Kokoro No Itami Nakunara Made Zutto: Sanctuary

By Hitokiri Gentatsu

A/N: Arigatou for all the reviews. I don't own Rurouni Kenshin but you knew this already, ne? Hope you enjoy this chapter as much as the others. Please feel free to review if you wish.

Chapter Six: True Spirit

"In a duel, death is no one's fault."
Takimi Shigure
Ishinshishi no Requiem

Haishidiya looked down from his vantage point at the man he knew as Himura, watching the other man take up his battle stance. Himura's body was crouched low and his hand hovered over the hilt of his katana, which was tipped downward.

"The battoujutsu." he thought, recognizing the stance for what it was.

The monk could not make out Himura's face but the ki that beat against his own was dark with rage; the cold killing rage of Battousai. It was as if Haishidiya was feeling the ki of a different man. He watched the scene below him with mounting horror, not directed at Himura but toward what he was about to do.

"I have to stop him."

*

Kenshin felt rage overwhelm him at the man's words. He crouched in battoujutsu stance and waited, amber fire burning in his eyes. He could feel the hitokiri coming to the fore and the cold indifference that came with the persona he'd created during the Bakumatsu. A part if himself craved the fight, wanting to hear the screams of the men as they died and to see and smell the blood that would pour from their bodies. That part of himself, the killer he had been, was very strong still because the hitokiri had been in control of his actions for so long.

But now Kenshin felt something within him begin to rise up and try to temper the killer's dark rage. His true self, the peaceful, kindhearted man that Tomoe had helped him to find and that Haishidiya had helped to grow stronger was there in an instant and Kenshin found the rage inside of him draining slowly.

-He must die to avenge those who were slain by him.-Battousai muttered and for a moment Kenshin felt the rage rise again.
The man before him seemed not to sense the struggle within Kenshin's soul. Instead, he stepped forward and attempted to slash at Battousai, who merely moved out of harms way, without having appeared to move at all. Glittering amber eyes met his and the look on Battousai's face would have caused a lesser man to take a step back in fright. Several of the ninja behind Kioya did move back a pace or two but that didn't concern Kenshin. Only the man in front of him held his interest.

Battousai made no move to attack, once more crouched into his defensive battoujutsu stance and still waiting for Koiya to make a move. The two swordsmen stared at each other down the length of the blade that separated them, their cold eyes locked on one another and their ki's in furious battle. The men nearby moved back several more paces and a few began to move toward the gate or the house in an attempt to get away from the two killers. Haishidiya jumped down from the wall and walked closer to the two combatants, waiting to see what would happen. He prayed to Buddha that Kenshin would not lose himself the madness of the hitokiri.

Kenshin struggled with two conflicting desire, which were both tied to his need to protect people. A part of him wanted to kill the man in front of him so that he could do no more harm to others but the other part of him, which was no nearly as strong, wanted to help this man see reason. The two desires warred with one another and, as Haishidiya moved closer, he noticed Kenshin's internal struggle was being played out on his face. Kenshin's eyes shifted rapidly from amber to a cold, hard blue and back again.

Finally, it appeared that Kenshin had made a choice because his eyes took an icy blue and narrowed for a moment, amber sparks moving through them. Koiya moved forward and slashed at Kenshin again, who drew his own sword to block the attack and pushed the man back.

"We don't have to fight anymore," Kenshin said, his voice quiet but with a hard edge to it. "The war is over and now is a time of peace."

Koiya blinked at him and then snarled, his voice laced with contempt. "How dare you talk of peace! You and your Meiji government friends have taken everything from us. They are all uncaring, unfeeling demons and you are the worst of the lot, Hitokiri Battousai!"

Haishidiya saw Kenshin flinch as if struck and the young man bowed his head as Koiya's words washed over him. He saw the former Hitokiri shudder for a moment as seemed to struggle with some unseen emotion. He raised a hand to his left cheek and when Kenshin looked up, Haishidiya saw a soul containing more sorrow then he had ever seen before. Kenshin's fingers traced the scar on his face and looked at Koiya with pained filled eyes.

"You are not the only one to have lost someone dear to you." Kenshin's voice was soft but roughened with sorrow. "War does nothing but destroy the lives of people on both sides."

"You know nothing of what we have suffered here." Koiya swung his katana at Kenshin again, and it was blocked again. "Hundreds of innocent people died when your government came here to subdue us. All those deaths are on their and your hands."

Kenshin looked at him. " Koiya-san you need to open your eyes before your hate consumes you as it almost did me."

"The Battousai talks of opening my eyes…How dare you! You have no right to demand anything of me. You are nothing to me except a cold-hearted killer."

"Yes, I killed many, including one I never meant to slay. I live with those deaths every day. Not a day passes that I am not visited by nightmares of those days, but I made a promise to the ones who gave me this scar. Would you care to know the promise I made to her?"

"Why should I care?"

"I promised that I would never take another life ever again once the war was over. This scar reminds me of the promise and it also reminds me that I must live for those who died." Kenshin turned his back on Koiya and resheathed his sakabatou, feeling uneasy about having his back to the man that was after his life but seeing no other way to end the fight. "If you give it a chance, time might be able to heal your wound."

Kenshin began to walk away from the ninja leader, but had only managed to move a few feet before Koiya charged him with his katana raised. In a second the fight was over. Kenshin pivoted and his own sword flashed out, catching Koiya in the stomach. The ninja slumped to the ground just as Kenshin's blade snapped home. He closed his eyes and tried to calm the part of himself that was the Hitokiri.

Haishidiya moved to look at the wounded man, fully expecting to see blood, but there was none, just a deep red welt that ran across Koiya's stomach. He looked up at Himura, who was eyeing the other ninja carefully.

"Think about what I have said," he said quietly to them and then he began to walk toward the gate.

The ninja parted to let him pass, stunned looks on their faces. When Haishidiya caught up with the young man, he found Himura leaning heavily against the wall of the estate. His face was a mask of pain and as pale as rice paper. His arm was wrapped around the wound in his stomach, which from the look of it had been torn open again. His breathing was rough and had a hissing quality to it.

"I think…I did…to much…." he whispered between gasps.

"Come, lets get you home. Then we can talk." was all Haishidiya said before throwing one of Kenshin's arms over his shoulder and helped him to walk.

"Arigatou…" he said faintly, barely aware enough to realize who was helping him or that he was being helped at all.

Haishidiya shook his head and adjusted Kenshin's weight on his shoulders before beginning the long trek home.