DISCLAIMER:  I do not own FoR or any of its characters.  This plot is a product of my imagination.  Any similarities to other fan fictions are unintentional.


By bishounen lovah

Chapter 16

~Three months later~

It was a slow day for the older members of the Hokage gang.  Too much time, too few excitements.  But things were bound to get interesting.  Even through the thick walls and closed doors and windows they could hear the shouting.  It wasn't long when the kitchen door slammed shut, causing the walls to quiver from the force.

The gang were comfortably scattered around the living room and they waited anxiously for their entertainment to begin.  Ganko stormed inside the room then stopped to make a 180° turn.

"I still can't believe you punched him," she yelled at Kaoru.  "That's so like you.  I tried to put up with it but your possessiveness is starting to get on my nerves."

"He was hitting on you!  You don't honestly believe I'd let that baka get away with it!?"

"This is the last time I'm going to say this and it better get through your hard head—"

"Thick skull."

"Whatever!"  Ganko snapped at Kurei for interrupting her tirade.  The flame caster only raised an eyebrow at the insult he'd been given.  It was more interesting to watch the lovers' tiff than fry the noisy couple to a crisp.  He would let them live for one more day.

"As I was saying…HE WAS NOT HITTING ON ME!!!"

"He was holding your hand."

"Question," Fuuko raised her hand.  "For the benefit of the viewers, who are we talking about?"

"It was that idiot Iijima Ryu," Kaoru supplied the answer.

"He is not an idiot," Ganko countered.  She looked around and rolled her eyes at their attentive audience.  These people should really get some lives.  "He's my science lab partner.  We were studying the circulatory system and he was measuring my pulse rate thus the "hand holding".  The real idiot here," she pointed at Kaoru, "decided to get territorial—again—and beat the bloody pulp out of the poor guy."

"Poor guy," Yanagi agreed.  "What were you doing in Ganko-chan's class anyway, Kaoru-kun?"

And, as though watching a tennis match, their gazes bounced back to the Anki wielder.

"I was just passing by," he shrugged.

"Ahh…" came the collective response.  Ganko just rolled her eyes again.

"Anyway, there I was passing by the lab and the door was open so I looked inside.  I was curious, you know.  And that was when I saw that jerk taking advantage of my baby."

"For the love of—!  Dang it, Kaoru!  He was just checking my pulse."

"I've done that exercise before and you only have to count for a minute," Kaoru still insisted.  "He held your hand for ten seconds more.  I know.  I timed it."

"You timed—"  Recca burst into laughter and turned to Yanagi.  "Was I ever that pathetic?"

"You, my little brother, were always pathetic."  Before Recca could react, Kurei leaned forward in his seat and gestured for the two teens to settle down.  "Enough of this nonsense.  Now that everyone is present, let's get down to business."

Ganko immediately sobered up.  She knew what this was all about, had expected it for quite a while now.  This was the meeting she both anticipated and dreaded.

They were going to decide Kondo's fate.

Her knees weakened and it was a good thing there was a love seat nearby.  She gingerly sat in it and was not at all surprised when Kaoru joined her.  Their quarrel was instantly forgotten and she moved closer to his body for physical and emotional support.

"Have you finally found something then," she asked in a firm voice.

"No," Kurei answered abruptly.  "There will be no miracles."

"Jeez, 'niichan!  Blurt it all out, will you.  You could have used a little tact."

"Urusei!  I do not sugarcoat any facts nor do I indulge in unnecessary emotions."

There was an awkward moment that followed.  All eyes were trained on the blond girl, waiting for her reaction.

"Ganko," Kaoru whispered beside her as he squeezed her hand.  The contact was more for his benefit than hers.

"I'm fine," she said after a while.  She took a deep breath then raised her chin and looked at her companions.  "Kurei-niichan is right.  A large part of me already knew that it was hopeless.  But there was still a glimmer of hope that we'd find a madougu that would open the Spirit Ball and set Kondo's soul free."

Ganko stood on shaky legs and went to the window to stare blindly outside.  Expectant eyes were on her again.  "Are you positive that there's none?"

This time it was Tokiya who spoke up.  "We've already exhausted every resource.  There's nothing else we can do, Ganko-chan."

"Then we have to destroy the Spirit Ball as soon as possible."  She faced them again when she said this.  There was a determined glint evident in her sapphire eyes.

"Are you sure?"

"It has already been months.  I will not let him suffer in that place any longer.  I will keep my promise to him."

The adults looked at each other.  They knew it was a difficult decision to make and they were a bit relieved that it wasn't their decision to make.  Kondo—though annoying to the max—had been an integral part of their family.

And now they were going to kill him…his soul.

"How do we get about it?"  Kaoru raised the question nobody was willing to ask.  "I've used the Kougan Anki and a bunch of other stuff trying to open the darn device but not one had even put a scratch on it."

"The madougu are made by Hokage.  If anyone could destroy a psychic device, it would be the leader of the Hokage…the flame caster of Hokage."

Recca and Kurei had already looked at each other even before Kagerou had spoken.  It was an issue that was never settled.  Since there was no longer a Hokage clan to lead there was no point in fighting for the title of okashira.

There was a silent communication that passed between the brothers.  Recca nodded once and Kurei imitated the action.

"We will destroy the madougu tonight at the cliff," Kurei announced as he stood indicating the end of the meeting.  The rest of the gang stood too.  Fuuko and Yanagi hugged Ganko and whispered words like "you did your best" and "it has to be done".

In the end, it was only Kaoru's warmth that comforted her.


They stood in a wide half circle with the two flame casters at the opposite ends.  Ganko's hand tightened on the Spirit Ball's casing.  She relished the bite of the edges on her skin.  It was a pain that couldn't quite replace the ache in her chest but a welcome distraction nonetheless.


She nodded to acknowledge Kaoru.  They were all waiting for her, just as Kondo was waiting for her to release his soul too.  She closed her eyes and instantly conjured the image of the red head boy sitting by the pond in a trance state.

And then she felt confident that she made the right decision.  Kondo had too much life in him.  He deserved death rather than that kind of existence.  She placed the box at the center, on the ground then backed away to stand beside Kaoru.  He placed his arm around her shoulders and gave her a reassuring squeeze.

"Last chance, Ganko-chan.  Are you sure about this?"  Recca asked.

"I'm sure."

"All right then…"

He called upon his seven dragons just as Kurei called upon his Kurenai.  Red flames met blue ones at the center, increasing in power in an attempt to destroy the madougu.  At first it seemed like it was not working but then the casing started to melt, revealing the small orb suspended about three inches above the ground.

She remembered the ball quite clearly and was surprised when there was a rainbow of colors swirling inside instead of its crystal clearness.  Each soul had its own color.  And one of those dancing inside the orb was Kondo's.

All of a sudden the Spirit Ball cracked.  Several lines appeared on the surface and a second later the madougu burst into a thousand small pieces.  The flames receded and the bright glow was replaced by numerous columns of colorful lights soaring to the sky.  They came from one origin but they rose at different angles.

One by one the columns disappeared until only one light remained.  It waned into a red sphere that hovered over the charred remains of the Spirit Ball.

Can it be?  Can that be Kondo's soul?

Even as Ganko wondered, the red ball of light started to drift towards her.  She held out her hands and cupped the familiar warm glow.

"You're free now," she whispered.  "I kept my promise.  "Your soul is free now."

The light instantly brightened.  It shot itself to the night sky to join the rest among the stars.

"Good bye, Kondo."


"I feel so helpless!"

Kaoru was pacing around, wearing the gleam of the newly scrubbed kitchen floor.  Tokiya sighed as he conceded that he wouldn't be able to read his morning paper unless he attended to the boy's rants.

"What are you talking about now?" the Ensui master asked.

"Ganko!  I don't know what to do about her.  She keeps on pretending that she's okay when it's obvious that she's so sad."

Young people!  Don't they know anything?

"Leave her alone."


Tokiya sighed.  "She needs to grieve so leave her alone.  It's natural for her to mourn.  Just stick close but leave her alone."

"What kind of advice is that?"  Kaoru yelled but Tokiya's nose was already buried in the paper.  "Stupid grown-ups," he muttered as he made his way to the door.

"Don't forget about the picnic later.  Fuuko wants you to try her peanut butter and roast beef sandwich."  Tokiya's voice drifted out just before the door slammed shut.

It was actually the truth that Kaoru understood Tokiya's advice.  In fact, it was what he had been doing for the past week since the Spirit Ball madougu was destroyed.  It wasn't because it was the wise thing to do.  He left her alone because he didn't know what else to do.

And it frustrated him that he could do nothing to ease Ganko's pain.

He kept on being frustrated hours later, the picnic well underway.  The others were playing Frisbees while he and Ganko were sprawled on the picnic blanket staring at the fluffy clouds.



"Is something bothering you?  You're too quiet."

"No.  Nothing's the matter."  He could feel her eyes on him so he tried to act as unaffected as possible. 

"Tokiya-nii talked to me earlier," she waited a beat then spoke again.  "I'm sorry I made you worry.  I just miss Kondo, that's all.  I'm a bit okay now."

Kaoru glanced at her and saw her smile.  There was no pretense there.  She really was starting to get over the loss.  He linked his hand with hers and kissed it.  "I'm glad.  I don't like feeling so helpless maybe as much as I hate seeing you so sad."

Ganko shook her head in protest.  "You've already done enough for me.  You believed in me and stayed with me and loved me.  Those are more than enough."  She moved to kiss his cheek.  A second before her lips touched their destination, he gave that cheeky grin she loved so much and moved his head.

Their lips clung for a short, soft kiss.  It was over even before anyone else noticed.  They stared for a long while but the moment was broken when Ganko summoned her best fake smile.

"You rat!  I'll get you for that," she yelled as she tried to pin him to the ground.  They rolled back and forth on the blanket, trying to tickle each other.

"What was that," Kaoru asked several minutes later.

"What was what?"  Ganko asked back breathlessly.

"I thought I heard a noise.  There it goes again.  I think it's coming from the bushes.  Stay here, baby, while I go check."

He crawled to the bushes and parted the leaves with both hands.  He yelped when something red and furry jumped out.  Kaoru lost his balance and landed on his buttocks.  He tried to grab whatever it was but it moved so fast.  One second it was on his lap and the next it was bolting past him.

"No!  Ganko, look out!"  He shouted the warning even as the fur ball knocked his girlfriend down too.  Kaoru's panic subsided when he heard Ganko's merry laughter.

"A puppy!  Look, Kaoru.  Isn't he so cute?"

It was a rhetorical question but he agreed nonetheless.  He recognized the chubby dog's breed as a collie but his coat was more reddish than the usual auburn.  The pup had quit trying to lick Ganko's face and had plopped down beside her with drool cascading from his lolling tongue.  The tail wagged furiously, tapping the ground more often than not.

The rest of the gang joined them to check out the commotion.  The women passed the dog around and cooed while the men rolled their eyes and mumbled, disgruntled.  Eventually the dog came back to Ganko's lap.

"Can we keep him?"  Ganko all but pleaded, looking very much like the chibi Ganko they first knew.

"He might have an owner," Fuuko answered.

"But he doesn't have a collar."

"Could be because he's still young.  Tell you what, we'll ask around and post some notices.  If no one claims him then you can keep him."

"Yay!  You hear that, Kaoru?  We're going to have a dog."  There was no doubt in the blond girl's heart that this pup had no owner and that he was destined to be with them.  Just as she was certain that the dog would bear Kondo's name.

"Kondo?"  Kaoru asked when they were alone again.  "Why would you name him Kondo?"


"You're not thinking that Kondo's soul…Nah!  It couldn't be."

"I believe." she whispered with certainty.

Kaoru observed her for a while and saw the inner peace that he noticed earlier in her eyes.  She wasn't mourning or reliving her guilt.  She really did believe.

"Then Kondo it is."

They watched Kondo jump at each throw of the Frisbee.  Soon he got weary of the exercise and stumbled towards the tree shade.  It wasn't long before Domon woke from his nap and roared in anger.

Kondo was peeing on Domon's leg and the pup had a look of pure ecstasy.  The gorilla-man chased the dog but the dog was too fast, too smart for the gorilla.

Kaoru chuckled and started to believe it himself.  "That's Kondo all right.  Are you happy now, love?"

"So much that I'm afraid I'd burst."

"Me too, baby.  Me too."  Kaoru tightened his arm around Ganko and leaned back on the tree to watch the Hokage run amok.

Life was certainly back to normal.

Crazy but normal.  And he wouldn't have it any other way.



[1] Finally, it's FINISHED!  Still sucks a bit but I really did my best considering that I have the worst WB ever.

[2] I'm sorry if you're upset with what I did with KONDO.  I didn't want this story to be too predictable and bring his soul back in the plushie.  It was time his soul moved on.  And at least the story still has a happy ending.  ^.^

[3] A COLLIE is a breed of dogs that has a long snout and tail; long, thick fur that's the color of white and auburn.  Think Lassie.

[4] My ETERNAL GRATITUDE to the readers and especially the reviewers of this fic.  Without you I wouldn't have found the will to finish this piece of *achoo*.  I hope you enjoyed yourselves as much as I.  *Sniff sniff* Sayonara, minna-san, and don't forget to leave your own parting words.