Disclaimer: I don't own any of these characters, they are all copyright to CLAMP, and I am not making any money off them, so please don't sue me. Or send Sei-chan after me.
This is a 'What if' story, in which one major event in the CLAMP timeline gets changed. I apologise in advance to all of those who prefer the canon pairings, several of which I have disrupted in order to write this, but it was just too much of an interesting theory to leave alone.
Words in *asterisks* are thoughts.
This story can be seen as a warning and a lesson to other fic writers - finish the story fast in case the authors abruptly change the direction you're heading in and do things like kill off characters you need. Argh. Remember, it's a "What if" alternative Universe fic people. This is also my excuse for if I've stuffed a few facts or events up.
Kamui put his face in his hands. "The end of the world is starting to sound _awfully_ welcome right now."
"Funny you should mention it," Hokuto said lightly. "I was thinking it was time to organise it."
Having earlier dropped quite a bombshell, Hokuto was now seated at the head of a long table. The other Dragons of Heaven sat down the sides, Kamui was at her direct right.
"Okay, we've showered, changed, eaten, and slept as per your demands. Now... what do you mean, 'organise' the end of the world?" Kamui demanded.
Hokuto smiled at him. "You're so cute Kamui-chan."
"Argh!" Kamui threw his hands up in despair. "Somebody! Sorata!"
Sorata grinned at Kamui and turned to Hokuto. "He means that we are interested in your plan Hokuto-chan."
"I wouldn't go so far as to call it a _plan_," Hokuto said, settling down. "But it seems to me so far that we have a major problem in our tactics. Namely, that we're always on the backfoot, reacting to what the other side do, rather than taking the initiative. No war was ever won by fighting defensively, and that's what is happening here."
"So you're saying we need to fight back, rather than trying to protect the kekkai?" Seiichiro asked.
"I was thinking more, 'as well as'," Hokuto replied. "So far they've been going after the kekkai, working their way up. First the Nagano Sun Plaza, then their attempt on the Yamanote Train Line. Kekkai after kekkai falls and they seem to get more and more powerful. Soon they'll be ready to take on the the Tokyo Tower. The Tower is the last, and most important kekkai. If all else fails, we at least have to make sure that it remains."
Hokuto took a deep breath. "The Dragons of Earth have already destroyed many of the other kekkai. And I already know their next target - Hinoto contacted me and told me it was under threat, which is why I called this meeting. It's time we took the fight to them, we have to stop them NOW. I'd rather not do some last ditch defensive stand at the Tokyo Tower."
Looking around the table, she took in all their nodding heads.
"Where's the next place we're going to hit?" Sorata asked.
Hokuto looked grim. "The Rainbow Bridge."
The group exchanged glances.
"So, what is our plan?" Yuzuriha asked.
On the Rainbow Bridge, Seishirou's coat flapped idly in the breeze. "Aren't you cold?" He asked idly.
Fuuma lightly sprang down beside him. "Not really," he said. Despite the goosebumps on his arms, he seemed quite happy in his t-shirt and jeans.
"Cigarette?" Seishirou offered.
"No thanks, those things will kill you, you know," the Dark Kamui responded.
The two men laughed.
"So what are you doing here?" Seishirou asked. "Don't you trust me to bring down one small kekkai?"
Fuuma shrugged. "Of course I do, I'm merely hoping to see that... very _talented_ girl again."
"Ah yes, Hokuto is a woman of many gifts, most of them annoying." Seishirou commented.
"Who would have thought that tardiness would have been one of her flaws though?" Fuuma scowled into the sky, which was beginning to show the false dawn.
"She'll turn up in her own time, I expect," Seishirou said idly.
"Unfortunately, she's been held up," a cheery voice announced. The two Angels looked up to see Sorata standing on the bridge. Arashi was standing off to his left side and Karen and Seiichirou to his right. Yuzuriha was just behind them all.
"But she sent us on ahead to, er, entertain you," Sorata's eyes twinkled merrily. "She sent a message with us."
"And that would be?" Seishirou stretched idly.
"She said to say... SUCKERS!!!!!"
"So, what is our plan?" Yuzuriha asked.
"We do a FIRST ditch battle at the Yamanote Train Line."
Hokuto waited for the screaming and shouted demands to finish before continuing.
"Let's face it people, we're going to wind up fighting them there sooner or later." She said. "Let's make it on our terms."
"I thought you were going to suggest we try to protect the Rainbow Bridge!" Sorata protested.
"Well, I considered that, but I decided against it." Hokuto shrugged. "There didn't seem to be a lot of point in my going there. I could go, it would be a showdown and someone might get killed. Maybe them, maybe us, but I don't want to risk losing any of our people before the final day."
"My 'plan' is for us to pick ONE kekkai and reinforce it. Force the Dragons to have the showdown THERE, instead of at the Tower. Since the Tower is our kekkai of last resort, we don't want to fight there until EVERY other kekkai has fallen. The Yamanote Train Line is a good target because it's been evacuated following the earlier attack. We can set up a really powerful kekkai over it without interference. The Dragons of Earth will almost HAVE to come after us then, but this time, WE'LL be the ones waiting for them. We'll get to pick out our areas of attack, plan a coherent strategy and be ready. Remember, we haven't seen all of their forces yet. This way we can see what they have. If they're too much for us, we can always retreat and regroup. We'll force the issue and make them come to us, rather than the other way around."
Hokuto looked around at the other Dragons. Arashi and Sorata were nodding in reluctant agreement, Seiichiro and Yuzuriha seemed nervous and Karen relaxed. She turned her gaze to their leader.
"What do YOU think of my plan, Kamui?"
Kamui regarded her solemnly as his insides twisted. "I think it's a good plan Hokuto.... But there's just one thing..."
The rest of the Dragons of Heaven waited, knowing that their leader was still full of hope for the redemption of his friend.
"... What if they attack and destroy all the other kekkai while we're setting up at the Yamanote Train Line?"
"That's where we get cunning... And evil, did I mention evil?"
Back at the Rainbow Bridge:
Seishirou dodged a slash from Arashi's sword and hurriedly jumped to avoid a fireball from Karen.
"Why do you always get the pretty ones?" Fuuma complained, avoiding an attack from Sorata.
"Hey, are you saying I'm not pretty?" Tears began to leak from Sorata's eyes. "Now you've hurt my feelings. That's just not nice!"
"You're quite right," Fuuma apologised. "How about we just get back to me killing you?"
"Fair enough!" Sorata said cheerily, and then yelped as the shinken materialised in Fuuma's hands and lunged out towards him. It was parried by the Inuki-sword in Yuzuriha's hands.
"I'm pretty too!" She shouted defiantly. "I won't let you win!"
"And that would be in the name of love, truth and justice, correct?" Fuuma teased.
"No picking on the young ones," Seiichirou interjected, wind plucking at his jacket as he aimed several wind-cutters at Fuuma. "If you can't play nicely, you cannot play at all."
"But I _love_ to play..." Fuuma grinned. Then suddenly his smile slipped. "What are you doing... Kamui? SHE put you up to this!!!"
Kamui gasped and his knees buckled. "Fuuma... he knows what we're doing." He choked out.
"What? Are you sure?" Hokuto looked up from her spellcasting, holding the kekkai ready but not advancing it.
"DAMN!" Hokuto bent to her task. "We have to concentrate now. /ON!/"
Fuuma's lips curled back from his teeth as he snarled and gathered power within him. A slam of power knocked Yuzuriha and Sorata away, whilst Seishirou's shikigami forced Seiichirou onto the defensive as the Kamui of the Dragons of Earth unleashed his power.
Kamui staggered and lost his grip on the spell. Hokuto cursed and tried to force the kekkai's final protections together by herself.
"What is it?" She asked through gritted teeth.
"They... they've destroyed the Rainbow Bridge. Fuuma has unleashed the power of his shinken. I can't... he's doing something."
Sweat poured down Hokuto's face as she concentrated on the melding of spells she was putting into place. Soon the Yamanote Train Line would be veiled from human eyes and the kekkai safe if... damn... DAMN!!! The spell unravelled from beneath her grasping fingers and she swore viley as she felt it go.
At the pained gasp behind her she stopped trying to pull it back together, instead turning to catch Kamui as he fell. She held him tightly as his body was wracked with painful shudders and felt an echo of his pain as the part of her that was a Dragon of Heaven felt the remaining kekkais come down.
"AAAaaahh! How did they know... We were betrayed - Hinoto!"
The world around them vanished as the sorrowing figure of the blind seeress appeared before them.
*Forgive me, I could not stop the work of my other. She was too powerful. I'm sorry Kamui, but destiny will not be denied.*
She vanished, to be replaced by the smirking Fuuma. Hokuto glared up at him as Kamui's shudders lessened.
"A nice try Kamui-chan, Hokuto-chan. Are you ready to face your future?"
"Oh bite me, you arrogant little snot," Hokuto snapped. "Just get on with it."
Fuuma grinned and gave her a mocking bow. "As the lady wishes."
Raising his shinken high he brought it down and sliced through their partially-completed kekkai. It shattered and he called upon his Dragon power to destroy the Yamanote Train Line.
The dimming twilight lit up in a majestic blast of fire and debris as an enormous explosion caused the ground to rock. Hokuto felt multiple earthquakes hit Tokyo as the other Kekkais collapsed, almost at once. Only the Tokyo Tower kekkai remained in place. The ground bucked beneath them as she clung to Kamui and glared at his laughing counterpart.
"It is DONE!" The Dark Kamui exulted.
"It is done," Kamui intoned and stood up. His eyes flickered. "The final kekkai is destroyed, the path to the Tokyo Tower lies open."
"Tomorrow's dawn will be the last that the world ever sees," Dark Kamui stated.
"Tomorrow's dawn will be the first of an era of hope," Kamui stated.
"Tomorrow's dawn will be that of the Final Day," they said in unison. "The Day of Hunting, the Day of Holding. The Day of Reckoning. Make ready for the End of the World!"
Both men stared at each other as the forces motivating them eased back. Their gazes held steady on each others faces in the aftermath of their strange resonance.
It was, inevitably, Hokuto who broke the silence.
"So, I guess that trip to Hokkaido is off then?"
The Dragons of Heaven gathered back at the Imonoyama Mansion. Suoh, Akira and Nokoru joined their subdued meeting.
"It's come to this," Hokuto said. "I'm sorry everyone, I hoped my plan would work, but..."
"It's not your fault Hokuto-chan," Yuzuriha protested wearily. "You tried. We let you down."
"It's not your fault either," Hokuto protested.
"It's noone's fault," said Kamui tiredly. "It's just the way it is." He sighed. "Tomorrow's dawn will be the End of the World. I will unseal the shinken at first light and go to meet /Kamui/ at the Tokyo Tower." He looked at every member of the group.
"You don't have to come with me. NO!" The protests halted.
"I mean it. You don't have to come with me. Noone has to. Those who want to fight it out, be at the chamber of the shinken at dawn tomorrow." Getting up, he stalked out of the room.
The other Dragons looked at each other. Finally Sorata stood up and stretched. "Well, I guess I better turn in early! I'll need a good nights rest - it wouldn't do to oversleep and miss the end of the world!" He walked out. The meeting broke up and the various Dragons drifted off.
Hokuto and Nokoru headed for their bedchamber. "I'm going to take a bath," she told him.
"I want to talk to you after that," Nokoru told her. "It's important."
She nodded and walked past him. Passing Suoh, she stroked his arm gently and he looked at her, his eyes filled with resignation and worry. She nodded slightly, and he nodded back.
Hokuto disrobed and scrubbed quickly in the bathroom, before washing all the suds off and climbing into the bath to soak. As her aches and pains eased she began to relax a little, but no mere bath could clear away the tension inside of her as she contemplated what was to come.
Finishing, she dressed again in a bathrobe and headed back towards her bedroom. Passing an open door she heard a sob and looked in. Kamui was kneeling against the wall and crying quietly. Hokuto quietly stole in and sat next to him. She gently pulled him to her and held him, stroking his hair as he cried.
Eventually his sobs lessened and they sat together in silence.
"I don't know if I can do this Hokuto." Kamui broke the silence finally. "I just don't know anymore." He looked up at her. "How can I fight him? This is Fuuma. No matter how often I tell myself that he's /Kamui/ now, in my heart I know he's still Fuuma!"
Hokuto regarded him for a moment. "Kamui, do you think Fuuma would feel this way if it were him, and not you?"
Kamui blinked. "I... yes. I know he would."
"And what do you think he would do, if he knew that his best friend had been taken over by a force to make him destroy the world, and he could not be rescued. Do you think he would do nothing, try to persuade him, or kill him if necessary?"
Kamui thought about this for a bit. "Fuuma would do the right thing."
Hokuto kissed his forehead. "And I know you will too Kamui." She stood up. "Just think, would your friend think that his life was a fair trade for the rest of the world? Would you put the sin of that evil upon his soul?"
"But... what if I could bring him back?" Kamui begged.
Hokuto's eyes held no ease to his suffering. "At what price?"
Kamui met her gaze. "My life."
Hokuto paused. "Would he want you to die for him?"
Kamui's eyes dropped. Hokuto patted him on the head gently. "Kamui, I trust you. And I believe in you. And to a degree, I know how you feel. Tomorrow I face the man who was as close to me as my brother. He was my friend, and the man who my brother loved above all others. Did he ever really exist? Did the Sakurazukamori take him over, or was he always so?" She shrugged. "In the end, does it matter? If he was, and now is not, I have to end his suffering. If he always was as he is, then he must die. Either way, the result is the same. Make your choice Kamui. Only you can."
"I don't know if I can fight on." Kamui said. "If Fuuma is gone, then I have noone I want to protect."
"Hey! What am I? Chopped liver? And here I thought we'd gotten close Kamui-chan." Fake tears welled up in Hokuto's eyes and Kamui managed a watery smile.
"Hokuto-chan, can I... may I... do you miss your brother?"
Hokuto paused. "Yes.
Kamui carried on hesitantly. "Didn't you want to give up after he died?"
Hokuto thought carefully. "No. Not really. All I really wanted to do was kick Sei-chan's butt."
"Do you... do you think _he'd_ want you to fight the Sakurazukamori?" Kamui's voice was very small indeed.
"Absolutely," Hokuto replied as Kamui looked up in surprise. "It's my duty. The duty of our clan, and Subaru was ALWAYS into that kind of thing. Also, I think... he would have had to face the same choice as you - to kill his friend to save his soul, or to kill an evil who had destroyed his friend. And I think he would have fought." She closed her eyes for a moment, and then opened them again. "I'm not saying he would have WON mind you, but I'm sure he would have tried."
"Was it hard, after he died?"
Hokuto sighed. "Yes, it was very hard. Not only because I lost him, but because I lost Sei-chan too. And whatever I say and do, he was still a good friend. But now he isn't, and I've had to find new reasons for going on."
Kamui nodded. "I wish I could find new reasons for going on."
Hokuto regarded him for a moment. "Would you like to know what _I'm_ fighting for now Kamui-chan?"
Hokuto reached out to him. "Give me your hand. We have to make this quick though - I have to go have an argument with my husband."
Hokuto entered the door to the bedroom she and Nokoru shared and sighed. Nokoru turned to look at her. "I'm coming along tomorrow." He said flatly.
"That would be foolish, and you are anything but a fool, my love." Hokuto walked behind him and put her arms around him, resting her head against his back.
"I mean it Hokuto," Nokoru's voice was uncharacteristically serious. "I'm going with you. I will not let you face that monster alone."
"Should I point out that you're reknowned for being unathletic, husband-mine?" Hokuto asked.
"And I'm just as reknowned for being athletic when a woman is in danger. You can't talk me out of this Hokuto, I've made up my mind."
"Mmmm... I love it when you get all assertive."
"Hokuto!" Nokoru twisted around and seized her arms. "I have never been more serious. I _am_ coming tomorrow. If it's the end of the world, then we'll face it together."
"Seishirou will kill you," Hokuto looked into his eyes. "You can't fight him. And trying to protect you could get me killed. I won't be able to protect us both. You cannot come."
"I can and I will. There will be no more discussion." Nokoru's grip was firm. "I will come with you to the Tokyo Tower tomorrow."
"I don't care what Suoh thinks!" Nokoru shouted. "This is too important to me!"
Hokuto sighed. "You're serious aren't you?"
"Deadly." Nokoru replied.
"Damn you," Hokuto bowed her head in defeat. "Please don't do this."
"I'm sorry, but I must." Nokoru released Hokuto and smiled. "Besides, I'm sure everything will be fine. And I have a few tricks too!" He brandished a small stuffed penguin and Hokuto groaned.
"Not that thing again! Nokoru, if you insist on doing this..."
She sighed. "Then I guess I cannot stop you."
Nokoru smiled tightly. "No, you can't." He kissed her then, fiercely and suddenly. "It can't end like this, I won't let the world end. There's too much... too much..."
Hokuto kissed him back. "I know," she said at last.
Nokoru nuzzled her neck. "You need to rest."
Hokuto laughed lightly. "Oh, you know me. Four hours of sleep and I'm ready to face the day." She began to relax into his embrace. "Where's my hot chocolate?"
Nokoru laughed. "Ah yes, we must keep to our nightly rituals, musn't we? Akira brought them in earlier, they're on the table."
Separating, the pair walked over to the table and lifted their mugs.
"A toast!" Hokuto held her mug high. "To the End of the World!"
"To the End of the World." Nokoru echoed. They gently clinked the mugs together and then slowly sipped their hot chocolates.
"Now, about those nightly rituals," Hokuto murmured.
The Final Day had come at last, and Hokuto drew the curtains to see the first signs of the last dawn as it streaked red across the dark sky.
She watched the red spread and spread until the whole sky seemed to be bleeding, and Suoh knocked at the door.
"It's time," he said. "Kamui is just getting up. The others too."
Hokuto sighed and turned to regard the unconcious body of her husband. "How much did you give him?"
"I slipped in two tablets, that should keep him asleep till noon." Suoh moved to her side and looked down at Nokoru. "He will be angry."
"I can live with that, and, more importantly, so will he." Hokuto turned away. "How did you get it in without him suspecting?"
Suoh shrugged. "I just slipped it in while Akira was making it. He didn't notice me doing it, which was just as well. Akira was the perfect vessel, though I hate to use a friend like that. If _I'd_ brought the chocolate, Rijichou might have gotten suspicious. But he would never suspect _Ijyuin_ of such a sneaky tactic."
"Then it's fortunate for us all that you're more sneaky."
"Ha! I learned from the best!" Suoh gently smoothed the blankets over Nokoru.
Hokuto grabbed up some clothes and headed out the door to the bathroom. "Take care of him."
"I will... and you take care of yourself too." Suoh called after her.
Hokuto nodded, and headed off to face destiny.
Go ON to Part Five
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