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A RUROUNI FOR YOUR THOUGHTS(part five)
"Desperate Measures"

"Interesting..." said Saitoh.

The young officer in front of him shuddered when he saw Saitohís lips curl into a smile. Seeing the officerís discomfort, Saitoh dismissed him. He had learned what he wanted to know. So, it is true

While going through the old records in search of the victimsí history, Saitoh had found that each of the victims was a former member of "Toguwa". This was a secret group that worked for the old government during the war. Itís sole purpose was to destroy the groups that worked towards creating the new government. Specifically, the Ishin Shishi. To confirm this information, Saitoh sent officers to grill the victims families about the specific roles the victims played in that certain group. He also ordered them to find the names of the other members.

The report that his officers came back with was that all of the victims were assigned the duty to assassinate the Ishin Shishi spies. What he had found interesting, was that the man in charge of this mission was known as "Kamiya". Most interesting indeed. I wonder if this "Kamiya" is any relation to Batthow Saiís woman. The murders are leading to Tokyo. So far, the killer has killed off all the remaining assassin members of the Toguwa, so his primary goal must be the leader. Perhaps I should pay a visit to the Kamiya dojo. Just because the Kamiya girlís father is already dead, doesnít mean she is out of the woods yet.

---------

Megumi watched as Kenshin carried Yahiko to his room. The boy had cried so hard, he finally fell asleep from exhaustion. She looked at Sano, her eyes wide in shock and disbelief at what she had just seen. Kaoru looked a lot worse than she had ever imagined. No wonder Sano and Yahiko had been worried about her.

"Well doc, what do you think?" asked Sanouke.

"What do I think!? What do you mean Ďwhat do you thinkí. You donít need a doctor to know that sheís been hurt bad! Plus, that cut on her chin needs to be cleaned or it might get infected. And it probably needs stitches! Why didnít you call me sooner!"

"Whoa! Slow down Foxy. The main reason we called you is so that you can talk to Jo-chan. We havenít been able to come near her to even find out her condition. We want to find out what happened to her and who hurt her exactly. Itís news to me if she needs medical attention."

"I donít think sheíll allow that," said Kenshin. Sano and Megumi both jumped at his voice.

"Che, Kenshin, donít sneak up on me like that!" mumbled Sano.

"Ken-san, what do you mean?" asked Megumi anxiously.

"I have a feeling that her refusal to talk about it means that she wants to forget about what happened. Talking about what happened to her will only make it seem more real. Demo, if Megumi-san thinks that Kaoru-donno needs her medical assistance, then she should go." Kenshin shook his head in sadness. " I just hope that Kaoru accepts your help."

Megumi felt more secure knowing that Kenshin agreed with her when it came to Kaoruís health, but it was clear that he felt Kaoru wouldnít open up to her. Well, she would try her best anyway. Several minutes later, she found herself in Kaoruís room. She didnít even bother knocking on the door. Kaoru sat on her bed. Megumi had a feeling of dťjŗ vu as she remembered a similar scene right after Kenshin left for Kyoto. I woke her up then, I can wake her up now she thought with confidence. Kaoru looked up at her, her blue eyes hard and cold. Megumi almost flinched at the sight of them, but remembered that she came here for a purpose and was determined to achieve it. "Whatís with this unusual seriousness?" she said, an amused look on her face. "You know, you almost look like an adult with that expression." When she didnít get a reaction from Kaoru, she got worried. It took very little to set Kaoruís temper off, but this time, she didnít even seem to care. Very well, Iíll have to try harder

Kaoru knew Megumiís game. And she didnít find it amusing that Megumi was insulting her in order to get her to talk. No, she didnít find it amusing at all. So, she decided to beat her at her own game. She kept her face neutral, but kept her eyes rock hard. She tried to ignore Megumiís harsh words, but it was getting harder by the second. Megumiís harsh words floated around her, and then, as they got harsher and louder, they started closing in on her, until she felt like they were choking her. Megumi had no idea of the affect her words were having on her.

"You know, Kaoru, if you want to act like a grown up in front of Kenshin then that is fine with meÖ"

Stop Kaoru silently commanded.

"But you donít have to give me the silent treatment, I mean, Kenshin is not here see this act so will you stop wasting both our time and just tell me what happened?" Instead of stopping, like Kaoru had willed her to, Megumi continued talking. Kaoru started wondering if she ever will give up. It didnít seem any time soon.

Megumi was exasperated. She had thrown some words that were a lot harsher than she had intended but Kaoru had said nothing. She just sat there. Megumi finally decided that she had had enough.

"You know, I really donít see what Kenshin sees in a spoiled, selfish little girl like you. You are so selfish! Every one was worried sick about you and you just go off whenever you feel like it without explaining anything. You really donít deserve any of the friends that you have! Everyone is trying to help you and you just act like this poor little girl. You know, this act may get Kenshin to feel sorry for you for a while, but it will also get him to think that you donít trust him enough to tell him what happened to you." Megumiís voice softened a little. " If you really want to win Kenshinsí heart and get through this, then you will have to let us help you, and we canít do that if we donít know what happened." She came closer towards Kaoru. "Meanwhile, how about I take a look at you. If you donít want to talk I understand but, there is no reason you shouldnít be treated."

Kaoru could not believe what she was hearing. One minute, Megumi was pushing her to the edge, the next she was talking to Kaoru as if she was her daughter. She certainly has a strange way of dealing with things But, Megumiís words, however they were intended, had stung her like needles. Her tenderness towards the end of her speech did nothing to soothe the pain that was caused at the beginning. After all that, she says that she understands?!

"You donít understand anything Megumi", she said, keeping her voice level.

"NaniÖ", said Megumi surprised to finally hear Kaoruís voice. What surprised her more was that Kaoru didnít say Ďsaní when she said her name. It scared her.

"You heard me. You donít understand anything. If you truly understood, then you would have taken a hint and left me alone from the beginning. You donít know anything. I canít believe the guyís thought that I would tell you anything." She continued, shaking her head. "That shows how little they know me." She then looked at a very astonished Megumi in the eye. "I wonít allow you to treat a selfish spoiled little girl like myself. I would rather die. And to answer your question frankly, I really donít know what Kenshin sees in me either. I donít think he sees anything in me. He has proved that several times." She cocked her head to the side and called out, " You know, itís a lot easier to listen if you are in the room Kenshin, Sano." Megumi looked over her shoulder and was amazed to see Kenshin and Sano enter the room.

"Gee, itís real nice of you to include us in this conversation Jo-chan." Sano said sarcastically. *How can he joke at a time like this, * thought Megumi. She was more concerned however, with Kenshin. He had an unreadable expression on his face. Had they heard this whole bizarre conversation? Kaoru, however, certainly didnít seem to mind if they had.

"No problem Sano." Then with barely a glance at him, then she turned back to Megumi with a bittersweet expression and in ironic voice said:

"You know, Megumi, I never thought Iíd say this, but you and Kenshin really are compatible. You have obviously, until recently that is, seen a lot more of the world than I have. And so has Kenshin. Not to mention youíre more of a woman than Iíll ever be. Youíre closer to his age; youíre beutif-

"Chotto, Matte Kaoru!!" A blushing Megumi interrupted. What has gotten into her?

"Jo-chan, what the f$#& are you saying? Do you have any idea what you re saying?" Ignoring Sano, Kaoru looked Megumi in the eye.

"What, does this make you uncomfortable? Iím just telling the truth. These are the words that you have waited to hear right? Besides, they must be true, you donít see Kenshin objecting do you?"

It took all of Megumiís willpower, to force herself to take a sneak peak at Kenshin. He looked stunned. Flabbergasted, and totally shocked also made good descriptions. Sano, however looked at Kaoru as if she had just announced that she worshipped the devil. Suddenly, Kaoru looked outside.

"Oh my, look at the sun, it is way beyond lunchtime. Iíll go set the table. Would you mind checking to see if dinner is ready Megumi-san every one knows how much of a better cook you are. Maybe you and Kenshin can swap recipes, ne?" Kaoru then made her way of her room.

"Matte Kaoru! Youíre face.." Kaoru turned to look at Megumi.

"What this?" she said pointing at the cut on her chin. "Oh donít worry, itís nothing. I told you before. I wonít allow you to cure a girl like me, one who clearly doesnít deserve your concern or friendship. It would almost be a sin." She turned to look at Kenshin, "Besides, Iím sure that Kenshin has been through a lot worse before and heís lived. Right Kenshin?" With that, Kaoru left the room.

Kenshin and Sano turned to stare at Megumi. She felt like a rat in a corner.

"I-IÖ" she started.

"What the hell was that all about! You were supposed to find out what happened to Kaoru not turn her into a matchmaker for you and Kenshin!" Sano hollered.

"Hey, I tried toÖ" but Sano didnít give her a chance.

"And what the hell was that Ď Iíd rather die than allow you to cure someone selfish as meí huh?"

"I didnít mean to.."

"You went on and on saying how Kaoru needed someone to take care of her wounds and then you have her saying that sheíd rather die than have you cure her?"

"But I didnít sayÖ"

"And did you get any information on how he got hurt? Nooo, you just had herÖ"

"Now hold on for just a minute you obnoxious, chickenhead, rooster wannabe! You have no right to say anything until you her the whole story!"

"Oh yeah! So tell us, foxlady, Just what is the whole story?" demanded Sano.

"I, well, umÖ." Megumi let out an angry, defeated sigh. "..I donít know what happened, I guess I went overboard."

Or maybe you got more than you bargained for, thought Sano. He knew that he shouldnít be that angry with Megumi. He knew that she had a way of handling things and it just didnít work this time. But, the way Kaoru talked about Megumi and Kenshin had made him angry for some reason. He just took it out on her. He really couldnít believe what Kaoru had said. Everyone knew that Megumi only flirted with Kenshin to make Kaoru jealous, right? After the conversation that had just taken place, he wasnít so sure. And why would Kaoru say all that in front of Kenshin. Megumi was clearly embarrassed by it all, but Kenshin...he hadnít said a single word. But now, he spoke up.

"Megumi-donno, I want you to check on Kaoruís injuries. I have a feeling that she has more than just that cut and some bruises. She may have some broken ribs." Megumi, who was still embarrassed from Kaoruís implications about her and Kenshin sent a questioning look towards Kenshin how would he know? *But, his face clearly said that he was not going to say anything. So she didnít press the matter.

"Very well, but, we all know that she wonít allow me to check on her. Any ideas?" Sano had a suggestion. "Why donít you give her some sleeping medicine? That way, she wonít even know.

"I donít know," Kenshin objected. "That seems wrong. Why donít we get Genzai-sensei?"

"Kenshin, get real, do you really think that Jo-chan will want to worry him about her?" Sano countered.

"But, this doesnít seem right."

"Look Kenshin, desperate times call for desperate measures." Kenshin stopped to think about this for a while. Then..

" If you think so... Very well, Megumi-donno, do you have some of the medicine with you?" Silently, Megumi handed Kenshin a tiny, folded up, piece of paper from her kit. Kenshin took it and hid it in his sleeve saying that he will put it in Kaoruís teacup. Megumi had a bad feeling about this. But she didnít think they had any other choice. However, she couldnít help thinking that when she decided to use desperate measures with Kaoru just then, it unexpectedly blew up in her face. She hoped this wouldnít be the case for what they were about to do.

Kaoru looked at each of the people sitting at the dinner mat through her lashes. Something didnít feel right. They were all so quiet. But it wasnít just that. She could swear that they were communicating with each other through every thing they did. Sano cast meaningful glances at Kenshin and Megumi. While Kenshin acknowledged these glances with invisible nods and raised eyebrows, Megumi shied away from them; either ignoring them or looking down so she wonít see them. Kaoru looked at Yahikoís empty place. He was asleep when she went to call him to dinner and had refused to come to dinner saying that he wasnít hungry. It is just as well she thought. He needs some time to clear his thoughts She didnít really feel like eating after all what had happened. She did however, drink all of her herbal tea. Instead of soothing her though, she felt dizzy, and tired. She decided that the daysí events must have finally taken their toll on her. Her conversation with Megumi certainly hadnít been easy for her and didnít do anything to improve her mental state. She excused herself and, wishing them all a good night, left the room. She could still feel them staring at her back even after she went into her room and put on her sleeping robe.

Sleep didnít come easily. Her mind played through everything that

happened that day. From her going to Taeís home, to meeting Kenshin(she winced as she remembered how that had ended) to coming back home and finding Yahiko waiting for her. Tears came to her eyes, but she didnít know why she was crying. Was it because of the horrified look Kenshinsí face after he realized her ribs were hurt? Or was it Yahikoís tears of shame after he hit her with his shinai? Were they tears of anger at herself, because of what she said to Megumi? Because she had admitted to them all, including herself that Megumi was a lot better for Kenshin than she herself ever will be? I wonder how Kenshin felt after he heard me say that. He must think I have gone completely crazy, especially since I have made my feeling for him clear, time and time again. She briefly thought that she had given Megumi a lot of advantage considering their rivalry. She stubbornly shook away that thought. No! I wonít give Kenshin up! Just because I admit that he is too good for me doesnít mean I will give him up. A little voice in her head nagged her. If you really want Kenshin, then why did you say what you said? , it demanded. Because! I love Kenshin. And, even though he had given me no sign whatsoever that he loves me like that, I still love him and I want him to know that the person who deserves him is not me! Megumi is right. I am just a spoiled, selfish little girl and the proof is that I want Kenshin to love me thatway, even though I know that I donít deserve him. Megumi, for all the pain that she had suffered deserves him more. She can relate to what he has been through before he became a Rurouni. Itís true that I have been so lonely before Kenshin and the others came into my life but that doesnít even come close to what they have been through. The voice in her head wouldnít let the subject drop. That may have been true up until a week ago, but it isnít any more now is it? , it demanded. She answered. True. But, that is irrelevant. What I went through makes me even more undeserving of himÖ Megumiís words floated back to her. "Everyone is worried about youÖ. Ken-san will only feel sorry for you for a short while, then he will feel like you donít trust himÖ..let us help youÖlet us help you ..let usÖ" No! Kaoru screamed in her head Her head was killing her along with her cracked ribs and bruised back. Finally,

by some strange, mysterious force, she fell asleep, tears running like rivers across her face.

Megumi stood in front of Kaoruís room thinking of what she was going to do. She was having some second thoughts but she knew it was too late to back out now. Besides, Kenshin and Sano were standing right behind her, waiting for her to go in. She let the dayís events play back through her mind. She and Sano had looked high and low for Kaoru when they finally decided to go back and check to see if she had returned. They arrived back at the dojo just in time to see Kaoru kiss a very upset Yahiko on the forehead and then leave without even a second glance. Megumi sighed as she remembered how hysterical Yahiko had been. He wouldnít allow her to comfort him and wouldnít answer any of them when they tried to find out what happened. Kenshin sat with him as he cried long and hard. When he finally allowed Kenshin to hold him, he buried his face in Kenshinís Gi and cried himself into an exhausted sleep. Kenshin then carried him to his room. Then there was that crazy conversation with Kaoru. Boy, had that backfired. She still felt very embarrassed at what Kaoru had implied about Kenshin and herself. She was also secretly flattered.

"Megumi-donno," Kenshinís voice gently brought her back. He gave her an encouraging smile. She blushed furiously, looking deep in his violet eyes, those eyes, they always looked as if they were looking deep into your soul, unlocking all your secrets. Stop it, this is no time to think about his eyes. She nodded at him, thinking that she saw a look of guilt in his face. They all felt guilty but were convinced that Kaoru had not given them any other choice. Still, she felt that she couldnít bring herself to go in. She couldnít help thinking about what would happen if Kaoru woke up. Stop that, Kaoru is not going to wake up. That is a very strong medicine and she should be out of it for at least several hours and even then she wonít wake because she would still be asleep. With that issue resolved, she took a deep breath and opened the door. Kenshin and Sano both peeked inside for a while before they went back to lean against the wall. They would both be waiting just outside Kaoruís room in case Megumi needed them. Megumi slid the door shut behind her.

AUTHORS NOTE: Waiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!!!!!!!!!!!!! I finally finished this chapter! Whoa! This certainly took a lot longer than I expected. It is now 1:00 in the morning and although I feel like crap, Iím glad I finally got this over with. Iím getting closer and closer to the climax of the story so please keep reading. I hope you enjoyed this. As usual, comments and critisim as well as death threats are welcome with open arms. (I certainly deserve them. By the way, these characters do not belong to me, they belong to the great mind of Nobuhiro Watsuki.

Sayonara and Arigato for reading!

onto chapter 6

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