It's been hours since the cries of battle died out, yet I'm still standing here, watching the sun set
Future Promise

by Calger459

Standard disclaimers apply...I don't own RK or any of its characters, Wastsukei-sensei does (lucky dog!) I'm just borrowing them for a bit ;)

It's been hours since the cries of battle died out, yet I'm still standing here, watching the sun set. Toba-Fushimi…that's what they're calling it already, scant hours after the Ishin victory. The day has been won; the revolution is finally over. With the raising of the Imperial symbol over the smoking battlefield my role in all this is finally over. That was the condition of my promise to her, the non-killing vow I took over two years ago. I would finish what I had begun in my foolishness and naiveté, I would continue to wield my sword for the new era, but once it was over I would seek ways to protect without killing.

Two years. I can hardly believe it's been that long already. I turned nineteen with the new year. I was only fourteen when I became hitokiri. So much has happened since then…I can hear voices calling my name in the distance. They're looking for me, my comrades. I lift my face into the slight breeze. It's a fresh breeze, carrying the stink of blood and smoke away from me. The sky is a brilliant red, and for the first time since I can remember the color does not remind me of blood and death. The Hitokiri Battousai dies today. Only Himura Kenshin can repent for the lives lost in the name of freedom and equality for all people.

I draw my katana out of my belt and hold it before me, the saya gleaming in the dying light. The voices grow closer, but I ignore them for the moment. This sword was given to me by my master just before we parted ways and since then has run red with blood. I don't need a katana where I'm going now. I will never kill again. Never again. Drawing the sword from its sheathe I hold it high. It catches the sun and for a moment it seems on fire, as if angry that it's being abandoned. "Gomen nasai," I whisper to it, "thank you for allowing me to live this long, to live up to the ideals I preached to Shishou so long ago. However, I can't take you with me. Sayonara." It's silly I guess, talking to a sword, as if it could hear. Perhaps I really have lost my mind after all these years of killing…but I feel good right now, in balance with myself. I think I am finally making the right choice.

I plunge the sword into the ground, soft with the blood of the slain, and lay the saya next to it. This is where that sword belongs, the blade that in my hands killed hundreds and took Tomoe's life. She is smiling in my mind; I've finally fulfilled my promise to her. I walk away from the sword and the shouts of the men. I keep walking, away from the sun. The bodies thin out around me and then I'm in a small field. There are some trees ahead of me…where am I going? If I stayed the Ishin would house me…

No. No more. It's over, it's done, Katsura-san had already given me his permission to go. I'm free. I'll find someplace to sleep tonight and then tomorrow…

I have no idea what I'll do tomorrow. What does a hitokiri do with himself when he's no longer needed? I suddenly realize that I have no idea, and I start to laugh. It feels weird to smile…I can't remember the last time I was happy enough to smile, or laugh. I start to run, past the trees. It feels like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders and for a moment I almost feel young again, truly young, just like when I was a child, before my parents died. My laughter carries on the wind and I realize how absurd I must look. I'm such a fool; I have some things back at the Ishin camp I need to get before I can really leave. I circle back around, still smiling, and I see the men who were looking for me earlier. They seem a little frightened, and I start laughing again when I realize why. The great Hitokiri Battousai running through a field laughing like a boy…they probably think I've lost my mind.

Well that's all right. Tomorrow it won't matter one way or the other. I walk past the startled men, my cool hitokiri mask over my face again. In the morning I'll discard that too. I no longer need it, after all.

It's just Himura Kenshin now. No more and no less.

I walk back to the Ishin camp with a light heart for the first time in many, many years. Katsura-san is there and greets me with a triumphant smile. I just bow to him as I pass by. If he is surprised by my lack of a sword he doesn't show it. I think he can tell that the scrawny, naive boy he found in a mountain field five years ago no longer exists. He has become something else now, a man old before his time, scarred and forever altered by the choices he has made in his short life.

I think of you, Shishou, and all the things we said to each other. Maybe, if things had been different…but no. This night, I look forward to the future, the era I helped to create. I don't know what will happen tomorrow, the day after that, or the day after that, but I know things have to get better from here. I have to believe that…and as the sun sets on another I day I find that I do believe it. For the first time, the future means more to me than the past, and for that I am grateful.

Notes: I wrote this in an hour. I was trying to work on part 3 of An Inn in Hokkaido and this little scene just sprung into my head…I hope it wasn't too boring, I wasn't sure how to end it. Who knows, maybe this will turn into a little prequel for Inn or something? Maybe not, I don't know. Anyway, I just started a teaching job last week so my time to write had been reduced to almost nil. I have no idea when chapter 3 of Inn will be out, thank you to everyone who's reviewed it, I'm glad everyone seems to like it ^_^ Ja ne, please R/R!