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 28- At the Loss of an Eye

 Kenshin stood dumbfounded next to Thanatos, who simply gawked.  Both looking up at the vast expanse of white as it tumbled down the cliff.  The Hell Hounds were gone in an instant.  Thanatos turned to Kenshin, whose face had gone a sickly shade of white.
 " RUN!" He grabbed Kenshin by the Gi to get him started, and Kenshin didn't need any more encouragement.  They turned and half ran-half fell down the slope.  The thundering roar grew ever louder but they dared not look back.  They didn't want to know how close it was to the inevitable.
 " CAN'T YOU DO SOMETHING" Kenshin yelled at Thanatos.
" NOT WHILE IN HELL!" Thanatos shot back.
Snow slid down around their feet faster and faster; it was certainly catching up to them.  Thanatos looked about desperately and spotted a narrow outcropping off to the right.  He grabbed Kenshin's arm and tugged. " OVER HERE! HURRY!"
The sudden tug sent Kenshin's feet flying up from under him and he fell hard on the slick ice.  The snow poured down between them.  Thanatos found his bony hand held nothing and then he too was swept away by the snow.
Thanatos clawed at nothing but white snow, desperate for something that would stop him. It carried him further down the mountainside. White… it was so white-- and then black… and then white again.  And he could hear only the sound of thunderous pounding… then silence… then pounding again.  Then only blackness, and silence.
 Kenshin searched desperately for some sign of his comrade.  Of Thanatos' cloak, or the glint of his Scythe but there was only white.  The pounding of the deadly cascade that engulfed him drowned his screams.  He gasped for air but there was none.  And just as he thought it was really over, he could suddenly breath again.
A strange sense of vertigo took him, his eyes shot open.  Amongst the white powder of the snow around him, he could see downwards, he was falling.  He'd slid off the side of a cliff and there was a river below him. On the other side of that river-- was a desert.  Just like that-- he'd made it to the last quarter. And he was falling headfirst into the River Lethe.
  " Kaoru… I'm sorry." He thought, closing his eyes he felt himself hit the surface of the water.  Cold instantly stung him.  Biting, chilling cold that tortured his muscles, cramping them so he couldn't even move.  He could only sink downwards; he had to keep his mouth and eyes tightly shut.
" Kaoru…" He thought desperately.  He flailed his arms out, beating at the water, praying to find something to hold on to that would pull him up or he could use to climb upwards with.  His hands touched something soft and clammy, and it shifted at his touch. He held onto it tightly.  The thing moved again more violently, as if trying to shake him from its back.  But Kenshin continued to hold on.
His lungs were about to burst.  Whatever it was that he held onto, it was moving upwards quickly.  As Kenshin reached towards the surface he felt a strong current pushing him further upwards and then let go of whatever creature it was that he'd held onto.  Still keeping his eyes tightly closed he gasped for air as he shot up to the surface, and then quickly took another breath, clamping his mouth shut.
 " Kaoru…" He couldn't forget.  And he was so close to finding her too-- The picture in his mind of her dimmed slightly.  He'd gotten some of the water in his mouth after all.
 The river was carrying him downstream now.  He opened one eye slightly and saw a rock up ahead.  A chance!
 Kenshin slammed up against it and clung to it for all his life.  The ferocious current beat at him, threatening to tear him away from his only hope for survival. He edged his way further up onto it until his face was safely away from the splash of the current.
Lying with his cheek pressed hard against the cold stone, he gave into his exhaustion, letting sleep take him as the water beat hard against his still submerged lower body.  The memory of Kaoru and his mission still strongly imbedded in his mind.  The River Lethe hadn't taken him yet.


 The first thing that Thanatos sensed was the ache in his bones.  He wondered what it could be.  And why was he so cold?  He tested his fingers, they moved stiffly.  And then tested his toes; they did the same.  He dared to finally open his eyes.  There was nothing but white all around him.  He was wedged up against something hard.  First feeling with his fingers, and then tilting his head to see with his eyes, he was up against a tree.  It must have stopped his decent.  He remembered the last thing that had happened… the avalanche-- and he'd been separated from Kenshin.  With a cry he tried to sit up but something prevented him.  Something was on top of him, pressing him down.
 " W-ha?" He raised his head but there still was nothing more than crystal whiteness entrapped about him.  He swallowed hard as he realized he was buried under the snow.  How thick? How could he dig his way out? If he hadn't been immortal-- he surely would have suffocated by now.
 Then fear gripped him.  Where was Kenshin? Was he in the same predicament? Death frantically tried to claw the snow away.  The flakes sifted lightly down on him as he shifted his position, forgetting his soreness and set his bony hands to work.  He had no time to waist! Oh God- how long had he been unconscious? He looked at his watch.

 There was five hours left…

 He called as loud as he could. " HIMURAAAAA!!!!! HIMURAAAA!!!" Then dug at the snow still more.  " HIMURAAA!!"
 He shouted until his voice was hoarse, continuing to dig with fevered determination.  Using the tree as his guide he dug upwards.  Minutes seemed like hours, and hours seemed like days--  And then he heard something very soft.  He stopped and listened, cursing the sound of his own heartbeat that thundered in his ears.  But softly-- faintly…he heard a voice calling.
 " Where are you?" The voice came from above.
 " HIMURAAA!" He didn't know if it was Kenshin. But it was help-- and it sounded human.  That was good enough for him.
 He dug harder now, calling more and more and the sound from above grew louder and louder. The snow he dug at grew lighter and lighter as he neared the opening.
His hand burst through the surface, not a moment later, he felt the inviting touch of another hand, which grasped his and pulled. More worked the hole larger and he was hoisted from it.  Thanatos sheltered his eyes from the sudden brightness of the sky, he looked about in wonder at his rescue party.  Sadly, Kenshin was not among them. The party looked no better off than the souls he'd encountered in the previous realms of Hell.  They wore tattered cloaks and some had no shoes at all in the freezing cold snow.  Several held shovels about them protectively.
 " Thank you." He said hoarsely.
 One man fell to his knees amazed. " You! You're Death aren't you!"
 Death looked at him surprised. " Y-Yes…"
 "  I knew it!" He glanced at his companions, who turned to gawk similarly.
Another damned soul stepped forward.  " But-- where is your companion?"
 Death swallowed hard, trying to keep his voice as steady as possible.  " You haven't found him? A man with red hair and a cross scar on his left cheek?"
 They all exchanged glances and then shook their heads.
 " He might have fallen off The Edge." One said.
 " The Edge?"
 " Yes-- The Edge of our quarter is a 40 foot sheer drop into the River Lethe."
 Death stared at the man appalled.  His heart leapt in his chest."  River…Lethe?"
 " Yes--It's just down that way." The man pointed downwards.  " You're lucky you weren't carried over.  The snow from the avalanche all fell into the river and created a natural bridge to the other Quarter."
 " Thank you." Thanatos said softly before he stood up and turned to stumble down the hillside, heading towards the fearful Edge.

 Kenshin first became aware of the faint sounds of running water.  Then the hard, rough surface on which his cheek rested.  He slowly opened his eyes, running over in his mind what had happened.
 " What-- am I doing here? Where am I?"  He blinked, noticing the water that surrounded him, and the soggy feel of his legs still submerged.  It came back to him little by little.  "I-- there was an avalanche and-- I fell…" He gasped as realization hit, his head shot up, he took in his full surroundings in an instant. " Kaoru!!  I need to save Kaoru!"
How long had he been asleep?  Where was Thanatos? He was still clinging to a large rock set near the far shore of the Bone Desert.  The water was relatively still and calm, much different than he'd remembered it when he'd first fallen into the water.
He turned his head to look back and his eyes widened.  There was a huge bridge of snow that suspended the entire river. The avalanche... It had blocked the violent current.  What was more-- The water he sat in was surprisingly warm.
 " Does the temperature change as you get closer to the desert?" He'd fallen into the Winter quarter side of the river and the water had been so cold he though he was surely going to die.  He shook his head, still not remembering exactly how he ended up on this rock, only thankful that he had.
He had to get to the Desert shore-- he had to find Kaoru! Even if he'd been separated from Death, he had to move onwards, he didn't have any idea how much time he had left.  And he had the most uncomfortable feeling that he was forgetting something else very important.
 " My Sakaba!" He felt at his waist-- but it wasn't there.  Panicking, he glanced back at the giant bridge of snow, it could be there....  Or down stream… it could be anywhere!
 Kenshin clambered up onto the rock and looked down into the clear water of the River Lethe, hoping that it had fallen out of his belt when he'd hit the rock earlier. The river was shallower than he'd expected it to be. He could see the bottom, but it was still a good 20 feet down.
 " Where could it be?" He squinted his eyes, searching around him and his heart jumped as a flash of light caught his attention.  Kenshin looked closer and, tangled in among the weeds he thought he saw the Sakaba's handle.
 Not a moment later, a huge dark shadow passed over it.  Kenshin bit his lip; a river monster was the LAST thing he needed.
 The only chance he would have would be to swim quietly and quickly, so that the next time the monster passed he would be able to get the Sakaba and then hopefully make it to shore before it realized him.  The only problem was... how was he going to see it?
 " Well-- I have two eyes…" Kenshin muttered.  " But… I can see well enough with just one."
 He crouched down low, waiting for the monster to make another circle, and then just as it passed over the Sakaba Kenshin slid into the water, and pushed off of the rock like a bullet.  He kept one eye open and held the other closed with his hand.  Within moments he had his right hand around the hilt of the sword and arched upwards towards the surface.  The Saya was tightly tangled in the weeds but the sword slid free of it easily.   Before he could make it to the surface he felt something brush against him and then turned underwater startled to see a giant gaping mouth closing down on him.
 Without hesitation he jabbed the sword up into the roof of the Monsters mouth.  The huge beast let out a piercing echo, violently shaking its head from side to side.  Caught up in the current it made, Kenshin yanked out the Sakaba and kicked his legs hard to shoot up towards the surface.
 The minute his head touched the air the one eye he'd used to see with went black. Still keeping the other one tightly shut; he steered his way towards the warmth of the other Quarters water, feeling the temperature getting warmer and warmer until it was getting rather uncomfortable.  Within moments, he could feel the bottom of the riverbank and trudged out of the water, still clutching the naked sword tightly in one hand.
 " So-- tired…" He thought as he collapsed down on the riverbank, instantly aware of the scorching heat of the sun beating down on him.  He shrugged out of the soggy coat and boots. " No time for that though--"
Even if he had lost his vision in his right eye, at least he still had his memory.  And it was crystal clear-- he had to find Kaoru!  Forcing his weak limbs to move, he stood up and looked out at the vast expanse of Desert about him.  The Bone Desert.
 " Yet-- another wasteland…"
 The heat was so intense that the water evaporated from Kenshin's clothes almost instantly, he soon found his throat parched and dry.  But he continued moving, dragging his feet up one sandy dune after another…
He stopped to take a short breather as he reached the peak of a particularly high dune.  Squinting his eyes in the brilliant sunlight, he looked ahead, hoping to see some sign of life.  However to no avail, there was nothing but more of the same dry desert as far as he could see.
 It took a while to adjust to the fact that he couldn't see anything in his right peripheral vision, but he kept telling himself that things could have been much worse.  Sighing heavily, he continued his journey towards nowhere in particular.  He could only hope to stumble upon some lost souls that would hopefully give him a clue to Kaoru's whereabouts.
 He climbed up another dune, stopping to savoir a precious cool gust of wind.  But something else caused his eyes snapped open with alarm.  That wind brought with it a familiar scent.
" Jasmine…"
Daring not to get his hopes up, he lowered his gaze into the valley below. Sure enough he saw something move as he peered over the edge.   There was another person just below him who was trying to climb up the next dune but wasn't getting very far.  Her long black hair fell over her shoulders and her white Kimono was in tatters.
 " KAORU!" Kenshin stumbled forward with such eagerness that he went head over heels and rolled down the steep sandy slope towards her.

 Kaoru stiffened when she heard her name, she whirled around to see a brilliant streak of red hair and the flash of a sword as the Rurouni tumbled down the slope.  He landed heavily at the bottom.
 " KENSHIN!" She cried, lunging over to him.  Kenshin sat up slowly, shaking his head to try and gather his senses.  He looked up and was immediately knocked onto his back again as she threw her arms around him.  Kaoru buried her face in his chest; sobbing uncontrollably.  He felt the familiar weight of her slight frame, the coolness of her tears as she wept.   " Kenshin no baka! What are you doing here?! BAKA!"
Closing his eyes, he put his arms around her comfortingly.  That voice, that smell, that familiar way she fit to him and only him.  " Kaoru--"
 Kaoru brought her head away from his chest and looked full into his gaze, then gasped as one purple eye and one pale violet eye returned the gaze.  Only the pale violet eye didn't move as he glanced up at her. " Kenshin! Your eye! What happened?"
 " I'm ok- I can't see out of my right eye."
 Kaoru put her hand over her mouth in shock.  " How?"
 " I fell into the River Lethe and sacrificed my vision in my right eye to get here."
 Kaoru gasped. " You remember me though?"
 Kenshin nodded and then slowly stood up, Kaoru did the same.  " Yes-- I was lucky to lose only my right eye."
 Now that she was standing, Kenshin could see the full extent of her state of undress.  Her Obi was carelessly tied in a simple knot and didn't do a very good job of holding her Kimono together.  The neck dipped in a very wide V and one sleeve was completely ripped off.  The other sleeve was in tatters as well as the bottom hem.  Kaoru noticed how he was staring and hastily tried to close her top.  Kenshin quickly averted his eyes.
 " Sorry-- I--"
 " No-- It's ok.  If it wasn't for those horrible Hell Hounds…"
 Kenshin's gaze shot up to her again. " Nani?"
 " It's my punishment to be forever pursued by them.  I've gotten lucky up until now.  But-- I'm so tired of running away…"
 " It should be ok now! I've found you-- so… Shishio should…" Kenshin looked about him.  It was true! He won the competition! But why was no one appearing? Was he really too late?
 " Huh?" Kaoru blinked confused.
 " I challenged Shishio that if I could find you in Hell before my time ran out, then we could go back to Purgatory together."
 " You're time?" Kaoru took a moment for the fact to sink in before she understood his full meaning.  She gasped, taking a step back.  "OH! Kenshin-- you're a SOUL!"
" Kenshin--" She frowned at him.  "What did you--?"
 "--It's not what you think!" He stopped her before she could finish her thought.  "I didn't kill myself.  Thanatos just took my soul from my body; and my body is still alive in his home in Purgatory.  But it can only survive with my soul for 24 hours." His fist tightened.  " I don't even know how much time I have left. It might be too late already. Thanatos has the device which keeps time."
 " The watch?"
 " Yeah!  How do you know that?"
 " Oh! Well- I… Thanatos told me." Kaoru laughed nervously then turned from him and commenced her climb up the next dune.  " Come on Kenshin! We can't linger too long or the Hell Hounds will find us."
 Kenshin turned to follow her; this dune was particularly steep.  " Where are you trying to get to?"
 " I don't know-- Just anywhere but here."
 As they climbed Kenshin was deep in though.  If his time was over, wouldn't  Satan have showed himself?  Kenshin knew how Shishio liked to gloat… Unless-- he still had some time and maybe he needed to have Thanatos with him as well to completely win the challenge.  But there had been no mention of Thanatos when they'd decided on the terms! Kenshin had challenged him singularly.  But-- he couldn't leave Thanatos in Hell-- unless Thanatos could just leave whenever he wanted too. He'd said earlier that Incarnations had the power to come and go from Heaven and Hell as they pleased…
 That would have to do--
 " Damn Shishio…" He muttered.
 " What Kenshin?"
 " Nothing."
 Kaoru was directly above Kenshin, and just as she reached the top of the dune he jumped startled as her scream pierced the air.
 " KAORU?! WHAT--"
 Before he could finish his sentence she slid down the slope, crashing into him in the process and the both of them tumbled down back into the narrow valley together.  Kenshin landed with Kaoru sprawled on top of him.
 " Wh-What is it?!" He scrambled up, holding his Sakaba readily.
 " Th-There was something…" Kaoru whimpered, holding onto his tattered Gi tightly.  " --At the top…"
 Kenshin put his hand over his eyes to block out the sun and squinted upwards.  He could make out the faint outline of a dark figure.
 " Could it be… Satan?" Kaoru shivered.
 The figure brought out a familiar object and held it up so the profile was easily visible in the light.  It was a Scythe.
 " Thanatos!" Kenshin called out, relaxing instantly.
 " Huh?" Kaoru blinked up at the figure, putting her own hand up to shield her eyes from the sun's bright light.
 Kenshin chuckled as he helped her to her feet.  " It's only Thanatos-- He always comes out of nowhere and scares me too…"
 Kaoru smiled at him sheepishly.  " Heh-- stupid me…"
 " Are you ok?" Thanatos called down to them.
 " Aaa!" Kenshin called back affirmatively.  The recommenced their climb and Thanatos met them half way.
 " I'm so relieved that you're ok." The incarnation said.  "I found the coat lying by the bank and then followed your tracks." Thanatos sounded cheerful as he helped Kaoru climb the rest of the way to the top.  Kenshin following close behind.
 " I didn't know what had happened to you, but I knew I had to continue on to find Kaoru." Kenshin said.
 " That was a wise decision. I would have died if I hadn't been immortal. How did you survive?"
 " Heh--" Kenshin smiled at him.  " That's a long story-- But let's just say I got out only one eye short."
 Thanatos peered at him.  " I see… you got some water in your right eye?"
 " Yes…"
 " Well-- it should be ok. We won! Where is Satan?"
 " You mean there is still time?"
 Thanatos looked at his watch.  " Yes-- a little over an hour left."
 " The bastard hasn't shown up yet." Kenshin looked about him.  They were on one of the highest dunes around and there was no sign of any creature alive or dead as far as he could see.
 " Ohh…" Kaoru slid to the ground, putting her hand up to her forehead in exhaustion.  " Kenshin…"
 " Kaoru?!" Kenshin quickly knelt down next to her. " Are you ok? What's wrong?"
 Death put his bony hand on her forehead.  " She's burning up! She must have heat stroke. She's been out here far too long."
 " Kenshin-- do you have any water? Anything?" Kaoru looked up at him pleading.
 " Ohh-- well… Let's see…" He felt around in his sleeves and came up with the flower.
 " That flower again?" Death looked at it.  Even through all the elements it had gone through-- it still looked as beautiful and fresh as if it had been picked only moments ago.
 " It's so beautiful." Kaoru reached out to touch it, but as her fingers closed around it she screamed in pain and recoiled her hand in horror.
 " Kaoru?!"
 " It burned me!"
 " Let me see that…" Thanatos took the flower from Kenshin.  The Rurouni knelt and examined Kaoru's hand gingerly.  There indeed were red swells on her fingertips.
 " Kenshin--" Kaoru's eyes filled with tears.  " I'm so tired Kenshin… I'm tired of all of this--"
 " W-What?"
 " Just stay with me here… I don't want to fight anymore-"
 " Kaoru! Don't say that! We came to get you out! God will--"
 She seemed to wince at the word 'God.' Then looked over at the flower again.  "What flower is that?"
 " Gaea gave it to me. The Incarnation of Nature."
 " Gaea?!" Kaoru looked at him appalled.  Kenshin wondered why she was taking so much offense.  He smiled at her reassuringly and nodded.
 " She's not in her right mind-- it must be the heat." He told himself.
 " Kenshin!" The eagerness in Thanatos' voice turned Kenshin's attention as he held the flower out to him.  " Look!"
 Thanatos had opened up the petals that until now had been closed in the center of the flower.  Inside the flower, at the very center, was a single drop of water.
 " A drop of water?"
 " No-- this is one of Gaea's tears. THIS is her real gift! The flower was holding it for you."
 " A tear?"
 " Give it to me!" Kaoru burst out.  Both looked at her stunned.  She held her burnt hand out entreatingly.  " Please-- give me that drop!"
 " But--"
 " Please!" Kaoru pleaded again.  She seemed so pitiful... Kenshin found it impossible to say 'no.' He took the flower from Thanatos' hand and dipped his finger into the flower to retrieve the tear.

 The sudden attack came with a rush of wind and from the side of Kenshin's blind eye so that he had no way of knowing.  It had crept up on them silently and stealthily, and pounced as Kenshin was off-guard.  Before Kenshin knew it, a single Hell Hound burst over the side of the mound and pounced straight on Kaoru.
 " KENSHIN!" Kaoru screamed. The Hell Hound tackled her and in the blink of an eye, both were tumbling down the side of the hill.
 " KAORU!" Kenshin threw the flower to the sand and with his sword upraised he jumped down the slope after them, letting the loose sand take him halfway to the bottom. Before he landed he jumped up high in the air on the unsuspecting Hell Hound who had collected its wits and was about to pounce on Kaoru for the final kill.
 He came down on the Hell Hound, but as it heard his battle cry it jumped out of the way just before he could connect.  Kenshin crashed to the ground, hitting nothing but sand.  He turned to it stunned.
 " How-- it anticipated my attack!" He gaped.
" Kenshin!" Kaoru slowly sat up; her right arm was twisted at an odd angle.  Kenshin felt his rage rising.  How dare this beast hurt her-- HIS woman… The huge monster's fur bristled, it growled at Kenshin menacingly.  It didn’t seem to be after him. It was after Kaoru instead and Kenshin was the one between it and its prey.
 Kenshin readied his sword and then took off in a whirlwind, ready for his upper cut technique, " Hiten Mitsurugi Ryuu, DOU RYU SEN!"
 The Hell Hound jumped backwards, barely missing Kenshin's upper cut to its jaw.  It had anticipated him again!!! Kenshin wasn't going to be fooled twice though, from his high advantage point, he thrust down hard with his sword, knocking the Hound across the head.  It collapsed at the impact, shaking its head violently.
 " WATCH OUT HIMURA!"  Death cried.  Kenshin turned to look up at Death who was sliding down the slope, about five other Hell Hounds on his tail.  Kenshin cursed under his breath as he ran in front of Kaoru, ready to meet the onslaught.

 Kenshin slashed with his Sakaba.  These other Hell Hounds weren't nearly as skilled as that first one which had anticipated two of his special attacks.  But his non-cutting Sakaba was doing little to no good against these creatures.  What normally would maim did absolutely nothing-- it was like they didn't feel pain.
 On the other hand, Death's Scythe flew in a deadly arch, carnage followed in its path as he chopped the Hell Hounds one after another to pieces.
 " Kenshin!" Kaoru cried.
 " Himura! Don't be afraid to turn your Sakaba around!" Death called as he chopped a snarling head into two.  " They feel no pain and they were never alive! They are merely creatures designed by Satan! They'll wake up tomorrow morning good as new!"
 " KENSHIN! ON YOUR RIGHT!" Kaoru screamed.  Kenshin turned swiftly as a Hell Hound pounced on top of him.
 " AHHHH!" He unleashed all of his Ken-ki, using all his strength to push upwards and somersault over so that he was now on top of the snarling beast.  He jumped clear of it before it could retaliate. But as he jumped clear of the beast, he also jumped clear of Kaoru.   His heart stopped as he saw the first Hell Hound that had attacked her come bounding through the spot that he'd been, it had been waiting for this opportunity to get to her.
 " KAORU!"
 Her frantic scream rang in his ears as the beast pounced her.
 " NO!" Kenshin saw the beast sink its teeth into Kaoru's neck,  "KAORU!" Kenshin was at her side in a flash.  He kicked the monster off of her, sending it flying to the side.  It landed hard on its side but rolled over and was on it's four feet in a flash.  Kenshin held his sword up, switching sides.  Yellow flashed dangerously across his one working eye.
 " For Kaoru…"
 " STOP!" Death commanded, intercepting Kenshin's sword with his Scythe before it could deliver the final blow.  Kenshin gawked at Death, and then back at the Hell Hound which obediently lowered its head to the ground.
 " WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!" Kenshin cried, his yellow eye glaring at Thanatos furiously. " It-- Kaoru... KAORU!"
 " That ISN'T Kaoru!" Death cried.
 There was a long pause, then Kenshin swiftly looked down at Kaoru. Her neck was completely gone, but-- she… she was still MOVING!?  There was no blood; it was as if the monster had bit the neck off of a clay doll.
 " That's not Kaoru! Look! There is no blood…" Death knelt next to her.  The impostor looked up at him angrily.
 " Damn you…" she muttered.
 " Wha--? Kaoru?" Kenshin walked over to her appalled.  " But-- I don't…"
 " Real spirits feel pain and you would see blood if they were hurt." Death explained.  "But she is not a real spirit-- she's a mere demoness… disguised to look like Kaoru… Satan almost had us fooled!"
 " Humph!" She stuck her tongue out at him.  " Too damn smart for your own good." Then she looked over at Kenshin; she smiled and winked at him.  " Honey-- do you mind putting my head back on my body?  It would be a real help."
 " You…" Kenshin narrowed his eyes darkly, he tightened his grip on his sword. "Where is the real Kaoru?"
 " Beats me." She chided with a laugh.  " You only have one hour left ya know-- Satan was more than happy to let you wander around the desert with me for eternity-- but I guess you messed that up didn't you? Ha! Some protector YOU are…"
 " SHUT UP!" Kenshin yelled, " WHERE IS SHE!?!"
 " Idiot…" She snickered at him.
 " Kenshin… the Hell Hound!" Death said.
Kenshin watched Death whirl around and stalk over to it, the beast lay on the ground, glowing red eyes watching him curiously.
 " What about it?" Kenshin followed him.
 " This thing… knew about her--"
 Kenshin narrowed his eyes.  " It anticipated two of my special techniques… it's not an ordinary Hell Hound."
 " Do you think it knows where she is?"
 " Baka's…" Kaoru's voice chided them again.  Kenshin ignored her and he knelt down next to it.
 " Where is she?" He demanded.  The hound rose up onto its feet with a snarl, Kenshin jumped back, instantly on guard.
 " Kenshin-- wait…" Death put his hand on his shoulder.  Kenshin glanced back at him with his good eye, his gaze fell on the flower in Deaths hand.
 " What's this for?" Kenshin held out his open palm as Death dropped the flower into it.  Death gestured his head towards the Demoness, who regarded it with horror.
 " W-What are you going to do with that?" The demoness demanded.
 " Does this thing bother you?" Kenshin held it up. The demoness stiffened.
 " This teardrop must be the key-- " Thanatos said.
 " Ha!" The demoness laughed.  " Only if you know what to do with it!"
 Kenshin looked down at the drop for a long time; he tipped the open flower and allowed the drop to slide down the petals onto his awaiting fingertip.
 " The Hell Hound-- anticipated my moves… only very few people know my moves well enough to anticipate them…" Kenshin muttered.
 " What are you going to do?" Thanatos said.
 Gaea's words ran through his mind.}

 " It will help you to see past the illusion and bring forth the reality."

 "See past the illusion…"

 "Bring for the reality…"

 " Thanatos… put this in my eye… my blind eye." Kenshin held out his finger with the teardrop.  Reluctantly, Thanatos took it.
 " WAIT!" The demoness cried.  " WAIT! IF YOU STAY--then…"
 Kenshin glanced at her darkly.
 " If you stay--" She continued.  "Satan will give you WHATEVER you desire!  I can take whatever form you want! I can be WHOMEVER you desire!"
 " Don't listen to her-- she's only a tool of Satan." Thanatos said, Kenshin nodded.
 " She's lying to you Kenshin."
 " I know." Kenshin tilted his head back and Thanatos brought his extended finger up.  The tear hovered just above it, and then dropped it into Kenshin's blind eye.