Death Lives On

Chapter 1 - Confrontation

by Jurie

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It was currently evening, calm and foggy, but Kamiya Kaoru's entire being was consumed by hatred. Enough anger resided within her to fuel a thousand reckless men in battle. She did not even begin to consider fear, a trait she had not possessed since her father taught her the Kamiya Kasshin Style. Recently, a bloodthirsty killer had begun tainting her late father's practice with blood, and now she wanted revenge. With revenge came madness. And oh, how she desired revenge. She sought out vengeance in such a way that the inevitable madness controlled her, even became her. Her madness combined with vengeance begot carelessness, the one she failed to recognize. And so she had been as good as dead before the sun set that night, oblivious to her impending doom. The sun was long gone now.

The moon hovered in its place, shining omenously upon Kaoru's soft features. She paid no heed to the golden rays which silently willed her to retreat. Every one of her senses were aimed at that horror of a man, the one who claimed to be the legendary Hitokiri Battousai. Her determination and sheer anger drew her to search for him on this warm night as the moon continued to warn her. Then finally, she saw him.

His slight figure stood aloof in the foggy distance, but she knew him by the sword sheathed at his side. He was facing the opposite direction in between two unoccupied market stalls which had closed down for the night, red hair billowing in the breeze.

A fire lit in Kaoru's eyes, flames fed by the mere sight of him. The deep blue depths revealed nothing but pure lust for this man's defeat. Her dark eyebrows arched high above her eyes as her small mouth formed a terrible scowl. Slender hands, which would be described as delicate in more fortunate circumstances, clutched a bokken with all of their might. As she trembled in anticipation of the battle to come, the fabric of her plain, cream-colored fighting gi billowed softly in the breeze. The white wrappings that bound her chest were slightly visible through the v-shaped neckline, revealing the repetitive rise and fall of her chest. Beneath that, her heart was pounding like never before.

Without another moment's hesitation, she charged toward the very man who dared to dishonor her father's dojo. Her sandals kicked up dirt and created a lengthy trail of dust behind her. While she sprinted, thoughts of rage and determination swirled endlessly in the depths of her scattered mind. She saw her father whom she had loved dearly, the students who used to learn the Kamiya Kasshin Style, and then she imagined the bloodshed that Battousai had caused to ruin her memories. They were beautiful, innocent memories that did not deserve to be shattered by this evil man's blade. She continued to wonder about him, his purpose, and what satisfaction he could possibly derive from pointless murder. Lifting her bokken high, she approached him swiftly as her dark ponytail streamed like an ebony ribbon in the wind.

"Hitokiri Battousai!" she shouted as loudly as her vocal chords would allow. Her shrill voice rang out through the dead silence of the night, unwavering. She slid to a sudden stop behind him, glaring fiercely out of pure disgust. She held her glare, but was taken aback at his reaction--he did nothing. He did not even appear to twitch, nor was he startled at all.

After what seemed like an eternity, he turned to face her. He was so incredibly calm, and that calmness worried her more than anything. His crimson tresses were pulled back out of his face by a high ponytail, although many strands hung disorderly in front of his visage. More unruly red hair framed his alabaster countenence, which was perfect--save the darkened 'x' that marred his left cheek. His stunning eyes were long and narrow, as well as extremely intimidating. They shone a dark, fierce amber.

Kaoru was still far too angry to completely register the fear she should have been feeling at that moment... that is, until she made eye contact with the murderous creature before her. There was an eerie confidence about him, and it definitely resided in those cold, narrow eyes. They seemed to bore into her soul, and she felt like he instantly knew everything there was to know about her--her likes, her dislikes, her weaknesses... her fears. She visibly shuddered at the odd sensation, but quickly regained her ground.

"Your times of terror and bloodshed end tonight! Prepare yourself!" she threatened. Despite his horribly intense eyes and the way they seemed to effortlessly challenge her, she urged herself on. There was no way she would let him get away with his wrong-doings.

"What makes you think I need preparation?" he responded.

Even his voice seemed to be tinged with blood, and she would not have been surprised if his breath reeked of iron. The way he spoke was so cold, so emotionless, like frost biting your skin on a frigid winter night. It was icy enough to make a tingle run up and down her spine. However, she nearly forgot the way he sounded when anger began to boil within her again.

Gripping her bokken as tightly as possible with her small hands, she took a few more cautious steps in his direction. This caused a small smirk to appear almost instantaneously upon his thin, pale lips, and only served to fuel Kaoru's rage. His expression suggested that he already knew he was the victor.

"How are you so sure that I am the one you're searching for?" His chilling voice cut through the warm, foggy air like a knife.

"Only killers like you would violate the law and wear a sword," she answered, the rage in her voice evident.

His narrow orbs locked onto hers once more, while he still made no move to accept her challenge. Inside his unreadable mind, he was actually unbelieving that she still stood before him so bravely--most grown men would have run with their tails between their legs because of his identity alone. But not this young woman. She stood firm, even though she obviously knew him for who he was. However, he was aware of her inner cowardice, regardless of how well she tried to conceal it.

"Heh... this terror and bloodshed you speak of... I do not believe you have even experienced it yourself. I suggest you turn away before you do," he warned, watching for her reaction. His eyes glinted as the warm wind caused silky strands of crimson to whip across his face.

"You know nothing of my experiences," she argued, willing herself to stay strong. She knew his assumption was correct, no matter how much she denied it on the outside. The odd sensation she had sensed only moments ago returned, like he was reading her mind again. She was convinced that he could feel her weakness.

Sure enough, she had reacted just as he expected. He watched as her eyebrows furrowed and her knuckles turned white from the grip she held on her wooden weapon. Speaking of which, he was shocked at her choice of weaponry. Not only was she brave, but she was extremely reckless. He wondered momentarily if she even realized a fraction of his power.

His narrow eyes glinted again as he unsheathed his sword effortlessly. It was a smooth, swift motion, and so abrupt that it took Kaoru a second to register. The scraping sound of the blade being produced from his side rang in her ears. She gulped down the fear that unexpectedly arose in the form of a tight knot in her throat, eyeing his sword with dread.

"That is my proof," he said, his voice as smug as it was cold. He easily sensed her fear.

Kaoru grimaced, beginning to realize exactly just what she had gotten herself into. This man probably takes lives without blinking, she thought. He's a manslayer, one that seems to carry more power than I ever could have imagined... I should have known his name wasn't feared without reason. Now I'm just another life that's in his way. She fought back the urge to panic as the smell of blood registered in her mind.

"The blood... I can smell it...," she whispered, her knees threatening to buckle beneath her. Her blue eyes quivered and she shut them briefly, wondering if she would awaken to find that this whole night was a dream. When she reopened her eyes, though, her view was the same--narrow eyes, long red hair, cross-shaped scar... Battousai... and she knew it was pointless to try to escape him.

"Would you like the smell of your own blood to mingle with that of the others?"

No, Kaoru thought. But I have no choice. I can't fail my father this easily. I'm the only one left to defend his ideals. With every shred of will she had left, and the knowledge that she had already sealed her fate, she managed to lift her bokken into the air and launch herself forward. Her hair flew out behind her, eyes burning fiercely as she took her first strike... and missed. She aimed well and attempted to strike him several more times, but he somehow managed to disappear from sight. In disbelief, she watched him streak past her again and again, hardly able to keep track of him. He was a mere blur in her eyes.

He dodged with such ease, and everything he did seemed so effortless. He had not even lifted his sword to strike her yet, and she already knew she was defeated. No matter how hard she tried to make contact, he was invincible... and as she stared at him, eyes wide and terrified, his sword rose into the air, slashing downward. She could not evade his blow.

In an instant, her delicate flesh was being ripped open across her right shoulder, staining her torn gi with crimson. Blood splattered to the ground with the force of his swing, tiny droplets scattering everywhere. The sky briefly rained blood. It took every ounce of strength in her being to keep from crying out. Her bokken fell from her paralyzed hands and clattered to the ground. As she collapsed to her knees as a result of the forceful blow, her hands instinctively flew to the gash on her shoulder. Thick blood quickly seeped through her fingers and she bit down on her lip to hold off impending tears.

"You sought me out... a bold challenge you made, yet you can do nothing to defend yourself," Battousai stated, leering down at her.

His insults were the last thing she needed to hear. She was already ashamed enough, and her eyes threatened to spill over with tears. He was right, and with his skill, she would have been dead in seconds if he had gone through with it. Kaoru could only hang her head in shame and allowed her black bangs to shield her from his piercing gaze. She did her best to avoid seeing his sword, which dripped with her fresh blood.

"What happened to that determination of yours? Have you realized what an insignificant amount of skill you possess?" he asked, taunting her. "I almost admire your bravery, but it does you no good when you lack the strength to back it up."

"What does it matter? I have nothing to live for because of you," she mustered, forcing herself to lift her head and face him. "You have committed horrendous crimes under the name of the Kamiya Kasshin Ryu, and because of that, villagers are too afraid to come near the dojo, much less enroll."

A few clear tear drops fell from her moist cobalt eyes, mingling with the red droplets that already stained the dirt beneath her. She felt weaker and more pathetic than ever--fallen to her knees and clutching her injured shoulder while tears spilled over her cheeks. All underneath the superior, murderous eyes of the Hitokiri Battousai, who could easily take her life with a single stroke of his blade.

"I did no such thing," he responded slowly, amber eyes staring.

"What's wrong with you?" she shouted, managing to keep her voice steady. She lifted her eyes to his emotionless hues, determined to hear his reason. "It's bad enough to murder innocent people and lie about it, but you at least owe me an explanation!"

Without warning, a shrill police whistle sounded nearby. Both Battousai and Kaoru turned their heads toward the direction of the noise, wondering what was going on. Battousai himself considered that the policemen might have somehow heard of his whereabouts, but how was that possible? No one ever knew where he was.

Kaoru quickly listed her options in her head, which was difficult at the moment. She was still losing blood through her open wound and she was becoming awfully woozy. Her initial idea was to run while Battousai appeared distracted and deep in thought, but then she would never discover why he had been tarnishing her father's good name. If she stayed, would he ever tell her? What if he simply killed her and hurried away to escape the police?

"Weaklings! You are all too weak!" A startling, gruff voice shouted in the same direction the whistles had come from.

Several frightened shouts and a horrible commotion followed, leaving Kaoru clueless. Are there two murderers on the loose? What in the world is going on? Without even glancing at Battousai, she hurried off to find out. Her shoulder was still throbbing and eating at her strength, but she had to know what was happening in case it involved the murders. When she finally halted her movement, she nearly collapsed. In the middle of the street, the commotion she had heard before was clearly visible. In the center was a man of gigantic proportions, his face almost completely hidden by a dark shawl. The rest of his body was fitted in some form of orange and purple fighting gi and a white hakama. His deeply slanted eyes were bloodshot and the man was obviously in a terrible rage. He was at least three feet taller than the majority of the blue-clad policemen that surrounded him, weapons ready. A considerable number lay at his feet, lifeless.

Battousai watched Kaoru sprint away with a blank expression upon his chiseled features. He casually cleaned the blade of his bloodied sword on an old rag within one of the closed market stalls and sheathed his weapon. Suddenly, he continued toward the noise as well--a shout amongst the commotion had just sparked his interest.

"I am Battousai! Battousai the Manslayer of the Kamiya Kasshin Style!" the giant shouted, facing two more young policemen. The policemen swung, missed, and were killed in the same instance by two strokes of the killer's blade.

"Such strength!" an older policeman exclaimed, the only one still standing. His expression was one of shock and defeat, and his eyes were wide and fearful. "With this kind of strength, he must be the legendary manslayer..."

He's claiming to be Battousai? Then who is the man I encountered only moments ago? Are they both pretending? Kaoru was more confused than ever. She was desperate to know what was going on and why one--or both--of them would have the desire to ruin her reputation. As far back as her memories would carry her, she could never remember her father having a dispute with anyone. She had never had any problems here either, and usually the only people she had frequent contact with were Dr. Gensai and his granddaughters, Ayame and Suzume.

Lost in her thoughts, she was taken off guard at the sound of a sword slashing through another rigid body. Gritting her teeth and shrinking back behind a building, she tried to decide what to do. She knew she had to get her wound taken care of soon. With two murderous and extremely powerful men to worry about, an injured shoulder was not going to help her in the slightest. She sighed heavily and a warm puff of breath escaped her chapped lips as she turned to glance around the corner where the self-proclaimed Battousai had just stood. Now he was gone, leaving a dozen uniformed bodies in his wake.

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The next morning, Kaoru awoke to sunlight streaming through the shoji. She was sprawled out on her futon where she had laid to rest the night before, after painstakingly bandaging her own wound. It had not been easy, but she did not want to wake Dr. Gensai in the middle of the night. She hoped he would bring the girls to visit today like he often did, and rebandage her in the meantime. He had been the Kamiya family doctor for thirty years, so she literally trusted him with her life.

At the moment, she was almost surprised she had survived through the night. If at least one of the so-called Battousai were claiming to use the Kamiya Kasshin Style, they obviously knew where the dojo was. Why not kill her instead of numerous innocent townsfolk and policemen? Maybe they're waiting for something. I'll keep my guard up.

She stood up and stretched, and immediately regretted it--she moved her shoulder without thinking and the wound scolded her with a dull throb. Wincing, she folded down the brown fabric of her yukata and examined the bandage. A small amount of blood had leaked through overnight, so she would definitely have to get it changed as soon as she could. She quickly changed into her usual blue and white training outfit, ran her fingers through slightly tangled ebony tresses, and tied them up into a high ponytail. Inwardly, she did not feel like getting up at all. Most of her wanted to sleep and forget the previous day's events, but she knew that was no way to live. Still, she did not have much at all to live for now. That would have to change. But how?

As soon as she slid the shoji open, the laughter of children was audible. She instantly knew the voices belonged to Ayame and Suzume, and she looked forward to seeing them. Maybe laughter and their carefree spirits would help her feel better about everything. Sure enough, the two girls noticed her presence immediately and ran up the porch steps to greet her.

"Morning Kaoru!" Suzume shouted, throwing her little arms around Kaoru's waist. She was adorable and brunette, the older sister of Ayame. Kaoru always thought that Suzume made a perfect older sister with the way she always watched out for Ayame and tolerated her very well.

"Morning Kaoru!" Ayame exclaimed, copying her older sister as always. She was probably about a year younger than Suzume, and at least a foot shorter. She was also just as cute and had very similar features.

"Goodmorning to both of you," Kaoru replied, smiling down upon them and hugging them shortly. "I'm glad you're here! I haven't seen you in a few days. What have you been up to?"

"Grandpa told us to come find you, he's waiting over there!" Suzume informed, tugging at Kaoru's sleeve.

"Over there!" Ayame copied, nodding enthusiastically.

The two little girls ran off ahead of her in their tiny kimonos, one green and one red. Kaoru stifled a giggle at their entertaining behavior, briefly wishing she could be small again, if only for a day. She missed not having a care in the world... right now she had far too many.

Kaoru shook herself out of her brief daze and followed after Suzume and Ayame, spotting Dr. Gensai in front of the house. He was a very kindly old man, and he definitely looked the part. His skin was wrinkled around his eyes from years of laughter, and he had a certain friendly sparkle that made him comfortable to talk to. All of the hair on his face and head was completely grey, save a few white hairs here and there. He had long, bushy eyebrows, a mustache, and a lengthy goatee that she was sure his grandchildren loved to pull. He was clad in his usual light blue kimono and had his hair pulled back with a matching cloth for sanitary reasons. He was a doctor, after all.

"Kaoru, how are you?" Dr. Gensai asked, smiling softly.

"I'm afraid I'm not so well," she responded softly, in order to keep the girls from hearing. When she noticed that they had run into the yard chasing a butterfly, she led the doctor over to the porch and added, "I mentioned the trouble going on last time you were here, with the murders and all, and I'm sure you've heard the commotion yourself. I got myself into a fight with the one of the men responsible last night."

"What? Dear lord, don't you realize how much danger you were in? Why don't you let the police handle it?"

"They can't handle it either, for one thing. I witnessed the death of several last night... it was awful. I managed to get hurt as well...," she trailed off, pulling down her right sleeve to reveal the bloodied bandage.

"Oh dear, let me fix that for you," he offered, motioning for her to sit down on the porch. Thankfully, he always brought his supplies with him in case of emergency. In his long life, he had learned early on that bad situations always happened when you were least prepared.

"Dr. Gensai...," Kaoru began as he removed her bandage. "How much do you know about the legendary Battousai? Everyone in town is convinced that he's here, but I don't understand. I thought that the man I challenged last night was Battousai, and soon afterward, there was a man killing policemen who claimed to be him."

"Hmm... two of them, you say. Well I know for a fact that he never had a twin brother," Dr. Gensai laughed, accidently blowing medicinal powder all over Kaoru's face.

"I wasn't trying to be funny, I'm serious!" Kaoru interjected, annoyed at both the doctor's poor attempt at a joke and the medicinal powder. Wiping the stuff off with her opposite sleeve, she added, "I just don't know what to do. I obviously can't defeat one murderer, much less two, but I have to defend this place somehow."

"I really don't know what to tell you, Kaoru." Dr. Gensai's face was now grim, and he continued doctoring her wound as he spoke. "I realize that this is difficult for you, but I don't think you should get involved any more than you already have. I'm sure that your father would rather have you safe and happy than dead because you were trying to defend his honor."

Kaoru hung her head and closed her eyes, defeated. She knew he was right, but her pride was too strong to give up. There just had to be something she could do. There just had to be.

"That should do it," Dr. Gensai announced, having finished tying off Kaoru's new bandage. "I've got to get back to work now, so you take care of yourself, you hear?"

"I will," she agreed, nodding and pulling her sleeve back into place over her shoulder. "Thank you very much."

Kaoru waved absently to Dr. Gensai, Ayame and Suzumi as they departed, and decided to sit and wait for the arrival of her students as she thought things over. On the inside, she was not so confident about the matter of her safety. It seemed that anything could happen at any given time. She did not feel safe in her own home anymore. She had an uncertain, worried feeling in the pit of her stomach.

The feeling subsided when she noticed her only three students arrive, standing in a row at the gate. Excitement consumed her as she hurried to them, suddenly full of ideas. Maybe it was impossible to get revenge alone, but what about with the help of her students? She was sure they would be willing to fight for her cause, especially since they were so dedicated to the Kamiya Kasshin Style.

"Everyone, thanks for coming!" she shouted, stopping a few feet before them. "Tonight we're going to get that Battousai the Manslayer!"

The three dark-headed boys stood motionless in their neutral-toned robes, looking surprisingly destraught. This perplexed Kaoru because they were usually so eager to beginning training when they arrived. This was not normal at all.

"Well... actually," one of her students began in a low, depressed tone. "We're going to quit as of today... Our friends all belittle us lately because we're practicing the style known for that murderer. My mother insists I stop going to a school that sides with murderers and teaches people to kill. I told her it's not true but she won't believe me..."

Another student hung his head sadly, adding, "I can't go on like this."

"Please forgive us," the three apologized in unison, bowing politely. They slowly turned and shuffled away.

Kaoru could only stand there in shock, speechless. Her usually vibrant blue eyes were dull and glued to the dirty ground.

I can't believe this... they were my only hope.

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Kaoru watched from the dojo's entrance as a huge, powerful man stood in a class full of her father's students. He had a full, thick beard and a very gruff voice. Suddenly, he grunted and swung his sword, slicing open the arm of a peer. Several students gathered around the injured man as the wrong-doer laughed evilly.

"So, who wants to bleed next?" the giant asked, still laughing mercilessly.

"Kamiya-sensei!" the students shouted, noticing their master's return.

"Hiruma, why did you do what is forbidden?" Kamiya asked, his voice strong and level. "The essence of the Kasshin Style is to never hurt others!"

"I'm sick of learning swordsmanship from you!" Hiruma retorted, pointing his finger menacingly. "A sword is meant to chop people up! My blade is begging to taste more blood... including yours!"

Hiruma charged Kamiya, his sword high in the air. As soon as he got close, Kamiya forcefully slammed the blade of his sword onto Hiruma's right thumb, instantly breaking it. Hiruma shouted with pain as his weapon crashed to the floor and blood spurted out of his broken appendage.

"I'm sure you will never be able to hold a sword again for the rest of your life," Kamiya said, enduring Hiruma's insane glare. "You are expelled. I will never allow you to set foot in this dojo again."

All Kaoru could remember afterward was the way Hiruma glared at her, paralyzing her with terror. He looked as if he was going to kill her, like he was going to--...

Kaoru awoke with a start and felt the sweat beading at her temple. Her heart was pounding with incredible force, and she greedily gulped air as she held her aching head in her hands. Her long black braid fell heavily over the front of her shoulder as she sat up. Was that a dream? A nightmare? No...

She quickly ran everything through her mind again, trying to distinguish between dreams and reality. She had been a child in that dream, no more than the age Suzume was now. She could remember other times such as those, when she had watched her father teach a class. And that one student, the one who always acted so cruelly...

No, that wasn't a dream! That was a memory... he reminds me of someone now, someone...

Then it clicked. The man who had killed those policemen the night before, claiming to be Battousai the Manslayer, was none other than one of her father's former students! Could that explain it? Is that the one my father expelled, and now he wants revenge?

Realizing that it was nearly morning anyway, Kaoru rose from her bedding and hastily threw on her usual attire. She yanked her braid out, pulled her hair into a ponytail, and ran out toward the dojo. Morning dew coated the porch, nearly making her slip, but she regained her footing and hurried inside. Aware that her father had always kept records of his students, she dug out his old records and searched for the name of the man in the dream.

"Hiruma... Hiru--oh, here it is! Gohei Hiruma... expelled eleven years ago," she spoke aloud with amazement. She almost could not believe her eyes and was surprised that a nightmare had brought all of this to the surface. She was one step closer to figuring everything out, but she still had no idea who the man she challenged really was. What did he have to do with any of this?

The shoji slammed open behind her, and she nearly yelped in surprise. A horrifying chuckle accompanied the noise, and she could only turn around in terror to see the man she had just uncovered the identity of. He stepped further inside, revealing that a large group of men accompanied him. I knew he would show up sooner or later... it's like that nightmare was warning me... it's too late.

She stood with disgust on her face, eyes narrow and full to the brims with hatred. "So it was you after all!"

"Oh, you finally remembered me," he replied in a low growl. "I've been in hell for eleven years hoping this day would come... the day that I can throw the Kamiya Kasshin Style into the abyss!"

"So disgracing my father's name with all of those street slaughters was your revenge!" she accused, irate as ever. Nervous beads of sweat dotted her brow.

"Actually, I feel like thanking him now," Gohei announced, approaching her once more. "The left-handed sword techniques I perfected for eleven years never would have been created if I hadn't lost the use of my right hand. I'll destroy the Kamiya Kasshin Style with the hand of the thumb he didn't break!"

"I won't let you!" she screamed, grabbing a bokken from a shelf on the dojo wall. "My father's Kasshin Style will not lose to the likes of you!"

Kaoru thrusted herself toward him, wielding her weapon with both hands and forcing it toward his weathered face. Her eyes grew wide as he shielded himself effectively from her blow, lifting his own wooden sword mightily above his head. He brought it down upon her, and although she successfully blocked, his strength was too much for her. Her weapon splintered and cracked in half, allowing him to smash directly into her shoulder and send wooden splinters everywhere.

She gasped as he yanked her into the air by her collar, glaring at her pitiful form in the process. She failed to concentrate on anything except the pain she was feeling, for she had hurt her bandaged shoulder during the duel. All she had been able to think about was defeating Gohei. She was unable to consider her own well-being, and now she wished she would have.

"My revenge will be complete when I kill you and destroy the school," Gohei threatened harshly. "I'll make sure you go to hell slowly after I make you crawl on the ground. Whose sword wants to taste her blood first?"

"A sword exists to save people!" Kaoru insisted, struggling to talk as she continued to be held up in the air.

Gohei's entire group of men laughed, yelling out various insults and requests to injure her first.

"Let me do it!"

"Me too!"

"I'll get her!"

The door opened abruptly, causing the sun's rays to spill across the weathered floor boards. One of Gohei's men stood in the doorway motionless, his face a blank slate.

"Nishiwaki, what is it?" Gohei questioned, obviously annoyed at the interruption.

"H-He's strong...," Nishiwaki uttered.

Kaoru watched in awe as Gohei's comrade collapsed to the ground, revealing another man behind him. It was none other than the fiery-haired murderer who had wounded her the night before, and Kaoru gaped in shock. Gohei can't be Battousai... this man must be the real one. Her stomach knotted in fear and she knew her fate was sealed.

"What do you want?" Gohei demanded, spit flying from his rugged lips. By now, his entire group had turned to stare at the red-headed warrior, unsure of what to think. "Are you another fool who thinks swords bring out one's potential?"

"No... a sword is a weapon. Swordsmanship is learning how to kill. Those who say otherwise have never had their hands stained with blood," Battousai informed coldly, amber eyes flashing briefly.

"So we agree," Gohei chuckled as he dropped Kaoru to the floor, still holding onto her gi to prevent escape. "Everyone here except this worthless girl. We're going to get rid of her and burn down this place along with its pointless ideals."

"Before you get too friendly, I forgot to mention one thing. The swordsmanship of Battousai the Manslayer is neither Kamiya Kasshin nor whatever pathetic style you use. He uses the Hiten Mitsurugi Style, an ultrasonic killer style that is sure to slay any opponent. And that includes you." Battousai's eyes continued to flicker as he spoke, silently challenging Gohei.

"So you really are Battousai the Manslayer...," Kaoru breathed, more to herself than anyone else. And it did not seem that he was on friendly terms with this Gohei monster. Still, she did not expect help from him either.

"Even so, there's only room for one Battousai," Gohei growled, motioning for his comrades to attack. "And that's me! Get him!"

The men loyally charged without fearing consequence, drawing their swords hastily and running toward Battousai. Long before they knew what was coming, Battousai had already drawn his sword with superior speed. He weaved in and out of the numerous men, slicing each one he came across, perfectly on target with every single cut he made. He swung his sword upward and spun in a wide, quick circle, easily tearing through the stomachs of five men in the process. Their bowels gushed through their open wounds as they fell into heaps, gagging and puking themselves into oblivion. Battousai was literally invisible as he continued to weave his magic, and the majority of his strokes were unseen to Gohei and Kaoru, who watched in disbelief.

Kaoru slid against the back wall, wide-eyed and frightened, and becoming nauseated from the horrendous stench the bodies were creating. He seems to be able to predict every move, and then get in front of them... it's incredible.

Gohei was still watching in the middle of the room, nearly in shock because of what had happened to all of his men. "Red hair... cross-shaped scar... it can't really be..."

"A pathetic man like you is not worthy of my name," Battousai said, murderous eyes glowing. "I'm taking it back... now."

"If I defeat you, I'll surely be called the strongest... Die, Battousai!" Gohei shouted, preparing to strike.

Battousai leapt swiftly into the air without detection, his lithe form disappearing from the sight of the unfortunate Gohei Hiruma. Gohei's eyes shone with unbridled fear, becoming so wide they nearly popped out of his skull, as he searched the room for any sign of his opponent. Finally, he glanced up--the last thing he ever saw was Battousai descending upon him. Before Gohei could move a muscle, Battousai had drawn his sword and decapitated him. There had only been the sound of metal scraping metal as the sword was drawn, and then the sickening sound of blood gargling in Gohei's throat--which was no longer connected to his head. The thick crimson liquid spurted out of the gaping hole where his head had been, spraying the walls and floor, as well as Battousai.

The the giant's huge body was on the floor, lifeless, with blood continuing to leak from it profusely. A large, crimson puddle was quickly being fomed, leaking into the wooden floorboards. The smell was horrid, seeming to engulf the entire room, and... then all was still.

Battousai appeared as calm as ever. It was as if nothing had happened, as if he did not hold a bloodstained sword in his gasp. Having experienced countless duels, the event of death did not bother him in the least. He had seen numerous men fall to his sword, their mouths agape with pain and torment as they bathed in their own blood. Often, their eyes rolled back in their heads, and there was a disgusting thud as their lifeless flesh dropped to the ground. Sickeningly enough, he almost reveled in that sound. Even so, he was tired of killing, but he could not live without death. Good things resulted in death, too. So many people deserved to die, like the man he had just slain. So many people deserved a harsh, sickening death.

Like myself, Battousai mused dryly.

He wiped both sides of his sword on the dead man's clothing and sheathed it once more. His eyes had dulled, no longer as fierce as they had been only moments ago. Just solid amber, like two priceless gems implanted into his skull. With splatters of red still staining his pallid face, his eyes traveled to the other side of the room. There lay the dark-headed girl, sprawled upon the foor. It appeared that she had fainted from shock, and probably the smell and sight of so much gore. Should she challenge him again, he could not kill her. He could not kill a woman. The only woman he had ever killed...

Battousai gritted his teeth in regret, attempting to suppress a memory from ages ago. His tormented orbs scanned the young woman's face once more before he turned away, disappearing into the foggy morning mist. She reminded him too much.

Tomoe...

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A/N: So I'm back after all of this time. I really didn't mean to leave Eyes of Amber sitting for so long, but a lot of things happened and I just abandoned ffnet. I just graduated high school a few weeks ago, so I've got more time on my hands this summer, and I started thinking about picking up where I left off. Long story short, I re-read EoA, thought it sucked, and decided to take another shot at it with a clean slate.

Oh, and before you guys start giving me a hard time about making Battousai too insane, my original claim was that he went insane and couldn't stop killing after he killed Tomoe instead of the opposite. It's more fun when he's insane, you know it is.

Anyway, like I said in the summary, the basic story line is the same. I'm basing each chapter on episodes, so this chapter is obviously episode one chopped to pieces, stretched and twisted for my own evil purposes. Review at your leisure, flame me if you want, but you better tell me why it sucks if you're gonna do that. However, I like this version way better than EoA, and I think it's easier to follow and makes more sense. Hope you people are still willing to put up with my crap and read this stuff. Thanks and please review.