HEAVEN AWAITS
Chapter 7
Eternity In Your Arms
by Fuuko no miko

It was a spectacle no one has seen.

Desumasuku had stuck the ensui to the ground, thus employing one of his favorite moves, the Tsurara Mai. Little by little, a hundred icicles began appearing in midair, glittering dangerously like rough-cut diamonds. With a terse command he had sent them flying swiftly to the fuujin-wielder.

Fuuko then called upon the turbulent wind blasts of the fuujin, as it raised from a small current of wind to a powerful tornado. She ordered it to surround her thus shielding her against the attack of ice. The strong gust of wind repelled the icicles, sending them flying into a thousand directions all at once. The audience ducked for cover as particles like bullets buried themselves into chairs, walls and floors.

The fuujin-wielder stood her ground maintaining the tornado outside as more icicles bombarded her. She uttered a command to her madougu and then and there, the deflected ice particles were blown in a direction directly opposite to her.

Tokiya swiftly ducked as his icicle attack came back at him but an unlucky piece had chosen to graze his left cheek. He winced at the trickle of blood that it drew.

The audience roared at the sight of blood, much to Tokiya's disgust. He wiped it with the back of his hand as he stared back at Fuuko who was now enveloped by her protective tornado.

He called for the Tsurara Mai again.

Fuuko wondered why he summoned the same attack when it obviously was a futile one. With a verbal order, she once again repelled the flying icicles.

What she didn't see was the batch of icicles flying overhead, zooming above her tornado and stopping suddenly directly above her.

"Fuuko-nee-chan! Watch out!!!"

But the purple-haired girl heard Kaoru too late as a flurry of ice entered the center of her tornado shield where there was no wind. She gasped as icicles rained on her, distracting her and breaking the currents surrounding her. In an instant, her shield collapsed.

Supporters of Desumasuku cheered as Fuuko's protection fell down. Several particles had scratched her skin and abraded them. In an effort to save herself from the attack, she had shielded herself with her hands and had fallen on her knees.

He remained seemingly unaffected by her minor injury. The expression on his face clouded and distant. He didn't look at her with the same concern-tinged ones he had laid upon her when he saw her bravely defend against Fujimaru. Slowly he trekked closer, like an animal stalking its would-be prey.

He was vaguely startled when she suddenly looked up from her crouching position. Eyes that burned with fury met up with his uncaring gaze. He saw the small smudges of blood on her face caused by the ice particles he had rained upon her, staining her otherwise soft, smooth cheek.

For an instant he had let his guard down, as a powerful desire touch her face suddenly overcame him.

It took all his self-control to hold back.

She saw his moment of vulnerability.

And nearly experienced it herself.

Why are we doing this?

We shouldn't be fighting.

I love you.

"Kaze no tsume."

He barely comprehended the command she had muttered under her breath, and only a lightning-quick reflex saved him from the wind claws that suddenly made their way from her to him. He had blocked her attack with the ensui, as the blade of water struggled against the wind claws that were pushing. The current of wind powering them so strong that if he had not raised his sword quickly, he was certain they would have sliced through his neck.

Tokiya became the recieving end of a powerful kick to the shin.

The fans of the female Hokage warrior cheered as her opponent went reeling to the floor with the force of her kick. By this time Tokiya had dropped the ensui to the ground where it was nailed by the kaze no tsume. Fuuko took advantage of this and lunged at the sword-wielder.

Fuuko was the faster one.

But Tokiya had been stronger.

She had tackled him before he could get up from the fall her kick had caused, but a quick reversal had changed their positions. Tokiya ended up on top of the fuujin-wielder, and he pinned her to the ground with his weight. His powerful arms held her own down. They were breathing hard from the physical force of it all.

"Where..." he spoke in between breaths. "Did you get that stupid necklace?"

"Are you deaf?" she near-screamed. "I told you." Fuuko paused to catch hers. "It belongs to my family. An heirloom."

"I don't believe you." he snarled through his teeth. "Why are you taunting me, Kirisawa-san? This is not a funny joke."

"Who said I was joking?" she snapped. "I had killed your sister. I had destroyed your happiness. I have caused all the pain and the suffering you went through all those years."

"It was me." she wailed.

"Don't lie to me!" he scolded her. His voice cracked at the painful surge of memories seeing that necklace had caused. "You could never have done it. You were just a child then...as I was. You would not have the capability to do so."

"It was me." she insisted stubbornly. "You want your revenge and now you have the chance."

"Don't be a fool." he angrily accused. "You're protecting someone...he who killed my neechan...you're protecting him."

And as the words poured out of his mouth, a sudden realization hit him. He struggled to keep Fuuko down as his gaze wandered over to Team Hokage, nailing it to the tall ninja whose impassive gaze collided with his own. The questioning look met by one with challenge.

"You."

"Yes."

The color drained from Fuuko's face as her niisan admitted his guilt. No! It was impossible! Her niisan would never hurt anyone or anything! He couldn't so much as kill a fly, let alone another human being. It was physically unthinkable as well. Her niisan was no older than Tokiya...and if it had been a boy who had attacked her, Mifuyu would easily have fought him off. It was simply not possible!!!

Tokiya seemed to have read her thoughts. "You lie." he accused. "You are little older, if not the same age as I. I had seen no young man among the attackers of my sister. I would have recalled it!"

"You know who killed my sister!" he screamed, his eyes blazing with rage. "Tell me who did it!"

Tokiya gasped as he felt a painful stab at his left shoulder. He turned about to see the oni no tsume piercing his left bicep. Fuuko had mentally called upon her madougu and had had it attacking Tokiya from behind. The female Hokage took advantage of this situation and released herself from his hold, pushing Tokiya away. She made a dash for the ensui and much to the audience's and the combatants' surpirse, threw it upon Mikagami's feet.

"Your fight is with me, Mikagami Tokiya." she declared. "You leave my niisan alone."

The fire in his eyes burned brighter than before.

"Do you have a deathwish, Kirisawan-san?" he scoffed.

"The only funeral I'm attending is yours, Desumasuku." she retaliated as she raised her madougu, calling upon the powers of the wind god. Two powerful gusts of wind came from either side of the fuujin-wielder, travelling a swift path towards her opponent.

Desumasuku immediately thrust his sword downward, commanding Absolute Zero, causing the ground beneath him to immediately freeze. In a blink of an eye, this area of the arena floor had turned into solid ice and with his deft skills, he sliced it forming a huge shield of ice that in the nick of time protected him as he held it against himself while the gust of wind whipped at his defensive figure.

It was a while before the power of the wind subsided, but as he lowered the ice shield that protected him, Tokiya felt a strong force on the opposite side. Before he could properly defend himself, he saw the ice shield shatter before him into a million pieces as his opponent smashed it with her closed fist and the oni no tsume. He shielded his eyes against the miniature shards that rendered him temporarily blind. The force of the blow cause him to fall backward.

Fuuko smiled. Her tactics had worked. She had sent the wind gusts before to distract the ensui-wielder before attacking physically. A satifactory grin was painted on her face as her wind-powered fist met its target. The shield had smashed and he was blindsided by the ice chips. She continued to attack him with kicks and punches as only a scorned warrior could deliver.

Tokiya staggered back in defense, as he used his sword to deflect the punches thrown by the female Hokage. His quick reflexes did him well as they prevented her hits from making a significant impact. As he tried to clear the ice chips from his eyes, his sword shielded him although not too effectively. A cry of excitement echoed throughout the arena as the Uruha assassin neared the edge of the suspended stage. He had buckled down on his knees just in time to prevent a fall to the bottomless abyss. And as Fuuko prepared for the blow that would send him to his death and defeat, a cry from the excited audience stopped her attack.

"Look! The oni no tsume!!!!"

All eyes, including that of the purple-haired girl shifted to the weapon on her raised arm. And only then did she, as well as the rest of the audience notice that the claws of her madougu were frozen.

"What the hell..."

Before the deathblow was delivered, the oni no tsume cracked and disintegrated into shattered glass.

"He is a wizard of his craft." Kai had commented on the sidelines. He turned to Raiha who was as pale as the ice on the arena. "While she swung those claws at him, he used his sword to protect himself, at the same time, applying the blade of the ensui to the oni no tsume, and effectively freezing them." he nodded with awe. "He had frozen them so severely they now crack in destruction."

Fuuko seethed in anger as she realized what he had done. Before she could contemplate another move he had slipped away, rolling aside and moving towards the opposite side of the arena. She turned his way and proudly declared. "I aint finished yet!"

She plucked one of the orbs around her fuujin and held it up high. "Spirit of wind, come upon and do your master's bidding!" A blinding flash of light swirled around her head, with the mouselike creature appearing upon her call. With an incredible amount of speed, she ordered the spirit to fly across the arena to finish her opponent.

"Tsurara no Hebi!" Tokiya called in defense as the speedrolling ball of fur approached him. With that, from four corners, cold air was summoned, forming an icicle snake that met the spirit of the fuujin, head on resulting in a poweful collision in the middle of the arena. The extreme impact of the two colliding forces was enough to shake the foundation of the stage and the entire building.

"Kaze no Kodama!!!!" a voice, recognized as Fuuko's echoed through commotion the falling debris from the ceiling and the excitement of the audience was causing. Through the unstable surroundings it was seen that Fuuko had called upon a second spirit of the wind, commanding it to attack her adversary while everyone else was still in recovery of the previous moves.

"Mikaaagaaami!!!!" a cry was overheard amongst all others. The Uruha Kurenai turned their heads to a frantic girl in the audience, recognizing it as one of their own."Waaaaatch outttt!!!" Aki screamed in horror as the second of the kaze no kodamas cut through the falling debris and charged the silver-haired Uruha. The scream of warning died on her throat as the furball smacked right into the surprised assassin.

"Ugh!" his cry of injury was loud enough to silence the chaos as the creaure had knocked him off his feet and smashed him flat on the arena floor. The impact was powerful enough to sink him almost a foot into the broken concrete.

Everyone in the arena held on to their breath, as Desumasuku's body sank effortlessly on the arena's solid floor. The kaze no kodama's force buried him in a shallow grave. It remained like a tune hanging in the air as all eyes watched in awe at the sudden fall of the Uruha's most deadly assassin.

The requiem had seemingly begun.

Or ended.

The audience roared.

"He should've seen it coming." Kukkai had said in a voice loud enough to be heard among deafening cheers, as he watched the girl from the Hokage cautiously approached the non-moving assassin. "It was the same tactic she had employed in an earlier move. Fuuko had distracted him with the first of the Kaze no Kodama before quickly following it up with another one while he was busy defending himself from the former." He shook his head. "What a waste of a warrior."

"Outsmarted by an insipid girl!" scoffed Fujimaru as he spat in the direction of the fallen Uruha. "And to think he had a stainless reputation. It is obviously unearned." he snarled as he counted in his mind the money he was going to lose in a bet in this fight. "Why, when I was fighting that harlot, I had her where I wanted her."

Fuuko was breathing hard, her energy near-drained from the continous attack she had employed to her opponent. She took careful steps in coming towards him, should he be pretending to be unconscious. He was moving, not an inch. Seemingly not even breathing as his chest showed no expansion.

"Did I kill him?" she muttered a curse under her breath. When she got close enough she noted that indeed there was no movement of any kind from the fallen warrior. She kneeled beside him, her pulse now racing, beads of sweat forming on her forehead, her skin now clammy and pale. She could feel her heart palpitating wildly as the thought of her actually killing him formed in her head. She swallowed as she reached out a hand to his forehead.

He's so...cold...she thought. She felt her throat constrict as she heard the referee beginning her count from behind her. Loud cheers came from the audience and her fellow Hokage as the match neared its end with Enna calling out the numbers loud. And while she knew she should be rejoicing for her victory Fuuko felt none of this. She knew she should be way over the moon, as she aided their team to a win. They would have two wins then, and she knew in her heart her oniisan, Recca and Koganei would be triumphant in theirs. Yanagi would be safe from the hands of that maniacal Mori Kouran and they would be declared champions of the Ura Butou Satsoujin.

Then why do I not feel joy in my heart? she thought as she brushed fallen strands of hair from Tokiya's forehead. With the base of her thumb she wiped the trickle of blood from his closed mouth. Why am I not overjoyed to see you, my foe, whom I had so much hatred in my heart for fallen in defeat? Instead of laughter on her mouth, she found tears welling in her eyes as she tried to find a pulse in his neck. Her throat began to choke and her mouth started to quiver. Her heart felt like it was being wrenched in her chest.

"You can't be dead..." she whispered in a hoarse gasp, "Kami-sama you can't...be...no I...it's not possible...I couldn't have killed you..." she found herself blabbering. "I couldn't have..."

"Six...." the audience chanted along with Enna as she called out the numbers. "Seven....Eight....."

"Kami-sama, you can't be dead....nooooo...." Fuuko spoke aloud, unable to control the sudden burst of emotion as she felt no pulse. The arena was suddenly stilled with her outburst. With her remaining strength she pulled the ensui-wielder's body from the debris it was under and cradled it on her lap. "You can't be dead...you can't be..." she pushed his eyelids open, as though trying to look for any sign of life.

His eyes were blank.

"Who said I was?"

The audience, the Hokage team and everyone else who had the opportunity to be in that arena had their mouths hanging open as from the smoke that cleared appeared a second Desumasuku, armed with his ensui and who suddenly pounced on the just-as-surprised fujin-wielder. And before anyone could fathom what had occured, the melee cleared revealing Fuuko, now on her back on the arena floor,with her undead adversary towering over her, his booted foot planted on the base of her neck effectively pinning her down. She choked with the strength of his foot on her, but she was still able to mouth out her protest.

"H-how...did...you...escape..." she sputtered. "I thought you were...dead..."

"Mizu kugutsu." He declared boldly. At the corner of her eye, Fuuko noted that the form she had held earlier was now a puddle of water. "Water puppet. An illusion." A thoroughly amused grin found its way to his lips. "Not one of the ensui's better tricks, but in the hands of a master it is quite a weapon. Good enough to fool even the spirit or a powerful madougu." He spoke, referring to the kaze no kodama.

Raiha was now on the throes of jumping into the arena to save his imouto-san. Only his companions had prevented him from doing so.

"Fuuko wants this fight, Raiha nee-chan." Kaoru declared, even if he himself was on the verge of getting in the arena. "She would feel dishonored if we interfered on her part."

"She is my little sister, Koganei." Raiha seethed in between his teeth. "I do not intend to bring home a corpse to our mother."

"Desumasuku is a sly devil." Kai observed. "He had fooled everyone into thinking it was he who had received the end of the kaze no kodama, when in fact it was a mere creation of his ensui." He continued. "Normally that thing would have dissolved into water the minute the kaze no kodama made contact with it, but seemingly he had modified his technique, putting absolute concentration on it. Such mind power...." He shook his head, full knowing that the right man of the Uruha showed little if any mercy on his opponents. He was certain the former would kill the Hokage girl.

"I am correct then," a smirk appeared on Tokiya's lips. "Your emotional weakness is what will cause your loss, and what will bring on my triumph."

The tears that were welling in Fuuko's eyes, initially from heartbreak, had now fallen, this time in a fit of rage. "Well what are you waiting for you arrogant bastard?" she challenged despite the fear in her heart. "Finish me."

"That I shall." he declared as he raised his sword to stab her.

"Imouto-saaann....nooooo!!!!!"

The voice of her niisan seemingly jolted Fuuko from her repose and with all her remaining strength she clutched at the tip of the ensui before it had the chance to drive itself through her heart.

What she did not know what that at the very same moment she tried to stop him, Tokiya held on to the ensui, stopping in mid-air, a mere inch above Fuuko's heart.

No.

I can't do this.

The hesitancy seemingly registered on his face, as the Uruha Kurenai called.

"What the hell are you waiting for?" Mikoto cried. "Finish her off."

"What the freakin hell is wrong with him?" Joker wondered aloud. "He stopped in mid-air."

Kurei said nothing.

And for a mere second time throughout the duration of their match that seemed forever, their gazes locked. Fuuko's teary, hate-filled gaze collided with Mikagami's determined, ice-cold stare. In that meeting of their lines of vision, a conversation seemed to take place in their heads.

You hesitate....What are you waiting for? Kill me. Isn't that what you want?

I can't. Kami-sama, I don't know why but I can't.

I am ashamed of having been decieved by your treacherous madougu and my foolish heart. I cannot live with that. End my suffering now as I have no face to show my teammates, especially my niisan. Imagine...to feel mercy for he who wishes to see nothing but my demise! I hang my head in embarassment!

It's nothing to be ashamed of. Though I do not know why you had such a fear of the possibility of killing me. of course you've never done that, have you? You've not once desired to finish even he who had disgraced you, Fujimaru...or I who had wanted to crush you. You have a soft heart, Fuuko-san. It's going to cost you.

Baka! Don't you think I realize that now? But it is too late. I hope Yanagi forgives me for my stupidity. Kami-sama but I am an idiot! I have no honor left to show my niisan or my friends. Fuuko no baka is a disgrace to the Hokage! Kill me off now assassin...it is better to end it this way than face them with shame. Ah...and I forget, well nearly forgot anyway, killing me also accomplishes your lifelong objective yes? To avenge your nee-chan. Two birds with one stone. You are a brilliant one, aren't you, Desumasuku? I salute your ingenuity.

Shut up! I'm doing this for the Uruha. It has nothing to do with my neechan. I know you didn't kill her.

Maybe it wasn't me but it's one from my family I gather. What difference does it make? A life for another life. You're getting your revenge and its all that matters now. I hope it makes you happy. Do me a favor will you? Tell my niisan I'm sorry I let him down, and that I love him and my kaa-san very much. You will tell him that won't you?

I am not happy.

Oh yes you are. You're finally getting your revenge. That's what you've been living for all this time, is it not? And maybe after this you'll go celebrate with your Uruha friends...have a drink or two...maybe a feast even. A toast for getting the revenge I have lived all my freaking life for and to the stupid girl from the Hokage who helped me get it...ha ha ha....

You have said quite enough, Kirisawa.

You want me to finish this...yes?

Yes.

Then I shall....

In a blink of an eye Fuuko released the tip of the ensui and Mikagami drove it forward. For a second the audience held its breath as the sharp edge of the water sword found its target.

Fuuko closed her eyes, muttering a silent prayer as she accepted the verdict that has fallen upon her.

She thought she felt the ensui graze the surface of her skin, but after that, she felt no pain.

No pain.

She dared open her eyes.

Her tear-holden gaze met blue ones that burned...not with hatred, nor revenge...not with anger.

But with concern....care....love?

She followed the length of his madougu's blade and found it's tip. Not buried in her wounded body, but thrust ever so precisely in the middle of the miniature silver gem suspended on her neck.

A mere breadth away from her jugular.

With the skills honed through years of practice, Tokiya gave his sword but a twist, and the small silver artifact cracked into a hundred microscopic pieces.

Fuuko felt as though her throat had gone dry. The missing half of the incriminating necklace that had hung about her neck was now nothing but a bitter memory. She risked a look at her adversary before her. He had ripped the other half of the necklace from his own neck and took a longing look at it before throwing it towards the bottomless abyss. His foot upon her was released and he no longer stood above her. She was still in awe that he had let her live when she saw him throw the ensui aside, the sword plunging near half its length on the arena floor with the force he threw it with.

"T-tokiya...."

"What the hell is he doing?" Joker exclaimed when his teammate threw his weapon aside. "Kurei-han you can't allow him to...."

Mikoto interjected. "Kurei-sama, Desumasuku's betraying...."

"Quiet." the head of the Uruha motioned the two assassins to keep their traps shut. "I want to see what he does next."

"I have been denied my happiness once." Tokiya spoke in a voice only loud enough for him and his opponent to hear. "I will never be denied it again."

"Tokiya..."

She was taken aback when he kneeled before her, suddenly taking her in his arms and embracing her tight. Fuuko's eyes widened, not knowing how to react as his arms tighetened possesively around her. Instinctively she buried her face in the long mane of hair that flowed dramatically on his shoulder. She wound her arms around him as well, and released the tears that she had held so desperately back.

"Forgive me...." he told her, his voice indicating that he was choking on unshed tears...tears he considered unmanly. "Forgive me for hurting you, Fuuko-san. Forgive me...."

"Tokiya...." she whispered his name huskily. She was at a loss.

"I have been robbed of my childhood happiness when they took my nee-chan away." he spoke in her ear. "All I ever wanted was to get back at them who murdered her. I thought it would restore me...make me glad...bring back the joy of a life I'd once known...." he paused before explaining. "But with you....I have found that joy all over again...being with you...it made me feel complete....as though I've regained what I had once lost. If I let my rage take over, allow myself to be blinded by my thirst for revenge...over something which was never your fault, I would've destroyed that which I have longed so much to get."

"But that night...in the forest...you said..."

"Only because Kurei-sama was there, amongst the shadows....with Aki and Neon." he explained. "They were listening, you didn't see them because your back was turned. If I told you...the truth...that I cared for you more than life itself, Kurei-san would have had you executed right before my very eyes to teach me a lesson."

She withdrew, looking into his eyes to see any trace of treachery he might be plotting. Of which she appreciated none. All she ever noted was the relief in his eyes. That and what seemed to be what she felt right now. Overwhelming love.

"I know you find it difficult to believe me." he spoke flatly, pulling away, his face visibly repentant. "I don't blame you. All those times, there was nothing I did but tell you lies....not too far-fetched from the truth, but lies nonetheless." His shoulders slumping, he backed away from her. When she said nothing, he stood up and began to walk away when she called him.

"Tokiya-kun..." she spoke.

He turned his head. Fuuko had stood up and dusted off her clothes. Her stare held on to his, and he braced himself for the judgment that was to come.

"I forgive you."

He could not believe his ears. He seemed to have been planted there with astonishment with her words. She walked towards him, saying nothing but sending him a message only hearts understood.

And though what the audience witnessed was a wounded Hokage ninja approaching a stunned Uruha assassin, the two souls that stood before the arena saw differently. A silver-haired girl stood, clutching the place where her heart was, looking longingly at the love she had waited for for more than four hundred years. As he did, staring with overflowing affection for the most beautiful young woman he had ever laid eyes upon. She who had held on his heart for all eternity. It was the time they had waited for all the rest of their afterlives.

To be reunited.

For their love to be fulfilled.

To be as one. For now. For ever.

"No!!! This is not happening! It is not..." a female voice muttered through gritted teeth. "It's not true...it can't be...he doesn't want her...he loves me. It's me he wants...not her...not her..."

An ear-piercing scream tore through the silent audience as Aki who was now seeing red, leaped quickly down to the announcer's table. She shoved Kashemaru who was sitting there and pulled his sword from him. Before anyone could do anything she threw the kodachi in a straight line, piercing through the air and headed straight towards Fuuko's chest.

It happened so fast no one had been able to move.

Save one.

He had withdrawn his katana earlier to interfere in his imouto-san's match, ready to step in and get himself hurt or disqualified just to save her from imminent death. He had stopped in a heartbeat when his expert eye noted Mikagami's sudden change of heart a split second before he drove that sword into the necklace. With all his strength he sent his own sword flying towards the arena, whispering a silent prayer that it would get there just in time.

It seemed all so unreal. Like a slow-motion picture, rolling....rolling in front of their eyes.

Fuuko saw the kodachi headed straight for her.

And felt Tokiya pushing her out of the way.

But she saw another sword...her niisan's favorite katana speeding through the air...intended for....

The man she loved....

She scrambled to tackle him out of its path.

She heard screams.

And the clash of sharp metal colliding in mid-air.

Then there was...blood...she saw it...or at least she thought she did as blotches of red sprayed on her eyes. It felt warm on her skin too...as it hit her face. She vaguely tasted it on the tip of her tongue.

It was hard to tell.

Because a heavy object fell upon her, knocking her off her feet and at the same time, she felt a stinging sensation on her shoulder as she felt something sharp pierce through it.

Everything was dark after then.

The breeze blew gently, disturbing the quiescent leaves of the sakura tree, sending the petals of its pristine white flowers dancing in the teasing midsummer wind. The sun got out from hiding behind the cottony clouds, burning brightly and spreading its rays towards the rolling hills of green below it. From behind the tree and alighting over the hill where it stood was a tall figure, dressed in an immaculate white suit, his long tresses bound by a ponytail to prevent it from being toyed around with the warm breeze that whipped the branches of the tree he stood under. He was holding a bouquet of multicolored flowers of different kinds, freshly picked that morning and arranged especially for him by Domon's mother who was only too happy to make it. She had teased him about the lucky recepient of the sweet-smelling blooms, to which he responded with laconic humor.

He started walking down the grassy downhill path, careful not to step on any of the wildflowers growing on the field. He found his way to a manmade stone pathway that led to the place he intended to go. He sighed as he reached his destination, a fenced-in area that declared the privacy of it. He smiled to himself as he looked at the bouquet in his hand and put it down in its proper place before him.

"Ishijima-san made this bouquet for you." he declared proudly. "Aren't they beautiful? I hope you like them. I chose the flowers myself and she arranged them. Really sweet of her to do so, don't you think?"

There was no reply.

"You will forgive me for not visiting you for the longest time, won't you? Things have been quite messy back in Tokyo. But all is well now. I have restored things in their proper place as I have promised you. I hope that you will be in peace now. It's what you've wanted for the longest time, is it not? So I did what had to be done."

All that greeted him was absolute silence.

He knelt at the tombstone before him and set up the incense he had brought along and lit them. He closed his eyes in prayer as the scent of burning incense filled the air, mingling with the delicate scents of the bouquet's blossoms and the smell of the summer air. Several minutes after speaking to the higher spirits, he opened his eyes and reached out to touch with the tips of his fingers the name carved so expertly on the slab of stone in front of him, an ache forming in his heart as he traced the kanji on it one by one. A tear fell on his cheek.

It spelled Kirisawa.

His memories drifted off again to the third Ura Buto Satsoujin, the bloodfest held in Mori Kouran's vast backyard. Funny how it seemed to be so distant a memory when it was no more than a year ago when it happened. The second match of final round, where Desumasuku of the Uruha was pitted against Kirisawa of the Hokage. It was a match made in hell, or so it seemed. The bloodthirsty audience had delighted in the skill each competitor showed, not realizing the intensity of the emotion that came along with it. But it wasn't just the battle itself that proved to be one of the most talked about after the tournament. It was what had happened afterwards that sparked theory and speculation to the point of nonsensical debate. When Tokiya Mikagami had refused to finish his opponent and had instead thrown his weapon aside in nonverbal surrender when he obviously had the upper hand. Followed by what the audience had considered as nothing but a mushy display of emotions none of them truly cared about, until it had seemingly sparked the anger of one female Uruha. Who had then charged from her seat in the crowd and using a stolen sword, attacked the combatants on stage. This then was followed by a counterattack from the side of the Hokage, when the purple-haired ninja threw his own katana into the melee in an effort to save his sister. Mikagami had pushed Kirisawa away from the trajectory of Aki's sword, but she had tried to tackle him out of the way when she saw her brother's sword, initially meant to displace the first one, seemed to be out of target. Nobody knew exactly what happened, but one of the theories to popularly abound was that somewhere along the way, there was a miscalculation. Aki's sword given its lightweightedness, was faster and had angulated differently than originally thought. By the way Mikagami was positioned, he had seemingly calculated it to pierce through nothing more than his arm muscle....a fatal mistake since it went through his upper chest instead. Raiha's sword was one second too late to prevent Tokiya's stabbing, but being a heavier sword it was able to knock Aki's kodachi off the Uruha's righthand-man....unfortunately, it had lost its direction and pierced through Fuuko instead, who at the time had knocked away Tokiya.

The two bodies fell beside each other in the arena, the blood flowing freely from their wounds.

Both combatants were unconscious.

The fight was labelled a draw.

There was a commotion afterwards, with each side scampering to their fighter's rescue. Domon, his eyes drowning in tears, had picked up Fuuko's bloody body and had carried it to the infirmary. Kurei was the first to arrive on Mikagami's side, standing above his favorite footsoldier, the eyes looking through the mask cold and unfaltering.

"Give me a good reason why I should bail your stupid carcass out of this mess." he stated in a tone of suppressed fury.

"You shouldn't." Tokiya spoke through the blood flowing from his mouth. "I failed to deliver my promise of victory." he stated. "I have let you down.....should you punish me now...should you let me die...I wouldn't be too surprised." He managed to let out a hoarse chuckle. "Although....I must confess....I know of only one crime I am truly guilty of...and I admit to it as much..."

Kurei snarled out his response. "Treachery. Betrayal. Treason. How would like me to put it up for you, hmmm?" He put his boot on Mikagami's already battered abdomen, pressing upon it.

The younger man merely shook his head weakly. "I am guilty, but not of that which you accuse me of."

The scarred one angrily bent down and took Tokiya by the lapels of his costume, pulling him violently and drawing his face a mere six inches from the other man's own. He sputtered out his question in rage. "And what would it be then?"

Tokiya met his superior eye to eye. "I fell in love with someone I'm not supposed to."

His words stung at Kurei, causing him to throw Tokiya back upon the floor. He was muttering a multitude of curses as he ordered the arena to be cleared for the next match, leaving his former right- hand-man to bathe in his own blood, to wallow in a slow agonizing death. Tokiya felt his lids getting heavy, his limbs growing weak, his body strength fading as the blood on his torso continued to flow. He had wanted to get up to see how Fuuko was doing but he could not summon the strength to do so. For the first time in his life he felt so utterly helpless. His eyes were partway shut when he felt powerful arms lifting his broken body and he was being carried off. The last he saw was a huge man whose face was near covered by his long dreadlocks. He thought he heard him say it was going to be alright.

"Kai." was the last word he uttered before he totally lost consciousness.

The truth of Mikagami Mifuyu's death had then been slwoly unfolded, with testimonies from Kai and Raiha that complemented each other. After the bitter divorce with Fuuko & Raiha's mother, Takahiro Kirisawa had gone off into a deep depression which led him to lose his job. The bills he had to pay for legal services added fuel to the fire. By the time he had gotten out of his personal abyss there was barely anything left for him to live by, and he had a son to feed. He had resorted to petty jobs, digging ditches, collecting garbage, taking up any work that would get him and his little boy through the day. One day he had found an ad in a newspaper that needed a driver, and with a lucrative pay to go with it. He had answered to it and was hired immediately. Little did he know it was the biggest mistake he was to make.

It had been too late to back away when Takahiro found out his job description. He stared in horror as his employers, a handful of mercenaries under the wing of the corrupt Mori Kouran, attack a young girl and her little brother. He had been told to wait outside with the car as the other men *saw to their business*. He had grown impatient and had taken to looking through the window, where he had to witness the brutal murder scene. He was so stunned by what he saw that when the men came scampering out, he was still planted by the window.

The next thing he knew, one of the men had pulled him away, as a little boy, around ten years old he had guessed, came charging through the door. The kid had bravely pounced on him and pulled one of the lapels on his shirt. One of his companions had a tug-of-war with the child with him as the rope in between. With one final tug, he had broken away from the boy's grip, but the force of it had torn a piece of his necklace, a cheap silver trinket that his former wife Rumiko had given him years before. The last thing he remembered was pulling out of the driveway in a rush and hearing a young boy's wailing in between his companions cursing.

He was never able to forget that horrifying scene. It was like a nightmare playing in his head over and over again. He could not get over the guilt he felt, even if he did not take part in the killing and all he did was drive the getaway vehicle. It ate at him day and night. The prodding in his conscience was even worsened when he saw the same boy again, this time in the company of the man who had given Takahiro's companions the order to seek and destroy.

Meguri-sama.

The boy had been taken under the wing of the man who had ordered his sister's murder.

He was in danger.

But unbeknownst to Takahiro, Meguri Kyoza figured him out already, that he was feeling guilty for himself and was afraid for the boy he had recently acquired. Before Kirisawa had a chance to sing, his demise was plotted out and executed.

But not before he could confess to his then eleven-year old son, Raiha.

"Promise me...." Takahiro spoke hoarsely as he tried to squeeze out his last remaining breath on his deathbed. "That you will find this boy....and tell him who killed...who plotted his sister's murder...find him...masuko...please..."

The boy's tear-strained face looked into his father's. "Oto-san, I promise you...I will....I will find him."

"Oto-san handed me the silver necklace, telling me that the other half was probably with the boy who had broken it in two during the struggle. That I should use it to track you down." Raiha told Mikagami when they were in the infirmary and Mikagami's wounds were being treated. "That is why I had it in my possession." his face grew dark as he recalled his father dying in his arms. "I swore then that I would one day find you and tell you the truth. My father was not among your sister's murderers. He was but a witness. Unfortunately I had not known where to find you. My father had passed into the other life before he could tell me your name or what you look like, so I had to start from scratch. It took me years, but I did find you." he smiled slightly, as he had fulfilled his childhood promise to his dad. "I was looking for just the right moment to tell you...but I never got the chance."

"Forgive us." Raiha said, "My oto-san...and I...we ask for your forgiveness."

All Tokiya could manage at the time was a nod. He was physically weakened by his condition but his thinking was intact. He had forgiven the Kirisawa family for their sins...or at least the one he had initially percepted....back in the arena. But right now, he was fighting a life and death battle as he thought of a score he had yet to settle, for his peace of mind and for his sister's eternal repose.

Meguri-sensei.

The figure clad in white bit his lip at the memories thinking of the Ura Buto Satsoujin brought to him. They were bitter ones, though the closing parts of it brought him an inner sense of peace. The nightmare that had begun a near decade ago has now ended. He had since started his life anew. He had gotten off on the right foot this time, and though there were still things he wish weren't so, he knew that some things could not be changed.

"Niisaaaaannnn!!!!"

Raiha stood up from where he kneeled and turned to face the voice who had called him from high atop the hill. He shielded his eyes from glare of the sun and made out two figures standing, hand in hand, beneath the tree where he had stood earlier.

"You got ahead of me by a mere five minutes." she declared.

"Well if you weren't so busy powdering your nose, you'd have gotten here earlier." he teased, laughing as she stuck her toungue at him. His heart swelled with happiness as he heard her let out a mirthless laugh. It was nearly unthinkable that he had nearly lost her in the Tournament of Death. The way she had looked now, dressed in a sleeveless white blouse and jeans, her hair slightly longer and no longer bound by her customary headband, her cheeks aglow and warm from just being out in the sun, was a sharp contrast from what she had looked back then as her friends carried her out from the arena. Deathly pale and bleeding from the wound she had chosen to receive from an aftercoming sword. It was a miracle she was alive. Though he contributed her continued existence from the magical powers of Yanagi, he acknowledged the fact that some power from above had intervened to allow his dearly beloved sister to live.

"Tokiya-kun was such a slowpoke choosing the flowers." she reasoned, elbowing the man whose hand intertwined with hers. She turned her face towards him. "If Ishijima-san wasn't so besotted with your good looks I'm sure she would've decked you for taking forever to pick the roses."

A smile tugged at the corner of Tokiya's mouth. "Me? It was you who keep interfering with the floral arrangement." he teased.

Raiha smiled as the two began bantering who took longer with the flowers. His eyes returned to the tombstone before him. He thought he saw their father's soul smiling at him and at the twosome on the hill. When he turned to look at them again, Raiha was taken aback as he saw something else. Instead of seeing Fuuko and Tokiya, he caught glimpse of two rather unfamiliar persons. Dressed in outfits designed as Hokage ninjas, was a tall, well-built man with unruly purple hair and a beautiful silver-haired woman. And although he didn't know who they truly were, he recognized his sister's face on the man's and Mikagami's face on the woman. Could it be the legend he had heard of from his grandfather...who had told of the story of two warriors with an unfulfilled promise of undying love? He remembered that story well from his childhood....two Hokage ninjas...Mizumi and Yukaze...and their promise to return to the afterlife to be together. Of course he had thought it was nothing but a tale his grandpa had conjured up, but now...

He blinked repeatedly.

It was Fuuko and her beau again.

Raiha shook his head.

The sun was playing tricks on his eyes.

"Your niisan is looking strangely at us." Tokiya said.

"He's probably just missing his girlfriend." she laughed. "She's been away for like...months."

"I guess so." He released her hand and put his hand on her cheek. "Hell, I'd miss you too if you were away...even for just a day." His hands now cupped her face. "I don't want to be apart from you...ever..."

A hint of a smile lifted a corner of her mouth. "You know you get cornier every day." she pouted, but the amusement in her eyes gave her away.

"Well so do you." he spoke, his face inching closer towards her. "You are the mushiest person I have ever come across." He laughed throatily. "Where did that tomboy Fuuko Kirisawa go anyway? That no-nonsense, quick-tempered, warfreak cyclone I first met and fell in love with?"

"She's still here..." she whispered as his mouth came closer to her own. "Just as much as that cynical, pokerfaced, laconic Tokiya Mikagami is still within you..."

"I love you....regardless..."

"I love you too."

The words were silenced as their lips met in a kiss that seemed to shake the very earth beneath their feet. The basket of flowers fell from Fuuko's hand as her arms went around her beloved's. It was a gentle kiss they shared, but the impact was just as powerful as the more passionate ones they exchanged, the effect just as magical. She opened her eyes and stared into the bluest eyes she had ever come across. The love shining in them warmed her over as it never failed to do.

"I'll never lose you again." he promised. "Never." he paused to brush a hair strand on her forehead. "I've waited too long. This time, we'll be together for all eternity."

"Me too." she spoke. "We'll make it right. We won't let anything or anyone get in the way."

"I can't believe I had even thought of killing you. It was..."

She stilled him with a finger on his lips. "We've talked about that over and over again Tokiya-kun," she said. "We've both made mistakes. You allowed yourself to be blinded by hate and vengeance. I had let myself be decieved and be scorned by lies you had made to protect me. We've had our faults but we've put it all behind us. And I think the fact that we've forgiven each other says it all. We've got new lives ahead of us. Let's not let the past ruin it."

"Yes...indeed, we have."

They stared a long while at the open fields of green before them, not realizing that they stood at the exact same spot where four hundred years ago, their ancestors first made their promise to one another. To come back and make true their pledge of eternal love, which they now renew as they've returned in the guise of another. The couple merrily made their way downhill when Raiha called them. Their picnic lunch was going to get cold if they waited any longer. The threesome were later joined by other friends, Recca, Yanagi, Kagero, Domon, Ganko and Shigeo Hanabishi and they spent the day revelling in the new life the rest of them were to lead.

Had any of them looked back to the cherry tree on the hill, they would've made out two images, the same ones Raiha thought were products of his imagination. They held hands, as they have always had since they reunited in the Arena of Death not too long ago, and they no longer had tears on their eyes, rather, they had smiles on their lips. They were together now. Never to be torn apart by man or any other force of nature.

"The time has come." he spoke first.

She nodded in approval.

"Yukaze-san...." she said. "You think perhaps they would be affected by our departure...I mean..."

He shook his head. "Their love is genuine, Mizumi-chan." he replied. "I too, at first thought that they were attracted to one another because of our presence...but I know now it is not."

"Such a shame if it would affect them." she laughed. "They make a cute couple you know. I mean, look at Mikagami...he's such a heartbreaker with those baby blues and that gorgeous silvery mane...if I were alive and real I'd...."

His mouth sealed off any other comments she had to make. Initially caught unaware, Mizumi simply closed her eyes and savored the warm kiss she was recieving from him. It was soft...sweet..tender...and the first one she's had in four hundred years.....

Her eyes were still closed when he lifted his lips from hers. When she opened them, she saw a glitter of amusement in her beloved's stare. "What's so...funny?" she asked.

He chuckled. "I was thinking if maybe I should've done that four hundred years earlier...would've save both of us a lot of trouble."

She snorted. "If you'd done that four hundred years earlier you'd only have one ear left."

"Somehow I don't buy that." Yukaze teased, much to Mizumi's disapproval.

"Arrogant snot." she stuck her tongue at him. "Maybe I should let you chase me around for another four centuries..."

A ray of light broke through the clouds at that very moment, shining upon the two souls beneath the sakura tree. It was their signal, and with that, they took each other's hand, casting one last look at their descendants and finally taking ascent to the skies. They looked forward to joining their fellow Hokages who now made residence in the Great Beyond. After all, it took them four hundred earth years of wandering to find one another. With their promise fulfilled, they can now spend eternal peace in each other's arms. They've put off entering the pearly gates for too long a time, but this was true no more. Heaven shall wait no longer.

~OWARI~
~aka THE END~
*****really it is*****
12:58 pm November 3, 2002

FUUKO NO MIKO'S FINAL POST-CHAPTER RANTING

Okaaayy...finally I got around to finishing this. Gawd! What an apt title, no? Heaven Awaits. *_* Gomen ne for taking *forever*. I had multiple conflicts at hand for this, namely REAL LIFE and getting stuck at the storyline numerous times. As you can see, fight scenes and love scenes are rather difficult for me to write. So here it is at last, and no I will hang you no longer...my dear, wonderful readers. Thank you for your continued support and patronage, and for making this fic my most read and reviewed piece of work. My heart goes out to all of you. ARIGATOU GOZAIMASE!!!! This is dedicated to all my fellow Rekka no Honoo fans, the Tokiya-Fuuko lovers/haters...(yeah I know who you are, and I don't mind that you dissed my other fanfic Hearts At Play. That's your opinion and I respect that) and the Raiha/Fuuko lovers as well. If you remember, I dedicated this fic to the Tokiya Mikagami of my life who, in the course of time, changed into different persons. Well now, it is just one, the only one, the true one, and who also happens to be the first one. Too bad we couldn't have an ending the same as the Tokiya & Fuuko in this fic. Ah well, life goes on ne?

Also, I cut down a wee bit on the mush. If I put it on any longer, this fic will take an eternity to finish....even Yukaze and Mizumi wouldn't dare wait for the ending. I also inserted the part where the two spirits leave our heroes in. It wasn't in my original idea, but I put it since the fic began with them and I thought it was but appropriate to end it with them too.

Lastly, I omitted putting the epilogue of the real Rekka no Honoo here, what happened to Kurei & co., and all the other characters. That's for you guys to read so no spoilers here. Keep on reading, loving and supporting our favorite Anzai Noboyuki masterpiece!!!! Take care y'all and have a good day in fanficdom!!!

Should I put a prologue to my next fic? Hint: Joker-Neon, my favorite oddball couple, ha ha ha!

Naaah, nevermind.

^_~ Fuuko no Miko (fuukonomiko@yahoo.com)