Rurouni Kenshin was created by Watsuki Nobuhiro; all rights reserved to Sony, Shueisha JUMP, and Anime Works.
fanfic notes: an action filled installment! i promises to wrap this up. ne, do you know where the name 'Miki' comes from? Answer: Kaoru's seiyuu! i'm a big tanuki-girl fan, can you tell? Jill

No Reason At All
Part 7: "Death & Life"

The sun had set and darkness fell over the forest. Torches were lit in a clearing; a new battleground bathed in orange and red lights. The three guards dragged Yahiko and Sanosuke along, their guns ready. Kenshin followed, having given a promise of not drawing his sakabatou. It was all up to Kaoru.

The girl tightened the knot on her hakama then picked up her shinai. Takeru rested his sword on his shoulder and stared towards her. “Are you sure about that weapon? We have some that you may borrow.”

“I’ll fight with all that I have.” she replied, walking to a good distance to size up her adversary.

He bowed his head slightly. “That was my last offer. Now there’s no turning back.” His amber eyes shot over to Kenshin. “You’ll regret this…. Especially when you carry off your loved one’s corpse at the end of the day.”

Kenshin rested his hands inside his gi and closed his eyes. “There will be no corpses being carried off today… or any day. As long as I am here, that is.”

“You do understand that you cannot interfere. If you do, I’ll have your friends shot.” Sanosuke and Yahiko both growled, angry that they were put in that position as hostages. “Either way, Battousai, you’ll have to watch someone die.”

“That’s enough!” Kaoru exclaimed, “I’m your opponent!” Takeru and Kenshin both turned towards her. That last comment had annoyed her, and made her even more impatient. Her blue eyes were literally burning. Takeru grinned faintly, then drew his sword. The two made eye contact, a tense moment following. Within minutes, the two charged at each other.

“You don’t stand a chance!” Takeru sneered, blocking her attack and going to counter. Kaoru was able to dodge his first swing, and regain her foothold. He came at her right away, his blade coming at a diagonal. Again, she sidestepped his attack, but this time, his free arm elbowed her in the face, sending her crashing against one of the torch stands.

“Kaoru!!” Yahiko cried. He began to struggle against the guard, who drove the barrel of the gun deeper into his temple. Sanosuke looked over to Kenshin. He looked like he was restraining himself from running out to her. He knew he had to let her do this on her own. Sanosuke stared at his tied fists as Yahiko continued to yell to the point of tears, “DAMMIT!!! KAORU, GET UP!!!”

Kaoru rolled over onto the ground, her head throbbing. The impact had left a jagged cut above her right eye, blood running down the side of her face. Through all the red, she could see her shinai a couple feet from her. She reached for it and pulled herself up. “I’m fine…”

“You had me worried. I thought this might be a quick fight.” Takeru replied complacently.

“Don’t get your hopes up. We’ve just gotten started.” she replied, taking a second to wipe her eyes. Without warning, she took into a run, right at him. Evading the multitude of opportune blows, she kept going, hitting her mark as she passed.

Takeru, struck in his adam’s apple, coughed up blood as she skidded to a stop behind him. Wiping his mouth with his sleeve, he glared over his shoulder towards her. “Why you bitch…! Fine, it’s time to fight you seriously!”

The two rushed at each other this time, passing with a single hit. Their backs to each other, the outcome awaited. Both had gone for the right shoulder, but hers had been slashed. Clutching her wound, she fell on one knee, biting back pain. Takeru clutched his shoulder too. Although there wasn’t any penetration, the muscle and bone had been bruised. Turning around, he shook the blood off his blade.

“Jou-chan!” Sanosuke yelled, “Behind you! He’s coming!”

It getting harder to see with the blood in her eyes, but she managed to steer herself in his direction. She could feel his presence coming closer, until he was right in front of her. She prepared herself, tightening her grip. ‘Wait for it.’ With a yell, he sent the blade crashing down. At the final moment, Kaoru raised her arms up, blocking it with the shinai, her wrists crossed underneath to give it support. The blade couldn’t go through.

Yahiko exclaimed, “The Kasshin succession technique!”

The two remained in the same position, Takeru trying to put more pressure. Kaoru slid back a step; taking all the weight. The sword was slowly breaking the wood. Takeru gritted his teeth, forming a grin. “Give it up! I’ll slice through the wood and your wrists!”

‘Now.’ With that, Kaoru thrust forward with all her strength, the wood breaking. Takeru fell backwards onto the ground while his sword spun up in the air and fell still spinning. Kaoru dropped the pieces of her shinai and caught the sword by the handle.

His body momentarily paralyzed, Takeru looked up at the girl, whose blood was dripping down her arm and down onto the blade of his sword. “Go ahead…” he uttered, “I was ready to give my life the instant I made my decision to lead the Reisen-gumi.”

Her brow darkened as she clutched the handle. After a pause, she stabbed the sword into the ground. “Bastard! You’re willing to throw you like away just like that?!”

“Whether it’s you or Battousai or any other Ishin-shin, I’d rather die then give up!”

Her bloody fists clenched. “What about Miki-san?!”

“This is for a better world. She will understand…”

At this, she pulled him up by the collar and punched him. “Miki-san could care less if the world was in chaos! All she wants is for you to be safe… at home… with her!”

Takeru stared at her in astonishment. Her punch had rattled down his spine. He was still shaking as he stared into those burning eyes. “Leave Miki out of this. She doesn’t need to be involved in any of these issues. What she doesn’t know won’t hurt her…”

In her mind, Kaoru could hear Miki’s words: ‘I could care less what he’s out doing, as long as he’s safe.’ Shaking her head, her grip again tightened. “No, you’re wrong! You don’t understand… no matter what it is you’re doing, whether it is the right or wrong thing… people who care about you will be waiting for your return. Surely, the rest of your Reisen-gumi also have families. Surely, you’ll see that sacrificing your life or the lives of others won’t change the world!”

“A samurai’s life… a fight to the finish, an honorable death… it’s all what matters. Even if the army comes and we all die… it would be for something far more important than the simple-minded ‘truth’ you speak. To me, it’s all a bunch of nonsense.”

Hearing these words, she completely flew into rage, bombarding him with empty-handed assault. “Do you think Miki-san would like to learn that you chose death over her!!? SELFISH BASTARD!! You don’t care about the lives of your own men!! DAMN YOU!! Why can’t you see… !!”

* * *
Everyone watched with shock. The Kenshin-gumi had never seen Kaoru completely pushed to the edge. Takeru was tasting the complete ferocity of her potent emotions. But as the brigade of punches continued, the pain had started to become numb. He was slowly recovering, as Kaoru was losing control of herself. The battle was taking a possible turn for the worse. Someone had to do something fast.

“Go, Kenshin!!” Sanosuke yelled to his friend, “Get her to stop! Call her back!!” Kenshin nodded, breaking into a run even with his troublesome leg. As one of the guards aimed at the back of his redhead, Sanosuke kicked the gun right out of his hands. “Yamero! Don’t even think about it!!”

Now the other two guards turned towards Sanosuke, but to their surprise, the guns were missing from their hands. Yahiko grinned, behind him, his tied hands held two revolvers. “Heh, my pick-pocketing came in use after all.”

Sanosuke suddenly broke the rope around his wrists. “Kuso! Did they think they could keep us like that for long?!” he cursed, going to untie Yahiko. His face suddenly turned to worry. “I just hope Kenshin can get to Jou-chan…”

“Kaoru!! KAORU!!!” Kenshin yelled running towards her. It was as if she didn’t hear him. Her own screams seemed to make his fade in the background. There was so much pain in her words that came out in such a jumble; it really didn’t make much sense. As he got closer, he could see the scene as it was. “Kaoru… ”

In total shock, Takeru sat watching her as she continued to hit him with bleeding fists, her punches no longer effective, but repetitive. Bitter tears were mingling with the blood on her face. Her gi was no longer a light blue, but was a shade of red… almost purple. Despite it all, she didn’t look tired, nor that she would stop. All her anger and frustration and sorrow had risen to the surface.

Kenshin came up from behind her, putting an arm around her waist, pulling her towards him. “Kaoru, that’s enough…”

“But why… WHY… !!!” she sobbed, her whole body trembling.

He held her still and tighter, pressing his cheek against hers. “Sometimes, people just don’t listen… “ he uttered softly. He felt the bloody tears wiping off onto his scar. He could feel her heartbeat regulating and the tremors slowing. “…Kaoru?”

“Gomen, Kenshin…” she said in a little voice, now relaxed in his hold, “I… I got carried away… gomendesai…”

“Shh, it’s okay…” he comforted her, “It’s okay. Everything’s all right. I’m here. There’s no need to fight anymore.”

But the sound of Takeru getting up and pulling his sword from the ground proved Kenshin wrong. He stood, bleeding and bruised, full of determination. “Wait, Battousai… it’s not over yet.”

“You truly have the spirit of a samurai.” Kenshin replied, releasing Kaoru and walking around her to face the persevering man. “Still, conspiring against the government is a crime. You can avoid a long prison sentence by turning yourself in and ensuring no more future activity.”

He shook his head. “I cannot do that… not without finishing this battle.”

Kenshin reached for his sakabatou, but stopped to see Kaoru walking past him. “Wait! Kaoru…!” he cried, seizing her again by the waist, this time with a quick jerk.

“Let me go, Kenshin.” she replied, “I want to finish this… Please… let me…” He lifted his head. Let her go? Let her wander again where he cannot follow… where he cannot reach her. Kenshin closed his eyes, tears forming, as he slowly loosened his hold. “I… won’t die… trust me…” she whispered, “I don’t have any reason… Kenshin, I love you.”

At this, he opened his eyes. By then, she had already left his side, too far away to hear him respond. ‘I’m starting to understand…’ he thought, as he watched her pick up the two broken pieces of the shinai, “How she feels… in all those situations I’ve created in the past… how I just went off into battle without a certainty of return. But she… she gave me her word… her love…’ He stared towards the distant figure, moving farther away. ‘I know she will return! Kaoru!!’

Takeru had backed onto the other side of the clearing, giving them enough room. “Those things you say… prove them to me. Not with your fists or your tears… but with a sword!”

The look on her face was resilient as she gripped a piece of the broken shinai in each hand. “I’ll use what I have.”

“Such stubbornness!” Takeru grumbled, “Your own faults will cause your death.”

Without another thought, the two rushed it other, everything happening so fast. Instead of attacking from above, Takeru’s blade was coming directly at her center. Inches away, Kaoru threw her arms out, using the two wood pieces to catch the blade. Turning them, she twisted the sword from his hands, seizing it by the blade, and then striking him with the handle. Takeru fell, completely unable to move.

Kaoru dropped the sword and stood over him. “Kenshin loves me for my faults, so I have no intent on dying.”

“Kaoru!!” Kenshin came running, Sanosuke and Yahiko close behind. She lifted her head to look at him, but found all her injuries catching up to her. Dizzy and weak, she started to fall. Kenshin caught her, gathering her in his arms. “Daijoubu de gozaru ka? Does it hurt?”

“Iie… I feel good… so good…” she chuckled, “Because…. of… you… Ken…sh…” Her voice died out as she fell into darkness.

Onto the Conclusion!