Many, many, many years later...
Kyuuzou slowly stood from his stoop over the small strawberry bush that he and Kanbei had in their small garden, wincing as his back crackled in many different places. Many years had passed since he and Kanbei had, for all intents and purposes, vanished from society. After the battle that had left them both exhausted mentally, physically, and emotionally, they had rested for a night and then walked off in a direction away from Haruka, away from Kougakyo, seeking a place where neither of their pasts would catch up with them ever again. They had found one, a small patch of forest within the wilds of the unknown, and had built a small house, and had brought seeds and sprigs of plants that they found and would use for food as they had meandered. The first years were hard, but since both men were used to running on little, they managed to survive, and were rather proud of their efforts.
Old habits died hard, though, and even now, much older and greyer, Kyuuzou still carried one sword at his hip. He kept in as best shape as he could, while Kanbei had kept up with the latest news of the outside world, not wanting to be caught unaware by training messenger birds to go back and forth from Hotaruya to where they lived in the far reaches of nowhere. Kyuuzou saw one of the birds coming, and held out a hand for it to alight on. He took off the small scroll tied to its foot, murmured words of praise, gave it some food, and let it fly into the coop that he and Kanbei had made. Kyuuzou unrolled the piece of paper and read it, then sighed. Kanbei would not like the news.
Kyuuzou resettled the basket he had been collecting strawberries with on his arm and walked to the house, where Kanbei was sitting, watching as the soup he was making simmered.
"One of your birds came."
"Shichiroji is dead."
Kanbei looked away and Kyuuzou sat slowly next to him, placing the basket to one side. He watched Kanbei's features for a moment, then smiled sadly.
"Yes. We are relics from an era that no longer exists, no longer wishes to exist. You and I...we lived our lives best we could, didn't we?"
Kyuuzou nodded and put a comforting hand on Kanbei's shoulder.
"I'm tired..." Kanbei sighed softly, and kicked the fire so that it flared briefly, then died into small flames, then embers. Both men watched as the fire fell still, then Kyuuzou looked over to Kanbei. Kyuuzou shifted, and stood slowly, his body protesting the movement. He extended one hand, and Kanbei took it, and it was only through their combined strengths that Kanbei managed to teeter onto his feet.
"I hate being old," he muttered as he and Kyuuzou leaned on each other as they walked into their small bedroom. Kyuuzou merely smiled faintly and helped Kanbei to lie down, then sat next to him, pulling the covers over Kanbei's prone form. He reached out and brushed a lock of Kanbei's hair away from his face, and Kanbei smiled at him gently.
"Before you sleep..."
"I haven't told you something."
"After so long?"
Kyuuzou nodded slowly, and took one of Kanbei's hands, and held it between his.
"I love you."
Kanbei nodded, and understood his reluctance for saying so for all the years they had been together.
"I feel the same way, Kyuuzou."
With that, Kanbei closed his eyes, and Kyuuzou watched over him until he breathed his last. Kyuuzou remained sitting for a long moment, and felt Kanbei's spirit depart. With that, he laid down next to him, still holding his hand and closed his eyes. With a small, content smile on his lips, he breathed his last.
Jezebel looked at the two forms before it, and pondered the scene briefly.
Shichiroji is buried with all the other samurai that defended Kanna Village. I feel it would be a disservice to their memory, don't you? she asked, and looked up at Kiriael.
I suppose you're right, little one. There is no one out here to bury them anyway, so they would end up food for the beasts...and neither deserve that.
So we'll take 'em to Kanna and bury them there?
Yes, yes, patience. It will take no time to get there.
Don't forget their swords!
Kiriael was simultaneously amused and exasperated by Jezebel's exuberance, and with a sweeping gesture encompassed the room. Kyuuzou and Kanbei's bodies, as well as their respective swords began to glow a soft light, and then they, and the two minor Powers disappeared, leaving an empty basket of strawberries to rot next to a dead fire.
Komachi was going up to pay her respects to the fallen, as she did every week, when she thought she saw something odd about the graves nearby.
With a small cry, she ran up the rest of the way, her children in a string behind her, shouting at their mother to slow down. She reached the top of the hill quickly, and looked at the two newest graves, situated alongside Shichiroji's and Katsushiro's(who had recently died, his body unable to cope with the mechanical bits that had been put on him after he had been found by a member of another village that had known who he was and where he was from), and her eyes clouded with tears.
"No-one is left now..."
She quickly gained her composure, sniffled, wiped her eyes, and calmed herself.
"I need to get two more bowls and more rice."
She turned just as her children caught up with her, and they looked at the two graves before them, one with twin katanas crossed at the hilt, and the other with a single sword, solidly built, with a small charm fluttering in the wind.
They turned, unnerved, and went to catch up with their mother.
Author: This is one of two of epilogues. This one is -much- shorter, so it's the one getting posted. I felt that I had to wrap things up completely, even though my story ended rather well,pulling the loose ends together...kinda. X( I have too many ideas of how to end the story...well,whatever. I'm glad you all stuck with it, up to even this last ramble. I will now concentrate on getting the titles together. Many hearts!