GOMEN FOR THE DOUBLE, TRIPLE QUADRUPLE POSTS!!!!! My PC kinda went ga-ga-goo-goo.

Author's Note: Ookay! Final stretch. Too bad. I was enjoying myself. This has been so much fun…hrmmm, as usual, I'm getting depressed because I'm ending a fic…well, maybe it's really about time I concentrated on some other story I've scandalously neglected.

Maybe I'll take a little break from humor for the next one…I'm thinkin'…lemon…sequel to "The Fires of Amber". Perhaps…"The Flames of Ice"? Getting ideas on what it's going to be about?

Ohohohoho! Terrible what I'm doing! Oh well, this segment is going to wrap things up. Also, I'm thinking of doing a spin-off from this. "Heart of the Woman" It's underway and you'll never guess who'll be in it!

Anyway, I've babbled enough.

Standard disclaimers apply. Watsuki-sama, I'll never be able to get RK from you…I give up. I'm not worthy…I'm not worthy…

Mind of the Woman

Part XX: A Little Bit of Happiness

I've never been this happy since…since I don't know how long ago. For the first time in my life, I found something more therapeutic than laundry.

Of course, it would be a gross understatement saying that my new-and-improved attentions to Kaoru were anything like water and detergent, but everyone seemed to have noticed the day following our date that I was reluctant to get to the laundry pile because I wanted to be with her. So I guess the absurd comparison would have to do for starters.

Wouldn't say it out loud for anything, though. Kaoru will kill me.

One thing's for sure. It got Misao to shut-up.

Ye gods! Stop the presses! Call out the marines!

Hear ye, hear ye! Misao Gone Quiet! Not Laryngitis!

Oh, I'm just kidding. I'm not so insensitive as not to detect the look of longing and the tiny bit of envy in her eyes. It's enough to get me to kick Aoshi's ass, just to return the favor.

But that could come later. Right now, I'm going to get back that yard of cloth I left in the carriage last night. I was hoping Sano could bring me to the carriage-company, but then of course, he didn't show up this morning. That leaves me with Aoshi.

That's quite all right. Maybe I can talk some sense into him on the way.

I approached him where he stood watching Yahiko and Kaoru stoically in the dojo.

"Shinomori-san, this unworthy one has a request," I said, looking up at him by craning my neck a bit. It was one of the downsides to being small.

"What can I do for you, Battousai?" He asked, not removing his eyes from the training session.

"I need you to direct me to the carriage-company. I have lost something and it might still be in the coach we commissioned last night," I explained.

Aoshi turned his gaze at me then raised an eyebrow. "Sounds valuable. Legal?"

I frowned a bit. "Of course it is legal. This unworthy one has never had anything to do with anything illegal in his entire life." I suddenly remembered the scalped tickets last night, but there was no need to mention that right now.

Kaoru coughed unnaturally, confirming that we were thinking the same thing.

Aoshi looked momentarily at Kaoru then back at me. He nodded. "Sure, Battousai. I'll even accompany you, seeing as the rooster-head is nowhere in sight."

I was hoping he'd offer to accompany me. "Arigato, Shinomori-san. Would it be convenient for you to go now, or perhaps later?"

"Now is as good a time as any," he replied.

"Very well," I responded.

Kaoru turned to me upon hearing our agreement. "Will you be back for lunch, Kenshin?"

"Of course, Kaoru," I replied, smiling at her tenderly. "We'll be back as soon as we can."

She nodded, satisfied. She turned back to Yahiko and said, "Alright. Don't be long then, love."

"Of course," I kind of chimed back.

Aoshi shook his head in disdain. "Sit, Battousai. Now roll over and play dead," he said in a barely audible voice.

Very funny. I admit to being at the end of the proverbial leash, but Kaoru does it so pleasantly that it doesn't bother me at all. Besides, if it involves anything along the lines of scratching my tummy, I'm all for it. Oro!

"Shinomori-san, it's not so bad. Women like Kaoru have a flair for it," I said to him calmly. "It feels quite nice."

"Sure Himura Battousai. Whatever you say."

If he doesn't believe me, that's totally fine. It's his loss.

However…"Misao-dono has been quiet this morning," I put in casually. "Is she ill?"

"I don't think so," he responded, looking straight ahead as we descended the steps.

I withheld my sigh. This is going to be a long walk.

My efforts to get anything out of Aoshi with regards to Misao were futile. He'd either say something that would put an absolute stop to the train of conversation, or he'd change the subject completely.

I don't know why he was so allergic with the topic anyway.

Maybe all of us are wrong. Maybe he doesn't love Misao the way we thought he did.

I tried another tack in my desperate attempts to nose in on their business. "Shinomori-san, do you realize that the tension between you and Misao-dono is causing a racket in the scope of my spiritual sphere?" Spoken like a true Shinomorist.

Aoshi gave me a stern look. "I'd rather you not turn the tables, Battousai. You don't even meditate."

Changing the subject again. "Meditation has nothing to do with it. Do you know why Misao-dono talks all the time? To get your attention."

"I pay attention to her," Aoshi said in his neutral voice.

I raised an eyebrow. With attention like that, who needs to be ignored?

"Right. Whatever you say," I responded. I think that was ample enough indication that I considered what he said pure bull. No need to say it directly.

He fidgeted uncomfortably.

Ohoho! I've made the impenetrable Shinomori Aoshi fidget! My, isn't this a stellar month for miracles? First I get a look-see into Kaoru's mind. Then Sano gets a job, which enabled him to finance my date with Kaoru. That's double the miracles in one, considering Sano wouldn't normally spring money if it didn't involve dice and I managed to get the balls to ask Kaoru out three days ago after two long years. Also, I got to admit my feelings to her. Now Shinomori Aoshi is squirming? I have accomplished a feat of biblical proportions. Next thing you know, Kaoru will be cooking dishes worthy of the emperor and Saitoh would come up to me and say, "Kenshin buddy! Let's just let bygones be bygones. That Ishinshishi-Shinsen-gumi crap…that was so last season."

No wonder everyone tries to nose in on everyone. I didn't realize it was such fun!

"Shinomori-san, do you or do you not love Misao-dono?" I asked. Might as well go in for the kill.

"There's the carriage-company, Battousai," Aoshi said, pointing to a small structure.

I'm on a roll. He couldn't possibly spoil the momentum. "Oh real smooth. Answer the question, Shinomori-san."

Aoshi began to look extremely annoyed. I don't care. I'm in the mood for fluff. Kaoru still has me in cloud nine.

"Battousai, what I feel for Misao is my business," he snapped.

"True. But if I stayed out of other people's business, I wouldn't have been called Battousai and Shishio would be running Japan." I pointed out.

Hi eyebrows knotted. "Well, I hardly think this is that kind of National Emergency. Besides, what are you going to do about it?"

I gave a shrug. "Oh, I don't know. It's not so much what I would do about it. It's more of what you would do about it after having answered my question out loud."

Isn't it funny how suddenly I'm the expert? I was so love-dumb the other day, now I'm "Dear Kenshin, I have this problem with this girl…"

Aoshi became ponderous again.

I finally decided to leave him alone for the moment. I think I've thoroughly driven the point home.

The attendant of the rental shop approached us upon our arrival and I stated my cause. I was relieved when he told me that they had found the package in the carriage that was brought back last night. Apparently, narrated the attendant, the man inside had removed the wrappings and used it to cover himself against the cold of autumn.

Gee, thanks Tsunan…you uncouth moron.

The attendant also mentioned that he was glad the mouse living in the carriage didn't bother us. I bit my tongue against any sordid retort. That mouse had after all been instrumental in my romantic advancement, even if it did bring me to hell and back.

Taking infinite care to fold the beautiful cloth well enough to bring it home without damaging it, I told Aoshi we should be heading off, so I can give it to Kaoru.

I can't wait to see the look on her face when I give it. Oh, the kisses I'm going to get, the smothering…ah, definitely a brilliant move on my part to have bought it for her.

I didn't ask Aoshi about his love life again. I think I've tried to interfere enough.

We walked home discussing how everyone in Kyoto was doing as per the last letter from Okina.

Then just when the Kamiya Dojo came into view, another miracle occurred. I call it a miracle because…well, all will be explained in a minute.

It began to snow. Flakes of ice drifting down from the sky.

"Oro! My laundry!" I cried, the charm of the moment completely lost to me at the fear that my clean clothes would be reduced to sheets of ice.

Shoving the silken cloth into Aoshi's hands, I rushed to the dojo intending to take everything down and transfer it to a spot where the snow wouldn't reach it.

Hurrying through the gates, I saw Kaoru and Misao already taking down the poles.

A smile of relief spread across my face. Offering them my thanks, I began to help them.

Laden with damp laundry, we were about to make the transfer when Aoshi walked through the entrance. I saw him reach into his jacket and pull out the cloth.

I was about to tell him to wait until I finished my task when Misao let out a delighted shriek.

"Oh, Aoshi-sama! Is that for me? It's beautiful!" She cried, dumping her load into my arms.

I promptly fell on my butt, robbing me of the ability to make my protests.

Misao rushed to Aoshi and quite gracefully took the fabric from him, holding it up for all to see.

She looked at Aoshi with grateful eyes. "Aoshi-sama…it's so pretty and…feminine. How did you know I would like this?" She asked, a delicate note in her voice. It didn't sound like her usual raving.

Aoshi blinked, speechless. He hadn't the faintest idea what to say.

Well, I had plenty to say. "Misao-dono, it's--oro!"

It had been Kaoru's foot, nudging me to shut up. She dumped her load on me and stepped forward.

"Well," Kaoru began with a warm smile. "It's quite natural that Shinomori-san would know what you like, Misao-chan. It's beautiful. Come on. Let's see what we can make out of that. A kimono, I think, would be best."

Misao nodded eagerly and flashed Aoshi the most disarming smile I had ever seen (next to Kaoru's, of course). "Arigato, Aoshi-sama. It's…nice to think that you consider me ladylike enough to be worthy of this…"

Aoshi looked at her, tenderness crossing his eyes. Whatever it was he felt for Misao, this moment had marked it. He then cleared his throat and he gained back some of his composure. "You're welcome, Misao. I think you would look wonderful in it."

Misao blushed shyly then darted towards Kaoru, already talking about the details of their sewing endeavor.

Kaoru then bent down and kissed my forehead. "It's found its true purpose, I think," she whispered, giving me a knowing smile.

I smiled back. What she said made everything better.

Kaoru…you are an angel.

I recalled my conversation in the market with her when she first spotted the fabric.

"…. Some girl out there probably has every reason to shop for a new fabric, and this will probably fit her just as well if not better. I think I'll leave it for her, whoever she is…." Kaoru had said, and behind it, the hope that something good would come out of it.

Kaoru and I…we had no real use for it anymore. We are happy the way we are. It did find its true purpose. And that, to Kaoru, makes her even happier.

"Battousai," Aoshi said to me as he helped me with my cargo. "I will pay you for the cost of that fabric."

Maa…maa…You don't have to pay for it.

What am I? Nuts? As Sano said, I don't have a money tree. I don't even have a money bush!

However, he did help in arranging my date with Kaoru. I think that's payment enough. "We'll settle that later, de gozaru yo," I said in the most magnanimous tone I could muster.

Helping me up, he gave a humble bow. "I thank you, for letting Misao keep it. I don't think…I could have handled the disappointed look on her face if you had said it wasn't for her."

I smiled. "Well, in a way, it was for her all along. Kaoru knows that too. I think, Shinomori-san, that fate has been very kind to us. All your meditation is finally paying off."

"Yes. You are right, Battousai," Aoshi replied with a nod. "Fate is kind after all."

Part XXI: Life Is Good To Sessha (Five Years Later)

It's been what, five years? Doesn't seem very long. Time indeed flies when you're having fun.

Fun. That's such an understatement. I am deliriously, absolutely out of the cuckoo's nest, stark raving happy.

I have been married to Kaoru, the woman who is the center of my universe and has given me two wonderful children who, by the way, shares the center of my universe with their mother, for the same amount of time. It did not take long for me to decide after Kaoru and I had admitted our feelings to each other that we should be joined in matrimony.

The proposal…well, that's an entirely different story.

Kenji, our son, is now a three-year old terror, at least, as far as Yahiko describes him. He displays excellent sword skill even at such a young age, if his perfect swing the other day at Tsunan's family jewels was any indication. When Tsunan crumpled to the ground in a boneless heap, I remember thinking Ah, Kaoru my love, you've taught the boy well. Come to think of it, I don't remember anybody scolding him for it.

Kiriko just turned one. She is the most adorable baby in the world. She can barely utter a coherent word, yet already she has me in the palm of her hand. She has mommy wrapped around her little finger and I don't mind a bit. My little girl will be spoiled to the high heavens, courtesy of the idiot-ex-rurouni.

Sano and Megumi are still fighting it out, trying to outdo each other extemporaneously. He has proposed to her three times already, and they always ended up fighting, but since Megumi hasn't exactly turned him down…

"Yo fox-lady," Sano had said in the middle of dinner with my family. "You and I, we should get married."

The fox-lady bristled, totally pissed at the time and place he had chosen to pop the "question". "Rooster-head, you are the most unromantic son of a bitch I have ever had to put up with."

At that point, I had to cover Kenji's ears and Kaoru hugged Kiriko to herself protectively. If there was going to be a brawl, two-month-old Kiriko can't exactly defend herself. Yahiko grinned, eating and watching with delighted anticipation.

"Unromantic? What the hell are you talking about? Why the fuck should it matter where I propose? Besides, I'm asking you in front of the people that matter most to us…"

"Oh, don't you dare try to make this fluffy and nice! You boorish, good for nothing…"

Sano had frowned. "What, so is that a 'no'?"


"Then is that a 'yes'?"


"Dammit, woman! Why can't you just speak in plain Japanese? You always have to be high and mighty…"

Megumi then had the gumption to throw an empty rice bowl exactly where Sano's eyes and nose intersected.

That was the first proposal. I shudder at the thought of Sano's second and third. All I know is, on the last two occasions he barely got away with his life.

They may never get married, but then, who knows?

Right now, Kenji had just jumped Yahiko who was heading out of the gate.

"Daaaddy" Kenji whined, clawing at sixteen-year-old Yahiko's back. "Uncle Yahiko's going to the Akebeko and he don't want Kenji with him!"

"G-Get off me, you brat!" Yahiko yelled, spinning in his pursuit to remove my darling son from him.

Kaoru merely smiled. She just loved it when Kenji plagued the life out of Yahiko. To her mind, all his "busu-ing" and "ugly-ing" earned him as much. Primly, she took Kiriko in a playful embrace and tickled her, finding more delight in her baby giggles.

Kenji has now taken to clutching at Yahiko's hair. Yahiko yelled more protests of the indignity.

"Maa…maa…come here, little-dragon," I said, patting my lap. "Yahiko-kun has to visit his girlfriend. And with you around, he couldn't be pretty."

"Hey!" Yahiko cried angrily.

I smiled as Kenji promptly dislodged himself and scampered to me. The Dragon name always convinced him. My conceited little son already has an ego worthy of Hiko. Kenji, of course, had to stick his tongue out at Yahiko before sitting himself comfortably in my arms.

He turned to his mother with the cutest smile. "Mommy, did I do well, de gozary ka?" Kenji asked, lowering his voice to imitate mine when he got to the "de gozaru".

"Oh, you have pleased mommy immensely," Kaoru said, pinching his nose.

"Right! Train the little terror!" Yahiko yelled over his shoulder as he made his escape.

I smirked, taking my turn to pinch Kaoru's nose as well. "Maa…don't encourage him, love."

Kaoru wrinkled her nose. "You spoil Kiriko and I spoil Kenji. I thought we agreed that's a fair deal."

I laughed. Fair indeed.

Kenji crawled over to his sister and started talking to her like the doting brother he is.

I took this opportunity to give Kaoru a tender kiss on the lips. No complaints from the children. That will come when they get a little older.

"I got a letter from Misao today," Kaoru told me, nuzzling my chin with her lips.

"And what did she have to say?" I asked, barely caring. The intimacy was already giving me pleasant visions in my head. Maybe we can work on our third baby…

"Aoshi has proposed and she has accepted," she replied.

That was enough to check my thirty-five year old hormones. "Oro!"

"It's about time, really," Kaoru said. "I thought it would happen sooner. When Misao walked into the room wearing that kimono we made for her from the fabric he 'gave her', did you see the look on his face? That was a turning point. But that okashira-idiot had to wait five long years…he's slower than you were!"

"Maa…let's not go into that…" I chuckled. "Anyway, I think Aoshi just had to let her grow up a bit more. She was way too young then…"

"Maa…let's not go into that…" She grinned, flinging the words right back at me.

Aren't we just perfect together?

"Love," she continued, a strange note to her voice. "When we go to Kyoto for their wedding, I think you have your own business to take care of."

She didn't have to explain what that meant. Over the years I've been married to Kaoru, I've come to an even deeper understanding of her. It was things like this that made her the woman I love. Everyday, she manages to shed a bit more light into my darkness. It's almost totally gone, yet she has also shown me that Battousai isn't all that bad, that he isn't necessarily part of my darkness. I think she even likes Battousai to an extent, especially when…ahem, a little kink is involved. Oro!

I have been thinking of visiting Tomoe's grave since I married Kaoru. Tomoe deserves as much. I didn't thank her for the gift when last I talked to her. I was too busy being a brat and fighting to preserve the usury of it. It's time I let her know how happy I am.

Maybe she already knows, but after all this time, Tomoe and I, we need some closure.

There are many things I learned when I got a glimpse of Kaoru's mind. Enduring is one of them, deserving happiness is another. And even now, when sometimes I couldn't make out exactly what she is thinking, her heart and mine tells me what to do.

It's not "all in the mind" as people always say. The soul speaks just as eloquently, if not as plainly.

Kaoru will always be complex, the ex-rurouni and Battousai in me will not have her any other way, but the simplicity of loving her makes me realize that nothing in this world is beyond understanding.

The mind of Kaoru…it was the path. Her heart was my real destination, and I have arrived.


Author's Final Note: Too…much…WAFF…need…drama…for…balance…GURK! Well, that's done. Hope you liked it. Frankly, while I was doing this fic, I hadn't the faintest idea how I would go about it. I just winged it. I think I'll never do that again. It's too damn risky!

I'll be back, though. You know me. Couldn't shut up. Yep, that's my motto. A very Misao-like motto. A genki just like her.

I'll be seeing ya'll again. Thanks so much for the support. Thanks for giving anna-baka the time of day!

Ja, mata ato de!

Glossary of Japanese terms:

Amakakeru ryu No Hirameki - Don't know the exact meaning, but this is Kenshin's ultimate move. Something akin to a "Nine Headed Dragon Strike" Baka - Idiot. Bakumatsu - A revolutionary period in Japan, known as the "Boshin Civil War" The struggle between the Tokugawans and the Meiji. Battousai - Unsheathed sword Bokken - Wooden Sword Budo - Sword work/skill/technique Busu - Hag De gozaru ka/yo - This is how Kenshin marks a sentence as formal and respectful. It's particular to samurai/ninja, and most especially Kenshin's. He uses this ALL THE TIME! No exaggeration. As in, every sentence. Dojo - Training hall. Furo - Tub Futae no kiwami and Ryou Sou Sen - "Futae no Kiwami" is Sano's ultimate move while "Ryou Sou Sen" is one of Kenshin's. Gi - Samurai shirt-top. It looks like a robe. Hakama - Samurai pants. Hime-chan - Young princess Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu - Flying sword to heaven philosophy. Kenshin's sword technique. Hitokiri - Manslayer/Assassin Ishinshishi - Kenshin's Bakumatsu faction. They were for the Meiji. Jou-chan - Young missy, as used by Sano. Juppon Katana - Something like Ten Swords. (Thanks to Shiari for shedding some light! ^_^) Katana - Long sword. Kenjetsu - Martial Arts Ki - Chi. Life-force. Aura. Kokoro no Miko - Maiden of the Heart. Maa… - Roughly, "Settle down now…" Maki - It's a roll of Japanese rice wrapped in flattened seaweed and stuffed with any filling (raw fish, lobster, crab, etc.) Mou - Kaoru's exclamation of mild exasperation. Ne? - Right? Okashira - Leader of the Oniwabanshu. Oro - Kenshin's exclamation of surprise/wonder/clueless-ness/shock Rakuninmura - Place where those who have given up on life go. Rurouni - Wanderer, as invented by Watsuki-sama Sakabatou - Reversed edge sword. Sakura - Cherry Blossom. Native to Japan. Sekihoutai - Sano's group of citizens who took arms during the Boshin Civil War. Some call it a gang. Sessha - This unworthy one. Shinai - Bamboo sword. Shinsen-gumi - Saitoh Hajime's faction during the Bakumatsu. They were for the Tokugawans. Arch rival of the Ishinshishi. Sumo - Japanese Wrestling Tanuki-chan - Racoon-girl Wakazashi - Short sword Yakuza - Organized crime gang Yukata - Robe