By the Unseen Watcher

Disclaimer: Rurouni Kenshin does not belong to me. Hiko doesn't belong to me. Life sucks that way. Please don't sue me, it's not nice and your lawyer would only get lint out of me. I just like to write and figured there might be a few out there who might like my ideas. Hello? Or maybe not. ^_^;

The redhead sat in the doorway, his katana against his shoulder in a passive pose. His eyes were closed. A shadow fell over him, but he didn't look up or open his eyes.

"She's gone." The doctor said, seeing no way to soften the blow.

"I know." The man replied quietly, his expression unchanged.

The doctor looked at the unruffled man questioningly slightly shocked by his casual tone.

"I felt her leave." He explained in the expectant silence.

The doctor looked at him, her dark eyes unreadable. Only then did she notice the small sack at his side.

"You're leaving." It wasn't a question.

The other nodded, finally raising his head to reveal clear, disturbingly serene violet orbs.

"It's time." He said simply.

The doctor looked ready to protest, but couldn't get the words out in the face of that tranquil gaze.

Rising to his feet, his small bundle of belongings over his shoulder, he faced her one last time. He bowed low in respect and acknowledgement, his only farewell. Then, turning, he quietly made his way to the open gate. He paused only once, standing before the dojo sign that still hung there, showing that the honor of the school was still intact, even after all this time. He gave it a long look, fingers reaching up to trace the worn kanji, before turning and moving down the street. He didn't look back.

Standing on the now abandoned porch, the doctor fought the tears that threatened to overwhelm her composure. She looked after the slight man that had been so important in the lives of so many and whispered a faint farewell.

"Sayonara Kenshin-san."


He made his way through the city, drawing occasional stares. His worn hakama and bright gi were out of place in the growing metropolis where the fashion had long ago turned to more exotic western styles. Most startling of all was the antiquated sword that swung casually at his side.

He didn't seem to notice the attention, or simply didn't care, passing by the towering new square buildings lining the street with his eyes straight-ahead, shoulders back. A passing streetcar rushed by him, ruffling the fire bright hair.

He passed several policemen, but received only neutral looks. None moved to stop him. Unchallenged, though he was blatantly breaking the sword law, he eventually made his way out of the city.


A week later a potter looked up from his cold kiln. Hazel eyes met purple, before turning back to their contemplation of his drink.

"It's about time you showed up." The potter said irritably, shifting his larger frame on his log seat, absently moving a corner of his long white cloak to make room for the newcomer.

They sat for a while, staring out at the world around them. Finally the dark-haired potter offered the redhead the sake jug. The other accepted it with a slight nod. They sat there in silence, passing the container between them.

"The lights get closer every year." The potter said, his deep voice matter of fact. The redhead didn't comment, slowly sipping his drink from his cup as his eyes gazed off into nothing, darkening to a deep amethyst in thought.

"What took you so long anyway?" The larger one asked irritably.

"I made a promise." The smaller samurai said calmly, unruffled by the other's attitude. He had long ago grown used to it. "I promised that I'd stay until the last."

"Only you'd stick around until the last of your children died." Hiko grunted, glancing over his glass at his former student.

Kenshin smiled faintly. "I promised their mother." He said simply.

There was nothing his master could say to that, so he contented himself with snorting softly. The redheaded former rurouni's devotion to his wife was unquestionable, impressing even the cynical kenjutsu master.

Actually, Hiko could have been considered a Grandmaster, if anyone official even knew of his existence to formally declare it. Those in charge tended to miss or overlook his presence. No easy task for a man well over six feet among a population primarily composed of people below 160cm in height.

Somewhat subdued but damned if he was going to show it, Hiko Soujiro tipped the last few drops of sake into his cup. Giving the now empty jug a betrayed look, he tossed it aside and groped for a new one. "You still took your sweet time." He grumbled half-heartedly.

"Megumi-dono's granddaughter is a credit to her profession, and her family line." Again that slight smile appeared. "She also has all of her grandfather's tenacity and then some. Her patients tend to live long lives. They get well or answer to her."

Hiko raised a sardonic eyebrow, but didn't respond.

"When were you going to tell me?" Kenshin asked abruptly, his voice low. Hiko flashed him an irritated look before finally locating an unopened jar. Pouring himself a cup, he took a sip before replying.

"Well, what did you expect? You lived the kind of life you have and you think you'll remain unchanged by it?"

Kenshin only looked at him. There was more to it. His master's words usual had a deeper meaning, below the surface. He had learned that through hard experience, along with the patience it took to unravel them.

"Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu is an art based on elemental dragon symbolism." The 13th master of the school said, glancing thoughtfully into his cup. "It draws on the five aspects of nature, using the strength of your spirit as its focal point, it's power extended through your sword. It pushes your body to its limits and beyond. You know well what I've taught you. Wood teaches stability of mind and spirit, Air to flow with its movements, Water easing the heat of the final element of Fire, which will either consume you . . ."

". . .Or forge you like the finest Metal into something more."

Kenshin pondered this, head tilted to the side. Few things surprised him any more, yet his master's uncharacteristic blunt reply had managed to do it. He didn't doubt a word of it. This was Hiko Seijuro after all.

"What happened to just being a human being?" He managed to ask.

"That was then, before you had fully mastered the style. Or it had mastered you, or whatever. Besides, in a sense you are human. You've just become . . .more so." Hiko frowned at this inadequate explanation. "In a sense, you've grown closer to what a human can potentially be."

"Each master of the art passes along the mantle, and burden of power, to the next through the succession technique of the Amakakeru Ryu no Hirameki. Most don't live long enough to even get in sight of old age, though there was a legend of one who took two centuries to find the right student. I thought it was only a tale until recent years." He shot Kenshin a disgusted glance. "You changed it all with your stubborn refusal to kill me."

Kenshin's smile was wry, humor glittering in his amethyst eyes. "Gomen Nesai." He murmured, his tone conveying just how insincere the apology was.

Hiko snorted again, passing the sake jar over to him. "So here we are. Two fighters who've seen and done more than they care to remember, fated to live the-kamis-know-how-long because we're too blasted good at what we do. Stopped in time because the nature of our ki energies won't allow age to touch us. Warriors in an era where none should exist."

"We're still needed." Kenshin pointed out. "There are still those who cannot defend themselves, and ones who seek to gain through their suffering."

"There always have been." His master replied, a shadowed look of hard-learned wisdom passing quickly across his face. "There always will be."

Kenshin gazed into his cup. Sitting there beside his cantankerous Shishou like this brought back many memories. A particular one flitted through his mind and he smiled.

"You once told me that if a man didn't like the taste of sake, there was something wrong with him." He said, his unexpected words drawing the other from his dark thoughts. "You told me that every season touched it differently, but that it always tastes good. For so long, mine tasted of only blood and tears. Then I found a happiness I didn't know existed, and the flavor returned, save once." The day that Kaoru died, and for many days afterward. But he didn't say it and his master didn't ask. He knew.

Kenshin felt a shift in the weight of his cup and glanced up to see Hiko silently, almost respectfully, pouring more into his glass. Solemn hazel eyes met startled purple once again.

"I also recall . . ." The dark-haired man rumbled, the mocking gleam gone from his eyes ". . .that I said that one day you would understand what I meant, and I'd pour sake for the both of us."

Kenshin nodded slowly, meeting the other's gaze steadily, honored beyond words by the implications. His master considered him an equal. Well, as equal as one could get to Hiko Seijuro the 13th.

After another long silence, Hiko stoppered the sake jar firmly. Standing up, he pulled out a bundle of his own from behind the well-worn log seat. Sake jug swinging from one hand and bag over the other shoulder, he unceremoniously started for the trees.

"Where are you going?" Kenshin asked, surprised by his move.

"I think I'll wander around for a bit; maybe a century or two. See the world and all that." He called over his shoulder. Stopping at the tree line, he hesitated. Turning, he raised an impatient eyebrow, trying and failing to conceal the slight smile that tugged at the corner of his mouth. "Coming, baka deshi?"

Kenshin found himself returning the smile, his own mouth curving into a disturbingly identical grin. "Hai, Shishou." He replied formally, grabbing his own bag of belongings from the ground where he'd dropped it. He ran to catch up to the larger man, his shorter steps double the other's long strides.

"Good." Was all the dark-haired man said, turning his head to hide his relief at the acceptance of his veiled offer. "I need a halfway decent sparring partner." He glanced down at the younger man pacing him. "You'll just have to do. It'll take a while to get you up to even that level. Knowing you, you've slacked off again these past years. . ."

Kenshin only smiled and continued walking. It would be nice to be on the road again, and even better with a traveling companion this time. He was sure his obstinate master felt the same way. Answering yes or no in the right conversation places, the 14th master of Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu followed his predecessor, the two of them melting into the forest.

A moment later the clearing was empty.

I REALLY like immortal stories. Maybe I should change my pen name to Immortal Obsession or Insanity. What do you think? Anyway, please review. I'd love to ear from you! Oh, and I really can't decide on Hiko's eye color, so don't howl at me about it. Let's just say that in this story they're hazel and leave it at that. But I do like black. Hmm...