Darkest Days

The Wheels of Fate Turn

Three days later Kaoru closed the cover of the last book from the shelves, one of which told how the blades at her back and the wakizashi in her belt had been crafted. Sighing dejectedly she slumped wearily in the chair. After all that searching she’d found nothing she could use. Oh, there had been small tidbits, like the book she had just finished. During the war her family and one other had designed the blades and crafted them with magic for the sole purpose of killing the gods. But none, not even the ones at her back had been strong enough to kill Ryujin, only to separate his essence from his body which they had done.

Her eyes drifted to another book sitting on the edge of the table and another sigh escaped against her will. And yesterday she’d finally found the explanation of how Ryujin had made his claim on Kenshin buried in that book amidst another more clinical telling of the gods and their practices before the war. Excited beyond words she’d quickly read through the rest of the pages in hopes of finding the answer to how the small piece of himself that Ryujin had implanted into Kenshin’s cheek could be removed. But there had been nothing in that one or any of the others after that either.

Tears started burning her eyes but she stubbornly held them back. She had been so sure some clue would be found in all of these ancient books written by her ancestors. Enough so that after the one day Tomoe had allowed her to search she’d snuck down here in the early morning hours of the next day to test the door herself to see if she could get at the books again. She’d been surprised and even a little bit unnerved when the wall had simply swung open at her touch but she’d immediately taken advantage of the strange miracle and spent the rest of the hours before daybreak searching as many books as she could before Tomoe woke and had her practicing the spell that would kill him.

Kaoru shuddered at the thought of the weapon her teacher expected her to use against Kenshin and swiftly rose to replace the books. Everyone would be up soon and she needed to be back in her bed before anyone noticed. Lifting two of the fragile tomes with careful hands she turned to the shelf on her left and eased them back into place. As far as she knew she’d managed to keep her early morning excursions a secret and she really didn’t want to be caught. Not when she now knew Tomoe’s words to be true, there really was no way to save him.

Her eyes started to burn again as she turned for another set of books. Which meant she really was going to have to use that horrible spell. The frail covers bent under the pressure from her fingers and she quickly shoved the thought from her mind and gave her full attention back to replacing the books. In a matter of moments she had cleared the table and was just about to douse the lone lantern she’d lit to push back the darkness and leave when Sayo popped up in front of the door two feet from Kaoru was standing.

With a strangled cry of surprise, Kaoru stumbled back nearly knocking the lantern to the floor. Catching it with one hand she held her other over her heart in a vain attempt to calm its rapid pounding.

“Breakfast is ready.” The dark haired master mage said with a smile, clearly pleased with Kaoru‘s reaction. “Tomoe wishes for you to eat and then meet her in the practice field.”

Kaoru paled. It was breakfast already? That meant she’d been down here longer than she’d meant to be this morning. And then the rest of what Sayo had said sank in and Kaoru froze. Tomoe knew she was in here!

“Yes, she knows,“ Sayo replied to the thought. “But she isn’t upset, she expected it. Did you find anything in your search?”

Kaoru frowned and shook her head as the tears she‘d held off threatened again. “She was right, Sayo-san, there is no way to save him. I‘ve read everything here and there’s nothing telling how to save him or even a hint of how it might be possible.”

Sayo gave her a sympathetic nod. “Then you must prepare yourself or Takeda will win.”

Kaoru scowled and angrily wiped away the single tear that had slipped free. “I could always kill myself instead. They can’t destroy the seal without me!” She replied stubbornly.

The look of horror that flew across Sayo’s face made Kaoru wince but before she could say anything Sayo moved to stand toe to toe with her, anger clear in her hard chestnut glare. Kaoru tried to take a step back but Sayo caught her arm in a bone crushing grip. “Never say something like that again.” The master mage murmured icily. “Yes it may stop him but there is nothing to say he won’t find a way to break the seal some other way. He is a black mage, Kaoru, and if he does and you are already dead, you will condemn us all.”

Kaoru flinched at the stark truth and sagged against the edge of the table as her chest tightened painfully. Sayo released her arm and took a step back. “I regret setting you on this path, Kaoru, but now you know there is no other way. You must do what has to be done whether you love him or not.” And with that the dark haired mage vanished as quickly as she’d come.

Kaoru wilted even further against the worn wood and shook her head as more tears slipped from her eyes. What a mess. No matter what any of them said she didn’t think she could do it. Especially not with that spell. The first time she had successfully created it she had thought it a true wonder to behold, a glowing sphere of power that seemed to undulate in her palm, shifting colors seamlessly from blue to purple to red to green and even to clear to represent air. It truly was a beautiful piece of magic.

But beautiful or not it’s true nature had become crystal clear the first and only time she’d launched it at the dummy they’d set up in the practice field. She hadn’t really known what to expect when she’d attacked but what she hadn’t expected was for the sphere to simply melt into the fake Kenshin’s chest. The true horror however came a moment later when the dummy had suddenly lit up in a brilliant white light so bright that she’d had cover her eyes. She hadn’t been able to actually see the explosion, but she’d felt a ground shaking thump that she hadn’t understood until the concussion of it hit her dead in the chest. In a panic she had opened her eyes as soon as the light had faded and had been horrified to see nothing left of the dummy but a small patch of burned grass where it had stood only a moment before. Everything down to the last splinter of wood had been completely obliterated in that one moment.

Kaoru shuddered at the memory and angrily wiped the tears from her cheeks as she pushed off the table and left the hidden room. They couldn’t make her do that to him. She would find another way!


The practice yard was suddenly silent as the concussion of the blast melted away and Tomoe watched as Kaoru fell to her knees ignoring the two strikes aiming dead at her. Misao and Sayo both shot forward hoping to stop the attack they’d launched but neither one was fast enough. One struck Kaoru in the shoulder and she was thrown sideways far enough for the other fireball to brush past her without contact, exploding against a tree several yards away instead.

“Do you think she’ll be able to do this?” Megumi asked from where she stood beside Tomoe in the shadow of the trees. The healer mage had arrived the day before without Akira and with dire news. Takeda had disappeared. Tomoe had no idea where he would have gone. She had expected him to come here after Kaoru but Megumi said there was no sign of him for twenty miles in any direction. He, Suzaku and Kenshin had simply vanished. Not even Kaoru could find them, which worried her more than she liked to admit.

Akira on the other hand had decided to make the trek to the cursed wood with Hiko-san instead of wasting time coming here. She saw the wisdom of her husband’s decision but she missed him terribly. She could really use him here right now. For herself and for Kaoru. He had always been one of Kaoru’s favorites and she his, if anyone could get her to see reason it would be him.

“I don’t know.” She finally admitted with a tired sigh. “This is the first time she has destroyed the dummy since the day I first taught her the spell.” Tomoe glanced to the healer mage. “She loves him more than I thought possible in the short time they were together. Even if she can, this is going to destroy her.”

Megumi smiled half heartedly. “Is there really no other way?”

Tomoe shook her head as Kaoru finally pushed to her feet and dusted herself off. Misao and Sayo hovered around her worriedly, checking to make sure she was uninjured. Neither strike had been meant to harm only to imitate possible attacks Takeda and Suzaku would use against her while she was dealing with Kenshin.

“I’ve read most of those books myself out of curiosity over the years.” She murmured as Kaoru slowly made her way towards the manor with Misao and Sayo on her heels. “None of them had any useful information except the two I had Kaoru read.”

Megumi sighed and laid a hand on her arm. “Then we will have to have faith that she will do what needs to be done when the time comes. No one can force her to.”

Tomoe unwittingly stiffened and Megumi, realizing her train of thought, hissed under her breath. “Don’t even think about it, Tomoe! I won’t let you do that to her!”

Tomoe turned to the healer mage and murmured tightly, “I will do what must be done.” With that she started for the manor.

“You cannot use that spell, Tomoe, or you will be no better than Takeda himself!” Megumi all but shouted as she ran to catch up with her. Tomoe’s calm demeanor slipped and she rounded on the healer mage. Her own face pale and eyes pained. “I don’t want to either! It makes me sick to even think that I might have to actually force her to do this but if she cannot do it then I will have no choice! Can you not see that?”

Megumi flinched then frowned. “Sometimes I wish I had never found that book. Then maybe you wouldn’t be tempted like this.”

Tomoe exhaled softly and started for the manor again. “I do too, but it was found and I have read it. I swear I will only use that spell if there is absolutely no other choice.”

Megumi grabbed her arm and pulled her to a stop. “Promise me you won’t use it until Takeda is on the very brink of breaking the seal.” The healer mage demanded. “Not a second before.”

Tomoe smiled hollowly to herself then dipped her head. “I promise, not a second before.”

Megumi seemed to be satisfied by that, because she released her arm and they closed the last several yards to the manor in silence. Tomoe saying no more but her mind was churning. What Megumi had failed to realize is that if she could do it, then so could Takeda. They weren’t even sure how the seal would be broken, nothing in the books had said anything about that. Just that Kaoru would be the key. There was too much of the unknown.

The back door of the manor suddenly slammed open drawing her attention and she watched in surprise as Ayame and Suzume came flying out, followed by their teenaged sitter Hitomi who was looking more harried than usual.

“Tomoe-sama!” Ayame screeched, as she shot towards the two of them at breakneck speed. Tomoe smiled as the young girl collided with her legs and wrapped her arms around them. It faltered though when Ayame turned wide concerned eyes up to her.

“Kaoru-neesan is weird today, is she okay?”

Tomoe bit back a sigh and dropped a soothing hand on the little girl’s head. “Yes. She just has a lot on her mind right now.”

For a moment Ayame eyed her as if she didn’t believe and then she smiled brightly. “Oh! Then it’s time to eat!”

Tomoe chuckled as the little girl released her legs and skipped back to Hitomi. For the moment that smile was enough to push back the darkness that had settled over the manor the last few days.

“Forgive me Yukishiro-sama.” Hitomi murmured as she came up to them with a wiggling Suzume in her arms. “Sagara-san sent them out to tell you that the midday meal has been set.”

Tomoe smiled and waved off her apology. “It’s fine. We’ll be there in a moment.”

Hitomi dipped a bow the best she could then gathered Ayame and headed for the manor.

“What I wouldn’t give to have their blind optimism right now.” Megumi said as they started for the door themselves.

Tomoe sighed softly. “Me too.”

They soon entered the back door of the manor and weaved their way through the halls to the small family dining area. The scent of udon grew stronger as they drew closer and Tomoe smiled. Sano had made Kaoru’s favorite. He must have sensed her growing desperation too, maybe this would help calm her down a little bit, at least for a little while.

Yet when they reached the dark paneled windowless room, the blue eyed apprentice mage was nowhere to be found. Tomoe was just about to turn around and go look for her when Aoshi spoke up from where he was seated beside Misao.

“Kamiya-san said she wasn’t hungry and has retired to her room.”

Sano scowled. “Not even for this!” he added grouchily as Megumi settled down beside him. Yet even though he was irritated Tomoe could hear the clear worry in the ex-fighter’s tone.

“She doesn’t look good, Tomoe-sama.” Misao noted with a frown. “Are you sure she has to do this?”

Tomoe settled down at the head of the table and was just about to answer when Hitomi came in with her freshly cleaned charges and she shook her head instead as Ayame and Suzume bounced into place. “Everything will be fine.”

“I hope you’re right.” Sayo murmured. “But I belie - “

The dark haired mage stopped mid-sentence and suddenly cried out, gripping her head as if she’d been struck violently by an invisible hand.

Startled, Tomoe dropped the chopsticks she had just picked up and reached out to her. “What - “

“He’s here!” Sayo exclaimed a moment later, her head still cradled in her hands. With wild eyes she grabbed Tomoe’s outstretched arm in a death grip. “They’re trying to break the shield!”

Tomoe’s blood turned to ice as the room suddenly exploded into activity and she stared at Sayo in horror.

“Can they?”


Kenshin tensed as two more blasts hit the shield simultaneously, one of lightning and one of fire so hot that it shimmered in the warm midday air. The mountain face wavered dangerously under the onslaught but still held, instantly resuming its solid illusion. And angry growl tore from Kanryuu’s throat.

“How are we supposed to get past this shield!?

The red-eyed mage Kanryuu had named Suzaku a couple of days ago turned to the black mage. “Its age has made it immune to direct attacks and the creator has put safeguards within the weave to keep my kind out.” A nasty grin slid across his pale lips. “However, they did not anticipate my regeneration and based this shield in fire. With help I will be able to bring it down.”

Kenshin frowned. With help?

But no sooner had the thought crossed his mind then a sharp, tear inducing pain tore through his left cheek and Kenshin felt the thing he’d been battling begin to move again. He inwardly groaned as the red eyed mage smiled knowingly and slowly began closing the distance between them. For the last three days since the thing had first made itself known, he’d been waging a continuous, mind-numbing war against the entity trying to take his body. And he was slowly losing.

The pain spiked suddenly and Kenshin clenched his teeth to keep from crying out and slapped a hand over the scaly mess his scar had become in a weak effort to stop the creature from taking hold. Not here. Not now! He wouldn’t succumb this time! Not this close to Kaoru!

An outside force slammed into the side of his head and Kenshin stumbled sideways and fell to the ground with a grunt of surprise. Another invisible strike came on the heels of the first and Kenshin absorbed the shock the best he could then nailed Suzaku with a deadly glare. “I won’t let it out here.” He grated between clenched teeth. The pain in his head was becoming unbearable.

The red eyed mage chuckled. “You shouldn’t waste your energy fighting him. In the end Ryujin will win and you will disappear.”

Kenshin went rigid. That was the first time either of them had given a name to the entity attempting to push him out. And one he had never expected to hear.

Another powerful hit caught him in the side of the head and he groaned as his hold slipped dangerously. But that was all the creature needed. With a triumphant roar that reverberated through his mind Ryujin wrested control of his body. A moment later the pain he’d felt in his head all but vanished and he found himself standing when the thought hadn‘t even crossed his mind.

With a growl of rage Kenshin shoved back against the entity with everything he had as the creature started moving him towards the shield. This was the first time he’d lost complete control like this! Ryujin growled angrily, the sound seeming to come from everywhere at once and he felt the god shove back just as hard but Kenshin could feel the tenuous hold the god had on his body. Something was still holding Ryujin back from pushing him out completely. That small shred of hope kept Kenshin fighting but in the end exhaustion forced him to give way allowing the god to remain in control. He had nothing left after fighting him almost non-stop for the last three days. Exhaustion had won the battle for Ryujin.

A handful of steps later they came up to stand beside Suzaku in front of the shield and Kenshin watched confused as Ryujin lifted his hands and placed them against the seemingly solid wall beside the other mage‘s. A tingle whispered over his fingertips at the contact and he winced as the pain in his cheek momentarily spiked. This pain he was familiar with, it had always been like this when he’d tried to cross. The more he attempted to push through, the worse the pain would become until it brought him to his knees. He had no idea what Ryujin thought he could do with this body. He himself had never been able to get in, so he couldn’t see how the god was going to either.

The question was soon answered though when a sudden flood of unexplained heat spilled through his body, the feeling so foreign that he gasped at the sense of euphoria it created. At first he didn’t understand what it was and then he noticed the shimmering white essence beginning to envelop his hands. Pressure similar to what he’d felt the day Suzaku and Kanryuu had taken him pressed against his shoulders and his knees bent under the unbearable weight. A faint scoff whispered through his mind and a moment later the pressure was gone as if it had never been. Out of the corner of his eye Kenshin noticed the same type of essence, only red, suddenly surround Suzaku’s hands and he finally realized just exactly what was happening.

“No!” Kenshin shouted renewing the fight against the creature invading his body. How was this even possible! He wasn’t mageborn!

But Ryujin ignored his weak attempts and turned his full attention to the power Kenshin could feel the god drawing into his body before forcing into the shield. The seemingly solid stone suddenly rippled like water and he and Suzaku’s hands began to glow even brighter. The rush of power spilling through his veins became almost more than he could stand.

Suddenly the mountain gave another liquid like shudder under the steady onslaught of magic and Suzaku immediately took advantage of the weakness. With one last well aimed pulse of power the shield gave way with a violent crack before it exploded into a million glittering pieces that rained down from the sky like falling stars, revealing the sunlit manor and its surrounding lands for the first time in two hundred years.


Within the manor the chaos that had erupted at Sayo’s warning was suddenly brought to an abrupt halt when every single mage let out an ear piercing scream and went to their knees where they stood. Their faces twisted in pain.

Stunned, Sano and Aoshi scrambled to assist Megumi and Misao while Sayo and Tomoe clung to each other for support as wave after wave of blinding pain rolled over them like a violent storm.

Alone in an upper hall of the manor, Kaoru curled into a ball on the floor, her teeth clenched against a groan, as the mind-numbing waves ruthlessly tore through her mind. The loud cracking sound had drawn her out of her room but she’d only managed a couple of steps past her door when the attack had come. Faintly she heard screams from somewhere down below and she absently wondered what was going on. A handful of moments later the torment finally subsided enough for her to push to her knees and she rubbed her still aching brow as she careful rose to her feet.

Her head spun sickeningly as she blindly reached for the wall to steady herself and waited for the last effects of the attack to finally melt away. It had to have been a backlash of some sort but of what she couldn‘t say what. There was no piece of magic in the manor that was that strong…

And then it all of a sudden hit her. The shield. It was the only thing it could be. Her stomach rolled at the thought and she half ran, half stumbled to one of the windows lining the hallway to confirm her fear and felt the blood drain from her face when saw the familiar shimmer she had known all her life was gone. Clear blue unbroken sky went on for as far as the eye could see.

An explosion suddenly rocked the window casing under hand and she jumped back and fled down the hall towards the stairs. Two more explosions followed on the heels of the first, rocking the hallway floor beneath her feet and she instinctively ducked as dust started raining down from the ceiling. A moment later she reached the set of stairs leading to the first floor and she flew down them as fast as she dared.

Another explosion rocked the manor violently and Kaoru stumbled on the last step and would have gone face first into the stone floor of the main entryway had Sano not been there to catch her.

“Whoa, jou-chan!” Sano said taking a step back to absorb the shock of her fall. “Slow down!”

Still in a panic Kaoru wrestled free of his arms as soon as he set her on her feet and was just about to demand what was going on when Tomoe and Megumi came into view behind Sano. The ashen hue to her teacher’s cheeks stopped the words dead in her throat though, and Kaoru felt true fear slide through her veins at the clear worry on her mentor’s face.

“Hitomi and the girls are safe down below.” Sayo said suddenly and Kaoru jumped as she swung her attention to the entryway that led further into the manor where Sayo, Aoshi and Misao were just coming in to join them. Her eyes widened when they fell on the dark haired master mage. Sayo looked even worse than Tomoe. Her ashen face was two shades lighter than her teacher’s and her hands were trembling slightly as if the act of walking was taxing her energy to the limit.

Nothing but silence came at Sayo’s comment and for a second Kaoru didn’t think Tomoe had heard and then she turned and nodded. It was then her teacher finally noticed she was standing beside Sano.

“It’s time, Kaoru.” Tomoe said as she closed the handful of feet separating them. Sano stepped away from her and walked to where Megumi now stood alone. “Kenshin is out there.”

Those four words made Kaoru’s blood run cold and she shook her head as her stomach twisted painfully. She cringed as another explosion came from somewhere off to her left, making the floor shudder under her feet.

“No… I can‘t…”

Tomoe’s face hardened. “You have to, Kaoru.” she admonished sharply, even as fear darkened her eyes. “They have come here for you and I don’t think we can stop them, not with Ryujin awakened within Kenshin. That‘s the only reason the shield fell!”

“No!” Kaoru shouted vehemently. But her refusal was drowned out by an ear-splitting crack and then front door of the manor suddenly imploded sending everyone within the entryway scrambling out of the way of the wooden shards. Kaoru ducked a large jagged chunk and slammed her back against the wall as Tomoe dove for the stairs. A heartbeat later Tomoe was back on her feet and with one last look to Kaoru ran out the shattered door with Megumi, Sano and the rest hot on her heels. All except Sayo who lay sprawled unconscious on the other side of the entryway. In a panic Kaoru hurried over to her and was relieved to find a weak pulse under her fingertip. Arranging the fallen mage more comfortably she steeled herself and followed the rest out the door.

But as soon as she crossed the threshold she had to fling herself against the outside wall to avoid a lightning bolt that had come arcing down from the clear blue sky to slam into the ground mere feet from the door. The courtyard beyond was pure chaos. More lightning bolts rained down with deadly accuracy, electrifying the very air itself. Directly in front of her Misao just barely dodged one of the strikes and awkwardly flung a fireball back at the black mage as Aoshi moved in with his kodochi. Kaoru moved to lend the pair a hand when a shout of agony suddenly came from her right, pulling her attention.

Sano lay on his back in the dusty courtyard with a smoking hole in his chest, the cloth of his shirt had been burned away and the skin beneath blackened. Megumi and Tomoe both stood over him facing the red eyed mage she’d seen with Kanryuu what seemed like forever ago. Icy fear slid through her veins when her eyes met his across the expanse and she shivered at the smile that crept across his lips.

However that momentary lapse of attention was all Tomoe seemed to have been waiting for because a moment later he was enveloped in a cocoon of fire so hot it had gone white. But like he had before the mage simply absorbed the fire without so much as a singed hair and returned the attack tenfold. Tomoe let out an ear piercing scream as a shimmering blaze wrapped around her, engulfing her from head to toe.

Any fear Kaoru may have felt upon seeing the strange mage evaporated under the intense anger that suddenly spilled through her veins.

With a growl of rage she shot towards the grinning mage as Megumi thrust her hands into the inferno and yanked Tomoe free. The spell Kaoru had learned just a couple of days ago came to life in her hand with barely a thought and she shot towards the mage fully intent on killing him. The mage’s grin disappeared when his eyes fell on the pulsing sphere in her hand. But she never got a chance to use it because in the next instant something slammed into her back, forcing her to the ground.

A grunt of pain tore from her throat as she hit the unforgiving earth and skidded across the dirt. A faint otherworldly rumbling sound came from somewhere behind her and she shivered as a tiny sliver of fear crawled up her spine. Slowly pushing to her feet she turned to face her attacker already knowing who she would see.

Even so, the knowledge didn’t stop her stomach from plummeting to her feet when her eyes fell on the redhead she had come to love standing on the other side of the courtyard. As she took in the familiar face she realized that although he looked like Kenshin, he wasn’t the man she loved right now. Even from here she could see his eyes still held the fierce golden hue. His expression one Kenshin would never wear.

Ryujin.

Kaoru began to tremble as he started walking towards her and she had to consciously stop herself from backing away. Her mind scrambling in panic. This wasn’t supposed to be happening now. She wasn’t ready for this!

But as he continued to slowly advance the hated weave burst to life in her hand of its own free will. Her stomach twisted painfully at the thought of using it and she had to clench her teeth to keep from getting sick. Someone suddenly moved behind her and she stiffened waiting for the red eyed mage to strike her down. A part of her almost wished he would and save her from having to face this.

However a moment later an angry howl came instead before Tomoe murmured, “Do it now, Kaoru…” barely loud enough for her to hear over the hammering of her heart.

Kaoru winced at her teacher’s soft pleading and shook her head, never taking her eyes off Kenshin. She noticed as he drew closer that his cheek had gone completely blue now, the scaly flesh shimmering slightly in the afternoon sun. Tears started to burn her eyes. She really was going to do this!

Kenshin’s advance suddenly came to an abrupt halt and then much to her surprise he stumbled backwards as if he’d been yanked by an invisible hand. Kaoru unthinkingly took a step towards him but stopped dead when a guttural growl cut through the quiet yard. Kenshin’s golden eyes seemed to blaze to life and with a glare that made Kaoru’s blood run cold he started forward again. But he’d only managed to take one step when he was wrenched backwards again, this time falling back several steps.

Kaoru cringed as a howl of rage that was most definitely not human tore from Kenshin’s throat before the red head simply vanished. A moment later a hand locked around her throat with a crushing grip, cutting her air off and her vision filled with fierce golden eyes. Fear and horror ripped through her.

Mine…” The creature inside Kenshin growled in a voice that seemed to come from nowhere and everywhere at once.

“Now Kaoru…”

The quiet request seemed to whisper directly into her ear and Kaoru started to raise the glowing sphere in her hand.

All of a sudden the grip on her throat stilled, then lessened and Kaoru’s hand stopped as the golden eyes trapping her attention suddenly flickered to the soft violet that she loved for a brief moment. Almost immediately the eyes shifted back to reptilian gold but not before she’d seen the look of determination hardening the violet depths. They flickered again a heartbeat later, the violet holding longer this time as the hand loosened even more.

Tears flooded Kaoru’s eyes blurring her vision. Kenshin was fighting the god with everything he had. The eyes flickered yet again and this time Kaoru saw something in them that she had been desperately hoping for but had never really believed possible.

Love.

More tears spilled from her eyes as she watched the fight for control continue unabated. She couldn’t attack him now. There had to be another way.

“Kaoru! Do it now!“

The weave in her hand pulsed as if it recognized the order and wished to obey.

“Tomoe! Stop it!”

An angry roar suddenly shook the ground beneath her feet and Kaoru inwardly gasped as the hand tightened around her neck again and then a needle of power pierced the center of her throat painfully. Almost immediately her world began to dim and her entire body went numb, the weave in her hand winked out as if it had never been. The hand around her throat suddenly let go and Kaoru dropped towards the ground like a lead weight but gentle hands caught her and cradled her before she could hit.

With what little bit of strength she still had she forced her eyes to focus on the ones watching her and smiled in relief at what she saw before she finally gave into the darkness.

Violet… and only violet. Steady and sure and focused on her.

Kenshin had won.


It was true, Kenshin had won… but only for the moment.

Within his mind Ryujin riled weakly against his consciousness, desperately trying to take hold again but Kenshin held him back as he cradled Kaoru in his lap. He had won but he had also lost. Just before Ryujin had given way the god had sent out some kind of attack that had taken down everyone in the yard that could have fought them off.

In the end it was Takeda and Suzaku who had won.

They now had Kaoru. And there was absolutely nothing he could do about it.


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