Ryuji was holding one of the GenJyuKen scrolls he owned. He owed the power of the GenJyuKen so much. It had given him the power to face his enemies and protect his friends. However, he'd nearly gone too far down the Infinite Path and nearly became a destroyer because of GenJyuKen.
He'd lost control of his body and went berserk. He would've hurt Kotonoha if she hadn't defended herself and shot him like he asked. He didn't hold it against her. He would rather die than harm her.
"I am my own worst enemy," he mumbled to himself. He put the scroll into the trunk and closed the lid before locking the trunk and pushing it down under his bed. "Out of sight and out of mind."
"Ryuji-kun." Ryuji looked up to see his wife enter the bedroom. She had just finished with her bath and was wearing only her towel with another towel wrapped around her head to dry her hair. "I'm done with my bath. The bathroom is all yours now."
"Thank you," he said as he stood up and walked towards the door but not before pecking her cheek. He took in her scent and said, "You smell nice."
Kotonoha washed herself with strawberry scented soap and cleaned her hair with strawberry scented shampoo. She knew how much he loved strawberries because they reminded him of her.
"I could eat you up right now," he whispered huskily into her ear, causing her heart to race as she flushed. He let out a chuckle before exiting the room.
"That boy," she said, with an amused smile. "No, I should say that man. He's no longer a boy." That was true. He'd gone through a lot in his life. She gazed down at her left finger where she wore wedding band. "He's my husband."
A long time ago she had envisioned marrying her prince and having a beautiful wedding. Sure, Ryuji was no Prince Charming like in those fairytales, but he was something better. He was her Knight in Shining Dark Armor. He was a Kamen Rider.
And so was she. She had taken it upon herself to share his burden.
She sat on their bed and the back of her feet hit something. Curious, she squatted down to the floor and checked to see what it was. It was a large wooded trunk. "What's this?" She pulled it out from under the bed. She didn't recognize it but she could recognize the writing atop it. "Gen…Jyu…Ken." She realized what it was. This was where he kept his scrolls.
She knew she should just push it back under the bed and leave it alone but she was curious. She had seen him holding the scrolls but never seen the content. The scrolls were the source to Ryuji's practice of the GenJyuKen. The Mythical Beast Fist was powerful from what she'd seen. "Maybe just a peek…?" The trunk was locked but the key was still in the keyhole. Ryuji had forgotten to remove it. She reached for it but recoiled at the last second, shaking her head. "No, I shouldn't be doing this without his permission. He trusts me." She pushed the trunk back down under the bed and breathed a sigh of relief. "He'll show it to me on his own volition." She then got up and said to herself. "Maybe I should go and scrub Ryuji-kun's back for him!"
Ryuji was in the tub. The warm water was relaxing. Of course he was thinking. His constant use of Genki had an unforeseen effect. He hadn't taken to heart of how it would affect him but now he knew better. The power was actually damaging his body, causing it to slowly decay each time he used it. Fortunately, his regenerative abilities could heal the damage. Still, he remembered his attempt at mastering Mugenki and was angered at himself for his foolishness. "I have to be more patient," he advised himself but he wasn't really much of a patient person when gaining power.
He'd been close to death before. When he used the Kamikaze attack to destroy the Imagin his body had nearly broken down beyond recovery but luckily Ant found him and saved him.
The GenJyuKen had given him so much power but had also brought him loneliness when he tried to master it. One year of loneliness without Kotonoha, his only drive being his desire to gain enough strength to face and protect her and then another two more years to improve his power so that he could return to her.
"All that power…" he said as he raised a hand to admire the power which came off in waves. The golden ki of the Mythical Beasts flowed through him. "Was it worth all that loneliness?" He thought back to his life now with Kotonoha, as husband and wife. "I'm not alone anymore…" He had a family here now. He was a Katsura now and married to Kotonoha.
He had fought for this and now he had what he desired. He had achieved inner peace. He heard a knock at the bathroom door and saw a silhouette upon it. It was Kotonoha. "Hai?"
"Ryuji-kun…Anata…may I scrub your back for you and help wash your hair?"
Ryuji answered, "Hai."
Kenzaki was sparing with Gou (his adopted father). The former Fukami had come to visit his adopted son to see how he was doing. He'd heard about what had happened and decided to check up on the man who had been corrupted by the rage in his heart.
"You're slipping, Chibi Ken," Gou teased, using that nickname Kenzaki hated.
"And you're getting slow, Old Wolf," Kenzaki shot back. "Old age finally creeping up on you?"
The two danced around each other, exchanging blows. Watching them was Neko who had her children sitting in her lap, holding them close with her hands as they watched Kenzaki and Gou spar. Gou had also come to see his grandchildren to see how they were doing. Of course, his sudden arrival had alarmed the guards and they had attempted to subdue the intruder. Neko really ought to remind Gou to call first.
Neko had actually been worried about Kenzaki. His inner turmoil over his inability to protect her and then his subsequent surrender to his rage. It had broken her heart to see him so hateful and angry. She knew he needed her support now. Some of that rage was also directed to Kat and she knew that siding with her would only cause that rage to increase. She didn't want rage to break up their family and so would do everything in her to push the rage out.
For Kenzaki, rage had been the driving force to his actions for most of his life. First it had been towards Sauron for slaughtering his family and then towards Gog for killing Gou in the past. But, being with Neko had changed that. Sure their first meeting had been on less than amicable terms but their relationship had developed since then. He saw how brave she was and despite her doubts she did her absolute best to do the right thing, even fighting against Sauron despite what it would mean to her. It was only by a miracle she had survived. Kenzaki could've lived without Kat, though. She was a constant reminded of Sauron due to her lack of regret for her past actions under Sauron's influence. Sure, there were rare occasions when they could be civil with each other, but such truces were temporary at best.
And then Kat's various attempts into breaking them up had also incensed him. Sure, she had been regretful a few times and even got them together but she would be back to her old tricks at the drop of a hat. That girl just could not let go of Neko. This wasn't simply sisterly love. It was obsession. To Kat, Neko was just a piece of property she was unwilling to relinquish or share. He was glad that Neko now wanted nothing to do with her, even if it broke her heart to do such a thing to her sister. Kenzaki knew she would be plotting something again. Sooner or later she'd be back and trying to drive a wedge between Kenzaki and Neko again.
The two men traded blows with increased ferocity, neither yielding. They were wolves and both wanted to prove who the Alpha between them was. They were both masters of the GekiJyu Wolf-Ken but Gou had more experience than Kenzaki. However, Kenzaki had also learnt a few tricks along the way.
Both were using Muay Thai moves as they struck at each other with their elbows and knees before going for the high kicks and the leg sweeps along with the jabs that came with the style. Gou saw Kenzaki's moves as predictable but the younger man always managed to surprise him with a revised move of his own. Gou was stunned by a punch to the face and a knee to the gut, causing the wind to be knocked out of him. Finally, an uppercut sent him sailing but the older man flipped through the air landed on his feet. Numerous applauses were heard and Gou gave them his close-fisted salute by tapping his forehead with his fist before going into a stance and then rushing towards Kenzaki.
"They are magnificent, Your Majesty," said Mirra, the captain of the guards and also Neko's replacement whenever she wasn't present to perform her duties as queen. Neko still didn't think she deserved to be a queen but Mirra and the advisors insisted and said they would guide her along the way. Neko appreciated the effort they put into making sure she was a good queen to the people. The people Shangri La worshipped her and as much as she loved the attention, she preferred the attention from her family.
"Yes, they are," agreed Neko. "Have the Royal Cooks prepared dinner?"
"Yes, they have," reported Mirra.
"So, I know I've asked before," said Gou as he dodged a jab to his head. "How's married life?"
"We've had a few bumps, but we managed to work them all out," said Kenzaki as he dodged a counter strike to his side.
"Oh, really?" Gou didn't seem convinced. "So, neither of you are in the red are you?"
"No," said Kenzaki, catching the subtle hint. "Having green eyes, Old Wolf?"
"A little, but green is certainly a better color than red, though blue is calmer," Gou spoke.
"Blue being better than red?" questioned Kenzaki as he looked briefly to Neko. Though her face resembled Kat's it was their eyes which set them apart. "Oh yeah."
"Pay attention, boy!" Gou aimed a kick to Kenzaki's chest and he stumbled back. "Just because your skin is made of metal does not mean you are invincible!"
"Hmph! We'll see about that, Old Wolf!"
"Bring it on, Chibi Ken!"
As the two continued to spar with Neko watching, the young woman felt a familiar yet comforting presence. With a smile she said, "Hello, Papa."
'Nanako…' he replied. 'Forgive me for being unable to protect you.'
"You couldn't," said Neko. "Sauron made sure of that."
'I know, but I could've tried,' said Libra into her mind. 'You were defiled.'
"I'm alright now," said Neko. She really wanted to forget how Axe had violated her. "Ken-kun's making sure of that."
'Believe me, I had doubts he was the man for you for a time…'
"Don't be like Onee-chan."
'I'm not, but I'm still your father, right? I've been watching over you.'
"I know, and you tried your best despite the leash those Elder Celestial have on you."
'I never wanted you and your sister to become the host for the Living Gate,' said Libra. 'I wanted to change things and maybe remove that demon from you, but that would mean death. I'm sorry I wasn't much of a father to you.'
"You had a higher calling," said Neko. "And you've been trying to fix things."
'Yes, with your brothers. Ryuji is still on bad terms with me and Ryuga…'
"You can't force people to change," Neko said.
"Your Majesty, who are you talking to?" Mirra asked. She'd heard her queen talking to herself.
"Oh, just thinking aloud," Neko told her. She called to the two grappling men, "Ken-kun, Gou-san! Please, go take a bath! Dinner will be ready!"
"Guess we should get cleaned up," said Gou. They were both sweating.
"Yeah," agreed Kenzaki.
The bath in question was just a huge hole dug up which filled with natural spring water. Basically, a natural hot tub. The two soaked, sitting at opposite ends of the huge tub.
"You get the royal treatment, I see," said Gou as he looked around. "I've heard of legends of this place but never saw it for myself."
"Guess the Sands of Time really is a mysterious place," said Kenzaki.
"It's where I found you," said Gou. "You can find all sorts of things in the Sands of Time if you look hard enough."
"Unfortunately, not a cure for this," said Kenzaki as she showed off the Red Lantern ring on his finger. It was dormant, for now, but it would flicker whenever Kenzaki got angry. He wore it on a different finger than his Green Lantern ring. His wedding ring was on his left ring finger and his Green Lantern ring was on his right ring finger. The Red Lantern ring was on his right middle finger. "And I can't take it off or else I'll die."
"A piece of jewelry is your only lifeline to this world and it's ugly and evil as hell," commented Gou.
"And the worst part is that it's been trying to talk to me."
"Have you told your wife?"
"No, I haven't. I don't want to worry her."
"She's your wife. It's in her job description to worry."
Kenzaki gave a sigh. "She spends more time worrying about me than she does herself."
"Yeah. I mean back when we first got together she always had her doubts about us. It wasn't me, she told me. She just said that I deserved someone better than a 'tainted' girl. Especially one who wore the face of my family's murderer. No matter how much I tried to reassure her that she wasn't tainted, she just…she just can't let those memories go. I keep telling her it wasn't her fault and that Sauron was influencing her, but she always sees all those horrible things in her nightmare. It can get tiresome to comfort her, but after all that she's done for me it's the least I could do."
"You really do love her," Gou observed.
"Of course I do. More than my own life."
"But what if, even if by a slim chance, she was once again corrupted by the same evil and there was no chance to save her?" Gou asked seriously. "What would you do then?"
Kenzaki looked at Gou, eyes full of conviction. "Then I'd just have to find a way to bring her back."
Gou smiled, "Good answer." He then asked, "So, from what Okami's been telling me you're also taking care of a woman you had a one night stand with and her kid."
"You don't approve," Kenzaki spoke.
"Well, a married man normally doesn't take in a woman he slept with who's had his kid," Gou spoke. "But it's your life and you did it for the right reasons. You wanted to protect her. That's OK in my book."
When Ryuji was done in the bath, with Kotonoha's help, the couple had dinner. Eating with them were Athena and Loki, their Imagin partners. They were having a simply meal of rice with chicken stir-fry and tempura. Loki and Kotonoha had both made dinner together.
"Delicious as always," said Ryuji once he was done with his meal. He'd eaten 6 bowls of rice along with several helpings of stir-fry and tempura. He had a huge appetite, which Kotonoha was happy to fill.
"Thank you," said Kotonoha and Loki.
"I was talking to Koto-chan," Ryuji clarified.
Ryuji and Kotonoha didn't have a hard time doing chores. Everyone did their fair share. Athena, despite her pride as a warrior, willingly did the laundry. She would not disobey her Lady Kotonoha. Loki was happy to cook and clean the dishes. Kotonoha and Ryuji both did whatever they could around the house while also studying for college entrance exams. They were both aiming to go to Tokyo University, one of the best schools in the country.
Ryuji and Kotonoha, as they both stood on the balcony, looked out over the city. This was the city they had protected with their own hands.
"Let's go for a flight."
They were having steaks for dinner. Huge slabs of meat covered in dark and spicy sauce. Kenzaki sat by his wife's side as Gou sat at the table with them, eating the food that had been prepared.
"That's a lot of meat," said Gou as he cut up a piece of steak.
"Well my wife does have a huge appetite," joked Kenzaki. "Like everyone else in her family."
"Are you calling me fat, Ken-kun?" Neko asked menacingly.
"No, dear," he denied. "I'm just surprised you can still keep a great figure despite how much you eat."
"Well, guess she burns it off using her abilities," said Gou. "This is the best steak I've ever had."
"I'll tell the Royal Cooks you said that," said Neko.
"Well, I just hope to one day have one of your dishes, something you made yourself."
"Really?" Neko asked hopefully. "I can make something right now!" Kenzaki had a panicked look on his face.
"Oh, don't trouble yourself, Neko," said Gou.
"No, I insist! As host I should let my guest enjoy his stay. I'll head to the kitchen to make something." In the blink of an eye she was gone.
Kenzaki deadpanned, "Dad…do you have any idea what you did?"
"What?" Gou asked in confusion.
"When it comes to cooking, Nana-chan is a bit…well, she's not that good a cook."
"She can't be that bad."
"At first she set the kitchen on fire," Kenzaki told him. Gou's eyes widened. "But she's improving, as long as she has a cook book and Shiori to help her. It's just when she starts to get creative that's…well…"
"Well, if she's improving she can't be a horrible cook. You do enjoy her cooking, right?"
"Because I love her," said Kenzaki. "And even if her cooking has trouble going down I know she means well. It doesn't taste too bad. She just has a habit of making it too hot and spicy for normal human consumption."
Gou wondered what he'd gotten himself into.
The men waited for 10 more minutes and Neko returned with s teaming bowl. "Here!" said Neko as she presented Gou with the bowl, which was filled with curry ramen. "Eat up! It's my brother's special recipe!"
Gou looked warily at the ramen and looked to Kenzaki for help. He then sighed and took the chopsticks and pulled the noodles to his mouth.
For a long time, all Ryuji ever cared about was the pursuit of power. He'd wanted power in order to take over Ryuki's body and to use Ryuki's powers as his own. Of course, plans changed and when Ryuji finally found power, he decided for a better use for it.
Kamen Rider Ifrit and Tenshi were presently flying above the city. While Tenshi's wings flapped and worked like the wings of a bird, Ifrit's more mechanical wings allowed him to glide and he was propelled by rocket thrusters. He was flying alongside Tenshi.
When Kotonoha first received the power of flight along with her Kamen Rider powers, she took advantage of it to simply take to the skies. The feeling of freedom was exhilarating. The sky had no walls or barriers. There were no limits to how far she could go. She didn't have to enjoy this alone either. Her husband was with her.
"The city looks nice from up here," she said. "It's like looking at the stars from above." She was referring to the lights.
Ifrit/Ryuji had never really taken time to admire such trivial things, but he couldn't help but agree with her. "Yeah."
They both held hands, fingers intertwining, as they gazed down upon their world…the world which protected…together.
Gou was looking at his grandchildren who were both sitting up in the bed. The boy, called Gou-chan, had been named after him while little Maya-chan had been named after Kenzaki's sister. He looked to them with smiles as the babies recognized him to be their grandfather. He'd come and visited them a few times.
"These two hold a lot of great potential," said Gou. "I can sense it."
"Well, what do you expect?" questioned Kenzaki. "They got my genes."
"Cocky as ever, huh?" He looked to the babies who were staring at him curiously. "Hiya! Remember me? I'm your Gou-jiichan! Peek-a-boo!"
Kenzaki grimaced. "Please…don't do that when I'm around."
"Do what?" Gou turned to look at his adopted son innocently.
"Act cutesy. It's weird."
"Well, never got the chance with you. You were too old. At least this time I have an excuse."
Gou and Maya yawned. Neko came in and saw this. "Oh, they're tired." She had fed them earlier and now her little twins were tired. "Ken-kun, help me take them to the crib?"
"OK," Kenzaki said as he took Maya up into his arms. The baby girl leaned against him. Neko's arms were around Gou as she carried him. "They're getting big," he observed.
"Soon they'll be walking and talking," said Neko with a smile. "I can't wait when that happens." She turned to Kenzaki and gave him a kiss on the lips.
Kenzaki blinked. "Not that I did not enjoy that, but what was that for?" he asked.
"For giving me these little angels," she said. "Arigatou, anata. Aishiteru." She carried Gou to the large crib the twins shared.
"Never thought I'd ever see you blush," Gou teased.
"Urusei, Okami-jiji," grumbled Gou as he carried Maya to the crib.
Gou smiled. "I'm glad you're learning to let go of your anger, Chibi-Ken. Neko's a good woman for you."
"Too good for me, in fact," spoke Kenzaki. "But it doesn't matter to either of us."
"It shouldn't. Love is love, and you both are bound by that. Treasure this bond and don't ever lose sight of it," Gou said.
"I won't," promised Kenzaki.
Ryuji and Kotonoha…
Kenzaki and Neko…
These two couples have something in common. Long ago they possessed conflict within themselves. Whether it was due to vengeance, rage, anger, doubt, heartbreak, regret or even confusion, they conquered their inner conflicts together.
With hearts as one and against all odds, these two couples have achieved…Inner Peace.