A/N – A long, long time ago – I think it's actually been more than three years – I promised Fenikkusuken a gift drabble with the prompt "Batt/Kaoru, after Jin-ei". And so here are two. Many apologies for the late arrival!

Disclaimer – I don't own Ruroken, the canon characters, situations or settings. Please don't sue.


In the midst of the desperate fight, as he crossed swords with Udo Jin-ei, Kenshin came to a frightening realization.

He, of all people, knew how to gauge the rhythm of a duel. And at the moment, as the murderous assassin slowly, relentlessly drove Kenshin back, Jin-ei was faster, stronger, and more determined – if he continued on as he was, if Kenshin could not stop him, Jin-ei would soon overwhelm him and land a crippling blow.

Quickly, he chanced a look at Kaoru-dono, who was still straining helplessly to breathe, her eyes wide and panicked, her fists clenched desperately by her side. If Jin-ei killed him, what would happen to Kaoru-dono, who had taken him in and accepted him without hesitation?

…The concept was unthinkable. Defeat was unthinkable.

He'd thought – perhaps foolishly – that there would be no need for killing once the Bakumatsu was done, but what use was that when Kaoru-dono was in danger and he could not save her?

To protect her, he would kill without qualms or hesitation, and do it with his whole heart.

But it was difficult to consciously revert to the lethal patterns of Hiten Mitsurugi after more than ten years of modified forms. It was even harder, at twenty-eight, to force his body to move as quickly as he had at eighteen. During his wandering years, when the majority of his opponents had been vastly inferior in skill and experience, he'd grown too used to easy fights – he'd deliberately abandoned his edge long ago, and now Kaoru-dono was paying the price.

He refused to believe it.

He refused, with all his resolve, that ruthless, fanatical resolve that had earned him the name Battousai, to even entertain the thought of defeat.

Panting, drawing on the whole force of his will, Kenshin gripped the hilt of his sword in preparation for battoujutsu. And he blocked out all thought of the past or the future, all his doubts and fears and conflicts about taking life, and he forced himself back into the mindset of the killer he had once been.

When he lifted his eyes once more, they glowed, predatory gold in the moonlight.

Katsura had once said that he favoured Battousai above all his other assassins because Battousai had no dreams of ambition or reward, no thought of the past or the future, no desire other than the overthrow of the Shogunate.

It was his greatest gift in the shadows, but also his greatest tragedy – for there was nothing more to him.