as any other night would have been...

...

...

...

Sunlight broke over the distant horizon, as sounds of sliding doors could be heard. A loud and coarse "Good morning" was shouted as the household of Kamiya Dojo prepared for this quite special occasion.

The departure of an eternally good friend.

"Good morning, Kaoru-dono." Kenshin beamed as he entered the kitchen to find Kaoru already hard at work, peeling potatoes.

"Good morning, Kenshin." Kaoru smiled back, in a gay mood that day despite knowing what was going to happen later. "Has he awakened yet?" Kaoru asked almost casually.

Kenshin adjusted his sakabatou and looked up. "He has. He was already awake when I woke up." Kenshin replied.

"Oh."

Kaoru turned back to the preparation area and started to peel more potatoes. Kenshin stood at the doorway, wondering if he should intervene or just let the whole household suffer diarrhea for the day...

"Kaoru-dono..."

"Yes?"

"... I'm sure everybody would appreciate your kindness in offering to cook but are you really very sure this is a good way to see off our guest?" Kenshin tactfully questioned. He immediately started to shrink when the sounds of potato skin being cut off halted.

Kenshin gulped loudly, and awaited the bokken to come crashing on his head.

Instead, Kaoru simply put down her utensils and turned around, smiling like crazy.

"Just for you guys, today I'm going to whip up a dish so fragrant that memories of this dojo will forever be pleasantly imprinted on Soujirou's mind, how's that?" Kaoru did a little dance. Regardless of whatever Kenshin was going to say, she returned to the chopping board. "Just go out and sit down, Kenshin... breakfast'll ready in a minute or two..."

Kenshin tried to avoid himself from shrinking even further, for we all knew that he was really very short anyway, but he couldn't. He just shrank and shrank and shrank. :Pleasantly imprinted: indeed... Kenshin sighed as he walked out of the kitchen in his shrunken mode. /Maybe I should just bring Soujirou and the rest out for breakfast at Akabeko./ Kenshin pondered, looking at the dojo exit. /Or maybe I'll just bring them out for grass by the riverside... especially with the morning dew now, they should taste great!/ Kenshin hit a fist into his palm, satisfied. /Good idea, I'll go gather them all now... way to go, Kenshin old boy!/

Just as he was about to step out of the main dojo/dining area, Kaoru stepped out of the kitchen.

"Breakfast is ready!"

Soujirou slowly walked down the corridor, having heard Kamiya-san's call for eaters. Everything was more or less settled now... now that the rain season had tided over properly and there were no more weird weather patterns than there were hair on a monk's head...

Even the tunnel was well explained. Soujirou knew from the regulars in Tokyo that the tunnel had existed way before he came, when the sea with it's ever changing tides carved a makeshift hole under the basin holding the river up. It had been sealed up by the locals because they had predicted the collapse of the river if they had not done so, and had not been opened ever since... until...

He stopped and stared dreamily into the skies.

/If not for yourself,/ Soujirou reasoned, /for Chitsuru, Murasaki, and everyone else... for I will never find what I have been seeking so hard and so painfully for unless I live... to never let those who believed so much in me down...

Soujirou picked up his pace again, and with regenerated interest in life stepped into the main dojo with a bright, big smile.

"Good morning." The boy walked towards the gathered Kenshingumi, noticing that even Sanosuke and Megumi had decided to join the dojoers for that day.

"It's good to see that you're alive and kicking, Soujirou." Sanosuke shot a thumbs-up handsign to him.

"Yup." Yahiko agreed. "Though I'm not sure how long we're all going to remain like that." He pouted, scrutinizing the food set in front of him with not too much ease.

A scruffle ensued between Kaoru and Yahiko.

Kenshin watched the fight with sighing, but decided that he would be the innocent victim if he butt in anyway, so he turned his attention somewhere else.

"Soujirou." He called out.

"Yes?" Soujirou turned his attention from the fighting duo to the older man across him.

"Are you sure you're leaving after breakfast?" Kenshin's tone was serious, though not too pressing.

Soujirou pondered for a little while.

"Himura-san, I now have more lives on my account than I can care to want for. And like what you have once said to me, winning something does not mean I have found my true ideal; for that would have been something false, something eked out to satisfy my lack of what should be. I may have won over my inner conflict this time round, and I may have understood that I journey not purely because of guilt and redemption, but for the love of someone else, but still, that is not what will satisfy me. You took 10 years to figure out what you really wanted, Himura-san, and why should I be any lesser?" Soujirou smiled. "'The answers are out in the stars', as you have once told me... and I will find them... then maybe I'll come back to see how you guys are doing." Soujirou finished his brief discourse of what had been stored up for a long time in him, only to notice that everyone else had stopped in whatever they were doing and were looking at him.

He blushed.

"OKAY! Let's eat!" Soujirou took the chopsticks and started to try to stuff himself out of the embarassment. He almost choked on the poor quality of the food and instantly concluded that it was Kamiya-san's handiwork... but too happy to care, Soujirou swallowed it all down, and took another bite.

Everybody started to laugh when Soujirou made choking voices.

The sun had fully risen by then.

"So, Jouchan, you still interested in learning cookery from me?"

"Keep quiet!"

The birds chirped bright overhead, as Soujirou stood, alone but happy, opposite the Kenshingumi, with all his baggage in four shoulder boxes. He smiled, and allowed the winds to graze his skin for a while before heaving a breath and giving a bow of respect and gratefulness.

They had agreed on him leaving once his hand had healed, and within a week, the poison had seemingly totally disappeared from his hand. Even Megumi was surprised, but a promise was a promise, so they could find not reason to keep Soujirou any longer. His will to leave was remarkably strong for a boy with his character, too.

"Before you go, Soujirou..." Kaoru took a few steps forward to face the boy. "... I'd just like to say... thank you for everything." She smiled at him. "And I really mean EVERYTHING."

Soujirou smiled and scratched the back of his head, unsure of what to say.

"Therefore, I would like you to accept this humble gift." She held out a brand new shinai. "Rejecting it would be rejecting my gratitude!" Kaoru was quick to add.

Soujirou accepted the present with grace. "Thank you so much." He reassured her that everything was fine. "Thank you for everything, too."

Kaoru returned to standing with the Kenshingumi, as a clear line was seemingly drawn to separate the guest from the family. "Well." Kenshin spoke out finally. "From now on, Soujirou, you'll be doing this alone." He warned jokingly.

"Ah. I know that." Soujirou admitted it. "But whoever said a quest for living was easy?"

Kenshin beamed even brighter, completely sure that now Soujirou was more matured than anyone his age could get. "Then you put our hearts at rest." He nodded. "Go, while the weather is still good." Kenshin pointed down the path Soujirou was about to take. "And don't forget that even though you're alone in person..."

"... I won't be alone in heart." Soujirou held a hand close to his heart, closing his eyes and concentrating on that sentence, as if wanting to keep it close to him forever. "I won't forget, Himura-san..." He opened his eyes and looked up. "Thank you. Thank you very much." Soujirou gave another bow, and turned to leave.

"Aren't you going to at least say 'farewell'?" Kenshin asked the turned back of Soujirou.

There was an uneasy pause as Soujirou did not turn around.

But when he did, the tension was lifted as easily as a feather in the winds.

"What for?" Soujirou's smile was sincere and touching. "I'm sure we'll meet again, Himura-san and everybody..."

"... I'm sure we'll meet again..."

Kenshin smiled too.

It was like watching his grown up son going off to seek a path of righteousness, with the promise of a definite return...

Soujirou twirled his new shinai around and finally, finally took a few steps backwards.

"See you." Soujirou nodded, knowing that his joyful tears were about to emerge if he didn't quickly run away or something.

"See you!" A chorus of voices replied.

Soujirou retreated, further... and further, waving the hand with the shinai. "Somewhere in the near future!" Soujirou shouted, being at a distance apart. "We /will/ meet again!"

"I know!" Kenshin shouted back. "We all know!"

No matter how much Soujirou's heart wrenched, no matter how much he pinned and yearned to really stay with Himura-san and the rest as a family member, he knew... that it would not be his 'answer' to so many things. He could not escape... he would not escape... Soujirou smiled to himself. Despite having smiled to himself his entire life, he now knew that the greatest smile he could have, was the smile of happiness for a loved one... a smile that was given... a smile that would not lie or mask...

And thus, Soujirou began a new phase of his journey. And in a certain sense, he began his new life... THE END... ... and the beginning... Journey

Seta Soujirou (Hidaka Noriko) Boku wa boku no basho e yukou

[I am going in this way to "my place"] Mada, nani mo mienai keredo

[However nothing has been seen yet] Mou namidaa ga su no mo

[Even when more tears are flowing too] Kitto kowaku nai yo

[There's definitely nothing to be frightened of] Ano hito ga kureta kotae dake ja

[Only the coming of another person's answer] Honto no boku ni wa nare nai ne

[Would be unable to make me become the real person I am] Nani ga mitsukaru n darou

[Maybe something would be found] Nani o mitsukerare nai n darou

[Maybe nothing would be found] Kokoro ni kakushite oita

[Whatever remains hidden in my heart are] Boku no kakera

[Pieces of me] Tada kaze no sasu basho e

[Even if I'm going to where the winds point me to] Tatta hitori de arui de yukou

[Even if I'm going this way alone] Mishiranu honto no boku ni

[To see and know the real person I am] Doko kade aeru no nara

[Where would we meet if we are meeting again?] Sukoshi hayaku hashiri sugi te

[I'll go by a little faster] Nani mo mi na katta ki ga shiteru

[Boy, I'll see everything since I feel like it] Sou, machigae ta koto mo

[That's right, even if this thing is a mistake] Kitto kotae nan da

[Which answer is for sure?] Mou ichi dou boku dake no jikan de

[Once again, only with the time I have] Dare ni mo mite nai boku ni naru

[For no one can become what I will become] Dare to wakari aeru darou

[I'll probably meet someone to share this with] Dare o kizu tsukete shimau darou

[Who would probably proceed to put away his wounds] Kokoro wa omou you ni wa

[The heart has this idea in order to] Kire nai kara

[Not break off but] Tada, michi no yuku mama ni

[Even if the path will keep on being in this state] Hiroi atsumete arui te mi you

[In order to gather the pieces that has scattered] Yaiba wa kotazu ni yuku yo

[This journey has to be continued] Ryoute de tsukamu tameni

[In order to grasp it with both my hands] Nani ga mitsukaru n darou

[Maybe something would be found] Nani o mitsukerare nai n darou

[Maybe nothing would be found] Kokoro ni kakushite oita

[Whatever remains hidden in my heart are] Boku no kakera

[Pieces of me] Tada kaze no sasu basho e

[Even if I'm going to where the winds point me to] Tatta hitori de arui de yukou

[Even if I'm going this way alone] Mishiranu honto no boku ni

[To see and know the real person I am] Doko kade ai tai kara

[Where would we meet since I want to meet you so?]


END PART 10 AND ENTIRE FIC
Special thanks to Rurouni, Sano, Michiru, Kawaii-san, Kawaii-san 2, Jien, Kaoru-sensei, the Singapore KFC (Kenshin Fan Club) and all my unsung heros for the fic. Now no one will ever get bored by a draggy fic ala COAR again. whee


12/12/98