* 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!
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 26- The Prince of Lies
Kenshin was expecting Gates carved from black stone that towered
above you ominously, decorated in writhing bodies and hell fire. But
instead the limousine landed out in the countryside of Purgatory near a
very large oak tree.
" Oro? What are we doing?" Kenshin asked.
" We're here."
" Oro? Where?"
" The Gates of Hell." Thanatos got out of the car, Kenshin followed him confused until they stood in front of the tree. Thanatos lifted a skeletal hand and the bark seemed to shimmer and vanish. Leaving a gaping hole large enough to be a doorway in the side of the tree. Kenshin blinked startled, Death nodded his head to the silent question. " Yes, This is the elevator which will take you down to Hell. The ways are always hidden, and only Incarnations can go there of there own free will and come back again."
" Elevator?" Kenshin looked at Death nervously.
" Modern technology again "
Kenshin was satisfied with that answer, he'd seen enough "modern technology" to not be surprised with this device. They boldly stepped into the elevator and the doorway instantly disappeared. They were boxed in and Kenshin felt a strange sense of vertigo.
" Don't be alarmed, we're just going downward at a very fast pace." Death reassured him. " Now, while we're moving, I'm going to tell you a few of the dangers your soul will face in Hell."
" " Kenshin didn't respond, but Death could see he was listening.
" First-- you must take care of your soul as if it was your own body. Your soul may be the living essence of you, but it needs nourishment, rest, it feels pain and can be killed through the sorts of things a body could be killed by."
Kenshin looked confused. "But--"
" --But if you're soul is killed, by suffocation or fire or drowning then you will die for the rest of that day, and the next day you will revive again. That is the torture souls endure in Hell. They suffer until they die then wake up again, and the cycle repeats itself. But you don't have much time-- if you die, then the 24 hours will be over by the time you revive and you'll be stuck a soul forever."
They traveled for about a minute longer when the sense of vertigo instantly stopped and Kenshin grabbed for the side in order to keep his balance. The doorway opened again and he gawked amazed at what he saw.
Beyond the doorway was a great chamber that seemed to stretch for miles. Tall columns of black stone towered up, supporting a high vaulted ceiling. The walkway seemed to float above a sea of fire and lava, which lit up the hallway in an eerie luminescent glow. The instant heat hit Kenshin like a ton of bricks. They stepped from the elevator only to be stopped by a towering demon with horns and an ugly looking spear. He looked down on the two intruders with small, beady red eyes and his gaping mouth was filled with sharp teeth that dripped saliva.
" No unauthorized spirits!" The demon growled.
" I am Death." Thanatos said boldly. " I come to speak with Satan!"
" I can allow you passage then, but the other spirit may not go to see Him!" The demon eyed Kenshin angrily. Kenshin threw him his best death glare."
" I will come with Death to see Satan as well." Kenshin demanded. The demons skin seemed to sizzle, as if it was heating up with anger. It took its spear and pointed it straight at Kenshin, who instantly crouched ready with his hand on his hilt. He'd anticipated the demon's actions perfectly.
" Stop!" Death yelled. " The spirit is under MY authority!"
Instantly, the demon disappeared in a cloud of smoke. However Kenshin was still tense; he looked around cautiously.
" What is it?" Death asked him.
" We're still not alone "
" Well--" A familiar voice seemed to speak inside both their heads. " You sensed My presence, that's admirable-- Himura Battousai." Kenshin and Thanatos both straightened in alarm.
" Shishio!" Kenshin called.
" Yes it's Me. You recognized Me, I'm flattered."
" Kisama, show yourself!"
" That's no way to treat a friend." A chill laugh followed making both Kenshin and Thanatos shiver. A figure materialized before them. However this was not the bandaged mummy that Kenshin remembered. He looked very different. His skin was no longer burned.
" Shishio?" Kenshin stepped back.
" Yes?" He smiled maniacally. " You must be wondering about My appearance. Satan can command any form he chooses. It feels good to back to my own self again. And Yumi likes it even more too."
" Shishio " Kenshin's voice fell down a few octaves. He kept his hand resting on the hilt of his Sakaba. Shishio eyed it with little interest.
" Keep that sword in its sheath Battousai, I don't want to fight you. I should really thank you for what you've done for Me." He turned around, spreading out his arms widely above his head. "You've given Me all of this!"
" Shishio, you may keep your thanks, I only ask that you return a certain soul to me that you've recently acquired."
Shishio let his arms drop. " Kamiya Kaoru?" He questioned without even turning around. Kenshin stiffened.
" Yes " Death answered for him. " I am here to make sure you don't try and cheat him."
" How noble." Shishio turned around again, his grin still on his face. " But I'm rather fond of our newest addition to the family. I really don't want to give her up. A fallen angel is a rarity to be found in Hell."
" Don't treat her like she's some sort of Trophy!" Kenshin said through clenched teeth. Shishio snickered at him.
" Something about that girl really lights a fire in you-- I only wished I known about her when we fought before I could have really gotten the Battousai out of you then I bet."
Death could see Kenshin was doing everything in his power to keep from drawing his sword and charging in. His eyes were flickering dangerously.
" Shishio," Death said quickly. "If you don't want to fight, how can we win her back?"
" Hmm-- This should be fun." Shishio grinned, " What do you say to a challenge?"
" Challenge?" Kenshin blinked, his eyes back to normal. " What do you mean?"
" I mean, I shall let you and Death loose in the first level of Hell. If you can find the Kamiya girl within the time you have remaining,"
" That's a little less than 24 hours." Death said. "What happens if he doesnt find her?"
" Then his soul shall remain trapped here, for eternity."
Death shot a nervous look at Kenshin. But the Rurouni's face betrayed nothing, he still had his hand on the hilt of his Sakaba, staring hard at Shishio.
Shishio nodded in approval. "So-- what do you say Himura? Do you agree?"
Death shook his head quickly. " No! Don't! Despite what you think Hell is HUGE! You can't even walk from one side to the other in 5 days!"
Kenshin narrowed his eyes a bit more. Death could tell his was thinking hard.
" Very well " Shishio chuckled. " I shall make it so that she is within your range. Those are my rules, do you accept?"
Kenshin was silent for a long moment, then finally he let his hand drop from his hilt. He stood up straight and nodded affirmatively. " Yes."
" HIMURA!" Death gawked at him. Shishio didn't say another word, the area around them grew very misty until all scenery faded away and they found themselves standing knee deep in mud. Kenshin looked about at the barren wasteland that apparently was the first level of hell. Shishio's voice was in his head again, though fainter than before.
" Oh-- and do be careful, there are Hell Hounds in these parts "
" Hell Hounds " Death said grimly as he brought out his scythe and held it ready. " Be ready Himura, Hell Hounds are not something you want to tangle with."
Kenshin nodded as they slowly moved out of the marsh and found a dry patch of land to stand on.
" We need to find her " he said quietly. " She must be scared."
" I know, but we also need to keep our heads. The first thing we should do is look for some people to ask."
They hurried along, jumping from dry patch to dry patch, and waded through muck that sometimes went up to their waist. Kenshin's ears picked up what sounded like a howl. They both turned to see dark blotches on the horizon.
" Hell Hounds!" Death gasped. " Hurry! HURRY!"
They scrambled out of the mud and onto a path that was relatively firm; both dashed along it until they stumbled upon some workers. The souls were covered from head to foot in mud, with only rags for clothes and their skin hung on their bones as if they were living skeletons. They were digging out a trench vigorously but as soon as they managed to get a spot cleared more mud seeped into it. Kenshin didn't have time to be sympathetic however; he stopped for a moment and leaned over the hole cautiously.
" Has anyone seen a Japanese girl with long black hair wearing a white Kimono and blue obi? She used to be a Guardian Angel!"
One man who was also Japanese stopped for a moment and looked up. " Who hasn't heard of the infamous Kamiya Kaoru!" He responded in Japanese. " I heard a rumor that she was sent to the Bone Desert."
" The Bone Desert " Death repeated. " Damn it-- we'd need to cross the river Lethe to get to that!"
" Thank you!" Kenshin called back to the man in the trench and they resumed their run.
" Hell is composed of several "quarters." Death explained as they moved. " We're in the Marsh right now. To get to the desert, we have to cross the River of Sorrow. After that is the Winter Quarter where the temperature is always several degrees below freezing and you find yourself up to your neck in snow then after crossing that, we must cross the River Lethe to get to the Bone Desert."
" What's wrong with the River Lethe?"
" I'm not worried about the River of Sorrow-- but the River Lethe is also called the River of Forgetfulness if even a drop of the water gets in your mouth you'll forget your purpose--- and dally in Hell until your time runs out. If it gets in your eyes then you forget how to see "
" " Kenshin was silent, as if deep in thought. The howling was steadily growing louder.
" No matter how fast we run, they're faster!" Death said anxiously. " They can't harm me, but I'm worried about you--"
" Don't worry about me. Worry about Kaoru!" Kenshin responded. The words 'Bone Desert' weren't very encouraging to him. " Kaoru " he though desperately. "Hang in there!"
They didn't run for more than about 100 yards before the path that they'd been following abruptly stopped, ending in a steep slope with more marsh beyond.
" Damn it!" Death looked behind him nervously to see that the Hell Hounds were gaining ground on them.
" Can't we just jump?" Kenshin asked him.
" Jump! But-- we don't know how deep it is! The mud could suck you right down like a whirlpool and you wouldn't be able to get out."
" Can THEY chase after us in the swamp?" Kenshin asked, thumbing back to the Hell Hounds, they were getting close enough so you could distinguish their grotesque features, dripping fangs and gaping jaws that hung loosely open, set in a ferocious snarl. The black fur on their backs prickled up on end and they were about two times larger than your ordinary wolf.
Thanatos got Kenshin's drift and he nodded affirmatively. " They wouldn't be able to swim in muck like that, they'd get sucked straight to the bottom and suffocate."
Without a word Kenshin jumped down into the muck. The mud instantly sucking him in as Death had warned.
Kenshin was thankful he was only up to his chest before he felt his feet touch solid ground. He slowly began to wade away from the edge, holding his Sakaba above his head to keep it from getting dirty. He called back to Thanatos.
" COME ON! THEY CAN'T FOLLOW AND I CAN TOUCH THE GROUND!"
Death didn't hesitate, he jumped in, careful to keep his Scythe above his head. He began wading after Kenshin. After they were a good 30 feet from the edge of the path, they looked back to see the Hell Hounds leaning over, snarling and howling angrily.
" Good-- they can't follow us." Death breathed a sigh of relief. " If they're going to be able to pursue us any more, they'll have to find another way around this swamp."
" Yes, let's hurry how much more time do I have?" Kenshin turned and began to walk further. Death looked down at his watch on his bony wrist.
" About 22 hours."
Suddenly, he heard a strange sucking noise. Death shot his head up and looked horrified to see that Kenshin's head was no longer above the mud. He'd fallen into an invisible hole and the only thing showing was his one hand holding his Sakaba, it was sinking fast.
" HIMURA!" He lunged forward but the muck kept him from making it fast enough, Kenshin's hand and the Sakaba sword disappeared from sight.