Disclaimers!! All regular characters belong to Nobuhiro Watsuki. As for me, I don't belong to anybody ^_^ and nobody would like to accept me anyway :P Oh, and by the way, I made up the yakuza leader Arisawa. I don't really remember Yahiko's ex-boss (if ever his name was mentioned.)
The sun was setting when I reached my master's house on the third week of my skinny attempt to start my life again. Everyday, I work at Sekihara's hotbot restaurant with some other benevolent babes. The pay was not much of a something to brag, and the work was not something to shake your fingers at, but I sank my teeth on the position anyway. The twins were indeed as benevolent as their other babe employees, I had to admit. Kaoru was right in what she said.
There was nothing interesting or important that ever happened for the past weeks. One thing to note, though : there was no trouble, no mysterious man that visited me. I didn't know whether that was a good or bad omen.
I went in my master's house, slumping down. The people from the Kamiya dojo helped me rebuild my master's house. It was not lavish, just a little hut you could spend a night over, and not so spacious either, just fit for a person or two. But it was cozy, and somehow, I could say I was never alone.
I was trying to live a straight life once again, the life which my master taught me. Boring, I had to confess, since a straight life rather meant no moonshine. But I was doing my best to get used to it. If that was the least I could do to make up for breaking my master's last will into not touching a sword again, then, I had to do it. So after I ate barbecued fish, I went to sleep. From my room, you could catch a glimpse of the stars. The stars were nice when they don't sparkle much, but when they do, it sort of brings me chills. Actually, I wasn't used to sleeping early. But I had to, since there was a work - a responsibility - that awaits me by sunrise. According to Kaoru , that would be a good start for a good life. The thought of that stubborn girl made me smile.
I made it through the evening and when my eyes opened next, it was morning. I prepared myself and headed for the restaurant. The first person who greeted me there was Sanjou Tsubame, a pretty little girl with brown hair. She was gentle and kind to me. I remember Kaoru telling me that Yahiko had his eyes set for that filly, and the more I stay with Tsubame, the more I was convinced that Yahiko was not making any mistakes.
work in the restaurant was the usual stuffs. I had the feeling it was just
another boring day. I did my best to stop drinking and live life
Master Tan's way. Of course I still had my dagger with me. I finally got
back my dagger from that Shinomori, but I gave it to Sano. It just so happened
that the person who saved me from the explosion and sent me shivering in
the water was no other than Aoshi Shinomori himself. I didn't manage to
talk to him because according to Kaoru, he brought me back there
in the dojo unconscious without any word and didn't bother wait for me
to wake up. I was very sick the next day, coughing still and had
their friend who was also a doctor, Takani Megumi to see me and check me
up. I still had my bloody cough , though but she gave some stuffs to lessen
my cough. Then I found my dagger stuck in my chest, the one which Shinomori
had taken and the other one on my waist. Before I leave, I gave that dagger
to Sano then went to visit Sasami and Haru as I had promised the boy of
my return. I often stayed with them for some time . During my visits,
I learned from Sasami's confession that they were being paid by the joined
forces of yakuza and Kuroi Bara (under Sawagi and Uchiori Arisawa) to be
kind to me. She also claimed that she didn't want to do anything like that
and she never needed the money, but the gang threatened to kill her and
Haru, so she agreed. Poor lady. But I understand her situation anyway.
That day, there was nothing exciting. I wanted to have a drink again, but I stopped myself. I guess some things just needed discipline. Then, by mid afternoon, a young lad came and was looking for me. He said that he was looking for me for so long now.
"What?" I asked, scratching my head. The guy appeared to be of my age, brown hair, brown eyes, 165 cm tall.
"You," he mumbled, panting. "I've been searching for you all over Japan!"
I guess he was telling the truth because he was almost hugging me. Guh. Like he just saw the woman of his dreams. And another guh. We were attracting so many attentions. "Why??"
He held on my shoulder for support. "Master -Master -"
My brows wrinkled in confusion. "Just say it, ok? " I snapped. No matter how straight I live my life, there was always this snapping that comes from my mouth. I still get easily annoyed.
"Omigosh!" Sae screamed. "She's you're master?"
"No," we chorused sarcastically.
I shrugged and shook the lad. "Nani??"
He took a deep breath and began speaking. "Master Tan. Where is he ?." Then he introduced himself as Ikehara Keiichi a nephew of my master from Kyoto.
Quickly, I pulled him somewhere where we could talk alone without anybody interfering. He was looking for Master Tan, telling me he had a big sum of money and all those stuffs of and how he was scanning the entire country for him. My attention was suddenly drawn. Oh no, not really about the money part, but about my master. I didn't know he had a relatives and a nephew. I didn't know he was wealthy, since he appeared to be the same ordinary folk. I guess there were things he needed to keep from me. I guess there were some things I never knew about. I guess there were some things I should never know about. Then I got pretty hooked up with my thoughts again. After some minutes of talk and told him his uncle was dead, he asked me where we could meet again for the negotiation of master's wealth he left in his family's care. I told him he could always meet me in the restaurant , but it was much better if we meet during some other time that didn't have to intermit my work. Finally, we managed to settle an arrangement and he was going to come back right after my work that afternoon.
Sae was the one who showed her interest. "What did he say? What did he say? What did he say?" she asked repeatedly.
I put on back my apron, ignoring her. "I've got work to do, right?"
"But you'd tell me later, ok?" she winked at me, grinning. Grrr. I knew what she was thinking. That afternoon, he came back and he accompanied me as I headed back to my master's house. He claimed that he came from Kyoto , but came here to Tokyo in search for me. We were talking for quite a time, because when I looked out the window, it was dark and the stars were out.
"Got somewhere to sleep?" I asked him. He was sitting opposite me in my humble little hut.
Ikehara shook his brown head. "Heading back to Kyoto."
"You can stay over if you like," I told him. Actually, I was a bit surprised he bothered looking for master when he could keep the money instead. Maybe if I were in his shoes, I would have kept it for myself. I guess Master Tan and his kin were different.
"No I mean it," I cut in, standing up. "What do you wanna eat?" I winced at my own question. I gave out choices anyhow. "Barbecued fish, barbecued fish or barbecued fish?"
Ikehara watching in amusement. Before he could say anything, I broke in again.
"Let's have barbecued fish," I declared , slapping my forehead. There was no much a choice for him. "Whether you like it or not, you should like it," I informed him dryly. You know, I was not much of a good host and I guess it was becoming more and more obvious by the second.
"Sure," he answered politely, shrugging.
Before I exit the door, I spun to him. "You should like this or else...." I warned him.
Ikehara just nodded. I got woods I used and in no time, there were about four barbecued fish. I was going to bring it over inside, but Ikehara had stepped out of the house, observing the surrounding quietly. The night had come so swiftly I barely noticed it. The moon was out but it was not full, and some stars were sparkling so brightly that it began to scare me. There were those familiar noises around that could be heard only during night as the wind seemed to blow colder and colder each minute.
"Where do you wanna eat?" I asked him.
He turned to me with a sheepish look. I noticed he was shy but he got to crack a joke anyhow. "Here here or here?" he asked me.
I stood up, crossing my arms over my chest rolling my eyes. He was starting to amuse me. Finally we decided to settle there outside. Unlike those people from the restaurant who considered themselves "victims" of my cooking , Ikehara was such a polite guy that he didn't give out biting comments about the fish and didn't hear him say something like " this stinks!" or "whadda heck is this?". I guess he didn't want to embarrass me even when we were alone. Or maybe he knew what kind of a person I was and getting me mad was the last thing he wanted.
"So , this is where Ojiisan used to stay?" he begun.
"Yeah, " I answered simply. My gaze steadied on the blazing fire in the between us. Maybe the reason that I had Master's house rebuild in a hut instead of what it used to be was that to lessen my sadness. Yeah. Somehow, it did lessen my sadness, but did it lessen my anger? No, I guess not. My anger was still there, I was so sure. True, Sawagi might be dead, but he didn't die by my blade. And that Shinomori!! Why did he have to save me? Why can't he just mind his own business?
"Well, if you don't want to answer it, fine with me," he was saying.
I blinked. I was getting hooked on my thoughts once more. "Sumimasen?"
He tossed something on the fire absently. " I was asking you how Ojiisan died," he muttered.
I hesitated. I really didn't know whether it was a nice idea to tell him how my Master died. Getting to know me was already not a nice idea, much more tell him something. But I decided to tell him a little something, maybe a little white lie , so at least to satisfy his questions. "Well, he --"
My statement was interrupted as the wind blew harder and (colder too) and the fire was extinguished. I was feeling another presence once again to my disbelief. I looked up, veering my head to different directions, searching for the company.
"It's just the wind," Ikehara assured in hearing my discomfort. I met his brown eyes and signaled for him to shut up. He did so, but the question in his face was visible . The wind was blowing so hard causing some dust to irritate my eyes. That gave me the feeling that staying outside was getting way to hazardous for him, so I motioned for him to get inside. If ever somebody wanted a fight , then the battleground should be hell ready as the warriors.
"What is it?" Ikehara whispered in my ear as he walked past me, seeing my uneasiness.
"I'll explain later," I replied softly. But really I had not the least intention to tell him. Nowadays, not only what you don't know can kill you, but also what you know. I shut the door behind him, observing the surrounding. Master's house was somewhat isolated from the civilization, a little far from the main town, adjacent to a river , an indication of an innumerable supply of fish. It was supposed to be nice evening........but what the hell? I hate to think that the newcomer was somewhat jealous of Ikehara spending a night with me, 'coz you know despite this 'new' life that I'm starting, I knew -- if you don't mind my pride -- that I still have this strong hold on men.
The stars seemed to have disappeared along with the rays of the moon. It seems like the guest had the ability to make a grand entrance, which was most of the time, meant to scare you out of your skin. I guess I was getting pretty much used to it that it could scare me no longer. Scanning the environment , I was successful in seeing his figure atop a tree. A dart came, hitting the ground an inch away from my toes. Not even three seconds have passed, his figure was gone. Bending down, I picked the dart. It was the same dart that had injured my left hand, chest , neck and leg.
I sighed as I came in, tossing the dart aside. So the mysterious man came back , eh? I wonder what the heck he was up to. But I had to admit, life without him was ....dull? When I got in, Ikehara was interrogating me with his unsatisfied questions which I didn't bother answer .I knew he was worried and all, but it was for his own good. The next morning, I woke up pretty late to find Ikehara gone. I bounded for the Sekihara restaurant without stopping by whatever river the mysterious man was referring to. I was getting tired of listening to his petty orders. Besides, I tried forgetting my revenge and the murderers of my master. It was Kenshin who made me see the obstinacy of revenge. Didn't I tell you he was indeed a man of honor and pride? When I was about to leave, he met me alone and talked to me. He said, " Remember the consequences of your actions and the people who is going to suffer for it. The world doesn't revolve around you. Prove yourself worthy of living this life and quit being headstrong enough to attempt get your revenge. You never get anything in doing so. Learn to let go and live life to the fullest. Remember that." I couldn't forget his words. They were gentle, but firm and they spoke of truth. He reminded me of my master.
Everything was just fine in the restaurant. Ikehara hadn't returned, so I supposed he had headed back to Kyoto. Whatever. The total of customers in the restaurant reached its peak during lunch and Sekihara was forced to order me to go to the market for more food supply, which was then running low. Actually, Tae-san was ordering some other fellows, but I volunteered anyway. I was sort of bored. But I guess I made such a wrong move that when I came back, the restaurant was in a chaos. I could hear Tae-san shouting from the inside. Some three men were slumped on the ground , unconscious. When I went in , everything was messy and more people were knocked out.
"What the heck happened here?" I demanded to no one in particular feeling my dagger on my chest.
"Tsubame-chan!" Tae screamed , a horrified look coating all over her face.
"What about her?" Tae-san ran to me, almost close to tears. Her tawny face was pale and her eyes wide with terror. It took some time before she could speak in a straight sentence to tell me about Sanjou's abduction by some unknown men who just burst in right after I disappeared. My blood boiled with rage, unballing and balling my fists. Dullards indeed were those who knew so well how low the peak of my patience was to be a coward enough to involve an innocent girl like Sanjou in their endeavors to get me. They will, no doubt, pay, I vowed to myself. Furiously , I raced outside, my body high with hopes to get even a single clue of my friend's kidnappers, if not catching them immediately. But of course, it was a setup, I figured out later and they took my absence for their dominance and carried off Sanjou. Darn! Men haven't changed a bit, though. They still like to pick on helpless women. So I guess I shouldn't be trying that hard to change.
However, there was no trace of Sanjou's kidnappers. Some of those bystanders I asked pointed me to different directions of where the abductors had gone off. At such moments that I was on the verge of giving up, a black figure appeared in the corner of my eyes. Hastily, it leaped from one roof to another, but that time, I was really determined to get him, so I began this same expedition of cat-mouse chase , with me, unfortunately, being the cat. So damn absorbed I was in catching him that I overlooked Sagara and Takani as they strolled by the streets and bumped to them by chance. They were accompanied by Myojin, later on I noticed as I tripped down to the ground. Sagara greeted me with sarcasm which I ignored, while Takani and Myojin bent down to help me. But there was no time to waste for greetings or whatever acknowledgments refined folks do , since the man I was after might disappear any moment now. Briskly standing up as I stubbornly refused their help, I ran after him once more, jumping to the roof the mysterious man was on. My feet thumped on the roof . One thing that was annoying me -- whenever I attempt to chase him, seldom do we fail to attract attention and I could feel people crowding to watch, hopefully, this time, my success in catching the mouse. But that was such a dream, because like his usual doings, he vanished in thin air after sending some darts to my direction which I missed by some inches. Right, it didn't hit me, but it caused me to lose my balance and fall down. Grrrr. I guess I overlooked that one ! All this time that he had hit me before, I thought I was immuned to his darts, but here I go again ,committing the same mistakes! When will I ever learn? The pain of my defeat caused me to lose my concentration and I fell on the ground, crashing on a table. It hurt at first, but I was more annoyed than hurt. Gosh! I failed again. It was the trio again who witnessed everything, battled the crowds surrounding me to help me. But I guess I was WAY too annoyed to appreciate it, because I shook Takani's hands as walked off, grumbling to myself. I heard Sagara shout angrily at me and some onlookers hush and whisper amongst themselves, but I was very hooked on my thoughts to care. I was so obsessed in catching him and even believed in myself I could finally do it, but I was wrong. I thought wrong. I believed wrong. If there was one thing that could make me crabby, that's defeat. How I hate being defeated!
I didn't bother returning back to the restaurant. Sekihara-san could fire if she wants to, but I was getting really frustrated on my attempts to pretend to be able to live this "straight-and-normal-17-year-old- girl's-life" which Kaoru had been trying to teach me. It was just a bummer how I could be trying to do my ultimate best then some thugs would come and ruin everything and put my efforts to waste. Maybe that was supposed to be my fortune -- to continue living an upside-down life I had lead. But hey! Whadda bloody heck was I talking about? There was no fortune no whatever. I was supposed to be the master of my lie and captain of soul, wasn't I? But, oh, well.....I just don't know anymore.
I didn't go anywhere that night, maybe just stroll around and regret myself fro being such a fool and weakling and letting the bastards go. To think of it, I was actually considering of going back to moonshine, but my being penniless prevented me. And the thought of Sanjou. The last thing Sanjou needed was for me to get drunk, and somewhat, thank God, I realized that earlier . So I just went fishing by the nearest river until late night. To much of my surprise , when I got "home" to my Master's hut that night, I found Ikehara waiting for me, his arms crossed bossily.
"Where' ve you been?" he demanded.
I tossed to him the stick which held my catch. "Fishing," I informed him dryly.
He lead me inside, watching me doubtfully. "Indeed?" he asked, standing by the doorway as he kept his arms furiously folded.
I sank to the wooden flooring of my house, sighing. "What are you doing here anyway? I thought you went back to Kyoto."
"Why? Did I say something like that?"
I raised a brow at the high concentration of sarcasm on his voice. It reminded me of Sagara. "Why? Did I say that you said something like that?"
"Why are you answering a question with a question?"
"And why are you doing the same thing?"
He frowned at me. You know, there was but a rare breed of creatures in the history of mankind who could win against the piercing blade of my tongue. Funny, but of those creatures was that Kamiya, who also triumphed in leveling my obstinacy , and oh - should I say almost took my crown ?
Ikehara remained speechless for a long time, on his hand dangled the branch which held my catch, about some four to five denizens of the deep. His eyes played on it as he, as I assume, thought of a reply against mine. "Am I not welcome here?" he asked suddenly.
Leaning on the wall, I groaned, crossing my arms beneath my head. "I don't know," I muttered. That night we didn't eat, and to much of my surprise, we ended up telling each other what the heck happened. He said he was inquiring fellows from the town about his Uncle's death, since I refused to tell him about it. However , so few folks knew about him, and most of them were even surprised Master was dead and all he harvested was a little fabricated info, stating Master committed suicide. Poor fellow. I told him about Sanjou's abduction and all of my attempts to catch the mysterious man.
"Fast, eh? Get a gun," he suggested absently. "You'll catch him , for sure. You know, it's a ......."
I snapped my fingers. I didn't hear its explanation of it, but hehehe - I know what a gun is and knew what a gun was. I'm not that dumb! And when I think about it, it seemed like a *great* idea... I've seen one before in one of my quests for my pickpocket business. Yeah. A gun. Why haven't I thought of that before? Since using darts would take time for me to master, and it seemed like only the speed of a bullet could level his rapidity, then......it was absolutely a great idea !! I turned to him. "Why didn't you tell me that before?"
He scratched his head, probably regretting his own suggestion. "Well, it has its disadvantages too, of course --"
I stood up, nearing to him. "I'm going to get one! Do you know where?"
He blocked the doorway , as though reading what was on my mind. "Wait a minute. For one thing, guns cost much --"
"Well, didn't you just say that Master left me a big sum of money. I'm pretty sure it's more than enough to get one, right?" I asked him knowingly, my eyes lighting up.
then, the wind began to blow fiercely again. Darn. It's him. I was just
figuring out way to get him, and he was there. Speaking of the bloody bastard.
I guess he heard everything, that pig! I saw him, perched on the
nearest and lowest tree in sight. I paused, looking through Kawamoto's
shoulder. I was probably so silent for quite while, because Ikehara
spun too in noticing my silence.
wants Battousai in exchange for Sanjou. The real Battousai." He
spun on his heel and was about to leave, but he turned once more. "This
is confidential," announced in a matter-of -factly kind of voice.
"Wait!" I screamed. Guh. Too late. The bastard was gone. I clenched my fists irritably. It was always annoying the way he seem to knew everything about me. And how the insipid heck did he get to know about that Arisawa, my former master, leader of the yakuza? He must be spy working for Arisawa! Damn he!
Ikehara held my arm. "Forget it. He's gone now."
"I'm going to get him !" I howled.
"No you're not."
"Yes I will! I will get a gun and I will get him! "
I stared at him. How dare he call me idiot? Like he could say that and spend the night in MY house! "BOOBY!!" I yelled back at him.
But he chose to ignore it --because I'll win anyway -- and he decided to lecture me. "You're not buying a gun. Didn't you think that that Arisawa might ask ransom for Sanjou? What will you give him?"
By time, after some efforts of explanation, I finally got his point and stopped me from chasing after the bastard and from getting a gun. But I was in for another dilemma. How the hell was I going to get that Battousai surrender himself to Arisawa? And why in the world did Arisawa wanted Battousai? It couldn't be ! Oooohhhh.....
That night, Ikehara and I figured out a way to get Battousai . The real Battousai. Well, of course, after I explained to him everything. It wasn't that nice, though, but I bought it. At least that was better than my own do-it-by-force method. The plan went like this : I'll negotiate with Kenshin about it and if he agrees I will "pretend" to abduct Kaoru and bring her to Arisawa and it would more likely that Arisawa would trust me for "betraying" my pals. Kenshin will barge in, of course, and be really mad and fight that Arisawa. Along the way, he should be able to defeat that Arisawa, and I should be on my way to getting Sanjou.
"Well, why couldn't I just talk to Kenshin and make him see the situation?" I asked Ikehara. I hate to admit it, but I disliked too much work. Plus, I wasn't so sure about my my acting prowess. I must have lost it for lack of practices ^_- "He'll surely agree to help out of it was for good cause."
Ikehara threw out his hands. "It's supposed to be confidential, remember? Besides, to get the real Battousai you should be able to make him really mad. Arisawa probably heard of the new Kenshin and didn't want to fight that Kenshin, but the old Kenshin, the real Battousai. And as you said, that old Kenshin only comes out when he's mad and the best way to make him 'mad' is to 'abduct' his friend and 'betray' him. Because if you just talk to him out of it, Arisawa will surely be furious and wonder how you manage to get the Battousai to fight him and keep everything confidential."
"Where will you be?"
"I'll just go and watch everything, in case you forget your lines or you need help...."
Right, I thought to myself. I was kind of thankful that Ikehara was there to help me set everything. He proved himself not to be "BOOBY" and I felt sorry I called him that. Well, he didn't have to call me idiot in the first place! Anyway, the next day I didn't go to the restaurant for work and instead, "reviewed" everything . Besides, Sekihara must have had fired me. Apart from that, I needed to do something to save Sanjou. After all, it was all mainly my fault she was in trouble. I should have known better than to work in the restaurant full of vulnerable babes! I thought as Ikehara and I headed for the Kamiya dojo that afternoon. No one was outside so I was thinking they might be eating, so I went in. I didn't notice anybody at first, but later on, became aware of Takani there, watching me.
"Yes?" she asked me with a curt smile.
I guess she still hates me for shaking her off the day before. But I was not in for any apology. For those who have not yet known the heights of my ever so stubborn pride.....well, it's ore than enough to make you afraid of heights. "No thanks. Where's Kaoru and Kenshin?"
"They're no here right now, sorry. They both left for the market ," she informed.
I snapped my fingers, grumbling. Before I could speak again, she interrupted. "And Sano isn't here either. I ordered him and Yahiko of them to buy some medicines. Dr. Genzai is sick, you know."
"It's her! She's back! She's back! She's back!" A merry voice came in. I grinned, seeing the two girls from the inside. They both giggled in seeing me and ran to meet me. I bent down to level their gazes.
"You're back!" Ayame screamed happily.
"Yeah. Missed me?"
They both snaked their arms around my neck, saying so many yesses as the hugged me. Takani laughed.
"Seems like they like you much, yes?" she asked me. She seemed suddenly kind, but I took it that she was only nice because there were kids around. I still wasn't sure what kind of a person Takani really was. For one thing, she looked rather kind of stuck - up . But looks shouldn't be basis for judgment, that I had learned and just learned. For one thing, Master never looked rich, but was he, indeed, to very much of my astonishment!
"Yeah," I mumbled. After a while, I got to pull away from them and encourage them to continue their playing without me. Seeing them when you leave sorts of saddens everything even more. I knew Ikehara was waiting outside.
I stood up to meet Takani's gaze again. "Anyway, where do you think I can find them ? "
"Who? Sano --?"
I shook my head. Why is that she keeps mentioning about Sano? She probably got the impression that....... Ah! How I hate it! But there was nothing I could do. First impressions last. "No. Kenshin and Kaoru. I need to talk to them."
Takani shook her dark head. I see she was also very lovely and somewhat taller than I. "Sorry, but they went to the market . I couldn't be really certain where in the market they went. If you like, leave a message for them and I'll be sure to tell them when they come back." Carefully eyeing me, she added, "Well, if you don't like to stay over and wait for them yourself , that is."
By her tone, I knew she suggesting I wait , not for Kenshin or Kaoru, but for Sano. Darn. She wouldn't stop or would she? "No - no - " I stammered uncertainly. "Well, I'm leaving now." Actually as I turn to the door, I was considering of telling her the plans, but I hesitated. You could say I wasn't so sure about trusting her yet. Just yet. I paused as I headed for the door. There was no time to waste and I could neither wait for Kaoru nor Kenshin. So , uncertainly, I turned again. "Ah, Megumi ? "
All of a sudden, I felt so many presence of company. Omigosh! Of all places, of all times, why? When I sneaked a glance outside, Ikehara was gone. Which could imply that...............
Hurriedly, I scrambled to Takani, cracking my brains for what to do. There was no time to tell her of my plans, since Arisawa must have sent his men to spy on me and test if I could keep everything confidential. That meant I should start acting out everything and "abduct" Kaoru. But where the hell was Kaoru? Nah. No Kaoru. No Kenshin either. But Takani was there --
I slipped my dagger from my chest, and before Takani could turn around to see me, I pointed a dagger at her back to begin my "abduction". Surely, many eyes were watching. I need to make them think it was no frame up. "Don't move !" I hissed. She dropped whatever she was holding and stood up straight. That whatever splattered on the floor, breaking into many pieces. God. How I hoped the two girls wouldn't come out. And luckily, my prayers were heard. But how was Kenshin to know where Megumi was? I almost slapped my forehead. I was blowing everything. At length, I forced Takani to write down on a piece of paper that she was abducted and was summoning Kenshin to help her. It was so poor, I'm telling you !
"What should I write again?" Takani was asking. She got a paper from a table and readied herself to write. It was sort of impressing to see her calm when she was already being "kidnapped". Her calmness got me to think of the chances if she knew it was just a frame up.
I scratched my head. "Tell him that you were abducted you need his help. Now he has to go to the --" Where was that again? Rats. I forgot. Where was Ikehara when I needed him anyway ?
the the grove yeah the grove the grove by the river -- yes
yes right. The grove by the river. Pronto. Gets?" Takani was bent
down, carefully writing down what I said. After some time, noticing she
was done, I motioned for her to give it to me. "Lemme see." And she obediently
handed me a piece of paper with her neat handwriting. It read :
I'm abducted. Please go to the grove by the river to save me. Pronto.
My heart dropped. Hell. Did it sounded more like a save-the-damsel-in-distress-and-get-a-kiss-game than a serious note of capture ! ! I was expecting she would write in my behalf and sound more like : Takani is with us. If you want her alive, proceed to the grove by the river pronto.
I knew I was really blowing it that time, but there was no other choice. If I didn't do it, Arisawa's men might burst in and take everybody from the dojo. That would screw up everything even more ! But when I think about it, I wanna laugh. Imagine you're being kidnapped and still write that nicely ?! Hah! Tossing it aside, I lead Takani outside. But I was right, though. Arisawa had , in fact , sent his men who welcomed us outside. To add to the welcome committee, the bastards, composed of five men addressed me as "Boss". How dare they !?! But there was nothing I could do again. The bastards surrounded us and escorted us to the grove. As I sauntered with them , I stole a glance to the corners of my eyes to see if Ikehara, if any chance, was there to know the circumstances I was under. Nothing was working out the way we planned it. What the hell should I do? Damn it!
It was getting dark but still no Kenshin. The men surrounded me and Takani, carefully eyeing us. Despite their claim that they were sent by Arisawa to "help" me, I knew so well not to be fooled by such declarations. Arisawa distrusted me, I know. Well, if they have their own motives, then so do I.
It was getting dark, but no Kenshin. I was getting tired of being watched and my hand , which was clutching the dagger that was menacingly pointed at Takani's back, was aching. Yawning, I stuffed it back to my chest and leaned back. Takani will surely not escape. Besides, I doubt she would try to escape. She was just sitting calmly, loss of words for the past minutes. It was close to dark when I felt someone coming. The men felt it too, since they prepared themselves and left a single bastard to watch us. The rest moved forward the newcomer, readying their weapons and themselves. I guess they were really so damn ready for that, because when I notice one rascal's equipment, there was pistol stuffed on his waist, slightly hidden by his garments. The bastard left to guard us gestured us behind the tree and kept both his bulging eyes at us. How I crave to pluck it with my dagger !!
I dropped to the ground, leaning on the tree. Megumi, on the other, kept standing and emotionless like she didn't care. Although all I did the previous hours was sit down, I was getting tired. I craned my ears to listen, wondering who the newcomer was.
"Where's Megumi?" the newcomer was asking.
I choked. What the bloody hell was that Sagara doing here anyway? The bastard guarding us slapped his hand on my lips to shut me up. Irately, I spanked it off. Even Takani's attention was caught. She gasped quietly.
"Are you Battousai ?"
"Then get lost. We want Battousai."
"I'm leaving if I gut my friend back. Where is she?"
"You can't take her that easily and if you attempt to do so, you'd have to go through us first. "
Although I couldn't see what was happening, I knew Sano was surrounded. That was mostly the technique of gangs I worked for, including the Kuroi Bara -- surround and attack method. Why, they did that to me and Kaoru not so long ago !
I was going to slump lower on the ground and cup my chin on my hand, but a glimpse of one thug's pistol came to my head. The possibilities hit me like a rock. If I didn't do anything, Sano could be seriously injured. Considering the nature of those bastards, they will do everything to win and please Arisawa, and won't ,definitely, fight fairly. The ratio of one to four was already not fair enough. I should do something. Punching the ground, I stood up. But the fight had begun.
I wheezed trying to think of something. Something that I should do to drive Sano away and still manage to look "loyal" to the bastards. Unfortunately, nothing came to my head, so I just nodded to the bastard guarding us and pulled Takani in front of me, pointing the blade. We emerged from behind the tree with Takani walking ahead of me in slow strides.
"Cut it out Sano!" I yelled to get the men's attention. The four rascals about him stopped, and so did Sano in seeing his beloved Takani.
Sagara's eyes widened, first with astonishment, then probably with hatred and rage. "You?" he asked me in disbelief. I have never seen him so mad in my life before.
Great, I told myself sardonically. Just great. Now, I got Sanjou in trouble, aroused Sagara's anger and hey, what else? That "abducted" will be plainly abducted. But I was supposed to be acting, and since everything was there already and I couldn't explain anything with only Sano and Megumi hearing it, so I played along. "Yes me. Surprised? "
San's dark eyes blazed with fire, something that really reminded me of Aoshi after he took the dagger rom my chest. It was on fire. "No," he muttered, shaking his head. "I'm shocked. Traitor." Sano was looking like he was still too angry to be stopped, but I was determined to make him stop. Because if not-- "You!" He moved one step, but the four men went on his way. I pushed my knuckles instead of my blade on Megumi's back . I didn't know if she felt it, but she appeared to be hurt. It could be easily reflected on Sano's behavior. And the poor fellow stopped as I ordered him.
The largest bastard spun to me. "What should we do, boss?"
If I had a gun, I would have shot that scoundrel twenty times on his skull. He was also playing along, wasn't he?
"So you're the boss, " I heard Sagara mutter. His evil eyes were still on my direction, threatening to cut my body into cubes. Darn. I was actually thankful for my "subordinates" for being there to keep him from me.
I ignored his icy comments and commanded my "subordinates" to tie the two. It was totally dark when we were ready to face Arisawa. One bastard ahead of me then me followed by Sagara and Takani, tied together, and to both of their sides were my "men" who were carefully guarding them while two other men were on guard at their back. They were playing -it-safe.
I got so engrossed on my thoughts, thinking of some plans. I wondered why the scoundrels were playing along. Could it be that they knew everything? And why did Arisawa want to fight Battousai? Before, he was only obsessed in enriching himself, but now, it seemed like he also became interested in the "pyramid of the strongest" and was way too ambitious to dream of reaching the top. Could it be that I was assuming right? What happened to Ikehara? Why just disappear easily like that? Then, a thought hit me that almost paralyzed me. What if Ikehara was a part of these all? What if he was paid by Arisawa to cheat me?
"Is anything the matter, boss?" the bastard from behind me asked. I blinked. Completely dark. And, oooh, boy , was I getting used to the title of "boss"!
"None of your affairs," I snapped. I hope that my biting reply was enough to make them see how much I scorn being referred to as the "boss".
We reached yakuza hq some minutes later. The men threw Sagara and Takani to the floor, while I was forced to kneel right in front of Arisawa himself who sat on a wooden office chair. Beside him was a old man, thin and feeble , his skin was hanging down loosely on his arms and on his face and it resembled something like a grin. Arisawa was slightly old himself, streaks of gray hair from here and there, but his dull ugly face was more swayed by the youth that was still visible on his form. His eyes were deeply carved, giving him a look which of somebody who had not sleep for twelve days in a row and his almost gray hair was bent to one side , done so messily appearing without the aid of a comb. Sano and Takani were behind me, also being forced to kneel. Hell, how much I abhorred doing that! But no choice again. He was my "boss".
"Good work, lady," he told me. "But where's Battousai ? "
I was thinking of a reply , then, an idea hit me. I stood up , giving way for Arisawa to see Sano. "He's Battousai," I lied suddenly. "My men" hushed among themselves, and Sagara was looking at me, surprised, but of course, anger was more evident.
"I'm not Battousai!" Sagara protested.
"You are Battousai!" I roared.
One of "my men" spoke up. "But he said --"
I glared at him. "What made you think he'll reveal his real identity to us? He's Battousai, of course!"
"I'm not --" Sagara declared.
"You are too! Don't lie!" I hissed, hoping he would understand my tone.
Sano was fuming angrily. "What is with you anyway, huh? Why are you doing this to us? " violently he demanded .
I wanted to groan. Why can't Sagara get the "message"? "You are Battousai! You are too you are to you are too!"
"He is Battousai," Takani spoke out firmly. My heart leaped with joy. Could Takani be getting the "message" ?
"What the --?" Sagara begun.
Arisawa, who had been sitting silently as he watched us argue, spoke once again. His hand was thoughtfully massaging his chin and his elbow was on the arm of the wooden chair. But the bad part was that he was staring at Takani. "Who is this lady here?"
I swallowed , scanning the room. If ever anything flunks, then --
Four guards behind me, four guard in front of me, four guards to my left and four guards to my right. In short, surrounded. Plus two more guards guarding the entrance and two beside Arisawa and the old man to each side and three guards behind Takani and Sagara. To add to that, "my men" was scattered all around. So that would be -??
"Who is the lady here?" Arisawa boomed when I didn't reply.
"Uh...er...um...Kamiya Kaoru, the heir of the Kamiya dojo," I lied again watching everything cautiously. The way Arisawa was looking at Takani made me tense. Takani, on the contrary, was calm ,as though she was understanding everything now. And man, how I wished she really was.
Sagara, who was already so puzzled, smacked the floor with both of his palms. "WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?"
"Shut up!" I yelled at him.
Sagara, unsatisfied, nudged Takani. "What's the problem, Megumi? You're not Kaoru!"
I was so very pleased by Takani's stiff response. "Stop pretending, Kenshin. You can't pretend anymore. You are Himura Kenshin, the Battousai and I am Kamiya Kaoru, the daughter of the Kamiya swords master."
I shifted my gaze to Arisawa, silently sighing to myself. "Now about our deal....... "
But to my dismay, he was so absorbed in gaping at "Kamiya Kaoru's " beauty. I was actually expecting for his jaw to drop, but it didn't, probably because he was aware of his men around and the old man who seemed way too grumpy to notice such beauty. But I was disgusted in the way Arisawa was looking at her and hated what ever was I thought was written on his mind. And, like I had anticipated, he walked near Takani and bid her to stand up. Well, she her wrist was tied with Sagara's, so Sagara had no choice but to stand up as well. Even though I was some feet away, I knew Sagara was cursing and giving Arisawa his toxicant stares.
"Kamiya," Arisawa was muttering, keeping his hungry gaze at the lovely Takani.
"Uchiori ! " I yelled in frustration, folding my arms before me. I noticed the old man was somewhat pleased with my intervention, because he stopped scratching his head to watch Arisawa more attentively with brows slightly raised. " Where is my prize? " I persisted.
Sagara swerved his gaze behind him and right to me. "So you sold us !" he charged at me. The poison in his eyes was growing more and more intense, but I chose to ignore it. That was the best thing to do to keep performance well.
I stared at Arisawa, feeling Sagara's toxicant stare bore to me. "Where is my prize?" nevertheless I asked.
Arisawa's face crumpled to a complete disgust as he turned to me. I guess he hated the sight of me. "Can't you wait?" he snapped irritably. I rolled my eyes. Like I was enjoying everything. Like I was not irritated. If only there was a way he could taste my wrath.......
The bastard ignored me and moved closer to Takani. The old man behind him chewed on his lips with a look of disapproval painted all over his feeble face as his grin disappeared. Takani didn't move. To my dread -- I was so right! Arisawa was indeed falling for "Kaoru"! -- he raised his hand and held up Takani's pretty face. Sagara reacted to it fiercely and pulling Takani behind him, aimed his fist at Arisawa. Seeing the scene, "my men" together with the guard moved forward and held Sagara abruptly before he could move any more. Then Arisawa barked orders for "my men" to seclude Takani from Sagara. Just great Sano, I wanted to tell him. I wasn't so anxious of Arisawa nearing Takani with Sagara beside her, but now, Sano blew everything even more. Obviously, the things knotted more complicatedly. The hot-tempered Sagara was brought to to her side with two of "my men" holding both of his arms. Takani was left in the middle with the pervert Arisawa. I should do something.
Meanwhile, Arisawa proceeded to his activities, first reaching Takani's cheek and watching her eyes with this noted interest glowing in his eyes. I groaned to myself. "Uchiori ! That isn't part of the deal !!" I reminded him in a loud voice that obviously halted him.
Arisawa, spinning to me, narrowed his eyes. "So what? It is now!" Then his undivided attention went back to Takani.
"Let her be!" Sagara was shouting furiously. He received several blows from "my men".
Unable to contain his excitement, Arisawa ordered for the "my men" to bring Takani to his room with the old man behind him who was yawning. That time, I knew I really should be doing something. As two of "my men" surrounded Takani and was about to carry her to the room, I withdrew my dagger and hurled it at one of them. The bastard missed it by a centimeter and my dagger stuck on the wall. Everything became so quiet, but finally, I knew I succeeded in attracting Arisawa's attention.
"Don't dare do anything to her without my permission!" I warned Arisawa.
The shit narrowed his eyes. "That's it!" he shouted at me turbulently. "You're making me really mad now!"
I stared at him in disbelief throwing out my hands. "I've had enough too, Uchiori ! " I yelled back sarcastically. Putting both hands on my hips, I went on. "Why can't you be a real man enough to keep your word ? You want the Battousai, he's here! Now where is Sanjou?"
From behind me, I heard Sagara muffle. "Damn! Who is that Sanjou?"
"Why? I'm going to keep the deal! " He grinned, clutching Takani's chin. "I'm just gonna have some refreshments."
"That ain't part of the deal ! " I screamed angrily. But this time, Arisawa chose to disregard me and the two men took hold of Takani and attempted to accomplish their headman's orders once more. "DAMNIT ARISAWA!" I tried again. I guess I yelled so loudly and so annoyingly that I was victorious in getting his and the grumpy old man's attentions.
"Don't talk to me that way!" he advised sternly, his eyes snapping widely open. I knew what a leader hates was to be embarrassed right before his subordinates. He was insulted, I know. Despite his calm face, I felt his anger rising and his patience evaporating. Funny , but it sort of brought back Sawagi's memory. Bingo!!! I guess I the punch line was working once again. However to much of my dread, the punch line truly worked, because before I could respond, Arisawa had directed a meaningful stare at his and "my men" and the words I fear would follow came out : "GET HER !"
More than ten men were after me, I comprehended as I bend my head to opposite directions, searching anyway for escape. The two guards blocked the entrance and the only door to survival was my dagger, stuck on the wall. Briskly, I headed for it, managing to bypass "my former men" who were busy scrambling for me. I was so swift, you know, like I teleported. I deserved a bouquet of orchids and I couldn't help admiring myself when I made it through between Arisawa's nose and the two thugs holding Takani. I fiddled the dagger in between the middle finger and the trigger of my left hand and readying to fight . Seeing Sagara struggle and win over the the rascals who were holding him delighted me. I just wish he finally got the "message" and would really help me because apparently I was, as usual, outnumbered. There was no specific plan on my head, but I knew the first thing I should do was to save Takani from the bastards. I was aware that she couldn't fight and having someone that vulnerable was enough for the enemies to turn everything upside down. That was commonly their "salvation" and "victory" over me, and I couldn't take committing the same mistake I had a day ago concerning Sanjou. Everything seemed to happen in slow motion for them, while I was so quick. That was the result of my master's teachings and my heavy training, but it was seldom that I had that ability. I was surprised that "seldom" was that moment. But as I aim my dagger at one of "my ex-subordinates", a strong pair of hands gripped my shoulders. I froze. I knew that voice so well.
"You're fast, but I'm faster, " he purred to me. Then he chuckled. Everything before me stopped, including "my men" , Takani the guards and even Sagara.
Probably I was so shocked that I dropped my dagger. But later on, I understood he held my left hand and gently opened my hand, causing me to release it. The knife fell, causing so much noise on a silent place. Instantly , everything seemed reversed during the mysterious man's arrival. I had been so dumb. It was me all along who was " the vulnerable" , not Takani. What used to be a "slow motion" for the opponent's side slid to mine, since I couldn't move, just frozen, powerless, defenseless, dormant, shocked and unmoving. Suddenly, I became so powerless with the mysterious man's presence. When before, things was too slow for me , right then things happened so fast for me that I couldn't catch up. When I got back to my senses and was sane enough to hate myself, it was too late. I, Takani and Sagara were kept on a dimly lit room with no nothing, not even my best buddy around to help me express my anger and annoyance to myself. Unlike in the Kuroi Bara, the thugs there didn't tie us, thank God. But I still wasn't sure how Sagara would approach a traitor like me. It felt like I was stuck on cage with daddy lion terrorizing your life. It felt like being with Arisawa was safer. But thanks a lot once again, mommy lion was there ^_-
"You're ok now," Takani was telling me, feeling my forehead with the back of her hand. I realized I was coughing.
I gave a thin smile to her. What doctors undershoot was that not only your health conditions could make you "ok", because even when she claimed I was "ok", I knew I wasn't. I wasn't feeling "ok" at all. I was feeling all that bad. By the way, where was Ikehara? Why wouldn't he come when I needed him? Gosh, I grasped that I was beginning to count on him. That was not very nice. I better stop it before it was too late. Always too late. Bleh! I slumped my head back to the wall as I sank lower and lower to the floor. Both of my arms were on my knees which was pulled up close top my chest. I needed a drink.
Even when my gaze concentrated on the ceiling, I knew Sagara ws sitting opposite me, staring at me. What I didn't know was with what. With hatred? With disgust? Gosh. He should have been able to get "the message ". I heard Takani walk back to him. Or she could explain for my sake.
"What were you doing ?" Sagara asked me. I was surprised, I had to admit. The fire in his eyes was gone.
I laughed. "Nothing. " I didn't have the energy to explain anything. Maybe I was so frustrated that I wasn't as fast as I thought I was. Well, there was really nothing so uncommon of the mysterious man beating me and the lines "You're fast. But I'm faster ." was no bizarre thing. I didn't know why I was so pent up. But to think, I was not that grumpy the way I usually were whenever I lose. Maybe I was drunk.
Dissatisfied with my answer, Sagara nearer me. I saw his fist hit the wall a feet above where my head was slumped was against. He stared down at me. "What is the problem with you?" I rolled my eyes and chose to disregard him. That time, I didn't care if somebody seize my throne of being the "queen of sharped-tongues ". My head collapsed on my arms sitting on my knees. I wanted to drink. But the bastard wouldn't stop. I felt him took the shoulders of my clothes and pull me up, pushing me against the wall. "Why are you acting this way?"
I pushed his hands off. "Gosh Sano ! Can't you mind your own business ?" And with that, I sank back to the ground.
He was going to raise me again, probably even punch me , but Takani stopped him. Didn't I tell you what a relief Takani was there? Right then ,I was asking myself why I got myself into trouble again. All I ever seduced in my life was trouble. Trouble. Trouble. Trouble. Even when I was trying to live a straight life, it all came haunting me back. Why? I tried retracing my mistakes, why I failed, why I couldn't catch the mysterious man, why me, why was I in that place that very moment ...so many whys! Then, I saw Sanjou's pretty face. Yeah. That was why I was there. For Sanjou Tsubame, the first person who was kind to me in the restaurant. It was my duty to save her and to stop bad things from happening in her life. To stop her life from meeting the same fate mine had. Why ? Because she was kind to me. Besides, it was mainly my fault. If had she not known an unfortunate creature like me existed she wouldn't be in this thing. It was all because of me. I blew everything. I was too dangerous to be with. Way too dangerous.
I didn't know how many hours had passed. That was what happen when I got the hang of thoughts. Maybe I had been there for years. I NEED TO DRINK.
Suddenly, the door cracked open. Some five men were gathered around blocking the doorway, one of those was Arisawa himself right in the middle and his old man following him like a dog. At once, I demanded for Sanjou.
"Fine. You want her, you get her." Then Arisawa beckoned for one of his men, and from behind that bastard came the familiar figure of Sanjou. They pushed Sanjou, but I caught her.
"Tsubame ?!" Sagara and Takani chorused.
"What did they do to you?" I asked the girl, ignoring the duo's surprise. I gave the people outside a stare. If ever they did something to Tsubame, they will pay ! But the girl shook her head. Arisawa cleared his throat, but the old man leaned to him and whispered something in his ear. Arisawa nodded, then after the elderly bastard had lifted his mouth from Arisawa's ear, the headman grinned. After giving us one look, the door was shut even before I had the chance to escape. Well, there seemed really no escape because they were blocking the way, but I thought i could slip in or something. Oh, lady. Dream on.
I was still anxious, though about whatever they did to Sanjou, so I nagged her to tell me. But I guess there was none since she never said anything. I was so happy to see her that I hugged her tightly. "Don't ever get a feet away from me," I advised her. She was surprised by my actions, her eyes wide.
"You're very happy to see me, aren't you, Miss Lady ?" asked Sanjou as she pulled away from my bear hug.
I grinned. "Yeah." I pulled both of her small hands and squeezed it in mine, looking at her eyes in a way I thought made her blush. I was acting like her prince. "I'll get you out of here, Tsubame. I promise. " I didn't know how, but I know I had to. And as I dropped her hands, my mind searched ways to keep my promise. It was once in a blue moon that I intend to keep my promise. I guess I was willing to do it for Sanjou's sake.
"That means you're absent today for work," Sanjou mused silently, hugging her knees.
I drummed my fingers on the floor. How could Sanjou think of work at time like this ? Ok, so I hate thinking about work under most conditions and I guess that was one of those golden conditions. I laughed. "Tae-san can fire me if she wants to. I'm planning to quit anyway. "
"Why ? " Sanjou asked me innocently.
"Shoot, Tsubame. You should know by now why." I patted her shoulder.
Silence followed on. I began to daydream about the wine of my dreams and how I could get one. Sanjou was probably so tired that she fell asleep, and me in noticing it, laid her head on my lap. I was getting sleepy to.
"You care for her much, don't you ?" Takani asked suddenly. I was astounded they were there. I kind of forgotten they were in the same room I was stuck in.
"I guess so, " I muttered nonchalantly.
Sagara spoke up next. "You could have at least bothered to tell us your plan," he grouched stiffly. His long arms hanged on his knees as he crouched on the floor in a slack manner.
"I wanted to," I retorted softly, stroking Sanjou's silky mane with my right hand. I didn't want to waken Sanjou. "But there was no time."
"No time?" repeated Sagara cynically.
His response caused me to look up to him sharply. "I never asked you to come, mister. I wanted Kenshin, " rigidly I snapped.
"How was I to know it was a mere game ?" he shot up again, unwilling to give up. "Megumi was missing and the place was pretty messed up."
Takani turned to Sagara, scowling. "Not that messed up, Sano," she corrected, folding her arms. "I was cleaning. "
"Well didn't you read the note ? " My voice was beginning to get louder.
"Of course I did. "
"And you didn't get it ?"
I met Takani's eyes. "The message !" we chorused loud enough to stir up the sleeping Sanjou.
Sagara frowned. "No," he answered, like it was not obvious enough on his confused expression.
sighed. There was no point in blaming Sagara for missing "the message".
It wouldn't change anything. Perhaps I should just take all the blame myself.
After all , I blew it! I blew everything ! My eyes fell on the girl
as my other hand reached to my forehead. Inattentively, I massaged it.
I craved for a drink so much I thought I'd faint if I didn't get one. Nevertheless,
I held myself together. That wasn't the time to be reckless . Sanjou
was counting on me. I should stop being selfish and mind others even for
For Sanjou's sake. I sighed.
"What is it?" Takani pressed, observing me carefully.
"I need a drink. "
Sagara raised out his hands. "There you go again !!! "
"Shut up !" I hissed.
"I bet you're hating every moment right now." Takani bared this smile, which I thought was a sympathetic one. She pulled back Sagara's arm.
"Yeah," I muttered frankly. "How I hate it."
smile didn't leave Takani's lovely face. "I know you'd rather do it with
Kaoru. I'm so sorry."
I didn't reply. She was right. I'd rather do it with that stubborn Kamiya, but Takani wasn't so bad herself. But I didn't open my mouth to tell her that. I guess that was rude. But I was not the type of person who'd pretend, especially when I didn't have to. Sometimes, I was just too bold and frank that I hurt others feelings. That time, seeing Takani play her eyes on the floor told me she was a little hurt, but I moved not a bit to assure her. Of all those times I had hidden my feelings , I knew it was about time I speak man to man. I knew I should be saying "Oh, Megumi don't worry, you're not so bad." but I didn't feel like it. That wasn't my kind. I was only voicing out what and how I really felt.
The thought of Kaoru brought a happy light in my eyes. The incident some weeks ago flashed on my mind -- me and Kaoru, back to back. We were the best, I knew so ,even when we were outnumbered by numerous thugs surrounding us. I couldn't believe how much I loathed her before. So many scenes flashed to my eyes, like it had been a long time ago. Seeing those disheartened me a bit, because I was aware of the hazards I was risking them into. I guess there was no hope for me to have a that "straight life" and stay with my friends. I had to go somewhere. How sad.
were silent there for a while , I don't know how long, but I knew it was
really long. I was getting hungry so I packed my thoughts of some other
things aside from food. Maybe I had totally forgotten my hunger, because
when the door opened again, I was ready to annoy Arisawa instead beg for
Some fifteen men were blocking the entrance. Most of them were composed of the thugs who used to call me "boss". I suppose pretenses was really over. Over and over again, I tried to stop them and even demanded where they planned to take us, but they wouldn't reply. Then a huge guy just told me nothing so wrong would happen to us if we will not resist. However, as he said that, another of "my former men " sneaked a blade at the dozing Sanjou and ,again, I was forced to listen. They knew how to hit the punch line. Heedlessly, they dragged us out, even waking the poor little girl and brought us to another room where Arisawa was patiently waiting. What bothered me most was that I was separated from the three (Takani, Sanjou, Sagara) who were surrounded by some men on one corner.
"Sit, lady ," Arisawa invited me pleasantly pointing to an empty chair across him. The room was lit dully, with nothing to decorate it except the guards and "my former men" who were keeping their fu**** eyes on us like a watch dog . In the center was a wooden table where Arisawa laid his elbows on. He sat on his usual wooden office chair which was behind the table, then another chair was resting before it. Beside him stood the same old man grouchy looking man, who by then, I fugured out, must be his adviser. I wonder what Arisawa was up to that time but I sat down. I was getting tired.
Arisawa cleared his throat. I wanted to hit him. What was the business-like show for anyway? "I want to get straight to the point, lady," he started formally. It was rare that a yakuza leader like Arisawa to act so........civilized ?!? I kept my questions to myself, nevertheless and listened to whatever the bastard had to say. "I heard rumors that you are now wealthy. Is that true ? "
"No," I lied. "Didn't you know rumors are not to be trusted?" So that was what Arisawa was up to. No wonder he was beginning to be nice to me. He had gotten wind of the latest buzz about my life. I wonder how ? I never saw Arisawa as a gossip ! Besides I didn't remember telling anybody about it ! Then the possibility hit me again. What if Ikehara was really working for Arisawa ? I shook the thought away. I had to be good liar once again. As for Ikehara, if ever the possibilities were accurate, then, I'd have to deal with him later.
"Liar," commented Arisawa stiffly. THe old man leaned over again and whispered something that sent a glint in Arisawa's fading eyes and with a little shake of his hand, gestured his men to do something only they could understand. Four men exited the room, only to come back with Ikehara in the center. Was I right? I was yet to find out. And for that old man, I was getting really irritated with him. Maybe I'd kill him later.
Ikehara was not tied, but two men was beside him on both sides, discreetly on guard on his every move. The possibility seemed inaccurate, but the probability of it being only a show was not thin. I guess the best thing to do was not to trust or count on anybody. Sometimes. trusting could be fatal.
Arisawa spoke first. "Ah! " he cried with phony surprise. "Should I introduce you to Mr. Ikehara ?"
I watched Ikehara carefully. He looked pretty calm. "No need. I know him," I replied coldly. I met Kawamoto's brown eyes. What are you doing here? I mouthed at him quickly when no one was looking. His head shook slightly. I rolled my eyes.
The thin man with loose skin who , I had supposed was Arisawa's adviser leaned over and whispered something again on his headman's ear as he handed a piece of paper to the bastard. Arisawa nodded, taking the papers in his hands. He read whatever was written. After a minute, he looked up. " So you know each other?"
I sighed. " Heck yeah." Turning to Ikehara, I went on. "What in the world are you doing here anyway?"
"The man - you know - he came over and said he'll kill you if I don't come --"
"Oh and you believed that mugger?"
"Don't you trust me?"
"Of course I do."
"Then why listen to the fool?"
"I'm just worried." He smiled. "I know how reckless you can be."
I grimaced. "Everything was just fine," I informed him , my voice still freezing.
His gaze went to Takani, Sagara and Sanjou. "I don't think so," he argued, eyeing them carefully. "You're supposed to --"
"Just shut up, ok? You'll ruin everything !" I still wasn't so sure whether Arisawa was aware that I fooled him regarding the "Battousai". He'll be really furious.
"Everything's ruined," he reminded me.
"ENOUGH CHITCHAT BOTH OF YOU !!! " Arisawa thundered fiercely, hitting the wooden table with his fist. He had been quite busy reading the paper. Wonder what ?!
"By the way, Uchiori. What happened to our deal ?" I prompted, turning my attention to him.
"What deal? You gave me Battousai, I gave you Sanjou. I didn't say I'd release Sanjou, or did I?" Then the paper caught his attention again.
I stood up, slamming both of my fist on his wooden table. "Damnit, Uchiori !" Not even a second had passed and many swords were pointing at my direction. I slumped back to the chair in defeat.
Narrowing his eyes, Arisawa went on inspecting the paper. He was so absorbed on it that I began to get curious. What could it be that was getting Arisawa's attention ? When he looked up again, a faint grin was spread on his face. Maybe the paper showed some naked women. Ha! As far as I know, I was prettier than most women in Japan -- don't mind my ego and my candor, but behold ! Only the truth comes out of this mouth and keyboard -well, sometimes but there were exceptions.
"I want to make another deal here, lady," he said, the grin not leaving his face. "Since now that you are already rich --"
Many swords came to my direction. Arisawa and the old man gave Ikehara a meaningful look. The latter sighed. "She's lying. She's wealthy all right. " The swords withdrew. I gave Ikehara my coldest look. His response was a mere shrug.
"Ok, now," Arisawa began once more, holding the paper formally. "If you'd stop lying and --"
"I wasn't lying !" I insisted.
"Cut it out lady!" the thin man joined in sternly.
A flirtatious smile came to my lips. "Well, Uchiori here never mentioned what I'm rich with. You know it could be men --" I laughed to my own joke wholeheartedly. My happy laugh echoed to the whole room and I guess I was acting pretty like a drunk. The men around was forced to point the sword at me again. I stopped but made faces at them. That time, I was dying to get a drink.
'Ok, so let me start once again. The new deal I'm proposing is --"
"Denied," I interrupted dryly.
Swords pointed at Ikehara and at the three who were at the corner. It was always like that. They take the other people's weaknesses for their benefit !! With them around, I had no chance of winning. "Ok, go ahead," I grumbled at Arisawa. Everything was just a joke. I knew Arisawa would be asking me my consent, but in truth, he was only going to exercise his power and force me to do things his way, which were mostly against my will.
Arisawa cleared his throat. "So this new deal states that I let your friends go and I stop my attempt to fight the Battousai over there if you sign this paper. " Arisawa divulged his 1000-kilowatts-a-hundred-billion-yen-I'm-your-man beam, handing me the paper. It was a contract of Arisawa's proprietorship over the wealth Master Tan had left me. So that was what made Arisawa act that way ! Poor thing. It would surely fall to the wrong hands. How could I have not known? What had the greatest clutch over the yakuza gang leader and could make the barbarian act so civilized ? Money. Money. Money. Money, like women, could make the world go round. I should have known !!!!
"C'mmon sweetheart! " Arisawa purred to me kindly. " It's not like you're gonna think about it, or are you? Just sign it and everything's gonna be fine. "
"Well, what happens to me?" I asked, raising a brow at him.
He looked dumbfounded, like he the thought never crossed his mind....um.... "mind" rather. He was searching for words, maybe nice words, but what followed was not really nice. He just said it in a nice way. "Uh...you die of course," he answered in a tone that seemed an answer to a silly question of what will happen when you stick a knife to your chest. It was like the question was just a matter of common sense. I pouted at him. Before I could speak a word of protest, Arisawa spoke. "Well, you're not going to worry about yourself , or are you? You have nice friends over there and they're counting on you to save them. You're their savior and you're gonna be worshipped after you die. " He winked at me. "I apologize for the inconvenience, but you're just way too dangerous to be kept alive. My affairs are never gonna be safe with you breathing, and so are the entire human civilization. You know that, don't you? So do me a favor. Sign the goddamn contract. "
I bit my lower lip. Arisawa sounded a lot like a salesman and was doing a sales talk for me to give up my life. But was there a choice? No. If I didn't sign, I will die. If I did sign, I will also die. So what's the point? Hey! Wait a minute. I was sounding like selfish clam once again, right? So I considered for a while. I looked at the things the other way around. If I didn't sign, Sanjou, Takani , Sagara and Ikehara will die. If I sign it, they'll survive. So I better sign it. Rats. Besides, I made a promise to Sanjou. I should keep it no matter what. "Fine," I said after a while. It seemed like Arisawa really loathed me that he didn't want me to survive. Probably he learned something from the Kuroi Bara destruction. That was why he was so cautious on every curve and appeared to have planned every little step on the way. But when I reflected myself, it seemed nearly impossible for that thick-witted butt head to figure out all in his mind himself. So it must be that thin man beside him. If I will be given a chance, I'll butcher him.
The paper was laid before me and one of "my" men even handed me a writing instrument. But I was still hesitating. There should a way out somehow. "There's one problem , though ," I declared , at the same time thinking of a way out.
"And what is it?" Arisawa demanded.
"I.... uh...... I can't write my name," I lied. The entrance was still heavily guarded and so was I and the others. What was I to do?
Throwing out his hands, Arisawa groaned. "Just write anyway you like !!! It's gonna be fine , really !"
So I guess there was really no way out. I began signing the contract. Unexpectedly, the entrance opened and one of Arisawa's men burst in, panting. I stopped, looking up. "Boss ! Some fellas there were demanding for their comrades ! We better give in because they defeated most of our defenses outside !"
"What? Stupidity ! " thundered Arisawa, standing up. "No one's gonna give in now !" Motioning for some of the men in the room, he went on. "Just send more backups!" Then ,the thin man leaned over Arisawa and whispered something to him.
I took the chance to scan the room for escape. Some men who were holding the three lost their complete focus and began to become uneasy and pretty distracted. I guess they were perplexed with the news of the fate of their colleagues. To my delight, Sagara and Ikehara were thinking of the same thing, because the former attacked the men surrounding them while the latter sent out two men around knocked out and managed to acquire their weapons. It happened way too fast. Arisawa, noticing what was happening, barked orders to stop the chaos without interfering me. Maybe he was so obsessed with acquiring the wealth he didn't want to disturb me as I signed it. When I met Sagara's eyes he hurled to me something quickly. I caught it. It was the dagger I gave him and it stuck between my middle finger and trigger. Without another word, I stood up and pointed it at Arisawa's neck.
"Nobody move or your boss dies !" I warned. The men who were scrambling for outside paused, and even the thugs Ikehara and Sagara were battling stopped. It became so still , and I knew, that as long as I had Arisawa in my hands, I could drive the car.
"Leave now, you guys! I'll handle everything from here !"
"Why?" Arisawa got to ask. "Is the contract signed ?" I pressed the blade of the dagger harder onto his skin. I just wish he'd learn to price something else more aside from money before he dies. What a poor fellow.
"Tsubame and Megumi! Go now!" I yelled, keeping both eyes focused on Arisawa. The two nodded, and headed for the entrance.
"Somebody ! Get the contract !" Arisawa yelled.
"Shut up!" I snapped, sneaking a glance on the contract on the table. The bastard grabbed the chance and slapped the dagger out of my hand. As I released hold on it, everything went in chaos. The fight begun again -- Sano, up against some five men in one corner, Ikehara on the other handling as ,much as he possibly could and me by the table. But I made sure I had the contract in my hand. Arisawa lunged for me, but I missed him and caught glimpse of my dagger on the floor. I scrambled for it. I could neither really say we got the upper hand of the fight nor the handicap, but we were doing pretty good for the outnumbered. I finally retrieved my dagger and was slashing my way through when one voice spoke up ordering us to stop. The voice came from the entrance. I didn't know whether to be happy or to be crushed, but one thing for sure : the voice was awfully familiar, but definitely not Kenshin's.
Most of us paused but I completely stopped when I saw what was happening. It was the mysterious man, may he go to hell, his arm around Takani and a blade menacing its way to her neck. This time, Takani looked really scared, her eyes open wide with terror. When I skimmed for Sanjou, I found her lying on the floor, unconscious. I gritted my teeth. "Now, now now," the man laughed knowingly. "Drop your weapons, especially you, lady !" he shouted at me, giving me mean stare. I dropped my dagger. I knew Arisawa was dying to wrap his arms around that man. He was saved by the bell. Now, the damn yakuza was getting the dominion again when I heard the familiar voice of Kenshin. Just hearing his voice told me we were gonna win. He got the mysterious man from behind. Dominion was ours, finally ! However, Arisawa was unwilling to gove up just yet, and he got to stab my leg from where he lie behind me. But the clashes that followed later on lead only to our victory. Well, Kenshin peace force was there, so , whaddy expect?
The stab on my right leg was deep, but Takani helped a lot in bettering my condition. I had Ikehara make crutches, since I really couldn't stand without his help but was rather too uncomfortable to keep my arm around him whenever I needed to stand. Claiming to have improved in her cooking, the good ole Kaoru invited me and Ikehara over. It wasn't that good to deserve ovations, but not that bad either to be condemned. That dish was just enough to make you wince and send you thinking of an excuse to stop eating, but I knew Kaoru was really trying her best. I was doing my best not to throw up, aware of Kaoru's efforts. (Sorry, Kaoru-chan ,but I was just voicing out my opinion !) So before I get slapped like Sagara and Myojin who was way to frank to about the food , I better just proceed on to what happened next. Ikehara was, as expected, just sitting politely as he digested on the entity that was the result of Kaoru's golden labors. Sanjou was there too, and I guess I was getting really anxious over her safety that I kept sneaking a glance at her, only to get myself sighing with relief to see that Myojin boy right beside the cute cookie . That meant she was gonna be safe. However, I was still aware that there was no such thing as a place of safety when I was around, so I decided to leave with Ikehara. He was the only one who seemed available in lending his shoulder for the poor limping me at the same time not risk so much of my concern At least, I was quite assured I wouldn't get into much trouble that I saw he was pretty capable of defending himself. After some days when I was prepared to leave and my leg was not so much of a darn pain, I headed for the Sekihara hotbot restaurant where I knew the Kenshin peace force was taking their lunch. Of course, the cute cookie was there too, and I wanted to see her again. I guess it was because I was her age when I was working for that yakuza gang of Arisawa's. I pleaded for the fellows in the dojo to look after my Master's house. Yeah. It was kind of....really sad, to very much of my shock. I never knew I would get sad in leaving the people there and the girl who I once called as the hot-tempered babe. Al the time I thought I was resistant to such humanly things as sadness, was I wrong because I felt really sad and Ikehara was the first to notice it. Well, they were in the restaurant, when I came and said my cheerio, waving at them with one hand and the other on my crutches. But I couldn't leave that so easily, so I pleaded for Ikehara to get me a drink, and when he finally agreed to get me one after giving me a skeptical look, I headed for my Master's grave where I poured it with this new hope forming in my heart. I never knew what awaited me in Kyoto, or if there is anything that lies for me, but Ikehara promised to help me in everything for this new life. He was really kind to me, although most of the time we were always on our thoughts. And man, could he read my thoughts like Master Tan and sometimes, it felt like Master Tan himself was the man I was beside. He was patient with me and seemed to have known me so well and understood my displeasure when I was to proud to say it out loud. He was my type of man , and that was one of the main reasons I agreed to come with him to Kyoto. And what happened to my wealth? Well, since the Kamiya dojo refused to take it, and so did I or Ikehara, we knew one place where we could entrust it and not worry later : Sasami and Haruhiko. I gave them the money all right, and Sasami finally found out that the dagger I gave her had silver hilt. SO i guess she passed the tests. And the other dagger? I gave it back to Sagara. When I had everything arranged and my little belongings prepared, I set forth to Kyoto with new hopes of new life. Arisawa, who was turned in by Kenshin to the cops, was never to bother me again. The mysterious man, who Kenshin had injured, maybe had died and was never to be seen again. BUt maybe I shouldn't have underestimated him since during my stay in Kyoto, did he follow me there!