A/N: And we've finally reached the final chapter. This has been a fun and annoying story to write and I want to take this time to thank EVERYONE who read it! As with all my stories I have a little explanation of how the story came to be at the end of the fic! The WONDERFUL Nekotsuki was my beta for this chapter and the whole story!
Chapter 10 - Reconcile
Once he was far enough away from Hitoshi, Kenshin switched the sword to his other hand, his broken fingers throbbing mercilessly from being used. He looked down at his hands, getting his first good look at them in days. They had been stiff and that had made handling the sword a bit difficult, but he had managed. His wrists had started to scab over where he had rubbed them raw and to the point of bleeding against the rope. His broken fingers were black and blue and very swollen. A dull ache rested in his shoulders, and he swung his arms around to get the stiffness out.
He fiddled with untying the rope that was still tied around his neck with one hand. It took longer that way, but he would rather keep the rope around his neck (now that no one was pulling on it) than use his broken fingers again. He let a small sigh escape as it finally came loose and fell to the ground.
His whole body ached, but that wasn't as bad as his stomach. Raw hunger gnawed at him, and as much as he hated to admit it, he was still sick. As the adrenaline over escaping slowly evaporated, he found his feet growing heavier with each step. Not only his feet, but his head as well. More than once, he felt as if he was falling to the ground as he lost the strength to hold his head up.
He trudged on; he just had to get to the village, and then he would see where things went from there. Find a doctor, and he knew he needed one. He could swear he heard someone calling his name. Himura-san! That voice was really getting annoying. Himura-san! Such an annoying voice. Himura-san! Why did that voice seem so annoying? Himura-san, wait! He knew that voice. Himura-san! Over here! No, it couldn't be…
With what strength he had left, Kenshin lifted his head and looked to his left where the voice was coming from. He blinked a few times to make sure he wasn't seeing anything. He wasn't; Reizo and a few others he recognized were running towards him. What are they doing here? he wondered dully, as he watched them. They're a little late.
Reizo was the first to reach Kenshin. "Himura-san! You're alive!"
"Aa," he answered quietly, not sure what else to say to that.
"What happened? Are you all right? Where are the others?"
Ugh, Reizo and his questions. Kenshin wondered briefly if it was too late to go back to Hitoshi. Then again … Hitoshi had annoying and painful questions of his own. "Reizo, please, I have a headache." He reached up to put a hand up to his throbbing head and nearly lost his balance.
Reizo reached out and took hold of Kenshin's arm, alarmed by how hot he felt. "You're sick!"
"Aa." Reizo stated pretty obvious things.
"Quickly! Let's get you back to the village! You need a doctor! What happened to your fingers? Can you walk? This way! Quick! Someone run ahead and make sure a doctor is ready when we get back! And-"
Kenshin shut his eyes. "Reizo. Please, lower your voice!"
"Oh right, your headache."
Kenshin managed to get to the village on his own; he was escorted by the local doctor to his office and was told to lay down on the futon. The doctor wrapped Kenshin's broken fingers in a small splint to keep him from moving them. He rubbed something that Kenshin couldn't name on the marks the rope had left on his neck and wrists. It immediately cooled the rope burns. The doctor announced that he was suffering from malnutrition and would need to eat something soon, and that his cold wasn't too bad and as long as he took care of himself, he wouldn't have it for much longer. The last thing the doctor did was to make sure Kenshin had a drink of water, then left him alone to rest. With a sigh Kenshin finally let his body relax, and he drifted off to sleep.
Hitoshi wasn't as lucky. There was no one waiting just a little way ahead for him. He walked two more days before the landscape looked familiar, and then another one to get home. Everyone was shocked to see him; most had thought him and the others to be deserters. When he told his commanding officers his tale, no one believed him.
"Battòsai." The officer sighed. "You want me to believe that you, Shuhei, and Keigo managed to capture Battòsai, walk him nearly here while he was sick, and then he managed to get free and killed the others?"
Hitoshi couldn't look his superior in the eye. "Hai. That's what happened, sir."
"Hitoshi, you really can't expect me to believe this crap? Why would you take him alive?"
"That was Shuhei's idea."
The officer went quiet; he just couldn't believe the story. "Hitoshi, this is what I think happened. The fighting got too intense, you ran from battle, and instead of coming back you hid. But the shame got to you, and you've returned to do what's right."
Hitoshi couldn't find the words to say. To do what's right - what was right would mean to commit seppuku. "Sir, please believe me. It's the truth."
"Hitoshi, how can I believe such a ridiculous story?"
"Does he have the bodies?" a third voice broke in.
Hitoshi looked for the owner of the voice, his voice catching in his throat. It was a Shinsengumi member! They were supposed to be the best samurai the shogun had, and there were two of them in the room now; he could hardly believe it.
Hitoshi's officer bowed in respect. "Captain Okita, Captain Saito. To what do I owe the honor of your visit?"
Once again, Hitoshi was awed. The Okita and Saito? The Captains of the firstand third Shinsengumi squads!
"The bodies," Saito continued. "I've seen what Battòsai's attacks can do. Let me see the bodies, and I can tell you if he killed them or not."
Kenshin awoke the next day. His body stiff, he rose from bed but didn't get too far before the doctor ushered him back to bed. Soup was placed before him. He ate carefully, his stomach still feeling upset, but he was able to keep it down without much trouble. With a belly full of food and still feeling rather tired, Kenshin decided staying in bed wouldn't be so bad.
Reizo came in later that day; he pulled up a little stool and sat down. He was quiet a moment, thinking over what he wanted to say. "Himura-san. I want to thank you--"
"For what?" Kenshin stared at Reizo, unable to think of a single thing Reizo would want to thank him for.
"For saving me."
Reizo's voice was quiet, shy. It was baffling to Kenshin. Why would Reizo be shy over something like this, and since when had Reizo been shy about anything? His eyes moved down to the ground. "I don't want to be thanked for killing."
Reizo was surprised. He never thought the Battòsai could look so depressed over killing. "This is war, everyone kills."
"Someday there will be peace. On that day…" He reached up and touched his left cheek. "On that day…" He would be able to fulfill his promise to Tomoe.
Reizo was quiet in thought for a moment. "Himura-san, what do you fight for?"
"I fight for a world where people can be free. Free to choose their own paths and to live happily." This came easily for Kenshin to say, as if it was a practiced speech.
Reizo grew silent, thinking over what had been said in that short conversation. 'Free to choose their paths'… it was a nice dream. A dream that he could help the Ishin Shishi make into a reality. He smiled; he would like that.
Reizo studied Kenshin. He had slowly grown to know the young man sitting before him over the past few months. He would admit he probably knew a lot more about him than many other people did. As he had come to know more about him, the more he'd come to like him, despite the cold shoulder he often received. Reizo could now admit to himself that when Kenshin went missing, he'd been really disappointed… and when they hadn't found a body, really hopeful that he had lived.
"How's your back?"
Reizo nearly fell off the stool when the question came. He had been so lost in his own thoughts, he had forgotten all about Kenshin. "Fine, but I can't believe you remember that?"
Kenshin shrugged. "Is it really that hard to remember someone's injuries?"
Reizo had to admit, he was touched. After everything he had been through, Kenshin still remembered that he had been injured. Reizo was pretty sure he would have forgotten something like that. He smiled; perhaps Himura really did care about him. "Himura-san," he started quietly "I was wondering… well, if…"
"What is it?" Kenshin asked to help Reizo along.
"If it would be all right if I called you Himura."
Kenshin allowed a small smile to grace his face. "Hai, I would like that."
Hitoshi led a small group of men to where Keigo and Shuhei had fallen to Battòsai's steel. Okita and Saito were there, along with a few other Shinesengumi members. The smell of decay assaulted them as they grew close. Hitoshi hadn't had enough supplies to burn two whole bodies and he hadn't the strength to bury them. Instead, he had laid them side by side and sprinkled them with dirt, said a prayer, and planned on hopefully returning later to give them a proper burial.
Saito and Okita studied the bodies carefully, speaking in hushed tones to each other. It didn't take them long to make up their minds. "Battòsai-san indeed killed these men," Okita announced. He turned to Hitoshi. "You're very lucky to be alive; you three were foolish to think you could take him like you did."
Hitoshi was quiet as he listened to what Okita had to say. He was lucky, he knew he was. Yet, it was a bit ironic now that he thought about it. If he hadn't come to know Battosa - Kenshin like he had, he would have still been looking for revenge. He would have tried to kill him after Keigo had died, and the three of them would have rotted together here in this forest.
Saito moved away from the bodies, having seen enough. "Captain Shirakawa." Shirakawa bowed respectfully to Saito, being he was a higher ranking captain than himself. As he rose, his ice blue eyes locked with Saito's amber ones. A rather long scar that started at the top of his left eye and ran down to his jaw was Shirakawa's most prominent figure. He had muscular arms like most of the Shinsengumi captains, but his hair was short and very black; it was always unruly as if he never brushed it.
"What is it you need, Saito-san?" he asked with his thick voice.
"Hiroko, I want your men to bring these men back for proper burials."
Hiroko bowed. "What about Battòsai? He may still be around nearby."
"I want you to keep you ears open; if you hear of anything, act in the appropriate manner."
"Yes sir. If I find him, I won't fail you as these three did." Hiroko quickly ordered his men to their tasks. Before long the group headed back to base.
Kenshin walked beside Reizo as they made their way back to Kyoto. He had only spent a couple of days recovering, but with the exception of his broken fingers, he felt fine. He was ready to get back to work.
He had come to find out that entering the village had indeed almost brought Shuhei's undoing. After failing to find Kenshin's body among the dead, then finding his swords had been sold nearby, search teams had been sent out in search of him. They hadn't really expected to find anything, and were even considering giving up when they had found the village.
It had been a surprise when the innkeeper had told them about the four men who were traveling together. He had described one man as being sickly and rather short; he also thought he had seen red hair, but then thought it had only been the cloak the boy had been wearing. The innkeeper's tale had kept the group searching for Kenshin.
It led Kenshin to wonder… was it his skills that made the men want to find him, or didn't that matter? Had he just been any other man, would they have looked so hard? Would he even be alive if he wasn't the hitokiri Battòsai? Shuhei wouldn't have wanted him so badly if he had been anyone else. It almost made Kenshin's stomach upset. The only reason he was still alive was because he was so skilled at killing.
"Himura?" Reizo questioned when he saw the bleak expression that had crept over Kenshin's face. "You feeling alright? We can stop if you need to rest."
"Iie, I'm fine."
Reizo left it at that, not pressing the matter. After all he had been through, he imagined Kenshin didn't need his teasing right now.
Kenshin was thankful for Reizo's silence. He wanted time to think over the past couple days. His thoughts mostly rested over the personal things he had told Hitoshi, but as he thought it over, he came to the conclusion that it wasn't damaging information. In fact, considering some of the information he could have given, what he had said was probably the least harmful to the Ishin Shishi's cause.
He wished he could have said he was happy to see Kyoto again, but his return to Kyoto meant his return to work. However, Katsura would not let him with his fingers still broken. Alone in his assigned room, Kenshin smirked. Hitoshi had given him a small vacation.
Hitoshi let out a small sigh. He stood looking up at the darkening sky. Shuhei and Keigo's bodies had been cremated. Keigo's ashes were on their way back to his family; Hitoshi wasn't sure where Shuhei's ashes were headed. He wondered briefly what had become of Yoshinori's body. He hoped he wasn't rotting away in that field.
A quick shake of his head and that image left. He was sure that his friend's body had been taken care of.
He inhaled the evening air deeply, clearing his mind. He thought about more recent events. Seeing as his superiors now believed he hadn't run from battle, he was no longer required to commit seppuku. In fact, once word got around camp, most men wanted to hear his story. They were amazed at hearing that he had survived an encounter with Battòsai. He would continue his services as a soldier, and then he would return to his home. He shut his eyes; he was sick of this war.
Uninvited, Kenshin entered his thoughts. He knew more about the man than most people did, perhaps more than anyone else. He slowly opened his eyes, rethinking his decision to not say anything about what he had learned.
True, he knew Battòsai's real name, but in the long run it was pointless. Besides that, he only knew that Kenshin had a dead girlfriend. There wasn't much help in that information, and he hated to admit it, but he was disgusted with the way he had obtained the information. It was best if he kept what he knew to himself.
He said a small prayer to the darkening sky to the three who had been killed by Battòsai. Finished, he turned to go back to the troop, but paused to take one last look up. He took in a breath and held it, saying one more prayer for Kenshin. He slowly let the air out; that had felt strange, but good. Without another word, he headed back to the encampment.
A/N: And this is the closing of my latest fic. Under the Weather I came up with while writing Amber Eyed Angel. I wondered why I haven't seen more sick fics from the war. Granted, I've seen fics from the Meiji when he gets sick, he is human after all. So I figured that he probably got sick when he was kid too!
From there I started thinking about how not many people point out how it's a war and both sides suffer losses. I wanted to point that out, that's why this story it focuses a lot on Kenshin and Hitoshi. Shuhei and Keigo I tried to makes seem like real people with real struggles. It was a rather simple plan that evolved into this story!
For those of you who haven't read Amber Eyed Angel, there is no Captain Shirakawa, Hiroko in real life. He's an OC from that story and his creation is explained more in that story. Those who HAVE read Amber Eyed Angel will probably recognize the conversation between Kenshin and Reizo. Remember this was suppose to take place before Amber Eyed Angel.
Starknight - Yup, sorry, this is the end.
Viperthe strange - I was trying to scare you by saying I could kill Kenshin if I wanted to.
Chibi Binasu-chan - Here's the update before August!
moosey - Amber Eyed Angel was removed by fanfiction(dot)net. I have been reposting it chapter by chapter if you want to re-read it.
Tokichic - Glad you liked the story!
He who makes the rain BLEED - Thanks for the review!
omasuoniwabanshi - I don't believe that I will have another story with Hitoshi. If I did it would be him and Kenshin bumping into each other during the Meiji and having a little chat. Right now I have other Kenshin fics in mind I would rather be writing.
Snow Lepord - Yes! You will be seeing at lest 3 more Kenshin fanfics from me. Right now I'm reposting a fic called Amber Eyed Angel. Then there is the squeal to write to that and I have at lest two other stories in my mind after that.
lolo popoki - Hope you enjoyed the ending!
skenshingumi - I'm glad you enjoyed Hitoshi's character!
kawaii meeh - Hope you enjoyed the ending just as much as the rest of the story!
Streetwise Girl - Sorry no plot twist! Unless you consider Hiroko showing up a plot twist.
wyldcat - Hope you liked the ending!
tsumesgirl05 - Thanks for reading!
Sueb262 - Thanks for the complements!
Insane Chipmunk - Glad you liked the fast updating!
AthrunZallaLover - Thanks for not using your katana on me!
Night-Owl123 - Thanks for reading!
Kenshin'sorrow - Thanks for all the reviews you gave me! Hope you enjoyed the ending!
Anime#1Fan - Sorry, no more trouble for Kenshin in THIS story. -shifty eyes- You never know what may happen in my other stories.
Warina-Kinomoto - Yay for being on your favorites list!
AuburnMoonlight - Yeah… well Hitoshi didn't capture him again… that would have seemed out of place and WAY out of character.
Pyramidgirl89 - Thanks for reviewing!
Shadow Wolf of the Blue Moon - Hehe… well I think recapture would have been too much for a final chapter.
Hitokiri Musei - Thanks for the plushi! -practices torture on it-
moeru himura - I hope this was a good ending for you!
enchantedsleeper - Hope this was quick enough!
Okay! For those of you who for some strange reason like to read just about all my stories I thought it would be nice to let you know what I'm up to! Now that I've finished writing this I've picked up Violet Eyed Angel again. Amber Eyed Angel is for the most part being updated smoothly now and if my day goes as planned, the next chapter should be updated sometime today or early tomorrow. I also have two more stories after Violet Eyed Angel planed. So stay turned and watch out Kenshin!