So, hands up, whos shocked to see an update? Sincere apologies for the delay. On the bright side, no more waiting because this is the final chapter!
Disclaimer: Kenshin and co. belong to the genius, Watsuki! I'm only borrowing his characters for a bit.
-----------The Lovable Redhead----------
Kenshin sighed and shook his head as he padded into the room that he was sharing with Sanosuke for the duration of their stay. After everybody had finally gotten satisfied with his and Kaoru's answers, they had all disbanded, going to their respective rooms. All except for Saito, who returned home, and Sano, Shiro and Kuro who decided to go gambling despite the fact that the latter two still owed money to the female members of the Oniwaban. Kenshin still couldn't believe that they had actually bet on him and Kaoru.
Kenshin reached the shoji door but hesitated before opening it. Kyoto always made his senses sharper, and he could tell that something was on the verge of happening. He was positive that it was no manslayer, otherwise Saito would have mentioned something.
His eyes drifted towards the other end of the corridor, towards the room he knew held Katsura and Okami.
Kenshin closed his eyes, trying to suppress the emotional turmoil he felt. It had been years since he had seen either of them. He still remembered the hearing the news of their deaths, the way he felt knowing that the only two people that actually believed he wasn't a ruthless killer were dead.
Okami had died first, though he had heard of her death until a few months after it had happened seeing as it had not been a major event.
Katsura had been next, barely even two years before, he had left this life. He always regretted the fact that he had never spoken to them again. They had always been far more then his commander and inn-keeper, they were the ones who had kept him sane on some of those impossibly long days after Tomoe.
Kenshin opened his eyes and swiveled around decisively. He had lived a life with a far to many regrets for his twenty-eight years, and he wasn't going to add another. He had no idea how long this miracle would last, how long Katsura and Okami would be here, but he was going to talk to them, or at the very least see them before they left.
He could feel it. They were not going to be there for much longer.
----------Okami & Katsura-------
Okami walked into the room she had been using over the last few days, still chuckling. After the Oniwaban Group Ninjas had interrupted their Question and Answer session (or, as Kenshin later put it, Torture and Answer Session), they had all tried to get information out of the couple. However, it seemed only Hiko managed to get any answers, by continually referring to the Summer of 1859.
Katsura later admitted to her that he half wanted Kenshin to refuse to say anything just so he could know just what had happened to make Kenshin so embarrassed.
Katsura glanced up at her amusingly from where he was sitting in the middle of the room, perusing through the files Aoshi had given him on the Tempus sword. Although his brow was furrowed, his eyes had an amused glint, showing that he, too, was amused from the events of the last few hours.
Before either of them could speak, there was a knock on the shoji. Katsura and Okami traded glances, wondering who would be there.
"Who is it?" Katsura called, feeling unprotected without any kind of weapon nearby. He had, of course, sworn to never raise a sword again, but even then he always had a bodyguard, someone nearby. He never had a weapon on his person, but he was used to having one nearby.
"It's Kenshin," the mans melodic voice called out, so much different then the cold voice that promised death that the two were used to from this particular man.
The leader of the Choshu clan relaxed visibly as he called out, "Come in."
Kenshin slid open the door and stepped into the room, wondering what he was going to say now that he was actually here.
"Not with your new lover?" Okami asked innocently, obviously relishing in the fact that she had gotten the two of them together. Her eyes sparkled at the former manslayer.
"No," Kenshin answered, giving her a slight glare as he sat down. But he could not bring himself to glare properly. He had never been able to, not to one of the only people who had believed he was actually human, back all those years ago. Of course, it was all those years ago for him, but for them, it was mere days.
Katsura couldn't help but laugh, marveling at the whole new man he had 'met' over the last few days. It was hard to believe that this free, happy man, and the cold, emotionless manslayer were really one and the same with only a decade between them.
"So, what brings you in here, Himura-chan," Okami asked, also sitting down with them.
"I was wondering if you knew how this happened?" Kenshin said, not wanting to tell the two that they really were dead in this time. He wouldn't be surprised if they suspected it, but to suspect it and to actually be told were two completely different things. And he did not want his last conversation with them to be about their inevitable passing.
"Shinomori-san gave us an explanation he had found," Katsura explained, gesturing the paper he had lain down. "It is completely unbelievable but on the other hand, this whole trip has been unbelievable."
"Yes, travelling through time is an improbable concept on the whole," Kenshin agreed, nodding, glancing through the papers.
"Wait a moment," he said suddenly, picking up the picture, "I remember this sword. Ka – you gave it to me, once. I never used it in battle, but I always had it in my rooms."
"That's what we were planning for it in the first place," Katsura admitted.
"To think that that sword, of all things, is what brought you here," Kenshin murmured, shaking his head. He knew that swords could hold immense power if handled by the correct person, but something like this…
"It's not just that that was so inconceivable for us," Okami responded, looking wistful as she remembered her worries about the very man in front of her and his very cloudy future.
Kenshin caught her eyes in surprise, but let out a soft smile. He should have realized that Okami had worried not only about his present, but also his future. She had been the only person he had given a note to, after he left the Imperialists at Toba Fushimi. She never knew he had been there, he had gone in and out, keeping to his nickname as the Ghost of Kyoto.
He supposed he ought to be thankful that she was from before that time, because he would not be surprised if she took it upon herself to admonish him for letting her worry and to think that she would be appeased by a two-line letter.
"Yes… I learned things that I never before dreamed could be true," Katsura added, looking at the man his manslayer had grown into. He had been tortured many nights, wondering just what his actions had wrought upon the small teenager; who had been but a boy back then. It really was a blessing to be able to see him, older and obviously no longer haunted by his past. Happy and in love.
Katsura could not help but think that perhaps that was an even bigger surprise then the fact that they had travelled through time. Indeed, if he ever told the Kenshin he knew, back in 1868, this story, he wouldn't be surprised if Kenshin was less inclined to believe what he was like more then the time part of it. Just the fact that he had actually willingly been in the same room as Hajime Saito would be enough to make the redhead think that they had gone insane.
"Yes, well…" Kenshin said awkwardly, not knowing what to say.
He was saved from answering by the shoji sliding open once more.
Turning around to see who it was, Kenshin had to bite back a groan as he saw the tall form of Seijuro Hiko. Not quite the savior after all.
"There you are, baka deshi," Hiko said carelessly, looking at his apprentice, who was staring back at him, suspicion positively radiating from his ki. He suppressed a scowl as he remembered that he was in the same room as Kogoro Katsura. He knew very well that it had been Katsura who had gotten his one and only student involved into the war and that it had been he who had convinced Kenshin to become an assassin. He had never wanted to meet him, yet here he was. And he couldn't even do anything to the man since it would most likely change everything. He knew very well that the stream of time had to continue on unprecedented.
"Your woman is looking for you," Hiko stated, bringing himself back. He had been remembering that final argument he had had with Kenshin up on his mountain before the baka had left to fight in a war. "She said to meet her in her bedroom," he added wickedly, smirking a bit.
"Oro," Kenshin answered weakly, wondering what on earth that could mean.
Katsura was choking, as much as he was pleased that Kenshin had found himself with a woman he loved, he would be even more thrilled if he did not have to hear about it. The thought of his former bodyguard and manslayer in the bedroom of another woman was not one that particularly wanted to dwell on.
Kenshin, who by that time had reached the door, turned around. He was struck by the need to say something, not knowing if he would ever see them again. "Okami-san, I just want to thank you for everything you did for me. Or, will do for me. You also, Katsura-san," he said, not knowing quite what to say. It was not often ones former commander and innkeeper came to the future after all.
He nodded to them and turned back around, but before he left the room, he hesitated. Without turning around he said, "And Katsura-san… no matter what happened – or will happen – I do forgive you."
And with those words Kenshin left the room, just as silently as he had back in those days during the Revolution.
Hiko couldn't help but snort as he looked at the retreating back of his former student. Idealistic baka.
He, too, stepped out of the room but was stopped by Okami's voice.
"Hiko-san, may I ask you a question?" came her polite tone.
"You already have," Hiko answered evenly. Although Kenshin had forgiven Katsura, Hiko could not forgive the man who had ruined what little there was left of Kenshins innocence.
Okami ignored this and asked, "Why did you let Himura-chan get involved in the war?"
Hiko paused for a moment before answering. It was the one question that haunted his nightmares. Why hadn't he just forced Kenshin to stay? Why had he fed his apprentice to the Wolves? The answer was a simple one – but even he couldn't help but wonder if it was the correct one.
"It was his decision," Hiko answered simply, "He decided to walk out on me, on his training. I could not keep him there, particularly since it would cause him unhappiness."
He double-checked to make sure Kenshin couldn't hear him. It wouldn't do to let that baka hear him talk about him like that.
"Besides," Hiko added with a smirk, "No matter how idiotic he was, no matter if he did wet the bed at twelve, he was still entitled to his own decisions." Even if he did dislike Katsura, he couldn't resist one final attempt to embarrass that baka deshi of his. Maybe it would prove to at least some people that Himura the Battousai was hardly as emotionless as he seemed.
He swept out, ignoring the two travelers from the past. He headed downstairs, hoping to find some sake. And if those two Oniwaban woman were there to stroke his ego, all the better.
"Himura was twelve when he wet the bed?" Katsura choked out, after a minute or two of stunned silence. He could never imagine it… He started to laugh, shaking his head as he wondered how in the world Kenshin had managed to survive training with that particular individual.
"Apparently so," Okami said through her laughter.
After a minute or two, when the laughter had died down, Okami spoke up once more, "You know, I am glad that we got this chance to really get to know Himura-chan and to know that he got through the Revolution alright."
"Yes, I quite agree," Katsura said, silently adding that he was glad to have Kenshin's forgiveness also. He knew very well that he was the only reason that the passionate youth became an emotionless killer. He glanced down at the paper, but finding that he lacked the energy to comb through them again for a way back, said, "Shall we retire?"
Okami nodded in agreement, feeling strangely tired despite the relatively early hour.
------The Icy Okashira-------------
Aoshi looked at the sword lying in front of him. It was a beautiful piece of craftsmanship, but the aura it emanated was strange and powerful. His men had followed a few hints and managed to find the sword in a shrine a little away from Kyoto. And next to them, they had found the famed swords of Battousai the Manslayer.
He was actually surprise that they had never been found before. He knew, as did everybody, that Himura the Battousai had left his swords behind as the dust settled after the Battle of Toba Fushimi. What happened to them afterwards, however, was always a mystery. Aoshi guessed that Katsura retrieved them and put them in the shrine, making sure that they were not used against their owners ideals. After all, many people would want the swords that the great Battousai had used. But they would want them to kill, and Aoshi was sure that Katsura would not want that to happen.
The men who had gone on Aoshi's orders had left the Battousai's swords, and Aoshi planned on making sure that they were left in peace. They had only taken the Tempus sword, exactly as Aoshi had asked.
He wondered for a moment whether or not to get Katsura and Okami to tell them that the sword had been found, but decided not to disturb them. He had sensed Himura's ki in there earlier, anyway, and he was sure that they wanted to talk. He could show them the sword in the morning.
He turned around and walked out softly. As the door closed behind him, he failed to notice the words Tempus Vehere glowing brightly.
Katsura woke up slowly, slightly surprised that he had not been jerked awake by Yahiko and Kaoru training. He looked around, and sat up immediately as he realized that he was no longer in the Aoiya. He experienced a moment of panic before relaxing as he noticed that familiar room at the Kohagiya Inn.
He stood up, striding across the room, intent on making sure that Okami had also come back. He opened the door, and, not looking where he was going, bumped right into the very person he was looking for.
"Katsura-san," Okami began quickly, ushering him in and closing the door behind her hurriedly. "Do you remember the same thing I do?"
"The Tempus sword?" Katsura clarified, feeling as relieved as Okami looked to know that it had not all been a vivid dream.
"And the future," Okami breathed, sounding relieved.
"Hard to believe," Katsura said, his eyes drawn to the single window in his room that looked out over the courtyard. It was alive with energetic men practicing sword skills, making sure that their skills weren't dull when they were asked to fight.
"Yes… but also wonderful to believe…" Okami said, unable to wipe off her smile. Not that she even wanted to.
"Okami-san! Okami-san!" A shout came from down the hall. "You're need in the kitchen!"
"Oh, honestly, they can't do a thing without me," Okami sighed, rolling her eyes as she turned around to head back out. But she would be keeping the image of a smiling red-haired man in her head for a long time. And she knew that no matter what happened to Kenshin now, he would end up happy with a girl, and many friends who were utterly loyal to him.
"I'll go with you," Katsura said, heading to the door.
Okami turned around once more to face him and said with a slight smirk, "Perhaps you should change out of your nightclothes, first, Katsura-san."
Katsura looked down and noted that he was indeed wearing a yukata. Blushing slightly he nodded in agreement, he closed the door behind Okami.
Later on that day, Katsura was in the room that had been dubbed the 'Meeting Room' by the Soldiers.
He had already sent someone to find Kenshin for him and bring him to the Room. At the moment he was looking through paperwork and files.
He paused as he reached one particular file about the successor of the very man he was about to meet. Makoto Shishio. He remembered what Misao had told them about this very man…
"… Shishio was a crazed maniac that wanted to take over the country…"
Of course, he had been able to tell from the beginning that Shishio was highly different from Kenshin, though their skills with a blade were definitely similar. It was obvious that Shishio desired power, and Katsura had wondered about whether it was really a good idea to let a man like him into the clan.
But desperate times had called for desperate measures and Katsura had hired Shishio. And now it seemed that it was going to go badly.
Katsura wrote down a note on the file, knowing that someone who held such risk towards the country could not be allowed to live. He simply wrote that he needed to be taken care of, come the Revolutions end. The Leaders of the other clans would not be surprised nor complain, for they would be afraid that Shishio would know too many of their secrets.
He was interrupted from his thoughts by a knock on the door. Calling out "Come in," he finished the sentence and put aside the file as Kenshin walked in, and sat down on the other side of the table.
"You wanted to see me, Katsura-san?" Kenshin asked, and Katsura had to resist the urge to wince at the obvious difference between the present and future Kenshin. Even this Kenshin's voice seemed dead. It was cold, matter-of-fact, nothing at all like the Rurouni's lilting and smiling tone.
"Yes," Katsura answered, making sure that none of his thoughts showed on his face. He reached under the table to retrieve the sword that had started all of this. He laid it on the table in front of the youth, and said, "Some of the men found this on a patrol the other night. It does seem to have a strange aura, and I thought that perhaps you might want it."
Kenshin stared at the sword, eyes wide, but other then that not showing any other form of surprise. He was about to refuse, but something stopped him. The sword seemed to entrance him, and its ki, though strange, was comforting.
Katsura watched the youth in front of him carefully. After his own exploits with the sword, he had wondered whether it would be a good idea to still give it to Himura. Also talking to Okami, they had come to the decision that it could always do some good. And besides, the Kenshin of the future had mentioned himself that he recognized the sword.
"I… thank you," Kenshin said after a moments pause. "I will take good care of it. Do you need anything else of me?"
"No, that is all," Katsura affirmed, smiling slightly. "I may have a meeting, tonight, however, so be on your guard."
"Of course," Kenshin agreed, standing up and turning around to leave.
But before he could walk through the door, Katsura could not resist using some of the ammunition Hiko had given him about his 'baka deshi'.
"Oh, and Himura," he called out, "Make sure you're careful, there was a beehive found in the courtyard and you know how idiotic some of these men can be… wouldn't surprise me if they tried to throw a few rocks at it! And also be careful of the bunnies, I've heard they can be a little scary."
Kenshin stood in the doorway, standing still in shock, surprise etched in his face for the first time in many years. After a few moments, he found himself and headed to his room, never hearing his commander give into laughter behind him.
And there you have it. Not as funny as the previous chapters but the end of this story.
I want to thank everyone who stuck with me for this story for nearly a year and a half now! I know my updates were hopelessly slow, but we finally made it to the end!
Thank you all, and I hope you enjoyed the final chapter of Battousai the Rurouni. Any chance of blessing me with a final review?