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 24- Shutting Away the Light

 " Kaoru…" Kenshin thought.  " Hold on a little longer! I'll really save you this time."
 " Kenshin?" Kaoru blinked startled.  As if sensing somehow that he was nearby.  She looked cautiously around the courtroom but then quickly dismissed it. " Baka--" she thought. " How would he make it here?  It's impossible… Oh-- Kenshin." She sighed and looked down at her hands, folded in her lap.  Where was Death? He'd told her he'd look out for her-- but where was he now?
 " Is there anything else you have to tell us, Yukishiro-san?" The Archangel looked down on Tomoe from his podium.  Tomoe shook her head sadly; she stole a glance at Kaoru, who seemed to be lost in her own thoughts.
 " No… That's all I know, really."
 " So-- she begged you to come to earth and save her lover." The archangel shook his head. " And, why did you decide to come?"
 " Well, he would have been killed! I didn't want that." Tomoe said innocently.
 " Even when you knew it was against the law here!" The Archangel threw her an icy look.  Tomoe looked back at him, you couldn't tell by her face whether she was annoyed by his questions, or just didn't care.
 " The fact was, Kaoru-san is my friend, and I didn't want her to be sad.  When your friend is crying in front of you, wanting your help--- wouldn't you help them?"
 The Archangel blinked back, a little startled and then angrily shook his head. " No changing the subject! You're dismissed."
 Tomoe got up and left her chair at the front of the room.  Kaoru gave her a weak smile.  Tomoe nodded her head slightly in acknowledgement as she crossed the room and took her seat.
 " So-- the facts are clear." The Archangel stated to the jury.  " Kamiya Kaoru-san broke one of the cardinal rules of a Guardian Angel, falling in love with her client and…engaged in…umm… intimate physical contact with him…"
 Kaoru rolled her eyes at that.
 " Then, brought an unauthorized soul from the Heavenly Realm down to earth, interfering in the Fates of two humans who were fighting and creating utter chaos up here in the process…"
 " Kenshin would have died if I hadn't!" Kaoru couldn't help but yell out.
 " You're out of order!" The angel glared at her.  Kaoru sat back silently, fighting down her anger. She clenched her fists tightly.
 " I don't think there's anything else we have to hear-- so I'll--"
 "-- I think there's one, very important person that we're forgetting who's had probably the largest hand in this." A deep voice boomed throughout the hall.  Kaoru turned around startled and saw Death standing at the doorway.
 " Thanatos! What are you doing here?" The Archangel interrupted.  " This is not an affair open for Incarnations!" He stood up; the entire room instantly erupted in murmuring.
Thanatos cocked his skull at him angrily.  " I don't think that the jury can make their decision, without first hearing from the very man who has stolen our lovely Angel's heart." Thanatos sounded as though he were talking through clenched teeth.  Kaoru's eyes popped open wide as Kenshin entered the room.  The noise level heightened considerably upon his entrance.
 " KENSHIN!" Kaoru cried astounded. Kenshin's eyes instantly found her at the front of the room.  She was seated in between two very tall, imposing looking angels.
 " ORDER! ORDER!" The Archangel boomed.  The room fell silent again.  He turned towards the newcomers as they made their way down the aisle to the front of the room.  " Thanatos, what do you think you're doing? Bringing a mortal here! This is completely unap--"
 "-- But not against the rules… as long as he's here under my authority." Thanatos countered before the Archangel could object.  " Geez… Gabriel, you certainly are a stickler for rules and regulations.  You need to lighten up."
 The archangel was taken aback, there were a few chuckles in the crowd that were instantly silenced as he threw another ugly look.
 " That's exactly what we're here to talk about." Kenshin added. " Rules and regulations…"
 " Kenshin…" Kaoru mumbled.  It was obvious that Thanatos had brought him-- but she'd never imagined that he'd come all this way… all the way to Purgatory just for her.  Her heart warmed at the thought, but at the same time she couldn't shake this incredible sense of doom that was approaching.  Would he be able to convince the court to let her go?
 Kenshin looked over and smiled at her.  That smile brought a wave of hope to wash away all the doubt, which had been plaguing her.  Yes, Kenshin would protect her, at any cost.
  Thanatos face the Archangel sternly.  " You have to listen to him, because you can't deny that he's involved in all of this."
The Archangel looked just slightly peeved. For a long moment neither figure spoke, they just stood and glared at each other.  Finally, the Archangel sat back, shaking his head and sighed.
 " All right, all right… we'll let him speak." He gave Kenshin a cold eye.  " You have five minutes."
 " Five?!" Kenshin looked at him angrily.  But could see the Archangel wasn't going to give him any luxuries.  Biting his lip, he walked over towards Kaoru.  She could hear his footsteps resound loudly as he crossed the room towards her. Everyone watched with waiting anticipation.  The jury shifted uncomfortably in their seats.  Kenshin soon stood right in front of her, their eyes locked and she felt her heart quicken. Kenshins eyes strayed down to notice that her elegant off-the shoulder Kimono had been replaced by a common white short sleeved Kimono, a plain blue Obi held it in place.  Her long black hair still spilled down her back and about her shoulders, no ribbon held it in it's usual ponytail.  Her wings were gone, and she had no glow.  But she was still just as beautiful to him as she'd always been.  It was almost like he was seeing the old, alive Kaoru again. He extended his hand towards her, only to be abruptly shoved away by the two bodyguards surrounding her.
 " Kenshin!" Kaoru tried to stand but they held her firmly in her seat.
 Kenshin set his stance and glared at the two guards, he tried again.  He extended his hand towards Kaoru but the guards got up once more and shoved him away.
 " What are you trying to do Himura?" The Archangel sighed annoyed.  Kenshin turned towards him.
 " I'm trying to save the one I love, isn't that obvious enough to you?"
 "…" He blinked, unable to come up with something to retort.  Kenshin gave up his fight and turned back towards the jury.
 " Yes, I came all the way from earth to save her… because I truly love her."
The silence was overpowering.  Kenshin could tell he had the audience captivated.  He spread out his hands defenselessly.  "  I'd never known what happiness truly was until Kaoru-dono came into my life.  She really was a light that helped me escape my dark past. All my life I'd been searching for forgiveness for my sins, and I found that forgiveness in her eyes.
" Kenshin..."
" The first time she was taken from me, I was devastated beyond belief.  And then she returned to me and I found I had a new chance at life. She was a true Guardian Angel.  She safeguarded me all the way, thinking nothing of herself, but always of me.  Can you really condemn someone to Hell, for passion such as that?"
The audience was still deathly silent, The jury watched him in awe. Kenshin continued, "I wasn't going to sit around on earth and let her soul be condemned to Hell-- I vowed I would always protect her happiness. No matter what happened to me."
A few of the woman blinked back tears in the audience.  Kenshin sighed and relaxed his shoulders; he chanced a side-glance at Kaoru.  She sat rigidly; listening with tears glistening in her eyes.
"After she was taken from me again… I actually tried to commit suicide…"
 Kaoru gasped.  Kenshin looked at the ground.  " I thought I could come up here and save her if I killed myself.  My spirit would rise up here--"
 " Atrocious! Committing suicide is a GRAVE sin!" The Archangel interrupted.
 " So WHAT?!" Kenshin threw back at him.  " If it was to save the person I loved, then I would have done ANYTHING-- maybe sell my soul to the Devil… I don't care.  It's because I love her THAT much!"
 " I would do anything for her.  Is that so bad?" Kenshin took a deep breath.  " Is it so bad to love someone so much that you would walk to the ends of the world for them?" He turned to the jury.  " Kaoru is the most important person in the world to me.  I thought I was truly blessed when she came back to me as an Angel. I thought that maybe... maybe I WASN'T destined to live a life of pain and loneliness after all.  As long as she's with me, I'm at peace, and my world is happy-- so after she was taken, I couldn't bear the thought of living, knowing that I'd failed in protecting her.  I almost killed myself over love."
Several women reached for their handkerchiefs.  The men in the audience looked at him gravely, as if sharing in his sorrow.
"But--" Kenshin continued.  " The very reason she was taken is what pales me the most... " He glanced at Kaoru, she returned to gazing down into her lap, biting her lip nervously.  "Rules... that was the only reason.  Because Kaoru was forbidden to love a mortal."
 A few choice sobs escaped from the crowd.
 " But-- they are Gods rules! You can't deny that!"  The Archangel said.
 " True… " Kenshin nodded.  " But-- just as I was willing to break God's rules for love, Kaoru did the same.  She was willing to do ANYTHING for love.   She wasn't about to deny her feelings.  Rules can't restrict everything… not feelings… not love.  I still love Kaoru.  And, we still love each other-- even right now."
 More sobs escaped from the audience, woman buried their faces into the shoulders of the men accompanying them.  The men in turn put arms around them comfortingly.
 " I still love him…It's the truth." Kaoru whispered.
 " Please-- understand…" Kenshin fought to keep his voice sounding strong, but his emotions were catching up with him.   " Don't send her to Hell for following what her heart was telling her.  Would you deny your own heart?"
 " That's enough," The Archangel said.  Kenshin lowered his head.
 " I was done…" He glanced back at Kaoru nervously.  Tears slid down her cheeks and she clutched both hands to her chest.
 " Now, if there are no more surprise guests, I'll let the jury break to determine their verdict." The Archangel stood up and raised his hands.  " Dismissed!"
 All at once everyone rose and left.  Kenshin saw he'd moved most of the woman in the crowd to tears.  He heard one passerby remark…

 " I'm sort of envious of them…"

 Kenshin smiled inwardly.  " They're like normal people here-- in purgatory.  All dying with their soul in perfect balance…"
 He noticed Kaoru rise out of the corner of his eye and sprung into action as one of the guards moved to take her arm and escort her out a side door.
 " Kaoru! Let me speak to Kaoru please!" Kenshin ran towards her, but the other guard caught him before he could catch Kaoru. Kaoru looked back at him earnestly.
 " Please-- let me talk to him!" She pleaded; she reached her hand out towards him as the other guard carefully but firmly pulled her away.
 " KAORU!" Kenshin called. " KAORU!!!!"
 " KENSHIN-- I---" But she was cut off as she was taken out the door and it abruptly closed.  The other guard released him and he felt a strong, skeletal hand on his shoulder.  He turned to see Thanatos shaking his skull at him.
 " They won't allow you to see her." He said softly.
 " W-Why?" Kenshin's fists shook in anger. He lowered his head.  " If Heaven is so harsh and misunderstanding, I'd rather be in Hell or Purgatory!"
 " Watch what you say!" Death's voice was instantly cold.  " You have no idea the kind of torment a soul can experience in Hell… it's like constantly being on the edge of death-- slowly dying until you reach the edge.  Then you wake up and begin the torture all over again… over and over and over… for eternity-- it never ends. And you remember every single moment of it!"
 Kenshin looked at him wide eyed.  " You sound like you've had first hand experience…"
 " Not really-- But-- I have been there before… it's not a place I want to ever visit again."
 " But--- Kaoru… I…"
 " Why don't you go outside and relax.  It will be awhile yet until the jury decides."
 Kenshin nodded slowly.  He slid his hands into the folds of his Gi, finding Kaoru's ring in the sleeve and fingered it nervously.  He wanted to at least give it back to her, so she would have it if they had to be separated again.
 Kenshin sighed as he lounged on a bench outside. About 6 hours had passed and he was deep in thought.  People passed by on their own business.  Some young people hung out near a fruit stand.  Others seemed to be hurrying here and there. It certainly looked like a common market day on the streets of Tokyo.  Only everyone there was dead.
 " Kaoru seems to be back in her spirits now that she's in Purgatory… She was almost dead when she was on earth.  It must be because she's no longer a Guardian Angel." He took out her ring and examined it, the small stone glinting in the sunlight.  " I probably don't have any hope of bringing her home with me.  But-- for now I have to focus on keeping her out of Hell." He sighed heavily.  " But-- I don't think I could stand losing her again…"

 " Nee… Don't I know that man from somewhere?" A man in a black Gi and Grey Hakama passed by Kenshin, he scratched his head in consternation.  His friend blinked as he stopped and turned back to get another look at him.
 " You know Shinji… I think I've seen him somewhere before too--"
 " Wait!" The man called Shinji jumped around and pointed an accusing finger. "That hair… and the scars on his cheek… THAT'S THE MAN WHO KILLED ME!!"
 Kenshin froze.  The whole scene froze.  He glanced over at the two friends who gaped at him. The man named Shinji threw him an icy cold glare and instantly lunged for the Rurouni's head.  Kenshin didn't move.  But Shinji passed straight through him and landed heavily on the ground in back of him.  Kenshin whirled around amazed.
" NANI?! WHY DON'T YOU FIGHT ME!?" He yelled angrily.
" S-Shinji!!" His friend ran around the bench, restraining him.  By this time a large crowd had gathered, watching the scene in amazement.
 " Don't Shinji!" His friend pleaded. " If you do then you're balance will--"
 " He killed me too-- but I'm not ready to do anything about it! I want to go to Heaven SOME day!" His friend pleaded.  Kenshin hastily stood up with a large lump in his throat that prevented him from saying anything.  He heard a few sneers in the crowd.
" Murderer… "
" Why isn't he in Hell?"
" I think he's the one who killed my husband too!"
Kenshin felt his knees grow weak.
" Maybe we should teach him a lesson for playing with peoples lives."
" He's still got his awful sword with him!"
" LET'S GET HIM!" And in an instant the crowd plunged forward.  Kenshin closed his eyes tightly, rooted to the ground in fear. These people that he'd killed… there was no way to explain to them how he was trying to atone for his crimes.  They wouldn't understand.
" WAIT!" A woman's chill voice boomed out.  Kenshin opened his eyes stunned, a figure stood before him, back facing him.  She was wrapped in a forest green cloak with a hood, concealing her face, everyone took a few steps back nervously.
 " Wh-Who…"
 " You don't recognize me?" She pulled the hood back slightly, allowing only her facial features to come to light.  The crowd gawked.
" G-Gaea!" One recognized her.
" Gaea-- what are you do--?"
" ---I suggest you get back to your business and leave the young man to me." The woman called Gaea said coldly.  She was short but her overall presence was as imposing as Battousai's.
" W-What incredible Ken-Ki…" Kenshin thought.  The crowd hesitatingly departed.  And the woman finally turned to him with a large smile on her face.
" Well, that was a close one wasn't it?" She said with a small shrug.  She set her hands on her hips and looked him over as if examining a piece of meat. But her gesture made her cloak open wide at the front. Kenshin blinked startled as he saw that she was wearing NO clothes underneath.  An eerie mist surrounded her body as to make its details obscure, but with the exception of the cloak that hung open revealingly; she was indeed a voluptuous young woman.  He quickly averted his eyes, feeling his cheek grow hot with embarrassment.
" What's wrong? Uncomfortable?" Gaea let out a slivery laugh that shook Kenshin to the very core of his being.  " Don't be worried-- I won't hurt you."
" Oro… umm--" He looked at the ground nervously.  " Thank... you-- for, umm… stopping them."
" They couldn't have hurt you.  You're mortal and they're simply spirits.  But I was more concerned about your state of mind."
" Oro-- well, how could I face them? I killed them?"
" People in purgatory are always on the edge between Heaven and Hell.  And they grow impatient and moody because life is so boring and repetitive." Gaea pulled back her hood completely and her silvery hair spilled out and about her shoulders. Kenshin gawked.  She was strikingly beautiful, her eyes seemed to change colors, catching the light and shimmering as if they were pools of water.  Her skin was pale and smooth like porcelain. Her lips were full and voluptuous, the color of wild berries.  She had flowers in her hair and braided vines into the long locks.  Her face was overall-- one of the most beautiful ones he'd ever seen.
" I shall introduce myself. I am Gaea, the Incarnations of Nature." She extended her hand.  Kenshin stiffened.  This was an Incarnation! It didn't really surprise him, but Thanatos was absolutely NOTHING like this one-- he didn't have such an overbearing presence.  Sure, the skull and scythe did the trick but this woman seemed to see straight INTO Kenshin. She was so awe inspiring-- filled with so much power and beauty.  Then he looked down at her outstretched hand and blinked confused at it.  She quickly withdrew it, chuckling to herself and playfully tapped her forehead.
" Oh right-- you don't have that custom…umm… Konnichi wa. Watashi wa Gaea desu…Hajimemashite." And she bowed to him formerly.  Kenshin blinked and then he bowed back hastily.
" Oro-- Hajimemashite.  Sessha wa Himura Kenshin de gozaru.  Doozo Yorushiku onegaishimasu."
" There!" Gaea clapped her hands together happily, she bounced up and down, and Kenshin found his eyes straying back down to her bosom.  " With that out of the way, we can get down to business!"
" ORO?" He grew bright red. Gaea made a face at him.
" Not THAT kind of business! Geez-- I'm NOT Eros…" Kenshin meekly smiled an apology.  Gaea rolled her eyes and turned with a flair of her cloak.  Drawing it closed about her body again; she began to walk down the street. Kenshin stood amazed, watching her walk away, the contours of her body showing through the thin fabric as she softly swayed her hips.  After a few feet she turned and gestured at him.
" Well, are you coming or not?!"
" Oro? Gomen-nasai…" He hastily caught up with her.  They continued down the street together, Kenshin keeping his eyes on the ground in front of him nervously.  She was Nature-- but she was such a mysterious and somehow imposing figure.  Even if she was only about as tall as he was.  Maybe it was just the fact that he knew she was totally naked under that cloak.  He sighed to himself-- There were some strange Incarnations about.   But everyone passed them by as if they were invisible. Taking no notice of him, or of Gaea. He wondered if that was Gaea's doing…it probably was.
 After a long silence, Gaea's voice broke the tension as she decided to skip right to the point of their meeting.
" I know what you did to save her." She began.
" Oro?"
" To save the Kamiya girl… you killed yourself didn't you? That got my attention right away."
" Oh-- no I didn't kill myself I--"
"-- Well that's in the past." She interrupted.  "But there are other more pressing things to be dealt with now, like her trial.  You came all the way up here with Death to save her?"
" Ohh--Hai…" Kenshin shrugged his shoulders.  "But-- I'm worried it's not enough.  I wish I could just take her away from here, bring her back home and…" He trailed off with a long sigh.  " This is all my fault…If I hadn't failed her the first time then---"
 " --So--" Gaea interrupted him.  " You regard yourself as a failure?"
 " … What else would you call me? I've failed countless times in protecting her. The woman who is most important to me… my first priority is to her happiness and her well being. Kidnapped by Jin-eh, killed by Enishi, and now taken from me even after death because I failed to realize her condition sooner... I could have prevented it and ALL of this!"
 Gaea folded her arms, her voice tinged with peevishness.  " First off, if you want my help, you've got to stop being so damn over dramatic and selfish."
 " Oro?"
 Gaea taunted him. " It's MY fault-- it's all MY fault… I caused her unhappiness!"
 Kenshin narrowed his eyes at her. She chuckled and shook her head.
 " Oh please-- she never wanted you to blame yourself.  That's what you've been doing all along.  You can't be a super hero.  You certainly are no God…" Her tone took a serious twist.  She looked at him sternly and stopped him in the middle of the road.  "There are some things that happen when we don't mean for them too-- her Death being one of them. You couldn't have prevented it."
 " Yes I could have!" He countered her angrily. " I never should have decided to stay with her-- to get close to her! I never should have--" And he trailed off at Gaea's stern look.
 " -- Fallen in love?" She finished. Kenshin looked down to the ground. " You regret ever meeting her?"
 " It's not that-- It's just…"
 " You're contradicting yourself.  If you had never met her, you wouldn't have fallen in love-- but then you say you wish you'd never met her."
 Kenshin scowled at her.  " But--"
 " Don't you see-- there was nothing you could do. Fate set it up that you would meet her.  You were just dealt a bad hand."
 " So is that all? Fate is who's to blame?"
 Gaea laughed. " It's not a matter of who's to blame or not. It's a matter of acceptance."
 " Acceptance?"
 " Yes-- but if you can't accept it, then you can't deal with it.  You gave up after she died, thinking that your only reason for living was because she was with you."
" Yes."
" But you never once thought about others-- Yahiko, Sanosuke, Megumi, all your friends who also cared about you. You were to selfish and blind and wallowing in self pity to do anything but sit on your duff and sulk."
" … I know-- But I couldn't think right! Kaoru was the light that always pulled me away from the edge of despair-- and… now that she's…she's dead-- I realized that I couldn't live without her.  She was my reason for living.  I don’t know what I'll do if I can't be with her."
" I know what you can do."
" Oro?"
" You need to find someone else to believe in, someone that you can always depend on.  That way, you won't be left with such a horrible, empty feeling whenever something goes wrong."
" Who?"
" Try yourself…"
 " If you always have Kaoru's best interests in mind, then you need to stop giving up at every turn when things get unbearable.  Situations are never hopeless, as long as you have hope yourself."
 " …" Kenshin bit his lip.  " It's true that I've never stopped blaming myself, and I couldn't accept the fate dealt to Kaoru.  I was too absorbed in my own self pity to notice the others around me.  And… I thought with her gone… I had no reason to be there either.  I was just so tired of it all."
Gaea sighed.  " That's the tragedy of life sometimes.  You're alive, she's dead-- and after this trial, you will have to return home to Earth.  She will never be allowed to follow you--even if she is allowed to return to Heaven.  You will have to eventually separate.  That is the reality of the situation."
" Knowing that, are you STILL prepared to fight for her happiness?"
" Gaea, you should know that-- you're Nature.  I'll do whatever it takes to save Kaoru."
" She is a lucky woman.  But I fear the challenges you will have to face will be far more difficult from here on."
" I'm prepared to take on any challenge, if it means saving Kaoru-dono."
When he used her name with the honorific, Gaea knew he was talking serious business.  She nodded her approval.
" Very well then, Her fate will depend on you from now on.  Be brave Kenshin, don't let yourself be consumed by grief-- you must never give up again.  No matter what happens.  If you do-- not only Kaoru, but also everyone you hold dear will suffer by your grief. You must stop blaming yourself and accept unwanted circumstance as they come towards you-- Anything is possible, if you have the determination, the courage, and the hope to make what you want happen."
" I won't give up!"
Gaea smiled and put one hand on his cheek, the place where her skin touched his tingled slightly.  " You're so different than the person you were ten years ago.  And so much more--- Hold out your hand."
" Oro?" Kenshin reluctantly held out his hand, palm upward.  Gaea extended her own hand over his and pressed their palms together. A strange sensation of inner peace washed over Kenshin. When she lifted her hand, there was a blooming red flower in his open palm.  Kenshin looked at it amazed.
" A gift from me.  I am Nature- and I do not bestow gifts to just anyone."
" What…does it do?" He picked the flower up from his palm gingerly, examining it.
Gaea folded her arms.  " My gifts see past the illusion and bring forth the reality. Use this wisely."
" I--Thank you." Kenshin muttered in awe.  " But, I just have one question."
" Ask away."
" Why? Why are you helping me? You should hate me, if you're Nature and I've killed so many-- "
" Didn't we talk about the self pity?"
" Let's just say-- I've had my eye on you for some time now.  You're not like any other man that I've ever met before."
Kenshin wasn't exactly sure if this was a good or a bad thing.
" But you have such a kind hearted soul.  Not suited to your bloody past.  I don't like to see people like you suffer." The mist rose about Gaea, growing thicker and thicker until he could no longer distinguish her outline.  " Someone who would go as far as you did to save the one you love, surely deserves some attention from the Incarnation of Nature."  Her voice was like a breath of fresh air. "Remember what we've talked about. Good luck."
Kenshin stood amazed as the mist slowly dissipated and she was no longer there. The people continued walking past him, acting as if nothing had happened.  He grew instantly nervous, not wanting a repeat of what had happened before Gaea had saved him.  Trying to casually cover his cross scar, he dashed down the street towards the courthouse and ducked around the side of the building into a narrow alleyway.  Sighing heavily, he lay against the cold brick wall and examined the flower she'd given him again. Her words echoed in his mind.

 " See past the illusion and bring forth the reality."

    The flower's fragrance was calming, but he couldn't pin point exactly what kind of flower it was. When he held it to his nose, a calming vision of Kaoru played through his head.  Smiling, he tucked the flower into his sleeve carefully and then shook his head.  " That was one weird conversation.  But a good kick in the right direction… I feel somehow--refreshed. I've always known my purpose. But Gaea helped me to understand myself a little better.  I mustn't give up ever again-- even if I lose this fight…for Kaoru's sake…no-- for my own sake."
 " --There you are." Death was suddenly in the alley entrance. Kenshin jumped.
 " Oro!" He did a double take and then sighed in relief.  " It's only you…"
 " I heard you caused a little stir in town.  I'm sorry-- I should have told you, people in purgatory don't have the luxury of getting their memories erased.  They remember everything."
 " Heh-- now you tell me…"
 " I'm here to bring you back to the courthouse, But it looks like you've made it back here on your own."
 " Oro? Masaka… after only 6 hours?!"
 " Yes-- they've reached a verdict…"


 Everyone was assembled again.  The air was filled with such tension that sitting still was next to unbearable for Kenshin.  He saw Kaoru walk into the room and take her seat, followed by the two guards.  The Archangel nodded as the Jury was escorted into the room.  Kenshin studied their faces carefully, but they were completely pokerfaced.  He couldn't read a single emotion.
 " So, you've reached a verdict?" The Archangel said after they took their seats. The leader stood up and nodded.
 " Yes-- After considering carefully the evidence presented in this case.  We find the defendant, Kamiya Kaoru…guilty of obstructing the cardinal Rule Number 3 of the code of Guardian Angels…"
 Kaoru gasped, bringing her hands up to her face in shock.
" And of allowing an unauthorized spirit to meddle in the affairs of humans without proper consent."
Kaoru buried her face in her hands.  Kenshin jumped to his feet in shock. Death slumped his shoulders in defeat.
 " Very well…" The Archangel nodded his head in approval.  " Then I do so banish her to the first level of Hell, where she shall work off her sins for as long as it takes her to achieve redemption."
 " KAORU!" Kenshin left his seat and was across the room in a second, he skillfully dodged the block from one of the guards and threw his arms around her. But instead of grabbing her as expected, he passed straight through her.  Kaoru cried out as Kenshin hastily rose and backed away shocked.
" Kaoru…."
" Baka--" The guard said, holding him away. " She's just a spirit now-- she's no longer your guardian angel, so you can't touch her!"
" Kenshin…" She cried as one of the Angels took her by the arm to lead her away again.  " Kenshin!"
" Kaoru! I'll save you! KAORU!"
" Kenshin…" She strained against the guard's hold.  " Don't you DARE give up this time!"
" Never." He said hoarsely.
 " I'll find a way back! I SWEAR I will!"
" Kaoru-- No… DON'T TAKE HER NOW!" He looked towards the Archangel in earnest.  Panic grabbed him, he forgot all about his conversation with Gaea.  He dropped to his knees before the Archangel, prostrating himself before him. " PLEASE! Let me go in her place! She doesn't belong in Hell! I do! PLEASE! PLEASE take me instead of her!  I'm the one who's to blame for everything! I pressured her when I knew she didn't remember me and was pulling away from me! PLEASE! I'M BEGGING YOU!"
 " Kenshin-- NO!" Kaoru cried, horrified.  " I'll NEVER forgive you if you do that!"
"…" The Archangel just shook his head and chuckled.  " There is nothing you, or anyone can do for her.  Go back to earth."  Then he gestured to the two angels, who resumed in quickly ushering Kaoru from the room.  Kenshin watched in horror.
 " KAORU!"
 " KENSHIN! KENSHIN!" Her last words rung in his ears, tearing his heart to shreds before the door was slammed in-between them. Shutting away the light from Kenshin's life for the third time in a row.