There was a stunned silence after Kaoru fell forward, followed by Megumi's cry as she tried to race forward. But Shishio was there pulling out his sword and looking at her viciously.
However, before Shishio could even blink someone had swatted his sword away. Turning to one side, he found himself face to face with a rather angry looking red-head. Shishio smiled, watching the violet eyes turn gold.
"So this is the famous Battousai, I've heard about. Finally, a fight worth my…" Shishio didn't even finish as Kenshin's sword made contact with his. Shishio fell back and the two combatants both sheathed their swords, eyeing the other one like a duelist at High Noon, waiting to see who would draw first.
Megumi finally reached Kaoru and turned the other girl over. Softly, she was praying for a miracle, a Kevlar vest… maybe Kaoru was wearing one. She tore open the shirt and almost broke down. There was no vest, just three neat bullet wound slowly spilling blood onto the floor.
"She'll never make it like this," Misao said, looking over at Aoshi. But the man looked completely lost at the sight of Kaoru bleeding on the floor of the ship. Looking up she locked eyes with Sano. "I have an idea, but I need someone coherent to help," she said.
"Right," Sano said. "If it'll help jou-chan, then I'll do it."
"I need a clear path the top of the ship."
Sano stood up and cracked a few knuckles. "That'll be no problem." The two departed, leaving Megumi and Aoshi behind.
Aoshi was in shock, having all his fear suddenly come to light. Kaoru was dying, right in front of him. And just like with her father, he could do nothing to help her. Megumi was trying to think of anything but she was slowly losing it as well. It was just like before, just like when she had found Kaoru's father…
The EMTs played cards and laughed as Megumi sat in the corner reading a medical book. It was only a few short weeks before she would have to take exams for medical school and she wanted to be ready.
"Come on Tanaki-san!" one of them called. "Have a little fun!"
Megumi looked up at them with a scowl. "I will have fun once these exams are behind me."
"You've always got exams! If you keep thinking…"
The phone suddenly rang and one of the EMTs picked it up. "All right, let's go." The group stood up and made their way to the ambulance but Megumi was stopped at the door.
"You can't go on this call."
Megumi look at the other EMT. There were only two reasons that a person was not allowed to go on a call. One is if they were under the influence of alcohol or some narcotic. And the other was…
"Oh no," Megumi said, dread creeping into her voice. "Who… who is it?"
"Megumi," the EMT started and Megumi froze. It was bad. No one called her by her first name here. And they wouldn't unless…
She pushed the man out of the way and ran to the ambulance, closing the door behind her so he couldn't argue anymore. Megumi was torn as she stared at the floor. She forced herself to look out the window to see where they were headed but instantly wished she hadn't. The landscape was too familiar and the street…
She was running up the stairs, in to the bedroom when she saw and froze, falling to her knees. The other EMTs tried to push out of the way, but Megumi shook them off, trying to hold down the bleeding wound of Kamiya-san. But they were pulling her away as the pulled out the shock paddles, to try to do what Megumi had realized was already impossible.
Five minutes later, she sat in the corner of the room, blood up to her elbows as she watched them drape the body with a blanket.
"Megumi!" Aoshi called out, shaking her out of the memory. She locked eyes with him and saw it there. She nodded in agreement. They weren't going to lose another Kamiya. Not like this.
"Take you jacket and press it against the wounds. We have got to stop the bleeding." She searched around and found a pressure point. "Watch her breathing, if it stops we'll need to do CPR."
Several feet behind them, the two fighters still stood watching each other. Shishio with a smile on his face, Kenshin with an emotionless glare. Not a sound passed between them but the emotions were crystal clear.
And the suddenly, they both disappeared in a blur of speed as they attacked. Two Battou Jutsu drawn at the same time, neither of them scored a hit. They reappeared on the opposite side of the room. Shishio breathed heavily but still smiled slightly.
"I see Hiko taught you well," he said. "This should be…"
He stopped short as Kenshin disappeared into the air. Shishio barely had time to block the Ryu Tsui Sen that hit him from above. Before Kenshin's feet even hit to floor, Shishio was pushing upward, fighting against gravity and the force of Kenshin's blow, sending the red haired man back into the air and back the way he came.
Kenshin looked and realized Shishio was already on the move again. His speed was almost as fast as Kenshin's but…
Kenshin paused, noticing that the room was slowly starting to fill with smoke from the fire outside. And there was movement in the smoke that could only be from…
He blocked the attack on his left effortlessly, unsheathing his sword quicker than should have been possible. Shishio cursed and tried to turn away but never expected the next attack. With the swords touching each other, Kenshin brought the sheath forward, slamming it into the Yakuza boss's side.
Shishio fell back clutching the throbbing side, wondering exactly how many ribs had been broken in that attack. He resheathed his sword and prepared for the next attack. The smoke was beginning to obscure his view but he realized two things. One was the Yumi had disappeared. Second was that so had Kenshin.
* * *
Misao landed a well-placed kick in the guard's groin, pushing the body over the side of boat she continued her approach to the roof the ship. Behind her, Sano was taking out more than enough guards to clear the way for her. He paused for a second and gave her the thumbs up. All clear.
He walked over and leaned down, lacing his hands to give her a place to stand from. Misao put her foot there and felt him throw her upwards, just as a gunshot filled the air. Misao landed on the roof not quiet as deftly as she would have wished. Looking down quickly, she saw Sano clutching his arm.
"So, it will end like this."
Misao looked up and saw Yumi pointing the gun at her. "The only thing that's over is you," Misao said, watching the other woman's hand on the gun.
"Really?" Yumi said. "Strange but I appear to be holding the gun at you. Come on, comrade, why not just give up. We used to work for the same government right?"
"Yeah, but you betrayed them," Misao snapped.
"And you didn't?" Yumi asked. "Bringing those two cops to DoCoMo and then here. I know what goes on in the intelligence department and they are going to arrest you for treason the minute they find you."
Misao smiled. "Yeah, I know. But I'm kind of hoping bringing you in will help me get off on a lighter sentence."
"You'll have to catch me first," Yumi said. She fired the gun but Misao was gone, running across the roof to get to the communications tower. The bullets cut up the ground behind her but Misao was too fast for Yumi to catch.
The younger girl cowered behind the communications tower and moved to her leg, pulling out the gun she had there. Looking down, she realized she had only about three bullets before she was out of ammo.
Slowly, Misao moved to the other side, looking out to see if Yumi was still there. A gunshot hit the railing just above her head and Misao got out of the way.
"Come out, come out, where ever you are," Yumi said, sliding up to the communication tower. She held the gun in her straightened arms. She paused at the corner and swung quickly around fire the gun at where Misao should have been.
"What…" Yumi started, not sure how she had lost the other girl.
"Put the gun down," Misao said, placing the barrel of the gun directly on top of Yumi's head. Yumi slowly turned her head upwards, looking at the young spy hanging from the tower above her. The gun dropped from her hand.
"Hands on top of your head," Misao said evenly, not moving the gun for a minute.
"Really, I think we can come to an agreement about this," Yumi said reaching her hands behind her head. Her fingers laced around the back of her head and she quickly pulled out one of the sticks holding her hair up. Misao didn't have time to react as the sharpened stick came at her leg.
But Yumi's hand suddenly fell, as did the rest of her body as Sano kicked her legs out. He had planned it perfectly, he thought with pride. Watching the fight from the ground, Sano had felt helpless with his arm shot. But he had waited until Yumi got close enough to the edge, so he could swing upward and take her legs from under her.
He still hung from the roof of the ship, his one good hand turning white from the effort. Misao ran over helped him pulled himself over. She handed him the gun.
"Just keep her here," Misao said, climbing up the communication tower. She reached the top and found the tiny satellite dish that the ship used for communicating with the outside world.
From her vantage point at the top of the tower, she finally got a good look at the state of the ship. It was completely engulfed in flame and listing to one side. The ship really was going to sink. She looked up at the satellite and realized she had no choice. She had to call for back up if any of them were going to survive.
Taking a small homing beacon from her pocket, she stuck it onto the satellite, pulling the tiny wire attached to it. She took the knife from her side and quickly striped the wire attached to the dish and attached the tiny wire from the beacon there. The beacon lit up and began strobbing.
That was it, she realized. All they could do was wait.
* * *
Shishio's eye flickered around as he tried to search for Kenshin. But the smoke around him was still, there was no sign of a potential attack. No sound either. There should have been sound, Shishio realized. But by then it was too late.
The smoke in front of him folded inward, sucked in by the vacuum created by Kenshin's next attack. Shishio's eyes barely had a chance to register what happened next.
Head, left shoulder, right shoulder, left arm, right arm, left wrist, right wrist, between the legs and the right through the chest.
There was no protecting against that. Shishio's form crumpled as it flew backwards, crashing through the one remaining glass window. He hit the guardrail outside hard, hearing the metal whine under the stress of his weight and the immense heat of the fire on the deck below.
Kenshin moved quickly, knowing that letting Shishio fall would be no better than killing him himself. He reached Shishio just as the guardrail began to bend backwards. Kenshin's hand snapped forward and he grabbed the other man's hand as he pitched backwards.
"Shishio!" Kenshin called up, trying to get the other man's attention.
Shishio was looking up, his face slightly orange from the reflection of the flames below. His eyes reflected the blue sky and a certain sense of emptiness. Kenshin pulled back, trying to get him to safety but Shishio never helped him. Kenshin's last attacked had stunned him into silence.
"Shishio!" Kenshin called one more time.
Suddenly, the yakuza boss blinked and locked eyes with Kenshin, a wicked smile playing across his lips. His free hand came up and Kenshin barely had time to register that the sword was coming right for him.
The sword pierced his shoulder and Kenshin's hand opened from the shock. Shishio plummeted downward into the fiery depth of the ship as Kenshin struggled backward, sword still imbedded in his shoulder.
With a grimace, Kenshin wrapped his hands around the blade and pulled, letting the sword clatter to the floor. He stood up slowly and walked to the edge of the ship and looked down, seeing only the inferno. Shishio was gone.
Turning away, Kenshin stumbled back to the others. Kaoru… no… she couldn't have been…
The air above him erupted into sound as two helicopters emerged from the clouds. They hovered steadily, ropes tossed down from them followed quickly by fully uniformed soldiers.
Kenshin's knees felt like they were going to collapse but he pushed on, finally making it back to the captain's room to see the damage there. The soldiers were quickly strapping both Kaoru and Enishi to stretchers, barely managing to get past Megumi and Aoshi who would not let their hands leave their friend.
"Oi, you're alive." Kenshin looked up just as Sano dropped down from the roof. From the looks of it, his friend hadn't faired much better, blood freely flowing from a wound in his arm in addition to the old one at his side. Yumi followed next, Misao keeping a gun trained on her the entire time before she too jumped down off the roof.
"Sir," a soldier was yelling at him. "We need to…"
Kenshin nodded just as one of the helicopters lowered itself to nearly the ground. He and Sano made their way over, just getting in when they heard the commotion behind them.
Guns drawn, ten soldiers surrounded Misao and began screaming at her to drop her weapon. They were already handcuffing Yumi and Misao realized that the inevitable was about to happen.
"Makamaci Misao, you are under arrest for treason against the country of Japan," a soldier said before pinning her arms behind her, "abuse of government equipment, espionage…"
Misao sighed. Well, it's not like she had had a choice. Looking up, she watched the helicopters take off. Besides, it had been worth it. With a push the steered her towards the end the ship where there were two black speedboats waiting. Okina looked up as she came in and then just looked away, nodding to the driver to take them away.
The tanker burned for three hours. News reports said it had been the result of a catastrophic malfunction in the engine room. And then suddenly, the breach in the hull finally overcame the fire and sank the ship, sending it to the bottom of the Japanese Sea.
* * *
"I can't stop the bleeding…"
"There were three bullet wounds. The first two didn't hit anything vital. Where is the third?"
"I can't find it. Damn it, she's bleeding out!"
"Calm down… okay, keep the camera steady… there's a lot of blood, the bullet must be…"
"It hit her heart, crack the chest!"
"Forget it, the damage is too much, you can see…"
"Don't argue, just do it!"
"Get me the rib spreaders…"
"…God… it's a mess…"
"Just call it. We can't repair that."
"Doctor… you can't repair that!"
* * *
Kenshin sat with his head leaning backwards. His arm had been bandaged and any attempt by the doctors to have him stay in a room had died on their lips with one look from the red headed man.
Finding the others was not hard. There was only one place for them to be waiting. And he had found Aoshi sitting emotionless, staring out the hospital window. Megumi flitted back and forth, yelling at nurses for any updates. But no one could help her. Sano even managed to make his way up there after getting stitches and having taken the same approach to the doctor's suggestions as Kenshin had.
Four hours after they had arrived at the hospital, Yahiko had arrived, still out of breath. The poor kid had probably caught the first flight out of Tokyo to get here this fast. And when he arrived, no one could even give him the comfort he needed. They were all lost in their own thoughts. He took a seat by himself and held a silent vigil with the rest of them.
Eight hours had passed when Kenshin noticed Megumi had disappeared for almost a half-hour. He got up and looked up and down the halls but she was no where in sight. Sano looked up at him with a questioning look but Kenshin could only shrug. He had no idea where the female doctor had gone.
Sometime after the sun had set and the tanker had been pulled into the sea, Megumi finally reappeared. Her hand clenched at her sides, her face pale and her eyes bloodshot from what could have only been crying.
Kenshin stood up, his movement attracting the others attention. His heart in his throat, he watched as the other woman tried to find the right words. Sano couldn't even look up. Aoshi's face paled as he turned to face her. Yahiko's boyish face twitched slightly.
"Enishi got his wish," she said finally, struggling to keep the smile there from beneath the sadness. "He gave her his heart."
* * *
Three months later…
This is Yamato Giri for Japanese News Tonight. Top stories tonight. Hostages were rescued from rebel fighters in the jungles of Indonesia today. Details are sketchy at best but all the hostages appear to be fine, including the seven Japanese in the group. Government officials are commending the Indonesian military for their swift action in this case.
The LDP suffered another blow today as one of their top politicians was found guilty of embezzlement and fraud. Viewers will remember the story broke on this channel first when a tape of a cell phone conversation was delivered to us by an anonymous source. This is the third official in five weeks to have been found guilty of unlawful business practices.
Tokyo police are attempting to reassure the public tonight after releasing a report that the seventh murder in the Red Light district this week had all the trademarks of the Juppongatana yakuza hit. Police officials still maintain that the once powerful yakuza was disbanded when their leader disappeared three months ago. The second in command, Komagata Yumi, is still behind bars awaiting trial.
In sporting news, the Hiroshima Carps continue to surprise baseball fans as they…
"Yahiko! Turn off the TV and help me!"
Yahiko sighed and grabbed the remote, turning off the screen and moving into the kitchen. The place was alive with activity as several pots threatened to boil over. Yahiko peeked into one of them and tried to grab a piece of the food. Megumi's hand snapped out quickly and rapped him on the knuckles with a wooden spoon.
"I said help, not eat!" Megumi chastised.
"Ow!" Yahiko said pulling his hand back. "You could have just said not to touch it! Besides, why are you doing all the cooking? I thought this party was for you!"
Megumi sighed. "And who else would cook?" she asked. "Or pay for a caterer? Now just start bringing the food out."
Yahiko sighed and grabbed a platter of vegetables and dip and walked outside, trying to push his way past all the guests there. It looked like most of the hospital had turned out for Megumi's party along with half of the cops from the precinct. Yahiko finally made his way to the table and put the platter down.
"Yahiko?" He looked up quickly over at the voice.
Kaoru smiled slightly as he caught her eye. Her long brown hair had been plaited and lay against her back, brushing lightly against the soft fabric of her dress. Her face still seemed a bit thin but her smile was there.
"Nani?" he asked, looking over at her.
"Can I help?" she asked.
"Iie," Yahiko said shaking his head vigorously. "Megumi'll kill me if she sees you working. Just sit down and let us do the work."
Kaoru sighed. "I've been sitting down for three months," she said angrily. "I think I can carry a tray…"
"Just let it go jou-chan, Megumi has us all under strict orders." The two looked up just as Sano sat down, holding a cup of beer in his hand.
"Feh, she has you whipped and you're not even dating her," Yahiko said, before returning to the house.
"OI!" Sano called in protest but Yahiko was already out of earshot. So he just settled on a deep frown.
"Come on Sano," Kaoru said with a smile. "Lighten up. Yahiko is like that with everyone."
Sano frowned and looked over at her with a sigh. "Yeah, yeah." He paused. "Look jou-chan, I wanted to say…"
"Thank you for letting us stay in your house," Kaoru finished. Sano smiled slightly. "You don't have to tell me every day. I'm glad you could be there," she said. "It's time that house was alive again, ne?"
She paused and looked out at all the people in her backyard. Her backyard, she repeated to herself with a smile. It had hit her in the hospital, that she just wanted to go home. Not to Tokyo or the apartment there, not to Gensai-sensei's house but home…
She sighed slightly and put her hand to her chest, feeling the bandages there. She hadn't understood what happened at first but in the weeks, but she had finally come to realize the immensity of what she had been given. Neechi and Kaoru had both survived the trip to the hospital but his brain had stopped functioning shortly afterwards. And when it turned out that she needed a heart…
Neechi, she thought slightly back to the brown-haired boy of her past. It could have been… demo…
She looked away and back at the crowd, finding the familiar red hair there. She smiled and waved slightly when he caught her eye. He nodded at her slightly before turning back to his conversation.
Well there were other things to think of now, she decided. With Yahiko back home with her and her two boarders… eh, well one boarder and one free-loader, she said casting an eye over to Sano. She was getting the chance to start again.
"What?" Sano said, catching her glance at him.
"Nothing," she said with a smile. "Demo… did you find a job yet?"
Sano's eyebrow twitched. He looked over at her. "Not yet."
"Have you even been looking?"
Twitch, twitch. "Yes… I… Have…" he said evenly. "I'm just not like Kenshin who finds his dream job the first day out. Antique sword dealer… what god of luck was smiling on him?"
Kaoru sighed. "You could always take up my offer to get you into the academy."
Sano laughed. "Like they would ever accept me…"
"Well I could…"
"Hey look," Sano said, suddenly changing the subject. "It's Grim, I'll go get him for you."
Kaoru frowned watching Sano escape yet another employment discussion. Sano reached Aoshi and pointed him towards Kaoru. The detective looked up and walked over.
"What did you…" Aoshi started but stopped when he saw Kaoru's expression. "Ah, I see. Tried to get out of a job talk again."
"Feh," Kaoru said unhappily. "It'll take a miracle to get him to think about work." She paused and looked at him. "So… how's work?"
Aoshi shrugged. "Fine, just normal cases."
"Miss the excitement of our last one?"
"Yeah, petty thieves and drug dealers seem too easy now." He sighed. "But it needs to be done."
Kaoru smiled. "So… no word, eh?"
Aoshi paused. Word? No, he doubted he'd ever hear from the little spy again. After all, if yelling at her hadn't been enough to steer her away, it looked like she had been arrested as soon as they left the ship. She had known what would happen and still… still she had called for help.
"I don't really expect any," Aoshi looked over with a shrug. "I'm going to go help Megumi."
Kaoru watched him leave with a frustrated sigh. Damnit! Everyone kept running away when she asked them about important things. Aoshi was getting pretty damn impossible with his glowering all the time. And they were still treating her like a baby, like she couldn't handle things. Just because she got a little hurt…
The party picked up steam as Gensai finally pushed Megumi out of the kitchen and out to greet the crowd. There were lots of congratulations over her recent promotion to professor at Tokyo University, most of which Megumi would just nod at, as if there had never been any question that she would make it there.
And after the cake had been served and the last of the beer was drunk, there were only six people left behind, sitting at the table looking up at the night's sky. Sano lay back in his chair, can of beer resting on his stomach. Aoshi sat in the chair, looking down intently at the grass. Megumi held a glass of wine in her hand, eyes closed in thought. Yahiko was having his ninth (or was it tenth) piece of the cake despite Kaoru's constant glares which could only make Kenshin smile.
"It was nice," Megumi said. "Thank you for it."
"Well you did most of the work," Kaoru said, looking up at her. "I said I would help you with the cooking…"
"NO!" the group said together. Kaoru looked around angrily but let it go as the rest of them just chuckled. The laughter slowly faded into silence again but no one seemed to mind. Even three months later, they were enjoying the peace as much as they can.
The screen door to the kitchen suddenly opened and the group turned around, trying to make out who it was in the darkness. Gensai motioned her outside and the guest moved slowly down the steps and across the grass. Her hands were holding manila envelopes and her long braid slowly swished back and forth as she walked.
"You!" Sano said, recognizing her.
Misao smiled and attempted a small wave. "Ummm… so hi," she said with a smile. "How are you all doing?"
"Wait a minute!" Sano said. "You were arrested for treason! Kenshin and I saw it before we left."
Misao tilted her head back and forth. "It kind of works different where I work. Besides bringing in Komagata kind of helped my plea."
"Did you go to prison?" Kaoru asked.
"Worse," she sighed. "Jungle… worst mosquitoes ever." She paused looking around, clearly avoiding Aoshi's glare. "So… I didn't want to intrude but I thought you might want to get these as soon as possible."
She walked over and handed over the two envelopes to Sano and Kenshin. The two looked at each other and opened them, surprised to find a bunch of paperwork and a passport.
"What's this?" Kenshin asked, looking at the passport.
"For all your help," she said. "I pulled a few favors and managed to clear your slates so to speak. Thought you guys could use a fresh start."
Kenshin opened the passport, not knowing what to be more surprised at. There was a picture that that he had clearly never taken. But more than that… the name at the top was Himura Kenshin.
"Hey!" Sano said happily. "Look! I don't have a police record anymore."
"Great!" Kaoru said looking at him with a smile. "Now you'll have no problem finding a job!" Sano's happiness fell as Kenshin and Megumi laughed
"Oh yeah," Misao said. "I wanted to let you know that if any of you ever needed a job," she continued, "after the whole satellite incident, we'd be glad to have you." She paused for a minute. "So I've got to get going, flight's leaving in a few hours."
And before they could say anything, she jogged off heading back towards the front of the house.
"Well that was strange," Megumi said watching her go. Kaoru shot her a wink and the doctor turned professor nodded. "You know, she probably could have had a messenger send this."
"Yeah," Kaoru said with a nod. "I mean, it sounds like she real busy." She sighed. "I might be nice, though to have her job. All the excitement, no more boring cases…"
"Exotic locales," Megumi continued. "And I bet the pay was pretty good."
Aoshi stood up and looked at the two of them before taking off for the house. Megumi and Kaoru smiled at each other.
"I don't want to miss this," Yahiko said, jumping up and running after him.
"Yahiko!" Megumi called. "Damn, he's right though," she said standing up and following him.
Kaoru made a move to the same thing but suddenly she found herself not sitting down on the chair. Rather she had been swept up and was being carried towards the house. Looking over, she could help but smile at the familiar face.
"Megumi's orders," Kenshin said with a slight smile, as Sano got the door and snickered. They walked out the front door just in time to see the scene play out.
Misao was still there, sitting on Aoshi's bike, slowly turning a helmet in her hand. She looked up with a small sigh and threw it at him.
"Come on already," Misao said. "We'll miss our flight… partner." He walked up to her and looked down at her for a moment before slipping the helmet on and taking a seat on the bike.
Kenshin put Kaoru down next to Megumi, letting the girl stand with her friend before melding back into the background and watching the two girls waved their friend off.
"I never thought I'd see the day," Gensai said, standing next to Kenshin. "But it is good to know that they are no longer so worried about Kaoru. Demo… I bet he checks in every day." The older man laughed. "I suppose so long as there is a Kamiya, there will always be people worrying."
Kenshin smiled. "I guess… but Himura… that's a nice name." Gensai looked over with a raised eyebrow but Kenshin was looking away at the receding motorcycle.
* * *
Author's note: Hmmm… there are so many loose ends. And well, no resolution on the relationship front at all… and oh, come on, you know Shishio didn't die because we all know what happens to him after the fire…
There's only one thing to do then…
To Be Continued in Boulevards of Las Vegas. It might be Sano's dream city but it's about to turn into paradise lost as old villains, faces from the past and a new allies come on to the stage. It's Kenshin-gumi… Vegas style.