Oboro and Gennosuke stood across from one another, the final members of their rival clans. Whichever one of them could defeat the other would win the war, thus deciding who would be heir to Tokugawa Ieyasa's thrown. Gennosuke's eyes were still sealed shut, and neither ninja was prepared to kill the one they loved more than life itself. Oboro looked across at Gennosuke with so much love in her eyes that it was almost palpable in the air.

"Gennosuke-sama, open your eyes," she said to him.

In the background, she heard Ofuku screaming at her to kill him, but she had no intentions of doing so. She stood her ground, waiting for his eyes to open, longing to gaze into them one last time. Seconds passed by so slowly it seemed like days, and all eyes were fixed on the star-crossed lovers, wondering who would make the first move. Oboro could feel the intensity in the air around her, but she did not remove her eyes from the Kouga leader's face.

"Oboro, raise your sword and strike him down!" Ofuku screamed. "What are you waiting for? Now is your chance!"

Very slowly, Oboro did raise her sword, but instead of striking Gennosuke, she turned the blade back towards her own body, thrusting it into her chest just as Gennosuke opened his eyes.

"Gennosuke...sama..." Oboro whispered as se fell to the ground, catching his gaze briefly before her eyes fell closed. Ofuku let out a gasp as Oboro's body laid lifeless. "Someone cut his head off before she dies!" the older woman screamed.

The soldiers surrounding the pair moved towards Gennosuke, but before they had a chance to strike, he unleashed his Dojutsu, turning their own weapons against them. The air became crimson from the spray of blood as the soldiers beheaded and dismemebered themselves as a resulf of the Kouga leader's technique. Ignoring Ofuku's protests, Gennosuke walked over and picked up the ninja scroll, then returned to Oboro's side, cradling her gently in his arms. He could still see his love's chest rising and falling as she drew in laboured breaths, but he did not let on that she was not yet dead. Instead, he dipped a finger into her blood, using it to cross both of their names off the scroll. Then, off to the side, he wrote, "The last one to write on this scroll was I, Oboro, leader of the Iga Clan." Gennosuke carefully rolled the scroll back up and tossed it into the air, where a hawk swooped down, catching it in it's talons, and flew off toward's Sunpu Castle.

Gennosuke stood, gathering Oboro in his arms, and removed the sword from her chest, dropping the blade carelessly to the ground. His clothing quickly turned red from her blood, and Gennosuke feared that it may be too late. Slowly and deliberately, he turned away from Hanzo Hattori IV and Ofuku, and carried Oboro out into the water. He knew that if he had any chance of saving her life, he needed to get the Iga hime and himself away from that place, before anyone realized that her self-inflicted wound had not been instantly fatal.

Very gingerly, and without looking back, Gennosuke laid Oboro on top of him, and allowed the two of them to be swept away by the current. The water was slightly cold, and caused Gennosuke to shiver as he hugged his love tightly to him. After a few minutes Oboro stirred, wincing in pain. Gennosuke put a finger to her lips, keeping her quiet.

"Oboro-sama, do not worry," he whispered in her ear. "We will be safe. We will be together. I will take care of you, and nothing will ever hurt you again."

Oboro blinked in disbelief, staring into Gennosuke's eyes. The world was spinning around her, and the pain from her wound was intense. She let out a soft cry as the current became stronger, pulling them out further. She had to close her eyes to stop the overwhelming feeling of nausea that was creeping up inside her stomach. She wanted so badly to tell him that she loved him, that she always had and always would, but she lacked the strength to even form those three words. Tears welled up in the Iga hime's eyes, but she blinked them away, not wanting to become blinded by them. She forced her eyes open again, despite the pain and the sick feeling. She didn't know how much time she had left, and she wanted to burn the sight of him holding on to her into her memory. After a few moments, her eyes closed again, but the expression on her face was far from peaceful.

Gennosuke could sense that she was slipping away from him, slowly but surely, and he knew that he didn't have much time to get her to shore. Wrapping one arm tightly around Oboro's waist, he began to swim in the opposite direction from where he had entered the water, hoping that they had floated far enough down that they would not be noticed. Neither one of them would ever live in peace if it were known that they both still survived. As he reached the opposite shore, he looked down to see Oboro's eyes closed, and noticed that her breathing was becoming more shallow and laboured the more time went on. Very carefully, he picked his love up and set her down on dry land, then pulled himself up next to her, collapsing from the effort. Slowly, he pulled himself to his feet, and picked Oboro up in his arms, carrying her like a child. He needed to find shelter for them, it was almost dark, and she needed to rest.

After walking for what seemed like hours, Gennosuke happened upon a small cave, almost completely hidden by underbrush. He laid the unconscious Oboro down in the grass, and pulled the brush aside, trying to see if it would be big enough to shelter them for the next few nights, at least until Oboro had time to rest and heal a bit. He crawled inside, and noticed that there was bedding left there. This cave must have been used as a hideout for thieves, he thought to himself. From the looks of things, it had long since been abandonned, and would serve as the perfect place for he and Oboro to hide until she was well enough to continue. He took a few moments to arrange a crude bed out of the blankets, then went out and carried Oboro inside, laying her down on the pile of bedding. She stirred slightly, and moaned, quite obviously in pain. Gennosuke put a hand to her forehead, and was alarmed by how warm she felt. He leaned down to kiss his hime gently on the cheek.

"Rest easy, Oboro-sama. I will not be gone long."

He lingered a moment, taking in the sight of her. She looked so beautiful, even though her face was contorted in pain. Then he turned and reluctantly exited the cave. Even though spring was approaching fast, there was still a deep chill in the air, and he needed to gather firewood to keep himself and Oboro warm for the night.

Oboro drifted in and out of consciousness, her exhausted mind playing horrible games with her. In her dreams, first she stood across from Gennouske, much as they had been earlier in the day, but this time, something was different. In reality, Oboro harboured no ill feelings toward any of the Kouga, especially Gennosuke, but in her dream, she saw herself moving towards him, raising her sword and striking him down without so much as a second thought. She stood, bathed in his blood, with a smile on her face, elated by what she had done.

Then she found herself on the ship, alone with Tenzen. He was standing over her, trying to have his way with her, and no matter how many times she called out for Koshirou to save her, he never came. She felt Tenzen push her legs apart and enter her, tearing her apart as he forced himself into her. She screamed out in pain...

Oboro sat straight up to find herself face to face with a man she didn't recognize. She winced at the pain of movement, and then collapsed back into the blankets, too weak to move. The strange man stood over her, leering, and moved down to touch her face.

"My my, what a beauty we have here. But how did you end up in my cave, you sweet thing?"

Oboro was shaking as he moved closer and closer, and with every ounce of strength she had, she screamed out "Gennosuke-sama!!! Help me!!!!" Then her world faded to black as she went unconscious once more.

About a hundred yards away, Gennosuke heard his hime's scream, and running as fast as he could with the firewood still in his arms, he returned to the cave. He found a strange man standing over Oboro, holding a blade to her throat.

"Do not take another step," the thief said, "or I will slit her throat, and then dispense of you as well."

"Fool," whispered Gennosuke, "you do not know who you're dealing with."

In an instant, Gennosuke unleashed his Dojutsu once more, causing the thief to slit his own throat with his sword. His blood spattered all over both Oboro and Gennosuke, and he fell to the ground, twitching as he died. Gennosuke took the body and dragged it out, hiding it in the underbrush, then returned to Oboro's side. Her face was pale, and her skin felt very clammy. Gennosuke tore a piece of his clothing off, and covered it with the cold water he had in the canteen strapped to his belt. He laid the cloth on her forehead, and then turned to make a fire. When the flames were burning bright and hot, he pulled Oboro's limp body into his lap, and pulled her kimono down, exposing both her wound and her breasts. He was a bit distracted at the sight of her supple breasts, but he didn't have time to focus on that now.

Gennosuke tore another piece off of his clothing, and dipped it in the water he had warming by the fire. He took some herbs out of a pouch that he carried with him, and rubbed them onto the wet cloth, pressing it into the still bleeding wound. Oboro let out a small gasp, and he knew that the herbs were causing her great pain, but they would help the wound heal more quickly. Then he took another small piece of his kimono and tied it around her chest, holding the herbal compact in place.

Lucky for us that Hyouma taught me all about taking care of wounds and healing when I was his pupil, Gennosuke thought, and a wave of sadness hit him like a brick. He would miss his mentor more than any of the other Kouga, but he would miss them all, to some degree. But now, he had to focus on Oboro, and keeping her alive long enough for her to heal and be able to start their new life together.

He gathered her up in his arms, wrapping the blanket tightly around both of them. He wanted to hold her while she slept, just in case she didn't wake up. He was fairly sure that she would be ok, but there was always that doubt gnawing at the back of his mind, especially after all they had just been through. As the fire died down, Gennosuke allowed himself to close his eyes, and fell into a restless sleep, holding his love close.