Rurouni Kenshin was created by Watsuki Nobuhiro; all rights reserved to Sony, Shueisha JUMP, and Anime Works.
Jill sure likes to bring people back from the dead, doesn't she? First, Shishio, then Tomoe... who next may you ask? Well, you'll have to see. Oh! There's a reason I only refer to Tomoe's brother by 'Yukishirou'... hehe, you'll have to see also. - Revised 10/7/00

Part 12: "Her Most Beautiful Smile"

The room was filled with silence. Kenshin couldn’t take his eyes off her. He wanted to leap up and run to her. But, he felt weighed down to the floor; he couldn’t move or speak. ‘Kami-sama… please not now…’

Saitou crossed his arms and went up to Kaoru. “What do you think you are doing here, Raccoon-Girl? Go back to Tokyo. Battousai doesn’t need you to bother him.”

“I’m here not for the Battousai.” she replied, going past him, “I only want to see the Ronin…” Kenshin watched as she slowly walked towards him, “Kenshin, I hope you’re not angry at me for coming.” He shook his head, still unable to generate words. She kept coming closer without hesitation. “I didn’t think about the consequences. Gomen. I just wanted to see you again, one last time…”

“Kaoru… dono…” he uttered nervously, as she stopped right in front of him. There was very little space between them. All he could do was stare into Kaoru’s blue eyes. They were filled with so much emotion. He wanted everyone else in the room to disappear, so only he could stare into those eyes. So, he could hold her tight in his arms, like he did the night before he left.

“It’s been awhile hasn’t it? When you left, you barely let me had a word in, so I’m here now.” she said, putting her suitcase down on the floor, “I know you must be going through a lot. I know you’re thinking that you have to face this on your own. But, Kenshin, you aren’t alone. You have everyone back in Tokyo, and you have me.”

Kenshin trembled as she reached for his hand. He then realized that she was trembling too. “I know I’m no use to you here nor can I do anything in this mission, but I just want you to know… that even if we’re apart, my feelings won’t change. I still don’t want you throw to your life away. You have so much that you still have to do … and so much that I wanted to share with you. Only, I was such an idiot; I was too afraid, because I didn’t have the confidence. I couldn’t tell you how happy I was just being near you, how you put meaning in my life. And now it’s too late to tell you that I love you, isn’t it?”

He lifted head his head. He couldn’t believe his ears. There were tears in her eyes, but she was smiling. “I love you – I thought I’d never say those words to anyone, but I’m so happy that I actually can.” She leaned over for only him to hear her say, “I love you, Kenshin. I always will.”

There was a long pause. Kaoru let go of his hand, looking as though she had run out of things to say. At last, Kenshin spoke, “Is that all you came for?”

“Yes, that’s everything.” she replied, picking up her suitcase. “I won’t be coming to bother you anymore. It’s obvious I don’t belong in this place. Please excuse me.” Still smiling, she then turned away and walked right out the door.

Misao’s face fell. “Kaoru-san…?” She then looked to Kenshin. “How could you just stand there and do nothing?! You asshole! I’ll never forgive you, Himura! Never!” Aoshi took her by the arm and shook his head. “But, Aoshi-sama…!”

“No. It is not our place to say anything. Please pardon the intrusion. We’ll show ourselves out.” he said, bowing his head and pulling her out the room.

Tomoe turned to the men and bowed. “I’ll let you continue your meeting, Saitou-san, Himura-san, Hiko-san.” She then went out and closed the door.

Saitou shrugged and lit a cigarette. “Finally, they’re all gone.” he muttered, smoking and sitting into a chair, “What a waste of time.”

Kenshin just stared at the floor; still unable to recover. ‘She loves me…’ He jumped at the slight touch on his shoulder. “Huh? Shisho?”

Hiko, a strong looking man with long black hair and a white trench coat, looked down at him. “It’s time to get started, Kenshin.”

* * *
For the remainder of the day, Kenshin trained outside with Hiko in the large garden. Hiko drilled him harder than ever. Kenshin received more beatings than he did in his childhood. He was left unable to move, lying on the ground. ‘Why is Shisho being like this?’ he thought, ‘I feel like I can’t ever hold a sword. Is he trying to make me quit or something?’

Hiko stood over the exhausted Kenshin. “Your training has gone to shit. How do you expect to stand a chance against this madman? The next time surely, you’ll say farewell to your life.” he noted, “That girl would be disappointed. Personally, I don’t see what she sees in such baka as you. I sure hope she doesn’t waste her life away waiting. She probably will. A foolish woman to match my foolish student.”

“Shisho… don’t speak about Kaoru-dono that way.”

“Oh? So it’s ‘Kaoru-dono’?” Hiko kicked him in the head. “You imbecile! That’s not the way to address the woman you love! It’s no wonder the you’ve never…!”

“SHISHO!” Kenshin got up, his face angry, “Why do you have to spend most of your time tormenting me?! It’s not getting me anywhere!”

“I got you up on your feet again, didn’t I?” he replied, taking a sip of sake from his bottle.

Kenshin sighed, dropping his shoulders. “Let’s not talk about her anymore… please.”

Hiko shook his head. “Still, it’s sad for things to end before they could even begin. You’re just adding more regrets to your miserable life. Of course, suffering doesn’t bring the dead back to life you know.”

“Then what is there left for a sinner like me, Shisho?”

“Nothing, but to continue your life. You’ve survived this long for a reason, Kenshin. Death is the easy way out. The hardest thing to do is ‘live your life’.” Hiko noted. Startled, Kenshin nodded quietly and picked up his sakabatou. As he practiced, a grin was fixed on Hiko’s face. ‘Soon, you will understand, Kenshin… with people who care for you like that there’s no need for you to revert to Battousai or to die…’

* * *
For the past week, there was no still no sign of Tomoe’s brother or his organization. People believed that he actually escaped this time. But Saitou kept on the investigation. He didn’t let anything faze him. But when he heard that Kenshin had been training, he became a little curious. “Does he actually believe that he could better himself in a short time?”

Just then, there was a knock on the door. Kenshin stood in the hallway, wearing a suit and carrying his sakabatou. “Saitou, sorry it took a while. But I’m ready.”

“Aa? So you’ve decided whether or not if you’re going to be your assassin self again, Battousai?”

“I don’t think I have to.” he replied. Saitou stared at him. There was definitely something different about him. He didn’t look like a killer nor did he look like the weakling he had dealt with earlier that week. What had happened to him, though, didn’t matter to Saitou. Inside, he was secretly glad that this person was finally coming to terms with himself.

All of a sudden, an officer interrupted, “Fujita-san…your wife is on the phone. She wants to talk to you.”

Kenshin looked surprised. Saitou whispered to him. “Fujita is the civilian name I chose.”

“No, not that… it’s just… you have a WIFE?!”

Saitou cleared his throat. “Oh, Tokio? She really is a good woman. Aa, I better go.” He then hurried off to answer the phone.

Kenshin stared in shock. ‘He’s married? What kind of woman could put up with that guy? A goddess maybe?’ Before he could think about this, the door opened, a punch coming at his face. He fell, his lip numb and bloody. Before he hit the floor, a hand caught him. “S-SANO!?”

Sanosuke sneered, “Going off without me again?” He yanked the redhead up on his feet and shoved him into the wall. “You’re probably thinking what the hell I’m doing here? Thing is… I decided to help you bastards out!” he exclaimed. Kenshin smiled slightly, knowing this was how his friend conveyed his feelings.

From the door, Saitou crossed his arms. “You mean - ‘get in our way’.”

Sanosuke clenched his fists and glared at him. “Who the hell does this guy think he is?!”

Tomoe was standing beside Saitou. “I’ve received a message from my brother. Let’s get going.”

* * *
The four of them headed off in a black car. Kenshin looked over at Sanosuke and Tomoe with worry. Was it safe for them to come? Well, Tomoe had to be there, it was her brother’s request. Also, Sanosuke wouldn’t let them leave the station without them. How in the world did he find them exactly? While Kenshin sorted through his thoughts, Saitou smothered his cigarette in the ashtray. “Did this damn rooster have to come along?”

“What the hell did you just call me?!” Sanosuke growled, causing Tomoe to scoot a bit aways from him.

“Ahou.” Saitou muttered, picking up a map, “While Yukishirou-san talks to her brother, we can sneak in through the back alley. Backup will show up in time, but the two of us can go ahead. The Rooster head will accompany Yukishirou-san inside.” Saitou turned to Sanosuke. “You’re not scared are you?”

“F--K YOU!”

The car was stopping in an alley. They all filed out, Sanosuke and Tomoe going to the main entrance of the building. Kenshin exchanged glances with Saitou, and then proceeded towards the back entrance. Just then, gunshots started hurling at them. The two of them ducked to the ground.

“They know we’re here! So much for a surprise attack!” Kenshin cried, unsheathing his sakabatou and blocking the bullets with a swing. “What do you suggest now?”

Saitou braced himself and leapt though the glass window. Shrugging, Kenshin followed. They ran through the warehouse dodging bullets and knocking out gunmen on the way to the stairs. At the top of the stairs, they were surprised to see a complete command like center full of computers and luxurious furniture. Tomoe and Sanosuke were there, surrounded by large ugly men.

The leader, a young man with white hair and small spectacles sat in the main chair. He grinned at his visitors. “Battousai, so have you come to take my Nee-san away from me again? Don’t you see that it’s your entire fault? It’s your fault that Nee-san lost her first love! It’s your fault she tasted death! It’s your fault she doesn’t smile at me! IT’S YOUR FAULT!”

Saitou rubbed his chin. “Ah, so the kid still hasn’t forgiven you for killing his sister’s fiancé and almost sending her after him. Well, I do have to admit you’ve got lots of enemies.” Kenshin just hid his eyes.

Sanosuke growled and clenched his fists, “You white-haired bastard may have a lot of animosity towards Kenshin, but it’s not his fault you’re insane! That was your own f--king doing! I’m not sure if you belong behind bars or in an asylum!”

Saitou actually agreed with him. “One thing is for sure, I’m definitely going to kill you.” he said, drawing his katana.

Grabbing onto his arm, Tomoe cried, “No! Please don’t kill my brother! We can help him!”

“Stay out of this!” Saitou sneered and threw her aside. At this, her brother was very pissed off. He leaped up and tossed a dagger at Saitou, piercing his shoulder. “Shit!” Saitou uttered, bending at the knee.

“Don’t you dare harm my sister!” Yukishirou hissed, “I’ll kill you all!”

With that an all out battle erupted, the large ugly men attacked Sanosuke and Kenshin while Saitou handled the leader. But Yukishirou dodged his gatoutsu attack, stabbing him in the chest and hurling him out the window. He then pushed his glasses up and turned to Kenshin. “You’re next Battousai! It’s time for justice!”

“What’s in the past is in the past!” Kenshin cried, trying to reach the troubled man, whose veins had started to pop out of his forehead. He could only feel hatred and anger emitting from this man; it was stronger than anything he had ever felt. The madman rushed him with incredible speed, and although he blocked it with his sakabatou, Kenshin found himself being thrown across the room. He opened his eyes just in time to see the blade diving into him. “ARRRGGGGGG!!!” he uttered, collapsing.

“It’s over for you.” Yukishirou said, lifting his sword to finish him.

Sanosuke defeated the three ugly men with his fists then came running over. “Kenshin! KENSHIN!” he yelled, “Don’t give up!” Yukishirou slashed in him the shoulder and sent him crumpling to the floor. “Ken…shin… COME ON!”

Kenshin was fighting the blackness. Scenes of the past went rushing through his mind. He remembered Hiko yelling at him as a child, him running into Aoshi at school, the first time he met Sanosuke when he had picked a fight with him… sitting on the fire escape with Kaoru. The summer vacation at the Aoiya. The dinner party at the Akebeko. The night he said ‘good-bye’.

‘But the memories aren’t enough… I can’t die yet… there’s still so much… I still…’ He could hear Kaoru whispering that she loved him. ‘I have no reason to die yet!’ Kenshin’s eyes popped open. Despite his wounds, he was able to get up and pick up his sakabatou, “I can’t let it end here! There’s someone I have to return to!”

“Oh, is that so? Then let’s finish this…”

The two of them broke into battle, exchanging blows. Sanosuke watched as the two seemed to go on forever. He had never seen such an intense battle. Both of them were almost equal. "Listen to me..." Kenshin uttered, as he and Yukishirou came up close, blade against blade, "The past is gone... move on!"

"The past may be gone but... I'll...never forgive you, Battousai...NEVER!!"

"That's fine." Kenshin replied, breaking away and thrusting forward, attacking him across the chest and sending him crashing to the floor, "Just don't take your vengence out on innocent people. Your behavoir has troubled Tomoe... is that what you wanted?"

"No...I never wanted..."

"Then give up your organization and all your murders. They will only cause your sister more pain. You'll never see her smile if you keep this up." Kenshin looked down at his face, his eyes were filled with tears.

Tomoe’s scream interrupted everything. She was being pulled up the stairs. Yukishirou used Kenshin's arm to pull himself up. “Gein! What are you doing?!”

Gein yelled, “Is this woman more important than the organization?! I’ll be sure to get rid of both you and her!!” He pointed his guns at Tomoe, “This problem will now be removed and I’ll be the rightful leader!”

Tomoe cried out as her brother attacked Gein. There was a struggle, but he was hit on the head with the back of the gun and pushed down the stairs. He looked up in time to see the gunfire turning towards her “NO! Nee-san!!”

Out of nowhere, a man came crashing in through the window, pushing her down as bullets filled the air. The two landed behind a chair and were shielded from the firing. "That was a close one..." Sanosuke uttered, looking over to her brother, who had passed out at the bottom of the stairs, "I bet he'll be glad someone protected his sister."

All of a sudden, there were sirens and police rushing the place. The backup had finally arrived. “What the hell happened to Saitou?!” Sanosuke cried, clutching his shoulder. He looked out the broken window. “He couldn’t have been… no way!"

Kenshin didn’t feel any of his wounds. They hurt, but in his mind he knew he was going to make it. He finally got to look at the agent who had pushed Tomoe out of the way from the oncoming bullets. “You protected Tomoe… arigato.”

The 'green-horn' replied, “It’s no problem at all. It was the least I could have done.”

Tomoe lifted her head at the sound of his voice. “It can’t be… !” The agent removed his headgear and goggles. Underneath was a man she had thought died, her first and only love. “K…Kiyosato-kun!” She rushed towards him, “But… you were…”

Kiyosato stared at the floor, his brown hair covering his eyes. “I fought until the end to live, but when I woke up in the ER, you were gone. I thought it was because I was weak and couldn’t protect you, that you abandoned me or that that murderer killed you. But then, I saw the two of you together a couple of weeks later. I was too ashamed to approach you. I didn’t know what to do… all I knew was that I had to get stronger… to be more worthy of you.”

Tomoe was suddenly filled with emotion, which was so unlike her. “No… that was never the case!”

“I could never be able to make you smile. You were always so sad…”

“Only because I did not know how to express how much you meant to me! I didn’t know how… You were full of such life, you smiled enough for the both of us.” she uttered, unable to control her tears.

Kiyosato pulled her to him, “Now I’ve made you cry. Are you that upset to see me?”

“No, I… I’m so happy…” she sobbed into his shoulder, a smile on her face at last, "Because of you, Akira..."

Kenshin gasped. He had never heard those words come from Tomoe ever. He grinned, and then stared towards the broken window where Sanosuke was cursing. ‘Somehow I feel that it isn’t over yet…’

* * *
Some time later, after his wounds had been bandaged, Kenshin stood on a bridge over the street, watching the city lights of Kyoto. It was much different than Tokyo’s. He sighed heavily into the night sky. “I thought you would be here.” Tomoe walked towards him. “We used to use this bridge remember? When we took walks when the weather was warm. Although I’m sure you’ve forgotten already.”

“No, I haven’t. I still remember.” he replied, “But someone told me memories are never enough. Their full effect leaves the moment it’s over.”

“Sou ka. Akira says the same; we should live for the moment. His cheerful attitude is really incredible; those smiles I’ve kept inside are starting to creep out. I cannot help it. It’s as if he’s brought me to life along with him.”

“That’s good.” Kenshin said, leaning on the rail, “Still, I feel terrible… for separating you and Kiyosato-dono. You might’ve had happier lives if it weren’t for me.”

“No, I’d say we’re even. Himura-san, I was the one who separated you from the people who meant most to you. Kaoru-kun has been worried about you.”

Kenshin could faintly see her smile in the back of his mind. It was fading and he ached to see it once more. “Kaoru...” he uttered quietly, “For the first time in my life, I actually didn’t think ‘so what if I die’… because if I did then I would never see her again. I would only cause her more suffering… I couldn’t bear to do that ever again.”

“From the beginning, her intentions were only good. I cannot say the same for myself…” Tomoe started, “Back then, I worked hard to make myself become the Battousai’s weakness… but Kaoru-kun, without much effort, became your strength.” Kenshin lifted his head in surprise as she smiled at him. “You miss her?”

“Ano… I do but…” His face flushed. “Will she ever forgive me? Will she accept me back?” His eyes reflected the lights below as he tried to explain himself, “I’ve never felt so scared in my life...”

“If you are honest with yourself, then your true feelings will reach her somehow. Himura-san, I think it’s time you returned home.”

“Home… That’s where Kaoru is… where I belong.” At last, he returned the smile. “I will. Thank you so much, Tomoe.”

“There’s no need to thank me.”

“Right…” he uttered. He bowed his head slightly. “I wish you much happiness. Goodbye.” With that, he turned and walked away, feeling free of the guilt and sorrow haunting him over the years.

Back to Part 11
On to Part 13