A Rurouni Kenshin/ On a Pale Horse Crossover

By Ashley Auld

* Disclaimer* All rights to the Rurouni Kenshin Characters are Watsuki-sama's, Jump Comics, etc.  All right to the character " Incarnations" Are property of Piers Anthony.  There are references made to his book " On a Pale Horse." But you do not need to have read the book to understand what is happening. =) This is only a little fanfic by a crazed Kenshin fan, I'm a poor college art student, and not even worth suing!  Enjoy!

Authors Note-
 Well, I came up with this fic when I still believed Kaoru was dead.  But I liked the idea of it so much that I decided to keep on writing it. (Even though it's been established that, yes… she IS alive)  Consider this a "what if this happened" fic.  Kind of like an alternative where Enishi does actually kill her.   I know, it sounds awful, but believe me; this ISN'T going to be depressing! I'm determined to make it happy!  And to appease all those Kenshin and Kaoru fans out there…well… >=)

 A little pre-fanfic know-how about "On a Pale Horse."

The incarnations mentioned in this fic are taken from " On a Pale Horse."  In Piers Anthony's book, he takes these aspects of life and creates people for them-- much like we imagine there being a "Father Time," and a "Mother Nature."  Here, I will be making references to human incarnations of " Death," "Fate," "Time," and "Nature." ( so far-- I don't know what other ones I shall bring in from his book yet.)
  Oh-- Death also rides a horse, Mortus, which can also conveniently be a car (limo), boat, etc.  Whatever Death might need as a mode of transportation in the moment.

CHAPTER 18- Wedding Celebrations and Unexpected Visitations
  First of all-- I would like to give a great big huge Arigato Gozaimasu to Amy for ALL her great help in tracking down info on Meiji Era weddings!! ::grovels at her feet:: Ok-- THIS one is for Amy! ^_~ And it's EXTRA long too to make up for the fact I'll be gone and unable to write during Christmas break. ^_^;;

            I'll try and keep this short.  Basically in the Meiji Era it was not unseemly to have a marriage that was NOT arranged-- (in some regions it was, but not Tokyo).  So Sano and Megumi getting married of their own decision is just fine.  And they don't really use a priest or monk or anything from what I've found to conduct the ceremony.  The best friend of the groom (in this case Kenshin) acts as a "go-between." He conducts the ceremony, and the party afterward is held at his house (Kamiya Dojo).  In return for all this, the groom is supposed to give the "go-between" a bunch of food and presents and $$$. ( Sano give KENSHIN money? ^_^;; This will be an interesting chapter!

Ok-- enough of that... on to the story!~~~~

 The sun had long set behind the hills.  And Kenshin and Kaoru lay together in the cool grass.  The night was a velvety black due to the new moon, and they had a clear view of the stars, which shone brightly between the tree branches.  But they weren't watching the stars… Kaoru's head rested comfortably on Kenshin's shoulder. His arm wrapped around her protectively.  She lay silently, listening to the story that Kenshin had once told her before not too long before her death.
 "… She jumped in front of me, trying to protect me with her tanto…" He whispered into the night.  " I didn't sense it until it was too late."
 Kaoru blinked back tears.  " Tomoe-san…"
 " I killed her, right there.  And at the same time, with that same slash, I killed the man who'd kidnapped her.  She died in my arms, with a smile on her face… there was nothing I could do to save her."
 Kaoru closed her eyes and shifted her weight, bringing herself closer to Kenshin's body.  Kenshin tightened his grip on her.
 " So--" Kaoru said slowly.  " Enishi saw you…"
 " Hai."
 " And, vowed to exact revenge for what you'd done."
 " Hai."
 " And-- that revenge…"
 " Hai-- he killed you."
 Kaoru closed her eyes.  Kenshin felt her thin frame shaking and he sat up suddenly. " Kaoru-dono?"
 Kaoru looked up at him.  But she wasn’t crying… she was angry.
 " He-- he killed me in order to hurt you…"
 Kenshin nodded solemnly.
 " But-- you DIDN'T mean to kill Tomoe-san. She JUMPED in front of you!"
 " He didn't see that."
 " Don’t make excuses for him." She clenched her fists.  " There's no excuse for what he's done."  She began to stand but felt Kenshin's strong arms wrap around her and pull her back.
 " Kaoru-dono. What are you thinking?"
 She resisted his hold. " Let go of me. I’m going to find him!"
 " Don't-- if he knows that I'm still alive and… happy-- he will not be satisfied with his jinchuu."
 " You're going to let him get AWAY with this?"
 "…" Kenshin let go of her and sat back.  " I don't want to make any more trouble for anyone."
" Kenshin…"
He shook his head.  " I thought that I'd failed you-- I thought that everything I'd been working for over these past 10 years has been for nothing.  But when you came back to me…" He smiled as he traced along her cheek with his fingers. " … When you came back to me, I wanted to live again. Please, leave Enishi alone-- he's been through enough pain… if thinking he destroyed my life makes him happy- let's continue to let him think that. And he'll be happy."
" Kenshin…"
" I don't want to bring any more danger to those that I love.  All my life I've been asking for forgiveness.  Asking for forgiveness for all the crimes that I've committed.  And you gave it to me… of all people to give it to me…it was you.  That's all that matters to me.  I can be happy, and content with your forgiveness.  With it, you made me decide to put behind my bloody past."
" Kenshin…"
 He put a finger to her lips, silencing her protest and continued. " You made me see the importance in myself… you brought back that shining light in my life that had been burned out ever since that winter day ten years ago…Kaoru-dono, you're the most important person in my life."
 Kaoru sat in awe.  He brought his arms around her and hugged her to him tightly.  She returned his embrace.
 " Kenshin." She snuggled into him.  " Aishiteru."
 " Aishiteru, Kaoru."
 Kaoru's heart skipped a beat.  No honorific… her embrace tightened.  She wanted to stay like they were forever.  She loved him so much.  She was breaking the rules-- but right now… she would brave anything to be with him like she was right now… even Hell.
 " We've been out here for a long time." Kenshin finally said.  " Shall we return to he dojo? There's going to be a lot happening tomorrow."
 Kaoru wordlessly nodded as they rose and walked hand in hand towards the dojo.
 " Can you see alright?" Kenshin asked her.
 " I can see fine." She said with a smile.  " And you?"
 " Daijobu." He said, then promptly tripped over a root and fell face flat on the ground. " Orooo…"
 " Haha! Liar." Kaoru joked as she helped him up.  " Now you've got leaves in your hair…" She reached up to pick some out, peering at him closely to see in the darkness.  Kenshin took no time to steal a kiss from her lips when her face was so close to his. Kaoru blinked startled for a moment, his smile was so gentle, and his eyes looked at her with such love. She smiled as she took him by the hand again. " Sneaky too." She grinned playfully.
 " Oro?"
 " I'm leading this time-- so watch your step!"

  They walked a little ways and Kenshin, even by only holding her hand, could tell her body was shaking.
 " Kaoru? Are you ok?"
 " Hai. I'm fine-- just tired."
 " Are you sure? You're shaking."
 " I'll be fine!" She said it with more emphasis to quickly make Kenshin shut up. It worked for a little bit, then he noticed she was dragging her feet.
 " Kaoru … shall I carry you? You're really tired."
 " I'm FINE--" As she said this, her mind went spinning.  She felt herself falling.
 " KAORU!" Kenshin caught her before she hit the ground. " Kaoru! Are you ok?"
 Kaoru shook her head.  " Eh?" She felt herself being hoisted up into his arms. "I'm sorry-- maybe I worked myself too hard today." She said drowsily.
 " Are you sure? Can I take you to see Megumi-dono?" He looked down at her nervously.  Kaoru shook her head stubbornly, which only made the spinning worse.
 " No-- are you kidding? It's Megumi-san's wedding tomorrow!  She needs to get her sleep tonight of all nights."
 " But--"
 Kaoru wrapped her arms around him and planted a kiss on his cheek. " I'm fine.  Really."

 " A--Aaa…"
 From the sound of his voice, he wasn't convinced.  But he apparently agreed with her that waking up Megumi was not a good idea, considering what day it was tomorrow.

 Kaoru stood with Kenshin in the forest as she had the night before.  The bright moon illuminated both of them.  Kenshin held up the ring that he'd bought for her.
 " Marry me, Kaoru."
 Kaoru smiled and held out her finger.  " I will."
 He slipped the ring on.  But a sudden burning pain engulfed the finger it went on. It was as if the ring was a branding iron. She screamed and tried to wrench the ring off her finger. Kenshin fell back in shock.
 " Kaoru-dono, what's wrong?! Kaoru-dono… you're wings!"
 Kaoru looked over her shoulder, even in the pale moonlight you could see that they were pitch black.  Dark feathers whirled around her, caught in the wind currents.
 " K-Kenshin…." She looked back at him in horror and then the ground below her suddenly opened. She was falling.  She tried to fly but her wings just added to the weight and made her fall faster.
 " KENSHIN!!!!!!"
 Kaoru awoke with a start.  She sat up in her bed quickly and looked around her; she was in the dojo. Misao was fast asleep in her own futon at the far side of the room, unaware of Kaoru's sudden and violent awakening. Kaoru lay back down nervously; she wondered how she'd got there.
 " I must have fallen asleep in his arms…" She quickly looked at her ring finger.  The ring was there… but it didn't burn at all.  Then she checked her wings.  She was alarmed to see more feathers littering her bed.  Her wings were white-- but the loose feathers weren't. Kaoru felt a scream rising in her throat as she examined the feathers.
 " No-- it's just the darkness!" She mumbled to herself.  She quickly jumped out of bed and ran outside. But there was no moon to shed any light.  She dropped the feather, panic grabbing her. The darkness… so much darkness…
 " K-Kenshin…" She mumbled as she backed away from the courtyard.  The darkness was closing in on her. She hugged herself and sank to her knees in the doorway. Suddenly feeling incredibly vulnerable.
 " Kaoru?!"
 Her eyes shot open as she heard Kenshin's voice.  It was so sweet without the -dono added. She looked up at him with tear streaked cheeks.
 " I heard the door opening and someone crying.  Are you ok!?"
 "Kenshin!" She launched herself at him.
 " Oro?! Kaoru what's wrong?"
 She clutched at his nighttime Kimono violently, and cried.
 " I'm scared-- Kenshin…"
 Kenshin quickly kneeled and put his arms around her.
 " What happened? Are you ok?"
 Kaoru didn’t answer him; she just shook her head and cried harder. " I'm scared-- it's so dark!"
 " Shhh…" He rocked her gently as if she was a baby.
" It's so dark…" she muttered over and over until the rocking motioned calmed her shaken nerves. She felt safe in his arms.  The darkness couldn't get to her when she was with him.
 " Don't leave me again--" she whispered.
 " I won't. I’m right here."
 " I don't want to be apart from you…" She knew that she couldn't bear not being in his arms right now.  Her nightmare still lingered in her thoughts.  " Let me sleep with you tonight."
 Kenshin didn't say a word; he gathered her up in his arms and brought her into his room. He set her on the futon and slid into bed next to her, covering both of them with the thin summer blanket.  Kaoru snuggled closer to him, resting her head on his chest.  She could hear his heart beating.  It was a little fast.  She smiled to herself as she could tell that he was nervous.
 Soon, the beat slowed to normal and she felt her eyelids drooping.  The visions of her nightmare left her in his protective presence.  There was nothing to fear with him there.  Everything would be ok.  He was all she needed.  She closed her eyes and allowed sleep to take her again.

 The next morning Kaoru and Kenshin both awoke to the sound of loud footsteps outside the door.  It was violently yanked open with a bang by Sano. He marched in and leaned over Kenshin.
 " KENSHIN! I come here hoping to see EVERYTHING ready for the ceremony and the party-- and the yard is STILL filled with debris!"
 " Oro…" Kenshin blinked startled, momentarily blinded by the light that streamed into the door.  Kaoru looked up from her head's resting place on his chest annoyed.  She realized that Sano had no idea she was sleeping with Kenshin.
 " S-Sano…" Kenshin's face reddened as he remembered WHO was sleeping next to him.  Kaoru felt his grip around her waist tighten with embarrassment. " Oro… I will right away Sano-- sessha…"
 " So THERE'S the lazy--" Yahiko walked up to the door and froze, his eyes popped almost from his sockets as he saw Kaoru lying there, her white Kimono practically falling off as she was draped over Kenshin in such a passionate way.
 " What's wrong? Oi?" Sano looked at the dumbstruck boy and curiously walked over to him. " Yahiko?" He passed his hands over Yahiko's eyes several times but Yahiko didn't flinch.
 Kenshin's face was bright and red as a cherry. " Ano-- Sano…"
 " Nani?"
 " K-K-Kaoru…is…" Yahiko pointed nervously.  Kaoru noticed that he was embarrassed.  She suddenly felt incredibly bold and mischievous.  She snickered at him and ran her hands over Kenshin's chest, then followed by rubbing herself up against him seductively, exposing even MORE skin.
" ORO?!"
Yahiko's eyes popped even more, " Sh-She's…and…K-K-K--Ken…Sh-sh-shin…is…" For some reason, he was having a very difficult time speaking.
Sano blinked and took a better look.  Sure enough-- there was a second 'bulge' in the sheets next to Kenshin, as if something or-- someONE was lying next to him. He quickly covered the boy's eyes.
 " Oh wow-- I'm sorry Jo-chan!! Ummm… I didn’t know-- I had NO idea… umm…" He swallowed hard and looked away, even though he couldn't see her. " Are you decent? I'm sorry-- ummm…oh gods…"
 Kaoru snickered. " No Sano-- I'm completely naked."
 " ORO?!"
 " Kenshin is too-- under the covers…"
 " ORO?!"
 " GOMEN!" Sano backed away out of the doorway with Yahiko, bumping into the frame in the process. " Oh! Sorry--  Umm-- I'll… just go… now--"
 " GRRR-- GET YOUR HANDS OFF ME SANOSUKE!" Yahiko struggled but it was in vain. " SHE'S LYING! SHE'S--"
 " YAHIKO!" Kaoru said quickly. " I've finally decided what you can do for me to get rid of the cloud."
 Yahiko stopped his struggle and allowed Sano to keep his hands to his eyes. "What?"
 " You can go and clean up the rest of the debris."
 " NANI?! BUT--"
 " Come on Yahiko-- DON'T piss Jo-chan off…" Sano quickly shut the door with a hasty bow. " Gomen- Jo-chan…. Don't curse me or anything… please!" They could hear their arguing slowly fade as they walked away. Kaoru rolled over laughing hysterically.
 " Ha ha! I TOTALLY embarrassed Sanosuke! Ha!"
 " Kaoru…"
 She wiped a tear from her eye and looked up at him. " Yes?"
 Kenshin kissed her on the forehead. " Ohayou."

 Kaoru had managed to get Kenshin out of his chores, but there were still things to be done for the wedding, which was to take place at noon. Yahiko and Sano had cleared all the debris in record time.  Sano sat stiffly with Kenshin on the steps of the dojo. It was an hour before Megumi would arrive with Kaoru and her other bride's maids to start the ceremony.
 " Kenshin… do you think I should wear the headband, or take it off? What do you think?"
 " Oro? You look fine with it on."
 " And what about this Jacket-- do you think it looks weird on me? And I don't feel right without the bandages--and…'
 " Sano--"
 " Yeah?"
 " Calm down."
 Sano ran a nervous hand through his hair.  " Damn it-- Kenshin… I'm trying to be cool about this-- but… but…ARGH! I can't help it… I NEVER thought about marriage until now…"
 " Just know that if you chicken out-- Megumi-dono will never forgive you."
 Sano gave him a dirty look. " I WON'T chicken out--"
 Kenshin folded his arms.  " Hai hai… just wait-- you'll see when you two exchange the cup…"
 " I almost fainted dead away at my wedding." Kenshin laughed at the memory.
 Sano grew a few shades paler.
 " All you have to do-- is think about how much pain you'll receive if you chicken out, that will keep you standing."
 They both turned to hear a familiar genki voice from the side of the dojo.  Kenshin jumped up and ran to the entrance to see Okina, along with the four other Oniwa Banshuu looking around, hot and tired and laden with packages and presents.
 "O-Okina-dono!!" Kenshin said amazed. " What are you doing in Tokyo!?"
 " Ah!" Okina looked around. " There's no party?"
 " It doesn't start until noon." Sano said completely dumb struck." What are you doing here?"
 " We came to greet the happy newlyweds of course! Here- this is for you!" He promptly dumped several packages into Sano's hands.  " Now, where's the sake??"
 " Oro-- Tae-dono isn't here yet… Yahiko is helping her bring all the food here after the ceremony." Kenshin said.
 " How did you know I was marrying Megumi today?" Sano peeked over the giant pile of presents utterly confused.
 " My pretty Misao-chan told me! We left for here as SOON as we heard the news!" Okina gave an overly genki cackle that sent a shiver up both Kenshin and Sanosuke's spines.
 " Oro-- well, you all must be hot and ready for a bath.  I'll go prepare one right away.  Okon-dono, Omasu-dono, I suppose you can stay in Kaoru-dono's room with Misao-dono."
 " Domo." Okon and Omasu bowed together; they left a flustered Sano with the cackling Okina and the other two men and began to walk towards the building quietly.  Finally, Omasu's voice broke the silence. " Ano…"
 " Oro?" Kenshin looked back at them.
 Omasu looked at Okon nervously, then back at Kenshin. " Himura-san… I'm sorry… about Kaoru-chan…"
 Kenshin froze, that was right…they had no idea of Kaoru's presence there.  And no idea of how happy he was at that moment.  It occurred to him that Tae-dono, Tsubame-dono, Ayame-chan and Suzume-chan, and Genzai-sensei had no idea as well… he had to pretend. He smiled back at them and continued walking.
 " Thank you."
 " Himura-san. We're happy to hear that you're ok now-- but if you ever need a person to talk too… well--"Okon smiled at him " You know that we're here for you."
 " H-Hai… I'll remember."

 Megumi arrived at the appointed time with her bridal party, consisting of Kaoru (unseen to all but the original six), Misao, Ayame-chan, and Suzume chan.
 " Wai! Wai!" Ayame and Suzume-chan danced around in their pretty new Kimono's.
 " Now now-- calm down." Genzai laughed as the two little girls ran over and clamped onto Kenshin.
 " Ken-ni! Is it true Megumi-oneesan is getting married?!" Ayame asked.
 " Will she have lots of babies?" Suzume asked him.
 " Ha ha… yes, she's getting married-- and yes, Megumi-dono will have a baby." Kenshin smiled down at the two girls.
 " Himura." Misao looked around. " Where's Yahiko?"
 " Ohh- Yahiko should be arriving any minute with Tae-dono and Tsubame-chan.  They're bringing all the food for the party afterwards."
 " Ahh--"
 A chillingly familiar voice piped up behind her, making her jump. " MISAO-CHAN!!"
 Misao hardly had to time to whirl around to make sure she wasn't hearing things when she felt herself get scooped up into Okina's arms.
 " ACK! J-J-JIIYA!? What are YOU doing-- Erk… here…" She gasped for breath at his tight embrace.
 " Why-- To join in the festivities of course! HEE HEE HEE…" He went into another fit of cackling.  Kenshin exchanged tired looks with Sano.
 Aoshi stood away from the group, he watched Misao's happy (but painful) reunion with Okina.  Omasu and Okon and the other two Oniwa Banshuu joined in the greeting. Sano walked over to Aoshi and slapped him on the back with a grin.
 " Aren't you going to join in the group hug?" He asked him.
 " …" Aoshi gave him one of those 'touch me again and die' looks.  Then put his hands in his pockets and walked over to the group.
 " Aoshi!" Okina's face brightened as he let Misao go. She wavered a little bit and Omasu caught her before she fell over from lack of oxygen.
 " Okashira." Aoshi said in acknowledgement.  Even though Misao was technically the new leader of the Oniwa Banshuu, Aoshi still felt the need to address Okina by his former name.
 " I hope you've been taking care of my pretty Misao-chan." He looked at Aoshi carefully.  " She's a little thinner then when she left…"
 " Well, she's been through some rough times."
 Okina nodded in understanding," True true… well, this is no time to be melancholy… it's time for a PARTY!"
 " Sorry we're late!" Yahiko's voice carried over to the group as he marched into the dojo with several trays of food piled high, followed by Tsubame and Tae who were similarly laden with goodies.
 " Ok-- where do I put this? My arms are tired!" The pile of food trays and boxes that were stacked up to above his head muffled Yahiko's voice.
 " You certainly have a feast here." Tae commented.
 " Oro… let me help you with that Tae-dono." Kenshin managed to pry the two little girls off of his Gi and took half of Tae's burden.
 " I'll help you with that Tsubame-chan." Sano walked over to the little girl who was visibly buckling under all the weight that she was carrying.
 " P-Please do… Sanosuke-san." Her small voice was strained.  He easily lifted the food and she quickly went and sat on the porch with a sigh of relief.
 Sano, Kenshin, Tae, and Yahiko all sorted the food out on the low table in the dining room and went back outside where the rest of the gathering was.
 Megumi, up to this time had hung back from the group next to Kaoru.
 " Are you nervous, Megumi-san?" Kaoru asked her.
 Megumi was fidgeting with her sleeve, apparently lost in another world.
 " Megumi-san?"
 " Oh! Heh-- nervous? Oh no…" She vigorously shook her head to emphasize but Kaoru folded her arms and snickered.
 " Megumi-san, you always fidget with your sleeves when you're nervous."
 Megumi noticed this and quickly put her hands behind her back.  She sighed heavily. " How can I not be nervous? Ohh-- I've wanted this for a long long time, but now that it's finally happening, It's just unbelievable."
 Kaoru said nothing, but nodded her head in agreement.  She looked over at Kenshin who was busily setting up the food for the party after the ceremony.
 " It would be wonderful if Kenshin and I…" she thought to herself, then put her hands to her cheeks and blushed. " If we could have a wedding ceremony like this-- we would throw such a great party afterwards… all the neighbors would join in… and then that night we would…" She laughed out loud, blushing even deeper.
 Megumi looked at her with a sweatdrop. " What are you thinking?"
 " Eh?!" Kaoru broke out of her daydream and looked up at Megumi surprised.  Megumi gave her a catty smile.
" Oh! N-Nothing…" Kaoru stammered.
 " Hmmm…sure…" She snickered and began to walk over towards Sano.  Kaoru stamped her foot angrily.
 " What's THAT supposed to mean!? Mou!" She stalked over towards the rest of the group.
 She walked over next to Misao and the group instantly quieted.  Megumi stood next to Sanosuke under some of the Cherry blossom trees, all decorated with lanterns and streamers.  It appeared the ceremony was going to begin.
 The ceremony wasn't very long; the last part was always the best to watch.  Kenshin acted as "go-between " and presented the engaged couple with the three meoto sakazuki cups filled with Sake.  Megumi and Sano each took three sips from the three cups. A cheer from the crowd erupted at the end of this ceremony and the partying began.

 " ORO?!"
 " Ken-nii! Play with us!!"
 " ORO?!"
 " Himura!!!!" Misao called to him.  " THERE'S NO MORE UNAGI!"
 " ORO?!"
 Kenshin ran from one end of the dojo to the other several times.  Kaoru giggled as she watched him from her seat on the porch of the dojo.
 The neighbors all heard the partying and invited themselves over to share in the festivities, bringing food and more sake.  By mid-day the party was in full swing.
 " Oi.. Kenshin…" Sano slapped his friend on the back hard, making Kenshin almost take a face dive.
 " Oro, H-Hai Sano?"
 " I know I'm supposed to give you a bunch of money and food-- for being go-between and all… but… seeing as I lost all the money I'd been working for gambling, can you just put it on my tab? What do you say?"
 " Heh heh-- " Kenshin laughed nervously as Sano swayed a little bit on his feet and put up his hands. " No problem Sano…"
 " THAT'S my best buddy!" He slapped him across the back again, this time Kenshin did fall flat on his face.
 " ORO!"
 Kaoru looked at Sano discusted. " If you EVER want to see me Sano, you'd better stop drinking and gambling! That's what death said!"
 " Who'd want to see you any ways?" Sano muttered, this followed by a flash of lightning and a black cloud suddenly loomed over his head.
 " SOBER UP!" Kaoru screeched as the cloud began to torrent down.  The partygoers all awed at the sight, thinking it was some kind of trick.  Sano tried to run away from the cloud but it followed him wherever he went.

 Meanwhile, across the yard…
 " Tsubameee…" Yahiko slurred.  He grinned at her drunkenly. Tsubame blinked back startled.
 " Ohh-- hai? Yahiko-kun?"
 " Did you know that-- ACK!"  He looked up as someone had grabbed him by the ear and was leading him away from Tsubame.  It was Megumi. She'd changed from her wedding Kimono into a light blue Kimono with white and yellow cranes.  Her Obi was an expensive dark blue with a flower pattern embroidered in white.
" Oi! Megumi-san!!  LET GO OF ME!! #%@$%&!" He went into a torrent of some of Sano's more colorful vocabulary.
 " Don't be vulger, I'm saving you from  future embarassment." Megumi said hotly. "Don't talk to girls you like when you're drunk."
 " WHAT!? I 'AIN'T DRUNK!" He bellowed.
 Aoshi stood away from the group.  He was probably the only one, besides Megumi, and the two children (and Kaoru of course) that hadn't touched any sake. He watched Misao from the distance out of the corner of his eye as she sat in the shade of the tree with Okon and chatted, apparently about all the adventures that she'd shared with the Kenshin-Gumi since Kaoru's death. Omasu snuck up behind Aoshi and whispered in his ear.
 " Doesn't Misao look beautiful in her Kimono?"
 " … " Aoshi said nothing for a long time, then finally opened his mouth as if to reply when Jiiya tackled Misao and they started to wrestle.
 " Oh my…" Omasu said as they watched the two rolling around in the dust.  Misao biting on his leg one moment and he pulling her braid the next. " Heh-- I guess Misao-chan's a tomboy at heart…" She giggled. Aoshi still said nothing.

 A few more hours passed.  Kenshin finally got a free moment to take a rest, he sat with his back against a tree and sighed.  Kaoru walked over and sat next to him.
 " Everyone's having so much fun!" She commented with a happy sigh.
 " Yeah… it's quite a party."
 They were both silent. Finally, Kenshin spoke.
 " Kaoru?"
 " Hai?"
 " Umm-- how do you feel today?"
 " Oh-- ok, I guess… I still feel weak like last night." She passed hand over her forehead.  " But I can't let it bother me now."
 " So, you still feel sick?"
 " Well--" She glanced at her wings nervously, a stray feather floated down and she picked it up, it was dark grey. " I just don't know what's going on-- but…" She bit her lip. " Maybe this is my punishment for breaking the rules…" She thought to herself.
 " Kaoru-dono, what's wrong with your feathers?" Kenshin sat up alarmed.
 " Oh-- it's… nothing…" She hid the feather behind her back and smiled at him nervously. Kenshin looked at her crossly.
 " Promise me that you'll talk to Megumi-dono after the party."
 " But--" She was about to protest. What could Megumi do for her? She was an angel; Megumi certainly couldn't examine her.
 " Kaoru… promise me."
 " Oh ok… I promise."  At this point she would do anything to silence him.  If she told Kenshin about rule number three now; then he would distance himself from her… he wouldn't want her to get into trouble.  But, she didn't want to be apart from him.  That was something that she wouldn't be able to take.  She quickly changed the subject. "Don't you wish we could have a party like this?"
 " …Yeah."
 Kaoru jumped back as Tae practically walked through her and kneeled next to Kenshin.
 " Oro?"
 Tae squinted down at him determined. " Himura-san… what are you doing sitting down all by yourself?"
 " Oro? Well-- I was taking a break."
 " You looked DEPRESSED to me!" She made a fist.
 " Me? Oh--" He gave her a weak smile and held up both hands. " I’m not depressed, really."
 " Himura-san, you listen to me…" She grabbed him by the Gi and shook him.  " Even if Kaoru-san isn't around anymore… I don’t want to see you depressed! You have Yahiko to watch over now! So don’t go wandering around anymore!"
 " Oro?! Tae-dono…sessha…"
 Kaoru smiled and walked away from Kenshin who was desperately trying to appease a very self righteous Tae who had had a little bit too much to drink.  She was apparently dumping all her worries onto him. Tae's voice slowly faded as she walked farther away.
 " And you NEVER visit the restaurant anymore! If it's money that you're worried about it's ok-- I'll let you eat for free considering the circumstances.  And do you realize…"
 " Poor Kenshin, maybe I should show myself to Tae… I didn't know she was so concerned about him. It would certainly make her happier.  Tsubame-chan too." Kaoru thought.  She absent-mindedly walked through the crowd.  A cry interrupted her thoughts and Kaoru whirled around.  It had come from the main dojo entrance.  She hurried over to see a tall man with a sword slung over his shoulder.  He had lifted a young child off the ground with one hand and shook him. The child cried.
 " What's going on here!?" The stranger demanded.
 " W-Wedding… party!" The child cried.
 " Oi-- What are you doing to my son?!" One of the neighbors cried. A man rushed forth but stopped at the look the tall stranger gave him.
 " Tell me..." The stranger eyed the child's father.  " Who's wedding…"
Kaoru gasped.  She'd SEEN him before somewhere, it was like deja-vu.  He peered at the father over small round glasses.  His hair was a brilliant white and it stuck up in all different directions.
" Answer me…And I'll put the boy down." He said cooly.
 " It's Sagara Sanosuke's and Takani Megumi's wedding sir." He said hastily.
 The stranger gave no reaction; he slowly lowered the crying child to the ground.  The child's mother grabbed the boy up and dashed out of the dojo.
 " Oi! What's going on here!?" Sano cried as he pushed his way towards the front of the crowd. The cloud gone from his head but he was still a little waterlogged.
 " Sanosuke-san…" Misao said nervously, she pushed her way towards him.  "This guy with the glasses and the blue cape was demanding who was being married here today."
 " Nani?" Sano turned towards the dojo entrance.  It was easy for him to see over all the heads of the crowd.  He froze at the sight of the swordsman.  " Masaka…"
 " Sanosuke? Do you know him?!"
 Sano didn't answer, he just pushed past her, he bellowed out angrily.
 " That's ENISHI?!" Misao cried.  She quickly followed after him.
 Sano pushed his way through the crowd until he was standing face to face with the tall gangster.  Enishi eyed Sano with a wide grin set across his face.
 " What do you want here?"
 Enishi pushed his glasses higher up on the ridge of his nose.  " What's wrong with coming here? I've only come to join in the celebration."
 " What are you REALLY here for?"
 " Well-- to be honest with you I'm a little concerned, because I got a disturbing report from one of my associates."
 " You mean one of your henchmen."
 " Whatever you choose to call them."
 " So…"
 " Battousai is living here again… is that correct? I would like to see him."
 Sano's face was hard set.  He clenched his fists. " Kenshin's not here. I'll have to ask you to leave."
 " Maybe you didn't hear me correctly the first time… I said--" And he drew forth something that struggled from within the folds of his cape. " WHERE IS THE BATTOUSAI!?!"
 Sano recoiled at the sight of the struggling person that Enishi held in his tight grip…
 " Tsubame-chan…"
 " Now that I have your full attention." Enishi gave a maniacal grin and put a knife to Tsubame-chan's throat.  " You'll tell me what I want to know."